As we ponder our role as American citizens in the midst of the elections, I think back to an experience during a trip to Williamsburg, Va., back in July 2009 that gave me a new perspective on what it means to be an American.

One of the most enjoyable parts of historic, colonial-era Williamsburg was seeing history come alive in an outdoor theater presentation, portraying scenes related to a particular theme or larger event that took place in Williamsburg while it was the capital of Virginia.

On the day I was there, the scenes were about the collapse of the royal government in Virginia. In the introduction, one of the costumed interpreters discussed the situation: The British government was imposing more control over the colonies, prompting outrage and a desire to revolt. But it wasn’t so straightforward to simply side with the patriots against the British because joining the cause was not only treason, but meant rejecting a nation that controlled their land for over a century, and provided them with a government, commercial regulation, church, and way of life. Turning against Britain would mean the end of all they had known.

Hearing this made me realize something: The patriots obviously had much to lose. Something must have compelled the desire in them to break away from Britain and form a new nation; a spirit must have compelled them. And I’m convinced that this same spirit still compels the existence of this nation today. We must follow this spirit to keep our nation strong and free.

A series of plaques on a footbridge leading from the visitor center to the historic town area of Williamsburg take visitors back in time and then brings them back to present-day America. The last plaque on the side leading to the present asks us, citizens and Williamsburg visitors, what difference we’ll make.

I know what difference I’ll make: I will stand up and be a patriot. I will stand up to make America keep America a great nation, and make it even better. I will uphold the freedoms that the founders envisioned for all Americans.

I hope all Americans will join me.

Paul Rubio

An Oak Park citizen active in the democratic processes of the Republic of the United States of America

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