For well more than four decades, I’ve heard the phrase 20/20 used in many contexts. Most notably, when I got my first pair of eyeglasses in 1972 the eye doctor told me that with my first pair of corrective lenses my eyes were “now 20/20.” Being young, I just knew that meant “good.” Only a few years later my optometrist explained it meant sharpness of vision measured at 20 feet.
Later that same decade of the 1970s, I was drawn to the premier of a brand new late night, weekly newsmagazine on television initially hosted solo by a veteran broadcaster. It carried features and timely national reports on social problems and possible solutions, profiles of notable individuals, trends in social currents and in general gave us a 20/20 perspective on the world around us.
Somehow, I enjoyed the powerful yet calming and confident introduction: “Good evening. I’m Hugh Downs, and this is 20/20.”
Back then, I was unaware that Mr. Downs had even hosted the “Today” morning news show on NBC, since he started that in 1962, the year before I was born. By the middle 1970s I was openly noted by my classmates (and teachers) as “the student who knows news,” since I was a shortwave listener of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Radio Nederland (Holland); even Radio Moscow’s English Version which sent me QSL-cards (verification postcards as certificates of listening to broadcasts).
Rest assured, I was a kid but I believed in capitalism, not communism. Interestingly, I might point out that every package I received from Radio Moscow was “opened” and quite obviously had been rifled through. I used to joke with my postmistress that probably both the Soviet KGB and American CIA had a file on me as a 16 year old who had an amateur radio license issued by The Federal Communications Commission. Incidentally, my license is still current today, some 40 years later. My call-sign is KA0HOO.
The postmistress and I used to joke about the possibility of KGB/CIA files on me. Yet, as I grew older, I developed a friendship with a former FBI agent who got caught-up in the Watergate scandal: Mr. G. Gordon Liddy.
Liddy, a staunch Republican, had his sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter, a moderate Democrat, in 1979. For years, I thought Liddy was a crook. That is until I stumbled onto his radio show “The G. Gordon Liddy Show.” I didn’t know who the voice was, but I liked his advice to young men “to live the straight and narrow.” Even my late mother overheard one broadcast and exclaimed: “That man gives as good advice as a Catholic priest.”
Ironically, I later learned that Mr. Liddy was baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, as I was. He did a remote broadcast from Wichita, Kansas. He offered a chance for a few written questions and answers. My question was one of the few he answered on-air, giving my full name. The man with nine felonies became my friend. I called his radio-show as a lark and competition was keen. But, I got on the air. An elderly friend of the family figured it was a fluke and challenged me that he doubted I’d ever get on aire with Liddy a dozen times. When Mr. Liddy’s radio show ended in July 2012, I had talked to him an amazing 1,455 times and had met him in five U.S. States, including at a remote broadcast in Texas.
To do a good deed: I’ve done a prison Mass with a Catholic archbishop at the infamous Leavenworth prison, when it was still maximum security. It was later downgraded to medium-security. I’ve talked to governors in various states and learn from “the news.”
Now, decades have passed and we are upon the cusp of the year 2020. Back in 1978, I could never have predicted the changes and advancements in my lifetime. I pray 2020 will be a good year — as comforting as Hugh Downs’ sign-on: “This is 2020!”