Today is Oct. 4.
The Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite on this date in 1957. The launch of Sputnik-1 came as a shock to Americans who had simply assumed their high-tech was better than that of the Russkies. The Sputnik surprise and the subsequent space flight by cosmonaut Yuri Gregarin in 1961 galvanized America into the aggressive space program that put men on the moon in 1969. It also resulted in a stepped-up emphasis on the teaching of science in American classrooms.
Another unpleasant surprise for Americans occurred on this date in 1777, during the Revolutionary War, when the army of Gen. George Washington was defeated by the British in a battle at Germantown, Penn.
Remember Earl Butz? He was agriculture secretary under President Jimmy Carter. It was on this date in 1976 that Butz resigned after apologizing for what he called the "gross indiscretion" of uttering a racist remark. The comment became fodder for many comedians.
It was on this date in 1989 that Art Shell was appointed coach of Oakland (Calif.) Raiders, making him the first black coach in the modern NFL.
Hundreds of thousands of Christian men gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on this date in 1997 to reaffirm their faith and to pledge to preserve the structure of the family. The rally was organized by Promise Keepers, an evangelical group founded by former football coach Bill McCartney.
And the Mormons in Utah renounced polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife, on this date in 1890 as a condition for achieving statehood.
We now return you to the present, already in progress.