Question: What forces have shaped America?Armitage: Well the forces that have shaped us clearly has to do with our own birth away from the colonial power, and the fantastic decision making of the members of the Continental Congress. Because that was 200 and almost 40 years ago, and those decisions still look awfully good in the light of today. But we have from time to time here in the United States been buffeted by different forces. Right now you have some forces. The religious right. Previously we had these . . . We had such things as prohibition, etc. I think that the biggest thing that has shaped this nation has been the general realization that democracy itself is not an end point, but it’s a journey. And it’s a journey that never ends. I think second, that although it’s uncomfortable to many of us – I would describe most Americans as reluctant internationalists – there’s a general post World War II . . . and actually post World War I understanding that we can’t just reside behind these two great oceans, or behind the Constitutional Amendments imposed by our great laws – that we are involved in the world beyond our shores, and it’s much better to be out shaping our future than to react to it.
Question: What event had the biggest impact?Armitage: I think one would have to be the Civil War. Had that turned out a little differently, can you imagine what would have happened in World War I or World War II? Would the United States be the force on the world stage? So I’m one of those who looks at that, and more particularly, perhaps the Battle of Gettysburg as the pivotal moment in that great civil struggle as being perhaps the most important in modern mankind.