‘I Don't Know If We've Been at Our Best Ever’

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Mike Puckett, 26, Comedian
Lives in Brooklyn

I don’t know if we’ve been at our best ever. Well, maybe the past eight years, I guess I’d say, because we had a president most people (that I know) were excited about. I know that means I live in a bubble, to some extent. But also because even though we have a lot of problems we’ve become more aware of them, and at least started a lot of dialogues that I don't think were being had otherwise.

Kevin Hines, 52, Kite Flyer
Lives in Midtown, Manhattan

I don’t mean to go off on America, but in order for America to really be America, we say “the land of the free, home of the brave.” A lot of people in America don’t feel free. They don’t feel like America is with them and it shouldn’t be like that. We should embrace each other. Our differences are just what they are: differences. But we are all the same, in our own unique ways.

Ollie Corchado, 26, Actor and Courier
Lives in Washington Heights, Manhattan

During the Olympics this past year, I feel like everybody just loved everybody. We were just like, “yes, we are on top, man.” We got Michael Phelps and Simone Biles just kicking ass, and like doing awesome. Everybody just loved everybody. I think that’s when America’s at its best. When everybody focuses on the positives, and not so much on the negatives. There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens, but if we just focus on the positives I really think that’s when we get things going. You don’t quit, you don’t give up. And even if you lose, the idea is you pick yourself back up. That’s the big American quality that I think is cool.