During this week's State of the Union address, President Obama lamented the lack of a "Sputnik moment" to inspire Americans. He reminded us of that split second when we realized that Russia had sent a man to space and we were behind in a race that could cost us our way of life. I maintain that America has seen a plethora of such moments in recent years, and has neglected to act upon them as such.
I have spent a considerable amount of my time as a student at or near the head of the class. And, Mr. President, I didn't even have to get bumped to number five to have my very own "Sputnik moment." The moment one student usurped my number one position, Houston was on red alert.
So why did America not yell "Sputnik" when Japan surpassed the United States in education? That goes as far back as 1992.
America, the world's poster-child for freedom, now ranks 9th overall in the world prosperity index(http://www.examiner.com/geopolitics-in-national/finland-is-world-s-most-prosperous-nation) and ranks 8th in personal freedoms. Why did American's not cry "Sputnik" when we sunk to number 2?
Simply put, Americans don't cry "Sputnik" because they have been conditioned not to care. They have grown up in a world where the losing baseball team gets a trophy because someone didn't want them to feel inferior. The problem is that rewarding the loser removes all incentive to win.
If you apply that logic on a national scale, it is a recipe for disaster. It doesn't matter that we're not the biggest and the strongest anymore, because we're all still friends...(If you believe that, you obviously haven't been keeping up with wikileaks)
The problem can be best illustrated with professional sports: Picture the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys. And now think about how many people - some not even sports fans - love to see them lose simply because they have been on top for so long.
There are nations out there who feel the exact same way about the United States. They want to see Goliath felled by a pebble. They would love to see us crumble and fall, simply because we have spent some time at number one. The minute we become complacent about slipping to number two, number five, or number nine, we set ourselves up for the consolation line and the "participation" trophy. The problem is that in global politics, the consolation prize is a trophy President whose policies are engineered out of fear rather than dominance and confidence.
Mr President, if you think we should still be waiting for a "Sputnik moment," then God help us all.