Day By Day

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Day In History

Today is "Veterans Day" so go out and find a veteran and sincerely thank him or her for his/her service [in an entirely appropriate way, that is].

When I was a child Veterans Day was still "Armistice Day" and it commemorated the end of major combat in World War I. The armistice had supposedly been signed by the Germans at 11:11 am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and so shortly after 11:00 am we would observe a moment of silence for those who fell in the "Great War". There would be parades and marching bands speeches and ceremonies honoring the veterans and people would pass out poppies in remembrance of those who had fallen in battle. It was a big deal. In 1954 the observance was changed to Veterans Day to honor all those who wore the uniform and served their country in all times and all places. To some of us it's still a big deal. Various communities around the Commonwealth are planning observances for 11:00 today. If you can, try to get to one. I know I will.

On this day in 1620 forty-one passengers on board the Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod sign an agreement to form a government and to be bound by its laws. This is the famous "Mayflower Compact", arguably the first "constitution" written by English settlers in America although it did not specify the form of government.

And on this day in 1939 Kate Smith first performed "God Bless America" in public. Her career and the song's fame rose together. Here's the way it sounded when she sang it. Some would object to the song's militant tone, but on this day it seems appropriate.

Happy Birthday to Gen. George S. Patton [1885], to Kurt Vonnegut [1922], to Fyodor Dostoyevsky [1821], to Pennsylvania senator Hugh Scott [1900], and a very special shout out to Pirate third baseman, Pie Traynor [1899]. I should also note that today is the birthday of the Soviet spy and left-wing icon, the aptly-named Alger Hiss [1904].