July 4 exclusive: What we love about America

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Rod Dreher, American expatriate writer and editor living in Hungary

"Red Headed Stranger" by Willie Nelson (1975). This ghostly concept album by the Texas outlaw singer is about a man in the Old West on the run after killing his wife and her lover. It is about pain, passion, and redemption. Pure as branch water and possessed of the narrative power of a biblical parable, "Red Headed Stranger" is as perfect a piece of Americana as ever was. When I play this album, I know that no matter how far we stray from God, a country that can produce Willie Nelson is not lost.

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Glenn Beck, cofounder, Blaze Media

"Up from Slavery," by Booker T. Washington.

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Christian Toto, film critic and writer

Will Smith's 2006 film "The Pursuit of Happyness" is all about the American dream. The film follows a single father struggling to break through in the business world. Spoiler alert: There's a very happy ending. The moment that matters is one of the final shots. We watch Smith's character, fresh from learning he got the job he dreamed about for so long, walking into a crowded street. He's dizzy, unsure where to go, and his face reflects a thousand emotions at once. Elation. Relief. Joy. The knowledge that he'll be able to care for his young son without worrying about his next paycheck. He starts applauding himself, and his smile couldn't grow any wider.

It's the precise moment when his American dream becomes real, and it's glorious.

The Pursuit of Happyness: Chris is hiredwww.youtube.com

Doug Gray, Army veteran and founding member/lead vocalist of the Marshall Tucker Band

"Independence Day" (1996). As unusual as it sounds, this movie brought the entire country together against a true enemy. Though it was a fictional film, it perfectly symbolized unity brought on by a sinister evil.

I say this jokingly, I think, but I hope it doesn’t take an alien invasion to bring us all back together. God bless America!

Doug Gray

Bayard Winthrop, founder and CEO, American Giant

I periodically re-read the Gettysburg Address. And when I do, remind myself of what was happening in our country at that time, so that when today, things feel divided or fractured, we can remind ourselves of how important the cause of liberty is and how small our differences actually are.

Delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

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Aaron Renn, author, 'Life in the Negative World: Confronting Challenges in an Anti-Christian Culture'

In the 19th century, many countries had female symbols of the nation. These have fallen by the wayside, except for Marianne in France. There's a vast trove of historic imagery of Columbia, the female symbol of America. She is a wonderful national symbol, sadly fallen out of use save for the famous Columbia Pictures logo.

There are many images of Columbia to choose from, but I like this cover from the book "The Story of the Constitution," produced by the United States Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission. Columbia stands watch over the Constitutional Convention, an eagle and flag behind her, with a blue ribbon labeled "We the People" emerging from the flag and encircling the fasces — a symbol that in America, governmental power rests with the people. We need a Columbia revival.

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Peachy Keenan, cultural commentator and author of 'Domestic Extremist'

She liked the enormous sky and the winds, and the land that you couldn’t see to the end of. Everything was so free and big and splendid.
—Laura Ingalls Wilder, "Little House on the Prairie"

Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first teacher of American history — not the history of Washington but the history of daily life as a young, curious girl in a new land. I would marvel at a childhood so simple, so “deprived,” that one piece of candy and an orange — maybe a bit of ribbon, if you were really lucky — in your stocking Christmas morning was considered a lavish bounty for which you would be grateful all year. Laura's father could build a log cabin in a few days by himself, and her mother could prepare dinner in a covered wagon with no appliances. Laura’s frontier was a place worth pioneering, worth the hard battle to win over the land and claim it for all time. Is it still? That seems to be the question again before us.

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Spencer Klavan, associate editor, Claremont Review of Books

Lovers of poetry know Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as a writer of surpassingly graceful and moving verse. But few realize he’s also the author of what is, to my knowledge, the manliest assessment of the American revolution ever written by an Englishman.

Almost a hundred years on from the first Independence Day, Tennyson invites Britain to look back on the war not with resentment but with admiration: “Strong mother of a Lion-line / Be proud of those strong sons of thine / Who wrench’d their rights from thee!”

It’s short, perfect for reciting as a barbecue toast, and appropriate this Fourth of July, when our older brothers across the pond are facing a bleak election of their own. Tennyson tells his countrymen that by insisting on their rights as Englishmen, the founding generation “retaught the lesson thou hadst taught / And in thy spirit with thee fought” — suggesting that the noble Anglo-American lineage of freedom can be revived even in moments of apparent discouragement and defeat. Let’s hope that’s still the case.

O thou that sendest out the man
To rule by land and sea,
Strong mother of a Lion-line,
Be proud of those strong sons of thine
Who wrench'd their rights from thee!

What wonder if in noble heat
Those men thine arms withstood,
Retaught the lesson thou hadst taught,
And in thy spirit with thee fought
Who sprang from English blood!

But thou rejoice with liberal joy,
Lift up thy rocky face,
And shatter, when the storms are black,
In many a streaming torrent back,
The seas that shock thy base!

Whatever harmonies of law
The growing world assume,
Thy work is thine the single note
From that deep chord which Hampden smote
Will vibrate to the doom.

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Gavin Mcinnes, host of 'Get Off My Lawn'

“Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne is a fantastic book and a beautiful reminder of the immense struggles we had as a country shortly after we were born. The West was still untamed. It was a war. We didn’t steal land from the Indians. We fought them in an epic battle that was gruesome and long because they were worthy adversaries. The story of America is an arduous journey with a million dead ends, but we all got here together. That’s something to be proud of — warts and all.

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David Azerrad, professor at Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government

For me, there is only one answer: America is not a country for servile men. As Samuel Adams said in his rousing oration on American Independence: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!” Americans must choose liberty over despotism, even if it is sugarcoated, as it is today, with loan forgiveness, junk food, antidepressants, endless porn, and all other sedatives and somas that sap our spiritedness.

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Michael Knowles, author and political commentator

I recommend a little-known painting by William Halsall: “The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor.” Painted in 1882 as memory of America’s founding generation began to fade, it depicts the Pilgrims’ ship at dawn. Or is it dusk? One cannot quite tell if the sun is rising or setting on America.

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Isaac Simpson, founder and director, Will

After Muhammad Ali returned victorious from Zaire after defeating George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, a reporter asked him, "What did you think of Africa?" After he outwardly rejected the war in Vietnam and embraced Islam, many progressives saw Ali as a hero of Marxist anti-Americanism.

The trip to Zaire itself was viewed by many as a "return to Africa"-type statement, but Ali instantaneously put that to bed with this quote, one of his all-time classic whimsical responses: "Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat."

After all the turmoil and criticism, it acknowledged that at the end of the day, he was a pure-blooded American and wouldn't have it any other way. Sort of the conclusory response to "no Vietcong ever called me n****er."

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Matthew Wilder, writer and director of the forthcoming film 'Morning Has Broken,' with Ava McAvoy and Fred Melamed

I don't get the problem people have with George Stevens' "Giant." To me, it's an American "Leopard." And Rock Hudson does carry that. I am not a James Dean fetishist, but his conception of Jett Rink is advanced. For the first half he's a broken-down, incomprehensible hobo very similar to Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell in "The Master."

Then, when the oil is struck, he turns into Howard Hughes in his latter days — he goes from zero to 100 to brick wall in five seconds. His whole final scene at the banquet — wow!

Imagine if he had lived to go on to do stuff with Peckinpah and Frankenheimer and Lumet and Kubrick and Richard Lester. He would have been reason enough for Godard to come to America to make "Bonnie and Clyde" with him and Tuesday Weld.

All right, enough of my cinema speculations!

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Ben Boychuk, opinion and analysis editor, Blaze Media

July 4 is, of course, the date we officially celebrate American independence, but John Adams believed the more momentous day was July 2, when the delegates of the Continental Congress voted to draft the Declaration of Independence and sever ties with Great Britain once and for all.

Adams wrote two letters to his wife, Abigail, on July 3 explaining the significance of the decision and sharing his relief, hopes, and fears about the struggle to come. His closing lines still strike a chord:

"You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not."

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Lou Perez, comedian/writer/producer/actor

My favorite immigrants are the ones who become Americans. So thank God my immigrant father became a U.S. citizen! That’s one less daddy issue for me.

My father came from Argentina in the late 1970s. He crossed the border with maybe a couple years of high school education and no English. His business in San Miguel de Tucumán had gone under — a butcher shop next to his childhood home — and he was in debt.

When he got to New York, he was able to find work in a deli in Queens. One day, he sat in the back of the store and cried. This wasn’t his store. This wasn’t his country. He was experiencing a new low that was truly foreign to him.

But he was in America — though he didn’t realize it at the time. Not the geographical reality — of course he knew that. It was the American ethos he had yet to grasp.

My father worked and worked and worked. He built a family, a business (Casablanca Meat Market in Spanish Harlem), and an appreciation for the United States that I’m not sure I can fully understand. I was born here, after all. I didn’t choose to make the journey.

I often joke that my father taught me the value of hard work ... and I plan on living off of his hard work for as long as I can. He butchered so that his son could make jokes. He’s my favorite American.

Lou Perez

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Watch Vivek Ramaswamy’s EPIC response to Charlamagne tha God’s claim that America is a land of white supremacy

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Radio host and TV personality Charlamagne tha God has been drinking the Kool-Aid of the left.

“It's always been freedom, liberty, and justice for some, usually that some is white people,” he tells GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Vivek’s response, which is delivered in his usual calm and articulate manner, is epic to say the least.

“The nation has fallen short of our promise since our founding,” Vivek says. But “we're not founded on an ethnicity or a monarch or a food or even a religion. We’re founded on a set of ideals that brought a group of people together in 1776, and we live by those ideals, at least we aspire to those ideals today.”

“We were never included in those ideals originally,” says Charlamagne.

“Originally but never and originally are two different things,” says Vivek, adding, “if you had somebody who was in 1870 looking at the world we live in today, if you had somebody in 1960 who was looking at the world we live in today as it relates to race in America, we would be darn close to what they would have thought of as the promised land.”

“I think we have to recognize that America is about that pursuit. We're a lot further along than we were 250 years ago,” Vivek says.

To see Vivek’s full response, watch the clip below.

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Roth: ESG advocates are killing the American dream

You may have heard about the WEF and other global elites pushing an investing concept called “ESG." ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and corporate governance and also is referred to in concept with terms like “stakeholder capitalism,” includes various non-financial criteria for investing. ESG is also based on some elites’ decisions around morality and “what is good for society” (that always ends well, doesn’t it?).

ESG has morphed to include an increasing number of corporations embracing these somewhat vague standards. This includes lenders and investors who allocate capital, which helps drive growth and innovation in the economy. Instead of investing based on traditional market dynamics (like supply and demand) and whether the company is well run (which, by default, takes into consideration whether a corporation is doing “good”), the elites and their investing and lending cronies are directing the economy in ways that they see fit.

This has had real cost and supply ramifications in terms of energy production and commodities, which are affecting your wallet in a real way today and are certain to do so in the future.

This morality and virtue-signaling also impact individuals in the allocation of capital to compete with you for home ownership, the physical embodiment of the American dream and one of several routes the average American can pursue to generate wealth.

While many financial institutions have strictly held back financing traditional energy, on the home ownership side, it is just the opposite. They are providing ample capital for well-funded, large corporations to come into residential housing markets to purchase homes in competition with individual homeowners. How exactly does that rank on the “social” aspect of the ESG scale?

In a recent "60 Minutes" piece on the subject, the CEO of one such company, Tricon Residential, a publicly traded Toronto-based company, said that his firm owns about 30,000 homes in the U.S. today and has turned them into rental properties. The piece also mentioned that “Invitation Homes owns more than 80,000 rental houses, American Homes 4 Rent close to 60,000.” It also discussed how some of the biggest names in finance have backed the purchasing of single-family homes to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist for RedFin, estimated that the undersupply in homes in the U.S. today was around 4 million houses and growing. A Realtor.com study puts that number at 5.24 million. This is impacting potential home buyers, including the very large cohort of Millennials who are now in the prime age range for home ownership, but finding they can’t afford one.

A chart on historical U.S. home building from Statista shows while there was overbuilding in residential homes during 2000-2009, the fallout from that and the Great Recession financial crisis led to historic underbuilding over the past decade, accounting in large part for that gap.

With such short supply, corporate buyers that are flush with capital and can waive a whole host of requirements, including inspections or viewing the home at all, and that can even make all-cash offers make formidable competitors to the average new home buyers.

This is putting home ownership outside the reach of millions and millions of Americans. As the Gary Berman, Tricon’s CEO said to "60 minutes," instead, “You can rent the American dream.”

That sounds an awful lot like the “you will own nothing and be happy,” part of the WEF playbook (without the happiness part, of course).

Which brings us back to where we started. If you are in the social good business, part of that isn’t stacking the deck against potential home buyers who want to own and live in their own home.

Financial institutions need to stop lecturing about social good and put their money where their mouths are. Let the market be what it is, but if you are going to take the moral high ground, perhaps begin by ceasing to interfere with the American dream.

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