- . . . 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
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).
Prokofiev, Symphony #5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100 (1944): Composed near the end of World War II, this symphony evokes great challenge, great triumph, and deep involvement with the human condition (performances conducted by Karajan, Gergiev and Séguin).
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”]