Decades ago, it was easy to talk about “the promise of America,” as historians and boosters did regularly, and have most people understand what you meant. These days, I worry they’d look at you as if you’d taken leave of your senses. Even before the pandemic threw us back on our heels, many people here and abroad increasingly viewed our country and its system of … [Read more...]
Reining in government spending will be very tough
With a $1 trillion infrastructure package on the books and the Biden administration’s $1.8 trillion “Build Back Better” measure preoccupying the Senate after passing the House, government spending is very much on Americans’ minds. In public meetings, I frequently hear people say that government’s share of the economy is too big, and it’s likely that voters’ feelings about … [Read more...]
Can we find our way to the common good?
I still remember a question I got years ago. It was at a public meeting in southern Indiana, in one of those squat, featureless cinder-block buildings you find all across the country. This young woman stood up and commented that I’d traveled throughout the U.S. and had met all kinds of people. So she wanted to know: What was my impression of Americans? I didn’t even hesitate: … [Read more...]
For better and worse, we’re all connected
It’s a cliché to say that everything’s connected. But we live in a world where this is clearly true. Ideas, goods, services, workers, tourists, commerce, communications, drugs, crime, migrants, refugees, weapons, climate impacts… and, of course, viruses: They all cross borders constantly. This is one reason I’ve come to believe that drawing a distinction between “foreign” and … [Read more...]
Why I’m optimistic about the future
By Lee Hamilton One of the great privileges of teaching and working on a university campus is the chance to be in regular touch with young people. Even better, I sometimes get asked to give talks elsewhere and to meet with young people of all kinds and descriptions—sometimes one on one, sometimes in small groups, sometimes with as many as 50 or 60 people. Over the past few … [Read more...]
What does it mean to be an American?
I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be an American, to have a shared stake in this country and its fortunes. In some ways the question is unanswerable: We are a diverse country, and we each answer the question in our own way. Yet there are traits in common that resonate across communities and political beliefs. You could start, for instance, with a belief in the … [Read more...]
Lessons from 9/11 that Congress could learn
Most Americans alive 20 years ago remember where they were on September 11, 2001. They remember the airplane hijackings, the attacks, and the collapse of the Twin Towers. They remember the nearly 3,000 who perished. As our nation refocuses on that searing event, it will be tempting to pay attention to the lessons we’ve learned in the decades since when it comes to dealing … [Read more...]
Why voters vote as they do
Maybe it’s just a professional preoccupation, but I’ve always been intrigued by why voters cast their ballots as they do. I’ve never made a formal study of it, but have talked with plenty of them over the years, and one thing sticks with me from those conversations: There’s no one thing. People find a myriad of interesting — and sometimes idiosyncratic —r easons for voting this … [Read more...]
Whatever you think of it, we’re global
No matter how hard we try, we really can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place somewhere else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us – along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – example. A virus that infected humans in one city in China spread with breathtaking speed around the world, beyond the power of … [Read more...]
Can the U.S. sustain the international order?
We don’t often think that how the U.S. conducts itself at home has much impact on how we face the world, but it does. You’d be amazed at how closely people in countries all over the globe follow events here and count on the United States to lead the way. When it’s messy at home, it’s hard to sustain the strength and readiness to turn our attention outward. Doing so is … [Read more...]