I am blessed to be in Colorado but I am most blessed because I have the absolute honor of calling myself an American. My mother and father are my inspiration. My father dreamt of coming to America and conferred with his family about his desire. His sister agreed to sell her gold to purchase a ticket for the young couple to come to America in addition to some spending money - -one hundred dollars. They started their life in the mire of desperation and poverty in one room of a terrible apartment in Brooklyn, New York City, where I was born.
Editor: Karthik Venkatraj is completing a John Jay Fellowship, a postgraduate year helping prepare young Americans for public service on biblical foundations, in the tradition of our nation's first Chief Justice and a co-author of the Federalist Papers, John Jay. We're delighted that he will be interning with us at Centennial Institute this semester and contributing frequently to '76 Blog. This post responds to my request for Karthik to introduce himself to our readers - John Andrews
Eventually, my father found a job in the subways of New York City ferrying x-rays between hospitals and my mother found a job as a nurse’s aide in a busy Manhattan hospital. Ten years later, my father would be graduating from New York University as a PhD in Molecular Biology and my mother would be finishing her M.D. and working at the Oncology Ward in Albert Einstein Hospital. This position was a far cry from their struggle to make ends meet each month as well as raise a child. Indeed, I can distinctly remember the culmination of a month’s paycheck in a splurge of eight dollars at a run-down Chinese buffet in Brooklyn.
Their narrative can be found in no other nation, their ability to succeed can be predicated on no other ideals than those of America. My parents ensured their children were cognizant of their narrative and of the greatness that is our nation; thus, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when I raised my right hand to pledge defend our nation against all enemies. In response to the attacks of September 11th, I decided to enlist in the Army National Guard and soon entered the ROTC program at Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets in addition to serving within the Texas Army National Guard Armor Squadron.
In five years, I would be appointed to serve within the Pentagon under the Bush Administration, travel on a diplomatic mission with the Army to my parent’s homeland of India, study Arabic with the Army in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, serve as an appointee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and graduate as one of two distinguished military graduates from the largest commissioning program in the nation outside of the service academies.
Once again, this narrative would be possible in no other country, within the context of any other ideals than that of our nation. But the ideals that informed and propelled my narrative and that of my parents were not based in the progressive thought dominating our nation’s modern political landscape but hearkens to those debates in the Continental Congress of Philadelphia, in the impassioned petitions of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison within the Federalist Papers, within the Declaration of Independence, and within the Constitution of 1787.
And that is why I am here at Centennial Institute, because I want a better nation for my children and their children, a nation with values and a solid moral compass. I am here because I am convicted that it is the duty of all Americans to preserve our republic and I am very concerned that we are losing that duty. I, like most Americans, do not want to see an America of 2076 as an irrelevant nation that has passed the torch of global leadership to another country but as a nation renewed and convicted in its role as a global leader.
Above all, I am a concerned American who wants to foster a revival of the Spirit of 1776 in our nation - - a spirit that created what is now known as the greatest experiment that the world has ever witnessed, that of our democracy. Let us not be naïve to see that our nation has great challenges ahead of her; an enormous deficit that seems insurmountable, a war on multiple fronts with a virulent and violent enemy, failing schools struggling to compete on a global scale, a sluggish economy as well as a rising unemployment rate, a society mired in a degradation of traditional values, and a government unresponsive to common sense approaches. I will stop here because our role is not to merely articulate a litany of issues but to find solutions to them. Indeed, the state of our democracy is predicated on our search.
Some may ask: “Where is the Spirit of 1776? Where is our nation going?” I would answer that the Spirit of 1776 is here: it’s in the coffee shops and diners, it’s in dinnertime conversations of families, it’s in the workers of a coal mine punching in, it’s in the ranches and farms of rural America, in the junior baseball leagues, in our servicemen and women, in the pastors writing their sermon for their Sunday service. In short, the Spirit is in you, it’s in all Americans who love and care for our republic. The way this spirit will manifest and direct our people will determine 2076. Let us not forget the absolute providence that has guided our nation since its conception and to this point in our nation’s history. Let us take solace in the fact that this spirit, properly guided and convicted, in conjunction with providence has and will always lead to miraculous events and glorious beginnings.
My name is Karthik Venkatraj and I am a concerned American, analyzing and revering our past but looking at our future. I take solace in the fact that there are millions of Americans like me, who want America to not only see another centennial but to see its best centennial ever. I believe in the inherent goodness and exceptionalism of our nation and its people and I look forward to our progression towards a better America together. As we say in the military, it’s something worth fighting for.
Your fellow patriot,Karthik
(CCU Student) A terrible thing happened in Tucson on Jan. 8. A crazed man shot and killed six people and injured fourteen, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D, Arizona) and a Federal Judge.
Most poignant, of the six murdered, is the story of Christina Taylor, a nine-year-old girl born on September 11th, 2001. Young Christina was featured in the book, Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11. By all accounts Christina was a passionate and bright spirit, embodying the hope and promise our country had turned to its youth to provide after those brutal attacks nine years ago.
This aspect of the tragedy that occurred in Tucson presents an interesting and important comparison. The madman of the Tucson shooting wielded a highly lethal handgun in perpetrating his evil endeavor – the terrorists on September 11th carried and used box cutters to slaughter over two thousand US subscribers of the liberty so feared by parts of the world.
There has been loaded rhetoric implying lax gun restrictions are to be blamed for this young man’s wickedness. Moving so quickly to this reactionary and political blame-game often holds ground only in emotional appeals, leaving collected thought and considerations far behind. The focus should be on grieving for the lost, comforting their families with prayer and seeking justice on behalf of the victims.
There are bad people in our world, who wish to disrupt the peace we work so hard to ensure. Our only way to combat these evil doers is not the futile attempt to abolish the tools that might be used by the ever-creative lunatic, but instead we should look out for each other, build up individual responsibility and most importantly seek our God’s love, will and justice.
If you've somehow been in a Rip Van Winkle sleep and have awakened without knowing what season it is, you might catch on by seeing how niceness is suddenly directing traffic or how smiles surround us wherever we go. (Centennial Fellow) While making my way through a traffic jam the other day, I could not help being impressed by the various driver courtesies. Later, I encountered great gobs of gladness while poking around in a shopping mall. Then, on returning home and scouting out news on the Internet, I bumped into three tales of a giving spree. The stories were about red kettles, the Salvation Army donation containers you see in front of stores with a volunteer ringing a bell or maybe, like a sight I witnessed the other day, a bunch of happy little girls singing carols. In Louisville, Ky., it's reported, someone dropped a South African Krugerrand worth $1,400 in one red kettle. In Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., the anonymous kettle gift came in the form of cashier checks. The amount was $5,500. It was cashier checks again in Joplin, Mo. There were five, wrapped in $1 bills and signed by Santa Claus. They added up to $100,000. A literary character named Fred, nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," tells his uncle what underlies such acts, saying that Christmas is "a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." Scrooge, we all know, is a bah, humbug kind of guy and isn't buying any, but then come the visiting ghosts, including that of Jacob Marley, his regretful, dejected, deceased former partner. Trying to buck him up, one online discussion of the story reminds us, Scrooge says to the old fellow that he was after all good at business. The death-refashioned Marley responds with Dickensian eloquence.
"Mankind was my business," he cries.. "The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" We all feel that way, don't we, that goodness to others is our business? You don't think so? Adam Smith, who wrote famously, powerfully and lastingly in the 18th century about the power of self-interest to benefit the common welfare in economic affairs, also wrote persuasively and importantly about sympathy for our fellow human beings as a virtually universal sentiment crucial to and forming the core of our morality. We want others to be happy, he says. James Q. Wilson, a superb social scientist of our own era, explores aspects of the idea in "The Moral Sense," arguing that sympathy is a key element in our moral apprehensions, serving as a powerful motivator in some instances, though weak or even absent in others. For most of us, I am convinced, it definitely is there. It is evident as one example in charitable giving that is higher per capita in American than anyplace else in the world, that has been picking up this year after a recessionary decline and that is especially pronounced during this special holy day season. Even many outside the Christian faith seem to find themselves moved by the story of amazing grace and a humble birth that would bring vast new, loving possibilities into our lives. And with visions of doing unto others dancing in their heads, great numbers slow down in traffic so someone in front of them can change lanes, or drop a few dollars or even many thousands in a red kettle somewhere, scuttling through anonymity any accusation of merely seeking praise. Bah, humbug? No. Joy to the world. Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.
('76 Contributor) When Mamoru Shigemitsu, the Japanese foreign affairs minister, signed the surrender papers on board the USS Missouri in 1945, the drama of World War II drew to a close. The end of the war set the stage for another great play – one in Berlin where America would take center stage.
Unlike the European continent, the United States emerged from the war physically strong, economically robust --- and in a position of global leadership. As the sole owner of nuclear weapons, it would have been possible to dominate the defeated nations of Germany, Italy and Japan and destroy the malevolent Soviet Union. Instead, America harkened back to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. With “malice towards none” our nation helped rebuild a post-war industrial world and launch it into an era of unparalleled prosperity. This decision to act for the good of all – even our enemies – was perhaps the most significant act of benevolence by a victor that the world has ever seen. It demonstrated how exceptional America truly was. Still, it would be the smoldering Cold War that would force us to seize the stage in Berlin for a command performance.
It was not as if we were unprepared. We were, after all, the nation that proclaimed its Manifest Destiny and the one which de Tocqueville in his 1831 Democracy in America saw as uniquely placed to lead the world in “benevolent enterprises.”
What was lacking however was our failure to recognize that few other nations ever look beyond their own short-sighted, self-interests. This would cost Europe dearly at the end of the World War II when the United States worked hard to be a team player with even the Soviet Union, often to its disadvantage. In fact, much of the turmoil that became the Cold War was the result of our failure to understand Joseph Stalin and the insatiable communist appetite for territory.
From Yalta on, Stalin had fast-talked the allies into post-war concessions as trade-offs for his entry into the war against Japan. The Battle for Berlin had been grueling and in April of 1945, similarly shortsighted U.S. diplomatic accommodations on the battlefield kept U.S. forces out of the city as Soviet forces razed what little remained after allied bombing. House-to-house street-fighting by the Nazis gave communists all the excuses necessary to further dehumanize the war by raping Berlin’s women and girls, and pillaging its remaining booty. These war crimes were not just premeditated but actually promised to the soldiers as rewards for the bitter campaigns that had preceded Berlin’s “Stunde Null” (Zero Hour).
At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, Harry Truman arrived with more realistic insights on Soviet eastern European expansionism than his predecessor, FDR. The Russians sought at first to retain all of Berlin but Allied Forces used physical leverage over the Soviets in the German states of Thuringia and Saxony to ensure that Berlin would be an open city, governed by four powers in a ruling body known as the Kommandatura. It was with more than some suspicion that agreements regarding the four country occupation zones were crafted and under these conditions that American forces were actually “admitted” to the city.
In the three years following the war’s end, the Russians were obsessed with reparations and followed a two-pronged exploitation of their spoils. On the one hand, their commissars exacted money from current German production activities while on the other, they stripped prime industrial machinery in their zones and shipped it by railcar back to the motherland.
In Berlin, it went well beyond economics. It became crystal clear to the Allies that Russia had every intention of transforming the city by stealth into a socialist enclave by using trained agitators, labor thugs, and former Nazi hacks. Resistance by the Allies to the Soviet master plan came slowly at first, but it went from warm to a boil almost overnight through friction within the governing combine. By late spring 1948 the fissure was beyond repair. A secretly orchestrated tri-party currency reform replaced inflated occupation Reichsmarks with new Allied Deutschemarks. The Russians were furious and they responded predictably by instituting a blockade of all traffic to and from the non-Soviet sectors. They were sure that the allies would have to submit to Soviet demands or surrender control of Berlin.
It would have been understandable if Washington had done nothing to stop the Russian land grab. Confronting the Soviet military was not a viable option as our remaining occupation forces were pitifully small -- and the potential for another major war was quite real. So it was in June of 1948 that America’s muscular exceptionalism came of age as President Truman announced the Berlin Airlift as the counter-punch to the Russian siege. The decision did not come easily. Many urged “Give-Em-Hell-Harry” to sacrifice Berlin in the name of peace. Fortunately for the citizens of Berlin, the president and his post-war generals were insightful of their enemy and Truman had taken his own full measure of the Russian beast.
The airlift itself was an impossible task. Feeding and providing fuel to a city of some 2 million people with the technology and smaller cargo aircraft of the day was beyond imagining. But there was the American “x factor” -- brilliant doses of ingenuity that revolutionized air freight management, ground approach radar and air operations.
The enormous success of the 11-month air bridge was seen in its numbers: 2.33 million tons of cargo, 277,569 flights, only 101 fatalities and the lifting of the blockade in May of 1949. But this was no solo task. America led the free world air flotilla but the Royal Air Forces of England, New Zealand, and Australia contributed mightily to these monumental numbers. The book Daring Young Men by Richard Reeves (released earlier this year) is a compelling account of this epic success and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand American courage and leadership in the post-war world.
If American exceptionalism was not obvious enough in the Berlin Airlift, it was demonstrated clearly to the whole world in the Marshall Economic Recovery Plan. Through the Marshall Plan, the United States poured upwards of $100 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild Germany and also Europe’s economy. Never in the course of history had one country taken on the responsibility of rebuilding an entire continent, including both its former enemies and exhausted allies.
The plan itself was at its core, foreign policy. It recognized that freedom in the old world would be doomed if the new world could not breathe economic life and hope into the ashes of war. Russia was also in dire straits but when offered participation in the plan, Stalin could not countenance it. The Marshall Plan was more than just a “most noble adventure” as Greg Behrman has detailed in his book of the same name; it was the signature foreign policy achievement of its time. When reinforced militarily with the NATO Treaty executed in 1949, the military-economic umbrella it represented became the catalyst of development and then the emergence of a modern-day Europe.
Thirteen years later, in 1961, Europe was back on its feet and surging. In contrast, the Soviet Zone of Germany was in shambles. It is estimated that some 2.5-3.0 million East Germans had found a way to escape Soviet domination – either by going to West Berlin or transiting through on the way to another free country. Coupled with the ongoing economic counter blockade initiated in response to the airlift, the Democratic Republic of Germany was losing its best minds to freedom and was no more than a third world nation. Reacting again to the failure of its political system, the Berlin Wall was hastily thrown up on the night of August 13, 1961.
For 28 years, an isle of freedom endured in a squalid communist sea because the United States, as the free world’s leader, refused to be bullied by ever-changing masters of the failing Soviet communist state. During that time President Kennedy joined the city with his famous line, “Ich bin ein Berliner” and decades later Ronald Reagan called on Mr. Gorbachev to tear down his wall. On November 9, 1989 the Berlin wall finally collapsed under the weariness of a dysfunctional political system unable to sustain its own economic promises.
If the story of Berlin is the story of the collapse of communism, it is even more the story of America coming of age. The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall serve as benchmarks of the Cold War – a costly economic, military and political struggle which had the highest of nuclear stakes and was won by a free world with the unswerving, courageous leadership of the United States.
Today, it is fashionable in some circles to denigrate our nation’s glorious past. We have entered into a time in which the intellectual and political leadership of this country has lost sight of our greatness. There is a clattering gong from the growing ranks of apologists who feel the need to expunge the demons of American greatness past. Many of the liberal, political elite fail to see the blessings they are still enjoying from America’s leadership and instead seek to paint our great benevolence in hues of domination and intimidation.
In 2008, Andrew Bacevich in his book, The Limits of Power, called U.S. exceptionalism into question. He concluded that our exceptionalism had become an unsustainable desire for material wealth. He saw the Cold War having given rise to the “Long Peace”, followed by an unbridled decade of interventionism, with the beginning of the “Long War” on 9/11. In essence, Bacevich sees his country with a military industrial complex, picking convenient wars with those who threaten its way of life and the oil pipelines that sustain it. It is a nation that has reached the limits of its power.
The opinions of those like Bacevich threaten to destroy the fabric of our nation and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. By attacking our nation’s very ideals, these detractors keep our nation from success and then point to our struggles as proof of their beliefs. How many of our school textbooks weave national guilt into their historical accounts making for a youthful self-loathing that is cancerous to our culture?
Granted, there are no great leaders and no great nations that have been perfect. And surely, everyone needs humility to recognize faults and correct them. But there is grave danger in being so fault-focused that we begin to believe our detractors. When we believe what our foes are saying, we lose our ability to lead. And right now, strong leadership is what the free world needs most. As a result, this attempted destruction of American exceptionalism is not a purely domestic issue. It has consequences for the entire world.
Exceptionalism recognizes the lonely challenges of leadership, the fundamental rightness and unarguable progress of the western, Judeo-Christian way of life. Moral relativism and post-modern accommodations don’t work when the enemy wages war on a way of life, innocents and children, and against all reason. Since 1776 and the Revolution that followed, our manifest destiny has been to do what is right. Steeled in the high drama of Cold War crisis and the streets of Berlin, we have proven ourselves worthy of the task. While there may be limits to our national power and its projection, our capacity and resolve to lead the free world cannot be in doubt.
Can the free world afford a U.S. retreat from exceptionalism? Consider the alternative: a stew of leadership including socialist bullies and third-rate actors like Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and Venezuela, all stirred in a pot by a hapless United Nations. None of these nations will seek to benefit anyone but themselves even though the only real hope for peace is a world leadership that is characterized by a genuine pursuit of the common good. In this way, American exceptionalism is the last and best bulwark in the fight against terrorism. As in Berlin, the world cannot do without U.S. leadership. The scream for our continuing exceptionalism is primal and strong, but never louder than from those who would be free. May God continue to drive and bless American Exceptionalism!
(Denver Post, Nov. 21) America has a memory problem. Most of us couldn’t tell you who our great-grandparents were. Most people who live in Denver, Parker, Thornton, or Greeley couldn’t tell you who their hometown was named after.
Most of us couldn’t possibly remember who the days of the week were named for either. And as the years pass, it seems that fewer and fewer Americans remember who we’re supposed to be thanking on Thanksgiving Day.
School’s out all week on our campus, and the students will like that. Thanks, professor. Harvest bounty will flow from the farms through the kitchens and onto festive tables. Thanks, Mom – or thanks, Dad, if it’s a restaurant party. Sports and entertainment will have a big weekend starting Thursday, retailers a really big one starting Friday. Thanks, consumers. Airports will be even more hectic than usual. Thanks for nothing, TSA.
But if we skate along to the following Monday with no more reverence or reflection than that, we’d better stop and ask ourselves the Peggy Lee question: Is that all there is? Tom Noel, romping through history with his column a week ago about Denver’s first Thanksgiving in 1859, mentioned the territorial governor’s proclamation for “appropriate observance of the day.” What did Gov. Samuel Medary mean?
Probably the same thing that President George Washington meant with his proclamations in the century before, and Gov. William Bradford with his in the century before that. The same thing President Lincoln would mean a few years later in summoning Americans for “a day of praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” And the same that Colorado’s founders would mean in placing upon the state seal “Nil Sine Numine,” nothing without God’s spirit, a few years later still.
Whether they know it or not, legislators gathering to represent us at the State Capitol have those words in their hand every time they grasp the ornate brass doorknobs, and behind their heart every time they sit in the official chairs. The seal is everywhere under the gold dome; earlier generations took its symbolism that seriously.
Our generation is more coolly detached about these things. We know better, or think we do. The detachment may come at a price, however. Whether it’s Congress and the General Assembly grappling with deficits and entitlements, educators perplexed over test scores, law enforcement nervous about jihadists, parents suspicious of pot, or all of us battling the recession, the reverential mindset has resources that the on-our-own mindset lacks.
A society where people believe that good things come their way as a result of being lucky or deserving is more vulnerable to hubris and overreach in easy times, discouragement and dissension in hard times. A society where people interpret life’s ups and downs in the context of blessings or lessons from some sort of purposeful higher Providence is going to have the advantage in steadiness, resiliency, and cohesion.
Pluralist Colorado has both kinds of people. The person next to you at dinner on Thursday may be of the opposite mindset from yours, and no harm done – you’ll still appreciate each other, still be grateful for each other and for the day. But grateful to whom? That’s the common vocabulary of faith we’re losing. That’s the frame of reference which is slipping further and further out of focus, for all our surface religiosity.
Thanksgiving is no longer the one day in 365 when a great majority of Americans rededicate ourselves as a nation under God, and we’re the poorer for it. There’s a perilous century ahead. Facing it as reverential stewards of “the blessings of liberty,” I like our chances. Swaggering ahead as a lucky land, exceptional and entitled, I’m not so sure.
('76 Contributors) People seem resigned to America as a nation of fragmented political groups. We are separated—red state, blue state; Republican and Democrat, liberal against conservative; and so on. Americans have different viewpoints, and there is no way we can agree on issues, so goes the argument. Our once distinguishing motto, E Pluribus Unum,—out of many, one—seems to many outdated and unattainable.
Of course, people are not going to agree on matters ranging from birth control and religion in public places to our health care system and foreign policy. However, we ought to be able to agree upon a set of principles that are central to democratic thinking. Otherwise, our republic is in jeopardy.
Americans need to understand the United States as an idea sustained through debate. This debate is about the tension between core American values. To participate productively, citizens must develop and cultivate a democratic mind capable of debating two conflicting values while noting the essential merit of both. It doesn’t matter if a person is Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialists, religious or non-believer, white, black, brown, or yellow.
The mark of an enlightened citizen is the ability to reconcile four sets of values: 1) law versus ethics, 2) private wealth versus common wealth, 3) freedom versus equality, and 4) unity versus diversity. These value pairs or tensions are inherently antagonistic, yet together hold the promise for a good society. Let’s briefly explain each value tension.
We describe the United States as a nation of laws and believe in the rule of law with the duty of citizens to abide by laws. At the same time, many American heroes have been lawbreakers. George Washington led a rebellion against his sovereign government; he was a traitor. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and violated a Supreme Court ruling to maintain the union of American states. Rosa Parks broke the law on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to advocate for civil rights. The list goes on. How will American citizens balance the law with ethics and advance the cause of liberty and justice in the twenty-first century?
America’s quest for private wealth has been a driving force behind the nation’s economic development. Yet, investment in the public infrastructure—schools and universities, streets and highways, electric grids, gas utilities, and even parks, hospitals, libraries, and museums—benefit private businesses. Maintaining the common wealth enhances private wealth, but without thriving industries, tax revenues would not be available to adequately support public goods and services. How will we revitalize the nation’s aging infrastructure of old bridges, frayed electrical systems, deteriorating schools, and inadequate levees and also build the new technological infrastructure that the 21st century demands?
The balance between freedom and equality is an essential fabric of American democracy. When conventional wisdom favors freedom, resources and money flow into the hands of the few. Left unattended the imbalance of wealth and power undermines democracy. In contrast, when government acts aggressively to redistribute wealth in the name of compassion and economic justice, personal liberty suffers.
With a growing disparity in wealth and income among its citizens, made greater by recent economic policies, are we at the dawn of a new “gilded age” in America with power shifting from the many to the few?
One of the finest achievements of the United States has been to create a stable, political culture made up of different languages, religious traditions, and races. But unity has been a persistent struggle. Typically, new immigrants to America over the years have faced discrimination, distrust, and abuse while occupying the bottom of the nation’s job chain. Economic diversity has always been evident, but the power of opportunity has been a unifying impulse for all. We have been a place for many religious denominations. And we have reveled in our regionalism as northerners, southerners, midwesterns, westerners and more while fiercely maintaining a loyal nationality.
Nowadays, we find people clustered into like-minded groups, as a result of the power of media combined with the decline in civic education. People of different persuasions increasingly sort themselves in isolated communities, viewing slanted cable TV, and listening to divisive talk radio. Can we retain the rich balance between unity and diversity that has been so important to us as a nation?
Taken to their logical ends, freedom leads to anarchy, equality to collectivism, diversity to tribalism, unity to totalitarianism, common wealth to communism, private wealth to plutocracy, law to fascism, and ethics to nihilism. Together, in a dynamic civil debate, they represent the ethos and aims of the United States.
Students would take a much greater interest in history and civics were it approached from the proposition that “representative democracy is developed and sustained through debate.” And citizens could more effectively address national issues viewing them through a prism of the value tensions.
This essay was jointly written by Richard D. Van Scotter, H. Michael Hartoonian, and William E. White. They are the authors of a new digital history and civics program for high school students developed by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia.
(CCU Student) I would suggest that every student of Colorado Christian University should read a copy of Dr. Thomas Krannawitter’s Introduction to Citizenship for New Americans. Regardless of a student's stance on politics, Dr. Krannawitter’s book delivers a vital education on the basic facts every American should know as he calls himself a citizens. Perhaps the greatest part of being an American lies in the freedoms and rights enjoyed in this country, but greater still is, citizenship, the provision that allows the enjoyment and maintenance of American freedoms and rights.
[Editor's Note: Krannawitter is a professor of politics here at CCU. His small but potent book on citizenship is available as Centennial Institute's gift to you. Inquire at 235 Beckman Center, or write JAndrews@ccu.edu.]
In four years at Colorado Christian University, a student should not only expect to obtain a degree in a field of study, but also to encounter a challenge to think critically and gain a knowledge of how to be a citizen of their country. Why is this knowledge imperative? Simply put, to protect and perpetuate the virtue of the American experiment.
The virtue of the American system of government abides in natural law, limited government, and the continued involvement of citizenship.
Natural law, though somewhat interpretable, rests squarely as a time-honored ideal based concretely in morality and values. Nothing stronger could serve as a foundation for civilization. The foundation provided by natural law shields our country from the ignoble whims of humanity such as murder, theft, and slander.
Limited government builds upon the foundation of natural law, which itself espouses the need for government to elevate its principals. The concept of limited government recognizes the need for order within bounds and highlights the tension between anarchy and totalitarianism as it works to promote and protect a healthy functioning society while remaining a servant to society.
Involved and educated citizenship must exist to maintain limited government lest it sway towards tyranny or crumple into lawlessness. Limited government recognizes the citizens as the grantors of the authority necessary to govern. Accountability rests with citizenship. Students must read Dr. Krannawitter’s book, as they form the linchpin in the American experiment.
(From Investor's Business Daily 9/17) Constitution Day — Sept. 17, the day 39 delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention signed and submitted to Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) a new constitution for consideration — used to be familiar to many Americans. But as the Constitution's authority has faded in our public life, its birthday has faded too.
Don't think the authority of the Constitution is ignored? Consider the irony of today, Constitution Day:
In a 2004 spending bill, Sen. Robert Byrd attached a mandate that every educational institution accepting federal funds must sponsor a Constitution Day program. But the Constitution nowhere authorizes Congress to tell schools what they must teach. Nor does it authorize Congress to fund educational institutions — that's supposed to be the job of state and local governments, or the private sector.
Constitution Day, as now enshrined in federal law and celebrated by colleges and universities under threat of that law, is arguably unconstitutional.
So what happened? The Constitution has suffered two blistering critiques, both of which undermine its integrity: First, the Constitution is outdated, no longer relevant for modern America. Second, it is racist and immoral because it offered protection for Negro slavery.
Progressives leveled the first charge more than a century ago; the second became the battle cry of the modern civil-rights movement. Well-educated, well-intentioned, public-spirited men and women who wanted to advance justice, as they understood it, progressives and civil rights activists took aim at the Constitution.
From their point of view, the greatest political good is "social justice," meaning an egalitarian redistribution of wealth coupled with an inegalitarian distribution of civil rights, all supervised by bureaucratic experts whose interest is, allegedly, the public good rather than their own. The Constitution, by this measure, is an impediment to justice and therefore bad.
This is why Woodrow Wilson, among the most impressive of the progressives and the first president to hold a Ph.D., criticized the Constitution as "political witchcraft." He argued that the Constitution should be understood as a "living" document whose meaning evolves with time. In its original form, the Constitution was an instrument of evil, designed to keep America frozen in the icy environs of 18th-century racism and favoritism for the rich. For progressives, originalism is regressivism.
Persuaded that the Constitution is fundamentally defective, all three branches of government today violate it, routinely, usually by exercising powers nowhere found in the Constitution. And what does government say about this? The executive and legislative branches typically don't say much about the Constitution, because they don't need to (unless a liberal president risks impeachment, then even the most progressive politicians fret over the original intent of "high crimes and misdemeanors").
Congress doesn't need any progressive theory of a "living" constitution to do its work. It needs only a majority vote. The president doesn't even need that. He needs only a pen to sign a bill into law, regardless of its constitutionality. Exhibit A: ObamaCare.
The judiciary is different. Often it cannot avoid confronting the Constitution because of its peculiar job, judging constitutional disputes and explaining those judgments in written opinions. This has led to a new industry in our law schools, where progressive scholars invent fantastic interpretations of the Constitution used by progressive judges to extract progressive results from the very unprogressive language of the Constitution.
But those who pervert or ignore the Constitution all of a sudden find themselves seeking cover from political attacks. Circumstances have combined — political, economic and military — providing a window of opportunity to highlight the Constitution and its conspicuous absence in public policy and law.
Waiving Constitution banners at "tea parties," however, isn't enough. The Constitution is in need of a moral and intellectual defense. It needs teachers of constitutionalism.
To be effective, that defense must persuade the public mind and the public's representatives that the progressive and civil rights critiques have been answered and fully refuted, a tall task yet to be done. The critiques of the Constitution run deep, informed by sophisticated evolutionary theories of human nature and backed by intelligentsia who populate our universities and influence public opinion.
Constitutional apologists, therefore, are in need of study and learning. Only then can we teach. But if we can teach Americans why critics are wrong and why the Constitution is good and deserves to be defended — with our lives, fortunes and sacred honor, if necessary — we celebrate Constitution Day in a fitting way, by helping "we the people" deserve the Constitution bequeathed to us by the Fathers of 1787.
Thomas Krannawitter teaches politics at Colorado Christian University and is a Centennial Institute Fellow. The author of Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President, he joined the CCU faculty this fall after teaching for five years at Hillsdale College. This article appeared first in Investors Business Daily.
(CCU Student) Looking back at Western Conservative Summit 2010 through the eyes of a future soldier, the words I remember most are these: "What price are you willing to pay for freedom?"They were spoken by the last man from whom I would expect to receive a lesson in patriotism -- a Lebanese PLO operative who partook in missions against Israel and the west from the time he was a child. However, Kamal Saleem’s words at Western Conservative Summit were probably the most moving and thought provoking of the entire weekend. Kamal Saleem was born in Beirut, Leabanon to parents who devoutly followed Shariah law and the teachings of Jihad and the Koran. Saleem participated in his first mission against Israel with the PLO at the mere age of seven. He continued to follow his beliefs and fight against the west throughout his entire childhood and yong adult life. As a young man, Saleem was a frequent house guest and strong friend of Omar Khadafi and his family. Saleem helped to train terrosts to fight against the United States and Israel and instructed numerous organizations from the IRA to the Black Panthers. Eventually, he was sent to the United States and given the task of secretly recruiting young Muslim men in America to travel to the Middle East and join in the Jihad against Israel and her ally, the United States.
While here in the United States,Saleem was involved in an acciddent and was taken in by a Christian and Jewish family. Because of the amazing love and grace of these individuals, Saleem found the love of Christ and left his old life of evil behind. He now is a steadfast believer and an ardent patriot of his new home, the United States. During his speech, Saleem asked us who would stand on the wall and defend freedom from her enemies. This is when his speech particualrly began to grab my attention. As a cadet in the Army ROTC program at CCU, I have truly begun to dig into and explore the concept of deending freedom and protecting the American people from the enemy. And frankly, I am more than willing to stand on the wall next to Mr. Saleem any time. It is the bravery of this man that insired me and moved me so much. I couldn’t help but share my feelings with Mr. Saleem and the moment we shared will be with me forever. When I told Mr Saleem how I felt about what he said and that I was preparing to become an officer in the Army, it brought tears to his (and to mine) and he shared with me his heartfelt gratitude that I have rarely felt from anyone else during my time as a cadet. Something that Saleem asked the crowd was what they were willing to pay in exchange for the freedom we have in the United States. Sadly, I do not think many in the crowd, and in this nation, can answer that question. The majority of us simply go on through our lives and never give it a second thought. As a result, fewer and fewer men and women are willing to stand up and a make a consious decision to stand guard for freedom. Let us hope that with men like Kamal Saleem and others, more freedom lovers will take to the wall. Whether it be with a microphone, a pen, a computer, or a rifle, we all have a part to play in keeping the American dream and liberty alive and safe.
(Denver Post, July 4) Hecklers, on guard. On this Independence Day, in a stormy election year when Americans are out of sorts, I’m fool enough to mount a soapbox and orate upon the proposition that “politics” should be an honored word, not a dirty word, in our vocabulary.
Politics deserves its bad name, you scoff. It’s a hustle wherein we are lied to and led on, defrauded and dumped on. H. L. Mencken nailed it, you say, when he groused that an election is but an advance auction of stolen goods. Will Rogers was right that just as “con” is the opposite of “pro,” so Congress is the opposite of progress. Fie upon the politicians, the parties, and all their tribe.
I concede your indictment up to a point. But before you let fly with the rotten vegetables, remember that the Greek derivation of POLITICS, 2500 years and counting, simply denotes those things concerning the community, or CITY, and its individual members, or CITIZENS. Can we write off those things? Not unless we’re prepared to live in solitude as hermits or in servitude as slaves. I’ll take my chances with politics, messy as it is.
Like any human endeavor, politics can be done in a noble way or a base way. July 4 commemorates the noblest political moment of all – our nation’s birth in genius, blood, and fire. But the Fourth also looks forward, reminding us how timeless our political challenges are across the centuries, powdered wigs and parchments aside.
Prove it to yourself today by reading quickly through the Declaration of Independence. The Framers, after a lofty opening argument on “laws of nature” and “self-evident truths,” enumerate specific grievances like hammer-blows to pound home the case for change. They deliver (speaking of indictments) a 27-count rap sheet convicting king and parliament of intolerable misrule.
It’s as gritty as a police blotter and, at many points, as current as this hour’s 9News crawl. You’ll notice amazing relevance of these issues from 234 summers ago, into a 2010 campaign over whether Betsy Markey and the Democrats or Cory Gardner and the Republicans control Congress; whether Colorado’s legislature stays with the Dems under Sen. Brandon Shaffer or shifts to the GOP under Sen. Mike Kopp.
Jot a number by each itemized act of tyranny, and follow along with my examples. Taxation without consent, top of the Cliff Notes but only Item 17 for the revolutionaries, remains a flashpoint for TABOR defenders today. Immigration and ill-defended borders, Items 7 and 27, fester still as the Arizona model beckons many Coloradans.
Bureaucratic bloat with “swarms of officers to harass our people,” Item 10, will be a target as McInnis or Maes battles Hickenlooper for governor. Judicial impartiality and accountability, Items 8 and 9, will animate this year’s Clear the Bench campaign. Redistricting, Item 3, will polarize next year’s legislature.
Correlating the colonists’ complaints to issues in present-day Washington is equally easy. Civil-military jealousies, Item 12; federalism, Item 2; trade, Item 16; and counter-terrorism laxity allowing “merciless savages” to plot “undistinguished destruction,” Item 27, all have their 2010 counterparts.
As the Bible observes, there’s nothing new under the sun. Ever since Samuel warned the Israelites in 1100 BC that they would regret forsaking decentralized rule under the judges for a centralized monarchy – because taxes might hit 10 percent! – the struggle between limited and unlimited government has raged.
Peruse the magnificent Declaration for five minutes before you sleep tonight, and you’ll know what the men and women of 1776 knew: Politics matters inescapably. Unchecked, political power will “eat out our substance” and “reduce us under absolute despotism.” But harnessed to “the consent of the governed,” it can uphold both liberty and community. The choice is ours.