By Oliver DeMille

“Do you love your country?” my daughter Meri asked enthusiastically. “I’ve been reading Anne of Green Gables and I love my country as much as she did!”

Nearly everyone says “yes” when asked this question, but let’s look a little deeper. Do you actually, really love your country?

Most people don’t know what this question means. They think it refers to loving your nation, or your state, or being patriotic to your government. But these are actually four different things:

  • A nation is a group of people with a shared history and a shared vision of the future.
  • A state is a government entity, sometimes ruling over a nation but at other times ruling over many nations.
  • A government consists of the institutions and people who carry out the will of a state.
  • A country is the land, the trees, rivers, lakes, clouds, mountains, “spacious skies” and “amber waves of grain.”

So when someone asks if you love our country, it is worth thinking about. Where do you love to take a walk outside, hike, raft, or visit for a picnic?

This is your country.

Louis L’Amour asked: “What boy does not know the land of his boyhood? Every cave … every dip in the land and hole in the hedges, and all that lonely, rockbound coast for miles. There I had played and imagined myself in wars, and there I could run, dodge, and elude.”

The answer to this question, in our modern world, is that many boys and girls have no such experience.

How can we love our country if we spend very little time with it?

Part of Leadership Education is spending a lot of time outside.

TJEd is about getting the kind of education great leaders need, and the outdoors can be an essential part of this.

Mountains, beaches, parks—there are so many ways to get outside and improve education.

The Only True Patriotism

The classical historian Livy wrote that the Roman Republic became great because of what he called an early “…sense of community…. That sense—the only true patriotism—comes slowly and springs from the heart: it is founded upon respect for the family and love of the soil.”

That’s right, the great nations of history were “founded upon respect for the family and love of the soil.”

Taking the family and getting outside, close to nature, close to the land, and where possible actually planting and caring for things, is part of leadership.

No education is complete without it.

The great mentor Russell Kirk used to wake his mentees before light and have them work in the orchards until the heat of the day before hitting the books.

He said no book learning was really possible unless you had already worked with your hands.

So change your plans this week.

Do more outside.

Take your family with you.

Let family and soil and trees and streams teach your kids and youth more about greatness.

If you look around, you’ll be amazed at all the opportunities for outdoor learning.

Take advantage of more of these.

A lot more.

A Thomas Jefferson Education

Thomas Jefferson took a long walk outside nearly every day, because he believed that it had a huge impact on one’s ability to think.

Go outside more often. Love your country more.

Try to love it as much as Anne of Green Gables, even though that’s admittedly a tall order.

Go outside more, like Elizabeth Bennet, and drink in some of her spirit of “conceited independence and country-town indifference to decorum!” Our nation could use a lot more of this attitude right now.

Your whole family’s education will greatly benefit from this one improvement in our daily lives.

“Meri,” I said after explaining what it means to love your country, “where do you want to go today? Somewhere outdoors, I mean.”

“I know, I know,” Meri jumped up and down happily. “Let’s go look at some actual gables!”


Image Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd. He is the NY Times Bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.