“We need the past to be brighter than the invisible darkness of future. We need a history of heroes to let us know that bravery is possible. A Greatest Generation and a century of inventors and soldiers and firemen leave us with the belief that many humans have the potential for action, not merely one president or general or saint. We need a canon of many saints who slump towards us. The photo of the many men raising the flag on Iwojima, the tales of many men running into the towers on 9/11, and that the Constitutional Congress was the labor of many minds rather than a gift to a lone Moses - these things tell every man and woman that history beckons widely.
“And we need to feel like we’re failing, because any other feeling will lead us to complacency. For whatever amalgam of reasons, we are the most likely nation to pursue self-improvement. By harkening to the great decisions, of Cronkite weighing against the Vietnam War and Murrow standing up to McCarthy, we invite a generation to seriously look at what present mistakes and evils are going unchallenged. The truth is that history assures we will always have made great decisions, and human nature assures we will always have great decisions we are not making. If history can goad us into living better, then we ought to lose our feet in its tide.
“A hundred years ago we saw Europe at war and could not let the forces of democracy be slaughtered. Today we see blood running in the streets of the Middle East and find ourselves too tired, too weary, too taxed and afraid, and ultimately too confused to answer the simple question of whether we should attempt to stop it.
“You were telling an audience to do more than sit, and for all the current anchors and writers and bloggers to do more than spend twenty-three hours of the day asking whether a single mother eight states away was a good parent. Using the past as a prop to coerce us into thinking we’re failing? We needed that, because we are failing, and if the truth won’t convince us of it, we’ve got to find other means.”