Vail Daily column: Make America ‘American’ again |

Vail Daily column: Make America ‘American’ again

Jack Van Ens
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Jack Van Ens

Editor’s note: Find the cited version of this column at

How does U.S. foreign policy preserve American liberty? Do we align our nation with the world community and build respect for America’s global assistance? Or, do we shun the world to protect U.S. interests?

Last month, world leaders honored the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan that rescued Europe and rebuilt hope after World War II. The United States spent $13 billion, or roughly $134 billion in today’s money, in addition to incurring massive war debt, which had rescued Europe from Nazi tyranny. The Marshal Plan’s money was translated into extending aid to refugees and survivors existing in bombed cities.

Some GOP critics chided Harry Truman’s administration for spending money on foreigners when such funds should have been directed to building highways at home and helping soldiers transition from military service.

The Marshall Plan showed the world America’s generous spirit. It rescued starved refugees and rebuilt devastated cities. The result went far beyond American altruism; it practiced good business. It’s far cheaper to fund the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, advised Gen. George Marshall, than to hike costs by stationing overseas only American troops.

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President John F. Kennedy promoted American values by forming overseas alliances. “American first” meant for him that our nation would be first in peace and war in creating global villages with residents working together. He was to deliver a speech in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, that went undelivered because of his assassination.

Still, Kennedy’s challenge rallies our nation to recapture its American spirit of international goodwill.

“Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom,” read Kennedy’s undelivered speech. “So, let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause, united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future.”

What Kennedy considered petty Donald Trump applauds. Wrote advisors, “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

Supporting Kennedy’s vision, the Bible sketches a story of feuding siblings Cain and Abel. After murdering his brother, Cain spun this crime as survival of the fittest. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) he barked at God.

The biblical storyteller’s tale involves more than sibling rivalry. The brothers represent universal tensions in the world that need reconciliation. “Brother” stands for whomever we encounter, not only American favorites who rank first in our lives.

Kennedy blew a trumpet, its notes reverberating with more than heightened national self-interest. In his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1961, he summoned our nation to sing from an America united, not first, in which the United States engages in “a long twilight struggle, year in and year out … against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”

He envisioned a “grand and global alliance, north and south, east and west, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind.” He roused citizens to join him in protecting “freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

“Will you join in that historic effort?” President John F. Kennedy asked of us.

Today, isn’t this the pivotal Fourth of July question with which our nation wrestles? Authentic Americanism thrives with the Marshall Plan’s heart when we regard foreigners as brothers and sisters to whom we stretch helping hands.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries (, which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.

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