My old boss, Congressman Al Swift often talked about the importance of laughter. He always carried around a 3X5 card with punchlines from jokes so he could always fall back on an appropriate story for the occasion to generate a laugh out of friends and constituents. Al was good, but the master in getting a laugh in my lifetime was Bob Hope.
Bob Hope was born on May 29th in Eltham, England and is one of the United States most famous immigrants. His parents brought him and his five brothers to the United States when he was four years old. They traveled in steerage and his mother dressed the boys in three layers of underwear, socks and shirts so she would not have so much to carry. They were processed at the immigration station on Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. They settled in the Cleveland, Ohio area where Hope sold newspapers and gave dancing lessons before embarking on his long career in vaudeville, stage, radio, film and television. He became a US citizen in 1920 when his father became a naturalized citizen.
People my age can remember when he was the host of the Academy Awards (19 times and he received five honorary Oscars over the course of his life). He was known for entertaining US troops during every war from WWII to the Gulf War. For his efforts and talent in making people laugh, he was the first person to be recognized as an “honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces.” In addition, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bob Hope died in 2003, but he was given one last honor on October 12, 2010 when the Bob Hope Memorial Library at Ellis Island was dedicated. It was a great tribute to a man who truly lived the American Dream. He joked, “I came to America at age four when I found out I couldn’t be king.”