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<i>The Lehrman Lectures on Restoring America's National Identity</i><br>Myth and Memory in the American Identity

Recorded on October 12, 2005

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 Bookman.

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.