Who said What and When

In 1977, PBS began telecasting a series hosted by Steve Allen called "Meeting of Minds." For those who missed the series, it featured men and women actors posing as influential people in history, while discussing issues with each other.

I probably owe as much to this program as anything else in igniting my interest in "who said what, why and when," in history.

In this letter, I would like to try and capture the flavor of such a setting and maybe even interest others into sacrificing a few hours of TV a week to visit some of these historical and contemporary people at our public library.

The subject matter is "America and Her Future as a Great Nation." As we listen in on the conversations in a room full of guests, we hear William Shakespeare say, "To be or not to be a great nation?"

We can't catch what he says after that because Karl Marx and Adam Smith are arguing about surplus value and some "invisible hand." I think Mr. Smith got off on the wrong foot with Marx when he asked him about his brother, Groucho.

John Wesley and John Calvin, though both brothers in Christ, are in total disagreement over whether Americans have free will to decide their own futures or did God already predestine the entire future of all mankind?

Also on that side of the room, C. S. Lewis is discussing Hal Lindsey's best-selling book, and agrees with Lindsey, in a Narnian way, that it is getting late for the great planet Earth. Herbert Spencer says he believes it all has to do with the survival of the fittest. Charles Darwin nods his head in total agreement after finishing, rather prematurely, his debate with Henry Morris concerning evolution versus creationism.

We hear from almost-Supreme court Justice Robert Bork that the will of the American people as a whole has been replaced by the will of nine activist judges in black robes over the last 60 years or so.

Milton Friedman states that Americans should be "free to choose." William F. Buckley Jr. is happy to see conservatism has come out of the political closet.

Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar are in the corner of the room, surrounding a "Risk" gameboard. Each is trying to control the whole world.

Ludwig von Beethoven expresses his concern about the direction of music on America's MTV station.

Thomas Paine says, "These are the times that try men's souls," and he voices his belief that America needs a revolution. Thomas Jefferson agrees with him, but reminds Citizen Paine that "all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, that to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

George Washington keeps reminding the others about his advice concerning "foreign entanglements" with the affairs of other nations.

Gandhi says America should fight Iraq with his own method of passive resistance, and could even speed things up if all of the American soldiers would shave their heads and put on white diapers (with an extra piece for the women.)

Abraham Lincoln disagrees with Machiavelli's comment about how George Bush should be more like the prince in his famous writing, ruling best by making Americans fear him rather than making them love him as their ruler. Aristotle logically reasons that Mr. Bush has failed to succeed at either of these two methods of rule.

As the conversations come to a close, Albert Einstein mutters something about the apparent shortness or lengthiness of time of this gathering being totally relative to the interests of you, the individual observer.

--Kenneth J. Wolf #13 (02/23/91)

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