• Heritage Action
  • More

We Hold These Truths: Politics, War and National Identity

Recorded on July 20, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

There is a debate today between those who understand America as a creed, based on certain universal principles, and those who regard it as a culture, based on a particular religious and political inheritance. Liberals as well as conservatives participate in this debate, which has roots reaching back to the French Revolution. But the debate overlooks the real roles of creed and culture in our politics, according to Kesler, who argues that America is neither a culture lacking rational principles nor a universal society open to everyone on progressive terms. America is a product of the particular circumstances, principles, and choices of the American Founding, a society shaped decisively by statesmanship, politics and war. Indeed, politics and war continue to shape our national identity. The debate over the war in Iraq - what it means for the United States' self-understanding as well as for democracy's viability in the Middle East and elsewhere - illustrates this fact.

In addition to being Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, Dr. Kesler is Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, a Senior Fellow of The Claremont Institute, and Director of the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College.

This lecture is the second 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.