Monday, June 02, 2008

Baltzell's Vision of the Ethnically Mixed Establishment

E. Digby Baltzell, in The Protestant Establishment (1964), gives this rare personal clue to the origin of his vision of an aristocratic establishment:

In fact, I visualized the possibility of an ethnically mixed establishment, which underlies the theory of American leadership developed in this book, during my own experiences in the ward rooms and officers clubs of the South Pacific. At any rate, the American ideal of equality of opportunity in a hierarchically organized social structure had never been so nearly realized as in the selection of reserve officers who led our armed forces during the Second World War. (301)

He goes on to say that he thinks John F. Kennedy forged an ethnically mixed "best and the brightest" administration out of his experiences in the war, as well as his life in Boston. He was an outsider as an Irish Catholic, but he was also an aristocratic insider as a rich man's son, a famous mayor's grandson, a Choate and Harvard man. The New Frontier does not seem so daringly mixed to us today -- they look like privileged white men. But at the time the pulling together on terms of equality by Northern WASPs, Southern Protestants, Catholics, and Jews from all corners of Europe was a great achievement.

It falls to today's rising generation to make the honey-colored establishment drawn from all races and corners of the earth a reality.

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