Tuesday, June 10, 2008

America the Great

America is the greatest country in the world.

You hear that a lot. Unfortunately, that sense of America’s greatness is often defined by political partisans and used as a weapon in political and cultural battles.

That sort of abuse of the notion obscures its truth: We are indeed a great nation, founded on principles that have made the world a better place.

Over strife-filled centuries we have expanded the principle that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to include more and more people. Those inalienable rights no longer apply only to white men of property.

Yet our greatness is under threat. Not from radical Islamic terrorism; while dangerous and murderous, Islamic terrorism cannot destroy the United States.

No, the threat to our greatness comes from our own complacency. We can, and must, do better.

America should be the best in all things. We should have the best transportation system in the world. We should have the finest health care in the world available to all our citizens. We should have the best-educated citizenry in the world.
With all of those things in place, our economic preeminence would be unchallengeable.

But we are not the world’s best. Our transportation system is suffering from decades of deferred maintenance. Our health care system, while still the best in terms of research and innovation, is failing in terms of reaching the citizenry.
While we still produce some of the best and the brightest in the world, our citizenry is falling behind the rest of the developed world in most measures of education.

Infrastructure, health care, education — these are key investments in the future greatness of our nation. I’d add energy independence to the list — requiring investment both in fossil fuels and alternative fuels to achieve.

We are failing our children and their children if we do not buckle down to the job and make these investments now.

There is plenty of room for debate on the best path to get there. It’s going to require a mixture of market forces and government investment to make any of this happen. We cannot afford to spend years quibbling and sniping at each other, spending more than we can afford and neglecting the long-term for short-term pleasure and gain.

If we do not act now, we may lose the greatness that makes America, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of man on Earth.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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