A Dutch Boy Fifty Years After by Edward William Bok

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Page 1






"Give to the world the best you have
And the best will come back to you."


In recent years American literature has been enriched by certain
autobiographies of men and women who had been born abroad, but who had
been brought to this country, where they grew up as loyal citizens of
our great nation. Such assimilated Americans had to face not only the
usual conditions confronting a stranger in a strange land, but had to
develop within themselves the noble conception of Americanism that was
later to become for them a flaming gospel. Andrew Carnegie, the canny
Scotch lad who began as a cotton weaver's assistant, became a steel
magnate and an eminent constructive philanthropist. Jacob Riis, the
ambitious Dane, told in _The Making of an American_ the story of his
rise to prominence as a social and civic worker in New York. Mary
Antin, who was brought from a Russian ghetto at the age of thirteen,
gave us in _The Promised Land_ a most impressive interpretation of
America's significance to the foreign-born. The very title of her book
was a flash of inspiration.

To this group of notable autobiographies belongs _The Americanization
of Edward Bok_, which received, from Columbia University, the Joseph
Pulitzer Prize of one thousand dollars as "the best American biography
teaching patriotic and unselfish service to the Nation and at the same
time illustrating an eminent example." The judges who framed that
decision could not have stated more aptly the scope and value of the
book. It is the story of an unusual education, a conspicuous
achievement, and an ideal now in course of realization.

At the age of six Edward Bok was brought to America by his parents, who
had met with financial reverses in their native country of the
Netherlands. He spent six years in the public schools of Brooklyn, but
even while getting the rudiments of a formal education he had to work
during his spare hours to bring home a few more dollars to aid his
needy family. His first job was cleaning the show-window of a small
bakery for fifty cents a week. At twelve he became an office boy in
the Western Union Telegraph Company; at nineteen he was a stenographer;
at twenty-six he became editor of _The Ladies' Home Journal_, which
during the thirty years of his supervision achieved the remarkable
circulation of two million copies and reached every month an audience
of perhaps ten million persons. Such is the bare outline of a career
that has the essential characteristics of struggle and achievement, of
intimate contact with eminent men and women, and, most interesting of
all, is not a fulfilled career, but a life still in the making.

The significance of _The Americanization of Edward Bok_ is threefold
and is clearly indicated by the author's own conception of the three
periods that should constitute a well-rounded life.. These he
characterizes as education, achievement, and service for others.
Conceived in this ideal spirit, the autobiography has a message for
every American schoolboy or schoolgirl who is looking forward to the
years of achievement and who should be made to understand that there is
a finer duty beyond. It has an equally important message for those of
us who in the turmoil of a busy world are struggling to achieve, in
many instances with no vision beyond the desire to provide as best we
can for the welfare of ourselves and our families. Lastly, it has an
inspiring, constructive message for those who are now in a position to
render altruistic service and thus contribute their share toward making
the world in general and America in particular a better place in which
to live.

Because of the recognized value of Edward Bok's life-story, the present
abridged edition, which is re-named _A Dutch Boy Fifty Years After_,
has been undertaken. The chapters here brought together, with the
approval of Mr. Bok, tell the story of the Dutch boy in the American
school, his earnest efforts to help his parents, his journalistic and
literary experiences, his wide-spread influence as editor, and a vision
of what he still hopes to accomplish for the land of his adoption.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 23:10