Read Carlin Romano’s piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Obama, Philosopher in Chief” (via aldaily).

The article includes a number of useful references for further study (if you haven’t read them already). Adding to Obama’s speech in Cairo (as well as at Buchenwald and Omaha Beach), here are some key books mentioned:

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (W.W. Norton, 2006)
  • Simon Schama, The American Future: A History (Ecco, 2009)
  • William H. Goetzmann, Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought From Paine to Pragmatism (Basic Books, 2009)

Money quote:

A truly cosmopolitan culture permits its members to choose different styles of life and thought, including antiquated ones, as long as they don’t harm the neighbors. Obama, like no president before him, has notified the rest of the world that the United States will continue to export its philosophy, ethos, and political theory — but through conversation, not declamation, seeking free adoption, not grudging acquiescence.

At this point I have a strong sense this is really going somewhere and I want to be on top of it when it happens. There’s a lot more to be said but I don’t have all the resources I need to say anything meaningful or new. My own reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech — and his leadership style in general — is here:

It isn’t exactly “selfless” leadership. It isn’t about putting oneself ahead of, nor behind, everyone else’s wants and needs. It’s about granting everyone the respect and responsibility they deserve as people who are capable of making their own decisions — whether good or bad — and using those connections to cultivate mutual benefit, gradually proliferating the good and diminishing the bad, by speaking to people, not to abstract political conceptions.

Here’s more on Obama’s pragmatic, learning-oriented approach, with more on the man here and here. Here’s more on pragmatism, and a bit more in Open/Conceptual’s very first post.