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America First

Like many, I have struggled with the concept of global citizenship.  For many years I felt that it is just by the luck of fate that I was born in a nation with freedom and opportunity when I seemingly could just as easily have been born in another nation that does not afford those luxuries.  Governed by this sentiment, I was a sympathetic to the concept of global citizenship, or a world mostly without borders.  I felt that this was the fairest way, and one in which anyone should be able to move about anywhere and gain as equal access to opportunities as possible without regard to where one happened to have been born.

Eight years ago, as President Obama moved about the world in what was labeled by some as his “Apology Tour,” apologizing to the world for American exceptionalism, I started to feel very differently.  I recoiled at the suggestion that America was a peer among other nations.  To me that was both a betrayal of the facts as well as a grave disservice to many over the generations who fought for our independence and who made unimaginable sacrifices to build this nation and to support and defend the incredible intellectual foundation upon which it is built.  The U.S. is indeed different from other nations in that it stands for something – freedom and opportunity.  It is not an accident that this country moved from literal non-existence to global leadership within 150 years, but instead is the result of important ideas that are baked into our nation’s DNA.  In fact, many freedom revolutionaries and dreamers around the world have looked to the U.S. as a beacon of hope and inspiration.  To pretend that that foundation of ideas does not manifest itself in something truly outstanding is both idiotic and deplorable.

There is much wrong in our country, and much to repair, and we have an obligation to talk about these issues openly and to address them diligently.  And I am certainly not saying that Americans as people are any better than any other group of people.  However, there is a foundation in the U.S. that still exists that is truly exceptional and that we must always be both proud and protective of.

American exceptionalism is indeed a nationalist concept, but what is wrong with that?  Shouldn’t every nation strive to be its best?  Shouldn’t every citizen of every nation do their utmost to help to make their nation great?  I still feel privileged and indeed lucky to have been born in the U.S.  I feel sad for those who were not so fortunate, however, I believe that I would best serve their interests by helping to make the U.S. greater still, and then the U.S. can serve as a tremendous role model for others to emulate.  I would wish that citizens of all nations would take this approach so we can all learn from one another, gaining the contributions of different cultures and philosophies.  In the end, I believe that greatness can best be achieved locally, where there is accountability and responsibility.  Global thinking undermines those critically important elements of a society.

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