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To write a comprehensive, balanced account of American history, [the text] focused on the public arena - the place where politics intersects social and cultural developments - to show how Americans confronted the major issues of their day and created far-reaching historical change ... [The] title [of this book] reflects [the authors'] emphasis on human agency and [their] conviction that American history is an unfinished story. For millions, the nation held out the promise of a better life, unfettered worship, representative government, democratic politics, and other freedoms seldom found elsewhere around the world. But none of these promises has come with guarantees. And promises fulfilled for some have meant promises denied to others. As we see it, much of American history is a continuing struggle over the definition and realization of the nation's promise. [The book] will help students become aware of the legacy of hope bequeathed to them by previous generations of Americans stretching back nearly four centuries, a legacy that is theirs to preserve and build on.-Pref.