Showing posts with label Kennedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kennedy. Show all posts

Friday, November 22, 2013

A speech ungiven in a language unlearned

Here's some of the beginning and then the conclusion of the speech John F. Kennedy never lived long enough to give at the Dallas Trade Mart that horrible day in November 1963.

It was written in a language little understood and, sadly, no longer spoken in the United States:
This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason -- or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land -- voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output -- by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some $11 billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.

This Nation's total output -which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion mark -- will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $100 billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men and women at work. For the first time in history average factory earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history corporation profits after taxes -- which have risen 43 percent in less than 3 years -- have an annual level of $27.4 billion.

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions -- it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations -- it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain."

5 Decades & the Truth

A funny thing happened on the way to this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

About half past noon this afternoon, I turned on the CBS News web stream of its coverage from Nov. 22, 1963 -- that day. Uncut, real time, starting at the moment of the first bulletin that shots had been fired at the president's motorcade in Dallas.

Within an hour -- live on TV -- America was forever changed. Over the next three days, television news grew up, making up how to cover the unthinkable, live and non-stop . . . as it covered the unthinkable, live and non-stop.

It did so, by today's technical standards, primitively and without formatic bells or whistles. Television also did so powerfully and occasionally artistically -- and without a surfeit of hairspray.

OF COURSE, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a powerful blow to a country -- to a people. The death of our young president and the images of his grief-stricken widow -- as well as television's reflection of our own grief -- hardly could fail to affect. Powerfully.

Let me put it this way. When President Kennedy fell victim to Lee Harvey Oswald's deadly aim, I was four months shy of my third birthday. I have memories of that day.

The sense of overwhelming sadness and loss endure after five decades. It comes storming out of the mists of time, as raw and fresh as yesterday. And it wasn't just the loss of what was; it was the loss of what might have been.
Too, maybe it was the loss of what might not have been. We are a greatly changed people from what we were Nov. 21, 1963. In some ways, that is a good thing. In more ways, I fear, that has been a bad thing.

We are a more cynical people since that day.

Great tragedy, should you survive it, can make you stronger. The aphorism to that effect did not come from nowhere.

Great tragedy, however, is just as likely to break you, too. That is a proven fact. Fifty years ago, I think, we were broken -- at least partly. I am 52, and I have lived my life watching the wheels come off a society. Not uniformly, but enough.

I've unfortunately done my part to make that so, Lord knows.

THAT'S WHAT is washing over my mind and through my soul as I find myself unable to pull myself away from CBS-TV, circa 1963. When Walter Cronkite once again -- through the time machine of videotape -- read the flash from Dallas confirming the death of the 35th president of the United States, I reflexively crossed myself.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In retrospect, that's not a bad reaction, even half a century hence. In that spirit, this sad anniversary isn't the time for jazz, rock 'n' roll or even blues in the night. That's what happened today on the way to the Big Show -- there won't be one. It just didn't feel right.

Stay tuned for a few days for a pre-Thanksgiving edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ready for the end of the world

Summer had given way to fall in October 1962, and WAVA radio in Arlington, Va., rolled out its plan for dealing with The End of Everything.

In the Oct. 15 edition of Broadcasting magazine, the station's owner outlines how he and his staff will deal with a nuclear attack on the United States until everything got back to normal. In 1962, wild optimism and massive denial was as good a game plan as anything, particularly for WAVA owner Arthur W. Arundel.

"The announcer on duty will remain at his post," the Broadcasting article went, explaining that "all other employees are excused to follow individual or family civil defense plans and to report back to the station after the attack is over and there is no danger of radioactive fallout.

"Payday will be Friday as usual," Mr. Arundel states.

Halfway through October 1962, Arundel had no idea how close he would be in mere days to implementing WAVA's not-so-doomsday plan. On Oct. 16, the Cuban Missile Crisis began. And on Oct. 22, President Kennedy went on national television to give Americans the fright of their lives.

Don't you know? It's the end of the world. Payday's on Friday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meanwhile, on Dallas TV

WFAA television in Dallas. Nov. 22, 1963.

A day in November in 1963

It's a big day in Dallas-Fort Worth this late November day in 1963. The president, vice president and first lady are in town.

WBAP radio is providing complete coverage of the presidential visit. An exciting day in the history of any city, to be sure!

North Texans will long remember this Nov. 22, I'll bet.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The eyes of Texas . . . saw too much

In the immortal words of Bart Simpson . . . "HAAAAAAA haaaaaaaah!"

The source of my glee is this story in
The Dallas Morning News:
Erykah Badu took her clothes off, but Dallas officials have decided it is the city that feels stripped of its dignity.

After consulting with city prosecutors, the Dallas Police Department has decided that it will issue a disorderly conduct citation to the Grammy-winning artist for getting naked in Dealey Plaza last month.

Initially, police said they had no complaints about the artist's taping of a video in which she disrobed in public, and had no plans to pursue any charges. But after the video went viral Monday, the subsequent brouhaha made national headlines and became the subject of talk radio and the blogosphere.

Dallas Police Deputy Chief Mike Genovesi, who oversees the special investigations division, said Friday that he expects that citation – about as serious as a traffic ticket – will be issued next week.

In a news release, police state that Badu had disrobed in a public place without regard to other individuals and children who were in close proximity.

Genovesi said police had one witness come forward Thursday, and she told authorities that she "observed Ms. Badu remove her clothing on the public street. The witness had two small children with her and was offended."

Not that there aren't more than a hundred thousand witnesses if you factor in the people who have watched the many versions of the video posted on YouTube.

In the video, for the song "Window Seat," Badu strips down as she strolls toward the location where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. A rifle sound, edited into the video, rings out and she collapses to the pavement as bystanders watch.
SOMEHOW, I don't think the court will buy "EVOLVING" as a defense for gettin' nekkid and actin' crazy in a public place. Score one for "groupthink."

The ticket carries a $500 fine. But the satisfaction from seeing this loon get charged is priceless.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A window seat in Amsterdam Dealey Plaza

There's a lot I could say about Erykah Badu's tasteless new video for her unremarkable new single, "Window Seat."

But it would just be repeating what the flabbergasted hosts of The Early Show said on CBS television this morning. I show the CBS report instead of the video itself because -- in today's music-promotion economy -- embedding her video is exactly what Badu would have me do.

When you're protesting "groupthink" by flashing your ta-tas and your booty and your noonie in Dallas -- in Dealey Plaza, no less, in front of small children as you
make some nutso-licious attempt to "telepathically" communicate your good intent to them -- well, Cap, they ain't much you can say about that that does justice to the bat-s*** craziness of it all.

SO I WILL just say this: Badu isn't an individualist so much as she's a Looney Tunes, antisocial exhibitionist.

She's the Fernwood Flasher making a political statement at the expense of a murdered president. I hope a Kennedy kicks her ass.

Until that happens, however, somebody hand the woman a trench coat.

And make sure she keeps the damned thing buttoned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The People v. Voorhees . . . and KFAB

It looks like Scott Voorhees wanted some attention for his mid-morning talk show on Omaha's KFAB radio.

Well, he's going to get it.

Why? Because Scott Voorhees is the kind of radio talk host (right wing, naturally) who will go on the air some 36 hours after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died of brain cancer and say this:

"Had John and Bobby not come along, we don't hear from Ted Kennedy.

"If John and Bobby do not come along, Ted Kennedy is nothing more than a blotchy-face, alcoholic murderer who spends life in prison like anyone else would have had he not had that last name and those familial associations."
OF COURSE, Voorhees was referring Thursday morning to Chappaquiddick and the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969. And what Voorhees takes to the airwaves to state with certainty happens to be something no court ever determined and no prosecutor ever alleged.

In this country, there is a high bar for libel of a public figure. That standard -- "reckless disregard of the truth" -- also happens to describe Voorhees' on-air pronouncements. If Kennedy were not dead, the radio host would be in deep doo.

Have I mentioned the senator was less than two days deceased?

To wit, there are some things, things about basic human decency, that your parents usually impart by the time you're old enough to get in front of the microphone at a 50,000-watt radio station. Apparently, Voorhees missed "human being school" the day Mom and Dad lectured on "How Not to Be a Boorish, Mean-Spirited A-Hole."

Unbelievable. Yet somehow typical of the depths to which radio -- especially talk radio -- has sunk.

I'VE BEEN IN OMAHA for a while now. I'm well aware of the legacy of KFAB, and of the local legends who once took to the airwaves via "The News Beacon for the Great Midwest" -- names like
Walt Kavanagh and Lyell Bremser.

And I think I can say one thing with the same certainty -- and with a certainty that's better placed -- that Voorhees called Teddy Kennedy "a blotchy-face, alcoholic murderer." It's this: If Kavanagh (who ran the news department at KFAB) and Bremser (who ran KFAB itself) had been alive to hear Thursday's shameful misuse of the public airwaves, it likely would have killed them.

It simply would have been inconceivable to giants who built a legendary station over their long careers that someone could go on their airwaves -- the public's airwaves -- and engage in such casual cruelty and verbal bomb-throwing.

And you have to think that, somewhere deep in his subconscious, Voorhees knew what violence he was doing to the legacy of 1110 on Omaha's AM dial . . . and to civilized public discourse.

"I take no pride in making these comments after Sen. Kennedy has passed away," he said toward the end of the program. And a bit later, this:

"Again, I don't feel real good about some of the comments I've personally made this past hour, but for those of you who've E-mailed and said, 'Scott, I'm glad you said 'em,' thank you very much for your listenership and your E-mails."
YEAH, WHAT'S THE USE of behaving really badly atop a really bully pulpit if you can't incite many others to unshackle their Id as well. If I were a postmodern talk-show host, I'd call someone guilty of that a cynical, exhibitionist soul murderer.

Whatever. The final verdict in "The People v. Voorhees" will belong to history, and I fear its final pronouncement will be as straightforward as it is devastating.

Guilty of murder in the first degree.

And the victim?

Oh, I don't know. Civility . . . society . . . the intellect . . . radio . . . take your pick.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The last Kennedy boy

Teddy Kennedy is dead.

That's an odd thing for a Baby Boomer like me to type. I was born in 1961, which means I have no memory whatsoever of a time when Edward M. Kennedy, elected in 1962, was not a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate who lost two of his brothers to assassins' bullets, has died after battling a brain tumor. He was 77.

For nearly a half-century in the Senate, Kennedy was a steadfast champion of the working class and the poor, a powerful voice on health care, civil rights, and war and peace. To the American public, though, he was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, the eulogist of a clan shattered again and again by tragedy.

His family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all."
I'VE NEVER BEEN a total fan of the man, to tell the truth. When I was three decades younger, I would have agreed with the senator on social issues like abortion and disagreed vehemently with his liberal prescriptions for issues such as health care.

Three decades later, Kennedy was the same and I was changed. In recent years, I found myself in agreement with his liberal political instincts and quite opposed to his libertarian social ones.

Nevertheless, he had my respect for his political longevity, as well as for his passion for public service.

But politics -- and agreements or disagreements -- don't much matter now, do they?

WHAT MATTERS NOW is that Edward Kennedy was -- is -- a child of God. He is loved by God. He loved his family and friends. They loved him, and his passing diminishes us all.

That's what matters. God bless the senator and his family, and may God rest his soul.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reeling in the years. . . .

I've saved this old copy of the Baton Rouge State-Times -- carefully wrapped by my 8-year-old self in a garbage bag labeled "20th century" -- for 40 years now.

THE NEWS of July 22, 1969 reflects an undertaking of historic, transcendent wonder amid a world in chaos. At least people then had enough perspective to recognize wonder when they encountered it.

This probably was because the Internet -- and right-wing talk radio -- did not yet exist. If it did, the moon landing probably would have been roundly condemned as a budget-buster conceived by a member of the evil Kennedy clan, the youngest of which had just driven Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge and into a watery grave near Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

THE LOUDEST dissenting voices probably would have been the parents of these yahoos in Delaware.

Of course, it's important to remember that the stupidity we find ourselves awash in these days is not the exclusive domain of the red-meat right. The left has its nuts, cranks and flakes, too, and they likewise have access to the Internet and other forms of mass media.

Like the ABC Television Network.

Verily, Whoopi Goldberg is proof positive that one can fall out of the stupid tree, hit every branch on the way down and still manage to cobble together a successful career in "entertainment."

I HOPE Walter Cronkite -- somehow, somewhere in the Great Beyond -- has some idea of how much he will be missed.