I grew up with radio in pre-television days, and one of my favourite programmes was Alistair Cooke’s Letter form America, the longest-running series in broadcasting history, from 1946 to 2004, the year of his death.
Alistair Cooke could fairly be described as a liberal conservative commentator, and in his later years he moved further to the right, although some might dispute this. But he understood America in a way that few Europeans and even fewer Englishmen have done, before or since.
Consider this excerpt -
“Americans are not particularly good at sensing the real elements of another people’s culture. It helps them to approach foreigners with carefree warmth and an animated lack of misgiving. It also makes them, on the whole, poor administrators on foreign soil. They find it almost impossible to believe that poorer peoples, far from the Statue of Liberty, should not want in their heart of hearts to become Americans.
“If it should happen that America, in its new period of world power, comes to do what every other world power has done: if Americans should have to govern large numbers of foreigners, you must expect that Americans will be well hated before they are admired for themselves.”
This was written in the spring of 1946, just after the Second World War, when America was just beginning to understand itself as a world power. When we consider what America brought to the world in the sixty four years since that was written, the analysis was prescient indeed.