Quintessential America

Member Group : Salena Zito

A roadside diner in a small town is quintessentially charming. Its sparkling steel, a reminder of our one-time manufacturing greatness, seems to reflect America’s spirit.

The Summit Diner is one such place. Located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it symbolizes America, a place where our egalitarian nature is embodied by the
shoulder-to-shoulder seating at the long lunch counter.

Amy serves over-easy eggs and homemade sausage with a smile. Watching her hustle
between customers and kitchen, you know she works hard and cares about her work.

Her practicality is evident, too, when she reminds you to please return a pen
absent-mindedly pocketed after signing a dinner check.

Before the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville 10 years ago and the Quecreek mine
rescue a year later, Somerset County was known mostly for being among the snowier regions in the country.

Families from both tragedies sat here, mercifully unrecognized, beside town regulars and travelers weary of turnpike food.

This is where optimism lives, not because a slick Madison Avenue ad says so,
economic figures are rising or a stimulus project was completed.

It lives here because of the people: They get up every day and work, sometimes two or three jobs. They tend to families, go to church on Sundays, care about things like school board meetings or car cruises. They are part of their community.

Politicians love to stump in such diners. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., came here in 2008, going booth-to-booth to sell the promise of change in presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Who can remember the last time anyone in Washington reminded anyone on Main Street that our country is a place to be proud of? That they believe America is exceptional because of her people?

Anyone with a cursory understanding of U.S. history knows America has faced economic turmoil before, accompanied by war, and always found a way to overcome.

Part of the problem with Washington is that no one there has thought of showing
people that they are working toward making America that "shining city on a hill"
again, instead of talking about political cars in ditches.

Historian and author David McCullough says America is alive and well on Main Street. He sees an optimistic spirit and a work ethic in people today, just as he does in the historical figures he brings to life in books and lectures.

"I see it every day in so many different ways," said McCullough. "We still almost all believe in the fundamental premise (on) which the country was based, that we are a country of laws, not men."

The historian, who painted vivid portraits of John Adams, Harry Truman and Teddy
Roosevelt, grew up 80 miles from here in Pittsburgh. His first book, "The Johnstown Flood," chronicled the disaster that spilled 20 million tons of water into an industrial town just 30 miles down the road.

In each of his books, McCullough has told of people with a common thread.
Battlefield heroes, statesmen, a young engineer working at a summer camp — they are always formidable in their work ethic and boundless drive to do the right thing.

"I think Americans … greatly dislike hypocrisy in any form," he said, calling it "a sustaining belief."

McCullough said a constant reminder of America’s spirit is evident in his newest
book, "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris," in which he tells of daring artists who went to the Old World to make their mark on our culture — something no Americans did before.

He credits his outlook to his Pittsburgh upbringing: "There was an attitude, I heard it all of the time, particularly from my mother and father. They would tell you, ‘Oh, he is a good worker,’ which meant you could forgive almost anything …Click
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