Tunku Varadarajan writes about America and how we are viewed from outside:
The world, reliably, looks at America, for there is always something eye-catching in progress. The world, equally reliably, looks to America, for this country takes social and political steps that others are too timorous to take. And the world looks up to America, for there is more that is good and just here than in any other society.Tunku Varadarajan doesn't just know us as an outsider, he is also an insider, a professor at the Stern Business School at NYU and research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and is opinions editor at Forbes.com, where he writes a weekly column. What could be more American than Forbes?
In his column he ties together President Elect Barak Obama and USAirways Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III. Both had a "Yes we can" view of their particular problem. Then the writer talks about American exceptionalism.
The creed of American exceptionalism is distinctive because it is tied closely to the creed of American individualism. There are other societies or people that are adamant believers in their own exceptionalism: The Chinese have their conceit of the Middle Kingdom; the Jews hold that they are Chosen; Hindu Brahmins believe that they alone are born from the head of God; and the Britons have believed that they rule the waves, and that they never, never, never shall be slaves (and what is that if not exceptionalism?). But only the American brand of exceptionalism is not tribal; it allows Outsiders to become Insiders.And it is that hope--"Yes we can"--that allows us all to celebrate the Inauguration with hope in a time of economic crisis, even those of us who voted for someone else.
American exceptionalism is, paradoxically, all-inclusive, for it encourages salvation through assimilation. I speak, here, of a civic salvation, of a sense of joining a citizenry whose rules are the product of a bold and bracing experiment in perfectibility. This experiment, while yielding a most stirring result in the election of Obama, is as yet far from complete. And still the world watches it--watches it, I should say, with no small amount of awe.
And as it watches, it wills America on. "Yes you can," it says. "Yes you can."
Regards -- Cliff
PS In thinking about Captain Sully and his water landing, it is helpful to remember that he quickly rejected the two superfically attractive options, returning to LaGuardia and going on to Teterboro. He deliberately picked the cold water, knowing that it would cost his company a quarter-billion dollar aircraft, but realizing that it was the best hope for his passengers and for the people on the ground along his flight path. He made what was, in those first few seconds, probably a hard choice and it turned out to be the best choice.