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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I recently retired from the U.S. Air Force as a chief master sergeant, having spent more than 35 years of my life serving my country. I still get goose bumps when I witness a parade and Old Glory passes by. I am proud to stand and salute when the national anthem is played at a sporting event. This country is very important to me, and although she may not be perfect, I feel America is way ahead of whomever is in second place. All Americans should honor and respect our country every chance they get.

For these reasons, I was surprised and excited by a passage I discovered a few months ago. The passage is entitled "The American's Creed." Its author is William Tyler Page, clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1917. It was accepted by the House on behalf of the American people on April 3, 1918.

I was so impressed by his creed that I wanted to introduce it to others who may also have missed it. Patriotism seems to cling by a thin lifeline these days, and anything we can do to bolster it can only help. If you agree with my impression of the essay, please put William Tyler Page's creed in your column. -- WILLIAM D. LaVALLE, LINDALE, GA.

DEAR WILLIAM: "The American's Creed" is beautifully written and very moving, and it's well worth space in my column. Its message will touch many hearts, and I thank you for sending it. Read on:

THE AMERICAN'S CREED

"I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign nation of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

"I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."

DEAR ABBY: You reminisced in a recent column that we used to be more tolerant of each other. A reader, Irma Barragan, pointed out that we really were not all that tolerant -- and the "good old days" were not all that good for everyone. I feel you conceded her point far too easily.

What has changed, regrettably, are our ideals. In some ways, we certainly were not as tolerant then as we are now. (After all, we have made some important progress since, say, 1964.) But we were headed deliberately in the direction of tolerance, of integration into the "melting pot." In those "good old days," when we noticed intolerance, we still believed that it would -- and SHOULD -- disappear with time.

No more. As a country, we no longer aspire to be a melting pot. Now we are satisfied with a patchwork of separate cultures, each with uneasy relations with everyone else: a Balkanized society.

I once heard a politician define himself as a "paleo-liberal" because he still believes in integration, not multiculturalism. That's me: one of the melting pot liberals. Remember us? -- J. MacAUSLAN, NASHUA, N.H.

DEAR J: Indeed, I do, and warmly, too. As the daughter of immigrant parents whose fervent wish was to learn English and become good Americans, those are the values with which I was raised.

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