- . . . ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. [John F. Kennedy, inaugural address, January 20, 1961 (listen at 14:00).]
The emotional component of public involvement is public-spiritedness. This means more than cheering for a nation’s athletic teams. Because ours is a universal ethic, it means being emotionally committed to the well-being of all peoples.
Documentary and Educational Films
- Robert B. Reich, The Common Good (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018): “Reich attributes the erosion of the common good in recent decades to the breakdown of moral restraint in the pursuit of power and money.”
- David Goldfield, The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good (Bloomsbury, 2017): “. . . a vanished world . . . helps drive ‘The Gifted Generation,’ which Goldfield says is intended as ‘a compelling brief for government activism on behalf of all Americans.’”
- Deborah Blum, The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Penguin Press, 2018): on the influence of chemist Harvey Washington Wiley
- Khizr Khan, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice (Random House, 2017): “ . . . the point was not just to honor the tragic loss of yet another brave American soldier; it was to repudiate the bigotry that had been spewing from Donald Trump’s mouth from the moment he announced his candidacy for president.”
From the dark side:
- Timothy Snyder, The Road To Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (Tim Duggan Books, 2018): “We are living in dangerous times, Timothy Snyder argues . . . Too many of us, leaders and followers, are irresponsible, rejecting ideas that don’t fit our preconceptions, refusing discussion and rejecting compromise. Worse, we are prepared to deny the humanity and rights of others.”
- Mona Hanna-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City (One World, 2018): “This ‘is the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it,” Mona Hanna-Attisha writes in her gripping memoir about the crisis, “What the Eyes Don’t See.’ ‘It is a story about what happens when the very people responsible for keeping us safe care more about money and power than they care about us, or our children.’”
- Ian Kershaw, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45 (Penguin Press, 2011): Nearing the end of World War II, a closing chapter in a book of evil was written by “ . . . a core of die-hard fanatics, an obedient and still functioning state structure and, perhaps most striking of all, a compliant public that did nothing to interfere with the dying regime’s final murderous spasms.”
Film and Stage
- The Way We Were, a classic romantic tale that “poignantly captures the insoluble dilemma of reconciling private desires with public awareness”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
The works under this heading are about home as a community.
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 (1899), is one of many examples of a composer creating music to support the people of his homeland – in this case, in a just cause. “Sibelius’ work represented a protest against Tsar Nicholas II’s recent curtailing of constitutional rights in Finland, a putatively autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire, which was becoming increasingly restive under the harsh rule of its Russian governors.” Sibelius’ use of solo instruments points out the citizenship is a personal responsibility. “The beginning of the work is one of the most original in the history of the symphony. A solitary clarinet solo breathes a sense of desolation, which is from time to time emphasised by the distant rumbling of the timpani in the opening section . . .” Top performances were conducted by Kajanus in 1930, Koussevitsky in 1945, Collins in 1952, Barbirolli in 1957, Ormandy in 1962, Berglund in 1987, Bernstein in 1990, Jansons in 1991, Vänskä in 1996, Davis in 2009, Vänskä in 2013, Hannu Lintu in 2015, and Mäkelä in 2021. Bernstein and Järvi, have conducted live performances.
Bedřich Smetana, Má Vlast (My Country), JB 1:112 (1879): “Music and patriotism form a powerful bond.” “At over an hour long, Má Vlast is a mighty work, comprising six poems in total; but its popularity is due mainly to the second one, Vltava – a beautiful, evocative musical painting of the rolling river that passes through the city of Prague.” “The poems in Má Vlast are a love letter to Smetena’s homeland, depicting the landscape, history and myths of what was then known as Bohemia.” Top performances are conducted by Kubelik in 1953, Talich in 1954, Ančerl in 1963, Kubelik in 1971 ***, Smetáček in 1980, Levine in 1987, Kubelik in 1990, Mackerras in 1999, and Colin Davis in 2005.
- John Finbury, “American Nocturnes – Final Days of July”
- Australian Art Orchestra, “Hand to Earth”: “ . . . the core of this new project is the ancestral manikay (song cycles) of the Yolgnu people, the Aboriginal custodians of a 40,000-year-old oral tradition based in south-east Arnhem Land.” [Sent Jordan, Gramophone magazine, November 2021 issue, p. 91.]
- Romina Lishka, Dorothee Mields and Hathor Consort, “Heinrich Albert’s Pumpkin Hut”, a whimsically titled album of vocal selections from the early 1600s, during the 30 Years War
- Armen Donelian, “Sayat-Nova: Songs of My Ancestors”: “Sayat-Nova . . . has long been recognized as one of the greatest poets and troubadours to emerge from the Caucasus region. . . . Armenian-American pianist Armen Donelian has prepared a deeply felt - and often strikingly beautiful - tribute to this distant master.”
Woody Guthrie was a child of the American dust bowl and the Great Depression. Out of that experience, he crafted a body of music and lyrics that still speaks to the yearning for a nation and a world in which people pull together and support each other for the common good.
Books by and about Woody Guthrie:
- Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life (Delta Reprint, 1999).
- Ed Cray, Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006).
- Will Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical (University of Illinois Press, 2011).
- Robert Santelli, This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an Americal Folk Song (Running Press, 2012).
- Woody Guthrie, Bound for Glory (1943).
- Woody Guthrie, House of Earth: A Novel (1947).
Days undefiled by luxury or sloth,
Firm self-denial, manners grave and staid,
Rights equal, laws with cheerfulness obeyed,
Words that require no sanction from an oath,
And simple honesty a common growth—
This high repute, with bounteous Nature's aid,
Won confidence, now ruthlessly betrayed
At will, your power the measure of your troth!—
All who revere the memory of Penn
Grieve for the land on whose wild woods his name
Was fondly grafted with a virtuous aim,
Renounced, abandoned by degenerate Men
For state-dishonour black as ever came
To upper air from Mammon's loathsome den.
[William Wordsworth, “Ode to the Pennsylvanians”]