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America is Not The New Rome

State of the Union: Vivek Ramaswamy’s remarks at the America First Works speaker series promoted a message of hope for the nation.

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Anastasia Kaliabakos

“We don’t have to be ancient Rome,” Vivek Ramaswamy declared in the final moments of his Wednesday morning speech in Washington, D.C. “We can still be a nation in the early stages of our ascent.”

This departure from the regularly scheduled doom and gloom of America’s political discourse is a welcome one for many, given its rarity. Ramaswamy’s positive attitude towards America’s future—and the role he plans to play in it—was infectious for the diverse crowd that came to listen to America’s truly first millennial candidate at the headquarters of America First Works (AFW), a political advocacy group. A woman behind me exclaimed, “He and I are really around the same age. Seeing him makes me think I could really do so much with my life.”


Ramaswamy’s remarks were introduced by Ashley Hayek, AFW’s executive director, and Brooke Rollins, the CEO and founder of the America First Policy Institute, AFW’s partner think tank. As Rollins praised Ramaswamy as “Liberty’s longtime friend,” Rep. Matt Gaetz could be seen nodding along from his seat at the front of the audience. The highest-profile conservative to attend the event, the Florida Republican was to receive Ramaswamy’s personal thanks for support during the course of the speech.

Ramaswamy has an undeniable and unfettered charisma. He channeled his inner Amy Coney Barrett, speaking with no notes; his perfect cadence and an interactive demonstration were enough to keep his audience engaged for a nearly hour-long speech.

The main focus of his presentation was his ardent commitment to the uncompromising maintenance of our founding principles. Instead of veering away from the often-difficult side effects of pursuing a pure American vision, he declared it would be of paramount importance to maintain the energy of our founding fathers in his presidency.

He mentioned the fact that the founding fathers were innovators and inventors to tout his experience as a CEO and entrepreneur as something not to be wary of, but to have faith in: “Being willing to take risks and fail is how you get to success…Innovation doesn’t only belong to the technocrats,” he said.

The bulk of his speech focused on “the waterfall of political responsibilities” that have fallen to the pervasive “three letter agencies,” which he believes have, in many cases, completely (and even illegally) overstepped their authority in America. He specifically highlighted the FBI, the DOE, and the ATF to illustrate his agenda of undoing the harm that these agencies have caused: “Part of the problem when you have a bureaucracy that runs the state is that they find things to do that they shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.”

Whether the layoffs he suggested would be feasible (or as effective as he claimed) is debatable, but his relentless can-do attitude seems to have the potent ability to blur the line between wishful thinking and reality.

Despite this, he is right about America’s difference from Rome. Casual historians and staunch traditionalists often seek to draw comparisons between 21st century America and fifth-century Rome. The collapse of the Roman Empire was brought about in no small part by a widespread identity crisis—at a certain point, the question of what it meant to be a Roman could no longer be answered. But, in today’s America, many people still have a clear idea of what being an American means, even if there is variety in those ideas. If Ramaswamy can bridge the gaps between the factions undergoing America’s own identity crisis with an America First agenda, perhaps he can emerge as an American combination of Cato and Augustus, and be a true friend of liberty.