In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French historian, came to America to study our nation. Europeans and others were fascinated with the success of the fledgling nation, then barely 50 years old and already competing on the world stage.
Such a thing had never before occurred, and Tocqueville was determined to discover the secret. He was duly impressed by our governmental structure, including the separation of powers, but he was in awe of the public educational system, which rendered its recipients completely literate by the completion of second grade. This depth of education was generally only found among the aristocracy in Europe.
Let's put aside the diversionary arguments about lack of educational access for all, which was a huge mistake, and concentrate on the tremendous advantage afforded our predecessors by education. Early settlers not only mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, but also shared practical skills, all of which enabled them to traverse and tame a rugged and frequently hostile terrain from sea to shining sea.
As isolated communities sprang up throughout the nation, they were able to thrive through innovation, industry and compassion. The "can-do" attitude involved hard labor, but it also included a sense of responsibility for those who through injury or other hardships could no longer care for themselves. The spirit of caring, although diminished, remains an important part of who we are today.
Tocqueville was impressed by the fiery sermons that emphasized the word of God and not the social mores of the day. He concluded his American analysis by saying, "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." America was different because we openly acknowledged the role of God in our lives.
Some will say, "Carson is a religious fanatic because he believes in God and the Bible." Interestingly, the very same people are quick to invoke the name of God and recommend prayer at times of national and personal tragedy. Hypocrisy is their frequent companion.
Some will say America can never make claims of "goodness" owing to her history of slavery. Although it was by far the worst atrocity in our history, we paid a horrendous price in lives lost or destroyed in a Civil War that all but incapacitated a young nation. The guilt, shame and humility that resulted from this dark American episode will teach us and stigmatize us well into the future. Learning from mistakes is a sign of wisdom and goodness.