Toward a National Urban Policy

Toward a National Urban Policy

Toward a National Urban Policy

Toward a National Urban Policy

Excerpt

I write this brief preface on the morning of the day Americans are landing on the moon. More than a master work of technology, the landing of Eagle is a triumph of national will, the end result of eight years and fifty-six days of effort from the moment John F. Kennedy proposed that we send a man to the moon and return him safely, and do so with the "full speed of freedom." Yet the air of victory is curiously muted. Triumph in space seems only to intensify the concern in academic, intellectual, journalistic, and some political circles, with our seeming inability to get things done on earth, especially with respect to cities.

Concern for the condition of American cities, and the emerging sense that some coherent national approach needs to be made to the problems to be encountered in cities, has come near to being an obsession of our time.

Obsession is not too strong a word; nor is it to be judged an overreaction. The life in American cities has come to be singularly troubled, and it is peculiarly the fate of Americans to see themselves as directly implicated and challenged by that seemingly impersonal development.

If, in the European past, men could properly be seen as having been shaped by their cities—and so regarded themselves—it is here, first on the coastal fringe, thence through the great forest, the vast plain beyond, the mountains, and finally to the farther coast, that cities were shaped by men. They had not emerged from the past: they had been founded in the present, by contemporary men, and not infrequently named for such. Nothing quite like those cities has ever existed: nothing quite so good; also, nothing perhaps quite so awful. Some part of the profligate energy and endless resource that went into building their cities went also into contemplating them, and a measure of this contemplation was tinged with fear. So long as the nation was technically "rural" it . . .

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