Jon Meacham on the Forces that Shaped America

Jon Meacham: Churchill once said, “Man may believe or disbelieve, but it’s a wicked thing to take away one’s hope.” You can’t explain the United States except as an exercise in optimism – realistic optimism – because it’s fundamentally a deposit of faith in the ultimate republic and our virtue of the people. It is an investment in the idea that we are on a journey that is in fact a linear one. And to use Churchill again, “The road is not always even, but in general the path is upward.” So I think that’s the . . . that’s the engine. Otherwise you have a kind of “Hobbsian”, closed-minded view in which so many possibilities are automatically foreclosed. And so I suppose I would argue that I think the guiding philosophical idea of America has been one of hope and increased, expanded, liberty. And that has been something that we have successfully exported. Sometimes we’ve done it unsuccessfully; but it’s not a bad bet. And given all the other bets its one I would take.

 

Recorded on: 7/3/07

 

 

 

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