What made America great?

U.S. Rep. David McKinley was in The News and Sentinel office Wednesday and posed a very interesting question that he is asking across the state: What made America great?

Amid all the political talk and seemingly never-ending party rhetoric and talking points about Republicans wanting to cut spending and Democrats wanting to keep spending, with both economic philosophies seen as the direction needed to get the national debt down and the economy rolling, McKinley asked what MADE America great, not what MAKES America great.

He said some have said the industrial engine generated by World War II, others have said the Constitution, still others have said the once-strong religious and family values of its people.

The congressman didn’t have an answer of his own, but is posing the question in hopes sometime during his current two-year term in office to come up with an op-ed piece explaining what America needs to get back into the mindset that MADE her great.

Jess Mancini, the newspaper’s city editor, said he believes America was strongest and greatest when it was concentrating on growing the economy, “preparing for peace, not preparing for war,” when the nation was making products and being one of the manufacturing leaders in the world.

Mancini sees the issue as being the classic “guns vs. butter” issue in which the nation can be strong making guns and war materials or making consumer goods, but not both.

I’m not an economist but I wonder if America started becoming great when the industrial revolution began and America started producing products for itself and the rest of the world, a trend that continued for decades.

While America stayed great after World War II, I also wonder if that isn’t when some of those previous strong family values and that firm religious indoctrination didn’t begin to slip.

Did America lose some of what made it great when wives and mothers, for whatever reason, began leaving the home and little Jimmy and Mary didn’t have mom around as a full-time mentor? I certainly don’t mean this to be sexist or insulting to working women or single mothers, because I know in today’s economy many businesses and families would not survive without women working outside the home and bringing home a paycheck.

Did an orderly flow of immigrants entering the nation, bringing their skills and manpower, while assimilating into the national ethnic, racial, religious and cultural blend make this nation great? Was the nation made great by being that “melting pot” for the world?

Did our form of representative democracy, sometimes better explained as our republic, make our nation great? Did our reliance on supporting individual freedoms, a free market and/or the philosophy that through hard work and dedication we all have a chance to succeed make our nation great?

The philosophical question posed by McKinley is fascinating. I hope the congressman continues his search for responses and shares his findings when the end of his current term approaches. It will be interesting and maybe eye-opening to learn what he finds as he stumps his district and the state.

Contact Jim Smith at jsmith@newsandsentinel.com