“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”

Make America great again. It certainly does have a wonderful ring to it.

But as we continue to hear more of this and the candidacy it represents, I have not heard many people asking, “Exactly what is great about America?”

Two-hundred and forty years ago the Founders of America set in motion the longest period of sustained liberty and prosperity that the world has every known. The framework of the Constitution and the choosing of a republican form of government was not an accident, nor was it a means to set up a society where government held the keys to individual greatness.

Instead, America was birthed as a system of individual liberty where each person was the master of their own destiny in a nation governed by the rule of law and not by men.

In the course of generations since those early days, and in the experience of my own life, the greatness of America has never been represented to me by government. The greatness of America has been my ability to freely seek opportunities for advancement in a future that is written only by me each day that I live. The greatness of America has been my ability to go to church on Sunday and have the ability to choose where my children go to school. Family dinners, Cub Scout bottle drives, my daughter’s softball games, and Memorial Day remembrances are the things that I think of when I think of what makes America great.

As I hear the rhetoric in today’s political discourse, I fear that many of us are losing sight of the virtues that make us great. Like many of my fellow citizens, I feel betrayed and angry at a hijacked political system in which promises become forgotten once those we trusted arrive in Washington.

We have been promised over and over again that if we just win the next election, if we can just get the next majority, we can stop the massive problem of illegal immigration. We’ve been told we can stop a governmental hijacking of our health care system, and we’ve been told that we can end corporate cronyism.

As we know, these are promises that have not been kept.

Our nature urges us to act out of anger, but as rational creatures we must control our base emotions and rise to better standards. The answer to all of the problems in Washington is a return to our founding principals and the Constitution, not to make demands for our own brand of tyranny. It is a return to decency and servant leadership, and not more Washington deal-making and crony capitalism.

As a conservative Republican, I have never shied away from my beliefs in the core values expressed in founding documents and principals of Jeffersonian liberalism. A return to liberty with a free marketplace of both ideas and commerce are the only way to restore America from the brink of European-style socialism, which has failed everywhere it has been tried.

For starters, we can be strong on our stance against illegal immigration without being disparaging of minorities. We can have disagreements without name-calling and vulgarity. If it is religious liberty we seek, we start by living our faith.

Recently I have heard from the presidential primary praise of totalitarian dictators, a refusal to disavow the KKK, retweeting white supremacy groups, disgusting and insulting slurs towards women, and a pledge to open libel laws to intimidate the press from reports that politicians don’t like, among other things. This is the opposite of what makes America great.

I encourage all my fellow citizens to take a moment of reflection and discernment before casting your vote. In the end, each of us must choose a candidate that represents our values according to the dictates of our consciences. We should remember, however, that another generation is watching.

Long after I have cast my vote and the results are tallied I will look forward to kissing my children goodnight knowing I have done my best to give them an example of extolling my beliefs while maintaining decency and goodness. This is what makes America great.

Nick Isgro is the mayor of Waterville.

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