Watching the Horror Show on the Potomac is getting depressing. If this were a movie, the audience would be running out screaming. The Marx brothers couldn’t top this one. So I want to do something a little more uplifting.
These are my American Heroes. I’m sure you can come up with more, but these strike me as the best. It lifts my spirits to think of them.
In the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington stood before his army whose enlistments were up and ready to go home. Alone, General Washington convinced them to stay. Though he won few battles, he, more than any one, was responsible for the eventual victory at Yorktown. He presided over the Constitutional Convention, and of course served as the first President trodding on ground no one had ever walked before to set up a workable federal government. He was a man with no illusions about the nature of reality, who fully earned the love of his countrymen. A man with legendary self-control, tears rolled down his cheeks as he waved to the crowds on the way to the first inauguration. The Father of our country indeed!
Thomas Jefferson could have easily considered himself an aristocrat, yet he wrote the most famous and beloved words in American History, “All men are created equal,” and he meant it. He believed no man was born higher than another. Yes, he had slaves, and even children from one, but that was a different time. Even then, he often wrote against slavery, even in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, a portion taken out by the Continental Congress before adoption. The words “All men are created equal” were the basis for the later freeing of the slaves. They were the basis for Martin Luther King’s remarkable “I Have a Dream” speech. Those words form a fundamental principle of our nation. Ten days before his death, he wrote, “…for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Father of the Declaration of Independence indeed!
George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention primarily at the urging of James Madison. Chances of success would have been slim without Washington’s stature there. James Madison’s Virginia Plan formed the basis of the Constitution that was subsequently adopted. Madison’s concept of a strong federal government with limited powers prevailed. This man worked tirelessly at the Convention to reach agreement and aggressively argued, campaigned, and convinced until ratification. Father of the Constitution indeed!
Benjamin Franklin left home at 17 to make his own way in the world and would have had a remarkable life even had there been no American Revolution. He was everywhere; in England trying to resolve colonial grievances before the Revolution, in America laying the groundwork for it and helping draft the Declaration of Independence, in France raising money for the war, negotiating with the French to bring them into the war, negotiating the treaty granting American Independence, and hosting the Constitutional Convention where he proposed the compromise resolving proportional vs. state representation. When asked by a European about Americans in 1784, he answered, “People do not enquire, concerning a stranger, What is he? But, What can he do?” A Founder indeed!
Nathanael Greene volunteered in a local militia as a private, rising to brigadier general within a year. A Quaker, he was cast out of the Society of Friends because of his support for the war. One of Washington’s senior officers, he was the choice to take over command should Washington go down in battle. He successfully advised Washington to avoid needless open fighting with superior British forces, a strategy that ultimately succeeded. In the south, Greene conducted what historians have called the most brilliantly conducted campaign of the war, so bloodying Cornwallis that he retired to Yorktown. As they say, the rest is history.
I cried when Ronald Reagan died. I lived through that time and am grateful for what he did. When he entered office, the country was dispirited, depressed, weak, unsure of ourselves, and in an economic mess. Despite the media’s attempt to portray him as not very smart , he was quite the opposite. A well-educated and well read man who understood the nature of the real world and worked from a firm foundation of principle. He was a man of integrity and character. He gave us back hope and confidence in ourselves, and pride as a nation. He defeated the Soviet Union (as he said he would when he took office). He (with some help from Paul Volker) put the economy back together. Hated by the statists, he could cut through their bull with a smile. He stands far above any other President in my lifetime. To the extent we are that “Shining City on the Hill”, he was holding up the lantern.
Of all the philosophers I have ever read (or tried to), Ayn Rand stands out. University Philosophy departments generally refuse to acknowledge her as a philosopher, for reasons like, she never wrote a learned volume on her philosophy. (Neither did Socrates, boys!) Barbara Branden writes in “The Passion of Ayn Rand” that when philosophy professors visited her New York apartment, they would leave having to totally rethink their positions. In fact, her writings cover all the aspects of philosophy; metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. The philosophy of Ayn Rand is comprehensive and clear. Her ethics is based on life as the standard of value, that the individual should be free to live his own life and not be forced to sacrifice for others. No one should be forced or cowed into giving up what he or she has honestly earned. According to a Library of Congress survey in 1991, Ayn’s book “Atlas Shrugged” was the book that made the most difference in Americans’ lives, second only to the Bible. If we can avoid the fall to statism, the additional weight of Ayn’s influence might be enough to make the difference.
What would our culture be like without this man? A true individualist who pursued his ideas despite all the blank stares and you can’t do that ‘s he encountered. No better example of his optimism and positivism exists than Mickey Mouse. In the foreword to the book “Remembering Walt” Ray Bradbury says, “Walt Disney was more important than all the politicians we’ve ever had. They pretended optimism. He was optimism. He has done more to change the world for the good than any politician who ever lived.”
The American Soldier
To mention only a few would be a travesty, there are so many. Some are unknown as knowledge of their acts of heroism died in battle. Many young soldiers never knew the sweet life of home and family. Many returned crippled. Some were forgotten. We are only the nation we are today because of them. History tells of many battles turned on the actions of a handful of individuals, either the decisions of commanders or simply the acts of individual soldiers, Gettysburg being one example. The fate of this nation as we know it often hinged on the actions of that handful. When I see the veterans lead the July 4th parade, tears come to my eyes. Heroes indeed!