I'm a passionate patriot. I've loved this country since I was a child, playing. I slid down One Tree Hill on nikau sheaths, rowed a dinghy at Brown's Bay, reared a calf for Newstead School Calf Club Day, flew my kite on the Johnsonville rugby field.
As a teenager, I thought how lucky I was to live in such a peaceful place, free of poverty, where men and women were equal, and we had the best race relations in the world.
As an adult, and a teacher in the 1960s, I soon realised that many young people had had grimmer and less nourished childhoods than mine, and that our nation was much less fair than I'd thought.
During the 1970s and 80s, when we were all challenged by feminist and Maori radicals to look harder at our history, and at the realities of the present, I began to understand the differences between personal prejudice, discrimination and institutional sexism and racism. And I learnt more about the real story of our nation.
Now I know that one of the greatest obstructions to progress towards a kinder and more just society is our capacity as human beings for selective amnesia.
Last week some of us celebrated two important anniversaries - neither of which was covered significantly in mainstream media.
Many people took a holiday on Labour Day. But it would seem from the recent Hobbit filming frenzy that we've forgotten what Labour Day commemorates - the establishment of limits on the hours employees can be expected to work, and the principle that workers are entitled to belong to unions which will help them negotiate decent working conditions.
In 1839, Samuel Parnell, a builder, won the right to an eight-hour working day for himself, and for future workers.
The first Labour Day celebration in New Zealand was held on October 28, 1890. Several thousand workers were given time off by their employers (including the government) to attend. It was a celebration of good employers, who respect the lives and well-being of their employees, and also of the role of unions.
So October 28, 1890, is worth remembering. Maybe this year it seemed diplomatic not to mention the meaning of Labour Day too loudly in public (although plenty of news space was found for death threats against trade union women).
Another important event - the founding of our nation - also occurred on October 28 - in 1835. No serious recognition of its 175th anniversary was apparent, either, in spite of the extensive presentations currently being made to the Waitangi Tribunal on this very issue, and the huge amount of information therefore available.
Te Whakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, the declaration of New Zealand as an independent nation, recognised by King William IV of England in an 1836 letter, is accepted by most Maori, and some Pakeha, as the founding document of our nation.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, signed in 1840 by many of the same chiefs, allowed the British to set up kawanatanga - governance over British settlers and their interactions with Maori. The chiefs certainly did not cede their sovereignty, their mana or rangatiratanga.
But the English soon tore down the flag of New Zealand and imposed the Union Jack, unilaterally declaring our independent New Zealand nation a British colony.
The good news is that now we have many New Zealanders, old settlers and new, who believe in fairness - in respect, and restorative justice.
But many don't know our history, or understand the conflicts still to be resolved.
So as a patriot, passionate about this country, I suggest we claim October 28 as the founding date of our nation, and remember each year our commitment to improving human rights and responsibilities. And that every October 28 we publish a major stocktake of our progress towards respect, restitution and rangatiratanga for all peoples.
We might find we are becoming not merely a great country for tourists and film-makers, but a truly good nation.
* Charmaine Pountney, an educator, lives at Awhitu.By Charmaine Pountney