As I sat in front of my big screen TV watching – well, half watching – the Republican National Convention’s parade of speakers, I was unconsciously noting how many addressed the same problems: number of unemployed, financial shortages, pressure on businesses and the “You didn’t build that” gaffe from President Obama.

You can only take so much of that, so I kind of zoned, but kept watching. About half way through Paul Ryan’s speech, I sat straight up and listened intently; there, he did it, too. I paid close attention to the rest of his speech, then flashed back to the previous speakers – the “from-the-heartland” types, not the professionals. Suddenly it dawned on me: Perhaps I am just slow, but did they really know what was happening?

As person after person gave their speeches, they told portions of their life stories, and if you listened carefully, it became clear. I am not sure the RNC committee planned it, but what we had heard was the unfolding of the quintessential American dream – real-life working class folks, challenges met, goals reached. That is the essence of the American dream – not Republican, not Democrat, but American.

They were people who came from nowhere, folks like us – the next door folks who started with nothing, folks who had part-time jobs, minimum wage jobs, who overcame health challenges, family tragedies and financial challenges to achieve their goals and dreams.

Remember when they used to talk about a kid “growing up to be president”? Well, this week it was all about that: descendants of immigrants, men, women, educated, uneducated, small-business owners, business people, black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor, then governors, congressmen, senators, secretaries of state, vice presidents and even presidents.

What, if any, was the common thread that ran through their stories, whether or not they were what some would call advantaged? It was this: They had the gut feeling that you can be anything you want to be in America – a bum or a billionaire. Was it easy? No! Few worthwhile achievements are. In fact, if it were that easy, there would be a lot more “advantageds” walking the streets. The common thread is, while not easy, it is possible; dreams can come true in the USA. This is America, land of opportunity. Sure, there are hurdles, but if I remember correctly, Aries Merritt (USA) won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics for overcoming hurdles.

Today, there seems to be a definite bias against successful people here in America. It is almost as if by your achievements and financial success you are somehow an enemy of mankind. The mainstream media line seems to be, if one becomes successful today, it is somehow un-American. I seem to remember we were once told, “Study hard, learn your lessons, work hard and you too can be successful!”  Emulate, not envy.

I am not sure people who are born and reared in the U.S. today really have any idea just how fortunate they are to have been born in America. Having had the privilege of visiting a number of countries, four different continents and encountering several different cultures, I have a deep and abiding love for America, despite its faults. Though if truth be told, comparatively speaking, those faults are relatively few in number. Just ask Marco Rubio, senator from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants; Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico and the first female Hispanic governor; Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, the second Indian-American governor in the country, the youngest current governor and first woman to serve as governor of South Carolina; or Condoleezza Rice, who overcame pervasive, rigid, legal segregation to become the secretary of state and a confidante of the president of the United States.

Keep in mind, there are countries in the United Nations even today where these women could not appear without a hijab, face covering, or speak in the presence of men, much less hold positions of power and responsibility. I have been to countries where women still walk a pace or two behind men and sit outside a restaurant with the children while the men go in and spend time together. I have visited the prime minister’s office in a country where the men wear tribal markings cut into their faces so they will know who to kill in numerous tribal wars.

Just one more example: The minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour. At a regular minimum wage job, you could earn $13,920 a year. In a year in Burundi, you would earn $82, $229 in Cuba, $322 in Brazil, $817 in Haiti and a high of $1,753 per year in Mexico. Any wonder our borders are being overrun with illegals? How many American workers could you hire at $1,700 a year? Plus, if this is what men make, imagine what they pay women! But even worse, there is no hope of anything improving. In fact, if you objectively view most of the emerging world order, you will see almost universal chaos and fewer and fewer actual democratic forms of government. Take the Middle East, for example. Only Israel has any form of democracy; everything else is a dictatorship. (By the way the annual minimum wage in Israel is $12,493.) Ben, you said all that to say what?

With the Republican National Convention just wrapped up, Mitt Romney nominated as the GOP candidate and the Democratic National Convention to convene soon, sending Obama back into the fray, there are a couple of considerations.

My primary concern, and vote, in the upcoming elections will not be as a Republican, Democrat, libertarian or independent but as an American citizen. The United States of America was not founded upon the concept of political parties but upon the right of a free people to determine their own destiny. Make no mistake, (D) or (R), if America goes under because of bad policies, we all suffer. Seniors, (D), (R), (I) or (L), will all suffer if Social Security goes bankrupt, as will almost everyone if the housing market completely collapses and our dollar becomes the equivalent of the Mexican peso.

I should vote principle not party, rectitude not race and freedom not fear. Yes, I do believe you should be properly registered and identified before voting. No one cashing a check should be able to pretend they are me and withdraw from my account or use my credit card without proper identification. It is equally important that the person helping to determine the destiny of my children and grandchildren be who they say they are and be able to prove it. This is racist?!? Are you telling me that blacks and Hispanics (who must produce ID to buy booze) are too stupid to apply for proper ID to vote?

This is America, and people have died to secure and defend the right to vote. People are determining the destiny of a great nation, our future, and it should not be based on error, ignorance or illegality.

There will be no armed soldiers at the polling places in November, but they should be well guarded by conscientious citizens armed with voter registration rolls and citizens armed with the knowledge that the future of the country is in the hands of the people walking in front of, beside and behind you to that little voting machine.

I will cast my vote not for a politician but for the future of my country, my wife, my children, grandchildren, friends and freedom with a simple, silent heartfelt prayer: “God bless America.”

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