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Americans Who Tell the Truth :: Wendell Berry

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Robert Shetterly's portrait of Wendell Berry
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“The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.”
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Wendell Berry
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Farmer, Essayist, Conservationist, Novelist, Teacher, Poet (1934— )

Wendell Berry was born in Newcastle, Kentucky. He continues to farm the land along the Kentucky River that his family has worked for two centuries. A graduate of the University of Kentucky. Berry has taught English and written more than thirty books of poetry and essays as well as novels.

Although he has been called the prophet of rural America, his life and thought have meaning for people in cities and suburbs as well as for farmers like himself. He sees the connection between the natural environment and the whole range of human activity. Ultimately his vision is of community in the largest possible sense. Berry sees and proclaims that humankind must learn to live in harmony with nature or perish.

Wendell Berry has written widely, including The Unsettling of America (1977) and an essay, The Failure of War (1999). In the latter he asks: ”How many deaths of other people's children are we willing to accept in order that we may be free, affluent and (supposedly) at peace? To that question I answer: None . . . Don't kill any children for my benefit.” His essay, Thoughts in the Presence of Fear, relates the events of September 11, 2001 to crucial questions about the global economy, the purpose of education and the necessity for active peacemaking. Citizenship Papers, a collection of his essays, is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2003.

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See the full set of Robert Shetterly's portraits at www.americanswhotellthetruth.org.

Tools for Teaching: see the acompanying curriculum materials with suggestions on how to use the portraits and biographies of these American truth-tellers in your classroom.
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