“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”
Without unity, there can be no strength. This powerful message may well be the most important underlying theme of Team America. And Tomlinson Hill served as a beacon of that truth recently when LaDainian Tomlinson returned to the land upon which he grew up and came face-to-face with his family’s convoluted past, a past that serves as a microcosm of America’s coming-of-age story, mixed with the harsh realities of having to reconcile a nation’s painful past.
The roots of Team America lie within a dusty, sun-drenched plot of land along the Brazos River in central Texas. It’s there, where the wildflowers grow freely that a dilapidating sign welcomes you to Tomlinson Hill. It’s the same Tomlinson Hill where, as a young boy, LaDainian Tomlinson would run from his aunt’s house to his grandmother’s home, playing and passing the time on innocent summer days. It’s where he would hone his quickness and reflexes by placing small toys by the bonfire at night and then quickly grabbing them at the last second before they were engulfed by flames. But it’s also where 170 years ago his great-great-great-grandfather George was brought in chains via a slave ship from West Africa to till the soil and pick the cotton so that his master, whose last name was Tomlinson, could maintain an affluent lifestyle as one of the largest plantation owners in Central Texas.
An excerpt from LaDainian Tomlinson’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech on August 5, 2017
“I visited that plantation in Central Texas with my family and stood in the slave quarters where he lived. My name began with the man who owned my great-great-great-grandfather. Now it’s proudly carried by me, my children, and my extended family. People stop me on the street because they know me as LT the football player, but after football people have begun to recognize me as LaDainian TOMLINSON, not simply for what I did as a football player, but for who I am as a man. The family legacy that began in such a cruel way has given birth to generations of successful, caring Tomlinsons.”
If that were the end of the Tomlinson Hill story, it would be plenty to weigh upon our hearts and be grateful for the opportunities that our country can provide for those who lived through America’s original sin. But there was one more chapter to play out at Tomlinson Hill. This latest chapter morphed the story of Tomlinson Hill from one humanizing the extraordinarily determined self-sufficiency of a family whose only want was to give their children and grandchildren a better life than theirs to that which perfectly defines the values of and rationale behind Team America.
You see, LaDainian and the direct descendants of George Tomlinson weren’t the only ones raised on Tomlinson Hill. The first Tomlinson to settle Tomlinson Hill was Jim Tomlinson, a native Alabaman an early descendant of Chris Tomlinson. It was Chris, curious (and even frightened) about his family’s past, who reached out the LaDainian’s side of the Tomlinson family in an effort to finally discover, untangle, and embrace the full history of a family divided by race, ideology, and a shameful past.
Despite temptations to ignore what may have occurred a century and a half ago, LaDainian finally agreed to meet Chris on Tomlinson Hill. Uncomfortable and awkward, the meeting had a profound impact on both men, for it allowed a former Associated Press reporter who covered war and atrocities around the globe to embrace an All-Pro NFL superstar who shared a last name, a common heritage, but a much different path in life. But despite the divergent branches of a common family tree, Chris and LaDainian’s meeting on the red dirt of Tomlinson Hill, a veritable stone’s throw from the red hills of Georgia, served as the backdrop to the prophetic dream shared by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he hoped that one day “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Said King, “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
From the American dream blossomed Team America. Tomlinson Hill, a land that at once served as a prosperous new start for a clan from Alabama and also a frightening humiliation for the withered soles from West Africa, was once a land divided. However, it ultimately grew into a unifying example of how we can come together on one team, Team America.
As LaDainian so eloquently stated during his speech, “I firmly believe that God chose me to bring two races together under one last name, TOMLINSON. I’m of mixed race and I represent America. My story is America’s story.”
No, a house divided cannot stand. The Biblical proverb has been tested through time and championed by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Abigail Adams, Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, Daniel Webster, and others. Now, in 21st century America, that truth is once again being put to the test. America seems like never before to be on the brink, and it will take an outpouring of leadership and character to reconcile our differences and create an environment where we’re not forced to choose sides, but instead we stand together to determine the best way forward.
“George Tomlinson did not have a choice. We have a choice, and we have to make the right one.”
LaDainian Tomlinson August 5, 2017
Join The Movement
The most patriotic thing we can do as Americans and as a country is reconcile our differences. That’s what Team America is all about. Just like the two sides of the Tomlinson family did, Team America aims to create an environment where we’re not forced to choose sides, but instead we’re motivated to stand together to determine the best way forward.
By supporting the programs and initiatives of Team America, you will be directly supporting the Team America mission and vision as we strive for an America where dreams shall no longer be deferred. Instead, let’s work together to become a country of accomplished dreamers and a land of opportunity and prosperity within which we can become that more perfect union whose future shall forever be deﬁned by We, the People.