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The Cornerstone Of American Law

(category: American-History, Word count: 568)
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There are just a few truly great documents that represent the foundation stones upon which the American system of government was built. One is the Declaration of Independence. Another is The Bill of Rights. But when it comes to the legal girding that we always go back to in order to test if a law in this land can stand or fall, it is the Constitution of the United States of America that is that backbone that defines right and wrong for us.

Indeed you might even say that the sole reason we have a Supreme Court is to have a living body that is here to decide on, interpret and enforce constitutional law. And what is the worse accusation anyone can make about any act that is in question from a government agency? "That's unconstitutional" is that accusation. That is how powerful this document is in American life, legal definitions and culture.

The historical context of the signing of The Constitution was The Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia. That city witnessed many such historic events which enshrine its place in the history of the country to be sure. The framers of that Constitution would have to be considered without question the most intelligent and well educated men certainly of their time and maybe of any time. That document was so well crafted that it has lasted as a legal standard for over 200 years with no signs that its power will diminish for hundreds of years more. But in that context, the Constitution is the oldest document of its kind in existence in the world and the original is carefully protected but on display in Washington DC.

The Constitution reflected the best of some of the oldest legal documents of similar intent that went back hundreds of years into history. As such the Constitution includes ideas drawn from the Magna Carta, the French political philosopher Montesquieu, The Code of Hammurabi, the law of the Old Testament, ancient Greek political ideology from such writers as Polybius as well as Common Law from England. So while the core ideas of the Constitution draw from some of the greatest systems of government and ideologies from history, the outcome is a unique format for governing a people that was so untried that it was considered to be "The Great American Experiment."

The Constitution is divided into seven "articles" each of which discusses one of the divisions of government. Articles one through three discuss the three branches of government including the legislative, the executive and the judicial. Article four goes into depth about the rights and powers reserved to the states. It is clear to see that the framers knew the importance of leaving much of the power of governing at the local and state level and that those rights needed to be preserved at the foundational document of the society, The Constitution.

Other articles discuss the ratification process and federal power. But the wisdom of the framers of The Constitution lie in article five which outlines a process of amendments which leaves room for additional work to be done to keep the Constitution up to date to changes that need to be made. As such the Constitution has remained a living document for all of these years and will continue to be seen in that light for many decades and centuries to come.

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Remember The Alamo

(category: American-History, Word count: 621)
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America remembers many great battles that represent a turning point in a conflict that helped shaped our history. We think of D-Day in World War II that turned the tide of victory toward the allies despite horrific losses. But it is a unique battle that is remembered with pride and patriotism but is also a battle that was lost and almost everybody on our side brutally killed. But that was the case in the battle for the Alamo in 1863.

The battle for the Alamo was not a conventional battle in the sense of two equally matched armies fighting back and forth to retain property. It was, to put it bluntly, a slaughter. But the brave stand of those few hundred Texans against thousands of Mexican soldiers continues to inspire us today because it was a stand against impossible odds but it was a stand that reflected the American ethic of never giving up or surrendering when there is a principle to be defended.

The siege at the Alamo actually lasted thirteen days. It began on February 23, 1863 and it was over by March 6th. It is hard to imagine today, with Mexico to our south a trusted ally of the United States but this was a battle to stop that attempts by Mexico to invade the newly forming country of the United States which was an act of war to be sure. The brave men who stood against that vast army have become American icons of bravery and the American spirit and the names listed among those killed in that fort included Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie, the commander of the unit Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis. It was Travis that inspired his men to fight against insurmountable odds and his courage is what we celebrate whenever we say that famous rallying cry that come out of this battle which was "Remember the Alamo." Travis wrote in a letter how he defied the Mexican attackers on the eve of the final siege.

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death.

It was this brave stand that actually turned the war against this invading army to the advantage of the Americans. The outrage from the slaughter of these men inspired that famous rallying cry that we remember even now centuries later when we hear those words "Remember the Alamo". Their stand against Santa Anna gave Sam Houston the time to organize a much more potent army which went on to deliver to Santa Anna a stunning defeat at San Jacinto which was the turning point for Texas which went on from there to victory in this war.

The spirit of Texas was never the same and to this day, Texas prides itself as a people of particular courage, boldness and a unique independence that even sets them apart from the already fiercely independent American spirit. Moreover, the entire nation looks to this battle as an example of how a few good men helped deliver a victory, even if it was at the cost of their own lives. That indeed is the true spirit of patriotism.

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American Inventions

(category: American-History, Word count: 615)
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The history of how America emerged as the premier superpower in the world is about more than just a great military or a homeland so rich in natural resources that we were able to become the breadbasket of the world. There are many forces that combined in the American experiment that has made this country so great. One of those great forces is the phenomenal inventive minds that have graced America virtually since its inception. Starting with the powerful mind of Benjamin Franklin, the history of inventions that started in America and transformed the world is lengthy indeed.

The computer has become so much a part of our lives that we forget that it was once invented. The history of the development of this "futuristic" device is long and filled with genius. The actual first prototypes of the computer were developed by the Defense Department, which is oddly the source of a lot of the great innovations in American history. But it was the early PC developers including Steve Wozniac, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that took the computer to the level of familiarity we know it to be now and made computers a part of our everyday lives.

Most world changing inventions have a profoundly positive influence on mankind's quality of life. But an invention that did not improve life but destroyed it is also an American invention that changed the world. That invention, of course, is the Atomic Bomb. Developed by the fabled "Manhattan Project", this bomb changed everything about war, diplomacy and the way nations relate to one another. And to find a positive amongst all the death the bombings in Japan brought about, that bomb may be one of the key elements that brought an end to a horrific war, World War II. And in the long run, that is a conflict that the world breathed a sigh of relief when it came to an end.

There is a joke that makes its rounds frequently during political jesting that "Al Gore invented the internet." If he had invented it, he would be a world changing inventor for sure. But it is not out of line to declare that America invented the internet. Again, the original primitive retypes for what became our modern internet was the work of the American Defense Department as a measure to insure that America's computer security was guarded by decentralizing the network. From this simple goal, the vast World Wild Web has emerged that has transformed everything about how we look at communication, information and knowledge. We have American ingenuity to thank for that.

But of the thousands of American inventions that have done so much in the fields of medicine, technology, research and communications, none can compare to an invention by a brilliant thinker by the name of Henry Ford. That invention, obviously, is the automobile. Just like with some of the other inventions we have talked about, we can hardly imagine a time where there was no such thing as an automobile.

Mr. Ford's amazing invention literally transformed society not just in America but around the world. From it came the freeway system and an overhaul to how cities and towns are organized and linked together. And while there are downsides to the widespread use of automobiles, it has been a huge leap forward for America and civilization as a whole. And Mr. Ford, like any of the inventors we have talked about and thousands we have not, would see the betterment of mankind as their greatest calling. America has hosted this great calling for centuries and will continue to produce brilliant inventors such as these for a long time to come.

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George Washington

(category: American-History, Word count: 710)
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It is impossible to reflect on the truly great leadership that has been one of the real blessings of this nation without including the name of George Washington in that list. In fact, in almost anyone's "top ten" list of truly great presidents, Washington would almost certainly top the list. His stature in American history is legendary and the respect Americans have for this their first president borders on adoration of myth.

In fact, there is a lot of myth and some humor about our first president that reflects the love people have for this great leader. From the many quips about his supposed wooden teeth to the thousands of places around the nation that proclaim "George Washington slept here", to the mythical story of how he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac as a child or his response when he was caught cutting down a cheery tree and responded to the accusation "I cannot tell a lie", Washington's myth is strong in the national memory of this great leader.

Washington never set out to become the greatest president of all time or even to be in a position of leadership in the new country he helped to start. He was the one who originated the concept of a "citizen president" and he believed so strongly in that concept that he refused to run for a third term because his time as citizen leader was over. This tradition was sustained with little exception until it was codified into part of our constitution in the form of the 22nd amendment.

But before Washington was a great political leader, he showed his tremendous leadership skills on the field of battle. He learned the art of warfare serving honorably in the French and Indian war and his influence and the respect he had earned during that conflict netted him the title of commander and chief of the American Army when the continental congress created that role in 1775. Small wonder when he ascended to the presidency some years later, he carried the responsibility of commander and chief with him to the presidency where it continues to reside today even though few of our modern presidents have the military credentials of Washington.

When commanding the troops during the revolutionary war, a famous incident that has been captured beautifully by artists was his decision to cross the Delaware in New Jersey to stage a surprise attack and win the battle against the British. It was yet another brilliant maneuver that showed his firm grasp of military strategy and only served to add to his fame and reputation as an outstanding leader of men.

After the war, Washington again was interested in retiring from public life but he was never one to turn away when his nation needed him. And needed him it did as he presided over the Continental Congress to assure the successful drafting of the US Constitution. Of the many great accomplishments of his life, his ability to provide leadership and inspiration to that assembly to produce this masterpiece of American political ligature would certainly be ranked as perhaps his finest hour.

George Washington was rewarded for his superior leadership skills when he was given the awesome responsibility of serving as the nations first President of the United States. His wisdom and insight into what the nation needed at east stage of its early development made him the man of the hour for a struggling republic. Few recognize that one of his greatest contributions to the presidency was recognizing that the nation was torn and weary of war. So using his considerable influence and negotiating skills, Washington signed a number of important treaties that resulted in years of peace that were needed to turn the country from thoughts of war to thoughts of building a great nation.

Washington never tired of providing leadership for two terms as the first American president and it was he who decided not to serve a third term and returned once again to private life. But his impact on the nation and the world was profound and long lasting. It was the kind of nation shaping influence that truly earned him the title associated to him to this day of "father of the nation."

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When America Proved That Anything Is Possible

(category: American-History, Word count: 616)
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It was one of those moments in American history that the people who were able to watch it for the first time felt like they were in a science fiction movie. But with televisions cameras on every move, the nation and the world watched on July 20, 1969 as three American astronauts landed on the moon.

The project had been in the works for years to be sure. You have to wonder with the phenomenal amount of work, expert engineering and the amazing genius that created the rocket ships and everything that would be needed to make the flight possible, if even those in NASA sat in mute wonder and had goosebumps when "Buzz" Aldren was the first man in history to put his foot on another world and pronounce those famous words -

"That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

That phrase, which itself was carefully prepared, has a lot of wisdom in it. Sure, touching another world for the first time in human history was a tremendous accomplishment for America. But more than that, it signaled a new era for humankind everywhere. All of a sudden, the moon wasn't a far away myth, full of mystery and magic. All of a sudden, people everywhere felt like they too could touch the stars if they put out their best efforts too.

It was also a huge moment for the unity of all people. Few things cause the world population to come together and link arms and be one people, not separate countries. Most of the time, it's a terrible global disaster that makes us all bond together. But this time was different. This time is was a moment so phenomenal that everybody stopped and watched and everybody knew that this was not just a great accomplishment for three astronauts and scientists that put them there. This was a great accomplishment for mankind.

American history is populated with tremendous events, both bad and good. But it's worth a moment to sit back and reflect on what the first moon landing meant and continues to mean for Americans and the American spirit. You have to wonder if any other nation would have had the ability, the creative powers, the powerful minds and the collective will to see this kind of amazing accomplishment through to success.

It's even more amazing when you remember that just a few years earlier, on September 12, 1962 that President Kennedy challenged American to rise to this challenge in a speech at Rice University. It takes a lot to make something as historic and earth shaking as landing on the moon a reality and visionary leadership such as Kennedy showed that day was a big part of why this landing made history.

This amazing achievement points out something outstanding about the American spirit. Americans are a people who dream big. And to land a man on the moon took big dreams. But we didn't just dream to put a man up there, it was not acceptable unless we got everybody home safely as well.

For the most part the American space program has had a phenomenal history of success in breaking through barriers that nobody had every done before. Yes, there have been set backs and tragedies along the way. But Americans are not quitters and through all the struggles we face, we face them together. But we never forget to look up at the stars and dream of the day that yet again we see an American set foot on another world and plant out flag in that soil to be signal forever that America was here!

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Vietnam

(category: American-History, Word count: 695)
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In the annals of American history, there may be no other country name that evokes such emotion as the country of Vietnam. The history of this conflict is more than just a military struggle. The impact that the Vietnam conflict had on American culture and foreign policy for many decades to come makes it a truly watershed war in the life of a relatively young country.

Vietnam was not, on the surface as clearly a moral battleground as World War II or the Civil War had been. That in itself made it more difficult for Americans to understand and become patriotic about as they had been in prior wars. Yes, as in past conflicts, we found ourselves defending our allies, the South Vietnamese against the attacks of a communist neighbor to the north. And in that way, it became a struggle to assist an ally, a military objective that America had long embraced.

But the war was not just with the North Vietnamese. To a very large extent, the war was against the Chinese and the Russians who were using the theater in Vietnam to wear down the American fighting force. It was a war that had been going on for many decades before the Americans got involved as a regional battle.

Many foreign powers had gotten involved and left defeated so when America entered this conflict, it was a very different kind of war than we had been used to. The armies mixed with the population. There were no uniforms and formations and battle theaters as battle could occur anywhere at any time. Combine that with a hostile jungle setting and the complete absence of any battle protocol and you had a formula for failure if not a very difficult road to success.

Vietnam also is a watchword for the tremendous resistance movement that rose up on American soil to try to stop the conflict. This resistance movement became deeply entangled with a huge change to the social fabric in the rise of the youth movement, the hippies and the fast moving surge of the civil rights and the woman's rights movements. This made the era of the late 1950s through the early 1970s tremendously difficult to navigate as a nation.

Vietnam did follow somewhat of a predictable path of invasions, major battles, set backs and regrouping of our forces. But the military faced a huge challenge in facing the many new war scenarios this difficult combat setting presented. As the casualty count grew, without a clear cut definition of victory and with very few clear victories to demonstrate to the American people our superiority, the ability of civilian leadership to sustain the support for the war effort became jeopardized.

Vietnam very much represents a transition in how America viewed conflict. We came out of the huge successes we had seen our military bring in battle. The defeat of Hitler and the axis powers in World War II gave America a sense of confidence, of divine calling to prevail militarily and the concept that we are the good guys and we will always win. But we did not win in Vietnam and that was and is a hard lesson to learn.

America demonstrated its devout dedication to the concept of supporting an ally in a warring situation when it committed troops to the Vietnam conflict. But there were many lessons to be learned about preparation and going into a conflict with a strategy that had a high probability of success. In wars to come in later years such as Grenada, the Balkans and the Liberation of Kuwait, we demonstrated that America had learned those lessons going in with a massive force and achieving victory before we got bogged down in a long civil conflict.

So we can applaud the bravery of our troops and the willingness of our leadership to learn from a tough war like Vietnam. The lessons to be learned from Vietnam are still being worked out. But in the end, we will be a better nation and a stronger nation because we put ourselves on the line for a friend, even if the outcome was not the desired outcome.

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The Legacy Of Columbus

(category: American-History, Word count: 646)
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If you thought back to the first things you ever learned about the history of America, the one that jumps out is that Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered America is 1492. While the date is correct, we later learned when our study of history became more scholarly that there is some dispute about whether Columbus discovered America at all. So what is the real legacy that this legend of Columbus has given to the American culture that has made him such a revered figure in cultural history?

So much of the Columbus story is approximate that, at first review, we would almost relegate the story of how Columbus discovered America to the level of a myth that borders on superhero worship. But Columbus was not a myth. There really was an explorer named Columbus who carried out three bold journeys across the ocean and during those journeys, he did indeed discover "the new world." His ships really were named the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria and he did indeed embark one of those three voyages in 1492.

The legacy of Columbus then is more than just the facts of his exploratory journeys and their outcome. There is reason to believe that Columbus's fabled "discovery of America" did not occur on North American soil but somewhat further south of here, somewhere in the Bahamas. But the legacy of Columbus lies in his spirit and the challenge he took on that is part of the American spirit and one we identify with so strongly.

Part of the legend was that Columbus embarked on this trip for the new world despite the prevailing "scientific" belief that the world was flat. Now research in recent times have surfaced sufficient documentation to show that sailors of that time never did believe that teaching. Their extensive knowledge of navigation and astronomy, which is crucial for any successful sea voyage, was sufficient for sailors to know that the earth was round and that they would never "fall off the edge." However, the image of those brave men launching out to sea, against the advice of popular opinion, to find something new and exciting so connects with the American spirit of discovery and adventure that this myth persists as part of the legacy of Columbus.

Americans do have a tremendous sense of discovery and adventure and a deeply seated need to conquer new lands, to reach out beyond their own grasp and to do the impossible. This was the spirit of Manifest Destiny which gripped the nation long before there was any reason to believe that this meager band of colonists had the resources to settle a great nation. Americans always have had such a firm belief in themselves and a core faith that they could do the impossible. That part of the American spirit is what connects to Columbus's setting out on these bold missions facing certain dangers so he too could discover new lands and have great adventures.

The legacy of Columbus also lies in the American desire to explore. Even though the source of the quotation is only a science fiction show, the "mission" of the fictional space ship "The Enterprise" sums up a deep desire in the heart of all Americans.

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her five year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.

For Americans, the mission of James Kirk is a perfect restatement of the mission of Christopher Columbus. And it is the mission of America which has driven this country and its citizens to discoveries and achievements that have never been done before. It is that spirit of Columbus in all Americans that is one of the things that have made this country great.

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Benjamin Franklin

(category: American-History, Word count: 612)
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Sometimes when a country is just getting organized, its citizens are considered to be uneducated, out of touch or primitive. But exactly opposite was the truth when the great American experiment began to take shape. The world did not see America as provincial or simple and that is due to a large part to the work of the man many that many have called "The First American". That man was Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin stands out amongst those we would call "The Founding Fathers" because he was neither a military man nor a politician. He was one of the few we think of a one of our nation's fathers that never served as president. But that does not mean that his contributions to the start of this great country were not profound and far reaching.

Benjamin Franklin could easily be described as what was popularly known in his day as a "renaissance man". He was truly proficient in many fields of discipline and he had a mind that was fascinated with all areas of study and knowledge. As such he brought to the discussions with his fellow founding fathers a knowledge of political theory, an awareness of history and an ability to speculate on the perfect union that was crucial to the laying the conceptual foundation of what America would come to be when it blossomed into reality.

For many, we remember Benjamin Franklin as a great scientist and inventor. And to be sure he qualified in that realm as well. Every school boy or girl has that image of him flying that kite to capture electricity to test his theories that is so popular in our mythology of his accomplishments. But these images are no myth for Franklin was truly a great inventor contributing to the world such important innovations as the lightning rod, swim fins, the catheter, the harmonica and bifocals. In that way, Benjamin Franklin had as much in common with Michelangelo as he did with Thomas Jefferson and indeed he was in good company if listed with either.

But it was a political theorist and a philosopher that Franklin made huge contributions to the development of the American experiment in its early formations. It was he who was able to envision the concept of a new American nation. But his talents did not end at his ability to use his powerful mind to envision the future so well. He was also a talented communicator, writer and teacher so he was able to use his eloquence and magnetic personality to promote the idea of an American nation both within the colonies and internationally.

Benjamin Franklin was truly a citizen of the world as he was as comfortable in the courtyards of France as he was in the pubs of Boston. In fact, he was so popular on both sides of the Atlantic that he served as America's first ambassador to France and therein lies one of his greatest contributions to the independence of the new country. He was able to use his vast popularity and his trained powers of persuasion to cause the French to enter the battle on the side of the colonies against the British which was a major contributor to the success of the revolution to free America from English control and launch the independent American nation.

Franklin's writings have become treasured documents among the archives of this important time in American history. But just as much as his written work, his influence as a thinker, an intellectual and an international diplomat set the standard for others to follow after him and truly established America as a member of the international community of nations.

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The Great War

(category: American-History, Word count: 699)
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The history of America is decorated with some of the great conflicts that have ever been fought by civilizations and for great ideals. This was never truer than in World War II which was sometimes called the Great War. As is so often the case, it was not a war that America wanted to become part of. So often, it is when aggressors bring war to America that she is forced to respond. But in all cases when America responds, it is with a fury that her enemies will seldom forget.

When you think about it, the very idea of a world war is terribly frightening. And in every way, World War II was a world war because it caught up virtually every country and every continent in a global conflict that went on for years. The enemies of America and her allies were well armed, intelligent, determined and powerful. But America was up to the challenge and it will be up to the challenge again if the likes of Hitler dare to threaten civilization like this again.

World War II was also virtually a textbook case of flawless collaboration with our allies. Working together with them almost like we were one country and one army we deployed our forces across multiple theaters of combat from Europe to Asia to Russia and across the globe. We had to fight more than one enemy. Hitler's Germany alone was a frightening enemy as it spread its evil influence across Europe capturing country after country and threatening to swallow up the continent whole and then move on to capture lands in central Asia and even America.

But we also had powerful enemies in German's allies, particularly Japan. When this frightening enemy struck our forces at Pearle Harbor, it was a blow to America that could not be ignored. For Japan, they had hoped to cripple the American military and remove all hope from the American heart to be able to strike back or become part of the conflict. They got exactly the opposite as every man, woman and child in America rallied to build the kind of war machine that would bring the Axis powers to a crashing end, no matter what the cost.

But the most important thing that America said to the world when it took on Hitler's armies and defeated them was that totalitarian rule of free peoples would never be tolerated. Hitler had dreams of world domination like the great kings of ancient Rome of the early Germanic empires. But America had thrown off dictators when we founded this country and declared that we would not become the pawn of kings or tyrants. We were not going to turn over that hard fought freedom to a madman while there was a fighting will left in this country.

It was not an easy battle or one without cost. Thousands of America's youth gave their lives to preserve the freedoms that had been won by our forefathers. Our leaders had to show a resolve and a unity that they would not blink in the face of a challenge and they would not let down the brave American soldier or the civilian population that stood behind them until Hitler and his allies were in defeat.

The world saw what America was made of in that great conflict. It saw that a country that was gifted with great wealth and prosperity was also willing to turn those resources to defend its borders and defend its allies. It was a stern lesson for our enemies to learn that America was not a country to be trifled with in combat. But then we showed that we were not a vindictive country when, even in defeat, we reached out to Japan, Germany and other defeated peoples and helped them rebuild from that awful war. This too is a testimony to the American sprit and the American sense of fair play. Let's hope that an enemy never rises up again to test that will because they will find as Hitler did, that America would not fail to respond to the call to battle or the call to honor which is her legacy.

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