Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen waged a perennial campaign on behalf of a symbol that was, he claimed, as American as the stars and stripes and the American eagle. His campaign began on a wintry January 8, 1965, when there were precious few of those symbols around. Nevertheless, he introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to make the marigold the American National Flower.
The bill did not pass. Undeterred, he continued to press the case for his favorite flower, bringing up the subject whenever political discussions got too tense for his liking.
Known as the Wizard of Ooze for his oration, he spoke eloquently on behalf of the marigold:
”The marigold is a native of America and can in truth and in fact be called an American flower.
”It is national in character, for it grows and thrives in every one of the 50 states of this nation. It conquers the extremes of temperature. It well withstands the summer sun and the evening chill.
”Its robustness reflects the hardihood and character of the generations who pioneered and built this land into a great nation.
The marigold will continue to march ”through three of the four seasons – through spring, summer and autumn – until at long last the heavy frosts of early winter finally make it fold.”
Although his colleagues never honored him with a declaration of the marigold as national flower, his hometown of Pekin, Illinois did. Shortly after his death in 1969, the town began holding an annual Marigold Festival in his memory. (Pekin now calls itself the “Marigold Capital of the World.”.)
Alas, the campaign for the marigold came to an end during the Reagan administration when the rose was designated the national flower.
January 8, 1946
The kid, like most any kid of 11, wanted a rifle. And just like Ralphie, in A Christmas Story, his protective mother told him he’d shoot his eye out. In the popular film, Ralphie got his rifle in the end. Elvis didn’t. His mother took him to the Tupelo Hardware Store and bought him a $6.95 guitar. The rest, as they say, is history.