Monday, January 01, 2007

Schlesinger shows us the way: Folly's Antidote

Arthur, in his New Year's Day piece in the New York TIMES, may be showing us the way we need to proceed from here on in, as citizens who promote and maintain the civic dialogues for the benefit of all of us.

The great strength of history in a free society is its capacity for self-correction. This is the endless excitement of historical writing — the search to reconstruct what went before, a quest illuminated by those ever-changing prisms that continually place old questions in a new light.

History is a doomed enterprise that we happily pursue because of the thrill of the hunt, because exploring the past is such fun, because of the intellectual challenges involved, because a nation needs to know its own history. Or so we historians insist. Because in the end, a nation’s history must be both the guide and the domain not so much of its historians as its citizens.

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