On The Desirability of Acquiring the American Mind

Andres Fortino, student, Center for Distance Learning

August 26, 2013

While watching the program “Morning Joe,” I had an epiphany on the genius of the American Mind.

Joe Scarborough was interviewing the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker. Booker, an alumnus of Stanford University, was lamenting the fact that brilliant foreign students who had traveled to study at Stanford had to return to their country of origin after graduation. Booker then mentioned a possible immigration policy that could capitalize on these educated and prepared individuals by offering them permanent immigration status in the United States. Scarborough agreed, stating: “Here are these smart foreign students coming to study in the United States in order to access the ‘Mind of Americans.’ They desire to learn the American approach to thinking and therefore travel to study at the American colleges and universities. If we could find a way to grant these graduates permission to remain in the United States, they could potentially become entrepreneurs and contribute to America’s economic success.”

Despite the dialogue’s focus on the immigration policy incentive, I was struck instead by a specific term Scarborough used in passing. The epiphany began when I started thinking about the phrase “the American way of thinking.” What is the “American Mind” these foreign students want to access? What is the “magic sauce” that Americans possess that is so desired by the rest of the world? What causes young people to travel so far to attend the educational system in the United States? The answer seems perfectly clear: because of our culture, the type of society we have created, the heritage inherited from our founding fathers, the form of government we enjoy and the melting pot we have become, Americans are innovative. Not only do we give ourselves permission to innovate, but we encourage innovators and celebrate our innovative geniuses.

Americans are known to possess the qualities of innovators: inventiveness, ability to problem solve, personal initiative, drive to create and cross boundaries, endless optimism, and not stand on ceremony or on tradition. These are learned characteristics. Personally, I can attest as an immigrant from Argentina as I also cultivated a sense of innovativeness while completing my education in the United States. It is taken for granted that we, as Americans, have permission to practice this innovation with a great deal of freedom. Better yet, we are encouraged to be innovative. We even stress as a nation whether we are innovative enough.

Innovation in America has become the modern model of art in Paris. Hundreds of years ago in the Western world, a pilgrimage to Paris was necessary to transform oneself as an artist. A surplus of schools that taught painting, sculpting, music, and other forms of art attracted the young, the ambitious, and the brilliant. Just as Paris was the Mecca for art then, America become the Mecca for innovation today.

Today, America is not only the land of opportunity, but the land of innovation as well. That’s the “magic sauce” that others desire to access when they come to America to study. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not like wealth—when people become more innovative it does not mean that others become less so. Whether they stay here or return to their country of origin, the entire human race benefits from their newly acquired innovative way of thinking. No matter where these individuals are in the world, they have learned the ways of the “American Mind” and will always be able to access this “magic sauce.”

America the Innovative.

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Article Contributors

Andres Fortino

Helen Edelman

Ruth Maynard

Pat Myers

Katherine Scacchetti