Re: “Letter to the editor: Choose patriotism, which binds us together, over hating America” (Jan. 9):

Patriotism is love of one’s country, but it is love of the most profound meaning of one’s country. (Would any of us think it meant loving Hitler’s Germany or the current regime in North Korea?)

America’s ideals have nothing to do with suppressing free speech, kneeling or seeing borders as excluding immigrants. Seven of the 39 signers of the Constitution were immigrants to this country. Of the 95 members of the first Congress, nine were immigrants. Tom Paine was born in England.

And unless we are 100 percent Native American, we’re all descendants of immigrants.

I learned my most profound lesson in patriotism at my first experience of a political campaign. I was a freshman at the University of Michigan, thought by many to be a hotbed of so-called “liberal orthodoxy” and the site of the nation’s first teach-in against the Vietnam War. On Oct. 14, 1960, John F. Kennedy came to Michigan and spoke on the steps of the student union. It was there he first called for the Peace Corps.

Kennedy spoke of true patriotism: “How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?”

He added, “This university is not maintained by its alumni, or by the state, merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle. There is certainly a greater purpose.”

I was a few feet from Kennedy when he said that, and I’ve never forgotten his speech as an expression of the true meaning of love for one’s country. The country of the Peace Corps sees borders as crossings to support peace, not as ways to lock out.

Nancy K. Gish