The older Mister Boomer gets, the more fascinated he has become with history. What is unendingly fascinating to him is that his generation has lived through some of the most amazing times themselves. When boomers hear these famous quotes, they will remember seeing, reading and hearing them as they happened. Boomers were there, man! This was our history. How many quotes do you recall?
“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ’em all together, I guess.”
— Elvis Presley, 1957
Protests against rock ‘n roll had already appeared from preachers and southern politicians, but focused on Elvis’ dancing as he began to appear in larger venues — first at state fairs, then on TV.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
— President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1961 farewell speech
Ike was warning of the rising influence of the military and its civilian contractors in the wake of World War II and the expansion of the Cold War.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
— President John F. Kennedy, 1961 Inaugural Address
We often don’t hear the latter half of his statement, though his entire Inaugural Address is filled with momentous quotes.
“… you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
— Richard Nixon, 1962 press conference
Nixon was Eisenhower’s Vice President from 1953 to 1961. In 1962 he ran for governor of California. After losing to Democratic incumbent Pat Brown and giving this speech, the prevailing thought was that this was his exit from politics. Six years later he became President of the United States.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
— Martin Luther King March on Washington, August 1963
An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people participated in the March, which was credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. History remembers King’s speech, which was truly one for the ages. Mister B recalls teachers quoting the speech in school only a couple of years later.
“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time.”
–– Walter Cronkite, November 22, 1963
We saw the clip over and over of Walter Cronkite removing his glasses and tearing up as he announced the death of President Kennedy to a stunned nation. Mister B was in grade school when the news came. A television was wheeled into the classroom shortly after, and he and his classmates saw a recorded clip of the Cronkite announcement that night on the evening news.
“We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. It is time now to write the next chapter — and to write it in the books of law.”
— President Lyndon B. Johnson, Joint Congressional Address, November 27, 1963
In his first speech before Congress as President, Johnson pledged his support for continuing the initiatives begun by the Kennedy Administration, especially championing civil rights.
“We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”
— John Lennon, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, March 1966
Not much notice was taken of the quote at the time, but five months later a Birmingham, Alabama radio station repeated the quote and it appeared on the front page of the city’s newspaper. That touched off protests in the southern US when The Beatles were on tour there.
“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”
— Timothy Leary, 1966
The psychologist who brought LSD to the counterculture first said the quote, which he claimed was given to him by Marshal McLuhan, in a press conference in 1966, then again on his spoken word record album that same year. In January 1967 he spoke the phrase to a crowd of hippies at a Human Be-in in San Francisco.
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
— Senator Ted Kennedy, June 1968, eulogizing his brother Bobby
Ted Kennedy spoke of his brother Bobby Kennedy often paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw’s quote on the campaign trail in his fatal run for president.
“That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”
–Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969
At the time very few people claimed to have heard the “a man” in his scratchy recorded voice coming from the moon. Armstrong wrote the phrase himself. In a 1988 interview he said that if he didn’t say the “a”, he meant to. Decades of analysis on the recording suggests his Ohio accent slurred the “a” into the “for,” so most conclude he did, in fact, say “for a man.”
“It’s a free concert from now on.”
— John Morris, stage announcer at Woodstock, August 1969
When it comes to influences of the era — musical and pop cultural — you can’t record the history of the late sixties without mentioning Woodstock.
“… people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”
— President Richard Nixon, press conference, November 1973
After accusations of involvement in the Watergate break-in scandal and that he cheated on his tax returns, Nixon gave a press conference that was memorable, to say the least. Two years later he would resign his office and Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States.
There are hundreds if not thousands of memorable quotes from the Boomer Era that have now been written into the pages of history. Mister Boomer recalls some with awe and wonder now, having been too young to fully understand the implications at the time, while others, he recalls had a huge impact on him, his fellow boomers and the nation even at the time.
Every boomer knows where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, and when man landed on the moon. How many of these other quotes played a role in your consciousness at the time or since then, boomers?