An acquaintance, an ancient gentleman who was an intimate of Theodore Roosevelt, told me that just inside his house in Oyster Bay, T.R. had a prominent sign which read: "If you are not an American what the hell are you doing here?" People usually laughed dutifully when they read the sign—they love to shine in the reflected image of the great and neargreat, the famous and infamous. The price of this reflection is often sycophancy. Thus, apparently, no one made an adverse comment until one day a guest asked T.R. what he meant —did he mean American by birth or by ideals, and if so to which ideals was T.R. referring? T.R. took offense: "If you don't know you are not an American so get the hell out of here."
I was reminded of that ludicrous incident shortly after beginning this book, City on a Hill. While it discusses the