The Norman Transcript

June 12, 2011

The American Century

By Vince Orza
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The 20th century was the American Century. We won two wars, defeated communism, eradicated diseases, landed on the moon, became an industrial, economic, technological and military powerhouse.  

Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush, moved the nation through economic hardships, civil rights battles, and wars. Political parties worked together in the best interest of America. Corporate executives created some of the world’s most successful companies. We rebuilt Japan and Germany and made them world powers.

At the dawn of 21st century, America was wounded by terrorists. The costs and effects of war have hurt the nation. Few of today’s political and corporate leaders possess the statesmanship, character and sway of years past. Congressional leaders care more about political parties than America.

During  the 20th century America’s education system was the best in the world. Nations sent their children to American universities and many of those graduates became citizens and helped fuel the economic expansion that made us a world power. We expected more of ourselves and we accomplished more.

Today America’s public education system is weak. Dropout rates are alarming. Math and science got us to the moon and built our industries and grew our economy but play less and less of a role in our education system. Fifty years ago Americans learned second languages (English) when they emigrated to the U.S. Kids today can barely speak or write English much less a second language. NASA is history and America has no new frontier in sight to conquer. We manufacture a fraction of years past and much of that is subject to recall. 

Books and newspapers are things of the past. Texting, internet, cell phones, iPods have people communicating more, saying less and less effectively and speaking to each other less often. Much of what and how something is said electronically is rude and would never be said face to face. 

In the 20th century, science and religion coexisted without threatening God’s ability to create the world we inhabit. Not so today. Television then produced great ‘white paper’ documentaries, family programs and variety shows that included opera and the Beatles. Today adults watch less news, nonstop talk and Hollywood gossip, athletes with disgraceful behavior, cartoons, and slutty, stupid programs.

The end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in peace and prosperity and an end to nuclear holocaust. Today’s nuclear threat is scarier than ever. Rogue nations, unstable governments, unsecured weapons are more threatening than the darkest days of the ’60s and now, we’re in the middle of three wars. 

A nation of 300 million Americans needs leadership to remain a world leader. We need statesmen, well educated, thoughtful experienced individuals that other nations will respect. With a presidential election a year away, does anyone see Obama, Romney, Palin or any of the other weak cast of characters, in either party, comparable to Truman-, Eisenhower-, Reagan- and Roosevelt-style leaders who changed the course of history?

Surely we can do better.

Vince Orza is president and CEO of KSBI Channel 52 in Oklahoma City. He can be reached at