Our better angels.

    May 6, 2018

    “The youth of our land shall emulate thy virtues. Statesmen shall study thy record and learn lessons of wisdom. Mute though thy lips be, yet they still speak. Hushed is thy voice, but its echoes of liberty are ringing through the world.”

    Eulogy given by Bishop Matthew Simpson, former and first president at DePauw University, at U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial.

    ’Our soul—and those that has room for Martin Luther King, but it also has room—from generation to generation—for the Ku Klux Klan and for hate and for fear.

    From the very beginning, the presidency was a wager on human character because the framers in that long and difficult summer in 1787 spent far more time on the other parts of the Constitution. They were honestly confused about how powerful the president should be.

    Our best moments have come when voices far from power—reformers, protesters, those who have been on the margins—have forced the powerful to take notice.

    My own view of the presidency is from Lincoln to Lyndon Johnson, we have had deeply flawed, imperfect men so far in charge of our affairs. But the eras where we look back and the eras that we want to either emulate or celebrate are those when they come about when presidents choose to reach beyond their base, to reach beyond their core of support and speak for a national as opposed to a sectional or partisan interest.

    [During the time of the second KKK uprising and the ‘existential crisis of democratic capitalism’,] the night Franklin Roosevelt became president, an aide came to him—an adviser came to him and said, ‘Mr. President, if you succeed in the present crisis, you will go down as our greatest president. But if you fail, you’ll go down as one of the worst. And FDR looked at him and said, if I fail, I’ll go down as the last.

    He was formed by a deep belief in hope, in resilience, in the sturdiness of an American idea that we were stronger the wider we opened our arms.’

    Presidential history and author Jon Meecham speaking with Dave Davies on NPR’s Fresh Air. Full interview:



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