Hearing the American Sound

COMMENTARY Political Process

Hearing the American Sound

Oct 30th, 2001 1 min read
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.


Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and president of The Heritage Foundation.

I'm sure Rush Limbaugh would give anything to hear his critics taunt him now.

The conservative icon recently announced that he's almost totally deaf-perhaps the worst thing that could happen to a radio talk show host with 20 million listeners nationwide.

Good for him. Then again, I would expect nothing less from such an American.

Americans don't quit when bad fortune calls. We never have and, as our response to the events of  Sept. 11 proved, we never will. It's just not in our character. Indeed, we've shown throughout our history that we can adapt to any situation.

We view change as challenge. Rather than shrink from it, we embrace it, capitalize on it, turn it to our advantage. This attitude is what makes us American.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the famed French journalist who visited the United States in the 1830s, noted this very trait.  "Often born under another sky, placed in the middle of an ever moving picture … the American has no time to attach himself to anything; he is only accustomed to change and ends by looking on it as the natural state of man," he wrote.

Limbaugh's had his share of change-and hard times. He was fired from several radio jobs before he caught fire at KFBK in Sacramento, Calif., in 1985. In no time at all, he was a nationwide phenomenon, setting new records every time he picked up the mike. His brother, David, a syndicated newspaper columnist and author, wrote recently that "Rush has never permitted any obstacle, no matter how formidable, to defeat him and frustrate his professional aspirations."

That attitude of "We'll figure this out no matter what" is distinctly American. No matter what we're trying to do-from inventing a workable light bulb to building a manned rocket that could beat the Soviets to the moon-Americans don't give in when problems arise. We resolve to find a solution, and we keep working until we do.

Limbaugh admits that he doesn't have to continue working. He's made so much money that he could retire and live well for the rest of his life. But an American doesn't run from challenges, and Limbaugh's made up his mind to do his job and continue to live his life-just as 28 million other deaf and hearing-impaired Americans do every day.

In 1985, President Reagan talked about "the American sound" in his second inaugural address. He called it "hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair."  The same words describe Limbaugh, a man whose example continually reminds us that nothing generates more power than the truth, clearly and plainly spoken.

The American sound continues. It's as strong today as when de Tocqueville heard it 170 years ago. Limbaugh just proved that a deaf man can hear it, too-and amplify its inspiring tone.

Edwin Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.

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