The American ideal is not a thing or even a state of things but an idea – a belief we are all created with equal worth, and equally entitled to pursue our best course as we see it, as long as we don’t interfere with someone else’s right to do the same.
We’ve never fully lived up to that ideal – never can. It is an unattainable beacon to guide our path, not a destination at which we can ever arrive.
Sometimes we’ve set a mark straight for it and other times we’ve drifted far afield. But the light is bright, the direction true, and it is easiest to see in the darkest night – showing us the way out of the wilderness toward a greater good.