Matthew D. Hutcheson will soon release his much anticipated book titled, Why America is Great.
The introduction to Why America is Great is written by renowned author, speaker, and business coach, John Lamar Jenkins. Jenkins explains why this book is special in a most meaningful way.
Why America is Great by John Lamar Jenkins
Matthew D. Hutcheson is one of my most trusted and beloved friends.
I know that I am one of his also.
We met under the most extreme conditions one can imagine. We have both experienced the pain of prejudice, false accusation, oppression, and abuse at the hands of other Americans. We have similar professional training. We know how things should be in America. We have talked about it at length. We have had those types of conversations all Americans should be having right now…conversations that are real, raw, and vulnerable – but first and foremost – respectful. Matthew knows my heart. He knows my soul. I know his. We trust each other with our lives.
With that introduction, you should know that I am black.
Matthew is white.
Yet, race means nothing to either of us.
I wish relationships like ours were more common.
It is quite imperative that all Americans understand that to most black people, or minorities in general, America has not felt great to them. Was slavery great for them? How about denying women the right to vote? What about wage disparity between white men and men of color? Or what about between men and women generally? What about the grinding and ever present feeling black people have that most white people despise them? Whether it is actually true is not the point. The point is that it seems that way and we are reminded of it every evening when we watch the news.
Let us just be honest. You may say, “Oh, not me!” Such a comment is fine for someone to say, but that perceived white sentiment seems pervasive enough, and supported by a sufficient number of continuing incidents and experiences, that the grinding feeling blacks have just will not go away no matter how hard we try to ignore it or “get over it,” as we so often hear.
It is deeply saddening to me.
This sentiment is a progress-obstacle which America has not honestly faced. Even now, in 2020, with all the protests, some of which have turned violent, it sometimes seems that racial understanding has barely improved since racial strife began.
You may be thinking to yourself, “This is a strange introduction to a book titled, ‘Why America is Great.'”
I understand completely.
However, let me explain.
America is many things.
It is a geographical place.
It is a sovereign nation.
It is an idea and an ideal.
It is a collective of citizens who embrace common values.
America is all those things, but it is not “racist,” notwithstanding the challenges that exist between certain individuals, groups, or institutions. I make this statement with confidence, even though sometimes it really seems like America as a whole just might be racist.
Racism simply does not comport with America in any of its forms or definitions because racism is a deviation from what our founding fathers envisioned. America is no more racist than an entire family is criminal because one of its members is embroiled in trouble. Sometimes, a single family member can err, but that error does not define the entire family. At least, it should not. Likewise, the sad views of some Americans towards certain fellow citizens does not define all of America, notwithstanding the efforts of some with an agenda to frame the issue that way.
“But what about slavery?” you ask.
Slavery is a terrible – no – an absolutely horrifying part of Europe’s colonization past. America was once a British colony. Slavery was introduced to the new world by Europeans. The Dutch, the Portuguese, the British, and others were slave traders. Slavery was not under the ideals set forth under the United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The America we all love – or hope to love – ended slavery. Its end was a great thing. As Matthew explains in the following pages, the slave trade was criminalized by the United States Congress not long after the United States Constitution was ratified and adopted by the states. For the times back then, it was criminalized at “break-neck speed.” Slave ownership was finally abolished in 1863. Most Americans at the time actually wanted slavery to be abolished much sooner. The conflict between those who abhorred slavery and those who wanted to preserve it resulted in one of the most gruesomely violent wars ever fought in the history of mankind. It was because America was great that thousands upon thousands of white American men and boys gave their lives so slaves could be free.
It is true that some American individuals still harbor dislike, prejudice, or even hatred towards people of color, and/or women. This attitude is not harmonious with America, the ideal. Increasingly, white Americans are offended by racism. I know Matthew is. I know Matthew’s family is. Most Americans are offended by the oppression of women. Matthew has a wife, two daughters, a mother, and five sisters – all of whom he treats with the utmost respect and reverence. I know how offended he is by gender bias.
As you will see from Matthew’s writings, most Americans today do not embrace oppression or discrimination. You may be surprised to learn that Americans at the time of America’s founding, especially America’s founding fathers, first and foremost believed in liberty and justice for all, including slaves and women. They meant it then. More and more Americans mean it now. They fought against injustice then and it must have seemed at times to be a fight they just could not win. We are still fighting injustice over two centuries later but do not believe for a moment we are not making progress.
The fight for equality is righteous and must continue. There are yet too many Americans who mistreat blacks, Natives, Hispanics, Asians, Middle-Easterners, women, LBGTQ, and other minorities unfairly. One is too many. It is despicable. But do not attack an entire family for its struggling and confused child. Do not condemn good parents for the tragic acts of a child who was taught correctly.
So, why is America great?
Because the idea of America requires liberty and justice for all. We the people expect each other to embrace and live the idea. We expect each other to see the obvious (the self-evident) – that we were created equal – and that we should treat and feel it towards one another. When we fail to live up to this expectation, we are expected to remind each other. Sometimes through soft words. Sometimes through protests. The mere option to protest is also more evidence of America’s greatness and destiny to become ever more nearly perfect.
In conclusion, one should not believe the fallacy that America cannot be great because it has problems. Parents, or an entire family, can still be great even though it has a family member who struggles. America may always have work to do and as long as work is needed, work should be done. Change happens in small increments, in little nudges towards perfection. Demanding America to be “something” requires all its citizens to commit to live on a higher plane, especially those demanding the improvement. If we want America to be better, we all have to be better in every respect, not just one.
Every discussion, every respectful interaction, every tragedy, and every righteous protest helps us to arrive there. That America has the potential for being perfect someday is the definition of its being great. No other nation on earth offers that possibility quite like America does. Therefore, America is also special.
We all feel.
We all breathe.
We all matter.
Some of us need to matter more at certain times to help everyone else understand. It is not only great, but the fact that we can acknowledge it is yet more evidence of America’s greatness.
Right now, “We the People” are testing the truth that America is great. No one should be surprised that when America’s institutions, or groups, encroach upon, or obstruct, the pursuit of others’ happiness, this testing will immediately begin, which it should.
What have we discovered by this testing? That we can challenge America’s greatness – or demand that it be better – without diminishing it in the least. In fact, by challenging America’s greatness, it only becomes greater. We should not be disappointed that improvement is made in small increments, which is also how improvement is made to each of our individual lives.
Finally, when we fail, we should collectively admit it, humbly, and change. Holy writ calls it “repentance.” Sometimes societies as a whole need to repent and it is a good thing. When we collectively repent, those who have been injured should forgive. Repentance and forgiveness can be very, very difficult. But it is what citizens of great nations do. The greatness of the nation depends on it. Great Americans show love even though love may have been withheld from them unjustly.
We have before us an opportunity of historic proportions, an opportunity to overcome very difficult circumstances and, until now, unrelenting societal tensions. In many nations, it is not even possible to address a problem at all. In many nations there is no hope for even tiny incremental improvement. Many nations have not changed much in thousands of years. America is a shining example of change and improvement, especially after we fall short.
I now give to you the amazing and healing words of Matthew D. Hutcheson. This man will one day become one of the greatest leaders America has ever had. In the chapters that follow, Matthew explains why America is great in the most unique and interesting way. Much of the book was written in prison. Many chapters consist of memorializations of actual, fascinating conversations with other inmates. Matthew explains that even the most oppressed among us should hold tight to the American promise, not abandon it, as that oppression would not be any less somewhere else…it would be greater.
You are about to read, and understand, perhaps for the very first time, why America is great. I truly hope this book touches your life as it has mine, and I hope you share it with everyone you know.
John Lamar Jenkins, JD