By Steve Woodward
The question arose without provocation: “Is it true that we are supposed to be the best country?”
It was posed by a middle school teen-ager with whom I spend time as a mentor. He lives in poverty among three younger siblings. He has been homeless. He is often hungry. But he is cheerful and inquisitive, conversant and funny. And despite having little reason to be optimistic, and despite the strong likelihood he never has been told by a teacher or any other adult about American exceptionalism, the young man’s intuition is that he is the citizen of a remarkable country, the best one.
Given this unexpected opportunity, this “teachable moment”, I needed to deliver a quick answer, something that would resonate within his impressionable mind.
We are the most free country, I said first. No other country comes close. We are a country where anything is possible, where dreams come true every day. I might have added to this, I might have embellished further, maybe by citing a rags-to-riches story. But I also wanted to impress upon him that dreams come true because work is rewarded and opportunities to work are plentiful.
It no longer is a reasonable assumption that kids are aware that being an American is a blessing and a privilege. The narratives tell them we are a nation born of racist slave owners, who left an indelible stain; that capitalism is rigged and excludes almost everyone, and, worse, is the principal cause of climate change; that our military tortures the innocent and kills indiscriminately; and that our immigration policies are inhumane because our borders are not open.
We know the educational environment is increasingly hostile toward free speech, debate, Christianity, and toward our nation’s founding principles. Rarely a week goes by during which we fail to learn of another example of manufactured outrage or political correctness gone wild on a campus. North Carolina State recently eliminated Good Friday from its university calendar, despite enormous backlash.
In our backyard, a few teachers at The O’Neal School in Southern Pines walked out during a January speech by black civil rights legend Clarence Henderson, an avowed conservative Republican and supporter of President Trump.
These snowflake teachers apparently never considered how their decision will be interpreted by their students, but the big take away is that disrespecting American icons is OK if you disagree with them ideologically. Is O’Neal suspending these teachers or is it reprimanding the ones who did not walk out?
My mentee is in seventh grade at Southern Middle School. I ask almost every time we get together about his classes and teachers. He mentioned learning about World War I, and about Germany’s Adolf Hitler. What he remembers about Hitler is that he wore a funny mustache because the ends of it were damaged while Hitler wore a gas mask. (Actually, historians write that Hitler cropped his mustache to accommodate wearing a gas mask). There was no mention by the teenager that Hitler ordered the slaughter of millions of Jews, leaving me to wonder if this is excluded from the textbook.
This lone conversation reinforced why I mentor. It’s not my job to take his mind off his dire living conditions, his hunger and his uncertainty, although I hope I do. It is my job to focus his mind on his future, on where paths before him can lead, on why he needs to make smart decisions, and on why there is eternal hope because God loves him and because he dwells in a land that is free and prosperous.
President Reagan reminded us that freedom is but one generation removed from extinction, and that the tenants of what make us free must be rigorously handed down to future generations. He said, “We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.”
Mentoring is one of the best opportunities an American adult can seize upon to counter the tide of anti-Americanism, anti-religion and anti-capitalism driven by the sinister and mentally unstable radical left, by educators, the media and the entertainment industry.
The teenager who sits to my right as we drive along is remarkably sunny, polite and articulate. But our nation is increasingly plagued by unhappy, disrespectful, mumbling teens. The why is disheartening but, perhaps, not irreversible.
“The reason so many young people are depressed, unhappy, and angry,” writes radio talk host and columnist Dennis Prager, “is the left has told them that God and Judeo-Christian religions are nonsense; their country is largely evil; their past is deplorable; and their future is hopeless.”
Nancy Pelosi rips in half a story of America’s comeback on national television. And why? Because she and her compliant radical army on the left would rather nurture hungry, deprived teens pouring across our Southern border, leaving desperate teens in Moore County to languish under the oppressive boot heel of government subsidies, which guarantee to keep them right where they are.