When people think of "American culture and values," they are unconsciously referring to a set of principles, a world view, and a lifestyle which can best be found in Boston, capital of the state of Massachusetts and the major city in all of New England, those six relatively small states tucked away in the northeastern corner of the United States. Although Boston is perhaps the seventh or eighth largest city in the U.S., no other city in America can compare with the influence which Boston has had on the development of government, education, medicine, and the arts.
This influence is due in no small part to Boston's central role in the building of a new nation. Many people think that the United States was established in 1776; however, that was the year of the Declaration of Independence, a revolutionary document claiming self-rule from its mother country, England. Actual independence —— the formation of a government with an acting president (George Washington) —— did not begin until 1789. Boston was nearly middle-aged then, as it had had its beginnings a century and a half earlier, in 1630. It maintained its position as the colonies' pre-eminent center for politics, education, and commerce until the mid-18th century, when both New York and Philadelphia (the young nation's first and second capitals, respectively) overtook Boston in size.
Boston was settled by religious immigrants from the Church of England. It was with these early settlers that the first outlines of an American culture began: a strict adherence to religious dicta, diligence in work, educational aspirations, and a conservative lifestyle. Because Boston is closer to Europe than any other city in the U.S., it was the point of entry to the colonies until the 19th century, when New York became the new magnet for the "poor, tired, and huddled masses" who were to become the backbone of the new American economy. Boston remained, however, an important commercial center until the 20th century.
Today Boston caters to finance and banking, education, and medicine, with some of the top international mutual fund and insurance companies, world-renowned educational institutes, and state-of-the-art medical centers and schools. The city has also managed to preserve much of its earlier identity as the home of the American Revolution; thus, tourism is an important sector in the economy of Boston as well. Like San Francisco or New Orleans, Boston has a reputation for being a pleasant city to admire while walking around it.
What can one do in Boston? Important historic sites, well-preserved examples of architecture from the 17th-20th centuries, and spacious parks invite the tourist or resident to "smell the roses" while in Boston. Its unhurried but sophisticated citizens boast not only high incomes but also high levels of education. Music flourishes here: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Boston Pops Orchestra offer first-class musical entertainment in both public and private venues. The Museum of Fine Arts is a major world gallery. Science Park, situated midway between Boston and its major satellite city, Cambridge, offers the Museum of Science. Had enough of "high-brow culture"? Boston affords its citizens and visitors many first-class restaurants and shopping dockside in Faneuil Hall. Historic walking tours are a must for the tourist, especially Boston Commons, a city park, and Beacon Hill, with its roads still paved with the original stones from the 17th century. Admirers of university campuses steeped in tradition should see Harvard, the nation's oldest university (1636), as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emerson College, Boston College, and Boston University, all in the metropolitan area.
In short, no matter one's interest, any visitor is sure to enjoy his stay in Boston, hearth of American culture and still a leader in education, medicine, and music.