January 25, 1976 – and the end of another week of wild contrasts.
The week began with a gloomy assessment of the nation’s economy, as delivered by President Ford during his State of The Union Address. Things were turning around; slowly. But not enough to stop painting the economic picture with a goodly amount of gloom. This was an election year, and things were precarious. The mood of the country was unpredictable; we were still smarting over the sting of Watergate and the resignation of Richard Nixon less than two years earlier. We were just beginning to digest the odyssey that was Vietnam, which saw that chapter come to a debris-strewn close less than a year earlier. And we were seeing the Middle East, the almost constant source of strife in the world, flare up yet again, not to mention the almost constant presence of a Cold War between East and West; Shuttle Diplomacy going in an almost revolving door of talks, offers, upsets and more talks.
So yes, when President Ford delivered his State of The Union Address earlier in the week, it wasn’t terribly upbeat – and it may not bode well, come November. And that was also brewing – the field of candidates for the highest office was growing and shrinking, with Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter looking more promising, but it was too early to tell.
But that was a small bit of what was going on in the world.
As always, the Middle East was embroiled in yet another crisis. The situation in Lebanon was precarious. With Lebanon’s Prime Minister resigning, amid renewed fighting between militias. By the end of the week, Prime Minister Rashid Karami was reinstated pending a glimmer of hope that the latest in a string of broke ceasefires, would finally stick. In between all that was some of the fiercest fighting up to that point, and that fighting was in grave danger of touching off the most serious crisis in the Middle East since . . . .well, the last serious crisis in the Middle East. Seems there was just no end to serious crises in that region. But by this day in 1976, things were looking at least slightly hopeful.
And then there was The Concorde. This week saw the launch of the first commercial flight of the Concorde SST, the Supersonic airliner which was capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. Two flights were launched – one from Paris to Rio and the other from London to Bahrain – four and a half hours were shaved off the Rio flight and two hours were shaved off the Bahrain flight. As for future flights coming to the U.S. – that was still up for discussion, as damage to the Ozone layer and noise levels were a major concern. But history was made anyway and a new chapter in aviation had begun.
And that’s a small slice of what went on, this fracture and chaotic world of January 25, 1976 – 40 years ago today, as presented by CBS Radio’s World This Week.