America

A Passion for Nature:
Exploring the Life of John Muir

Donald Worster and Richard White with Jon Christensen

Thursday, May 7, 2009 | 7:30–9:00pm | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All

In Donald Worster's new biography, John Muir's "special self" is fully explored as is his extraordinary ability, then and now, to get others to see the sacred beauty of the natural world. A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written. Rich in detail and personal anecdote, it traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores his marriage and family life, his relationship with his abusive father, his many friendships with the humble and famous (including Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson), and his role in founding the modern American conservation movement. Inspired by Muir's passion for the wilderness, Americans created a long and stunning list of national parks and wilderness areas, Yosemite most prominent among them. Yet the book also describes a Muir who was a successful fruit-grower, a talented scientist and world-traveler, a doting father and husband, a self-made man of wealth and political influence, and a man for whom mountaineering was "a pathway to revelation and worship."
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The American Soul:
Founding Ideals and the American Dream

Jacob Needleman and Scotty McLennan

Monday, January 26, 2004 | 7:30 – 9:00 | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All

In his recent book, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, Jacob Needleman writes: America is … a philosophical identity composed of ideas of freedom, liberty, independent thought, independent conscience, self-reliance, hard work, justice. That is both the weakness and strength of America. To love America is not to love one’s roots&mdashit is to love the flower that has not yet blossomed, the fruit as yet unripened. In order to deepen our conversation about the American story, Needleman urges attention to iconic figures such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman, who remind us of founding ideals which may inspire our actions today. We must, he says, remythologize the idea of America. But how?
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