by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 16, 2007
WHAT IS 'THE AMERICAN WAY'?
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- During some drive-time easy listening, NPR's Garrison Keillor, with his typical Midwestern wit, was harking back to "those thrilling days of yesteryear," making up radio dramas with plots familiar to those of a certain age.
He lowered his voice, suggesting he was announcing Superman, the "man of steel" who was "fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way." The words "American way" resonated through some hollow corner of my mind and, although I could still hear Keillor, I was pondering a question. Exactly what is "The American Way?"
Do Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companions believe life in Lake Woebegon, Minn., is the American Way? Is my understanding of growing up just outside New York City the American Way?
The settlers in Minnesota were looking for a land of milk and honey just as the immigrants landing in New York were. In Minnesota, they lived and worked the iron mines on the Mesabi Range; in New York, both the skilled and unskilled worked side-by-side, forging magnificent structures in close quarters. Each could claim theirs was the "American Way." After all, they were all Americans, weren't they?
There was a time we heard "Mom and Apple Pie" was the American Way. It was as simple as that. The words conjured up a Norman Rockwell illustration on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. That was the American way; Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas trees. Mom and little sister and garden gates - picture perfect, I'd say. It wasn't my way, particularly, but I basked in the warm glow of it all and grew into a strong, patriotic, flag-waving American.
But, really, what is the American way? Freedom? Democracy? Every baby born can grow up to be President? These are just a few time-worn platitudes spoken so often they've lost their strength. It's what we say when we don't know what to say.
Then the day's long drive was over, but my questions still remained. I wanted something I could embrace, and thanks to the sources we can so readily tap into for information, I found exactly what I wanted.
I discovered the Lone Ranger had a creed, and this creed defines what I believe every American aspires to, even though "the masked man" was a product of someone's imagination. We all like to think we are passing along this same wisdom to future generations of Americans, but that's where only time will tell. It was written by the original writer of the Lone Ranger, Fran Striker. Here it is:
"I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one. That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world. That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself. In being prepared physically, mentally and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right. That a man should make the most of what equipment he has. That 'This government of the people, by the people and for the people' shall live always. That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number. That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken. That all things change but truth...and that truth alone...lives on forever. In my Creator...my country...and my fellow man."
If we hold to that creed and also define America the way Frank Sinatra did singing this powerful song in his award-winning short film, "What is America to Me," then we'll have a clearer picture of the American Way.
These are the lyrics by Earl Robinson to "The House I Live In," recorded in 1945. It was also sung for President Reagan during the Statue of Liberty Centennial, July 4, 1986.
In 1945, fresh from World War II victories, America proudly sang about fighting for our way of life. Basically, we're not a nation of fighting people, but once again we're fighting for our lives to protect what we have 'for ourselves and our posterity:' it's the American Way.