Some weeks ago, as I was sorting through my desk drawers, I noticed my passport was almost expired. Being one who wants to be ready for anything, I downloaded the forms, had new pictures taken and completed the necessary steps just in case some gorgeous, long-legged woman insists I accompany her to the West Indies. You can never tell when you might need to be on the move. What I received in return from our State Department was far more than any of the other passports I have had in my life.
Those who know me best will tell you I am a pretty big sap when it comes to my country. At first I didn’t notice the new changes because I didn’t bother opening it, other than to see if the State Department might have given me darker hair rather than my ‘wisdom white.’ But in an idle moment this week, I looked closer and – oh my goodness – I tremendously appreciate what someone in our government has finally done right.
Let me tell you about our new passport because, so help me, it gave me a huge thrill.
Seriously, hang with me…you’ll see. The cover is the same as always, navy with the golden seal of the United States on front, but on the inside cover is a drawing of a man standing on a ship during the Revolution and the handwritten words, “O say does that star spangled banner yet wave…O’er the land of the free and home of the brave.”
I just love that. On the first page inside is a quote of Abraham Lincoln at the top: “…And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Underneath the quote are the words, “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”
This kind of stuff impresses me, assuring me that my country is still representing us as we travel abroad. On the next page is my photo and pertinent information but the required signature is now on the following page, underneath artwork that is the head of an eagle and the priceless words, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States.”
Wow! It was like a cool breeze on a hot summer. Let’s face it. We have a lot of uproar today … Obamacare, same-sex marriages, funerals in Charleston, hysteria over something on a weekly basis. But as I read my new passport, of all things, I must admit I felt a sense of calm.
On the next page is where you write your personal information and emergency contacts. They ask you write this IN PENCIL, rather than ink that might run and smear if it gets wet, and urge you to constantly keep your emergency contacts up to date. (Do this everywhere you keep emergency contacts, not just your passport.)
On the passport’s following page are the rules for having a passport and it states plainly, “This passport is the property of the United States…it must be surrendered upon demand of an authorized representative of the United States Government.” (The money you pay for a passport is actually a usage fee for 10 years.)
Page 6 and 7 are headed by a quote from Daniel Webster. “The principle of free governments adheres to the American soil. It is bedded in it, immovable as its mountains.” Underneath are two pages of important information for anyone traveling abroad … vaccinations, “Avoid violating foreign laws,” safety, “Avoid becoming a target,” how to register with the U.S. Embassy if you are on an extended stay, and other things you need to know.
On pages 8 and 9 is where the Visa stamps should begin, customs stamps when you enter and leave a country. But in the background is Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and at the top are the words of George Washington, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”
Pages 10 and 11 – space for more visas – in the background is a beautiful rendition showing the USS Constitution in full sail and above “Old Ironsides” is an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (When was the last time you read that? What reassurance it is!)
Pages 12-13 have the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the background, with a soaring eagle, grazing buffalo and this from Dr. Martin Luther King: “We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and God grant that America will be true to her dream.”
Pages 14 and 15 show Mount Rushmore as the background, the faces of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln quite clear. The quote at the top is from John F. Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Pages 16 and 17 – still more room for customs’ stamps, showing the mighty Mississippi River, with a paddlewheel boat, in the background. This quote from Theodore Roosevelt is at the top: “This is a new nation, based on a mighty continent, of boundless possibilities.”
Pages 18 and 19 – a sheaf of wheat dominates the background, with a farmer plowing with a pair of oxen. This quote by Dwight Eisenhower is at the top: “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”
Pages 20 and 21 – A pair of cowboys accompanying the herd on a cattle drive is the background – really great artwork – and above is this from Lyndon B. Johnson: “For this is what America is all about. It is uncrossed dessert and unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say ‘Farewell.’ Is a new world coming? We welcome it – and we will bend it to the hopes of man.”
Pages 22 and 23 – A powerful locomotive, full of steam and billowing smoke, is pictured right after crossing a long trestle and the words inscribed on the Golden Spike at Promontory Point are at the top: “May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.”
Pages 24 and 25 – There is a tall Indian totem pole on one side of the background and a grizzly bear with a salmon in its mouth on the other. Above is an excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version: “We send thanks to all Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are glad they are still here and we hope it will always be so.”
Pages 26 and 27 – Lady Liberty, her torch held high over New York harbor, is on one side of the background and a close up of the tablet she holds in the other hand bear the wording “July IV, MDCCLXXVI (Roman numerals for the date the Declaration of Independence was signed.) The quote above is from Anna Julia Cooper: “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
Page 28 – On the last page of the passport the quote at the top comes from Ellison S. Onizuka: “Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds … to look from a higher plateau than the last generation.”
There are also these words in closing, as one can’t help but notice the passport’s cover is thicker than it once was: “This document contains sensitive electronics. For best performance, do not bend, perforate or expose to extreme temperatures.” The inside of the back cover shows a spacecraft hovering over the spheres of several planets.
The new passport of the United States is simply dazzling. Why should anyone in these United States ever expect less?