What Makes Our Country Pretty Damn Great, According To 26 National Treasures

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, he did so on a message of hope and change, and a motto that said "yes we can." That message from our first Black president infused in us a promise of possibility; a promise that was fundamentally American: that together we as individuals, and also as a nation, have the power to drive our own destiny; that progress is ours for the taking, if only we do the work to achieve it.
"It is that promise that has always set this country apart," he said when he accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, "that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well."
It can feel like that promise has been lost in the current political climate, but the politicians, influencers, and activists on our radar seem only more pointed in their work toward realizing it. Republican commentator Ana Navarro points to fall leaves, peanut butter and jelly, and a peaceful succession of power every four years as reasons to love America, any time, including right now.
Trans activist and author Janet Mock loves that America offers us the right, which she calls a duty, "to show up, to link arms, and to ensure that we're fighting for the country that we love, and for the people who we love." Monica Lewinsky tells us she sees hope in the millennial generation, the future: "They're illuminating cracks and fault lines in American society that have been largely ignored for centuries."
The America of 2017 does not look like the America of the last year. But we are still here. President Trump doesn't get to define our patriotism, nor our country as something that has to be made great again. Let us not forget that many Americans are not only putting up a good fight to preserve what they value about this country, but are empowered by our constitution and by our system and laws to do so. People leaning into their hope for a better future are what always has been, and what will continue to be, this country's strongest asset.
Ahead, just a few of the people that make America great reveal how they feel about our country on its birthday. The general takeaway: Don't let the bastards grind you down.