University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger

Notre Dame, February 22, 1964

By its well-balanced, solid way of life, the Midwest has an agreeable effect. This region of the United States is very healthy at its core. It is a rising, up-and-coming area that is little known outside the United States. What has been created here in hardly a century and a half is surprising. The wide stretches of territories from the Appalachians in the East to the Great Plains in the West, which at the turn of the century were still thinly settled, have now numerous advancing young communities.

The cultural life concentrates on the universities and colleges, which gain more and more in influence. Next to the traditional institutions of higher learning in the East, new universities and colleges have originated here that need not shy away from comparison with the East coast. Above all one can notice that a generous building policy is being planned for the future. The new, just completed 14-story high and state of the art university library building of Notre Dame is a visible testimony to that. In general one can say that a surprisingly high number of schools and churches are being built. Here in St. Joseph County the many houses of worship built in a modern architectural style come to one’s attention. On Sundays churches of all denominations are surprisingly well attended.

Notre Dame, February 22, 1964

The Division according to Ethnic Origin and the Melting Pot

The division according to ethnic origin is here still clearly visible. The City of South Bend has a strong Polish and Hungarian population who form their own section of town. Separated from that is the German settlement, which is more limited to small farms towards the northwest. On the other hand, the manufacturing zone is concentrated on the westside of the city. According to an unwritten law, these various ethnic groups live separate from each other and at the same time together without much tension, whereby their ethnic characteristics remain for the most part preserved. In order to define a salient feature of American civilization, it would be important to determine to what extent these various immigrant groups have maintained their ethnic character and how fast they have adapted to the mainstream of American life.

The fastest adaptation has ensued in acquiring the English language. The native tongue has to a large extent already been lost in the second generation. Education, the judicial system, and social manners are next to language and literature primarily of English origin. However, religious affiliations, the way of living in the home, how food is prepared, and customs from the country of origin have been preserved over generations.

Preservation vs. Assimilation

a) Preserving elements

Religion: The population of Irish, Polish, Hungarian, Italian, and French, as well as Spanish-Latino descent belongs overwhelmingly to the Catholic Church. Americans of Norwegian and Swedish descent are for the most part Lutherans, while Americans of Greek descent adhere to the Orthodox Church. Generally speaking, one can say that belonging to a religious faith is determined by the country of origin and remains preserved over generations.

Ways of life and preferences of taste in the home are also determined by the country of origin. This applies to ethnic food, preferences for certain colors, styles of furniture and clothing. Skills from the old countries have especially been preserved in restaurants, cabinet-making, tailoring, the butcher’s and the baker’s trade, as well as in crafts. In its sum total, this has produced an immense variety of consumer goods in America.

b) Assimilation or adaptation

By quickly acquiring the English language, the native tongue is given up in the second generation. New immigrant groups have always been eager to learn English as quickly as possible in order to advance in mainstream America. Mixing of languages is for the most part avoided. This also explains the desire to adapt to the American system of education as well as the high value that is attributed to a college education in American life. Immigrant groups have also quickly adapted to the American political system and have shown strong loyalty to the American government. The allegiance to the country of origin diminishes at the moment of emigration.

Adaptation to the American legal system and to the political structure of the country as well as emphasizing personal freedom - there are hardly any national separatist movements.

There is linguistic tolerance towards the foreigner who is learning the language and speaks English with a heavy accent.

The foreigner is not coming as a tourist into this country but is immediately accepted as a full member of society; essentially without prejudice.

Despite the commercial conformity there is enough room for individual peculiarities.

Notre Dame, February 22, 1964

Life has here a delightful unspoiled vitality and an unshakable optimism. Here, the young generation still has great opportunities open for the future.

Chinese New Year

Americans of Chinese descent celebrate the New Year on February 13. Schools, television and businesses celebrate with them. Announcements like “Celebrate Happy New Year with Americans of Chinese Descent” invite to participate.

Notre Dame, February 24, 1964

The Question of Race Relations is Coming to a Head

The question of race relations and signs of an economic regression are at the moment obvious difficulties the United States has to deal with. One can notice that the question of race relations is becoming increasingly radicalized.

The closing of the Studebaker Automobile Factory evoked, especially in this area, the specter of unemployment. It brought with it economic hardships for a large part of the population of South Bend and Mishawaka. But the reason for closing the Studebaker Plant seems more to be mismanagement than the result of the general economic regression.

Notre Dame, February 24, 1964

The Astronaut John Glenn was presented the “Patriot of the Year Award” by the Senior Class of the University of Notre Dame. In his address, John Glenn made the impression of a strong-willed, deeply religious personality. Space travel has become here a matter of course.

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