Page 129 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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BEN-HORIN / HORACE MEYER KALLEN
123
Now my own educational faith follows from my personal
commitment to what Theodore Parker was first to call “the
American Idea” — the Idea that is expressed in public
utterances beginning with the Declaration of Independence
and repeated anew in the verses of poets like Walt Whitman
and James Russell Lowell and John Greenleaf Whittier and
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Vaughn
Moody, and Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg . . . . Among
the Idea’s noblest expressions are political statements such
asJefferson’s Inaugurals and other writings; Lincoln’s “Get­
tysburg Address,” his inaugurals, his “Emancipation Proc­
lamation,” Franklin Roosevelt’s statement on the four free­
doms . . . . “The American Idea” is the creative matrix of a
growing Bible, whose books the generations sift out from a
multitude of expressions, each repeating in a new form the
prime intention of the Declaration of Independence . . ,13
The same year Kallen lectured at the University of Pennsyl­
vania on Cultural Pluralism. On this occasion, he spelled out “the
Gospel of America” or “a Bible of America” in even greater detail.
The Bible of the people of Israel, he thought, was a sequence of
renewals of plans for human relations as set forth in utterances of
poets, statesmen, dramatists, men of letters. The Declaration of
Independence would be the American Bible’s Book of Genesis.
Among the texts to be included he mentioned the Reports of
President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education and Civil
Rights and certain Supreme Court decisions regarding the sep­
aration of church and state, and racial discrimination. “And the
Bible might conclude its unfinished political Torah with the Uni­
versal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the Assembly of
the United Nations.”14
It would be an error to assume that from “secularism,” “cultural
pluralism,” and “the American Idea” Kallen came to affirm Jew­
ish “equality,” both individual and collective, i.e., the equal right
of the unlike to their unlikeness and to that difference which, to
13
Philosophical Issues,
pp. 55 f. See also “The Formation of the Bible of America”
in Cultural Pluralism,
pp. 86-88; also
J ewish Educationfo r AmericanJews
(Boston,
Hebrew Teachers College, 1950), pp. 7 f.
14 Kallen,
Cultural Pluralism
p. 88.