The current United States 50 star flag was designed as a school project by 16 year-old Robert G. Heft in 1956. Heft had cut his parent’s old flag up and hand-sewed his own design together because he was intrigued by patriot Betsy Ross and wanted to make room for Alaska and Hawaii. To him, the blue represented heaven, because God was the source of blessing, and the stars, which shine from God’s heaven, were a perfect symbol for each state. The red stripes represented the blood that was shed by American patriots and finally the white stripes represent righteousness. Heft knew the founding fathers said only a righteous and godly people would be able to maintain what they had set in place. Robert was quite upset when his teacher only gave him a “B-” for his project. Others who had done much less were given “A’s”.
The teacher jokingly told Robert he would change the grade only after the flag was submitted to Congress and they accepted what he considered to be a mediocre design. Two years later, in 1959, after 21 letters and 18 phone calls to the Whitehouse, and the support of Congressmen Walter H. Moeler, President Dwight D. Eisenhower personally called Robert. He invited him to a 4th of July celebration at the Whitehouse were his design was revealed and officially adopted as the nation’s new flag. After two years of relentless persistence and national attention, the teacher finally agreed to change Robert’s grade stating, “I guess if it’s good enough for Washington, it’s good enough for me. I hereby change your grade to an A.”
As I uncovered this wonderful story from American history I was reminded of a powerful truth that has nearly been forgotten. The life we end up with really is by our own choosing. What we have in life is always based on what we, ourselves, have settled for. The beauty of America has always been that anyone can become anything, if they are willing to work for it. My grandfather, Alesso Rossi is a primary example. When still a young boy in the late 1800’s, he left his home in San Lorenzo, Italy and came by boat to America where he passed through Ellis Island. The Rossi family arrived with only a few coins in their pockets, without naturalization papers and speaking very little English. Thus, the tag WOP (without papers) was attached to each of their coats and they waited in a crowded room until they were finally processed and released to settle in Brooklyn, NY.
At the age of 13 grandpa Rossi became an apprentice to a blacksmith. He soon learned a solid trade and was making a good living for the family. As was the custom among Italians, at the age of 18 his family arranged his marriage through another Italian family that was well respected in the neighborhood. Thus, he met and married his 16 year old bride, Louisa Vinchenzo, whose family had just come from Naples, Italy, and they started their family. My mother, Jennie Maria Rossi was born in 1917 and her brother Steve was born in 1920.
By the end of WW I grandpa Rossi had become a respected blacksmith in and around Brooklyn, and was eventually hired as a very well-paid civilian contractor in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, because of hard work and study was promoted and earned the title and pay of a “Master Blacksmith”. When the depression hit in 1929, that lucrative job provided food and clothing for many families in the apartment building where he and my grandmoter lived.
What’s my point? We all have been given one amazing gift, the gift of life. It comes with blessings and problems, strengths and weaknesses as well as good situations and those that are bad. We can give excuses and accept the verdict and the judgement of others or we can rise above them and use them to make us better. We can allow the bad opinions of the ignorant doubters to discourage us. We can allow the hard circumstances of life to push us into a corner of self-imposed helplessness. However, we can also allow each place of resistance to show us how to adjust and how to embrace it as an opportunity to grow stronger. The choice really is up to us!
The negative point of view is a socialist, victim mentality that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society today. It is the mindless dribble that says, “I am what I am because of what others have done to me. It’s not my fault. I am a victim. Others have what I want and I am entitled to be freely given what they have worked for, sacrificed to get, and actually earned”. The positive point of view is that of a pioneering spirit. It loves the challenge of an unknown future and is brought alive by the knowledge of personal accomplishment. It is earned by honest sacrifice, hard work and personal struggle. It is the genuine victory that comes when you finally accomplish what others said could not be done.
Are you a socialist victim who has become dependent on the excuse and opinions of others? Are you a courageous pioneer who is looking to make a better life for yourself and your family? The great thing about America is that whoever we are is really up to us, and what we are willing to settle for. Robert Heft knew what to do, Grandpa Rossi knew what to do, and now so do you! Today can be the day you decided to rise up and begin a new journey. It’s a journey that breaks off the ridiculous limitations of a socialist, victim mentality, and embraces the amazing power of self-determination. The question is, “What kind of life do you want?” I say it’s time to get up and start walking toward who you really are and what you were meant to be. Destiny is waiting!