David J. Bobb has a title/subtitle combination that almost sounds paradoxical—Humility: An Unlikely Biography Of America’s Greatest Virtue. After all, when many think of America they are more likely to use the terms “confidant” or even “brash,” but not usually “humble.” But in this seeming paradox is a great truth.
The Greek philosophers often described a virtue as the golden mean between two extremes. Indeed, David Bobb uses such philosophers as Socrates and Aristotle, alongside Augustine and even more modern thinkers like Benjamin Franklin, to explore how America could be virtuous because of its humility.
Or more precisely, how America could be virtuous because of humble Americans. Dr. Bobb explores the biographies of notable Americans like George Washington, James Madison, Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to give us an intriguing description of what true humility looks like. Although in their time many thought of these people as proud or even glory-seekers, Dr. Bobb shows us how it was their profound, often hard-won humility that made them examples worth emulating.
And we do need these examples. In the epilogue, Dr. Bobb quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Humility is the first of the virtues for other people.” How true! The question is: Will Americans re-learn the virtuous power and strength of humility, or will humility continue to erode, mistaken by many as a weakness?
For both history enthusiasts, leaders, leaders-in-training, and those who love a good biography, Humility is a very enjoyable and educational book.
I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.