It seems to me that most Americans clearly understand why we, as a people and a country, are exceptional. It appears those on the left, including our President, have much trouble accepting this. In fact, they apologize to the world for it. And yet it is our most enduring characteristic.

What makes us different from Europe? After all, Europe is the one continent we are most often compared with. Don’t some of the most successful Hollywood liberals make a point of living there to show how “global” they are and how insular we are at home? We’ve all heard the statements echoed in the blogs: “We’re going to become just like Europe.” “We’re turning into Greece.” I rest my case.

The irony of this discussion is that the answer to America’s exceptionalism is found where we started centuries ago—in Europe. If we clearly understand the nature of our ancestors who braved the trip to North America, then maybe we can understand—in the long run and, in this case, hundreds of years in the long run—why we’re different, and why we really won’t and can’t be like Europeans.

Quite simply, we can’t be like the current generation of Europeans because many of their ancestors stayed while ours had the tenacity and temerity to leave. And therein lies the difference or the core “DNA” that makes us exceptional.

I use the term DNA for a specific reason. I believe it took an exceptional person to not just think it would be wonderful to leave the Old World, but to actually scrape together the funds to book passage on a ship and have the courage to make the journey. Remember: there was no Carnival or Royal Caribbean cruise line.

To most, it would seem insane to leave the “comfort” of the aristocratically controlled Old World. After all, the amenities were wonderful, and included disease, no human rights, class and religious persecution, great poverty, little or no education, poor dwellings, no pre-schools or kindergartens, and oppression.

My point: most folks stayed and didn’t seize the opportunity to change their lives or improve those of their future generations. It was dangerous. Risky. So they remained and “enjoyed” the life of a European. It was the safe answer for most. At least the French drank well and the Italians had good bread. But that didn’t stop the departures.

What kind of person took such a risk? Who realized that his or her family had a chance to better themselves, get a new start, live in a less restrictive world, and have real opportunity?

A few had the courage to board ships and set sail with no guaranty they would actually make it across the vast ocean. History didn’t record all the ships and souls that were lost at sea. Yet, the fear of going down with the ship, getting lost in a storm or falling off the edge of the planet didn’t stop them. (Remember, we’re talking about folks who never attended geography class). Something internal in these risk-takers empowered them to leave. And it is this aspect of their psyche or spirit—this DNA—that created Americans.

All of us have this special “chemical” or DNA passed down from generation to generation. And it is this “wild hair” that Americans possess that compels us to be different.

Our ancestors, who left their homelands while others remained, is the unique quality that unites us as a people. It is one of our most spectacular qualities. It’s also what drives us to be achievers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Acknowledging the great potential cost in human life and the ultimate dangers upon arrival, our forefathers still felt compelled to leave the Old World. And they relied upon themselves—without handouts or entitlements—to take the shot in hope of establishing a better life on their own terms. It is the origin of what was to become the American Dream.

The whole process of getting here was, in a word, exceptional. It also was one of the most individual and independent acts a man or woman could make hundreds of years ago. To those remaining, it probably looked outrageous. It is, however, uniquely American.

In retrospect, it was our first Declaration of Independence. How ironic that the current administration apologizes to the world for whom we are and seeks to take us back to where we were hundreds of years ago. Our forefathers must be turning in their graves.

Emma Lazarus summed it up best with her words found on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." We, collectively, are those masses.


Richard Roffman
About The Author Richard Roffman
Richard Roffman is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and 30-year veteran publisher with national and international experience having founded South FloridaCEO, LatinCEO and Latin Trade magazines. He is a past chair of the World Trade Center Miami.

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