Sam Cook sang “Don’t know much about history.” Churchill called all history biography. In his 1989 Farewell Address as President, Ronald Reagan warned that America couldn’t grasp what it is unless we knew what we’d been.
Several years ago, writing ESPN’s SportsCentury, I interviewed college football’s nonpareil Voice, then weighing retirement. I asked if he had tired of Touchdown Jesus and Happy Valley and Army’s long, gray line.
Each U.S. President, said diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, is recalled by a single sentence. Lincoln saved the union. FDR beat Hitler and Depression. Nixon went to China, and resigned. Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.
Vive la differencecry Parisians, who ironically often shrink from judging good v. bad. (One reason they are French.) By contrast, Americans, as writer Mark Reiter says, like making “clearer and cleaner decisions about what is good, better, best in the world.”
“Are you sitting comfortably?” British broadcaster Julia Long would ask her audience. “Then I’ll begin.” The 2008 Presidential Election has already begun. How and with whom will its carousel of candidates end?
Some Rotarian! Gerald R. Ford, dead last week at 93, crooned the fanfare of the (Un)Common Man. The sole U.S. chief executive not elected to the presidency or vice-presidency tied autobiography (A Time to Heal ) and biography (Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”) Frank Merriwell, or Chip Hilton? Both lived in Ford.
The Bible says, “By thy fruits shall ye know them.” We know politicians by heroes. John F.Kennedy’s was Winston Churchill; George McGovern’s, Adlai Stevenson; Richard Nixon, Woodrow Wilson. Heroes reflect who we are and/or admire.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy held a post-Bay of Pigs news conference musing that “victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.” He was to blame, said JFK. Who is culpable for this month’s Republican collapse?
Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Recently, two parties came to a fork on civil rights. One road unites America. The other divides by race. Juan Williams prefers the former. Many school districts clearly like the latter.
In television’s “Jesus of Nazareth,” Judas betrays the Man from Galilee. A Roman soldier asks, “What kind of person are you, if I may ask?” His query is universal — since what we are dwarfs what we have.
CBS TV’s Mike Wallace, 87, has interviewed hundreds of people: Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK and LBJ, beloved Ike. Recently he named the one person he hoped, but failed, to interview: the First Lady whose Secret Service code was “Starlight.”