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July 2015 Brief: Volume 22, Number 20

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Whatever Else They May Say...the USA Is a Beautiful Place!


by Deborah D. Thornton


For the last year or so I’ve been living outside the United States of America, waking up every day in Monrovia, Liberia, where my husband is working. It’s a country as unlike ours physically and economically as is possible to imagine. The people are very nice and doing their best in very difficult situations, including the recent Ebola crisis — which is fortunately over. We’ve now been “home” in the U.S.A. for about two weeks. Unfortunately, that “home” has not been Iowa, but instead Kentucky, Indiana, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Illinois, where we’ve been visiting family and friends. It’s been a wonderful trip.


From Monrovia we read U.S. newspapers almost every day and watched both military and cable news regularly. This made the separation from daily life here at home subtle, but still there.


The thing I miss most about not being in Iowa is being able to have an Iowa chop — ever. They are just not available. We did have Iowa beef and Maytag blue cheese at a restaurant in Las Vegas — however, the price reduced our pleasure! We indulged in baby back ribs at several locations, including Fox’s BBQ House in Boulder City, Nevada, and ET’s Encounter Grill in Sedona, Arizona, at very reasonable prices. I promised both I would give them a “shout-out!”…so here it is.


As we’ve toured from Louisville to Corydon, Indiana (my hometown), to San Diego (where we attended a friend’s college graduation), to the Hoover Dam, the Valley of Fire, the Grand Canyon, and Sedona, it has reminded me of my love of a good road trip and of our country’s beauty and success. The USS Midway was incredibly impressive — especially with the Ronald Reagan and two other aircraft carriers sitting out in the San Diego harbor. My family lived in the desert southwest — in Santa Fe, New Mexico — for about 10 years before moving to Iowa, where we’ve been for 12 years now (Liberia time aside). Driving through this area brings back great memories.


I hope everyone takes a minute this summer to step back and thank President Dwight D. Eisenhower for our interstate highway system. He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June 29, 1956, almost 60 years ago.[1] After driving in a place where there are few roads, and the roads which are available are heavily potholed with few stop signs or stop lights, driving with cruise control at a solid 75 miles per hour from San Diego to the Grand Canyon was a pleasure. The interstate highway system is a total of 46,876 miles, yet is only 1 percent of all the roads in the U.S., while carrying almost one-fourth of our economic activity. The positive economic impact of the interstates is huge, including health, employment, travel time, defense, death reductions, economic development, and more.


The total paved miles of road in Liberia is around 5,000, with about 12 stop lights in the entire city of Monrovia. Now that it is the rainy season, the unpaved roads are basically impassable, as shown by this photo.


On the negative side, all along the trip, the impact of the progressive movement and nanny state has been obvious. It began with the request in the hotel to separate your trash because the city requires it and to leave the “recyclable” plastic and paper on the bathroom counter. Leave your trash on the counter.


The speaker at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) graduation was Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate.[2] The focus of her speech, as well as that of the Dean of the school, was to work to “fix” the environment, income inequality, health care, and discrimination, as the problems are immense and only government action can correct them. It did not appear that anyone with UCSD has ever read “I, Pencil.”[3] Virtually every member of the class I spoke with wanted to follow in her footsteps — fix environmental problems — and thought it was their “passion.”


The Dean praised and recognized all the outstanding international students (who pay big tuition dollars), but did not mention the U.S. students as being outstanding in any way. This is consistent with the University of California policy of not recognizing the U.S. as the land of opportunity or a melting pot.[4] Only non-citizens are outstanding. And if we are not the land of opportunity, why are these students coming here for college?


Later, as I read the USA Today newspaper, and glanced at the state-by-state reports of interest, I was struck by how many focused on increased government actions and regulations on our lives. It was a depressing review.


However, though I have serious concerns about where our country is going and would answer “wrong direction” on any polling question offered — the one thing no one can take away from us is that our country is beautiful and a blessing from God!


[1] Wendell Cox and Jean Love, “40 Years of the US Interstate Highway System: An Analysis,” June 1996, pp. 2-5, <> accessed on June 20, 2015.
[2] Christiana Figueres, <> accessed on June 19, 2015.
[3] Download the original 1959 pamphlet version of “I, Pencil” from Foundation for Economic Education, <> accessed on June 23, 2015.
[4] “Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send,” <> accessed on June 19, 2015.


Deborah D. Thornton is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact her at


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