American Century - Origin of The Phrase

Origin of The Phrase

The term was coined by Time publisher Henry Luce to describe what he thought the role of the United States would be and should be during the 20th century. Henry Luce, the son of a missionary, in a February 17, 1941 Life magazine editorial urged the United States to forsake isolationism for a missionary's role, acting as the world's Good Samaritan and spreading democracy. He called upon the U.S. to enter World War II to defend democratic values:

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom.
It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.

According to David Harvey, Luce believed "the power conferred was global and universal rather than territorially specific, so Luce preferred to talk of an American century rather than an empire." In the same article he called upon United States "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

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