Leading up to this Independence Day, I have seen several posts on the internet that have posed the question, "What makes America the greatest country, and are we really?" I have read quite a few responses to that question - many being the standard answers you would expect of freedom, liberty, etc. There have been, however, far too many posts that have been rather disturbing. I have been amazed at the number of people who replied that the United States is not the greatest country in the world. Those responses have cited statistics comparing us to other countries, or complained about the current state of politics and "corruption" in our Federal government. I have to be honest...I think those who give those responses just don't get it. They just don't understand what actually makes the United States great.
I do believe very strongly in what I have heard referred to as America's "exceptionalism" or maybe more accurately, the idea that President Ronald Reagan posed of the United States being a "shining city on the hill" for the rest of the world. What makes the United States so great? It isn't our freedoms - admittedly there are a great number of modern countries that now have many if not all of the freedoms that we have. It is not our way of life because our country does, unfortunately, have a lot of areas where we need improvement. What makes the United States great is our founding and the philosophy that has permeated our history.
Two hundred and thirty-six years ago on July 4, 1776, fifty-six men risked everything they had for something that was unheard of at the time. Their risk was no small risk either - many were successful businessmen, landowners, politicians, and lawyers. They were risking their fortunes, their reputations, their lives and even the lives of their families because they believed so strongly in the idea that their country should be self-governing and that they had not only the right, but the duty to break their ties with a government that no longer represented their interests. After years of fighting, and several years under a less than perfect form of government, many of these same men came back together to write a document that laid out a form of government that had never been seen before in history. Our Constitution put forth the idea that a government could be formed that derived its power from the people, not from a monarch or from some "governing class." The Constitution spelled out the exact powers that the government could have and explicitly left everything else in the hands of the states and in the rights of the people. Other countries viewed the United States as an experiment that would fail. We have, throughout our history, proven them wrong. Our "experiment" has not only succeeded, it has thrived and has truly become one of the greatest countries the world has seen. What is even more amazing is that while other countries have tried over the years to duplicate our form of government, none have met with the success that the United States has.
We are a country of a diverse people - different races, religions, political and moral beliefs. We daily accept people who come from other countries seeking the "promise" that our nation holds. We do all of this in relative peace and harmony compared to other nations. We don't have the "ethnic cleansing" that you see in some countries, or the constant war that you see between competing religions in some areas of the world. We also don't have a government that holds our country together with an iron fist. As many problems as our government may have right now, we still have a completely peaceful transition of power every four years from President to President and every two years our legislative body transitions. There is no other country in the world that can make that claim.
What makes the United States great?? We are the greatest country in the world because we have, without a doubt, proven that the "American experiment" is a success that no one else can duplicate.