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State Street in Madison, 1969

Traffic rolls down State Street in Madison in spring 1969, looking west toward the UW-Madison campus.

This State Journal editorial ran on Jan. 1, 1969:

The best of years, the worst of years.

What year has there been when a paraphrase of Dickens’ lines has not been appropriate?

Tragedy stalked us during 1968, as it has done in the past. Assassination, murder, injustice at home; a never-ending war far away, and continuing world tensions; nature’s violence, and man’s violence to himself — all these again had their share of the year’s time.

But there was triumph, too. Further advances in science and exploration and medicine, improvement in education, a new attempt at finding peace.

And always, those good deeds, those neighborly bits of help which never make big news, but make people human.

In the end, the year was what we made it, sometimes in spite of our frailties. And that is what the new year of 1969 will be.

Just as the old year is not an aged man carrying a sandglass and a scythe, so the new year is not a cherubic infant clothed in a banner.

The year, as we know, is the time the Earth takes to make a complete revolution around the sun. They tell us that is 365 days plus a few hours, minutes and seconds long. That it is.

Astronauts’ recent photos of Earth, looming like a harvest moon in a black sky, make mankind seem puny in the universe. But he had to be more than puny to take those photos.

The world is as big or small as we want to make it. And the new year can be as happy as we want to make it.

May we all try to make it a happier one.

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