New Editor of Time Magazine Has a Background in History and Says It's Vital

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History must not be treated as something set off by itself," said Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, and that could well be the motto of our Making of America series. I'm Rick Stengel, and I'm delighted that my first issue as managing editor of TIME is our fifth annual Making of America issue. One of the great missions of TIME since we started 83 years ago has been explaining the challenges of the moment in the context of history--and relating the values of our history to the challenges of the moment. That's why we started the series in the first place--to explore how America has grown and evolved through a long struggle with many of the same issues we're still grappling with today. Our job as writers and reporters and editors has always been to put the news in perspective for our readers, and few things do that better than history. And while I don't think history precisely repeats itself, I do agree that it rhymes.

I recently returned to TIME after two years of running the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a wonderful new museum and educational center on Independence Mall. While there, I got to know the great historian David McCullough, who has been on a one-man campaign to end the epidemic of what he calls historical illiteracy. I believe that our Making of America series is an antidote to historical illiteracy, which David describes as a great danger to our democracy. Being an American is not based on a common ancestry, a common religion, even a common culture--it's based on accepting an uncommon set of ideas. And if we don't understand those ideas, we don't value them; and if we don't value them, we don't protect them. A nation can never be ignorant and free, said Thomas Jefferson, our third Making of America cover subject, and one of the goals of our series is to help explain what makes us a nation and a people....

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