Beyond the Rhetoric…The urgent need to maintain our competitiveness


Our competitive spirit strengthens our culture. America is the number one economy and the strongest nation on earth. We owe much of that to our capitalistic system. Forgive me if I am sounding a little like Darwin, but the fact is survival always belongs to the strongest. By competing with ourselves at almost every level we are unique and so far invincible as a whole.
One of the biggest indicators of our daily competitiveness is our sports system. Some of our greatest past times are football (my favorite), baseball and basketball, all of which were invented in this country. We also master the majority of all other sports being played in the world whether it is an individual sport such as boxing, golf, swimming and tennis – the United States has its share of major players.
We reward winners. Jobs, money, prestige and fame are just some of the fruits of being successful. Special note is given to our African Americans who have succeeded in defiance of slavery and Jim Crow systems designed to maim us and keep us less competitive. In fact, we are the envy of the world. One thing I always notice when traveling abroad is the pleasant smile and look given to me and my fellow travelers. They instantly know we are Americans. Our swagger, self-confidence, and controlling aura stand out in a crowd – whether its Paris, Madrid, London, Nairobi, Accra or even Havana. We compete and therefore we are winners.
One of the biggest examples of our winning, competitive culture is World War II. War was declared on us by Japan, an imperial nation, and a fascist nation, Germany. They were eating up land around the world and their conquest seemed to be insurmountable until we were attacked and diverted our normal competitiveness to war preparation. In shock, we designed an aggressive strategy. Quickly, we would convert our manufacturing industries from commercial to military machines.
Our auto plants began building airplanes, tanks, armored moving vehicles and trucks at lightning speed. Our shipyards started building ships at a rate that was unbelievable. At one point, we were building a naval vessel on a daily basis. Our men, including the Tuskegee Airmen, signed up for battle by the millions and more than over 400,000 paid the ultimate price in defense of their nation. Our women went to work in our plants to help build those military machines. Without question, the allies won World War II and the reason mainly is because of the competitiveness of the great United States of America.
Victory was sweet and our veterans were rewarded with the “G.I. Bill of Rights,” which gave them college tuition, attractive home mortgages and job preferences that helped create the great American middle class. Black veterans participated equally in this huge economic reward for their loyalty. America became the richest nation on earth and has kept that position ever since. All we need to do is maintain our competitiveness and no one can stop us.
Keep in mind that the reason we had those manufacturing plants in the first place was because of a very capitalistic atmosphere of competitiveness led by business greats, including Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. We thank them for the facilities and the millions of jobs that came with them. There is absolutely no other nation with the track record of America. It was a culture of competition that made this happen.
Lately, we are being challenged by the “PC Police” (political correctness movement). They believe that America is too mean and greedy. They want to withdraw our culture of competitiveness and adopt a socialized attitude that everybody is equal and should be regarded as being successful even if they are not. They are trying to do this through our schools, youth programs and directly at our most precious investment, our children.
They believe that winners and losers should be treated equally at all times regardless of the situation. This has become known as “an epidemic of false entitlement.” A good illustration of this is the experience of James Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro linebacker. As the Fort Wayne, Ind. News-Sentinel wrote: “But as a father, he knows that an aversion to competition can be even more damaging in the long run – and has imparted that wisdom to his two young sons in a way that has generated praise and, all too predictably resistance….When Harrison’s 6 and 8 year old sons brought home student-athlete ‘participation’ trophies, he made the boys give them back – but not before taking to the internet to explain his rationale.” Hooray for James Harrison who is teaching his boys what it is like to win and why they should strive to be winners. I am sure they will become winners just like their father.
My people, teach your children to win; to compete and be strong. America needs winners, not those who sit and wait for handouts or government dole. Let’s eliminate the epidemic of false entitlement.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: Email:

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