Jackie Gingrich Cushman

This week in Sunday school, we talked about how character is passed down from parents to children through stories, experiences and practice. Every family has different stories -- the life narratives that describe what they have lived through, where they came from, and how they acted and reacted. These stories and experiences provide a foundation, an understanding of what the family values. This creates their underlying belief system. This understanding then underpins how we act in our daily lives.

In my family, it's my mother's story of completing college in three years, taking extra classes and studying during the summer, so her sister could go to college, too. We're a family that values education.

It's my father's story of losing twice when running for Congress, but running again a third time -- and winning. We're a family that values persistence.

It's my husband's grandfather's story of helping start the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. We value civic involvement.

It's the story of how my husband drove our family through the Teton Pass from Wyoming to Idaho in a 38-foot RV. We're a family that enjoys adventure.

It's how we talk about shared experiences, how we remember them and what we emphasize that builds national character. If we want to be an extraordinary nation, we have to remember and recount what we have done as a nation that is extraordinary. As a nation, we are in the process of rediscovering our national character.

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised change "we can believe in." Today, his administration's policy of more government -- in health care, the economy, well, in anything -- is trying to change what we believe.

But we are reclaiming our stories and our foundation. This was evident this past weekend at the Restoring Honor event championed by Glenn Beck.

What are our national stories?

Our Pilgrim forefathers fled religious persecution. We believe in freedom of religion. They held the first Thanksgiving and gave thanks to their Creator. We have a tradition of belief in God. We also value hard work -- because without hard work the Pilgrims would have died.

Georgia settlers in the early 1700s were willing to risk everything to move to a new country for a new start. When James Oglethorpe settled on the coast of Georgia, everyone on the ship had a different skill; everyone had to work for the community to survive. We value risk taking and hard work.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.