We are defined in many ways by the time in which we grew up. I count the 1960s as the defining part of my life*.
John F Kennedy was elected President 1960. At his inauguration in 1961 as he challenged us to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country?” He took inspiration from the musical “Camelot” to work toward an ideal, even if for only, “one brief shining moment.” During his time in office when we faced the Cuban Missile Crisis my mother (and many others) expected to be facing World War III. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, which was the first major tragedy many of us young people took personally.
In 1960, Echo, an American satellite that was essentially a 100 foot Mylar balloon was designed to reflect radio signals, but its size and reflectivity made it the first man made space object visible from earth with the naked eye. The newspaper would print the times it would be visible at night, and people felt they had to go out and see it, even if only once. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut was the first man in space. The American manned space program followed, and launches from Cape Canaveral were broadcast live. At first, someone would bring a portable radio to school so the class could listen to the launches. Later, radios gave way to portable televisions. “Portable” meant a large, heavy box with a small black and white picture tube; however it had a handle bolted to the top, so therefore it was portable. In 1967 we were crushed when all three astronauts died in a fire aboard Apollo 1 less than a month before its scheduled launch date. In July, 1969, Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by the end of the decade.
Entertainment helped form me as well. Star Trek foretold of a future in which “There are always possibilities.” Variety shows abounded; Ed Sullivan made sure we met the Beatles. Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Johnny Carson all entertained us and made us smile. Ernie Kovacs and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In redefined comedy, and it hasn’t been the same since. Broadway musicals included Man of La Mancha, 1776, Hair, and of course, Camelot.
I graduated from high school in 1969. I looked forward to a world full of opportunities and a chance for me to make a difference. As if to emphasize this, the musical that my high school presented that year was Camelot. Playing in the band for the play, I saw every performance. I still love the music.
And, in case you don’t know me well, I still view the world with wonder. There are always things to enjoy, mysteries to solve and music to go with it. The glass is, in fact, half empty but that only means that it is also half full.
I still believe Mr. Spock’s comment** that there are always possibilities.
It’s a wonderful thing.
* The joke is, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” If the truth be told, the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll may have started in the very late sixties but more aptly describe the 70s.
** For the hard-core Trekkers: Yes, I know this is like “Play it again, Sam.” In the series, Spock never actually spoke these exact words. The phrase was quoted by Captain Kirk in the second Star Trek movie, “Wrath of Khan.”