Wayne's Words: "Past is Prologue”

Labor Day weekend has ended and that marks the official end of summer. Fall is supposed to bring crisp, cooler weather. That’s certainly not the experience of this last week and most likely we can look forward to another few weeks of outdoor weather enjoyment. The kids are back in school and elections are around the corner.

It was an unusual last week of summer, though. Two major personalities passed away. The unusual circumstances, however, were not their deaths, but the elaborate celebrations of their lives that took place over the entire week. Most of the media outlets provided extended coverage of all the eulogies and flashbacks detailing their remarkable careers and accomplishments. It was awe inspiring.

What struck me most, besides the accomplishments of these two people almost at opposite ends of life’s spectrum, was the look-back at history 50 years ago. Senator John McCain was a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton and Aretha Franklin was an iconic star on the soul music scene. In 1968 the Vietnam war was at its peak. Almost everyone knew someone affected by the conflict. The civil rights movement was in the news on a nightly basis right next to coverage of the Vietnam conflict. I looked up a timeline of the events from that year. It was mind-numbing. Here’s a partial list:

January 23 - the U.S. Pueblo was captured off the North Korean coast and the crew was charged with espionage.

January 31 – The Tet offensive was launched in Vietnam marking a change in Americans attitude toward the war.

April 4 – Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.

March 31 – President Lyndon Johnson announces he will not seek reelection citing national unity as one of the reasons.

May 3 – The U.S. and North Vietnamese began peace negotiations. A major stumbling block was the shape of the negotiating table.

June 5 – Robert Kennedy was assassinated after winning two major primaries for President of the U.S.

August 24 – the Democratic convention was held in Chicago and descended into chaos over demonstrations against the Vietnam war.

September 7 – Women’s liberation groups demonstrated in New York at the Miss America Pageant.

October 11 – Apollo 7 orbited the earth 163 times and landed safely in the ocean.

November 5 – Richard Nixon wins his first term as President.

December 11 – the unemployment rate was 3.3%, the lowest in 15 years. Apollo 8 orbits the moon.

Vietnam war related deaths in 1968 were 16,592. The Civil Rights Act of 1968, more commonly known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed. John McCain spent his second year as a prisoner of war and Aretha Franklin was on the charts with Natural Woman.

Personally, I spent the year 1968 in Vietnam wondering what the heck I would be coming home to if I survived. I did and I’m glad I came home.

One last thing… on the same day Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was not running for another term, it was reported that District 2 Councilman John Gerl had announced he would not run for another city council term. Congrats to both for their service. Too often elected officials believe the office can’t do without their service. That’s seldom, if ever, the case. Fresh faces bring fresh ideas and innovative thinking most often, at least in the early part of the term.

As for elections, there are several referenda on the November 6 ballot in Will County. Most are asking for more money. One is for a reduction in the size of the Frankfort Park District Board from seven members back to five members. It’s interesting because a few years back the Plainfield Park District increased its board from five members to seven members. The reason given at the time was to dilute the influence of a couple of the board members who were unpopular. They lost at the next election but the law had been changed by two state legislators and now the park board is stuck with the change. Maybe the Plainfield Park residents can take a cue from Frankfort and vote for a change back to a more efficient board. Increasing the size of government seldom makes for better governing.

Stay tuned…

Comments welcome at wayneswords@thetimesweekly.com