True patriotism is a love of country, but it must be an intelligent love and not blind devotion to one's nation without regard to its ideals. Abraham Lincoln recognized this when, speaking in tribute of Henry Clay, he said:
"He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right, and human nature."
The patriotism of Clay, Lincoln, and generations of Americans was of this nature. They loved their country because it was theirs but even more because it was a land where liberty, justice, and opportunity flourished. They did not love it because of its government but because of its people; not because of the role its government played in world affairs but because of the inspiration the very idea of America gave to every person, great and small, who made this blessed land his home, and to every person in the less fortunate lands of the world who, amid oppression, tyranny, and injustice -- as in Poland today -- looked to America as the land of freedom.
Americans today should dedicate themselves again to that true patriotism. We should dedicate ourselves again to the enduring values of family, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom which have characterized our country these past two centuries. Let us do this, and our patriotism will be strong and fulfilling.
- Ronald Reagan, February 13, 1982