ON-Lion Letter
"We Americans have always puzzled over the precise shape of our national identity, and worried about the state of our culture," writes Wilfred McClay in his essay for the 2007 Bradley Symposium.  "We have always asked such questions about ourselves.  Our readiness to ask such questions itself offers an insight into the kind of people we are."

In his essay, featured in the May 14, 2007, edition of National Review magazine, McClay lists many reasons why we ask who we are, many of them related to our belief that American history is "the carrier of a larger meaning."

Titled "Out of Mortal Threat, an Opportunity," McClay's essay is one of three commissioned for the Symposium, which this year will address "Who Are We Today?  American Character and Identity in the 21st Century."

The Bradley Symposium is held during the daytime before the celebratory Bradley Prizes ceremony in Washington, D.C., which is on May 3 this year.  The Symposium is organized by the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., which is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

It always features a wide-ranging and substantive discussion, before invited guests, of important political and cultural issues facing the country.  This year, the conversation will be structured by three commissioned essays -- McClay's and two other ones, by John McWhorter and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

There may be today, McClay's observes, "a certain providential quality to the challenges that have been placed before us at this time.  Certainly the challenges presented by Islamic terrorism are ones that confront us ... in the very places where we are confused and irresolute, and force us to see that we have fallen into ways of thinking and living that we cannot and should not sustain.

"They represent a mortal threat -- but they are also an opportunity," he concludes.  "By forcing us to defend ourselves, they force us to take heart the question of what kind of civilization we are willing, and able, to defend.  Not merely as an academic question, but a question of life and death."

McClay holds the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he is also a history professor.

McWhorter is a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.  Neuhaus is editor of First Things magazine.  The Manhattan Institute and First Things are also supported by Bradley.
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