• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: The American Spirit

    Many Americans proudly hang the Stars and Stripes on June 14 to celebrate Flag Day. On that day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress formally adopted the emblem under which generations of Americans have lived, fought and died. More than any other flag in the world, it symbolizes freedom and celebrates the optimism of our Founding Fathers.

    Yet today we have voices suggesting that America’s best days are behind her. The experiment, they insist, is over.

    “The American dream is a myth,” writes Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, in a recent op-ed. A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that nearly six in 10 think that the next generation won’t live better than their parents do today.

    Such pessimism, however, is unwarranted. More importantly, it’s counter-productive. Even if things were as bad as some people suggest, there is a solution, as Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation reminds us in his weekly column:

    Negative thoughts like this are nothing new. It stands to reason that tough economic times will breed pessimism. Sometimes, though, we need to remind ourselves of the principles this country was founded on, and reconnect with the genius that created the United States of America, the only country founded not on identity, but on ideas.

    Feulner, in fact, has just written a book designed to do just that. Co-authored with Heritage trustee Brian Tracy, The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values That Make Us Great“ is a wake-up call for those who may find themselves discouraged by the challenges we face as a nation at this critical moment in history.

    Why would such a book be necessary? As Brian explains in the introduction: “Today, millions of Americans are not clear about why the United States is the greatest country on earth and in all human history.” They know they’re free. But they may have never reflected on why their nation is unique — not only in the world right now, but in human history.

    As Feulner writes:

    “Consider the phrase ‘the American Dream.’ The words themselves reveal something extraordinary. In all the history of man, there has been only one country with the word ‘dream’ attached to it. There is no French Dream or Russian Dream or Chinese Dream. There is only the American Dream, to which people worldwide aspire and have aspired since our founding. From 194 countries, people have come to America to pursue this dream.

    “In America, people care very much who you are. They care little about your background. In America, you can start from anywhere, with or without benefits and advantages from your family, and make your own way and your own life. At any time, you can decide to change and do something completely different. Your life is yours to chart.

    “In my opinion, this freedom to define your own destiny ultimately derives from the Judeo-Christian tradition. God created us in His own image, and just as God is free, so we are meant for freedom.”

    The question, then, is what the relationship of government should be to man. Is man there to serve the government? No. In America, it is very much the other way around — despite the many attempts by liberals to change that relationship throughout our history.

    Feulner continues:

    “Government’s purpose is not to impose some elite-inspired vision of the good society on the rest of us, but to empower men and women to use their God-given freedom as they choose.

    “This opportunity has its roots in our extraordinary founding in 1776. Having such freedom is more the exception than the rule throughout much of human history. The republican form of government had mostly been consigned to the history books since the fall of Rome. Monarchies had ruled the leading powers of the world for centuries.

    “By choosing a republic, where the governed control the government — not the other way around — the Founding Fathers displayed faith in the individual’s ability to know better than any elected or appointed official what is best for himself and his family. That’s why they created a Constitution that protects our God-given rights from government. The government does not grant those rights to us as citizens.”

    It’s all too easy, in the face of so many difficult problems, to throw up our hands in despair. One look at our flag, however, watered by the blood and sweat of patriots for more than 200 years, ought to cure that temptation. As Feulner’s book reminds us, the American Spirit is alive and well, provided we’re willing to believe in it and do our part to nurture our irreplaceable birthright of freedom.

    You can buy The American Spirit on Amazon here

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    31 Responses to Morning Bell: The American Spirit

    1. glynnda says:

      Very much in agreement with Mr Feulner's assertions, I would add to it…..Ronald Reagan was indeed a great communicator, however he was also an inspirational speaker. He made no bones about speaking to inspire our nation after a decade of ugliness…..I believe that this is what gave him the presidency by a landslide……in both elections….Oh God, may Mr Romney pick up on this begin to inspire our nation to greatness once again, may he be a leader who will lead us back to God first and greatness second. We need leaders who believe in our nation and its concept and are outspoken about it…..Rush speaks about this often and he is correct.

    2. Benton H Marder says:

      This is all well and good, but we must be realistic here. So long as an electorate of fools continues to elect fools or worse to public office and allow these fools to remain in office to loot the public treasury, the country has little of a future. We have got to stop being fools and we have got to stop voting for fools and worse. The future of the country (and dare I say western civilisation because other countries are going the same way for the same reasons) hangs upon whether or not we continue as we have done. "We have met the enemy and it us us."

    3. MIKE GEREMIA says:


    4. Sheila Colton says:

      When our public schools deny a young student the right to sing a patriotic song we as Americans MUST change the Socialist/Marxist system ingrained within our school system

      • stephen says:

        It's not the school system, it's the law.

        • Jeanne Stotler says:

          Thee is no law against singing tribute to USA, it was this principles choice as she is a Jehovah's Witness. First Admendment says Freedom of Speech, this applies to singing as well. As far as I am concerned I would love hearing that 5 YR old sing "God Bless the USA" anytime, hesang his heart out and when questioned knew exactly what it meant. Anyone not believing in the greatness of this country get the films made Mike Church and read a true history showing the bravery and courage of those early settlerslike my 6th geat grandfather, he put ALL on the line, allowing Geo. Wshington a his troop to gather in his barn (now on edge Geo. Washington Nat'l Prk N.J.) before marching into Trenton on theat fateful Cristmas Eve. FYI: the Inn owned by him still stands there

    5. Frank says:

      "… tough economic times will breed pessimism. Sometimes, though, we need to remind ourselves of the principles this country was founded on, and reconnect with the genius …"

      I would agree that IF we reconnected with the genius that started this nation, there would be no reason for pessimism. Sadly, that is EXACTLY what I don't think will happen. With about 50% of voters getting more back out of the government than what they put into it (if they put in anything at all!), I expect the free loaders will continue to vote in more & more big government & re-distribution of wealth… not return to limited government, self reliance & free markets. Multiple Founding Fathers warned about the kind of future crises that we now find ourself in & how the danger to the USA is falling from within, not from without. Frankly, I don't see our present downward spiral as changing. We will crash & burn economically soon & what emerges politically after that is not at all clear & I fear the worst, not the best.

      • stephen says:

        Free loaders like those corporations avoiding their responsibilities to this great country, name 1 founding father that warned of this crisis?
        These talking points you spout are not contributing to the real conversation.
        The American dream exist and all you have to do is chase it down with education, skill and persistence

    6. Jeanne Stotler says:

      A folded flag, from my brother in laws casket(WWII) hangs on my wall along with his picure and medals, it reminds me everyday what we are as a nation. Our forefathers came here and shed much of their old world ways, they founded a new NATION UNDER GOD. I have French, scottish as well as English comingto America in the 17th cent. yet we do not speak any of these other than English, my paternal grandparents came here from Denmark in the 19th Century and we do not speak Danish, havn't for 2 generations, We need to assert that Americans speak, read and write in ENGISH, it'sfine to carry on traditions in your home but not toforce them on others, this is the reason we were called "THE MELTING POT" I am almost 80YO and as a child I lived in NY on Staten Island, out neighbos were from Poland, Germany, and Ireland, Besta from Denmark, they all would gather outside and talk IN ENGLISH, this was before WWII. Today it's the opposite, I get so frustrated when shopping, trying to make myself understood,
      Today we honor our Flag and country and PRAY for the USA

    7. J E Houser says:

      You are absolutely correct! The purpose of a government is to preserve the right for any person have freedom of inquiry, opportunity, discovery, exploration and examination of any avenue of improvement in human existence.

    8. will says:

      Two lesser known verses of "America the Beautiful"

      O beautiful for pilgrim feet
      Whose stern impassioned stress
      A thoroughfare of freedom beat
      Across the wilderness!
      America! America!
      God mend thine every flaw,
      Confirm thy soul in self-control,
      Thy liberty in law!

      O beautiful for heroes proved
      In liberating strife.
      Who more than self their country loved
      And mercy more than life!
      America! America!
      May God thy gold refine
      Till all success be nobleness
      And every gain divine!

      Our founders gave us the best start they could, and we have mended many flaws they could not address at the time. Ask any free country in the world if our success was nobleness. The future of America is, as it always has been, in the morality of her people.

      "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens."

      GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

    9. God Bless America on this day, Flag Day! Let 'Old Glory' forever be a beacon of hope for all those with desire Freedom! The American Spirit is Alive and Well at our house!

    10. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      The only thing killing the American Spirit is the support of lifer-politicians, like Boehner and the boys. They are entitlement specialists, supported by organizations like Heritage and the big noise radio entertainers. Expose them instead of spending time drinking, playing golf & socializing with them inside the beltway. Perhaps Ed needs to get off the bus at times to see what is actually going on with common people. Heritage's presence inside the beltway is revealing…life-long Democrats and Republicans are takers – not productive givers and Heritage is there to wallow in the scraps just to be part of the inside crowd…Most of the people I know do not even know about Heritage and could care less. We don't need more talking heads, writing academic papers, promoting more of the same. Action, not retoric is benefical…Check out the TEA party people….

    11. Brett Meyers says:

      This Flag Day in particular will be the most memorable for me. 2012 will determine our future as an American people (not the country). All people living in United States are not Americans. The Founders and their families came to this land, our land, to become free for the first time. They took the risks to come here and to survive and prosper no matter what the cost. The Spirit lived within them and was embodied in their most treasured Guiding Principles, the Declaration of Independence of the United States. The Spirit was emblazened and emboldened upon simple swatches of cloth. It is the emblem of the land they loved. First and formost it synbolized the American people, not the real estate.

      God Bless America (please). Feel the Spirit. Fly Our Flag!

    12. Roy Fitz says:

      During the Eighties, Ronald Reagan was my CINC while I served in the USAF, stateside and in Europe. While in England, U.K., we watched him and Margret Thatcher work together during the Falkland War. The British press went nuts over that and the outcome. Later, when President Reagan visited England with his full security detail,
      complete with uzis, other nation's leaders attempted to visit England with their security details and were promptly stopped at the gate at Heathrow. They hadn't done what President Reagan had done: Provided English security their plan of visit and obtained through British security permission, to bring the Secret Service into England armed, something that angered many Britons for having the audacity to do so. When a visiting dignitary attempted to arrive with their security detail, they were stopped and weapons confiscated. It was then that the agreement between U.S. and British security was revealed in the British press.
      I have a U.S. flag that has 26 stars on it. It's the flag that flew over Washington D.C. after Michigan gained
      After zero is gone, the U.S.A. is going to rebound like never before. Last time this happened, we didn't have the internet.

    13. In almost every country around the world man's laws rule the people. In this country God's laws govern the people and the people direct the government. The government is made up of the people and are selected to direct our affairs. If those selected do a good job or bad job they have a time frame in which to do good things or bad things. In many cases the changing of the guard is simply to give new people a chance to serve their country or take their turn at the wheel. Predictions of gloom and doom or prosparity are man's interpretation of what is going to happen. Those predictions will only come true if people believe they will come true and do nothing to alter the predictions.

    14. toledofan says:

      Today is a great day to remember what the flag stands for and the meaning behind the colors, Red: Hardiness and Valor,White: Purity and Innocence and Blue: Vigilance, Perserverance, and Justice. What is sad is that there are so many who fought and died to save our freedoms, yet there are those who still think it to be a worthless piece of cloth. I think that the American Dream will come roaring back as soon as Obama and the Democrats exit the scene, lets face it, it's not to their advantage for us to be prosperious, if we are then that means their liberal agenda is gone forever.

    15. boberic says:

      In the late 1700's a bunch of farmers defeated one of the worlds greatest powers. They started something that had never been tried before, a constitutional democratic republic. And it worked. It sill works. It has never been perfect but it has been the envy of the world, so much so that many die to get here illegally. To this day we even send aid to countries that hate us. When there are natural disasters no one sends us aid. At the end of WW2 the US owned most of Europe, Japan, North Africa, South Pacific and the Phillipines. We could have planted our Flag and claimed the conquered territory as colonies as had all conquering powers had before. But we did not, we gave them back to their people and spent a great deal of our money and our talent to rebuild them. The language of all of Europe would still be German if it were not for the Blood and Treasure of the country that those Farmers started. They should be forever grateful, Their flag would still have a Swastika were it not for those farmers. How many cemateries of European dead are in the US. There are many such in Europe. Every day they should wake up and bless the flag that the sons and daughters of those farmers still flies.

    16. I have never lived in any country other than America. Therefore, I am not qualified to espouse the virtues of other countries. I am able, however, to look at those countries history and determine that America is, without a doubt, the freest country on the globe. I am proud to be an American and everything America "stands" for. The America I grew up in, however, is fading into history. I believe we, America, is capable of regaining her previous stature in the world but it will not happen as long as our governments, schools, universities and cities are occupied by Marxists, Communists and Socialists and religious fanatics that want to kill us. It is going to take strength, determination and perseverance to rid our country of these enemies within. It is going to take the American Patriots mobilizing to remove these threats from our shores. With the grace of God, we will prevail and once again be the "Shining City on the Hill". Fly your flag, speak the pledge and remember where we came from. God bless America and her patriots.

    17. profitup10 says:

      Let us now rethink business and enterprise –

      Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire them, and to effect this, they have perverted the best religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes. With the lawyers it is a new thing. They have, in the mother country, been generally the primest supporters of the free principles of their constitution. But there, too, they have changed. – Letter to Horatio G. Spafford (17 March 1814) Thomas Jefferson

    18. Bobbie says:

      Very nice written article. We love the truth the American flag stands for and the American spirit gained to live free to govern ones own at any level of income. We forever love America's military that sacrifice their life for the freedom and independence from government forces and control in peoples lives around the world and in this country. America land of the free, home of our brave and wonderful heroes where America's flag will forever wave! …with the proper leadership that respects her past, present and future… huh, future? Something Obama barely mentions…hmm. He doesn't learn from America's past or avoid stepping where America knows not to. He uses the past for his present and intentional mistakes!!

      The media is trying to make Nixon look worse than him. But what they fail to mention is there were people in Nixon's cabinet that loved America enough to blow the whistle. Obama's cabinet loves Obama and his/their ideology in total contrast of America, who want to break this country as much as any foreign 3rd world dictator. Look at all those extra costly steps put on America(ns) who are of the wiser. Unconstitutionally of course!!

      Obama's vision of America is clear. America no longer exists.
      Long live the American Spirit, stronger than obama's vision!!!

      • stephen says:

        That's a bunch of BS, Obama had to plug a hole in America's recent past to avoid sinking,
        Now the ship is upright.
        With support from the American people, America can restart the journey into continued greatness!

        • Bobbie says:

          obama didn't plug the hole. He made it by intruding unconstitutionally. Holding the country responsible to the consequences of his chosen private businesses. Holding home owners accountable to mortgages that aren't theirs. Holding the American born tolerant to the intolerances of immigrants whose intolerances they personally look for but petty and without merit. Look at the direct attack on Catholics who did nothing wrong. Creating laws that compromise civility for the benefit of immigrants. He has no principle, he's without integrity and his content of character is beneath all American. Without his unconstitutional intrusion and favoritism, the American people would have America in full recovery mode. This President pushes temporary jobs after he causes the crisis in career and livable job loss which isn't a bright future for this country, for prosperity or for freedom. We're not going to support an ideology that refuses personal accountability and all that does not reflect America, land of the free.

          Obama knew what he was getting into. His connections with government fulfills his life. That's why people were convinced to vote for him. Confident he was going to "change' things for the country's betterment not his own charade. He's done nothing beneficially for this country that hasn't caused great costs and burden and the illusion it's beneficial based on far fetched speculation, trying to brainwash as facts. He singles out people to belittle and induce resentment! Why would you want that kind of person representing America? He's more involved interfering in our personal freedom than his own oath of office.

    19. Johncdavidson says:

      The Liberal notion that to solve the world's problem we must become part of a new world order has been tried too often throughout history, But these glorious ideals continue to surface by those who seek historical immortality at the expense of those they lead.

    20. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      The American Spirit is broken.

    21. Nick Di Benedetto says:

      What's most discouraging to us is the way Mr. Obama and his fellow socialists in his adminstration are circumventing our wonderful (the Supremacy Clause not withstanding) constitution. The damage his czars and other officials (Mrs. Clinton, for one) are inflicting will take much time and courage to undo. If they are successful in getting their sinister treaties that strips us of our sovereignty, ratified by the senate, what good is our constitution? Who needs a congress? It is this push for "one world globalism" that these leftists are pursuing that gives us great concern. Oh, yes – Flag Day. How ironic that this president spent this day repeating that hilarious 2008 campaign speech to that community college and the rest of the day fundraising.

    22. Jeanne Stotler says:

      This is a true story of American greatness: In 1685 a young French lad (13)was left with a Long Island family while his father returned to France to try and get the rest of the family, we do not know what happened to him, perhaps lost at sea. This young lad married, moved to Maidenhead, N.J. (now Lawrenceville) had 10 children, 5 boys, 5 girls, Second son married and moved to Hopewell and soon ran an Inn,(Inherited from father in law) he had a large barn as to house the horses and wagons of the travelers going across the river to Penna. It was in this barn that the troops led by Gen Go. Washington gathered before marching into Trenton on that fateful Christmas Eve, this young Inn owner put all on the line that DEC. and I 'm proud to call him my ancestor, he's my 6th great grandfather and was a true patriot, the backbone of what America is made of, let's all remember what we are, not what others want us to be.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.