David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachian Professor of History at Stanford University. His scholarship is notable for its integration of economic analysis with social history and political history.[…]
Life on this earth, David Kennedy says, is a veil of tears.
David Kennedy: I think I am inevitably the product of my upbringing in the Catholic faith. I’m not an avidly or zealously practicing Catholic today, but neither have I had any traumatic separation from the church over my lifetime. And I think this basic idea that life on this earth is a veil of tears; it will never yield perfect happiness and perfection. That is at the center of Catholic tradition and teaching. And I do believe that that has reinforced and mutually interacted with what I’ve taken from the secular study of history. There’s an old joke about what Catholicism teaches – that it teaches that every one of us is special in the eyes of the Lord; but it also teaches that none of us is really too great. (Laughter) So that’s . . . There’s some mixture of recognizing, or appreciating – celebrating, even – human dignity and the dignity of the human experience; but not being too naïve about the possibility of perfect goodness, or perfection, or utopia in this earthly life. And I think it’s that balance in some semi-articulate way probably makes up whatever passes for my philosophy of life.