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This Is an Idea Worth Fighting For

“America is an idea. America is the greatest idea that the world ever came up with.” — Bono

I just love the quote above from Bono because it’s so true. America is definitely the greatest idea that the world has ever come up with.

Now, that doesn’t mean our nation is perfect. It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep striving to do better. It just means that the idea that defines the bedrock of this great nation is still the greatest idea ever. May we not lose sight of that.

America was founded upon an idea. We were also founded by people who took a stand. That’s our heritage, and it’s part of what makes the idea of this nation so great.

This week, there has been a lot of discussion about taking a knee and locking arms. There has been a lot of discussion about how to respect our flag and our “National Anthem,” about how to acknowledge and address racism, and about how to define what it really means to be an American.

There have been people taking stands everywhere—from Capitol Hill, to sports fields, to TV screens (thank you, Jimmy Kimmel, for using your platform to take a stand on health care).

I’ve been asked countless times, “What’s going on? Why is this happening? What would you do?” I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I don’t have all of the answers, but here is what I know for sure: I am proud to be an American. I respect our flag and those who fought for our great country. I also believe that when it comes to race relations, we can and must do better.

I understand why so many athletes took a knee. Personally, I preferred the way the Dallas Cowboys’ managed the situation—by locking arms, kneeling, and then standing for the “National Anthem.” To me, that was an acknowledgment of what is, as well as a sign of respect for who we are as a country.

I don’t believe that people who take a knee don’t love their country. I think you can both love your country and take a knee to acknowledge what is, while committing to doing better.

What would I have done? I would have taken a knee. Actually, I would have knelt on both my knees because I believe that if we want to fulfill the idea of us, then we have got to get humble. We have got to get real. And, we have got to stop segregating ourselves from one another. Nothing good or productive ever came from inciting our neighbors or calling them names.

I want people who have the pulpit to use it for good. I want them to use it to calm fears, not incite them. I want them to lead us forward with intelligence of the mind and heart, not continue to divide us and tear away at the idea of us.

Words matter. Tone matters. Awareness matters.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve become older (and hopefully wiser), is that life is a lot more gray than we are led to believe. You can protest and still be patriotic. You can be a good Catholic and take birth control. You can be smart, even if you didn’t do well in school. You can be divorced and still believe in marriage. You can be married, and still feel lonely. You can be old in numbers and young in spirit.

I’d much prefer to see someone vote and protest, then see someone not vote at all and still stand for the flag. So, let’s get above the noise and allow our fellow Americans to use their voices, without judgment.

Change is often messy, but if we are going to seek change, then we must first seek to better understand. We don’t have to trash talk our way to change. We don’t have to denigrate others to change. We don’t have to divide.

We cannot and should not let one person decide what it means to be an American. We should not let one person decide what’s right and wrong. No one person or party owns the American flag or our country.

You can, in fact, take a knee and still respect your country. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are part of the big idea.

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Have We Forgotten How to Disagree?: This question may seem odd in today’s social and political climate, but a NY Times essay that was trending this week makes some valid points about how we could be disagreeing with each other more effectively. 



She Lost Her Voice. Then She Found a New One. This week on TODAY, I spoke with Lauren Marks—a young actress who, at the age of 27, was struck with a sudden brain aneurysm that took away her language skills. As we talk so much about the manner in which we express ourselves, let Lauren’s touching story remind us how grateful we should be that we still can.  



Speaking Up for Mental Health Awareness. As we wrap National Recovery Month, it’s worth honoring those who are brave enough to speak openly and honestly about mental illness. This week on Twitter, many individuals were sharing their tips for self-care using the hashtag #MyTipsForMentalHealth. If we want to better understand one another, we must first open our hearts to hear other people’s stories. Read the stories and advice that many shared this week, then weigh in with your own.



Stepping Up For Our Neighbors in Puerto Rico: Amidst all of the talk about what it means to be an American, there has been a lot of other talk this week about why we aren’t doing more to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. While Trump’s decision on Thursday to loosen shipping regulations to the commonwealth will help speed recovery efforts, there is certainly much more that can be done—by our government, and by everyone. Thank God for people like Jennifer Lopez, who donated $1 million support to Puerto Rico, and Pitbull, who is using his private jet to transport cancer patients from the is Save & Exit land to the mainland. Learn more about what’s happened, and find out how you can still help.   



In addition to the NFL players who stood up for their beliefs this week by kneeling, we want to honor everyone who has ever had the courage to speak up for what they believe. Muhammad Ali. Rosa Parks. Jim Brady. Sallie Yates. Billie Jean King. Ellen Degeneres. Donna Norris and Richard Hagerman, who lost their daughter and then fought to establish the Amber Alert in her memory. The Stanford rape victim, who has remained anonymous, but still bravely used her voice to stand up to her attacker and speak up for other victims. They are all Architects of Change.

America has been built by those who have taken stands, and in fact, there are millions of Americans who take stands every day and don’t receive any credit or time in the limelight for it. Everyday citizens like Zach Wahl, whose beautiful story captured in the video below reminds me how many great Americans there are. These are the types of people whose powerful stands make us a better nation.


George Clooney stood up and shared his thoughts on the news this week in the form of a poem. His words, which were first published on the website The Daily Beast, really moved me. They’re certainly worthy of reflection this Sunday.



I was so excited this week to announce a new partnership with my dear friend Sean Hayes, one of the stars of NBC’s beloved sitcom “Will & Grace.” From now until October 20, you can donate to the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement using this link and be entered to win a trip to LA to visit the set of “Will & Grace!” You’ll also get to tour the set and meet the cast. Go here to learn more. Enter the contest today!

Get Empowered. Pass It Forward.

Visit the shop on to learn more about Maria’s line of books and products! A portion of all proceeds benefit her nonprofit, the Women Alzheimer’s Movement.