Kenneth O’Reilly, Ph.D. said America is in a rut. The professor of history presented his views on the changing status of America in his speech “The U.S.A. in the 21st Century” on Oct. 30 in the Campus Center Bookstore to a responsive crowd.
He noted many important historical and contemporary facts representing a strong liberal stance. O’Reilly focused on today’s military actions and leaders compared to the actions of the past and the great leaders in early America.
“This country is not a great country, but this country has done great things,” he said. “There have been some wonderful accomplishments done over the kicking and screaming, last-ditch efforts put up by American conservatives.”
O’Reilly said he believes the military today is not fighting for the right causes. In the past, we have had brave soldiers who ended slavery and destroyed fascism. Currently, they only seem to be protecting the defense budget and the Republican Party, he said.
“Today, soldiers risk death in accidents or friendly fire, not for an honorable cause fighting an armed enemy,” he said. He thinks it’s too easy to go to war and leaders are all too willing to use weapons of destructions.
Dwight Eisenhower once faced the decision of whether or not to bomb North Korea. O’Reilly said his advisers urged him not to be the first president to lose a war. They told him America had never lost or tied in a war, and they supported using the bomb. However, Eisenhower insisted that he was not a monster and this was not a nation of monsters, and he decided against the bombing.
O’Reilly has yet to see any of our current leaders act so nobly. He said we have directly or indirectly killed half a million Iraqi children under the age of 5 recently.
Most children are dying of typhoid, hepatitis and cholera, and the sanctions given to Iraq by the United Nations are not allowing Iraq to create the proper vaccines, he said. O’Reilly said Republicans are afraid that the medical research centers used to produce vaccines will also produce these types of warfare.
“If you believe that is possible then you also believe that cows can jump over the moon,” he said.
O’Reilly sited several great leaders of the past who thought carefully before making any important decisions. President Thomas Jefferson is among those men, and O’Reilly said he was constantly plagued by self-doubt. He envisioned President Abraham Lincoln pouring over each word of the Gettysburg Address to produce the perfect document.
“Our leaders don’t appear capable of being haunted,” he said. Leaders of the past agonized over their actions and words, he said. He believes that leaders neglect that arduous thought process today.
Toward the end of his speech, audience members asked his definition of a great country. He said a perfect country is one in which we can no longer find one amongst us who would want to drop bombs. Though we are headed in the direction of becoming great, he said, we will never fully reach greatness.
“We are in the process of becoming a great country,” O’Reilly said. “You know the saying, ‘Two steps forward, one step back?’ We’re in the process of taking one step back.”
Read “Racial Matters” by Kenneth O’Reilly to learn more about his views.