Which Modals Made America Great in the First Place?

Can is Able to Do Whatever He Sets His Mind To

Linguistically speaking, CAN along with WILL and MUST are the three modals that provide verbs with the grit and stamina that made America great. This was proven when its colonists and immigrants built cities, businesses and innovations never seen before. It was their efforts that turned America from a an endangered colony to a world power. Andrew Carnegie is only one of many examples:

   Andrew Carnegie

At age 13, with minimal formal education, he got a job as a common laborer to help out his immigrant family. He went on to become one of America’s wealthiest businessmen and philanthropists. An avid reader he spent his life promoting literacy. His name is synonymous with literacy. He was known as one of America’s builders for transforming to the steel industry, which helped shape the nation through railways, bridges and buildings. Yet he was also a philanthropist and wrote: “those with great wealth must be socially responsible and use their assets to help others”.  

His legacy includes:

1. The Carnegie Institute of Technology later to be known as the Carnegie-Mellon University 
2. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
3. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
4. Over 2,800 libraries

All that he did was because he was able, willing and committed to doing so. Linguistically that is reflected in the modals: CAN, WILL, and MUST.
NOTE: Can is the only modal that functions as a modal and as a BE verb. (to BE ABLE – having the physical and mental ability to do something. 

Do you ever tell yourself that you can’t do something even though you are physically and mentally able to do it? And is it something you really want to do? For example if somebody had ever told me I could be an olympic athlete I would of said, “No I can’t, no I can’t, no I can’t” This is not to say that I couldn’t have done it. It is only to say that I had no interest whatsoever in doing it. But when someone tells you that you can’t do something you want to do, and are able to do, then you must say your affirmative mantra and repeat it as often as possible. 

With the CAN mantra people have surmounted every imaginable obstacle. By saying this mantra you are living up to the power of the CAN modal. Most people have been told they couldn’t do many things but they could do them. And it was the power of CAN that permitted them to go ahead and do the impossible. It was the power of can that made America great in the first place. It was the power of CAN that prodded deaf singer and composer Mandy Harvey to sing again after completely losing her hearing. She was ABLE to pick up the pieces and start again.  

Yes I can, Yes, I can, Yes I can!


opposable thumb

The thumb, in palm reading, represents the WILL. You may have heard: “He doesn’t have the WILL to live” Or “She is WILLing to help.” Or “You have to have WILL power.” The thumb represents the WILL, desire or energy to do things. 

Human will is reflected in the ability of the thumb (which is not a finger) to oppose all the fingers of the hand. This  permits intricate skillful actions that enable humans to do things other animals cannot do. 

In fact one palm reader seeing that her client’s palm showed great intelligence, creativity and talent gave her client a wonderful reading. She was shocked to learn that the client led a very mediocre life. Then checking the palm more carefully the reader noted that the thumb laid against the palm as if unwilling to oppose itself to the fingers. It was in an ‘unwilling position’ as it were. The palm reader realized that what the client lacked was the will to implement her talents and intelligence. 

It was an eye opener. The palm reader subsequently started paying careful attention to thumbs. On another occasions a hand with lesser abilities and intelligence was found to belong to a very successful and capable person. The difference was in the thumb. I’m not suggesting you try to stretch your thumb but I am suggesting that it represents the WILL to accomplish. Together with the ability  of CAN, amazing results can be achieved. It is the power of the WILL that can make things happen. 

Yes I will, Yes I will, Yes I will

Sometimes we may not be looking to do a particular thing but an emergency situation happens when we simply MUST act. It can be a simple thing like staying late at work to finish an important report or taking that extra step to make sure a client or student finds the information or help they need. It is partly duty and partly caring that prompts us to do what MUST be done and perform above and beyond the call of duty.

During the Houston flooding volunteers came from all over the nation to bring help, supplies and to rescue people caught in the flood. Doing what must be done brings people together. With the help of the MUST mantra the volunteers did what had to be done to save those that were stranded. Sometimes emergencies muster up courage and people do what MUST be done, whatever it takes. It was this call to duty that made America great in the first place. It is the power of MUST that prompts people to act simply because they MUST. 

Yes I must, Yes I must, Yes I must 

We have reviewed our three modals that invite failure and then turned them around for more optimistic results. On this blog I’m reviewing the three most powerful modals. Applied to our lives we get better results. Applied to our classroom the acquisition of modals is facilitated and understood. Please leave comments and share this blog with friends. 




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