Fort Mill Times

On My Mind - December 31, 2008

First Lt. Zachary Horan is a graduate of Fort Mill High School, where he was a member of the newspaper staff, and West Point. Look for his occasional guest columns in the Fort Mill Times. E-mail him at
First Lt. Zachary Horan is a graduate of Fort Mill High School, where he was a member of the newspaper staff, and West Point. Look for his occasional guest columns in the Fort Mill Times. E-mail him at

How nice would it be to drive down Hwy. 160 without seeing gas stations?

It will happen.

Reading the news every day, in all of its apocalyptic foreboding, has been a rewarding personal experience spent pondering the future of this nation. It is only fitting that I have invested the better part of this year in reading about the Colonial and Revolutionary War period of our early history because I believe that we are on the cusp of something comparable. One day there will be no more gas stations on Hwy. 160. It is a relief to be able to write that, and I am sure that it was a relief for our forefathers to write of a time when there would be no more British influence in America.

Forgive me if this seems naive, or even overly optimistic, but we are in the beginning of a revolution.

We have faced outrageous pitfalls and blunders in our 232 years of existence. We are still here because our strength lies in our diversity, traditions and ingenuity. For some reason, when we are called as a people to perform, we outshine everyone else despite our flaws. Renewable energy and clean water technology are the next goals for us to tackle. They may even be the saviors of our faltering economy.

There are those who claim that this is the end of American dominance, and that other countries will surpass us in the next quarter century. I believe it is too early to make those predictions, even if they are completely possible. Though our strength of tradition can sometimes lead us into stagnation and, even worse, ignorance, it is our desire for a better way of carrying out our traditions which has made us a global leader.

In our Revolutionary period we were reliant on self-interested foreign powers for military and financial aid. That memory never died. From the Marshall Plan until today, we have helped those who are worse off than we are during our strongest and weakest times (even if we became the self-interested foreign power in the process). Imagine the unbelievable amount of foreign aid we would be able to provide by giving renewable energy and clean water to those developing countries that need it most. Imagine the economic benefits inherent in riding the next wave of technological advancement.

We have to fund and support these technologies first, and wean ourselves off of our addiction to oil as soon as possible. None of this will be fun. In fact, it will be a time for the American people to endure rather than enjoy. The near future will be a time to completely give up on gas guzzlers and OPEC. The near future will be a time to drain the world of oil quickly so that we are forced to move on. The geopolitical issues that arise in this transitional time will be addressed as we drive ahead, and will require entirely different types of ingenuity, those concerning artful diplomacy and the flexible use of military force.

Our forefathers had the vision to form the future of this country in a way that would benefit those who came after them. There were some issues they left on the table to be figured out which almost ruined us, but the basic framework they created was strong enough to sustain us over two centuries so far. That same vision exists amongst us today, and it must be tapped immediately.

As a 24-year-old American deeply intrigued by our history, I find it humorous that I ever asked myself, "Will I live through significant events?" If my life span ends up being anywhere close to the average, the allure of studying our history will eventually be replaced by an insatiable interest in our future as the perspective of age leaves me wondering what we will impart to posterity.

When there are no gas stations on Hwy. 160, I do not know where I will take my grandchildren to buy an ICEE, but I will know that we made the jump into an age that I hope is defined by American sacrifice and innovation.