In 1630, a group of courageous Puritans traveled on a large, wooden vessel from England to the New World, or what is now known as America. These Puritans sailed in hope that the New World could provide them with religious freedom and economic opportunity. Upon the vessel, John Winthrop, a chief figure amongst the Puritans, delivered a speech that is now famously known as the “Sermon of Christian Charity.” This speech  was used as a way to outline the unique mission of the Puritans as they traveled closer to the New World. 

Winthrop begins by stating that the puritans are “knit together” as “one man,” bound by a common cause and destiny. He then goes on to state what is perhaps the most famous line in the speech, that the Puritans “must be as a city upon a hill,” or a beacon of liberty chosen by God to convey the benefits of having the opportunity of religious liberty, self-governance and democracy, and free enterprise to the entire observing world. Although this line has become the most widely known amongst the entire speech and certainly serves as a foundation of the “American Dream,” the words that follow this line are a crucial component to the “American Dream,” and are often overlooked and forgotten. Winthrop points out that while God has granted them with this opportunity of democracy, freedom of religion, and free enterprise, he does not promise that this opportunity will result in success. In fact, he explicitly states if they fail, this failure will be broadcasted for the watching world, and the “Lord will surely break out in wrath.”  

The Puritans quickly discovered that becoming and then maintaining this successful “city on a hill” would not be easy. Regardless, the Puritans remained grateful and thankful for the opportunity that God had provided them while at the same time establishing this sense of pride for the city they were building. They were proud because while God and the New World had bestowed upon them this opportunity to create this “city on a hill,” it took the grit and hard work of the Puritans to actually build this “city on a hill.” Although it wasn’t easy, these Puritans did in fact build a “city on a hill.” Today we call this city the United States of America; I call it the greatest country in the world.  

It seems as though in today’s world, however; we are incapable of understanding what the Puritans and the many courageous men and women who followed the puritans had to do to create a successful “city on a hill.” 

Fortunately, America is unique in that it is a nation founded in purpose. Unlike other countries, who were developed thousands of centuries ago through the means of coincidental geographic location, or an outcome of political strife, the United States has written texts that work to clearly articulate the mission and intention of the beginning of our country. In moments of uncertainty, or weakness, we have the remarkable ability to turn back to these texts and realign ourselves.  

In comparing the morals and values that are laid out in Winthrop’s famous “Sermon of Christian Charity,” to the morals and values of today’s America, it seems as though we have lost gratitude and thanks for the opportunity that America has provided us. Instead, we expect America to provide us with all that we need.  

We expect things like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and military protection. Yet, as our expectations grow and grow, we are becoming less and less thankful for the people who give us these things, and the ability that America gives us to have these things.  

So, days away from Thanksgiving, let us try as Americans to return to our original sense of purpose, to our original values and morals, and above all to be more thankful for the opportunity that America has granted us.