The story of history is a ceaseless conversation between past and present In his new book “American Dialogue: The Founders and Us” Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis focuses on the often-asked question “What would the Founding Fathers think?” He examines four of our most seminal historical figures through the prism of particular topics using the perspective of the present to shed light on their views and, in turn, to make clear how their now centuries-old ideas illuminate the disturbing impasse of today’s political conflicts. He discusses Jefferson and the issue of racism, Adams and the specter of economic inequality, Washington and American imperialism, Madison and the doctrine of original intent. Through these juxtapositions Ellis illuminates the obstacles and pitfalls paralyzing contemporary discussions of these fundamentally important issues.
Joseph J. Ellis is the author of many works of American history including “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation,” which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and “American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson,” which won the National Book Award. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife and is the father of three sons.
This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils in partnership with the Pulitzer Prizes Board for a collaboration between UPR, Utah Humanities, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Salt Lake City Library. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. The “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.