quotes America, the country of ‘Hi!’

06 December 2023
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Updated 06 December 2023

America, the country of ‘Hi!’

  • America’s strength rests on its moral power and its values of freedom, openness and fairness

In the long arc of history, America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 marked a huge step forward for people around the world. The uniting states of America formed a new country and a fresh society based on the values of the European Enlightenment in a way the old European powers never truly managed.

American values were strongly inherited from thinkers such as Voltaire and John Locke. Their ideas were actually put into practice in this new American experiment, which emphasized freedom, equality and a strong sense of ethics. It was by no means a perfect incarnation of those values — particularly with regards to the issue of slavery and the treatment of America’s native population — but America went further than the European powers and used her moral compass to correct and make amends for her mistakes along the way.

Americans truly began playing the role of a global example when they entered the First World War, albeit almost three years late. After much hesitation about getting involved in the complex affairs of the European powers they had once divorced, Americans realized they could not ignore their old cousins. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 saw the announcement of America’s role in the world, summarized in the “Fourteen Points” of President Woodrow Wilson and based very much on the American principles of democracy, self-determination, open agreements and free trade, running against the grain of the old European powers. They were put into application most prominently after the Second World War, which America again entered late after being attacked herself and becoming increasingly worried about the rise of fascist European powers that negated everything America stood for.

Beginning with the arrival of American soldiers in Europe during the Second World War, the world got to meet these positive, smiling people, greeting the world with a sparkling and disarmingly simple “Hi!” Where Europeans tried to tighten their grip on their colonies, America promised freedom and self-determination. Where Europeans tried to teach others lessons, America simply listened. Where European powers prized opacity and complexity, Americans emphasized openness and simplicity. This is how the American spirit conquered the hearts of people across every continent, with that simple but so meaningful two-letter word: “Hi!”

I remember the friendliness, the freshness and positivity of the first Americans who came to Saudi Arabia to form a lasting alliance with us. Contrary to the Europeans and their obtuse hierarchies, Americans treated us with warmth and respect and, most importantly, as equals, human to human. A fair number of Arabs, like myself, benefited from a tremendously valuable education at American universities, further cementing the ties between us.

America brought light to the Enlightenment. And when faced with difficult choices, America looked to her moral compass. When, in 1956, Russians invaded Hungary and Great Britain, France and Israel decided to seize the Suez Canal, American President Dwight D. Eisenhower was extremely clear in condemning both transgressions. That the latter three countries were America’s closest allies did not factor into the morally necessary decision to condemn their actions. “Two wrongs do not make a right,” Eisenhower said.

Today, I want to remind Americans of who they are. They are a people and a nation that rejected the corrupt politics of privilege and the old boys’ club of European powers. Instead, America shone a light on the values of the European Enlightenment and decided to spread that light far and wide. America’s strength rests on its moral power and its values of freedom, openness and fairness. When America sees an opportunity to help and to do good, it takes that chance. When America sees behavior that contradicts its values, even on the part of its closest allies, it does not hesitate to condemn it and do something about it. This is the American spirit of hope, fairness and positivity the world fell so in love with, and I do not want Americans to lose it.

America is the authenticity and simplicity of “Hi!” America is a country of high hopes, high feelings and high standards. Today, America faces crucial decisions about her role within and without. One thing Americans must remember is that they cannot allow themselves to be influenced by the political calculations of who might win the upcoming presidential election. In a democracy like America’s, the candidate who wins must serve America and make her stronger. America is a country of hope and values; it is great because Americans learn both from their successes and from their failures. I call upon Americans to remind the world what America truly stands for and not to wait two years before making the moral call to resolve the flaring new crisis in the Middle East.

  • Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981 and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.