I realize there is much on this Independence Day for Americans to be discouraged about. For one thing, our country is led by a President who has the air of an aloof British monarch and whose main legislative accomplishment (such as it is) has been the enactment of a health care law with eerie similarities to Great Britain’s socialized medicine scheme, the National Health Service.
It’s enough to make any freedom-loving American wonder exactly how much independence from Britain the U.S. actually maintains 235 years after its inception.
But let’s not dwell on the negative. There is plenty about our nation to be encouraged by and proud of. America is a country where dreams can come true.
I am living proof of that. No one in my family had ever finished high school. My father worked as a janitor, and yet I went on to finish high school, college and law school in the nation’s capital. In 1964, sitting in my father’s home, I watched a speech made by an actor named Ronald Reagan, and I turned to my father and said, “That man is going to be President, and I’m going to work for him in the White House.”
Before he died, my father visited me in my White House office—a profound moment for us both. In America, a man or woman’s potential is a renewable resource with unlimited possibility. In fact, a few news items reminded me recently that America remains the “shining city upon a hill” our Founders envisioned.
An underappreciated aspect of American life is how we treat our boys and our girls: as having equal dignity and value.
Unfortunately, this is not the case across much of the globe, and in particular in Asia, where a deadly “boy preference” is pervasive. As Mara Hvistendahl documents in her new book, “Unnatural Selection,” an estimated 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons. Millions more baby girls have been neglected, abused or abandoned.
In contrast, most Americans are deeply troubled by sex-selective abortions. A 2006 Zogby poll found that 86 % of Americans agreed that such abortions should be illegal.
To be sure, America is far from perfect in its treatment of the unborn. Disturbingly, polls suggest a majority of Americans support abortion when pregnancy tests reveal that the unborn child may have a severe disability. Still, it is encouraging that most American parents respond to news that they are having a girl or a boy with equal amounts of joy.
American respect for girls and women can even be seen in aspects of our foreign policy—how we advocate against human trafficking, for the education of women and girls around the world, for their rights to own property and to be free from forced abortions.
Case in point: It is of great credit to our courageous military and our values that as Afghans have been freed from their Taliban oppressors, the U.S. has built schools so that young women and girls on the other side of the world can receive an education. Our soldiers worked not only to liberate the lives of people most of us will never meet, but to liberate the minds of young girls. With these new schools, they will have a chance for a better life than that dictated to them by the terrorists.
The Left constantly bemoans America’s rising economic inequality. The rich keep getting richer, we often hear, while the poor only get poorer. Class warfare rhetoric is regularly deployed by President Obama, most recently in his castigating of “corporate jet owners” an incredible six times at last week’s press conference.
It is often taken for granted that the distribution of income in the U.S. is becoming increasingly unequal. But recent data show that the claim is overstated. More sophisticated price indices find that wages and incomes of Americans in the middle and bottom of the income distribution have not halted, as has often been alleged.
And as Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon recently found, other than the top 1% of earners, there has been no increase of inequality since 1993 in the bottom 99% of the population. America remains a place where people can work to achieve their dreams.
Still, there was a little-noticed story last month in the Washington Post that throws all the negative messages on American income in sharp contrast. It was reported that charitable giving by individuals and companies hit $290 billion last year, a jump of $10 billion. That represented a 4% rise after two years of decline. I am proud that my fellow countrymen reached into their hearts and their wallets to share their resources as the country has struggled with rising unemployment and a stagnant economy.
You need look no further than America’s response to disasters at home or abroad to understand the spirit of America, and the character of a country that sends its money, men and women around the world to lend a helping hand. Our compassionate words are met with deeds.
Every day I am given another reason to be proud of our country. And I never forget that what makes America exceptional is the belief that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and that those rights come not from the government of man but from the kingdom of God.
I am proud that my country is built on timeless truths and not current political whim. This Fourth of July, I will celebrate the unique and exceptional nation that is the United States of America, and echo the words of President Abraham Lincoln who said this country is “the last best hope of the Earth.” God bless America!