Sunday, May 04, 2003

The Real State Of The Union
Americans have traditionally been vain about their pragmatism. Let the French have their philosophes, the British and the Germans their aristocrats who stand on ceremony. Ours would be the culture of the doer, the tinkerer, the keen observer who noticed what actually worked. In ideal form the American leader would be a Benjamin Franklin, with lofty interests but an unshakably realistic bent. Better, he would be a Lincoln: a true visionary who also recognized that the drunken General Grant was the best man for the job.

Lincoln, too, issued State of the Union messages, at a time when the existence of the union itself was in question. His second, in 1862, is the most memorable. "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present," he said. "As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew." We offer these essays in that spirit.

I highly recommend this joint report by the Atlantic Monthly and New America Foundation.