In the 1950s, a liberal commentator who had a number of aborted runs for public office wrote some of the most important words in modern American political discourse. Words that should have an impact as we evaluate the totalitarian approach the Western world has undergone in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dean Alfange, a progressive and labor activist, wrote the following 163 words as first published in Reader’s Digest in 1952:
“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. I seek to develop whatever talents God gave me—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say – ‘This, with God’s help, I have done.’ All this is what it means to be an American.”
Alfange died at 91 in Manhattan, New York.
A plaque of his letter stands, unattributed, in Hagerstown, Indiana.