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An American Patrician

“Unto ourselves, our own life is necessary; unto others, our character.”

—Saint Augustine

For John Lukacs, George F. Kennan was

A Man for All Seasons, a triumph of character, a man of principles more than of ideas.  He had his prejudices, and some of them were odd ones; but he could recognize them looking into his own mental mirror; and, more, there was such goodness, such compassion, such charity in his heart that were sufficient for his mind to correct them.

Yet this posthumous tribute, paid by one friend of many years to the memory of another, is in no sense a eulogy: It is a meditation on the exemplary connection between the content of a man’s character and the content of his ideas and opinions.  We are all too inclined to disconnect the two, with such assurances as, “Everyone is welcome to his opinion,” or, “Yes, So-and-So does think that, but his heart is in the right place.”  Lukacs’s “Study of Character” implicitly confirms the link, without ever suggesting that Kennan’s opponents and critics were men of bad character.  The forbearance displayed in this respect can stem only from the Christian charity and humility (as well as the ideas) shared by subject and author alike.

John Lukacs perceives in certain...

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