The dividends of American diversity and democracy

How the American way of life distills democracy in its purest form

In April of 1954, my uncle flew to the US under an International Youth Exchange program offered by the US govt. He had his pictures and interviews published in the US newspapers in several states. Not too many people used to visit the US in those days from our part of the world, a rare case of a Bengali getting an opportunity.

Needless to say, it was the first time from our family as well. 

He brought back his knowledge and expertise, simultaneously he motivated family members and relatives to visit, study, and, if possible, to migrate to the US. Within the next few decades, some family members attended Ivy league schools, some engaged in businesses, some held senior positions in the federal govt, some in state govt, some took part in defense services, etc. 

Today, the third generation of our family members are part of the American social tapestry. All are contributing to the American economy and society as responsible US citizens. The story goes on: Diversity makes the US stronger.  

The United States of America has changed a lot since July 4, 1776, when 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. Not only was it a political message of separation to the old master Great Britain, it was a monumentally brave act of the Constitutional Framers to set a new paradigm called democracy for the people, of the people, and by the people. 

When each morning children in American schools reaffirm their oaths to the American flag by repeating “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” it reminds them about their commitments, duties, and they have to obey and die for, if required. 

Through so many trials and tribulations that the US has gone through like the Civil War -- and more recently the Capitol Riot -- it always bounced back with more resilience and confidence. Immigrants, diverse races, faiths, creeds, and lifestyles have been keeping the American dream alive, where one’s potential fortunes are based on talent, hard work, ethics, and workmanship. 

In the areas of philosophy, literature, finance, agro, aviation, space exploration, medicine, pharmacy, computer technology, business, trade, etc, the US has been a global leader for decades, if not centuries. No country in the world to date has invested so much in research and development. And the results have been unparalleled.

With the changing visage of the American demography, her democracy at times faces unexpected challenges. When the lady liberty holds her shining torch, sadly the darkness under it tries to bite her arms as well. Economic inequality, racial injustice, the 2nd amendment debate, right to abortion, these are all signals of a need for a more across-the-board fine tuning of her democratic values.

A perfect democracy can only be achieved when equality, liberty, freedom -- while justice is to be ensured without a hitch. All three branches that share power in the American system of government do not necessarily need to agree on every debate, yet it needs to function in unison and harmony -- human rights at home and abroad all have to be addressed on eqAual terms and conditions. The unique characteristics of the American system of checks and balances will take this great nation far ahead for centuries to come, there is no doubt about it. 

The American spirit is unique. Its constitution is such an influential document that it has effectively captured the imagination of the rest of the world. The first article of the Bill of Rights mentions “freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press” and these are still aspirations to a lot of nations. One of the greatest leaders in American history, President Abraham Lincoln, has put the spirit beautifully in an address on January 27, 1838 at Springfield, Illinois:

“Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, thAat prattles on her lap -- let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpits, proclaimed in legislatives halls, and enforced in court of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.” 

Happy Birthday, America.

Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed is Founder and CEO of American Bangladesh Centre for Development Excellence (ABCDE).