The issue of “American Exceptionalism” was brought to the forefront by the man now occupying the White House. He claims that there is nothing exceptional about this country or our citizens. Of course this is not a surprising point of view for someone who grew up in Indonesia and was surrounded by Muslims professing that America is the Great Satan. However, someone who may have experienced the antithesis of the freedom we take for granted may have a different story to tell – especially if that someone escaped Castro’s Cuba.
Ronald Reagan, American President
President Ronald Reagan told the following story of such a person. He recounted:
Not too long ago two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are! I had someplace to escape to.” In that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual élite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
Ronald W. Reagan, 40th President of the United States. Official portrait, 1981.
This point of view is one that should be heavily regarded. We often think and talk about future political threats to our way of life. However, it is not just our way of life that is being threatened by misguided ideologues. It is the bastion of hope for those living under despotic rulers. Yes, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to keep the freedom that our Founders sacrificed life and limb to give us. But we also owe it to those who look to America for leadership and hope. The Romney/Ryan campaign has realized that this is what is at stake. Hopefully, voters on November 6th will also come to this same realization before casting their vote.
The American choice in two sentences
I will repeat Reagan’s words, which seem as relevant today as when he originally told this story:
This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual élite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
For the sake of generations to come and for all those who dream of freedom, I pray that we will continue to value self-government. And I pray that our votes on November 6th will clearly state that the American Dream is alive and well, for us, for our progeny, and for the rest of the world that dreams about freedom.