Lydie Lake: My sense of patriotism endures, despite challenges

As I walked away from Arlington National Cemetery, I knew I mustn’t take for granted the rights I had been granted the day I was born a U.S. citizen.

Lydie Lake Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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During my freshman year of high school, I wrote a paper titled “What my Country Means to Me” that secured my spot as one of the wreath layers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on our school's Washington, D.C., trip.

Staying true to the title, the passionate essay contains notes of how dreams and careers are freely sought thanks to the brave leaders who came before us. Hidden from the paper, however, are the inevitable discrepancies that separate the people of our country

Now, a senior in high school, I read that paper with a heavy heart, wishing I could tell that younger girl about the existing flaws in our society. Although written with good intention and a hopeful mind, that 14-year-old girl would be devastated with the current events that occupy the nation’s televisions at 5:30 every night.

I could discuss the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, or the recent shootings in Buffalo, New York, targeted toward African Americans, or even the inflation affecting families across the nation; however, I would rather fill these 600 words analyzing the components of writing, generated from my younger self, that remain true even after these four hectic years.

“Existing in the United States teaches you ambition so you can take your life in any direction.” Primarily in the Rochester area, we see people who have constructed their dreams through the small business industry. The communities of self-made people are beginning to thrive once again after pandemic devastation, generating more connections and creativity throughout a city in dire need.


“Americans know that change only occurs with great involvement and they will come together to fight for their own benefit, defining our motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’.” When tragedy struck in Ukraine, many American citizens chose to stand together in demonstration of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Throughout the mess that COVID provided, American citizens chose to support each other in a time of grief and anguish. Often, we see patriots using their right to protest and speak upon their own opinions whether it be about vaccination, abortion, climate change, and other pressing issues.

In this column, however, the focus is not on the debates of vaccination vs. anti-vaccination, nor is the focus on the debates of pro-choice vs. pro-life. The focus is on a group of people who use the rights given at hand to unify themselves as a community who fight “for their ambition, purpose, and the betterment of our country.”

That younger version of myself knew all of this to be true, and that it would remain true, as she laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I showed up that day to honor the lives of fallen soldiers, but I left with an even more important message.

As I walked away from Arlington National Cemetery, I knew I mustn’t take for granted the rights I had been granted the day I was born a U.S. citizen. American leaders, soldiers, and citizens did not fight for a nation where people were silenced, but rather a place where people can have opposing outlooks so long as they get to call their opinions their own.

Though younger me could have never predicted this, I will find myself living in Washington, D.C., come fall. Residing in the nation’s capital, a place defined by prospect, allows me to liberally advocate upon the discrepancies that challenge our country, just as our previous leaders and soldiers have granted me to.

Lydie Lake is a senior at Byron High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters,

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