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History Book - Lady Liberty stands up


WORLD Radio - History Book - Lady Liberty stands up

Plus: Harvard gets its start, and Pat Sajak celebrates a birthday

This Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, shows the Statue of Liberty in New York. Mark Lennihan/Associated Press Photo

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, October 25th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Next up: The WORLD History Book.

Today, great beginnings: a man of letters celebrates a birthday, Lady Liberty takes her place in New York Harbor, and Harvard University gets started.

Here’s senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.

KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The oldest university in the United States got its start 385 years ago. On October 28th, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to establish a theological college that would become Harvard University.


Puritans migrated to the New World en masse, and by 1636, about 17,000 of them populated the colonies. They anticipated the need for clergy to provide spiritual guidance to members of the burgeoning settlements. So, the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony held a vote and set the wheels in motion. It wasn’t long before the school set up a printing press‍—the first in the colonies. And two-and-a-half years later, the school adopted the name of a benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, who bequeathed the school close to £800 and 400 books.

The school may have been founded with biblical ideals in mind, but the university shed its spiritual shell over a century ago. A 2020 survey by the university’s own newspaper found that while nearly 80 percent of faculty members describe themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal,” only 1 percent align with religiously orthodox viewpoints.

Moving now from higher learning to high ideals, like liberty. Or, Lady Liberty, to be precise. President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty 135 years ago, on October 28th, 1886.


France gifted the 151-foot-tall copper statue—officially named Liberty Enlightening the World—as a sign of friendship, commemorating the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. For its home, Congress chose Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. That spot later became known as “Liberty Island.”

But, as you might imagine, getting French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi’s colossal creation from France to America would be no small undertaking. First, America had to prepare the island and create a base. Then, beginning in June 1885, the statue arrived piece-by-piece, in what amounted to more than 200 packing cases. Workers reassembled the thin copper sheets over a scaffolding designed by Gustave Eiffel—of Eiffel Tower fame.

James Meigs is the former editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics. He told the History Channel the statue’s frame was an engineering marvel.

MEIGS: It was very sophisticated, no one had ever built anything of that scale before. And it had to support this heavy copper that if the frame sagged or was out of position at all, those copper sheets themselves would sag and crumble under their own weight, so it was really a revolutionary structure.

Welders fitted the last rivet at the dedication ceremony in October 1886. Public fundraising in America and France supported the work.

In his remarks, Cleveland proclaimed on that day that “we joyously contemplate our own deity keeping watch and ward before the open gates of America and … [we] will not forget that Liberty has here made her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.”

Fireworks and a parade through New York City followed the dedication. Onlookers taken with the spirit of celebration threw shredded paper from building windows, making it the city’s first “ticker tape” parade.

And for our last of today’s History Book entries, I’ll need a few letters—like H, B, and D, to wish a “happy birthday” to longtime television game show host Pat Sajak. He turns 75 on October 26th.

AUDIENCE: Wheel of Fortune! (music)

Sajak grew up in Chicago before attending the city’s Columbia College. One of his instructors helped him land a job at a radio station. Eventually, he became a disc jockey for the U.S. Army, broadcasting in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

AFVN RADIO: Nashville Blast, “I Saw the Light,” and that’s going to do it for part number one of the Dawn Buster. This is Army Specialist Pat Sajak. Ten minutes of news and sports coming up…

He said he used to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder—feeling guilty for what he called his “relatively soft duty” in ‘nam. But the guilt subsided when the young soldiers in his listening audience thanked him for giving them a taste of the rock-and-roll music they were missing in America.

SAJAK: The idea was to create a situation where if they turned on the radio, they felt as if they were at home…

Back in the States, Sajak had a couple more radio gigs, then a couple of TV news jobs before the TV weatherman landed on media mogul Merv Griffin’s radar. In 1981, drawn to what he called Sajak’s “odd” sense of humor, Griffin invited him to take over from Chuck Woolery as host of Wheel of Fortune. And the rest, of course, is history. Sajak told NBC News in 2019 that he’s humbled to be a part of so many people’s weeknight memories.

SAJAK: It’s very evocative. People identify the show with raising families, with watching it with their grandmother. People come up to me almost every day and say, “I just lost my grandmother, and my fondest memory was sitting with her watching your show,” or “My kids learned the alphabet from your show.”

Sajak holds the spot for the longest tenure as a game show host.

Off the air, Sajak stands out from many in showbiz for his conservative political views. And he’s chairman of the board of directors of liberal arts school Hillsdale College in southern Michigan.


Chances are he’s celebrating this milestone birthday with his wife of 32 years, Lesly, with whom he raised a son and a daughter.

That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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