Last week, editors at The Nation asked their readers to answer the question, “What Does Patriotism Mean To You?” in 200 words or less.  Some Twin Cities Summer of Solutions folk responded to voice their feelings about our country, promote our vision, and spread the word about SOS.  My entry and those of a few others are posted below.

Patriotism is proactive. It is seeing and believing in a better America, and working to make that vision a reality. Patriots are not sticks floating down the stream of society, shifting and responding to each push and pull of the current that carries it. They are trail blazers pushing forward along the banks and through the valley. It is a difficult yet necessary role, for when the stream encounters a dam, it is the Patriots with the vision and grit to take on the challenge and the allegiance to see it through. They do not balk at, deny, or flee from our nation’s problems.

I am blazing trails in Minneapolis with the Summer of Solutions program.  We see the problems of our hollowed economy, divided communities and degraded environments as inherently connected, and our remedies seek to address them all. We are working hands on to create green jobs, promote energy efficiency, and empower communities across the country. What we are doing is unchartered territory, but we are pushing forward with passion using the assets we have to create a better America. And we won’t stop.

– Casey Wojtalewicz

This is the first Fourth of July when I can safely say that I’m proud to be an American.  I think this realization of my unique brand of patriotism is a result of the past few years I have spent abroad. I chose to attend university in Scotland with the assumption that outside the US, people would be less materialistic, or more earth-conscious and community-oriented. However, I realized that everything I was looking for could be found in my very hometown. Patriotism does not mean loving the political views and lifestyle choices of every citizen. Rather, patriotism is finding the pieces of your country that bring out the best in you, and caring about your country enough to make it a better place. In my hometown of Minneapolis, I am working alongside other youth to create community sustainability and build a green economy as part of a program called Summer of Solutions.  As I work the land in community gardens, talk to community members about energy efficiency, or bike around the Twin Cities, I feel patriotic for this piece of my country, and even more so, for what my country has the potential to become.

Elana Bulman

Patriotism demands that we find an America powered by dirty energy – which funds terrorism and destroys Gulf Coast livelihoods – unacceptable. It means that we lead smarter pathways for our country as car companies and banks and housing markets and energy suppliers that are “too big to fail” start taking our communities and our livelihoods down with them. Patriotism means embodying the entrepreneurial, can-do, team spirit that exemplifies our nation’s best moments as leaders in our workplaces, schools, churches, and neighborhoods. It means walking resolutely towards the dawn of a sustainable, socially-just, and prosperous economy powered by local entrepreneurs, strong communities, and clean and efficient energy.

This summer, I’m helping a new generation of leaders create their own careers in the green economy, empower their communities through collaborative solutions, and help others do the same. They are helping neighborhoods convert hobby gardens into viable urban farming businesses, recapture value from utility bills through energy efficiency, develop green manufacturing centers on abandoned industrial sites to create jobs, and create access to clean transit options. Here in Minneapolis and nationwide, the Summer of Solutions ( is helping nurture this type of patriotism – the nitty-gritty on-the-ground leadership to take America forward.

– Timothy DenHerder-Thomas

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