Pres. Ronald Reagan often characterized America as “the shining city upon a hill.”

He explained in his 1989 farewell address, “In my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace--a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

From the time our great country was founded, it has been a shining city on a hill--a beacon of hope and freedom to the oppressed around the world. Granted, we suffered the odious sin of slavery and have experienced periodic dark times, but we have always managed to right the ship.

One of America’s greatest accomplishments was to help resurrect the world from the ashes and ruin of the Second World War. We established an America-centered global order that has kept the peace and fostered prosperity in Europe and many other parts of the world. That was made possible by developing and maintaining mutually-beneficial alliances with nations around the world.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently said about this remarkable achievement, “While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”  He also warned that we must be on the guard against “malign actors and strategic competitors” like Russia and China who mean us harm. In other words, we must work hard to keep America strong and a shining example to the rest of the world.

Recent events show that we have much to do to restore America’s position in the world and to keep other nations from sliding into authoritarianism that will threaten our national security. As just one example, on Dec. 14, the foreign minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar, warned top American officials that Russia and China are strongly challenging American leadership in Europe. He urged more U.S. involvement with our European allies to counter the encroachment of these despotic countries. Our friends around the world yearn for constructive engagement and rational leadership from America.

On the other hand, Vladimir Frolov, a Russian foreign affairs commentator, recently described our president as “God’s gift that keeps on giving.” In a Dec. 21 New York Times report, he said: “Trump implements Russia’s negative agenda by default, undermining the U.S.-led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a partner and an ally. All of this on his own. Russia can just relax and watch and root for Trump, which Putin does at every TV appearance.”

As we enter this New Year, let’s resolve as a nation to restore America’s luster and realize Reagan’s vision of  the U.S. as that shining city on the hill--a city dedicated to democracy, the rule of law and universal human rights. Millions of Americans fought and many hundreds of thousands died to elevate us to the top of that hill. By healing our divisions and working together in a resolute fashion, we can once again regain the moral stature that made our country the envy of the world.