If the Founding Fathers Could See Us Now

Question: Does America today embody the spirit of the Declaration of Independence?

David McCullough: I think if John Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, and the others were to come back today they would be amazed that the system of government that they created is still in place; that the constitution is still there; that we still have the Bill of Rights at that they created. And I think they would be very proud of that we have an independent judiciary, for example—that the legislature is in two parts, Senate and the House, and that the President is the chief executive.

That would all please them enormously because the odds were that it would not survive. That the nation is survived, it did not pull itself apart. They would be amazed by our dentistry, our medicine, our capacity to build skyscrapers and bridges and all of that, the speed at which we communicate and the speed at which we move from one place to another. I think they would think they would feel that we were rather soft and that we really hadn’t been through anything like they had experienced.  I think that their stomachs might turn little at the role of money in our politics now and the degree to which politics has been turned into merchandising and marketing and advertising and ballyhoo.

Recorded on: March 3, 2008

If John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton came back today, they would be amazed that the system of government that they created is still in place.

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less