A week of history in the first person (5×8 – 11/18/13)

The Monday Morning Rouser:

1) '63 + 50

Understandably, we will be inundated this week with coverage of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. For many in the boomer generation, we can't get enough. While 9/11 came close, it's hard to find a moment in American history where the country changed so quickly.

It's tempting to over-dramatize that fact -- after all, we change every day. That's the nature of change. But for a short time, we still have the ability to hear about the assassination in the first person. I was struck by that reality while watching CBS' Face the Nation broadcast from Dallas yesterday, listening to Dr. Ronald Jones, the doctor who tried to save the president's life at Parkland Hospital.

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"When I saw him, he was motionless, his eyes were open, he was staring, and I never saw any signs of life," he said.

People previously silent are speaking now about their involvement. Star Tribune reporter Pam Huey wrote yesterday about Secret Service agent who was directly behind Kennedy's limousine. He explained this iconic photo:


Using every bit of his strength and with the driver hitting the gas, (Clint) Hill somehow pulled himself onto the back of the presidential limousine to get to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy who was at that very moment — in shock — climbing on the trunk toward him. “What is she doing? What is she doing?” he thought. “Good God, she’s going to go flying off the back of the car!” He remembered seeing her eyes filled with terror. Then it dawned on him; she was reaching for a piece of her husband’s head.

Hill is just now talking about the assassination because he's got a new book out.

We know now, of course, that Kennedy's image often didn't square with reality. Still, we were reminded this week, he was forcing the country to tackle its two most pressing issues: nuclear war and racism.

Did the assassination change us as a nation in a significant way? And if it did, what would we be like if it didn't? That's what we'll debate this week.

On CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, Bill Flanagan said it silenced a generation that thought it could solve big problems.

My father always said that the day JFK died was the day our country went from optimism to cynicism. His death changed the way his generation saw their country and themselves.

They went almost overnight from young upstarts to the old guard, the squares, the Archie Bunkers. Their own kids were so loud and entitled that they told them to get out of the road, the times they are a-changin', don't trust anyone over 30.

Within five years of the Kennedy assassination, the World War II generation went from being the embodiment of youth to the Silent Majority.

John Updike and John Cheever wrote short stories about fading men and women looking back on lost glories. Frank Sinatra, once the idol of the bobbysoxers, began singing about the "September of My Years," "Last Night When We Were Young," "It Was a Very Good Year." All the disillusioned Don Drapers nodded along.

It was as if in that winter between the death of John Kennedy and the coming of the Beatles, a whole generation went from optimistic youth to disappointed middle age.

Some people may tire of this week's coverage. But the anniversary must be considered in this context. Flanagan's father's generation is mostly gone; the boomers are going. And in a few years, the assassination will be told in the third person. This week may be the last chance to hear it in such detail. It will be an extraordinary week.

Related: JFK assassination: Minnesota judge has heard the theories, but he's sticking with evidence (TwinCities.com)

How Texas Changed, And Changed The Nation, In Years Since JFK (NPR)

Oswald’s Mother Was a Thoroughly Disagreeable Piece of Work (Daily Beast).

Abraham Zapruder and the Evolution of Film (N.Y. Times)


What did we learn with yesterday's outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest? We learned that tornado season includes November. And that someday soon, the instinct to take a video of everything is going to kill someone.

Also: It's a bad idea to try to outrun a tornado.

In a video he supplied to CNN, Anthony Khoury prayed as he filmed the tornado at the front window. He says his home and one nearby are the only ones not damaged by the tornado.

In Washington, Ill., it took a 6-year-old boy to be the adult. Brevin Hunter had to convince his family to take shelter.

"Please, Mom. This is what they teach us in school. When you hear the siren, you need to go somewhere safe," he pleaded with his mother, who thought things were fine.


We've never met Fox 9's chief meteorologist Ian Leonard, but we marveled at his willingness to jump into freezing waters around the state last winter to help raise money for Special Olympics.

So we're in his corner as he tries to recover from a concussion, sustained at a soccer fantasy camp.

Last night he tearfully told his story:

"Watching TV is pretty hard, so I don't do it," he explained. "I listen to iRadio, and I have a little … fuzzy blanket over my face because when it gets really bad, you just need complete solitude."

Some days, Leonard says he wakes up and doesn't feel too bad -- but it doesn't always last.

"Four hours later, you better check back with me," he said.

Overall, Leonard has said the experience has been a humbling one -- and a challenging one for someone who is admittedly impatient.

"We are programmed, as a people, to have a week's vacation," he said. "You're programmed, as a person, to have maybe a few days off when you're sick. Anything greater than that feels very uncomfortable. You get to four weeks off -- where every day, you're dizzy, the word uncomfortable doesn't fit that anymore."

There's no timetable for when he might be able to work again.


(Photo: Steve Hemmingsen)

The harvest is over in the little town by the lake, Steve Hemmingsen, who writes a daily newsletter in Hendricks, Minn., announces today.

How much corn is in the Valley of the Kernels? Last year, Kevin down at the elevator guessed a million bushels just in the one pile, so with three pyramids, we’re way beyond that. But it’s probably worth about as much as last year’s single pile. Even at that, the farmers I talked to seem content. Not happy, just content.

We Scandahuvians don’t expect much from life and it usually delivers … contentment. Again, one has to wonder what an ideal year would be like: a normal start to the planting season, normal rain in the growing season and more natural dry-down. Gotta wonder. I also wonder what the old timers long-gone would think of this. Yep, we’re a three-pile town.


Come on, kid. Pass the ball.

Jack Taylor of Black River Falls, Wis., has scored more than 100 points in a basketball game again for Grinnell College. He scored 109 points this weekend against Crossroads college, shooting 35-of-70 from the field, including 24-of-48 from 3-point range. He made 15-of-17 free-throw attempts.

"Taylor’s break-the-box-score act never seems to get old," the Des Moines Register says today.

Yes, actually it does.

Bonus I: It is time to rail about the sorry state of bus stop signs in the Twin Cities again. (streets.mn)

Bonus II: How to inflate a speeding ticket into a shootout (CBS)


How much of your trash gets recycled?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: In Minnesota, parents are spending more on daycare than on college. According to the new Child Care Aware Report, average tuition and fees for a public college in Minnesota cost about $10,000 while it takes nearly $14,000 for full-time care for an infant.

And we’re not alone. Infant daycare costs more than college in 30 other states and the District of Columbia.Why is child care so expensive? And what about Minnesota makes it the third most expensive state for child care?

Second hour: Governments and agencies around the world have been sending disaster relief to the Philippines since Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Friday 11/8/13. And yet there are still families struggling to get food, water and shelter. Volunteers are still trying to find victims and bury the dead. We talk to some disaster relief experts about response protocols. What happens when disaster is eminent? What do we do when it hits? What have we learned from previous disasters? What do we need to do better?

Third hour: On Friday, the U.S. House countered President Obama's fix to health exchanges with a plan of their own. The GOP House plan would allow individuals to not only keep their current plans that may not be ACA compliant, but would also allow insurers to continue plans like these to new customers. The White House also met with industry CEOs on Friday to talk about his fix. The Daily Circuit will follow up on what this fix and current round of politics means for enrollment and the ACA.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) - A live National Press Club broadcast featuring feminist Gloria Steinem.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) - Last week, the nations leading heart organizations released a sweeping new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with an online calculator meant to help doctors assess risks and treatment options. But, in a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate a patient's risk. Plus: How to establish a marijuana economy.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Publishers are marking the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination with a flood of new books. Books that explore Kennedy's life and legacy, others that examine the crime, one even includes all 486 frames of the famous "Zapruder"

film in print for the first time. NPR reviews each.