Hi, my name is Jenny, I’m a sophomore and this for all three of you. Can you say in one sentence or less – what – (laughing in background) you know what I mean: “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”
[Emily Kathleen A. Mortimer – As Sharon]
Diversity and opportunity.
Ah freedom and freedom, so let’s keep it that way.
[Jeffrey Warren “Jeff” Daniels As Will]
The New York Jets.
No, I’m gonna hold you to an answer on that. What makes America the greatest country in the world?
Well, Louis and Sharon said it. Diversity and opportunity and freedom and freedom.
(audience member holds notebook)
IT’S NOT. BUT IT CAN BE.
I’m not letting you go back to the airport without answering the question.
Well, our Constitution is a masterpiece. James Madison was a genius. The Declaration of Independence is for me the single greatest piece of American writing.
You don’t look satisfied.
One’s a set of laws and the other is a declaration of war. I want a human moment from you.
What about the people? Why is it?
It’s NOT the greatest country in the world, Professor. That’s my answer.
Let’s talk about…
[Will (Speaking to Sharon]
Fine. Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money. It costs votes. It costs airtime. And column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin’ smart then how come they lose so goddamn always?
[Will (to Lewis]
And with a straight face, you’re gonna sit there and tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K. France. Italy. Germany. Spain. Australia. BELGIUM has freedom. (laughs) Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like, a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.
And you, Sorority Girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know. One of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy. Twenty-seventh in math. Twenty-second in science. Forty-ninth in life expectancy. A hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality. Third in median household income. Number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.
Now none of this is the fault of a twenty-year-old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I dunno what the fuck you’re talkin’ about. Yosemite?
Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest.
We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.
We reached for the stars. Acted like men.
We aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it—it didn’t make us feel inferior.
We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t, oh, we didn’t scare so easy. Ha. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men. Men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.