January 22, 2021

Cast Your Vote for “The Greatest American…”


UPDATE: Here, at the end of good day of house painting with my family, I have added my votes to the post.

* * *

Happy Independence Day in the U.S.A.!

Today, just for fun and discussion, between hot dogs, we’re taking your votes for “The Greatest American _____________ “ — in seven categories. Cast your vote for as many of the selections as you like and give your main reasons for so choosing. Vote early and often. You’ll need a break from the wiffleball game, anyway.

American flag icon 1 Without further ado, what is the greatest American…

  • Novel?
  • National Park?
  • Sport?
  • Film?
  • Classical music composition? Jazz music composition? Pop/Rock music composition?
  • City? State?
  • Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk? (You have a lot of leeway here. Have fun.)

American flag icon 1 Bonus Question:

  • Who would you consider your greatest American hero, past or present?

* * *

 American flag icon 1 Chaplain Mike’s choices for the greatest American…

  • Novel: The Grapes of Wrath or To Kill a Mockingbird
  • National Park: With my limited experience, I would say Grand Canyon, but I’m pretty sure it will be Yosemite after I visit there.
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Classical music composition?: Appalachian Spring (Copland). Jazz music composition?: Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin). Pop/Rock music composition? The Times They Are A’Changin’ (Bob Dylan)
  • City? Chicago. State? California.
  • Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk? Some of my regional food favorites: Vermont maple syrup, Chicago-style pizza, Chesapeake Bay crabs with Old Bay seasoning, Midwest corn on the cob, Boston’s Samuel Adams beer.

American flag icon 1 Bonus Question:

  • Who would you consider your greatest American hero, past or present? Abraham Lincoln.



  1. The Greatest American Hero is William Katt.

  2. Greatest state is obviously California. Or at least, it was at some point in history, like when the Beach Boys were singing about it.
    Sport: Paintball.
    Classical music composition: Does Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” count? He was Czech, but he wrote it here.

  3. Novel? Jayber Crow
    National Park? Mt. Ranier
    Sport? Baseball of course
    Film? The Matrix
    Classical music composition? Jazz music composition? Pop/Rock music composition? Hmmm…no idea here
    City? State? Louisville. Texas.
    Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk? Mardi Gras, maybe

  4. 1. either moby dick or huckleberry finn
    2. yellowstone (as long as you add the grand tetons)
    3. football
    4. it’s a wonderful life
    5. rhapsody in blue (gershwin), ella and louis (louis armstrong/ella fitzgerald), scarecrow (john mellencamp)
    6. city – san diego, state – missouri
    7. i love all the weird town names in missouri – like peculiar, tightwad, possum trot, braggadocio, climax springs, etc.
    8. bonus – gotta go with george washington – the more i read about him, the greater he becomes.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      Oooh, I second your nomination for Ella and Louis. Their album “Ella and Louis Again” is kick-awesome.

  5. Christiane says

    for hero, I almost immediately thought of ‘the Unknown Soldier’ . . .

    and for national characteristic: resolve

  6. Novel: Huckleberry Finn
    Film: On the Waterfront
    Music: Blood on the Tracks
    Greatest American: RFK

  7. National Partk: Rocky Mountain National Park
    Sport: Football
    Classical Music Composition: Dvorak Symphony 9 (From the New World)

  8. Greatest American: Alexander Hamilton. No immigrant ever contributed more to his new home. Read the Ron Chernow bio, it’s astonishing.
    Greatest novel: The Long Goodbye
    Greatest Movie: Modern Times and/or City Lights

  9. Novel- Huckleberry Finn
    Park – Monument valley
    Film: Godfather II
    Classical Comp: An American in Paris
    PopRock: Billie jean
    Country: I can’t stop loving you (Ray Charles version )
    Hero: Martin Luther King Jr

  10. Happy birthday America and enjoy your national holiday everyone!

    Novel? “Moby Dick” – it’s a massive production that strains at the limits of being a novel, it’s all over the place thematically and stylistically, it has a melting-pot of a crew and an obsessed captain and religion stalks, skulks, hovers and haunts all over the place. Just like America 🙂

    Sport? Basketball, perhaps, as that is truly played internationally and so is a global sport now.

    Film? Oh, this is too hard to decide since do I pick a film about America or a film made in America or just any film? You invented practically every genre and from Buster Keaton to the latest summer action blockbuster, you’ve been giving entertainment to the world for decades upon decades.

    Classical music composition? Jazz music composition? Pop/Rock music composition? Again, how to pick just one?

    Over here in Europe we often complain about America or Americans, but we do appreciate you. The Declaration of Independence is a noble, idealistic, wonderful proclamation of the idea of what a nation should be and how citizens of such should be treated and should treat one another. Many happy returns, U.S.A.!

  11. The greatest state is Maine.

    For greatest American hero, I nominate Pete Seeger. Also for Nobel Peace Prize.

  12. Hero: Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman
    Novel: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    Pop/Rock song: “American Pie” by Don McLean
    Other song: “What a Wonderful World” written by Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1967
    Film: Wizard of Oz
    Nobel Peace Prize: Jimmy Carter

  13. Sport: Baseball.
    Film: Star Wars.
    Contemporary band: Wilco.
    Living American: Ron Paul.
    State: Texas.
    Vehicle: ’57 Chevy Bel Air
    Invention: Air Conditioner.

    Since I live in Japan, I completely forgot today was Independence Day. I shed a tear for the greatness that has been lost, and the continuing Detroitification of our once splendid country. But there are still a lot of good things about America, and many places where the heart of American culture is alive and well, despite the many social, cultural, and political problems. Have a good one, iMonks.

  14. Greatest Novel – The Catcher in the Rye
    Sport – Baseball
    Film – Kelly’s Heroes

  15. Novel: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein, especially if you’re asking on July 4th!
    Film: Primer
    Rock/pop: “Winterborn” by Cruxshadows

    Hero: Desmond Doss

  16. Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry gets my vote for the American novel. America: land of the Ginsu II and the tele-evangelist, and the home of a sucker born every minute.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Dumb ox, you totally stole my pick for greatest American novel!

      Especially given the purpose of this blog, I think every reader here could definitely benefit from it.

  17. Robert F says

    Novel: Moby Dick- encyclopedic, tragic, poetic, theological, irreverent, it’s anti-hero a painful reminder of how quickly the typically American self-obsessed narrator of Whitman’s “Song of Myself”, in the wake of a horrible personal trauma, can become the tormented and crazed Promethean world-despiser and God-hater depicted in Ahab and his story.

    Classical music composition: Appalachian Spring- Iconically American, beautiful, spacious, folksy, accessible, melodic, nostalgic, and in “Fanfare for the Common Man” making a wonderful, democratic rejoinder to Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.

    Sport: Baseball- laconic, bucolic, rambling, friendly, full of moments of reverie, a game of summer.

  18. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    ?Novel? Gonna have to go with Huckleberry Finn
    ?Sport? Lacrosse
    Pop/Rock music composition? Jimi Hendrix playing the National Anthem on his gee-tar.
    ?City? State? Philadelphia, PA

  19. Novel: I should say Moby-Dick but I have yet to read it, so I’ll give you a trifecta instead; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Andersons, and John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom books. There you have our rise, apogee, and destruction or if you prefer, hubris, até, nemesis. I liked Jayber Crow as well, but I could never have lived his life.

    National Park: This is so hard. This such is a beautiful country, but its beauty is regional as it should be. How could you choose between The Everglades, The Great Smokey Mountains, The Grand Canyon, Olympia, or Acadia? Please tell me.

    Sport: Baseball. Specifically the Detroit Tigers

    Film: It’s A Wonderful Life, but greatest director Martin Scorsese, greatest actor Michael Shannon or Bryan Cranston, and greatest indigenous genre is noir. best TV series ever: The Sopranos

    Classical piece – Howard Hanson’s Symphony No.2 “Romantic” No European could ever have written this piece. Jazz pieceAmerican Garage by Pat Matheny. So sue me. Rock album: Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds

    City: New York, L.A. and New Orleans have entered into mythology. State: Indiana

    Regionalism: Sweet tea in the South. I made the mistake of calling unsweetened tea “Yankee tea” in Texas. I won’t do that again.

    Saints: Father Herman and Mother Olga of Alaska for the Orthodox, Kateri Tekakwitha and Damien of Molokai for the Catholics, John “Appleseed” Chapman and David Wilkerson for the Protestants.

  20. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    Novel: The Great Gatsby
    Movie: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
    Jazz Song: Take Five
    Pop/Rock Song: Sweet Home Alabama
    State: Texas
    City: New York
    Tradition: Luminarias in any Southwestern Town during Christmas, but especially Albuquerque
    Sport: Baseball
    Hero: Samuel Seabury

  21. Adrienne says

    Novel: Killer Angels

    Sport: Baseball

    Pop/Rock Music: Tommy the Rock Opera
    Classical: Not sure if there is a category for Anything by George Gershwin

    Film: Moby Dick

    City: Bethlehem PA The Christmas City

    Regional Tradition: Lowering a Boloney on New Year’s Eve

    Hero: My husband and every other Veteran, Soldier and Wounded Warrior Past and Present

  22. Adam Palmer says


    National Park: The Grand Canyon, the most spiritual of experiences. Although Yellowstone is the most “American” in the sense of having every possible bit of topography at once.

    Sport: The older I get, the more I love baseball.

    Film: CITIZEN KANE. In the true revolutionary spirit of America, Orson Welles did what he wanted in that film, breaking new ground in techniques that are still in use today. It’s surprising to watch and realize–oh, that was the first time anyone did that.

    Classical music composition: MUSIC FOR 18 MUSICIANS by Steve Reich

    Jazz music composition: Not my wheelhouse. I guess the standard answer is KIND OF BLUE by Miles Davis.

    Pop/Rock music composition: Tough to argue with “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson here. That is a perfect, perfect pop song. Although the Okie in me is wont to say “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

    City: Boston, Massachusetts

    State: California (it’s got it all! beaches! redwoods! insane gasoline taxes!)

    Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk: For the life of me, I don’t think I’ll ever determine the logic behind the elaborate methods of making a left turn in parts of Michigan.

  23. David Cornwell says

    Novel: Like others here, Huckleberry Finn, reflecting the everlasting ache in the American spirit;

    National Park: I’m limted by experience here, but my choice is Isle Royale located in Michigan in Lake Superior. I value the solitude this place offers, and only the serious venture to its shores (about 20,000 visitors a year). It is 45 miles long, and 9 miles wide (at widest point). One of the best things I ever did with Jeanette (my daughter) was go here to hike, camp, and have a great adventure. ;

    Sport: These days I lean toward baseball, mostly college & minor league levels, because they still enjoy the game;

    City: Chicago for a large city. Love it to visit (hate the traffic). Smaller city would be Lexington, Kentucky in the heart of the beautiful Blue Grass country and home of U of K. and very progressive in spirit. (In my 20’s I was a cop there for several years).

    State: In my heart I’m stuck in Appalachia, and it ends up being Kentucky. I went to college, met Marge, both my daughters came into the world, and graduated from seminary. I love the beauty, mountains, horses, and eccentric politicians of this state (well, maybe the polticians!). And one must cross the great Ohio River to get here from the north. Free samples of bourbon in the right places, smoooth as … bourbon. Marge was born in Bourbon County, Ky. just a few miles from where the Cane Ridge camp meetings happened.

  24. cermak_rd says

    National Park: Oh wow, Just one? Yellowstone, but Glacier is also beautiful and Acadia and Crater Lake and Olympia…
    State: Home town proud leads me to say Illinois. We have it all. Rural life, urban life, all points in between. And a “colorful” political history (hey one former governor just got out of prison and another is still serving).
    Pop/Rock: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” doesn’t matter what I’m up to when I hear it, it always makes me smile and sing along.
    Jazz Song: Gotta Go with “A Love Supreme” by Coltrane (OK, it’s an entire piece, if I had to pick just one chunk it would be Psalm)
    Novel: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” it had major societal impact
    Movie: “Twelve Angry Men”
    City: Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town…
    Hero: Sojourner Truth

  25. Happy belated Canada Day to y’all! (July 1st)

    And just a reminder that all the best “American” things are north of the 49th Parallel in the “Americas”. 🙂

  26. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Hmm, though a non-American that has never been to the US, I’ll venture my opinion anyway:

    Novel: The Scarlet Letter
    Sport: Baseball
    Film: There are many – The Matrix maybe?
    Classical Music: Simple Gifts, from Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland.
    Jazz: What a wonderful world – Louis Armstrong
    Rock: Hotel California
    Quirk: Now where shall I start….. 🙂

  27. Doc Hawkeye says

    Novel: Moby-Dick
    National Park: Glacier
    Sport: Baseball
    Film: Catch-22
    City/State: Berkeley, California
    Hero: Martin Luther King, junior
    Greatest Athlete(s): Willie Mays, Billie Jean King, Joe Montana
    Pop/Rock Song: ‘Born in the USA,’ Bruce Springsteen
    Classical Music: ‘Appalachian Spring,’ Aaron Copeland, ‘Oklahoma,’ Rogers & Hammerstein, ‘West Side Story,’ Leonard Bernstein
    Vehicle: Apollo spacecraft–CSM and LM together

  28. Novel? To Kill A Mockingbird – summarizes everything that is best and worst about America in a single narrative
    National Park? Yellowstone/Tetons – The most breathtaking array of God’s splendor assembled in one place ever. Yosemite is stunning, but Yellowstone is surreal
    Sport? Most American? Football. For a martial culture this thinly veiled stylization of war is quintessentially American.
    Film? Everyone says Citizen Kane, but for sheer Americanness, either Gone With the Wind or (ironically) Duck Soup.
    Classical music composition? For composition, nothing is more American than Aaron Copland. However, John Williams gives him a run for the money.
    Jazz music composition? So much to choose from, but Buckwheat Zydeco always sets my foot to tapping.
    Pop/Rock music composition? The other day I was listening to the endless loop and was smitten with a wave of nostalgia listening to Jack and Diane followed by a couple others. Then it broke into some Bob Seeger tunes. For sheer blatant industrial midwestern rock Americana a mix of Mellencamp and Seeger really do it. However, an Eagles/Lynard Skynard mix really hits the Southern rock sweet spot, unless one prefers the Texas brashness of ZZ Top.
    City? Chicago. But I’m midwestern predisposed
    State? Ohio. Heart of it all. Rock & Roll hall of fame. Industrial juggernaut that still manages to keep kicking. Agriculture like nobody’s business. Center to insurance and finance in the capitol. Ohio has the broadest slice of what it means to be American of any state outside of California or Texas (which are cliche while Ohio is the exact opposite of cliche).
    Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk? Amish. What could possibly be more American than religious extremists speaking their own lanugage, wearing their own clothes, reading their own Bible, but doing it in a way that they are minding their own business and would prefer if you would do the same?
    Hero? The Common Man. Whether it’s the farmer, the housewife, the secretary, the ironworker, the union miner, the budding entrepreneur, THAT is the true hero of America.

    • David Cornwell says

      Love what you say about Ohio. I partly grew up down in the southern tip of the state, along the Ohio. Great citiies, Cincy & Columbus, and some of the best of universities.

  29. Dee Parsona says

    National Parks: We have visited over 45 parks. We made a commitment to do so when we got married. Our favorite is Glacier National Park-both the US and Canadian side and Yellowstone. Almost got killed by a bear at Gates of the Arctic so that is the bottom of my list. My daughter votes for Zion.

  30. Dee Parsona says

    Hmmm Parsons got turned into Parsona-Good night!

  31. Hope I can remember the categories, lol.
    Novel……Tom Sawyer
    Park……..Yosemite, simply stunning
    Film………Gone With The Wind, albeit Grapes of Wrath close and would win if not so sad
    Hero,,,,,,,,Teddy Roosevelt, one of many, but he established NATL park system.

    • Interesting hero you have. My dad was named for Teddy Roosevelt, and I indirectly.

      Are you my niece Hanni? Probably not…

  32. Klasie Kraalogies says

    What about greatest American philosopher?

    Although he was born, and died, in Spain, he received his education, and became a great philosopher, in the US: George Santayana.

  33. Rick Ro. says

    ?Novel – To Kill a Mockingbird
    ?National Park – Mt. Rainier
    ?Sport – Baseball
    ?Film – Field of Dreams
    ?Pop/Rock music composition – Freebird
    ?City – New Orleans State – California
    ?Regional Tradition, Characteristic, or Quirk – at one time, New Orleans had drive-thru daiquiri stands. That says everything you need to know about New Orleans.
    ?Who would you consider your greatest American hero, past or present – George Washington.

  34. Dana Ames says

    Novel: “The Scarlet Letter” and “Huckleberry Finn”

    Nat’l Park: Yellowstone, but really, how can one choose?

    Sport: Baseball

    Film: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (I’m an optimist, so sue me… but beyond that, this film lays out all the sociological issues of the subsequent 25 years in a nutshell)
    Director: Elia Kazan

    Classical: Anything Gershwin or Bernstein (Copland is technically superb, but for me hard to identify with…)
    Jazz: Anything Geo/Ira Gershwin or Cole Porter
    Pop: In the spirit of Truly Popular, have to go with Appalachian Folk, the mother of Pop, modern Folk and Country, and one of the wide streams flowing into the Blues
    Honorable Mention: Cowboy music, “real” or composed, including Western Swing

    City: Tough call between Seattle and San Francisco
    State: Of all the ones I’ve been to, California has everything, and a lot of unique terrain besides – but Montana will always have a special place in my heart

    Regionalism: Sweet tea, for sure. But also, nobody can negotiate bumper-to-bumper traffic at 70 mph – and every other type of automobile maneuvering – like Angelenos.

    Heroes: G. Washington, A. Lincoln, S. Truth, T. Roosevelt.

    Mule, I very much like your Saints category, and I think those you chose are emblematic. Thanks.


  35. Darrell Young says

    1. Novel – East of Eden
    2. Park – Yosemite – hands down
    3. Sport – Basketball
    4. Film – Casablanca
    5. Pop/rock – Blood, Sweat, & Tears – the whole album
    6. City – San Francisco – State – California
    7. Regional Tradition – Super Bowl
    8. American Hero – Jackie Robinson

  36. Mayor McGuiness says

    Novel: Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
    Park: Big Bend
    Sport: Football (High School) or the Spurs
    Film: Slacker
    Rock Band: ZZ Top (Party on the Patio)
    Best Jazz/Hybrid Composition: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Riviera Paradise
    City: San Antonio
    State/Nation: Texas (duh)
    Greatest Texan: Pick one.

    Come and Take It all y’all.

  37. There won’t be original, but here goes. Greatest American …

    — Novel = “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (but I also have plenty of love for “To Kill a Mockingbird”)
    — Nat’l Park = Grand Canyon (but I haven’t seen them all, I must admit)
    — Sport = Baseball (no contest here)
    — Film = “Casablanca” (but I’d be sympathetic to someone who chose “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or “The Best Years of Our Lives”)
    — Classical music composition = “Appalachian Spring”, I guess
    — Jazz music composition = “Rhapsody in Blue” (but I considered “Take Five”)
    — Pop/Rock music composition = “American Pie” (but I don’t like turning my back on the whole “Great American Songbook” with that choice)
    — City = NYC (this and Baseball were the only answers I didn’t have to mull over)
    — State = Maryland (but if I’m honest, Texas sprang to mind first; it’s nothing if not iconic)
    — Regional Tradition/Characteristic/Quirk = Southern hospitality (I’m damn Yankee to the core, but I’ve experienced enough Southern hospitality to know it’s real, or that it can be)
    — Hero = Lincoln, I guess

    I’ll weigh in on philosopher, too: William James

  38. Novel: The Wizard of Oz
    National Park: Sequoia/Kings Canyon in CA
    Sport: Baseball
    Film: It’s a Wonderful Life, just edging out Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
    City: San Diego
    State: PA-because there is so many different aspects of America that can be found there
    Greatest Hero: George Washington-One of the few men in history to have willing given up power and influence, helping America gain a strong and secure footing

  39. To Kill a Mockingbird gets into the best movie and book columns.
    But there are many really great movies. Groundhog Day is one that is at the top of my list. Arsenic and Old Lace is there. And dozens more.

    Baseball is a great game and the history of the game mirrors the history of the country for the last 150 years. As was well captured by Ken Burns. And no other sport requires such metal discipline on defense. What other game teaches you to be on top if you fail 70% of the time? But I don’t watch games much anymore. Modern TV productions have killed watching the game and made it into watching the pitcher and hitter with the fielders tossed in maybe when the ball is hit. (See previous comment about mental and defense.)
    Says he who grew up in the cloud of Ky blue basketball and will watch (sort of) 1 to 4 games on fall and spring Saturdays of both college football and basketball. Great TV sport. Ever been to a basketball game with 24,000 people and NO one sits down from start to finish?

    GW has to be at the top of my greatest list. For all his faults (and he had some) he turned down the option to become king/dictator and set the country on a new path that was fairly unique for the planet.

  40. Jazz composition…..TAKE THE A TRAIN
    This is hard because we have so much great jazz.

  41. Novel — Once An Eagle
    National Park — Grand Canyon
    Sport — Baseball
    Film — Shane
    Music composition — An American Trilogy
    City– Houston State — Texas
    Regional Tradition — Tex-Mex food
    The greatest hero — Joshua Chamberlain

  42. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a
    coworker who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me dinner simply because I
    found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about
    this subject here on your site.

Speak Your Mind