Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ike, Oscar and Diane


Amidst the wasteland which is American radio and television there is one programme which is ever worth hearing.  It is the Diane Rehm Show: see   http://thedianerehmshow.org/

You can read Diane’s own story on the website.  She is a remarkable woman.  Her programme is one which I enjoy in my car most mornings.  The first hour is usually devoted to politics (argh), but in the second hour Diane often features items from the broader cultural world: viz the arts, literature, poetry etc.

Yesterday, (Dec 15th 2010), her guests were David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. They talked about the Presidency and legacy of Dwight David Eisenhower (1953-1961).

President Eisenhower was always known as “Ike”.  There is no doubt that he is among the “greats” in the pantheon of American Presidents.  He was a Republican in those days before bitter partisanship took over.  He was a Republican for whom many Democrats would vote with enthusiasm.

(A personal note)  I was a politically precocious child who read newspapers from a very young age.  I can clearly remember reading English newspapers (it would have been in 1952 when I was 8 years old) which referenced the Eisenhower slogan “I Like Ike”.  The word “Ike” made no sense to me!  I had never before encountered it as a nick-name.

Diane’s show today (Dec 16th 2010) had to do with Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist for the fabulous Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.  Hammerstein’s grandson, Oscar Andrew Hammerstein, was interviewed about his family legacy.  Amongst other things he reminded we listeners of the powerful lyrics from “South Pacific”:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Wow!   These are words which are as apt now as when they were first penned.

I am grateful that Diane Rehm re-introduced me to President Eisenhower and to Oscar Hammerstein.

The material below is from the Diane Rehm Show website.



He was the legendary commander of the allied forces of World War II and a two-term president during a time of peace and prosperity. Millions around the world knew him simply as Ike. Now, his only grandson offers a unique perspective on Dwight Eisenhower’s life after he left the White House in 1961 until his death at Walter Reed Hospital in 1969. Historian David Eisenhower reflects on the kind of person his grandfather was. With his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, he has written a new book shedding light on the relationship between Ike and his successors, his influence on politics during his retirement and their personal reflections on one of the 20th century's great leaders.

Guests

David Eisenhower: Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Eisenhower at War."
Julie Nixon Eisenhower: author of "Special People" and "Pat Nixon"
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Oscar Andrew Hammerstein: "The Hammersteins"

Oscar Hammerstein was perhaps the most influential lyricist of the American theater. Together with collaborator Richard Rodgers, he helped define the modern musical, winning eight Tonys and two Academy Awards in the process.
Oscar Hammerstein was perhaps the most influential lyricist of the American theater. Together with collaborator Richard Rodgers, he helped define the modern musical, winning eight Tonys and two Academy Awards in the process. Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to some of the most enduring songs and shows in history -- from Showboat to Oklahoma! to South Pacific and The Sound of Music. Fifty years after his death, Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals continue to pack houses on Broadway and throughout the world. But he was not the only Hammerstein to influence musical theater. Oscar Hammerstein’s grandson joins Diane to talk about how his family changed Broadway.

Guest

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein: a painter, writer, lecturer and Hammerstein family historian.

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