In the 19th Century American ideals, such as those expressed in our Declaration of Independence, were a source of inspiration for freedom fighters around the world. These ideals helped fuel the global abolitionist movement aimed at ending slavery. The American example of winning our independence from a colonial power was also an inspiration for numerous movements for national liberation. Too often modern Americans fail to see the power of our founding ideals, which isn’t surprising given the state of American history education in our school system. Fortunately, despite their neglect at home, those ideals are still a source of inspiration for freedom lovers from around the world.
One recent example is a book by an Australian political figure named Nick Adams, titled “The American Boomerang.” Adams was the youngest deputy mayor in Australian history at age 21. The theme of that book is that American can still turn itself and that it is important for the rest of the world that American stay strong. Here is a little of what he had to say in an address last week to the Heritage Foundation:
“I’m here to give Americans optimism at a time where there are so many slumped shoulders. I must say that if I were an American, I would also feel that there is not much reason to be hopeful. I think it is indisputable that America is in decline as we speak. But decline, I believe, is a choice, it’s not a condition. Decline can be reversed. A lot of America’s current ailments are a result, I think, of policy failures. To use an Australian term, I think that America can boomerang provided that it re-embraces the values and the virtues of its founding principles and its history.”
“Many of you might wonder why an Australian with a funny accent would want to write a book about American greatness and why an Australian would even care what happens to America. The answer to that is very simple: What is good for America is good for the world. When America is strong, the world is strong. When America is weak, the world is weak. When America is weak, world is dangerous. The less powerful America is, the more harmful the world will be. And that’s why I believe it’s in the interest of everyone, no matter where they live, to stand up and fight for America.”
Mr. Adams is not alone in looking to America for inspiration. Maryam Rajavi is the head of an Iranian opposition movement called the National Council of Resistance of Iran and, in Fox News interview, she compared the struggle of Iranian dissidents against the regime in Tehran to the American Revolution:
“The experience is out there, including in the history of the United States, such as George Washington and the people of America who decided to stand up to colonialism to gain independence, such as Abraham Lincoln and the price he paid and the war he waged to abolish slavery and the price the people of America paid during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King for civil rights and the struggle of the people of America for the freedom of women,” she says.
“These are all historical experiences and I am, therefore, confident. My experience and that of the Iranian people tell us that when a people, a nation, decides to fight and pay the price for the rights it deserves, such as democracy, freedom and equality, when it decides to fight for these and pay the price, for values which shine in history of all human societies and in the progress of human society, it will certainly achieve it.”
Like most of the global struggles in the 20th Century, the core struggle in the 21st Century is more a matter of ideas and values than it is military prowess. Radical jihadis respect America’s military strength, but they do not think we still have it in us to wage an ideological struggle. As French writer Victor Hugo once wrote: “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” This remains true and it is past time that Americans engage freedom fighters around the globe in a discussion of ideas about the possible triumph of freedom like our 19th Century predecessors did with the global abolitionist movement.