"What happened today in American history?" I ask on June 6, June 14, November 11, December 7, and other dates. It's fun to quiz my associates at work and my customers, too. They love it! The answers and conversations they spark are priceless. On the Fourth of July, I suspend the dress code and ask all the associates to wear red, white, and blue. We have a "share-your-lunch" buffet that day, too. "Don't get any potato salad on the flag!"
History has always been a favorite subject of mine and I've always associated current events to historical events. My father's birthday was the same as Pearl Harbor. He got out of the army on the day that, several years later, was my birthday. He died the day after Veteran's Day. July 4th always meant home made ice cream and I'll never forget the expression on the face of Miss Ola Cooper when she announced to our sixth grade class that President Kennedy had been shot. My wife's birthday is a day or two away from November 22 and I often tease her about her having been on the "grassy knoll" smoking a cigarette when the motorcade passed.
In one of the many activities to support the premiere of America: The Story of Us, the History Channel commissioned an online survey by the Harris Interactive company to "gauge Americans' feeling and attitudes about the figures, events, ideas and innovations that have shaped American history."
The 12-hour series premiered Sunday, April 25, 9PM ET/PT, and continues with new episodes airing on Sundays through Memorial Day. Nancy Dubuc, President and General Manager of The History Channel said, "When people watch [this series], we hope it will further engage them in this amazing story in an exciting and gripping way."
When I reviewed the survey results, I was surprised to discover what we as a country don't know. (2,450 American adults aged 18 or older were surveyed online.) Fifty-one per cent of us do not know in which decade slavery was abolished ( 1860s). Forty-eight per cent of us do not know in which decade women were given the right to vote (1920s,) and 60 per cent could not name the conflict/war that resulted in the greatest number of American casualties (the Civil War).
A significant part of the poll asked for opinions or votes on events, documents, innovations, and people that have left lasting impressions or helped invent our country. The electric light, the Internet, the Hoover Dam, Lewis and Clark, and the first amendment to the Constitution all got the most votes in their categories. To no surprise, George Washington was recognized as our greatest founding father, garnering twice the votes of second place Thomas Jefferson. Bernie Madoff edged out Timothy McVeigh by one percentage point as our "biggest villain" and the American flag doubled the votes for first place over the Statue of Liberty as our "most iconic symbol".
What would you say has been America's greatest achievement?
The top vote getter in this poll was: "A constitution stating that all men are created equal."
Mark your calendars and reserve the next six Sunday nights for a landmark series on The History Channel.