From the Editor: Why we fight

A look at the present, the past, and how the two speak to each other.

From the Editor: Why we fight

To answer that, you could begin at the end: with the After Words of this issue of the magazine, where a leading scholar in behavioral finance tells his personal story—which is also his family’s tale—which is carried along by the currents of an epic river of history: “My parents were teenagers in Poland in 1939, when the Nazis invaded.” But in an important respect, his is a story with a happy turn of plot, one that leads to the Mission Campus—where, naturally, many of the stories that we catch in SCM begin or end or circle back to time and again. We want those stories to speak truth and we want them to speak to you in a timely (or even timeless) way. We want them to answer questions and, perhaps more important, to raise them.

Or to answer that phrase, you could begin with our cover feature on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ’60, J.D. ’63—no stranger to readers of this magazine. We hope that a conversation with him—looking back over the year just past, and looking forward to the months and years to come—might illuminate the ideas and ideals of Panetta in the Pentagon. (You also get an angle on the jokes he tells—which tend toward the poignant; take the one about the priest and the rabbi at the boxing match.) It’s been more than a decade since the United States went to war in Afghanistan. But the mission to find Osama bin Laden was at last successful in May. And the last American troops came home from Iraq in December.

As students of history and those who lived through the Second World War know, Why We Fight is also the name of a series of films made during World War II to make the case for war to the American people. This edition of SCM is rich in history, particularly in telling stories from training of U.S. Army officers on the Mission Campus, both as part of the Reserve Officer Training Corps for the past 75 years and, before that, officer training that stretches back a century and a half, nearly to the founding of a college in Santa Clara. This is a tradition that is very much alive, so here are a couple questions that hover over the article on the Bronco Battalion: How does the past speak to the present? And the present to the past?

For me personally, the past—in the form of that marvelous panoramic image at the top left of the ROTC story—speaks with a familiar voice: I keep looking for the face of my Grandfather Hank there among the Santa Clara men arrayed before the Mission Church in 1918. Actually, he wasn’t there—he was at a camp in North Carolina, but that farm boy from Kansas wore the green wool uniform with a tank corps patch on the shoulder. He never did make it to Europe to fight; he was supposed to ship over in November 1918. But he used to say, with a twinkle in his eye, that the Kaiser heard that Henry was coming and decided to throw in the towel. Even as a boy I knew it couldn’t have been so simple.

Keep the faith,

Steven Boyd Saum

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