Jewels from McCullough

As noted in this space the other day, we are in the midst of graduation season and it is natural for adults to wish to impart something of value to today’s grads. We found several nuggets in a book loaned to us by a friend.

“The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For” is a compilation of speeches given by famed historian David McCullough. A mixture of commencement addresses and speeches given on special occasions, many contain little jewels that should be shared.

In a speech titled “The Spirit of Jefferson,” McCullough told newly minted U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Monticello:

“When he wrote the Declaration of Independence he was speaking to the world then, but speaking to us also, across time. The ideas are transcendent, as is so much else that is bedrock to what we believe as a people, what we stand for, so many principles that have their origin here, with the mind and spirit of Thomas Jefferson. Sadly, too many today take for granted public schools, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equality before the law, forgetting that these were ever novel and daring ideas.”

On the importance of knowing history, McCullough told the graduating class of Hillsdale College in 2004:

“The laws we live by, the freedoms we enjoy. The institutions we take for granted — and we should never take for granted — are all the work of others who went before us. And to be indifferent to that isn’t just to be ignorant, it’s to be rude. And ingratitude is a shabby feeling.

“How can we not want to know about the people who have made it possible for us to live as we live, to have the freedoms we have, to be the citizens of this greatest of countries? It’s not just a birthright, it is something that others struggled and strived for, often suffered for and died for, for the next generations, for us.”

We highly recommend “The American Spirit.” It would make a great graduation gift.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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