When Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton and New York Times columnist David Brooks both speak out about an issue, it’s worth paying attention.
Upton issued a series of tweets in response to NFL players who refused to stand for the national anthem on September 11. “This is unacceptable. You should be proud to be an American,” she wrote.
Brooks wrote an article reporting, “Only 52 percent of adults say they are extremely proud to be Americans, down from 70 percent in 2003.” The Gallup Poll he cited found young adults — those aged 18 to 29 — were one of the least patriotic subgroups, with only 34 percent of them saying they are extremely proud to be Americans.
One might quarrel with the poll’s methodology — “very proud” and “moderately proud” were also options, so the answers may measure feelings about moderation and extremism as much as feelings about America. But the decline over time is as real as the football players kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner.
My own effort to remedy this sad situation is this list of 11 reasons to be extremely proud to be an American.
1. We won World War II. Sure, Britain and Russia and other allies pitched in. But when the Nazis stood poised to conquer the world, the United States rallied, landed troops on the beaches of Normandy, and liberated Europe.
2. We won the Cold War. Sure, Pope John Paul II and a lot of brave dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov and Lech Walesa deserve credit, too. But the combination of Reagan’s military buildup and aid by American labor unions to Solidarity in Poland helped crack the Berlin Wall, defeat the evil Soviet Union, and liberate the Gulag full of political prisoners.
3. We wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. These documents, and their guarantees of freedoms of religion, press, speech, assembly and due process, are enduring and inspiring articulations of ideals — “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
4. We have the world’s biggest economy. America’s gross domestic product is bigger than China’s, Japan’s, Britain’s or Germany’s.
5. We invent the most things. Americans have been granted more patents than have inventors from anywhere else. Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates, the Google guys, Mark Zuckerberg — Americans, all of them.
6. We won the most Olympic medals. Even though other countries have more people and spend more government money supporting athletes, American athletes at the recent Rio games won more gold medals, and more medals overall, than those from any other country.
7. We’ve got the best hospitals. Sick people from all over the world seek treatment at America’s academic medical centers. Despite our problems with cost and medical errors, if you have to be seriously ill, this is the best place in the world for it.
8. We’ve got the best colleges and universities. The smartest students from all over the world choose to enroll here. Sure, academia has problems — knee-jerk leftism, soaring tuition. But American medical schools, business and law schools, engineering and computer science programs are global talent magnets.
9. We’re the world’s cultural leader. American tastemakers set global trends in fashion, movies, art, publishing, television, video games, music and theater.
10. People want to come here. Our country is so great that people are willing to take big risks to get in.
11. We keep getting better with age. Women won the right to vote. Blacks earned full civil rights.
None of this means that America is perfect, or that we haven’t made mistakes, or that there isn’t room for improvement. But it is reason enough to be extremely proud.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK: Conservative.” His column appears Sunday.