America is the greatest country on Earth. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is true, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in my thinking. As I travel the country meeting so many good Americans, I am constantly reminded of the America spirit and sense of optimism. To be sure, we face many great challenges and we often have many bitter disagreements. But throughout our history, time after time, we always find ways to come together and move forward, and I believe our best days as a country are ahead of us.
Hollywood and the media frequently find reasons to suggest that this isn’t the case. That America is not the greatest nation. Sometimes this is suggested subtly and sometimes not. An example of not very subtle, to put it mildly, can be found in a much-discussed Aaron Sorkin HBO program called “The Newsroom” that aired this past fall. In the series’ premier the main character, Will McAvoy, a news anchorman played by Jeff Daniels, goes on a rant to a group of college students about why America is not the greatest nation on earth. In this rant, he cherry picks some statistics about America’s relatively low global rankings in education, infant mortality and life expectancy, to name a few. This “speech” is treated as brave and heroic – speaking “truth to power” – by the other characters in the show. And the speech was celebrated in real life, too, amongst liberal bloggers and pundits for the same reasons.
Aaron Sorkin is a talented writer who has made some good films like “Moneyball” and “A Few Good Men.” But he’s also a big donor to the Democratic Party and supporter of MoveOn.org. It’s not like he doesn’t have a point of view. Yes, we all know liberal bias is alive and well, but this speech was particularly egregious and troublesome. So if Sorkin and HBO are entitled to cherry pick statistics on why America isn’t the greatest nation, I have a few to submit on why we are:
America is the most charitable and generous country in the world. Americans care about their neighbors. We give, on a per capita basis, more than three times as much to charitable causes as the French, or the Germans, or the Italians, to name just a few. And in its recent study of 153 countries the U.K.-based Charity Aid Foundation, America is ranked as the most generous country on Earth in terms of volunteering, helping strangers and donating money. The director of that foundation, Richard Harrison, went as far as to tell The NonProfit Times that “the world really needs America; it needs its generosity, its resource and spirit, and though times are really hard, this is the time we need to keep giving as much as we possibly can.”
America is (still) the most innovative country in the world. Americans build great, big things. A recent study by the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Company again found the U.S. as the most innovative country, with Silicon Valley being the most innovative community on the planet. The U.S. invests a globe-leading $25 billion in venture capital per year, and those investments have produced dominant corporations like Intel, Apple, Microsoft, and more recently Amazon, Google and Facebook. And the U.S. continues to attract thousands of skilled workers each year who come here to join these companies or start new ones of their own. Russian immigrant Sergy Brin co-founded Google, and Hungarian immigrant Andrew Grove transformed Intel into the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductors, to name just a couple. We live in a global economy. But it is that “Made in America” ingenuity that drives it.
America is a beacon of hope for the world, a shining city on a hill. Our founding documents are masterpieces. Across all nations, the average age of a constitution is 17 years. Ours was written 236 years ago and is the oldest in the world. It has survived and remains the envy of the world and model for emerging democracies.
As Americans, there is no doubt we face challenges and have work to do. I think we all agree: We have to get our financial house in order. And we have to do better on education, job training and rebuilding our manufacturing sector. Research and development and entrepreneurship are great, but we need to focus on the kinds of enterprises that create jobs that communities across this country can build around as well.
As we draw to the end of the year now, I am already looking forward to 2013 and what progress our great country will make. America is exceptional. We are the most generous, innovative, enduring, hopeful and optimistic people on this Earth, and this will be as true tomorrow as it was yesterday. God Bless this great nation. Happy New Year.