Not long ago I attended a conference in Washington, D.C. I love that city. It is easy to be cynical about D.C. and see it as a town only full of politicians with lobbyist leeches there to influence them. I admit that I have been one of the cynics in the past. I want to change and here is why. What I like about DC is the same reason I enjoy parts of Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles. You will undoubtedly meet someone from another part of the world. Often I am called a pied piper so whenever I encounter someone from another culture, I am drawn to them to learn about their story.
I don’t recall who said these poignant lines but it goes like this:
Americans love to spend time and energy trying to understand who they are. They unfortunately spend so little time trying to understand who the world is.
My understanding became much clearer after I visited Washington DC and experienced the following:
Experience #1: At the conference, the thousands who attended share a similar political ideology. One thing that was evident was their passion for the “idea of America” and it surpassed a specific political ideology. Anyone with an open mind can respect that. I am a moderate conservative but their zeal resonated with me. My hope is that when the world looks at America, they see freedom as I witnessed at the conference.
Experience #2: I met a Scottish girl named Shona who is married to an American friend of mine, Nathan and has lived in the United States for the past couple years. I had lived and worked in Scotland in 2001 so we had plenty to discuss including politics, British and American culture, music, food, etc. I asked her what the current pulse of the British people was about America. She seemed to agree that it was very much like the quote above. I have been reading Tony Blair’s A Journey which provides an insightful political perspective on Anglo-American relations the past couple decades. Shona, Nathan, and I discussed in detail how we need to be more alert than ever before about protecting freedom. As Brits and Americans, it is a special responsibiltiy we bear. While we have not mastered it, we need to be a beacon of freedom and lead.
Experience #3: I met Sam Solomon from Ethiopia. Sam is a cab driver whom we spent an intriguing 45 minute ride from central Washington DC all the way to Dulles International Airport. He lives here legally, is married, and has four children. Sam wouldn’t stop smiling when talking about America. Sam said he still has family in Ethiopia but doesn’t see a reason to go back unless it is more free and things change. We discussed that not far from Ethiopia an uprising is happening in the Middle East driven primarily by citizens wanting a democratic process. America has given Sam the opportunity to start a business, raise a family safely, and live free. We all need to listen to the Sam Solomons living in America.
My lessons from these experiences:
Freedom and the democratic process is unmatched.
We should never stop seeking freedom or if necessary, fight for it.