In the midst of the bloodiest and most brutal war in American history, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a broken Congress. His words echoed through the chamber and across the country: "The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. ... We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth." It was December 1862; the last, best hope of earth tottered on the brink.
From the mountains
In 1869, three men set out to explore the source of the Yellowstone River. Charles W. Cook, one of the explorers, described the place: "We returned to camp realizing as we had never done before how utterly insignificant are man's mightiest efforts when compared with the fulfillment of Omnipotent will." Yellowstone would become America's first national park.
To the prairies
Audie Murphy was no ordinary cowboy. After his release from the United States Army in 1945, the most decorated combat soldier of World War II went to Hollywood, where he roamed the fruited plains, sang and beat bad guys, accruing over $3 million during his 23-year movie career. To Murphy, America could be found "in a Texas rodeo, in a policeman's badge, in the sound of laughing children, in a political rally, in a newspaper ... In all these things, you'll find freedom. And freedom is what America means to the world. And to me."
To the oceans, white with foam
One little boy, bobbing in the water on an inner tube, was hoisted to safety by a group of astonished American fishermen. His mother had died during an attempt to reach safety and freedom on U.S. shores. Young Elian Gonzalez was united with relatives in Florida; Fidel Castro demanded Gonzalez's return. Would the young boy be condemned to a life under communist rule?
God bless America
Small arms, reaching through holes in brick walls. Mouths, crying for release. And then, for the first time in years, freedom. American Marines standing by, smiling, as imprisoned Iraqi children enjoyed the U.S.-manufactured gift of newfound liberty.
My home, sweet home.
The cornerstone to the new Freedom Tower, standing on the site of the World Trade Center, reads: "To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom -- July Fourth, 2004."
God bless America, my home sweet home.