The Great American

"Jesus said, 'I among you am as one who serves' (Luke 22:27).  And he also said, 'Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant' (Mark 10:44). By the way, it is dreadful to see this recommended as only another technique for succeeding in leadership.  He was telling us who the great person is." —Dallas Willard, The Great Omission

When we turn our gaze from first-century Judea to Washington, D.C., it becomes difficult to find any great people.  The "seventeen intelligence agencies" that supposedly found a link between Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Vladimir Putin aren't populated with great Americans.  Service to America is measured not by lies, but by truth.  They were performing a great service to their constituents, a mutual admiration society built on subterfuge, omertà, and concentrated power.  But America is about freedom, openness, and opportunity.

In the halls of the Supreme Court, we find the occasional great man.  Clarence Thomas stood up against the slings and arrows of Joseph Robinette Biden, who happily paraded fabricated charges against him during his confirmation hearings.  Over the years, he has clearly spoken in service to the Constitution, which stands as the only check the American people have on sovereign power emanating from D.C.  As a Black man, when the University of Michigan practice of racial preferences was before the Court, he was understandably sympathetic to the idea of Blacks having wide access to higher education.  But he objected in the strongest possible language the use of race in public life.

The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.  (Dissent in Grutter v Bollinger, 2003)

Congress gives us clear contrasts.  Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, and many others are small characters with outsized power.  They all operate for personal benefit rather than serving America.  They have become very wealthy by sitting in the seat of government.  Because they hold the reins of power, Congress becomes the enemy of the people.  But there are exceptions.

Trey Gowdy worked hard for America, exposing wrongdoing by the swamp.  But when the swamp proved completely unmovable, he returned to South Carolina, where he could be productive.  The junior senator from Florida is another.  Rick Scott was enormously wealthy when he ran for governor.  He served the state well and continues to be a servant in the Senate.  His wealth is likely declining because he refuses to be a part of the ongoing malfeasance.

Perhaps the greatest example of greatness is the man who may be the most publicly imperfect person in recent memory: Donald Trump.  The forty-fifth president was accustomed to fawning public attention.  His golf courses were sought after.  He was a frequent guest of public figures and had a wildly successful reality TV show.  His personal wealth was beyond the imagination of most, and he was on his third trophy wife.  He had nothing to gain and much to lose by running for president.

Many argued that Donald Trump was totally unfit, and if we were electing a religious leader, they'd have been right.  He punched back at trivial insults, often losing track of bigger objectives.  He used superlatives in place of normal speech and seemed to pick fights.  His ideological compass seemed missing.  He had been a Democrat and contributed to Democrat candidates, including the woman who became his original general election opponent.  But he had one lodestar: America.

"Make America Great Again!" became "MAGA," the rallying cry for millions who were sick of "leaders" who used power to get rich.  They were sick of people who campaigned on one thing and forgot it as soon as the last ballot was counted.  Congresscritters in "safe seats" were even worse.  Unless they happened to run up on a Dave Brat or Alexandria Airhead-Cortez, they were free to completely ignore the voters.  Donald Trump offered a change.

And what a change it was!  Here was a phenomenally successful and wealthy man who put himself on the line.  Unlike Michael Bloomberg, who spent pocket change from his galactic personal wealth to run for president, Trump spent something approaching ten percent of his fortune.  Once in office, his actions were contrary to anything ever seen.

Trump was "Promises Made, Promises Kept."  He offended foreign leaders by bluntly reminding them of their obligations, rather than leaving Americans on the hook for Germany's commitments.  He held hostile foreign governments accountable, bringing China to the negotiating table and Iran to its knees.  He thought outside the box, negotiating the Abraham accords that brought a measure of peace to the Middle East.  And he stopped an invasion by destitute Spanish-speakers across our southern border.

Along the way, Donald Trump was accused of every vile thing imaginable and called names beyond comprehension.  Yet he found his measure by standing up to his enemies while placing "America First."  Because of his enemies, his financial standing declined, again by numbers most of us cannot count.  None of it mattered, because, unlike Trump's enemies (don't call them opponents, because they aren't that benign), he truly loves America.  And he pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor to uplifting all Americans.

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a great man.  He spent his fortune to run, and once elected, he devoted his energies to serving us.  Yes, he is a deeply flawed man.  But he is a servant, and that is the essence of greatness.

Ted Noel, M.D. posts on social media as DoctorTed or @vidzette.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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