Month: November 2017

History as an Antidote to Folly

Kurt Vonnegut has called him America’s greatest satirist, while others suggest he was born of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken.  Lewis Lapham—editor emeritus of Harper’s Magazine, founding editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, and the object of those accolades—is a writer of great eloquence and “lethal wit.”  I was delighted to see that some of the best of Lapham’s essays from the past twenty-five years have now been collected into a new work, Age of Folly:  America Abandons Its Democracy. This is both a wonderful and important book. Lapham surveys the past twenty-five years to make the case that America’s imperial impulses have shaken our democratic principles.  You can agree or disagree with his premise, but his arguments are lucid, thoughtful, and often challenging. In the very first essay, from 1990, Lapham states his case succinctly and directly. “If the American system of government at present seems so patently at odds with its constitutional hopes and purposes, it is not because the practice of democracy no longer serves the interests of the presiding oligarchy (which it never …

Our Year in Photos – 2017

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come… We have much for which to be thankful in 2017. This has been another difficult year in our country, as we break into tribes and as the growing income inequality pushes us farther apart. We forget that the American experiment is built around ideas, not tribal groups, and that a sharing of common opportunities and challenges is important to being a citizen.  That experiment survives only if we celebrate all our fellow citizens and embrace the full American story.  We have not always succeeded, but we must keep trying in the year ahead. Candice and I were thankful that Andrew and Claire were home for the Christmas break late in 2016. Some of the errands and visits were more mundane than others—such as shopping for new glasses—but this one made for a good opportunity to take a picture of our two favorite children! In January, Candice and I were fortunate to spend …

Gratefulness and Thankfulness

This is the time of year when we turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving.  I was taught from a very young age that it was very important to be thankful, as I often heard my grandmother admonish us to “always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’”  I won’t get into the “you’re welcome” vs. “no problem” debate, but you can probably guess, given my age, where I land on that topic! Some suggest we too often say “thank you” by rote. I find that to be true in my experience and began to wonder if we mistake other thoughts and emotions as thankfulness.  Fortunately, I came across a blog post that helped me sort through at least some of these thoughts.  The author, a Benedictine monk who holds retreats for groups from a variety of religious and non-religious traditions., makes the case that at least some of what we think of as thankfulness is actually gratefulness. He suggests it is important to understand the difference and then describes the two in this fashion: Remember a night when …

We Shine a Light on the Past to Live more Abundantly Now

This week at the National Trust, we are preparing to host the 2017 PastForward national preservation conference in Chicago.  Long-time colleagues and new friends who care about the past and the places that bring that past into the present will gather from all across the country.  I suspect that we’ll share thoughts that challenge the conventional wisdom, offer support for a broader understanding of the American story, and come away with a new appreciation for the work that takes place by preservationists and by those who don’t (yet) identify as preservationists. Why do these people gathering this week in Chicago care about the past?  And what’s with that name, PastForward? In a recent conversation that included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family), journalist and author Krista Tippett summed up the answer to those questions with her opening line:  “In life, in families, we shine a light on the past to live more abundantly now.” I think that’s a great summation of why so many of us will gather this …

Own Your Job

Progressive Insurance has been running a series of very funny ads about how we turn into our parents after buying our first home. The setting is a group therapy session, and each member has one or more Dad-isms to share with the group.  I don’t know if my favorite is “Who left the door open, are we trying to air condition the whole neighborhood?” or the woman who holds up a hideous baseball cap and says, “This hat was free.  What am I supposed to do, not wear it?”  Both are things my father said (multiple times) in the past, and I suspect that both have come out of my mouth as well. This intro is to give you fair warning:  in this post I may sound (a little) like a parent. New York Times reporter Adam Bryant recently wrapped up almost a decade of columns from the Corner Office, where he interviewed CEOs of all types, skills, and personalities.  While most of us won’t have the opportunity to be the CEO, there are lessons …