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Itsna Syahadatud Dinurriyah




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American Dream is an ideal concept which has been maintained by

American society since the eighteenth century. This concept was taken from the
Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty
and pursuit of happiness. This concept stresses on the liberty of American people
that they could reach anything as they will without differentiated by any kinds of
family and economical background. As long as they are eager to work hard, they
may change their condition from the common man into the superior one. This
concept finally becomes the character traits of American society which emphasize
on perseverance, industry, frugality, sobriety, punctuality, reliability, thoroughness,
and initiative.

General Douglas MacArthur is a general who had infected by the doctrine

of American Dream unintentionally. He was born in a prominent family, his father
was a general too, that taught about the struggle of life; that God would give
anything they will if they worked hard. This teaching is the formula of
characterization of American Dream. As a son of destiny, MacArthur applied all
his parents‘ teaching so that he made some controversy while he himself could not
control it. Those experiences made this famous general rethink about the concept
he got. In his early of tragic retirement, he wrote a prayer for his son. This prayer
wishes that his son will be better than him without being like him.

At a glance, A Father’s Prayer is just an ordinary prayer normally made

by a father for his only son. But actually this prayer is sedimentation of
MacArthur‘s emotion which reflects to his thought: a critical thought of the
balance of life in the values of American Dream which is established embraced by
American society.

Key words: American Dream, prayer, a son of destiny

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The Values of American Dream As Reflected

In General Douglas MacArthur’s A Father Prayer

(A Biographical Study)

A. Introduction

General Douglas Macarthur was a famous General who got Medal of

Honor. He was a Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South West Pacific
area during World War II. His fame was not only because he could bring America
to the victory in this war but also because he was very controversial. He had a lot
of conflicts both with those above his position such as President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and President Truman or his assistants such as General Dwight
In spite of his controversy, he was a religious man; at least he thought he
was. He was an Episcopalian who never went to the church but read Bible
regularly. He thought there were only two men in the world who were saints, the
Pope and him (Manchester: 15). He analyzed and interpreted Bible based on his
perspective. He showed his religiosity through his prayer to his son. He wrote this
prayer a year after his retirement in his military career. He just had a son in his
fifties; a mature age for having a child, a mature age also in having life
experience. So this prayer is a kind of sedimentation of his experience, either as a
soldier or as an ordinary man, especially as a father.
As one who had a lot of experience in life, he wanted to share it with his
son. MacArthur was the one who got doctrine from his parents to be a great man
by following the character traits in American Dream. He wanted his son to be a
great man, greater than him, who had better and fuller life through some obstacles.
He did not want his son just knew about the beauty of life but he wanted his son to
experience the bitter of life to make it perfect. But he did not want to indoctrinate
his son like what his parents did to him as a son of destiny because he believed
everyone has their own destiny and they have right to fight for it.
Remembering the struggle of life to be better, it is the purpose of American
Dream that every American wants to get. The history they had in the early years
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of their moving to the New World has inspired many people to examine their life
and formed the concept of American Dream. Therefore, by using Critical
Discourse Analysis proposed by Norman Fairclough and supported by the theory
of Prayer proposed by Andrew Wommack, this writing tries to answer some
statements of problem, as following:

1. What is the significance of American Dream?

2. How does General Douglas Macarthur‘s life seen from the
perspective of American Dream?
3. In what way does the American Dream influence MacArthur‘s A
Father Prayer?

The analysis of the prayer to get the values of American Dream through
the biography of the writer and also through the prayer, this thesis criticizes the
values of American Dream.

B. Analysis and Discussion

B.1 American Dream: The History and Its meaning for American Society

American Dream formed American society based their long story and
history from the early immigrants sailing to this New World. Being wealth and
feeling free in doing their religious exercises were the first unwritten American
Dreams for those early settlements. They did not only look for the material subject
but also the spiritual one, and this dream was formed from their experience and
their reason reaching this New World.
The idea of the written American Dream, actually, was taken from Thomas
Jefferson‘s idea in the Declaration of Independence declared in July 4 th, 1776,
―We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.‖
The idea, then, formed into the term of American Dream firstly proposed
by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America which was published
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in 1931. Basically, there two elementary knowledge of American Dreams, they are
the collective and the individual. The collective dream was the enduring hope that
the nation would progress in accordance with the ―truths, ends, and purposes‖.
While the individual dream is highly personal, it is the right to dream with
realistic hope of gaining what one seeks, is the supreme heritage, transmitted from
generation to generation, of every American citizen (Pelligrini 3-4).
American Dream is not just a dream for future or for better living but
becomes character traits for Americans. All people around the world want to be
better and fuller for their future but the way they do is quite different with
Americans. Everyone in America will work hard to get achievement, later on to
get success. No matter how hard the effort they try and even finally fail, they will
keep trying to show their existence. For them that is the process in making the
dream comes true because by that they know whether their dream is still a dream
or they get the reality. This is the way they show their individualism.
The character ethic originated in eighteenth-century America, prevailed in
the nineteenth century, and continued in various forms in the twentieth century
despite stout competition from other success ethics. It was stressing in ambition,
hard work, self-reliance, and self-discipline. Desirable character traits included
perseverance, industry, frugality, sobriety, punctuality, reliability, thoroughness,
and initiative (DeVitis and Rich: 11); they are such kind of a ladder of fortune for
Americans to get success in their life. If they did all step in character traits, they
would get fortune in the future.
American Dream is a success myth which requires hard working and self-
reliance. The result of that is not only materially but also spiritually. The one who
wants to be categorized as a success person must fulfill the idea of it integratedly.
He also must give the contribution of his success not only locally but also
General Douglas MacArthur is a prominent portrait of American who
wants to reach the American Dream. No matter in what country he and his family
lived, he did his duty with high integrity. Although sometimes the way he applied
the dream was controversial, but the ‗doctrine‘ he got from his parents made him
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did a big effort to get his success, not only in material one but also in saving and
making his country still in a ‗big‘ condition. As individual dream, he was success
making his name well-known around the world, tough once he was a tragic hero
in a certain circumstance. In the end of his career, finally he reformulated the
thought about the dream. He reconsidered the dream formulation through a prayer
to his son; in this case, he tried to put humanity aspect in the dream. He believed
that do the best thing in gaining the dream does not have to sacrifice the existence
of humanity socially but by accepting his existence as a whole, strengths and
weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, even though he thinks in a perfect way.

B.2 General Douglas MacArthur: His life, Achievement and Dream

William Manchester said that he was a great thundering paradox of a man

(15). Michael Pearlman stated that he was just like Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde syndrome
(2). The Australian commander, Thomas Blamey, evaluated that ―the best and the
worst things you hear about MacArthur are both true‖ (Frank: 176); and his
colleagues called him as Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar and
Napoleon (Long: 2-3). But talking this General from humanity aspect, it is like
treating a coin, having two different sides but both of them are as important as the
other. The positive and the negative traits in him are something common which
formed him as human being. He was complete as human because talking about
human is not like talking white and black; the history before him and the
experience he got had shaped him into a man.
Douglas MacArthur was born prematurely on January 26, 1880 in Little
Rock, Arkansas. He was the last son of General Arthur Macarthur, Jr and Mary
Pinkney Hardy (―Pinky‖). His first brother, Arthur MacArthur III, worked in the
Navy but not too long because of his suffering from appendices. His second
brother, Malcolm MacArthur, died of measles at the age of five (Manchester: 39).
This condition brought him into ‗a son of destiny‘ based on his parents
perspective. He was the one who could continue the success of the family and
could reach what his ‗ancestors‘ had not gained before.
As a son of destiny, his parents often indoctrinated him into something big.
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One of his mother habits in his bed time was saying,‖ You must grow up to be a
great man like your father or like Robert E. Lee‖ (Manchester: 56). His parents
taught him to admire the greatness of someone despite of his controversy or
conflict with others. Whatever someone‘s controversy if he did something good he
had to respect him. In his maturity, this condition also happened to Douglas that
he became a great General with full of controversy, but he did his duty in full
All his parents‘ teaching, doctrines and hope were so touchy in
MacArthur‘s heart and mind. He kept it as his dream. His knowledge about some
heroes and their biographies also influenced him much. He really believed that he
was a man of destiny that had to make his parents‘ dreams came true. He was not
the only son of Arthur MacArthur, Jr and Pinky Hardy but he had to be the only
one because of condition; and he accepted the condition sincerely and proudly. As
parents, maybe, Arthur and Pinky were successful shaping their son‘s mind and
soul, but they never thought that Douglas MacArthur had tried to make every
single dream that his parents told to him. They never calculated the side effect, in
this case the negative one, of it. He became someone who loved performing,
enjoyed applause and hunger for honor. He became the one who was very egoistic
and sensitive to the critic. What Douglas Macarthur believed in most was Douglas
Macarthur. He thought that what he got from his parents was enough for his life
and he really tried hard to make it. He was a good son for his father‘s dream and
his mother‘s teaching. He was a seeker of glory because that was what his parents
told to him. His father taught him how to get it and his mother supported him to
do that by religious touch.
The unpredictable sites happened to MacArthur became the controversy
that made him famous. Being shaped to be best, he refused any kinds of
weaknesses. He could not accept failure, he adored victory. Mostly he was success
in making his dream therefore he was adored by his friends and respected by his
opponents. In spite of his strange, his collogues still respected him as a great
leader. This experience was like a long contemplation for him then in his
retirement he formulated it to his son in his prayer.
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B.3 American Dream in the Perspective of A Father Prayer

It is not a sudden emotion then he wrote that hope in a form of prayer.

Based on his biography, it is a long term of contemplation to create a prayer in
spite of his religious life. Even though he was a devoted Episcopalian, MacArthur
was a religious man in unconventional way. He read Bible everyday though did
not like to go to the Church. Yet, he believed in the mercy of God; going to church
did not guarantee to get God‘s love. He analyzed Bible in the way he believed and
thought he was one of the two greatest religious men besides Pope.
From the language he used in the prayer such antonym and synonym or
positive and negative diction, it shows that he did praying regularly, not ritually.
He did communication with God intensively and privately. The beauty of
language used in the prayer showed that he did praying not as the obligation of a
creature to the Creator but the need from human to his God. Making such kind of
a prayer is not only a matter of communication with God but also evaluation to
what someone got before. By this personal prayer, MacArthur wanted to give up
the centrality of the self since the effect of prayer is changing someone‘s passion
so that he or she learns to live and love differently. In his prayer, MacArthur
showed his love to his son in a different way. He realized that he had hopes to
him, but the evaluation of his life journey through his experience as ‗a man of
destiny‘ made him to contemplate into ‗eternal‘ goal for his son in the future; and
it could be for other people, too. To understand why a person like Douglas
MacArthur wrote such kind of prayer needs long comprehension related to his
biography either as ‗ a son of destiny‘, ‗a man of destiny‘ or a tragic hero who was
fired in the end of his military career .
Prayer is a communication with God. It is a two-way dialogue, not
monologue. It is fellowship, relationship, and intimacy with Him. When he prays,
someone should thank, love, praise, appreciate and hang out with the God —
nothing special or dramatic; but MacArthur uses those effects, so special and
dramatic. The words he chooses in forming the prayer attracts the one who read it
by using synonym and antonym as well as the positive and negative meaning.
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The prayer consists of six stanzas; five stanzas convey his ‗request‘ to God
to shape his son‘s future through his personality, not physical one, and the last
stanza emphasizes his asking through the hope as a father. Unlike the usual
prayers which give clear meaning in the diction, MacArthur uses implicit meaning
in expressing his idea. He does not choice the sentence in which people could
guess easily the essence of his communication with God rather than people should
think a lot to understand it.
MacArthur was an Episcopalian. Episcopacy, as part of Christianity, is a
belief of lawful in its use and primitive in its origin. It claims the highest antiquity
and the sacred wisdom learned from continuous experience. Then, it is no wonder
that MacArthur learned much from his experience, either as a son, as a student
and as an army officer. He believed that he got the true wisdom from his long
journey of life. His contemplation, in the form of prayer, does not mean without
considering about the moral, social, and state rule; his concern covers whole
things of humanity in which he got from his experience.
Indeed, explicitly, MacArthur stated that this prayer was for his son, but
the message inside could be for anybody who learns or tries to reach a better life,
worldly and spiritually (from someone who made mistakes before). In his
biography, MacArthur only thought about the real greatness through the eyes of
viewers. He never compromised with weaknesses including fear and fail. But in
his prayer, he did something different. He emphasized more to the personality and
morality, something in which people cannot see but can feel.
Based on the stanza conveyed, there are five ideas of message in the
prayer in general according to MacArthur‘s experience as a soldier and a man of
destiny, they are heroism, dream, achievement, intellectuality and wisdom and
MacArthur was a general who had been taught to read a lot of books.
Remembering that he inherited about four thousands books from his father, it can
be understood that he can mastery of vocabularies, Victorian prose and love neo-
Augustan rhetoric (Manchester: 36). By the condition supported him, it is no
wonder that he analyzed anything including questioning something believed as
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unchangeable idea or condition. His religion, his habit in reading books, and his
experience of life had shaped him into someone who always learned through what
he had experienced before. It triggered him to create a beautiful piece of writing.
He never intended to publish the prayer because it was very personal, that is why
there was no fixed title for it. Yet, his writing is really touchy in the idea and the
diction he chose. This reason probably makes this prayer loved by many people
then MacArthur Memorial exhibits it.
General Douglas MacArthur is an American as well as a part of American
history that made this country bigger. In spite of his hunger on honor and renown,
in fact he has made the dream come true. He did it because of the doctrine he got
from his parents (Manchester: 37). His parents never said that they indoctrinated
him with the idea of American Dream since the doctrines became the American
character traits. All the teaching they gave to MacArthur was just the way to be a
good American, especially a good army. MacArthur wanted to be a good
American, and he is one of those criteria according to John Judge (6).
For that, he applied all character ethics and traits in the way of American
Dream. He did not know about the values of the dream. He just wanted to be the
best like his parents hoped (Manchester: 58). He was the one with big ambition to
be the best. People knew that he was a son of General Arthur MacArthur Jr., he
did not deny it. But the achievement he got not because his parents. He worked
hard for that (Long 7-8). He had proved to his father that he was better than him.
His name is even more famous than his father‘s. He had made his parents proud of
After a long journey having career in military, finally MacArthur found the
‗mistake‘ of the doctrine unintentionally. It is not completely mistake, but he
realized that the doctrine must be revised. Then, he did the revision through the
prayer he dedicated for his son.
Douglas Macarthur never stated that the values of American Dream
embedded in the prayer, but the point in the stanzas of his prayer show it. Indeed,
American Dream is something big. Some people say that it is unfinished dream
(Bloom: 203). Physically it is unfinished dream because no one stops having
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dream. After they finish with one dream, soon they will have the other one. But
actually, the unfinished one is also in the concept. Influence by the spirit of the
early of immigrant of may be the spirit of frontier, American Dream always
associated with something good. The idea is so good, to be success and make big
achievement. The ethics are also good, being ambitious, hard working, self-
reliance and self-discipline. The traits are unquestionable good; to be success
someone must do the step of perseverance, industry, frugality, sobriety,
punctuality, reliability, thoroughness, and initiative. No one finds the bad point of
American Dream. That is why there is no failure in American Dream according to
James Truslow Adam, because American Dream will change the common man
into the superior one (Adam: 6).
The concept of American Dream refuses all things which have negative
meanings. The dream promises the better one, so everything must be started from
the positive one. To be bigger they must be strong, to be better they must be
serious, and to be winner they must be ambitious. The dream rejects weakness,
humility, tears, fear and humor because they will loosen the ideal.
Related to the theory of Critical discourse analysis, American Dream is a
kind of dominant ‗ideological-discursive formation‘ (IDF) in American society
(Fairclough: 27). It gives the idea for many Americans to get success through the
traits it offers in its concept. The idea of it becomes the ‗speech community‘ to
strengthen the ‗ideological norms‘ in society. The concept of American Dream
naturalizes the ideological norms in American social life through the form of
characters traits. It is rooted from the experience of their ancestors.
What MacArthur stated in the prayer is quite different. After doing all
‗good‘ things in his life, in his contemplation he realizes that it is not the way
human should do. Being weak, humble, sad, afraid and fun does not mean the one
does not have any dream. MacArthur tries to humanize the values through the
normal human characters.
The prayer offers a balance of life. There are strong and weak, humble and
proud, sad and happy, afraid and brave, and other balances. God creates them as
parts of human life. Those will cover one another. None can live only in one side
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of characters all the time. Life will be more perfect if it has experience in any kind
of balance. The one who is strong and brave will be not complete if he never feels
weak and afraid. It seems he is not a human. He will be the one who do not care
other people and think he is the most important one. Each positive and negative
side will make the life more beautiful and meaningful.
The text of the prayer tries to ‗denaturalize‘ the capacity of the IDF of the
former American Dream concept. It uses critical goals by involving how social
structure determines properties of discourse and how discourse in turn determines
social structure.
The prayer contains some values of American Dream in the way how the
social structure determine it. But as critical goal, the prayer also tries to give other
determination to the social structure. Though this prayer is a personal one which is
made based on the long personal experience, but the values in it can be used in
determining the ‗new‘ concept of American Dream.
The established American Dream teaches American society to be proud of
themselves and being the winner in any kinds of ‗competitions‘. The one does not
have to be humble to show his success, but the prayer teaches different matter.
The humility shows someone‘s quality. The more qualified the one the more
humble he is.
This prayer is just a personal prayer of Macarthur which he dedicated for
his son based on his long contemplation. He revised what he had got in his past.
MacArthur did not intend to offer the new idea of American Dream. But the
messages in the prayer have criticized the way society determine the values of
American Dream.
Unlike the former concept of American Dream, the point of this prayer is
to give balance in human life. Anyone may have dream; they may make big
achievement and get success by working hard ambitiously, but they must realize
life covers all side of humanity. It needs up and down, left and right, true and
mistake, etc. To perfect humanity someone must pass those ‗paths‘. Through this
prayer also, Macarthur reminds his son that the value of war is not about how to
win the battle but how to fight with full integrity because the real war is not in the
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battle field but how to ‗win‘ self ego.

In spite of Episcopalian background, the influence of Victorian and Neo-
Augustan books and the experience he had, the spirit of this idea could be
supported by the era in which this prayer made. This prayer was made by
Macarthur in 1952, the era after the World War II which is known as post-modern
era. In this era, the spirit is always questioning all established ones. Joyce and
Kelly state in their article that post-modernism is indistinguishable from the form
of documentary presentation, the conceptual and political appropriation and the
historical discourses that constructed it (208), but it also must responds to the
anti-reductionist logic to think about new version of social of old valuations (209).
Then, based on the spirit supports it, there are two things which are questioned by
this analysis, the form of the prayer and the values of it.
Even the form of text is a kind of poem but it is a prayer; a personal prayer
for a personal son but the message inside is questioning all aspects including the
meaning of prayer itself. Is a prayer just a personal communication with God?
Then why does MacArthur Memoriam write and publish it to public? Can a prayer
criticize something? Can a prayer analyze an established formula? In the book of
Phenomenology of Prayer Benson and Wirzba had mentioned that the aim of
prayer is to evaluate in terms of its divine and eternal goal (2). What MacArthur
evaluated is not merely the divine and eternal goal vertically but also the goal
evaluation horizontally.
The value of the prayer cannot be separated with its prudence. It seems
that the prayer is written by someone who dissatisfied with the routines of the
present (Harriman: 26). Prudence, which taken from Aristotelian conception, is a
kind of theory that tends to address and rephrase, question regarding the
relationship between practical and theoretical knowledge, between cultural norms
and more general claims to reason and between aesthetic criteria and political
interest . One of the virtues of prudence is a mean for theorizing the experience
and intelligence of real people (26). This prayer is a personal prayer which is
made based on the experience, asks sincerely to God for a better life of the better
generation, and then finally ‗theorizes‘ something worth for all people because of
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the content which is full of enlightenment.

The spirit of the age in postmodern era is trying to question all established
ones to be more critical so then people do not follow the step just because it is the
way the ancestors did. They must have reason why they choose the path. They
may have different idea about anything, but the important thing they must know
the background support them. Post modern era tries to answer the people‘s anxiety
of anything. They must be sure with the way they choose not because that is the
way most people take. Like in the spirit of the prayer, it is questioning whether the
formula of American Dream is human enough to humanize the human.

C. Conclusion

American Dream is an established ideal concept for American people since

eighteenth century. The spirit of this dream was triggered by the history of the first
settlement arrived to this continent for looking the better life economically and
spiritually. To be a big America like right now, the Americans still hold and
believe this concept tightly. Even though this concept was started by unwritten
formula but finally American Dream becomes the character traits for American
people. It becomes unseparatable component with American society that is
ambitious, hard-working, self-reliance and self discipline.
The value of American Dream is a belief of American success that people
will get success if they work hard. The success they achieve is linier as the effort
they do. There is no failure in American Dream because it requires people to try
and try continuously through the character traits idealize in it.
General Douglas MacArthur was a portrait of American who could
personalize the way American Dream work. Even though he was born before the
term American Dream was proposed by James Truslow Adams, but the way his
parents raised him was the way American Dream should be applied. He had been
introduced into something great for his future but had to pass the obstacles before
gaining it.
Being a successful person considers an obsession for him and both his
parents a matter he wanted to prove to his parents, but being fired was not the
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thing he had predicted. He thought he did something good for his country whereas
Truman, the president, thought it was not. The recall was a real turning point for
this General. By bringing embarrassment he went home to America. Still in his
big name, he was supported by his admirers living in this country. But this ‗big
event‘ had given him a huge lesson to evaluate his life and how he applied every
single ‗doctrine‘ in his head. Finally he realized that the values which were
established in his society needed to be reevaluated. He understood that it was not
easy to change people‘s thought in a short time, so he tried to transfer his idea to
his son in a form of a prayer.
A Father Prayer is a piece of writing produced by MacArthur in order to
eliminate the ‗mistake‘ of his next generation in the future. He hopes his son
learns from his father‘s mistake in the past. Influenced by his religious and
intellectual background, he wrote the prayer. He was born in modern era in which
people appreciate to logical thinking, and then he also lived in post modern era in
which people are anxious with their life. They are questioning to the common or
established thing in their life. They are not satisfied with one absolute answer so
that they try to find it in different ways.
The prayer is a spontaneous work he made based on what he experienced.
Then fortunately this prayer answers what people miss in the values or concept of
American Dream. This prayer offers the balance of life. It shows how to humanize
human in proportional way; that human has two sides in his life, good and bad.
Besides the balance of life, MacArthur also proposes the idea of war
values in human life through his prayer. The meaning of winning the war is not
just defeating our enemy in physical war in the middle of a battle field; the hardest
war to face by human is his self ego. A man has to learn how to fight his self ego
from the ambition of being ‗unproportional‘ superior. It is the unseen ‗enemy‘ that
is the most difficult to be defeated.
Related to the concept of American Dream, it means that people do not
only work hard to find something concrete or tangible but they also must fulfill
the quality of their life, such as integrity, sincerity and humanity.
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