OVERRIDE

Ark of the Liberties

America and the World

Ted Widmer

Hill and Wang

The United States stands at a historic crossroads; essential to the world yet unappreciated.  America’s decline in popularity over the last eight years has been nothing short of astonishing.  With wit, brilliance, and deep affection, Ted Widmer, a scholar and a former presidential speechwriter, reminds everyone why this great nation had so far to fall. In a sweeping history of centuries, Ark of the Liberties recounts America’s ambition to be the world’s guarantor of liberty. It is a success story that America, and the world, forgets at its peril.
From the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States, for all its shortfalls, has been by far the world’s greatest advocate for freedom. Generations of founders imbued America with a surprisingly global ambition that a series of remarkable presidents, often Democratic, advanced through the confident wielding of military and economic power. Ark of the Liberties brims with new insights: America’s centuries-long favorable relationship with the Middle East; why Wilson’s presidency deserves reappraisal; Bill Clinton’s underappreciated achievements; how America’s long history of foreign policy immediately touches on the choices we face in 2008. Fully addressing America’s disastrous occupation of Iraq, Ark of the Liberties colorfully narrates America’s long and laudatory history of expanding world liberty.

REVIEWS

Praise for Ark of the Liberties

“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

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ted Widmer

  • 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.  He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Observer.
  • Ted Widmer (c) Scott Kingsley
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    Ark of the Liberties

    America and the World

    Ted Widmer

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