Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

One country, one constitution, one destiny

Fireworks on July 4
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Lockard is an Iowa resident who regularly contributes to regional newspapers and periodicals. She is working on the second of a four-book fictional series based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice."

“One country, one constitution, one destiny,” Daniel Webster said in a historic 1837 speech defending the American Union.

This of Fourth of July, 187 years after Webster’s speech and the 248th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, Webster would no doubt be dismayed to find his quote reconstrued by popular opinion to read something like this:

“Divided country, debated constitution, and as for destiny, we’re going to hell in a hand-basket.”


But we’re not! “We, the people” of this great country are doing just what we are supposed to be doing and what we have always done. We are arguing, we are adjusting, we are changing with the times, growing, individually and societally.

The time to seriously worry about the United States is if we are not debating. That would mean we are afraid of the repercussions of dissention, worried about retaliation or accepting that our views have been corralled by a dictator. We may have homogenized, to different degrees, living in the United States, but Americans are not the Borg. This is a country of individuals.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Pundits on either side of extremism like to use our Constitution as justification for their favorite maxims, evidence of their ordained views. The Constitution has withstood jabs from all directions, been interpreted one way, changed, walked back, reassessed, added to. It is a living document, and though we are not celebrating its ratification this week, our forefathers must be celebrated for that. Truly, an accomplishment of the ages.

Many specialize in romanticizing, or villainizing, our past. But we cannot know, really, what it was like to live in another’s time, any more than we can zip back 248 years to Philadelphia and tell Thomas Jefferson it’d be much easier to draft the Declaration of Independence in Google Docs. Still, from our enlightened position, where hindsight must be 20/20, we stand in judgment of our ancestors. But tearing down the past is like slapping a college graduate’s hand for spilling her milk when she was 2. The value is in learning from our past. Judging our predecessors does not change history, any more than devaluing our contemporaries changes the present.

The truth is, we cannot help but swirl in the broth of our own times. Like it or not, those alive with you on this planet today are the people you are stuck with. And our country’s problems … well, they’re yours, too.

The United States has always brooked controversy, and has always had challenges. Is there a country that doesn’t, a person who doesn’t? Working through them is the true test; the pendulum swings, but must not topple the watch-tower. In each era, people consider theirs the worst of times and, simultaneously, the best. Did your parents like your music? Do you like your children’s?

This week, to varying extents, we will be caught up in celebrating the birthday of this big, wild and diverse country. Our surge of patriotism may last only a day, yet it is something to be treasured. As George William Curtis wrote, “Patriotism is the vital condition of national permanence.”

Consider, if all our feuds were suddenly mended, it would likely mean we were united against a common enemy, but another world war is far too extreme a correction for political disagreement. Let’s just keep arguing.

Have your opinions; they’re yours. Or change them; they’re yours to change.

And believe this country, where you can freely express those opinions, is often wrong. Because it is. But it is often in the right as well and, best of all, it is trying to get there.

We will hear songs this week we consider surging with patriotism, such as “Born in the USA.” Although those lyrics were used as the proud anthem of several presidential campaigns, among them Ronald Reagan’s and Donald Trump’s, Bruce Springsteen’s song is actually about a disillusioned Vietnam vet.

Contradictions, conflicts, misinterpretations: That is America.

So, this week, somewhere between the burgers and the fireworks, between watching the fireflies and children writing their names with sparklers, listen to, hum or belt out one of our truly great patriotic songs, like “America, the Beautiful.”

Because our country — despite our differences, and because of them — is so very beautiful.

Read More

People standing near 4 American flags

American flags fly near Washington Monument.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A personal note to America in troubled times

Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute. This is the latest entry in his series based on the "Enough. Time to Build.” campaign, which calls on community leaders and active citizens to step forward and build together.

I wanted to address Americans after the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump. Consider this a personal note directly to you (yes, you, the reader!). And know that I have intentionally held off in expressing my thoughts to allow things to settle a bit. There’s already too much noise enveloping our politics and lives.

Like most Americans, I am praying for the former president, his family and all those affected by last weekend’s events. There is no room for political violence in our nation.

Keep ReadingShow less
David French

New York Times columnist David French was removed from the agenda of a faith-basd gathering because we was too "divisive."

Macmillan Publishers

Is canceling David French good for civic life?

Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute. This is the latest entry in his series based on the "Enough. Time to Build.” campaign, which calls on community leaders and active citizens to step forward and build together.

On June 10-14, the Presbyterian Church in America held its annual denominational assembly in Richmond, Va. The PCA created considerable national buzz in the lead-up when it abruptly canceled a panel discussion featuring David French, the highly regarded author and New York Times columnist.

The panel carried the innocuous-sounding title, “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” The reason for canceling it? French, himself a long-time PCA member, was deemed too “divisive.” This despite being a well-known, self-identified “conservative” and PCA adherent. Ironically, the loudest and most divisive voices won the day.

Keep ReadingShow less
Young girl holding a sparkler and wearing an American flag shirt
Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images

Three approaches to Independence Day

Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework," has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.

July Fourth is not like Christmas or Rosh Hashanah, holidays that create a unified sense of celebration among celebrants. On Christmas, Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. On Rosh Hashanah, Jews throughout the world celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Yet on the Fourth of July, apart from the family gatherings, barbecues and drinking, we take different approaches. Some Americans celebrate the declaration of America's independence from Great Britain and especially the value of freedom. And some Americans reject the holiday, because they believe it highlights the self-contradiction of the United States, which created a nation in which some would be free and some would be enslaved. And other Americans are conflicted between these two points of view.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rich Harwood
Harwood Institute

Meet the change leaders: Rich Harwood

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

After working on more than 20 political campaigns and two highly respected nonprofits, Rich Harwood set out to create something entirely different. He founded what is now known as The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in 1988, when he was just 27 years old (and is now its president). Soon after, he wrote the ground-breaking report “Citizen and Politics: A View from Main Street,” the first national study to uncover that Americans did not feel apathetic about politics, but instead held a deep sense of anger and disconnection.

Over the past 30 years, Rich has innovated and developed a new philosophy and practice for how communities can solve shared problems, create a culture of shared responsibility and deepen people’s civic faith. The Harwood practice of Turning Outward has spread to all 50 states and is being used in 40 countries.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person holding an upside down American flag

A woman protests Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, by waving an upside down American Flag.

Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

Distress signals: The American flag as a political weapon

Becvar is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and executive director of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the parent organization of The Fulcrum.

Comparing the year leading up to the 2020 presidential election to this year, it’s striking how much has changed in the American consciousness. The divisions that deepened after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection often seem irreparable. Once unimaginable discord with family, friends and neighbors has now become commonplace. This new reality includes a further divide over what the American flag represents.

Keep ReadingShow less