What So Proudly We Hail

Diana Schaub, Amy Kass, and Leon Kass

ISI Books | 2011

Civic identity and civic virtue in the United States today face unprecedented challenges, making it more urgent than ever to find better forms of civic education. We must educate minds and hearts not only to enable the young to live decent private lives but also to be attached to our country and to use their freedom to uphold and improve its institutions and values.

In one sense, citizenship is a gift and privilege of our birth, as is the right to vote and to participate in public life. But voting and electioneering do not alone an active citizen make. The quality of our common life–our schools, neighborhoods, public safety and public services, cultural and charitable institutions, opportunities for recreation and worship, etc.–depend on a more robust idea of citizenship, and on people who care enough about the well-being of their communities to engage in the activities that will enable them to flourish.

The selections in What So Proudly We Hail explore both American individualism and our ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. They are both prominent elements of our national life. Yet despite our many enriching differences, there are also things that we have in common. A people that is informed by the “creed” of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness and prosperity will differ from a people informed by different principles. And there are common goals that we seek to attain as a society, and common virtues that a robust citizenry will need. These goals and virtues are central themes of most of our selections.

It is important for everyone to understand the complexity of the American character, the virtues that active citizenship requires, the claims of the competing goals that we pursue as a nation, and the ways that we are and can remain “one, out of many.” This book is therefore equally addressed to all our fellow citizens–young or old, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, and everyone in between.

Image: “Old Glory” by Thomas Hawk | Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

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