Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of Armistice Day formerly known to many as Veterans Day.  The origins date back to November 11, 1918 when the Allies and Germany signed a temporary peace treaty at Compiegne, France during World War I (the final  peace treaty was signed in 1919 at Versailles).  It took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month but some pockets of hostility persisted in parts of Russia and the Ottoman Empire. 

On November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, "To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." All businesses that day were required to close and observe two minutes of silence.  

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, several States made Armistice Day a legal holiday.  On May 13, 1938, Congress passed legislation declaring the day as a federal holiday.  After World War II and the Korean Conflict, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation on June 4, 1954 that formally changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor those vets from the recent wars. 

Unfortunately, many citizens often times forget about this day, except when they check their mailboxes and find no mail.  However, for our living veterans, they make an effort to remember this holiday by hosting various parades throughout the nation's cities, including here in Milwaukee that held its parade on November 6.  So, what makes this day different from Memorial Day? On that day, we remember those veterans who were killed in the defense of the country but today, we give thanks to both the living and deceased vets.  Finally, let us take the time, today, to thank our Veterans for their brave services in defense of our freedoms.  


Friday, November 5, 2010

Why is the electorate divided?

We just completed the 2010 Election Cycle and one of the questions I have pondered for the last couple of years was what divided the electorate? There are countless answers to that question but one of the biggest reasons might be how the media became innovative in providing political news to the American people.  About 40 years ago, Americans only received it from the Big Three Networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) along with their local newspapers.  That changed as the Internet exploded with political blogs, online news websites, the emergence of cable news channels, and the popularity of talk radio. 

Over the course of the last ten years, the 5:30 network news and newspapers started to decline when it came to delivering political news to the American public. Beginning with the 2000 Election Cycle, saw the growth of countless political blogs published by both professionals and amateurs.  They both took the conservative or the liberal side when discussing political issues and allowed the average citizen to post their comments that often times sparked further debate.

Today, most of us receive political news through the Internet or the cable news channels of our choice.  If you are conservative, then you tune into Fox News. If you are liberal, you tune into MSNBC and in between then CNN would be your choice.  Instead of quick hits like the Big Three Networks of years past, these news outlets provide in-depth coverage along with their opinions on the current hot button political issues that draw large audiences on any given day. Finally, do not forget about AM radio. Originally, it started out with entertainment programs that replaced Vaudeville and then started to play music with news coming only at the top of the hour. When FM took over the music, AM replaced it with conservative talk radio that continues today.  It provides in-depth coverage of the hot button issues and allow audience members to have direct participation. 

As you can see, the media became more sophisticated over the years that spark the great electoral divide in our nation.  No longer do we see the media just giving the “who, what, where, when and why's” of the news but also their opinions as well.  The way Americans get their news depends solely on their political perspective.  Finally, the best way to become a well-balanced and informed citizen is to receive political news from various sources that contain different opinions and then you can form your own conclusions. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

D-Day, Sixty-Six Years Later

June 6, 2010 marked the 66th anniversary of the Allied invasion, code name Operation Overlord, that started the end of World War II. Although this year’s anniversary did not have any significant remembrances, but each year on this date, it is important to remember those who gave their lives on the Beaches of Normandy that brought freedom to Europe. This post will tell a brief history of the D-Day invasion that took place on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 and how it led to the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Also, how the invasion is remembered historically through museums, movies and books.

At the beginning of World War II, before the United States entered, France fell quickly to the Nazis early in the conflict. In addition, the Soviet Union faced a fierce battle with Germany on their border and for the next couple of years, kept pressuring the U.S. and Great Britain to open a second front to alleviate pressure from the German forces. After years of debate, the Allies agreed the summer of 1944 was the best time to launch a massive invasion of Western Europe. The invasion was scheduled to start June 4 but constant weather problems delayed the operation and finally it began in the early hours of June 6. That morning, paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division landed behind enemy lines in France. It started out poorly as they over shot their landing zones, got stuck on rooftops of buildings, crashed into residential homes, and instantly killed by the Germans. Days leading up to the invasion, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower even acknowledged that he would take full responsibility if it failed. That changed as U.S. and British forces slammed into the Beaches of Normandy at dawn.

The Allies assembled the invasion in Great Britain with tremendous amounts of men and supplies, including hundreds of ships and thousands of landing crafts. Before they set out on the fateful, ninety mile mission across the English Channel, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Americans to pray for the safety and success of the troops. When the mother ships reached a couple of miles off the shores of France, the soldiers boarded the landing crafts that would take them as close as possible to the beaches. Nerves ran through the men along with uncontrollable shaking and some even coughed up their breakfast . When the doors flapped down, instant death struck the first wave as the Germans opened fire on top of the ten to twenty foot high cliffs. Their forces anticipated for the last couple of years that the Allies would open a separate front and prepared extensively by placing land mines, machine guns, and obstacles up and down the beaches and cliffs. When the first Allied wave became ineffective, they still pressed on with wave after wave to crack the German line. Then, by late morning to early afternoon, United States and Great Britain finally broke it and either captured or killed thousands of German soldiers.

The invasion worked and changed the course of World War II as France was liberated. In the following year, Allies marched towards Berlin engaging the German Army in battle after battle until it surrendered unconditionally in May of 1945. The D-Day invasion cost over 100,000 lives of the Allied forces. The historical importance of the invasion proved how it initated the beginning of the end of World War II and if it failed, Europe would have suffered severely for the next couple of years.

Historical memory has not strayed from remembering this significant event in history. In the 1960s, the film, The Longest Day, was the first movie that showed the story of the invasion. On the 40th anniversary, President Ronald Regean gave a resounding speech about the invasion and how it changed the course of history. He believed that the Allies where not conquerors but liberators that provided freedom to Europe. The late military historian, Stephen Ambrose, wrote a bestseller of the D-Day Invasion and founded the national D-Day Museum located in New Orleans. The film maker, Steven Spielberg, produced two movies that included the invasion, Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers which showed the 101st Airborne's role at Normandy and the rest of the War. I hope everybody takes the time every June 6 to remember the allies who gave their lives in the most important invasion in the twentieth-century that brought freedom to millions of Europeans after they were denied it for the last painful six years.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kent State, Forty Years Later

Several years ago, on the way to Washington, D.C. with my brother, I noticed an exit sign pointing to Kent State University. I told my brother to pull off because of the historical significance of that University and explained to him that back in May of 1970 National Guard troops killed four students and wounded nine during an anti-war rally. We drove around the campus to look for any memorials about that fateful day and found a small stone plaque with the names of the deceased under a tree. After we finished touring Kent, the idea of a massacre that occurred in this small Ohio town struck both of us as we continued our road trip. Today, May 4, 2010, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Kent State Massacre and in this post I will provide a brief history of that infamous day.

On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon shifted course in the long Vietnam War ordering American troops to be stationed in neutral Cambodia to conduct attacks against Vietcong sanctuaries. This policy sparked new protests from the anti-war forces especially in the tiny small Ohio city, Kent. The next day, students staged a peaceful protest on campus but that evening protesters displayed civil disobedience inthe city's downtown which prompted Ohio Governor James Rhodes to call out the National Guard to restore order. On May 2, arsonists burned down the ROTC building on the campus of Kent State University and the following day, authorities decided to ban a noon rally planned for Monday, May 4.

About two thousand students showed up to the banned rally that Monday afternoon anyway and first the guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the crowd. For un-explained reasons, after that unsuccessful method, they fired about sixty shots into the crowed which killed four students, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Allison B. Krause, William K. Schroeder, and Sandra Lee Scheuer and wounded nine others. In a statement, Nixon said, “This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty, and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort of violence as a means of such expression” feeling terribly of what took place at Kent. (quoted from the NYT article dated May 5, 1970). Sylvester Delcorso, one of the Generals of the Ohio National Guard, defended the guardsmen said “that the guardsmen had been force to shoot after a sniper opened fire against the troops from a nearby rooftop” (Ibid) but the students denied there was a sniper.

The shootings sparked a national outrage and Nixon appointed an investigative commission that found the shootings to be “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” In 1979, the victims’ families filed a lawsuit against twenty-eight members of the Ohio National Guard and Governor Rhodes. The suit settled and the families received $675,000, collectively. Also, both the National Guard and the Governor accepted responsibility for the deaths and injuries that occurred. Marking the fortieth anniversary, Elaine Holstein, the mother of one the students (Jeffery Miller) killed in the massacre wrote her reflections (in the hard copy edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 4, 2010) on the events and speculates what kind of person he would become if he did not die an unjust death.

History showed that the guardsmen overreacted when they killed these students for exercising their freedom of speech rights cherished under the Constitution. The appropriateness of the National Guard and the Governor to show remorse by taking full responsibility displayed professionalism. Also, let us never forget the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam defending our freedoms, one of them the right to dissent government policy. Finally, if you travel to Washington, D.C. be sure to visit Kent State University on the way and say a pray for the victims of the massacre.

Here is the picture of John Filo's Pulizer Prize Winning Photo of a student grieving one of the dead students.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Waukesha Water War Revisited

For the last couple of years, the City of Waukesha is attempting to find new sources of fresh drinking water to comply with the federal standards of radium since its existing wells contain high levels of the potential cancer-causing element. The plan is to pipe water from Lake Michigan. In order to do so, it needs permission under the Great Lakes Compact where each of the eight states bordering the lakes have to approve Waukesha's plans since it straddles outside the Lake Michigan drainage basin. Before radium entered the Waukesha water system, shortly after the Civil War, the city entered the famous era of its young existence, the Springs Era (1868-1914), known nationally for its clean spring water that had miraculous effects.

The Springs Era of Waukesha started with an Irish immigrant who reluctantly travelled with his wife to the city to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, Bridget Clarke, in August 1868. Colonel Richard Dunbar, who suffered from incurable diabetes, travelled one hot summer day with his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Clarke, to some real estate she recently purchased. Noticing some springs on her property, he took a tumbler and drank a couple rounds of spring water. Suddenly, he felt "a most grateful and refreshing sensation" as the water travelled throughout his body and declared "the most delicious, the most grateful beverage that entered my mouth in years." Did the water have any effect on his diabetes?

After he drank from the spring and surprisingly refreshed, Dunbar walked without discomfort to a nearby oak tree and thirty minutes later, drank another six tumblers of water. He sense that there was some sort of magic element in the spring water and perhaps help cured his diabetes. Dunbar returned to the East Coast and his diabetes relapsed so he returned to Waukesha to drink more of the water. Finally, he decided to move his family to the city in order to be close to the springs.

Initially, people were skeptical about Dunbar's claim that the spring water actually cured his diabetes. However, the Waukesha Freeman worked eagerly "to transform Dunbar's discovery into an event of mythic proportions." (David McDaniel, Spring City and the Water War of 1892).For the next twenty years, hundreds and then thousands of people, including the former President Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary, visited the springs and filled jugs of spring water. In addition, the city experienced a boom in population, the rise in new hotels and industries and turned this once quiet village west of Milwaukee into a thriving resort town. Then in 1891, a Chicago entrepreneur named James E. McElroy travelled to Waukesha and tried to win approval from the Village Board to lay pipes towards the site of the upcoming 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

McElroy arrived at Waukesha in July of 1891 as supposedly the "manager" of the Hygeia Mineral Springs Company that would be in charge of the project. The Waukesha Village Board granted approval to lay pipes from one of its springs to the site of the Expo. When news reached the Village, the citizens became outrage and the Board reconsidered his pipeline. With the first unsuccessful attempt, he then proceeded to buy Hygeia Spring and its hotel in September 1891 for $30,000. In another hearing about the project that took place on February 3, 1892, citizens flocked the meeting room with fierce opposition. Knowing that he will not get permission from the Board, McElroy's team secretly arrived by train late on May 7 and suddenly they were greeted by the locals. Fire bells began to toll and hundreds of citizens grabbed any weapons they could and threaten the workers, which abruptly boarded a train back to Chicago. Finally, despite many setbacks, James McElroy was able to sell spring water from Waukesha County at the World's Fair by trucking it from a pipeline that ended on land that he purchased in Big Bend.

The Springs Era ended around the time World War I broke out. Local Historian John Schoenknecht, author of the book, "The Great Waukesha Springs Era: 1868-1918," believed that fecal bacteria contaminated the springs but some of them are still flowing today with water but none are used for drinking. For the majority of the twentieth century, Waukesha received its drinking water from three large wells but they began to contain larger and larger amounts of radium that potentially causes cancer. In 2006, then Mayor Larry Nelson negotiated an extension of its December 2009 deadline to find new sources of water until 2018. I hope that Waukesha can begin a new era in obtaining fresh drinking water. If they do receive permission, the significance may not be as dramatic like the Springs Era but will be a good step forward to reduce the risk of cancer to its citizens. The residents of Waukesha deserve quality drinking water, a part of their heritage.

"Spring City and the Water War of 1892," by David P. McDaniel
"Spring City no More," by Don Behm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 20, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Houston, We Have a Problem"

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik, and suddenly, the United States was behind their Cold War rival in space exploration. In reaction to the embarrassment, the country mandated that every high school student enroll in physics courses to help close the science gap between the United States and the USSR. Also, one year later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to get America into space.

The first space flight program called Project Mercury (1958-1963) and according to NASA, its three primary goals were to orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, to investigate man's ability to function in space, and to recover both man and spacecraft safely. The most famous astronaut was Alan Shepherd who became the first American to orbit the Earth. The program flew six manned missions before the next program took over.

The second space flight program called Project Gemini (1965-1966) and it flew ten manned flights. The goals according to NASA were to subject man and equipment to space flight up to two weeks in duration; to rendezvous and dock with orbiting vehicles and to maneuver the docked combination by using the target vehicle's propulsion system; to perfect methods of entering the atmosphere and landing at a preselected point on land. Its goals were also met, with the exception of a land landing, which was cancelled in 1964. Also, many of the astronauts who flew during this mission went on to NASA's famous Apollo program including Wisconsin's very own James Lovell who was part of the Gemini VII and XII missions.

With the success of both the Mercury and Gemini programs, the United States believed that it could achieve the unthinkable, to be the first country to land on the Moon and return home safely. President John F. Kennedy made it the nation's priority of landing on the Moon before the end of the 1960s concluded in his speech before a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961.   You can see how it received bipartisan support. 

The Apollo program began shortly after Kennedy's speech and the early missions leading up to the Moon landing focused primarily on studying the its outer-surface. Also, it was a test to see if the astronauts were able to handle the confines of outer space for extended periods of time. Then, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11, commanded by Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collings, launched and four days later Armstrong became the first American to land on the Moon, finally beating the Russians. Here is the link of CBS News' live coverage of the moon landing anchored by Walter Cronkite.  The video is very remarkable for that time and you can tell how Walter was enjoying every moment of the landing.

For some humans, the number 13 is portrayed as a bad luck number especially the occasional Friday the 13th. The number even provided a bad curse for the Apollo 13 crewmembers (James Lovell, Jack Siwgert who replaced Ken Mattingly after being exposed to the German measles, and Fred Haise), as they would try to be the third spacecraft to land on the moon. The mission started on Saturday, April 11, 1970 with a beautiful afternoon launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida at 2:13 (EST). Things went well for the astronauts and after a prime time show to the nation on Monday, April 13, Jack Swigert did a routine procedure that unfortunately caused a massive explosion of the oxygen tank in the Service Module that had a ripple affect into the Command Module Odyssey. This link is a breaking news bulletin by ABC News and now the nation turned to their TV sets for the next couple of days to see if NASA could somehow pull out of this disaster.

Anxiety began to set in with both the crewmembers and Mission Control in Houston. Obviously, the mission turned from landing on the Moon to bringing back the astronauts home alive, a daunting task. Since the Service Module was inoperable, and the Command Module (CM) crippled with limited power, the only thing that the crew had left to survive was the Lunar Module Aquarius (specifically design to land on the moon and nothing else). They used it as a lifeboat and for the next couple of days, did numerous course trajectory corrections around the Moon and able to aim it back at Earth. Finally, on the last day of the mission, Friday, April 17, the astronauts transferred to the CM and jettisoned the Aquarius. The whole World watched to see if the crippled Command Module would hold up the intense heat through re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Then, after several minutes of blackout, longer than normal, a miracle happened, the crew landed in the South Pacific at 1:08PM. Thanks to the talented Mission Control led by Gene Kranz and the NASA agency, they were able to bring back the crew alive when many doubted that could have been possible.

The Apollo 13 mission was called a “successful failure” because even though they did not land on the Moon but were able to return home safely after that near fatal disaster. For NASA, this mission became the most memorable one in its history and even turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks as James Lovell. It is appropriate to honor these heroic men and all of our astronauts who risk their lives for humankind. Finally, next time when you drive down Lovell Street in downtown Milwaukee, just remember who it was named after and made not just Wisconsin proud but the whole World, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Local Civil War Hero Honored

Waukesha County played an important role during the Civil Era along with the rest of the State of Wisconsin. The City of Waukesha was one of many stops of the "underground" railroad that hid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada. Also, the City of Delafield was home to one of many heroes in the Civil War and featured in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article written by Meg Jones. The article is about First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, finally receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously for his brave actions at the Battle of Gettysburg, that took place on July 1,2, 3, 1863. The battle was one of the bloodiest battles in Civil War history and a turning point for the Union Army. After the victory, President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address.

So, what makes Cushing's story so heroic? During Pickett's charge at Cemetery Ridge on the last day of battle, Alonzo and his men of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery were placed in a confined spot, the so-called "the Angle" because of a stone fence used by the Union troops to protect themselves from the Confederates. Suddenly, a shell fragment pierced Cushing's shoulder and shrapnel tore through his abdomen. Ignoring his superiors recommendation to seek medical treatment, Cushing, who knew that his company had few men left and only two working cannons yelled "I will give them [The Confederate Army] one more shot" and was shot in the mouth that killed him instantly. It shows how Alonzo Cushing became one of the many heroes at the Battle of Gettysburg, fighting to the end and deserving the Medal of Honor.

It is important to remember the life of Alonzo Cushing for his courage. The Waukesha County Historical Society has numerous documents on his life and military career. In 1915, a white monument was dedicated in a park located in Delafield, later name the Cushing Memorial Park. I recently visited the park and you can listen to my brief audio report describing it. Also, there is not a whole lot written about Cushing and his heroic efforts at the Battle of Gettysburg. However, I was able to find one book at the Waukesha County Library called "Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander" by Kent Masterson Brown. Finally, let us never forget the brave men, especially from Wisconsin, who gave their lives in the Civil War to fulfill President Abraham Lincoln's goal of preserving the Union. Please take the time to visit Cushing Memorial Park if you are in the Waukesha County area.

Thank you for reading my blog and you can comment below or email me at

The link to my audio report

The link to the article

Friday, March 12, 2010

Letters to Jackie and the debut of Dapper Dan Cast

I have debut my first podcast in conjunction with this blog. The show opens up with an introduction, describing the show and also it's first topic, a recently released book about the millions of letters that Mrs. Kennedy received in the aftermath of her husband's death. Since the podcast is going to be on a part time basis, I will let everybody know when new shows are posted or you can check back periodically. Finally, thanks for reading my blog and listening to the Dapper Dan Cast.

Here is the link

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Games

Tonight, the XXI Winter Olympics comes to a close in Vancouver concluding Canada's second Winter Games and third overall. The organizers, or officially known as VANOC, made a good effort to put on a World class event despite the unusal weather. This final post, in conjunction with the Vancouver Games, will talk about how these Games will be remembered in Olympic history.

The competition was full of excitement, emotion, and tragedy. For the first time in Winter Olympic history the United States won medals at the Nordic Combined events while Canada finally won their first golds ever on home soil. Also, the US Bobsled team won it's first gold medal, ending a sixty-two year old drought. Short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno surpassed former Olympian Bonnie Blair in the most medals won at an Olympic Winter Games with eight medals. The Ladies Figure skating came with emotion when Canadian Joannie Rochette lost her mother two days before the competition and finished with a bronze medal. Finally, tragic struck hours before the games began when a Georgian luger was tragically killed in a horrific crash on his last training run. May he rest in peace.

Like any other city that hosts a World event, whether being the World's Fair or the Olympics, it transforms the city permanently. Economically, the city faces huge amounts of debt while repeating the benefits of higher employment. In Vancouver, the Games provided thousands of jobs to at risk individuals and trained them in a variety of skills such as carpentry. They built hundreds of podiums and put in many hours of intense labor building World class facilities. Also, when the Olympics conclude, the housing used for both athletes and Olympic officials will be turned into affordable housing for the city's poor. Socially, some of the venues will probably be used for training future Olympians, World class events, and even for the public's enjoyment. It's not for sure what exactly Vancouver's plans are for the future of it's venues. Finally, the World was introduced to one of the most diverse countries in the World with a variety of different culturals that called Canada home for hundreds of years.

In an interview with NBC Daytime host Al Michaels, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell believed that this Olympics has inspired a whole new generation of young athletes. Also, he credited the Games of bringing billions of dollars into the British Columbia province and attracted millions of visitors from around the World to experience BC. Campbell and the organizers wanted all of Canada to become involve with these Games and were able to bring in 25,000 volunteers to Vancouver. It reflected how the citizens of Canada continued to support the Olympic movement.

Also, some portrayed these Games as the weather Olympics because mother nature showed up as a serious competitor. Vancouver experienced one of the warmest months of January and February on record that created multiple problems. Weeks leading up to the Games, many snow events lacked natural snow and over 4.4 million pounds of snow were trucked into the venues. The first week alone, the weather, consisting of heavy fog and slush delayed nine events and provided not the ideal conditions for the competitors. Finally, the Vancouver Olympics will go down as the warmest host city in Winter Olympic history. Will Sochi, Russia, the host of the next winter games, have more ideal weather for the Winter Olympics?

The future of the Winter Olympics looks strong as the torch is passed from Vancouver to Sochi, Russian, the host of the XXII Winter Olympics. It will be the Russian Federation's first ever Olympics in a diverse city of 400,000 inhabitants located between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, on the Russian Riviera. Currently, all of the venues will have to be built and the budget is around $20 billion. Already, the Russian government committed $12 billion to venue construction. Finally, looking eight years down the road, three cities have seriously started the bidding process for the XXIII Winter Games; Annecy, France, Munich, Germany, and Pyeonchag, South Korea. A final decision by the I.O.C will be made in July 2011.

On behalf of billions of fans, I would like to say a sincere thank you to Vancouver and it's citizens for putting on a World class event. The Olympics were enjoyable to watch along with learning the history and cultural of the United States' northern neighbor. It shows how hospitable the Canadians were to the rest of the World and it reflects on why this was their third Olympics in Canandian history. Goodbye Vanouver, and the World will miss you. Thanks again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Do you believe in Miracles?"

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the greatest upset in sports and Olympic history that took place right here in the United States. In continuing the special series of Winter Olympic history in conjunction with the 2010 Vancouver Games, it is appropriate to re-tell the "miracle on ice" story that transformed the nation. It took place, not on the battle field, but on an Olympic ice rink between two super-powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. It was more than a simple hockey game but also about national unity and patriotism during a tumultuous period of Cold War history. This posting will be a brief history of twenty college age kids, their disciplinarian coach, and the game that still is recalled in public memory.

In 1974, the International Olympic Committee awarded Lake Placid, NY it's second Winter Olympics since 1932 to take place from February 13 to February 24, 1980. When the Games began, so did the hockey tournament featuring the heavy favorite, the Soviet Union. In a span of 15 years (1964-1979) the hockey team, consisting of veteran players, won 4 gold medals and 11 World titles. The USA Team, however, had only been together for 6 months and played a 60 game World tour under University of Minnesota's Head Coach, Herb Brooks. The American team was made up of twenty college players whose average age was twenty-two, a young team that was not favorite to win a medal in the tournament. Even Coach Brooks believed that they probably would not win a medal before the tournament began knowing that at one point, they would have to face the Soviet Union. He later said, "The Soviets had beaten us 10-3 in an exhibition a few days before the Olympics. They were fantastic and deserved their ranking. I had little hope for a medal. I would have been very happy to have achieved a fourth place finish" but history would say otherwise. (quoted from Bud Greenspan's "100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History")

The hockey tournament was played at the Olympic Ice Center and the first game, the team played Sweden. They started out slow and trailed the Swedes for most of the game until Brooks decided to pull the goalie in the third period. With twenty-nine seconds to go, the team was able to score and the final score was 2-2, a tie. In the second match, Team USA played one of the favorites to medal at the Games, Czechoslovakia. The team crushed the Czechs, 7-3, and many began to take them for real. However, towards the end of the game, Coach Brooks, who had great chemistry with his players ever since the team was formed, became irate when a Czech player took a cheap shot at Mark Johnson, who played at UW-Madison and currently is Team USA's head women's coach in Vancouver. The games against Norway and West Germany both started out slowly but with great coaching the players managed to win 5-1 and 4-2, respectively. Now, it was onto the semi-final game where Team USA faced its biggest test yet in their months of existence. A Cold War showdown with the Soviet Union on a sheet of ice.

Friday, February 22, 1980, the start of the last weekend of the Games, was George Washington's birthday. This day would end as one of the greatest days in both sports and Olympic history as thousands in Lake Placid along with millions around the country united in American patriotism. Throughout most of the game, the US played their hearts out with superb goal tending by Jim Craig but still trailed 3-2 entering the third and final period. Then less then nine minuets into the period, Mark Johnson suddenly scored the tying goal and confidence began to build on the team. With half through the game, team Captain Mike Eruzione would take the shot that was heard around the country as he blasted the puck into the Soviet's net. Now the United States led 4-3, and the Soviet Union attack furiously for the last ten minutes. Finally, with the sound of the buzzer, play by play ABC Sports announcer, Al Michaels (currently hosting NBC's daytime Olympic coverage) screamed "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" that would summon up the most dramatic upset in all of sports history.

After the game, thousands of the predominately American crowed gathered in the streets of Lake Placid walking up and down, chanting USA, USA, USA, singing the national anthem, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America. This game not only allowed the US Team to advance to the gold medal game against Finland (that they won on February 24) but renewed a sense of patriotism during the tense times of the Cold War. It showed that American amateurs could compete against Soviet professionals. Finally, to many Americans, they would never forget where they were that day when the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the game of all games. Even though I was a little more than a month old, reading accounts of this story renews the reasons that I love this country and the Olympic Games. It simply brings a sense of unity and excitement.

In subsequent years, the state of Olympic hockey changed as more professional players were allowed to compete. In 1998, for the first time in history, the NHL suspended the season to allow the players to participate in their respective nations during the Nagano Olympics and still follows this format today. The 1980 "Miracle on Ice Hockey Team" has been honored through out the years. In 2002 it was picked to light the cauldron at the Salt Lake City Winter Games to the standing ovation of Americans who, for most of them, still remembered that historic day. In 2004, Walt Disney Studios produced the movie, "Miracle" to re-tell the story. Fortunately, to this day, all of the players are still alive and tell their stories. Unfortunately, however, a couple of years ago, their beloved and hard nose Coach Herb Brooks was tragically killed on August 11, 2003 in an auto accident. Finally, I hope everybody enjoys the last week of the Winter Olympics and were able to catch the documentary of the story, yesterday, towards the end of the daytime Olympic coverage on NBC. May the spirit of the 1980 Winter Olympics that produced the greatest game ever, be in all of American hearts.

Some links to footage of the hockey game.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Milwaukee, A Speed Skating proving ground

In this post, keeping with our Olympic theme as we enjoy the XXI Winter Olympics from Vancouver, will be a brief history of how Milwaukee served as home to some of our country's top speed skaters. Some came from out of state and others were native citizens of Wisconsin who gained their experience from the renowned West Allis Speed Skating Club. The skaters once trained on lagoons, then on the outdoor oval, and finally on the first indoor oval in the United States, the Pettit National Ice Center.

A turning point occurred in US Speed Skating history in December 1966 as speed skaters took the ice at the first refrigerated 400-meter outdoor Olympic oval on the grounds of State Fair Park. Now, instead of waiting for lagoons and lakes to freeze, the oval provided a longer season for the skaters as it was usually opened by October and lasted through March, providing them with a much longer season to train. The rink was used for the 1968 Winter Olympic trials and every trial since then until the Pettit National Ice Center opened. Also, the Olympic oval became home to some of the top speed skaters, including the legend, Eric Heiden from Madison, Dan Jansen from West Allis, and Bonnie Blair from Champagne, IL.

Even though the rink provided many advantages for the speed skaters, it did, however, provide some disadvantages as well. The location of the rink was close to two infrastructures that periodically affected rink conditions. One was a cement factory and with a certain wind it blew particles of cement dust onto the rink, causing the skaters' ice skates to dull frequently. The other was the freeway, I-94, that contained many vehicles blowing exhaust, sometimes making it difficult for skaters to breath especially during competition. That changed when Milwaukee philanthropists Jane and Lloyd Pettit donated $2 million towards the construction of a World class Olympic Training Facility on the grounds of State Fair Park, the first of its kind in the United States.

The Pettit Center opened on December 31, 1992 with raving reviews by the Olympic speed skaters at the time, particularly Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen who were still active in the sport. Some of the former speed skaters, including Eric Heiden, wish they had trained in this magnificence training facility after years of battling the outdoor elements. Some of the high-profile events since its inception included the 1995 World Sprint Speed Skating Championships, the 2005 World Cup Speed Skating on the long track and also that same year, the National Short Track Championships featuring Apolo Anton Ohno.

Today, the Pettit National Ice Center still serves as a training facility for speed skaters and currently seven are in Vancouver competing in various meets. In Gary D'Amato's Journal Sentinel article previewing the Winter Games on Feb. 9, quoted Brad Goskowicz, President of US Speed Skating, on the legacy of the Pettit Center and what it means to the speed skaters. "Without the Olympic rink, there would be no Pettit Center. I think it's fair to say that the Pettit Center is really the biggest pipeline for U.S. Speed Skating in developing skaters." Randy Dean, who is the director of the Center, describes the importance of the Center by saying "to have seven people who train here go on to Vancouver, it's just terrific" including Shani Davis who just won the gold medal in the men's 1,000 meter race (Wed., Feb. 17, 2010).

Milwaukee can be proud by serving as home for more than forty years for Olympic speed skaters who lived and trained for their events. Without the Olympic Oval at State Fair Park, there would be no Pettit Center as Goskowicz rightfully says. Also, the Center helps bring the Olympic spirit to the city and each time the Olympics take center stage, Milwaukee tends to have one of the highest viewership ratings in the country. Finally, it is important to support the Pettit National Ice Center for years to come as it trains future Olympians and continue the overall success of USA Speed Skating. Enjoy the Games, everybody, and remember when you watch the speed skating events, think Milwaukee.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome to Vancouver, Canada

Tonight, the World will gather at BC Place Stadium or tune into their television sets as they watch the Opening Ceremonies from the host city, Vancouver, Canada. Seven years ago, on July 2, 2003, in the Czech Republic the IOC picked Vancouver over Salzburg, Berne, and PyeongChang to host the XXI Winter Olympics. The city is the largest one to host the Winter Olympics and also the first Olympic Games to have the Opening Ceremonies indoors. For the next two weeks, athletes from around the World will compete in 15 winter sports as millions of spectators will cheer the athletes from the stands and on the mountain sides. For the rest of us, we will be cheering from the comfort of our own homes watching the TV coverage.

This entry is a first in a series of postings for the next two weeks about the different histories of the Winter Olympics, some on specific events and athletes, local connections, and the future of the Winter Olympics. So, I would like to begin this series with a brief history on the origins of the Winter Games.

The Winter Olympics drew on the success of the Summer Olympics (formally referred to by Olympic historians as the Modern Olympics that was first held in 1896 or it could be called the Modern Olympiad). Organizers decided to broaden the sporting events and appeal to northern European countries by adding some, oddly enough, winter events at the Summer Games in London (1908) and Antwerp, Belgium (1920). Ice skating debut at the London Games and the first ice hockey tournament debut at the Antwerp Games.

After World War I, momentum began to emerge to have a separate winter sporting events, but IOC President Pierre de Coubertin denounced the idea believing that winter sports were for the wealthy class only and conducted at lavish resorts. However, the members of the IOC supported the idea for a separate winter sporting events and in 1924 voted for an experimental adjunct to the 1924 Paris Summer Games that would be called the International Week of Winter Sports, hosted by the city Chamonix, France. The events began on January 25, 1924 with 258 athletes from 16 nations who participated in figure skating, cross-country ski races, ski jumping, speed skating, hockey, four-man bobsled, and Nordic combined. A total of 1o,ooo spectators attended the International Week of Winter Sports and two years later, the IOC agreed to name it the first official Winter Olympic Games.

Through out Winter Olympic history, the United States has hosted four Winter Olympics beginning with the 3rd Winter Games that took place in Lake Placid, New York in 1932 and then again in 1980 hosting the 13th Games. The other two sites included Squaw Valley, CA who hosted the 8th Winter Games in 1960 and most recently, Salt Lake City, UT who hosted the 19th Winter Olympics. Will the United States ever host a Winter Olympic Games? Perhaps, but it will not be until 2022 that the USOC will consider another U.S. city to become a candidate city after failing to secure Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games. Finally, I hope everybody takes sometime out of their busy schedules and watch some of the coverage of the XXI Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada as new Olympic history unfolds.

Here is the complete list of cities that hosted the Olympic Winter Games.

I Winter Games-Chamonix, France

II Winter Games-St. Moritz, Switzerland

III Winter Games-Lake Placid, NY

IV Winter Games-Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

V Winter Games-St. Moritz, Switzerland

VI Winter Games-Oslo, Norway

VII Winter Games-Cortina d' Ampezzo, Italy

VIII Winter Games-Squaw Valley, CA

IX Winter Games-Innsbruck, Austria

X Winter Games-Grenoble, France

XI Winter Games-Sapporo, Japan

XII Winter Games-Innsbruck Austria (Denver, CO initially was awarded the Games but declined due to high costs)

XIII Winter Games-Lake Placid, NY

XIV Winter Games-Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

XV Winter Games-Calgary, Canada

XVI Winter Games-Alberville, France

XVII Winter Games-Lillehammer, Norway

XVIII Winter Games-Nagano, Japan

XIX Winter Games-Salt Lake City Utah

XX Winter Games-Torino, Italy


XXI Winter Games-Vancouver, Canada

Future cities

XXII Winter Games-Sochi, Russia

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A local university honors the Little Rock Nine

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, Marquette University awarded the Little Rock Nine with its highest achievement award, the Pere Marquette Discovery Award. The previous winners were Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2003), Mother Theresa (1981), Rev. Karl Rahner, S.J. (1979) and the Apollo 11 Astronauts (1969). The award honors those who accomplish an extraordinary achievement that adds to human advancement. This year's award is awarded to the brave nine high school students, who in September of 1957, challenged the segregation of public schools by enrolling in the all white Central High School, in Little Rock, AR during the Civil Rights Era. Their story is worth telling during this month as we celebrate Black History Month.

Historians contend that the Civil Rights Era of the 20th century formally started after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. The Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (1954) declared that segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. However, wide-spread opposition from the Brown ruling began to emerge, especially in the South where the segregationists made an all out effort not to comply with the federal order to integrate the schools. They believed that segregation was a state issue and not a federal issue.

That changed when nine students from Little Rock, AR decided to challenge the status quo and tried to enroll in Central High School. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who faced a difficult re-election bid, decided to obstruct the federal order to desegregate the schools and instead called the Arkansas National Guard to block entrance of the students. "Governor Faubus has placed this school off limits to Negroes," one of the National Guardsman said to the students on September 3, 1957. (quoted from Harvard Sitkoff's The Struggle for Black Equality, 29). Also, as the Little Rock nine prepared to enter the school house building, "a milling crowd of angry whites shouted: 'Niggers. Niggers. They're coming. Here they come.'" (Ibid, 29) and now the federal government had to intervene.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who personally thought that the Brown decision was a mistake because of his belief in states' rights, at first did not want to get involve. As mounting pressure grew, Eisenhower had no choice but to end the situation in Little Rock by federalizing the Arkansas National Guard and sent a thousand troops from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. Once they were there, the troops dispersed the crowd and safely escorted the students to their classes. For the next two months, the black students received federal troop protection within the school and finally, Congress enacted federal civil rights legislation for the first time since Reconstruction.

The legacy of the Little Rock Nine lives on in historic memory through the countless books about the Civil Rights Movement. Also, to learn more about this heroic story, you can visit this "virtual museum" called The Little Rock Foundation to take a walking tour through the story and read the biographies of each student. Also, the Foundation promotes equal justice in education to all members of society no matter their gender, race, or creed. Finally, if you are really inspired by this story, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to help keep this Foundation going to make aware how equal justice under the law is one of the key elements of our nation's identity.

On behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin, we congratulate the Little Rock Nine for receiving the Pere Marquette Discovery Award for their true heroism during the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. Also, we thank Marquette University for picking another outstanding group of individuals to receive this award. May these nine students always remind us how important it is to promote equality in education and in society to help us live out the true meaning of being an American. Finally, I encourage all of you to take the time and read a historical account of the Civil Rights Movement to remind you what makes the United States unique is that everybody is created equally under the law.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Review

Recently, my friend and I went to the Milwaukee Public Museum to attend the largest temporary exhibit, the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible" explores the history of the Holy Land from the third century BC to the first century AD. Then it jumps to the 1940s and explains the first discovery of the scrolls. There were over 160 artifacts along with display boards that gave a clear and concise history of that region during the time the scrolls were written. However, to better understand this mammoth exhibit, it is wise to do some background reading to get familiar with the different themes of that period. Or you can ask for an audio guide that explains each of the archaeological objects and their significance.

The layout of the exhibit was well done with fake palm trees, the desert like walls and flooring along with the sound effects of wind that places you in time when the scrolls were written. Just like traveling through the desert, this exhibit takes on a long journey (some say about two hours) to absorb the richness of the display. It is well worth the time and the exhibit ends with the Dead Sea Scrolls, themselves, that captures the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity and displayed ever so carefully into thick glass cases where one can take in the beauty of salvation history.

Exhibits like the Dead Sea Scrolls are part of the ever developing field of public history. Public history is how the vast majority of the public learn and appreciate the role of history in everyday life by visiting Museums, historical sites and societies rather than reading a bunch of books. Finally, as exhibits like this one continue to come to the Milwaukee Public Museum, not only the institution itself will flourish, but also the publics' understanding of history will flourish too.

I hope that you take the time and attend this exhibit at the Museum which concludes in June. This exhibit is the latest high profile show that is helping the Milwaukee Public Museum to be a world class museum after it suffered some hard times. For more information on the Dead Sea Scrolls please follow this link that I have provided.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Sad Day in History

Twenty-four years ago, today, on a cold and sunny day at Cape Canaveral, FL. a tragic accident happened to the Space Shuttle Program's infant history, the Challenger exploded shortly after lift off. What made this particular launch unique was that it supposed to carry the first civilian into space, Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from New Hampshire. She had won a contest and spent months training for this mission and became an instant celebrity across America. Finally, her dream ended seventy-three seconds as millions across the nation, her family at Cape Canaveral, and students at her high school watched in horror as the shuttle exploded that some say was equivalent to a hydrogen bomb exploding.

It took months to determine the cause of the explosion. President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission, headed by former secretary of state Williams Rogers, along with former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot, Chuck Yeager. The final investigation determined that the explosion was caused by the failure of an "O-Ring" seal in one of the two rocket boosters because of the unusually cold temperatures. Space Shuttle flights were halted until NASA redesigned many of the safety mechanisms and in September of 1988, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched successfully for the first time since the tragedy.

So, let us take the time to remember those seven astronauts who lost their lives twenty-four years ago today and most recently the disaster of the Space Shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003. There are two videos about the accident. The first, is the explosion itself and the second one is President Ronald Reagan's live address to the nation to mourn the lost of the crew members and decided to cancel that evening's State of the Union Speech.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Massachusetts Senate Race: A New Rise in Conservatism?

A little known Democratic Senator from IL, Barack Obama, shocked the nation by defeating long time Senator from AZ., John McCain, in the election of 2008. Everybody believed that conservatism was all but dead and it would take a generation to see the rise of conservatism again. Even Historian Sean Wilentz believed that conservatism, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, was over. Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. One year later, conservatism once again may not be dead but on the rise just like it did during the late 1960s and
1970s that led to it's climax of propelling Ronald Reagan in the White House for two terms.

In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson,who succeeded the late President John F. Kennedy, won a decisive victory over Sen. Barry Goldwater (AZ-R) and "portrayed as a permanent liberal consensus in the United States" as Historian Rick Perlstein argued. Public sentiment began to fear that Johnson was moving too quickly to push his liberal agenda (particularly the Great Society Program) through Congress. The mid-term elections of 1966 proved that the electorate became dissatisfied with the rapid spread of liberalism that many liberal members of Congress were voted out of office.

Conservatism continued to rise while the liberals of the Democratic Party became divided, especially during the 1968 presidential election. With Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, the Democrats were in trouble since the two Democratic candidates were divided on the issue of the Vietnam War. The two candidates, Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's Vice President, was not exactly an anti-war candidate and many feared that he would continue the war whereas Eugene McCarthy was the Party's anti-war candidate. At the 1968 convention, the Democratic Party nominated Humphrey while the conservatives strongly united around Richard M. Nixon. Nixon played off the fractured Democratic Party and won a decisive victory in the 1968 Presidential Election over Humphrey. However, Nixon's presidency was tainted by the Watergate Scandal that propelled Jimmy Carter, the Democratic Georgia Governor, to win the presidency in 1976 over President Gerald Ford. Finally, Carter's presidency proved a disaster and with a strong national conservative grass-roots base that started in the late 1960s came to their climax in 1980 when California Governor Ronald Reagean ascended to the White House.

Within one year that Obama took office, it seems that Republican conservatism began to take hold in three important elections. In 2009, Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican candidate, ended eight years of Democratic control in the Virgina Gubernatorial Race while Christopher J. Christie, the Republican Gubernatorial candidate ended twelve years of Democratic control in New Jersey, seen by many as a large liberal State. Finally, within the last week, the unthinkable happened; the State of Massachusetts, for the first time in about thirty years elected Scott Brown, a Republican State Senator, in a special Senate Race to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy. If the trend continues the way it has been from the past year, then this can be considered the new rise of the conservative movement, organized by grass roots organizations such as the Tea Parties and peoples' fierce discontent with the current Government as evidence by the countless town hall meetings that took place within the year. It's still too early to asses if this new rise of conservatism is very similar as the one happened during the late 1960s and 1970s. Time will tell if the phrase "history tends to repeat itself" becomes true or not.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Civil Rights Icon Remembered

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as we honor his legacy in the Civil Rights Movement. There will be many celebrations throughout the country remembering Dr. King as the Last Best Hope for racial equality. In a sense, he can be called the second Lincoln championing for civil rights for all people regardless of their race, just like President Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War Era. There are countless and countless of books about Dr. King and rightly so. One book I would recommend would be Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stephen B. Oates. It is a classic biography of King and the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award and the Christopher Award.

Finally, here is a link to the famous "I Have a Dream Speech" Please take the time to listen to it and reflect how it changed the world for the better.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Western History Comes Alive

This Day in History we read about how President Theodore Roosevelt, the conservationist president, declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. The first sighting of the canyon by Europeans took place in 1540 and by the end of the 19th century thousands of people, including Roosevelt himself, visited the canyon. Seeing how it was a natural wonder, the President decided to make the canyon a national monument on January 11, 1908 and outlawed commercial development in that area.
Recently, new documentaries and books have been published about the history of the West and the conservation movement. First, award winning film-maker, Ken Burns released his latest documentary called The National Parks: America's Best Idea and portray a message that "the nation's most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone" and how our national parks have an important place in American History. Finally, Historian Douglas Brinkley has published a rich biography of President Theodore Roosevelt, not so much on his life but how he was a crusade to preserve the natural West by creating several national parks that Americans still enjoy today. The book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Brinkley argued how TR's conservation agenda (between 1901 and 1908) could perhaps be "the greatest U.S. presidential initiative between the Civil War and World War I."
So, if you would like to start learning about the history of the West and the conservation movement, the two best starting points to turn to are the documentary by Ken Burns and also Douglas Brinkley's mammoth book about President Roosevelt and his crusade to preserve the West.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Day in History

In order to keep the blog fresh, I decided to bookmark the History Channel's website and provide a link to articles in the section "This Day in History" and do some additional research myself. Today, this day in history we read about how Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids. Mermaids are mystical creatures in the ocean dating back to ancient Greece. The closest thing that we have to mermaids are huge mammals called manatees, that are from the elephant family. They once were large in numbers but now they are consider endangered species.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Historic Day for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Today, the Milwaukee Archdiocese made history as Jerome Listecki became the 11th Archbishop ever since it's inception in 1844. In Sunday's Crossroads of the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Historian John Gurda wrote on the historical significance of today's installation. Back in the 1900s, there was a war of words between the Milwaukee German and Polish Catholics. The Polish Catholics blasted the German dominance of the Milwaukee's Church hierarchy to the point where they turned to two devout Catholics who were members of the Polish community, the Kruszka Brothers (Michael and Wenceslaus) that physically traveled to Rome to lobby the Pope in appointing a Polish archbishop. However, the current Archbishop Messmer wrote in 1905, "The longer I think it over, the more it seems to me a dangerous experiment at this stage to give the Polish people a bishop, for the very reason that we will be considered the bishop for all of the Poles of the US" (quote from John Gurda's JS article "Listecki installation a victory in a forgotten war, Jan. 3, 2010) and not for the rest of the Catholics. In 1913, the Vatican, in responding to mounting pressure, appointed Milwaukee's first Polish Auxiliary Bishop, Edward Kozlowski , and on the day of his installation, more than 50,000 Polish Catholics greeted him.

It's not until 96 years after Kozlowski was appointed the first Polish Auxiliary Bishop, the Vatican (particularly Pope Benedict XVI) selected Bishop Jerome Listecki, the first Milwaukee Archbishop of Polish descent. At last, the Polish Catholics of Milwaukee can rejoice in welcoming him as the first Archbishop with Polish roots. Also, everybody should celebrate our new Archbishop of Milwaukee no matter where their heritage originated. May God Bless Archbishop Jerome Listecki in his new assignment.

Fore more on the conflict between the German and Polish Catholics, there are two good books to read, Faith and Fatherland by Anthony Kuzniewski and In the Richness of the Earth: A History of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee 1843-1958 by Marquette University Associate Professor of History and an Archdiocesan priest, Fr. Steven Avella.

Here is the list of the Archbishops of Milwaukee and their years of service

John Martin Henni-1844-1881
Michael Heiss-1881-1890
Frederick Xavier Katzer-1890-1903
Sebastian Gebhard Messmer -1903-1930 (Messmer High School)
Samuel Alphonsus Stritch-1930-1940 (later Cardinal of Chicago, Cardinal Stritch University)
Moses Elias Kiley-1940-1953
Albert Gregory Meyer-1953-1958
William E. Cousins-1959-1977 (Cousins Center, once the HQ for the MKE Archdiocese, now for sale)
Rember G. Weakland-1977-2002
Timothy M. Dolan-2002-2009 (now Archbishop of NY)

I hope that citizens across Southeast Wisconsin can show their tremendous friendship towards Archbishop Listecki and wonder if he his looking forward to Polish Fest this Summer? Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Polar Bear Club: A Cold History

Today, thousands or perhaps a few hundred (because of the bitter cold) people will be taking part in Milwaukee's long ritual of The Polar Bear's Club annual New Year's Day tradition of jumping into Lake Michigan. One may ask, "Is Milwaukee the first city in the nation to have started a polar bear club?" The answer is no and in fact the first polar bear club established was The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded by Bernarr MacFadden (1868-1955) in 1903.

MacFadden was considered "The Father of Physical Culture" believing that "our bodies are our most glorious possessions, that health-wealth is our greatest asset..that weakness is truly a crime..that every man can be vigorous vital specimen of masculinity; that every woman can be a splendidly strong well poised specimen of femininity." (from The Coney Island Polar Bear Club's website). He believed that swimming in cold water improves people's stamina and also their immune system to fight off diseases. So, from 1903 until the present, club members swam once a week every Sunday from November through April and of course on New Year's Day in the Atlantic Ocean off of Coney Island (once a famous amusement park).

In Milwaukee, the first ever recorded swim (at McKinley Beach) on New Year's Day happened on December 31, 1916 by three men, Gustav Marx, Frank Sutter, and Jim Brazell; the papers called them polar bears, using lower case letters. Not until around the 1920's, The Polar Bear Club of Milwaukee became a formal club with it's first president being Jim Brazell. In the research, it is not sure whether it started at McKinley Beach where the first recorded plunge took place and the year it transferred to Bradford Beach where the swim currently takes place. There is not a lot of historical evidence except pictures from family members who perhaps themselves were part of the club to tell the full history. For much of the twentieth century, it was headed by a Brookfield man named Garth Gaskey and he took his 57th consecutive plunge on January 1, 2009.

As you can see, the polar bear club has a long tradition of swimming in cold water, starting with The Coney Island Polar Bear Club as the oldest one followed by the second oldest, The Milwaukee Polar Bear Club. There are other clubs across the United States, especially along the East Coast, who take the annual New Year's Day plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. Many earlier members believe that swimming in cold water may be good for one's stamina and immune system just like MacFadden argued when he founded the Coney Island Club.

So, it will be interesting to read in the papers the accounts of this year's plunge both at Coney Island and here in Milwaukee, despite the frigid temperatures. If anyone who took the plunge today, please e-mail your experience at or write it in the comments box. For me, it was a lot warmer researching the history of the club in the comfort of my own home than taking part in the swim. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
This article from the Journal Sentinel reminded me of one of the chapters in a book I read when I was in graduate school. It's about the Sun City retirement community in AZ. The book was called Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940 by John M. Findlay.