It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

As I am writing this, the year 2020 is closing out with two weeks left until we put up the calendar for 2021. To say that this year has been one that few will long remember is an understatement. A year ago everyone knew that the election would be contentious and it sure was that. But no one could have predicted a year ago the kind of year that 2020 would become.

However, I remember a similar year in my lifetime that was just as dramatic as this past year has been. So, let me take the readers on a trip back in time to a year not long ago that was perhaps just as disruptive as the one just past. That year was 1968, just 52 years ago. I was a 19 year old college student when the year began, but no one could have predicted what would unfold during the next twelve months. The country had become torn apart at the seams and just as divided as it is now. In 1968 the issue was the Vietnam war. At the end of January 1968 the Viet Cong launched their Tet offensive. Militarily it was a defeat for the North Vietnamese, but it achieved its objective that was to convince the Americans that they were not defeated and could still fight.

President Lyndon Johnson who won the 1964 election in a landslide was eligible to run for another term as President. But in the New Hampshire primary, a little known Senator from Minnesota almost defeated him in the first Democratic primary. That prompted Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother, to declare his candidacy for President. Then in a surprise announcement on a Sunday night in March, President Johnson declared that he would not be a candidate for President in 1968.

Then just four days following that bombshell announcement from the president, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr was killed on a motel balcony in Memphis Tennessee. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, riots broke out throughout the nation and persisted for weeks.

Then just two months after Martin Luther King’s assassination; Robert Kennedy was assassinated just after addressing his supporters upon wining the California primary election.

To say that the election of 1968 was contentious was also an understatement. Muddying the waters was the third party candidacy of George Wallace the former segregationist governor of Alabama. He was running as an independent candidate and if you watch a video of one of his rallies, they bear a striking resemblance to Donald Trump’s rallies of 2020.

Richard Nixon came back from exile and in a remarkable recovery became the Republican candidate for President. Vice President Hubert Humphrey managed to win the Democratic nomination for President. But the Democratic convention in Chicago was marred by demonstrations inside and outside of the convention hall. Perhaps the worst which was described later as a “police riot”; Chicago police beat protesters in view of national television cameras while the odor of tear gas wafted into the convention hotel.

The protesters shouted “the whole world is watching” as the Chicago police beat unarmed protesters. Yes, the whole world was watching. At the time I was in Quebec Canada with my family on a vacation. The reactions of the Canadians I met were of shock and disbelief at what was happening in the United States. At that moment it seemed that the country was splitting apart.

The year 1968 was the deadliest year of the Vietnam War as over 14,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam that year. At the end of 1968, there were over 500,000 combat troops deployed in Vietnam. The war was fought mostly by young men drafted into service and draft calls in 1968 reached their peak as well.

The election of 1968 was a close one with Nixon defeating Humphrey and Wallace by a slim margin. George Wallace became the last third party candidate to win any electoral votes as he won five states in the deep south.

Then at the closing of the year, on Christmas Eve, the nation and the world saw the first pictures of the earth from space as Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon. The astronauts read a portion from the Bible as well as The Night Before Christmas as the world paused to gaze in wonder of the earth from the moon. Seven months later, there would be men walking on the moon.

The country was very badly divided in 1968, just as we are in 2020. But we managed to get through those troubled times, as I am sure that the country will get through these times. Just as in 1968, we got a preview of good things to come; so now the promise of a vaccine against COVID that could end this pandemic gives us hope for a much better year in 2021.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 4:03 PM, 01.01.2021