Nearly everyone is familiar with the phrase “Make America Great Again,” but what does American greatness look like in actuality? Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell explores the concept’s principles and defining characteristics – and how they play out in American democracy and society -- in this 10-part essay and video series published by The Arizona Republic.

American Greatness series:

  • Identity and Integration
  • Individual and Community
  • Opportunity over Outcome
  • Pragmatism over Purity
  • Strength and Collaboration
  • Limited Power over Absolute
  • Market and State
  • Idealism over Ideology
  • Fearless and the Future
  • Aspiration over Satisfaction

Identity and Integration

To be American is to embrace a shared set of ideals and values. Even as immigrants add to the meaning of America, they alter their own self-image to create this whole.

What does 'Make America Great Again' mean? It's time we had this debate

Individual and Community

Autonomy and individual liberty is central to American beliefs but the value placed on strong communities is a backbone of American greatness.

If Americans have become too selfish or xenophobic, it's because of this

Opportunity over Outcome

“Land of Opportunity” is not just a moniker but a promise. No one is guaranteed success but America is great when the commitment to a real chance is strongest.

The American Dream is central to who we are. We can't let it slip away

Pragmatism over Purity

The practicality required to survive in harsh circumstances historically yielded a solutions-orientation. Paradoxically it has liberated Americans to find common cause where needed.

Why are Americans so pragmatic? It's been there since the beginning

Strength and Collaboration

Emerging quickly as a global power reflected American military strength and an historic commitment to collaboration and alliance that institutionalized hard-fought victories.

America's military is important, but it's not the only thing that makes us powerful
Limited Power over Absolute

Limited Power over Absolute

The need for restrained power – political and economic – is a bedrock of American philosophy. Grants of authority are necessary but must be limited.

Why absolute, unrestrained power is so dangerous - especially today

Market and State

Property rights and the commitment to capitalist competition has driven American prosperity within an order and infrastructure provided by robust government legal infrastructure.

Nanny state or caveat emptor? America is strongest when we're somewhere in between
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Idealism over Ideology

Embracing ideals – rights, justice, equity – rather than rigid systems of thought has provided the flexibility and adaptability essential to American prosperity.

America has messy, conflicting ideas. It's what makes us great
Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic

Fearless and the Future

America has been optimistic, far-sighted and willing to take risks. Hard work, protection of critical resources and investment have delivered the future we imagine.

Why America can't ignore its past - but also not fear the future
Photo: Courtesy photo

Aspiration not Satisfaction

An unending quest for improvement defines America’s journey. This ambition is central to our pride rather than our starting point.

What makes America great? We're never satisfied