What Makes America Great?: Land of Freedom, Honor, Justice, and Opportunity

What Makes America Great?: Land of Freedom, Honor, Justice, and Opportunity

by Lon Cantor

Paperback

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Overview

Unlike dry history books, What Makes America Great? is written in a breezy, personal style. It makes history come alive with humanizing stories about the men and women who made America great.

·Chapter 1 provides objective proof of America's greatness, using a lot of statistics.

·Chapters 2 and 3 cover the early history of America and explain why we revolted.

·Chapter 4 explains our victory over England in the American Revolution, a tremendous upset. Few Americans know how the colonists achieved this astounding feat.

·Some modern "debunkers" like to say that our founding fathers acted out of selfishness rather than principle. Chapter 5 shows the idealism of our founders and details the sacrifices made by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

·Our founding fathers were faced with the exciting but daunting task of creating an entirely new kind of country. Well-educated men, they based the United States on principles developed by the world's greatest philosophers. Chapter 6 starts with Moses and goes through Locke and Voltaire. Each philosopher's ideas are related to American ideals.

·The Declaration and the Constitution are the two greatest publications mankind has ever known. But they weren't created out of thin air. Chapter 7 discusses the precedents our forefathers studied before drafting these two great documents.

·In Chapter 8, each American war is discussed in the light of whether it was just or unjust.

·Chapter 9 covers the role of immigrants in shaping America. It shows the challenges, obstacles and contribution of each immigrant group.

·No country is perfect, not even America. Chapter 10 discusses the five areas in which America has done wrong: Indians, slaves, women, prejudice, and education.

·Chapter 11 is a glimpse into the future of America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780595279999
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/03/2003
Pages: 244
Sales rank: 1,076,580
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Here at the dawn of the third millennium, America is definitely foremost among the 190 nations of the world.  Since the end of World War II, we have clearly been #1 in many ways.

***

The end of the eighties saw the infamous Berlin wall torn down, uniting Eastern and Western Germany.  The USSR broke into many pieces.  Communist regimes were overthrown and replaced by democratic governments.  Russia itself became more democratic and capitalistic... This upheaval has left the world with only one Super Power - the United States of America.

***

Prosperity as measured in money and material possessions isn't everything, but it is very important.  America is the richest country in the world.  In contrast to countries like Iran, this doesn't mean that the country's leaders or the favored few are rich.  It means that the people as a whole are rich.  Since my parents were both immigrants from Russia, I was raised on the principle that "In America, everybody can succeed." Not everybody does succeed, but everybody can succeed through hard work. 

 

Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well, saying:  "The man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year he will hire others to labor for him."

***

Today, Americans live better than any other people on earth.  With a population of 281 million (according to census 2000) we consume more goods than any other nation on earth.  We have better houses (and home ownership is very high), more and better cars, more and better food, and more and better leisure time activities. 

***

According to the latest U.S. Census, the median income in this country is $40,000 a year.  40% of U.S. households earn more than $50,000 a year.  One household out seven earns more than $100,000 per year. Half of those people have a net worth of over a million dollars. 

***

Fewer than 12% of Americans live below the poverty line, which is drawn at about $17,000 dollars a year.  What's more, help is available so that even those in poverty (with rare exceptions) have places to live, food to eat and clothes to wear, as well as access to medical treatment and drugs.

***

Here's an interesting statistic.  In India there are only seven cars per thousand people.  In China there are eight cars per thousand people.  In the United States there are 750 cars per thousand people.

 

Our population is only a fraction of the populations of China and India (which is expected to surpass China in population within the next fifty years). However, in terms of gross national product (GNP) the United States is #1.  Our GNP is over $8 trillion, compared with $1 trillion for China, $4 trillion for Japan (#2), $2 trillion for Germany (#3), and $1.4 trillion for France (#4). 

***

Radio, TV, and movies have long been the means by which the western world is entertained and informed. And these media are dominated by the United States...

 

Perhaps non-Americans get a distorted picture of what our country is really like from our movies, music, and television shows, but many still are eager to come to America to enjoy the good life.

 

My, wife Michiko, who came to America in the early 80's, tells me that her father in Japan loves American westerns, especially those starring John Wayne.  Her brother, who also still lives in Japan, has been a devoted Beetles fan for decades.  And most popular songs in Japan have English titles.

***

America is the most generous nation the world has ever known.  This was proved most dramatically during the aftermath of World War II when America helped to rescue and rebuild all of Europe.  Unlike any other conqueror the world has ever known, America spent more than $13 billion on the Marshall Plan, helping not just our former allies, but also the countries that had been our bitter opponents during the war. 

 

America leads the way in worldwide charities such as UNICEF, CARE, and the World Food Program.  We have sent relief to places like Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Kosovo. In addition, American Hospital Ships have helped people around the globe.

***

The colonists didn't seem to realize that they had to support themselves with their own labor.  Instead, they lived mainly off the supplies they had brought with them.  Within seven months, this supply was exhausted. In desperation, they tried to barter for food from the Indians.  When this proved inadequate, they turned to stealing food and land from the Indians.  The Indians became so hostile that the colonists were afraid to go into the woods beyond the stockade, even for wood.  They actually began to chop down their own houses to get firewood.

***

It has become somewhat fashionable in recent years for Americans to question the righteousness of the American Revolution.  Some writers say that the colonists were not against "taxation without representation."  They were against taxation period.  The colonial leaders were not men of high ideals and integrity -- they were just rich men who wanted to become richer.  Most Americans didn't care about freedom and independence.  They were quite content being subjects of the King of England. 

 

To all of these criticisms I say, "Balderdash!" Our founding fathers didn't revolt just to line their own pockets.  They truly believed in the principles of freedom and justice for all.  They risked their lives and their fortunes to prove it.  It is true that the average colonist wasn't quite ready to insist upon independence when the war broke out, and there were many, many people who remained loyal to the crown, but we could not possibly have won the war without the enthusiastic support of the people.

 

***

When the American Revolution started, we were definitely the underdogs.  Nobody in the world thought that a bunch of farmers could stand up against the might of the British, probably the strongest nation on earth in 1776.  The combined population of the 13 American colonies was only about 2 million, plus about half a million black slaves.  The combined population of England, Wales, and Scotland was more than 9 million. .Added to this number were about 60,000 loyalists in the colonies, predominantly along the Atlantic coast, plus Native Americans who were hostile to the colonists.  The British had a large, well-trained, well-quipped army, and the money to hire mercenaries. They also had the most powerful navy in the world.

 

But several factors favored the Americans.  First, they war was fought on their own soil.  British troops had to be supported from across the Atlantic Ocean in an era of sailing ships.

 

Second, many Englishmen sympathized with the American cause, including Prime Minister William Pitt.  And many other Englishmen simply didn't think the colonies were worth fighting and dying over.

 

Third, England was distracted by troubles with their European neighbors.  During the American Revolution, Britain was fighting with France, Holland, Spain, and India.  British troops saw action in Africa and Gibraltar.  The Irish were demanding Home Rule and rioters in London were demanding "no popery!" In addition, there were wars between Spain and Portugal, between Russia and Denmark, and the War of Bavarian Succession.

 

Fourth, America got help from English enemies.  Lafayette's French volunteers arrived in 1777 to fight alongside Washington's troops. That same year, German General von Steuben arrived to become Inspector General for the untrained American troops.  In 1778, the Americans signed formal treaties with the Dutch and the French.

 

Fifth, the colonies surprised Britain by uniting.  They appointed George Washington Commander-in-Chief of the continental army.  This idea came from John Adams, and it was brilliant.  Up to this point, the conflict had been between only Massachusetts and the British.  Adams knew that to have any chance of winning, the war had to be between all of the colonies and the British.  He pushed hard for the continental army and used his influence to make sure that a Virginian headed the army, thus insuring the participation of the Middle Colonies and the South.

 

Sixth, the British were not used to the kind of guerilla warfare that the United States found so troubling in the Vietnam War. Accustomed to fighting set European style battles, they had not learned the lessons of the French and Indian War.  George Washington had learned his lesson the hard way...

 

Finally, the Americans had a secret weapon - the Kentucky long rifle.  The British, like all European armies, used smoothbore muskets.  Muskets had short range and very poor accuracy.  But the British soldier was trained to stand shoulder to shoulder and shoot without aiming into the enemy lines.  Americans also used muskets, but they had rifles, too.  A rifle barrel is grooved so that it imparts spin on the bullet.  This spin keeps the bullet precisely on line, improving accuracy tremendously. 

 

The colonists were hunters and Indian fighters.  Their very survival required long range, reliability and accuracy in a weapon.  The flintlock Kentucky long rifle was the answer.  It got its name because it was used a great deal in the wilds of Kentucky, but it was actually designed and manufactured by German settlers in Pennsylvania.  A key feature of the rifle was that its barrel was about twice as long as the barrel of a musket, resulting in long-range accuracy. 

 

The colonists who used Kentucky long rifles became great sharpshooters.  They could pick off an enemy soldier from 200 or 300 yards.  One English patriot who had seen the Kentucky long rifle in action wrote: "This province (Pennsylvania) has raised a thousand riflemen, the worst of whom will put a rifle ball into a man's head at a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards.  Therefore, advise your officers who shall hereafter come out to America to settle their affairs in England before their departure."  British soldiers were so afraid of being hit from great distances by unseen enemies that they attributed supernatural abilities to the colonists.

 

To capitalize on the fear inspired by Kentucky long rifles, General George Washington ordered " the use of Hunting Shirts with long Breeches ... it is a dress justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy who thinks every such person is a compleat Marksman."

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