Read GOOD NEWS AND HARD WORK - NEWS AND GOVERNMENT - CHAPTER XII of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


A nation’s religion is its shrewdness about its ideals, its genius for stating its ideals or news about itself, in the terms of its everyday life.

A nation’s literature is its power of so stating its ideals that we will not need to be shrewd for them-its power of expressing its ideals in words, of tracing out ideals on white paper, so that ideals shall enthrall the people, so that ideals shall be contagious, shall breathe and be breathed into us, so that ideals shall be caught up in the voices of men and sung in the streets.

Ideals, intangible, electric, implacable irresistible, all-enfolding ideals, shall hold and grip a continent the way a climate grips a continent, like sunshine around a helpless thing, in the hollow of its hand, and possess the hearts of the people.

What our government needs now is a National band in Washington.

America is a Tune.

America is not a formula.  America is not statistics, even graphic statistics.  A great nation cannot be made, cannot be discovered, and then be laid coldly together like a census.  America is a Tune.  It must be sung together.

The next thing statesmen are going to learn in this country is that from a practical point of view in making a great nation only our Tune in America and only our singing our Tune can save us.  A great nation can be made out of the truth about us.  The truth may be-must be probably,-plain.  But the truth must sing.

It will not be the government that first gets the truth that will govern us.  The government that gets the truth big enough to sing first, and sings it, will be the government that will govern us.  The political party in this country that will first be practical with the people, and that will first get what it wants, will be the political party that first takes Literature seriously.  Our first great practical government is going to see how a great book, searching the heart of a nation, expressing and singing the men in it, governs a people.  Being a President in a day like this, if it does not consist in being a poet, consists in being the kind of President who can be, at least, in partnership with a poet.

It is not every President who can be his own David, who can rule with one hand and write psalms and chants for his people with the other.

The call is out, the people have put in their order to the authors of America, to the boys in the colleges, and to the young women in the great schools-Our President wants a book.

Before much time has passed, he is going to have one.

Being a President in this country has never been expressed in a book.

The President is going to have a book that expresses him to the people and that says what he is trying to do.  He will live confidentially with the book.  It shall be in his times of trial and loneliness like a great people coming to him softly.  He shall feel with such a book, be it day or night, the nation by him, by his desk, by his bedside, by his silence, by his questioning, standing by, and lifting.

In the book the people shall sing to the President.  He shall be kept reminded that we are there.  He shall feel daily what America is like.  America shall be focussed into melody.  We shall have a literature once more and the singers, as in Greece, as in all happy lands and in all great ages, shall go singing through the streets.

There is no singing for a President now.  All a President can do when he is inaugurated, when he begins now, is to kiss helplessly some singing four thousand years old in a Bible by another nation.

When David sang to his people, he sang the news, the latest news, the news of what was happening to people about him from week to week.

Why is no one singing 1913, our own American 1913?

Why is no one stuttering out our Bible-one the President could have to refer to, our own Bible in our own tongue from morning to morning in the symbols that breathe to us out of the sounds in the street, out of the air, out of the fresh, bright American sky, and out of the new ground beneath our feet?

It is easy for a President to pile up three columns a morning of news about himself to us, show each man his face in the morning, but what is there he can do with twenty thousand newspapers at his breakfast table, to pick out the real news about us?  Who shall paint the portrait of a people?

One could go about in the White House and study the portraits of the presidents, but where is the portrait of the people?  The portrait of the people comes in little bits to the president like a puzzle picture.  Each man brings in his little crooked piece, jig-sawed out from Iowa, South Dakota, Oklahoma or Aroostook County, Maine.  This picture or vision of a nation, this wilderness of pieces, can be seen every day when one goes in, lying in heaps on the floor of the White House.

A literature is the expression on the face of a nation.  A literature is the eyes of a great people looking at one.

It seems to be as we look, looking out of the past and faraway into the future.

A newspaper can set a nation’s focus for a morning, adjusting it one way or the other.  A President can set the focus for four years.  But only a book can set the focus for a nation’s next hundred years so that it can act intelligently and steadfastly on its main line from week to week and morning to morning.  Only a book can make a vast, inspiring, steadfast, stage-setting for a nation.  Only a book, strong, slow, reflective, alone with each man, and before all men, can set in vast still array the perspective, the vision of the people, can give that magnificent self-consciousness which alone makes a great nation, or a mighty man.  At last humble, imperious, exalted, it shall see Itself, its vision of its daily life lying out before it, threading its way to God!