Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
The Only News I know
by Emily Dickinson
The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
The Only Shows I see—
Tomorrow and Today—
The Only One I meet
Is God-The Only Street—
If Other News there be—
Or Admirabler Show—
I’ll tell it You—
It’s the birthday of William Faulkner (books by this author), born William Cuthbert Falkner in New Albany, Mississippi (1897). Faulkner was named for his great-grandfather, a Civil War colonel who’d been killed in a duel, but the family name he inherited was indeed Falkner, spelled with no “u.” He permanently adopted the additional vowel when applying for the Canadian Royal Air Force, believing it made his name look British. Having already been rejected by the U.S. Army Air Corps because of his height of only five feet six inches, he also lied about his birthplace, for good measure, and adopted a phony British accent.
Like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner was still in training when the First World War ended. This didn’t stop him from returning home to Oxford, Mississippi, the town where he’d grown up, sporting an officer’s uniform and claiming to have a silver plate in his head. He went to Ole Miss for a few semesters as a war veteran, even though he’d never finished high school, but dropped out of that too.
It was, perhaps, one of the last times Faulkner pretended to be something other than what he was. Of the 19 novels he eventually wrote, 18 were set in the South; 14 of those were set in a fictionalized version of Oxford, the town that he strayed from but always returned to. Many of his characters and their exploits were based on his real-life neighbors and family members — like his great-grandfather.
As much as the rest of the world would always associate Faulkner with the American South, the South didn’t always appreciate his representation. Oxford residents alternated between being angered by recognizable depictions in his fiction and disappointed when they weren’t included, but it might have been Faulkner’s stance on segregation that stirred up the most trouble. He condemned it, putting him at odds even with his own brother, but he also rejected the idea of federal intervention on the issue, putting him at odds with nearly everyone else. The South, he argued, needed time to get used to the idea of integration. When W.E.B. Du Bois challenged Faulkner to a debate on the topic in 1956 Faulkner declined, saying, “I do not believe there is a debatable point between us. We both agree in advance that the position you will take is right morally, legally, and ethically.” Faulkner believed that a slow and moderate approach to integration was simply a matter of practicality.
He said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s duty is to write about these things. … The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
He also said:
“It is my ambition to be, as a private individual, abolished and voided from history, leaving it markless, no refuse save the printed books; I wish I had had enough sense to see ahead thirty years ago and, like some of the Elizabethans, not signed them. It is my aim, and every effort bent, that the sum and history of my life, which in the same sentence is my obit and epitaph too, shall be them both: he made the books, and he died.”
His obituaries, when they were written upon his death in 1962, were substantially longer. The epitaph on his grave doesn’t mention his books. It reads simply, “Belove’d/ Go With God.”
On this day in 1957 1,000 troops secured Little Rock Central High allowing nine black students to enter and attend school. It was a historic day in the Civil Rights movement not because it was the first school to desegregate, but because it was the first time federal intervention was used to do so.
When the Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine in 1954, banning segregated public schools, it left up to individual states and communities the issue of how and when integration would proceed. Little Rock had approved a gradual approach; the high school would integrate first, then the middle schools, then elementary. But when the time came for black students to enroll in Central High, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus reneged on the deal, surrounding the school with National Guard troops on the first day of the year to protect people, he claimed, from the caravans of protestors on their way to Little Rock. In fact the Guard denied entrance to the nine black students who attempted to enroll as a crowd of about 300 people gathered. Within days the spectacle was over but the Guard remained, napping on the school’s lawn and reading newspapers to pass the time. The approach that Southern moderates like William Faulkner had preached was quickly turning from “go slow” into “don’t go.”
More than two weeks passed before a federal injunction withdrew the National Guard from the school. When Little Rock police officers escorted the nine black students into school on the morning of September 23, crowds of protestors outside became so menacing that administrators had the students slip out a side entrance before noon.
And so two days later President Eisenhower ordered the Screaming Eagles 101st Airborne Division stationed in Kentucky to escort the nine black students back in — and ensure they were able to stay. By then the national media attention on Little Rock had become intense, drawing massive crowds — although, as the school newspaper reminded students, the protestors represented less than 1 percent of the town’s population.
Of the “Little Rock Nine,” as the black students became known, only three graduated from Central High. Five finished their education elsewhere; one was expelled for responding to the constant harassments of her classmates, once by overturning a bowl of chili on a tormentor. (The bullies went largely unpunished.) All nine credited their parents for encouraging them to enroll — and attend class — despite intense scrutiny and racism.
Today is the birthday of the poet, cartoonist, playwright, and songwriter Shel Silverstein (books by this author), born Sheldon Allan Silverstein, to a Jewish family in Chicago (1930). As a kid he wanted to play baseball or be popular with girls, but he couldn’t play ball and he couldn’t dance. “Luckily, the girls didn’t want me,” he said. “Not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write.” The creative habit stuck, and after high school, he bounced around to several colleges studying art until bad grades forced him to move on.
At 23 he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and he published a series of cartoons for the Pacific Stars and Stripes. After the war, those strips got him work as a freelance cartoonist. He took a job writing an illustrated travelogue for Playboy where he reported from exotic locales like Paris, the Haight-Ashbury district, and a New Jersey nudist colony. He contributed to the magazine for the next 20 years and in 1961 he published his first book of new adult material, Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book. It was his new editor that first suggested that he try to write for children. Silverstein took some convincing, but he would go on to write some of the most enduring children’s books of our time — books such as Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back (1963), about a lion who eats hunters, and The Giving Tree (1964), which challenged people’s expectations of children’s literature, with serious and sometimes sad subject matter. They were enormously successful with young and old alike. His illustrated book of children’s poetry Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of the best-selling volumes of poetry of all time.
While in his 50s, Silverstein took up writing for the stage and also wrote many successful songs, including the No. 1 Johnny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue.” He never cared much for the limelight and rarely gave interviews, preferring to let his work speak for itself. He said, “If you want to find out what a writer or a cartoonist really feels, look at his work […] If your work is weak and lacking so that it needs explanation, it isn’t enough, it isn’t clear enough. Make it so good and so clear that it doesn’t need any further explanation.”
On this day in 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor (books by this author) was sworn in as a justice in the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first woman to hold that office. O’Connor was born to a ranching family in El Paso, Texas (1930), and as a young girl remembers shooting coyotes that threatened the family herd. Determined not to have the same fate as her father, who dreamed of attending college but never made it, O’Connor moved in with her grandmother in the city to attend school. She went on to Stanford University, graduated in 1952 at the top of her class but she couldn’t find a law firm that would give her a job. “It was very frustrating,” she said, “because my male classmates weren’t having any problems. No one would even speak to me.” Not one to give up she tracked down an attorney in Northern California whom she’d heard once had a female staffer and she convinced him to let her work four months for free until a paying job opened up. She married and later moved to Arizona where she opened up her own law practice with a male partner, taking low-paying cases, until she got involved with the Republican Party. She rose through the ranks quickly and within a few years found herself Majority Leader of the Arizona State Senate, the first American woman to ever hold such a position.
In 1979 O’Connor was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and two years later, when President Reagan needed to fulfill his campaign promise to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, O’Connor was tapped. She had deep reservations about accepting the position. She later said, “If I stumbled badly in doing the job, I think it would have made life more difficult for women, and that was a great concern of mine […]” Pro-life and religious conservatives vehemently opposed her appointment, fearing that she wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, but she was confirmed by unanimous vote. O’Connor often voted with the conservative wing of the court but built a reputation for being pragmatic, and through the latter part of her career often cast the swing vote in undecided cases, including the controversial Bush v. Gore decision in 2000. Upon retiring in 2006 she set up a popular online curriculum called ourcourts.org to foster understanding of civics among young people. The initiative expanded, becoming iCivics in May 2010 offering free lessons plans, games, and interactive videogames for middle and high school educators. By 2015, the iCivics games had 72,000 teachers as registered users and its games had been played 30 million times.
She is a frequent public speaker and passionate advocate for judicial independence.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®