On Sept. 14, 1969, David Selby was grand marshal of the "I Am An American Day Parade" in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a huge event: Crowd numbers were estimated to have topped 200,000 for the Sunday parade.
The newspaper also included the following quote from Selby, taken from a speech he delivered to the crowd: "With all the troubles and problems we have today, I wanted to tell you it's really not so bad to be an American." I'd love to have heard the rest of that speech, because Selby believed America was capable of doing much, much better that it was in 1969. But, he's also a gentleman, and probably would have thought it rude to bring his soap box with him. I'm not so sure I could have behaved myself in similar circumstances.
"It was the most frightening thing I've ever been through," Selby told a syndicated journalist the following year. "I guess I felt much the same as the people in the committee. I had no idea how many people would come out and see me, or even if they would.
"I got knocked to the floor and somebody fell on top of me to protect me until the police could clear the people away," he said. "I don’t mind saying I was really scared.”
|Ep. #849, with Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby.|
If you've never heard of "I Am An American Day," don't be surprised. Even though Selby's appearance marked the 31st annual celebration of the day in Baltimore, it's gone by many names over the years. Newspaper jerk William Randolph Hears first pushed for the day as a means to celebrate U.S. Citizenship in 1939. Congress followed suit the next year, reserving the third Sunday in May as "I Am An American Day."
In 1952, President Truman signed into law Citizenship Day as a replacement. In 1956, Congress once again tweaked the concept and asked the president to block off part of September ( Sept. 17-Sept. 23, to be specific) for Constitution Week.
The parade that Selby led was in celebration of Citizenship Day.
Just to make things more confusing, Congress acted in 2004 to make Sept. 17 “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”