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Mike Rogers: The American Ideal Must Prevail

Wofford College is a special place. Having recently visited Spartanburg, South Carolina, it’s easy to see why the Upstate is climbing the list for one of the best regions to live in the United States. While in the area, I was fortunate to connect with students, leaders, and business owners who are engaged in their communities and passionate about creating a better America. Their passion – and the actions they’re taking – are evidence that rumors of the demise of the American ideal is greatly exaggerated.  

See, the American Dream is about hope. It’s about believing that the people here, most of the time, want to do the right thing. It’s about this Idea of America that we all carry deep within us. That we are part of something special. And that, even amid social discord, political strife, economic anxiety, and an increasingly chaotic world we know – we believe – that this idea of America is more significant than her problems. 

I saw the American ideal embodied as business leaders shared stories about South Carolina-based AGY, the last remaining glass fiber manufacturer in the United States and the first supply chain for many central defense and national security projects. The American Dream was on display as I learned about Greenville’s Eastern Energy and Environmental, Inc., which uses a unique technology to address the nation’s challenges in disposing of low-level nuclear and hazardous waste. Through plasma gasification, their technology produces a clean Hydrogen byproduct capable of being used in various industries as fuel. 

Our nation is innovative. It’s full of promise. Yet reality is poignant: we face some of the biggest challenges our country has ever seen.  

Business owners in South Carolina and North Carolina – and across the nation – face the impact of America’s lackluster international leadership. Threats to America are more significant than they’ve ever been. Our adversaries are saying they’re tired of U.S. leadership. China says America is soft and self-absorbed. Russians, Iranians, and North Koreans all say it is time to push the U.S. off the world stage. And Iran is participating in naval drills with Russia. 

There is a Great Power Competition happening today. If America comes in second, we lose. Freedom, liberty and opportunity depend on America winning this fight. 

But victory doesn’t solely happen in the foreign arena. To remain competitive and the leading force for good in the world, we must work to improve things like education, research, and technology. Right now, China is teaching its 8th graders, quantum mechanics, while 70 percent of American high school graduates cannot read at the high school level. And while recent legislation on Capitol Hill submit a long-term solution to American-made microchips and technology, the reality is that most of the resources needed to create innovative products rely on China. We must empower and unleash American business with less regulation and a tax code that rewards their hard work. We must encourage their participation in cutting-edge research and development at home. 

Americans must unite. We must work together to confront these challenges and win these fights to show each other and the world that the idea of America is rising, not waning. We cannot allow China and Russia to continue to tear us apart. Americans cannot continue to tear each other down and exclusively highlight our differences. We can rise above our challenges if we work together as one nation. We do that by restoring our belief in America as an exceptional country. The American ideal that with hard work and determination, anything is possible for any one of us. That America, challenges and all, is a force for good. When we pull together, there is absolutely nothing we cannot do.