Lessons in American Exceptionalism From a (Cartoon) Mouse and His Creator

walt-disney_mickey-mouse“I only hope we never lose sight of one thing, that this was all started by a mouse.” Walt Disney

“A dream is a wish your heart makes” rings loudly throughout the world created by Walt Disney, and it is now being carried on by those who still believe that dreams come true.

Walt (who never liked being called Mr. Disney) wanted to create a world where people of all walks of life, could live a dream of happiness inside the gates of his lands. For a brief moment in time, people could walk Main Street and see a happier side of life. To experience adventures, times and places long past or far into the future.  And for a moment, step into a world where service was the goal and no worries, was his gift to all of us.

Growing up in California, very close to Disneyland, my friends and I experienced those opportunities to dream in Disneyland, frequently during our lives. Now as a parent, my children have experienced the dreams of Disney also, and after a recent trip to Disney World, they are already planning to share these dreams and adventures with their children. They are already discussing what silly stories they will recount with their children of what we did as a family, when “they were kids”, experiencing the joys of “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

The current generations of teenagers are planning their trips to Disney locations with their children, (which are hopes and dreams of their future), these young people however, don’t speak of their dreams of America in the same light, with the same enthusiasm.

Why not? Could it be the hopes and dreams of American teens and young adults are so dashed, that they seem impossible? If so, who could blame them for becoming cynics? For losing the excitement of the American dream.

Many of these young people have watched their parents lose jobs, in recent years. They have either, not found a comparable job to the one lost or they end up working in multiple jobs, some which used to be classified as “after school” jobs, for teenagers. Through this catastrophe, young people have seen their parents begin to lose hope and confidence in themselves and their America. To add insult to injury, for their parents, young people now see their government begin spinning the idea of trying to get their parents to embrace the recent tragedies of Obamacare and lost jobs, as an opportunity to pursue their hobbies, instead of their professions.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have seen spoiled brats hold sit ins, attacking the very life which allowed them Ivy League educations. We have seen these same “occupiers” ridicule people for pursuing the American dream and provide for their families, independently from government assistance.

It is a wide spectrum between those who believe in a dream, the American Dream, and those who are being fooled into believing government knows best.  Convinced it is better to relinquish all responsibility for yourself and allow the government to “care” for us.

Through all of this, what lesson can America learn from a man who drew a mouse and changed the world?

Disney wasn’t afraid to work and make his dream come alive.  Theme parks such as those bearing the Disney name don’t just happen. It takes planning, processes and people. To build an empire such as this, you don’t just walk into a room and never consider input from all viewpoints. There had to have been many conversations where knowledge based on consumer desires, caused Disney and his leadership team to adjust their ideas.

A successful leader may have a plan but they are also willing to take in feedback from their “target market”. Even today you might be approached by a Disney cast member, asking for feedback on the ride you just experienced. The cast member doesn’t seek feedback from everyone, just their target market.

After experiencing a ride at Disney World, geared toward teens and adults, our kids were interviewed, to get their perspective. We rode a ride geared more toward children and weren’t even approached, by the surveying cast member.

When a leadership team is planning and creating new ideas and processes, they seek feedback from their target market. They don’t just create ideas and programs in a vacuum, assuming it is what the population want for themselves.

How refreshing it would be, for the government to actually listen to their constituents. To realize, if a large majority of the voting population is not in favor of things like Obamacare or other governmental “pet projects”, don’t continue to shove it down our throats.

The leadership and cast at Disney Parks view everyone as equal and valuable.  They don’t feel a need to single out a particular class or group and make special accommodations. The parks are what they are, like it or not. If someone wants to pray before a meal, they aren’t asked to stop. there isn’t a threat of someone expressing their commitment to God.  If a person’s culture has them dress a certain way, no one is told they can’t participate in a ride or feature because their garments aren’t appropriate. Patrons wear shirts with Bible scriptures proclaiming their faith and stand in lines alongside others in burkas. It is almost as if there is more freedom in a Disney Park for expressing who you are and what you believe, than in our communities in recent months.

Disney has created a level of expectation, which, if not met, is incredibly noticeable by patrons. Rides are maintained to sustain the fantasy of exploring make believe lands or real places, some of us will never be able to visit. Food is consistent in quality and presentation. Streets and exhibits are impeccably created and maintained, to allow the dream to endure. All be it an illusion of a life with no worries, just of dreams which can come true.

I remember as a child, leaving Disneyland at closing time. As my parents would walk my brother and me to the car, exhausted from a day of fun and dreams, I would watch men in white uniforms carrying black, metal lunch boxes, walk in the opposite direction of us, toward the park. My parents would explain, they had learned from others, those men were the maintenance workers, who spent the overnight hours fixing flowers, touching up painting and doing everything else necessary to make the park beautiful for the people arriving the next day.

There was a high expectation created by Walt Disney and carried forward by others, of making sure the quality anticipated by patrons, met those goals each and every day. All of the Disney Parks are a stage and everyone plays a part.

The level of expectations in America today, are so low, very little effort is put forth from those embracing the lifestyle of entitlement. In such a short time, our government has destroyed the work ethics of so many, by implementing a lifestyle of less effort, creating the illusion of greater rewards.

Most importantly, Disney doesn’t apologize for being in America and having a patriotic heart.

In the Disney parks, in America, there are theaters that present our history as a country. A movie outlines some of the most significant times in our history, ending with a presentation of all Presidents, past to present. It embraces our heritage and doesn’t apologize for our exceptionalism.

At the head of Disney’s Main Street USA, a flagpole stands with our nation’s flag flowing proudly in the wind, for all who enter the park to see.

During our family’s recent trip the Magic Kingdom in Florida, one late afternoon, we saw the lowering of the flag. In a wonderful presentation, including barbershop singers leading the crowd in a patriotic song, the flag was lowered and presented to an American Military Veteran, who proudly carried it to storage for the night. Disney employees respectfully walked in two lines behind the flag, as a procession of honor.

The Magic Kingdom in Florida also includes a land called Liberty Square.  Harking back to America’s colonial heritage, complete with American flags and a replica of the Liberty Bell.

There is no shame in our American heritage. The Disney Company exudes the   blessings of our freedoms and reminds us, we cannot forget what has gone before us. They aren’t repurposing buildings to show a multicultural or apolitical society, as the path our country should follow. Rather, it proudly celebrates of our American heritage without apology.

Is Disney perfect? No. Any of us could recount stories of our own experience or things we have heard, which would smudge the illusion of Disney. Presently, the company’s television division has begun to enter the world of cultural conflict. Succumbing to the new lifestyle of Hollywood and the products they produce.

However, the lessons our government can learn from the Disney Parks would be creating a product society wants, not what the government wants–to set high expectations and meet them. It is amazing to see how many people visit these parks and how they willingly spend large amounts of money, to enjoy the experience. Patrons believe the parks offer a high quality product and are more than willing to pay for tickets, food and souvenirs. Disney is not afraid to be proud of living the American Dream of capitalism, by providing joy to the country and people, who supported the dream and made it come true.

Today we live with a government who is unable to meet the expectations of our citizens and in turn are dumbing down and purposely causing people to have lower expectations of what America can and should be for everyone. This type of behavior and thinking, is contributing to the demise of the exceptionalism of America. When we give up on ourselves and stop believing in the American dream, our demise is imminent.

To save our country and the dream created by our forefathers, we can all learn a lesson from a mouse, dressed in a tuxedo. And just maybe, if this same mouse could inspire a man to dream, we can inspire each other to do the same, again.

Tina Drake

Arizona PolitiChick Tina Drake has been teaching and mentoring Junior High and High School students, in churches where she has been active, since her time as a college student, over twenty-five years ago. Tina believes politics and religion can, and should, be discussed together. She says she is a lifelong follower of Christ and believer in the true significance of God's power in each and everyone's life and she believes in the absolute need for God and Christ to be honored and included in the decisions made for our country. Tina continues to mentor students in this age group, along with her husband, multiple times each week. She believes that encouraging people, especially students, to see the need for a relationship with God and Jesus Christ in their everyday life, is an absolute need in her life. Tina volunteers weekly in her children's school, allowing her to witness how today's students are learning and developing in their social, educational, political and spiritual beliefs. Witnessing how students experience life, during the timeframe of Junior High through College, is immensely important to Tina. She believes this age group needs to be mentored, so they will have the tools with which to navigate today's societal pressures to live life without God, rather than with Him. Tina has also been a teacher to women in churches, teaching small groups, as well as speaking to large groups on a variety of spiritual topics. In addition to Spiritual Formation, Tina has been actively following and discussing the many facets of politics. Tina is a graduate of the University of Arizona, having earned a degree in Communication and a minor in Political Science. After college, she worked in the field of Advertising and Marketing, specializing in Media Buying and Planning, as well as directing entire Marketing and Sales departments. She has been a writer for PolitiChicks.com since 2012 and says she enjoys the opportunity to encourage Americans to live out their faith in Jesus Christ, while they stand firm on the principles set forth by our forefathers in their political beliefs.

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