The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
|New from||Used from|
Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
|Free with your Audible trial|
A timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States - winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many others - that reminds us of fundamental American principles.
Over the course of his distinguished career, David McCullough has spoken before Congress, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions. Now, at a time of self-reflection in America following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American. The American Spirit reminds us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps to guide us as we find our way forward.
- Click above for unlimited listening to select audiobooks, Audible Originals, and podcasts.
- One credit a month to pick any title from our entire premium selection — yours to keep (you'll use your first credit now).
- You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
- $14.95 a month after 30 days. Cancel online anytime.
People who viewed this also viewed
People who bought this also bought
Related to this topic
|Listening Length||4 hours and 13 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 18, 2017|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #51,700 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#40 in Civics & Citizenship (Audible Books & Originals)
#47 in Literary Speeches
#65 in Historical Essays (Books)
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Some of the speeches are inspiring, some of them are informative, and many are both. McCullough's thrust in all of them is to stress the importance of history as a guide to American character and values. He fears that many Americans, and young Americans in particular, are ignorant of the kind of history that can enrich and guide their views of the present and future; his fears are realized by a meeting with a bright young college student who did not know that the original thirteen states were all on the East Coast. He is convinced that not only can history inform people's understanding of contemporary events, but that it can remind people of the values and men and women that made this country what it is. In an interview, McCullough mentioned that he put together this collection specifically for these politically troubled times. At the very least they should reassure people that their concerns and fears have been felt - and overcome - by many others in the past.
In most of his speeches McCullough focuses on one or more great Americans. He is not bashful about taking this 'Great Man' view of history, since many of the characters he picks exemplify well the essential qualities of this country. He recognizes their flaws, but also sees their greatness. Famous Americans like John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson and JFK make regular appearances, but so do less famous but still important ones like Benjamin Rush, Simon Willard, James Sumner and Margaret Chase Smith. In speeches intended to commemorate buildings, McCullough also lovingly describes the rich history of monuments like the White House and Capitol Hill and cities like Pittsburgh and Boston.
Throughout the book, McCullough emphasizes many of the qualities that exemplified this country's history: "the fundamental decency, the tolerance and insistence on truth and the good-heartedness of the American people". Relationships with France and other countries played a critical role, and so did the hard work of immigrants. There is also bravery here, exemplified by the Founding Fathers' decision to defy the King of England under threat of execution, by abolitionists' denunciation of slavery and by the ceaseless optimism of scores of politicians and common Americans who wanted to change the direction of this country for the better. There was Margaret Smith who stood up against Joseph McCarthy and said that she did not want "to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny - fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear". There was physician Benjamin Rush who emphasized "candor, gentleness, and a disposition to speak with civility and to listen with attention to everybody". And there was Adams who famously said that "facts are stubborn things". All lessons for the present and the future.
If there is one common theme that emerges most prominently from all the speeches, it is an emphasis on education and an appreciation of history. McCullough tells us how many of the most important Founding Fathers and presidents put learning and books front and center, not just in their own evolution but in their vision for America. Jefferson once said to Adams that he could not live without books, and Adams himself told his son John Quincy that with a poet in his pocket he will never feel alone. McCullough talks about Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia where Benjamin Franklin established the Library Company that evolved into the country's first public library. As he describes it, the biographies of many famous people tell us that learning is not elitist, it is as American as apple pie. It is what turned this country into a beacon of democracy, science and finance. And for learning it is critical to read: "Read for pleasure. Read to enlarge your lives. Read history, read biography, learn from the lives of others". The same goes for history. McCullough is deeply concerned that younger Americans are losing touch with their history. He urges parents to take their children to historic sites at a young age and Americans of all ages to read and ponder their history. He constantly refers to American presidents who loved to read history; Theodore Roosevelt and JFK even wrote history books themselves. Ultimately, he says, "the pleasure of history consists in an expansion of the experience of being alive". And if nothing else, history should inform Americans of strategies and insights from the past that they can adopt to solve contemporary problems.
The overriding message that comes across from many of these speeches is that of optimism, hope and a constant drive in the American people to reinvent themselves. It should be a potent message in today's times and should hopefully further encourage the study of this country's history. As McCullough puts it, "It is a story like no other, our greatest natural resource. It is about people, and they speak to us across the years".
I should start by saying that my favorite American era is the Revolutionary War, and for a book I wrote about George Washington’s Liberty Key (Mount Vernon’s Bastille Key), Mr. McCullough graciously sent me a note to confirm an idea I thought I heard him say sometime earlier in a video interview: “The American Revolution was all about character.” Elsewhere, he had previously written, “Character it’s what counts most of all. [That’s] what’s taught in the story of the Revolution.” This was complemented by renowned historian Gordon Wood writing: “The Revolution is the most important event in American history. … The things we believe in came out of that revolution.”
So I very much welcomed this 2017 book from Mr. McCullough, which I bought and read as soon as it came out. As I reread it now, here are a few of the “character” gems I find:
Referring to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela: “And we saw greatness, too, in the conduct and character of the white man he replaced, President F.W. de Klerk.” “History teaches that character counts. Character above all.” “As Truman saw the presidency, the chief responsibility was to make decisions and he made some of the most difficult and far-reaching of any president. If not brilliant or eloquent, he was courageous and principled. The invisible something he brought to the office was character.” Per John Adams earnest wishes, now engraved on the White House mantelpiece: “I pray to heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” “The Greeks said that character is destiny, and the more I read of the human story, the more convinced I am they were right.”
I would point out that, for a new edition, the following assertion on page 91 might be clarified: “A third of the country was for it [independence], a third of the country was against it, and the remaining third, in the old human way, was waiting to see who came out on top.” According to “All Things Liberty,” this frequently characterized split in revolutionary-era Americans was made by John Adams. However, he was referring not to the American Revolution but the American view of the French Revolution. From my own research on the American Revolution, other historians place the ratio somewhere around 10% for the American Revolution, 10% against, and 80% just wanting to be left alone. However, as the Revolution progressed, the percentages varied wildly depending upon prospects for independence. It's been written that, at most, those for the Revolution did not exceed 45% and those against 20%.
Overall, however, and this single issue aside, “The American Spirit” is a great book. Typical of all of McCullough’s works, it’s well-researched, well-written (almost poetic at times), and well-spoken —the chapters were, after all, speeches. True to his advice to educators, he makes history his “story.” And, indeed, a fascinating story it is, full of intriguing, little-known facts about America’s heroes that inform, entertain, and inspire.
Bottom-line: highly recommended!
“Character is Key for Liberty!” Check out how “Character, Culture, and Constitution” played “key” roles in the American and French Revolutions: George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key – the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul , a best-seller at Mount Vernon.