Excerpts from “The Soul of America”- by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained it must not break our
bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching
from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart
and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the
chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be,
by the better angels of our nature.”
-Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 1861
Feel free to share these hopeful excerpts this election season with your team:
There’s a natural tendency in American political life to think that things were always better in the past. The passions of previous years fade, to be inevitably replaced by the passions of the present. Nostalgia is a powerful force, and in the maelstrom of the moment many of us seek comfort in imagining that once there was a Camelot- without quite remembering that the Arthurian legend itself was about a court riven by ambition and infidelity…imperfection is the rule, not the exception.
With countries as with individuals, a sense of proportion is essential. All has seemed lost before, only to give way, after decades of gloom to light. And that is in large measure because, in the battle between the impulses of good and of evil in the American Soul, what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” have prevailed just often enough to keep the national enterprise alive.
What is the American Soul? The dominant feature of that soul– the air we breathe, or, to shift the metaphor, the controlling vision– is a belief in the proposition, as Jefferson put in the declaration, that all men are created equal. It is therefore incumbent on us, from generation to generation to create a sphere in which we can live, live freely, and pursue happiness to the best of our abilities. We cannot guarantee equal outcomes, but we must do all we can to ensure equal opportunity.
Hence a love of fairplay, of generosity of spirit, of reaping the rewards of hard work, and of faith in the future. For all her failings—and they are legion– there is an abiding idea of an America in which anyone coming from anywhere, of any color or creed, has free access to what Lincoln called “just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way for all.” Too often, people view their own opportunity as dependent on domination over others, which helps explain why such people see the expansion of opportunity for all as a loss of opportunity for themselves. In such moments the forces of reaction thrive. In our finest hours, though, the soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than to clench our fists; to look out rather than to turn inward; to accept rather than to reject. In so doing, America has grown ever stronger, confident that the choice of light over dark is the means by which we pursue progress.
For reasons ranging from geography to market capitalism to Jeffersonian ideas of liberty, Americans have tended to believe, without irony, that Thomas Paine was right when he declared that “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.” In the twilight of his life Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled the words of his old Groton School rector, Endicott Peabody, who had told him, “Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights– then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.”
Roosevelt quoted that observation in his final inaugural address in the winter 1945, and American power and prosperity soon reached epic heights. The Peabody – Roosevelt Gospel seemed true enough:
The world was not perfect nor was it perfectible, but on we went, in the face of inequities and inequalities, seeking to expand freedom at home, to defend liberty abroad, to conquer disease and go to the stars.
For notably among Nations, the United States has long been shaped by the promise, if not always by the reality, of forward motion, of rising greatness, and of the expansion of knowledge, of wealth, and of happiness.
-Jon Meachum “The Soul of America”
Yes- this election I have confidence America will survive and continue to show that ever upward trend.
-Mark Elliott, MD,MBA