The American dream has always meant that we in America have the freedom to achieve whatever our hearts desire. Opportunity and prosperity are possible for those of us who have the where-with-all to seek the dream. We have no caste system, and upward social mobility is a way of life. Why have so many immigrants come and continue to come to America, their Promised Land? Without a doubt, they came and come because they believe(d) in that elusive American dream — if you work hard, you will succeed. They came and continue to come because of that promise.
In school, I was taught and believed these words from the Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal”... and “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” How I revered those men who risked everything to sign that document! I held John Hancock in the highest regard because he wrote his name so large that King George would not have put on his spectacles to read his name. What a hero!
Never in my lifetime did I ever expect to hear a U.S. president demonize the importance of the American Dream. At a speech in Roanoke, Va., President Obama told the crowd, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He went on to say, “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something, there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”
Success may at times involve luck and association or inheritance, but most of the time people are successful because they strive to succeed and work hard. The government has nothing to do with success. The very famous author, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) said, “Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”
I find the president’s philosophic view troubling. It seems to me that this president just does not understand the Declaration of Independence or very much about our Founding Fathers’ thinking on limiting the power of government. The often quoted, humorist, commentator, and later newspaper columnist Will Rogers once said, “Things in our country run in spite of government, not by the aid of it.” President Obama sees government as the solution to all our problems. I am appalled that the president actually thinks that success is not due to personal ambition. Does he really believe that a person achieves success because someone else made it happen? (Perhaps that is what applies to him.)
I believe that the president has a fundamental misunderstanding of our American values and economy. The prevailing definition of capitalism since our founding is completely foreign to this president. I am convinced that the president has disdain for capitalism. He has the mindset of a community organizer. He thinks he is still dealing with people who need HIM to make things fair, and fairness is sharing the wealth. Fairness is making the rich pay an exorbitant amount in taxes. He believes we do better as a group than as an individual. It almost sounds like individuals need to be ashamed of their accomplishments. In other words, he is advocating socialist principles.
Social justice according to him is reached when we take from the successful and give to the less successful. The first time around, he campaigned as a transformational figure. Hope and change were the words of the day. He promised he knew how to put an end to the recession. A recession is the ebb time in the naturally occurring ebb and flow of enterprise in the marketplace. Did anyone believe that the new hope and change would radically modify our economy and thwart its ability to recover? Unemployment is still above eight percent for a post-World War II record of 41 straight months.
Let’s stop the socialism rhetoric that is permeating the political scene. That is not the America that I know or grew up in. We are not a nation of takers and demanders. Chasing after such virtues as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the American way. Surely the Declaration-signers did not risk their lives for us to cry, “Give me, give me.” Individual success should be held high. Quoting Will Rogers again, “If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs on the first and third Friday of each month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.