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How America Became Great

Updated on December 18, 2013

By Joyce Reba Payne

The greatness of America has been shown and proven over the past two hundred years as the nation has grown through both good and bitter days and yet retained its leadership position in the world. And though America is like the new kid on the block compared to the history of some European countries that have been around for much longer, she has excelled beyond those nations through some very unique differences. Yes, she has some history that she is not so proud to discuss but like most new kids on the block, history is veiled and she looks pretty good from a distance.

We that know America intimately also know that she has some challenges to stability that will require great strength to triumph over like those of past years. Will the greatness of America survive one more time and evolve into greater strength? Those of us that have been around for a while know of America’s resilience and remember better days in the nation. Let’s reminisce for a moment about some of those former days and see what made America great.

Illustrated: Voyagers Reach Land/Pilgrims with Indians/Life in the Colonies

The Beginning

There was a determination for better things that brought the multitude of people from different backgrounds, religions and lands to this foreign and unknown land sitting in the western hemisphere of the world. People left the familiar established guidance of their own homeland to take a chance in a land without secured government, provision or protection. Some came because they were exiled from their own country for crimes or debt but many came for a better opportunity of life away from the harshness of their own country’s restraints. Those seeking freedom of religion to serve God according to the dictates of their own hearts saw a fresh new beginning and hope. And only a loving God could have kept the people working together with a common determination through the harshness they encountered and yet birth a nation with government provision and protection that also permitted freedom to grow in the worship of their God.

Illustrated: General Store/Thomas Edison/Ford's First Car/Wright Brothers’ First flight

Developing Nation

United with the determination to make a better life in America, the people of the 17th and 18th century overcame the obstacles and hardships of war, religious and personal differences, and lack of daily provisions to form communities and a government that would allow them to live in societies where they could enjoy fellowship with each other. During the hardship and peace times, Americans worked to better their lives though farming the land; building homes, general stores, churches, schools, banks; establishing for the general public laws, doctors, lawyers, funeral parlors; and participating in community events with their neighbors. Life really does not consist of much more than these activities even today. But we have broken these needs down into more detail performances that cater to the demands of the public and personal choices.

Illustrated: Farming/Commerce/Colonial Church/Colonial Family Life

What Sustained Early America?

It is important to know the elements of a successful process so that when things began to deteriorate one can refer back to these factors to see what needs strengthening or correction. And when things begin to decline people tend to devalue the things that were right in order continue what they are doing without making a change. But life does teach us lessons that we cannot afford to ignore if we are to continue to progress. So below are some of the old values practiced by so many people that contributed to America’s success.

  • Hard work – whether working the farm, livestock, tradesman or laborer; people worked hard and expected just compensation for their labor in order to eat and take care of family.
  • Honesty – a man’s word was his bond and business deals were often brokered by voice or handshake.
  • Religion – people had a respect and fear of God and called upon Him for crops, family health and safety. Community churches united and supported the whole community. Though many people were unable to read and write in the early days, values could be learned through community life.
  • Family – family was tantamount for everything: farming, safety, health, information, fellowship and provision of daily needs. Homes in secluded areas depended on family and neighbor for added support in times of emergency.
  • Inventions – hardships, determination and insight brought about inventions like the Edison light bulb, Bell telephone, Ford cars, Wright Brothers airplane and discoveries of products, medicines, industries and services.

Illustrated: Edison Bulb/Department Stores
Illustrated: Edison Bulb/Department Stores
  • Local Merchants – the general store was in the center of the community and merchants were neighbors and friends who also extended credit and help for food, clothes, medicine and hardware.
  • Local Church/School/Doctor/Sheriff –these were local people who also visited homes in the community.
  • Entrepreneurs – though not called by this name, many were self employed farmers, tradesmen, or service providers that worked the land or labored and received the profit of their work.
  • Industries – mass production provided jobs for large groups of people on production lines that brought prosperity to the manufacturer and the public when performed in an equitable manner.
  • Transportation – companies that provided stagecoaches, trains, buses, and airplanes made it possible for people to leave family and farm life for better jobs, education and training and return again.
  • Companies– companies directed by an individual or groups brought many products and services that made life easier. Some of the pioneering companies in America were:
    • Ford (1896) - first car manufactured
    • Bell Telephone (1877) - first telephone company
    • Edison light bulb (1879) - light bulb invented
    • J C Penney Company(1902) – discount department store, utilizing catalog sales
    • Sears and Roebuck (1886) – started by selling watches, later catalog and department stores

Illustrated: Shopping Mall/Mega Church/Political Discord/Fast Food Drive Through

A changed Nation

Wealth in America for companies and the individuals changed everything. What were once warm relationships between community service providers and customers that were neighbors, like in the general store, later became services provided by large conglomerates who did not share community relationships and values. The bible states that the love of money is the root of all evil so some of the practices that made America great are also the instruments that are resulting in her decline. America as a capitalist society promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in its citizens but those that earn large profits are also able to influence the politics and laws that guide the nation. The hunger for money and power without strong moral restraint tends to cause the exploitation of people by companies, government or individuals who use their strength and authority to oppress the weak for personal gain when there is lack of a strong opposing force.

The extreme opposite of the character traits and systems that made America great are producing the afflictions of economic loss, political discord, and crime as well as moral and religious deterioration:

  • Hard work – fewer Americans are entrepreneurs and a hard day’s work can no longer guarantee prosperity as American companies demand the most work for the lowest wage, export American jobs overseas or promote more use of automation to eliminate the cost of human labor. Americans in general are striving for minimal output and maximum gain.
  • Honesty – motivation of money with the weak restraint of conscience or religion has caused people to use dishonest methods to acquire the goal of profit and has lessened the power of agreements.
  • Religion – preachers seeking prosperity deliver a compromised gospel that has undermined the fear of God in people who no longer believe in God or they think that He is too good to punish evildoers with eternal damnation. New religions with less moral restraints have replaced ones that required stricter adherence to the Word of God. Many local churches are losing members to mega churches where pastors cannot get to know all the members and where some pastors use armed security for protection.
  • Family – with the change in religious beliefs came also a change in moral restraints that culminated in deterioration of the established family structure that cannot sustain a nation indefinitely.
  • Companies –some national and international companies that override small businesses and dominate the market have become corrupt with power and political influence that affect consumer rights, wages and the comfort level of citizens. American companies are now lobbying to be declared as people for additional rights and influence in the nation.

America continues to be a great nation because of the practice of good acts that help to offset the poorer ones. There is a large amount of Christian believers in America even though there is a growing presence of religions that do not support the teachings of Jesus Christ that motivated the original founders and settlers. The nation has a practice of outreach to other nations to teach faith, improve government, provision of charitable services and monetary support for people that does help to offset the damage of wars that we have unjustly taken to some countries for personal or political advantage. The kind acts that America does will continue to sustain it and offset the evil as long as the good continues to outweigh the evil. But even good must be progressive as we correct known errors and do more of what is right. Without moving toward the greater good or leadership by righteous people, the nation begins an internal decline instead of progression. Money as a motivator is a corrupter that makes no true friends and will inevitably destroy even the good done unless the nation reverses its course of deterioration and move forward with the things that made her great. Our nation is observed and imitated by other nations around the world but those same nations also marvel at our controversial behavior that tarnish America’s image. America has used Christian values and moral integrity to set a standard in the world that is a model for others and has the ability to continue for generations to come by using the power of conscience and her God to exercise righteousness again. Our nation must realize that it is now time to hit the reset button and restore the unity of the hearts of the people that brought about the prosperity and greatness that is uniquely America.

Copyright 2013 by Joyce Reba Payne. All rights reserved.


Do you agree with the list of factors that helped make America great and that are now in decline?

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      Howard Schneider 

      7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I agree with your analysis, Joyce. In fact, I am about to touch on many of your points in a Hub I am about to publish. Americans have worked hard and overcome many things. The genius of our Constitution was that it allowed us to evolve and prosper. This is true even with the embedded injustices with it. Slavery, of course, was the primary one. Our country has evolved albeit too slowly into one that accepts all and provides equal opportunity to all. I believe and sincerely hope that this trend continues. We must certainly continue to re-examine our governmental practices because we are falling behind economically. We must also help those who are left behind and drastically shrink the increasing wealth gap in this country. Great Hub.


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