The More Things Change 1968 Revisited
When 1968 began I was 20 years old in the middle of my junior year at the University of Washington taking Pre-med courses (including that doggone Organic Chemistry) and planning a ski trip to Colorado with three of my fraternity brothers for spring break. Before the year ended I wrote my first “keeper” song, spent a transformational summer as a social worker in New York, and was part of a talent contest with my friend, Mike McCoy, (We won our first round of “Your All-American College Show.” They flew us back to LA where we faced The Richard Carpenter Trio, with Richard’s sister, Karen on drums. We lost.) That fall I changed my major to Speech Communications. In December I was invited to become one of The Brothers Four.
During those same twelve months the Tet Offensive led Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America,” to proclaim that the Viet Nam war could not be won. On March 12th the Presidency appeared strangely vulnerable as Lyndon Johnson almost lost the New Hampshire primary to the junior senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy. On the last day of March President Johnson said “I shall not seek, and will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.” Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4th. Robert Kennedy was shot in the hallway of the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight on June 5th. The Democratic Convention in Chicago unraveled inside and out on live television in August. On October 16th at the Olympics in Mexico City two African-American medal winners raised their black-gloved fists in protest during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. On November 5th the Silent Americans spoke as Richard Nixon was elected President. On Christmas Eve Day the Apollo 8 astronauts circled the moon, took the first pictures of the “Earthrise,” and Captain Frank Borman read the creation story from the Book of Genesis.
Forty-two years later there is no Walter Cronkite for us to trust. The country continues to be involved in wars we appear unable to either win or get out of. All institutions appear vulnerable at least to criticism. The racial divide remains even with (and maybe partly because of) the first black President in the White House. As a nation we are unable to agree (or even agree to disagree) as to whether the Creation Story is a divine myth or the inspired literal word of God.
After nearly forty-two years I still feel the effects of that heart and eye opening summer in New York City, continue to sing with The Brothers Four, make music with Mike McCoy (who joined me in The Brothers Four in 2004,) and am still writing songs. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. These are amazing times to live in, to look back from, and to look forward, too. I am grateful for the opportunity to do just that.