Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
Debates over the deepest and truest sources of American national
identity often shuttle between two conceptual poles: Creed, the
universal principles upon which the national ethos is thought to be
grounded, and Culture, the particular characteristics, moral and
civic, that are thought to be unique to our civilization, and
without which free institutions cannot be sustained. Such debates
are necessary and valuable, but their two possibilities do not
exhaust the proper and necessary sources of enduring national
identity. This lecture will explore the ways in which the
sustenance provided by historical memory and religious sentiment is
also necessary, why myths of legitimation are a deep and
indispensable element in all social cohesion---and why our American
myth, the account of the American Founding, is also (in C. S.
Lewis's phrase) a myth that is true.
In addition to holding the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in
Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Dr.
McClay is also a Professor of History. A Senior Fellow of the
Ethics and Public Policy Center, he was appointed in 2002 to the
National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board for the
National Endowment for the Humanities. McClay is the author of
several books, including The Masterless: Self and Society in
Modern America (North Carolina, 1994), The Student's Guide
to U.S. History (ISI Books, 2001), and Religion Returns to
the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America (Woodrow Wilson
Center/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), and serves on the
editorial boards of First Things, The Wilson
Quarterly, Society, Touchstone,
Historically Speaking, and University
This lecture is the fourth in a series to consider the meaning
and status of America's common national identity and to define an
agenda for restoring that meaning as the central idea of America's
politics and political culture.
More About the Speakers
Dr. Wilfred M. McClay
SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities,
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Matthew Spalding, Ph.D.