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"We just decided to go."

Published Thursday, July 20, 2023 @ 12:11 AM EDT
Jul 20 2023

As a teenager, I knew the moon landing was something spectacular because I had rarely seen Walter Cronkite rendered nearly speechless.

I don't think younger people can appreciate the impact Cronkite had in the country. Prior to his retirement in 1981, he was the news. Sure, the ABC and NBC networks had their own news broadcasts, but I always considered them to be secondary sources reinforcing Cronkite's primary coverage. At least in my house, at news time my grandparents always made certain the station was tuned to the local CBS affiliate, KDKA-TV2. (I still prefer KDKA, but- like most local news broadcasts- it's just a shadow of its former glory).

Cronkite was frequently cited as the most trusted man in America. At that time, prior to 24/7 cable news and the internet, everyone in the United States shared a more or less a singular existence. When Uncle Walter told you something, you knew it was true. "Fake news" was an unknown term. Television network news operations were viewed by their corporate bosses as a public trust, not a profit center.

That glorious Sunday afternoon 54 years ago was a time of optimism and enthusiasm. When Kennedy made his May 25, 1962 Congressional speech announcing the moon landing goal, NASA had no idea how to get there. Indeed, at that time only four Americans had even been launched into space, in tiny one-man Mercury capsules- and only two of those actually achieved orbit.

Yet in only seven years, one month and 26 days, Americans- 400,000 of them, working mostly in private businesses under NASA's direction- made it happen on July 20, 1969. Ideologically, it proved that the American capitalist system was superior. Spiritually, it proved the America could achieve almost anything if it had the will to accept the challenge.

It's that attitude I miss the most. As astronaut and Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell observed, "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go."

Our unsolvable problems are not unsolvable. We just have to decide to solve them.

Categories: Apollo 11, James Lovell, Jim Lovell, NASA, Walter Cronkite


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Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio

Published Tuesday, June 05, 2018 @ 12:05 PM EDT
Jun 05 2018

Many have compared 2018 to America's annus horribilis, 1968. I started that year as a 13 year ninth grader and ended it as a 14 year old tenth grader, enjoying the triumph of Apollo 8 and watching episodes of Star Trek during its original run on NBC.

But those months in between...

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In premiered, North Korea seized the Pueblo, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite said Vietnam was "mired in stalemate," Robert Kennedy entered the presidential race, Johnson said he wouldn't run, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Hair opened on Broadway, the Supreme Court ruled that burning a draft card was not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment, Andy Warhol was shot, RFK was assassinated, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia (nipping that Prague Spring nonsense in the bud), The Beatles' "Hey Jude" was released, the televised riots outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, CBS' "60 Minutes" debuted, the Boeing 747 was rolled out, the black power salute at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Nixon was elected president, a Farmington, WV mine explosion killed 78, Elvis had his comeback special, and Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

Lots of other things happened, but these I actually remember, and clearly. Or, more precisely, as a self-absorbed teenager I remember these events because they in turn generated events which affected me personally.

Take Laugh-In. I remember watching the pilot episode with my grandmother on that Monday night in January. It was a big deal, because it meant her missing the last half of Gunsmoke and all of Here's Lucy. To my delight and astonishment, Grandma loved the show and we watched it together for years. I remember being surprised that someone as old as my grandmother would get the jokes. I was also somewhat surprised to have just realized that I am now about the age my grandmother was when Laugh-In first aired.

I remember my grandmother waking me up for summer band camp, crying and yelling "they shot Bobby! God help us!" I did trudge the ten blocks to the high school that morning, but the band director, Jerry Veeck, gave us the option of going home or staying in the band room and listening to the radio. I remember two songs on the charts that week: Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...") and Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" ("I will take my life into my hands and I will use it; I will win the worship in their eyes, and I will lose it...")

Yet somehow, at the end of the December, I remainded optimistic. I felt, like many, that Apollo 8 had salvaged an otherwise horrific year. And we had somehow survived.

June 2018 feels a lot like June 1968. The current administration fills me with the same sense of dread I had that summer after RFK was killed. And society seems to be regressing, losing some of what we've apparently taken for granted the past half-century.

But at lot can happen in six months. Let's work so that it will happen.

Categories: 1968, 2018, Apollo 8, Hair, Laugh-In, Lyndon B. Johnson, MacArthur Park, Mrs. Robinson, Richard Harris, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Simon and Garfunkel, The Daily KGB Report, Walter Cronkite


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Quotes of the day: Walter Cronkite

Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 @ 8:52 PM EDT
Jul 16 2014

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (November 4, 1916 - July 17, 2009) was an American broadcast journalist, best known as anchor of the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). He was often cited as "the most trusted man in America" after being so named in an opinion poll. He reported many events from 1937 to 1981, including World War II; the Nuremberg trials; the Vietnam War; Watergate; the Iran hostage crisis; and the murders of President John F. Kennedy, civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr., and Beatles musician John Lennon. He was also known for his extensive coverage of the U.S. space program. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A lack of good news? What do they want us to do? Cover all the cats that didn't get stuck in trees today?

America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.

And that's the way it is.

For how many thousands of years now have we humans been what we insist on calling 'civilized?' And yet, in total contradiction, we also persist in the savage belief that we must occasionally, at least, settle our arguments by killing one another.

Freedom is a package deal- with it comes responsibilities and consequences

I regret that, in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation, really.

I think being a liberal, in the true sense, is being nondoctrinaire, nondogmatic, non-committed to a cause - but examining each case on its merits. Being left of center is another thing; it's a political position. I think most newspapermen by definition have to be liberal; if they're not liberal, by my definition of it, then they can hardly be good newspapermen. If they're preordained dogmatists for a cause, then they can't be very good journalists; that is, if they carry it into their journalism.

I think it is absolutely essential in a democracy to have competition in the media, a lot of competition, and we seem to be moving away from that.

I think somebody ought to do a survey as to how many great, important men have quit to spend time with their families who spent any more time with their family.

In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.

It is not the reporter's job to be a patriot or to presume to determine where patriotism lies. His job is to relate the facts.

Justice was born outside the home and a long way from it; and it has never been adopted there.

Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine

Television... is not a substitute for print.

The battle for the airwaves cannot be limited to only those who have the bank accounts to pay for the battle and win it.

The first priority of humankind in this era is to establish an effective system of world law that will assure peace with justice among the peoples of the world.

There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.

Those advocates who work for world peace by urging a system of world government are called impractical dreamers. Those impractical dreamers are entitled to ask their critics what is so practical about war.

We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.

While we spend much of our time and a great deal of our treasure in preparing for war, we see no comparable effort to establish a lasting peace.

Categories: Quotes of the day, Walter Cronkite


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