50th Reunion Keynote Speech

Class of 1969 Reunion



by Gary Vaillancourt




         Our final year of high school began in January 1969 with the swearing in of Richard Nixon as the new president. Time magazine presented this headline, “America in 1969: Polarized, Passionate and Perplexed”.  Even with the new president, there were wider protests against the Vietnam War, including the massacre at My Lai. And, the draft lottery was instituted.


         We have experienced a great deal. For instance, our vocabulary has had to change in ways we never would have imagined. It’s now commonplace to talk about email, ebook, ewallet, ecommerce, and an ecard.


         While it was already being developed by colleges and the military many years before, it was in April 1969 when the internet “officially” became a part of our lives. And, with it, technology really began to take off, and impact us in ways we never could have imagined. We now have a homepage, modem, hard drive, browser, cookies (not the chocolate chip variety), software, a new way of surfing, search engines like Google, passwords that are hard to remember, and so very much more.


         Bluetooth didn’t mean you had to make a visit to your dentist. There are now many gadgets that would have meant fewer trips to the library: laptops, cell phones, desktop computers, iPads, and digital textbooks. We now have DVD’s, digital watches that will keep track of our exercising, phone calls, messages, and much more.


         Speaking of technology, 1969 also saw the beginning of ATM’s, the maiden flight of the Concorde, the home surveillance system was patented, there was the first human eye transplant, battery operated smoke detectors, and the first artificial heart.


         TECHNOLOGY! As we have been reminded many times this summer about the growth of technology, it was on July 20, 1969, the United States landed a man on the moon, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s declaration during his inaugural address that by the end of the decade we would do just that. We will forever remember Apollo 11 and the three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and John Collins. What made this achievement even more outstanding is the fact 
the computer on board Apollo 11 was LESS powerful than the smartphone in your pocket.


         We said hello to a pair of kids’ classics….. Big Bird, and a Bunch of Bradys --- and farewell to Star Trek. PBS made its debut in 1969 and Tiny Tim had his wedding on the Johnny Carson show. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, were a couple of the hits on the big screen. And, the Oscar for best actress went to KatharineHepburn“The Lion in Winter”, best actor Cliff Robertson “Charly”, and best picture “Oliver”. A special Honorary Award was presented to the producers of “Planet of the Apes”!


         Movies released in 1969 could be categorized as “SADDLE UP”: The movies explored cowboys of all stripes, from John Wayne to Jon Voight, from rebels on chrome steeds to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and, of course Easy Rider.


         The Packers were unable to make it a 3-peat. In January 1969, “Broadway Joe Namath”, as he became known, and the lowly New York Jets, beat up on the Baltimore Colts.

         The Miracle of the Amazin’ Mets – Baseball’s storied laughingstocks went from worst to first. First, they stole the league championship away from the Chicago Cubs, who – brace yourself – collapsed at the end of the summer, and eventually beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. The Mets were led to glory by Tom Server, in his third year in the league. Speaking of a New York baseball team, Mickey Mantle hung up his spikes in 1969. And, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain went against each other in the NBA finals.


         There weremany milestones in the world of music in 1969. Sly and the Family Stone sang “I want to take you higher”, Michael Jackson at age 11 was featured on TV with his single “I Want You Back”. Born on the Bayou? Not really – the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival hailed from California and gave us massive hits such as “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising”.


         Next, It was billed as “An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York. There was Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Who, just to name some of the artists who performed at Woodstock in August of 1969 – three days of peace and music.

         While hailed as An Aquarian Exposition…it was primarily a music festival, but Woodstock was a feast for both the eyes and the ears of over 400-thousand people.


         Was 1969 the dawning of the Age of Aquarius – or merely the dawning of four decades of baby boomer self-infatuation? The answer – YES!


         Finally, in the world of music, 1969 saw the beginning of the Fab Four Farewell, as the Beatles got back to Abbey Road – and then called it a day!


         On January 2nd, 1969, they began work on their final project, and Paul, George and Ringo had to convince John to stick it out. He did, and the Beatles performed live for the last time, atop the Apple Records office in London, January 30, 1969.

         The Abbey Road album recording sessions were the last time the group performed together. When released in the fall of 1969, Abbey Road would become known as one of the group’s greatest successes. By the spring of 1970, having failed to get themselves back to where they once belonged, the Fab Four decided to finally let it be.


         As Time magazine summarized, our final year in high school was a year like no other.

         The events of 1969 made for a year of extremes, from the exhilaration of a successful moon landing to the trepidation that greeted Richard Nixon’s administration, from joyful Woodstock and Sesame Street to the deepening quagmire in Vietnam.

         As has been written, fifty years later, the power of that hurly-burly year is still with us. 


         As you can imagine, the Reunion Committees, along with many others who volunteered their services to organized tonight’s celebration, have been working many months to assemble as many students from the Class of ’69 for this special, once in a lifetime, get-together.

         We would like you to meet the Committee members:



Jane Hearn 

Larry Fennigkoh
LeRoy Goines

Janice Thrasher Hansen

Janet Slaasted Drier


Dick Ruetz

Maggie Venturini White

Linda Litrenta Finnigan

Dave Callewaert

Mary Keefe Barrett

Joan Dzieken 


Michele Heck Caskey

Jan Hoffmann Fuller

Peggy Tweedt Groth

Dan Kremzar 

Marvin Gleason

Lynda Krueger Killberg

Trudy Buehrens Kristopeit

Wally Haag


Barbara Barry Fries

Mary Goodsell Patterson

Mike Corona

Shelley Geilfuss Zepnick

Patty Kelly Drumm

Betsy Mogensen Madsen

Elise Seidel Webb

Bill Driscoll