The Question at the Heart of American Greatness


Can you remember a time in your early childhood when you first formed your conceptions about the office of the presidency? Most of us learned about the office through a study of the great men who have held that title throughout history. Men with names like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. These men were said to have embodied certain qualities that we, as Americans, naturally idealized. Honesty. Bravery. Wisdom. Honor. And though we later learned that some of the stories we were taught were mythical – the cherry tree and so on – the lessons within those parables remained true.

When you embark on a deep, comprehensive study of the men listed above, you’ll quickly come to realize that they were as human and fallible as anyone living today. They made mistakes, they believed in things that were not true, they committed sins. They were not perfect. They were not deities.

What made them special was their ability to meet the unique challenges set upon them by their circumstances. These men spent much of their lives pondering the meaning of existence and each of them, in their own way, came to realize that the asking of that question – What is the meaning of life? – was obscuring the true answer. They realized that the answer can only be found when you understand that question is not to be asked of life; it is asked by life, of us. And through that realization is found the greatest gift God ever bestowed on man: Freedom.

Each of those great presidents yearned to see the United States of America become a reflection of that gift.

“The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves,” said George Washington.

Washington said those words before leading his troops into a losing battle with the British army, but they are as relevant to us in 2016 as they were in those days of revolution. Those words apply to our daily lives, our society, and our relationship with the world and whatever lies beyond. Every day – in every moment – we make that choice as individuals and as a country. Will we be free men or slaves?

That’s what it comes down to. There is no greater question to be asked.

Of the two individuals seeking to hold the office of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, which of them appears closer to the core truth of American liberty? Which direction will each of them choose for the country? The one that leads us into slavery or the one that leads us to freedom?

If you can answer that question clearly, you needn’t ask anything more.

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