Recently, while listening to the early-morning radio news, I heard an extraordinary report of a retired man in Florida who has made the Social Security Administration the beneficiary of a large portion of his estate—$40,000 to be exact. Asked why he had decided on such an unusual course, he replied that he was proud to be a citizen of the United States, had benefited from its system of government, and simply wanted to show his appreciation of his good fortune.
Despite the social and economic problems of our nation, there is no doubt that this is a fortunate country and we are a fortunate, even blessed, people. Weighed on the scale of world horrors and all those forces that thwart and dishearten mankind, our portions of opportunity and liberty are very great. Telling the story of this remarkable heritage has been the task and privilege of this magazine for almost thirty years.
Have we succeeded? I think so and offer the 169 consecutive issues of A MERICAN H ERITAGE as proof that the marketplace and our readers think so too. Certainly there is no other magazine that challenges our unique franchise: to show American history in the making, to show that what our people did in the past explains who we are in the present.
I also offer as proof of our vitality the issue you now hold in your hands. Just in terms of the writers themselves, our stories bespeak star quality. Our cover feature on the American city is by Alfred Kazin, whose ability to connect America’s literary and political history with the way we live now has made him one of our outstanding men of letters. Malcolm Cowley, in our pages, continues his lifelong fascination with the American experience—in this instance with his own childhood in Pennsylvania. Jacques Barzun, who writes about the polymathic genius of William James, is himself a man of genius in his ability to compare and criticize multiple strains of history, literature, and philosophy. Finally, we’re delighted to publish a few words about the political magic of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by John Kenneth Galbraith—economist, historian, social critic, and wit.
And that’s just a sampling. Other writers in this issue have been chosen by the same standards as the authors we’ve mentioned: they have something to say about American life and they say it exceedingly well. That’s our good fortune—and yours too.