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Day: December 14, 2017

“The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For” by David McCullough

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For” by David McCullough

c.2017, Simon & Schuster
$25.00 / $34.00 Canada
176 pages

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

One nation, under God, indivisible.

Those words deeply mean something to you. Maybe you’ve fought for them. Maybe you say them daily. You see the news and they leap to mind, whether you’re optimistic for the future or pessimistic about current events. And in the book “The American Spirit” by David McCullough, you’ll see how the former better describes our nation.

For the past fifty years or so, author and historian McCullough has given many speeches. He’s been honored to talk to graduating classes, business organizations, and politicians throughout that time, and he says he often returns home knowing that “the American spirit [is] still at work.”

Yes, we’ve always been divided – and united.

We were united by people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Manasseh Cutler, men about whom much has been written. And yet, says McCullough, there were other “giants” in history that we never hear much about: Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Speaker Joe Martin, Margaret Chase Smith, Frank Church, the list is endless.

“How can we know who we are and where we are headed,” asks McCullough, “if we don’t know where we have come from?”

Knowing why our cities grew, and why they were important explains us in better detail; take “Pitt from Pittsburgh and the loss would be devastating,” McCullough says, as an example. We also should study the “energy” of the documents created by the Founding Fathers – and about those Fathers, we must remember that they were “living men” and fallible humans. They wrote with their reputations in mind, “staking their lives on what they believed…”

We are a country that values education. We mostly “want to belong to something larger than ourselves.” We are a nation made of people born here, and around the world. We are stewards of and teachers for historic sites. And “When bad news is riding high…” says McCullough, “… and some keep crying that the country is going to the dogs, remember it’s always been going to the dogs in the eyes of some, and that 90 percent, or more, of the people are good people…”

“We all know that. Let’s all pitch in. And never lose heart.”

The news makes you want to scream? Come over here and join the club – but bring your copy of “The American Spirit.” There’s a lot we can learn together.

We can do that, says author David McCullough, by reading history to get a bigger picture of the arms-wide-open optimism shared by America’s brightest citizens. Here, in this anthology of speeches, McCullough displays unparalleled storytelling skills with tales of those preachers, politicians, visionaries, men, and women whose work meant everything to a growing nation. It’s hard not to get caught up in McCullough’s eagerness to know those tales, and it’s hard not to be stirred by them.

This book is small but its message is huge so, if you’re a student of current events, give it the introspection and time it demands. Do that, and “The American Spirit” could pledge for you a new outlook.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Tis a gift…

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The fortunate among us will wake Christmas morning and open presents. The day will continue with breakfasts, brunches, dinners, family and friends. As we anticipate the holidays and what they mean to each of us, we would do well to think of those less fortunate.

Regardless of the reason, some families will not have a full table during the holidays; there will not be toys for the boys and girls to open. Despite positive economic news there will always be families who have been passed by. Families struggling to stay together, to stay healthy, to stay fed, to stay in school.

Our minds understand that hunger and insecurity know no season; if a family is food insecure in December it might be food insecure in March or April or August. But our hearts tell us to reach out during the holidays to those less fortunate. Tis the season of caring and sharing after all.

How can we help those less fortunate? That’s the easy part, there are many organizations that aid those in need. Marion-Polk Food Share and the Keizer Community Food Bank are instrumental in feeding hundreds of people. The people that patronize a food bank are not bums or lazy, they are families who have fallen on hard times and need a hand up. More than 80 years ago that’s what Americans were doing for each other during the depths of the Great Depression—everyone seemed to be in the same boat.

That is not the case these days. Everyone is not in the same boat, some are thriving while others struggle. We show what kind of society we are by how we treat the weakest and neediest.

It doesn’t take much to change the daily lives of people. Donating cash instead of food allows the food bank to purchase more than we can give. We should all endeavor to see that the shelves of the Keizer Community Food Bank groan from the weight of all the food that is available for families in need.

Food is important, but so is personal security. We implore Keizer households to look through their closests for unused coats, shoes and other clothing items. A little child doesn’t care what the label says or what color the coat is, they will be over the moon because they have a coat that will keep them warm.

What do you do with items you want to donate? Contact the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul or any church. The Closet at McNary has been very successful at matching students in need and donated clothes and accessories.

We all have things we don’t use that can easily be donated to make life better for someone else. Tis the season to do that. Let us do our spring cleaning now, in December, to gather unused items and give them a second life. Let us add a few more food items to the food cart when shopping to donate along with cash to the Keizer Community Food Bank.

Be generous this season, be kind to those in need. When we give we receive the warmth of being good humans.

  —LAZ

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