I am writing this on an airplane bound for Washington DC. It’s hard not to think about elections and the future. In politics, finding good tag lines is important. Regardless of where you stand politically there is no denying the power of “Make America Great Again.” As I travel the country I have seen signs, shirts, and red hats promoting this message. Like many I have also begun to wonder about the word “again.” When exactly was America great? Spending too much time reflecting on this question can be somewhat depressing. There are certainly great moments: the moon landing, the 1980 miracle on ice, and King’s march on Washington with his “I Have a Dream” speech. I suspect that each person reading this can come up with many moments of their own.
I am also someone who has worked with youth and young adults for the past two decades. I worry that all this emphasis on “again” is interpreted as a critique of emerging young leaders. Making America great again says something about going backwards and reclaiming a mythical past glory.
Is it possible that greatness is already present among us? When we talk about “again” what we are really doing is discounting and disempowering what makes this country great.
If you want to see the possibility of greatness, find out what our young adults are doing, particularly young adults of faith. In my work I have the privilege of a front row seat, watching greatness happen every day.
There young adults working for change at all kinds of levels. They seem to instinctively know that the past cannot repeat itself. There is a sense in which the world is both bigger and smaller. Isolating ourselves from one another is not going to work. Our common humanity will have to outmaneuver our political differences. Shared resources mean life and the pursuit of happiness for all. Advantages for the few are destructive and just plain selfish. Our young people know that intolerance, whether for religious or political reasons, only leads to hate, mistrust, and violence. If we want safety and security we are going to have to do the hard work of loving and forgiving each other.
I agree that I have the privilege of living in a great country. If we really want to move from greatness to awesomeness then let’s find a way to follow the leadership and vision of our young people first.