May I introduce to you a very special guest, friend and teacher of John Adams Academy: Odelin Fernandez. His passion for freedom is infectious and legendary. Thank you, Odelin, for teaching us and our scholars what it means to be free.
—Dr. Dean Forman
Author Bio: Odelin Fernandez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1964. Indoctrinated in Communist ideas in primary and secondary schools in the time of the Cold War, Mr. Fernandez graduated high school in 1982. He was then sent to the then USSR and graduated from the Byelorussian University of Economics in Minsk. During his residence in the Soviet Union, he lived and observed such historical events as of the death of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Cherenkov, the Gorbachev power era, the Perestroika movement, glasnost policy reform, the infamous Chernobyl accident and the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings. Upon returning to Cuba at the end of the decade, Mr. Fernadez taught Economics, Marketing and Accounting in the College of Economics in Havana, “Economía Habana.” Mr. Fernandez also worked in the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Cuba and he was the accountant of the French Corporation Total Fina Elf.
Mr. Fernandez has since lived in Sweden, France, Spain and Mexico, where he worked as a teacher and an economist. He has lived in the United States since 2004 where he has worked as an accountant, a labor certifications specialist, and a high school teacher. In 2008, he moved to California where he currently works as a high school teacher.
Mr. Fernandez has firsthand knowledge of how dangerous Communist indoctrination can be, and how detrimental it is for a society to be demoralized into thinking that restricting individual freedoms and increasing government control is the solution for societal problems. As a result, Mr. Fernandez, a survivor of Communism, has become an activist for freedom.
Principles of Freedom: Citizenship and Patriotism
By Odelin Fernandez, Survivor of Communism
To preserve something precious, that thing must be deeply understood. Otherwise how does one know how to care for it?
Few things are as precious as our citizenship in this free country. Citizenship and patriotism must be appreciated, understood, and protected.
Citizenship refers to the condition of belonging to a city (or a country), to a cozy place—like a home—that one recognizes as dear and secure, beloved and unique. That dear, secure, beloved and unique place that occupies a special spot in our hearts makes us feel proud to be seen—and treated—as a person that inhabits that place, because that place is our fatherland (or our motherland) and we would not trade it for any other place in the entire universe. That is why citizenship was so highly respected in the Roman Empire. “Civis Romanus Sum” (I am a Roman Citizen) was a phrase that saved many while traveling across the Roman Empire. Just by saying the words Civis Romanus Sum, your safety was guaranteed.
Closely related to citizenship is the idea of patriotism. In Greek, Patriotikos is a concept referring to a fellow compatriot (countryman). Father is Pater, in Latin. It is closely related to the concept of patriotism, which is that immense love people feel for that unique place that we call country.
From ancient times, we know that the Greek cities functioned as states. The government was very close to the dwellers of the cities to guarantee real representation. Yet not all inhabitants of the cities were considered citizens. Some were just residents. Only the free men were citizens in the Greek city states. As a group, the citizens were a kind of superior class, a caste, who were educated, could vote, had properties, would pay taxes and serve in time of war. Citizens, meaning the freemen, were independent people who were the leaders of their families, and by extension, the proud servant leaders of their communities. At that time, to be a citizen was a big deal because the citizens had rights but, above all things, they had huge responsibilities.
Our Western Civilization has developed a framework to understand our individual rights and responsibilities, and also, our collective rights and responsibilities to improve the operation of our human societies. The Assize of Clarendon, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights plus the works of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu and Rousseau (among others) cemented the basic framework that the American Founding Fathers used to declare American independence and to create the nation. It was to be a nation of freemen, a nation of citizens, and a nation of patriotic inhabitants of a land of freedom.
However, the American Founding Fathers were aware of the flaws in previous attempts to create a functional and fair human society. Since in a very specific way, citizens are a responsible, participative, active, superior class, the Founding Fathers widened the concept as much as they could, calling the citizens “we the people” and allowing for (and encouraging) the inhabitants of the nation to perfect themselves and elevate their existence in order to be considered citizens. The Founding Fathers knew that even if human nature could not be changed, the humans could improve their behavior by cultivating high moral values. Guided by the grace of God, they concluded that “all men are created equal” so every one of us can become part of that superior class (citizens) that they called “we the people.”
That all men are created equal is a revolutionary concept, while also being universally, eternal and indisputably true. All men are created equal is such an important concept because it means that we, as humans, are created equipped with the ability to cultivate moral values and virtues. We can recognize human rights (life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness, self-defense, etc.). We can emphasize our responsibilities (protect life, protect freedoms, love God above all things, love your neighbor as yourself, defend human rights, etc.). Additionally, we can elevate ourselves to the caste of freemen that are called citizens and “we the people.” The Founding Fathers advised that the social contract they created for the new society in America, named the Constitution, was suited only for moral and religious people.
Western Civilization reached its pinnacle with the creation of the American nation. America became the tallest beacon of liberty, illuminating the world. America was created with the belief that “we the people” (we the citizens, we the free men and women of the nation) will be active defenders of the principles of our Pater Land, of our unique City in which we have that tall beacon of freedom. Today, any person born in America under the jurisdiction of the United States of America, plus all naturalized people, are considered American citizens. Few qualifications are placed in order to be considered “we the people.” Thomas Jefferson referred to America as a “natural aristocracy” not of birth or by wealth.
Maybe we should ask the question: Is it good to consider everyone a citizen, even if they do not contribute to the wellbeing of the society, even if they do not defend our American values and even if they openly hate America?
The Founding Fathers envisioned a wider participation in the government from the part of independent moral people who felt the responsibility of improving their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of their communities. They envisioned a nation of proud independent and freedom loving people that would respect and defend their dear, secure, beloved and unique place (their home, their city, their country)—the one that occupies a special spot in their hearts—with all their power and until their last breath. They envisioned a nation of patriots acting with true patriotism, meaning defending their fatherland from all enemies foreign and domestic and defending their homes from those who threaten their freedoms.
In the United States of America, both concepts—citizenship and patriotism—are intrinsically related to the concept of freedom. In America you cannot be a patriot if you are not a good citizen, and you cannot be a good citizen if you are not a patriot. Today America is calling its patriot citizens to defend the land of the free and the home of the brave.