Thursday, August 20, 2015

Amy Kass, 1940-2015, RIP

Bill Kristol notes the death of Amy Apfel Kass last night and writes of her:
A legendary teacher at the University of Chicago and a very fine scholar, she was at once a most perceptive student of great literature and a spirited and enlightened patriot. She was able to combine in an unusual way philosophic detachment and moral seriousness, a rare kind of enriching gravity and a wonderfully enlivening wit. Her marriage to Leon was a model for all; her friendship was a blessing for those of us fortunate to have known her.
Amy and Leon Kass co-edited, with Diana Schaub, What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song. It is a collection of documents, speeches, fiction and poetry, with commentary by the editors. From its introduction:
This is a book about America for every American. More precisely, this is a book about American identity, American character, and American citizenship. Addressing hearts as well as minds, exploiting the soul-shaping powers of story, speech, and song, it is designed to make Americans more appreciatively aware of who they are as citizens of the United States. Its ultimate goal, stated without apology, is to produce better patriots and better citizens: men and women knowingly and thoughtfully attached to our country, devoted to its ideals, and eager to live an active civic life.

Although we are committed to the goal of producing thoughtful patriots and engaged citizens, the editors have no partisan political agenda or ideological intentions. The patriotism we seek to encourage is deep, not superficial; reflective, not reflexive; and, above all, thoughtful. This anthology addresses liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and independents, employers and employees, rich and poor, young and old, and Americans of every race, religion, and ethnicity, for all Americans have a stake in the well-being of our nation. ....
I bought that book and it and certain other writings (some of which I have quoted repeatedly, especially on Memorial Day) mark the extent of my acquaintance with the work of Amy and Leon Kass.  It seems to have been good and worthy work.

From an interview with both of them about two speeches, one fictional and one historical, included in the section of the book about Courage and Self-Sacrifice: Toward Country and Its Ideals (about 45 minutes):