Perhaps if the same poll questions had been put to citizens of some other nation, say in Europe or East Asia, the answers would have come out roughly the same; namely, that individuals believe their own nation has a "special role" to play in the world and that the future looks promising. But that it was citizens of the United States who responded so positively about their country and its future should not be overlooked.
The polls, conducted nationwide by Civic Services Inc., and on a statewide basis by the Institute for Social Inquiry at the University of Connecticut, found that despite all the upheavals and turmoil of recent years -- inflation, Watergate, Vietnam, the nation's nagging crime problem -- Americans remain basically upbeat about their society and its role in the world. A clear majority believe that their nation's "best times" lie ahead -- a reaffirmation of that traditional American sense of progress which (while not unique to America) led Emerson, like many of his countrymen before and after him, to "read the promise of better times and of greater men."
Indeed, it is that very combination of America as having a "special role" in the world, a unique destiny, along with that unshakable belief in the possibility of progress and the betterment of the human condition, that has impelled so much of the good in the American character over the years, culminating in such accopmplishments as the Marshall Plan, the Peace Corps, and -- yes -- even the soaring architectural vision in the Empire State Building.
Though hard-and-fast rules about such matters are risky, we suspect that America handles itself best in world (and national) affairs when its citizens feel most secure about their nation -- and their own and their family's future. In this regard, it is hopeful that younger Americans were somewhat more likely to see the US global role as special than was the case with older persons. And despite all -- inflation, crime, you name it -- a whopping 92 percent of all persons thought the US still "the very best place to live."
That quintessential American scholar, Emerson, looking out at the world of his times, perhaps best summoned up the meaning and promise: "Brothers, I draw new hope from the atmosphere we breathe to-day, fr om the healthy sentiments of the American people. . ."