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How great is America...?

Comment
Gordon Boyle


Make America Great Again has been used as a campaign slogan more than once in the USA and more recently popularised by Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign. Ronald Reagan used the similar slogan “Let’s make America great again” in his successful 1980 presidential campaign.

When was America great? I’ve been delving into the past, looking back into history to find out about the America of old so that we can compare to the America of today.

Back in 2008 the California High-Speed Rail project was born, a publicly funded initiative to establish a high-speed rail system. After more than a decade of incompetence, cost overruns, lawsuits and bureaucratic squabbling on February 12th this year Governor Gavin Newsom announced the system would be indefinitely postponed.

Compared with the above, the First Transcontinental Railroad, a 3,077km railway line constructed in six years between 1863 and 1869, connecting the existing eastern US rail network with the Pacific coast on San Francisco Bay, seems unbelievable.

Again, in California there was a need to replace a quarter section of the damaged San Francisco Bay Bridge after the earthquake that took place on the afternoon of October 17, 1989. This project turned into a near disaster with cost overruns and infighting over 11 years. After adjusting for inflation, it cost six times the money to build the whole bridge in 1930s to replace one quarter of the length of the bridge after the earthquake.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon. When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Since this momentous event no Americans have ever set foot again on the moon.

This achievement was made with primitive computers and the main system developed by MIT fitted into a box the size of a small suitcase. The system had the computing power of a 1980s gaming computer and was supplemented by some technology that would have been familiar to 19th Century explorers. In the days before pocket calculators, the astronauts made simple calculations using slide rules and to aid navigation, they took sightings of the stars with sextants.

America has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for 18 years because of the 9/11 attack. We all know that during the presidency of Barak Obama he promised to get the troops back home as has Donald Trump. Back in 1941 America entered the Second World War after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Due to the American contribution the war ended four years later in 1945.

It seems the American pioneering spirit and vision of old are not around today. Americans of today are regulators, bureaucrats, censors, social media addicts and thin-skinned individuals who are famous for creating delay and infighting.

Social media has taken over as the preferred way of communicating and the Internet gives today’s young access to knowledge and information. I guess we should ask ourselves the questions is Facebook a modern equivalent of the Empire State building and is Twitter equivalent to the American Transcontinental Railway?

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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