Our Four Themes: A Formula for America
If a foreign guest in your home were to ask you to
"explain" America, or what the American "formula" was, or what were America's key characteristics, how would you answer those questions?
The Founders of AHEF have studied this question intently over decades of work in private enterprise.
AHEF Co-Founder Richard Gonzalez, AHEF friend and board member Andrew Delaney, and AHEF Co-Founder and President Jack Kamrath discussed this question earnestly in the 1990's with the belief that a formula or a set of basic national character traits must certainly exist that could be set to pen and paper for relatively easy study, learning, and understanding by all peoples both American and non-American. If such a formula existed, then it would be extremely helpful to know and teach this formula for the improvement and strengthening of America as well as other countries struggling to improve their socio-economic condition.
Gonzalez and Delaney came from extremely modest backgrounds and became very successful businessmen—Gonzalez as a world-renowned economist
and Delaney as a brilliant insurance industry actuarial statistician. These gentlemen were expert business analysts who understood cause and effect. They applied their experience to the question at hand.
Kamrath was a small businessman and a college business school graduate who constantly queried Gonzalez and Delaney about the existence of
a simple "formula" that could explain America and the enormous socio-economic improvement of the United States in just over 200 years.
Kamrath was attempting to define the mission statement for a newly formed educational foundation, the American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc.
After many hours of discussion and thought, the three determined that, yes, in fact there was a "formula for America" that the average
student and citizen could understand and learn or could explain as a parent to his children, as a teacher to students, or as one to a foreign visitor as a guest in a home who might ask such a question.
The three were quite surprised at the simplicity of the formula at which they arrived: FREEDOM, UNITY, PROGRESS,
The three determined that the first and most important characteristic of our country is freedom.
The founders of our nation were not royalty—they were all common people without class distinctions or nobility. This fact is extremely important. Through their intense study and hard work in educating themselves the colonists came to understand that they were not free because the King of England declared them so or because they were noblemen of some sort. Their intense and thorough studies taught them that they were free because they believed that a Creator endowed all men, including "commoners" with the equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With the strength of their philosophical belief that their freedom was a gift from God and not a privilege granted by a monarch, the founders committed to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor toward achieving ultimate freedom from England. Freedom in the United States has always been viewed as a gift from God because it affirms the idea, whether one is a believer or non-believer, that freedom for us all is unalienable and cannot be taken from us by another human being. In this sense, our nation is and always has been a God-loving nation. We have a very deep sense that if there were no God, then there could never be any lasting freedom for any of us. This heritage in America of God's gift to us of freedom is by far our nation's most fundamental and most important characteristic. If one is a non-believer of a God or a Creator, then he or she is still a vitally important part of the American family whose beliefs and ideas are respected. And, equally, believers hope that non-believers will understand and respect their ideas in the fundamental connection between God and freedom as a historical fact of the United States of America.
Gonzalez, Delaney, and Kamrath then determined that the second most important characteristic of our nation is unity.
After our founders and forefathers gained their freedom through a long, demanding and difficult war with England, the fledgling nation found that it was very difficult for so many diverse and different colonies and peoples to agree on how to govern themselves. There were so many different nationalities, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and characteristics among the colonies and colonists. A good analogy in describing our young nation in these early days is to think of it as a new family with thirteen instant new members, all born on the same day as full-grown adults. Imagine trying to have these family members agree on anything much less on how to organize and govern themselves! Whatever the differences they had, and there were many, the original thirteen colonies somehow knew, above all else and in spite of their great differences, that they must unite together for their own survival or surely they would perish separately. In looking back over the last 200 plus years, we can all see and understand that a unified American family is one of the strongest national families ever created and an enormously important national characteristic. The first words of our Constitution, We The People…help express our national unity. One of our first national mottos adopted in 1776, E Pluribus Unum, is Latin for the phrase, 'From Many, One.' The recent focus on diversity for merely the sake of diversity without the corresponding understanding that diversity has always been and will always be only one characteristic of the American family clearly tends to divide and separate us. This is completely uncharacteristic of our people. We are not and have never been the Diverse States of America. We are and always have been the United States of America. As Americans we have the right and the duty to express our individual beliefs. We also have the duty and responsibility to listen to our fellow Americans. If all sides of an issue are discussed, heard, and understood by everyone, then the great common sense of the American people and the great American spirit of freedom, understanding, and unity will then hold us together as a nation.
The third most important characteristic of America is progress. Our nation's incredible social, economic, transportation,
communication, health, and living advances since 1776 as a result of our freedom and our unity are unequalled in history.
A few examples of this progress just since 1902, a little over 100 years ago, are the following:
- In 1902, the average life expectancy was 47 years.
- Only 14% of U. S. homes had a bathtub. Most washed their hair with borax or egg yolks.
- Only 8% of homes had a telephone.
- There were only 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads in the country. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
- Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California which was only the 21st most populous state.
- The average wage in the U. S. was 22 cents an hour, and the average worker earned between $200 and $400 per year.
- The following inventions had yet to be discovered:
the airplane, helicopter, insulin, penicillin, antibiotics, radio, television, computers, copy machines, word processors, washing machines, windshield wipers, vacuum cleaners, air-conditioning, frozen packaged food, the microwave, pop-top cans, ATM machines, the compact disc, the rocket engine, cyclotrons, or the space shuttle all of which were invented by Americans.
Four key factors determine the rate of economic progress that the people of a country can achieve.
These four factors are freedom, capital investment, energy, and education. These are the vital ingredients to increased output of goods and services necessary for each generation to do as much as possible in raising living standards through increasing productivity. At any time, for any reason, a deficiency in any of these four factors will adversely impact our economic progress. Freedom must be maintained through minimal intrusion of our lives by government. Capital investment must be maintained through a modest and reasonable tax structure. Energy in efficient and creative levels must be maintained to provide the fuel for better health, better living conditions, and increasing productivity. Education must be maintained, increased and expanded in order that our economy and quality of life is sustainable and that an educated workforce is always available.
In building a stronger America, we directly contribute to building a stronger and better world because of increased production of goods
and services to all countries with whom we trade. The road to economic progress for the United States and all countries is the creation of more goods, services and jobs for all, not in dividing existing wealth
that ceases to grow.
We must always strive to grow the economic pie so that more people can eat well, survive and prosper as opposed to all trying to eat the same sized pie that never gets bigger. A pie that does not grow will surely result in the starvation of all.
The fourth most important characteristic of the United States is responsibility.
In addition to our incredibly generous people who literally give away billions of dollars every year to important charitable causes, an astonishing 48% of our adult population contributes nearly five volunteer hours per week across the country in the fields of education, health, human services, youth development, religion, foreign aid, and other similar areas of need. This level of voluntary gifts, contributions, donations, and time far exceeds that of any country in the history of mankind. So while we are far from perfect and need to keep striving to do better in every way that we can, our free market economy based on freedom and unity has proven itself to be enormously successful both in improving our own standard of living and then in providing extra wealth to help those that are less fortunate or unable to help themselves. Americans contribute enormous amounts of time and resources to try and help their fellow man both at home and throughout the world. This characteristic of responsibility in helping our fellow man comes from, as we all know, the best Biblical tradition of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
In conclusion, Gonzalez, Delaney, and Kamrath determined that the four greatest fundamental characteristics of our country are Freedom,
Unity, Progress, and Responsibility.
While we can always do more and must never be satisfied or complacent, we can take a moment to acknowledge that this ingenious system of self-government so ably designed by our Forefathers, has worked incredibly well to help millions upon millions of our citizens live and work with dignity, peace, and happiness.
Yet in spite of our great achievements, it is common knowledge today that a large number of our schools, colleges, and universities that
teach and train our young people routinely criticize the American system and way of life as being irredeemably flawed.
It is almost as if many of our nation's school teachers, administrators, and professors hold in contempt the fact that our system of freedom and free-enterprise is working well and steadily moving forward for the benefit and improvement of as many of our citizens as possible. Certainly it is important that students and citizens understand and improve our flaws and imperfections. Yet our students and citizens must also appreciate the degree to which the basic ideals of Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility under our democratic republic have helped the most people in history find a better way of life. These unique American characteristics, when combined with our great love for our fellow man is in the best tradition of our Judeo-Christian heritage in the United States of being our brother's keeper.
It is critical that our nation's history, heritage, advancement, and goodness not only be constantly remembered and celebrated, it must
be studied and relearned anew by each generation.
If this is not accomplished, then our young generation today and future generations will not understand, appreciate, and maintain our fundamental national characteristics that it received from the previous generation. As Thomas Jefferson stated, "If a nation expects to remain ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be."