We run the risk of sounding flippant or superficial when we say that this show is all about "making money and having fun". But I sincerely believe that those five words are just another way of acknowledging "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
We don't really know when human beings first became aware of being human -- of being something special and self-aware -- but something human-like had evolved as far back as two million years ago. Yet it took until something just a few tens of thousands of years ago for us to develop spoken language, and we've had something that looks like civilization only for the last ten thousand or so. And, really, for the largest number of people who lived prior to 1900 or so, things were really quite primitive. Running water, flushing toilets, electricity, antibiotics -- any of those things that we take for granted are really the extraordinary exceptions of modern living.
So we should be aware all the time of just how much we are the lucky ones, purely by chance of birth. The freedom to make a living and have some leisure time and enjoy some luxuries -- these are things that we're outrageously fortunate to enjoy.
On this Memorial Day weekend, it should probably sink in a little that our whole society stands on the shoulders of the people who came before us; the ones who built it, and especially, the ones who protected it from destruction.
It's possible to think too highly of your own nation -- a blinding nationalism that says "we can do no wrong" leaves no room for self-examination. But it's also possible to think too little of it, too -- a vacuum of national pride says we're no good and that it's hopeless to try.
Even if your fellow Americans cause you grief sometimes, think about some of our fundamental principles: freedom of speech, equality before the law, government by the consent of the governed. These are worth standing for. For many, they've been worth dying for. Our duty to the fallen is to push ourselves every day to make a great nation greater. It doesn't happen by mistake; only by trying deliberately, over and over, with enough pride in our country that we think it's a task worth doing, but with enough humility about ourselves that we recognize that the work is never done.
Every time we're knocked down, it's our duty to get up, dust off, and try a little harder. What happened this week when a tornado ripped through Oklahoma was heartbreaking. And because we could see it happening live (I watched the television news coverage straight from Oklahoma City, right from my desk at work), the tragedy can easily make millions of us feel helpless at once.
But there's much we can do, though it requires seeing a little indirectly. Most importantly, we can all go back to work and try a little harder. When you work, no matter what you do, you pay your taxes, and a little bit of that money goes to the work of the National Weather Service. We don't have enough radar sites to blanket the country like we need. That's going to take money, so we get back to work.
Everything that happens in the name of emergency relief comes out of having a surplus -- of creating more than we need to consume for ourselves. So we donate to charities from our surplus. That's going to take money, so we get back to work.
We build safer buildings today than we did in the past, but old buildings need retrofits and new buildings need public codes and private standards to push them to higher levels of safety. Researchers will do experiments in labs and universities, and companies will turn their discoveries into products and processes. Those researchers need funding and those companies need investors. That's going to take money, so we get back to work.
It's easy to get worn down and to let up on our push. But we can't really honor the dead -- the war heroes and the innocent little children of Moore alike -- unless we steel our resolve, get up, and try harder. At least part of the "pursuit of happiness" is working hard enough to create enough surplus that we can afford the things we'll need to make tomorrow better than today. Using and investing our resources wisely -- and creating new ones as best we can -- is the wise and honorable thing to do.
Through a lot of hard work and research and the use of faster and faster computers, forecasters are giving us an average of 13 minutes of warning before tornadoes hit. Getting back to work means funding the research with our tax dollars -- and driving the market for computing power in the private sector, too. Both components will affect the future.