The Bradley Project Releases Its Report, 'E Pluribus Unum' - Calls for National Dialogue on America's National Identity

Report Finds That America is Facing an Identity Crisis and is in Danger

of Becoming Not "From Many, One" - E Pluribus Unum - But Its Opposite,

"From One, Many"

Sixty-Three Percent of Americans Believe Our National Identity is

Weakening, and One in Four Believe the Nation is So Divided That a Common

National Identity is Not Possible

Jun 03, 2008, 01:00 ET from The Bradley Project

    WASHINGTON, June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Bradley Project on
 America's National Identity today released its Report, "E Pluribus Unum,"
 the product of a two-year study involving a number of our nation's leading
 academics, public figures, journalists, educators and policy experts. The
 report examines four aspects of American life crucial to American identity:
 historical memory, civic education, assimilation, and national security.
     The report finds that America is facing an identity crisis and calls
 for a national dialogue on America's national identity. According to James
 Ceaser, professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a
 participant in the project, America's understanding and appreciation of
 diversity is important but must be balanced by an emphasis on what we
 share. "In selecting the title E Pluribus Unum, the Project embraces the
 conviction that plurality and unity are not necessarily in tension with one
 another, but are supporting ideas of the same national experiment," Ceaser
 said. "Plurality is only made safe when it is grounded in a deeper
 commitment to national unity. Unity is the precondition for healthy
     To inform its work, the Bradley Project asked Harris Interactive to
 conduct a study on Americans' views on national identity. The good news is
 that most U.S. citizens believe there is a unique national identity that
 defines what it means to be an American. The troubling news is that over
 six in ten believe our national identity is getting weaker. And "even more
 troubling is that younger Americans - on whom our continued national
 identity depends - are less likely than older Americans to believe in a
 unique national identity or in a unique American culture." Indeed, 45
 percent of 18-34 year old Americans believe that international law should
 trump the U.S. Constitution in instances where there is a conflict.
     According to Professor Ceaser, "The weight of all this evidence
 suggests mounting confusion about the meaning of American national identity
 and a loss of commitment to its promotion."
     "The findings from the report are sobering and significant. They raise
 subjects that are vital to our future, transcend partisanship, and clearly
 resonate with the American people," said Rick O'Donnell, Executive Director
 of the Bradley Project. O'Donnell continued: "Our intention is that the
 report be the starting point for a national conversation on these important
 issues. Silent Spring in 1962 started a conversation that brought about
 significant changes in our environment. A Nation at Risk in 1983 launched
 an ongoing national conversation that continues to reshape American
 education. It is in that tradition that we release E Pluribus Unum."
     A number of notable scholars have already joined this conversation and
 commented on the Bradley Project report.
     Walter A. McDougall, Pulitzer-prize winning historian and professor at
 the University of Pennsylvania calls the report: "An eloquent defense of
 America's intellectual, civic, and moral identity that deserves wide
 circulation, especially among American youth."
     Harry Lewis, former Dean at Harvard College, says of the report: "A
 stirring reminder that America is more than the union of our differences,
 and a rational program for preserving the nation by passing American ideals
 on to the next generation of citizens."
     Amy A. Kass, of the University of Chicago, writes: "The Bradley
 Project's report addresses the urgent problem of American identity in our
 global and multicultural age, and its wise recommendations for promoting
 civic consciousness and civic understanding couldn't be more timely or more
     James C. Rees, Executive Director of Mount Vernon, said: "This report
 confirms what we experience at Mount Vernon every day - that most Americans
 know precious little about their own history. George Washington's face is
 still familiar to most Americans, because we see it each day on the dollar
 bill. But when asked about Washington's character and leadership, which
 made all the difference in the world to the founding of our nation, the
 average citizen is rendered speechless."
     The report makes clear that we didn't get to this point overnight, and
 that addressing our challenges is a long-term imperative. In addition to
 its call for an immediate and comprehensive national dialogue on America's
 national identity, it recommends:
-- a renewed focus on the teaching of American history, -- embracing America's heroes and historic landmarks, -- affirming the benefits of diversity, but not adopting policies that perpetuate divisions or compromise our national identity, -- inaugurating an initiative to ensure immigrants learn English, understand democratic institutions, and participate fully in the American way of life, -- and creating an annual Presidential Award for American Citizenship for students and new citizens who demonstrate exemplary understanding of and commitment to American ideals and institutions. Professor Ceaser concludes: "The report speaks of a nation 'founded not on a common ethnicity,' but 'on an idea.' And it argues that 'a nation founded on an idea starts anew with each generation and with each new group of immigrants.'" "Knowing what America stands for is not a genetic inheritance," said Ceaser. "It must be learned, both by the next generation and by those who come to this country. From this premise follow many of the recommendations to strengthen the serious study of American principles and the American founding at all levels of education, including college."

SOURCE The Bradley Project