American pride and patriotism came into an unexpected and strong focus over the past several weeks during a global sporting event roundly ignored in the past.
Americans by the tens of thousands united behind the U.S. soccer team's play in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil -- and the inspired play, too, especially in Wednesday's narrow and gripping 2-1 loss to Belgium.
This nation embraced soccer like no other time in history with record television viewership. Thousands of fans jammed Soldier Field in Chicago and AT&T Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys home turf, for the Belgium game.
Other venues -- appropriately this week, Freedom Plaza in Washington included -- drew hordes of fans, many decked out in red, white and blue and waving U.S. flags. Social media exploded during all four American games.
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This Fourth of July is a reminder of the nation's ability to unite. Despite our divisions, the national pride demonstrated over soccer reflected strong American unity -- an inspirational sight indeed, one worthy of reflection on this holiday. We should be uniting in other, more significant ways that impact our future.
A wise-beyond-his-years American poet penned this statement, one that applies to the U.S. soccer team and much more: "Unity is strength ... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."
Mattie Stepanek, the author of seven bestselling books, passed away at age 13 in 2004. His legacy in this quote should be a lesson to us all -- a lesson about moving the country forward under a single patriotic banner.
Adrian Cronauer, a military veteran and the radio disc jockey portrayed in the 1987 film "Good Morning, Vietnam," offers another meaningful statement:
"Our flag is not just one of many political points of view. Rather, the flag is a symbol of our national unity."
That banner belongs to every single American. On this national celebration of independence and freedom via parades, fireworks, concerts and more, let us remember the sounds that reverberated though the Brazilian stadiums that played host to America's World Cup matches.
Chants of "USA, USA" by the throngs of American fans in attendance inspired our team to greater heights -- especially evident in the overtime Belgium match.
National unity of another sort would propel the United States into achieving "wonderful things."