American history is usually told as a series of triumphs – slavery was destroyed, the pioneers conquered the untamed West, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon – and rarely do we tell stories of failure. Although business ventures have failed, expeditions have come up empty-handed, and heroes have struck out, Americans have enjoyed a great deal of success in our short history.

The 1970s were different. In that decade, our nation suffered through a series of grand failures. We lost our war in Vietnam to an ill-equipped communist insurgency. A president resigned in disgrace. A nuclear power plant melted down. Foreign companies sold better, cheaper products and put American manufacturing workers out of their jobs. The great industrial heartland that had fueled the Arsenal of Democracy began to crumble. The vibrant energy and optimism that characterized the 1960s got a reality check.

Of course, the United States survived as a nation. Perhaps failing taught us lessons that have made us better. Perhaps though, these failures left lasting scars that have weakened us. What do you think? Can failure make us a better country?