The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

I needed the positive tone of this book when I read it last summer. So much of the spring, summer, and fall of 2020 was mired in the depression of the pandemic, racial strife, unemployment, and other real life calamities, I really needed to read something with a hopeful, inspirational message, and Meacham delievered. He is an excellent writer and he blends American history with the context and nuance needed to understand certain time periods from our past without making excuses for the behavior or conduct on the part of certain individuals or groups. His argument is that although America has always been imperfect and that we may not, in fact, be the exceptional people that Jefferson thought we were, but that in times of conflict, trouble and darkness we always manage to come together and pull ourselves through, and “the better angels of our nature” should give us hope for the future. Progress in American life is slow, bloody, painful, and tragic — but that doesn’t mean we should give up on the American dream or ideal.

  • extremism, racism, nativism, isolationism, driven by fear of the unknown, tend to spike in periods of economic and social stress
  • periods of public dispiritedness are not new
  • progress in american life, has been slow, painful, bloody, tragic
  • nostalgia is a powerful force
  • imperfection is the rule
  • Schlesinger — “the genius of america lies in its capacity to forge a single nation from peoples of remarkably diverse racial, religious and ethical origins”
  • our fate is contingent upon which element — that of hope or of fear, emerges triumphant
  • the soul is the vital center, the core, the heart, the essence of life
  • what is the american soul? that all men are created equal
  • must do all we can to ensure equal opportunity
  • in our finest hours, the soul of the country was open our arms rather than clench our fists
  • promise, if not always the reality, of forward motion, or rising greatness
  • we try, we fail, but we must try again, and again, and again
  • to know what has come before is to be armed against despair
  • Truman: you have to appeal to peoples best intincts, not their worst ones
  • Roosevelt — place of moral leadership (presidency)
  • we are more likely to choose the right path when we are encouraged to do so from the very top
  • “we make our own history” eleanor
  • color in some ways remains the problem of american history as a whole
  • fear has been with us always
  • fear can be rational, but it is often irrational
  • opposite of fear is hope
  • optimism and feelings of well b being, fear is about limits — hope is about growth
  • aristotle — confidence is the mark of hopeful disposition
  • shakespeare — the devil can cite scripture for his purpose
  • the founders expected seasons of anger and frustration — more emotional than rational
  • the art of politics lies in the manufacturing of a workable consensus for a given time — not unanimity
  • hope is sustaining — fear can be overcome
  • whites built and dreamed, people of color were subjugated and exploited by a rising nation that prided itself on the expansion of liberty
  • those twin tragedies shaped us then and ever after
  • creation of the office (president) was an act of faith in the future and an educated wager on human character
  • Johnson — moral force of the presidency is often stronger than the political force
  • after andrew jackson, power was more attuned to the popular will — he was the most contradictory of men
  • self made man who had risen to the highest levels of slaveholding society, in his time he was a figure of democratic aspiration
  • in jacksons time the assertion of the centrality of the president in the american system was controversial
  • jacksons conviction gave his successors precedents for bold action in consequential times
  • Lincoln broadly drew on jefferson’s and jacksons examples
  • fredrick douglas “in his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man”
  • despite all this, Lincoln came through in the end
  • Douglass understood history and the men who made it — perfection was impossible
  • genetic white superiority — Teddy R — he was still a champion of progressive causes, used the presidency as a “bully pulpit”
  • TR thought his duty was to do anything that the needs of the nation demanded
  • Wilson — government is not a machine but a living thing — government is not a body of blind forces, it is a body of men with a common task and purpose
  • “adapted to express the changing temper and purposes of the american people from age to age”
  • role the president could play — takes the imagination of the country
  • character manifests itself in temperament
  • Temperament — latino meaning “due mixture”
  • great leaders are often great performers
  • Eisenhower — leadership is persuasion, conciliation, education, patience. it’s long, slow, tough work
  • TR — embace compromise, seek balance, and strive to serve the national interest
  • americans are driven by the pursuit of happiness — Jefferson
  • public happiness which is measurable
  • put the governed at the center of the project
  • Aristotle — happiness was the whole point of life
  • eudaimonia — greek word for happiness, “flourishing”
  • enable human creativity and ingenuity
  • progress would be possible through inquiry, argument, agitation and finally reform
  • primacy of individual conscience and equality — intrinsic equality of every person, or at least of every propertied white man
  • Smith — human capacity for sympathy and fellow feeling — desire for wealth, could be equal
  • a republic is the sum of its parts, we are the state, and the state is us
  • the things we hope for can come to pass, the things we fear can hold us back
  • progress starts from the bottom and among the many
  • fairness, not favors — for simple justice, not undue advantage — women rights
  • work of reformers — broader understanding of “we the people”
  • “the principle for which we contended is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time in another form” Jefferson Davis, after the civil war defeat
  • appomattox was as much a beginning as an end
  • Hayes — 1877 agreed to remove federal troops from the south, effectively ending reconstruction as part of the bargain to secure the presidency
  • southerners had to shift from military to political means in the battle for state power — white supremacy
  • the war was about slavery and freedom
  • Stephens — VP of confederacy — “Cornerstone Speech” — negro is not equal to the white man, slavery, subordination of the superior race, is his natural and normal condition
  • Lincoln — wanted to rescue the union so long as slavery remained a southern, not a western institution
  • evident to him that emancipation would be militarily wise, politically beneficial, morally right by 1862
  • Union — fought civil war on borrowed moral capital
  • Lincoln — “It is better for us both therefore to be separated”
  • racism had lived across america
  • Virginia confederate and journalist Edward Alfred Pollard — book in 1859 called Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South and The Lost Cause in 1866
  • lost cause was both justified and enduring — not dead but alive
  • fight on in the face of loss
  • The Lost Cause Regained -1868 — white supremacy, true cause of he war, true hope of the south
  • cultivation of the image of Lee by casting lee as a model of virtue
  • when Lee died in 1870, explaining away defeat a a result largely of brute force, numbers
  • 1866 — KKK, kuklos, greek word for circle or band
  • Andrew Johnson — single minded service to a favored constituency — white southerners
  • Civil Right act of 1866 and Reconstruction Legislation of 1867 were passed over johnsons veto
  • he also unsuccessfully opposed the 14th amemendemt which granted citizenship to former slaves and guaranteed, at least on paper, equal protection
  • birthright citizenship — equal protection clause, making the federal government the protector of americans liberties
  • “constant tendency to relapse into barbarism” — johnson, speaking about blacks
  • presidency under johnson had become a refuge from modernity
  • Johnson was a whiskey guy, drunk a lot, even during speeches
  • Grant struggled because northerners were largely uninterested in equality as well
  • 1870–15th amendment extension of voting rights to blacks
  • “constitutes the most important event that has occurred since the nation came into life” — grant
  • Enforcement Act in may of that year, law that empowered the federal government to crack down on the KKK although violence and terror continued
  • grant era got rid of KKK though, moment of hope in the postbellum world, but brief
  • economic depression, racially reactionary Supremem court decisions, withdrawl of federal forces from LA and SC after 1876 election brought reconstruction to a conclusion
  • post 1877 was bleak
  • 1894 — Plessy v ferguson, separate but equal
  • John Marshal was the sole dissenting vote in the case “our constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens”
  • postbellum world of apartheid in America
  • Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot, play, story of a jewish man who had fled the pogroms of russia to make a new life in america
  • TR wrote of the play that the antithesis of the past may be fused into a higher unity — loved the play
  • TR had a vision of the country as a melting pot, but the pot had been smelted from the achievements of the anglo saxon conquerers of the american continent, and those who joined the american experience owed those conquerers their respect and fealty
  • universal american inconsistency — life and liberty for some, but also imposing our will on the lives and liberties of others
  • TR wrestled, rode horses, hunted, hiked and climbed — irrepressible
  • “credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena”
  • progressive passion for reform — revulsion at the capitalistic excesses of an industrializing america
  • “progress steady rise of the lower classes to the level of the upper”
  • “no people were ever yet benefitted by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue”
  • 1890 — Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives
  • TR would fight against corrupt machine politics, against great business monopolies, and against abysmal working condition, conservation of resources, regulation of railroads, women suffrage, political reform, food safety
  • anxiety about refugees has always been an element in the american experience
  • we have often limited immigration in moments of fear
  • TR’s era had ideas of reform and racial superiority
  • John Fiske’s 1879 Mainfest Destiny of the English Race — harvard guy, historian and philosopher, march of white anglo peoples was inevitable, inevitably good and universal — the thought of the time
  • TR also shared the dream of anglo saxon imperialism
  • “americanism is a question of spirit, conviction and purpose, not of creed or birthplace”
  • 1901- dinner with Booker T washington at the white hosue — first black to dine there formally
  • for his time, TR was closer to the side of the angels than many other americans were — “treat each black man and white man strictly on his merits as a man”
  • TR had supported the nomination of an african american, John Lynch of Miss, to serve as temporary chair of the Republican National Convention in 1884
  • in the white hosue he backed Minnie Cox, african american postmaster of Miss
  • but also worried that a white failure to reproduce sufficiently might lead to “race suicide”
  • racial moderate? but thought blacks were inferior
  • “the only safe principle upon which americans can act is that of all men up”
  • Jane Addams was a critical figure for reform movements and women suffrage, civil rights, child labor
  • Progressive Party nominated TR for another term in 1912
  • platform endorsed women’s suffrage, an issue TR embraced
  • 1912 — TR shot in chest, lived “we pay heed only to the mans equality of citizenship”
  • died of an embolism “but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the american people”
  • “it was we, the people not we the white male citizens nor yet we the male citizens, but we the whole people who formed the union” — susan b anthony
  • Alice Paul — leading women suffragist, influenced in britain by woman who refused food, publicized force feedings, added a moral urgency to the cause
  • Abigail Adams “remember the ladies” (John Adams wife)
  • “remember all men would be tyrants if they could”
  • 1848 seneca falls women rights convention — “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal”
  • the work went on through the years
  • Wilson ratified on 1920, though he was slow to join, he got it right
  • era of suffrage was also the age of segregation, suppression of free speech in war time, red scare of 1919, KKK rebirth
  • NAACP 1909 — used the courts to fight segregation and discrimination
  • Wilson — accepted the customary racial inequalities and indignities of the time
  • purged from the party two racist Dem senators though who opposed the administration, and he also strongly denounced lynching
  • impatience with agitation over race resembled northern whites of the time
  • duality inherent in many american hearts
  • new KKK — Thomas Dixon novels, message of white superiority
  • “white man must and shall be supreme” — adopted The Clansman for the stage, and then Birth of a Nation = celebration of white supmreacy, sustained attack on blacks
  • rise of cinema reaching the public — wilson saw the film but he distanced himself from it
  • 1915- William Simmons, new KKK founded — every state in the union had a Klan presence by 1924
  • influence of the movie, unease about crime, anarchists, fear of immigrants, commies
  • klan promised racial solidarity and cultural servitude, structure, position, brotherhood
  • held governorships, senate seats, house figures, Truman nearly joined as well
  • Espianage Act of 1917 — Sedition act of 1918, criminalized dissent in wartime
  • speech itself was under siege
  • Socialist party leader Eugene Debs — working class have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace — sentenced to 10 years in prison
  • conformity was the order of the day, avowals of fidelity to america as defined by jingoists and sloganeers
  • Wilson suffered a huge stroke in 1919, AG palmer took over basically
  • activists and the courts did step in, however
  • Great Gatsby — “the idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be utterly submerged. it’s all scientific stuff, it’s been proved”- endorsement of the book
  • second KKK, Hiram Wesley Evans “you are of this superior blood, salt of the earth upon whom depends the future of civilizations
  • anxiety about the new, about the unknown, was pervasive
  • KKK membership was anywhere from 2–6M, they opposed immigration, anxious about tech change, supremacy of white race, genius of nordic and anglo saxons, free private interpretation of god’s word
  • 1925, march on national mall for thousands of KKK
  • Mencken “they know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge”
  • religion and science had joined race and ethnicity as a theater of war in the high within the american soul
  • 1928 the klan was ebbing, court upheld a NY law requiring them to file membership lists with state authorities
  • “crusade against catholics, jews, negores, and stimulating hurtful religious and race prejudices”
  • 1925 — court declared a klan supported oregon law targeted at roman catholic schools unconstitutional — they had passed a wartime statute to force all children to attend public schools, thus shuttering catholic institutions
  • years of persistent witness and of standing firm in protest
  • argument act decency and the clan does not coexist
  • 1921 — Harding supported anti lynching laws, spoke of political equality, equality of opportunity
  • approvingly cited the assertions of hereditary inferiority as well though
  • Coolidge — less said about the KKK the better
  • consequence was that black leaders began to question their historic relationship with the republican party
  • “our constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color” — speech, contraction, as always
  • causes of the KKK’s fall were complex
  • national origins act of 1924, limited quotas, defused passion around the issue; economic growth, security in wages and emp9loyment undercut the potency of the politics of fear
  • “we are now all in the same boat” — spoke of tolerance and liberalism, “100 percent americanism may be made up of many various elements”
  • “differences as accidental and unessential … look beyond the outward manifestations of race and creed … divine providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character”
  • nearly 20 percent of the workforce or one out of 5 people was jobless after the depression
  • 1933 — FDR nearly killed in a park near miami by an assailant
  • jobless were suffering from feelings of guilt
  • small group of rich wall streeters also put in a plot to supplant FDR — Street Putsch or Business Plot
  • a well organized minority can always outmaneuver an unorganized majority” , as Hitler did
  • Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here told the story of the rise of an authoritarian state in an american riven by economic and cultural chaos
  • novel by Nathaneal West, A Cool Million, a Candide — tale of the rise of a facist politician
  • West was writing fiction, but only just — Huey Long, former LA governor who went to the US Senate in 1932 had deep connections to the poor voters who felt marginalized and middle class people who felt threatened
  • Long had a vision of the redistribution of wealth which he believed key to saving capitalism itself
  • 1932 speed to the senate, said that power was concentrated in the hands of a self serving financial and political elite
  • the forces of progress, Roosevelt declared, were not to cower or to lash out, but to engage
  • “new deal for the american people”
  • Roosevelt was an unlikely revolutionary as he was born into privilege
  • stricken with infantile paralysis in 1921, would never walk again
  • FDR’s sense of hope, spirit of optimism forged his own experience
  • survived cataclysm and overcome paralysis was equipped to prevail over national cataclysm and political paralysis
  • “only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
  • “nothing is so much to be feared as fear” — Thoreau wrote in a journal entry in 1851
  • faith was key as well
  • “conception of the his role that he should never show exhaustion, boredom or irritation”
  • FDR: “you will learn that you cannot, just by shouting from the housetops, get what you want all the time” “what i seek is the highest possible batting average”
  • leadership was imperfect, a wise public would give the president the benefit of the doubt
  • country demands bold, persistent experimentation
  • “it is common sense to take a method and try it. if it fails, admit it frankly and try another”
  • above all, try something
  • Rector at his school was his mentor/Roosevelt had been shaped by the message of hope that Peabody had taught him (Groton School)
  • salience of hope, the dangers of fear, and the need for open american hearts
  • 1935 — Social Security Act, Wagner Act (guaranteeing collective bargaining), put millions to work on infrastructure and other public projects
  • did try to do too much at one point by altering the makeup of the supreme court, which got backlash
  • 1939 — hitler invades poland, WWII
  • nation was strongly isolationist, fear was the common theme
  • America first — isolationists argued, then all might still be well
  • president nevertheless did the best he could to prepare for the possibility of war
  • Roosevelt thought that the fates of nations were interconnected
  • September 1939 — every word that comes through the air, every ship that sails the sea, every battle that is fought, does effect the american future — carefully signaled his opposition to germany
  • Churchill appealed to Roosevelt — Lend Lease to supply them without becoming more directly involved in the war
  • a world founded upon four essential human freedoms — freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person in the world to worship god in his own way, freedom from want, freedom from fear”
  • America First was founded at Yale, 1941, “american democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the european war”
  • Lindbergh — their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in the motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government” talking about jews
  • anti semitism was a fact of life in america — Henry Fords dearborn independent -published the protocols of the elders of zion, a fabricated anti-semitic text that provided hatters a false narrative of Jewish conspiracy
  • “when we get through wit the jews in america, they’ll think the treatment they received in germany was nothing” — father coughlin
  • reich placed newspaper ads and paying for isolationist congressman to attend the republican national convention
  • elanor was in a personal fight against discrimination — lynchings of blacks by whites had still occurred with depressing regularity into the thirties
  • anti lynching measures — president sacrificed legislation to ensure support of other new deal programs
  • Roosevelt’s greatest concession to fear was the internment of japanese americans after pearl harbor, arguably his greatest failure
  • 1942 — rounded up and consigned to concentration camps for the duration of the war, 117,000 americans
  • executive order 9066 — decision of a nation in panic, of a government that had lost its bearings, of a president who had chosen to forsake his duty to the spirt and letter of the constitution — supreme court upheld
  • Regan in the 1988 signed Civil Liberties act which gave compensation for the detained families and apologized to the victims of roosevelts internment policy
  • did roosevelt do enough to save jews? he did slow his efforts to increase the flow of refugees out of the nazi sphere — safer political form
  • fastest way to save the jews was to defeat germany, he thought (and churchill agreed)
  • 1944- war refugee board
  • “shadow of doubt whether enough was done will always remain”
  • D day = operation overload
  • “the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be or doubts of today”
  • 1945–1974, greatest prosperity the world has ever known
  • just about every measure, americans in the years after the war enjoyed unparalleled good fortune
  • middle mattered — as the middle grew it mattered ever more
  • economic unity that was neither very rich nor very poor offered a republic vital political stability
  • missing character in the story was government — frequently helped create the conditions for the makings of that middle class
  • we often approve of governments role when we benefit from it and disapprove when others seem to be getting something we aren’t
  • mid 20th century, expectation that government could play a more direct role in individual lives
  • sense of comfort and economic security helped create a climate of hope — result of public and private investment in a broad range in americans
  • Eisenhower — spending billions on cold war defense on on the interstate highway system
  • he resisted reflexive partnership
  • federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of peole firmly believe should be undertaken by it”
  • anxieties were growing about foreign influence and subversion
  • john birch society - believed itself to be engaged in an end times struggle between good and evil
  • concern about subversion was hardly novel
  • mc earthy - freelance performer who grasped what many ordinary americans feared and who had direct access to the media of the day - exploited the privileges of power and prominence without regard to its responsibilities
  • distract the public - play the press, change the subject all while keeping himself at center stage
  • hyperbole and imprecision
  • opportunist, uncommitted to much beyond his own fame and influence
  • thoughtful people correctly gauged his threat - eleanor, Truman, churchill
  • truman reminded people that he had instituted the loyalty program in 1947 - found hat the ranks of the disloyal was an infinitesimal part of 1 percent
  • Margaet Chase Smith - Republican from maine - "Declaration of Conscience"
  • "constitution as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trail by accusation"
  • mc earthy's followers loves his style, his foes feared it
  • JFK - remained silent on a censure
  • mc earthy understood the media's ways and means
  • TV new medium created nearly unlimited possibilities to dominate the public consciousness, and he valued performance over substance
  • "people only remember the impressions"
  • culture of journalism at mid century was that the job of a journalist was to report the news content of statement, not to assess it's validity
  • Palmer Hoyt, editor of the denver post, suggested that neutrality was not the highest virtue - truth was
  • Eisenhower ignored Mc Carthy
  • Morrow - See It Now "We will not walk in fear, one of another. we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak to associate and to defend causes"
  • "the fault, dear brutus, is not in our starts, but in our selves, good night and good luck"
  • 1954 - Eisenhower broadcast "american belief in decency and justice and progress and the value of individual liberty"
  • senate censured mC carthy in 1956 - Prescot Bush spoke out in favor of censure, senior senator from connecticut
  • MCcarthy was a heavy drinker, died of acute hepatitis in 1957 at age 48
  • the public sought the thrills, the suprise, the drama, was gone from his act
  • essentially a salesman, he oversold, and the customers, the public tired the pitch and the pitchman
  • Buckley National Review started in 1955, conservative magazine
  • Richard Hofstadter - pseudo conservative 'believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin
  • "interest politics, the class of material aims and th needs among various groups and blocs, and status politics, the clash of serious projective rationalizations, arising from status aspirations and other personal motives"
  • Johnson "I'm going to pass the civil rights bill and not change one word of it" post kennedy
  • "I'm going to fix it so everyone can vote, so everyone can get all the education they can get"
  • "well, what the hell is the presidency for if not to do big things lesser men might not?"
  • had a personal transformation and of political courage in the history of the presidency - one aki to Lincoln's move from tolerance of slavery to emancipation
  • in the story of LBJ and civil rights we can see the difference a singular president can make when the circumstances are right - and when the voices of priest are steady and brave
  • Robert Penn Warren - novelist, poet, critic, professor wrote Segregation The Inner Conflict of the South
  • Legacy of the Civil War - posited that the war had given the south the great alibi and the north a treasury of virtue
  • the alibi condones and transmutes everything, evil became good, the inexcusable explicable, pardonable
  • governed by fear that the loss of a way of life in which whites were supreme
  • Treasury of virtue - northerner feels redeemed by history, automatically redeemed
  • "it is forgotten that racism and abolitionism might and often did go hand in hand - the north fell victim to self righteousness"
  • George Wallace used to be anything but a racist, managed to talk himself into it
  • connection to crowds, durable base
  • provoked devotion and rage - many adored him revering him as the new savior - many others despaired of a future under his rule
  • in wallace the lost cause found new relevance
  • the federal government was the villain, states right were supreme salvation of the founders vision, white supremacy was to be protected by whatever means possible
  • JFK "we are confronted primarily with a moral issue. it is as old as the scriptures and it is clear as the american constitution"
  • post rosa parks, NAACP needed place to meet, and MLK had a church to use - fate, it seemed; geography is destiny
  • 1963 - march on washington for jobs and freedom
  • Mahalia Jackson "Tell em about the dream, Martin" - speech wasn't going well up until that point
  • in kings imagined country, hope triumphed over fear
  • king was a practical idealist who could articulate the perfect but knew human progress, while sometimes intoxicatingly rapid, tends to be provisional
  • "we must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline"
  • invoke the princi9ples of the founding fathers to rebuke the inequalities and hypocrisies of modern american life
  • king drew from scripture as he joined the ranks of the founders - in the beginning of the republic men dreamed big but failed to include everyone in that dream, limiting liberty largely to white men
  • Johnson wheeled and cajoled from the white hose by pressing the case again and again that history would reward those who voted with him
  • "american bill not just a democratic bill"
  • summer of 1964, johnson won the cloture vote to shut down the segregationist filibuster of the civil rights bill in the senate
  • "i think we just delivered to the south the republican party for a long time to come"
  • moral case for racial justice so self evident that the country could not help but agree
  • "if i can order them into battle I've got to make it possible for them to eat and sleep in this country"
  • "there is not going to be anything as effective, dr. king, as black citizens voting"
  • Selma, voting rights march, 1965 - bloody sunday crossroads in the long story of civilization
  • call white america to redemption - not through violence but through witness - john lewis
  • civil rights struggle for him was always centered on whether the best of the american soul (grace and love, godliness and generosity_ could finally win out over the worst (racism and hate, fear and cruelty)
  • "we have to be hopeful, never give up, never give in, keep moving on" - lewis
  • wallace surrendered to LBJ to integrate u of alabama - maintain order when the march resumed
  • "what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul"
  • "there is only an american problem, we re met here as americans to solve that problem" for the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin ... their cause must be our cause too ... it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice and we shall overcome'
  • 1968 - period of disorienting violence, disorder, loss, tragedy (MLK, Kennedy)
  • King spoke with the voice of a prophet, urging a nation to repent and return to righteousness
  • the fear that the world was out of place and balance helped hixon
  • campaigned on a cultural populism, arguing that elites and implying that minorities were undercutting american greatness
  • johnson "every man who occupies the position has to strain to the utmost of his ability to fill it"
  • "job of the president is to set priorities for the nation, and he must set them according to his own judgement and his own conscience"
  • domestic legacy is enormous - Great Society, Nationality Act on Liberty Island in 1965 eliminating national origins quotas in force since the early 1920's, added "sex" to the civil rights act which added women to the legislation
  • start talking about how you believe that he wants to do what's right, and how you believe this is right, and you'll be surprised how many who want to do whats right will try to help you - LBJ
  • TR - begin with the little thing, and do not expect to accomplish anything without an effort
  • Eleanor - you cannot be a great leader unless the people are great
  • Truman was no saint on matters of race
  • but as president, he saw his duty whole - worked on civil rights, focused on lynching, integrate military
  • "its not a bad idea to read those ten amendments every once in a while, not enough people do, and that's one of the reasons we're in the trouble we're in"
  • history suggests that a presidents vices and his virtues matter enormously, for politics is a human not a clinical undertaking
  • U.S., most durable experiment in pluralistic republicanism the world has ever known
  • freer and more accepting than it has ever been
  • eternal struggle - knowing history that's shaped us
  • compromise is the oxygen of democracy - taking their true measure as human beings, not as gods (those who came before)
  • what injustices are we perpetuating even now that will one day face the harshest of verdicts by those who come after us?
  • Obama - "often painfully, real change is possible. shifts in hearts and minds is possible"
  • "people are responsible for the government they get" truman
  • our brightest hours are almost never as bright as we like to think, our glumness moments are rarely as redeemable as they feel at the time
  • paying of attention, the expressing of opinion, casting of ballots are foundational to the living up to the obligations of citizenship in a republic
  • politicians are far more often mirrors of public sentiment than they are molders
  • his rights come straight from the people
  • Eleanor - discuss political matters with people whose opinions differ radically from ones own
  • don't let any single network or twitter feed tell you what to think
  • facts are stubborn things - respect facts and deploy reason
  • only on the rarest of occasions does any single camp have a monopoly on virtue or wisdom
  • journalists who seek to report and to illuminate rather than to opine and to divide are critical to a democracy
  • demagogues can only thrive when a substantial portion of the demos - the people - want him to
  • a demagogic present with an enthusiastic public base
  • tyrant, not against the masses, but with the masses
  • "The nation is worth fighting for, to secure an inestimable jewel." - Lincoln

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.