History, politics, current events and a little adventure came together Friday for Cabot High School students when former Arkansas Congressman Ed Bethune spoke on his donation of memorabilia to the School District Museum of American History.
Introduced by museum director Mike Polston, Bethune said that “Nothing is more important than history,” in remarks to AP history students.
Also displayed at the event, held at the Cabot High School media center, were political items contributed to the museum by school board member Donna Nash, from her mother’s collection.
“I am very proud of you all for being … the only museum in the State of Arkansas that is organized and supported directly by the high school students,” Bethune said.
“It is very rare for young people to be so interested, involved in something as important as this,” Bethune said in his talk. Acting as a docent lets students speak to people in a way, “That will really click.”
Museums are often “vastly superior” to written accounts because “Show-and-tell” is more likely free of personal included in written historical accounts, and “resonates” with people, he said. “There is a world of information you can convey to people through your museum.”
Also a published author, Bethune told of using local museums, such as the Cabot museum, to collect information for his writings.
Bethune briefly spoke on the state’s, and his own, evolution from being “solidly Democrat” to Republican. His own changeover was in part made easier by the work of past Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, to open the way for two party competition.
Though his initial attempt at election, as attorney general, resulted in being “absolutely smeared” by Jim Guy Tucker, he persisted and was later elected to Congress, Bethune recalled. “The first Republican in 140 years,” he said.
In other remarks, Bethune said he supported the recent U.S. attack on the Syrian air base from where a chemical attack on Syrian citizens was launched. “Chemical weapons are terrible,” he exclaimed while recalling he helped lead the end of U.S. use of such weapons.
“You can’t say, ‘Don’t do any more of that; I’ve drawn a line,’ and then never do anything about it. So, I think it was the right thing to do … Bomb the smithereens out of them.” Bethune said.
Bethune told of events that led to writing his first book, Jackhammered, a Life of Adventure - including the evolution of becoming the first Arkansas Republican elected to Congress.
Following his time in Congress, he and his wife, Lana, took up sailing, “to get us out of that political environment.” Their enjoyment of sailing grew into plans to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Everything went great for about six days,” Bethune said. However they became trapped in a fierce, out-of-ordinary “Nor’easter.” After being battered by 35-foot waves for about 36 hours, “We were in desperate trouble,” and he had to call for rescue by the Coast Guard.
“The next morning, there was this big story nationally, about the Coast Guard fishing the stupid Congressman out of the water, up in the Atlantic Ocean,” Bethune said..
At news conference about the rescue, he said had three statements to make: “The Coast Guard is great; the Coast Guard is great; the Coast Guard is great,” Bethune said. “That is the headline that went all across the country.”