The Thing About Today – January 17

January 17, 2020
Day 17 of 366


January 17th is the seventeenth day of the year. It is National Day on the Spanish island of Menorca.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Bootlegger’s Day and National Hot Buttered Rum Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1706, American publisher, inventor, and politician Benjamin Franklin was born.
  • In 1773, Captain James Cook commanded the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.
  • In 1860, Douglas Hyde was born. An Irish academic and politician, he was the first President of Ireland.
  • In 1899, famous mob boss Al Capone was born.
  • In 1912, British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole. This happened one month after Roald Amundsen did the same.
  • In 1922, actress and personality Betty White was born.
  • In 1927, actress, singer, and activist Eartha Kitt was born.
  • In 1929, Popeye the Sailor Man first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip. The character was created by E. C. Segar.
  • In 1931, actor James Earl Jones was born. To say that his voice became iconic is an understatement.
  • In 1933, actress and puppeteer/ventriloquist Shari Lewis was born.
  • In 1942, boxer and activist Muhammad Ali was born.
  • In 1964, Michelle Obama was born.
  • In 1970, Russian-American animator, director, and producer Genndy Tartakovsky was born.
  • In 1977, capital punishment resumed in the United States after a ten-year hiatus. Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah.
  • In 1989, Trần Loan, better known as actress Kelly Marie Tran, was born.
  • In 1991, Operation Desert Storm began. It marked the first major combat sortie for the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.


In 1961, three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his televised farewell address to the nation. Issued three days before leaving office, this is the speech in which he warned against the accumulation of power by the “military-industrial complex.” He also emphasized the dangers of massive spending and deficit spending, touched on the prospect of the domination of science through Federal funding and, conversely, the domination of science-based public policy by what he called a “scientific-technological elite.”

Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States for two full terms from January 1953 through January 1961. He was the first U.S. president to be term-limited from seeking re-election, a rule put in place after the 1951 ratification of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution. His tenure saw a period of considerable economic expansion, even in the face of the deepening Cold War. He oversaw three balanced national budgets, but spending pressures continued to build in a country that faced exchanging the oldest American president in a century with the youngest elected to date in John F. Kennedy.

The concept of the military-industrial complex has been the most recognized and discussed portion of his speech, which was particularly relevant given Eisenhower’s decorated service in World War II.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

The phrase gained acceptance in the Vietnam conflict (1955-1975) and has seen significant focus in the 21st century with respect to the Global War on Terrorism and ensuing operations.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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