Morals In America – 1973 – Ann Landers at The National Press Club – December 7, 1973 – National Public Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The 1960s were a period of discovery and curiosity; discovery of new things and curiosity what those new things would lead to. It was the world dipping its proverbial toes in an alternate world – looking at that world through a different set of glasses, hopefully rose-colored ones. The giddy optimism didn’t last long – it came of age roughly around The Summer Of Love, bloomed around Woodstock and promptly wilted around Charles Manson and Altamont. The fabled Garden of Eden became the empty lot of Crabgrass.
By the time the 70s rolled around it was open season. “If I feels good, do it” was something of a mantra espoused by many groups and actively practiced by just about everyone nudging in the direction of 30 and lurking somewhere above 40 but desperate to cling on. The innocence that embraced much of the 60s was well gone by the time 1970 chimed in. We went from dewey-eyed optimism to jaundiced cynicism. We broke on through to the other side and the result was the Giant Sneer. The War in Vietnam didn’t help – we were well on our way to being divided but Cambodia wound up being the wedge. It was the decade of Movements and marches, burning everything from bras to draft cards.
So what about America’s Moral Fiber? Well, who better to discuss that than one of the two prominent voices in the who-am-I-what-am-I-doing-where-am-I-going dilemma than Ann Landers?
Landers, along with Abigail Van Buren; two of the mainstays in the advice-giving sub-culture of Americas newspapers and airwaves dispensed advice (some good – some atrocious) to millions of parents, authority figures and teachers, trying to make sense of this Rubik’s Cube of Youth.
Landers (whose real name was Eppie Lederer) and Abby (whose real name was Pauline Phillips) doled out sage and homespun advice on a daily basis and were regarded as the tried-and-true barometer as to where America’s morals were heading. They should know – they were both doing it since the 1950s, when America was really going to hell in a hand basket.
The 70s were probably a bit more hardcore than the 50s were, only in the sense that nobody pretended anymore. Morals, everyone agreed, were a whole lot looser than ever before. Or were they?
Certainly by today’s standards, the 50s were quaint and the 70s were funny. It wasn’t until the 80s that everything got serious and free love was playing for keeps and not in a good way.
But listening to Landers, who spends more time talking about her life experiences that the actual issue of Morality itself, does get around to offering a point of view or two during the Q&A period after the opening remarks.
Oh, we’ve come a long way – toward what, I don’t think anyone knows. I do think we’ve finally gotten around to living in the moment, because the future is not going to be what we thought it was anyway, so why push it?
Here is Ann Landers as she addressed the (newly sort-of liberated) National Press Club on December 7, 1973 over National Public Radio.
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