Coming to America

By Arnold Schwarzenegger

In my second inaugural address, I talked about Republicans and Democrats coming together to create new ideas to meet the challenges we face as a state and a nation—and to compromise for the public good and end the partisan bickering that has created gridlock on far too many issues. It was a concept I called “post-partisanship,” and after the speech, something amazing happened: The speech—and the concept—made headlines around the world. Such are our political divisions today that when someone simply talks about working together, it’s newsworthy.

People are fed up with politicians who act like party servants rather than public servants. They lose faith in government when issues like health care or immigration reform are debated for years without real progress.

If the United States is to remain great, we must transform our politics. Self-improvement is ingrained in the American spirit, so I believe we will succeed. But we cannot afford to waste any more time.

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Scholars, novelists, politicians, artists, and others look ahead to the future of the American idea.

When I became governor of California, in 2003, our state was in terrible shape. I wanted to fix things as quickly as possible, and, initially, my impatience got the better of me. I contributed to the polarization with an us-versus-them approach on big issues. But after the people made it clear they wanted something different, I began reaching out to everyone I could, regardless of anyone’s politics.

We need this same kind of change in Washington; more than two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with the performance of both the White House and Congress. Only after our politicians acknowledge that divide-and-conquer doesn’t work will we start to get the kind of performance the American people want.

I began dreaming of coming to America when I was 10 years old, because it has no rival as a Land of Opportunity. For that to remain the case, our politics need to match the generosity and common sense of the American people. Then we really will be that city upon a hill that John Winthrop and our Founders imagined.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/11/coming-to-america/306298/