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Monday, August 15, 2022
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Opinion: In the Great American West, Our Nation’s Strength Endures

Opinion

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring | Image by The Cannon

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UTAH—The raging camper fire blocked traffic in both directions. The family pulling the camper had managed to uncouple their truck and were a safe distance away, but the nearest fire department was half an hour out. The sole highway patrolman on the scene could do little but watch.

Yet one of the vehicles closest to the fire was driven by an oilfield worker. After a quick consultation with the patrolman, the worker called in two water tankers from his nearby drilling site. With the help of the tanker drivers, the worker expertly doused the flames. By the time fire engines arrived from Spanish Fork, 25 miles away, it was all over.


Here’s what’s remarkable about the scene on Utah’s US 6: nothing. Not a thing. Happens every day, throughout the country. Yet in this one scene is all that is remarkable about America—it is big and bold, compassionate and courageous. We don’t wait for help to arrive; we step up.

A summer trip through the Great American West—ranging from Rocky Mountain National Park to Yellowstone to Grand Tetons and more—reminded me just where our nation’s strength lies. It’s in the families who sacrificed for months to afford their trips to Yellowstone, who made sandwiches from ice chests to save money, who navigated Colorado, Wyoming and Utah by the price at the pump.

They’re not settling for less. They are not lowering their expectations, as the Biden administration urges them to do. They’re not resigned to an America in decline. U.S. families know that in the short-term, the economic outlook is bleak. But they’ve weathered worse, and they’re working hard to ensure their children’s long-term prospects are brighter.

The Great American West is a world away from social media’s twisted take on reality. Out here, almost everyone is polite and well-mannered. Whether it’s at Old Faithful or at the breakfast buffet in the motel, families meet and mix and share experiences—unaware of or ignoring the “immutable” divides that separate us, according to the left.

Any such trip is a reminder that policy matters—that policy affects families directly. President Biden’s inflation means fewer stops and fewer souvenirs. Higher gas prices just have to be absorbed—and made up for somewhere else in the budget. Skyrocketing food prices mean more sandwiches. But American families make do.

Though it’s summer now, families are already thinking about school—after the last few disastrous years of lockdowns and learning gaps, moms and dads are much more attuned to what their children need. These families may be waiting for legislatures to empower them with school choice, but they won’t wait forever. A father who carries his child up to the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring won’t drop that child off at the closest public school and trust the system to do its job. Not anymore.

As Alexis de Tocqueville observed after his own tour of the nation in 1831, “America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement.” Not every change, it turns out.

One last note: The Great American West is a reminder of our forefather’s toughness and determination (that goes for native peoples, as well). Surviving the trek through these mountains was just the beginning. Carving a life and a living out of these lands called for even deeper wells of grit and grace.

Grit and grace—these are our heritage. And the Great American West is our inheritance.     

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