American Beauty: Where Do You Find It?

I grew up in and around Chicago. I was accustomed to the tabletop-flat landscapes of the Midwest. After grad school, my first newspaper job was writing for the Beaver County Times, a 60,000-circulation daily in Western Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh.

I loved being there—the rolling hills, the rivers, the distant hum of trains cutting through the back hills and along the water’s edge, even the massive steel mills belching smoke and fire at night, harking back to the harsh but poetic days of the industrial revolution that built modern America. This was the 1980s: It was a tough time for local residents as many of the mills were closing and steel jobs were disappearing.

At first I wrote about the troubled economic times, but after a while most of my feature writing for the Sunday paper sought to buoy battered spirits. I especially remember riding in a truck with one of the last home-delivery milkmen and in a locomotive with the conductor of a freight train. I still remember how inspiring that place was for me—the physical environment, the resilient people, the history—and how much I relished learning about the life there.

We often focus here on the troubles our country, our democracy, is facing. (And we must.) But this week’s question seeks inspiration: Where do you find American beauty? Please tell about a place or a community or an experience that captures that positive feeling: Share a memory that can remind us why we love this country.

I remain grateful for each of you who choose to devote some of your time to the emergence of America, America. I hope that you find value—and I hope that you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber at some point, if you are not already.

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