40 years ago -1969

Wordle of Obama's Speech on Race - Philadelphia 2008
Wordle of Obama's Speech on Race - Philadelphia 2008

I was in the 5th grade. Things seemed pretty scary.  We had survived 1968. Assassinations, marches, the Chicago Convention.  We had yet to experience the horror of Kent State.

On Jan. 20, Richard Milhous Nixon was sworn in as the nation’s 37th President.   I had the same out of body feeling years ago that I had today watching the 2009 Inauguration. That feeling came on the day I watched Nixon resign; we huddled around a generator powered black and white television in a cabin in the Black Hills National Forest. Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul.

In March the U.S. Air Force began secret bombings of Cambodia.

July 18 Sen. Edward Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard, MA killing Mary Jo Kopeke, his passenger.  I heard it on the news.

July 20 Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon. He said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  – I watched on television at Mary Beth Stewart’s house in Yankton, SD.

Aug. 16 About half a million people gathered on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm near Woodstock, N.Y., to hear rock music for four days.   I was not there.

October 8 The Days of Rage: the Weather Underground’s first public demonstration was a riot in Chicago coordinated with the trial of the Chicago Seven.

Oct. 15 Millions of Americans demonstrated in their towns and cities against the Vietnam War. – Demonstrations were in my living room every night via Walter Cronkite.

Nov. 15 Over 250,000 people gathered in Washington to protest the war in Vietnam.  I felt small and scared to grow up.

Nov. 16 The first reports of the My Lai massacre were published.  Again, the television.

Dec. 4 Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was shot to death by police while he lay asleep in his bed.

And today I watched in the Gym with the whole school assembled as Barack Obama was inaugurated president.  Not a black and white television, but a huge projection on the screen from an HD antenna.  We applauded along with all the people on the mall.  I was not there.  But I sat next to Dan, I had my (essential) box of tissues, and I felt connected.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. serendipity hopeful says:


    Congratulations to President Obama and the people of the US of A.

    As a foreigner who wants good things to happen in any and all parts of the world, I wish Americans will work more in harmony with their president. How successful Obama can be as American president will depend on how well his fellow-Americans can rein in their demands for their expectations to be satisfied.


    Keep the hopes alive.

  2. Kate Tabor says:

    @serendipity – I agree with both your wish and your concern. I felt that President Obama made it clear today that waiting for someone else to fix the problem means that it won’t get fixed. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave your comment. I am happy to be a part of the serendipity.

  3. wa says:

    What a wonderful post, Kate. I feel the same way. Even though I was sniffling alone on my couch, I didn’t feel like I was alone sniffling on my couch.
    It’s a GREAT day!

  4. Kate Tabor says:

    @WA – it is a GREAT day. I’ve had no ability to concentrate. I just keep smiling. It’s good to know you and I were sniffling together.

  5. liz says:

    What an awful year 1969 was and the enormity was played out on the television in front of our eyes, day in and day out. Body counts, napalmed land, burned children, tension building between disenfranchised young adults, their parents and the military. It is no wonder you didn’t want to grow up.

    I too watched the inauguration in the company of adults both young and old. Their spontaneous applause, their smiles, and hugs were the outward signs of their joy. I was awed by the number of people who turned out in DC because, “they just had to be there.” It was a bit Field of Dreams like.

    If 1969 was a bad year, 2009 is equally bleak. I believe that Obama is a better man and will be a better president than Nixon. He faces a similar situation: recession, war, and foreign countries that don’t love the US. I hope that Hillary is equal in her negotiating skills to Henry Kissinger. Much like Kissinger and Nixon, I don’t think there is much love lost between Obama and Clinton. But like the pair that came before them, I hope that Obama and Hill can overcome any personality issues and successful conquer the monumental foreign policy issues that are ahead of us.

    I have hope for that is all that I can have as most is far far out of my control.

  6. Kate Tabor says:

    @Liz – yeah, it was a dreadful time. Although I’m no longer afraid to grow up (it happens whether we want it to or not) I have discovered that it doesn’t get easier as we get older. Though hope is stronger now than when Gerald Ford stepped into a presidency and a justice department in shambles. We will always have that moment in the Black Hills – ding dong, the witch is dead?

  7. Jessica Bern says:

    it was an amazing day to be an American after so many where I was often ashamed.

  8. Kate Tabor says:

    @Jessica – I agree. And it was wonderful watching the faces on the students (glowing) and my colleagues (most a little/lot teary).

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