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Sirico Parables book

    On March 17, Acton welcomed Samuel Goldman, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, to present on the question “Are We a Nation?” as part of the Acton Lecture Series. Goldman began by noting that this “provocative question” is often posed as a way of “decrying the fragmentation and disunity of American life,” but that it is “not unique to our times.”

    Goldman noted that national identity in America does not consist in the usual qualities that define many other nations—for example, common descent, common culture, or common religion. We are a mix of many ethnicities, cultures, and faith traditions, and even our language is not “American.” Our bond of unity as a nation, Goldman explained, is actually political; the “American creed” of personal liberty and self-government is what compensates for our lack of ethnic, cultural, or theological consensus. This shared creed serves as the backbone of the “American way of life,” which reflects the “lived instantiation of American principles.”

    Goldman clarified that the “American way of life” has meant very different things in the centuries since America’s birth, and historical continuity of its definition is more imagined than real. At its core, however, it hinges on our faithfulness to the responsibility—bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers—of being “partners in an enterprise whose outcome we cannot clearly discern.”

    Says Goldman: “We are a nation so long as we accept that inheritance.”

    Sarah Negri is Project Coordinator for the Research Department at the Acton Institute. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from Franciscan University of Steubenville and spent three years working as an actuary for Auto-Owners Insurance Company before joining Acton. Sarah hails from Whitmore Lake, MI and currently resides in Grand Rapids. She is passionate about her Catholic faith, philosophy, flower gardens, Ultimate Frisbee, and Thai food.