Shoveling the more than two feet of snow from my driveway Monday, I couldn't help but remember more innocent times in my life -- in this country even -- when terror alerts and talk of war didn't cloud our American dreams.
I'm talking about my seven-day guarantee. When I was a kid in the early '80s I couldn't wait for snow. Not because I wanted a day off from school, but because that's when I'd break out my shovel and go door to door, pitching my snow-clearing services throughout the neighborhood. Five bucks would get your sidewalk and driveway cleared for that day. But for 10 bucks, I'd guarantee that if it snowed again within the next seven days, I'd be back, free of charge.
Most of my customers opted for the latter, and of all the times I made the deal, I only had to honor it once. At that age, the snow was my opportunity to live the American dream. By pounding the pavement and by exerting a little muscle, I could venture out as an entrepreneur and make my very own money.
These days I may not be shoveling snow for money, but I am living the same American dream I was back then. On this week's Joe Millionaire finale, Zora said she never believed in fairy tales --until now. Last week I went backstage with Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi for this weekend's Fox Magazine (Sundays 11p.m. EST, FNC). He told me that while growing up in working-class Perth Amboy, N.J., he dreamed of traveling and playing his guitar for the "Tommies and Ginas" of the world. Selling nearly 100 million albums worldwide, we know how that dream turned out for him.
The point is, whether you dream of being a rock star or a substitute teacher, the opportunity is here. In America. That's why preserving our freedom is so important.
There are a lot of mixed feelings about going to war with Iraq. Millions of people worldwide demonstrated against war over the weekend. Movie stars and other celebrities sounded off against the Bush administration. And while nobody wants another Vietnam, we must remember that times are substantially different.
Our armed services are 100-percent voluntary today. These men and women join for different reasons, but several join so they can earn education scholarships under the G.I. Bill. Achieving a degree in higher education is part of the American dream. Others join because they wanted a career full of adventure and purpose. Another American dream. Still others joined because they wanted security in their lives, even as they provide it for ours.
Let's not forget -- whether we are for war or against it -- that these brave men and women deserve our respect and gratitude. If I'm a soldier watching TV in Kuwait, watching the star of my favorite TV show denounce what I'm doing -- even as I am fighting to preserve his or her version of the American dream -- would not be good for my morale.
Our enemies hate us because we enjoy freedom. Freedom to speak out against our own government. Freedom to earn a living and provide comfort for our families. Freedom to pursue dreams of career, love and family.
The American dream is more powerful than any weapon of mass destruction. It forces our enemies to recognize the freedom that they -- sadly -- do not share.
Mike Straka is the project manager for Fox News's Internet operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on Fox Magazine (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC) and as a reporter for Foxnews.com.