A Few Thoughts on Greatness in America
Don’t worry, this is neither a political endorsement nor political satire, but . . .
We have an election coming up. And not just any election, but perhaps the most cantankerous, divisive, and ugly presidential election in our lifetimes (thus far). People are divided in their opinions, as happens every time we’re asked to vote for candidates and issues that affect us as a nation and as individuals. Some of those opinions differ about what makes America great, whether we’re really all that great, or whether we should even aspire to greatness. It’s whacky, I know.
But, I’m hoping to start a discussion, and hopefully provoke some thought and reflection, on what American greatness means, how we earned the reputation, and how we can keep/recover it.
My thought is that America’s greatness is not dependent upon, nor derived from, the person in the Oval Office. While I believe that person matters and that person’s thoughts, vision for the country, leadership style, core beliefs, and character are all important, that person has limited ability to change our nation’s greatness because the President doesn’t control it. Can’t, really. The President can, however, reflect it, encourage it, and project it in all he/she says and does. And that can affect our individual attitudes.
So, that’s where I want to start, with us as individuals.
What is it?
I believe America’s greatness stems from our basic belief that everyone has value. All humans have rights and inalienable freedoms. Wasn’t that the justification our forefathers gave for striking out on our own as a nation? Granted, there have been problems along the way, some of them major. But, for the most part, we’re working them out. Sure, there instances of unfair treatment, bigotry, discrimination, and other forms of ugliness. I’m not trying to sweep the slavery period under the rug. We’re not perfect as a nation, but don’t let the popular, headline-grabbing narrative from the news tell you that our nation isn’t great just because we have imperfections and don’t always live up to our ideals.
Our country’s greatness is in its people. The majority of our citizens want to make things better. They are really good people who care about others and care about this country. They try to do the right things. This goodness in the people translates into the greatness of our country.
Back to my point, our nation is great because we believe in ideals and are striving to reach those ideals. That’s why so much cool stuff is invented here. That’s why so many people flock to this country every year. That’s why so many of our soldiers have bled and died on foreign soil. That’s why we get worked up over elections. And that’s why we are called “the greatness nation in history.”
Part of being great is taking inventory occasionally and assessing the path ahead to make sure that you can maintain the best parts of your identity while trying to fix the less desirable parts. This is our current dilemma.
Where’d America’s Greatness Come From?
America’s greatness did not originate in, and does not necessarily emanate from, the White House. No, it is born in the American home and is carried in the American heart. It comes from good people everywhere, from all walks of life, national origin, race, color, creed, ethnicity, and social demographic who have bought into the dream that they can rise above tyranny, despotism, poverty, persecution, and oppression if given the chance. America gives people that chance. It gave it to our ancestors. Many of them risked everything and many others gave everything to keep that dream alive for the millions of others who came after them.
America’s greatness started as a seed of hope. From the arrival of the first settlers to those who fought in the Revolutionary War to the Founding Fathers to patriots of every generation, that hope has grown into a mighty tree that extends beyond our own borders. That hope has spread. And it beckons. It excites. It invites other nations to follow suit. The world as a whole is a better place because of the ideals America stands for and has championed for generations.
America’s greatness is born of the hope that life can be better when people are free to make choices for themselves. It’s tIt’s the hope the comes from the idea that there should be opportunities for everyone. That the only limits should be the size of one’s dreams and the degree of their dedication to those making those dreams come true. Of course, one must obey the laws and abide by a code of ethics, if you want to call those limiters. What makes America great is the hope that working hard and doing the right thing will pay off for us and generations that follow. That’s what brought our immigrant ancestors here from every corner of the globe. That’s what spurs each of us to keep trying despite hardships and difficulties.
Hope and freedom are the cornerstones of America’s greatness. What are we doing today to keep hope alive and to secure freedom for the generations that will follow?
Half empty or half full?
Which are you? Are you of the opinion that America’s best days are behind her or ahead of her? Has all goodness been lost because those vying for power have systematically tried to divide us along various lines, whether social, economic, educational, ethnic, religious, political – you name the source, they have tried and will continue to try to divide us. Do you succumb to the notion that America has turned into a playground where only the rich and powerful can play? Or, do you believe that we, the people, can band together with our votes and our voices and make a difference?
Personally, I believe that the things we have in common are far greater than the things that divide us. If we can shake off the influence of the popular media and the haters and focus on the positives, we can rebuild strength and resolve. We can stand united in hope, freedom, and respect.
Another notion we must shun is that the privileged few don’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us. I firmly believe that no one should be above the law. There shouldn’t be a different set of rules based on income or status. We should never hear “too big to fail” or “necessary public bail out.” We also should never hear about mega mergers that systematically reduce competition and fair play. I also believe that in a truly free market, consumers who have correct knowledge have the power to change what they don’t like by spending their dollars wisely. Of course, our system isn’t quite operating like it should. We don’t have all the facts because they remain hidden in shadows and behind closed doors. Far too many conglomerations have created near-monopolistic power. But that’s a wholly separate discussion.
For today, the focus is on the fact that we are what makes America great: we, the people of the United States.
Our first step should always be to work on ourselves and make sure we are doing our best to uphold the ideals of our “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Next, we should teach our children to hold true to the principles that made America great. Beyond that, we should share with our friends and our neighbors and inspire them to get educated and stay in the know about current events that are unfolding. We should be active and encourage all those around us to engage in the discussion and hold the powerful accountable. That may mean writing more letters to our elected representatives. That may be alerting the local news to things we see that don’t look right and have them investigate. They love a good story and controversy sells.
My message today? Don’t worry if your candidate doesn’t win. Yes, there may be changes and repercussions you don’t like, but remember we can change him or her, too, in four years.
Meanwhile, look around you. Look at the many really good people doing really good things and take heart. Our people are what make us great and they will keep making us great despite what happens on Election Day.
Keep the faith in America’s greatness past, present, and future and do all you can to uphold it, promote it, and perpetuate it. Be kind, respectful, and understanding of others. Try to make a positive difference in your sphere of influence. Be great yourself by being unselfish, hard-working, responsible, caring, optimistic, respectful, and full of hope.
(No references this time as these are just my own thoughts coming out).
Your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.