Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Images from the day

January 20, 2009

I’ve posted some screen shots from today’s events, taken very obviously from CNN’s live Web stream. (Thanks, CNN!) If you see just two pictures in this post, click on the link at the bottom to view the rest. Naturally, you can click on each picture to view it in a larger size.

I’ve posted all of the photos in chronological order except for the top two, though I also have them in chrono order down below. The first one’s up here for obvious reasons — President Obama is taking the oath of office, verbal stumbles and all.

And the other photo up top shows the 1st Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Fort Bragg’s own 82nd Airborne Division marching in today’s inaugural parade. Hooah!





I do solemnly swear

January 20, 2009

They each recite the same oath. Below, watch 13 of Barack Obama’s predecessors swear to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

Speech! Speech!

January 19, 2009

obama_inauguration.jpegIn less than 24 hours, Barack Obama will give his inaugural address. There will be lots of eyes — and ears — waiting for his words. Will his speech live up to the hype? The pressure? Can he speak simply and yet eloquently? Powerfully and also honestly? Will we remember what he said on Wednesday? Or next year? How about in 100 years? Does it matter?

We’ll see — and hear.

Here, several veteran speechwriters opine about how Obama could handle his inaugural address.

Here’s a chart showing the most-used words in previous inaugural addresses.

Here, a columnist for a Canadian paper asserts that few U.S. presidents have spoken memorably at their inaugurations.

martinlutherking.jpgmlk-speech-at-lincoln-memorial.JPGHere, watch a speech by a man who will almost certainly be alluded to tomorrow by the new president. This speech — made on Aug. 28, 1963, at the opposite end of the Washington Mall from tomorrow’s activities, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — is considered one of the greats of all time. Today’s when we remember that speaker’s birthday.

I minus four days

January 16, 2009

And counting.

I, of course, stands for Inauguration — though I Day will really be an “Us” kind of day (and a U.S. kind of day), not an “I” one if you want to pursue and stretch the “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team'” metaphor.

In the meantime, we’ve had farewells and some grousing.

As we move forward, you know me: I’m looking back.

Here, again, are glimpses of previous times when men first took the presidential oath of office. The two below occurred in times of great national duress. There were no inaugurations in these two cases, only situations where men were suddenly required to step up and in.

The latter video includes Ford’s remarkable speech following his taking of the oath — “Not an inaugural address,” he said. “Not a fireside chat, not a campaign speech — just a little straight talk among friends.”

This is when he declared “our long national nightmare is over.”

Video from long-past inaugurals

January 13, 2009

As prep for next week’s presidential inauguration continues, here are some looks at inaugural ceremonies from more than 100 years ago. These videos are grainy and silent (though one has a narrator) but they’re fascinating peeps at history, nonetheless.

Here’s newsreel footage of William McKinley’s inaugural in 1897.

Here’s film of McKinley taking the oath of office in 1901 for his second term, which would last just six months. The camera was operated by someone you may have heard of, Thomas Edison.

Here’s footage of Teddy Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural.

Best inaugural speeches — and worst

January 7, 2009

With the approach of Inauguration Day, it’s natural that we look forward — both to that ceremony and to our hopes for the administration that takes charge afterward.

But it’s also interesting to look back on past Inauguration Days — and the administrations and times that they ushered in.

Over the next few days, I’ll post some moments and facts from past Inauguration Days.

Here’s a 2005 list of best and worst inaugural addresses.

Best? No contest.


Worst? This one.


Rumored to be the deadliest? This one.


You can read the full text of each inaugural address at this link.

The Lincoln Bible

January 7, 2009

Here’s the Bible on which Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861. Barack Obama will use the same Bible when he takes the oath on Jan. 20. That’s the subject of today’s column.


According to historians at the Library of Congress, it’s not known what Bible Lincoln used when he took the oath in 1865, for his second term.

Not every president has actually taken the oath on a Bible.  For example, Teddy Roosevelt didn’t the first time he took the oath, following the death of William McKinley. Roosevelt did use a Bible the second time he took the oath.

Some presidents have sworn on closed Bibles, others on randomly opened Bibles and still others on Bibles opened to specific passages. You can see some of these details here.

Meanwhile, if you’d like more info on the Lincoln Inaugural Bible, check here and here. Below, on the left, you can see the Bible’s title page and, on the right, the 1861 note on a back page, along with the Supreme Court seal, attesting that this was the Bible that was used by Lincoln when he took the oath of office.

               lincoln-bible1.jpeg   lincoln-bible-annotation.jpeg

On the ball — the Red Ball

January 6, 2009

red-ball-express-sign.jpgToday’s column is about a huge World War II convoy operation called the Red Ball Express. It was created to get gas and other vital supplies from Normandy to the Allies’ rapidly advancing front lines, which were up to 400 miles away.

Without the supplies — and, accordingly, without the express and the drivers who manned it — the Allied war effort would have stalled. Who can say what might have happened then?

The express operated ’round the clock for three months, using thousands of trucks — and men — to ferry tons of supplies to the front. It used specific routes, which were off-limits to all other traffic.  Routes were all one-way. Some took the express to the front. The others led back to Normandy.

red-ball-express-drivers.jpgMeanwhile, because the U.S. military generally restricted blacks to noncombat roles in those days, many black service members drove supply trucks. Nearly three-quarters of the drivers in the express were black.

The Red Ball Express was the subject of a 1952 movie and a 2001 book. You can also find more information about it at this U.S. Army Transportation Museum site, at this U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum site, as well as here and here.

Below is a circa WW2 news clip about the express.

And now here’s a clip from the 1952 movie about it. Hang on ’til the end for an appearance by the young Sidney Poitier.

Looking back

November 6, 2008

While checking out the rest of the world’s newspapers to see if/how they presented news of the U.S. presidential election on their front pages, I was particularly struck by one front page — that of the Jam-e-Jam in Iran, which belongs to that country’s state broadcaster. I don’t know what the heck the page says but the Obama photo they chose to play big just seems… odd. I wonder what message the paper is trying to convey with the photo — that the new U.S. president will keep his back to Iran? That all Iran wants to see is the back of him? That, well, yeah, he does have quite a set of ears? That this was the only photo that Jam-e-Jam could find of Obama and, heck, something’s better than nothing?


Maybe the page designer was just trying to be arty in a not particularly successful way? I don’t think so.

Other foreign papers chose rear-view shots for their front pages, too, but they aren’t so stark. What do you think?

El Pais in Madrid, Spain; the headline says “Change has come to America”


Il Sardegna in Sassaro, Italy; the headline says “In history”


Publico in Madrid, Spain; the headline says something like “Starting Change”


Front page news

November 5, 2008

Did the rest of the world pay much attention to the U.S. presidential election?

You betcha. So to speak. Here’s a look at some of the front pages today from newspapers around the world, courtesy of the Newseum.


La Presse in Montreal, Canada


Diario do Comercio in Sao Paulo, Brazil


Diario de Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil


Clarin in Buenos Aires, Argentina


Ultimas Noticias in Caracas, Venezuela


The Guardian in London, England


La Tribune in Paris, France


Diario de Noticias in Lisbon, Portugal


Stars and Stripes, European edition


Die Tageszeitung in Berlin, Germany (the headline means: “Good choice”)


Dziennik Lodzki in Lodz, Poland


The Aftonbladet in Stockholm, Sweden


The Jerusalem Post in Jerusalem, Israel


Israel Hayom in Jerusalem, Israel


Daily Al Bayan in United Arab Emirates


The Gulf News in Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Today’s Zaman in Istanbul, Turkey


The Namibian in Namibia


The Times in Johannesburg, South Africa


The Telegraph in Calcutta, India


Star in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, China


The Beijing News in Beijing, China


The Segye Times in Seoul, South Korea


The Jakarta Post in Jakarta, Indonesia


The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, Australia


The New Zealand Herald in Auckland, New Zealand