readers must recognize that this is "contemporary history." In fact, historians are still gathering and sorting evidence concerning the years it treats. But as H. Stuart Hughes has written in History as Art and as Science, "Somebody must interpret our era to our contemporaries. Somebody must stake out the broad lines of social change and cultural restatement, and he must not be afraid to make predictions or chagrined at being occasionally caught out on a limb."1 In this book, I am one of those somebodies.
Second, as the historian E. H. Carr has written, historians are "both the product and the conscious or unconscious spokesmen of the society" to which they belong. "We sometimes speak of the course of history," Carr says, "as a 'moving procession.'" The metaphor is fair enough, he acknowledges, provided it does not tempt each historian "to think of himself as an eagle surveying the scene from a lonely crag or as a V.I.P. at the saluting base." Rather, each of us "is just another dim figure trudging along in another part of the procession." As the procession winds along, swerving right and left, sometimes doubling back, our perspectives change. Where we find ourselves in the procession shapes our perspectives on the past.2 The perspectives I bring to this book reflect decades of work as a teacher and writer and a life of learning, but those perspectives may change as I learn more. Readers, of course, bring their own perspectives to the book's contents. If the book accomplishes its purposes, it will broaden and enrich those perspectives.
Third, the diversity of the people whose lives are portrayed in this book presents a particularly difficult challenge. Drive the length of Halsted Street in Chicago, or ride a subway in New York or Washington, D.C., or observe comings and goings in the Los Angeles airport, or stand on a street corner in any town in America, and you will gain a sense of the difficulty one faces in generalizing about "the American people" and how our daily lives have played out over the past three decades. I have been mindful of this difficulty throughout the book.
With these cautions in mind, I hope that you, the reader, will find a place for yourself in the book's narrative and that it will help you better understand the narratives of your own life.
Most of the research for this book was done in Cowles Library at Drake University. I am grateful to staff members for accommodating my demands on the library's holdings and services and for procuring books and articles from other libraries. Their spirit of collegiality is admirable.
In the early stages, Diana Brodine, a Drake undergraduate, assisted with research. Later, John Facciola, a graduate student at Drake, provided invaluable research assistance. Drake University granted financial support for this assistance, for which I express my gratitude. A grant