Our American Story

Over the past few decades in America, the complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race created deep tribal divisions, each tribe fighting to advance its own mythology and political interests. We lack a central story, a common ground we can celebrate and enrich with deeper meaning. Unable to agree on first principles, we cannot agree on what it means to be American. As we disregard or dismantle symbols and pastimes that previously united us, can we replace them with stories and rites to unite our tribes and maintain meaning in our American experiment?

Against this backdrop, Our American Story features a collection of provocative essays by leading thinkers and public figures addressing the same central question—what is the unifying American story? Diverse contributors approach the question from different angles and explore whether a unifying story can be achieved and, if so, what that story may be.

Leading thinkers from across the political spectrum contribute to this collection—Jim Banks, David Blight, Spencer Boyer, Eleanor Clift, John Danforth, Cody Delistraty, Richard Epstein, Nikolas Gvosdev, Cherie Harder, Jason Kuznicki, Gerard Magliocca, Markos Moulitsas, Ilya Somin, Cass Sunstein, Alan Taylor, James Wertsch, Gordon Wood, and Ali Wyne. Each draws on expertise within their respective fields of history, law, politics, and public policy to contribute unique perspectives about the American story. The collection explores whether a unifying story can be achieved and, if so, what that story could be.


“America is a story with a country, even more than it is a country with a story. Can we come together around a defining narrative, or make our multiple narratives cohere? This thoughtful, diverse, and often impassioned collection — featuring a distinguished cast of theorists, historians, and politicians — offers something much better than pat answers: scholarly insight, personal wisdom, and an embodiment of America’s questing spirit.”
~ Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

“At a time of increasing political, racial, and regional tribalism, with Americans finding it difficult to relate to one another, Our American Story admirably seeks a common story.”
~ James Kirchick, author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age

“If you are confused or, like me, fearful about what is happening to the United States, please read this book. It is calming and clarifying — we have been here before. Most importantly, it is an essential step toward addressing our problems. National narratives are powerful, and in this enlightening book, scholars from many fields will help you understand the conflicting narratives that influence our political thinking and behavior today.”
~ Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University Stern School of Business, and author of The Righteous Mind