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Current time:0:00Total duration:1:48

Why study US history, government, and civics?

Video transcript

- So John, if I'm a student studying American history or U.S. government, why should I care? - Well first, there are great stories. The characters in American history, all the way through, are fascinating, just, human beings. They would make great movie characters, period: heroes, villains, people who rise to courage when they were otherwise pretty boring people. Look at Abraham Lincoln, for example. He failed miserably repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. Then he becomes the greatest President. And when he's almost at the end of his, well, he doesn't know it's the end of his life, but later in life, after he's had his greatness, he says, "I confess that I was like a cork in a stream." Well, if you're a regular person and you think, "My life feels kinda without a purpose," you can think, well, the greatest President in America felt like his life was kind of bouncing around. And so, that is an incredibly human connection to greatness, and we all need connections to greatness of whatever kind to inspire us. Because the questions today that America faces about freedom and liberty and what it means to be an American, and how the power is distributed throughout our governments and our lives that affect us today were discussed and talked about and wrestled over all throughout American history. And it is a continuing experiment. And when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he said, "This new country that we're creating "has to constantly refresh, each new generation "has to refresh their contact "with the original ideals that the country was founded on. "Otherwise, the country will fail." And so, it's not only important to know what's going on around us by studying history, but it is, according to Thomas Jefferson, your duty to stay engaged with the ideas of America so that those ideas don't get lost in the kind of flurry and craziness of a current moment.