What’s best about America?

Dear Editor:

A question has been on my mind lately, one that I believe many Americans, regardless of our personal backgrounds, political leanings, or religious commitments, might also be asking: What’s so great about America?

It’s a question that deserves thoughtful consideration, and meaningful and peaceable discussion. It’s also a very American question. From its founding, America has always been more than just a country, more than just one nation among many. America is an idea. The American idea, unique in all of history, is this: that each of us has within ourselves the right and the ability to determine our own destiny.

In our determination to work harder, do better, and dream bigger, we Americans have never been afraid to ask ourselves tough questions – even questioning what it means to be an American. Through turbulent times, amidst periods of transition, and in moments of contention, we may be tempted to avoid asking questions such as these. It can be difficult, even painful. Yet at similar moments in our history, and in times such as our own, Americans have always arisen to ask the tough questions, and to earnestly seek the best answers.

One of the most powerful and productive ways to ask questions is through great art. Opening this Friday, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, where I am fortunate to serve as producing artistic director, will present a musical that both challenges and inspires audiences to consider what’s great about America – and what it means to be an American. “Ragtime” is one of the most powerful shows ever written for the Broadway stage. It follows the journeys of three very different American families in their pursuit of the American idea. Along the way, we encounter some powerful and controversial figures from American history, and are treated to grand American music. While never shying away from some of the more troubling aspects of our shared story, “Ragtime” also delivers, through song and dance, a distinctively American tale of greatness.

“Ragtime” at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland runs for two weekends, June 15-17, and 22-24. As we approach the annual commemoration of American independence, I invite you to come, experience a wonderful evening or afternoon of live theater, and celebrate what’s best about America with those you love.

Justin Fortunato