As we head into November, we’re winding down our fiftieth anniversary year at the magazine. It’s been a busy one. In May we used the occasion to profile fifty of the people from the past half century who made this city what it is. A rap against Atlanta is that it’s a town that doesn’t properly honor or even know its past, so packed is it with people from other places. But judging from the response to that issue—letters to the editor, requests for extra copies, complaints about those we left out—Atlantans are hungry for history. It’s axiomatic that to know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. It was with that in mind that, in September, we hosted a unique event at the Atlanta History Center: a roundtable discussion with four of Atlanta’s mayors.
For two hours, the men (Shirley Franklin couldn’t make it) who led this city for so much of the past five decades talked about the chronic challenges that bedevil every administration, whether it’s traffic, education, or taxes. Andrew Young recalled tousling the hair of a young Kasim Reed decades ago. Sam Massell joked about going up in a helicopter with a bullhorn to remind drivers stuck in gridlock that there was a better way. Bill Campbell recalled the tragic moment he realized Atlanta’s public housing conditions had to change. And Reed, our incumbent mayor, spoke of the need to bridge the divide between the city and the rest of the state.
Here’s an excerpt from the evening. What we realized as soon as the event was over is that these types of discussions should occur more often, and they should go beyond just politics and policy. So as we look ahead to 2012, our plan is to host even more conversations with the people who are defining the city and region we live in today—musicians, scientists, writers, entrepreneurs, sports figures. Atlanta is a city as diverse and as vibrant as any in America, and our goal is to offer the curious among us (which, let’s face it, is every reader of Atlanta magazine) a way to better understand where Atlanta is going and who is taking us there. This series of conversations will come off best with suggestions from each of you, so if you have ideas about the topics or personalities you’d like to see, please drop me a line.
One more thought on the past: The magazine’s long legacy means our archives hold some of the most compelling writing that’s ever been done about Atlanta. In a few months, look for a special issue that captures some of the best of those stories.
We at the magazine have been honored to chronicle this city over the past fifty years, and we couldn’t be more excited about the next fifty.