I saw a commercial over the weekend about The Discovery Channel's selection of the greatest American. The candidates suggested in the commercial were Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, and Lance Armstrong, among a few other celebrities. Now, if someone asked me - and I guess The Discovery Channel is asking - these names wouldn't spring to mind when thinking about the "greatest." It seems to me that greatness is something loftier than celebrity and accomplishment. Fortunately, the choices on the webpage are a bit more expansive.
The names that immediately occurred to me were among the Founders and also Abraham Lincoln. I love the history of the founding of our country because the people were courageous, wise, and visionary. I'm reading David McCollough's new book 1776 and one of my favorite books was his biography John Adams. It's hard to beat the sheer genius and courage of the people who laid the foundation for our country. I think "greatness" should also include a moral evaluation - it's not enough to accomplish great things and be a despicable person. Maybe the greatest American is among us, but it seems that we need the perspective of some history to evaluate what lasts as greatness. Maybe the greatest American is someone whose name was not recorded by history.
I think my vote goes to John Adams because of his sheer genius in foreseeing the structure of our government, for his sacrifice and dedication to the cause of America, and for his deep Christian commitment.
Feel free to offer your choice in the comments section.