Benjamin Franklin, who made a methodical, lifelong effort to curb his excessive if justifiable pride, confessed near the end of his days that he was successful only in quelling the appearance of it, not the reality, and “even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”

“Franklin’s dilemma,” writes David J. Bobb in Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue, “is America’s dilemma.” How to be great and humble? Bobb, the director of the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Studies in Washington D.C., believes not only that “ ‘American humility’ is not an oxymoron,” but that it is actually our country’s greatest virtue. He argues, however, that as a nation today we have lost touch with both our humility and our greatness. We...


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