President Obama believes government is the answer to most of our problems. He's wrong about that.
He also believes individual ambition is bad. He's wrong about that, too.
Our progress has always relied heavily on ambitious individuals (defined in the dictionary generally as having a strong desire for success or to be successful in life) in the private sphere aspiring to work hard and live the American dream. In my view, that's a big part of what living in America and belonging to a free society is all about.
As English poet Robert Browning wrote long ago, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" That sure sounds like an endorsement of ambition by Browning, and it also sounds very much like the American dream to me.
Being free to "do our own thing" openly in a free society while doing no harm to others in the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness represent what it means to be an American. That's undeniable and straight from the Founding Fathers.
On the other hand, government's collectivist and activist role was intended by the Founders to be limited to the area of national defense and not to telling individuals what to do or how to do it. What we choose to do in life is something we're each perfectly capable of figuring out on our own.
But let's look at what President Obama incorrectly believes about the expansive role of government, because his views definitely differ from mine and probably from yours too, or so I would suspect.
Graduates: Your Ambition Is the Problem is subtitled 'Obama's commencement speech at Ohio State on Sunday would have perplexed the Founders:'
"Civic education in America took a hit on Sunday when President Obama, giving the commencement address at The Ohio State University, chose citizenship as his theme. The country's Founders trusted citizens with "awesome authority," he told the assembled graduates. Really?
Actually, the Founders distrusted us, at least in our collective capacity. That's why they wrote a Constitution that set clear limits on what we, as citizens, could do through government. . . .
Reading "citizenship" as standing for the many ways we can selflessly "serve our country," the president said that "sometimes, we see it as a virtue from another time—one that's slipping from a society that celebrates individual ambition." And "we sometimes forget the larger bonds we share, as one American family."
Not for nothing did he invoke the family, that elemental social unit in which we truly are responsible to one another and to future generations—by law, by custom, and, ideally, in our hearts. But only metaphorically is America a family, its members bound by tendrils of intimacy and affection.
Realistically, the country is a community of individuals and private institutions, including the family, with their own interests, bound not by mutual love but by the political principles that are set forth in the Constitution, a document that secures and celebrates the freedom to pursue those interests, varied as they might be.
Alas, that is not Mr. Obama's vision. "The Founders left us the keys to a system of self-government," he went on, "the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone."
And what "big and important things" cannot be done except through government? On the president's list are railroads, the electrical grid, highways, education, health care, charity and more. One imagines a historical vision reaching as far back as the New Deal. Americans "chose to do these things together," he added, "because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition."
Notice that twice now Mr. Obama has invoked "individual ambition," and not as a virtue. For other targets, he next counseled the graduates against the "voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works."
The irony here should not go unnoticed: The opponents that the president disparages are the same folks who tried to save the country from one of the biggest pieces of gum now in the works: Mr. Obama's own health-care insurance program, which today is filling many of its backers with dread as it moves toward full implementation in a matter of months. . . .
From George Washington to Calvin Coolidge, presidents sought mostly to administer the laws that enabled citizens to live their own lives, ambitiously or not. It would have been thought impertinent for a president to tell a graduating class that what the country needs is the political will "to harness the ingenuity of your generation, and encourage and inspire the hard work of dedicated citizens ... to repair the middle class; to give more families a fair shake; to reject a country in which only a lucky few prosper."
A more inspiring message might have urged graduates not to reject their own country, where for two centuries far more than a lucky few have prospered under limited constitutional government—and even more would today if that form of government were restored."
Individual ambition is what made our country the greatest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known. Ambition is not a vice; it's a virtue.
However, for the past five years we've been getting a lesson in government knows best collectivism instead of placing our economic bets on free individuals.
As for me, I'll bet on individuals and MOM over government bureaucrats and OPM every time. Human nature is human nature, and the smartest guys in the room will never be smart or caring enough to do what's best for all of us.
And although president Obama and his band of big government "progressives" don't agree, let's hope We the People are ambitious enough to learn and then heed the lessons that big government is teaching us today.
Bigger government isn't the solution now, it never has been and it never will be.
That's my take.