A brand new Mercedes greeted guests at the entrance to Friday’s party in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel celebrating the Atlantic Monthly’s 150 years.
An odd sight indeed, as was the business class seat-bed and uniformed cabin attendants from British Airways in the ballroom near exhibit boards heralding the magazine’s illustrious past. Commerce and culture always have gone hand-in-hand in the American experience, so such a vivid presence of the event’s sponsors probably would not have surprised the magazine’s august founders who included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
They intended through Atlantic’s pages to define “the American idea” as something more than just transplanted Europeans making their way in a new land. Their idea, conveniently enough, grew into an elaborate “Celebration of Ideas,” the title of a five-city promotional tour that began in Boston, where the publication was born. It is scheduled to end with a flourish in New York in several weeks.
Washington is the Atlantic’s new home. Hence, the gathering of what Atlantic president John Galloway called “core readers” and “politicians who are friends of the family.” Political faces were few, although Mary Matalin and James Carville were sighted. Also Ken Duberstein, Republican insider of note, who was on an eclectic A-list of 27 so-called honorary hosts for the party (having been asked out of the blue two months ago). Was he a reader? “I am now,” he said.
Certainly no better “friend” could be found than former Fannie Mae chief and Kennedy Center Chairman James Johnson, who said the magazine in its present form is “getting better and better and that has nothing to do with geography.” Managing Editor Scott Stossel describes its strength as “being committed to the notion that ideas matter and ideas have consequences.” Current owner David G. Bradley isn’t claiming to have the country’s oldest continuously published magazine under his wing. That honor goes, he said, to Harper’s and “some science publication.” Nor does he rest on old laurels. Atlantic Media recently started a new product named 02138, Harvard University’s zip code, aimed at Harvard alumni — what Mr. Galloway terms “a new business model in the industry.”
“Yale isn’t good enough,” joked National Journal publisher John Fox Sullivan, a Yale University graduate.
“That isn’t quotable,” Mr. Galloway countered before darting in to join some 500 guests for the evening’s high brow but rather sobering program: poetry and prose readings by Diane Rehm, James Fallows, Timothy Wirth and others.
— Ann Geracimos
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