Datebook: What's Happening in May and June—and Why It Matters

From the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to the murder trial of George Zimmerman, events you should be aware of.
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From the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to the murder trial of George Zimmerman, events you should be aware of.
Rally for Trayvon Martin. (PHOTO: JULIE FLETCHER/AP/CORBIS)

Rally for Trayvon Martin. (PHOTO: JULIE FLETCHER/AP/CORBIS)

MAY 10
First 2013 Solar Eclipse
“For millennia,” according to NASA, “solar eclipses have been interpreted as portents of doom by virtually every known civilization.” Today, hundreds of “eclipse chasers” travel the world to catch the celestial action. A recent survey by an Australian psychologist found that 92 percent of them are male, and they have seen, on average, seven total eclipses—a feat that requires at least 10 years of trying.

MAY 12
Mother’s Day
Anna Jarvis of West Virginia organized the first Mother’s Day observances in 1908, and helped convince President Woodrow Wilson to declare it an official holiday in 1914. But Jarvis came to so loathe the commercialization of her creation that she was later arrested for protesting a Mother’s Day carnation sale. She might be pleased to know that moms are getting more love these days, thanks to cell phones: A 2005 Pew survey found that 42 percent of adults say they see or talk with a parent (usually their mother) every day, up from 32 percent in 1989.



MAY 24–29
Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
This quadrennial showdown between 30 of the world’s top pianists in Fort Worth, Texas, has been called “the musical Olympics of the western world.” Sadly, Van Cliburn himself, a Cold War-era musical celebrity, won’t be there—he died earlier this year. The future of his profession isn’t looking too healthy either. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of acoustic pianos sold in the U.S. plunged from 105,000 to 41,000.

Zimmerman Trial
The murder trial of self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, 29, charged with shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, begins. Zimmerman may invoke a not-guilty plea on grounds of self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which expands the legal use of lethal self-defense. A recent Texas A&M University study of 20 states that have enacted similar laws found they have not seen any drop in burglaries, robberies, or assaults, but are seeing increases in homicides.

Iranian Presidential Elections
Anti-Western firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, can’t run for office again, but don’t get too hopeful about his replacement. A 2011 RAND Corporation survey of Iranian public opinion found broad support for the country’s nuclear program and its diplomatic snubbing of the U.S. Women and less educated Iranians tended to be the most hostile to the U.S.

Father’s Day
Made an official holiday in 1972. In 1960, 11 percent of American children lived apart from their fathers, according to a Pew Research survey. By 2010, that share had risen to 27 percent. Nonetheless, 47 percent of today’s fathers think they’re doing a better job than their own dads did.