Father Eugene Hemrick

Father Eugene Hemrick

“Make America great again” sounds inspirational until we look closer at the meaning of “again.”

Undoubtedly, America’s past greatness is in its achievements: conquering the West, its transportation systems, economic and military power, and countless other examples of awesome progress.

And yet, the great past reveals an entire American Indian culture decimated, with its lands confiscated, religious practices forbidden and tribes made to live on inhuman reservations. In the past, African slaves were treated as property devoid of any humanity, and Japanese living in America during World War II were unjustly incarcerated. Not so great, not again!

Economically and militarily, America is the most powerful nation in the world. And yet, the gulf between haves and have-nots has widened as poverty has risen. We possess the best fighting men and women and the technology to support them, but we have not yet developed a sound means for keeping them sound after battle. Not so great, not again!


These few examples demonstrate that past greatness is not without its glaring flaws.

What can make America truly great? The answer is found on our U.S. Capitol in which a frieze inspired by John Adams portrays liberty in the middle surrounded by a blindfolded woman with scales of justice and on her left, another woman leaning on an anchor symbolizing hope, reminding us that the hope of America is justice.

Justice desires equality, which ensures men and women their dignity. What needs closer scrutiny when saying let’s “make America great again” are past injustices that should never return again.

It is true that in the past, inspiring champions of justice sacrificed themselves, and great progress was made in attempting to improve life for all Americans. Equally true, much more could have been done to make our country truly great.

We must wonder what would happen if millionaires in our government and throughout America followed the example of millionaire philanthropists of the past and reinvested their money in projects aimed at creating greater justice — projects aimed at creating equality and dignity by teaching the less fortunate how to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and feel dignified.

Prophets burned with a desire for justice and sacrificed everything for it. What would happen if today’s wealthy adopted that prophetic spirit? Fortunately, some of the wealthy have, with astounding results because of their prophetic spirit. More, however, need to join their ranks.

Greatness comes in many forms, some from human achievements, but most from God’s desire for human equality and dignity.