President George Washington signed into law the Postal Service Act in 1792 establishing the US Postal Service, but today on Presidents” Day we will get no mail. What a coincidence this year. Of course today is neither Washington’s birthday, nor Lincoln’s birthday – remember when we used to get both of them off? It is rather a compromise date in between the two to recognize them and also to add a separate holiday to honor another well deserving person -Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1941 with war raging in Europe and the US coming out of the Great Depression President FDR in his State of the Union address uttered what he believed were the four freedoms that people all over world should enjoy.: Freedom of speech; Freedom of worship; Freedom from want; Freedom from fear. On this date in 1943 the Saturday Evening Post published the first of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings.
There were three notable fine arts occurences on this date. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake debuted at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1877. Italian composer Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premiered in Rome in 1816. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) opened its doors in New York City in 1872.
In the air Lieutenant Edward O’Hare became the first American WWII flying ace (5 or more enemy planes shot down) in 1942. John Glenn with Friendship 7 rocket became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth in 1962. And in 1986 the Soviet Mir spacecraft launched – to last 15 years in space with 10 years occupied.
And in Nagano, Japan in 1998 Tara Lipinski at 15 became the youngest Olympic figure skating gold medalist. With a look of pure joy on her face:)
American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams came into view on this date in 1902. In France the imaginative mind of Pierre Boulle, who would write about history (Bridge over the River Kwai) and science fiction (Planet of the Apes) began dreaming in 1912. And director and screenwriter Robert Altman would start creating in 1925.
There were a bunch of people born this date who would make their mark in many fields: actor Sydney Poitier (1927); champion race car driver Bobby Unser (1934); political leader Mitch McConnell (1942); heiress and one-time kidnap victim Patty Hearst (1954); NBA “round mound of rebounds” Charles Barkeley (1963); and the ill-fated grunge musician Keith Cobain (1967).
We bid farewell on this date to three well known Americans. The fiery orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglas uttered his last in 1895. The intrepid polar explorer Robert Peary who was the first to reach the North Pole, went to explore the great beyond in 1920. And the journalist who dominated the airwaves during the 30s, 40s, and 50s – especially during the WWII years – Walter Winchell went off the air and off the page in 1972.
And the cause of social justice should be our goal not only on this day named to remind us, but every day.