He’s served in the U.S. Air Force and gone mano-a-mano with Bruce Lee. Now Chuck Norris stars opposite Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis in ‘The Expendables 2.’ From movie heroes to young people, the legendary action hero explains what makes America great. Plus, check out more of Norris’s writing at his health column, C-Force.
What a topic. Where does one begin?
1. The American Dream.
There are so many inspiring definitions of this uniquely American proposition, as well as much recent conjecture about whether it still exists. Many descriptions focus on material prosperity: on getting what you want and achieving your potential. As we get older, we learn that how one views prosperity and success is subject to change. I prefer to view the American Dream as a concept we’ve inherited that endures through generations, as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. But however you see it, healthy discussion of it is part of what keeps the dream alive.
2. The Bill of Rights.
I believe in rules and in the rule of law. Like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights is a distinctly American document of governance. It is what defines liberty. These constitutional amendments are our road map to live by. To forget them, or dismiss them, is to forget who we are as a nation. Sadly, too many of us don’t know about or don’t feel connected to those who founded our country and the framework they provided.
I was born in the small rural town of Ryan, Okla., of Irish immigrant and Native American Cherokee heritages. My father was rarely around, and I was raised by the women of our family. As a child, I never knew what it was like to have real roots and a sense of community. We never really had a home, because we were constantly living with others. But my mother had belief in God and was determined to raise her kids and make the best of every situation. It is this very American spirit that I believe sets us apart from other nations. It’s still here today—this sense of individualism and self-sufficiency.
4. Respect for Diversity.
America is a great big melting pot, diverse in race, religions, and creeds. That is why the First Amendment secures our basic right to free speech and religion. We shouldn’t fear our diversity or differences, and no one should be forced or controlled by others. Through civility, we must learn to agree to disagree agreeably, even on the most controversial subjects.
5. Work Ethic.
Growing up without a father figure, I was very shy and lacked self-confidence. Because of that I never excelled in sports or academics. It took earning my black belt while I was stationed in Korea to change all that. I had accomplished something difficult on my own, and I learned firsthand the rewards of hard work in building strong character. The martial arts taught me the importance of perseverance to achieve my goals and would be the first of many lessons on my journey to achieving them.
6. Movie Heroes.
My action-movie contemporaries and I didn’t invent the tough-guy image or tongue-in-cheek quips. They existed long before I hit the movie and television scene. Robust manly men have always loomed larger than life on stage and screen. As a kid I was mesmerized by the likes of Jimmy Stewart and the Duke, John Wayne, as positive role models, who always defeated the bad guys. I am still a huge moviegoer. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
7. Home of the Brave.
Like many young men and women in America, my military experience played an important part in instilling in me a sense of responsibility and discipline that has served me throughout my life. It is for this reason that I remain extremely grateful for those who have served and are serving in every branch of the military. I say thank you, and I salute you!
8. Sense of Humor.
In these tough times, and as strange as it may sound, we all can use a good laugh. Life’s struggles have a way of squeezing in and squelching our humorous side, and laughter can be the best medicine we need to get us through. As Mark Twain once said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
9. Today’s Young Generation.
Thanks to the “Chuck Norris Facts,” I have been able to really connect with younger generations. If you’ve missed reading these, the Chuck Norris Facts are mythical expressions of my life and abilities, created by and perpetuated by young people. They are a phenomenon of the Internet and a testament to its power. Though the whole new media revolution is a bit overwhelming to me, I have benefited greatly from its clout. I was honored twice to visit our troops in Iraq, where I was gratified to learn that the Chuck Norris Facts provide a daily dose of levity and encouragement to our troops. They continue to do so at remote military outposts in Afghanistan.
10. Opportunity to Be the Difference in the Lives of Others
Many of us in America have been abundantly blessed, and I’m not just speaking monetarily. We are a gifted and energetic people, realizing each of us is born with a purpose and an opportunity to help others. It took me many years to realize that all I have achieved was to be used as a blessing to others. My wife, Gena, and I give back in many ways, the chief of which is through our nonprofit children's foundation, KICKSTART KIDS.