American Idol experience parallels nation

Published 10:00 am Friday, February 6, 2009

It is a week of great importance to America. Our economy is tanking into a downward spiral that leads … who knows where?

Congress seems conflicted to fight to stop the spiral or to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. So, in this time of decision what can we learn from a pop culture TV show? Maybe quite a bit.

This is the eighth season of the popular show American Idol. If you are one of the few who have not seen the show it chronicles the journey of a few very talented singers from their first auditions to the glamour and fame of being an American Idol.

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For most of the top contestants the show can really be a “rags to riches” experience, where one goes from selling burgers to entertaining millions — and all in a very short period of time.

American Idol does demonstrate the great gift of free enterprise, the wonderful opportunity to make your way to success in a free society, and, perhaps most importantly, that hope and conviction can drive Americans to great accomplishments.

With all the troubles of our economic downturn, the insecurity of world events, and the abuse of reason by our financial community, American Idol provides both a momentary escape and a reminder of what has made America great.

The way success works in the show is based entirely upon individual talents. But these talents have been unnoticed in their prior lives, and when uncovered in the show, only then do they rise to fame and fortune.

This is indeed how America often works. Many Americans have great skills, strong work ethics, and honorable goals to support their families. But too often these talents cannot shine on their own.

For hard work, skill and education, and desire to succeed can only thrive with opportunity, and that has been in great demand recently in the U.S.

The nation stands today with great talent but fewer and fewer job opportunities. If, like American Idol, we as a nation set the stage, frame the hope, for Americans to succeed, then Americans will rise to the challenge.

If the nation would be better with our highways improved, our railroads modernized, our schools renovated and our electrical grid expanded, then let the nation start these projects and watch the American workers do their best at re-inventing the energy that has made us the greatest nation.

Some question if the government can help it these difficult times. Some think doing nothing may allow the system to right itself. But these views deny Americans the opportunity to thrive and contribute. Government can’t, by itself, end the housing crisis. But jobs can. Working Americans making a good living installing home insulation or building roads can. And given just a chance, like the American Idols, Americans will succeed in greater and greater numbers.

And while this re-invention of America’s creative spirit is borne, our government can also help hold families together by extending unemployment benefits, improving the funding of welfare for those between jobs, and insuring the children of hard working parents.

We, as a nation, can restore our social safety net while creating new American Idols, the moms and dads that work hard and ask little beyond the safety and security of their families.

American Idol is a story of hope, of talent, and of opportunity. It is the American story, framed by what many can do to help the singular families, the individual worker, and our country overall by simply banding together to restore our greatness.

Let’s not go it alone, let’s do this together.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.