History in art: August 4, 1964, and the Dallas Symphony

August 4, 2014

On August 4, 1964, President Johnson awoke to the news that two U.S. Navy ships cruising in the Tonkin Gulf had been fired upon by North Vietnamese Navy gunboats; then the FBI called and announced that the bodies of three civil rights workers had been found, young men registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi.  Both of these events rumble through history like a Rocky Mountain avalanche to today; either was a make-or-break event for any presidency.  

Lyndon Johnson dealt with them both, the same day

“August 4, 1964,” is an oratorio covering a remarkable and fantastic coincidence in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.  On that day, the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been missing for nearly seven weeks, were found in shallow graves near Philadelphia, Mississippi — they were the victims of violence aimed at stopping blacks from voting.  The incident was a chief spur to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And also on that day, the U.S.S. Maddox reported it had been attacked by gunboats of the North Vietnamese Navy, in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to expand and escalate the war in Vietnam, which he did.

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony's performance of Steven Stucky's

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony’s Grammy-nominated performance of Steven Stucky’s “August 4, 1964,” Jaap van Zweden conducting.

The Dallas Symphony commissioned the work, from composer Steven Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer, in commemoration of President Johnson’s 100th birth anniversary — he would have been 100 on August 27, 2008.  The works were premiered in Dallas in 2008.

The music is outstanding, especially for a modern piece.  The Dallas Symphony was at its flashiest and most sober best, under the baton of new conductor Jaap van Zweden.  It was a spectacular performance.  According to the New York Times:

Mr. van Zweden, hailed in his debut as music director a week before, scored another triumph here. And the orchestra’s assured and gritty performance was rivaled by that of the large Dallas Symphony Chorus, both corporately and individually, in shifting solo snippets charting the course of the fateful day.

The strong cast, mildly amplified, was robustly led by the Johnson of Robert Orth, last heard as another president in John Adams’s “Nixon in China” in Denver in June. Laquita Mitchell and Kelley O’Conner, wearing period hats, were touching as Mrs. Chaney and Mrs. Goodman. Understandably, the taxing role of a high-strung McNamara took a small toll on the tenor of Vale Rideout in his late aria.

The entire thing deserves more commentary, perhaps soon.  There is stellar history in the choral piece.  And there is this:  Consider that Lyndon Johnson, the best legislator and second most-effective executive we ever had as president, got hit with these two crises the same day.  On the one hand the nation got the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, executive orders and government support to end segregation and the evils it created.  On the other hand, we got stuck with the disaster of the Vietnam War.

How would the nation fared had a lesser person been in the White House on that day?

(August 4 is a busy, busy day in history; much to think about.)

More: 

This is an encore post.

Much of this is an encore post.


Chester Nez, last surviving Navajo Code Talker from World War II, has died

June 4, 2014

Chester Nez saved America, but couldn’t tell anyone about it for decades.  His work was ignored.

He lived to see some recognition for the work he and his fellow Code Talkers did.

There are many morals to his tale, particularly appropriate now as we wind down two wars.

 

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez in the yellow shirt, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Mr. Nez died this morning, Wednesday, June 4, at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was 93.

Others are saying:

More:


Maine Boy Scout gets hero’s award; saved two from drowning in hotel pool

February 22, 2013

A feel good story, reprinted from the website of the Bangor (Maine) Daily News:

Portland Boy Scout earns rare award after saving two from drowning

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
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Posted Feb. 18, 2013, at 4:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2013, at 8:48 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Parker Montano, 15, was in a hotel pool surrounded by about 20 other swimming and splashing youths when one, weighing almost 200 pounds, grabbed onto him and pulled him under in a panic.

Lifesaving Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine

Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine; photo by Peter Montano

Now, seven months later, the Portland Boy Scout will receive one of the organization’s most rarely given honors after saving that boy and another girl moments later at the same pool.

Montano, a Cheverus High School sophomore from South Portland, will receive the Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award during a ceremony in Portland on Feb. 28. Montano belongs to Troop 1 in Portland.

“This is a big deal,” Troop 1 scoutmaster John Hume told the BDN Monday. “The kids are always taught first aid and rescue techniques. Most of us take CPR, and most of us never use it. Parker was able to put his training to use when people needed it most. You need to make a conscious choice to act [in a situation like the one Montano faced], when realizing full well that everybody’s going to be watching you. … Parker took action, and that takes a level of courage that’s not common.”

Montano was on vacation with his family last July when the incidents occurred. He was swimming in the deep end of a hotel pool in New Jersey when the larger boy grabbed onto him, according to a news release issued Monday by the local Boy Scouts unit.

“The pool did not have a lifeguard,” the release reads. “Both boys went underwater momentarily, and on resurfacing, the boy told Parker he couldn’t swim. Parker used rescue techniques learned in Boy Scouts to take control over the larger boy and get him to safety.”

Montano was still catching his breath at the side of the pool when he was called into action again. A woman at the scene began screaming that her daughter had gone underwater without resurfacing.

“Parker scanned the pool and located the approximately 12-year-old girl,” the Troop 1 account of the incident reads. “He swam to the girl and dove to rescue her. He pulled her to the surface and swam her to the side of the pool, to waiting adults. The girl began coughing and was able to start breathing again.”

Montano said in a statement his reaction to the two pleas for help was “like an impulse.”

“It seemed like what was right at the moment,” he said. “My mind processed it later. The fear dawned on you over what happened, and then there was a sense of relief that you were there and could help.”

The Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award was given to 155 of the organization’s roughly 2.7 million members in 2012. That means fewer than one out of every 17,000 scouts earned the award last year. Hume said when the Feb. 28 ceremony takes place, it will be the first time he’s seen one awarded in his 40 years involved with scouting.

“[Parker] believes there is good in the world and sometimes it needs a helping hand,” Peter Montano, Parker’s father, said in the release. “I have never been so proud of my son.”

Parker Montano is pursuing Eagle Scout status, one of the highest levels attainable in the organization. He also is an accomplished runner who is scheduled to represent Maine as part of the East Central Conference cross country team in an international meet in Australia this summer, the Troop 1 release stated.

Morals to the story:  Post a lifeguard when you swim (do not swim alone); if you have a choice, swim with Boy Scouts around who can pull you out if you get into trouble.

BSA awarded 66 honor medals and 155 other heroism medals in 2012; I know of no list of the awardees.  Does anyone keep such history?

More:


When the decision NOT to use a gun changed the world

December 24, 2012

Sometimes it doesn’t take a gun at all.

Nelson Mandela in 1962

Nelson Mandela outside of Westminster Abbey in 1962 — this trip, without permission from the South Africa government, led to his indictment and arrest.

Impressive story about the mystery of Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, at The Wall Street Journal — a story by Peter Wonacott, on December 22, 2012, page C3.  After all these years, how the South African government was tipped off that Mr. Mandela would be where he was, posing as who he posed as, remains a mystery.  Mandela was arrested, tried and convicted of several crimes, ultimately spending 27 years in jail, refusing to give up his cause to gain his freedom.  When the system bent to his wishes, he was released from jail and elected president of his nation.

The key paragraph in the story, the point where the long arc of history was forcefully bent to justice and peace:

Mr. Mandela has described how he had hidden a loaded revolver in the car that day in 1962 but decided not to use it. Choosing not to fight his way out began a journey that would take him through prison to the presidency on a platform of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation among the nation’s races.

Increasing the number of people with an increasing number of guns, however, does not offer more opportunities to change history like that.

 


Carl Sagan Day, November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012

Electioneering cut into my planning — didn’t get anything done for Carl Sagan Day, today, November 9.  Here’s the post from last year, with a few links to sources including new sources at the bottom.  “Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works,” Sagan said.  Boy, howdy, now more than ever.

Have a happy Carl Sagan Day!

_________________________________________________________________________

Press release from the Center for Inquiry:

Carl Sagan Day: November 9 — Celebrate with us!
Event Ideas & Sagan Day Commemorative Posters

Carl Sagan Day Poster 2011Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, but most of us know him as a Pulitzer Prize winning author and the creator of COSMOS. That Emmy and Peabody award-winning PBS television series transformed educational television and continues to affect the hearts and minds of over a billion people in over sixty countries.

No other scientist has been able to reach and engage so many nonscientists in such a meaningful way, and that is why we honor Dr. Sagan, remember his work, and revel in the cosmos he helped us understand.

Two years ago, CFI–Fort Lauderdale and other groups hostd the first Carl Sagan Day event in Florida.  It was a fantastic success and now individuals and groups around the world are planning their own tributes with science fairs, planetarium shows, teacher workshops, star parties, COSMOS marathons, and more—all to say “Thanks!” to Sagan and to bring his gifts to another generation of “starstuff.”

How can you celebrate Carl Sagan Day?

Whether you’re an independent skeptics group, an astronomy club, a science department, a researcher, a teacher, a student, or just a really big Sagan fan, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Sagan Day:

  • Host a COSMOS marathon—all 13 episodes are available for free at hulu.com.
  • Check out Sagan’s many books at your local library or bookstore using the thorough listings from WorldCat.org.
  • Enjoy the special collection of articles by or about Sagan, previously published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
  • Listen to Sagan’s last public address for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP) as replayed on CFI’s podcast, Point of Inquiry: “Wonder and Skepticism.”
  • Listen to Ann Druyan, writer, producer, and widow of Sagan, discuss life with Carl, his outlook on life, and his famous Gifford Lectures, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience,” also on Point of Inquiry.
  • Host your own apple pie baking contest (from scratch, of course).
  • Dress like Carl for a day!
  • Refresh your skeptic skills with a review of Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.
  • Invite your friends over and try to convince them you have a dragon in your garage.
  • Take in a star show at your local planetarium.
  • At the very least, seek out a dark sky, look UP, and reconnect with the grandeur of the cosmos.

Let us know how you’re planning to commemorate Carl Sagan Day 2011 and we’ll add your event to our Carl Sagan Day Event Calendar to help spread the word.  Please email your event information to grassroots@centerforinquiry.net.

Great collection of posters, featuring Sagan, the Very Large Array, and quotes from the good doctor, here.

November 9 is the anniversary of Sagan’s birth, of course.

More, for 2012:


Teaching the personal meaning of 9/11: Welles Crowther, the man with the red bandana

September 10, 2012

On Facebook, Duncanville Superteacher Medgar Roberts said:

I am using this in my classroom to teach the personal impact of 9/11 on real people. If you have fifteen minutes to spare it is worth the time. You might want to have a bandanna nearby, though. It is a bit of a tearjerker.

Don’t believe him.  Get at least two bandanas.

ESPN produced the film about Welles Crowther.

Ten years later: remembering the man who led people to safety after terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11th — a former Boston College lacrosse player whose trademark was a red bandanna.

If you use this film, please tell us about it.


Medal of Honor to former Sgt. Dakota Meyer

July 6, 2012

WhiteHouse.org:

President Obama awards Sergeant Dakota L. Meyer, United States Marine Corps, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. [Ceremony:] September 15, 2011.

Video from the White House includes the prayers offered before and after the ceremony (excluded from the commercial television video).

The citation for Meyer’s Medal of Honor described his gallantry in detail:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

CORPORAL DAKOTA L. MEYER
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

For service as set forth in the following

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


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