The Good in America

In 1831, the French government sent twenty-seven-year-old Alexis de Tocqueville to America to study and report on the American prison system.  He traveled across our nation making notes not only on the prison systems but on all aspects of American society and government.  From these notes Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America.  In his final campaign address in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 3, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to one of Tocqueville’s most powerful and often-used quotes:  “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”  Throughout my life, I have observed this goodness.  However, upon reflection, it seems to me that the good in America rests not so much in our nation’s institutions but in the hearts and minds of the American people themselves—the silent majority of citizens who care for one another and support one another when they are needed.

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