Friday, September 14, 2012

Student defines national greatness

By Gregor Uvila, Guest Columnist
As I watched both the Republican and Democrat National Convention speeches, my attention turned to a recurring theme.

I noticed something about American politics for the first time: rhetoric that relies on the premise that we are, or need to be, the greatest country on earth. Whether it is presidential nominee Mitt Romney or former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attacking the Barack Obama administration for America losing its place as "top dog" in the world, or it is Michelle Obama defending her husband’s time in office as Commander in Chief, the rhetoric is all built on the premise that the United States is the greatest country.

Let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with believing your country is the greatest country in the world.

However, challenge yourself to dig into the vague idea of what it means to be the greatest. Does that mean we have the strongest economy or military? Does that mean we have the most sophisticated level of education? Do we measure in respect for human rights and religious freedoms?

It is incredibly important to strive for excellence and pursue the mystical status of the greatest country on earth. Being excellent as a country is not only rewarding, but in some cases it is the right thing to do. We must be excellent in our treatment of all life if we truly want to be good stewards of this world. Without direction from its people, government has no standards and expectations to aim for. It is up to you and me to set those standards, and to set them high. Invest in your government the time to convey what you think it means to be the greatest country on earth.

Be an informed voter. Volunteer for organizations that you believe are making a difference for good. Write letters to your mayors, congressmen, senators, governors, the president and any other top official. Help in your community to make it a healthier and more life-sustaining place. If you really think your country is the greatest, you might want to look around you. Challenge that idea. There is much to be learned and improved upon in every aspect of our own communities.

The greatest country on earth has the humility to move away from such ethnocentric rhetoric about its superiority over other nations. It has compassion for all people and realizes that before we were Americans we were all humans in this world together.

The greatest country on earth is one that is more concerned with providing life to those in need than it is with spreading a political or moral philosophy.

Today, I encourage you to dream a dream of the world’s greatest country. What does it actually look like? Then tomorrow, help build it.