IF YOU’RE like most Granite Staters, despite rain, you spent Independence Day weekend at cookouts with friends. Briefly, you might have thought about the fact that 245 years ago our brave countrymen risked their lives to establish a nation for the first time in history founded on an idea — Freedom.
My wife and I recently had our first child on Father’s Day and we celebrated Jack’s first Independence Day weekend. As we headed off to visit family and friends, I looked back in the freshly installed car seat in our Ford and couldn’t help but think what the holiday meant for not just us but for him. What kind of country and world did he just enter?
As we listened to music on the road, one song that came on was one I hadn’t heard in many years. “American Child” by country artist Phil Vassar is probably a song that eludes most, but I always remember one of the lines from the lyrics ‘With a promise that’s more than just someone’s last name — anyone’s equal.”
It’s those words that sum up the fundamental promise of America — success and failure aren’t purely inherited. Regardless of where you were born or occupation of your parents, everyone has a shot to achieve a piece of the American dream.
Unfortunately, many corporations and politicians that benefit from our division now say that the American dream never existed, that America is just another random place on a map — and, worse, a perverted idea that America has led to nothing but a dark chapter in the world’s history and condoning oppression. They say that our flag is a symbol of hate.
I wholeheartedly reject this and hope for my son’s sake that we as Americans rally around the idea that our nation truly is still special, and yes, exceptional. It has only been because of America that the modern world knows the blessings of freedom and liberty. Thanks to the exceptionalism of our great nation, human rights and consent of the governed is recognized as a model not just for us, but for the world.
We can’t let corporations or politicians cancel our American spirit. We can’t let them teach kids that America is anything less than exceptional.
During my tenure at the State Department during Trump’s administration, I saw first-hand how America is a beacon of hope for those all around the world. We offered support for the people of Venezuela, who have been suffering under a brutal socialist regime. And in one particular meeting in South Africa, when I was leading our global HIV/AIDS program, a gentleman from a health ministry stood up and told us that at the height of the AIDs epidemic, “Saturdays were for funerals.” Now, with tears in his eyes, he said that they have curbed the epidemic and “because of American leadership — Saturdays are for celebration.”
Americans brought hope to millions in a part of the world needing it most. Just like today, our great nation helped stem the spread of a deadly epidemic.
Brave Americans have sacrificed for generations to preserve freedom not just for ourselves but for so many others. My grandfather Jack Ward, the namesake for our son, served in World War II in Gen. George Patton’s army. Like many of the Greatest Generation, he proudly served, receiving a Bronze Star while fighting in the European theater and helping with the de-Nazification of post-war Germany, which protected not just our own freedoms and interests but also liberated a continent from a merciless tyrant.
America is exceptional due to the generations of brave men and women who have sacrificed on its behalf. These heroes have not sacrificed in vain. We can recapture the spirit of American exceptionalism if our leaders are willing to stand up and do so. We can once again ensure that the next generation understands that what makes America so unique is that if they are willing to work hard, they too can achieve their dream.
Our children must learn that America is the beacon of hope in a dark world — and that if we fail and allow those who seek to divide us in Washington to succeed, then we are doing nothing but paving the way towards a world dominated by the likes of a Communist China.