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‘The American dream is real’: What makes the US exceptional?

Feb 15

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The United States does a lot of things well and it’s rated fifth in the best countries overall. Yet for those who hear mostly negative news, it’s easy to believe that things could not get any worse. As we yearn for an idealized yesteryear, we might take the blessings of today for granted, and forget the many things Americans agree on.

In this 26-minute episode of America Speaks, pollster and political analyst Dr. Frank Luntz examines the positive values of American identity. Luntz asks a panel of Americans what they love about their country, what they could agree on, and what unique assets they think make today’s America a truly great nation.

We’ve now done over 20 segments discussing the challenges and the opportunities with the American people. And most of them quite frankly, have been pretty negative. So I thought we would take a different approach for this America speaks episode. What’s right with America? We are we exceptional, we are we extraordinary, unprecedented, unparalleled. The conversation was incredibly enlightening, and very positive. So please join me as we listen in, as the country determines what matters most to America.
So many of these segments on straight our news have been pretty negative, or pessimistic. In the evaluation of where we are as a country. I think it’s important to present the other perspective, because an awful lot of Americans 10s of millions are positive. They look towards the future with with excitement and anticipation. And they like to talk about the past as being
much better than then people who looked back on it, evaluate it. So I want to know specifically, what makes America exceptional.
I want to hear from half of you. So if you can put your computer hands up. If you want to answer that question. What truly makes America the greatest country in the face of the earth? The greatest country in the history of America? And I’m going to start with someone who wasn’t born here. Jana, you were born in the Soviet Union? Correct? Or Russia?
Ukraine, okay. Wow. What is it that makes America exceptional to you?
Why number one is a stable government. There was always a stable government. So you didn’t think that there was going to be you know, political instability. Also, opportunity. There’s so much opportunity in this country that you all know, but other countries have stable governments, other countries have opportunity? Why is America exceptional? The American dream, I don’t know. Like, it really happens here. You could really, you know, start with nothing and become a millionaire, like the social or like upward mobility is unparalleled anywhere else. I feel like the social like
the mobility, you can become a millionaire here with hard work. Like it’s true, you could find your niche and your way to like, become a millionaire or a billionaire. John, John, what makes America exceptional? What makes America extraordinary? I think for me, it’s the entrepreneurial spirit, which is a little bit with the honest talking about and for me, you know, 58, I was too old to keep doing what I was doing. I just was too much age discrimination. So I was able to start a business. And I just don’t know how many other countries, it’s, you can do that. And, you know, I would echo what Andre said it was a little harder at times for me to get through the regulatory environment. But I was able to do it. And, you know, that’s really, you know, and I’ve worked overseas a little bit. I know, in some of those stable places you’re talking about with stable governments, it is way harder to start a small business in those countries than it is here. Laura, is America, the greatest country in the history of the world. I’ll hold back on that one. But I do think that the spirit still exists here. And the ability to make things happen for an individual. I remember, even 15 years ago, I went to bring your parent to Work Day at Google. And my son walked us through the parking lot, and to see the value of the cars out in that lot. And again, that’s just dollars and cents, folks. But it represented a vast creation of wealth of people who had a skill and were able to capitalize on it. And if you read any of the, you know, biographies of captains of industry or whatever, however, they did it. They made things happen in this country. Clark, you’re one of the older people on the Zoom. You think America is exceptional and extraordinary?
I do. Frank, one of my political Heroes is the late Senator John McCain. And Senator McCain, frequently he would quote Chairman Mao and he would say no, so always darkest before things go totally black. And I think we’re on that track, which sounds like a negative assessment. I mean, I think we are in potentially through this election season, moving into total blackness. But if you look at the history of this country, if you look at what over almost 250 years we’ve been able to do as a people bonding together, if you look at the 18 people
on this call whom I’ve just been so privileged to listen to, it gives me hope that we can reconstitute ourselves, we can make it through that blackness, it’s going to look different. Our political structures are going to change the way in which we’re going to interact with one another will be different. But that’s been our history as a country. We’ve done that over and over, and we’ll continue to do it. Sarah, you’re one of the youngest people in the zoom. Are you as optimistic as some of your colleagues here? So I like what I’m hearing. I’m optimistic. Absolutely. We are a country of resiliency. I mean, we saw this in 911, right, we had the worst terrorist attack on our grounds. And we came together as New Yorkers and the country in the world. And so I believe that we can accomplish anything we want, if we put our mind to it. And we get out of the way with this political crap. And quite frankly, like I travel the world and world traveler, I’ve seen a lot. And I’m very blessed to have done that. I think my passport is the testament of how important of a country this is, I’m protected, I get the opportunity to see the world that like a female person and my counterpart in another world can’t I get to drive across country and hang out with Native Americans in North Dakota, I get to go do a lot of cool things, to see a lot of beautiful places in my country and around the world. Because I’m an American. Mike, your teacher, you’re a high school teacher. You deal with civics? Is America the greatest country on the face of the earth? But didn’t do this job? If I didn’t think so. Though, as far as American exceptionalism, oh, I’ve seen quite a bit about
we still set the best example. It’s like I forget who said it, but democracy is the worst form of government to you compare it to everything else, human beings that have come up with wins.
And so when we set when the Founding Fathers the, you know, the white property and slave owning guys sat down and said, All men are created equal. We have we still aspire to that. And for every one step back where we have been taking two steps forward, you look at the rights of, you know, of formerly enslaved people, women, LGBTQ, I mean, the tent is getting bigger. And despite there’s obviously forces that are not looking to do that. We’re also a nation of immigrants, and always have been and always will be. So almost 250 years in i
We got challenges, but I like our chances.
Gracie, have we overcome the divisions? Have you overcome the discrimination? Or do we still have a long way to go?
We absolutely not have overcome, we absolutely not have overcome discrimination. And yes, we still have a long way to go, in my opinion.
And I worried that it will get worse before it gets better. And why do you feel that way?
Um,
we talked about it. Well, it was mentioned a little bit about Dei.
I think it’s been weaponized to scare people to,
to inflame, exaggerate, irritates
feelings that people have of inequities. amongst folks that aren’t black, or Hispanic or in a, what’s considered a minority class.
I look at just how divisive the some of the candidates are on the other side of the aisle. And even if there are, you know, they’re not going to win, perhaps in a primary, their language is divisive, and
I’m just concerned that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Jacqueline, are we as a country?
Exceptional are we as a country of disappointment?
I think it’s a little of both.
I think we’re exceptional in a lot of areas. Technology. A lot of areas, but we’re also a disappointment, you know, as as
as a people
there was a Huawei I mean, we can come together we can agree we can’t agree to disagree.
It’s, it’s it’s very sad.
Please, the people are, it’s a long way to go. And I can’t even begin to think of ways to try to address
See,
but
it’s disheartening. I wanted to understand whether it was a cultural success and economic success or something different. That made most Americans feel so positive about their country. And what I heard really surprised me. Let’s listen in. I want to ask you guys, what is the best thing about America?
When you think of where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going, what’s the one thing that you would hold up and say, This is what makes America great. Randy, I’m gonna start with you.
I would say opportunity, which has been said before, and then I agreed with the comment about resiliency, like we’ve, we’ve definitely had things happen in this country that had been negative 911. One of them the George made other incidences similar to those that definitely, you know, caused,
you know,
issues. So I think, us coming together as a country, when those issues have arisen, shows how strong of a country we are, and how determined we are. And
we have a lot like people come here, they want to come to America.
They they see the land of the opportunity, they see freedom, they see wealth, they see all that and it makes them want to come here. So I think we are that country. Steward, what is the single best thing
about the United States of America.
I would say without a doubt it is that we are not a blood and soil country. We are not an ethnic, we are a concept. You know, this idea that Ben Franklin said that we were a bastard
bastard people.
Or Hitler called us a mongrel people, man, you know, I’m married to an immigrant from one of those brown people that people talk about. But the thing of it is, is we’re a mix. We always have been, and I think that our strongest thing is that America is not, you know, you’re not. You can be any ethnic, you’re American. And you look at the interracial marriage rates going up all the time, and all the kids are this we are a blend, and I think that’s, that’s our biggest strength is that we are, in fact, a concept more than a people. And that’s where the divisions may be a big issue, because we need that common desire, and we improve, we go for our ideals, the ideal of equality, ideal of opportunity, because that’s inbred into into the concept of America and its constitution. We don’t live up to it, but we aspire to it. Clark, what is the best thing about America, and you can choose one thing? Well, we, it’s because we’ve been able to maintain a careful balance between individual freedom and common purpose. So we’ve been able to create a community and environment, a culture where the individual freedom can lead to innovation, and leadership, and ideas. And yet we have a common purpose that connects us together, we somehow are bound together in our differences in a way that enables us to, to be together and support the individual excellence of folks across our country.
Okay, want to get a few more of you, and only one attribute? What’s the attribute that makes America exceptional? Freedom, that there are less rules here, and that you can basically be anything you want to be if you put the work into it.
George, how would you answer that question?
That we’re a country that is held together by ideals and ideas and not grift and then bribery.
But there’s hope by the way.
I’m not I’m that’s that’s, you notice I’ve not been jumping in here. But
I did every month, we could slip over the edge on something like that clay. Peter, go ahead. I think potential, you know, this country has unlimited potential. And if we can get back to not constantly slipping ourselves into where this group or that group or this group that we’re Americans, we gotta get back to that. We all know about our
We’re all our individuality, we got to get back to what makes us Americans. And and if we can live up to that potential,
there’s nothing we can’t do. The problem is right now we’re not living up to the potential of this great country. It may not be that America is so great, that it’s simply about other countries being so disappointing. So I wanted to understand where America’s position was visa vie other countries. And whether or not this was an indication of America’s success, or somehow holding us back. Let’s listen.
So I want you as a way to close this, to speak to the leadership of North Korea, Russia, China, Iran, and those who don’t wish us well.
Why will America succeed?
And those countries in the end will fail?
Anyone here? How would you answer that question?
Because we’re tough and we have guns and try us individually? We’re gonna we’re gonna protect ourselves. Okay, I’m not sure. That’s that’s actually a very funny answer. I’m not so sure that we have guns is going to be appreciated by everyone on the Zoom.
Another answer, George, go ahead. Because we’re okay with our own messiness, and disagreement and discord, but we still, you know, we have a common purpose of, you know, of doing the right thing. And we’re okay with that. And sometimes our progress progress is kind of U shaped, but we still, you know, we still are headed in the right direction.
Lark, and then IANA.
The principles the United States are built on are the principles that the citizens of your nations yearn to experience. And they’re going to continue to have those years until those principles are realized in your country.
Jana, you come from Ukraine, you’re at war with Russia. Why in the end is the US when and Russia loses?
Because our ideals are better. We have better ideals. Overall, the ideology of America is better than any dictatorship or, you know, communist, I thought, authoritative country. And that’s why we always win. Not only, you know, because of ideology, but because we actually, like create better businesses, due to our ideology that just dominate.
Stewart, how would you answer that question?
I would go to get something JRR Tolkien said, it’s the little things, it’s the love, it’s the community. It’s things like that, that those countries don’t have that that trust that community. And that’s why we will stand and they will fall.
And how do you answer that question?
I feel that we are a community, I feel that the way this country is run.
Not even that it’s run. It’s just that people here, bond together. And I think also, we are about peace was not a country that goes to war. Like the places you mentioned. We we
treasure peace of before anything else.
Anyone else here answer that question? Just jump in Robert, go ahead. That change is only going to accelerate in a free dynamic people are far better able to adapt and evolve to a changing environment than a static or controlled population. And its are dying in dynamism in our infrastructure isn’t as a nation and as individuals that will lead us to be more successful in taking advantage of the changes going forward.
You had negative things to say about Joe Biden, and none of you killed each other negative things to say about Donald Trump, none of you killed each other. He was positive and negative things to say about the country and none of you killed each other. Why can’t this be the norm? Why can’t this be the rule rather than the exception? This was a brilliant conversation. This is exactly what I’m seeking to bring. And you all did it.
Why was this different than other sessions? What makes you all different than ours? I don’t I don’t know how to ask it is the best I can do. Go ahead. Every everybody on this call listened before they started talking. You only corrected one person one time
On for talking over someone else. And if we could learn to simply listen, before we opened our mouths, we would all be in a better place. Frank, I was gonna say, sorry, I just started talking. I know people.
I was just gonna say that I’m respecting others opinions. I mean, I’m sure that maybe some of what was said that we may or may not have completely agreed with. But you know, that’s our opinion. And, you know, we respect that somebody else. Right, one of our biggest problems is, we weren’t interested today in either ratings or clicks.
We just had a conversation as normal people, and that unfortunately doesn’t seem to draw audiences. And it’s the other stuff that makes the money and gets the celebrities for people.
And the power that goes with the celebrity, and we didn’t care about any of that we were just normal Joe’s, I think there are a lot of normal Joe’s around, you know, the barber shops and the coffee shops of America that
don’t tune into all the noise all the time, they don’t live the game. And we get a distorted view from our media outlets, of what’s really happening in America, because it’s the squeaky wheels that get the eyeballs and the clicks. By the way, Robert, I gotta be candid with you, I am interested in the clicks, I am impressive.
You just don’t realize that. Go ahead.
I will say we all based on whatever we, for example, today, we all had something that we were doing before we got here at 3pm. Eastern Time, My Time, we all came together just to talk. And it was a priority of all the set here. And I think when we create these environments where we have priority, because to sit down to listen, and then be heard, it makes it makes room for a great, great atmosphere and change to come. I think that we all were concerned, right, we all came in with concern. And I think one of the only silver linings of this crazy time is that, hopefully we’re getting to a point where there’s a majority of people who are getting to this point. We’re just like, You know what, I just can’t keep living like this. This is crazy. Maybe it was entertaining for a few minutes. But now I’m tired of it. And I just want to not feel this this terrible division and pessimism that’s going on. So I think slowly but surely, hopefully we have more girls than just this this group that we have a bunch of people who can and I, you know, I challenge people out there to be like, you know, what, have the small discussions and the everyday world and give a little bit okay, well, I don’t I don’t like the person you’re voting for. Well, you know what, yeah, I can understand that. Like that, how dismantle how disarming is that? Like, if you agree, yeah. Okay. There’s, there’s some problems with that. And I can understand that. If we can do more of that. We can get back, we can get back. Liz, there’s then Sarah, then. And then we’re done. Loose Europe. So I was just gonna say, I think it’s just, you know, being respectful to everybody else. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. We all have opinions. We all have differences. We all you know, live different lives. And just being able to respect people and listen to them and not, you know, we don’t always have to criticize people for their opinions, which I get. I’ve been criticized a lot for people that are Trump fans. And you know, I’m not saying that Trump’s a horrible person. But there’s some things that he does that I don’t agree with. And I’m entitled to that opinion. And just like everybody else, you should be entitled to your opinion and not have to defend yourself. Yeah, but this group is different because nobody jumped, they disagreed. But nobody jumped on each other. So I’m just talking about in general.
So I agree with Peter, those are my sentiments, this whole conversation, I believe that we are authentic. We’re bringing our true selves here. We’re being honest. And we’re listening. I think that this is a demonstration to the political world of listening to us and get your heads out of your wherever they are ego and power and actually work for your constituents and do something and listen and be empathetic and walk in our shoes. I think we’re trying to get the message out and I think we have to come together and we have to learn to come together and but just like the Boston Tea Party Enough is enough. We got to stand up and rise up and say we want better. And I think what we’re doing here is a testament to that.
And final word.
I feel that we do all come from a common place here and I think
think that if politicians dealt with speaking to regular people as opposed to their cronies, it would be a good way for them to know what real people need in their lives now.
This is clearly a conversation that needs to be had a discussion that needs to be listened to. And it’s not all negative in America today.
Of all the segments that I’ve done on straight arrow news, maybe that one was the most important because it gives us a positive, futuristic, forward looking evaluation of the country and where things stand and hope to be able to bring you more of it in the weeks and months to follow. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. This is America speaks it’s straight arrow news. Thank you for watching.

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