The Rest of the Story

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As this week progressed, I crossed one item after another off of one list after another and threw them into the wastebasket beside my desk. This morning Ray carried them to the trash can behind the house. We’re making progress in this next phase of life after finishing America the Beautiful.

One of the items on one of those lists were the words Unit 25. That was my reminder to rewrite the introduction to Unit 25. During the last two and a half weeks, I read the curriculum from cover to cover to make sure that the overall message was what I wanted to say. I tweaked lots of words, several sentences, and a few paragraphs. One sentence in the 12-line introduction to Unit 25 really bugged me. This is what I had written at first:

During the 1960s, America faced Communists, riots, war, and assassinations.

While every word was accurate, it didn’t tell the whole story of the 1960s. I was seven years old when that decade began and 17 when it was over. While I knew about all those terrible things, they weren’t part of my daily experience. In some ways they cast a shadow over my life, but they didn’t define my life. I had a cousin in Vietnam, so the war was a reality for me, but I never saw a riot or an assassination in person; and to my knowledge, I never met a Communist. “This gives the wrong impression,” I thought. “Yes, those things happened, but lots of good things were happening, too.” I thought and thought about it and finally took the sentence out.

The students learn about Communists, riots, war, and assassinations in Unit 25, but I didn’t color their view with a negative summary statement like that before they learned more of the story in the following pages. They don’t learn only about those things. They also learn about the snowman that greeted John Jr. and Caroline Kennedy on the day they moved into the White House. They see a picture of former president Harry Truman playing the piano at one of the Kennedys’ parties. They see a Barnum and Bailey clown bringing a stuffed giraffe to the White House for Caroline. They see the family playing together in John Jr.’s nursery. They see Lyndon Johnson and his wife dancing at their daughter’s wedding. They see Johnson smiling at his grandson in the Oval Office. They see Johnson and evangelist Billy Graham having a laugh together in that same office.

Photo by Yoichi Okamoto, courtesy of the LBJ Library

Writing about negative topics, wailing about negative topics, and wallowing in negative topics drives much of the world’s media. Seeing and hearing those stories all day long does not give an accurate picture of reality. “Communists, riots, war, and assassinations” were real but they weren’t the only reality. What we see in the news isn’t the only reality either.

Oh, Lord God! Behold, You Yourself have made
the heavens and the earth by Your great power
and by Your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too difficult for You . . .
Jeremiah 32:17



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