America is not the greatest country in the world anymore — but we could be . . .

July 3, 2012

At some small risk of sacrificing the G rating of this blog, I offer this little scene from HBO’s “Newsroom,” a program I can’t see because our cable company is not customer-oriented (but we take it for the bundled internet package).  From this small snippet, I would say HBO is again showing how a cable program aimed at adult minds can achieve high quality, if not greatness.  Aaron Sorkin created and writes the thing, and Jeff Daniels stars as the television news guy.  This scene will give every patriotic American something to think about.

Something to think about, sure.

It’s not a question, or should not be a question, of whether one “believes in” American exceptionalism.  It is a question of whether we understand that what makes America exceptional is the people who work to make things better, the people who work to make change — and that exceptionalism slips from our mantle, and from our grasp, if we don’t work to keep it.

I’m also reminded of the two posters somebody put out that showed up in every speech department in every college in America when I was a speech graduate student.  They were based loosely on Plutarch‘s Lives, the book comparing biographies of great Romans and great Greeks, and the section that compared the two great orators, the later Roman, Cicero and the earlier Greek, Demosthenes.

One poster said, “When Cicero spoke, the people said how well he spoke.”

The second said, “When Demosthenes spoke, the people said ‘Let us march!‘”

Are you ready to march?  November’s election day comes sooner than we anticipate.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jim Stanley.

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An observation on cutting budgets, and my beliefs

March 8, 2011

This probably deserves a longer, more thought-out post.

Maybe later.

Right now I just want to get this off my chest:

I do not believe, as the Republican budget insists, that America is no longer a great nation, that our greatest days are long past, and that America needs to hunker down and join the Second- or Third-World. I do not believe that America can afford to give up leadership in foreign affairs, nor leadership in education. I do not believe God will step in to save us from our own stupidity. America is an exceptional place because people chose to act, to make the things that make a great nation.

I believe we need to answer when the certain trumpets blow, and they are sounding now.  I do not believe the full-scale retreat proposed by the Republican budget is the proper, best, nor American response.

Back to regular programming now.


Bill Clinton on Bachmann/Tea Party “parallel universe” politics: “We need to put our country back in the future business”

February 3, 2011

At Davos, Switzerland, Bill Clinton answered a question from former White House advisor David Gergen, I gather.  American is exceptional, Clinton said — but those who insist on making “American Exceptionalism” a political mantra seriously risk making America unexceptional, and putting us into decline, he argues.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ears are stinging on the issue of unbalanced state budgets.

President Bill Clinton interviewed at the 2011 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting held in Davos, Switzerland. – World Economic Forum

William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. At 46 he was the third-youngest president. He became president at the end of the Cold War, and was the first baby boomer president. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is currently the United States Secretary of State. Each received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Yale Law School.

The complete Clinton discussion can be viewed here.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Nicole Smith.


American corporations hide American heroes at Shanghai Expo

July 17, 2010

“Penny pinching” conservatives in Congress shamefully worked to guarantee America’s legacy of freedom would be buried at the current Shanghai Expo.  Architecture writer Fred A. Bernstein reports that the conservatives won, and that the current U.S. exhibit in Shanghai is shamed by exhibits from other nations highlighting American virtues that the U.S. pavilion should have shown:

Where are the examples of American democracy and freedom, of American know-how and imagination, and of American heroes?

Artist's rendering of U.S. pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010

Artist's rendering of U.S. pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 - corporate sponsorship failed to replace government support prohibited by "money-saving" 1990s law

For those things, visitors have to search elsewhere at the Expo: for the statue of Rachel Carson, outside the Broad Air Conditioning pavilion; for a tribute to Frank Gehry, at an exhibit sponsored by the city of Bilbao, Spain (Gehry would have designed a great U.S. pavilion!); and for videos of an American girl, describing what makes cities livable, look to the Russian pavilion. (Incredibly, the Russians shot the video in front of the U.S. Capitol, smartly appropriating an American symbol of freedom.) Carson, Gehry and the girl are Americans worth celebrating.

What will the millions of Chinese who visit the Expo think of the United States? The most sophisticated of them, especially the 45,000 a day who get inside the U.S. pavilion, will see a country determined to promote its corporations rather than its people or its political system. The rest — and this is even scarier — may visit the Expo, a microcosm of the world in 2010, and not think about the U.S. at all.

What in the hell were we thinking?

Bernstein explained what happened:

Seeing a statue of Rachel Carson, the crusading American environmentalist, at the World Expo in Shanghai moved me almost to tears. After all, Carson is a symbol of independent thought and action, both vital U.S. exports.

Too bad the statue wasn’t at the U.S. pavilion. But that building, sponsored in part by Carson’s nemesis, Dow Chemical, was never going to be a celebration of the power of individuals. Indeed, the pavilion, with its bland tribute to “community,” says little about what makes America, and Americans, special.

Check out Bernstein’s piece, “A World Expo flop by the U.S.,” with the subhead:  “Our pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai is a huge disappointment, failing to showcase the best of the United States.”

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