At my first Toastmasters meeting a few weeks ago, I was asked to give an impromptu Table Topics speech as if addressing a personified version of my native country. Sappy as it all sounds, I was surprised to find I had quite a lot to say:
They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and every time we part I find new ways that I love you. I’m so grateful for the ways you’ve helped me grow into the person I am today. I’m proud to represent you to everyone I meet here. And I love you, I really do love you, no matter what happens to you and no matter what you do.
That being said, please stop blowing yourself up. Seriously. It’s not like I can give you a hug, and I’m too far away to even come to the funeral.
Slow down, America. You’re running so fast you can’t even remember what you’re running after, or running from. Tell yourselves stories sometimes. None of us have very deep roots but that’s all the more reason to treasure the ones we have
America, be kind to each other. Your differences are precious, and the people who don’t agree with you aren’t half so stupid as you’d like to believe. Dish out benefit of the doubt like you’re salting the highways on a February morning in Michigan. Try to love yourself, even the parts that aren’t working so well as you had hoped they would.
Your beautiful forests, lakes, rivers, prairies, mountains, and coastlines need some care. That breathtaking scope of land, sky, and sea is yours to enjoy, but it really won’t protect itself. Take pride in how well you keep house. Try to breathe fresh air every day, and try to keep the air fresh for breathing later.
Make art, America. Build things with your hands. Sing along. You don’t need everything you buy. Practice generosity, especially with newcomers. Everything you have was once a gift.
You’re young, America, but you’re old enough to think about tomorrow. Take care of your community, value the elderly as well as the children. Cherish your family. So many of you wrestle with mental illness, it’s a crying shame we can’t talk about it. Look for truth, not just answers, and expect to be surprised. Listen to each other. Love yourself.