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by William H. Benson

May 23, 2002

     In February of 1972 President Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China, and then in May he visited the Russians in Red Square.

     On March 30, 1972 the North Vietnamese attacked South Vietnam, marching through the DMZ and Cambodia.  U.S. air forces retaliated by heavily bombarding North Vietnamese cities.  The stalled Paris Peace Talks were resumed on April 27, and the last of the U.S. ground combat troops would come home in August.

     Running for the Democrats for President in the upcoming November 1972 election was George McGovern, a candidate who Nixon thought was abominably bad for the country and that he, as President, should do everything possible to stop this maniac from winning.  As a result, on June 17, 1972 police arrested five men in an attempted burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Washington D.C. apartment complex called Watergate.

  1. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972 at the age of 77, and on May 15 Arthur Bremer shot George C. Wallace of Alabama who lived the rest of his life in a wheel chair.

     On March 14, 1972 Clifford Irving admitted that his Autobiography of Howard Hughes was a fraud, based on some one hundred talks with the reclusive billionaire that never happened.

     The Godfather and The French Connection, noted for their brutality, took the top prizes at the box office in 1972, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull became the runaway best seller.

     Apollo 16 splashed down on April 27, 1972 after another successful descent to the moon.

     Also, in late May of 1972 across the fifty states, high school graduates accepted their diplomas.  Wearing a black gown and a square cap with an orange and white tassel, I walked across a platform in the gym and the district’s Superintendent then, Roger Blake, handed me my high school diploma–thirty years ago this month, this week, on the 25th.

     A lot can happen in the space of thirty years.  Both World War I and II were fought to a finish in the space of thirty years.  A half dozen Presidents will serve and then retire in thirty years.  The personal computer is not quite thirty years old, and entire careers are worked out in thirty years.

     I would argue that these last thirty years has been the best time ever to live as an adult in the entire history of humanity.  Living in the United States of America during the last third of the twentieth century was the best deal offered any human being–better than what the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the British under Queen Elizabeth, or the French under King Louis XIV ever dreamed possible.

     For we are the posterity which our forefathers thought of and provided for and built their government and their communities for, and we are the benfactors of their right decisions.

     What of the future, the next thirty years?  I am convinced that honesty and integrity will still be rewarded and that talent and intelligence will command respect–the basic rules of humanity.

     But in thirty more years will we have suffered through World War III and IV, or will we have enjoyed a continuation of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush era of prosperity that we have come to expect as our right, our entitlement?  Either way, if still alive I will be approaching my eightieth birthday, a sobering thought, but younger than Paul Harvey or Mike Wallace are now.

     Mark Twain observed, “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”  Perhaps.  But to lose our experience and to gradually erase clean the slate of our memory would be bewildering, if not frightening.


     As it is in this life, the best of all possible worlds, the past is engraved, recorded in our memories, prone to misinterpretation and forgetfulness, but never to be relived nor altered by anyone, neither human nor divine.  The present is simply that moment of time when the future pauses for a short while before becoming the past.  And the future, that next thirty years, is a blank slate available for us to write upon it whatever we wish.