An Essay on America

I meant to do this post on July 4th – but I was in camp with very little time to compose any thoughts.  But there is never a bad time for a patriotic post so I figured I would do it now.  Would be nice if something could unite us all and drive us out by the millions to celebrate the way the World Cup sent the French to the Champs Elyse.  What absolute fun to forget your differences briefly and just celebrate a well- deserved victory.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but we do have reasons to celebrate every day.  Towards that end, I want to share one on my sister’s college responses to a prompt about inclusion in America.  I think she answered it brilliantly.

“It was late – a lot later than we expected when the bus finally rolled out of the parking lot into a dark, and surprisingly cold, Florida night to start the trip back to Orlando. A proud group of LHP students sat in the bus that evening.  For two grueling days we had competed in a Speech and Debate tournament in Tampa and were taking home some hard-won trophies.

As most of my teammates drifted off to sleep, my mind started to mull over the question of acceptance and inclusion in a country that tries hard every single day to live up to its own promise to itself – and it occurred to me that this bus was the promise of America, the America that perhaps the founding fathers dreamed of. The driver – a man with a mission – led the way; behind him sat the coaches and chaperones, still chaperoning, navigating, and making sure we stayed on track. I could imagine the aged, ever-watchful gaze of the founding fathers upon them.

Behind them sat a vibrant, dynamic melting pot – a veritable “salad bowl” of students, a young team of various teenage years, of more ethnicities than any founding father dared to hope for, of individual dreams and common hopes. We were all recent immigrants or children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of recent immigrants. As our passions for our competition and trophies flared, our ethnicities faded – our common goal melted away the differences in our skin colors, our religions, our aromas of homemade food, and the accents of our ancestors upon our tongues.

I was keenly aware that despite every criticism, this bus – a microcosm of the world – could not have been rolling down a highway in any other country in this world. Perhaps it is naïve of me to equate this bus to the promise of America – but weren’t the founding fathers just naïve young men when they rolled down a revolutionary highway with nothing but a dream?

For four years, since I made my first competition piece on immigrants, and started to explore my place in America, I have waited to attend a course like the —. I am excited to engage, to share, listen and learn from others in my class. I am ready, and my generation is ready, to continue fulfilling the promise of America.”

I think her response is brilliant. I loved the comparison and the feeling of pride and belonging.

Orlando, As You Like It

Like many other towns in Florida, Orlando too grew around a fort called Fort Gatlin. These forts were built to protect the settlers from the Seminole tribes. Many towns still go by the name of the fort, such as Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers.

Orlando was originally called Jernigan

Orlando was originally called Jernigan but changed its name to Orlando in 1857. Many theories abound as to the origins of the name. One theory states that Orlando was named after a soldier, Orlando Reeves, who was killed by the Seminole tribes in 1835 while he was defending Fort Gatlin. Another theory states the soldier’s name was Orlando Jennings, not Orlando Reeves, while another disputes these theories stating no soldier by the name of Orlando was killed during the Seminole Indian wars.

Another theory states that a J.G. Speer relocated to Jernigan from South Carolina and started reorganizing Orange County. During the process he came up with the name Orlando after the character in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Interestingly one of the main streets in downtown Orlando is called Rosalind who was Orlando’s lover in the play.

Rosalind Street, Orlando

I like to believe that perhaps Mr. Speer did name Orlando because another area in downtown Orlando is called Ivanhoe Village – maybe he liked English literature and named this street after Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 book.  Another neighborhood is called Lorna Doone – could this be named after R.D. Blackmore’s 1869 book? There’s also a Lake Sherwood – perhaps named after the Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest.

I love the idea of all these names and characters from British Literature naming Orlando and its neighborhoods!!

(Images Courtesy Orlando Travel Sites & Birmingham Museum).