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The Idea of Greatness in America

Editor’s Note: All articles for Her Campus OR State are the opinions and beliefs of the writers and do not reflect Her Campus OR State, the Oregon State University or Her Campus as an international magazine

 This 2016 election season is anything but ordinary and it has left a lot of people discouraged and angry. We have before us two candidates who could not be more polar opposites of one another. However, regardless of their differences there is a word that both of them have formed their campaigns around: “GREAT”.

One says that they want to “Make America Great Again,”  while another says that “America is already great,” painting a picture of American exceptionalism in two different connotations.





Both candidates’ talk about greatness like it is a simple word with one definition and meaning, but in America today greatness means something immensely different to every person.

Knowing that greatness means something different to every person led me to start conversations with many different people on this topic. My goal was to understand this idea of greatness in the eye of the American beholder. What I learned is this….

Was America ever great? Sort of

Is America great now? Sort of

Can it be great again? Depends

Although vague, these answer embody the complexity of this idea and of America. The reality is America has struggled with greatness throughout our existence. We as a country and people have made a lot of mistakes in the past, but in contrast have also made a lot of progresses. There is no one time period or year that we can point to as our peak of greatness. It is often the small moments in history where we have progressed as a nation. As we look to modern times we see this struggle continue. We are in a time of innovation and change and in that we have our moments of greatness. Moving forward in America we must remember this

If you want to be great in the world, if you want to be the country of greatness, then you must do great things. Greatness is not just a word, but a repeated action of progress forward. You cannot rely on the actions of the past to dignify your future, but rather must pave the way for greatness to grow. You cannot become complacent. You cannot be content. America must always keep learning, must always keep growing, and must always be advancing. This will be something we will work on for the rest of time, but if we do then and only then may we call ourselves great.


What does greatness mean to you in America? Leave a comment below!


Justyn is a Senior at Oregon State University studying Political Science: Pre Law. Justyn's motto is Head in Corvallis, Heart in Seattle. She loves anything PNW, especially the rainy fall reason. You can almost always find her on campus in a pant suit, or rocking a blazer around. Justyn enjoys baking Drake themed cakes, or cooking shabbat dinner for the Jewish organization on campus. She is just a Jewish queen trying to start a political revolution!
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