Together with my high school age son I was listening to a Teaching Company World History course lecture by Linwood Thompson in which he quoted from a funeral oration given by Pericles, leader of Athens. It was clearly a eulogy for fallen soldiers whose ultimate sacrifice had saved Athens.
"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states. Instead, others copy what we do. Our plan of government favors the many instead of the few. That is why it is called a democracy. As for laws, we are for equal justice to everyone. And as for social standing, advancement is open to everyone according to his ability. High position does not depend on wealth, nor does poverty bar the way. We take pleasure in the arts, but without extravagance, and in knowledge, without being soft. Our public leaders have their own businesses as well as politics to take care of. Our ordinary citizens see to their own livelihoods, but are also capable of making political decisions. Unlike other nations, we Athenians do not call a man who takes no part in public life quiet or unambitious. We call such a man- useless. In short, our city is the school of all of Greece. This is the Athens for which these men fought nobly and died. Because they could not bear the thought of losing such a city. "
On hearing that, America comes to mind, not as an epitome of such a state, sadly, but as a state that falls short of those ideals. After the recent new assaults on voting rights, I believe there is much work to be done to preserve these rights, from legal work to voter ID and registration drives, and out loud statements of ideals like these can be inspiring.