Most Americans celebrate ten holidays each year, beginning with New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas. Now it seems we’ve added an eleventh to the list.
Amazon Prime Day began yesterday to national fanfare. The day began in 2015 as a celebration of Amazon’s twentieth anniversary. Research firms expect the two-day event to generate more than $5 billion in sales, up by 50 percent over last year.
Who invented the fortune cookie?
Amazon is not the only technology phenomenon in the news: Twitter celebrated its thirteenth anniversary yesterday. As massive as Twitter’s impact is, the social media giant ranks twelfth among platforms for monthly users. Facebook is first, with 2.23 billion monthly active users; YouTube is second, with 1.9 billion.
Reflecting on the technology revolution that is changing the world, the question occurred to me: How many of these advances were made by Americans?
Scanning a Wikipedia list of “American inventions,” I found more than two hundred entries. On the list are such ubiquitous creations as the internet, the airplane, the alarm clock, the paper clip, the fire hydrant, the fortune cookie (surprisingly), the personal computer, the crayon, dental floss, the dishwasher, the ballpoint pen, the polio vaccine, the microwave oven, the television, the telephone, the electric guitar, and the supermarket.
And Apollo 11 launched fifty years ago today, carrying the astronauts who would become the first to walk on the moon.
What does our country’s technological prowess say about us?
Is shopping our religion?
Americans, of course, have no monopoly on inventions. Chinese culture and creativity predate ours by millennia. The medieval Arab world, sometimes called the Islamic Golden Age, was an era of remarkable scientific advancement. Every nation has its inventors and pioneers.
But it is a fact of history that entrepreneurial ingenuity has been at the heart of the American experience. The first immigrants to these shores were forced to adapt to this new world. Explorers pushed the western boundary of the nation all the way to the Pacific. The pioneer spirit still infuses much of our culture.
A single sentence in our Declaration of Independence explains this spirit: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As I noted on July 4, these were truly revolutionary words. They have empowered generations of Americans to embrace a future as bright as their dreams.