Many of us devote much effort to commenting on what’s wrong with America and the rest of the world. Occasionally it helps to look at the glass that’s half full rather than half empty. The column attached focuses on America’s pioneering spirit.
Having been a frequent critic of what I've seen wrong with America, it's time to reminisce about some of what’s great about my country.
One of the most admirable traits of Americans is that we're pioneers. That's more than just praise for the rugged settlers who came to America from Europe or those who migrated from east to west.
Not everything about settling America is praiseworthy; but apart from the reprehensible treatment of some Indians on their land, the pioneering spirit became ingrained into the American psyche.
Going into unexplored territory in search of a new life became intrinsic to American culture. The pioneering spirit drove explorations and discoveries of every possible dimension from early medical research to travel in space.
What distinguishes the pioneering spirit that Americans are rightly proud of?
Pioneers are not happy with the present. They visualize something better beyond their immediate world and way of life.
People like Charles Lindberg who flew across the Atlantic for the first time looked forward as much as the later astronauts who blasted off into outer space for the first time.
The medical professionals who risked their lives in first-time experiments with drugs or procedures exemplified the nature of the pioneer.
Pioneers don't depend on others to guide their lives and futures. As someone once said, they "promote the exercise of one's own goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance."
Every once in awhile an individualist appears in politics. In America, we have two notable figures, both in the congress: Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich. Both Paul and Kucinich have constituents who appreciate their individualism. Unfortunately, the US Congress and the general electorate do not.
Pioneers exercise independent judgment, often in opposition to conventional wisdom. This has been true of many American business men and women.
Author Ayn Rand provided an excellent example of individualist thinking in her novels, the most famous of which is The Fountainhead.
The novel's hero, Howard Roark, agrees to provide the architectural design for a housing project on the promise that nothing be changed. When the city's fathers permit changes to save money, he blows up the project. Rand's defence is a remarkable justification of Roark’s action.
Nothing I've said so far is meant to imply that individualism is exclusive to America. Furthermore, many Americans exemplify collectivism.
Individuals use their ingenuity to develop inventions, innovations, enterprises and new ideas. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple provide excellent examples of innovative, pioneering American individuals.
To achieve their goals and desires, pioneers value independence and self-reliance. They are risk-takers, often with the courage to travel down untrodden paths and into perilous territory to reach their goals.
Last March, Forbes magazine ran a story on 39 gutsy entrepreneurs, executives, celebrities, politicians and athletes about the greatest risks they ever took.
As a result of their efforts, pioneers improve life for themselves, and they make the world a better place for the rest of us.
In America, the frequency and importance of our discoveries have distinguished the country's achievements.
In one of his speeches, President John F. Kennedy said about pioneering choices we make:
...not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win ....
I’m proud of the pioneering spirit America instilled in me.