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The Thread that Binds Us

We honored the 20th anniversary of 9/11 mere months ago. That tragedy scarred a generation, but in the aftermath, Americans were bound together like rarely seen before and rarely seen since. Today, we may be in a time when we’ve lost the thread on what we, as a country, are about right now, but have we lost what makes us who we are

Granted, the frightening, tragic, and uneasy period following 9/11 undoubtedly brought us together as a country. Our families drew nearer, our communities worked together, our country was unified in a spirit of honor for those lost, of respect for those working to keep us safe, and a sense of appreciation for those who went to fight against those who attacked us. 

As time passed, our unity waned. Our country endured a presidential election decided by the Supreme Court, prolonged conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a global pandemic, and an economic recession.  

Today, we are as divided as modern America has been. The things that used to bring us together and make us look beyond political tropes, like NFL games and concerts, have become showcases of which “side” we are on. Pro-flag or pro-civil rights? Pro-mask or pro-freedom? One should not even dare to contemplate answering “both” to these questions out of fear of being banished from their respective tribe. 

However, despite our outward division, there is one thing that will always unite us under the surface: the American Dream. Unparalleled innovation, self-determination, and a can-do spirit connect all of us. There is, still, a sense of what makes America what I unabashedly believe to be the greatest country on Earth. It’s our freedom, the opportunity, and hope.  

Regardless of our seemingly omnipresent discord, the American Dream is alive. The idea that one can succeed based upon their drive, mind, and work ethic remains a magnet for people across the globe who want that opportunity. People risk their lives for the chance to even be a part of it. I am not aware of any other country known for having such a commonly accepted understanding of what constitutes their “Dream.”  

What’s more, the very fact that we are having honest conversations about making sure the American Dream is an accessible dream for everyone, regardless of their race or circumstances, is evidence that the Dream is alive and still fundamental to our society. Our nation has spent generations recognizing our faults and improving, together. Through every challenge, we have realized that the idea of America is bigger than our problems, big or small.  

Chasing dreams is core to who we are as Americans. It’s the thread that has survived for generations and will thrive for generations to come. It simply requires believing, working hard, and making the most of your circumstances. It defines the spirit of what it is to be an American. 

If we can fan the flame that is the American Dream so that it burns just a little brighter for more to see it and be inspired by it, then we will see that thread. As we encourage one another, we will feel closer. Our differences can be wide, but our unique ability to overcome obstacles is shared in the fiber of every American.  

It’s time that we took a closer look at what opportunities we do have, not what outcomes should be guaranteed or what our neighbors should be doing for us. We need to rise above political bantering and focus on hope, optimism, and motivation. We need the American Dream, and we need to remember the thread that binds us.  

It is time we reignite the flame of inspiration of the most unique, capable, and most generous country on earth.

By The Honorable Mike Rogers, LEAD Founder and Former U.S. Representative and Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence