Ark of the Liberties

America and the World
Published:   June 2008
ISBN: 0809027356 | 384 pages
It shows us how we can [restore America's standing in so many places] if we remain true to our historic ideals.

Purchase this Book

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.

Advanced 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 21st 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

“This is a wonderful and much-needed book. Ted Widmer’s masterful fusion of historical, political, and literary analysis 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

“This is a thoughtful and elegant and very readable history of America’s inspiring but often tortured relationship with the world over several centuries. A superb achievement that 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, Ted Widmer tells the inspiring and fascinating story of America’s extraordinary rise to world pre-eminence from the days of the earliest settlers to the invasion of Iraq. This timely, eminently readable, and highly informative history of the idea of America will be of interest to all 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

Related Programs