On Thursday, December 11, 2008 I will turn 50. Far from dreading this milestone birthday, I am looking forward to it. I have lived for one-half of a century. To me, this is not something to be depressed about, it is something to celebrate.  Over the last few days, and weeks I have been musing over some of the history of the last 50 years.

There are two ways to think of those five decades of history. Things that I have lived through and things that I actually remember.

For example, of the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and RFK, I actually remember King, and Bobby Kennedy. I remember waking up on the night of April 4th, walking out into the living room and asking my parents what had happened. I have no idea how I knew that something had happened, but somehow I did. They told me that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed earlier. Days later, racial violence erupted. 

Then a few months later, I can remember everyone in school who had a transistor radio had them on that day in June, waiting to hear if Bobby was going to live or not. When the news came that he had died, we were sent home from school.

In November of the same year, a man who became the epitome of corruption in the White House, Richard Millhouse Nixon was elected president for the first time.

1968, a year that held so much tragedy and unrest, ended with a more positive note when the Apollo 8 astronauts, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William A. Anders read from the Book of Genesis, while they orbited the moon. This gave us a bit of hope for the coming year.

The following year, 1969 saw the first Moon landing. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon in the Lunar Excursion Module or “LEM” named  the Eagle. We heard the famous words, “Tranquility Base. The Eagle has landed!” A short time later, as Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the soil of the moon, becoming the first human being to step foot on another planet, said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  With one step, we had finished what John F. Kennedy had set into motion nearly a decade before.

The space program continued, with several more moon missions, the first American Space Station, Skylab, the historic ”  Handshake in Space” when an American Apollo spacecraft, and a Soviet Soyuz Spacecraft docked together in an unprecedented mission that ushered in a new era of cooperation in space exploration.

In 1972, Nixon was reelected, amid a scandal that had broken out that summer. It seems some men working for the Nixon reelection broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Party. The location of this infamous burglary, The Watergate Hotel, in Washington D.C. The use of the term Blank-gate has now become the way to refer to a government scandal. Though Nixon did win the election, two years later he became the first U.S. President to resign from office. This after Vice President Spiro Agnew had resigned after a growing scandal traced back to his days as Governor of Maryland. We now had a President who had not been elected by the American People. Gerald R. Ford. Ford’s pardon of Nixon would cost him an election bid against Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia. Nixon was remembered for opening China, and ending the Viet Nam war, however, so it wasn’t all bad.

Carter’s administration had to deal with the near meltdown of a Nuclear Power plant in Pennsylvania, Three Mile Island, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. 52 Americans attached to the Embassy in Iran, were held hostage by a group of Iranian Students ( one of who is now president of Iran). They were held for 444 days, and not released until January 20th 1981, when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office as President. Having beat Carter in a landslide. This was pretty much a final slap in the face to Jimmy Carter, by the Iranians. Carter had bungled the hostage crises in the view of many voters, when he pulled back from a rescue attempt that blew up in his face, killing 8 soldiers when helicopters crashed in the desert of Iran.

Reagan served two terms, having won the election after a debate in which he stated “If you are better off now than you were four years ago, Vote for Mr. Carter. ” or something to that effect. During the Reagan administration we had our first major tragedy in space. The Space shuttle Challenger exploded on liftoff, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including a woman who was to be America’s first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle program was placed on hold for nearly two years while NASA investigated and fixed the problems that caused the explosion. There were problems with some O Rings on the Solid Rocket Booster that failed in the extreme cold on that January day of 1987.

Regan also survived an assassination attempt. He was shot in March of 1981 by John Hinckley, a disturbed young man who was obsessed with actress Jody Foster.  Like the movie “Taxi Driver” in which Ms. Foster co-starred, Hinckley thought that assassinating Reagan would cause her to notice him, and fall in love with him. He is still confined in a mental institution, although he does get some weekends out with his parents, under close supervision.

Then we had Reagan’s’ Vice President, George H.B Bush. Bush only got one term after he did not go into Iraq and stop Saddam Hussein. Saddam had annexed Kuwait, and Bush sent in U.S. forces in Operation Desert Storm. Many people thought he should have continued into Iraq. However it turned out the the elder Bush was smarter than we all thought. He knew then that there was no exit strategy, and fact his son, does not seem to grasp yet!

After Bush Sr. we got a president who managed to do a pretty good job for 8 years, even though his opponents were more worried about his sex life than his wife was! Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican Congress, and won the trial, thus keeping his office. A chubby White House Intern named Monica Lewinski became synonymous with oral sex, with a television show one even referring to a character getting a “Lewinski!”

During the Clinton administration, we got the space program going again, with the start of the International Space Station.

Then in an election that brought us the term “hanging Chad” George Bush Jr. became president.  The popular vote actually went to Al Gore, Clinton’s VP, but Bush and Gore fought back and forth from one court to another, until the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush, or as Sue and I call him, Shrub. On September 11, 2001, Two planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another hit the Pentagon, and still another, Flight 93 was forced down in Pennsylvania, when passengers stormed the hijackers who were likely targeting the U.S. Capitol.  Over 3000 people are said to have died in these tragedies.

The world changed on that day. Since Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. had not been attacked directly. Bush created a new Cabinet Post, Homeland Security, and in 2003, blaming Saddam Hussein for the attacks on 9/11, Bush convinced Congress and the American People that w needed to invade Iraq, and go after Saddams Weapons of Mass Destruction. Though we captured Saddam, and eventually hung him, no WMD’s were ever found. The war has since become unpopular, as has Bush. He now has the lowest approval rating of all time for an American President. Nearly 5000 American troops have died in this useless war.

We just held one of the most historic elections in our history. A year and a half ago, it was expected that the election would likely end up between Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rudolf Giuliani, At that time no one expected Barack Obama to get the Democratic Nomination. In fact the primaries seemed to be going in her favor, and it looked like we might have the first Woman President. Then her campaign seemed to implode, and Obama took off like a shot. Giuliani also went nowhere, and Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee seemed more likely to be the Republicans to watch. John McCain finally emerged as the front runner in the Republican party, while Obama won the democratic nomination. Obama chose Joe Biden for his VP, McCain chose Sarah Palin, an unknown from Alaska. While she was seemingly a popular governor in Alaska, her equating living in a State that was close to Russia as Foreign  Policy experience, and her “Gosh Darn it” and “Joe Six Pack “ comments grated on many people, and  even the Republican party began to wonder what the heck had happened to McCain. Palins disastrous interview with Katie Couric didn’t help and the disclosure that the Party has spent $150,000.00 on clothes for her and her family ( which includes a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant and unmarried)

Obama won in a landslide.

This is only a small sampling of things I remember from the last 50 years. I have seen a lot, and I expect to see a lot more over the next 50.

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