The presidency of Donald Trump has wreaked havoc on American democracy, divided American society, unsettled foreign allies and partners, and heartened dictators around the world. The damage at home and abroad is likely to cast a long shadow into the future. Trump has also defiled the past, most notably America’s origin and its soul.
The Founders counted on their successors to protect and perfect their prodigy with its fundamental ideals, laws, and procedures. They also aspired to a code of personal morals and character. Paramount were honesty, rationality, empathy, and responsibility to the citizenry.
These liberal, revolutionary criteria for public service and leadership derived from the European Enlightenment. The spirit of that movement and its American version is alien to Trump, and many of his predecessors would find him abhorrent and dangerous.
Strobe Talbott tells that story from the vantage of the Age of Trump, bringing out the stark contrast between the 45th president and the first six—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, who were children of the Age of Reason.
Amid myriad books on the Trump phenomenon in these dark days, Talbott shines a light on our history in hope that the Founders’ legacy, now in peril, will be vindicated.
Praise for Our Founders’ Warning
“Strobe Talbott has decided to stroll back to our eighteenth-century origins in order to search for evidence that our current condition as a people and a nation is not fatal. He brings a first-rate mind and a flair for irony and paradox to the task. And he finds some stories that surprised me, despite my long-term residence in the world of the founders.”
—Joseph J. Ellis, professor of history, Mount Holyoke College; author of American Dialogue: The Founders and Us
“In the Age of Trump, it is more important than ever to appreciate the Enlightenment values that guided our great founders. Strobe Talbott provides a smart and fascinating look at the reason-based philosophy that informed the birth of our country. As we figure out how to heal our nation, the place to start is by reaffirming our values.”
—Walter S. Isaacson, historian and biographer
“In Our Founders’ Warning, Strobe Talbott uses his decades of experience as one of America’s top diplomats and thought leaders to draw a devastating contrast between the Trump presidency and America’s founders, between the disciples of the Age of Reason and a successor, he argues, who is trying to undo the foundation of the American experiment. Talbott’s sweeping history of how our democracy was rooted in the principles of honesty, empathy, and rationality gives even greater urgency to his critical examination of the Trump presidency in a time of unprecedented crisis.”
—Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent, NBC News; host, Andrea Mitchell Reports, MSNBC
Strobe Talbott’s career has been in journalism (Time magazine for 21 years), government (Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration), and president of Brookings for 16 years. He translated and edited Nikita Khrushchev’s two-volume autobiography and is the author, most recently, of The Great Experiment on globalization and, with Bill Antholis, Fast Forward on climate change.