Craig Ferguson on Becoming an American (July 4 2008 )

I really like this short speech by Craig Ferguson on what becoming an American meant for him and what being an American means. I thought it was an appropriate text for July 4, Independence Day 2023.

Craig Ferguson on Becoming an American (July 4 2008 )

Craig Ferguson spoke at Faneuil Hall in Boston on July 4, 2008, his topic was “Becoming an American.”

Edited transcript (Original Transcript

It is a great honor to speak here. I think it speaks to the generous nature of the people of Boston, and the generous nature of Americans, that after being a citizen for six months I would be asked to speak on this day, in such a prestigious and memorable place.

And today, of course, we celebrate freedom, which is a word which is overused a little bit sometimes, misused a lot, often even misunderstood. But to me, the word “America,” and the word “freedom” mean the same thing.

I arrived here in 1995, a broken-down vaudevillian from the old country. A failure! I had failed in my own country. And when I arrived in America, here’s what America asked of me: Nothin’. Not a damn thing. Beyond obeying the laws of the land — you know, don’t rob the banks, don’t drive drunk, don’t do all those things — I was free. That meant I was free not only to think what I want, or believe in any God I saw fit to believe in. These were freedoms that were already familiar to me.

But there was a new and bigger freedom in America. There IS a new and bigger freedom in America. In America, we don’t have kings, we don’t have dukes, we don’t have earls. In America, we believe all people are born equal. So the past, whatever that may be, does not have a stranglehold on the future. We observe and celebrate our traditions in this country — we’re doing it today! But our traditions are freedom of expression, freedom of belief. We remember our history. We celebrate it. But we are not slaves to it.

So when I came here to America, the country asked me for nothin’. I was free. Free of my own past. Free to succeed; free to fail. Free to be generous; free to be mean-spirited. Free to be happy; or free to be miserable. These were all my choices, and my right to choose them as an individual in America. America did not even ask me to be a citizen! As long as I paid my taxes, I could stay here, under any conditions they wanted. That was fine — I could have my green card and stay. I CHOSE to be a citizen. I chose to apply for that one.

And America asks me now, what America asks of ALL our citizens. It asks of all of us this — it asks us it today and every day in America: What are you made of? What are you? What are you, as an American? America only asks of us what we ask of ourselves. That is why — and I really believe this — that is why America is not only the greatest country on earth, but also the finest expression of hope for the human race. There is — it is nothing less than that.

Sooner or later — sooner or later, America always does the right thing. Whatever mistakes we make along the way, “We The People always correct them. “We The People,” the citizens of the United States of America, are its voice. We are its soul. We are its expression. Our leaders are but servants to our voice. They’re put in positions of power by our democratic vote. Not by an accident of birth. If our leaders, these servants, don’t behave as we would have them, we fire them. Plain and simple. THAT is our glorious revolution. And it continues to this day.

The freedom we celebrate today — the realization of this dream — it’s been going on for thousands of years. This dream that people had of an America — and we are blessed to live in this time — and this society has been hard won. Millions of people have died for this. Thousands of Americans put their lives on the line, whenever they are asked, in our military, to protect our freedom.

Here’s what I give America today as a citizen: My gratitude. My heart-felt thanks. I think that’s an appropriate reaction to a country that asks you only to be your best self. And may I suggest to you, my fellow Americans, that being your best self is an appropriate expression of gratitude for this wonderful country; and whatever your best self is, is your choice to decide, in this free country.

The Grand Union Flag, the Flag of the United States: 1776–1777

Craig Ferguson, An American on Purpose

Craig Ferguson, American on PurposeCraig Ferguson’s autobiography is heartfelt, candid, insightful, and quite funny.

It opens with a quote by Sir Walter Scott, “I was born a Scotsman and a bare one. Therefore I was born to fight my way in the world, with my left hand, if my right hand failed me, and with my teeth if both were cut off.”

He is brutally honest about his shortcomings and alcoholism and what it takes to manage it on a day to day basis. He describes many painful scenes from his life, starting with early childhood in Scotland, and continuing through the many twists and turns his life has taken since as a drummer, stand up comedian, actor, and late night tv show host. His choice between lamenting the pain or finding a way to laugh about it is what has allowed him to “continue to fail until he succeeded.”

In Tips for Entrepreneurs on Surviving the Holidays I posted the video and transcript excerpts from Craig Ferguson‘s Late Late Show Monologue for President’s Day Feb-20-2007 It begins, “This Sunday, I was 15 years sober. The good rehab clinics say to you, ‘You’ve done your 28 days, this is a beginning, you now have a lifetime of vigilance. This is a chronic condition that you’re gonna have to manage for the rest of your life.'”

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Image Credit: “Grand Union Flag

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