Famous first words have long-lasting impact on our world

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

There’ve been times in my life when I’ve told a friend or family member about something I was determined to do – such as go on a diet and exercise more. Sometimes

I hear the reply, “Famous last words!” That’s because my resolve doesn’t always produce results.

When a prominent person dies, their last words are often preserved for historical records because the individual was famous. Thomas Edison’s last words were, “It is very beautiful over there,” as he passed away on Oct. 18, 1931. U.S. President Andrew Jackson said, “Oh, do not cry – be good children, and we will all meet in heaven.”

Famous first words find their way into history books, too. When astronaut Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder from the lunar orbiter and became the first man to set foot on the moon, the world heard these famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse tapped a message of dots and dashes from the Supreme Court chamber in the U.S. Capitol to his partner in Baltimore. The first words ever telegraphed were, “What hath God wrought?” – a phrase found in Numbers 23:23. The telegraph has been described as the Twitter of the 19th century.

The eldest son of an Anglican minister, Reginald Fessenden, is recognized as the “father” of radio and as the first to actually transmit the sound of the human voice without wires. During his lifetime, he worked as a school principal, chief chemist in Thomas Edison’s research lab and chief electrician at Westinghouse Electric Company.

In 1900, Fessenden reportedly began to conduct experiments in wireless telegraphy for the U.S. Weather Bureau to help with forecasting and became interested in voice transmission. He telegraphed ships of the U.S. Navy and the United Fruit Company in the Atlantic Ocean, which were equipped with the modern technology of that day to receive a wireless broadcast.

Later in 1932, Fessenden wrote a detailed account of that historic night when the first words ever spoken on the radio were heard on Dec. 24, 1906. The program on Christmas Eve began with Handel’s “Largo,” played on a phonograph. Next, Fessenden played “O, Holy Night,” on his violin. The first words ever spoken on the radio were from Luke 2:14,” Glory to God in the highest on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

Then, the broadcast concluded by wishing the listeners “Merry Christmas.” Imagine hearing a human voice from far away in the silence of that night. What an experience!

More than 2,000 years ago, the voice from heaven was heard when the Christ Child cried and cooed in a Bethlehem stable. The first words the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, watching over their flocks by night, were, “Fear not! For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”

Astronaut Jim Irwin once said, “Jesus walking on the earth was more important than man walking on the moon.” The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus’ last words were, “It is

finished!” He gave the greatest gift ever given to all mankind.