An Inspiring New Book about America

Our Great Nation

The America We’ve Lost and How to Rebuild It Together

By Eric Stetson

What makes America great?

Our Great Nation is a soaring, big-picture narrative of American history and the unique opportunities and struggles that have defined Americans as a people. It is also a scathing social commentary on the Trump years, and a deeply personal story of a proud but declining country gone mad — guaranteed to trigger both liberals and conservatives alike — with outside-the-box ideas for how to renew America and save it from self-destruction.

This thought-provoking book takes you on a wild journey through the greatest challenges of our nation’s past and the most divisive controversies of our own time. Can a country as diverse as America survive? If there’s a common thread tying us together, the author weaves it into a tale of hope for humanity — and an urgent warning we must heed — that is embodied in the tragically flawed yet awe-inspiring American experience.

Eric Stetson

Eric Stetson has been a minister, a technology entrepreneur, a former Republican turned Democratic Party county chairman, and now a political independent. The son of an immigrant who fled persecution from a communist country, he also had ancestors in Congress and on the Mayflower. He has lived in diverse urban neighborhoods, blue-state suburbia, and conservative rural America — and he hopes he’ll never have to carry a passport or an assault rifle when going from one part of this land to another.

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Excerpts from Our Great Nation

From Chapter 2, “A New World of Freedom”:

Among these early settlers was one of my ancestors, a man named Cornet Robert Stetson. As “a young man, barely twenty-one years of age,” he crossed the sea from England and “came up the North River” of Massachusetts, “farther into the wilderness than any settler before him had gone, and here, where the river bends toward the upland he pitched his tent.” And in this place he chose for his new home, “A spring of pure, sweet water bubbled forth from the upland near the marsh line,” and “the soil was warm, fertile, easily tilled and responsive to intelligent cultivation … and the river was his highway.”

“And right here, all alone in the forest, he toiled for four long years, felling trees, clearing land, raising such crops as he could and preparing a home for the woman of his choice,” who later came to join him. And from the love and hope and determination of this man and his wife, whose name was called Honour, came forth a posterity numbering many thousands of descendants today, among whose number in history were the men who built the ships that are remembered of the Boston Tea Party; and one of the greatest U.S. senators and spokesmen for the liberty of all mankind; and a U.S. congressman, and a vice president of the United States; and an abundance of state legislators and civic leaders, successful businessmen and philanthropists, and visionaries who left their mark upon the land and in the dreams of all the world — even the man who became the inventor of the cowboy hat.

This heritage did not arise from the loins of a rich man, nor an educated man, but an ordinary man who made his mark with an “X,” and through hard work and determination, and more than a little imagination, became extraordinary. He rose from nothing to become a freeman and a leader among men. And so is the story of America.

From Chapter 3, “The Sin of Slavery”:

[I]n contrast to the relative equality enjoyed among men in the states where cereal crops were grown by the free, the baneful weed of tobacco became “the grand staple of Virginia”; and with it emerged a society based predominantly on slavery, the brutal exploitation of human labor by the owners of the land, on which workers without freedom or a share of the profits thereof were compelled by force and by fear of the lash to toil for those who claimed to be their owners and masters. And on that land grew up vast and luxurious estates and the dominions of seemingly entitled men, replicating, as it were, the aristocracy of Old England, though without the titles of nobility, but instead the relentless pursuit of profit as its only justification. For the society they invented became an infernal engine for the accumulation of unjustly acquired wealth, in which an already wealthy and well-connected man from England might be granted title to land, for the working of which he bought slaves to produce tobacco; which was smoked, and chewed, and snuffed by his customers across the Atlantic, in exchange for a handsome profit, with which he bought ever more land and more slaves, with which to grow more tobacco; until, in the end, such a man, who began already wealthy, grew so rich through the exploitation and indulgences of the flesh that he could reign “Like one of the patriarchs,” as one such man described, with “my flocks and my herds, my bond-men and bond-women” — living in a “great Air of Opulence” that shocked even wealthy visitors from England.

The passing of Thomas Jefferson marked a special Independence Day for two of his children — the youngest sons of his mixed-race mistress Sally Hemings, who were raised on his plantation not as members of his family, but as slaves, to be freed in Jefferson’s will. The master of Monticello, who had so eloquently proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” reluctantly claimed ownership over hundreds of men, women, and children during his lifetime, according to the traditional way of life of upper-class men of Virginia. And after living beyond his means and accumulating mountains of debt, he was able to free only a handful of his enslaved workers upon his death — those who were fortunate enough to be his own offspring, and their relatives.

For many Americans, freedom remained merely a hope and a theory, not a reality of the new world. Indeed, millions of African Americans would have to wait nearly forty more years before they, or their descendants, would be loosed from the shackles of bondage. As the escaped slave Frederick Douglass asked pointedly during an Independence Day oration in 1852, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” …

And thus, wrote Jefferson of the disgrace in which he himself took part, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

From Chapter 4, “A National Reckoning”:

It may be reckoned that the first battle of the Civil War was fought not on a battlefield, but on the floor of the United States Senate — and the weapon with which the battle was joined was not a rifle, but a politician’s cane. In 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts — a descendant of Cornet Robert Stetson, who felled the forest with an axe and became a freeholder yeoman — gave a fiery speech against slavery, in which he denounced its spread into the contested territory of Kansas and attacked a senator from South Carolina who was among its most ardent supporters.

Congressman Preston Brooks, a cousin of the senator who was offended, considered challenging Sumner to a duel for what he perceived as an attack on his family’s honor, but decided instead to assault him. His weapon of choice was a gutta-percha cane with a solid gold head. Though a young man, Brooks had acquired the cane to assist him in walking, after being shot in the hip in a duel with another politician. A perennial hothead, Brooks was elected to Congress despite having been expelled from college for threatening local police with a gun.

Two days after Sumner’s speech, Brooks entered the Senate chamber accompanied by Laurence M. Keitt, a fellow congressman from South Carolina, with whom he had planned a vicious assault on Sumner. After the galleries cleared, Brooks confronted Sumner at his desk, where he struck him in the head with the gold-headed tip of his cane. Sumner was immediately blinded by the force of the blow, and collapsed, finding himself trapped under the heavy desk which was bolted to the floor. Savage blows from Brooks rained down upon him, and he struggled to rise to his feet, until finally, with a valiant effort, he succeeded in ripping the desk from the floor. But Brooks continued to beat him on the head, the face, and the shoulders, “to the full extent of his power.” Even when his cane snapped in two, he continued beating Sumner with the piece that was crowned with the solid gold head — as Keitt brandished a pistol to prevent other lawmakers who were present from intervening. “Oh Lord!” cried Sumner, “Oh! Oh!” as he staggered and struggled to escape from the murderous Brooks; until finally, as Brooks remembered, he “bellowed like a calf” and fell to the floor unconscious.

At Ford’s Theatre, where the assassin’s bullet pierced the head of the president, was a visitor to Washington from South Carolina — a Union man named Frederick A. Sawyer, my great-great-great grandfather. “It is such a tragedy as I never hoped to witness,” wrote the shocked Sawyer in his diary after returning to his hotel room from the scene of the shooting. “The assassin’s hand has cut off in the very highest point of his usefulness and honor that man who felt no desire but to bless and serve his country and civilization.” …

Frederick Sawyer was a teacher who had moved from Massachusetts to South Carolina before the Civil War, taking a position in Charleston as the superintendent of the state Normal School, or teachers’ college. There he remained for most of the war, courageously advocating for the Union until finally he was compelled to depart to the North, for he refused to become a Confederate citizen. During the 1864 election campaign, Sawyer gave many speeches throughout the North urging the reelection of President Lincoln. After the war, he returned to South Carolina, and was unexpectedly elected to the United States Senate in 1868 upon the readmission of the state to the Union.

Sawyer’s predecessor in the very same seat in the Senate was the infamous James Henry Hammond — the man who had staunchly opposed allowing black slaves to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who had declared that “cotton is king,” and that nothing could ever persuade the slaveholding oligarchs of the South to give up their tremendous wealth in enslaved human beings …

The abolitionist Frederick A. Sawyer was elected as Hammond’s successor by one vote in the South Carolina state legislature — the vote of a black man, Robert Smalls, a former slave who had captured a steamship in a daring escape during the Civil War and joined the United States navy, thereafter becoming one of the first African Americans to be elected to political office. Smalls would use his legislative position to help establish the first free public schools in South Carolina, for children both black and white; and later he would follow Sawyer to the United States Congress.

From Chapter 5, “The Call of the West”:

[I]n San Francisco one day in May of 1848, a man held up a flask filled with glittering nuggets and dust, and cried “Gold! Gold!” in rapturous excitement to all who would listen. “Gold from the American River!” he shouted with glee. … And once the secret was out, there was no stopping the rush of men seeking fortune with a pick and a pan. In a matter of weeks, the bustling new city of San Francisco was deserted — stores closed, streets empty, and ships abandoned in the harbor — for nearly everyone had gone to look for gold. As the newspapers described, “the whole country” up and down the West Coast “resounds to the sordid cry of gold, gold! GOLD!” …

And the mining boom spread all over the West, to places such as Nevada, Colorado, and Montana. Young men sought adventure in boom towns such as Denver and Virginia City — some of which became major cities, and others of which became ghost towns when the precious metals were no longer to be found. In Virginia City, Nevada, the speculative frenzy spread beyond the mining camps to a stock exchange that was founded in the burgeoning but short-lived metropolis, where men traded shares in three thousand potential mines bearing colorful names such as the “Branch Mint,” the “Let-Her-Rip,” the “Treasure Trove” and the “Grand Mogul” — less than a dozen of which were ever proved profitable — with mind-boggling profits for the few who bet on the right investment.

Indeed, the West was a place of wild and unrestrained experimentation, with all the triumphs and hardships and disappointments to be expected of such an unusual place. “When he left home he was a smooth-faced, good-looking boy, and he sends home the likeness of an ourangoutang [sic] with the upper part of his face shaved!” said a father upon receiving a photograph of his heavily bearded son who had struck out for adventure in a mining camp. “Had his name not been inside, we would not have known it.” But these adventurers were seeking for more than just gold; they were finding themselves. “Got nearer to a female this evening than I have been for six months. Nearly fainted,” wrote one such young man of the intensity of his cravings. For most of these men, their quest would not pan out as they desired; but although they failed to become millionaires, they succeeded in making the West a land of possibility and legend.

The Mormon Trail to the Great Salt Lake was filled with the most terrible hardships and lined with the graves of the dead — and in its tales of woe and miraculous survival, it ranks as one of the most dramatic and memorable mass migrations in human history. … Twenty-five thousand men, women, and children began the journey in 1846, and by the end of that year, only ten thousand were still alive — and the number remaining would have been even fewer had it not been for fortuitous events, such as a great flock of quails that descended and lingered around their wagons, providing the starving people with meat. As one migrant described, there were so many quails that “the sick knock them down with sticks and the little children catch them alive in their hands!” They took it as a sign “from the Most High that although we are driven by men He has not forsaken us.” …

And in the next few years, many more would come [to Utah], including some fifty thousand immigrants to the United States who had joined the new faith and would join in what the Latter-day Saints called the “Gathering of Zion.” Most of them were poor, and could not afford wagons or oxen, so they pushed or pulled handcarts more than fourteen hundred miles across the prairies and mountains; and many of them died on the way. “We knew that we had not strength of our own to perform such hardships if our heavenly Father had not help us,” wrote the appropriately named girl, Patience Loader, whose father would perish on the trail. …

And for those among the people in those days who arrived in the new Zion of Utah, they found land available for free, and a society that cared for them and uplifted them. Poor families were given farms according to their need, for as taught by the church, the “land belongs to the Lord, and his Saints are to use so much as they can work profitably.”

[I]t might be said of the relationship between the indigenous Americans throughout this land and the immigrants from the East, that the dreams of one people died, so that the dreams of another might live. For the colonization of the West was for one people a nightmare, and for another people a dream of the boundless expansion of freedom. But even for the victors — for the homesteaders, and the gold miners, and the Americans fleeing poverty or religious persecution — that dream, in the form they had known, would also come to an end. For the frontier of the West had a limit, with the limits of the land itself; and so, perhaps it was no coincidence that in the same year of 1890, when the dream of the Indians died, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that for the first time in the history of our nation, there was no longer an American frontier. All of us, thereafter, were enclosed on one great and mighty reservation, where we must learn to live with each other together rather than flee.

The final act before the closing of the frontier — before the remaining public lands were declared off-limits to homesteaders in the same year — before the curtain fell upon the saga of the American West as it was in our dreams of old — was the opening of the Indian Territory of Oklahoma to settlement by the American people as a whole. In 1889, on April 22, at noon, guns were fired by government officials, signaling the last chance to claim free land where a poor man might gain a farm of his own — a day that marked the end of an era, and arguably, the end of the American Dream itself, in its most radical and original form. One hundred thousand people had surrounded the borders of the territory, waiting for the sound of the signal. And when the guns were fired, the greatest race in history began — the race to plant stakes in the soil, in some fertile valley by a river or stream, where with diligence and the smiling blessings of Providence a crop of food and a new life might be grown, free from bondage to inherited wealth and position; free from bondage to the past, looking hopefully to a future where anything might be possible — the spirit of America distilled purely, into one day, a magical day, when nearly two million acres of land were claimed within a few hours, and when Oklahoma City arose from nothing to become, by nightfall, a city of ten thousand tents, and within weeks with its own city government. America, in a day — the America that, like the dreams of its original people, would be lost in the realm of myth, as a heritage, like a frontier that we might learn again to discover.

From Chapter 10, “Relics from America’s Attic”:

Why had this sleazy casino builder won the election? I really wanted to understand what was going on. Although I didn’t agree with many of Trump’s ideas and methods, I did want to make America great again.

And that was the beginning of my understanding. For it began to dawn on me that many Americans were desperate to believe in their country again — so desperate that they would even vote for Trump, despite his obvious flaws — because our country was falling apart and only some kind of radical change could possibly hope to restore it to greatness. Voting for Trump was like throwing your last dollar on the roulette wheel: you know you’re probably not going to win, but if you don’t take a chance, you know for sure you’re going to lose. For many Americans, what other choice did they have?

Earlier that year I had moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Iowa, in part, to get out of the coastal elite bubble where I had grown up and learn about the breadbasket of America. I felt the romance of the cornfields calling me — the vast landscape of the plains with its distant horizons. There I rode in a combine tractor with a friend as he harvested his soybean crop and told me about the struggles of the farming business which his family had been in for generations. Corn and bean prices were low — seemingly always low and getting lower — and this meant a grinding hardship for family farmers who had to go deeper and deeper into debt to survive — and in many cases, who lost their land to gigantic agribusiness corporations. …

Soon after the 2016 election, I decided to move to the heart of Trump country — deep red Appalachia — to learn about the culture of another part of America that was alien to my upper-middle-class suburban upbringing. … [O]nly a couple of miles from my new home, I passed a run-down old house with a tattered Rebel flag flapping brazenly in the wind. Every time I would go into town for the next year or so, I had to pass by that flag, which seemed to become more and more faded and threadbare, yet which always seemed to catch the breeze as if in steadfast defiance of its demise. Eventually it was taken down, perhaps to be put back in a box in the attic among other heirlooms of our nation’s past.

We all have such an attic — whether literally or metaphorically. And the less pride we feel in our country today, perhaps the more we yearn to reclaim the faded glories of a bygone era, no matter what the character of that past may be.

In my grandparents’ house there was a room above the garage, like an attic but with ceilings high enough to permit walking around without stooping. It was filled with historical artifacts — old military uniforms, books and magazines, photographs and other relics from the early 1900s and perhaps even earlier — and the smell of rough-hewn wood, dust, and mothballs permeated the air.

As a child, I was fascinated by this makeshift museum of American history, and it reached deep into my psyche as a symbol of the past from whence I had emerged — like a dim-lit womb filled with mysterious and ancient treasure. … As far as I know, there is no money under the floorboards, but the treasure was right under my nose all along. For the treasure in my grandparents’ attic was the treasure of knowing your history and learning the lessons it can teach us.

I had come to appreciate this by the time I made my final visit to the house I had visited so many times in my youth — this time in August 2017, the summer after my grandfather died. I was getting older, already in my late 30s. My aunt was clearing everything out of the house and everyone else in the family had already gone through it. She said I could keep any relics I found that I wanted. So I climbed the steep stairs to the attic one last time, to find whatever treasures spoke most deeply to my heart.

And in this room I found treasures indeed. What I found tells a story of a time when America was filled with hope and pride, when our nation believed in itself, its people and institutions — a time when we were still a nation on the rise, with our hearts imbued with a sense of purpose and mission — a time when merely the average American carried him or herself with a dignity that puts later generations to shame.

Yes, we are ashamed of ourselves and our country today, though we don’t often like to admit it. A hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, we were not — despite the many flaws that existed during that time in our society. We were not ashamed then because we knew we were getting better. Today, we feel we are getting worse. And that makes all the difference.

From Chapter 11, “Pervasive Malaise”:

Where are our jetpacks and flying cars? Where is the shared prosperity of automation and the nine-hour workweek of The Jetsons? Instead, presidential candidates like Andrew Yang warn that the robots will soon take our jobs — not so that we can spend more leisure time cruising the solar system, but so that the average Joe of the future will be ground up like sausage because he is no longer necessary for the plutocracy.

And what happened to the moon bases we were supposed to have by now, not to mention the colonies on Mars? As I was driving into town in my very old, non-flying car, my mind wandered back to my childhood in the 1980s, when the glorious promises of the space program were still fresh in everyone’s mind. As a little kid in a Montessori preschool just outside of Washington, D.C., I would sit around playing with Legos with the other kids whose parents were scientists and diplomats and executives at forward-thinking NGOs from all over the world: African, Asian, and Middle Eastern kids — all of us playing with Legos, building bases on the moon. Here was a little astronaut man from America, and a space-suited girl from Russia, and another one from Japan. They were all working together, because in the future, the world was one. Neither the Yooks nor the Zooks had won the great “Butter Battle” — no, the great powers had laid down their arms, and had torn down their walls, and with their budgets filled with butter instead of guns, they had healed the suffering of the earth and looked heavenward to explore a new frontier.

I was jolted back to reality by the guttural rumbling sound of a truck that was “rolling coal.” The tricked-out pickup in front of me was like a gigantic middle finger on wheels — festooned with bumper stickers proclaiming that global warming is a hoax, Trump should be president, Hillary should be in prison, and that in the driver’s not-so-humble opinion it would have been great if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Every time he stepped on the gas, a thick cloud of coal-black smoke erupted from his tailpipe, with a low and menacing rumble as though it emerged from the belly of the dragon Smaug.

From Chapter 13, “American Dreams”:

We had one more day remaining in the land of California, and when the new day dawned, we drove to the notorious Tenderloin district of San Francisco, parked in an underground garage, and walked to a huge multi-level shopping mall that looked like a cathedral. A venture capital firm happened to be hosting a conference there for startups involved in artificial intelligence, and our meeting was in glass-walled offices across the hallway. The guy we were meeting had done some contract work for our company a few years earlier, when we were just getting started. His fortunes had been much better, though, for he was now an executive at a leading blockchain firm and we were hoping he would fund us before we went out of business.

After that meeting, we walked through the seedy area of town to the Twitter building. Along the way, we observed a homeless man with his pants down around his ankles, doubled over and puking his guts out in the gutter. I saw another guy who was furtively shooting a needle in his arm, right there on the sidewalk. “Jon, did you see that?” I asked incredulously, but he hadn’t noticed. There was also a more pedestrian phenomenon: Block after block, the smell of marijuana was ubiquitous, and both of us couldn’t help but notice a group of guys who looked like gangsters, some of them shirtless, including one man who was smoking a blunt as thick as a sausage.

Another homeless man was lying on the sidewalk less than a block away from the headquarters of Twitter. Inside the building, on the ground floor, was an upscale coffee shop and grocery store. Jon and I selected a small repast from the organic breakfast bar. While waiting in line to pay, we marveled at the sight of a display case with gourmet chocolate bars from Ecuador. The cheapest bar was $280 and the most expensive one was $375 dollars.

We sat down to eat and prepared to meet the next corporate executive, who would be joining us soon in the coffee shop. Looking out the window, I noticed a Black Box “virtual reality gym” across the street. It really was something, the kind of life you could live here, I thought. You could begin your day by stepping over the homeless man lying in the gutter, eat a holistic meal here at the market, then go upstairs to work at your elite job at Twitter, come down for a $350 chocolate bar as a snack in the afternoon, then walk by the homeless guy again on your way to the gym, where you could enjoy a rousing and fully immersive workout wearing virtual reality goggles to transport you to another world where you can stop thinking about that unfortunate person rolling around on the pavement while you were nibbling on your exorbitant luxury snack.

From Chapter 14, “Searching for the Promised Land”:

A friend of mine from Youngstown told me the story of her estranged brother who still lives in the city. He lost a good working-class job and has been unemployed for years, and he sits around all day drinking beer and watching political commentators on Fox News. Filled with anger and nihilism, he voted for Trump to “burn it all down.” The burning, for him, is not just metaphorical; he literally has talked about burning his own house down with himself in it, but he got scared when one day a fire started accidentally in the floor underneath his bed. He was convinced that Trump would beat the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, because as he told my friend, “you live in a bubble with all your New Age spiritual people and have no idea how bad things are out here in the real world.”

Cruising down the interstate through Ohio, a heavy metal song about a race car was pounding out of the speakers on my radio. Somebody’s engine was running hot, but it wasn’t mine. In the distance a thick plume of black smoke ascended to the sky, obscuring my view of the road ahead. I reached down between my legs — for my phone — to see what Google Maps said about the traffic delay. Firetrucks and ambulances rushed to the scene, and after a long delay, I passed the source of the conflagration: an eighteen-wheeler that had almost completely burned to ashes, leaving only a hollow shell of charred steel. …

I exited from the interstate and headed on a local road toward the heart of the metro area. Before long, a sign informed me that I had entered a town called the “Center of the World” — that’s its actual name. Maybe it seemed like it was the center of the world back in the days of proud American industry, but now, just past the sign, there was a rotting leather couch with a sign that said “FREE.”

Proceeding onward to Warren, a billboard advertised yoga with a bit of machismo: a mustachioed man with a steelworker vibe, who could help you deal with your rage. I passed boarded up factories and pervasive signs of blight and decay — but on the bright side, only a few blocks away, there were historic old buildings with classic brick architecture and new shops around an attractive town green. The center of town had potential, I thought.

“American Steel = American Jobs. Thank you, President Trump,” proclaimed a gigantic billboard between Warren and Youngstown. Talk is cheap, though, and the steel industry hadn’t actually made a comeback. … All over the Youngstown metro area, there was a feeling of awkward coexistence between the old and the new. You could see it in the close juxtaposition of renewal and decline, of increasingly empty nostalgia and a reluctant reaching for the future.

My business was done, and I decided to spend the rest of the day walking around Manhattan. “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair,” proclaimed a quotation from America’s first president, chiseled on a monumental archway at Washington Square Park. “The event is in the hands of God.”

So indeed, I thought, as I walked onward through the city, down Broadway, passing a sign with the face of a dark-skinned woman, asking passersby the enduring question of “Poverty or Potential?” — past gorgeous tulips and cherry trees, bursting with pink, red and yellow, and a group of adorable Chinese American children out for a stroll with their caregiver on a beautiful spring day; and a flock of pigeons of all colors, feeding together on the sidewalk, including black, white, brown and gray, and the mixed and multicolored among them. I stopped to watch the impressive acrobatic feats of a group of African American performers, around whom a crowd of tourists had gathered, until they ended their show by saying, “There is only one race in the world today: the human race.”

This was New York, a place that is at the beating heart of the American Dream. It is also the place where the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, brought down by the forces of hate and an appetite for destruction. …

Today, at the site of the World Trade Center stands Freedom Tower, and a block away is The Oculus, an immense and magnificent shopping mall that I call the “Cathedral of Capitalism.” A marvel of modern architecture, its all-white superstructure encloses a vast and soaring space into which daylight enters through a long slit of skylights on the ceiling, and in the lower levels, the multitudes browse and buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, and electronic devices, along with all manner of food and drink. Another block away is an old historic church called St. Paul’s Chapel, with a sign stating its values of Faith, Integrity, Inclusiveness, Compassion, Social Justice, and Stewardship. Two sides of America in close proximity, just as one might expect to see in one of our greatest and most diverse of cities.

I had seen New York, and I was “On my way home,” said a mural nearby — perfect timing, I thought. But I had one more place to see before my journey’s end: the place where for so many Americans it all began. I walked several more blocks to the end of Lower Manhattan, and from Battery Park I looked out across the mouth of the Hudson River to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. And as I sat there, at the end of the day, I reflected on all that I had seen, and all that we are; and I felt the power of the incredible story that is America flowing through me — and I didn’t want that story to die.

This is just a small selection of what you’ll find in Our Great Nation — stories from American history and the present day that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think. Including a memorable chapter about the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, racial unrest, and the 2020 election and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and the author’s assessment of the future of American politics and what we must do to save the country from a second civil war.

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