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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence, Frederick Douglass, and Struggles for a Freer and More “Informed Republic”

On this morning of Independence Day, my family’s plan for celebration includes not only gathering with a few friends to eat, drink, and watch fireworks but also reflecting on the reason for this holiday. 

We’ll consider the Declaration (a 1776 print of which is on display at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library) and listen to at least a partial rendition of the powerful protest speech of Frederick Douglass from July 1852.  To lighten the mood, we’ll find a broadcast of the holiday special of the Capitol Steps comedy group.

Also available via audio is a discussion of “An Informed Republic,” first mentioned on this blog in July 2012 (July 4) as part of a PRX playlist for the holiday.  This program, produced by David Freudberg for his series Humankind, includes Sandra Day O’Connor and scholars such as Annette Gordon-Reed, Gordon S. Wood, and Richard D. Brown.

Richard Brown (my father) is author most recently of a book that draws its title from the Declaration:

   Self-Evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War.  

In the last couple of weeks, he published a related essay on religious liberty – via Aeon and Medium – and was the subject of a UConn feature on “America’s Ongoing Struggle for Equal Rights.”

10:10 am edt 

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