In my view the best of America is not so much linked to property rights or capitalism or the freedoms-such as they now are-of the market. One only has to look across the ocean to find that free markets and American-style property rights exist in many countries that fail to offer its citizens even a modicum of political participation. Some would argue that the mess of the last year was caused by runaway economic freedom and that there really is, of course, nothing particularly democratic about that. That “democracy” and “capitalism” have become inextribably linked in our national nomenclature is not just unsatisfying, it’s destructive.
Therefore, in my view the promise of America has less to do with what we have the right to do with our money, and more to do with a shared responsibility for each other, great stewardship of our resources, and a concern for the educations of all people. If you think that this notion of America fits in with the Ignatian trajectory of the Catholic faith, I think you’re right.
America is wonderful for the freedoms it gives to all of us, and an even better America is one where such freedoms are bestowed alongside excellent education. Education is the cornerstone of democracy, as it provides a kind of acculturalization, a preparedness for participation. Once equipped with lessons of history, civics, and a full complement of other skills essential for citizenship, the educated can, yes, pursue their jobs, buy their homes, and consume what is rightly theirs.
BUT, it is through the cycle of learning and teaching that all of us become more fully free; become more fully aware; and become more fully equipped to deliver the promise of America to new generations.
Happy Birthday, America. May the best of your promise live forever in the hearts and minds of those who seek to better themselves and then to share their gifts with their neighbors, their communities, and the political process. May education-the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning-continue to be the edifying force that dramatically alters lives, and, in no small measure, changes the world-one citizen at a time.