â€¢ The positioning statement on the cover says, “Articles of Lasting Interest.” Well, I would say so.Â Forty-six years later I’m reading them and writing about them. Now that’s truth in advertising!
â€¢ There is a profile of the amazing black female athlete, Wilma Rudolph, recounting her performance at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The article originallyÂ appeared in The Rotarian magazine and was written by some fellow named Alex Haley. Of course, Haley was never heard from again.
â€¢ Turn a page andÂ suddenlyÂ you encounter this, vaguely unsettling apparition . . .
A woman with a cupcake on her head and, if the copy is to be believed, egg in her hair.
â€¢ And thisâ€”the answer to a question that had plagued mankind and thwarted our most brilliant scientists for decades. [TheÂ Question]. I can hear the shame-soaked taunts now: “Pore smotherer!”
â€¢ There is also a profile ofÂ JFK’s newly installed Secretary of Defense, a man who, at 44, had only recentlyÂ been appointed President of Ford Motor Company.Â Â “A close-up of the tireless, incisive management expert who gave up millions as newly-elected president of Ford to take on ‘the most thankless $25,000-a-year job in the world.'”
His nameâ€”Robert McNamara. Of course, he didn’t know just how thankless it would be. By the time of his departure from Defense in 1968,Â McNamara would become the focal point for seething, irrationalÂ anti-war rage that was fashionable among hippies, campus radicals and young lefty Hollywood types like Jane Fonda.
On November 2, 1965, protestor Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front ofÂ McNamara’s Pentagon office, after dousing himself in gasoline. When people are doing that, that’s pretty much the definition of a thankless job.
On page after page I found the beginning threads of stories that can be followed right into our headlines this morning. Threads like the article about the new Cuban refugees fleeing the tinhorn revolutionary that had recently taken over Cubaâ€””Castro Betrayed Our Country!” Or the one about the bright hopes for peaceÂ and harmony in barely-12-year-old Israelâ€””Sound of Singing in Israel.”
And thus Â I wonder. . . What innocuous stories in this month’s Reader’s Digest are the opening scenes of a drama (comedy, tragedy or farce) that will still be playing out four or five decades from now?