The Movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is recognized as one of the 100 greatest movies ever made. When it arrived in 1939 however, some of the most powerful people in America tried to make sure it was never seen because it portrayed our government in a less than flattering light, which might lower America’s prestige around the world.

Jimmy Stewart plays a good-hearted but naïve “common man” who becomes a U.S. Senator. He is plunged into a congressional cauldron of corruption where almost everyone has either been bribed or threatened into submission by political crooks.

The Hollywood Decency Watchdog office worried the movie might be interpreted as a covert attack on democracy. The Senate majority leader was furious, stating “The movie makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks and portrays America’s leaders as the biggest aggregation of nincompoops on record.”

The movie was indeed banned from many places around the world: Russia, Germany, Spain and Italy. The totalitarian dictators such as Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Francisco Franco and Benito Mussolini, respectively didn’t want their people to see, even for a minute, true democracy in action. They didn’t want to plant the idea that an ordinary citizen, operating from decency and integrity alone, might be allowed to stand up to those wielding unjust power.

Today, some contemporary Americans see the movie as hopelessly idealistic. The Senate has corrupt players; no surprise. What seems ridiculous is the idea that there might be a politician out there who does good things for the right reasons.

On our nation’s 242nd birthday, it is good to remember America was founded on a fragile idea that had never been tried before: Could a diverse population govern themselves by a common ethics without a king or dictator?

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville was sent by the French to study America’s success. He concluded the American experiment was held together by public virtue. It was not the abundant land, commerce, or the matchless constitution. America’s greatness was found in the pulpit of her churches, aflame with righteousness. This is the secret to American genius and power. Alexis said, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Jesus was and is our only source of greatness.