According to Kermit Roosevelt, our idea of the Founders’ America and its values is not true.
There’s a common story we tell about America: that our fundamental values as a country were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. But, with the country increasingly divided, this story isn’t working for us anymore—what’s more, it’s not even true. However, as Professor Roosevelt argues in this eye-opening reinterpretation of the American story, our fundamental values–particularly equality–are not part of the vision of the Founders. Instead, they were stated in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and were the hope of Reconstruction, when it was possible to envision the emergence of the nation committed to liberty and equality.
Reconstruction, Roosevelt argues, was not a fulfillment of the ideals of the Founding Fathers, but rather a repudiation: we modern Americans are not the heirs of the Founders, but of the people who overthrew and destroyed that political order. This alternate understanding of American identity opens the door to a new understanding of ourselves and our story, and ultimately to a better America. America today is not the Founders’ America, but it can be Lincoln’s America. In this unique course, Roosevelt offers a powerful and inspirational rethinking of our country’s history.
University of Pennsylvania Law Professor, Kermit Roosevelt, is the great-great-grandson of United States President Theodore Roosevelt and the cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.