Chris Christie calls for ‘second American Century’

In a fiery keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday evening, New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie drew a distinction between being loved and being respected, and said party leaders needed to choose "respect over love." Briefly touching on foreign policy, he suggested that "American greatness" could be assured by Americans ...

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In a fiery keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday evening, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie drew a distinction between being loved and being respected, and said party leaders needed to choose "respect over love."

Briefly touching on foreign policy, he suggested that "American greatness" could be assured by Americans making the sacrifices necessary to get the country's fiscal house in order and revive the flagging economy. The United States could usher in a new "American Century," he argued, by first serving as a model to the world:

I don't know about you, but I don't want my children and grandchildren to have to read in a history book what it was like to live in an American Century.

In a fiery keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday evening, New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie drew a distinction between being loved and being respected, and said party leaders needed to choose "respect over love."

Briefly touching on foreign policy, he suggested that "American greatness" could be assured by Americans making the sacrifices necessary to get the country’s fiscal house in order and revive the flagging economy. The United States could usher in a new "American Century," he argued, by first serving as a model to the world:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children and grandchildren to have to read in a history book what it was like to live in an American Century.

I don’t want their only inheritance to be an enormous government that has overtaxed, overspent, and over-borrowed a great people into second-class citizenship.

I want them to live in a second American Century.

A second American Century of strong economic growth where those who are willing to work hard will have good paying jobs to support their families and reach their dreams.

A second American Century where real American exceptionalism is not a political punch line, but is evident to everyone in the world just by watching the way our government conducts its business every day, and the way Americans live their lives.

A second American Century where our military is strong, our values are sure, our work ethic is unmatched and our Constitution remains a model for anyone in the world struggling for liberty.

Let us choose a path that will be remembered for generations to come. Standing strong for freedom will make the next century as great an American century as the last one.

Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have embraced this theme of a new "American century" during the campaign — in speeches, on Romney’s campaign website, and in the GOP platform released on Tuesday, which noted that "while the twentieth century was undeniably an American century," the "twenty-first century will be one of American greatness as well." 

The term "American century" originated with an essay that Time publisher Henry Luce wrote for Life magazine back in 1941. But Luce invoked the phrase to urge the United States to shed its isolationism and enter World War II, while acting as the "powerhouse" of American ideals. As he wrote:

The fundamental trouble with America has been, and is, that whereas their nation became in the 20th Century the most powerful and the most vital nation in the world, nevertheless Americans were unable to accommodate themselves spiritually and practically to that fact. Hence they have failed to play their part as a world power…. And the cure is this: to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.

Luce, in other words, was arguing that the United States needed to recognize its internal strength and project that power in the world. On Tuesday evening, Christie appeared to veer in the other direction. Sustained American leadership in the world, he maintained, begins with rebuilding the country’s shaky foundations at home.        

Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. Twitter: @UriLF

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