In recent days, we witnessed the peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to another. I like the theme of the inauguration — “a more perfect union.”

That phrase was lifted from the preamble to the Constitution of the United States: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”

Various speakers at the inauguration cited the phrase. I like it because the founders of our nation recognized that we are not perfect, but we can certainly strive to achieve a higher degree of excellence. Similarly, by choosing this as a theme, the organizers of the inauguration also recognize that whatever degree of excellence we have achieved as a nation, there is more to be done.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn used to say, “Before things can get better, you have to get better. Before things will change, you have to change.” Applying that to our country, it’s a reminder that a nation is only as great as its people.

We can talk all we want about how government needs to change, how it needs to be more responsive to the people, how we need better statesmanship rather than so much partisanship. All of that is true.

I can’t change the government, except through my vote at the ballot box. But I can work on me. I can endeavor to be a better citizen, to strive for a greater degree of excellence in my own life. I can work toward treating others better, to feel less bitterness and extend more kindness and charity toward others.

Better actions start with better thoughts. I can choose to think more positively instead of dwelling on the negative. Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

A more perfect union isn’t limited to Washington. It can start right where we are.

Ron McClung is the former assistant general secretary and a retired minister with The Wesleyan Church.