“Twenty years from today, half of the products you will be using in your everyday living aren’t even in the dictionary…” Paul Harvey, 1965 during his broadcast, From Freedom to Chains
Recently a friend posted an open thread on his blog and asked, “So, What Has America Given Us?” It didn’t take long for those of us who regularly post there to tell what good things have been given by and for America. I wrote a comment, but as the evening wore on, I couldn’t help but expand my thoughts and think about more of the goodness that this country has given the rest of the world.
For so many who have come here from all over the globe, one word sums up America: Freedom. Not just freedom from oppression as so many have fled here from Communist, socialist and dictatorial regimes, but freedom to dream and make dreams reality. The American dream has been different for everyone, and not all dreams began in America, but somehow so many things beginning in dreams of others in other times and other countries were made into reality in America by American dreamers and innovators.
Just think about it for a few minutes, as the following are just a fraction of what has come out of this nation:
The postal service, telegraph and telephone were all invented in America or by Americans and made worldwide communication possible. The transistor, which replaced vacuum tubes in electronics, is what makes it possible for you to be reading this on your PC or I Pad. If you’re listening to music as you read, you can thank the transistor for that too. If you have a hearing aid, which was also invented by an American, that is also a beneficiary of the invention of the transistor.
Speaking of communication and information, the computer which as a concept was declared un-patentable, was developed in the US, Germany, and England, but the first commercially produced computer came out of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1950. In 1956 MIT researchers built the TX-0, the first general-purpose, programmable computer built with transistors. In 1974 researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center designed the Alto which was the first work station with a built-in mouse for input. Of course, Microsoft was founded by Americans Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975. It rose to dominate the personal computer operating system in the mid-1980s, and was followed by Microsoft Windows in 1984. In 1976 American electronics wiz Steve Wozniak designed the Apple-1, and with the help and ingenuity of his best friend Steve Jobs, Apple Computer, Inc. was born.
Another benefit of the invention of the transistor was that it threw the doors wide open to music lovers all over the world. Until then, the phonograph, which was invented in 1877 by American Thomas Edison was the only way to listen to favorite music without going to a symphony or concert.
As for music, while Europe gave the world Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, Britain gave us the invasion of early rock from legends like the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin, American music is what inspired many of these later bands.
The Blues calls up names such as Etta James and Big Mama Thornton; Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were great influences on members of both the Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin. If it weren’t for the uniquely American southern Blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and country music might have been much different or never born.
Jazz and Swing was born in the Big Band era mainly in the big cities of America. Greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louie Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are still finding appreciation by new generations.
While tragedy and comedy has been around since the Greeks and plays made popular by Shakespeare, big musical productions by the great composers such as the Gershwin brothers are uniquely American as well when put to the silver screen.
American film brought cartoon animals to life through the animation of Walt Disney and the Looney Tunes from Warner Brothers. America found figures or stories from other nations and wove them into epics – Moses, Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia. America took heroes and made movies out of them too- The Spirit of St. Louis, Pride of the Yankees and Patton. They gave us feel good stories of fictional heroes from Rocky Balboa the small time made huge boxer to the simple but extraordinarily deep Forrest Gump. They made sure the rest of the world knew heroism in Sergeant York, Tora, Tora, Tora, and The Great Escape.
Without computers, animation and film we wouldn’t have epics such as Dances with Wolves and so many other incredible movies which depended on computer imaging. Nor would we have a new generation of favorite characters such Mater the mellow bucktooth tow truck sidekick and best friend of Lightning McQueen in Pixar’s Cars.
Speaking of cars, no, they weren’t invented exclusively by Americans, but the auto industry was revolutionized when in 1901, the basic concept of the assembly line was introduced by Ransom Olds, through his motor vehicle company in Michigan and more so by the production of the Ford Model T by Henry Ford’s motor company in 1908. The modern electric traffic light was invented in 1912 by Lester Wire, a policeman from Salt Lake City and travel has been made safer because of the first crash test dummy which was developed in 1949 by Samuel W. Alderson an inventor from California.
Everything following from the Wright brothers and NASA which gave us the first human footprint on the surface of the moon has come from American dreamers and developers even if the dreams began centuries ago.
America has given lifesaving treatments and medical devices such as the pacemaker invented in 1932 by American physiologist Albert Hyman and the anesthetic ventilator developed in 1949 by American engineer John Haven Emerson. One of the MRI pioneers was American doctor and scientist Raymond Damadian. In 1971 he discovered that MRI could be used for medical diagnosis for Cancer tumors and he built the first whole-body MRI scanner in 1977. The use of chemotherapy for cancer treatment started in the 1940s, by two pharmacologists from Yale University, Louis S. Goodman and Alfred Gilman. America has been on the frontlines in life saving pharmaceuticals as well.
America has given the world missionaries, charity, asylum, freedom, and precious lives given to liberate the oppressed of the world for the past 200 plus years.
America to me was always the land of the brave. From the pilgrims who travelled months on ships to come for freedom, to 56 men who pledged everything during the signing of the Declaration and then the Revolution. From the liberation of Nazi death camps to the collapse of Communism from Ronald Reagan’s, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” America has been the beacon and light of freedom.
When I was all set to immigrate to the US, war broke out and my parents didn’t want me to go. I told them I knew American troops would protect America. I came a month later, in the same footsteps as millions before me had taken. Although so many have come to escape tyrannical regimes, all of us came to find something totally American, in the land of freedom and dreams.
America, while not perfect, has always been an exceptional country. Many nations appreciate and have recognized America’s goodness. Canadian journalist icon Gordon Sinclair gave an incredible and passionate broadcast of his opinion of America in 1973 which is well worth listening to; especially those who believe America should be transformed. If you want to know how great this country truly is, ask an immigrant.
It’s about time that those born and raised here, who believe the progressive mantra that somehow America has to be transformed see and realize just what they’ve had. Compared to the rest of the world, we really have it made here in the USA and I hope we always do.