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The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

5.0 2
by David McCullough

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A New York Times Bestseller

A timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States—winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many others—that reminds us of fundamental American principles.

Over the course of his distinguished


A New York Times Bestseller

A timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States—winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many others—that reminds us of fundamental American principles.

Over the course of his distinguished career, David McCullough has spoken before Congress, the White House, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions. Now, at a time of self-reflection in America following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American. The American Spirit reminds us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps to guide us as we find our way forward.

Editorial Reviews

NPR - Michael Schaub
"This book is a gift. . . . It's a powerful argument for keeping history alive."
The Wall Street Journal - Robert W. Merry
“[McCullough] is one of the great historical storytellers of his generation. . . . Fundamentally Mr. McCullough loves the American story and its most illustrious characters.”
Richmond Times Dispatch - Jay Strafford
“A national treasure, McCullough performs a national service in The American Spirit. Insightful and inspirational, it summons a vexed and divided nation to remember - and cherish - our unifying ideas and ideals.”
Christian Science Monitor - Danny Heitman
“McCullough perfectly embodies the part of remember-in-chief. . . . Happily, the same qualities that inform McCullough’s histories and biographies also shape his speeches. He is, whether at his desk or a lectern, a consummate storyteller.”
The Providence Journal - Barbara Hall
“A carefully crafted, well-reasoned, heartfelt testament to what this nation can be — past, present, and we must believe — future.”

Buffalo News - Edward Cuddihy
“Acclaimed historian David McCullough’s The American Spirit is as inspirational as it is brilliant, as simple as it is sophisticated. It will at the same time make you laugh and give rise to tears of despair. . . . This is not patriotic boilerplate. McCullough is a historian and a realist. He sees his nation with all its warts, beginning with its indelible birthmark of slavery and continuing through to today’s government dysfunction and political polarization. Yet he remains confident and upbeat.”
The Los Angeles Review of Books - Andrew Carroll
"This collection captures McCullough's passion and vigor throughout. . . . [His] enthusiasm for history is infectious."
“Very few among us possess the encompassing and informed perspective on America’s past and present that historian and best-selling author McCullough has gained over decades of research. . . . McCullough’s legions of fans will flock to this edifying collection.”
Library Journal
★ 05/01/2017
Historian McCullough (Truman; John Adams), a Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author, presents this collection of 15 inspiring speeches in which he celebrates America's talent for curiosity, intelligence, goodwill, and humanity. McCullough is an eloquent writer, and the speeches are designed to be uplifting and celebratory. Amid all of the dissimulation and discourtesy that demands our attention, these brief essays celebrating national aspirations are intended to remind readers that, regardless of shortcomings, Americans have largely strived to better themselves and their country. Whether discussing the building of the U.S. capitol or the storied career of physician Benjamin Rush, McCullough manages to celebrate the people who have helped improve or build upon the nation's founding. VERDICT A concise read that will be well-received in public and academic history collections.—Edwin Burgess, Kansas City, KS
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of speeches by the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian and biographer.Arranged chronologically, the texts of these speeches—most were university graduation talks—reveal both McCullough's (The Wright Brothers, 2015, etc.) passion for history and his profound belief in America, or at least his vision of America, which is both encompassing and deeply hopeful. A number of significant historical figures appear throughout: John and Abigail Adams—McCullough, of course, published a Pulitzer-winning biography of John in 2001—John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The author also focuses on some who are slightly less well known: Lafayette, Simon Willard (whose clock in the U.S. Capitol appears in both the first and last of McCullough's speeches), Founder Benjamin Rush, and clergyman Manasseh Cutler, founder of Ohio University. Throughout, the author displays a sincere respect for subject and audience. For the graduation speeches, he researched local history and prominent figures to enliven his talk, and he spoke directly to the graduates, offering advice—e.g., read books, study history, quit saying "like" and "you know." At the national venues (Monticello, the U.S. Capitol), he rehearses their history both with engaging details and sweeping paeans. McCullough is relentlessly positive. At Monticello, for example, he confines his comments about Jefferson's slave owning to a single sentence, and in his account of the long friendship between France and the United States, he does not mention the Iraq War, "freedom fries," etc. But, as Emily Dickinson wrote, "hope is the thing with feathers," and it is that bird that swoops through all. Clio, the muse of history, smiles and nods her head on every page.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The American Spirit

  • Washington, D.C.


    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Senator Dole, Members of the 101st Congress, ladies and gentlemen. For a private citizen to be asked to speak before Congress is a rare and very high honor and I thank you.

    Simon Willard was never a Member of Congress in the usual sense. Simon Willard of Roxbury, Massachusetts, was a clockmaker early in the nineteenth century and he did it all by hand and by eye.

    “In cutting his wheel teeth,” reads an old account, “he did not mark out the spaces on the blank [brass] wheel and cut the teeth to measure, but he cut, rounded up and finished the teeth as he went along, using his eye only in spacing, and always came out even. . . .

  • Meet the Author

    David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, and The Wright Brothers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.

    Brief Biography

    West Tisbury, Massachusetts
    Date of Birth:
    July 7, 1933
    Place of Birth:
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    B.A., Yale University, 1955

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    The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
    DRWells 3 months ago
    McCullough's passion for using the stories of people's lives - that is, history - to inspire us to lead productive, beneficial lives is as evident in his speeches (some of which are collected in this book) as in his wonderful books. It's short, so you will not need a huge block of time, but be sure you have a few hours blocked out before you start this one - you will not want to put it down.
    Anonymous 27 days ago
    T ofh. . Tofg