How will this age be remembered?

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.

  • Transcript


Question: How will this age be remembered?


David Kennedy: Well how this age will be remembered. That’s an impossible question to answer from this perspective. It may be remembered as the age in which traditional warfare ended, if by that we mean the amassing of large forces and their application in the field against adversaries with comparably large forces. That age of industrial warfare, the concept around which we’ve configured our armed forces forever.

We may be seeing the end of that era. It’s possible we may be at the beginning of the end of the carbon era in terms of the world’s energy supplies. We may be seeing as the beginning of an era of ever more exponentially increasing international interaction; I hesitate to say “cooperation”. That’s not quite a word I’m ready to embrace yet as a prediction, but interaction and interdependence on one another.

Again, that image that is so powerful that’s one that has been available only in our generation or our time of satellite photographs, or photographs taken from orbiting spacecraft of the planet. And you sense its singularity and its . . . its smallness in the great cosmos. And what that represents to us about the dawning consciousness that we are one species on this planet. And we do have a common fate, and we very well better find ways to make that a reality.


July 4, 2007