Did Grandpa Tell Us To Wake Up?
serves up a stern
warning about our freedom
By PROF. GORDON GREB
This column is adapted
from the authors forthcoming book Tell Me That
Again, featuring excerpts from his past radio broadcasts.
Heres one from 1956 that shows the French may have been
right in saying, Everything changes, everything
stays the same.
Good morning. Something
just now walked through the door thats forced me to
face up to the question: How many people think for themselves
these days? This never would have entered my head except
that Old Grandpa Cyrus came wandering
into the studios this morning, pointing his walking stick straight
at the bridge of my nose.
Said the spry old gentleman with obvious consternation: Whats
this country coming to when people spend more time having what
they call fun and dont give a hoot for some
of the troubles were heading for in this dad-burned world?
Of course, I didnt know what to say at this sharp remark
by the aged gentleman but I started to open my mouth to say something
when he interrupted with another remark.
Sonny, he said. You dont know
where this country is going because you aint been as far
back as I have to see wheres its been. But
youre in the news business. You talk to folks on the radio.
And its high time somebody got them to thinking for themselves
for a change, instead of all this loafing around.
At this point I replied, as politely as I could, that Grandpa
Cyrus had come to the wrong place, because what people decided
to do or not to do just wasnt my business.
My job was simply to deliver the news and let people decide for
Thats just the trouble, Grandpa said.
Nobodys deciding for himself anymore. Modern-day
people just drift around eating, sleeping, drinking, and
driving those confounded automobiles.
This was too much. So I spoke up in defense of the modern man
and pointed out that things were a lot better than he thought
they were. Look at all the advances were making
in jet aircraft, electronics, atomic energy, medicine, and other
scientific fields all too many to mention.
Lazy people cant accomplish these things. Thats
hard work, to come up with new inventions, new concepts, and
new scientific miracles. If people really were lazy, this country
never could exist. It would collapse of its own dead weight.
Grandpa then sat down on the green office chair, gave a big sigh
of relief, and lowered his voice to a gentle tone.
Son, he said. You just dont
understand what Im driving at, do you?
Frankly, no, I dont, was my reply. You
came in here, blaming me for the state of the world, throwing
accusations around left and right, and then you expect me to
understand just what you are driving at.
Grandpa seemed more at ease now. He was resting his feet and
he got out his pipe. He spoke slowly and deliberately now. All
right, I spoke up too quickly. I didnt hit the nail on
the head. But this is whats bothering me and somebody had
better do something about it pretty quick.
When I was a boy back in the l9th century, things werent
the way they are now. We believed in progress and people of my
time did a lot to get it. But Im not talking about new
gadgets. Im talking about people as people.
Today, I ask you, How many people really care about
whats going on? Sure, they now whats playing
at the movies; they know whos on The $64,000
Question this week; they know how much money Elvis Presley
was paid by Ed Sullivan to appear on his Sunday show; and
oh, they know a lot of things like that
But take last
April 10th, for example. Look what they did then.
April 10th? I said, wondering what he meant by
Yes, last April 10th. Most of the people didnt
Still confused, I asked Grandpa to be more specific and explain
what he was talking about.
Why, the city elections, he thundered. We
had nine of them here in Santa Clara County. Did 50 per cent
of the people vote? NO! Well, then, did 35 per cent of the people
vote? NO! Did 25 per cent of them vote? Yes, in some cities.
And only some, mind you, where about 25 per cent voted.
Grandpa then went on to point out how people in his day worked
like the dickens to give everybody the right to vote. They eliminated
the property requirement. Then they extended it by freeing the
slaves. Then they expanded the right by including women.
Now look at the people, said Grandpa. Everybody
practically speaking has the right to vote
and most of them dont do it. We should be ashamed that
in city elections only 25 per cent show up. In the last primary,
the turnout was lower than a year ago.
Grandpa now was really agitated. Thunderation,
he almost shouted. Do they think this country is going
to run itself or are people going to exercise their right
to choose their elected officials and decide some of the
important issues themselves?
You have a point there, Grandpa, I said. You
have a point.
Well, tell the people to think about it, son. Tell them
to think about elections and government and the
issues of the day. This is an election year and what happens
is up to them.
I promised Grandpa to tell the people to think about these things.
So he grunted thanks and went out. Old Grandpa
Cyrus! There arent many men like him around anymore.
This is Gordon Greb signing off and saying, "See you
here tomorrow and at the polls in the next election.
by Gordon Greb. This column first posted April 16, 2012.