January Column: Is America Great?

December 30, 2019

Is America Great? 

By State Senator Rob Sampson

If you are like me, you’ve been discouraged about the state of political discourse and respect in our society today.  It’s something I write about often.  This time of year, as we celebrate with our families, I am always a little bit more hopeful about how people treat each other.  I hope your holidays are rewarding, that they fill your heart, and strengthen your desire for love and peace towards are neighbors.

Somebody asked me recently if there is one thing I could change in our world to improve the nature of political discourse.  After some thought, I settled on “a thoughtful education about America’s history.”  This is what has led me to begin a series of speaking engagements entitled “Is America Great?”

The point is not so much to answer the question but to ask many more while filling in the blanks many of our friends and neighbors have about our history.  The first of these events was held recently in Southington and received an excellent response from those in attendance – a cross section of citizens of different ages, backgrounds, and political thought.

This excited me since I believe the way back to mutual respect and a common cause for us as a nation is a review of what once united us.  “What is America?” I asked the room and we agreed that it is not the ground we are standing on, and not even the people who live beside us, but rather an idea.

That idea is contained in its totality in a single paragraph in the Declaration of Independence.  For the purpose of this article, we will take just a single phrase – “all men are created equal.”

This was a radical concept at a time when much of the world was ruled by royalty and slavery remained common place.  Nonetheless, America’s founders put this idea (and many others) down on paper to guide us along the path towards a more perfect union – a path we are still on.

The concept of the essential human equality can be difficult to grasp as it is camouflaged by so many circumstantial inequalities like wealth, beauty, talent, strength, intelligence, et cetera.  What it means is that we all are equal in that we share universal “natural” rights on the basis of our inherent human dignity bestowed on each of us by our Creator.

Just imagine how for the first time a country would be founded on the undeniable and objective truth that we are all born free with the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  It instilled in us the American spirit and realization that each of us owns our own minds, bodies, and labor – and that no one has the right to any of those without our consent.

This powerful phrase, along with the promise of a nation governed of, by, and for its citizens, changed the world, setting the stage for a free economy, the industrial revolution, and ultimately the end of slavery.

It became clear that not only was slavery wrong but that it had always been wrong.  Slavery remains a tarnish against America’s history, but it should not be forgotten that the truth found in our founding is the match that lit the fire that ultimately ended slavery everywhere.

Our history, nor our present, is perfect but I believe the “idea” of America still is.  Together,

if we make the sincere effort to preserve the common ideals of liberty and justice, we can continue to improve on the project of freedom.

I offer you my sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!