The Legacy - Common Council for American Unity 1940 - My purpose by Louis Adamic
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SPECTRUM, gLouis Adamic :His Life, Work,and LegacyhImmigration History Research Center-University of Minnesota (vol 4,No1,2 Fall 1982);
yCommon Council for American Unity 1940z
My purpose...is to begin exploring our American
DEWITT("PASHA") and ALICE STETTEN
Dear Alice Pasha:
@@@@@@@@@@@Twice within the
memory of men now living dreams have had a force strong enough to reshape the
world. At this moment it is the dream of personal power on the part of "men
of destiny" that is dominent, that tumbles the
Only yesterday it was another dream,
a dream which set in motion the greatest migration in history. The men did
not scurry in fear: the were led by hope. The broad
But somewhere in the roar of industrialism, somewhere in the tension of our commercialism, that dream was all but lost, or confused well-nigh beyond recognition. While at first the rich soil of the new continent and the wealth beneath it were magic and yielded us a flashy surface growth and an oversupply of material power, we have never yet flowered all-inclusively as a country and a culture. To a large degree we are a rootless, bewildered, uncertain people. Life on a mere economic plane, we have come to realize, has proved as impermanent, shallow, and sterile as the lands of the Dust Bowl, and we fume and blow fruitlessly in the winds of Depression. We have no deep tap roots in a cultural past to give us continuity, stability.
Now here we are, in this fateful year of 1940, still a groping people, splashed by the backwash of events in the Old World, our thoughts and actions touched by hysteria; the strands of our texture to our life as individuals and as a people. Here and there the stuff in the "Melting Pot" has@melted the pot. We eye@one@another@uneasily. We are on the defensive against ourselves. Here is a danger of our own--perhaps unavoidable--making.
In the lands whence we come or stem civilization crashes into ruin, and, watching from our ringside seats, we are appalled. But to be appalled is no answer to anything. Within our American borders are tens of millions of people who carry within them, whether they know it or not, many of the things we bemoan losing--many of the things that were lost in Europe.
We need not lose them. They were brought here by the waves of our immigration. They are still here. We need to cease eyeing one another uneasily and take a positive approach to meeting on common ground. We need to take stock and come into our rich and varied cultural heritage of democracy and the arts, of courageous and cooperative living.
Awareness is the step in making these firmly our own. We shall need them. Before us is the necessity of a tremendous effort. If we do not exert ourselves now, the old dream that brought us here is apt to be swallowed by the furious nightmare of the Old World.
Is it too late to recapture the magic of that dream? Many people of the second and third and later generations, to whom America is a platitude, have never glimpsed its power. They are the majority of the youth of today. What if we could revive it, lift to bewildered and cynical eyes the vision of new frontiers, rich in culture and spirit, wide and deep as the best in man-an America with a sweep to which a continent's breadth is narrow-a democracy not only of political inheritance but of the heart and the handclasp?
You and I and some of our friends have talked of this for a number of years, especially since 1938, when I first began the task of which this book is one of the early tangible results. We thought then, in '38 and '39, it was not too late. You were always interested in this job of mine, and more helpful with friendliness and encouragement than you are aware. So I want From Many Lands to be your book.
My purpose, as you know, is to begin exploring our American cultural past and to urge the cultivation of its many common fields, not nostalgically, or historically or academically, but imaginatively and creatively, with eyes to the future, until as a people we find and dare to sink our roots into our common American subsoil, rich, sun-warmed and well watered, from which we still may grow and flower. The failure of America to harness the dreams and motives of its past to the processes of its life is one of the greatest wastes of human resources this age has known. For there was power there, power to make miracles commonplace. Into no other country, ever, was so much of the best of human yearning poured.
It is still not too late. On the contrary, this is our moment. Now we can do things. This period is in a way a testing time for us. An opportunity. Now, in crisis and tension, the situation and its problems in which we are interested will be clearer than before. Our national weakness will become obvious and we will want to remove them. Our national weakness will become obvious and we will want to remove them. Our awareness will be intensified, our emotional quality heightened. As a people, we will be eager for orientation--for integration and unity under the sway of an affirmative concept of liberty.
We will realize that democracy even as we have it in the United States is far, far from what it should and could be; that the evil that seems to have engulfed Europe is not so much the creation of those who believe in lies and slavery as of those who believing in truth and liberty do not practice their beliefs, either not at all or with insufficient consistency, intelligence, passion and energy. We-many of us-will want to correct this fault in ourselves and others, and become geared to the real motives and propulsions of our country-the same motives and propulsions, essentially, that were behind the successive waves of our immigration.
Here in America, if anywhere, man can achieve an all-dimensional quality: strong, rich and secure in his appreciations, sane in his values, intelligent in his knowledge, firm in his morality, just and generous in his freedom, cool and deliberate in combat with the enemies of hid ideals and principles, and great in the enduring hunger and the epic reach of his spirit.
These are not the exact words of our talks during the past few years, but they are their substance, which I wanted to put into this book. If we are right, and I believe we are, America is just beginning.
Milford, New Jersey
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