WASHINGTON, D. C. (AP)—In a solemn ceremony yesterday in the Rose Garden, President George W. Bush declared a nationwide Day of Remembrance for the popular ’80s singing group New Kids on the Block. “We are gathered here today for a single reason,” said Bush, flanked by his Cabinet and a bipartisan Congressional delegation. “To recall five American icons: Jordan Knight, Jon Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood. They were, are, and always will be our New Kids.” The President then released five doves into the air as a lone bagpiper droned the familiar strains of “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”
President Bush proceeded to read, in chronological order, the New Kids’ complete discography. “Stop It Girl. Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind),” he intoned stoically. “Popsicle. Angel. Be My Girl.” The list was later continued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, radio personality Casey Kasem, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The day’s impact was felt both nationally and locally, as communities across the country held their own observances. All 437 citizens of rural Hanover, Montana gathered for a candlelight vigil in Courthouse Square, where the Chester A. Arthur High School choir sang their own rendition of “What’cha Gonna Do About It?” In St. Louis, Missouri, Mayor Francis Slay unveiled five life-size murals constructed by local artists from thousands of copies of the liner notes from Step by Step, the album often referred to as “The New Kids’ Sgt. Pepper.” The remembrance was even observed in outer space, as astronauts aboard the International Space Station donned vintage “NKOTB” t-shirts and released five doves into orbit.
Some citizens chose a quieter form of remembrance. William Freedman, a Camden, New Jersey bus driver, observed the day by leafing through his complete collection of New Kids trading cards. “Here’s #76, entitled ‘Jordan andDanny at the Studio.’ Look at them: so young, so innocent…there’s so much they didn’t know,” he said. “This one’s also a sticker.”
President Bush concluded the day with a nationally televised address from the Oval Office. However, Mr. Bush immediately broke form by tossing his pre-written speech to the floor and rising from his desk. “Sometimes words alone are not enough to express what we feel,” he murmured. The President then launched into an impromptu a cappella version of the New Kids’ hit 1989 single “Hangin’ Tough.” “Listen up everybody if you wanna take a chance. / Just get on the floor and do the New Kids’ dance,” the President sang in a full and lovely tenor. “Don’t worry ’bout nothing ’cause it won’t take long. / We’re gonna put you in a trance with a funky song, ’cause you gotta be / Hangin’ tough, hangin’ tough, hangin’ tough.” After several more verses and an improvised dance break, Mr. Bush returned to his seat and concluded his remarks by repeatedly screaming, “I love you Donnie! Whoooo!”
The members of New Kids on the Block could not be located for comment.
—Originally written for The Yale Record in 2003