Milestones: Monday, October 16, 2023
DECLINED NOBEL PRIZE — US SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER AND NORTH VIETNAMESE DIPLOMAT LE DUC THO WERE TO SHARE THE 1973 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE for negotiating the Paris peace accords, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced fifty years ago, on Oct. 16, 1973, a decision that proved controversial. Earlier that year, Kissinger, who was serving as then-President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, had negotiated a peace treaty with Le Duc Tho. That previous January, Kissinger and Tho, meeting in Paris, agreed to a ceasefire, following the Christmas 1972 bombing of the North Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi. However, Kissinger backed up his negotiating strategy with high-pressure military tactics. Worse, in the months between the Paris Accord and the prize announcement, South Vietnam sabotaged the deal by trying to recapture areas, rendering the ceasefire moot.
Le Duc Tho declined the Nobel Peace Prize on the grounds that the U.S. and South Vietnam had both violated the terms of the ceasefire. And members of the Nobel Committee resigned after the vote to honor the hawkish Kissinger.
ICONIC OLYMPIC MOMENT — ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS MOMENTS OF OLYMPIC POLITICAL SPEECH WAS ACTUALLY NON-VERBAL. American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, having received the gold and bronze medals respectively, on Oct. 16, 1968, raised their fists in the Black Power salute as the “The Star-Spangled Banner” began. Their protest was part of an antiracist action campaign in which Black athletes participated that year. Smith and Carlos were both active in the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which advocated for civil rights and human rights for Black people in the United States and abroad (including South Africa), and which protested overall racism in sports. Thee photo with their fists raised on the podium went viral in the news media and has its place as the most iconic images of 20th century sports.
The Olympic Project for Human Rights had proposed a complete Black athlete boycott of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to achieve its goals.
MILLION MAN MARCH — ANOTHER EVENT TO FIGHT RACISM AND COMBAT NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES WAS THE MILLION MAN MARCH, which took place on Oct. 16, 1995. A large crowd, mostly African American men, converged on the National Mall in Washington, DC, urging Congress to act in their interests, and to work with them in combating negative stereotypes of Black men. Leaders from all aspects of the civil rights movement gave speeches in a marathon oration lasting 12 hours. Taking responsibility for one’s actions was a central theme of the Million Man March, and the crowd articulated a pledge to support their families, refrain from abusive behavior toward women and children, and renounce violence except in self-defense. They also pledged to support Black businesses and institutions within their communities.
The Million Man March, which was the brainchild of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, took place against a backdrop of conservative Congressional policy and a response to the high-profile O.J. Simpson case that also resulted in the ex-football star’s acquittal.
MICKEY MOUSE IS BORN — A YOUNG, TALENTED ARTIST WHO DREW CARTOONS WOUND UP BUILDING ONE OF THE LARGEST ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA COMPANIES in the world. Walt Disney and his brother Roy found the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood on Oct. 16, 1923. Walt had drawn cartoons for various publications and had developed a passion for cel animation. He started a Laugh-O-Gram studio, but its brief existence ended with a bankruptcy. However, the experience, and Disney’s creation of the Laugh-O-Gram studio film Alice’s Wonderland, led to more opportunities, and he wound up signing a contract to make more films on Alice, which became a successful series called the Alice Comedies. The Disney Brothers then worked on “Steamboat Willie,” which gave birth to one of their most famous characters — Mickey Mouse. Disney then started producing feature films.
During World War II, Disney employees created educational films for various federal agencies, including a 1942 animated short featuring a character named Donald Duck. Titled “The New Spirit,” it commissioned by the Treasury Department to encourage people to pay their income taxes as a way to support the war effort.
DRAMATIC RESCUE — AN 18-MONTH-OLD BABY NAMED JESSICA McCLURE WAS RESCUED IN AN ACTION THAT CAPTIVATED THE WORLD on Oct. 16, 1987. Baby Jessica had been trapped in an abandoned water well in Texas for 58 hours (more than two days) but survived. She had fallen into the well while playing at her aunt’s home day-care center. It took crews of rescue workers and mine experts to create a structure that would give them access to the child, and then tunneled to bring her out of the well.
The child had alternated crying and singing and, when found, was alert as safety workers pulled her from the well. Even though she lost a limb to gangrene, the child recovered and was showered with accolades and greetings, including from President Ronald Reagan. A trust fund was set up for her, with donors around the world contributing.
EL CAMINO — CHEVROLET’S CAR-TRUCK HYBRID MADE ITS DEBUT on Oct. 16, 1958 and was named El Camino. It was based on another popular model, the Ranchero by competitor Ford; it had an Impala chassis, and featured the popular “cat’s eye” taillights and dramatic rear fins. Ads declared, “It rides and handles like a convertible,” Chevy said, “yet hauls and hustles like the workingest thing on wheels.”
In 1968, the more powerful SS engine transformed the El Camino into one of the iconic muscle cars of the late 1960s and 1970s, however, that model was permanently dropped from Chevrolet’s lineup. The El Camino has endured, though, as a cult classic among collectors.
See previous milestones, here.
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