The Soul of America Book Summary - The Soul of America Book explained in key points
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The Soul of America summary

Jon Meacham

The Battle for Our Better Angels

4.1 (65 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

The Soul of America by Jon Meacham is a historical exploration of how America has endured through times of crisis, and how past leaders have navigated through dark moments to restore hope and unity.

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    The Soul of America
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    The United States has always been torn between feelings of hope and fear.

    In the United States, many concerned citizens are still trying to understand how the country elected a president who they think is at odds with fundamental American principles such as a free press and the rule of law. To them, it seems like a very dark time. However, if we look back at the nation’s history, we’ll see that America has weathered far, far worse.

    Not only that, we can even see how current fear-driven and paranoid attitudes toward immigrants are a continuation of similar feelings from previous generations. Throughout America’s history, fear has been at odds with the feelings of hope on which the nation was founded.

    Fear and hope are two very natural human instincts, and, in a way, they’re representative of people at their worst and at their best. In other words, when we’re acting under the influence of fear, we can make some of our worst decisions, and when we’re acting under the influence of hope, we can do some of our best work.

    Abraham Lincoln referred to this battle between our good and bad impulses in his first inaugural address.

    At the time, the nation was already deeply divided on issues of race and state’s rights, and he knew that people were afraid that the nation might fall apart or descend into the violence of war. But Lincoln remained hopeful, which is what made him a truly great president. On March 4, 1861, he asked America’s citizens not to give in to hostile instincts, but rather to act upon “the better angels of our nature.”

    A similar sentiment has animated all of America’s best presidents. Of course, no president has been perfect, including Harry Truman, who made strides in civil rights while continuing to use common racial slurs in private. But Truman showed wisdom when he remarked that it was important for a president to appeal to the nation’s best instincts, not its worst.

    Fear has many sources – economic, religious, racial – and politicians have always known how to use that fear to motivate people in irrational ways. Fear, however, will always divide people. Only hope can unite them in the name of the common good.

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    What is The Soul of America about?

    The Soul of America (2018) takes readers on an enlightening tour of America’s tumultuous past. From the final moments of the Civil War to the long overdue civil rights and voting legislation of the 1960s, the book reveals the United States for what it has always been: a nation of deep and lasting conflict. By looking to America’s past, we can see both where today’s political divides stem from and why the nation will likely be able to persevere.

    The Soul of America Review

    The Soul of America (2018) by Jon Meacham is a thought-provoking exploration of the nation's history and its struggles with divisiveness and uncertainty. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with insightful analysis and compelling narratives, it provides a deeper understanding of how America has confronted its challenges throughout history.
    • Through historical perspectives and anecdotes, Meacham offers hope, reminding readers that the country has faced and overcome difficult times before.
    • The book's emphasis on civic responsibility and the importance of unity in the face of adversity makes it a timely and relevant read for anyone interested in the future of America.

    Best quote from The Soul of America

    If the Reconstruction of Southern states… had been conceived as a major national program… we should be living today in a different world. – W.E.B. Du Bois

    —Jon Meacham
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    Who should read The Soul of America?

    • Readers eager for perspective on current events
    • Students of history and politics
    • Fans of historical insight

    About the Author

    Jon Meacham is a writer of multiple New York Times best sellers, including Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power and Destiny (2012) and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (2015). His 2008 book, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

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    The Soul of America FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Soul of America?

    The main message of The Soul of America is that democracy can withstand challenging times and can be strengthened through resilience and unity.

    How long does it take to read The Soul of America?

    The reading time for The Soul of America varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Soul of America a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Soul of America is worth reading as it provides insights on the historical struggles and triumphs of the United States, reminding us of the resilience and strength of democracy.

    Who is the author of The Soul of America?

    Jon Meacham is the author of The Soul of America.

    What to read after The Soul of America?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Soul of America, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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