Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reading: America the Last Best Hope

In the second year of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln, faced with the monumental challenge of a nation divided and at war with itself, took a daring stance and issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In announcing this bold step in his second annual message to Congress on December 1st, 1862, he offered these thoughts:

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."

The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, concluded what we call "the love chapter," by stating that only three things in this life carry into the next: faith, hope, and love. As Christians we understand that our hope ultimately rests in Christ and Christ alone. And yet we cannot deny that the promise of America has been a beacon of hope to millions throughout the years.

Who among us has not been stirred by the words of Jewish poetess, Emma Lazarus, engraved on Lady Liberty's pedestal?

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

William J. Bennett, in America, the Last Best Hope, has penned a marvelous recounting of American history from 1492 to the eve of the First World War. I just completed it.

I found it to be an immensely readable book. It's a tome really, at 525 pages. But it is not at all laborious to read. In fact, as a lover of history, I found it to be absolutely pleasurable.

Bennett explains his motive for writing the book. "... I write this story to kindle romance, to encourage Americans to fall in love with this country, again, or for the first time."

I strongly encourage anyone who may feel as though they wished they had paid more attention in history class to get this book and invest the time required to feed from its pages. It will surely be time well spent.

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