United America, Core Value 4: Security

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series United America
Word Cloud of President Obama State of the Union Address 2014

THIS WORD CLOUD shows the most frequently used words in President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address. The bigger and bolder the term, the more frequently it was used in the speech.

“America must move off a permanent war footing,” said President Obama in his State of the Union address this week. Even so, he stressed the need to “remain vigilant” and to “actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks.”

What priority do you give to keeping our nation safe and secure? Is it your top priority?

National security is one of the 10 core values I documented in four national surveys and write about in my new book United America. When it comes to specific security issues, however, Americans can disagree, as we discuss today in this series on those 10 values.

Core Value 4: “Security”—as summarized in the chart of values we showed with Monday’s post, this value means “keeping the nation safe and secure from external and internal threats.”

Security is a core value, but it’s not the #1 issue that Americans say is very important for the president and Congress to deal with this year, according to a poll earlier this month by Gallup. Now, the #1 issue is the economy. Nine of ten Democrats (91%) and Republicans (88%) say that it is extremely or very important that the president and Congress deal with the economy this year. You could hear this concern echoed in the president’s State of the Union address. The economy and related issues dominated his remarks.

For Republicans, terrorism is the second most-cited issue—77% say this is a very or extremely important issue to address this year. The military and national defense comes next, with 76% of Republicans saying it’s a key issue.

The same isn’t true for Democrats. Education is the second most important issue, with 91% of Democrats saying that it’s a very important issue to deal with this year. Poverty and homelessness comes third, with 82% of Democrats citing this as an important issue.

Education is also important for Republicans, ranked #5 in their list of important issues. Seventy percent say this is something that should be addressed this year. But poverty and homelessness is way down on the Republican list, tied for 10th place with world affairs. Just over half of Republicans (53%) say poverty and homelessness is an important issue for the president and Congress to address this year.

Do you think the economy should be the #1 focus for the president and Congress this year?

Do you think Democrats should be more concerned about terrorism, the military and national defense?

How important is it to you that we keep our nation safe and secure from external and internal threats?

Common Ground: Should MYOB be America’s global policy?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series American Common Ground
Click on this chart from the Pew report to visit the Pew website and read the entire report.

Click on this chart from the Pew report to visit the Pew website and read the entire report.

Americans worry that we have lost our common ground—interests or opinions that cut across diverse cultural, religious, and political lines. Yet Americans do have common ground when it comes to shared values, as I document in my about-to-be released book, United America.

This week, we’re examining areas that show signs of becoming common ground in the future, based on some historic milestones in public opinion. America’s foreign policy is one such area.

Today’s question: Should MYOB—Mind Your Own Business—be our guiding principle?

For the first time ever, a majority of Americans (52%) now agree that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and get along the best they can on their own,” according to a Pew Research Center poll late last year. Way back in 1964, when Pew first started asking this question, only 20% agreed with it.

A whopping 70% of Americans now say that the U.S. is losing respect around the globe. That’s nearly as high as the peak in May 2008, when 71% of Americans felt that the nation was losing respect internationally.

Also for the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) agree that the U.S. plays a less powerful and important role than the country did a decade ago. Only 17% of Americans now say that the U.S. plays a more important and powerful role as a world leader than it did 10 years ago.

Does all this translate into an isolationist policy?

Not exactly, say Pew analysts. The same survey also finds strong support for America’s involvement in the global economy. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans say that more involvement in the global economy is a “good thing because it exposes the U.S. to new markets and opportunities for growth.” Only 25% say that more involvement in the global economy is “bad because it exposes the U.S. to risk and uncertainty.” There are virtually no partisan differences in these opinions about involvement in the world’s economy.

Are you surprised to learn that foreign policy might become an area of common ground?

Should MYOB be America’s foreign policy?

Christmas: Where have all the carolers gone?

Army Navy and other military Christmas Carolers

WHO LOVES CAROLING? It’s a long military tradition for men and women serving far from home. These photos, from various years, show (from TOP): U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Joseph Scordo of Pleasantville, NY, leading Christmas carolers in celebrating the holiday season at a forward operating base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Second, sailors assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Curtis singing in an annual decorating contest to show holiday spirit. Third, sailors singing carols on the flight deck of the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey. Then, sailors and marines joining in carols aboard the U.S. Navy command and control ship USS Mount Whitney. Finally, a scene of a World War I caroler from the film, Joyeux Noel, about the 1914 Christmas Truce. All military photos are released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Nine of ten Americans celebrate Christmas, but how we celebrate has changed over the years. If you celebrate Christmas, think back to your childhood: What did you typically do then? Have things changed or stayed the same?

Across the board, the activities typically associated with Christmas—putting up a Christmas tree, buying gifts for friends or family, sending cards, attending religious services, caroling, and more—have declined in frequency, according to a Pew Research Center poll this month. About eight of ten (79%) put up a Christmas tree this year, but 92% recalled doing the same when they were young. Sending cards has fallen, too. Now, 65% of Americans send cards, compared to 81% in their youth.

Just over half of all Americans (54%) say they plan to attend religious services tonight or tomorrow; about seven of ten (69%) said they typically did this as a child. This decline occurs for men and women, for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, for all age groups, and all religious groups except white evangelical Protestants.

Buying gifts for family and friends has also declined, but the decline is small for most demographic groups and categories. No change has occurred for Americans with family incomes of $50,000 a year or more. When it comes to homemade gifts, however, the drop is much larger. For example, 58% of Americans plan to give homemade gifts today or tomorrow, compared with 66% who recall doing the same when they were kids. This decline occurs for all demographic groups and categories, including white evangelical Protestants.


Caroling has fallen off dramatically. Only 16% plan to go caroling tonight or tomorrow. Over a third of Americans (36%) recall caroling when they were kids.

You know who still loves caroling every year? Men and women serving in the U.S. military, that’s who! Every year at military bases and on ships at sea, all around the world, men and women sing Christmas songs. Pew’s sample wasn’t designed to poll service men and women, so we don’t have any hard data on this detail—except the annual stream of caroling photos that we see circulating across the Internet.

Caroling among the military is one way, in situations where no other holiday expressions are practical, to remember home. It’s been that way for a long time. Next year, 2014, will be the centennial of the now-famous World War I Christmas Truce in 1914, celebrated in a number of feature films, including Joyeux NoelThe sound of Christmas carols in the trenches, heard across “no man’s land,” was a key inspiration for that rare moment of peace amid a terrible war.

What are your holiday activities this season?

Do  you have a friend or relative in the military? Are they singing, or listening to, carols this week?

Helping Veterans: Would you build a home for an injured vet?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Helping Veterans
Click the photo to visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Click the photo to visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Veterans Day was Monday this week, and each day we’ve highlighted a few of the many ways that fellow Americans, companies, and organizations have stepped up to help our nation’s veterans. Today, we consider a nonprofit organization that builds new homes for severely injured veterans and their families. Would you donate to the cause?

One way that many Americans could help our vets is to donate their frequent flyer miles or hotel points to unite veterans receiving medical treatment with their families. Many celebrities have used their fame to raise funds for vets. Companies like Starbucks have made commitments to hire vets, and there’s a free online service that lists military-friendly companies, schools, franchises, and cities.

Homes for Our Troops “provides newly constructed, specially-adapted homes designed for maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently at no cost to the Veterans we serve.” To date, the organization has raised funds, materials, and organized the construction of 146 homes. Another 31 homes are in progress. Only 9.6% the organization’s revenue has gone to overhead. And, each home is given free, without cost or a mortgage, to a severely injured vet and his or her family.

Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog organization, has reviewed the program’s finances and given Homes for Our Troops its highest rating of 4 stars. The program has corporate partners, such as Armstrong (floor and ceiling products), Kohler (kitchen and bathroom fixtures), Whirlpool, and others.

Is Homes for Our Troops the kind of cause you could support? You can donate online. But you can get involved by organizing a fundraiser or volunteering in many important support roles.

Are we doing enough to support our veterans?

Are you involved?

Is it the government’s responsibility to care for the nation’s vets?

Got a friend who’s a veteran? Please share this series with him or her. Use the blue “f” Facebook buttons or the small envelope-shaped email buttons.

Helping veterans: Military-friendly companies, schools, franchises, cities?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Helping Veterans
Click this logo to visit the Military Friendly website.

Click this logo to visit the Military Friendly website.

When my father returned home from military service in World War II, he tapped his informal network and found a job as a surveyor for a small town. Networking still matters, but today’s veterans have technology on their side.

Have you heard of Military Friendly?

Military Friendly is an online resource for veterans looking for military-friendly employers, schools, franchises, and even cities. It is a service provided by Victory Media Inc. (a veteran-owned business founded in 2001) that conducts large surveys to find the employers, schools, franchises, and cities that use “best practices in recruitment and retention of military personnel as civilian employees, students, and franchises.” Since 2003, the organization has published annual military-friendly lists.

Who’s at the top? Here are the top two companies out of 185 companies that made the 2014 military-friendly list:

USAA is #1 on the company list. The United States Automobile Association or USAA is an insurance company founded in 1922 by Army officers who couldn’t get car insurance, so they banded together and insured one another’s vehicles. Today, USAA is an integrated financial services company that provides all types of insurance, banking, investment, and real estate services to military families. USAA has about 24,700 employees and total assets of more than $115 billion.

Union Pacific Railroad is #2 on the company list. This company was founded in 1862. This transportation company has 45,700 employees and an annual payroll of $4.3 billion, according to the company web site.

Fifty cities appear on the military-friendly list for 2014, taking into account the presence of military-friendly employers and schools, as well as the number of veteran-owned businesses, the cost of living, and the unemployment rate. The #1 city is San Antonio, Texas—home of USAA, the #1 military-friendly employer. Oklahoma City, Houston, Omaha, and Dallas come next.

Check out the lists and tell us:

Do you work for a military-friendly employer?

Do you go to a military-friendly school?

Do you live in a military-friendly city?

All week we’re discussing the many ways that Americans have come together to provide aid and assistance to our thousands of veterans. Tune in each day—and leave a comment!

Helping Veterans: From military service to coffee service?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Helping Veterans

Starbucks holiday cupFinding civilian employment after military service is one of the toughest jobs our veterans face. You might not be in a position to hire vets, but if you’re a Starbucks customer, your purchases can help. How so?

Last week, Starbucks announced a “strategic commitment to develop a comprehensive hiring platform for veterans and active duty spouses in response to record growth and in anticipation of a 500,000 person future global workforce.” The global retailer of café experiences and customized coffees, teas, and food has made a commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses.

The company has about 200,000 employees at the moment. Their commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and spouses is a small number compared to their current employee base and their projected half-million workforce. Still, they have a commitment, and it’s related to values.

Service is the common ethic.

As Starbucks puts it in their careers web page: “The men and women of the U.S. military have always served as a source of inspiration. They inspire us in our service to the greater good and remind us of the importance of our ongoing commitment to our communities, partners, and everyday work.”

What do you think of Starbucks commitment to hire vets?

Do you think it is sincere—or just good PR?

Does your employer have a commitment to hire vets?

All week we’re discussing the many ways that Americans have come together to provide aid and assistance to our thousands of veterans. Tune in each day—and leave a comment!

Helping veterans? Star athlete donates his hair

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Helping Veterans

Troy Polamalu hair cutting for VFW Mane EventWould you cut your hair if it would aid veterans?

That’s what football star Troy Polamalu did yesterday. He trimmed a lock from his famous long and wavy hair to raise money for veterans. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ strong safety teamed up with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to raise money to help vets. Polamalu led the way by agreeing to cut off at least a bit of his hair that hasn’t been trimmed in more than a decade. According to the Associated Press, his hair is so valuable that Procter & Gamble—who hired him to appear in shampoo commercials—insured his more-than-three-foot-long mane with Lloyds of London for $1 million.

Then, the VFW invited other long-haired volunteers nationwide to organize their own hair trimming events this month, inviting pledges to the VFW effort in the process. As of Monday night, the so-called VFW Mane Event had raised more than $207,000.

Polamalu’s official website describes his philanthropic efforts. Among other causes, The Troy & Theodora Polamalu Foundation provides humanitarian aid to American Samoa. (Polamalu is Samoan by descent; born in California.) The Harry Panos Fund for Veterans is named after his wife Theodora’s material grandfather, who was an artillery man in WWII, serving in the Pacific theatre. This fund focuses on helping U.S. veterans of foreign wars “who are currently dealing with health issues and/or financial problems.”

What do you think of the VFM Mane Event?

Would you take his dare to cut your hair for vets?

Have you helped our veterans?

All week we’re discussing the many ways that Americans have come together to provide aid and assistance to our thousands of veterans. Tune in each day—and leave a comment!