Our ‘interdependence’ is overlooked, but vital
Admiral Bill McRaven, now the chancellor of the Univer-sity of Texas System, had an important message for the July 4th week.
McRaven, who spoke here at the 2013 Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, talked about the “interde-pendence” of this grand ex-periment known as the United States and how our society functions better when the goals of all are kept in mind, rather than addressing individualistic pursuits.
It is called “Independence Day,” rightly, as we declared our status from England. But 241 years later, we perhaps need to work on the interde-pendence part.
He talked about Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, that enviable trio of unalienable rights that this country’s founding document instills in each and every person. McRaven, who has been to 90 countries around the globe, wrote that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans are more the exception than the rule.
“So I hope we can all pause and reflect on our good for-tune, and remember that the world is watching us, and re-lying on us to set an example, to prove that despite its flaws, this ongoing experiment can and does work,” he wrote.
McRaven also mentioned the important roles of higher education and healthcare in their link to the pursuit of a happy, healthy and prosperous life. These should be higher priorities than our lawmakers seem to make them.
“I agree with the great Texan Mirabeau Lamar, who said ‘the cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.’ Our system of self-government relies heavily on America’s educators — from Pre-Ks to post-doctorates — to prepare each citizen to participate meaningfully,” McRaven wrote. “To think clearly and critically. To understand the world they live in, their interests, and their responsibilities.”
July 4th, he said, is an especially appropriate day to thank a teacher.
He also noted the interdependence of the role many of our institutions play — from legislators, community and business leaders, police and fire departments and taxpayers themselves. (We might add a free press to that list.)
Our democracy’s benefits are not guaranteed, however. It often takes the blood of patriots, and it also takes standing up to the challenges of chipping away at our endowed freedoms.
“Remember, our founders had wildly varying views on a wide range of topics. But in signing their names to the parchment, they took heed of Benjamin Franklin’s warning, ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,’” McRaven wrote.
We must remember this, because as Americans, we may not share the same views, but we ultimately share the same fate. A healthy respect for one an-other and a desire to seek compromise is not a bad thing, though some forces may make us want to think so.
We all have an important role to play in this grand experiment that has become the best country in the world.