American exceptionalism should begin within our own nation’s borders

Saba Long

Earlier this month, former Vice President Dick Cheney opined on FOX News about American exceptionalism.

“I don’t think that Barack Obama believes in the U.S. as an exceptional nation, and the whole concept that the world is a safer place, a more peaceful place, when the U.S. is powerful, able to in fact project its will in various places around the world,” Cheney said.

Do we, the American public, believe we are an exceptional nation? Do the leaders of our political parties believe it? Our religious leaders, state and local officials?

Outwardly we project the confidence of that shining city upon the hill that President John F. Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan projected. But if we continue to ignore the critical issues facing our country and our communities, the brightness will dim.

American communities continue to be rocked by violent shootings, including last year’s Sandy Hook and last week’s Arapahoe case.

Following the defeat of the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey Senate gun bill amendment, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America boasted, “There’s no victory until we get guns in school and elsewhere to protect ourselves.”

This amendment did not create a national gun registry; it did not ban particular firearms or bullets; and it did not take away the right to own a gun. It did create a National Commission on Mass Violence to address mental health and school safety.

Oh, and it required a background check — the same background check that is required to work as a security officer at the office building where your company is located.

Pratt implies that we must protect ourselves from each other. Americans armed against Americans.

[Even as our President’s focus is making the world a safer place, as Cheney remarked, someone needs to demand safety within our own borders.]

Our people make the United States powerful.

And yet we continually fail to invest in the future of America. Stepping away from the national outlook, in the Peach state, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute study finds 80 percent of our school districts are furloughing teachers, and 62 percent are eliminating elective courses.

To be sure, the state is praised for its pre-kindergarten program. And yet its per-pupil investment has significantly fallen. Additionally, thousands of Georgia children are waiting for a seat in a pre-k classroom. The state cannot afford to expand the program and eliminate the waiting list.

And if you are almost an empty-nester with a high school senior, it will cost you more to send your child to college next year than it did for his or her older sibling. For example, the University of Georgia has increased tuition and fees by 70 percent since 2008.

Meanwhile, state spending has decreased by $6,500 per each full-time college student in the past decade.

Access to quality education is the foundation of a strong Western society. If the country is only as strong as our weakest link, on education alone we have a serious problem on our hands. Homegrown talent is dwindling.

An exceptional nation is one where the 22,000 homeless children in New York City have a clear opportunity climb out of the bowels of poverty and helplessness.

Reagan also said: “Each of you is an individual worthy of respect, unique and important to the success of America.”

If we held true to Reagan’s words, we would be a much different America.

And so would Washington, D.C.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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