Phi Beta Cons

King Cole

The WSJ profiles NEH chairman Bruce Cole:

If Mr. Cole is known at all–NEH chairmen rarely make headlines–it’s for statements like “History is a safeguard for our democracy” and “It’s part of our national security.” In speeches, he frequently cites appalling statistics–half the students in elite universities cannot date the Civil War to the correct half-century, for example, and more people can name the Three Stooges than can list the three government branches. Noting that Americans are united not by race or religion, but by ideas and ideals, he says that the “waves of people arriving on our shores” make knowledge of our history all the more important. “Democracy is not inborn,” he explains. “It has to be learned.”
Mr. Cole also says things others might find old-fashioned and perhaps even politically incorrect. “We have to look at the valleys and the peaks, but I do believe in American exceptionalism,” he said by way of explaining his zeal. “This is the greatest country that has ever existed.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.