My new American Dream is unapologetically centered on three interrelated ideas: prosperity, privilege and power.
While most discussions of prosperity implicitly reflect the devastating impact of material scarcity and manipulation, there are at least three underdeveloped areas where America has the capacity to realize unlimited growth. By cultivating and sharing these resources, our potential as a truly united nation and as an international ally could be exponential. Because these resources are available to all countries throughout the planet, I suggest we expeditiously develop each of them to maintain our position as a world leader.
The first resource is emotional richness. Simone de Beauvoir observed that the value of our lives is directly related to our contributions of "love, friendship, indignation and compassion." Emphasizing markets as a measure of wellbeing grossly underestimates and undermines both the tenacity and the resilience of America and our residents. Bhutan holistically measures the impact of public policy through its Gross National Happiness index. This process systematically assesses happiness through nine areas: psychological wellbeing; standard of living; good governance; health; education; community vitality; time use; cultural diversity; and ecological diversity. By opening our hearts, activating our passions, sharing our feelings and intentionally expressing our gratitude and our grievances, our shared emotional treasures will overflow. The transient discomfort of vulnerability and trust will be replaced by the steadfast joy of connection, intimacy, and community.
Our nation is also endowed with great intellectual abundance. In addition to opening our hearts and sharing our feelings, we need to open our minds and share our thoughts. Not only should we share the googol of brilliant, catalytic ideas undoubtedly swirling about in our heads, but we should also continually enrich our knowledge and understanding by actively seeking new concepts, carefully listening to others -- especially when we disagree, and using the intellectual and intuitive information gathered to enhance and advance our relationships, organizations, and political systems.
Our nation and its institutions reflect a heritage of great spiritual wealth. Fortunately, this resource has been multiplied over time through the infusion of numerous faiths. As a Jew who teaches at a Catholic university, is a Ph.D. student at an evangelical Christian university and has participated in many Buddhist teachings and meditations, I can personally attest to the value of religious diversity. These experiences have pushed me out of my insular comfort zone and expanded my sense of purpose and possibility. I am convinced that increased interaction, understanding, and cooperation will both spiritually enrich our lives and greatly please all of our deities.
The second component of my new American Dream is privilege. The United States is uniquely privileged. Not only do we have and exercise expansive privileges as a nation in the global political arena, our citizens are also socially, politically, and economically advantaged. I am exceptionally grateful for all of my civil liberties, such as the rights to vote, freely travel, and express dissent, and feel even more thankful when they are unfairly threatened. These are all cherished characteristics of our democracy; however, perhaps the most precious of our privileges is the freedom to share and to serve. This is a freedom that our privilege compels us to generously exercise.
Sharing and service can be an expression of duty or values driven by a sense of responsibility, faith, or reciprocity. But for service to both reflect and expand our privilege, it needs to also be an active choice of generous love. Loving service and sharing are privileges afforded to every American at every moment. We are entitled to love and care for and from one another.
Power completes the construction of my new American Dream. While superficial power is politically and socially distributed according to somewhat arbitrary rules, real power emerges from within. Real power is an unlimited loving resource that is always available and has the capacity to truly transform.
When superficial power is shared through collective decision making, it leads to equitable and sustainable results. When real power is shared through social and political action, it leads to increased freedom for all. The more real power is shared, the more powerful it becomes. As real power becomes more powerful, the relevance of superficial power diminishes.
To access our real power, we need only to courageously reach into our gut, that mysterious place where our emotional, physical and spiritual uncertainties seem to converge. It is an expression of our highest consciousness and our deepest sanctity. Unlike most natural resources, once real power is tapped its volume expands and its flow is unstoppable. This flow of power should be directed toward our goals of advancing true prosperity and privilege; all three concepts are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
As I dream for a new America, a more thoughtful and loving America, an America that is truly a leader, an America that reflects our highest aspirations, I know in my heart that our core values of prosperity, privilege, and power will help us to realize positive change. But I also know that leveraging these values will require an expansion of our understanding and a redirection of our priorities. If we want prosperity, we need to act with integrity. If we want privilege, we need to share and to serve. If we want power, we need to release our hold on it -- or rather its hold on us. And we need to do so freely, consistently and compassionately.