I’m currently reading Jon Meacham’s new book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels. Released on May 8th, it has already become a NYTs number 1 bestseller. It’s a book about the times in American history, like now, “in which the politics of fear were prevalent—[and] a reminder that periods of public dispiritedness are not new and a reassurance that they are survivable.”
Yesterday, Jon Meacham gave the commencement address at UMass Lowell. He provided these points of welcome wisdom gleaned from his decades of writing history and biography.
So what can we learn from the past as we engage the present:
That the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
That compromise is the oxygen of a free government.
And that we learn most from the past not by looking up at people from our history adoringly, or looking down on them condescendingly, but looking them in the eye and taking their measure as human beings, not as Gods, so that we can learn how they overcame the obstacles of their time.
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