Roger Berkowitz recently gave the opening lecture at the Hannah Arendt Center Conference “The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Ideas Worth Fighting for?” The conference, held at Bard College, included talks by David Bromwich, Anand Girdirhardas, Kennan Ferguson, Jerome Kohn, Ann Lauterbach, Lawrence Lessig, Charles Murray, George Packer, Robert Post, Joan Richardson, Amity Shlaes, Jim Sleeper and Kendall Thomas. You can view the conference in its entirety here. For the weekend read this week, we provide an edited transcript of Professor Berkowitz’s speech: “American Exceptionalism: What Are We Fighting For?”
Amid a growing consensus that Americans have lost faith in their country, ideas about strengthening institutions, on the one hand, and inspiring individual virtue, on the other, ought to be integrated.
When the President speaks of American exceptionalism, conservatives disbelieve him while liberals cringe. But there is another reaction ascendant, arguing that whether American exceptionalism was once a force for good or for evil, it is now disappearing.
The cultural abdication of adulthood that A.O. Scott describes in this week’s New York Times Magazine is real. We risk leaving to our children the impossible task of loving a world that we don’t respect enough to love ourselves.
The middle ground in the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will never be found by insisting on either radically partial Zionist or anti-Zionist narratives that ignore the basic facts.
A Sport of Nature offers is a fictional meditation on the power of spontaneity in politics. It stands for the idea that no matter how dark the world the light of the human spirit can and will shine forth to bring a new day.