By Melissa Abbey, CNN
(CNN) - Juanita Jones Abernathy, a civil rights activist and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., has suffered many racial injustices in her time. But that hasn't diminished her patriotism.
"I love America with all her mess," she says, laughing.
For Abernathy, patriotism is an unconditional love: a dedication to the nation's best interest, regardless of how she has been wronged.
But definitions of American patriotism are as diverse as Americans.
Political philosopher and Northeastern University professor Stephen Nathanson explores the subject in his book "Patriotism, Morality, and Peace." He writes that patriotism is generally characterized by "special affection for one's own country; a sense of personal identification with the country; special concern for the well-being of the country; and willingness to sacrifice to promote the country's good."
As the nation reflects and celebrates Independence Day, CNN asked four Americans from different walks of life their definition of patriotism, and how it is reflected in their daily lives.
By Katia Hetter, CNN
(CNN) - This week, CNN is exploring American exceptionalism - the concept that the United States is exceptional when compared to other nations and is uniquely destined to bring democracy to the world.
That notion of American exceptionalism was promoted by the nation's founders and earliest leaders. It's especially evident in the places where the Puritans first landed and built their first settlements, where explorers traveled westward to fulfill the country's manifest destiny, and to purchase or take land by force.
"The American sites that evoke a sense of American exceptionalism are many; they include places that mark the history of our struggles to secure and protect liberty, and places that evoke the promise and opportunity that generations have found in America," says Thomas S. Kidd, a Baylor University history professor, a senior fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of "Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots," "God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution" and other early American history books.
We asked several American historians where they enjoy exploring the history of the United States. Here are some of their favorite spots:
Washington, D.C. There's nothing wrong with enjoying some of the United States' more well-known monuments to its history. A trip to Washington could include a visit to the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Archives. The National Archives Building Rotunda displays the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (If this history lesson bores the children, promise them a visit to the International Spy Museum later.)
By Moni Basu, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) - When the moment finally arrived, 86 of us stood up to utter 31 sacred words.
I raised my right hand. My heart was pounding. All those years spent in public schools in America, I'd refrained from saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It was wrong to say it when my loyalties lay elsewhere.
But that changed with a ceremony on a July day four years ago. And it changed me. I learned lessons about the meaning of country and more importantly, about myself.
I'd been in America almost three decades but happily retained an Indian passport. Over the years, each time it was renewed, my green card changed to pink and white but the status remained the same: permanent U.S. resident.
I'd lived here so long that I felt just as much American as I did Indian, but I had my reasons for not taking that last formal step that made my Americanness official.
One was practical - there was a matter of inheriting my father's property in Kolkata, India, and for a long time, that process was excruciatingly painful without Indian citizenship. My father knew what a bureaucratic nightmare inheritance could be, and as long as he was alive, he encouraged me to stay an Indian.
The other reason I held back was far more personal.