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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Patriotism At Dartmouth

Harvard hates America." That's the title of a book that came out about two decades ago to describe how the academic elites of the Ivy League had turned against this country and its system of values. There is, in the American heartland, a widespread feeling that students at colleges like Harvard, or Dartmouth for that matter, are stuck in an elitist, ivory tower marked by strong anti-American sentiment. Many of the this nation's collegiate anti-war protests, with their vivid imagery of burning American flags and angry diatribes against U.S. "imperialism," reinforce the stereotype that our top national centers of learning are engaged in a vitriolic battle against the very nation that birthed them.

The reality, I think most of us know, is not like this at all. Most students do not exist at this angry periphery. Most Dartmouth students are proud to be Americans, love this country and its limitless opportunities, are deeply thankful to be living in here at this time, and are willing to make great sacrifices for this nation, whether through community service or through the increased popularity of military service programs here. All of this portends great developments for this college and the future of our nation.

As we return from a weekend of celebrating the Fourth of July, one of the great holy days of the American calendar, it's vital that we reflect on what this nation means to us. As intellectuals at a school like Dartmouth, in an academic culture that breeds skepticism and cynicism, patriotism is condescendingly equated with the violent nationalist sentiments that have typified countless crumbled regimes. This academic view of patriotic hubris, however, denies something that almost all Americans recognize: America is an exceptional country.

Whether you exist at the left or the right of the political spectrum, you have to admit that America is a historical exception, an astounding nation. A piddling colony that threw off the chains of a far more powerful mother empire, which then rose to become the greatest nation the world has ever seen, is one of the most significant events in human history. The experimental principles upon which this nation was founded are now the mark of every free nation the world over. All around the globe, and throughout our history, wave after wave of immigrants has come to our shores attracted to this vision of opportunity and freedom. Certainly, we have much to celebrate. Even those who hate America can at least admit that she is exceptionally powerful. To them, though, America has used that power for evil on destructive impulses and greedy wars of capitalist, imperialist oppression. To the rest of us, America has used that power to save the world time and time again, bringing the light of freedom and free markets to the broken and oppressed.

This is not a mindless screed about the glories of this country, though this is a glorious nation. America is not without its faults. No nation is. But America's critics most often deride this country in comparison to some kind of ideal world that has never existed, a world where nations don't operate on the grounds of self-interest and where armies don't have to function. For better or worse, we don't live in that world. When America is compared against all the nations that have actually existed on earth, with their abuses and oppression and slavery and genocide, their systems of torture and extortion and corruption, suddenly the tremendous exceptionalism of this nation becomes clear. With all those evils that have typified nearly all governments that have ever existed, the ideals of freedom, tolerance, hope and justice that America represents shine as a beacon of light for all ages, and will do so long after this country is gone. I don't care about the academics and the cynics and the skeptics who snidely deride everything about the noble country that protects even them while extolling every petty despot the world over. I will make an audacious claim: this is the greatest nation that has ever existed on the face of the globe, and that is something the whole world can celebrate.

In celebrating the greatness of our country, the College Republicans cordially invite the student body to a barbecue on the porch of Collis this Thursday afternoon from 5 to 7 p.m. We seek to set aside difference, and provide this service to all who would come and affirm with us that Dartmouth loves America.