Sunday, June 05, 2005

Gene Roddenberry wrote the first known proposal for a Star Trek series in early 1964. This means that he started this version within months of one of the most important and devastating events of the 1960s.

A few years earlier, at the Democratic National Convention held in Los Angeles in 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy won the party's presidential nomination. He was 43 years old. Gene Roddenberry was 39. GR may have known about Kennedy from World War II, when they both served in the Pacific.

While Roddenberry was flying bombers from Guadalcanal, Kennedy was the skipper of a small PT boat patrolling the Solomon Islands. They were so close geographically that on the day Kennedy's PT boat was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer, planes from Roddenberry's base were dispatched to search for survivors. If it hadn't been for an accident to his plane, GR probably would have been among them.

When his boat was destroyed, Kennedy swam three miles to a small island, towing an injured man with a rope held in his teeth, and leading two others. He kept them alive for six days until they were rescued.

Although GR was no longer in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1960, his friends on the force had their hands full with the convention that summer. GR was a Democrat, as his father had been, so it's likely he was paying attention when Kennedy made his acceptance speech on a hot July evening to 80,000 people in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and a nationwide TV audience. GR would have heard this leader of his own generation say:

"The world has been close to war before-but now man, who has survived all previous threats to his existence, has taken into his mortal hands the power to exterminate the entire species some seven times over."

"Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary...A technological urban-population revolution...a peaceful revolution for human rights-demanding an end to racial discrimination in all parts of our community life...a medical revolution...a revolution of automation..."

"Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose. It is time, in short, for a new generation of leadership..."

"I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch 3000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West....Their motto was not 'Every man for himself,' but 'All for the common cause.'"

"...we stand today on the edge of a new frontier-the frontier of the 1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and paths, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats..."

"The new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises-it is a set of challenges...Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus."

"My call is to the young at heart, regardless of age, to the stout in spirit, regardless of party."

"...I believe the times demand invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be new pioneers on that new frontier."

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