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Insights from Jaden Risner (ELP ’13; Naval Officer, United States Navy; CEO & Co-Founder, Family Proud Inc.)
I am a proud Japanese American, veteran and small business owner. It is an understatement that people both in the United States and around the world are questioning the current and future state of who we are as a nation and what we stand for. Although I share these same concerns, I have a grounded faith and hope in us as Americans to chart the course ahead and I am confident that we will ultimately persevere.
I am proud to see people across the country marching and exercising their rights to stand up for the inequities our country has yet to overcome. It is important to acknowledge our nation’s shortcomings, educate one another and continue to grow and develop who we are as a young democracy.
The very ability to have the discussion around our shortcomings is a freedom not available everywhere in the world today. Despite our flaws as a nation, there are people from around the world that still risk everything to make their way to the United States to seek opportunity and to become an American. The ability to disagree and to enjoy different things are also the threads of who we are as Americans. I wear a uniform to support and defend these rights.
Many of us make reference to these inherent rights, which although are important, are only half of the discussion. It is important not to forget our responsibilities as Americans: to support and defend the Constitution, participate in the democratic process, and respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others, to name several that resonate with me.
Charting the course of our ship through the current stormy seas requires resilience, faith and leadership. Resilience to weather the storm, and faith to believe in one another, our loved ones, our community, our country. We require leadership that takes action, stands up for those in need, provides hope where there is despair and shines the light of progress forward. What does it mean to be an American? It means having the right and freedom to choose what this means.
I maintain hope that as a collective, our nation will come together and overcome the challenges we are faced with. There is no greater time than now to take action and fulfill our responsibilities as citizens and it starts with loving your neighbor and community. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
—Jaden Risner (ELP ’13; Naval Officer, United States Navy; CEO & Co-Founder, Family Proud Inc.)