WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? Sandy Miller-Jacobs Reflects on “The Times”

One way for us to meet each other is by sharing what’s on our minds with the BOLLI community as a whole.  So, here’s the beginning of a BOLLI Matters “What’s On Your Mind?” feature–Sandy Miller-Jacobs recently wrote this piece for Marjorie Roemer’s memoir writing class, “Constructing Our Stories,” in which the prompt was for us to focus on a “refrain” from some point in our younger years.  Sandy took a political turn with this one, and we all felt that, with an inauguration coming up, we might all be interested in what’s been on her mind.

“The Times They Are A-Changing”

by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

       On January 20, 1960 our grandfatherly US President Eisenhower turned the office over to the young, handsome, and dynamic President John F. Kennedy. It was snowing hard, and, much to my delight, it was a snow day! For the first time, I watched, with my mother, the whole inauguration on TV. Robert Frost read a poem right from the same podium from which Kennedy would take his oath. Kennedy did not wear a coat or hat despite the cold and stood right where Robert Frost had been to deliver his inaugural address. His words struck me. “The torch has been passed to a new generation.” He may have thought he was talking to his generation, but I knew he was talking to MY generation. The Class of ’63 at Valley Stream North High became Kennedy fans, following his every word. Throughout the rest of our high school days, we watched all his press conferences and talked about them for days after. We were sure Khrushchev would not start a nuclear war, and we were right.

We were “the Baby Boomers” and proud of it. Our rock and roll songs were played on the radio. We watched American Bandstand and learned new ways of dancing.      Our music became our voice, bonding us to the issues of our day – civil rights and, eventually, anti-war protest. In September of 1963, I began my studies at Queens College of the City University of New York. Paul Simon, who had just graduated in June, performed at our freshman orientation. He sang “He was my brother,”  a song he wrote and dedicated to his classmate and friend at QC, Andrew Goodman, who was killed because he wanted Negroes to have the same rights he did – the right to vote, to sit anywhere on a bus or in a restaurant. “The times they were a-changing,”  and the older, white Southern generation didn’t like it one bit.

But we loved it. These songs were about the good my generation was bringing to the US and the world. It was about civil rights, the rights of all Americans. Somehow, Dylan’s song that opened his concert at Carnegie Hall in October of 1963 put it all in perspective:

Come mothers and fathers                                                                             Throughout the land                                                                                                      And don’t criticize                                                                                                        What you can’t understand                                                                                      Your sons and your daughters                                                                                    Are beyond your command                                                                                        Your old road is rapidly aging                                                                                Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand                            ‘Cause the times they are a changing

Yet last month, after so many months of vicious words, of bullying, of misogyny, of fear-mongering against immigrants and Muslims, and veiled anti-Semitism, Donald Trump became the US President-elect.  Yes, “The Times They Are A Changing,” but this isn’t the sixties with hopes of peace.

Bob Dylan, our silent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, why didn’t you have a song for us now?  Instead, you left us “Blowing in the Wind.”

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MEET MEMBER SANDY MILLER-JACOBS is a relatively new member of the BOLLI community, having joined after her retirement from Fitchburg State University where she taught in the Department of Special Education.  

At BOLLI, she has been “reviving” a long interest in photography and has been an active member of the Photo Group.