Aug. 13, 2000

Summer Storm

by Dana Gioia

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 13 August 2000

“Summer Storm,” by Dana Gioia (by permission of the poet).

Construction of the Berlin Wall began in the early hours of August 13, 1961. The communist East German government built it to stem the flood of people moving to the West -- about 2 million since W.W.II ended. By the time it fell in 1989, it was a fifteen-foot-high wall running 28 miles through the middle of Berlin, topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers and mines. Another set of walls ran 75 miles around West Berlin, separating it from the rest of East Germany.

On August 13, 1942, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin wrote to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, begging them to reverse their decision and to invade western Europe. Stalin's beleaguered Russian army had been contending with a German invasion for over a year. It wasn't until two years later, on D-Day, that a million Allied soldiers flooded into France.

It's the birthday in London, 1899, of director Alfred Hitchcock. He went to school to become an engineer, but got a job in 1920 with a London film company writing out titles. He got his first shot at directing in 1925 and later moved to Hollywood. Within a year his film Rebecca had won an Oscar for best picture.

It's the birthday in 1818, West Brookfield, Massachusetts, of the abolitionist and women's suffrage pioneer Lucy Stone. She paid her own way through Oberlin College, and then went on the lecture circuit arguing against slavery and for women's rights. In December, 1858, in Orange, New Jersey, she refused to pay her taxes because women didn't have the right to vote.

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