Obama's Teachable Moment on American Identity
2:15 PM, Jan 13, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Obama has shown himself to be perfectly at ease talking about America's pluralism, his unique past, and America's promise as illustrated by his own pluralistic past propelling him to the Presidency. But the Bradley Project on America's National Identity has put in a request for other subjects.
The Bradley Project was started to study and reverse the erosion of a unified national identity that comes from connection to the country's values and history- values and history, that is, without the Ward Churchillian twist they're so often given in public schools and colleges these days.
Their advice for Obama's teachable moment, which will undoubtedly be watched by huge crowds in person and on TV:
You had him at Abraham Lincoln. That's one dead, Republican, white guy whom everyone is cleared to laud these days, as Obama has spent the last two years encouraging comparisons between himself and his fellow Illinoisan. As the boss noted, Obama will be sworn in on Lincoln's Bible- a Bible not used since, well, Lincoln used it. He took his family on an unannounced visit to the Lincoln Memorial this week, and even George Bush is getting into the game of Lincoln mantle-claiming:
It's enough to make you wonder what Lincoln did to deserve shouldering the burden of these tough political times after having brought the Union safely through its most divided time in history. But Lincoln's legacy is one worth touting, and one hopes that Obama's uncanny ability to make everything he touches "cool" will extend to biographies of the 16th president and other stalwarts of American history that Obama admires. If Obama mentions him enough, it might be enough to bring such heretofore unspeakable subjects as "American History" and our forefathers back into style on college campuses.
Dare we hope for other positive developments on college campuses during the Obama years? This week, a generally liberal academic group (American Association of Professors) and a generally traditionalist group that fights for students' rights and philosophical balance in college classrooms (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) agreed to fight speech codes together:
In the subsequent question-and-answer session, however, Mr. Nelson seemed downright sympathetic with those present when it came to the subject of campus speech codes. Anne D. Neal, president of the trustees-and-alumni group, asked him whether the AAUP could move beyond its disagreements with organizations like hers and work together on areas of common ground. Mr. Nelson replied that his group would be willing to work with hers to fight speech codes, which it has long opposed.