Happy Birthday America!
My father emigrated from Italy and built his life here. He told me four brothers and me that this is the land of opportunity. When he came here he didn’t have anything, but he bought a house and a car, he married a beautiful woman and built a family of five boys. He sat us down at the dinner table one night and said that we may have to go fight for our country, but that we must do it. He said you may even have to give your life for our country, but you must do it.
That patriotism has been with me ever since. I have given motivational addresses at over 40 military bases around the world. I spoke at the Air Force Academy 10 times, Annapolis twice and West Point twice. I stood at the same podium where General Patton made his speeches. I spoke at the National War College where they train Colonels and Generals.
I have had the privilege and honor of meeting seven presidents, have attended state dinners, and even opened the press briefing during the Reagan administration once.
For the son of an Italian immigrant, all of those are touching and special. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished my mother and father could have seen me there.
The highlight of my baseball career came when I managed the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team to its first and only Gold Medal. I told people it was bigger than the Dodgers, bigger than the All-Star Game, bigger than the World Series and bigger than Major League Baseball.
People thought I was crazy, but when the Dodgers win the Dodger fans are happy, but the Padre and Giant’s fans aren’t. But when we won that Gold Medal all of America was happy.
After that victory I cried, because I had done something for my country. I served two years in the Army during World War II, and that was a fulfilling experience, but I was so proud of the Olympic team because nobody thought we could win. Scouts from around the game told me they didn’t give me a good team, but all I cared is whether they were alive.
This weekend, while we celebrate the birth of our great nation, we celebrate its history and traditions, but we also celebrate the innovations and future. Our ideals and our way of life make this country great, but more importantly it’s the people who live the ideals, who don’t put an expiration date on their dreams, who work to give a better life to their kids, who do everything they can to uphold the law of the land, who believe in liberty in all its forms and who revel in the freedom we feel is our natural born right.
God bless you.
God bless the men and women who fight for our country.
God Bless America.