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Desert Storm, Inauguration Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In the previous half of this article, we reflected on the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of New Orleans, and many other significant events to start a brand new year off. Now, readers will learn about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first televised presidential news conference, the California Gold Rush, and many others.
January 17, 1991: Operation Desert Storm begins. Several months prior, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Kuwait to annex the country for oil fields. In response, the largest Allied coalition readied to Kuwait’s defense. Primary Coalition forces consisted of Kuwait, the US, Britain, France, and Saudi Arabia, but many other nations provided support, including China and even the dying Soviet Union. Desert Storm ended on February 28 of that year, bringing an end to the Gulf War and crushing Hussein’s army.
January 18, 1919: The Paris Peace Conference begins in Versailles, France. Involving 32 nations, this was to commemorate the Allied victory over the Central Powers in World War I, as well as to decide how to move forward. The main outcomes consisted of the formation of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, which included harsh restrictions on Germany.
The treaty would ultimately cripple Germany’s economy and throw the country into a great depression. A couple of months before the conference, the German Empire was transformed into the Weimar Republic. Out of the ashes of the Empire, a young veteran of the German Army with violent tendencies would rise to promote his own twisted vision of hope. His party – one rooted in national socialism – would come to power in 1933. His name? Adolph Hitler.
January 20 – Inauguration Day: Inauguration Day has been held on January 20 since 1937, following the addition of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Since then, the years for each presidential inauguration are as follows:
- Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1937, 1941, 1945
- Harry Truman – 1949
- Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1953, 1957
- John F. Kennedy – 1961
- Lyndon B. Johnson – 1965
- Richard Nixon – 1969, 1973
- Jimmy Carter – 1977
- Ronald Reagan – 1981, 1985
- George H. W. Bush – 1989
- Bill Clinton – 1993, 1997
- George W. Bush – 2001, 2005
- Barack Obama – 2009, 2013
- Donald Trump – 2017
A Brand New Year: I Have a Dream
January 21 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983, following President Ronald Reagan’s signing of the bill. The day was first observed in 1986, and was officially celebrated in all states by 2000. To all who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, we greatly thank you.
In this brand new year, may we never forget King’s iconic words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” President Reagan said this of King: “Abraham Lincoln freed the Black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the White man…Where others – White and Black – preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”
California Gold Rush, Challenger Disaster, 13th Amendment, and More
January 22, 1944: Operation Shingle begins. The start of the Battle of Anzio, this was an Allied amphibious landing in which American, Canadian, and British troops stormed the beaches of Italy and fought to capture Rome. The US forces were commanded by General Mark W. Clark, one of the youngest four-star generals in the US Army during World War II. Previously, Clark had served in World War I, and he served in Korea following the second world war.
January 24, 1848: The California Gold Rush begins. After gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, word spread quickly. The news of gold brought an estimated 300,000 people to the region. The surge in immigration revitalized the economy and led to California’s statehood with the Compromise of 1850. Some settlers traveling along the Oregon Trail would branch off near Fort Hall, Idaho, and embark on the California Trail, in which some would end up at Sutter’s Mill.
January 25, 1961: President John F. Kennedy delivers the first televised news conference. This was viewed by an estimated 65-million people. In the speech, which lasted approximately 37 minutes, Kennedy announced that he had postponed nuclear test negotiations with the Soviet Union until March of that year. Likewise, he remarked that the Soviet Union had released two survivors of a downed US RB-47 aircraft, as well as that America would be increasing food aid to the Congo.
A Brand New Year: All the Treasure of the Earth
January 27, 1838: Abraham Lincoln delivers his Lyceum Address. Spoken at the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, this was the first of Lincoln’s prominent speeches. Staunchly defending the Constitution, the American court system, and the rule of law, Lincoln also described slavery as a grave threat to the republic. Likewise, he used the oration to promote American greatness in unity.
One of the most memorable excerpts reads, “Shall we expect some Trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or leave a track in the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad.”
January 27, 1973: The Paris Peace Accords are signed, ending US involvement in Vietnam. The treaty included the governments of North and South Vietnam, and the United States, as well as a separate treaty for the provisional government of South Vietnamese revolutionaries. Henry Kissinger acted as negotiator on behalf of the US. The treaty ended direct US involvement in the Vietnam War, but the conflict would continue until 1975.
January 28, 1986: The Challenger Disaster occurs. The names of the seven brave space pioneers were Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Shortly after takeoff, the Challenger’s O-ring, which was not designed to bear the unusually cold temperature, failed and caused a breach in the SRB joint, which led to the explosion. This tragic event grounded the shuttle fleet for nearly three years, and the Reagan Administration appointed a special commission to investigate.
A New Birth of Freedom
January 30, 1882: Franklin D. Roosevelt is born in Hyde Park, New York. The fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt and most commonly referred to as FDR, he originally served as a member of the New York Senate from 1911-1913, before serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920. Then he served as Governor of New York from 1929-1932.
A member of the Democratic Party, Roosevelt was elected to the presidency during the Great Depression and remained president until World War II was near its end. His term lasted from 1933-1945, during which he enacted a program called the “New Deal,” which consisted of large amounts of government spending in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy. He served the longest term of any US president and passed away on April 12, 1945. Roosevelt remains a favorite among Democrats.
January 31, 1865: The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution is passed. The first of three Reconstruction amendments, this new addition to the Constitution prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishable for a crime. Often considered one of the most important amendments added to the Constitution, it enforced President Lincoln’s vision of a “New birth of freedom,” upheld the proposition that “All men are created equal,” and paved the way for racial equality in the US. African-Americans would, unfortunately, still have a long road towards true equality, as state laws in both the North and South would defy the federal Constitution.
Looking Toward the New Decade
January is a remarkable month for American history. It starts with a promise of freedom for slaves, and ends with the fulfillment of that promise. We reflect on much World War II history, Abraham Lincoln’s first prominent speech, and the California Gold Rush.
Likewise, we are also reminded of tragedies, such as the Challenger Disaster. Some events hurt to reflect on, but all must be remembered. I wish you all best wishes as we enter this brand new year and a brand new decade, and I hope you will join me in another year of historical reflections.