Allen B. West

Always reach for the summit

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It has been an incredible week out here in Steamboat Springs. A special hat tip to John Kuhn, Todd and Heather Gollnick, Rick and Jennifer Schubert-Akin, Bob and Kathy Latham, Carol and her crew at the Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse, and a sincere tip of the hat to the rescue folks and the Yampa River Medical Center who took care of our daughter Aubrey after her snowmobile mishap.

My humble appreciation to the Steamboat Institute for honoring me with being their keynote speaker for the Winter Dinner.

While here in Steamboat and the surrounding areas, I reflected upon the heartiness and stout character of the men and women who forged ahead and established these communities, and withstood the harshness of the environs. I wondered, does America still possess that rugged individualism, the indomitable spirit that believed they could conquer anything?

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Look around here in Steamboat and places like Columbine (not that Columbine) and see the Americans who still carve out their own little piece of heaven on earth, regardless of the conditions.

Consider the women who bore sons and daughters in these distant wilderness lands, do you think they would ever read “The Life of Julia?” Has America so changed? More importantly, can America be restored to that sense of individual sovereignty and independence for which we were the envy of the world?

Instead it seems we’ve become the laughing stock of the globe. On Tuesday when we crossed over the Rabbit Ears Pass into the Yampa river valley and turned towards Steamboat Springs I gazed upwards and saw a building high atop a peak. I asked John Kuhn what it was and he said Thunderhead. I told John, I will go up there and ski down. It had been 25 years since I was last on skis, back in Italy. My wife Angela and daughters laughed and said, “Dad don’t be foolish.”

But being an American is not about being like everyone else, it’s about establishing high goals and objectives, exceeding them, and establishing even greater objectives. It’s about Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield, taking two strikes, and then crushing the ball — deep outta the park. It’s about Orville and Wilbur Wright taking flight and less than 60 years later President John F. Kennedy challenging a nation to put a man on the moon.

So on the day after Christmas when I stood atop Thunderhead with my 5-time Ironman champion and ski instructor, Heather Gollnick, and gazed all about me at the grandeur — I felt like an American.

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