Thursday, November 22, 2012

"And the Fair Land"

In 1961, Vermont Royster (pictured), then editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, wrote a Thanksgiving editorial titled “And the Fair Land.” The Journal has run this editorial annually ever since.

The prose is manly: It is elevated but not pompous; stirring but not sentimental. It is clear and straightforward.

Today, most journalists cannot write elevated, stirring, clear and straightforward prose. But I am thankful that Vermont Royster and many of his contemporaries could and did.

The editorial begins:
Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country. . .
And continues:
And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. . . .

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. . . .
And ends:
But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere – in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.
The Takeaway: I wish my countrymen a happy Thanksgiving.

See disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this is strong writing that stirs emotion, but I stumbled over the use of "men" in the last two paragraphs. Society has more than men in it, and surely some women set out from Delftshaven with the undaunted males. Has my ear been spoiled by the inclusive language movement? It has in a way, although I would react less critically to "men" used in this way in an older text. Did Mr. Clarity have this issue in mind when he introduced the essay as manly prose?