From our earliest years, most of us are taught, rightly, that this is the greatest nation on earth, that whatever our imperfections, we have more fully realized the promise of “liberty and justice for all” than any nation, at any time. We learn these lessons from an honest study of what Kennedy once called “our ancient heritage,” from the ongoing saga of men and women coming here to walk with hope and promise, and from our shared but personal experiences of liberty, opportunity, and prosperity.

Love for country is an underestimated force in American public life. Shortly after September 11, 2001, I was riding the D.C. subway system and saw a young African-American in worker’s clothes sitting by himself. He had a red, white, and blue bandana on. As I got off, I turned to him and said something like, “I like the colors of your bandana.”

The young man broke into a warm but dignified smile as our eyes met and we both nodded. I have not forgotten, nor will forget, that moment.

For American patriots, and that remains the great majority of us (however incoherent such national devotion might be, depending on the individual and the views he holds), a president represents so much of who we believe, or want to believe, we are. In that single individual we invest more of ourselves than we might be prone to admit. Conservatives are not political fans of Barack Obama (I am talented at restating the obvious), yet were something to happen to him personally, it would be like an attack on all of us.

We disdain many of our current president’s policies, and fight against them. We are discomfited by his performance as our national leader. We esteem his office, and wish him and his family safety, health, and happiness.

These impulses are not contradictory; our dissent is as much a validation of our patriotism as is our respect for the position of Chief Executive.

That’s an underlying reason we still ache at the memory of November 22, 1963. The president, who represents the nation in the psyche of America and the perception of the world, was brutally and unjustly killed. The bullet that ended his life convulsed our soul. A piece of all of us who remember that day and the painful days that followed was scarred ineradicably, as well.

May such an event never recur. May God protect the president of the United States, and may He guide and bless our beloved country.


Rob Schwarzwalder

Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and graduate of Western Seminary (Portland, OR).