My Convention Story

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 11, 2008

(by Ben Stein, ST. PAUL – Okay, here’s my Republican Convention story. After I did my little tiny bit of reporting work from St. Paul’s Xcel Center on Wednesday, I got into a taxi to head back to my hotel. Of course we got stuck in traffic.

I asked my driver, a rugged looking fellow, where he was from and how he was enjoying the convention.

It was as if I had uncorked a bottle of champagne.

“Have you ever heard of Ogaden?” he asked me.

“Yes, it’s part of Ethiopia,” I said. “Lots of fighting there.”

“It is a huge area. Seven million people. Government of Ethiopia gives us no schools, no hospitals, no clinics, nothing. Just poor nomads who want something more. There is oil there and other people get rich from it and we stay poor.

“I was a nomad,” he said. “I had nothing. I escaped when they wanted to put me in the army to fight in Somalia. I went to Kenya, then came here. Kenya is a beautiful country but there is no country like the United States.

“I have been here sixteen years. I came with nothing. I have a taxi now. I am in graduate school at the University of Minnesota. I have a wife and three kids. We have a house and two cars and air conditioning. I brought over my two brothers. They were grazing sheep. Now one is a chemical engineer and one is studying English literature. In the United States anything can happen.”

I thought to myself, this is the real story of America, not Sarah Palin or Joe Biden. This taxi driver who found his dreams in the Twin Cities.

“Listen, I know people who talk bad about the United States,” my driver said. “I tell them, if you work you can accomplish anything in this country. If you don’t, there’s something wrong with you, not this country. This country is the best country in the world. Everyone,” and here he raised his voice and wagged his finger, “everyone in the world wants to come here. And they’re right.”

The rest of the convention was fine, but I got my lesson from that taxi driver from a war torn hellhole, who found his Garden of Eden in Minnesota. God bless this great country.

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist and lawyer in Beverly Hills and Malibu. His Diary appears in every issue of The American Spectator.

First published at on September 5, 2008.  Reprinted here September 11, 2008 with permission from The American Spectator. Visit the website at