July 4, 2015
It is The Fourth of July for Americans at home and abroad. As a friend of your country and a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington D.C., I ( and my wife Dr. Kamsiah) extend to you our warmest wishes and congratulations on your country’s birthday.
Once again, thank you for the generosity and consideration you gave me when I was a graduate student (1968-1970). During my time at DC some 40+ years ago–I visited your beautiful city again with my wife in June, 2013 as a guest of former US Ambassodor to Malaysia John R. Mallot–I witnessed you moan the loss of Martin Luther King and Robert Francis Kennedy and agonise over the loss of American lives in Vietnam.
I admired the manner in which you sought to end that bloody and costly war which destabilised South East Asia and brought untold tragedy and genocide to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodia where I now live and work at the Techo Sen (Hun Sen) School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
The idea of America is best summed up in these words in Latin e pluribus unum–out of many, one. These words led me to read Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter’s delightful and educational book, The Idea that is AMERICA: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World. Maybe by sheer coincidence, I just finished reading it today. Anne-Marie’s book comes to you with my recommendation.
In the opening of her concluding chapter (pg.215), Anne-Marie quotes my favorite American Statesman, Presidential Candidate and Diplomat, Adlai Stevenson as follows:
When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistenng in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self respect.–Adlai Stevenson
In the opening paragraph of that chapter, Stars to Steer By, she says in almost Stevensonian fashion, and I quote her: “American patriotism is grounded not only in our love for the values our country stands for–of the idea that is America, no matter how far short we may fail in practice. It is the idea that knits us together in our vast diversity. It is the idea that our soldiers fought for. It is the idea that all patriotic citizens stand for, even against our own government. And it is an idea that ultimately belongs to all the world’s peoples.”
Grandiose indeed. But inspirational. And yes, the idea is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United of America. Anne-Marie also quotes my favorite African-American novelist who said: “I love America more than any other country in this world; and, exactly for this reason. I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually.”(pg.14)
On the occasion of the 239th Anniversary of your freedom from the tyranny of King George III, I have a simple message to the Obama White House, the members of the US Congress and captains of American Industry. Diplomacy is about making friends. Foreign policy is about the pursuit of peace and cooperation and building partnerships founded on mutual respect and trust.
It is time to put an end to the era of regime change initiated by George W. Bush and his neo-conservatives. Make friends, not enemies. The world does not need hegemons, and prophets of war. We need enlightened leaders, not egotists and dictators.
To celebrate the Fourth of July, Dr. Kamsiah and I have to chosen John Denver to entertain us. Mr. Denver, may God Bless you and thank you for your musical legacy.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican.