WACO—Cultural observers who see the United States in decline need to consider how being viewed as an underdog often has spurred Americans to victory, political pundit and former Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook told a Baylor University audience.
Just look at the Continental Army in the American Revolution—or the Baylor Bears football team, Istook said in a lecture sponsored by Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.
Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.“Nothing really tells the story of America so much as the story of underdogs and the story of personal triumph over difficulty and adversity,” said Istook, distinguished fellow with the
During the Revolutionary War, few gave the American colonists’ Continental Army any chance of standing against the British Army, he noted. But with some help from the French in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the Continental Army shockingly defeated the British troops and won the struggle for American independence.
Istook acknowledged a whirlwind of challenges and problems face the nation today, but he refuses to believe they cannot be overcome.
“It’s common for people to believe America is in decline,” he said. “I think certainly America is in decline, but it is not irreversible. I think there are many people who tell us it is, and I don’t believe that.”
Istook, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor in 1967, noted in the five years he attended the university, the Baylor Bears football team won only seven games.
Grant Teaff ad the underdog Bears
But in 1972, Grant Teaff became the head coach at Baylor and led the team to four bowl victories and eight bowl appearances in 22 years.
After Teaff’s exit following the 1992 season, Baylor football returned to its historic underdog status until its resurgence in past few years under Art Briles as head coach. In 2011, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, and Baylor won the Big 12 Conference championship in 2013.
Istook sees a strong parallel between the state of the union and the history of Baylor football. After decades of mediocrity as an underdog, the Baylor Bears emerged as a powerhouse in the Big 12 Conference. Likewise, America has the opportunity and capability to resurge on the international stage.
“I think of that (Baylor football) when I think of what has happened with America,” he said. “Up and down, and the need for America to return to some of the places where it needs to be, because right now around the world, America is seen as slipping.”
To overcome the challenges it faces, America needs to stop taking the sacred for granted, Istook insisted.
‘God bless America’ has lost its meaning
Almost every politician ends a speech with the phrase, “God bless America,” he noted. The phrase has lost much of its meaning and is used as a formality in most cases, he observed.
“I’m a believer in saying, ‘God bless America.’ But I’m a believer in meaning, ‘God bless America,’ not just throwing it in to be trite,” he said.
If the United States wants to be more than an underdog, it should realize God already has blessed America, he said, pointing to the Declaration of Independence and its acknowledgement of God as the source of human rights.
“In saying all men are created equal, it says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted by men. They don’t originate with government. They originate with God,” he said.
Gratitude and humility
“It’s time America should be blessing God. We ought to have that gratitude, appreciation and humility, because that’s what it takes to be able to overcome the situation we are in.”
In its underdog status, the United States has the opportunity for resurgence, he asserted.
“Be a source of good in America,” he said. “Be a conduit for the things that you, I and every one here has inherited. Take the wonderful opportunity to be the underdog. I think we can do it, because God has blessed America, and now it is time for America to be blessing God.”