David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachian Professor of History at Stanford University. His scholarship is notable for its integration of economic analysis with social history and political history. Kennedy has written over ten books; his first, Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger (1970), won the John Gilmary Shea Prize in 1970 and the Bancroft Prize in 1971. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980) and won the Pulitzer in 2000 for his 1999 book Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Other awards include the Francis Parkman Prize, the Ambassador's Prize and the California Gold Medal for Literature, all of which he received in the year 2000. Kennedy was educated at Stanford and Yale. The author of many articles, he has also penned a textbook, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, now in its thirteenth edition. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
David Kennedy: Well this particular moment, the issues that worry me a lot, concern me a lot, and generate a lot of anxiety to be quite particular about it and bring it right down to the current moment are the ways in which this society – this country – in the last several years has substantially squandered a bank of moral and political capital that it built up in the world at large in the two generations or so following World War II. I do think that on balance, again, there are major exceptions to this statement; but I think on balance, the United States played a beneficial role in the history of the larger world for a couple of generations after World War II. The Vietnam episode is a major exception to that, I believe. But in essence, the United States at the end of World War II took the lead of creating a lattice work of institutions – the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Terrorists and Trade which morphed into the World Trade Organization at the end of the century, NATO . . . you could go on and on – the net affect of which was to raise standards of living and expand the scope of choice and liberties for people not just in this country, but in the world at large . . . the big sectors in the world. And that was a project I think that this country can be quite proud of. And I think people admired us for our role in that, in helping those kinds of things to happen. We have lost a lot, if not virtually all of that moral and political capital as we’ve become something quite different from the humble nation that we thought we were, that we were promised the current leadership would keep us as. I think it’s going to take a long time for this country to rebuild its reputation of the world at large and to kind of reclaim the kind of moral and political leadership role that it had for the two generations after 1945.
Recorded on: 7/4/07