We have reviewed two previous books by Richard G. Geldard on Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): God in Concord and The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson; the latter explored this poet, essayist, and philosopher's persistent belief in "an exalted vision of human nature." In this ambitious work, Geldard takes a hard look at Emerson's vision of a "new yet unapproachable America" inspired by his faith in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The author salutes Emerson's advocacy of freedom, conscience, and individualism. Under the banner of the Dream of America, Emerson lifts high the principle of idealism which entails self-recovery, the re-working of character, and the rise of a leveling justice.
When Geldard wrote this book, Barack Obama had just become President of the United States and was still riding high on the idealism of the progressives who put him in office. But after two years of watching the Obama Administration govern through compromise, many progressives (like us) no longer believe that that this President can give fresh meaning to Emerson's Dream of America. We will have to wait for another to lead us into a "new and exceptional age." Meanwhile, we can thank the seer from Concord for his substantive writings about the moral firepower of idealism.