I believe that America is great because it started out as an ideal. A vision of something to strive for. In the Declaration of Independence our founders used lofty concepts of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
America is not perfect, for it was and is created by men, but it strives to reach the promise of those perfect rights bestowed by God.
How do I view the ideals...?
The ideal is that government has no rights, only power. Let me say that again. Government has no rights, only power. All rights belong to the people. The people cede power to government to help protect those rights. That's why I think especially harsh punishments should go to those government officials who betray their public trust. We must guard against the arrogance of some in government, lest it turn to tyranny. The government is an agent, a servant of the people, and can never have any rights of its own. Only power.
The ideal is that by working hard, you can get ahead. Whether an immigrant or a poor kid from the trailer park, as Americans we believe that if we work hard enough, we can do better. I wonder if we still tell little kids in school, "you could grow up to be president..." We should. The ideal is that in America government exists to protect the liberty and property of men, so the rewards of your commerce cannot be taken at the whim of a tyrant.
The ideal is that we can worship God freely, that there is not right or wrong way to worship. Of course, as a believer, I know that my way is the truth, but as an American, I feel no special compunction to force that truth upon you. As long as you are similarly motivated, we're good.
The ideal is that we have the freedom to speak. We can say what we want. No one has to listen, and the government certainly shouldn't be made to finance our speech. But they must protect it. Here, as in other places, certain speech may get you labeled as insane. But here, unlike other places, it won't get you thrown in the nuthouse. Even if you truly are insane.
America is an ideal, something to strive for. We may not live up to it all the time, but if the goal were easily achievable, it probably wouldn't be worth much. But it is.
It's bigger than any one of us.
It's still "the last best hope for mankind."
It's worth fighting for.