Politics & Polls #125: As a City on a Hill

Feb 07 2019
By B. Rose Kelly
Source Woodrow Wilson School

Certain speeches and sermons linger in the minds of Americans, often becoming part of our national imagination and history.

One oft-quoted sermon that remains both provocative and timeless was given by John Winthrop in 1630 at New England’s founding. In his lay sermon, he warned his fellow Puritans about the power of exceptionalism, saying, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.” 

Historian Daniel Rodgers unravels Winthrop’s words in a new book published by the Princeton University Press: “As a City on a Hill: The story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon,” which he discusses in this episode.

Daniel Rodgers is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton University. His books include “Age of Fracture,” winner of the Bancroft Prize; “Atlantic Crossings”; “Contested Truths”; and “The Work Ethic in Industrial America.”


Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN political analyst. He has written more than 900 op-eds, including his popular weekly column for CNN.com and The Atlantic. This year, he is the distinguished senior fellow at the New York Historical Society, where he is writing a biography of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel for Yale University's Jewish Lives Series. He is the author and editor of more than 19 books including, “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society,” the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. In January 2019, Norton will publish his new book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.” In spring 2020, Penguin Press will publish his other book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” He has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation and New America.