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Sullivan Speaks

May 2024
2min read

Some representative passages from Our Times, selected by Dan Rather

THE RISE OF THE SMALL, ANNOYING DOG

Fashion has passed through changes about dogs as it has about clothes, shoes, hats, hair cuts, facial forestation, automobiles, drama, and fiction.... In the case of man’s most loyal friend, some of the changes will take a good deal of proof to show they have been for the best—the change, for example, from the Newfoundland to the Pekinese. Many a fine breed of dog, whose worth had been known through generations, was elbowed gradually into the back corners and garrets of man’s affection. Was there ever a finer animal than the Newfoundland, prized, among other reasons, for gentleness with children? In 1900, and some years before, he guarded nearly every porch door, dozed on almost every hearthstone. By 1925, you might pass through the entire year, travel far up and down the country, without seeing one, although a few professional breeders kept the strain alive, either out of sentiment—lest the Newfoundland join the messenger pigeon and the bison—or in the vague hope that the agencies of vogue would spin the wheel and bring the old favorite back.

A FORTUNATE MONARCH

It is simple history to say that the relation Roosevelt had to America at this time, the power he was able to wield, the prestige he enjoyed, the affection he received, the contentment of the people with him—their more than contentment, their zesty pleasure in him—composed the lot of an exceptionally fortunate monarch during a particularly happy period of his reign.…

What brought to Roosevelt the affection that few kings have had, and gave gay delight to the people, was, in addition to his valiance in high affairs, certain qualities of his temperament, facets of his scintillating personality, which included his methods of combat, and the agreeable excitement that accompanied them: the din, the alarums, the thunderclaps of his denunciations, the lightning strokes of his epithets, his occasional ruthlessness of attack, his grinning acceptance of occasional setbacks, the quickness of his rally, the adroitness of his parry; “the fun of him,” as one of his New York police captains remarked after his death—“It was not only that he was a great man, but, oh, there was such fun in being led by him.”

TEPID NECTAR

Taft was not a bad president, he was a good one.… His tragedy was merely that he was a placid man in a restless time, had a judicial temperament when the country was in a partisan mood, was a static man in a dynamic age.… During any period of national quiescence Taft might have been uniquely in tune with the universe. His heartiness, genuineness, and sincerity might have been a tonic to similar qualities in the country. But the people had recently drunk deep of the very different qualities of another personality; having been stimulated by the heady wine of strenuousness, they could not be content with the tepid nectar of Taft’s milder qualities.

Taft’s chief failing was that he differed from Roosevelt, his misfortune that he followed Roosevelt in the presidency.

HOW THE WAR CAME

The war did not come to America as it came to Europe. No Oregon rancher working in his field of a peaceful afternoon was disturbed by an odd whirring in the sunny air, and looked toward Mount Hood to see an airplane spitting fire upon his neighboring village.…

It was not in the shape of violence of any sort that the war, in its early phase before America became a belligerent, came to us. Its coming took a form hardly physical at all; it came as newspaper despatches from far away, far away in distance and even farther away in spirit. The despatches were as if black flocks of birds, frightened from their familiar rookeries, came darting across the ocean, their excited cries a tiding of stirring events.

THE YOUTH CULTURE

Always youth is a little defiant, always it has an adolescent conviction of its own importance; and the American youth of the twenties found in the world about him many circumstances that tended to confirm this conviction.... The twenties, reversing age-old custom, biblical precept, and familiar adage, was a period in which, in many respects, youth was the model, age the imitator. On the dance floor, in the beauty parlor, on the golf course; in clothes, manners, and many points of view, elders strove earnestly to look and act like their children, in many cases their grandchildren. The egotism thus stimulated was increased by the ease with which young folks could achieve economic, and therefore to a large extent moral and intellectual, independence. Everywhere, youth was flattered. And there was one supreme cause for the ascendance of youth: youth had fought the war.

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