As this issue was going to press, Barack Obama traveled to South Africa to give a speech commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. “I hope you’ll indulge me, despite the slight chill,” Obama said to the sizable crowd gathered in Johannesburg on July 17, “as I spend much of this lecture reflecting on where we’ve been, and how we arrived at this present moment, in the hope that it will offer us a roadmap for where we need to go next.” And he did just that. The next day, I was struck by a phrase written by Jelani Cobb for the New Yorker, which characterized our former president as “a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives.” This is a seemingly obvious principle, perhaps one many of us learned in grade-school social studies. It’s a theme President Obama has returned to throughout his years in public life. During his 2008 “race speech,” he memorably invoked Faulkner’s famous line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It’s a theme that resonates across this issue.