On Patriotism (and Pope Francis)


This is the 27th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad, followed by a look at how Gray’s words fit in with today’s world and with the words of Pope Francis.

True patriotism is more than getting a lump in your throat when the flag passes by.
It involves determination on your part to see that America remains free.
It involves your willingness to put the best interest of the nation ahead of your own self-interest.
Single interests may be important.
But the art of democracy is the ability to recognize the common good.
The ability to give, not just to take.
231* million people can pull our nation apart or pull it together.
Which way did you pull today?

While I certainly love my country, and think that the U.S.A. is the best country in the world, I also think the world has changed quite a bit in the 30 plus years since Gray wrote his short essay.

The world has become much more connected, and commerce now takes place on a global basis. In the words of Thomas Friedman, the world has become flatter.

So I think Gray’s words reflect a somewhat parochial view of the world we now live in, and rather than thinking about what is good for your nation, we need to think of what is good for the world. To me, it’s just a natural extension of Gray’s argument. Gray asked us to put the interests of our nation ahead of ourselves, and I think today we need to place the interests of our world ahead of the interests of our nation.

After all, the simple fact that you were born makes you a member of the human race, while the country you were born into was a matter of pure luck. So shouldn’t we look at the big picture and think about what is best for the human race, and not just what’s good for our country?

I agree with Gray in that we should think in terms of the common good, but I think today the focus needs to be on the global common good, and just a national common good. Technology certainly makes it much easier for people to feel connected and to devote their energies to this global common good.

For example, I couldn’t agree more with a couple of statements that Pope Francis made during his historic speech to Congress last week:

  • Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world.
  • This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

Pope Francis is certainly someone who takes a global view of many key issues, such as the two noted above.

He calls for an end to armed conflicts throughout the world, which requires that nations take a global perspective on such conflicts, and not just look at it from their national perspective.

The same is true for the death penalty. He is not calling for each nation to come up with their own laws regarding the death penalty, but for a global abolition of the death penalty. Once again, he is asking leaders of the world not to think of this issue from their national perspective, but from a global one.

While I think there’s a need to take much more global view on the big issues facing us today, I also believe¬†there’s still lots of opportunity for national pride.

I certainly root for the U.S.A during the Olympics or the World Cup, and feel a great sense of national pride when our teams do well.

But let’s not confuse such events with issues like war, the death penalty, poverty, immigration, and the refugee crisis. Effective solutions to such issues need to be made globally, and I think that’s why the Pope’s message is so powerful since he talks from a global, not national, perspective.

*population in 1982; today it is 319 million

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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