“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. 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. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”[i][i]
How could any President show such disrespect for Americans?
“I don’t think the president understands what makes this country great.”
Speaking against the backdrop of more than a dozen mechanics, Romney pointed to the repair shop as a symbol of the businesses that have kept the American dream alive.
“This is the kind of place that has put people to work over the years, over the decades. … Someone else isn’t responsible for what he did here,” Romney said, referring to the shop’s owner. “This is not the result of government. This is the result of people who take risks, create dreams, who build for themselves and for their families.”[ii][ii]
Now which candidate would you guess made the following comments following the remarks?
“And so the reason that I continue to have confidence is because when I look at you, I see my grandparents. When I see your kids, I see my kids. And I think about all those previous generations — our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of them came here as immigrants, some were brought here against their will. Some of them worked on farms, and some worked in mills, and some worked in mines, and some worked on the railroad.
But no matter where they worked, no matter how times were tough, they always had faith that there was something different about this country; that in this country, you have some God-given rights: a life in liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and a belief that all of us are equal — (applause) –and that we’re not guaranteed success, but we’re guaranteed the right to work hard for success. (Applause.)”[iii][iii]
Is that what we want?
Despite what we hear and read in the media; despite whatever spin is given to these words, which shows a lack of appreciation and respect of the American Dream? Mr. Romney is correct that the repair shop owner does not owe his or her success to government. The individual probably worked hard and without visiting the shop, I feel confident saying that they poured gallons of sweat, and maybe spilled some blood in building their success.
Who is Somebody?
Even so, that shop owner benefitted from the work of “Somebody.” The “somebody” is that individual from the past who through action or inaction created the opportunities and in some cases burdens for the next generations. It’s a blow to our ego, but if we are successful it is because someone else gave us help. That help might not have been in our lifetime, but the blood, sweat, and tears, spilled and shed by individuals long before us, our parents, grandparents, and so on provides the environment where we live today. Aside from the George Washingtons, James Madisons, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelts, Alvin Yorks, Booker T. Washingtons, Clara Bartons, Audie Murphys, and other “famous” people, we have those individuals who like most of us will not be remembered outside of our name on a genealogy tree generations after our deaths but who made the decisions and sacrifices which affect us the most personally today.
Let’s Be Real…
Other modern concerns involve the lack of respect in schools, problems in education, and the level of crime and corruption. One solution bantered is having that discipline and respect instituted in the home by the parents of the child. Another solution is that we all pour gallons of sweat in working to the best of our ability no matter what our occupation happens to be. Will everyone do that? We do not live in a utopia, so of course everyone will not. Those that do, however, do so because they witnessed, experienced, were bestowed upon, or were taught those ideas, ethics and habits either intentionally or unintentionally. How many of us have been inspired by watching or just knowing that someone else overcame an obstacle?
“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.” How is that not the American Dream or American Spirit? Individual initiative which is ability, even harder work, is not dismissed or even diminished in the President’s statement. “But also because we do things together:” a business needs customers to be profitable, consumers need businesses for goods, we need transportation systems, and we need sound educational systems. We are not individuals unaffected by the actions of others whether those actions are good or bad.
How and Who?
More importantly think about this “government” = “It.” Hogwash! Government equals “We the People.” It was the people who won independence from England. It was the people who almost saw that independence implode under the Articles of Confederation which lacked a strong governmental presence and therefore drafted the Constitution. It was the people who later added specific safeguards to our governmental document, an addition we call the Bill of Rights. It was women through the course of generations who did not accept being regarded as chattel but fought to be heard with later generations carrying on the fight to have the right to vote and later generations fighting for equal treatment. It was people of African ancestry enduring the experiences of slavery, “separate but equal” and true discrimination for the civil rights of future generations. It was farmers, the Populists, in states like Illinois who after experiencing unfair treatment by both Democrats and Republicans formed their own political party. While the Populist Party died, we take many of the liberties they listed in their 1892 presidential platform for granted as “guaranteed rights from the Constitution.” Lest we forget, it took over 100 years after the creation of the United States for the majority of citizens to have those rights.
Do We Remember?
Would newspapers and other publications exist without the prior works of Benjamin Franklin; without the stance taken by John Peter Zenger; without the work of those who decided to begin the individual publications, many long before anyone working there now was born?
Lest we forget the sacrifices of those before us; lest we forget that we have the freedom to disagree; lest we forget Fascism did not prevail in WWII and neither did Totalitarian Communism in the Cold War. Critics talk of the US becoming like Europe or toss labels of socialism. Well everyone has received something from the government. At times government may be too involved; at times we want greater involvement. The Articles of Confederation did not work for lack of real power. Thomas Jefferson pushed for Congress to pass an Embargo Act which stifled the economy at the time, and he later urged Congress to pass a Force Act to punish those who ignored the law. Fortunately, however, Congress did not give in to what may have created a dictatorial totalitarian state. Theodore Roosevelt as President urged Congress to enact many of the Populists reforms and to assure Americans a “Square Deal” as they worked with big businesses. Franklin Roosevelt in essence took power away from Congress to funnel enormous amounts of funds into the economy. Did the New Deal end the Depression? No it did not, but somehow America survived through those times and reemerged to defeat not only Nazi Germany in Europe but Japan. These victories resulted from many sacrificing their lives in the European and Pacific Theaters; many more people of all ages, genders, races, and religions sacrificing on the home front for the continuation of the American Dream and American Way of Life.
Can We Agree on Anything?
Is spending out of control? Is it in many cases wasteful? I think a majority of us would say yes. The problem, however, is that it is easier to blame “government” like it is some other body than to accept the fact that we have the ability and responsibility for our government to function better. Taxpayers are the ones who are doing the allowing, not as suggested by some as “should be,” but ARE DOING. The problem is that it is only a small number of taxpayers are truly involved in the decisions being made by government. As of today, 19 July 2012, Open Secrets.org list that Super PACs have already spent $105,772, 784 in support of specific presidential candidates. Sheldon Adelson, who lost over $25 billion in 2008 and almost declared bankruptcy for his Las Vegas Sands Corp., has stated his intent to spend $100 million this election cycle.[iv][iv]
Who allows government to control?
Taxpayers, regardless of if they call themselves Democrats, Republicans, other Parties, or Independents, are doing the allowing. The media and public opinion, however, wants to blame “government” instead of asking the tougher questions of who is allowing the government. There are returns on the donations by a few, or should that be investments, in these campaigns. Instead, the focus is bashing the incumbent President, who regardless of party lacks the Constitutional authority to take the degree of action needed to solve all domestic issues. Then we praise the opposition, who if in office would be in the same state of uncertainty. We are similar to a feeding frenzy of sharks smelling fresh blood in the water. We by our own actions take for granted or diminish the sacrifices of those in the past who allow us to have the freedoms to bash or praise the Chief Executive in ways that would have brought punitive actions on those of the past. We do so without any fear of the types of reprisals they encountered. Sadly, what many consider discrimination, punishment, or reprisals today would be regarded as advancement by those who sacrificed for us to have those rights.
What is the American Dream?
Who supports the idea of the American Dream and the work ethic that made the United States into a World Power? President Obama in the same speech for which he is being labeled as anti-American, socialist, and being of accused of “not knowing what makes this country great” seems to promote the historical interpretation with these remarks “And so the reason that I continue to have confidence is because when I look at you, I see my grandparents. When I see your kids, I see my kids. And I think about all those previous generations — our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of them came here as immigrants, some were brought here against their will. Some of them worked on farms, and some worked in mills, and some worked in mines, and some worked on the railroad.
But no matter where they worked, no matter how times were tough, they always had faith that there was something different about this country; that in this country, you have some God-given rights: a life in liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and a belief that all of us are equal — (applause) –and that we’re not guaranteed success, but we’re guaranteed the right to work hard for success. (Applause.)”[v][v]
Ignorance, Insecurity, or Stupidity?
To regard the President’s statement, even when edited out of context, that someone helped you or me achieve any degree of success as anti-American is not merely a slap in the face, but a desecration of graves, and a display of no appreciation, recognition, or respect for those who built this country, sacrificed their lives, and spilled their sweat and blood, to leave a foundation upon which we of this generation can continue to build for future generations or consume for our own selfish and egotistical insecurities in taking responsibility for our own actions.
Why are we taking the American Dream for granted? It is not a weakness to have appreciation for those before us. It is a selfish arrogance that we deserve through no effort on our own the very liberties and opportunities that past generations suffered and sacrificed to earn those privileges for you and me today. How many of these freedoms would we have today if we had to endure the same trials and tribulations of past generations to earn the same ones we consider our rights?
[i][i] Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia, Roanoke Fire Station #1, 13 July 2012. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia
[ii][ii]Romney: Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ comment ‘wasn’t a gaffe’, Holly Bailey, 19 July 2012. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/romney-obama-didn-t-build-wasn-t-gaffe-192957340.html
[iii][iii]Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia, Roanoke Fire Station #1, 13 July 2012. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia
[iv][iv]GOP super PAC receives major donation from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Chris Moody, 16 July 2012. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/gop-super-pac-receives-major-donation-casino-mogul-202343022.html?_esi=1
[v][v]Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia, Roanoke Fire Station #1, 13 July 2012. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia