Why should Americans love their country? Here are a dozen good reasons to be grateful and proud to live here.
1. The United States was the first nation in history created out of the belief that people should govern themselves. As James Madison said, this country’s birth was “a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.” The U.S. constitution is the oldest written national constitution in operation. It has been a model for country after country as democracy has spread across the continents.
2. America really is the land of the free. There are large parts of the world where people can’t say what they think, learn what they’d like, or even dress the way they want. There are places where people spend years in jail or disappear if they question their rulers. Less than half of the world’s population lives in countries where people are truly free. In this nation, as George Washington put it, the love of liberty is interwoven with every ligament of American hearts.
3. No other country has done a better job of establishing equal rights for all citizens. Certainly there have been times when the United States has fallen tragically short of its founding principles. But especially in recent decades, no country has worked harder to eliminate discrimination and protect the rights of minorities. There are plenty of nations where people’s ethnicity, religion, or gender defines them as second-class citizens. In contrast, America has been a pioneer in striving toward the ideal that all are created equal.
4. This is the place where dreams can come true. U.S. newspapers are full of stories that read almost like fairy tales: the son of a laborer who grows up to be a doctor, the stay-at-home mom who turns a hobby into a flourishing business, the immigrant who becomes a movie star and governor. The United States has long been the country people flock to for the chance to make better lives. No other country has built a sturdier ladder for people to climb to success.
5. We enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living. Americans live longer, have better health, and enjoy safer and more comfortable lives than the vast majority of the world’s people. Ours is one of the most prosperous nations in history. U.S. companies provide some of the best jobs in the world. They have also built countless hospitals, libraries, and parks; created great universities; filled museums with works of art; found cures for diseases; and improved human life in countless ways.
6. No other country has welcomed and united so many people from so many different shores. From its beginnings, the U.S. has been the world’s great melting pot. Never before have so many people from different backgrounds, races, nationalities, and religions lived and worked together so peacefully. In no other nation has the spirit of cooperation and brotherhood accomplished more than it has in the United States.
7. The U.S. military is the greatest defender of freedom in the world. Twice in the 20th century, the United States led the way in saving the world from tyranny — first from the Axis powers, then from Soviet totalitarianism. Throughout history, other superpowers have used armies to conquer territory and build empires by force. America, with its unrivaled military, has chosen a different course. The United States has liberated more people from tyranny than any other nation in history.
8. America is a world leader in scholarship and invention. The United States is home to the world’s finest collection of universities and research institutions. Name just about any subject — from ancient philosophy to quantum physics — and chances are good that leading authorities work here. The record of American inventions and discoveries goes on and on, from the mechanical reaper to the microchip. American medical research facilities are among the best in the world. The United States leads the world in space exploration. The computer revolution started here.
9. Americans are among the most generous people on earth. The United States has built the most extraordinary collection of charitable, philanthropic, and civic organizations in the world, and this country is the planet’s largest source of humanitarian aid. American government programs and private giving constitute one of the greatest efforts to help people in history. In 2009, Americans donated more than $300 billion to charities. When disasters strike overseas, Americans are among the first to offer help and support.
10. The United States is the world’s greatest marketplace for the free exchange of ideas and information. In some countries, governments shut down newspapers and broadcast stations they don’t like, and limit access to the Internet. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are bedrock principles of American democracy. The staggering volume of information traded here every day — via books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, TV, and radio — makes this country the liveliest center of thought and debate in history.
11. This nation possesses an amazing capacity for self-renewal. Time and again, Americans have been able to address the country’s problems and flaws. Think of those Americans at Philadelphia in 1787 who devised the most miraculous political document in history just as the young nation seemed to be falling apart. Or think of those Americans in the civil-rights movement prodding the country to right the wrongs of segregation. The American people have a genius for self-correction. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end we find our way.
12. America is a nation that looks to God for guidance. It was founded to be a place where all are free to worship, or not to worship, as they please. Amid a diverse array of beliefs, the vast majority of Americans draw strength from faith in God’s goodness and wisdom. “In God We Trust” is our national motto, and we have never had a president who has been reluctant to say, “Let us pray.”
— William J. Bennett is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett’s Morning in America and the Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute. John T. E. Cribb is president of the Palmetto Creative Group. The above is an excerpt from the newly revised version of The American Patriot’s Almanac.