As a friend recently pointed out to me, David McCullough is a national treasure. His book, The American Spirit, is a collection of 15 addresses given at various historic sites, universities, Congress and the White House.
To read these addresses at a time of anger and division in our country is both a balm and a call to action. It is calming to be reminded of the strength that lies within our national character. To remember our country was created by flawed men and women striving to be great. More importantly, McCullough would have us take action upon ourselves. To learn, to contribute, and to critically examine the quality of our own character.
In an address to Hillsdale College in 2005, McCullough read part of a letter from Abigail Adams to her son John Quincy. She was in France and had gotten word that upon his return to America to enter Harvard, J. Q. had become rather full of himself.
“If you are conscious to yourself that you possess more knowledge upon some subjects than others of your standing, reflect that you have had greater opportunities of seeing the world and obtaining knowledge of mankind than any of your contemporaries. That you have never wanted a book, but it has been supplied to you. That your whole time has been spent in the company of men of literature and science. How unpardonable would it have been in you to have turned out a blockhead.”
If you tend to be a fiction reader, mix things up with this book. It’s not overlong but it’s full of great stories.