Characteristics of Promise America



The book, The American Promise,1 which is perhaps ‘the most teachable and readable introductory American history textbook available,’ reflects an emphasis on human agency and the conviction that American history is an unfinished story. For some 240 years now and for millions who populated this nation, there has been held out the promise of a better life, unfettered worship, representative government, democratic politics, and other freedoms seldom found elsewhere. But none of these promises has come with guarantees. Much of American history has been a continuing struggle over the definition and realization of the nation’s promise.


Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of what he termed the ‘fiery trial’ of the Civil War, pronounced the nation “the last best hope of Earth.” Kept alive by countless sacrifices, that hope has been marred by compromises, disappointments, and denials, but it lives on still. We believe that The American Promise, Fourth Edition, with its increased attention to making history come alive, will help students become aware of the legacy of hope bequeathed to them by previous generations of Americans stretching back nearly four centuries, a legacy that is theirs to preserve and build on.


  1. From Preface: The American Promise: A History of the United States (4th Edition). Roark, James L; Johnson, Michael R. et al (2009) Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston, MA.


What then are some of the characteristics of Promise America?

The basic PROMISE for AMERICA that the Founders made to the people in the nation and to those around the world is freedom. It is conserved and liberated in the first fact of the Law of the Land, officially known as the Preamble of the US Constitution. This promise is unconditional. Are we living up to it? What is the path to do so?

Let’s consider the brand identity. Since we are thinking about the preamble as the fulcrum of America’s promise, which is more likely to attract attention, the means or the end? Promise America is associated with the end. Since promise is a verb, in this case, is it fair to expect Americans to read this as: “Promise America” is a set of principles that the Preamble embodies for its subject?

Can Promise America declare that the Preamble is America’s first promise, according to the law? Can Promise America challenge you to think about what you can promise America?

When we promise America, we promise to be faithful to the principles of the Preamble, to liberty and justice for all as in the Pledge, to the land of the free and home of the brave as in the national anthem. This is what public officials are sworn to do. This what naturalized citizens swear to do. But we have allowed American law to be interpreted without it. That has resulted in the trappings of unprecedented instability in America – the greatest since the Civil War ended 150 years ago.

By examining the tenets set forth in the Preamble, it is perhaps the best way to get our thoughts and conversation back to the launching of this Nation by the Founders and how these principles have been understood and applied to their times and problems and needs  by our leaders and their followers as the “law of the land.” The “land of the free and the home of the brave” can resonate highly with all the viewpoints held by the candidates and their followers in this election season.


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