Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Premise Behind "Documenting America"

The people of the United States of America don’t know their history. This fact has been proved over and over by surveys, man-on-the-street interviews, and scientifically structured studies. Too many of our citizens are ignorant—and choose to remain ignorant—of the forces and people, the trends and the decisions, that built upon each other to forge this great nation.

If they would just read—read the documents that tell us about our past. I’m not talking about the well-known documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. Our nation has been papered with an incredible number of documents, from diaries to letters to presidential proclamations to Supreme Court decisions to sermons to newspapers to pamphlets to editorials to too many to name.

My newspaper column, Documenting America, pulls documents from America’s past, analyses them, and ties them to some current event or issue. Using a mixture of document excepts, analysis, and interpretation, with each column readers will learn a little bit of American history they didn’t know (or long ago forgot), think about how what is in that document affected the building of our country, and consider whether and how those principles still apply. As much as possible, I try to end with an upbeat thought.

In this blog, I will discuss the process of how the column came together, what’s coming up in future columns, and possibly some additional analysis of a document featured in a past column.

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