I recently went on a hiking excursion in the mountains of western North Carolina.  The hikes were day trips.  At night we stayed in a rustic inn that had been built in 1876.  It was wonderful in its bucolic simplicity—no television, radio, Internet, or cell phone reception.  In this place an IPhone was just a worthless paperweight.  The inn’s only nod to modernity was indoor plumbing with hot water.  For heat you cut wood and burned it in a fireplace or wood burning stove depending on how your room was equipped.  The temperature during my stay went down to 27 degrees.  That was cold for this Floridian.

During my stay in this inn, I met a retired physician who was one originally from Europe.  She was an 86 year old dynamo with the energy of a teenager who had immigrated to America to escape the devastation of World War II and to pursue the American dream.  At night guests of the inn did the only thing there was to do—we talked.  My conversations with the transplanted European physician were enlightening.  What I took away from our conversations is that she—a legal immigrant who had to work her way through medical school while fighting to survive the devastation of a world war—knew more about what made America great than many of us born here.  In fact, she knew more about the American dream than did the native-born Americans staying at the inn. However, she was worried about our country.  She had lived in the U.S. long enough to observe with an outsider’s eye the changes that have occurred over the past several decades, changes that are dragging our country down and making it more difficult for others to live out the American dream.

I asked this amazing woman to share her wisdom with me concerning what America   needs to do to get back on track. Her answer took three nights to complete.  She sees a lot wrong with the current state of affairs in the U.S. and she pulled no punches in presenting her views with the precise logic of a scientist.  The remainder of this column consists of paraphrased summaries of what an 86 year old legal immigrant thinks America will have to do to reclaim its moral and economic position in the world:

  • Restore America’s moral compass.  We have drifted away from being a country founded on Judeo-Christian values and have become a nation of self-serving takers who think “it’s all about me.”
  • Restore the family as the principal unit of society.  All of the various things we have substituted for family—living together without marrying, homosexual unions, fatherless children—are ripping American society apart at the seams.
  • Restore the Constitution.  Elected officials and even the Supreme Court regularly ignore the Constitution.  If they don’t like what the Constitution says, they find self-serving ways to rationalize going around it.  The Constitution is our national anchor that holds us steady in rough seas.  To ignore it is to cast our nation adrift on stormy seas with no way to maintain our course.
  •  Repeal Obamacare and start over.  Obamacare will not fix what is wrong with America’s healthcare system but it will destroy what was right.  The healthcare system definitely needs reform, but Obamacare is not the answer.
  • Limit the size of the federal government.  It has become an intrusive monster that is robbing Americans of their individual liberty, personal self-motivation, and work ethic.
  •  Restore public education and refocus it on building more learned, productive citizens.  It has become an enormously expensive baby-sitting service used to indoctrinate rather than educate young people.  Begin by establishing real standards and requiring every student to meet them.  Eliminate all of the artificial self-esteem oriented nonsense (everyone makes the team, everyone gets a trophy, everyone’s work is equal, etc.).
  • Get colleges and universities refocused on turning out truly educated individuals who can make real contributions to America while pursuing their own life dreams.  The tail is wagging the dog in higher education.  It is all about money and politics and the federal government is too deeply involved in it.  Restrict federal financial aid and guaranteed students loans to students who are majoring in professions that are actually needed in our country.  If students want to major in fields that lead to nothing more productive than the kinds of jobs they could have gotten without going to college, fine.  But let them pay their own college costs.  Why should the American taxpayer be saddled with more federal debt to finance a so-called education that just makes the college graduate dependent on the federal government for the rest of his life.
  • Restore the American work ethic.  Americans are entitled because the entitlement mentality is rewarded.  Take away all government subsidies except social security and Medicare.  Americans still have the ability to work hard, be responsible, and take care of themselves, but why should they when the government will do it for them.  When people have to work in order to eat, they will work.  This is the basis for that old southern saying: “Root hog or die.”
  • Require Congress and the White House to live according to the laws they pass—no exceptions.  It is easy to pass legislation when you can be exempted from it with nothing more than the stroke of a pen. Congress and the president should be subject to the same laws as the American taxpayer.  No special treatment for elected officials.

I wish I could have stayed in that rustic country inn with this 86 year-old sage for another week.  Her eyes were aged, but her vision was 20-20 when it comes to seeing where America has strayed off course.  If I had my way, President Obama and every member of Congress would have to pay her a visit and take notes while she administered a little common sense.