My family and I traditionally mark Memorial Day with a visit to the national cemetery to pay our respects to veterans of our nation’s wars. On the car ride over the kids hear my sermon on the historic exceptionalism of the United States; the greatness of our Founders; the freedom and tolerance that uniquely took root here; and the sacrifices of those who risked or gave their lives so that we can enjoy all these blessings of liberty.
I regret that to many Memorial Day has been reduced to the mere start of the summer vacation season, kicked off by barbecues and recreational activities. The feasting and enjoyment are appropriate — if they are accompanied by some acknowledgement of the price that has been paid to afford us our freedom and comfort.
To that end, I thought I’d mark the holiday with something different from the kind of investment trends analysis you might typically see in this space, and instead offer a few ideas for a “patriot’s portfolio” of companies that contribute to a strengthening our country.
The core of any such portfolio would have to consist of defense companies. Ironically, this is the one category that is universally ruled out by the so-called “socially responsible investing” movement. While it is easy to preen about one’s moral superiority because you don’t sully yourself with weapons of war, those who remain in possession of their common sense understand the difference between weapons controlled by Churchill and FDR and those controlled by Hitler.
For starters, our patriotic portfolio might contain United Technologies (UTX), which makes the Black Hawk helicopters that carried our Navy Seals to greet Osama bin Laden for the last time; Lockheed Martin (LMT), which makes the stealth warplanes that have become an important war fighting advantage in recent conflicts; and Northrop Grumman (NOC), whose radar, sensors and night vision goggles all ensure there will be no new bin Laden birthday celebrations.
Our soldiers are defending our liberties, foremost of which is our freedom of speech. While there are numerous media companies, a case can be made that the modern Guttenberg is actually Google (GOOG).
Not everyone can afford to start his own newspaper, but anyone can start a blog, at no cost, on Google’s Blogger platform, and its Droid format further democratizes the flow of information by allowing anyone with a cell phone to film and comment on live events. Apple (AAPL) is another company whose products have similarly empowered the average citizen.
All these brilliant ideas in weaponry and communications flow from a creative and educated people. But our established education system is not working well. Just as new media companies are leapfrogging the established ones, new education companies are emerging to challenge the dominance of our large universities.