June/july 1981 | Volume 32, Issue 4
A great deal has happened since I last took this podium to speak to you a summer ago. We have endured a bewildering profusion of economic woes, we have withstood a seemingly interminable siege by foreign religious fanatics, we have seen a wholly new American government take over from the one then in power. And in the streets of our capital city, the new President narrowly escaped death at the hands of another madman with a gun. Ours is not a magazine geared to follow day-to-day events, but it surprises me how often articles we plan for other reasons turn out to be—to use that overworked but inevitable term—relevant. For instance, originally we had planned to publish the piece on the trial of Garfield’s assassin in this issue because it was a hundred years ago this July that the President was shot. Now it means the more to us to be able to see how our forebears grappled with all the questions raised by the enormity of that crime. Sadly, the piece has taken on a new significance.
More happily pertinent to the recent change of government are our two features on Theodore Roosevelt: one an assessment of the man’s personality by his Pulitzer prize-winning biographer, Edmund Morris, the other a study of the wellsprings of that personality by David McCullough, whose own volume on Roosevelt has just been published. Together they show us a man who bears thinking on these days; his boisterous, electric, unshakable confidence in the power of his office to do good—and his unquenchable pleasure in exercising that power—can serve as a beacon to us as we venture into a new decade.
One of the ambiguities of this new decade is nuclear power. It is surprising to find in our pages a topic so constantly in the daily newspapers; frankly, I strongly believe that the crucial nature of this subject warrants our unusual three-part treatment.
I am particularly pleased that this issue marks the debut of a new column that will help us explore the uses of the past in still another way—this time by looking at historical fiction rather than historical fact. In “History and the Imagination,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the Pulitzer prize-winning historian, will examine movies and television to determine how they use—and misuse—history. In an era when more and more people are relying on the screen for their knowledge of the past, I feel we are fortunate to have so accomplished a guide.
These, then, are a few of the riches that await you in this issue—just part of our continuing effort to make what I believe to be a conspicuously distinguished magazine even better. However, our compact with you involves not only editorial excellence but the ongoing convenience of receiving AMERICAN HERITAGE at home. So to be sure the magazine keeps reaching you promptly and safely, we are soon to shift from one subscription-fulfillment house to another. This will enable us to serve you better, but, in the process, a few subscriptions may go astray. If you should experience any trouble, please let us know. We’ll solve the problem.
We don’t want you to miss a single issue, because each provides a unique glance at the missteps and triumphs, the struggles and solutions of earlier Americans. I believe this kind of insight is particularly crucial to us as we meet the challenges of the eighties.