America is widely perceived as a great country, although many citizens are concerned about income inequality, lost jobs, safety and security and by the falling rankings of America as compared with other countries.
As a citizen it is important to develop a base of knowledge on American history and culture, American government, major political parties and their platforms, the legal basis for American government and to reflect on America’s future.
What is great about America?
America got its start during an era from 1620s to the 1780s in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority. America’s geographical separation from Europe and the initial benign neglect it experienced as an English colony allowed it to develop its own forms of self-government. Importantly, it developed in a huge expanse of land laced with natural resources. Its geographical separation from Europe encouraged its independent self-development and isolationist foreign policy.
Additionally, America is Lucky. Consider the near miracles that adorn American history: the near miracle of America’s triumph in the American Revolutionary War. (“Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence”, John Ferling, 2007). Also consider the miracle of the drafting of the US Constitution (“Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September, 1787”, Catherine Drinker Bowen, 2010). Let’s face it – AMERICA is lucky!
Secondly, America is Good. Consider:
Alexis de Tocqueville said over 150 years ago years ago, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great’.”
Let’s ask, “Does it matter if America has remained great?” It can be argued, America is what it is. It is different things to different people.
But on reflection, it does matter. What America is defines its potential. It’s history defines its shared values. These shared values define an identity that offers the potential for its people to work together to achieve commonly accepted goals.
So, let’s consider America’s strengths by examining:
- A checklist
- Contemporary Opinions
Here is one checklist of America’s strengths. Draw up you own.
- America’s people
- America’s form of government
- The Industry and Innovativeness of America’s people
- America’s natural resources
- America’s higher education resources
- Refuge for Immigrants
- Military strength
- American Dream
- America’s political system
- America’s contribution to World Peace
- World War I
- World War II
- Marshal Plan
- United Nations
- America’s ability to forgive
- America’s human liberties record
- Freedom to do what you want and unlimited opportunity
What’s so great about America? Anyone can come here and completely reinvent themselves. This is still the land of opportunity: there are few restrictions and almost unlimited possibilities. Through discipline and hard work, an individual can prosper and enjoy freedom unknown to 99.9% of humans who’ve ever lived. The individual is free to pursue any dream or ambition, and all this is because we have economic freedom supported by a governing structure that exists according to the consent of the governed. The government works for us – if we are diligent enough to hold it accountable. Ours is the most diverse and inclusive culture on earth.
- Fortune on CNNMoney
- The New York Times
- Quotes about America
- America has been great and in many ways remains great.
- In the past, crises and common causes have brought out America’s strengths. For example, World War I (Lusitania, Zimmermann Telegram, sinking of American ships), World War II ( Pearl Harbor), American Space Program (Sputnik), The Rotarian battle against worldwide polio.
- While America has learned from the results of some of its actions (e.g. Prohibition was repealed, diplomatic relations haven restored with former enemies of Germany, Japan, Viet Nam, Cuba), it remains to be seen if we as citizens can coalesce to meet opportunities and problems in the absence of a galvanizing crisis. The Rotarian battle against polio, Gates Foundation efforts and the space program suggest that it can, given leadership.
- America has a truly remarkable record of working with foreign countries including forgiving its former enemies. It is noteworthy that Vietnam today is one of the most pro-American countries in Southeast Asia, with 78% of Vietnamese people viewing the U.S. favorably in 2015 (Wikipedia).
- America’s political structure is in some ways an impediment to progress. The US Constitution is the most difficult government charter to amend of all free world democracies, which on average have amended their constitutions extensively on average every 19 years. The US Supreme Court leans towards strict constitutional interpretation thus aggravating the rigidity of America’s political structure. The Electoral College and the federated system of 50 separated semi-autonomous states provide both opportunities and impediments to progress.
- America’s tolerance for political corruption (e.g. voter suppression, gerrymandering) has aggravated this problem.