The Greatest Country in the World?
by Ian Mayo-Smith

Americans are constantly being told that ours is the greatest country in the world and so many Americans keep saying it that it has become almost an article of faith, so that even to question it is regarded as unpatriotic, almost traitorous. This is probably truer now than ever before in these days when our country has been under attack from ruthless and murderous people who hate everything about us.

Personally I chose to become an American. Unlike the majority of people in this country I am not an American by the accident of birth, but by a conscious decision. I owe much to my adopted country. But every time I hear that America is the greatest country in the world I experience a nagging little questioning that will not go away. For instance, can somebody explain why, if we really are so wonderful, do so many people in the world hate us? How come that, although we require new citizens to affirm that they have never committed adultery, this rule apparently does not apply to the country’s presidents? How come that too many of the country’s top business leaders have turned out to be crooks? How come that Amnesty International has stated that police brutality is part of the American scene? How come that discrimination is still practiced by some Americans, the more powerful ones, against others? And lastly how come that Americans use far more than their fair share of the world’s resources, that the U.S. falls far behind some of the less affluent Western countries in providing aid to the poorer nations, doesn't even pay its full dues to the United Nations . . . ? The list could go on and on.

To be the greatest, the best, at anything demands determined effort, rigorous discipline, and continual training. It seems fair to say that at this moment in time the Williams sisters are the greatest women tennis players in the world. They got to be the greatest by among other things determined and sustained effort, rigorous discipline, and training. That is not to deny their natural talent and the support they have received from their parents and no doubt other factors as well, but natural talent alone would not have taken them to the very top. It is interesting to see how, as they have improved their tennis to reach their present preeminence, they have also grown in graciousness and maturity.

America is certainly the richest nation in the world, the nation with the greatest political and economic power in the world, but does that really make it the greatest country in the world? America is a nation overflowing with talent and I sincerely believe that America has the potential to be the greatest country in the world, but right now it is very hard to see the determined effort and the discipline that would turn that potential into actuality.

So what would it take to turn this country’s potential all-round greatness into actuality? I have asked a number of people for their ideas on this subject. Some of them were born here in the U.S. Others like myself were born elsewhere but chose to become Americans, and some have lived here for some time but have not yet become citizens.

Ruma Bose is a Canadian of Bengali origin who lives in the U.S. and works for an American company as a consultant. Although she sees America as being way below Canada in terms of health care and other aspects of the quality of life, she also sees America as genuinely being a land of opportunity and very attractive to a young and ambitious person such as herself. She admits though that opportunities are much more open to persons of European origin than they are to people of color. As an Indian she sees herself as falling into a category somewhere between being “white” and being “black.” African Americans have the biggest obstacles to overcome. In the company she works for the vast majority of executives are white males. While there are a few women and people of color in executive positions, there are no African Americans. On one occasion she was sent on an assignment to work with a client company and after a little while she was told she was being moved to another assignment. When she pressed her inquiries as to why she was being moved, she was ultimately informed that the decision maker in the client company had let it be known that they would be happier working with a white consultant than with a person of color. So with their eyes solely on the bottom line her company moved her.

Ruma likes living in America and loves the energy she sees in this country, but she is also aware of the ways in which this country lags behind Canada. As far as relations between the U.S. and her home country are concerned she compares them to the attitude of a bullying big brother towards his smaller sibling.

George Lemon, M.D., has a very different background from that of Ruma Bose, including the fact that while Ruma is a Hindu, George is Christian, and while Ruma is a person of color George is white. A retired doctor, he was born in West Virginia more than half a century before Ruma was born. In retirement he lives in Brentford, Tennessee, with his wife, retired nurse Bernice Lemon, R.N.

George writes: “If one were to say that America is the greatest country in the world, then one must ask for his or her reasons for such a statement. As an American by the right of birth who has visited and lived in other countries, I am always pleased, but not compelled, to return to my homeland. I am so very much aware that wherever I am, I find that so many of the same situations that make me proud in the USA are also present outside of my country. The same is true for the negative situations that I find in my homeland. There is always wealth versus poverty, arrogance, discrimination of all sorts, prejudices, immorality, and differences from those of one section of any country to that of another. I see the greatness in America coming from its grassroots people -- as it does from any other nation. When one works in the basic population of a nation, you learn the good and the bad but you learn that there is equal access here. That is what our forefathers came here to find. If one is willing to help others, then that person will find more of the truth of his or her surroundings, but most of all, more about self. Thus, there is the urge to give in return for all that has been given.

“During my professional life, I have lived in rural America, in the university setting being involved with student health, and in a downtown city hospital directing an emergency/trauma center that served more than 50,000 patients per year. It was through these situations that I found the strength of and in America. In each of these very different situations and environments was the pure America that so many people never see or even hear about. Here is love for others foremost by giving of the simple things in life: time, energy, care, service, knowledge, and God's love. As a Christian, this is where I found the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my simple tasks of the day. For me, this is the strength of America!” 

This article has been published in the Fall 2002 Issue of The Lilypad, a newsletter edited by Dr. Ian Mayo-Smith, Vice President of Kumarian Press. He can be reached at 1294 Blue Hills Avenue, Bloomfield, CT 06002 or at

Back one page          


Transforming the World One Book at a Time