Dear Son,

You have had the distinct privilege of being born an American.

I hope you never forget what that means.

As an American, you’re part of the greatest country on Earth. You’re given a wealth of opportunities to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you hope to do. You’re given the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press. You are granted the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Never forget that these are gifts so many people in the world do not have.

Never forget that these freedoms did not come for free.

Some of your very own relatives have served in the military to make this country a safe place for you. People whose names you may never know have given their lives for what you have been born into. Families have lived through their worst nightmares of losing a loved one so that you can have these freedoms. 

So hold onto them and protect them. Use them. Don’t let other people or your own fears keep you from pursuing them.

Never forget that you live in a country where you can further yourself, where you can chase dreams and make them happen. 

RELATED: Let Us Raise Boys With Respect Running Through Their Veins

Never forget the rich beauty of living in such a diverse country. Learn all you can from everyone you meet, for everyone has something to teach.

Never forget that our flag stands for something great. It stands for freedom, for opportunity, for safe harbor.

But also never forget that this country is not perfect. There are people who are overlooked and those who don’t feel safe. There are people using their rights to hurt others. There are those who wish to strip others of their freedoms simply because they don’t agree with each other. This is a great country, but there are a lot of problems here, too.

Never forget, dear son, that you can be a part of the solution.

Never forget that it’s OK to agree to disagree, that you can hold different beliefs than someone else yet still get along with them.

Never forget to be kind. To listen with ears wide open. To step in and help wherever you can, no matter how small or insignificant the act may seem.

RELATED: Why Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem Moved Me To Tears

Never forget to be proud to be an American. And never forget that you can help mold this country into one that you’re even more proud of in the future.

This land is your land, son. What a gift. I hope you always make it count.

Jessica Swanda

Jessica Swanda is a freelance writer who travels the USA full time with her husband. She’s always up for a good book, board game, or a vanilla chai latte. She writes about everything from travel and faith to business and marketing at her site