A few days ago, I asked readers the question “what is a great America to you?”  What are the characteristics of such a country.  I got of lot of feedback, primarily on social media….thank you.

In my post, I outlined what I thought were the characteristics of a “great country”.  I also mentioned that my list was incomplete and subject to change upon others suggestions and my further thinking.  I am still sitting with this question, but I did get some good ideas that I am going to include (see below). However, I got a number of other comments that I want to say a few words about.

Anti-Trump Comments

One of the things that originally surprised me back in 2010 when I started Conscious Bridge was that no matter how seemingly innocuous a post was in my mind, there was always the possibility that you were going to get negative comments.  I have even written on that subject.  It’s just the nature of the internet that some people out there sitting at their computer feel safe and comfy in posting their anger anonymously.  It used to bother me years ago, doesn’t anymore….I simply know that there are folks out there who feel the need to be negative in their online commentary.  It’s a sad part of modern life and I could say more on the topic but it’s not needed here.

However, I fully expected that with my showing a picture of one of the red Trump hats, I would get some smart ass comments.  I was not disappointed.  Some couldn’t resist. There were a number of folks who also used the opportunity to express their fear, hatred and other negative emotion over Trump even though that really wasn’t the subject per se of the article. (Another side observation:  you always get comments based on what people think the article is about without their actually reading it.)  However, regarding the Trump comments…. I understand, I get it.  As I have stated numerous times, I did not support Trump and I have concerns over many of his cabinet appointments but that, of course, was not what I was asking for….I was looking more for a bit of thought from readers about what a “great country” is. Some folks couldn’t see past their anger to consider the question.  That’s ok, I understand.

Interesting Comments Beyond the List of Characteristics

Some folks made some interesting comments that didn’t really get at “characteristics” of a “great America” but I felt were worth sharing here:

Most Americans, when they say they live in “the greatest country in the world” simply mean that they have never been outside the country and have to clue what other countries are like.

I have had this same conversation with a lot of people about the value of traveling. It reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  I agree that the more that one travels the world, the more one recognizes that there is beauty and goodness and really good ideas in so many places.  There are countries who do many things that I wish America would do.  Travel does tend to break down the conceited sense of American “exceptionalism”.  However, I would add, that even with it’s flaws, America is still a great place and I love coming back to it from other countries.  This leads me to this comment received:

Like Olivander from Harry Potter once said: “Terrible yes, but great”.

Yep, in spite of all of our flaws and problems, we are a great country…..it’s just that we all know we can do better.

Why r u obsessed with being great? It’s SO 19th century.

Really?  I guess it depends upon your idea of “greatness”.  Yes, maybe the sense of American “exceptionalism” came from many years ago….although it has been co-opted and modified by many on the right in recent years.  And that could be the sense of what is driving Trump and his call to being “great”.  However, my question is really coming from a sense of 21st century thinking on the subject as exemplified by Jim Collins and his business book Good to Great originally published in 2001. it quickly became a template for many organizations to move them forward to new levels of being and success in the world. Hence, there are companies, non-profits and governmental groups that consciously took action to move from “good” to “great”.  Along the way, they considered the characteristics of a “great” company and organization. That called me to wonder “what about a great country?  What does it look like?”   (More on this book and its relation to our country’s greatness in a future article.)

The most useful asset of a person is not a head full of knowledge but a heart full of love, with ears open to listen, and hands willing to help.

Love it.

Comments Related to “My List”

As requested, a lot of folks listed their characteristics of a great America. I have been looking at them to update my list (which will be in an upcoming article).  Here is just a sampling of the many thoughts received:

When the “average” American can actually do math, speak grammatically, and understand concepts beyond 5th grade level.

Yep, I agree.  I had stated “That everyone has the right and access to receive a good education.”  A great America really is one where we teach critical thinking skills and revamp our system to stop teaching to a test.

It should mean, making a living wage, having affordable and accessible healthcare. decent housing, good public schools. Good infrastructure. No one ever asked Trump when,what decade was America great and what made it so.

Agreed.  There were a number of things in my list included within this comment.

The diversity is the greatest part about this country that a group of people took over, but others followed to…terrible that it came at the expense of the original people living there…history of our civilization.

I began my list with “Every person in the country is treated with dignity and respect and has access to all of the following factors no matter what their race, country of origin, political beliefs, sexual orientation, religious/spiritual beliefs, sex, income level may be.”  Inherent in my comment is that we are stronger by valuing our great diversity and that everyone is valuable and should be valued. The reader was, of course, pointing out the irony that one of our strengths (diversity) came through the mistreatment of the original people here.  I agree….and can we transcend that mistreatment?  Standing Rock has been a test of sorts for us.

Civil discourse., the golden rule and fixing your stuff before worrying about someone else’s. I think much of the rest would take of itself.

Couldn’t agree more.  I have written numerous times about the basic simplicity and wisdom of the Golden Rule.  Here is one.   In my great America list, I stated, “That everyone has access to voting and having their voice heard in our democracy.”  Maybe should include “civil discouse” in there somewhere?   I’m sure my Coffee Party friends would agree.

Human rights. Earth rights. Animal rights. Universal health care. Strong minimum wage. Strong unions. Strong social security. Fair tax system for all.

Good list.  Most are in mine….maybe need to add something about animal rights and fair taxes…..let’s look at a few more:

Good healthcare and education for all. Lead the world in cleaning up our planet. Beautiful green spaces; state of the art infrastructure and mass transportation. EQUALITY.

America will be great again when it takes seriously its responsibilities as a citizen of the world.

Ending the Drug War and the stigma that came with it! Public Health Care for all. Homelessness/Drug addiction/Mental illness recover centers all over. A reformed criminal justice system that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment.

Lots of good ideas….both in the comments shared here as well as others, too many to include them all…..My thanks to everyone who commented.  I am still looking for more thoughts….so what say you?  As I asked the other day:  What is a “Great America” to you?  For that matter, what is a “great world”?

It’s a good exercise in consciousness.


Mark Gilbert


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