The words of the Clintonians went around the world


When you write something, especially something good, you never know where your words will end.

In 1927, the words of a high school student from Clinton caused a sensation in Japan; Some 40 years later, the words of another CHS student were quoted on the West Coast. Here is the story.

In the 1920s, a regular event at Clinton High School was an essay competition. Many students attended and first and second place prizes were awarded. In 1927, the subject of the essay was Abraham Lincoln. Mary Lavelle, class of 27, was the winner of the essay competition and her essay was reprinted in the Clinton Courant and the Clinton Daily Item.

It was so well received, in fact, that it was reprinted in its entirety in the SHC Class Yearbook of 1927; she also did an admirable job reading her essay to “worthy members” of the Clinton Historical Society, despite the yearbook’s reflection stating that “what if her legs were shaking?” “

For some reason – totally unknown – he was the second-place winner whose essay toured the world. Margaret Gates, of the class of ’27, won second place and her words were also reprinted in Item and Courant; however, his work was also printed in Japanese newspapers and even heard on Japanese radio – all to promote a film released at the time.

Old poster of the movie Abraham Lincoln.

Edward O’Connor, a former Clintonian, was then a partner in the Far Eastern office of First National Pictures, Inc. in Tokyo, Japan. He read Miss Gates’ essay in the Clinton Daily Item just as one of his company’s productions, “Abraham Lincoln,” was about to be released in the Far East.

He took the essay and had it broadcast throughout Japan during the week of March 23. The publicity stunt was used to push the new film forward, as Abraham Lincoln was hugely popular with the Japanese people. His essay was rendered in English and then in Japanese, and enjoyed prominent place in the newspapers of Osaka Mainichi and Asahi – print media then equal to our New York Times or our London Times.

The essay became the very first English speech ever broadcast by Osaka Radio Station and one of the few English speeches ever broadcast in this country.

The only reason the Clintonians were made aware of this extraordinary holiday was because with everything said and done, O’Connor sent a letter to CHS Director Eben Cobb letting him know the significance of the test and the distance traveled by his words.

In the “Peg” Gates yearbook article, it is stated that “his entire essay appeared in major Japanese newspapers, so we can safely say that Peg’s circle of admirers is indeed global.” . He went on to say that Miss Gates had drawn the attention of the whole East to herself, her school, her city and her nation… and all that fanfare for second place.

Alan Jacobson's yearbook photo

Some 40 years later, a similar thing happened to Alan Jacobson, class CHS 1968, and son of Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Jacobson of 11 Roma St. Alan won first prize in the 1967 VFW competition with his essay titled “The challenge of freedom ”. “It was also reprinted in the Clinton Daily Item and brought to the attention of David Brode, director of the Van Brode Milling Company in Clinton.

Brode was so blown away by Jacobson’s essay that he read it to his fellow Rotarians at a Tuesday lunch in September 1968, as Jacobson made his way to Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. The essay was written in the first person, as if Freedom were speaking; the ending included:

“It is up to you now, the youth of America, to shape the destiny of your free society. It is up to your generation to keep my torch of freedom alight. Remember, I want to be here for a long time.”

But Alan Jacobson’s words didn’t stop at this Rotary Club meeting. Brode, who had a home in California as well as here in Clinton, must have passed it on to his Californian friends because in June 1968, the Lieutenant Governor of the State of California actually quoted a few lines from Jacobson’s essay. during a speech at the Beverly Hills. Exercises at the end of secondary school.

I’m sure you’ve heard of this particular high school as it boasts several famous graduates over the years including Betty White, Richard Chamberlain, Nicholas Cage, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carrie Fisher, Angelina Jolie, Rob Reiner, Tori Spelling, Richard Dreyfuss and many famous athletes, politicians and scientists.

Just two examples of how far the well-written words of CHS graduates have come.

Terrance Ingano is a Clinton historian.


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