"Make America great again"? Someone suggested disinfecting the White House would be a good start. But then again, we are still the greatest land on earth (or why would so many still want to come here?). The question, however, implies there was a greatness in the past that has faded away. It can't mean a trouble-free past because there has never been such a time.

Troubles started with the Native Americans, who were here first. They got troubled by the coming of the white man, who came bringing diseases and a hunger for their land. Once in control, the newbies had troubles of their own: trouble with the natives, making homes in a frontier land, communicating as that land stretched further west, drunken cowboys in the wild west, making life bearable in the teeming cities of the east. There was trouble over slavery, getting rid of child labor, getting workable hours and wages for the men, women wanting to vote. And beyond ourselves we had trouble with the French, British, Mexicans, Spanish, Germans and Japanese. These days our troubles rise up as African Americans, gays, women and immigrants all seek their rightful place here in the land of the free (the fully free and not just partially so).

Each new wave of immigrants coming here also had troubles. They had to face the same old resistance. They sailed past the Statue of Liberty, filled with hope, only to be dumped into ghettos and called vile names. But each wave got assimilated. A key to our greatness. That key can still open the lock to the future as still they come. They come, striving after the American dream, another part of that greatness and they've never had to take it from others to enjoy it for themselves.

Their coming is a major part of our greatness because they came with a secret treasure. They brought special genes with them, get-up and go genes. They left behind the others, who had sit-down and wait genes. What makes America great is the energized genetic pool that makes up our land. There are two personal experiences that illustrate this for me when I lived five years in Germany. One was a conversation with someone in Munich, who was so happy being able to work for an American company there. They just thought and acted differently from German companies. The openness was refreshing.

The second experience came one day in taking the U-bahn downtown in Duesseldorf. When we got to the Heinrich-Heine-Allee station, we were told about a bomb scare at the main train station ahead. We were to leave the train and wait on the platform for further instructions. So they waited and waited. That's what they were told to do. But my get-up and go genes kicked in. I realized that right above were streetcars that were going to the same place. So I was on my way while the rest stayed.

Hey, people! America is still great! Don't let the ugliness loose today catch you up in its crudeness and crud. E pluribus unum! Out of many, one! That's us and not just some of us. We don't have to look back futilely for some faded concept of past glory. We are to look deep within our present-day selves. Brave and free, let us tackle our present-day problems with vigor and confidence together. That's where our greatness lies

Bob Schwartz, of Bakersfield, was born in New York City, but has spent most of his life in California serving as a pastor.