After World War II, the United States sought to create a world of economic interdependence and prosperity, hoping to banish the malaise that helped precipitate a global conflict. The prospect of rapid growth in the developing world was not viewed as a threat but rather offered the promise of robust markets for American goods and ingenuity. …

Collectively, we have lost that positivity — what historian Louis Mumford called an “inner go.” Mumford was referring to the Romans, who in their decline focused only on security and stability, losing the vitality to embrace change and take risks. In our increasingly paranoiac discourse, we too have lost focus on the positive, creative tasks that continuously remake American power, resilience and vitality. …

Defense is an act of negation. It brings no victory, instead making us fearful, paranoid, angry and uncooperative. Our negative, defensive outlook has colored our politics, hampered our economy and hamstrung our strategies. Individually, many Americans retain inner go — the unswerving view of our changing world as an endless fount of opportunity. Collectively, however, we must regain our lost focus on a positive vision for the future. We must exalt those who create value in our society: parents, teachers, workers, builders, entrepreneurs, innovators. We must go forth confident that we can lead a changing world by continuing to create, by working together and by living the sorts of fearless lives that our fallen lived.