An image on TV this morning led to a mental flight of fancy.  I often joke that the only reason to break the trip from the East to the West Coast is to see the Grand Canyon.  You can actually see it by the naked eye from a plane 30,000 ft up in the sky.  But this morning I saw an image of the “Gateway Arch” in St Louis. 

 Standing next to the Mississippi River, the official divide between the “East” and “West,” all radio and TV station call signs start with K west of the river and with  W east of the river  (why don’t the ones in the West start with W?), the Arch is the “Gateway” to our “West.”   It suddenly occured to me that it is not simply the gateway to the West but a gateway to the horizon.

Beyond the “Arch” lies the land of the cowboys and their herds of cattle, the Indians and their herds of buffalo, the magnificent mountains, the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, and the Grand Tetons, the captivating national parks, Yosemite, Glacier National, Yellowstone, Bryce, and Zion, the formidable deserts,  Painted and Death Valley,  the forests of mighty trees, in sum probably the greatest panorama of nature at its best. 

Beyond the “Arch” lies the nation’s breadbasket with it’s amber waves” of grain, the incredibly rich farms of California, the aforementioned cattle, the very essence of America’s amazing agriculture. 

Beyond the “Arch” lies the land of electronics, aerospace, and petroleum, giant pillars of our great economy.

And from beyond the “Arch” comes major influences in our politics, culture and way of life. 

While the “Mighty”  Mississippi is the dividing line, it is a rather humble introduction to what lies beyond.  I have toured the river from its source near Bimidji in Northern Minnesota, to the delta below New Orleans where it oozes into the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the best description of the river comes in the musical “Showboat” where the song “Old Man River” says it,  “just keeps rollin’ along.”  The Mississippi does not thunder, rage, rush, it, “just keeps rollin’ along.”

No the “Gateway Arch” is not just a grand engineering accomplishment that, if it weathers the millennia, will impress future generations as much as the Pyramids of Giza do us.  It is not just the “Gateway” to the West.  It is the heart and soul of America.  The portal to America’s great adventure. 

What would we be if Napoleon had not sold that vast land to us to finance his wars in Europe?  Imagine a country ending at the Mississippi with the separate nation “El Dorado” to the west.  No, America would not be America without this vast added dimension, sort of like the difference between two dimensions and three dimensions.

Now what has this to do with economics?  I would suggest that America stands at a new “Gateway Arch.”  But rather than a geographical frontier, this frontier permeates the entire world, the entire ether, the entire collective mind.  We are at the apex of a global economy that opens the whole world to our efforts and endeavors.  Instead of enriching our lives by simply moving west, we can expand our economy to the ends of the earth.  

Now before you start accusing me of building an American “Empire,” let me remind you that the greatest engine for turning poor countries into rich countries has been the global economy with China and India, the two most populous countries, standing as striking examples of this process.  “Trade, not aid” is not just a slogan, it is a reality that works.  The global economy does not just benefit a few, select nations, it serves all.   

And if the “West” made America great, imagine what leadership in this worldwide economy will do for us.  Not only will our economy benefit, but also our politics, culture, and way of life.

I have spent my life working in this vineyard and am glad to have had a small part in an event that will affect every living person on the planet.   Not hard to understand when I am impatient with those who want to limit growth in the global economy.  Sure, there will be bad with the good, how many pioneers died exploring and building our “West?”  But the objective clearly outweighs the set backs.  

We are passing through a new “Gateway Arch.”  I pray we continue the journey.