by Marion Marks
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom,” delivered what has been referred to as “The most honest minutes in television history” when his character was asked “Why America is the Greatest country in the world?” The two other panelist in the university panel discussion gave traditional, compact answers to the student, but Daniel’s character went off-script, so to speak, by challenging the student and the system, quoting statistics of why America is falling short of it’s better self. “No, America is NOT the greatest country in the world…” [jump to 3:05 if you only want the ‘meat’ of the clip]
Daniel’s enumerates point by point short comings of the current generation of leaders and aspirants to leadership. From education, healthcare and criminal justice, points of failure are recognized, but these are not necessarily fatal flaws, as some candidates would have citizens believe. These are a recognition of human frailties as well as a recognition of where American resources need to be refocused.
Yes, America used to accept challenges, and demand and accept nothing short of success. There was NO goal too great, no mountain too high, no disease too impregnable that America could not resolve. However, America is only great when we look ahead, rather than behind to see who is gaining ground on us.
The very concept “Make America Great Again!” is an acceptance that our best days are behind us and we, like the Roman Empire, are trying to relive the past. The past must always be the lesson that we learned to make the future better and brighter. The past must always be that issue we used to prepare for today, as well as tomorrow. The past must remain in the past and be the lesson learned to make the future.
Great leaders, like followers, work from a compass that constantly requires tinkering with the steering to navigate through obstacles in the path. No American leader has every been perfect, but our best leaders aspired to the American ideal for a democratic union of communities, states and citizens with the goals of “a more perfect union.”
So, like the Jeff Daniels character in a good story, we, citizens and voters, must dream and aspire to the better selves we expect our leaders to embody. We should always carefully “measure twice and cut once,” to weigh the options our leaders suggest. Some candidate’s plans for the future include all citizens, other’s plan based on how they will enrich themselves and their inner circle at the public’s expense.
Every day we “aspire to intelligence,” we must stay informed, study issues of our time from factual data rather than accept opinionated and rehashed political pablum. And, finally, we must call out those who create a facade based on false data as they attempt to deny democratic rights. Because if we aren’t the greatest country in the world any more we need to understand why not and what is required to improve and make a difference for the next generation.