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From the Editor
We capture a bit of our history each spring in publishing significant papers from AAC&&U's Annual Meeting in order that readers who did not attend the meeting may vicariously participate after the event. In addition, photos from the meeting aim to portray graphically the people and the atmosphere.
In 2004, the largest attendance ever at an Annual Meeting brought participants' variety and vitality to the sessions, of which (regrettably) only a few can be represented here. Topics like liberal education and the professions, the university as a public good, producing minority leaders, and spirituality in liberal education are featured here to provide a sampling of the vibrant ideas that were in circulation.
Spring 2004 is doubly memorable for me, since I was the beneficiary of an AAC&U policy that gives a one-month professional development leave for long-term employees at the Association. With that opportunity, plans for a month-of-March leave wonderfully coalesced, and I joined the staff at the Library of Congress in the Veterans History Project (VHF) to learn the processes and uses of oral history. Besides the pleasure of working with the project's welcoming and dedicated staff, I learned, from interviewing and reviewing interviews already done, something about five twentieth-century wars as experienced by millions of American veterans.
Focus was on World War II because of the VHF's part in the May dedication of the World War II Memorial on the Mall and the 60th anniversary of D-Day in June. These veterans and the civilians who worked in the war effort have reached an age where their reflections have the vividness of recall and the mellowness of recollection in tranquility. Many had been nineteen-year-olds--the age of our students--in a society coming out of the Great Depression. They spoke of the tedium and terror that daily accompanied their pursuit of enemy armies. And they saw war as a sometimes necessary but mostly terrible undertaking.
I came back to my editor's desk with an abundance of stories, reinforcing my conviction of oral history's value as history seen on the democratic and micro level of ordinary people doing the extraordinary things we find in history books. And I set to work to show in this issue another moment in history not so much of events, but of ideas.