What we’re reading: “The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream”

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What we’re reading: “The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream”

November 2, 2021 - Steve Yount

© Brad Pict/stock.adobe.com

© Brad Pict/stock.adobe.com

The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream is a collection of interviews financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein conducted with leading figures from various walks of life.

Rubenstein was an original signer of the Giving Pledge, a commitment by many of the world’s wealthiest people to dedicate the majority of their fortunes to philanthropy.

He gives generously to help preserve our American heritage, having contributed to the restoration of the Washington Monument, Monticello, Mount Vernon, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.  Rubenstein has also helped fund documentaries on PBS, including the recently aired Muhammad Ali.

He identifies thirteen qualities “that bring us together and have made the whole American Experiment work”:

  • Democracy
  • Voting
  • Equality
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • The rule of law
  • Separation of powers
  • Civilian control of the military; peaceful transfer of power
  • Capitalism and entrepreneurship
  • Immigration
  • Diversity
  • Culture
  • The American Dream

Then Rubenstein fleshes out these ideas with interviews, conducted through the auspices of organizations such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, with the likes of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, scientist Dr. Francis Collins, presidential historian Michael Beschloss, baseball great Cal Ripken Jr., and musician Wynton Marsalis.

Why Christians should read The American Experiment

The American Experiment offers a rich, nuanced portrait of American history, with readers coming to a better understanding of our faith’s role in the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the abolition of slavery.

The big takeaway

Rubenstein’s interviews with some of our greatest historians and most accomplished athletes, artists, public servants, and scientists will leave you with a sense of optimism during this turbulent time for our country.

In their own words

“Among other things that happen to be going on in the 1820s is an evangelical religious revival. Many Americans are born again, including many free Blacks in the North. The attraction of evangelical Christianity for them is the spiritual call of equality. Male or female, Black or white, we are all equal before God.” —Jill Lepore, Harvard history and law professor

“Americans have never faced a competitor that has a larger consumer market than we do, that produces a greater variety of consumer goods than we do. . . . It’s going to be very challenging for America to meet that challenge head-on.” —Bhu Srinivasan, author of Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism, about the challenge posed by China

“Congress added religious language. The document is very carefully constructed so that no particular doctrinal position is visible. It has belt-and-suspenders language – in the beginning, the phrase laws of nature, and of nature’s God. You could be a deist or you could be an atheist and think there’s a natural account about rights that is sufficient to justify the arguments of the Declaration.” —Danielle S. Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, on changes to Thomas Jefferson’s original draft

Read the first chapter

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