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GRE Issue 28: The Surest Indicator Of A Great Nation - With A Free Essay Review
"The surest indicator of a great nation is represented not by the achievements of its rulers, artists, or scientists, but by the general welfare of its people." Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The statement simply claims that the surest indicator of a great nation is represented not by the achievements of its rulers, artists or scientists, but by the general welfare of its people. The statement may sounds a little bit absolute especially when the definitions of word “great” are distinct. Some people might think a great nation simply means a nation occupying a large number of acres, while others could regard a great nation as one in which people’s welfare is desirable and they live happy lives in general. Therefore, whether the statement is true or not depends the definitions of “great” one might give.
When a great nation refers to one which defeats numerous surrounding countries and has much territory, the surest indicator of a great nation could be represented by achievements of its rulers. Alexander the Great is an excellent example of this point. The greatest achievements of Alexander the Great are not only numerous victories in battle but also the establishment of Macedon, one of the largest empires of the ancient world. The rise of Macedon, from a small kingdom, to one dominating the entire Hellenic world can hardly be achieved without great leadership of Alexander the Great. Study of achievements of this leader, people could easily understand why Macedon is considered as a great nation with respect to territory and domination. Thus, in some cases, the achievements of its rulers are able to represent the surest indicator of a great nation.
In contrast to statement, provided that people believe a nation full of cultural and technological achievements as a great one, the achievements of artists and scientists may serve as the surest indicator of a great nation. Take ancient China for instance. A majority of people in different parts of the world think ancient China was one of the greatest nation at that time largely because the technology and arts were both advanced and prosperous compared to other countries. The achievements of artists and scientists, ranging from beautiful vases to the invention of compass and printing skills, made great contributions to Asia as well as Europe. Also, examination of achievements of artists and scientists of one country illustrate indirectly how mighty and prosperous this nation once was. Therefore, instead of the general welfare of its people, the achievements of artists and scientists represent the surest signal of a great nation.
Nevertheless, some people put a high value on welfare of its people when they consider which country is qualified for a great one. In this case, the statement holds true. Imagine, like Macedon and ancient China in which large amounts of people live poor lives whereas only aristocrats leading luxurious lives, these countries can hardly be regarded as great nations regardless of what accomplishments their rulers, artists or scientists make. A great nation, in some sense, must ensure its people have equal rights, lead decent lives and enjoy favorable welfare. Otherwise, no matter how this nation is “great” in some aspects, it will probably be overturned in the long term by its rebellious masses. As a result, maybe the surest indicator of a great nation is represented by the general welfare of its people.
In conclusion, whether the statement holds true or not largely depends on the answers to the definitions of “great”.
I think you have taken the easy option in responding to this prompt. The problem with doing that is that you don't give yourself much of an opportunity to demonstrate the complexity of your thinking. Your answer is legitimate, of course. The answer really does depend on how one defines "great." But your answer boils down to this: If by "great," we mean the people are well, then the welfare of the people is the surest indicator; If by great we mean great military achievement, then the achievement of the leader is the surest indicator. And so on. All of those arguments really go without saying.
But the statement in the prompt could also be taken as an invitation precisely to think about how one ought to define the greatness of a nation, and I think it should be interpreted in that way. In that case, you would need to explain which of the options you think is the right measure of that greatness. Or you may end up arguing that none of the options is an always reliable measure of greatness. If the general welfare of the people comes at a cost (prosperity without freedom of expression or conscience, for instance), then perhaps we might still question the greatness of the nation despite the fact that all are housed and fed and have health care. If a brutal dictator puts a lot of money into the arts, while the people starve, or if he conquers many lands while sacrificing or murdering millions, we may not be that impressed with the achievement of the artists or the rulers.