Chicago, 1968, all over again?

The thuggish behavior exhibited by students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) hearkens back to an earlier era.  Given that the median age of Americans is 37.6 years, well over half of all Americans have no personal memory of the events of the late 1960s: the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and before that the April 1968 riots on the West Side of Chicago.  Black neighborhoods burned.

When I moved to Illinois in 1971, the wreckage of once viable neighborhoods was everywhere on the West Side.  There are even fewer manufacturing jobs today.  The once huge manufacturing plant owned by E.J. Brach employed thousands of Chicagoans.  Most Americans have seen it, and their headquarters building across the street, only as a movie set for The Dark Knight Rises.

Working to put Illinois back together again has been hard.  Back in the summer of 1969, I worked as a young thermodynamicist for Grumman Aerospace, when the company’s Lunar Excursion Module, Eagle, carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the “surface of the Moon” and then returned them “safely to Earth.”

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Believe it or not, those words were spoken by an American president, a Democrat.  You will not find many politicians today talking about doing anything hard. Part of Donald Trump’s appeal may lie in the word “again.”