What are we worth as a people? Are we to be admired or despised? In my opinion, America has today no need so great as that of seeing her life in relation to her own ideal of life. What, then, is the American Ideal?
Now it is very clear that modern Americans do not approve the asking of that question. … We are realists. We believe more in facts than in longing. … And at this point we are in strange contrast with the men by whom the nation was established. The makers of the American scheme of life — and of the government which was to serve that life — were hardheaded and shrewd in business affairs. But they also spoke quickly and passionately about their aspirations for their country, about principles to which all men owe allegiance. Liberty, Justice, Equality, Democracy — these words were on the lips and the minds of the makers of the Republic. For these ideals they planned and lived and fought, and if need be, died. … For them, America was an ideal enterprise, as well as a country to be settled and exploited.
From: What Does America Mean? pp16-17 (1935)
Enjoy “Alexander Meiklejohn: Teacher of Freedom” by Cynthia Stokes Brown. (MCLI 1981).