A provocative, inspiring account of our neglected American ideals and the people who are living them today—and restoring our nation’s dreamPatriotism has become a loaded word: one that is wielded against people with whom we might disagree, or whose cultural origins don’t match our own. But our founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others—saw patriotism as a dynamic force: an act of service, in an evolving nation that defined its purpose by offering all people a better way of life. In Authentic ...
A provocative, inspiring account of our neglected American ideals and the people who are living them today—and restoring our nation’s dreamPatriotism has become a loaded word: one that is wielded against people with whom we might disagree, or whose cultural origins don’t match our own. But our founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others—saw patriotism as a dynamic force: an act of service, in an evolving nation that defined its purpose by offering all people a better way of life. In Authentic Patriotism, author and award-winning journalist Stephen P. Kiernan explores the original ideals that have been lost in our current climate, where war and economic turmoil have eroded our sense of civic obligation. Kiernan describes “a nation adrift,” out of touch with its origins—and then introduces a range of inspiring people who have revived our national purpose by taking action: • The out-of-work college graduate who led an economic and environmental renewal of her blighted home community. • The retired executive who pioneered a revolutionary concept in health care for people without insurance. • The minister who created a legendary choir, with the goal of uniting children of different races, genders, and classes in one voice. • The family who donated their daughter’s heart, so that another might live. These and other “New Americans” are profiled in a book that offers hope, ideas, examples, and practical resources for readers who want to renew the American spirit.
Kiernan (Last Rights) urges Americans to take on the challenges facing our society in this heartfelt look at everyday heroes who are reshaping society. Patriotism, Kiernan argues, transcends empty flag waving and political posturing, and lies instead in our service to each other and our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of our country and its people. For the author, authentic patriotism is found in the actions of people who take on our most profound social problems—problems the free market ignores in the absence of a clear profit to be had, and that our government has grown too slow moving and detached to effectively address. For example, retired pharmaceutical researcher Jack McConnell saw thousands of people in his community struggling without adequate health care and launched a free clinic that has grown into the Volunteers in Medicine program with 78 clinics in 24 states. Attorney Barry Scheck could not bear the injustice of innocent people languishing in prisons and founded the Innocence Project; today, hundreds of innocent prisoners have been exonerated. With these and other examples, the author constructs a stirring argument against apathy and for engagement. (May)
An award-winning journalist offers a prescription for a nation adrift: citizen initiatives on behalf of the common good. For Kiernan (Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System, 2006), patriotism is more than a set of beliefs or a matter of opinion-authentic patriotism is action, work that solves some of today's toughest problems. To recover America's greatness, he says, we must look neither to a cumbersome government nor an indifferent marketplace, but rather to the courage, determination and willingness to sacrifice-the traits that characterized the Founders-of ordinary citizens making a difference in their communities and beyond. In a friendly, readable text, the author introduces people like Jennifer Estess, who founded Project ALS, responsible for groundbreaking research in attacking Lou Gehrig's disease; Christopher Moore, founder of the Chicago Children's Choir, whose multiracial composition and high artistic standards serve as a model for cooperation and achievement; Dr. Jack McConnell, who established the Volunteers in Medicine clinic for the poor and underserved in wealthy Hilton Head, S.C.; Barry Scheck, whose well-known Innocence Project, through its pioneering use of science in the courtroom, has freed hundreds of wrongly convicted prisoners; Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, builder of parks and fierce opponent of unthinking environmental racism; and Tara Diane, whose decision to donate an organ made an impact that extended far beyond a single, benevolent deed. Though the author focuses on these six people, Kiernan looks at scores of other folks, some famous-environmental author Bill McKibben, singer Dolly Parton, tree-sitter JuliaButterfly-but most not, whose simple decisions to engage with their community has vastly improved the lives of others. The author identifies the signal elements of an act of authentic patriotism: It makes excellent economic sense; it can be duplicated elsewhere; it rewards the helper every bit as much as the helped; it sends out ripples of benign consequence in directions perhaps unforeseen. He concludes with a call for everyone to make a sacrifice, no matter how small, for a civic renewal worthy of our ideals. A good-hearted and hardheaded appeal.
STEPHEN P. KIERNAN is the author of Last Rights (SMP, 2006). His numerous awards include the Gerald Loeb Award for Financial Journalism, the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Freedom of Information Award, and the George Polk Award. He lives in Charlotte, Vermont.