A Family Fulfills its Destiny

Once I finished writing White Sails Became Me: Memoirs of a Seafaring Heritage, I couldn't resist the temptation to stand back and assess my life. I asked myself if I had really achieved my goals. Had I satisfied my philosophy of life? Had my life made a positive difference in anyone else’s life? Had I earned the right to be an American, and to deserve the fruits of the American dream? I had no excuses because I had been given every opportunity by friends, family, God and country to grow and prosper. I can truthfully say that without exception I achieved everything I set out to do. But my philosophy of life is that we are put here to salvage our souls, and that ultimately the road to that salvation will be measured not by how much we do for ourselves, but how much we do for others. I’m still working at it and will continue to do so, and I'll have to work especially hard because I have a date with a son waiting for me in heaven, who I surely do not want to disappoint. I'm sorry to say that thus far I haven't quite measured up to making a substantial difference in the lives of many people. Simply put, I'm not sure I possess that innate ability to inspire others.

But I have always acted in the best interests of my America. My sentiments can best be summed up in the old quotation, "My country, right or wrong." Wisconsin Senator Carl Schurz said it in 1872, and his words have often been misconstrued; he meant that America, when right, should be kept right, when wrong, it should be put right. Still, in almost any context it seems to be politically incorrect, and invites narrow, biased viewpoints. Critics would probably say we need to be more objective about who we are, and what needs to be changed about our country. Yet, right or wrong, it continues to permeate my innermost spirit, just as lessons learned from the catechism have stayed with me lo these many years. Some thoughts get so ingrained they stay with you forever. Take for example the Pledge of Allegiance. When I recite it, it is still an oath. I am serious when I say I think my life has indeed been worthy of the American dream, and that in some small, humble way I have helped make that dream become a reality for others.

Even as I look back over five generations of Staraces and their families in this country, I see a persistent belief in the spirit and values that drew our ancestors across oceans. The dream may seem tougher to realize, but it will survive as long as we pursue it. At the same time there is always a sense of pride in our roots and a willingness to return to those roots to better understand them. I therefore remain steadfast and optimistic in my belief that my kids, and their kids, and their kids will bear witness to a better world. It is the simple faith that there is goodness in human nature, and that it will eventually embrace us all. Without that kind of faith, we are all doomed.

These voyages into history would take on even broader meaning. There were fewer and fewer of us left who had knowledge of family history. The old-timers were passing on, and so it became one of my objectives in writing this book to leave behind a bit of family history for younger generations to appreciate and preserve. The other objective was to give my grandkids an idea of what Granddad did with his life, and in so doing instill in them the values that become a beacon. Financial gain was never an objective, but there was a sincere desire to rise above tragedy and to hopefully make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Here then, is the story of an immigrant family, my family. We came to this country after it finally emerged from the shadows of a dreadful civil war, and saw its transformation from a national powerhouse to an international superpower; a superpower that would dominate the twentieth century. See how I took a seafaring passion and tradition, and turned it into a successful career, hobby, and lifestyle. Share the tragedies that befell my family, and how we survived by virtue of a strong determination to fulfill our destiny in America. In fulfilling that destiny we have labored in its shipyards, learned in its classrooms, toiled in its shops, prayed in its churches, sailed under its flag, and fought and died in its wars. For that, I, Nick Starace, owe it everything.