Take Heart, America—You’re Already Great

Hey America, 

I know the past year or so has been rough. I know your self-esteem is in the toilet. I know you’re looking around at Canada and Australia and the UK, and you’re feeling really insecure about yourself right about now. 

I get it. No one would blame you. You’ve spent the last year hearing over and over that your luster’s gone, that you’re damaged goods, that you’re a mess someone inherited; that your greatness is well past tense and that you need someone to return you to your former glory.

Don’t believe it my friend, that’s a gaslighter’s lie. You are presently fully glorious.

I’m been watching you over the past months, America. You’ve been marching in the streets by the millions. You’ve been showing-up at town halls and congressmen’s homes and community rallies. You’ve been holding elected officials accountable at every turn. You’ve transformed your social media profiles into Truth-boosting news outlets. You’ve done your homework. You’ve engaged the political process. You’ve connected with strangers. You’re risked awkward conversations with family and co-workers and church friends. You’ve found your voice. You’ve been awakened—and it’s all been a wonder to behold.

Recently, I like you, was wondering if your best days were behind you. I was lamenting the loss of the country I thought you used to be, and my heart was leaden in my chest. Then, one night I clicked on a video that dropped into my timeline. I  saw hundreds and hundreds of people amassing at airports, demanding that exhausted, stranded refugees be released to begin their new lives with you. In the incessant, raw throated cries for justice that rang out all over country that night, I heard music. I recognized it as the familiar refrain of the same beautiful song America has always sung to the world when it has been at its best: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

I watched more of those videos. I watched them until the scenes turned from persistent protests into jubilant explosions, as foreigners began receiving a hero’s welcome from complete strangers. I watched those joyful new homecomings until my eyes blurred with tears and I thought to myself: “America, you are already great!” I went to bed that night remembering what you’re made of and certain you were going to be alright. That assurance was a soft pillow to lay my head upon, in a season when sleep has not come easy.

The truth is America, your greatness has never been in the hands of a politician or a political party or a church or a celebrity. It’s never been given or withheld from you by anyone—because you are it’s very greatness. It is that elusive treasure found in the stunning mosaic of millions of disparate lives assembled into something far more beautiful than can be manufactured, directed—or even legislated. It is that planet-altering We the People that transcends party and faith, and yes even border.

Over a decade ago, the immortal Irish Bard, Bono, spoke of you saying: America is an idea, isn’t it? Ireland’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you a round the world—as one of the greatest ideas in human history.

He was absolutely right—and he was talking about you. It was the true declaration, that when America is being it greatest self, it is doing so because its people are incarnating liberty and equality and perpetuating justice through their very shared ordinary lives. And this is still happening in these moments in spectacular, historic ways. You are the caretakers of this great idea and it is in steady hands.

Yes, these are crazy times, and yes you have some real, serious, dangerous obstacles in front of you, but as in every dark time you have everything you need to navigate your way to glory. You have the radiant, brilliant light that is the people who call this place home or aspire to call it home. You have a goodness that does not require anyone’s consent or assistance or blessing.

What I’m trying to say, is that you need to remember who you are: so pull yourself out of this fruitless funk and start believing your best days aren’t for anyone to decide but you.

Raise your head, lift your gaze, take heart, take a deep breath, and take a look in the mirror, America—you are already great.

Be encouraged.




35 thoughts on “Take Heart, America—You’re Already Great

  1. You sir, made my heart sing with that post. Thank you for reminding me again that the majority of people in this country truly believe in the founding fathers tenets. Be well……………Peace……………..

  2. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    Even as a devastating drought threatens 10,000,000+ with starvation in Africa’s Horn, the US prepares to escalate war in Somalia.

    The Obama administration prepared this blueprint for broadened war on Somalia.

    I can’t speak for starving Somalians as they see the US insinuate itself into the cutthroat political struggles, intrigues and rivalries within Africa’s national elites, but I suspect that they would see the prospects of more war as anything but ‘glorious.’


  3. It does feel like more people are engaged and paying attention to what is happening. The effort now will be to keep the momentum up and elect replacements that are socially and morally acceptable to everyone.
    I did hear yesterday that there are a lot of female millennials interested in engaging in political positions. That would be wonderful.
    We definitely need the thoughts and actions of younger people. It is time to retire the over70 white males. Their ideas of what makes America great are just too antiquated.

    • Good response, especially the over 70 white males, I am married to one who agrees with you. Peace………………

    • Joann Shawn, you wrote “The effort now will be to keep the momentum up and elect replacements that are socially and morally acceptable to everyone.”

      My attempts to keep the effort up, now that I am disabled, handicapped, and am unable to march or attend protest rallies is to do my best to communicate opportunities for those who can, scout out petitions to sign, phone calls to make, provide accurate and truthful evidence, facts, and information at my Facebook group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff to which all who feel the same are invited to join at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gloriamariesprogressivepetitions/

      • Gloriamarie: Your courage and grit to say what needs to be said is admirable. You give others who are unable to physically participate in protests a good example to emulate. We’re not all cut out for banner carrying and marching but you show us how to do our part.

    • Yeah, seems kind of racist and ageist to be exclusively against “old white men”!!!

      “Tolerance for all”??? Don’t makeme laugh!!!

    • Dear Joann Shawn:

      Several months ago, Der Spiegel ran a cover of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump covered in mud and slime.

      Now the lead article in the influential German Paper features a lead article ‘Beyond NATO’ which opens saying [in translation]:

      ‘Donald Trump is right.’

      More than 25 government leaders, 80 foreign and defense ministers and over 500 security experts from around the world just met and participated in the Munich Security Conference which ended last Sunday. It seems to be that Europe [esp. Germany] is responding to US demands to increase military spending.

      The question is, ‘where will a new arms race go.’

      Current anti-Russian hysteria plus US provocations in the South China Sea suggest … World War III?

      Does that seem over-the-top?

      Already, this is being discussed intensely in foreign policy think tanks, military journals and strategic studies institutes.

      So is the possibility of ‘limiting’ and ‘winning’ nuclear exchanges.

      However welcome, the entry of new blood into civic discourse will prove meaningless unless it is directed by the agenda needed for our time in history.


  4. Thank you John.

    I have always thought America was great. We have been through bad times and good times and we have endured. We just started listening to Trump telling us we were losers and that he was going to make us great again. When you think about it what does that even mean? Who has actually stated when that was? More word vomit and we took it to heart. When was America great – last week, last year, 50 years ago, 100 years ago? We have always been great in our own way.

    We have had good presidents and bad presidents. We have had Democrat majorities and Republican majorities. We have endured. We let this small little man who can only make someone else the enemy to make himself look good make us lose our faith in each other. That is all he has because he is empty. Now other countries poke fun.

    We are a good country with more great people than awful people. We will endure as long as we don’t believe sales slogans, propaganda, and the talking heads who want to separate us, who want us to be constantly afraid, who want us to be constantly angry. A divided house cannot stand.

    We have always been great – not better than the rest of the world but great in our own way. Democrats are not the enemy. Republicans are not the enemy. The media, that Trump used his whole life to get attention, is not the enemy. We stumble, we get up and we believe that most Americans will do the right thing. What choice do we have?

    • ‘Make America Great Again’ is just a catchy slogan. [Nothing more, nothing less.] It’s not meant to have any deep or mysterious meaning. It’s just a suggestion that its possible to lose our Greatness, and it’s time to step up to the plate & tackle some important issues. Americans responded to that slogan positively.

      Hillary’s slogan was ‘I’m With Her’. I thought the arrow pointing sideways and to the Right looked like she was taking us sideways. [I think an UP arrow would have been more effective.] It also reminded me to the T-shirt, ‘I’m with Stupid’ (w/ arrow). But I didn’t make a big deal about her slogan. I think it worked pretty well for her.

      For me, ‘Make American Greater!’ is a better slogan. Yes, it’s already Great, and always has been. But the slogan brings the idea, that we are at risk of losing our Greatness, and we need to step up.

      • I guess I do not understand your response to my post. I addressed it as a slogan, a sales pitch in the third paragraph. I know what it was. To me Trump’s words are worthless. If he does good things for America that is good. That won’t change or excuse the venom he has spewed because he has to have an enemy to make himself look good. He is either boasting or bullying some imagined foe.

        I do not know if you were defending Trump or not. But so many times with these comments people have said they voted for Trump because of his policies, because they are Republican, because they hated Hillary. I understand that. I accept that. I respect that. Yet these same people have to defend or explain away every complaint about Trump. Even people in other countries complain about The way Trump acts. They are not sore losers or American liberals.

        If I misunderstood your words please accept my apology.

        • Joanne, I think, although I could be wrong, that Anonymous went on the defensive in response to your post because there is nothing defensible in any single thing this present administration has done. Indeed, they even skirt doing unconstitutional stuff.

          Because HWSNBN thinks he, as did Nixon before him, is above the law and that the rules don’t apply to him, even this Congress is going to be forced to impeach both the current occupant of the WH and the #2.

          It is just simply bound to happen.

  5. If *****************anyone****************** is obsessed with Trump, it is with you.

    It is because you write to John P in such insulting terms that many people here consider you a troll. It is because you enjoy writing that which will upset people that many people here consider you a troll.

  6. America the idea has always been great. America the country has, to paraphrase Churchill’s comment about Democracy, “the worst form of government except for all the others”.

    Where we repeatedly fall short of greatness is in letting our fears get the better of us; to shun change when the prospects of change offer so much; to close our doors and our minds when the news is troubling, or when the eyes we look into belong to a face of a different color or are surrounded by cloth wrapped in a certain way.

    The miracle of America is taking the facts as we see them and building a future for all from them. The idea of America is not a homeland for some, but for all, for borders more open than shut, for hopes always rising above fear.

    The burden of Americans is to work together to govern the country with justice, fairness, and pragmatism as we are called to by the Founders, and to not let the doomsayers, gate-shutters, and gaslighters turn our heads and rot our hearts.

  7. Thank you John for making us feel better about beloved Country USA America. I so look forward to your post.active on social media but I still find it hard to beleive how many cotizems of pur Country still love Trump.

    • Me too, Lois. I would think the debacle of the first thirty days would be enough to make anyone regret voting GOP. What with revealing national security issues in public, golfing six days of the thirty, Flynn’s ties to Russia, impeachable offenses….

      • I think what we are seeing is people who can’t admit they might have been wrong so will go down with the ship. I have noticed that people all of a sudden didn’t vote, with a so don’t blame me attitude, who were dancing when the results came in. Pretty soon we won’t be able to find but a handful who voted for him, Curious……

        • Too right, Kathleen. I remember noticing in November of 2008 how the number of Obama/Biden stickers proliferated ***after*** the election.

          Some of us have the courage of our convictions and some of us wait to see how it plays out before we claim a conviction. I like to think I am in the former category.

  8. Dear John Pavlovitz Reader:

    Defining ‘Great’

    Universal employment.
    Unrestricted access to quality medical care and education.
    Decent housing for all.
    Cancellation of foreclosures and evictions.
    Automatic adjustment of wages in line with inflation.
    Democratization of the workplace.
    Unrestricted inspection by the public of the financial records of corporations and financial institutions.
    Establishment of restraints on executive salaries.
    Reduction of working hours with no loss of pay.
    Imposition of a genuinely progressive income tax and significant restriction on the transfer of massive personal wealth via inheritance.
    Nationalization and the establishment of democratic workers’ control of large corporations.
    Dismantling the national “volunteer” army and transfer of authority to popular militias controlled by the working class and with elected officers.


    • John
      I can see you truly love people and want to comfort them. What a great opportunity to spread the Word of the Lord.

      I agree with you America is great, but great is not the limit of America, America has never been a country of good-enough, we have always strived to raise the bar.

      And I feel that we raised the bar when a man with no political experience is voted in by the legal process as President of the USA.
      When poll after poll says he has not shot of making 270 electoral votes. When the media publishes over and over again he has no chance and then have to backtrack their predictions. When thousands of people gather at the rallies of their choice. When in the face of being told things are changing and THIS is the way it is going to be a portion of the people RISE UP and VOTE and make a difference.
      When the Lord’s prayer is used to open a speech, when the name of Jesus comes from the lips of so many.

      I try to live as the Bible teaches in Luke 6:44
      For each tree is known by its own fruit. Indeed, people do not gather figs from thornbushes, or grapes from brambles.

      I would love for you to biblically explain the fruit that the President has shown. I would implore a study of the Word that could be used to express your views on this all too important matter.

      I look forward to your response.
      Praying for you without cease.

      • John P almost certainly doesn’t respond to questions posed on this blog, Just to let you know.

        However one of the Bishops of my denomination has this to say:

        “Desiring a Christ-Centered Life, Not a Trump-Centered Life”
        by Bishopfisher on February 17, 2017 in The Bishop’s Blog

        The frenetic and often controversial activity of the new administration dominates the news, and it is often the main topic of conversation in families, with friends, at our places of work. Certainly, the President is at the center of attention in our country right now, and for some that brings worry and fear.

        In this time of anxiety, I invite the Church to stay Christ–centered. I said after the election that the mission of the Church remains the same as it was before the election – to follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. That is what we are called to do and to be no matter who the president is.

        In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world.” You ARE the light of the world. Not “someday you will be the light of the world.” Not “you ought to be the light of the world.” You ARE the light of the world. What would the light of the world look like in this time and in this place? How can we stay Christ-centered now?

        More and more, I’m learning from Buddhists who say theirs is not a religion but a practice. Christianity, too, is a practice; it is a way of living. In this blog, I hope to offer some practical ways to stay Christ-centered in this era.

        Increase time spent in prayer and reduce time watching the news, whether it is MSNBC or Fox. Stay in touch with what is going on in our world. But how much do we really gain watching four hours of news instead of one or two? Thomas Merton warned us that constant activity is a form of violence. Take time, now more than ever to live from the soul. Buddhist Jack Kornfield writes,
        “Whatever your point of view, take time to quiet the mind and tend to the heart. Then go out and look at the sky. Remember vastness… Remember the Noble Truths, no matter the politics of the season: Greed, hatred and ignorance cause suffering. Let them go. Love, generosity, and wisdom bring the end of suffering. Foster them.”
        Make friends with someone on “the other side” of the political aisle, or keep a friend who has differing political views. People are more than the sum of their political opinions. I’ll always remember in 2003 in a sermon I strongly denounced the imminent invasion of Iraq. One of my parishioners, a former member of the Nixon administration, told me how wrong he thought I was. A few days later he became ill and was hospitalized. I went there and prayed with him. We talked and he said, “Doug, we will never let a war get between us, will we?” And we never did. In our time when our nation is so divided, show how friendship can go beyond opinion.
        Whenever there is an interfaith service in your region, go out of your way in your time-poor life to go to it. And not just once. And if there are no interfaith services near you, start one. As the world feels like it is coming apart, we need to come together.
        I invite church leaders in our Episcopal diocese to consider saying “The Baptismal Covenant” at every Sunday liturgy in place of the Creed. The Creed gets covered in the first three questions and then we are asked five questions about our commitment to a Christ-centered life. We need an affirmative answer to all five questions, and especially now, we need the last two:
        “Will you seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

        “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” With God’s help, we can do that.
        I was asked a series of questions in the liturgy when I was ordained a bishop.

        I keep all those questions before me daily, but the one that challenges me the most is,

        “Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper?”
        The answer to all the questions is “I will…” but always followed by a different clause. Sometimes, it is, “I will, for the love of God.” Or, “I will, by the grace given me.” For me, the answer to that question has become, “I will, for the sake of Christ Jesus.”

        For the sake of Christ Jesus. A Christ-centered life means standing with the poor, the stranger (immigrants, refugees) and those who have no helper (those without health insurance, the environment). There are others that fit into my parentheses. Those who are discriminated against: women, people of color, indigenous people, LGBT people, Muslims. Those who have lost jobs due to automation, down-sizing and technological advancements. Those who cannot get jobs because they are experiencing homelessness or because they were once incarcerated. Those who are addicted who wind up in jail instead of rehab.

        I was the one who answered the question, but as a faith leader I was answering for all of us. Calling elected officials, participating in the political process, engaging the American right to peacefully protest in order to stand with “those who have no helper”- we do this for the sake of Christ Jesus.

        At the House of Bishops gathering last September, we reflected on the political turmoil in our beloved country and created a document in which we said, “The Church is made for times like these.” In a troubled time, the Church is made to call people to be our best selves, to live from our God-filled souls, to imagine God’s will which is to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

        With all that is getting our attention right now, we are all invited to Christ-centered lives. Let’s practice Christianity in the midst of an uncertain world. Let’s follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. In the words of that great African-American spiritual, let’s keep our “eyes on the prize,” our hands “on the Gospel plow,” and “hold on.”


      • “We have two precedents: prayer and action.”
        by Bishopfisher on January 17, 2017 in The Bishop’s Blog

        If we could see one of those “word clouds” of the media coverage of the last couple of months in our new political world, the dominant word would be “unprecedented.”

        -unprecedented use of Twitter by the President-Elect
        -unprecedented responses to criticism
        -unprecedented refusal to hand over tax returns
        -unprecedented attempts at interference in our election by a foreign power
        -unprecedented for Democrats to sit out the Inaugural
        What should we do in unprecedented times? We can turn to the “precedented” in our own tradition. Our precedent is for prayer and action.

        We will pray “for those in positions of public trust, especially President Trump, that they may serve justice, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person” according to the words of The Book of Common Prayer. That powerful but simple line has Biblical roots. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently reminded us, Psalm 72 urges prayer for the King of Israel that he might rule in the ways of God’s justice, defending “the cause of the poor” and “bringing deliverance to the needy.”

        In that same communication to the Church, Bishop Curry tells us that when we pray for Presidents of the United States, “we pray for their leadership in our society and world. We pray that they lead in the ways of justice and truth. We pray that their leadership will serve not partisan interest but the common good.”

        In an unprecedented time, we have precedent for praying for our President. I will do that on Inauguration Day and in the days to come.

        We also have another precedent. We have the biblical mandate to act justly. It can be seen in the 2000 calls in the Bible to help the poor, in the command to “welcome the stranger,” in Jesus’ prayer that God’s “will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven,” in Jesus’ respect for women clearly expressed so often in his ministry and in making Mary Magdalene “the apostle to the apostles.”

        Our Christian tradition heralds the actions of those who tried to live this biblical imperative for social justice: Frances Perkins, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Dorothy Day, Thomas Gallaudet, Vida Dutton Scudder.

        Our precedent is for prayer and action.
        Christianity is not an abstract idea. The biblical imperative to act justly calls us to see immigrants and refugees as the “stranger” in need of our welcome. It calls us to imagine God’s will for the earth and to make it so. (Here is the letter to the President-Elect from the Bishops of Massachusetts about his choice for the EPA.) We will be acting justly when we respect the dignity of all persons regardless of race, gender identification, sexual orientation, place of origin, religious beliefs, or economic status. We will be living justly when our streets and schools are safe from gun violence.

        As the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, we have a big mission. We have to witness to our faith in our families, in our neighborhoods, where we work and in our politics. God be with our President, and God be with those who march in protest this weekend. God will be with us in the struggle to find our way, to speak our piece and act justly for the good of all people.

        Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

        I pray for the courage to witness to our faith in the things that matter. I pray courage for us all.


  9. Dear Joe Catholic:

    Personally, I find President Trump to be weak to the point of irrelevance. Ultra-sensitive to any criticism, he is vulnerable to manipulation by those around him. The only recourse he has is to fire them. But he can hardly do that since he is almost totally reliant on them. It’s a bit of a catch-22.

    Most recently, Mr. Trump’s choice of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his next National Security Advisor is recognized widely as a concession to the anti-Russian campaign, ceaselessly waged by the intelligence agencies, the Democratic Party and sections of the Republican Party.

    Mr. Trump’s ego and unpredictability are no match for the class forces now bearing down full force on his Presidency. Beyond upping the erratic/volatility of his responses, he is quite alone and defenseless.

    On the national level, Trump’s elevation is a disgrace; but for him it is a personal disaster. Were he simply to quit showing up for work, or if he went ballistic and had to be carried off to a hospital sedated and on a stretcher, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    What might surprise America in such an event is how little the day-to-day running of things would change. Which is to say again that Trump is irrelevant. Bear in mind, of course, that I support the abolition of the Imperial Presidency altogether.


  10. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    Against the slanderous lie that white people gave Donald Trump the Presidency is the contradiction of war criminal Hillary Clinton’s ‘America is already great’ by eight years of unemployment, declining wages, attacks on public education and health care, erosion of civil rights, discretionary ‘for-profit’ wars and more under Obama’s Presidency.

    Again — Trump never happens in a vacuum.

    You and readers may not care to hear it, and almost certainly won’t believe it, but it was largely the Democratic Party which handed Donald Trump the Presidency.

    NO to Republicans!
    NO to Democrats!
    NO to Big Money!


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  12. My husband and I have had the opportunity to travel abroad, and to Hawaii in the last month. At every chance we get to engage someone from another country in a meaningful conversation, we apologize for our new President. We ask what are people in their countries saying (Australia, Austria, Sweden) and the word the Austrian looked up in his dictionary was “unpredictable” and “fearful”. The Swedes said they accepted our apologies but added, “Just don’t do it again.” And that, I believe is the core rallying cry for the resistance – we can’t let this happen again. Thank you John for giving voice to our thoughts and urging us to do what we can.

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