Saturday, January 20, 2024

Memories of the First Televised Presidential Debate

By Gil Tisnado

I was thinking back sixty-four years ago when I was in sixth grade; We were given the homework assignment of watching the very first televised presidential debate. It probably didn’t have to be assigned, since nearly every family in our neighborhood would be watching. It was a very big deal.

I learned yesterday that JFK and Nixon were actually “friendly rivals.” They weren’t close friends; however, Nixon was invited to JFK’s wedding in 1953. Much has been written of how much better Kennedy looked than Nixon on the first debate. Kennedy understood that TV was a visual medium and used it to his advantage. On the day of the debate, Kennedy worked on his tan and listened to Peggy Lee records. Nixon, on the other hand, had just spent three weeks in the hospital with a badly inflamed knee and had made several campaign appearances around town. While JFK was tan and rested, Nixon was pale and gaunt from his hospital stay—and this would cost him votes.

Being ten years old and soon to be eleven, I thought that JFK was the coolest of the dudes, and based on appearances alone, he should be president. I do remember that after President Eisenhower, who was a very old seventy at the time, both Nixon and JFK seemed relatively young for adults. (Nixon was 47 and JFK was 43.) At school, we held campaign rallies and mock debates. The moderators were two classmates playing Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (the two biggest names in broadcasting outside of Walter Cronkite.) As a retired teacher, I can now fully appreciate what a wonderful civics lesson this was.

After watching the Trump/Biden debate, I went back and watched YouTube videos from the JFK/Nixon debates. It was a fascinating exercise. My takeaway from seeing these videos were how damn smart and articulate both candidates were. I can now understand why the 1960 presidential election was so close. They really were two brilliant men. But more than that, there was such a sense of civility, decorum, and mutual respect. No talking over each other, mugging for the camera, eye rolling, or name-calling—but simply presenting their vision for the future of our country.

I think before the next debate that our current presidential candidates should watch these master classes in debate. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if they also played some Peggy Lee records!

Friday, January 5, 2024


- See You at the World's Fair! -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

For Baby Boomers whose school years Grades K through 12 spanned the 1960s, it felt like a decade chock full of World's Fairs. Most notably were Seattle 1962, New York City 1964, Montreal (Canada) 1967 and HemisFair - San Antonio 1968.  Since the mid-19th century, there have been large global exhibitions (termed world's fair or fun exhibition or expo) for showcasing the achievements of nations.  The theme for these exhibitions have changed over the years and can be described as spanning three eras: Industrialization (1851-1938), Cultural Exchange (1939-1987) and Nation Branding (1988 to present).

These exhibitions have been held in various parts of the world at a specific site for various periods of time, but typically ranging three to six months in length.  They not only reflect the eras in which the exhibitions were staged but in many cases, convey a positive, optimistic vision of the future based on extrapolation of the technology and demographic trends of the day.

As television and jet air travel became pervasive during the 1960s, the World's Fair became a topic of serious conversation for people of all ages.  In fact, with the mass-market My Weekly Reader publication distributed nationwide to both private and public schools (Grades K through 12), school children were able to converse intelligently with their elders at mealtimes as this iconic newspaper for young people provided in-depth coverage on the World's Fair exhibitions that were on the North American continent.  Not only did these events stimulate family conversation, but also provided the impetus for special summer vacation outings or family trips while being celebrated with the issuance of commemorative postage stamps.  These commemorative stamps from the four World's Fair exhibitions mentioned in this article are shown here and have become Baby Boomer collectibles.

The 1960s World's Fair exhibitions so widely remembered by Baby Boomers are associated with major landmarks that remain standing to this day and are emblematic of special moments in time.  The Space Needle and Seattle Center Monorail (1962), the Unisphere in New York City (1964), the Montreal Biosphere (1967) and the Tower of the Americas and San Antonio Convention Center (1968) celebrate the theme of Cultural Exchange while extolling a positive outlook for the future.  World's Fair landmarks that remain standing and becoming famous are not new.  It actually started with the Eiffel Tower built in Paris for Exposition Universelle (1889) and the aforementioned North American landmarks have continued this tradition.  Notably, the Space Needle and Tower of the Americas are American variants of the Eiffel Tower.

Yours truly has fond memories of the World's Fair landmarks in Paris, Seattle, New York and especially San Antonio as I was able to personally attend HemisFair 1968.  What are your recollections of these special events?  Were you able to attend them in person or visit them later during their afterlife?  We invite you to share these memories by posting to the GNN FACEBOOK page (and "liking" us when doing so) or send them to us via the GNN g-mail address.  We wish all of you a Happy New Year!