was simpler then. It was a time for heroes, a time
of optimism, a time when vital truths were uttered.
Pay heed, Mr. President.
you remember 1957? Do
you remember that stand down period, that time of
rampant possibilities, of optimism, in America,
just before the wane? We were boys, then, you and I.
Did you read comic books?
Watch TV? Do
you remember Rin
Tin Tin? Did
you go to the movies?
world was beginning to lose its footing again, but
most people didn’t seem to notice.
It hadn’t taken long.
We’d won in Europe
was not much more than a worrisome draw.
The Cold War was actually pretty hot —
worldwide, there were exactly fifty above-ground
nuclear test detonations that year.
Wouldn’t you think that a nuclear bomb
going off somewhere once a week would make more of
an impression than it did? On
The Road was published that year.
Cat In The Hat. Maybe
we were just distracted.
were still just
was Marian McKnight, a beauty from South Carolina. A little
town in South Carolina. Manning.
She impersonated Marilyn Monroe in the talent
could get four gallons of gas and change back for a
It To Beaver debuted on CBS.
James Agee published A Death In The Family. Humphrey
Bogart died. And
Joseph McCarthy, the senator.
Byrd, the admiral. And
Capt. Harry Cramer, Jr. You could have written the
names of American war dead on the back of a business
card that year, Mr. President.
Captain Cramer’s would be the first on the Vietnam
memorial wall in Washington.
was playing in the movie houses.
The violence of Leonard Bernstein’s West
sent shivers up the spines of rapt, sold out
audiences on Broadway. You could buy a new BMW for less than fifteen
hundred dollars. Federal
troops helped Elizabeth Eckford, a winsome black
lass with a lion’s courage, enroll in Little
led by the great Leonard Rosenbluth, beat Wilt
54-53 in three overtimes for the national collegiate
basketball championship. The Heels finished the season 32-0 under
Frank McGuire. Nobody
had ever heard of Dean Smith in 1957. And the Russians put up Sputnik that
they put up two satellites in 1957, Sputnik I, on
October 4 and, a month later, on November 3, Sputnik
II. Sputnik II
had a little dog, Laika, a stray mix-breed caught on
the streets of Moscow,
strapped inside. Of
course, Laika died in space.
Khruschev was rushing the second shot to mark
the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Still, they went a day or two early — I
think because of the weather — and
barely got her up.
They had made no provision to bring her down.
She lived a few hours and burned up with the
satellite on re-entry 2,370 Earth revolutions later,
in early 1958. The
tragedy of the little dog aside, the Sputnik program
— what some of the wags of the day dubbed “Muttnik’
— stunned the world in 1957.
To say it jolted the U.
would be an understatement.
Starting from dead scratch, scarcely a decade
passed before we landed Neil Armstrong on the moon.
back to 1957, Mr. President.
Were there considerations then that are
still applicable, that have merit, to the world we
live in today? You’re
our leader, Mr. President. Might they be helpful to
you in these eventful times?
this sentiment, expressed by one of the leading
statesmen of that era:
America alone and isolated cannot assure even its
own security. We
must be joined by the capability and resolution of
nations that have proved themselves dependable
defenders of freedom.
Isolation from them invites war.
Our security is also enhanced by the
immeasurable interest that joins us with all peoples
who believe that peace with justice must be
preserved, that wars of aggression are crimes
advice today? You
said it? President
Dwight Eisenhower in his 1957 State of the Union
was a good Republican, Mr. President.
Maybe you’ve heard of him?
-- July 26, 2004