Yes, really! And yes, the question was intended to be provocative – because the answer is not as easy as one might think.

While our great country leaves much to be desired, I would be the first to say – on this, the 241st anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence – that it also leaves much to be admired.

As for what it leaves to be desired, there are of course, many problems – homelessness, addiction, hunger, illness, joblessness, crime, violence, greed, fraud, secrecy, deception, etc.

But there is also much to be admired, and the foundation of this lies in the second half of that famous phrase: “home of the brave.”

Citizens of this country have accomplished many amazing things: they have built amazing structures, written amazing books, motivated and uplifted hundreds of thousands of people, etc. And they were all born the same way, with the same needs.

Your reaction might be: “Well, yes, but they were gifted or privileged.” There is no doubt that some of them were gifted or privileged, but I would argue that everyone has gifts, and all have the ability to make their lives better. And even more importantly, for those who are struggling to express their gifts and make their lives better, the rest of us can help them!

The eminent Russian scientist and researcher of consciousness, Grigori Grabovoi, has said that “the principle of development of the person on Earth is to be able to give much more, than he can take. And actually, he gives for himself.”

In the statement above, Grabovoi says that when we give to others, in actuality, we give to ourselves. Could this explain the high that we feel when we do things for others?

To help people, even in small ways, is enormous! To inspire is enormous. “You make me a better person.” Is there really any higher compliment than this?

The way people interact with each other is immensely important, for better or worse. You can be inspired to go on to greater heights; or a careless, off-handed remark can throw you off-center and completely change the trajectory of your life! But even then, you can choose or not, for criticism to throw you off. Someone said to Elvis Presley, “Son, you ought to go back to driving a truck.” Clint Eastwood was told that he was not good-looking enough to go into show business. Neither of these two stars was thrown off by this criticism.

But what about the people who are thrown off? What about the people who are not quite confident enough to “jump ship” from the rut they’re in? Well, what about all those people who want to help people? Hang out with the people who are supportive and who can mentor you – not the naysayers.

Another problem is that when you start out on a new path, you are not the best in your field, and sometimes you lack confidence. This is compounded by anything that an unaware naysayer might throw in your direction.

Forget the naysayers! The beauty of your situation is that if you persist and are not thrown off, it can only get better! I remember working a contract in a software company where a very smart, older woman was the lead software developer in the company. There were probably many people who didn’t know that when she first started out, she taught herself the software code! And in her first job in that role, she was fired because they thought she wasn’t good enough. But she persisted and ended up as the lead developer in her current company.

Then there are examples like Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus, or Desmond Tutu transforming South Africa with the Forgiveness Project. And there is one of the highest forms of bravery: risking or sacrificing your life for the lives of others and for values that are universal to all of humanity. This is where the “land of the brave” transcends all boundaries.

We can be proud that this is what our great country was founded upon. Did you know that the war continued for seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Read here about the incredible sacrifices of our founding fathers and what they endured:

So, in the final analysis, are we really the land of the free? No, we are not completely free because of problems that create obstacles in the path to our dreams and goals. Some of our problems are initially outer; but inner strength, and the strength of those who are positive and choose to support and mentor us, have the potential to transcend any obstacle! And if we persist, the journey, the process, tests our passion and makes us better, each step of the way. I have always said that, despite our problems, we have American ingenuity – and it ain’t dead yet!

So this is where the “home of the brave” comes in: being brave enough to “jump ship” from the rut and follow your own path; being brave enough to persist, even when you’re starting out and you’re not the best or you’re facing “unknowns”; and being brave and passionate enough to endure sacrifices and transcend the obstacles as you carve your own, unique path. These are some of the characteristics of “the brave,” and they did, do, and always will make this country great!