“To barely exist through these years was something; to gain a hearing was more; to adhere steadily to a high and heroic purpose was more; to be spiritual, without being religious in the sectarian sense, was still more; and, through all these years, to do honest work, to steadily uphold the interests of intellectual and spiritual truth, in the larger sense, has been to do what has never before been done in the history of American thought and letters.”
The foregoing words in an 1888 edition of the Boston Herald summed up one of the most significant, if largely unknown, chapters in the cultural history of this land: the drama of “The Concord School of Philosophy & Literature.”
Forty-two years ago, the first program of what would become the Center for American Studies at Concord was held in that hillside chapel on the grounds of the Orchard House. The torch was taken up.
Over the four decades plus I’ve had the occasion to welcome many visitors, including international leaders from over 68 nations, to the center’s programs in Concord. As I took and shook their hands and looked into their eyes, the responses I received were memorable:
“The October weekend was a rare experience. Historic settings, with which Concord is so richly endowed, gave a special dimension to a beautifully conceived and vivid program. The Fulbright Scholars were unanimously enthusiastic about the speakers and the way they conveyed the reach of American history, that is so intimately entwined with Concord’s past,” said Mary Maybank, director of Boston Area Fulbright Group.
What resounds was the conviction that for fellow citizens near and far our town represents the heart and soul of this nation.
Can it be?
Having grown up in Concord, I’ve observed over the years with interest who’s in town, who, that is, has found their way home to Concord, thanks either to their parents or to their own reconnoitering. The stories are many and memorable.
Why such interest?
The words of the old prophet return to heart and mind: “Without a vision, human/humane, the people perish.”
If Concord, at its best, has stood for anything over its nearly 400 years, do not these words sum it up?
Such a vision finds expression in the unfolding work of fellow citizens, Concordians, that has been introduced in this column. A further glimpse follows:
The Concord Noble Award for Peace. The longing for peace grows in many hearts. And yet have we paused to consider what it will take to actually get peace, what are its essential prerequisites. Representatives of over 70 institutions in Concord are taking up this consideration. Your thoughts are most welcome thereto.
Concordian Economics: An Economics of Common Sense. “The Concord Resolution” offers a further glimpse of such an economics: a simple, straightforward and common sense way, in the case of one proposed public works project, to save the taxpayers an estimated $50 million in interest payments on the proposed bond.
Don’t Become the Tool of Your Tools. The short “testament” raises a question that is as real as it is disconcerting: Can it be that our children are being targeted not only by “Big Tobacco” and “Big Pharma” but by “Big IT” to boot. Via the cellphones, tablets and computers, the electronic con-trap-tions that have kidnapped our kids and hijacked many parents? If so, are we adults, parents going to simply stand by and observe this targeting? Or is it time to do something about it, while we still can, have our wits about us?
We the People: The Citizens Movement to Revive the Spirit of Public Service encourages those servants, public servants, first and foremost former office holders and those who aspired for the same, to consider that just because only one person can win an election, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is simply a loser. As outlined in the following column, we will be drawing a line in the sand on April 19 and inviting all patriots, public servants to step across the line and back into the arena to renew their commitment to the spirit of public service.
These gathering ranks include public servants currently in office. An invitation to our president and his “sister,” our senator, Elizabeth Warren, is at https://concord-ium.us.
The following words speaks to the promise of such a step, citizens’ movement: “If ‘We the People’ should indeed prove an entity, a corporate being [imagine] what power that incorporation might one day represent.”
Stuart-Sinclair Weeks is a native son of Concord and Founder of the Center for American Studies. He raised his four children, who helped to inspire these columns, in Concord and more recently (second-hand) five grandchildren on the town’s outskirts.