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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds

Labor Day Weekend- 49 years ago
1964 ad for President Lyndon Johnson's campaign

September 7, 1964. The Monday Night Movie, David and Bathsheba, was on NBC. An Academy Award winner from the early 50s starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, it portrayed the Biblical King David. People all over America were watching it when a startling political campaign commercial came on, just before 10:00 PM. 
A sweet little girl, with long hair and freckles, stands in a field of flowers pulling petals off a daisy. She counts, "One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, nine" and the petals are all gone. The little girl looks sweetly up at the sky while the camera zooms in on her face, blacking out as the screen is filled by her eye. A male voice intones, "nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one" then the sound of a huge explosion and the flash of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear detonation.
 Then the voiceover: President Johnson's voice telling the viewer we should love each other or die. The words appear on the screen, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3." An announcer reads the words, then adds, "The stakes are too high for you to stay home."

The commercial played only that one time, but ABC and CBS covered it on their newscasts the following week because it was so different from previous political commercials. Fifty to one hundred million viewers saw it that night or as it was replayed as news. It likely was an important factor is the reelection of President Johnson that November. It changed political campaigning. Check out this discussion between Robert Mann, author of the book Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds, Jerry Ceppos of Louisiana State University, Sidney Meyers who was one of the creators of this commercial and Monique Luiz, the little girl grownup.

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