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Steve Schmidt on America as an idea

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Steve Schmidt, political strategist and public relations executive.
Steve Schmidt is a political strategist and public relations executive.
Courtesy Westminster Town Hall Forum

Steve Schmidt, one of the nation's most plugged-in political operatives, offered a candid look at today's headlines and what they mean for America's future at the Westminster Town Hall Forum on Tuesday.

"What I want to talk about today is time, and love, and country, and America as an idea," he told the crowd.

The United States is the only country in the history of the world founded on the power of an idea Schmidt said. That idea being: the pursuit of happiness, life and liberty.

He added we're the only country in the world made up of all the different people of the world, where every language is spoken.

"And that country, our country, has done more good, has freed more people, has fed more people, cured more people than all of the other countries of the world put together since the beginning of time," he said. "And that is why we are an exceptional nation."

But today, we are also a nation where many people struggle to make ends meet. The defining event of the present generation is the economic collapse of 2008, Schmidt said, and it is in part what led to the election of current President Donald Trump.

The middle-class people in the United States believe three things, Schmidt said.

1) They are one misfortune away from financial disaster.

2) Their kids will be worse off than they are.

3) They are much more likely to end up in the bottom third of earners in America than they are to crawl up to the top third.

"And when a demagogue comes along and says 'make America great again' it means three things," he said. "We were a great country, we're not anymore and we're in our last hour to be one again."

A lot of people are pessimistic in this time and this political climate, but things aren't hopeless.

"We're the luckiest people alive, we're Americans," Schmidt said. "Anything is possible in this country, but there is no one else but us to fix what must be fixed. It's your duty."

Schmidt is a political strategist and public relations executive who was an advisor to President George W. Bush and served as the top strategist for the president's re-election campaign.

In 2008, he was the senior advisor to the John McCain presidential campaign.

He is a co-founder of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware and serves as a political analyst on MSNBC.

Schmidt is a vice president at Edelman, a global communications marketing firm where he advises politicians and business executives on technology, telecommunications, financial services, energy, health care, and more.

Schmidt spoke May 1, 2018 at the Westminster Town Hall Forum at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.

To listen to his speech, click the audio player above.

More from the Westminster Town Hall Forum

• James Forman, Jr. on crime and punishment

• Journalist Suzy Hansen on how the world sees America

• David Brooks on character