Let me finish tonight with a simple proposition: Do we stop building this country; go into a fetal position because of all that’s going on? Or do we, damn it, keep on building the way that’s made this country great, the country everybody in the world seems to want to get into, even if they have to climb a fence, swim a river or sneak in some other way?
I say we keep on building. In the middle of the Civil War, with half of us fighting the other half, we went out and built the continental railroad and threw in the land grant college act that created something new in the world - scientific farmer - it wasn’t going to be eking it out but making our agriculture the breadbasket of the world.
In 1940, with a world war looming, we built the Pennsylvania turnpike, without a stoplight or a hard hill or even a speed limit. Talk about shaking things up! We didn’t crouch down even in the Cold War - with the threat of nuclear attack – Ike, a Republican, built the interstate highway system so we’d have 95s and 70s and 80s crossing up and across the country instead of a bunch of county roads and speed traps.
We kept building, even sent some spaceships to the moon in the 1960s despite everything else happening in that wild, disturbing, dispiriting but also inspiring decade.
Now, today some Americans, some senators led by John Kerry, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the head of the top labor unions in the country got together and said - let’s do it again. They talked up a new infrastructure bank to leverage hundreds of billions of dollars of private money to get this country moving again, literally, across highway and railway - real American stuff.
Now I know this cuts across the grain of the times. The governor of New Jersey says it’s time to tighten our belts. He blew the whistle on building a new tunnel from New Jersey to New York. The governor of Florida is also calling to stop the building rapid rail from Tampa to Orlando. They will get some short-term glee from the Tea Party types. That’s for sure. But history won’t think a whole lot of them. Because the history of America, for those who pay attention to it, is based on two grand notions: we can do things and go places better, and we can give more people more freedom.
Those who champion these causes - Lincoln, FDR, Ike, Jack Kennedy - are the champions we remember. The people who say “no” deserve the short-term clapping, the long-term fade to black. Nobody roots in the long run for the people who think in the short-run. Let’s hear it for the builders who still want this country to “Go!”