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I was once a proud member of the Democratic party. Better yet, I was a proud supporter of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Growing up in the 1990s, I gave President Clinton much of the credit for a period in our history that ushered in balanced budgets, relative peace and security at home, technological wonders like the internet and a nation that seemed on the rise, with limitless opportunity for all.

Around 2011, however, I finally reached the point where I could no longer swallow the radicalized rhetoric coming from the left. The reasons were complex, but there was one thing above all else that planted me firmly in the Republican camp: the left’s need to constantly trash or see America in a negative light.

 

Whether it was Barack Obama declaring we needed to “fundamentally transform” America, or a liberal activist who once said to me, “This country isn’t exceptional – it’s pathetic” – it was clear to me that, for some reason, many on the left see America as wicked, unholy, and in need of some sort of purification. The election of President Trump has only exacerbated this, with many Democrats now seeing a country that is broken in every sense of the word.

A recent example of this is Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., the former mayor of Newark and a rising star who many see as having a shot at taking on President Trump in 2020, who declared Friday that he cried “tears of rage” over Trump and that “there’s things that are savagely wrong in this country.” 

Hold on. The United States has many problems. Yet I have always believed that the soul of America is grounded in two things: our right, bestowed by the founding fathers, to “the pursuit of happiness,” and the generations of diverse, talented and remarkable Americans who have grabbed hold of that right to create better lives for themselves and their families.

As my grandfather told me many times as a boy, “Nothing in this country is guaranteed, but hard work can take you far if you are willing to do it.”

This is what the left never seems to understand about America. This “pursuit of happiness” – what I have always perceived as being able to pursue any goal or opportunity that you wish – is something that no other nation offers its citizens. It is what makes this country exceptional above all else. And it is something that Senator Booker – a Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School graduate – may want to reflect upon.

I look to my own family’s story as proof that America delivers on this pledge – and that there is nothing “savagely wrong” with a nation that does so.

My grandfather left Greece after it was ransacked and destroyed by Nazi Germany in World War II. He sought a better life after being forced to spend long stretches of time in an internment camp for the “crime” of having helped downed allied pilots. With what looked like civil war just over the horizon, he decided to do what many millions all over the world had done before him: he sought a better life in a faraway land that offered a fresh start and security.

He came to America with nearly nothing, just the promise that if he worked hard, he might—key word, might—be able to make a better life for himself. As he told me many times as a boy, “Nothing in this country is guaranteed, but hard work can take you far if you are willing to do it.”

And hard work he did. He began his American story as a cook in a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. He learned how restaurants and how an emerging style of food – what we call “fast-food” today – could drive strong profits for those who were willing to learn.

Slowly but surely, he learned more and more about restaurants, how they worked, what made certain establishments a success, and why others failed. Within a few years, he saved enough money to open a small fast-foot joint of his own. He worked even harder, saving his money, studying his competition, and constantly pursuing ways to make his product better.

While success was not guaranteed, he had the right to pursue his own happiness, to make himself better and to provide for his growing family. He had the right to try, the right to fail, the right to make something more of himself. That is the secret sauce that makes America truly great.

There is nothing “savagely wrong” with this country except for the savage nature of the politics that have divided us.

His hard work was rewarded. Not only did he open multiple restaurants and pass on many of his life lessons on how to pursue the American dream to my dad, but I was able to learn from his story too.

While I have had many struggles in life, I always knew in the back of my mind that I had a shot at pursing any dream I deemed worthy of my time, energy and skill.

Even in adulthood, my grandfather’s journey proves to me that the promise of America lives on—and inspired me to make my own way in the world.

In 2008, down on my luck and near financial ruin thanks to a great recession that gutted countless industries, I decided to pursue my own long-shot dream: a career in national security.

I had quit college more times than I could count, never feeling as if I measured up to the supposed “greats” I had studied. But I knew that, like my grandfather, I could pursue my dream.

I also knew that nothing was guaranteed but the pursuit.

So I gave it all I had—just like he did. I worked 70 hours a week and went to school full-time at night. I did internship after internship—awkwardly, in my late twenties and early thirties, sometimes side by side with students a decade younger than I was. I landed my first real paying job as a junior editor at a foreign policy publication that I could have only dreamed of working for only years prior. I worked there while I was in graduate school and while my wife and I struggled to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

We made it through the tough times and my hard work has been rewarded in ways I had never imagined – writing a column like this for a national news organization, for instance, or being asked to appear on TV to present my views. My only regret is my grandfather never got to see it—but I know he is smiling down upon me, knowing that I followed his path.

My grandfather’s journey and my own are, to me, proof that America offers one thing that is unique in human history: an open platform to pursue your heart’s desire.

There is no guarantee of success—only that you get a shot. The rest is up to you.

This is why I, along with many Americans, have become so frustrated with the left and the politics of the Democratic party.

Yes, our nation has countless problems that need fixing. But when you look at the DNA of America – the reality that we can pursue anything and have a shot at any goal we deem worthy of pursuit – it gives me confidence that those problems, and the ones that will come after, will be addressed with the same ingenuity that makes us who we are.

There is nothing “savagely wrong” with this country except for the savage nature of the politics that have divided us.

 

 BY: Harry J. Kazianis

Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon. Click here, for more on Mr. Kazianis.

 

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Concerned · 18:13 08/14/2018
    Thank you for your story.
    Yes I truly believe this country is great because we can pursue our dreams. What I love is my ability to make my dream a reality. As far as the Left is concerned I really don't agree with some of the things they mention. I'm Independent.

    The immediate problem with policies in this country is the actual research for creating proposals to get things done. It's not a left or right issue it's a common sense issue. Corruption and Greed is everywhere in politics nowadays from what I've seen of it. Take the money out it, then we will see who has the heart for it.

    Peace Out Mr. Kazianis
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