I was born into this experiment we call democracy on Sept. 8, 1925 in the tiny town of Pineville, Mississippi. When I was 17, and World War II was underway, I enlisted in the Navy.
In March of 1946 I returned to the United States after many months in the South Pacific. When I walked off the ship at Terminal Island, I wanted to get down and kiss the ground. I have some inkling of what the poet meant when he said:
“Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own, my native land”
I have never entertained the idea of moving to another country. Visit? Yes! But not to permanently move there. I truly have a love affair with America, as most of you do. But we make a great mistake when we think that we are perfect. Obviously, there are many people in the world who have fled to America because of certain critical circumstances in their land of birth. My Irish ancestors came to America because of harsh circumstances in Ireland. Many of you have ancestors that have come from all parts of the world.
We Americans often think we are the best in everything. But this, in fact, is not true. At present we are not at the top in several categories. Our educational system ranks 14th in the world, and we rank 37th in providing health care.
In terms of firsts, we have the unenviable situation of having a prison population of 2.2 million people incarcerated. We also rank first in military spending. Our military budget of $582 billion (2016 figures) is larger than the military budget of most of the other larger countries combined. Russia, for example, has a military budget of $70 billion. China’s military budget is $129 billion.
All of this is by way of saying that we may be spending in the wrong places. When the war hawks keep wanting us to spend more on the military and less on the programs that make a nation great, we should realize what really makes a nation great. Otherwise we may find ourselves spending all our money on protection and leaving none for the things worth protecting.
There continues to be great resistance to funding a full health care program for our great nation. Full single-payer Medicare for all should be our objective. Nothing less is worthy of our great nation.
Social Security continues to be attacked. Scare talks of Social Security going broke are designed to frighten people into opposing it. Social Security is not broke and doesn’t have to ever be broke unless we want it to fail. Social Security is one of the greatest programs devised for our nation.
Don’t tell me we can’t accomplish these things if we truly set our minds and efforts to it. It is ridiculous to keep fighting for lower taxes when so many things need to be funded, such as: road, rail and air transportation systems; schools; the environment; and health care.
Our country is such a precious gift that we dare not treat lightly our responsibility to keep it on the high road. In my opinion, we have elected a president who doesn’t understand this great gift of democracy we have in America. But that is all the more reason why you and I should try harder to keep the dream alive.
Here is my list of what it will take to keep the dream alive:
1. Give peace a chance. It is easy to go to war, but peace is so much superior.
2. Acceptance of gays into all aspects of society, as well as people of all races and colors.
3. A fair way to deal with our immigrant population.
4. Provide free education through the college level for all who want it and keep up their grades.
If tiny Finland can do it, why can’t we?
5. Better road, rail and air transportation.
6. Take climate change seriously. Why should the findings of science be discarded?
7. Provide easier financial access to owning a home. We did it for veterans. Why not all?
8. Strive for more equitable government income. It is ridiculous to run our country on fewer
taxes with the lame excuse that politicians are crooks. Well, some business and professional
people are also crooks. Most of our politicians are honorable men and women. We don’t
discount business and professional people because there are some “bad apples.”
9. We must work harder for improvements to the healthcare act and quit the farcical act of “no
money for improving the health care system.” In our hearts we know that the present single
payer Medicare system for seniors will also work for all ages.
10. Work to get more people to vote, including automatic registration of every person when they
become 18. Also moving the voting dates to weekends could greatly increase the number of
So you may say all this is impossible. Well, we can dream, can’t we? And dreams can become a reality if we become serious about keeping America truly great.