Today's Reading

Pandemonium. It was as if every voice in the place fought to shout the loudest, the noise building and building until it was, as one rally-goer described it, "a deep-throated, unearthly, savage roar, chilling, frightening, sinister and awesome."

"Give it to them!" shouted some in the crowd. "Give them the truth!"

"For six full minutes," a reporter would later recall, "he stood, smiling, as the mob leaped to its feet, waved flags, threw kisses and frenziedly rendered the Nazi salute."

At last, he leaned into the line of microphones to utter words that would be broadcast far beyond the arena to millions of Americans across the nation. "We are assembled here tonight because we believe in an independent destiny for America."

Foot-stomping, whistling, and clapping erupted.

The speaker waited, accepting it. When the crowd settled down a bit, he continued, pressing home his usual message. The country's survival depended on three things: increased defense spending, isolation, and putting America first. As he ticked off each, the audience howled its approval.

The speaker didn't try to tamp it down. He didn't repudiate violence. He just nodded and waited for the howling to end before he continued, his fiery words repeatedly punctuated by shouts.

Sitting behind him onstage, his wife recognized the truth even if he did not. The crowd wasn't really listening to her husband's speech. It wasn't his words that moved them, but the man himself. The celebrity. The personality. The hero, famous for his historic flight; the father whose family was the victim of the "Crime of the Century."

Now the mob chanted his name: "Lindbergh! Lindbergh! Lindbergh!"



"A sound individual is produced by a sound life stream."
'—Charles Lindbergh'



On a sticky summer day in 1861, Charles Lindbergh's grandfather, August, accidentally cut off his left arm. It happened at the local sawmill. While guiding a log into the spinning blade, the young man slipped. Blood splattered across the room, and he saw both his arm and a slab of his back lopped off before he was hurtled across the room. His neighbors wrapped him in a quilt, delivered him to his bed, then went for the preacher. They expected him to die.

Lying there, gripping his shoulder socket with his right hand to stanch the blood, he stared out his bedroom window at the farm he'd carved from the Minnesota wilderness. August would not permit himself to die. His wound, he knew, was bad, so deep it exposed his beating heart and part of his lung. But he believed dying was the lazy way out, and August Lindbergh was anything but lazy.

He'd come to America two years earlier to escape prison. Back in Sweden, where he'd been called Ola Månsson, he'd been a wealthy dairy farmer, as well as a member of the Swedish parliament and—through his government position—an officer of the state bank. But in 1858, political opponents accused him of embezzlement. Ola had responded to their claims with his typical irreverence. When prosecutors handed him a sheaf of legal documents in court, he'd ripped them in half, dropped his trousers, and used the pieces to wipe himself. The judges found him guilty.

Ola, however, was not in court to hear their verdict. To everyone's shock—most especially his wife and children's—Ola had run off. With him went a solid gold medal once given to him by his constituents as a token of their esteem, as well as his twenty-one-year-old mistress, Lovisa, and their seventeen-month-old son, Karl.

Ten weeks later, Ola resurfaced in another courtroom, this one in Minnesota's Sixth District. Declaring his desire to become an American citizen (and "forgetting" to mention he was a fleeing felon), he gave officials his new name—August Lindbergh. His wife, he said, was Louisa Lindbergh. And their son was Charles August Lindbergh, called C.A. for short.

Thrilled to be in America rather than a Swedish jail, Ola-now-August settled into pioneer life. He traded his gold medal for a plow, built a log cabin, and began clearing trees. Lovisa-now-Louisa planted a garden, milked the cow, gave birth to a baby girl, and cried a lot. But to August's mind, life was good—until the day of the accident.

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