Editor's Note: Of History and Memory

By Beatty, Mary Lou | Humanities, January/February 2003 | Go to article overview

Editor's Note: Of History and Memory


Beatty, Mary Lou, Humanities


"In times of crisis," writes NEH Chairman Bruce Cole, "the humanities and the arts are often praised as sources of consolation, comfort, expression, and insight, but rarely seen as essential, or even high priorities. But they are much more than that. Indeed, the humanities help form the bedrock of civic understanding and civil order."

He adds, "Our nation is in a conflict driven by religion, philosophy, political ideology, and views of history-all humanities subjects. To understand this conflict, we need the humanities."

That concern will be showcased this February at a national forum on American history and civics. Along with the forum there will be a "Heroes of History" lecture sponsored by the NEH and held at the White House. The speaker will be Robert V. Remini, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Chicago and biographer of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Andrew Jackson. At the event, scholarships will be awarded to five high school juniors for their prize-winning essays on "The Idea of America."

What defines a hero? A warrior... visionary... survivor... witness... The interpretations are many. In this issue of Humanities, we look at some powerful lessons of history from the century just past. We see the horror of World War I through the eyes of the German artist Otto Dix. We explore the aftereffects of the terror perpetrated in the Nazi concentration camps. We look at a man-a hero, if you will-whose career spanned both wars: Winston Churchill. Historian John Lukacs tells us, "He did not win the Second World War, but he was the one who didn't lose it. He was a single man in Hitler's path. …

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