James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief II

Lead: The use of the stirring, heroic melody, Hail to the Chief, was ritualized by First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, dealing with her husband’s public relations problems. The story behind the tune, however, is not very good news for a politician.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk, Eleventh President of the United States, was short, usually unkempt and wore cheap, ill-fitting suits. He and Sarah were not universally popular in Washington society and he could walk into a room and be completely ignored. To call attention to his presence and increase respect, Sarah Polk decreed that he should have a theme song. Whenever he entered the room, the Marine Band was instructed to play Hail to the Chief.

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James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief I

Lead: Frustrated that her husband was being ignored at social and political events, the First Lady determined that the president needed a theme song. Of such are traditions born.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk was an unprepossessing man. He was short, he usually sported a bad haircut, and he wore cheap oversized suits. Often the President of the United States was ignored when he entered the room. In short, he was a public relation expert's nightmare. Nevertheless, Polk had a secret political weapon. It was his wife, Sarah.

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The Haymarket Incident II

Lead: In early May 1886 in the Haymarket area of Chicago a bloody confrontation occurred between police and workers. There followed the first "Red Scare" in American social history.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: The violence occurred at the end of a theretofore peaceful rally called by the anarchist movement to protest the attack by police on strikers at the McCormick Reaper factory the previous day. Several of their number had been killed or wounded and union members were quite angry. As the meeting was breaking up the police arrived in strength. Someone tossed a bomb into the police ranks and they started firing, killing civilians and their own men as well.

 

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Joseph McCarthy – II

Lead: With the nation gripped by cold war panic, Senator Joseph McCarthy enflamed passions with accusations of treason.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: Searching for an issue that would define his bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate, McCarthy settled on communism and trumpeted charges that traitorous communists lurked in major national institutions of learning and government. It was not difficult to arouse national fear in those years. Americans were weary of the Korean Conflict, concerned about Marxist expansion in Europe and Asia, alarmed by the disgrace of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official proven to have had a shadowy career as a Soviet agent and frightened by the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenburg convicted and executed as spies for Russia.

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Senator Theodore Bilbo – Prophet of Racism

Lead: Senator Bilbo’s racism could make a bigot blush.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: In the American South during the early part of the 20th century, among the most successful politicians were the demagogues. Recognizing the frustrations and fears of lower middle-class and poor whites, they combined populist attacks on aristocratic whites, railroads and entrenched business interests with overt appeals to racism. Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Cotton Ed Smith, George Wallace, and in his early campaigns, Strom Thurmond, all supported comparatively progressive policies while in office, but secured election by playing the race card. They defended white supremacy with a stridency that overwhelmed their more moderate opponents. 

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William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold – II

Lead: At the Democratic Convention of 1896 the candidate chosen was a champion of free silver.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: The burning issue in the campaign of 1896 was money. Debtors such as small farmers whose wheat and cotton was declining in price, wanted the government to increase the amount of silver coins in circulation thereby making it easier for them to buy equipment and pay off their loans. Creditors such as banks and railroads wanted the government to stick with the gold standard because gold was considered more valuable. Would policy shift to cheap silver or stay with the more precious gold backing for the currency? The Democrats in 1896 dumped their incumbent President Grover Cleveland and chose instead a thirty-six year old former congressman from Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan.

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William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold – I

Lead: During the election of 1896 American voters just about lost control of themselves, all over the question of money.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: In 1893 the US sank into the worst financial depression the nation had yet experienced. Banks failed, farmers lost their holdings, and President Grover Cleveland, just beginning his second non-consecutive term, saw his long held dreams of reform shattered by the stricken economy. All his efforts to revive business and lift the national spirit came to grief and by 1896, Cleveland was even rejected for his party’s nomination. Instead, the Democrats chose a champion of free silver, a little-known congressman from Nebraska. He won by getting out in front of a tidal wave.

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The Aborted Thirteenth Amendment – Part II

Lead: Deep gloom gripped the capitol of threatened Republic. Schism. Rebellion. Severed relations. The beginning of the national nightmare. It was January 1861.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: President James Buchanan sat in the White House, repudiated and politically impotent.  Two blocks away at the Willard, President-elect Abraham Lincoln, whose election had provoked seven Southern states to secede, was reluctant to commit himself since he had no official capacity. In that power vacuum, moderates attempted to find a way to staunch the constitutional hemorrhage.

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