It seems we have a problem! To solve our problem, we must first define our terms: what do we mean by “great”; how does America currently fall short of greatness; what are the causes of America’s supposed lack of greatness? Too much to think about, you say? TOO BAD! Unless we are willing to start our problem solving in this way, we will stumble along life’s path with a vague sense of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and anger- in other words, with a continuous life backdrop of FEAR. None of us can solve our problems or address our fears without being willing to define both and by looking them squarely in the face. No cop-outs or wimpiness allowed. No ignoring them and hoping they will just go away. No hoping someone else can take over and do our job for us. But above all: no blaming our problems and fears on life circumstances or on some faceless OTHER, whether that OTHER is an individual or some loosely defined group of people unlike ourselves.
To borrow Al Gore’s phrase, we must address some “inconvenient truths.” As barbaric as it may seem, this world into which we were all born owes us nothing. NOTHING! From the moment we were conceived until the second we die, we depend upon the compassion and conscience of other people. If we make it through infancy, we must learn to negotiate our place in society. We are quickly taught we are interdependent, which means we must give to society in order to receive from it, whether within our families, communities, or the world at large. As we continue living, we must always be conscious of our worth and usefulness to society, simply because if we have nothing worthwhile to give, we will surely find that no one has any interest in giving to us!
Which brings us to John F. Kennedy’s admonishment, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” ( 1/20/1961) Each of us has honorable gifts to offer the world and to our fellow Americans. It is our personal responsibility to define, perfect and offer those gifts to others in exchange for having a place in any society. Interdependence is our only means of survival.
We must honor our responsibility by consciously defining our own problems, our own fears. Then we must ask ourselves Dr. Phil McGraw’s classic question: “What can I- I!– do to make things better?” When we find ourselves reverting to one of our greatest challenges as a human being- ignoring our own responsibility and insisting our issues originate outside ourselves- we must check ourselves and go back to square one. As Dr. Phil would say, “NO ‘yeah-buts’ allowed!”
As human beings we have tremendous power to change ourselves through consciously: defining and redefining all life’s challenges; learning and relearning all we can about our world; asking ourselves the hard questions about how we feel; recognizing the oneness of humanity, the holiness in our humanity. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: this is our ONLY power, yet we need nothing else. Pick up almost any self-help book on the market and it will delineate the ripple effect of our ability to change the world by changing how we think, act, feel and react to our individual life circumstances. Once we “get it” we will realize the only way to keep America great is to BE a Country of GREAT AMERICANS!
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln