To My Fellow Americans,

I love our country. I really do. I am a recently retired Army officer. My Army service was to defend the Constitution of the United States and to preserve the ideas contained therein. I’ve had a personally and professionally satisfying military career. I am among a very small handful of people who have had firsthand experience in the Oval Office with both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

I fell deeply in love with our country as a 12-year-old during a hockey trip to the Soviet Union in April 1989. While witnessing life behind the Iron Curtain, two fuses were lit: a commitment to serve and a passion to learn why governments behave the way they do.

As I transitioned back to civilian life, I questioned whether my almost quarter-century of service was worth it. Though I know it was, the fact that such thoughts creeped into my mind is telling.

I remain worried because our country is not well. Our national psyche has been infected. For me, the most dangerous invisible enemy – the one really keeping me up at night — is our national crisis of identity. We have lost our way and have developed bad national habits. We’ve lost our national honesty.

Too many of our fellow Americans elected to serve us in our government are guided, and often motivated, by misplaced passion and treat responsibilities as sport. Alexander Hamilton warned against such behaviors in 1784, in his Second Letter From Phocion, suggesting they would lead to a “spirit of government” that is “feeble, distracted, and arbitrary.”

“We’ve forgotten how to listen and hear one another, even those with different beliefs and preferences. We’ve forgotten that it’s OK — even a sign of true strength — to allow someone else to change our mind.”

—  Jason J. Galui, retired Army officer and director for Veterans and Military Families at the George W. Bush Institute

Too many of our fellow Americans — those we rely on to keep our government accountable — have lost credibility with other Americans. Too many information sources have fallen victim to misinformation and disinformation and even perpetuate confusion.

Too many of us refuse to hear our neighbors, even though all are promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Too many of us believe strongly that when others make progress it must be that our own progress is stunted.

Too many of us have abdicated our individual responsibility to think for ourselves. Too many of us have forgotten that our American experiment is not guaranteed. Preserving America demands individual and collective effort from our communities to our capital.

We’ve forgotten that what truly makes America great is our people. All of our people. We’ve forgotten how to listen and hear one another, even those with different beliefs and preferences. We’ve forgotten that it’s OK — even a sign of true strength — to allow someone else to change our mind. We’ve forgotten that no one person has all the answers to our problems. Anyone claiming so only invites ruin to the collective good.

We must remember what and who America is. We must remember that those of us born here are among the luckiest humans on Earth. We must remember that people across the world continue to risk their lives to come to America for better opportunities. We must remember how to lead and follow one another with love, real love for our fellow human beings. For when any American makes progress, we all make progress as we inch toward “a more perfect Union.”

The United States is far from perfect, yet I have full faith and confidence that, as a people, we will never fail to continue our relentless pursuit of perfection. That may be unattainable, but as long as we aspire toward growth, the American dream perseveres.

Who am I to make such claims? I am an American, husband, parent, student, soldier, thinker, and leader.

I grew up in a wonderful family and now have one of my own. I had a backstage pass to the Oval Office serving two very different Presidents and working alongside key leaders in each of their administrations. I traveled the world with the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I taught economics, strategy, and leadership to two generations of West Point cadets. I commanded soldiers and prepared them for combat. I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a strong moral obligation to continue to serve the Nation in ways beyond the Army uniform. My motivation comes from a pure love of this country and an intense desire to protect our American way of life. This love letter is my first step.

I remain immensely confident that the United States, as a whole, will endure and innovate through our current national challenges. Innovation is the American way. We harness our people’s potential energy and convert it into strength. Our path, though never linear, is a historic one heading in the right direction.

As a recently retired Army officer, and as a kid from Boston who deeply loves the United States of America, I beg all of us to spend time, some real time, thinking — really thinking — about the health of our country, our democracy, and our collective American dream. I’m not asking you to ignore national flaws. I’m simply asking you to help us shield against our national crisis of identity.

I know we’re all busy, but please don’t say you haven’t the time to think on your own about this. Our American psyche is not well, but I have met many of my fellow Americans, and I believe we do have the cure to heal us. Our march toward a more perfect Union desperately needs all of us now — first as individuals and then as the collective.

I certainly don’t expect you to do this for me, but I ask on behalf of future generations. Our predecessors paved the way for what we have — good, bad, and indifferent. We have a moral obligation to leave those who follow us a strong American democracy that ensures opportunity for all. One that facilitates the pursuit of happiness.

Jason J. Galui is the Director for Veterans and Military Families at the George W. Bush Institute, and a retired Army officer. Throughout a unique military career, Jason led soldiers in combat, taught economics to West Point cadets, and advised the most senior U.S. leaders in the Pentagon and White House for the Obama and Trump Administrations.

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