50 years ago today, the People’s Republic of China welcomed the U.S. table tennis team for a week long visit—the first Americans to visit China since the Communist Revolution 22 years earlier.
Dubbed ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’, it thawed relations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong, who extended the invitation. As the athletes were enjoying a red carpet tour and playing exhibition matches against the Chinese team, the visit was paving the way for the re-establishment of Sino-US relations at a time when there were no U.S. embassies in China.
Now 74-years-old, Yao Zhenxu played for the Shanghai team and accompanied the American delegation during their visit. “At that time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But now it seems that we were going through something of great historical significance,” he told China Daily this month.
When the Americans returned to the US, they went on media and speaking tours, and a year later the Chinese team visited the US, reciprocating with two-weeks of exhibition matches, culminating with the two teams meeting President Nixon at the White House.
The former foes established official diplomatic ties seven years later—and, today, the country that was once isolated looks completely different, with information flowing more freely from the outside world and fashions that were once drab-brown—even for women—now as colorful as the team jerseys that were splashed across front pages around the world a half century ago. (1971)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska (1874)
- The CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, was created by President Franklin Roosevelt to bring new jobs to unemployed Americans during the depression (1933)
- The U.S., USSR, and 70 other nations agreed to ban biological weapons (1972)
- Imprisoned IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected to British Parliament (1981)
- Heinz, Van Camp Seafood and Bumble Bee agreed not to buy tuna caught in nets that also trap dolphins (1989)
- Today is also National Siblings Day, an annual holiday in the US created by Claudia Evart, a paralegal in NYC who wanted to honor her late sister, Lisette, who died early and was born on April 10 (1998)
And, 155 years ago today, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed. Henry Bergh from New York had seen horses and other livestock whipped and abused, and it finally broke him down in tears–until he decided to devote his life to stopping it.
His non-profit organization, the ASPCA, pioneered the establishment of legislation on behalf of animals–including the use of animal hospitals, anesthesia, a 24-hour animal poison control line, promotion of spay-and-neuter programs, grief counseling, rescue plans for animals during emergencies, ending unnecessary euthanasia, and pet health insurance. The 50-year-old son of a wealthy New York shipbuilder, was also instrumental in the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. READ the book, Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals, and other books about Mr. Bergh at Amazon. (1866)
Also, 23 years ago today, the Northern Ireland peace talks, which had dragged on for two years, culminated in the historic Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of bloody conflict and bombings. With the United States overseeing as a mediator, weary, but determined, delegates from 2 countries and 8 separate political factions signed off on the accord that established self-rule for Northern Ireland, which had been under direct British control for 26 years. (1998)
And 77 years ago today, Rudolf Vrba, a Jewish teenager, and Alfred Wetzler, 26, escaped from the Auschwitz (Birkenau) Nazi death camp, bringing the first credible news to the Allies about the extermination of Jews. Their detailed report effectively saved up to 200,000 lives, by halting the mass deportation of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz for what officials claimed would be “resettlement.” After the war Vrba worked as a biochemist, and Wetzler became an editor. (1944)
On this day 51 years ago, Elton John released his self-titled second studio album which included the breakthrough single Your Song. Grammy nominated for Album of the Year and certified 2x Platinum, it was Elton’s debut LP in the U.S. and established the singer–songwriter’s career.
The song—with lyrics by longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin—reached the Top 10 single charts throughout the world. WATCH the original music video with a young Elton John… (1970)
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