Forty-one years ago, an angry Canadian radio newsman, Gordon Sinclair, inspired many when he took to the airwaves to defend the U.S. and denounce much of the world as ingrates who didn’t appreciate America’s greatness.
“Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake. Our neighbors have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around.”
Sinclair later read aloud his commentary before a video camera, and that’s what you can watch in this YouTube video:
Audio, MP3 of the original radio commentary.
When Sinclair passed away in 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan made an observation that certainly still applies today in the Obama era, noting it was not only foreigners “who forgot this nation’s many great achievements, but even critics here at home.” Reagan’s statement:
I know I speak for all Americans in saying the radio editorial Gordon wrote in 1973 praising the accomplishments of the United States was a wonderful inspiration. It was not only critics abroad who forgot this nation's many great achievements, but even critics here at home. Gordon Sinclair reminded us to take pride in our nation's fundamental values.
A Canadian Communications Foundation page about Sinclair’s commentary recounted how the commentary inspired Reagan:
8 years after the first broadcast of THE AMERICANS, U.S. President Ronald Reagan made his first official visit to Canada. At the welcoming ceremonies on Parliament Hill, the new President praised “the Canadian journalist who wrote that (tribute)” to the United States when it needed a friend. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had Sinclair flown to Ottawa to be his guest at the reception that evening.
Sinc had a long and pleasant conversation with Mr. Reagan. The President told him that he had a copy of the record of THE AMERICANS at his California ranch home when he was governor of the state, and played it from time to time when things looked gloomy.
Wikipedia outlines what prompted the commentary and how it went “viral” for its time:
On June 5, 1973, following news that the American Red Cross had run out of money as a result of aid efforts for recent natural disasters, Sinclair recorded what would become his most famous radio editorial, “The Americans.” While paying tribute to American success, ingenuity, and generosity to people in need abroad, Sinclair decried that when America faced crisis itself, it often seemed to face that crisis alone.
At the time, Sinclair considered the piece to be nothing more than one of his usual items. But when U.S. News & World Report published a full transcript, the magazine was flooded with requests for copies. Radio station WWDC-AM in Washington, D.C. started playing a recording of Sinclair's commentary with Bridge Over Troubled Water playing in the background. Sinclair told the [Totonto] Star in November 1973 that he had received 8,000 letters about his commentary.
With the strong response generated by the editorial, a recording of Sinclair’s commentary was sold as a single with all profits going to the American Red Cross.
On this Independence Day, at the suggestion of the MRC’s Rich Noyes, I’m re-posting this commentary which I had highlighted in an MRC CyberAlert, before we launched NewsBusters, a few days after 9/11 and for the July 4th holiday in 2002.
Below is a reprint of the transcript of Sinclair's “Let’s Be Personal” commentary, “The Americans,” as aired on CFRB-Radio in Toronto on June 5, 1973. Note that the ellipses are not gaps in the text but denote a radio announcing pause:
The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971 and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.
As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did.
They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.
When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help...Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.
The Marshall Plan...the Truman Policy...all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.
I’d like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.
Come on...let’s hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 10? If so, why don’t they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or women on the moon?
You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times...and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them...unless they are breaking Canadian laws...are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here.
When the Americans get out of this bind...as they will...who could blame them if they said “the hell with the rest of the world.” Let someone else buy the Israel bonds. Let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won’t shake apart in earthquakes.
When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.
Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.
Our neighbors have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.
I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians. And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.
This year’s disasters...with the year less than half-over...has taken it all and nobody...but nobody...has helped.
In the age of Airbus, his reference to American domination of the commercial jet industry is a bit dated, but otherwise Sinclair’s rousing affirmation of the USA’s greatness in helping others in the world is just as valid today as it was 41 years ago.