With so much in the media that is gloom and doom, it might be useful to remind ourselves that America has many fundamental strengths.
Here is a listing of some of the political, economic, technological, cultural, creative and entrepreneurial factors that define the United States today.
- Largest economy. At $14 trillion, our Gross National Product is the largest in the world. You must add up the three next largest -- Japan ($5.5 trillion), China ($4.5 trillion) and Germany ($ 4 trillion) -- to get to America's total.
- Best military. Although our services have faced many stresses since 9-11, the U.S. military excels in many ways. The only military with a genuine worldwide reach, it has more combat experience than the military of any other nation.
- Best alliance/coalition potential. Our ability to find coalition partners has been especially helpful to us in countering terrorism (even the Russians and Chinese assist), and in the war in Afghanistan.
- Best brain/talent sponge. If you live in another country, are really smart and want to get both a great education and an enlightening work experience, the United States will, in most cases, be your first choice.
- More and better entrepreneurs. It seems to be in our genes.
- Productive work force. Whereas Japan led the way in the past, recent analyses by a number of international agencies rank the United States first.
- Ability to bounce back from major setbacks. Just think of what we have faced in the past 70 years -- Pearl Harbor, 1941; Korea, 1950-53; Sputnik, 1957; Vietnam, 1965-1975; Watergate, 1974; the 9-11 attacks, 2001; and the Great Recession, 2007-2009.
- Venture capital availability. If you are German, Japanese, Chinese or Brazilian with a great idea or a new invention, finding venture capital within your own nation is very hard.
- Communications reach and cultural influence. Beginning in the 1940s, America has surpassed all others in reaching even the most remote parts of the world.
l Natural resources. America's supply of coal and natural gas is enormous. In addition, the potential of solar power is huge. Unlike northern Europe, Russia and northern China, America has a great amount of sunshine. Being windy is another American asset.
- The English language. For almost 100 years, English has been dominant.
- Computer power. Led by such corporations as Google, EMC, Cisco, IBM and Intel, America holds the top spot in gross computer power.
- Culture of lifetime learning. Americans have a great love of learning. A high percentage of mature Americans, often encouraged by company policies on pay and promotions, pursue college and postgraduate education.
- Technical colleges. These colleges are a treasure for those seeking good jobs. The CSRA has two first-rate schools, Augusta Tech and Aiken Tech.
- Universities. Sixty-six of the 100 top universities in the world are American.
- Agricultural sector. Only the Brazilians come close to the productivity of the American farmer.
- Contributions of philanthropies. It is not just Bill and Melinda Gates who give away money with great skill. Foundations in the CSRA help make our community a better place to live, work and enjoy our lives.
- Birth rate of 2.1. This ideal birth rate, combined with our ability to attract so many talented and hard working people from other nations, should ensure that we will meet the challenges of the future.
- Diversity. Having so many of us coming from different national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups allows America to interact comfortably with the world's many cultures.
- Nanotechnology, biotechnology and genome research. America leads the world.
- Fundamental optimism. Americans continue to have high confidence in their ability to solve problems, as well as to get things done and done well. This probably is our greatest strength.
I would like to close on a personal note. In the more than 75 years that I have had the blessing of being an American, only twice have I been pessimistic about America's future. First, in the period between the Pearl Harbor attack and the Battle of Midway (I had witnessed the attack, and in the months following I read lots of scary headlines about Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Singapore and Bataan). Second, in 1969 when I returned from Vietnam and observed America in turmoil.
In sum, sustained pessimism can create a death spiral for any organization or institution. Tough-minded realism with an overlay of optimism is the key to our future.
(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, is the author of six books, including Rules and Tools for Leaders . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)