Monday, June 09, 2014

Forgotten lines from Ronald Reagan

I was born in 1955 and I don't really feel old yet. However it came to my attention as Barrack Obama was first inaugurated that I had lived on the planet long enough to see 11 of the 44 American presidents in office. Also it was also only a matter of time before a serving US president would be younger than I am.....that's almost as momentous for me as him being the first African-American president!

I've been thinking about bits and pieces I recall of the various USA presidents. Often my strongest memories come down to little things said on TV at key times which stuck in my mind. Most of them are not widely quoted any more and largely forgotton. Kennedy of course comes to mind and his speeches are all well known. However I would have to say that it was some of President Ronald Reagan's moments in the 1980s which I recall best.

This guy was quite a character. He came into office with an image of being very right wing and militant. There was his so called Star Wars plans, Central American policies and his obvious suspicion of the Soviet Union. His communication skills and sense of humour was always impressive though and it was often hard not to like him. I've three strong memories of Reagan...

1. The attempted assasination of Reagan in 1981 was full of drama. But his comment to his wife Nancy as they took him to hospital was priceless..."Honey I forgot to duck!" Always the actor.

2. In my recollection Reagan's greatest speech ever was following the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion of 1986 where all 7 astonauts died shortly after launch. It was how he reached out like a father to the school children of America in this live TV oration which made it special. Young school children had been watching the Challenger launch event live in their classrooms because on board was a lady school teacher, the first civilian to travel to space. Reagan was thinking of how traumatic it was for small children to witness live on TV the sudden and horrific death of their school teacher - who was due to give them a live lesson from space . Reagan did a wonderful job in trying to explain how sometimes sudden and sad things can happen when we take inevitable risks to make momentous progress.

3. It was so interesting and full of irony to witness Reagan slowly change his attitude to the USSR as the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev changed everything. My greatest memory of this dismantling of hostility and suspicion between East and West actually came down to a simple exchange between the two leaders at a joint press briefing. I've never seen it reported anywhere since. Reagan was mentioning how they wanted bi-lateral disarmament of nuclear weapons".

Then after a very tactical pause Reagan looked at Gorbachev and said

"...but with verification".

Gorbachev then smiled and said a brief one liner in Russian which produced laughter from Russians present. Reagan could hardly wait for the translation which was...

"You say that every time we meet!"

The American audience then burst into laughter and Reagan could only add to the warm moment by saying...

"I like it!"

What a moment it was.

Does anybody else have strong memories they would like to share about past American presidents?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some See a Weed. Some see a Wish.

I saw the photo below online today and it reminded  me of an incident when I was about 4 years old before my school days.

I was  playing in our garden and spotted an interesting variety of dandelions, buttercups and daisies in the lawn. The numbers of them and the colours had me completely hooked. I knew my mother liked flowers so I began to gather them and made up a good sized bunch. I then arranged them as a small posie and proudly brought it in to my mother. I was convinced that she would be delighted.

"Here's some nice flowers for you Mammy" I beamed.

I didn't get the reaction I expected. There was laugher.

"Ah son, those are just weeds!"

I was deflated. I stood there quietly and my smile disappeared. My mother could see my reaction and began to become more sympathetic. Eventually we agreed to put the "flowers" into a little glass vase. They were on display when my Dad came home from work. There were more sniggers but it was said that I was a good boy.

I wasn't convinced. It was like in later school life being told - "okay, but could have done much better." It was the first time I had been told that there is a difference between flowers and weeds. What I had thought was beautiful was in fact worthless.

To this day I can get rather annoyed at how we can often dismiss certain flowering wild plants in a negative way. I suppose it's because as adult gardeners dandelions, buttercups and daisies upset our nice green lawns and propagate too easily. But these flowers can still look nice in a lawn, especially to a child, it's a matter of attitude.

It all reminds me of how children and adults look at clouds in the Joni Mitchel song Both Sides Now. Are clouds "rows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air" or is it that "now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone "?