Ark of the Liberties: Why American Freedom Matters to the World

Overview

Ark of the Liberties recovers a long-forgotten success story: America’s lengthy and laudatory history of expanding world liberty. Our country’s decline in popularity over the past eight years has been nothing short of astonishing, and with wit, brilliance, and deep affection, Ted Widmer reminds us why this great nation had so far to fall. His sweeping history brims with new insights about America’s enduringly favorable relationship with the Middle East; why Woodrow Wilson’s presidency deserves reappraisal; the ...

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Ark of the Liberties: America and the World

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Overview

Ark of the Liberties recovers a long-forgotten success story: America’s lengthy and laudatory history of expanding world liberty. Our country’s decline in popularity over the past eight years has been nothing short of astonishing, and with wit, brilliance, and deep affection, Ted Widmer reminds us why this great nation had so far to fall. His sweeping history brims with new insights about America’s enduringly favorable relationship with the Middle East; why Woodrow Wilson’s presidency deserves reappraisal; the Democratic Party’s underappreciated foreign-policy achievements; and how the country’s long history of successfully advocating for and exporting liberty touches immediately on the choices we face in Iraq today. Ark of the Liberties romps through centuries of history—from America’s start as a fascinating virgin promised land to its present position as a world superpower—all the while reminding us of the necessity and nobility of our nation’s global ambitions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In this exploration of the United States’ promotion of liberty across the globe, Ted Widmer offers an examination of our history that should influence the way we think about our place in the twenti-first-century world. At a time when we need to restore America’s standing in so many places, Ark of the Liberties shows us how we can do it if we remain true to our historic ideals.” —Bill Clinton

“Ted Widmer wants to restore idealism’s good name. In the spirit of an old-fashioned jeremiad, he summons his countrymen to return to their own highest standards and properly play their anointed role in the world.” —David M. Kennedy, The Washington Post

“Widmer has written an ambitious account of the enduring global reach of America, whose uniqueness he attributes to the millennial outlook of the Europeans who first settled here.” —The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“Widmer’s book is both a primer and a call to faith of sorts—a historically cast reminder.” —Art Winslow, The Los Angeles Times

“[A] valuable history of the ideas that have shaped American foreign policy.” —Chris Tucker, The Dallas Morning News

“A bold, sweeping, critical, ultimately admiring and optimistic (but cautionary) birthday card to America.” —Doug Riggs, The Providence Journal

“Fed up with a never-ending war and the state of the union? This fascinating story of America’s epic rise to freedom and world power might renew your patriotism.” —The Chicago Tribune

“A sweeping, elegant history of the ideas that shape American foreign policy. And no idea has influenced America’s understanding of its role in the world as decisively as the concept of liberty. Widmer meticulously traces the contradictions, triumphs, and betrayals of liberty that have unfolded across the centuries of the American experience.”—Evan R. Goldstein, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“This is a wonderful and much-needed book. It will give even the most hardened cynic reason for renewed hope in America’s future.” —Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

“A taut and timely account of America’s search for its place in the world. Ted Widmer probes both our exalted national rhetoric and our occasionally odd international behavior; the result is a wise analysis of America’s evolution from the nation where liberty dwells to the one that shows up—sometimes—where it does not.” —Stacy Schiff

Ark of the Liberties should be read by all who want to understand why the United States behaves as it does in the world.” —Gordon Wood, Brown University

“With great skill, eloquence, and frequent humor, Widmer has written the history of America for all of us who care about our country and the direction we must take in the years ahead to be true to our ideals and regain the respect we have lost in today’s world.” —Ted Kennedy

“Finally, someone has sent out a brilliant team called Ted Widmer—an historian, a cartographer, a rocker-poet composer, a White House speechwriter, and one damn good storyteller—to capture the many ways that we Americans have franchised our new nation: as idea, ideal, and pure product of a land where liberty can be hard to come by. What an affectionate, optimistic, and irreverent WPA Guide to every era of an astonishingly global America.” —David Michaelis, author of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

“In Ark of the Liberties, Ted Widmer retrieves the history of our country’s profound contributions to human freedom, without once falling prey to pieties or bromides. Widmer’s ark actually describes a great moral arc that, despite its manifest failures and contradictions, has finally, in Theodore Parker’s phrase, bent toward justice. Effortlessly combining grand interpretation with reappraisals of key figures and events, Widmer’s account is unfailingly fascinating—and could not be more timely.” —Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008

“With boldness and humor, Widmer grapples with an idea central to our nation’s history, while providing a number of fresh insights into U.S. foreign policy and presidencies along the way. While the philosophical problem of universals is probably irresolvable, Widmer asks the right question at each stage of his history: What, exactly, do we mean by liberty?” —The Innocent Smith Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809027491
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.68 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Widmer directs the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He was a foreign-policy speechwriter and senior adviser to President Clinton and is Senior Research Fellow of the New America Foundation.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Fantasy Island 3

2 The American Millennium 17

3 A New Order of the Ages 40

4 Empire of Liberty 63

5 Liberty Enslaved 97

6 The New Colossus 132

7 Liberty Cabbage 158

8 The New World in All Tongues 190

9 The Cold War: Dawn 223

10 The Cold War: Twilight 253

11 Morning in America 285

Epilogue 313

Acknowledgments 331

Index 335

Illustration Credits 357

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