Notable & Quotable: A Serious Country

Jun 2, 2022 6:34pm ET

Wilfred McClay



From the remarks of 2022 Bradley Prize winner Wilfred M. McClay in Washington on May 17:

Would any reputable country lose sight of its own past so completely that it would entertain the idea that the nation was founded on slavery rather than on the ideals that have made it a beacon to the rest of the world? And would any serious country see fit to teach its children that the nation’s past is best understood as a parade of terror, to which the most appropriate response is not pride but rending shame? . . .

Nobody wants a sanitized account of America’s past. We are all too aware of our many mistakes, and most of us understand the importance of acknowledging them.

But what we wanted and needed instead is a report that puts those flaws into perspective — one that understands them the same way we understand every flawed but admirable person we’ve ever known and loved. . . .

We must become a serious country again. And to do that, we must believe in ourselves again, in the reason we were placed here, as a land of hope for a world that needs hope more than ever. We must understand that a world without America will be immeasurably weakened, both materially and spiritually, and that we have no choice but to meet the responsibilities that come with our many blessings. Our history can be a tremendous resource in this endeavor.

The work will not be easy. . . . But it will be much more difficult to live with ourselves and with the censure of the future should we shrink from the challenge. And once we understand what’s at stake, we may feel some exhilaration when we know what is being asked of us.

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Appeared in the print edition on June 3, 2022. Notable & Quotable: A Serious Country

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