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Reviving the Can-Do Spirit

Reviving the Can-Do Spirit

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[Leer en Español]

“In life, your attitude determines your altitude,” a wise person once said. I agree. I’ve observed many people with bad attitudes over the years. Without exception, they didn’t amount to much until they fixed their attitude problem.

A bad attitude manifests in multiple forms: Arrogance. Dishonesty. A sense of entitlement. A thirst for power. Laziness. Pessimism and negativity. Cheerlessness. Jealousy. Defeatism. Disrespect for other people’s rights, choices and property.

As people emerge from two years of dubious COVID policies—from lockdowns to mask mandates—some are finding it challenging to get their engines going again. That’s perfectly understandable, given what many have endured including illness and death among friends and family to serious financial losses. Let’s not trivialize any of that but at the same time, let’s note that a bad attitude is only a hindrance to recovery and progress. This short 1905 poem titled Thinking by Walter Wintle offers a few keen observations:

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find
It begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.

Americans have been body-slammed before but we’ve always bounced back. The agony of the pandemic is Sunday school compared to the hardships of Valley Forge, the crucible of the Civil War, the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow, the heartbreak of the Great Depression, or the existential threat of World War II.

Even some past health crises were proportionally worse than this one. The 1793 yellow fever epidemic claimed about 10 percent of the citizens of Philadelphia and forced President Washington and his Cabinet to move to nearby Germantown. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed half a million Americans when the country’s population was less than a third of today’s.

A serious discussion must go on now for months and even years: Were government measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic the right ones? Many were clearly counterproductive and even deadly. “Progressive” Governors in New York, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients is Exhibit A.

What we traditionally refer to as a “can-do” spirit, so vital to the country’s past success, must be front-and-center again. Its magic is evidence of personal character as well as the political and economic liberty in which we can put that character to work. Nations that suppress the can-do spirit are plagued with endless, intractable problems from poverty to poor health to lousy government.

If you think things are tough here, take inspiration from courageous Ukrainians. They are taking the can-do spirit to the next level, will-do, under the most difficult of situations.

To walk away from any challenge would be an unthinkable forsaking of our ancestors who bequeathed us so much. No matter the obstacles—a virus or even the worst president since Woodrow Wilson—we have no good reason to ever give up on the future.

Lawrence writes a weekly op-ed for El American. He is President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Atlanta, Georgia; and is the author of “Real heroes: inspiring true stories of courage, character, and conviction“ and the best-seller “Was Jesus a Socialist?“ //
Lawrence escribe un artículo de opinión semanal para El American. Es presidente emérito de la Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) en Atlanta, Georgia; y es el autor de “Héroes reales: inspirando historias reales de coraje, carácter y convicción” y el best-seller “¿Fue Jesús un socialista?”

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