During the 2016 presidential campaign, I asked in a letter to the editor when did America stop being great. I never got a coherent answer, but I can offer examples of when and how we were great.
We were great in 1942 when, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we joined together as a nation to fight in a war that threatened our sovereignty. We participated in rationing programs that set limits on gas, food and clothing in order to supply our troops. We were great when we bought war bonds to help fund the ensuing war. We were great by planting “victory gardens” that supplied 40% of the fruits and vegetables we needed.
We were great in 1913, when almost 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue while being spit on, having objects thrown at them and being subjected to all-out physical assaults from onlookers as the suffragists demanded that women have the right to vote. They continued to protest until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.
We were great in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy declared that we would land on the moon by the end of the decade and across the country there were coordinated efforts from universities, corporations and government to bond together under that common goal — until Neil Armstrong took the ultimate step in 1969.
We are great when we unite together under a common goal to make our lives better. We are great when we understand there’s a larger common good and we are willing to sacrifice to attain that goal.