F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” But from the ashes of Manhattan and the wreckage of New Orleans, the USS New York sets sail.
Built from 7 ½ tons of steel salvaged at Ground Zero, the $1 billion assault ship connects the two American tragedies of our time. The New York honors those lost on September 11, 2001, and was built by those hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In all walks of life, Americans love comebacks. We cheer for the aging sports star seeking one last shot at a championship, and for the actor who wins an Oscar after years of drug problems and trouble with the law, and for the troubled youth who grows out of a life of crime and into a minister.
So like the crook turned preacher, embrace this comeback. Find hope in this symbolism of the resilient American spirit. Take note of this powerful message. Americans get back up when they’re knocked down.
In fact, American lives are often defined by their second acts. We live for second acts. We’re addicted to redemption, and this is a redemption story.
The USS New York, like the USS Arlington and Somerset, stand as somber reminders of the events of September 11, 2001. Yet, they also stand for the days of unity and strength following those attacks. They are as much about the second act as they are about the first.
So when you’re feeling down about today’s problems, think of the New York. Consider the wreckage of the World Trade Center being forged into an assault ship by the hands of those devastated by Katrina.
Remember there are second acts in American lives. We have never been a people who cower when challenged. We are, instead, a people that rise to the occasion.
Today, we’re not being challenged by an outside aggressor, but by our own mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t rise to this moment. Plenty of us are fed up and disheartened by the events in Washington and Lansing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them. We just need to channel the New York.
We need to pause and recognize that this is our redemption story. Our second act. The American story is full of failures redeemed by triumph. We can rebuild. We have turned buildings, knocked down by evil, into ships designed to defend freedom.
So, when you hear people talk of fleeting greatness, remember the New York. Great buildings that displayed economic might were toppled, but they rose as a ship that personifies American resolve.
As the New York leaves our harbors, take notice, and as it reminds us there are second acts in American lives, remember those we lost during the first.