America’s Greatness


©2012 Susan Stamper Brown

One of the worst things that could be said about any of us is that greatness passed before us, and we failed to recognize it.

It happened to me yesterday when I found myself out of sorts because my best friend was en route to harm’s way via a military deployment but still took time to call to tell me the sunset he’d just witnessed reminded him of me. Busted. I missed out on the greatness of the moment because I was focused on myself.

If anyone had an excuse to fail to see greatness, it was President Abraham Lincoln. As war-weary as he was with a country in the throes of collapse, Lincoln still saw greatness when he gazed beyond the bloody battlefields and divided mess that was post-Civil War America and envisioned a nation our founders could be proud of that was once again “one nation under God.”

One Thursday afternoon in 1863, Lincoln attempted to share this vision in a little more than two-minute speech that forever became known as The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln reminded those on both sides of the war no one had died in vain because their shed blood offered everyone, regardless of skin color, the opportunity for “a new birth of freedom.” He explained that moving forward as a united people would allow our “government of the people, by the people, for the people” to be preserved.

To no surprise, Lincoln was hammered by some in the media for his vision. An editorial in the Harrisburg Patriot and Union stated, “We pass over the silly remarks of the President, for the credit of the Nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of.” The Chicago Times detailed, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwattery [sic] utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.” Boy, were they wrong; Lincoln’s address became one of the most famous presidential speeches in American history.

So here we stand today, the Shining City on a Hill dimly lit and despondently divided. Though words have replaced muskets, and name-calling replaced cannons, the damage is about as severe. Unlike days of old, when President Lincoln lay awake at night trying to unify a divided people, we have a president and Democratic leaders in Congress who preach civility, yet wage their own wars on class, race and gender. They would do well to consider the words of Patrick Henry who said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand divided we fall. Let us not split into faction which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

President Obama and his ilk almost root for America’s demise. They obviously do not believe in the rare and precious gem that is America because they do not recognize the essence of what she is as so amply described in an old adage:  “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, and it was not there…in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there…in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there…in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power: America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Regrettably, greatness has passed before them, and they have failed to recognize it.


5 Responses to America’s Greatness

  • Susan,
    Your columns appear occasionally in our small (and so far, surviving) paper, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Always enjoyable. I tried to get the publisher to spring for Thomas Sowell’s columns some years back, but he didn’t want to spend the money; I don’t think he liked TS either, but that’s another issue. Anyhow, nice to get a breath of conservative fresh air – and this column, in particular, caught my attention because of the Washington’s Prayer painting (one of my favorites, hung where I see it often throughout the day) and the quote often attributed to deTocqueville. BTW, he made a few keen and insightful observations on the dangers of Islam, e.g., “I studied the Koran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.” (Wikiquotes)
    Keep up the good work!

  • Susan-

    You wrote “Though words have replaced muskets, and name-calling replaced cannons, the damage is about as severe.” Several years ago I wrote these opening lines for a song,
    “The knife that flashed then cut me deep
    Wasn’t made of tempered steel.
    Its two-edged blade was made of words,
    But the wound was just as real.”

    Perhaps we believe “words will never hurt me” and then transfer that to others, thinking we can say anything to them or about them with no lasting consequences on the person. I don’t mind — in fact I invite — debate on policy and strategy, but the ad hominem attacks make me shudder and leave me cold.

    I don’t think President Obama doesn’t understand civility, because I can’t imagine him publicly saying the kinds of things about Putin or Netanyahu that he says about Romney or Paul. I think he simply puts politics above civility. Hmmmm… perhaps I should send him a copy of George Washington’s “Rules of Civility.” Perhaps it should be mandatory reading for all candidates.

    Thanks for your excellent work!