August has always been more than the dog days of summer

The awful events of the last month contain echoes in history from many Augusts past.

August is often portrayed as a slow month for news, or the silly season when there’s nothing to write about and media take the chance to cover a more diverse range of stories than they normally would.

There’s still room for the zany, bizarre, or plain tragic of course, though that tends to be year-round in these days of BuzzFeed, Facebook, and ubiquitous social sharing.

In many countries, August is the vacation month for most workers, especially those with families whose children are on holiday from school. In New York City and other American cities, the usually stiflingly hot and humid weather that characterizes the dog days of summer have been replaced by tolerable balmy hot temperatures and pleasant breezes.

However, despite the quieter streets and more tolerable commutes, no-one could accuse this August of being boring or lacking newsworthy events: Iraq, Ferguson, Ebola, Ukraine, Gaza, Robin Williams, and James Foley’s execution have seen to that.

These events make World Humanitarian Day on August 19 and the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 more poignant than ever.

But when you actually look back into the history books, you find August has traditionally been one of the busiest months for globally significant news.

Let’s take a look at the evidence, and within it you’ll find echoes of the earth-shattering events of the last month in Augusts past (with a hat tip to The History Place website for reference):

  • Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted in 79 A.D.
  • The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776
  • The island of Krakatoa in Indonesia erupted in 1883
  • America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, forcing the surrender of Japan and the end of the Second World War
  • The Berlin Wall came into existence in 1961, cutting off West Berlin from East Germany
  • Dr Martin Luther King made his I Have A Dream speech at the March on Washington civil rights rally in 1963
  • The Vietnam War started in 1964 after two US destroyers were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin
  • The Los Angeles Watts riots in 1965, sparked by an incident between a white California Highway Patrolman and a black motorist, proved a turning point for civil rights
  • In 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting
  • President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 following the Watergate scandal
  • Elvis Presley died in 1977
  • Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, resulting in the Desert Shield Allied military build-up and Desert Storm war against Iraq
  • The Soviet Communist Party was suspended in 1991, leading to the disbanding of the Soviet Union
  • Britain’s Princess Diana died aged 36 in a car crash in Paris in 1997
  • Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 over alleged sexual harassment and admitted an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky
  • Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005
  • In 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US’ credit rating to AA+ for the first time ever

So, as you can see, August is far from the sleepy backwater of a month it is popularly perceived to be. It has always been a time when monumental occurrences that shaped world history took place – and this past month has been no different.

As a consequence, it also means PR pros are on continuous alert, given that so much of their work is tied in to current affairs. Their cell phones are still a ubiquitous presence, even if they may be temporarily on silent on the beach.

The upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend will provide a last window of contemplation before everyone gets back to full-on business and contemplates the challenges and opportunities of a final third of the year.

But as kids go back to school and we head into September, and the ice bucket challenges that have raised $100 million for the ALS Association nonprofit in the last 30 days fade into memory, many will be glad to see the back of what was a pretty awful August.

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