The Thing About Today – November 17

November 17, 2020
Day 322 of 366

November 17th is the 322nd day of the year. It is World Prematurity Day, an observance to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Baklava Day, National Take A Hike Day, and National Homemade Bread Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1558, the Elizabethan Era began as Queen Mary I of England died and was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I of England.
  • In 1603, English explorer, writer, and courtier Sir Walter Raleigh went on trial for treason for his involvement in the Main Plot against Queen Elizabeth’s successor, King James I.
  • In 1800, the United States Congress held its first session in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1820, Captain Nathaniel Palmer became the first American to see Antarctica. The Palmer Peninsula was later named after him.
  • In 1839, Oberto, Giuseppe Verdi’s first opera, opened at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.
  • This day in 1858 marks the modified Julian Day zero. The Modified Julian Date (MJD) was introduced by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1957 to record the orbit of Sputnik 1 with modern technology.
  • Also in 1858, the city of Denver, Colorado is founded.
  • In 1876, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March” was given its premiere performance in Moscow, Russia.
  • In 1894, H. H. Holmes, one of the first modern serial killers, was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • In 1938, Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Gordon Lightfoot was born.
  • In 1942, director, producer, screenwriter, and actor Martin Scorsese was born.
  • In 1943, model and actress Lauren Hutton was born.
  • In 1944, actor, director, and producer Danny DeVito was born.
  • Also in 1944, Canadian-American screenwriter and producer Lorne Michaels was born. He created Saturday Night Live.
  • In 1947, scientists John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain observed the basic principles of the transistor, a key element for the electronics revolution of the 20th century.
  • In 1951, actor Stephen Root was born.
  • In 1958, actress and singer Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was born.
  • In 1962, President John F. Kennedy dedicated Washington Dulles International Airport, which serves the Washington, D.C., region.
  • In 1966, French actress, director, and screenwriter Sophie Marceau was born.
  • In 1970, the Soviet Union landed Lunokhod 1 on Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) on the Moon. This was the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on another world and was released by the orbiting Luna 17 spacecraft.
  • In 1973, United States President Richard Nixon famously told 400 Associated Press managing editors “I am not a crook” in Orlando, Florida.
  • In 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS. It received negative reception from critics, fans, and even Star Wars creator George Lucas, but it so much fun with which to torture friends and family.
  • This date in 2019 is to where the first known case of COVID-19 was traced. It stemmed from a 55-year-old man who had visited a market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

November 17th is International Students’ Day.

This observance of the student community commemorates the Czech universities which were stormed by Nazis in 1939 and the students who were subsequently killed and sent to concentration camps. The date commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the killings of Jan Opletal and worker Václav Sedláček. The Nazis rounded up the students, murdered nine student leaders, and sent over 1,200 students to concentration camps, mainly Sachsenhausen. They subsequently closed all Czech universities and colleges. By this time Czechoslovakia no longer existed, as it had been divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak Republic under a fascist puppet government.

It is a nonpolitical celebration of the multiculturalism of universities worldwide and of their international students.

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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