This is What Makes America Great

Published: January 12, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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With divided Americans talking past one another, this is a good time to remember what really makes America great.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — Declaration of Independence

Common Sense, The Federalist Papers, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Mercy for Leopold and Loeb” closing argument by Clarence Darrow, “Have you left no sense of decency?” by chief counsel for the U.S. Army, Joseph N. Welch.

Marbury v. Madison, Schenck v. United States, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Miranda v. Arizona, Brown v. Board of Education.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, Voting Rights Act, The Civil Rights Act, Roe v. Wade, No Child Left Behind, The Equality Act.

Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, North Atlantic Treaty, SALT 1, START 1, New START Treaty, Biological Weapons Convention, Fourth Geneva Convention.

“I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Stand tall; Never Quit; Drive on!” – General Hal Moore

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” — President John F. Kennedy

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.” — Jesse Jackson

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Mark Twain

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” – Chief Joseph, Native American Chief, Nez Perce

“We have too many high-sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them.” — Abigail Adams

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” – former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” — Thomas Paine

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We cannot afford to say, ‘What can I do, I’m only one person?’ One person can do a lot!” – Judy Meisel, Holocaust survivor

“We judge of man’s wisdom by his hope.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” — Abraham Lincoln

“We can either be governed by fear — fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, call the press the enemy of the people, tear kids away from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border — or we can be governed by our ambitions and our aspirations and our desire to make the most out of all of us. And that’s America at its best.” – Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. Representative

“Do not hurt your neighbor, for it is not him you harm, but yourself.” – Shawnee Proverb

We’ve worked and continue to work to overcome our failures: Manzanar, Dred Scott, Citizens United, Vietnam, My Lai massacre, Sand Creek massacre, the triangle shirt waist factory fire, Bay of Pigs invasion, Emmet Till, slavery, Deepwater Horizon, ignoring the warning of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor, ignoring the warning and development of a plan to deal with the coronavirus.

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – President Bill Clinton

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – President Harry Truman

Our successes: The electric light bulb, laser printer, telephone, personal computer, cardiac defibrillators, anti-lock brakes, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, digital cameras, cellphones, microwave ovens, microwave popcorn, 95 percent of all drugs are developed by the U.S., the Hubble Space telescope, Wi-Fi, the human genome map, chemotherapy, iPhone, Tesla electric cars, assembly lines, hearing aids, cheese burgers, chocolate chip cookies, Coca-Cola.

The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mammoth Cave, the Liberty Bell, Emancipation Oak, Bunker Hill, Fenway Park, 9/11 Memorial, Independence Hall, Fort Sumter, 16th Street Baptist Church, The Alamo, Gettysburg, Faneuil Hall, Trail of Tears, Arlington National Cemetery, Hoover Dam, The Statue of Liberty.

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” — Oprah Winfrey

George Washington, Rosa Parks, John T. Scopes, Thomas Edison, Tiger Woods, Alexander Graham Bell, Daniel Webster, Susan B. Anthony, Clarence Birdseye, Booker T. Washington, Philip Hart, Linus Pauling, Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Julia Ward Howe, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Jonas Salk, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Gilbert Winant, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Willie Mays, Helen Keller, John James Audubon, Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Jordan, Andrew Carnegie, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, the Wright Brothers, Margarite Higgins, John Steinbeck, Louis Armstrong, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William James, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward R. Murrow, Sandra Day O’Connor, Norman Rockwell, Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Ansel Adams, Henry Ford, Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King.

This is who we are. This is who we will continue to be, if all of us work together.


  1. “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” — President John F. Kennedy.
    The best quote to me of all that you posted. Yes Jim and all, we Americans have accomplished SO MUCH!

  2. Wow Jim! What a list you compiled!
    So many things that are right about our UNITED STATES! The quote that resonated the most with me today is:
    “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – President Bill Clinton

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