Monday, May 28, 2012

A Letter to America

I determined to read David Boren's A Letter to America - to start off a summer full of reading!  Delighted to consider it's insight this Memorial Day Weekend.

Dr. Boren credentials are impeccable - a Rhodes Scholar, currently President of the University of Oklahoma, Boren was the longest-serving chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

The book was simple to read - as the genre is, well, like a letter!  The book was longer and more researched than it should have been to have the same kind of impact, in my opinion.  In other words, if it is to be a letter, it needed to read even more like a letter!   I think the intent of the book was to create a tide of change, perhaps like other famous "letters" - no doubt Letters from the Birmingham Jail.

Having noted that, I would say there is much to applaud in Boren's text.

I'll highlight a series of quotes of note - for which there is extended narrative if a reader is interested:
"Instead, our foreign policy has been marked by ad hoc interventions and relationships."  (24)

" 'The wind of change is blowing,' Macmillan said.  'We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it."  Noting a famous speech in the U.K. from 1960.  (30)

"We should begin by placing as much emphasis on building our nonmilitary strength as we have placed on building our military might . . . .  We need to sharpen and hone our diplomatic strengths."  (31) 

"Environmental policy is a fourth area of importance to improving our tattered relations with other nations."  (37) [It was somewhat surprising to me to read this, as I have lived in Oklahoma for 14 years and find Oklahomans, in general, to be completely disengaged from environmental care or concern, or even awareness.  I will say, my personal experiences on the campus of the University of Oklahoma are a beacon of hope for Oklahomans - and perhaps as President of OU, Boren has helped shaped this ethic for that campus.]

"The disconnect between Washington [D.C.] and the people was very surprising to me when I quite the U.S. Senate to come home to be an educator.  Even though throughout my Senate Career I returned to Oklahoma at least forty times a year to hold meetings with my constituents, I later realized that I had been living in an artificial environment."  (58)

"We [the U.S. as national power] must improve our ability to listen." (105)

"We must be prepared to talk with and listen to all other nations, including those that appear to be hostile.  Conditions change and alliances constantly shift. . . . Talking with adversaries is always valuable . . . ." (106)

Boren invites us to consider a more conversational, participatory, informed population, willing to extend the influence of American ideals in more charitable ways.

Boren is more committed to an active and engaged militarism than I, but his framework of being willing to consider more conversational and open foreign policy, along with more non-military options for moving forward with our world neighbors is important.

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