Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Spirit of America

By Mark W. Danielson

The best part of piloting airplanes is the incredible view. Sunsets, sunrises, cloud formations, ocean swells, mountains, canyons, and patchwork prairies are all interesting and often spectacular. At night over the Pacific, fishing fleets look like large cities. On a moonless night, the stars are so bright, the planets and constellations are indiscernible. But none of these sights compares with what I saw the other day while taxing for takeoff in Denver. Shortly after paralleling the runway, an American bald eagle swooped down and flew abeam us for about ten seconds. I’m certain it wasn’t the least bit attracted to our purple and white MD-11. More likely, it was looking for breakfast in the weeded area next to the taxiway. Even so, it was incredible viewing our national symbol twisting and bending its wings in such close proximity. Near the end of its flight with us, a red tailed hawk took flight ahead of the eagle. The hawk looked mighty small in comparison.
This spectacle made my day. First, it demonstrates that the bald eagle has bounced back from near extinction. Second, we are fortunate to have such a majestic creature as our national symbol, and not the turkey that Ben Franklin suggested. As savvy as a wild turkey is, it’s still a turkey of a bird. Of course, other countries have used eagles as symbols. Hitler was particularly fond of them because of their beauty and strength. Fortunately, the eagle never got a bad rap from that stint. Instead, it was limited to Hitler and his fellow visionaries.

No doubt America’s spirit has been challenged many times throughout history, and is certainly being challenged today. We have mucked up international politics so often that our initials seem synonymous with trouble. But at the same time, whenever there is an international crisis, the USA is always the first to pledge its support. No other country has given so much to relief efforts.

I guess that’s why seeing this eagle instilled so much pride. Far more than a beautiful bird, it reflected our strength, confidence, and conviction. Now is a perfect time to carry that spirit by donating to the Red Cross to help those less fortunate, and remind the world that in spite of our shortcomings, our giving spirit lives on.


Beth Terrell said...

A wonderful post, Mark. And a great reminder to give generously in the face of this terrible tragedy.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree with Beth. A wonderful post and we all need to donate to help those in Haiti. The bald eagle is a beautiful bird and we see them often here in Wyoming.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Lyne and I saw another bald eagle today. It truly is an amazing bird, and we are fortunate to see them now and then.