Ferguson shows the power of social media. This could have not been a story. Or it could have just been a local story. Or it could have been something that we saw only from a distance, through the usual filters. Instead, it gathered steam.
No matter how successful you are, no matter how good you are at what you do, even if a golden path rolls out in front of your feet your whole life, there will come one particularly bleak Tuesday when you glance over at Facebook and notice that Jen From Down The Hall has just won an Oscar.
I would say 'competence' actually might be slightly more important than passion. I understand that it is important to feel strongly about things, but give me a competent dentist over a passionate dentist any day, if only because something about the phrase 'passionate dentist' is deeply unnerving.
You can be brilliant in some ways and despicable in others. You can be a clean, upright, moral individual in your private life who never swears, treats women with respect, and speaks highly of duty and honor - and go out every day and dedicate yourself to a cause that makes the world worse.
Pleasure reading has long been an American ideal - generations of schoolchildren have headed home for the summer toting recreational reading lists. But try to pitch it to a group of non-readers, and they quickly become suspicious.
Harvard prides itself on its diversity - economic, racial, social, geographical - but it remains intellectually segregated. It's not what conservative commentators seem to imagine - a bastion of liberal professors force-feeding radical opinions to a naive student body.
George Washington didn't have to make us laugh; he just had to establish precedents and avoid chopping down more cherry trees than he could possibly help. But somewhere along the line, Americans began expecting their presidents to do more than just govern. They also had to make us laugh.