3 out of 4 stars
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"Sadly, America is presently experiencing a time of confusion, a time when its founding principles are dimly heard by many and rejected by others. We see the paralysis caused by blatant partisanship in the U.S. Congress, where political party interest too often takes precedence over the good of the country."
Weary of the constant partisan debate in the media, Bob Dowell highlights his researched perspective in What Makes America Great. He provides a brief narrative of his findings based on significant historical documents penned by visionary leaders such as John Winthrop, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. Dowell illuminates the country's dedication to the exemplary by taking a closer look at America's foundation as a God-centered commonwealth and its commitment to the equality of all men, women, and races. He cites documentation which exemplifies this commitment including "A Model of Christian Charity," the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the "I Have a Dream" speech. Dowell poses the question, "Where is the corrective voice that can stir the hearts and minds of America back to its exemplary founding principles?" Ultimately, he celebrates the country's history and encourages readers to not only pray for that voice of correction, but for the discernment to recognize it, as well.
As the author notes at the beginning of the book, this 100-page historical narrative can be read in one sitting if desired. Some readers may be put off by the book's title in light of the 2016 presidential campaign slogan. However, to clarify, this book is a celebration of America's history of excellence; it is not a book about Trump.
I particularly liked Dowell's inclusion of the Declaration of Sentiments, as I wasn't taught about this important document in high school or college. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote it following a format similar to the Declaration of Independence and presented it at the first women's rights conference; it was signed by a third of the attendees--32 men and 68 women. By listing different lines as examples, Dowell demonstrated how Stanton adopted her document to further equality for women.
I also enjoyed the information pertaining to Benjamin Franklin. Having taught my children a unit study about Franklin, I was familiar with many of his accomplishments. However, I appreciated Dowell's insight regarding Franklin's recognition that the spiritual and secular go hand-in-hand, as he elaborated on several of Franklin's published works, including Poor Richard's Almanack and his thirteen virtues created at the age of twenty, which he eventually listed in his autobiography.
Since the rest of the book is presented objectively, my only dislike is Dowell's placement of a few political plugs for Trump. However, the comments are minimal, and overall, Dowell delivers a patriotic tribute. One doesn't need to agree with his political opinions to appreciate it. Additionally, there are a few editorial issues; most noteworthy are Dowell's consistent omission of "Jr." in King's name and not spelling "almanack" consistently with Franklin's original title. The former causes me to doubt the book is professionally edited, as even a cursory search on Google produces King's name with the appropriate suffix. Regarding the latter, although both variants are currently acceptable, I feel the distinction is important since the book is based on documentation. There are also instances of redundant wording, such as using "exemplary exemplified" twice in the same sentence.
Given the editorial issues, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. It will appeal to Christian readers with moderate or conservative political views and fans of historical reads about America. However, the book may not interest readers with more liberal views.
What Makes America Great
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