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Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

In a series of posts nearly five years ago, I made the point that some of the great wisdom of the ages fit easily into tweets. I made the same point in some classes last week, noting that even in long writing forms, such as books or speeches, you should make key points briefly in memorable lines.

In my slides for the class, I imagined how some historic speeches or books might have been summarized in tweets:

FDR tweet

 

Anne Frank tweet

JFK tweet

Rachel Carson tweet

Martin Luther King tweet

Ronald Reagan tweet

What else?

Suggest some other imagined tweets from historical writing such as books and speeches, and I’d be happy to add them here (and possibly use them, with credit, in future classes and workshops).

The rest of the class

As noted above, these tweets come toward the end of a class about writing for social media. I review the full class in an accompanying post. Here are the slides for the full class:

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Ogden Standard Examiner front page Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy assassinationI am under no illusion that my thoughts or memories of the Kennedy assassination are any more insightful than all the others you’ve already read and heard for the last month or so.

But I do think the front pages my father saved from November 1963 are pretty interesting.

We lived in Sunset, Utah, at the time. I was a fourth-grader at Doxey Elementary School. My father saved the front page above from the evening edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the daily paper delivered to our home. It apparently started Dad (and then me) on a couple lifetimes of saving historic front pages. This is the oldest of dozens of papers Dad saved over the next 15 years before his death. As the journalist in the family, I got his collection and added dozens (maybe hundreds) more.

Take a look at the front page above. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 a.m. p.m. Central time, 11:30 a.m., right on (or perhaps after) deadline for an evening paper. Clearly they just had enough time and material for one wire story (from UPI) and a file mug shot of the president. There isn’t even a wire photo from Dallas. (more…)

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Brevity is the soul of wit.

Shakespeare wrote that. And no one said it was shallow because he said it in fewer than 140 characters (27, to be precise).

When people who don’t understand Twitter whine about it, a common implication is that you can’t say much in 140 characters. So everything on Twitter must be shallow, right? I received a job application recently that touted the other social media the applicant was using but dismissed Twitter, implying that the person’s big thoughts simply couldn’t be expressed in just 140 characters.

Setting aside the fact that one of Twitter’s best uses is to distribute links to pieces of greater depth, I want to dispute the myth that short equals shallow. I have done my share of lengthy writing. I once wrote a newspaper story that ran 200 inches and my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection ran 38 pages as a pdf. But I aspire to get to the point occasionally with a nugget of wit or wisdom.

So I rounded up some wisdom, insight and humor, much of which you will recognize immediately, all of it tweetworthy.

Let’s start with Jesus, whose most famous statement fits easily in a tweet: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

And some of the most enduring statements from our presidents fit easily in tweets (I deliberately left President Obama off this list because it is just too soon to say which statements of his will endure):

Thomas Jefferson: I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Abraham Lincoln: A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Harry Truman: The buck stops here.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.

John F. Kennedy: And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Ronald Reagan: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

And, of course, leaders of other nations have been eloquent but brief as well:

Winston Churchill: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Nelson Mandela: If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Other inspirational leaders also showed their eloquence in brief statements:

Mohandas Gandhi: An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Patrick Henry: I know not what others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

Helen Keller: It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.

Martin Luther King Jr.: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Douglas MacArthur: Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

Rosa Parks: All I was doing was trying to get home from work.

Gloria Steinem: A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

A couple writers known for their pithy wisdom nearly always shared it in bursts of less than 140 characters:

Benjamin Franklin: Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Aesop: It is with our passions as it is with fire and water, they are good servants, but bad masters.

Of course, I could go on and on. Virtually every advertising tag line (Just do it. Got milk?) would fit in a tweet, as would many lines from Shakespeare, Mark Twain and other literary giants, as well as lines from our favorite movies, songs and comedians. Not to mention such sages as Yogi Berra and Gertrude Stein. How many of your favorite “Seinfeld” lines would fit in a tweet?

Twitter leaves plenty of room to say something important. Most of us don’t take full advantage of that room, but you could say that about any communication forum.

If you’re interested in more tweetworthy wit, wisdom and inspiration, I’ve compiled other brief quotes by source (it may take me a while to post all the links). Please feel free to add more in the comments. I know I’ve just scratched the surface here:

A note on sources: I chose the quotes in this post primarily from memory, checking all of the quotes in this post in multiple sources (they all show up hundreds, if not thousands, of times on a Google search, so I won’t cite them all). The source I used most, including for most of the quotes in the related links, was BrainyQuote. Biblical quotes were checked using BibleGateway. I used the Bible translation that seemed to be the most-quoted for that passage, often the King James.

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This will be my column in Monday’s Gazette:

When presidents nominate new justices for the Supreme Court, people who care about courts project their hopes and fears onto judges most of them have never heard of.

From the special interests and from the extremes of our political spectrum, we hear caricatures about empathetic or activist judges. And we really don’t have a clue what the justice will do.

Here’s the truth: Presidents (as well as governors) nominate people for the Supreme Court who they believe will be good justices, interpreting and applying the law and the Constitution honestly. They also nominate people they hope will reflect their own political philosophy. They have a better track record on the first score than on the second.

I don’t know how Sonia Sotomayor will work out as a Supreme Court justice, presuming that she wins confirmation. And neither do all the liberals hoping she will be empathetic or all the conservatives who think that “identity politics” play a role in her selection but were irrelevant in the selection of the 108 white male justices who have preceded her to the court.

Do you suppose that when Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Marsha Ternus and Mark Cady to the Iowa Supreme Court that he anticipated someday Cady would write and Ternus would join a unanimous decision overturning Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage? I think we can be sure he didn’t. He appointed them to interpret the Constitution and they did that faithfully.

Do you think that when liberal icon John F. Kennedy appointed Byron White to the court that he thought he would become one of the most conservative justices? Or that Republican Richard Nixon thought Harry Blackmun would be one of the most liberal?

I do know that lots of anti-abortion voters campaigned hard for Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush, based on Republican platforms committed to appointing justices who would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. And by the time Roe came up for review by the court in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, Reagan and Bush had appointed five of the nine justices on the court. Add in the fact that the original two Roe dissenters, White and William Rehnquist, remained on the court and this looked like a 7-2 reversal of Roe.

But two Reagan appointees, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, and a Bush appointee, David Souter, joined in a 5-4 decision affirming Roe. Put simply, a majority of the Reagan-Bush appointees voted to uphold Roe, and if even one of them had voted the other way, it would have been overturned.  

Keep this in mind as you read and listen to the various projections of Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice. The truth is that we never know and people from either end of the political spectrum who try to fan hopes and fears are doing so from speculation and ignorance.

Justices, like all people, change and grow through the years. However long a justice serves, we can count on two things: He or she will rule on some issues we can’t now anticipate and a justice at the Supreme Court level is not bound, as appellate justices are, to follow earlier rulings of the Supreme Court.

Presuming she is confirmed, Sotomayor is young enough that she probably will spend the next 20 years or more ruling on the laws of our land. If you know how she will rule on issues we can’t now anticipate, you are either truly wise or, more likely, truly foolish.

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