Book Jeff

America the Beautiful

I picked up Disney’s Land by Richard Snow again this summer, and on my second reading, a story really stood out for me. When writing about the twenty-thousand-plus American amusement parks that preceded Disneyland’s opening in 1955, Snow shares an editorial from the May 1929 edition of Play—a newsletter published by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, a leading manufacturer of carousels and roller coasters. Here is what it said:

“A Beauty-full Editorial”

Yes, I know; you’re all fed up on this idea of Beauty in your park. You’ve had it poked at you in the columns of this terrible publication; in the editorial and news departments of the trade press; at the annual conventions, and in person by this, that or t’other park man…. But where there is so much smoke there must be some fire…. Yes folks want something of the circus attractiveness, too. Give them amusement. That’s where the money comes in. It’s a complex, strenuous, nerve-trying age in which we live, and if people can’t relax they can’t keep going. It is taken for granted that your park will contain amusements. The thing that isn’t taken for granted, somehow—and that’s why you can cash in on it in the long run—is Beauty.

Green grass, well kept, is Beauty. Flowers are Beauty. Clean toilets and inviting benches and shaded walks are Beauty. Fresh paint is Beauty. Honest concessions are Beauty. And so is the element of safety in rides, and plenty of drinking water, and courteous attendants, and dining facilities, and many other things.


It’s tempting to think Walt Disney invented the idea of the clean amusement park. But that’s simply not true. The idea was advocated for decades before Disneyland opened in 1955. In fact, the designer of New York City’s Central Park and Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, Frederick Law Olmsted, once said, “Beauty has always paid more. And it always will.”

I miss America the Beautiful. Not the song or even the Disney attraction. I miss the country and culture that once put a premium on keeping things nice, clean, orderly, and tidy. Today, it feels like we’ve lost some sense of pride in our surroundings. We live in an age where convenience trumps aesthetics. Our speed of life outpaces the time taken to appreciate and maintain our environment. But Walt’s Wisdom, the wisdom from Play’s 1929 editorial, and Olmsted’s words all still ring true. Beauty does pay. It pays in well-being, in community pride, and in the simple joy of experiencing a well-kept space.

Too many of our public (and private) spaces are filled with filth. I see it in shopping centers, fast food restaurants, endless street corners, and neighbors’ unkempt lawns. And I also see opportunity.

BEAUTY PAYS. If you want to get ahead, start by taking pride in your immediate surroundings. Plant a garden, take out the trash, ensure your own room is clean and inviting. If you manage, run, or own a business—invest in art, green spaces, and well-maintained infrastructure. Separate yourself from your competition by creating aesthetically pleasing and welcoming environments for your customers and employees.

Beauty isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Spend the next week thinking about “America the Beautiful.” When you find yourself in an amusement park, public park, or just walking down your street, take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you. And if you don’t see it, think about what small steps you can take to create it.

At the end of last week’s article, I invited readers to share what “being an American” meant to them. Wow, did I receive a ton of great responses! Here are a few engaging examples:

“An American is a person who sees democracy as a core part of their identity who like Disney sees the promise of a better tomorrow for themselves, those surrounding themselves, and the future of their country.”

“Interesting question… When I think of America, I think of wonder, hope, dreams!”

“Hi Jeff, you are very brave and I applaud you for opening a can of worms by asking readers what being an American means.”

“Being an American—oh my goodness, Jeff, I could write a book. I love my country and the reasons are too numerous to count.”

“We’re blessed to live in a country where we can strive to be just about anything we want to be—not that accomplishing what we want is going to be easy or even that it’s always going to be achievable, but at least we don’t have a society or a government that tells us we can’t be or do something because of our background or where we or our ancestors came from.”

A few readers were intrigued with my hometown of Niceville, FL. One asked if that is why I’m so “nice.” Others shared that they have friends who live or have lived there. Small World!

Lastly, one reader pointed out that last Wednesday was Juneteenth, so my article would have been a great opportunity to talk about the celebration and the importance of freedom for all people. She’s correct and I apologize for the oversight!

Admittedly, America hasn’t always been beautiful for everyone, as Juneteenth reminds us, but we all have the ability to help make America beautiful again. What can you do to help beautify your country?

America is still beautiful. But it’s up to us to bring it to life. Send me an email and share what space you will be working to beautify between now and Independence Day!

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