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May 30, 2021 1:44 pm

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Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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May 30, 2021 1:44 pm

In our cover story, Lee Cowan reports on the debate among North Dakotans about the true Geographical Center of North America. David Martin profiles Marine Cpl. Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. Faith Salie investigates the possibilities of time travel. Rita Braver sits down with former Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole, and Tracy Smith interviews comedian and impressionist Rich Little

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Learn more at Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning. It's Memorial Day weekend when we honor all those who have died in the service of our country.

It's also the unofficial start of summer, the season for traveling to interesting places at home and abroad. And for anyone hoping to visit a geographical oddity, the exact center of North America, be advised the location is not so much a bullseye as it is a moving target, as our Lee Cowan will explain. The center of the continent of North America is somewhere in North Dakota, but there's disagreement as to exactly where. What do you think this controversy says about North Dakota? It says we're a looser state. I mean, I mean, it's in the same zone as the world's largest ball of twine.

Is the center of our continent even knowable? And does it matter ahead on Sunday morning? We're in conversation this morning with a great comic impressionist, Rich Little.

He's a man of so many voices, it's hard to keep up, though Tracy Smith will try. Well, I never wear a mask. The only thing I wear is a girdle. For the past 60 years, Rich Little has been what you might call the impersonator in chief. Well, so how long do you think you'll be doing this? Well, you know, as George Burns said, you've got to have a reason to get out of bed or get into bed. The inimitable Rich Little later on Sunday morning.

Okay, okay, gotcha, gotcha. The Doles, Bob and Elizabeth, are a celebrated political couple who take the long view. This morning, they're sharing that view and more with Rita Braver.

At almost 98, he's one of America's senior statesmen. And from his World War II injuries to his recent diagnosis of cancer, Bob Dole has always faced adversity with courage. What's kept you going? Well, we're all going to have bumps in the road.

And I figured these are my bumps. Ahead on Sunday morning, the grit and gratitude of Bob Dole. The grit and gratitude of Bob Dole. David Martin takes us to meet America's last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient and more.

It's Sunday morning, May 30th, 2021. And we'll be back after this. For some of us, visiting geographic oddities is a bucket list must. But we found one point of interest right smack in the bullseye of a debate that may never be resolved.

Lee Cowan takes us there or tries to. The prairie grass of North Dakota can look like it's waving hello, but even the geese just fly right over. North Dakota is not only one of the least visited states, it's also one of the last on a tourist's bucket list. And yet, poor left out North Dakota may actually be the center of our world. It's been here, though, since the 30s, right? Yes, it has.

1931. This stone monument in Rugby, North Dakota, population about 2,700, marks the area that some say is the geographical center of our North American continent. It's really fun to say, you know, I'm from North Dakota, and people say, oh, fine. But if you can say, I live at the geographical center of North America, that's pretty cool. It says something. It says something.

Kathy Gelsing used to be the director of Rugby's Geographical Center Historical Society. Part of her job was to point wayward tourists to what is now the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant, where they could bask in the magnificent significance that is the middle. I don't know what the center is supposed to feel like. I think it's in your mind.

Maybe. It's in your mind. So he feels centered. Yeah. In the center. Right.

Yeah. So just how was it determined that this was the continental bullseye? Well, it happened around 1930. An employee with the U.S. Geological Survey simply took a cutout of the map of the game, and then he tried to balance it on the top of a pin.

Not the most sophisticated method, perhaps, but few argued with it for decades. Rugby embraced the designation. It gave this tiny dot on the prairie a true sense of place. You have to understand that here in North Dakota, we don't have that much. We don't have Carnegie Hall. We don't have the Statue Creek.

And so this mattered to rugby. It's their Grand Canyon. It's the Teton Mountains. It's true.

This is it. This is why you live here. You don't live here for the boutique theater or, you know, the fine dining. You live here because there is this prairie.

Clay Jenkinson, a humanities scholar and North Dakota native, blissfully never questioned rugby's title until he learned of Hanson's Bar and its owner, who claimed the center of the continent was actually about a hundred miles to the south in the town of Robinson, population about 38. And I was offended. So I thought, who is this jerk? Why mess with this little town's one pathetic claim to cosmic fame? Did you ever think that this was going to cause such a stir? Yeah, I think we did.

Bill Bender meant no harm. It was a simple trivia question that he and a few of his buddies called into question. Lots of trial and error, but one night armed with a globe, some string and more than a few beers, we had multiple pieces of string. They made the case that the continent center was perhaps not so coincidentally right beneath the bar itself. To me, what we did late at night with some string and a booth with the bar. Yeah.

Seems far more scientific than, you know, a child cutting out a cutout and balancing it. He checked to see if rugby had trademarked their precious phrase, geographical center. And it turned out they had, or thought they had. They had let it lapse. So I just that night typed it in and registered everything and paid the 300 and some dollars it was. And boom, you owned it. Yeah. At that point it was registered to Hanson's Bar.

It wasn't very nice what they did. If we lost the geographical center, what would we be? We would just be another town in the middle of nowhere. Word of the midpoint meltdown soon got around. A professor in the geography department at the university at Buffalo decided he'd give it a crack. So it's really just pure curiosity on your part to figure out.

Absolutely. Professor Peter Rogerson took latitudes and longitudes from all around the edges of North America and plug those continental coordinates into a special algorithm that he designed to find the center. I mean, you have to take into account that the earth's surface is curved and you want to find that balance point in a proper way. The program ran through all the numbers and kicked out a spot. It was again in North Dakota, but this time, believe it or not, the center was near a town actually named center. Center North Dakota. You can't make this up.

Yeah. When I plotted it on that map, I mean, you can imagine my surprise because I couldn't really believe that that had happened. I mean, if it was right, I guess we could probably couldn't have found a more ideal site for it's unique being up on a hill, especially, you know, the view, as you can see, you can see forever.

Dave Berger and Rick Schmidt, both born and raised in center, which incidentally got its name because it's the center of the county, decided to celebrate its newfound fame, just like every other town had. I called the coal mine and said, I want a pretty rock. There's no such thing as a pretty rock in North Dakota.

And then the coal mine lady called me two weeks later and said, I found your rock. 30,000 pounds of permanence. We're pretty confident that this is going to be in the archives.

This is going to be the permanent site because otherwise someone's going to have to move a really heavy rock. We're not going to do that. As for Hanson's bar, well, Bill Bender backed down and gave the geographical center trademark back to rugby. So was it sort of a surrender? Yeah, it's a surrender.

It was definitely a surrender. Through it all, rugby never missed a beat. Sales of t-shirts and shot glasses just kept going as if nothing had ever happened. Caused a lot of stress for people, but it turned out to be a great thing.

You're here. What do you think this controversy says about North Dakota? Does it say anything about the world? It says we're a looser state. I mean, it's in the same zone as the world's largest bowl of twine, what we're talking about here. This is about something of no consequence, really, that sort of has a level of absurdity right at the center of it. And if it helps North Dakota, even in a puny little way, I'm for it. His advice?

Chase after the centers while you can. Continents do wander, after all. Well, that is awesome. So why not wander here yourself and enjoy what one of the least visited states has to offer? The Doles, former senators Bob and Elizabeth, share a very long personal and political history. And they're not done yet by any means, as Rita Braver discovered in a recent visit. As displayed when paying homage to President George H.W. Bush, the Doles and Elizabeth share a very long personal and political history.

And when paying homage to President George H.W. Bush, former Senator Robert Dole of Kansas has always been known for his fortitude. So it comes as no surprise that he's taking his diagnosis of stage four lung cancer in stride. How are you doing?

Oh, I'm doing very well. But I have to keep in mind, I'm also going to be 98 in July. So I'm getting to be a senior citizen. A citizen with a lifetime of public service behind him. Senator Dole and his wife Elizabeth, herself a former senator and cabinet member, recently talked with us about his storied career.

He has these values that I think were forged in that little town in Russell, Kansas, by a wonderful, caring, loving family. Dole was a high school athlete who wanted to be a doctor. But World War II intervened. He was a young army captain advancing against German fortifications in Italy. The Germans got him with machine gun fire. They crushed his right shoulder. His spinal cord was injured. And he actually, Rita, he lay on the battlefield for 10 hours.

Bob Dole lost the use of his right arm and would spend three years recuperating. But what he focuses on is the support from his hometown, symbolized by this cigar box. My friends in Dawson Drug Store in Russell, Kansas, when I heard that I was wounded, they passed the box around and kept it on the counter and asked people to give money. When you decided to marry him, did he ever say to you, look, you know, you're getting somebody who's got some limitations? He never said that to me. But let me share with you what happened when we were visiting my parents in North Carolina. Bob left his bedroom and he had a towel over his shoulder over his shoulder that had been crushed. He walked up to my mother and he said, Mrs. Hanford, I think you should see my problem.

Mother looked at Bob and she said, Bob, that is not a problem. It's a badge of honor. What that says about the character of both of those dear people that I love so much. You just fell for him.

Oh, yes. Bob and Elizabeth Dole married in 1975. He has one daughter, Robin, from his first marriage. He decided on a life of public service while still recovering from his wounds.

I figured out that lying in bed the rest of my life was not an option. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1960 and the U.S. Senate in 68. But Americans really got to know him in 1976. I'm extremely proud to introduce to you Senator Bob Dole of the great state of Kansas as my running mate for victory in 1976.

Bob. The Gerald Ford Bob Dole ticket would lose to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Dole ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and again in 88. But he did win a key race in the Senate in 84, becoming party leader. The final vote, 28 to 25. Outgoing Majority Leader Howard Baker officially introducing the winner.

Congratulations. Dole was a mainstream Republican advocating for lower taxes and smaller government. But he worked with Democrats on issues like saving Social Security and supporting civil and disability rights. In fact, both Doles always prided themselves on working across the aisle, something that is rare these days. Do you feel like you are in step with today's Republican Party? Where the party is concerned is the divisiveness that concerns me.

We've got to get past that. Senator, some people were surprised that you supported President Trump's reelection, given how different your tone and your approach to life is. Yeah, if he could have used my tone, he might have been reelected.

He had some good policies. But Dole quickly accepted the fact that Joe Biden won the election. So the election was over as much as many of us Republicans wish that had gone the other way.

But it didn't. In fact, Bob Dole has personal experience losing a presidential election. He was bested by Bill Clinton in 1996, but quickly rallied. Bob Dole is a fighter. You can't hold him down. He's going to bounce back. Bob Dole, Bob. The third day after he had lost the election, he goes on the Dave Letterman Show. Bob, what have you been doing lately?

Not apparently not enough, but in any event. Today, Dole has a friendly relationship with his former Senate colleague, now President Joe Biden, who paid a call after hearing news of Dole's cancer. You don't have to agree with all these policies, but you can't redefine someone who is decent and fine. That's Joe. Well, that's Mr. President. And it was Dole's old rival, President Bill Clinton, who in 1997 made this announcement. I am pleased to be able to recognize Bob Dole's record of achievement with the highest honor our nation can bestow on a citizen, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Clinton also asked Dole to lead the effort to build the National World War II Memorial.

Dole helped raise some $170 million in private funds, and would frequently visit the memorial to greet fellow veterans. Just one of many good works he carried out after leaving the Senate. My pledge one time was to make a difference in the life of at least one person every day. Now, I've probably failed part of that, but I still work at it. And Senator Bob Dole plans to keep working at it.

And I don't intend to go quietly, but that's up to a higher level. I want to try to make a hundred. That's right. We're planning the hundredth birthday party. Right.

And I'm going to try to attend if I can. This morning, we honor not just those who died in service to our country, we honor, as well, a combat survivor. David Martin tells us about the heroes of Iwo Jima and the last man standing.

Herschel Woody Williams is literally one of a kind. At the age of 97, he is the last living recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II. But it's the way he lived all those years since that really sets him apart.

I felt that I owed back more than I could ever possibly give. He grew up on a farm in West Virginia during the Great Depression. There were 11 born to my family. Only five of us survived to adulthood. The attack on Pearl Harbor united Americans as never before in history. After Pearl Harbor, he tried to enlist in the Marines, but was rejected as too short. When the Marines started taking horrendous casualties fighting the Japanese across the Pacific, the height limit was eased, and he ended up a Marine. What was your first taste of combat like?

Exceedingly scary. In February of 1945, a massive invasion fleet gathered off the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. We didn't know that they had 22,000 Japanese on the island. We didn't know that they had miles of tunnel dug out in that volcano. As depicted in the movie Letters from Iwo Jima, the Japanese held their fire until after the Marines had landed and then turned the beach into a slaughterhouse. The beach was just full of everything you can think of. Trucks and tanks just blowing up. More than 6,000 Marines would die.

I just stacked them up, you know, like a cord would. Finally, Marines made it to the top of Mount Suribachi for the most famous flag raising in American history. Did you know the flag had gone up?

No, I did not. I think I had my head buried in the sand. The flag was up, but the battle for Iwo Jima was far from over.

There was no protection. We'd run from shell crater to shell crater if we could find one, and finally we hit this long line of pillboxes, reinforced concrete pillboxes. Japanese machine guns inside the pillboxes cut down the advancing Marines until Williams' commander turned to him. I said, do you think you could do something with the rain thrower?

Do you think you could do something with the rain thrower? Put flame in the pillbox so that you would annihilate everybody within that pillbox. With covering fire from four riflemen, Williams crawled toward the first pillbox with Japanese bullets ricocheting off his flame thrower. I look up on top of this pillbox and I see a little bit of blue smoke rolling out of the top of it. So I crawled up, got up on top of the pillbox, and here's a pipe that's just about the same size from my flame thrower nozzle.

So I just stuck it down and let it go. That was my first pillbox. Williams is credited with taking out seven pillboxes in the course of four hours. That was February 1945. Peace may be restored.

When Japan surrendered in September of that year, Williams was on Guam killing time when he suddenly received a summons. You're going to go see the general. And I said, what for? Can't be good news.

That's what I thought. I'm scared to death, but I'm following orders, you know. So I walk into the tent, walk up to his desk, and he said, you're being ordered back to Washington. I'd never heard of the Medal of Honor.

I didn't know such a thing existed. The boy from Quiet Dell, West Virginia, found himself at the White House being presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman. I never even dreamed of being able to see a president of the United States. And I'm standing, shaking hands with him. Now you talk about a scared moment. I was a wreck.

I really was. He got over the nerves, but never the responsibility that comes with the medal, especially when he learned that Corporal Warren Bornholtz and Private First Class Charles Fisher, two of the riflemen who had provided covering fire during those four hours of flaming hell, had been killed. Once I learned that, my whole concept of the medal changed. I said, this medal does not belong to me.

It belongs to them. So I wear it in their honor, not mine. They sacrificed their lives to make that possible. Williams learned what that sacrifice meant to their families at an early age. Remember the scene from Saving Private Ryan, where the car drives up to tell a mother her son has been killed in combat?

Well, Woody Williams delivered those Western Union telegrams before he joined the Marines. When I handed her the envelope, she just collapsed. As an 18-year-old boy, I didn't know what to do. I didn't do anything. I left. I didn't know what to do. You've done a pretty good job of making up for it. You've done a pretty good job of making up for it. Well, it left a lasting impression on my mind. Made me realize what it costs just to have our freedom and be who we are. He worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years.

Afterwards, he set up the Woody Williams Foundation to support Gold Star families and designed this monument in their honor. We're in all 50 states. Does that require a lot of travel on your part? We try to attend every dedication and every groundbreaking. Before COVID hit, this 90-something would be on the road more than 200 days a year.

Why do you drive yourself like that? At your age, everybody would understand if you begged off. This is my way of making sure that our Gold Star family members are not forgotten. This past April, Charles Coolidge, the only other living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, passed away. Now you're the last man standing. Yes. Does that add to the feeling of responsibility? Yes, it does.

It does. Do you ever wonder why you've been given so long to live? Maybe I'm making somebody else's life a little better, a little more meaningful. Woody Williams has led the most meaningful life possible, although he puts it differently.

I'm just absolutely the most fortunate person you could lay your eyes on. And one more thing we learned about the last man standing. He's also the coolest 97-year-old in the United States of America. Great power competition. The United States put our mind to something we can usually figure it out. What people are saying and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation, our military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing.

Follow Intelligence Matters wherever you get your podcasts. A fanciful form of travel is getting a far more serious look these days. And our Faith Salie says it's about time.

Be honest. Who hasn't wanted to hit fast forward or rewind on life? For as long as there's been a concept of time. That urge to break the bonds of time is, well, timeless. The idea of time travel is actually as old as civilization itself. And we see the very first stories in the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic in 400 BCE, so they're nearly 2,500 years old. Lisa Yazek is a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech. She says those early time travel stories were full of magic, not science.

But as we moved into an industrial culture and suddenly we had trains that had to move on schedule from station to station and ships that had to cross great bodies of water and make it into docks at certain time, we had to make sure that humans in different parts of the world were telling time in the same ways. And I think that was really exciting. We felt like we suddenly did have a little control over time. And so that brings us to H.G. Wells, right? Yes, absolutely. His famous 1895 novel, The Time Machine.

H.G. Wells would have seen the first automobiles being tested, the first motorcycles. So why not get in a vehicle and travel through a few centuries? Hollywood has turned that first time machine into a DeLorean, a police box, even a hot tub. It must be some kind of hot tub time machine.

But when it comes to time travel movies, is there any scientific fact behind all this science fiction? What do they get right? What do they get right?

Not a whole lot. Author and physicist Brian Greene. I want to understand time travel completely. Don't dumb it down.

How does it work? Well, if you model space time as a four dimensional Hausdorff differential manifold, then you can have trajectories of two observers that begin at one moment in time. OK, we're going to do some time traveling. I'm going to go back a few seconds and re-ask that question. I want to understand time travel.

Please dumb it down. Time travel to the future is real. If you want to see what the earth would be like a million years from now, Albert Einstein tells you how to go about doing it. Get in a rocket ship, travel out for six months near the speed of light, turn around and come back. And if you went fast enough, you will come back one year older according to your own clock. But Earth will have aged a thousand or a million or a billion or a trillion years, all depending on how quickly you went. When you step out of the ship, it will be the future.

You will have leapfrogged, traveled into the future. And according to Einstein, it's not just speed that affects time, it's gravity too. Just ask Scott and Mark Kelly, twin brothers born six minutes apart back in 1964. In 2016, Scott, an astronaut, returned to Earth after 340 days zipping around in the International Space Station. When he touched down, he had added a few milliseconds to that original six-minute age gap. Scott, in other words, had traveled in time. Because these are two individuals that experience different gravitational fields. One was up, one was down, different strengths of gravity, time elapses at different rates.

In fact, we do this all the time. Every time we go up in an elevator, we are traveling through time at a different rate. But what everyone wants to know, do you think that we will be able to time travel in the future?

I do. It's hard to say when or exactly how, but since it's part of physics as we understand it, at some point we will be able to make use of these ideas and travel to the future. How's it going old west dude? Green thinks traveling to the past, like Bill and Ted, is much less likely.

Bogus. Which is just fine for a majority of Americans, and our CBS News poll, To the Future, is where they'd want to travel anyway. Our fascination with time travel might help us appreciate something else entirely, says science fiction studies professor Lisa Yazek. It's so easy for us to live in our heads and to always be thinking about the past, trapped in memories, or thinking forward to what we'll accomplish, what we'll do in our retirement.

That we lose the experience of the here-and-now and the richness of living in the moment. Rich Little has turned his gift for comic impersonation into one very big and seemingly unstoppable career. He's in conversation with Tracey Smith. Is it true that when you became a U.S. citizen, the judge asked you to do it in a John Wayne voice? Yeah, he said, I'm going to swear you went as John Wayne.

So I got up there and I said, well mister, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, and don't crowd me. In case you were wondering, Rich Little is alive and well. And on any given night, so are a lot of his old friends. Well, this is George Bush, senior.

Okay, okay, gotcha, gotcha, good. Right now, he's in Vegas, filling the reduced capacity shows at the Laugh Factory at the Tropicana. But at 82, Rich Little's been in show biz longer than some of his audience members have been alive. Scary tales can come true. It can happen to you, if you're Andrew Cuomo.

There's a play I did early in my career, Bus Stop. The walls of his home are hung with photos of people he's met along the way, some of the biggest names of the last century. Is it sometimes hard to believe that you knew all these people? Yeah, it is. It is, it's a, I mean, here's a shot of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, me and Glenn Ford, you know.

You can't get any bigger than that. The Canadian-born entertainer got his start imitating his teachers at school, and he'd sneak into the movies with a tape recorder so he could hear a celebrity voice over and over. That once got him kicked out of a theatre showing Jimmy Stewart's 1954 film, The Far Country. And I told Jimmy about this when I first met him. He said, you, you, you, you, you, you did that?

And I said, yeah. He said, Rich, you should have got a hold of me, I could have sent you the movie. And my fellow Americans, my name is Hubert H. Humphrey. Oh, my name is Ed Sullivan. Hello, my name is Rich Little, and boy, have I got a secret. But by the 1970s, he'd become pretty much a fixture on TV, especially game shows.

Does it take physical dexterity to do what you're doing? Rich Little's been called Mr. Everybody, but he says he can actually do about a hundred voices really well. Can you do voices for everybody on this wall? Well, first of all, there's Catherine Hepburn, you know, you won't poop. And then there's Clark Gable. See here, Scarlett.

Atlanta's not burning, that's the Braves, they're playing a night game. And Sean Connery of The Hunt for Red Rock Tober. And Bob Hope right here, and Ben Crosby, oh, the old groaner himself, dear bingo. R.W.C.

Fields, ah, yes, yes, my fellow Americans. Of course, he's also done just about every president, from Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and George Bush. And this summer, he'll be in New York appearing in an off-Broadway play, as Nixon, about what would have happened if he hadn't resigned. Do you have a favorite impersonation? Do you have a favorite impersonation? Yeah, I would say Ronald Reagan.

Will? Because he was a great friend of mine. We got along great together. I was even up in their quarters in the White House for lunch. In fact, when the Reagans left Washington for good and flew home to California, Rich Little was one of the first to greet them when they landed.

I think my impression of President Reagan is getting better and better, because every time I do you, sir, I get this terrible urge to run off with Nancy. Truth is, his impersonations haven't always been just for laughs. When David Niven shot this movie, he was terminally ill with ALS, and his voice was barely a whisper. So a lot of what moviegoers heard was actually Rich Little. I mean, I'm sure the sergeant is totally up to date on my somewhat checkered career.

Right, Sergeant? But maybe his best-known impersonation was Tonight Show legend Johnny Carson. Little was a regular on the show for years, and even guest-hosted a number of times, until the show abruptly stopped calling. What happened with The Tonight Show? Well, I was never quite sure. Either I said something that rubbed somebody the wrong way, or Johnny got tired of me imitating him.

I don't know. But suddenly I was a no-book on the show, and I tried to find out why, but I never really found out. They did meet again after Carson retired in a chance encounter in a Malibu restaurant. And when he came over to the table, he said, Rich, are you still impersonating me? And I said, of course. He said, really? I said, well, yeah, John.

I mean, people love it. It's one of my best impressions. Well, I thought, you know, I'm not on the air anymore. Maybe they've forgotten me. I said, no, no, no, they haven't forgotten you at all. My gosh, I'll be doing you for years, which is true, because I'm still doing them. The world's greatest crossword puzzle addict died yesterday.

And tomorrow, they're going to bury him eight feet down and three feet across. These days, Rich Little is still keeping Johnny's memory, and those of dozens of others, alive. This is Carol Ting.

Hello. And after nearly 60 years, the voices come naturally to him. The hard part, he says, is trying to keep his own voice from fading away. When you get to be as old as I am, it's tougher to get on TV. Now, I'm thrilled to be on this show today, because this is probably the first time I've been on network television in 30 years. In 30 years? Do you miss it? Yeah, I do. I think what happens is, when you get older, people don't really want a book you want to show. Maybe they think you're not funny anymore.

You know, I don't know. So this is a big thrill for me. I hope it goes over well. I have no doubt it will.

That's all, folks. On this Memorial Day eve, Steve Hartman is looking ahead to reprise the observance he championed last year. Ten-year-old Kaitlyn Sanders of Ellicott City, Maryland, is hard at work, practicing the 24 notes that will give this Memorial Day its resonance. Because if it sounds terrible, it's not going to connect as well. Well, I heard you, and it was a lot better than terrible.

Thanks. Kaitlyn and her sister, Lauren, are returning participants in what we hope is becoming an American tradition. We started Taps Across America last year as a way to safely commemorate Memorial Day during the pandemic, and the response we got still gives me chills, almost as much as the song itself. At precisely three o'clock, musicians from all 50 states played Taps in what turned out to be one of the largest musical tributes of all time. Roughly half of the Taps were recorded in the United States, roughly 20,000 soloists all playing in harmony. I was quite emotional when I saw the videos. Yari Villanueva is with Taps for Veterans and our partner in this wonder. How do you explain it? I think this comes from an underlying feeling of Americans wanting to to be part of something bigger than they are.

Yeah, I just decided that's what I need to do. Bob Drewes of Mobile, Alabama, had never played an instrument before, but after seeing what happened last year, he felt compelled to take part this year. Now the work begins. He has been practicing every day, much to his family's chagrin.

What did you think of that? My granddaughter. So I have a house full of critics, but I'm still motivated because it means a lot to me. In a country too often divided, this is the call we all can answer.

So if you play, whatever you play, please join us Monday for Taps Across America. The infamous massacre that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one century ago, holds important lessons for us today, as we hear from New York Times columnist, Charles Blow. 100 years ago today in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a black teenage shoeshiner named Dick Rowland stepped onto an elevator being operated by a 17-year-old white girl. Wild allegations about what happened on that elevator between the two teens would lead to one of the most notorious massacres in American history. Rowland was arrested the next morning, and the Tulsa Tribune printed an incendiary article claiming that the young man had attempted to assault the girl. A white mob descended on the courthouse, demanding that Rowland be turned over to them. Armed black men showed up to defend Rowland and prevent him from being lynched. Gunfire soon erupted. It would lead to what would become known as the Tulsa Massacre.

As white people began to shoot black people on site, as many as 300 people were killed, and 8,000 were left homeless as the once thriving, self-sufficient black community of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street, was reduced to ashes. Rather than remember and atone for this atrocity, Tulsa began efforts to erase the incident from history. But it could not be erased from the memory of those who lived it. In 2018, I had the great honor of interviewing Olivia J. Hooker, one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Massacre. She was a spry 103 years old when I met her.

She would die just two months later. Hooker was a little girl at the time of the massacre, just six years old, and she remembers things as a child would. The terror of hiding with siblings beneath an oak dining table as the legs of white terrorists moved around it. It was the memory of those men destroying, defiling, or stealing all the beautiful things, the things that represented the reality of black refinement or held the possibility of black joy. They took a hatchet to my sister's piano. They poured orange juice on the floor. On my sister's piano, they poured oil all over my grandmother's bed. They took all the silverware that mama had just got for Christmas.

If anything looked precious, they took it. Her reflections illustrated clearly to me that this massacre wasn't only about an incident on an elevator or terror and mass murder. It was also about covetousness and spite, about the erasure of a black excellence that by its very existence posed a fundamental threat to white supremacy.

Black Wall Street represented black prosperity even in an age of oppression, so white supremacy had to destroy it. Our broadcast writer, Tom Harris, is retiring this weekend after 43 years at CBS and more than 1,000 Sunday mornings in which he found just the right words to match the memorable pictures in our stories. And because he spent those years twiling over a keyboard, there aren't a lot of photos we have to show you Tom at work.

But perhaps that's fitting for a man who's dedicated his career to the written word, elevating the art of language in a medium not always known for its erudition. Tom Harris has made the Sunday mornings of Charles Kuralt, Charles Osgood, and Jane Pauley smarter, funnier, and more heartfelt than we might ever have been without his wonderful words. And as much as we'll miss his work on the air, we'll miss his dry humor around the office every bit as much. We wish Tom and his wife Joan and daughter Lindsay nothing but the best as they author together this next chapter in their lives. Thanks, Tom, for all the years and all those words.

Indeed, a toast to you, Tom Harris, for being the best there is. Hear, hear! Thank you, Tom. Hear, hear! Thank you, Tom. Hear, hear! Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Hi, podcast peeps. It's me, Drew Barrymore.

Oh, my goodness. I want to tell you about our new show. It's the Drew's News Podcast. And in each episode, me and a weekly guest are going to cover all the quirky, fun, inspiring, and informative stories that exist out in the world because, well, I need it and maybe you do too. From the newest interior design trend, Barbie Corps, to the right and wrong way to wash your armpits. Also, we're going to get into things that you just kind of won't believe and we're not able to do in daytime television, so watch out. Listen to Drew's News wherever you get your podcasts. It's your good news on the go.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 04:15:16 / 2023-01-29 04:31:58 / 17

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