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Since I was very young, I’ve immersed myself in presidential history, and have loved visiting historical sites associated with our nation’s leaders.  Today, my friend, Jeff Carter, and I were discussing our bucket lists of places to visit, and I decided to make a list of places I wish to visit, and places I’ve visited.

Presidential Sites I wish to visit:

  1. Truman’s Independence, Missouri home
  2. Truman’s Library & Grave in Independence, Missouri
  3. Eisenhower’s grave in Kansa
  4. Wilson’s Washington DC home
  5. Wilson’s birthplace in Staunton, Virginia
  6. Roosevelt Campobello Island summer home
  7. Roosevelt’s Warm Springs in Georgia
  8. Adams’ Peacefield Home & Birthplaces
  9. Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia
  10. Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas
  11. Nixon’s Library, Grave & Birthplace
  12. Ford’s Library & Grave
  13. Reagan’s Library & Grave
  14. Kennedy Library
  15. Andrew Johnson’s Home/Gravesite in Greensboro, Tennessee
  16. Buchanan Pennsylvania home/grave in Pennsylvania

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Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

 

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

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“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

Well, in 45 minutes the curtain will come down on 2011 and promptly raise on 2012.

2011 was an interesting year. I read so many Facebook posts stating, “I’m so glad 2011 is almost over” or “2011 was such a bad year.” And on they go.

I honestly cannot say one year is any worse than another. It is what it is. It’s a year. It’s all about living, all about attitude, all about choices, and all about loving. I don’t see 2011 with any regrets. There were choices made based on facts presented, and actions taken. Life moved on through various scenarios, and the results were pretty much as calculated.

I kept busy as a dad, as a teacher, as a pet-dad, as a band parent, as a gardener and landscaper, as a musician, and as a person. It was a full year, and one on which I can look back upon with pride.

Several family members and friends passed on, and though saddened by their passing, I celebrate the time spent with them during my life’s journey. One particular departure saddened me greatly… my darling little Logan, my cat of 17.5 years. I miscalculated how deeply I would feel her passing, and miss her greatly.

Some new folks merged onto the Haasienda Highway this year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed their presence. Primarily, Navi and Chief, who joined us February 20th. Though exasperating as they travel merrily through puppyhood, they have already proved to be devoted, fun companions, as Flyer continues to remain.

Some folks elected to move on to other paths which I believe to be standard patterns in life… not everyone is meant to remain with us.  A few left prematurely, perhaps, but I respect their choices. And then there were some I disconnected their journey from mine, and I have no regrets. Some folks just need to be on a different path, just as I need to be on my own path. The ones I removed I celebrate as a blessing upon my path as I discovered they were poison leaking onto my path, just as they poisoned the journey of others.  I made the correct choice.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

All in all, life is beautiful. The journey continues in this, my 48th year, and I am making plans for new ways to make the coming year(s) more exciting, turning the journey into an even more thrilling course.

Fifteen minutes remain of 2011. I am grateful for this past year of learning, living, and loving, and for all the many blessings rolled into many facts of life.

It was a very good year.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Sam Waterston�s Remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007

It’s wonderful to be here and a privilege, indeed, to congratulate you, the heroes of the moment in the great work of making and sustaining a government that derives its authority from individual liberty.

My father came to this country from Scotland via England, and became a citizen.  He knew beforehand that the ceremony was going to be a significant event.  Even so, he wasn’t prepared for the emotional power it had for him.  He became a citizen in a group like this, neither very large nor very small.  The ceremony’s power multiplied with their numbers.  Everyone in his batch of new citizens was moved for themselves, my father included, but they were all overwhelmed by each other, new members of a centuries old tide of migration here ‘to the empire of liberty’.  It lifted them out of what we mistakenly call ordinary life into the realization that properly understood, life is grand opera, as one is sometimes made aware by a wedding, or the birth of a child.

Something like that, momentous and every-day, is afoot here.  Brand new Americans are being made, and I’m delighted to be here to celebrate my father’s becoming an American citizen through your becoming American citizens, and your becoming American citizens through celebrating him, and through all of you, the rest of us, who were lucky to be given what you reached for and took.  It’s delightful.  We are all lucky, the old citizens in what we got for free, and you, the ones, in knowing what it’s worth.  We have a lot to tell one another. Congratulations.  Bravo. Yay.  The conversation begins now.

Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country’s foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual’s ability to change the face of the world — it’s easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, “So what if I’ve never designed a building before? If I want to, I will.”) — to make something brand new out of the elements of an old culture, be it English Common Law or Palladian Architecture. With its slave quarters and history, it’s also a healthy reminder that our old country, your new country, for all its glory, has always had feet of clay, and work that needed doing.

So it’s good that you’ve come, fresh troops and reinforcement. We old citizens could use some help.

It’s a glorious day, making allowances for the heat. It’s the Fourth of July, the 181st Anniversary of the deaths of the second and third Presidents of the United States, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the individual who impertinently designed this house. It’s a double birthday, of the country, and of your citizenship. A great American Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes, describing a similar day, said that it looked as if “God had just spit on his sleeve and polished up the universe till you could almost see your face reflected in it.”

We know all the beauty of this day wasn’t arranged exclusively for those of us gathered here, we’re reasonable people, but you who are about to become citizens here, are within your rights to look at it all and see your own faces reflected there, as Justice Holmes said, because it really is a place and time made for you. You’re joining a country already in motion that looks for your effect on it, so that it can better know what it needs to become, for tomorrow.

Welcome. We need you. There’s much to be done.

My talk is, effectively, your graduation address, and every good graduation address begins with a call to the graduates to help the world they are entering discover its future. Consider yourselves called. And if the sea that’s America looks large in comparison to the size of your ship, don’t be dismayed. Let Thomas Jefferson be our example:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The words are so familiar, so potent, so important, so grand and fine, it’s hard to believe that a person, any single person, actually wrote them, picked up a pen, dipped it in ink, and, on a blank white sheet, made appear for the first time what had never before existed in the whole history of the world. By scratching away at the page, he called a country into being, knowing as he wrote that the country was no more than an idea, and the idea might, at any instant, be erased and destroyed, and the United States of America become just another sorry footnote in the history of suppressed rebellions against tyranny…. And went on writing. You can’t help but be impressed by all that that one person, and the small group of individuals around him, not much larger than your group of new citizens, won for so many.

I guess you can see where I’m headed.

Abraham Lincoln called ours “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” I claim that the word ‘people’, as used there, stands for a great many individuals, rather than for a collective. It wasn’t a mob, but individuals acting in a group that made this country up out of whole cloth. These are just the sort of people the country needs now, individuals acting together for the common good.

How apt, how opportune, that you should come to join us just now.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The foundation stone of national life is, and ever must be, the high individual character of the average citizen.” That understates the case: the United States — a participatory democracy is one way political scientists describe it — counts on its citizens turning out to be above average, like all the students in Lake Woebegone.

And that’s where you come in.

Thomas Jefferson’s fragile idea looks pretty solid now, with all the history and highways and airports, and webs of all kinds tying us together. But for all the building and bulldozing, the wealth, and the resources, the United States is still a contract among individuals around an idea. If the saying is, ‘contracts are made to be broken’, we want this one to hold, which requires all hands to be on deck.

That’s where you come in. You come in from Togo; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Canada and Peru; Afghanistan, India, and Mexico; China, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; Croatia, El Salvador, Ghana, the Philippines, and Vietnam; Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Turkey — The names themselves a poem about all the migrating peoples who come here. The United States may seem like a fixed star, but it isn’t. It is a relationship between citizens and an idea, and, like all relationships, it changes with the people in it. Its past is always up for reargument; its present is constantly unfolding, complex, a continuum of surprises; and the future is yet to be written. A country is alive, or it’s history. As long as this country endures, it will always be in search of how to understand itself and where to go from here.

That’s where you come in. That’s where we come in.

We all need to exercise our lungs in the discussion: what does our past mean, what are we to do now, and what will be our future? This is not a job just for the talking heads on TV and the politicians. Nor for moneyed interests, nor for single-issue movements. As the WWI recruiting poster said, “Uncle Sam needs you”, needs us.

You just heard John Charles recite the three cardinal rights that no one may take from us, to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. As newly minted citizens, they were already familiar.

But my question is for the rest of us, the ones who are citizens already. In the midst of the interests and pressures of our own lives, don’t we leave a good deal of Life and Liberty to the Government to attend to, so we may concentrate full-time on the Pursuit of Happiness?

Don’t we too often think of our part as being to vote, occasionally, not in very great numbers, and only if there’s time and inclination, to keep up with the news, if it’s amusing and entertaining, but, like the man in the song who was hardly ever sick at see, never, never, well, hardly ever interfere, as individuals, with the work of the politicians?

But if this be so, or partly so, would that be a reason to be concerned? History shows that America is the all-time greatest self-correcting nation. It almost seems to be both a perpetual motion machine and a self-righting machine. Why would any sensible citizen and patriot want to throw a wrench in the works, or try to fix what isn’t broken?

I would like to suggest that if we think this way even a little, we have the wrong idea. We are greatly mistaken to think sharing our views with the television set and our husbands and wives, and voting a little, is enough. Don’t you who are new pick up these bad habits from us.

America has been marvelously able to correct its course in the past because the founding idea — of individual freedom expressed through direct representation — has stirred its citizens to participate, and interfere. Information from the people makes the government smarter. Insufficient information from us makes it dumber. Or, as Abraham Lincoln more elegantly expressed it, ” Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” Leaders, if they are wise, will be patient. But we mustn’t try their patience too much. For us, finding that ultimate justice means thinking and talking until we reach it, and continuing to speak until the politicians understand it.

We may not leave it to the three branches of government to sort things out, to bring us the right questions for decision, to make the right decisions themselves.

Never has that statement been truer than now. Our national politics have stalled over a quarter of a century over very large issues, including immigration, social security, health care, and especially, since it affects the countries you’ve left, the country you’re joining, and all the countries in between, the health of the planet. War has both parties running to extremes.

If you think the problems are not any more urgent, or the discord any worse, than normal, then, well, I disagree, but my point remains: in our country, things are ‘normal’ only when your voices are clearly heard. The old model of our citizenly relation to politics was of a group of people under a tree, taking turns on the stump all day, discussing the issues of the time. The old model was the town meeting where every citizen can have their say. Old citizens like me hope that between you and the Internet the old model will get a new lease on life.

Whether you work within the Democratic or Republican parties, or join in supporting a bi-partisan ticket for 2008 as I have, in an effort to drive the parties to work together and to show them how it’s done, do do something.

From your first breath as an American citizen, make it known what matters to you.

We can’t let ourselves become mere units of statistical analysis. It appears to be so, that if you ask any 1000 Americans their views on anything, you’ll have a pretty good idea what all Americans think. You might almost conclude that individuals didn’t matter at all anymore.

But then here you come in, and prove the opposite.

By individual choice and individual effort, you traveled the miles, and did the work required, to arrive here today to join the country whose whole monumental structure rests on personal freedom. Will you make yourselves content to become a mere grain of sand in a vast statistical ocean?

Don’t be discouraged by the odds. It isn’t all determinism and the tide of history. An individual can up-end what is determined, and speed or reverse the tide. The man on whose estate we stand, by pushing his pen across a blank page, proved that.

Besides, the science of statistics has another aspect. It appears that the most reliable way to know who will win the next election or whether the stock market will go up or down is to ask as many people as possible to make a bet about it. Their bets often tell more than all the opinions of the pundits and economists, politicos and market watchers. It turns out Lincoln was right about the ‘ultimate wisdom of the people’. But here’s the catch: if you don’t make yourself heard, your bet can’t be counted.

“Men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master,” as Jefferson predicted. But will we, by our silence, indifference, or inaction, give the trust away, cede it to the wealthy, present it to the entrenched, hand it off to the government, entrust it to any process or procedure that excludes our voices? It could happen.

“As a nation of freemen,” Abraham Lincoln said, “we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

That’s where we all come in.

As graduating citizens, you will know how the government is set up: the justly familiar separation of powers, the well-known system of checks and balances, and the famous three branches of government: the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch.

If these are the branches, what is the tree? Do not think it’s the government.

We are the tree from which the government springs and spreads into its three branches. Every citizen is part of the root system, part of the trunk, no mere twig or leaf. Help our government never to forget it.

We have to bring energy, action, participation, and money to the three branches, or they get no nourishment, and nothing will prevent them from becoming brittle and dry, and unfruitful.

I hope you don’t waste all the time I have in figuring out how a citizen should relate to his government. Talk to it. Tell it what you like. Tell it what you don’t like. Vote, of course. Think about what you want our future to look like. Let the government know. Roll up your sleeves, stick out your chin, sharpen your elbows, get in the middle of things, make them different.

You will be bound to get a lot of things wrong. That’s what we do. But the possibility of error is no excuse for being quiet, and I say this on the good authority of past Presidents:

“Man was never intended to become an oyster.”

That’s Theodore Roosevelt talking.

“Get action. Seize the moment,” he said, and he also said, “The credit belongs to the man…. who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who… spends himself for a worthy cause”

And President Thomas Jefferson wrote,

“The evils flowing from the duperies of the people [— that is, the ignorant errors of folks like you and me —] are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents [ — that is, the arrogant errors of those who speak and act for us].”

So it turns out citizenship isn’t just a great privilege and opportunity, though it is all that, it’s also a job. I’m sorry to be the one to bring you this news, so late in the process. But don’t worry, it’s a great job. Everything that happens within this country politically, and everywhere in the world its influence is felt, falls within its province. It’s a job with a lot of scope. You’ll never be able to complain again about being bored at work. As we multiply our individual voices, we multiply the chances for our country’s success.

Which is where we all come in.

May your initiation here be a reminder to us all to put the participation back into ‘participatory democracy’.

May all our citizenship be individual, unflagging, and vocal, and may our old country, your new country, so prosper.

There’s lots to do.  All hands on deck.  Members of the class of 2007: Congratulations.  God bless you.  Let us hear from you.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Although I am a passionate historian, I must admit that I was rather lazy in my study of Dayton history. Normally, I am on top of my historical surroundings, and learn as much as possible. However, when I moved to Dayton, Ohio in 1990, I was not at all certain I would remain here more than 3-5 years. I anticipated moving to New York City, or even to Virginia near Williamsburg, or Washington, DC. Perhaps I had an unaddressable fear of learning too much about the Miami Valley for fear of it gluing me here.

Twenty years later, I still feel slightly negligent in knowing Dayton’s history. I seem to know more about the Wright Brothers than I do most of Dayton, and the surrounding area. Still, it was not until the summer of 1999 that I even gave the Wrights a second thought. I had been to the Air Force Museum when my parents visited in 1992, but I found it agonizingly boring. My dad had to stop and read every placard, and photograph nearly every plane. Mother, still with tints of red in her hair at the time, was photographed in front of the plane painted with the title, “Strawberry Bitch.” Each visit to the museum still prompts a photo with a family member standing in front of the plane.

Seven years later I was on my three week vacation that took me to:

  • Niagara Falls (ugh… another story)
  • a drive through the Adirondacks
  • a pass through Schroon Lake
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit the Trapp family members (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) at the Trapp Family Lodge
  • Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s home, Hildene
  • FDR’s home/grave in Hyde Park, NY
  • Val-Kil, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home & retreat near Hyde Park
  • New York City
  • Flushing Meadows – the site of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs
  • Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill
  • Montauk Point Lighthouse at the tip of Long Island
  • Assateague Island to see the wild horses because my fourth grade teacher, Diana Lane, read us the book, THE MYSTERY OF ASSATEAGUE ISLAND in 1974
  • A brief trip through DC – only driving and looking, no stopping
  • A trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • A visit with my aunt and cousins
  • The Outer Banks
    • Wright Memorial (merely drove around it and left)
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (which had just finished its hydraulic move the day before)
    • Ocracoke Island
  • A visit with my grandfather and family at Grandpa’s mission program in Southeastern Kentucky
  • Gatlinburg for three days with family
  • Lexington, Kentucky
    • Mary Todd Lincoln
    • Henry Clay home
    • ice cream at Cheapside
    • Lexington Cemetery

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I took advantage of this East Coast vacation, packing as much in as possible. I knew that once I began adopting children, this kind of vacation would be on hiatus.

The memorial at Kitty Hawk meant absolutely nothing to me. I drop past it, only to return since it had a Dayton connection. I took a photo, and drove on not wanting to indulge any time in listening to a (biased) NC park ranger talk about airplanes.

September 1999, while roller blading in Centerville’s Stubbs Park, I was resting on a rock when I noticed a tiny sparrow hopping in the parking lot, picking at some food dropped by patrons from the previous evening’s concert. I had always been terrified of birds growing up, so I had never considered how they got their bodies into the air, supported by seemingly fragile wings.

As I watched the sparrow my eye caught a jet floating through the sky as it prepared to land at Dayton International.

“How did that thing get into the sky?”

As I continued to watch the bird and the plane (no Superman), I heard voices of two young boys arguing. I even turned around, expecting to find two lads arguing.

Nothing.

The voices continued.

Finally I heard the one boy call the name of the other, and there was no doubt as to who they were, and why I was privy to their aggravated conversation.

The next day, I returned from the USA Air Force Museum with nine books on the Wright Brothers. I had received “my mission” while resting in the park.

Prior to that September day, I had never given the Wrights much thought. By April 2000, I was finally sketching out plots, scenes, and characters.

July 2000, I drove to Kitty Hawk, stood on the Wright Brothers’ Memorial and flew a kite to toast the start of what would be a fascinating journey for the next decade.

My goal was to finish the musical, then titled, TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, for the 2003 anniversary.

Gail Whipple - lyricist-composer

In 1998 I got a new saxophone student, Lucas Whipple – a neat 10 year old boy with a wonderful personality. I eventually began teaching his sister, Andra, piano and voice. Their mother, Gail, a fantastic musician (vocalist, pianist) was teaching music at South Dayton Preparatory School and asked if I’d please teach beginning piano there.

In January 2003, Gail and I were chatting about the Muse Machine musical we had just seen. Her husband, Tim, was the Muse board president. Gail and I began discussing musical scores, and she played a few of her own songs that were clearly “musical theatre.” I promptly asked her to assist me with TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, and she agreed.

Leslie Merry, Composer

A month later, I hosted the first read-thru of the book with approximately 20 theatre friends at my town house. Gail attended, and brought her friend, Leslie Merry, introducing her as “a musician friend of mine.”

Within a few days, the trio of Gail, Leslie and Darin were embarking on our collaboration. Other than directing, this was my first collaborative effort, and I did not know what to expect with our first work session. I had tossed out ideas for styles on several songs. Quietly, Gail and Leslie tossed them back, presenting something completely different from what I was hearing… and it was magnificent. Throughout the years, I continued to toss to them what I was hearing in my head, and they provided something different… entirely different, and much more clever, and exciting!

As with any project, it evolved. The history of flight anniversary flew by and we knew that we still had a product. However, the Wrights’ story had changed. Their sister, Katharine, was now an integral part of the story, and it now began five years after they first flew at Kitty Hawk. We had uncovered more drama, and depth to their story – the story after the story with most are most familiar.

The working title soon changed to THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and the underlying theme was about “control.”

  • The secret to flight was in “control”
  • There was an international race to “control” the sky
  • There were battles over financial “control”
  • There were internal issues of “control” within the family circle

It was the right path for this musical.

Now, the 99.5% completed project is a grand mixture of our theatrical forefathers’ creations… there are hints of RAGTIME, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE SECRET GARDEN, EVITA, SUNDAY IN THE PARK, CAMELOT… the musical is dramatic, comedic, filled with suspense, interwoven with political intrigue (well, nothing that would arouse the interest of James Bond, but remember, it is 1908-1945)…

I was blessed to find a lyricist (Gail) who could arrange lyrics as wonderfully as Hammerstein, Lowe, and Rice, and a composer (Leslie) who could immediately whip out a strong melodic line rivaling Rodgers, Lerner and Webber but with a heavy flavor of Sondheim. And the score is, perhaps, more Sondheimesque. The lyrics, in many places, are simply too good to be true due to the clever, concise arrangement of thoughts and words. I would hand Gail a paragraph of thoughts, and she would return lyrics that made my jaw hit the floor. The lyrics and music, together, are outstanding, and I honestly believe their contributions to this project far surpass my work on the book. The three of us, each being musicians, have also contributed to one another’s individual assignments – which has been a splendid delightful process for we each trust one another, and are, too often, like one mind.

I humbly bow to my two collaborators, and will always be grateful for their magnificent contributions to the future success of this musical.

My personal journey with this project began a decade ago. The three of us were also working professionals, raising children, involved musicians, busy volunteers, and confronted with personal, and professional experiences that sometimes kept as from moving ahead on the project consistently. Before Gail’s family moved to California, we had many fantastic work sessions, and reading sessions (about six, in all). Now, Leslie and I will work together, and collaborate with Gail, using all the modern technologies.

What a thrilling journey it has been!

A Mother’s Day message from First Lady Michelle Obama… (from WhiteHouse.Gov)

Dear Friend,

There’s no way I could ever measure all that my own mother has done for me. She is my rock. She pushes me to be the best professional, mother, wife and friend I can be.

As a mother myself, I’ve come to realize that being a mom isn’t always easy and that no one can do it alone.

My husband understands the many challenges facing today’s mothers and their families. His Administration has taken steps to level the playing field and ease the burden.

The first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure that no women face the same discrimination and injustices that Lilly did after 20 years on the job. When women make less money than men for the same work, families have to work harder just to get by.

The President signed an Executive Order creating the first-ever White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Federal agencies take women and girls into account in their daily work and to ensure that our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons.

Through the Let’s Move! Initiative and the President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity, we’re helping to provide parents with the knowledge and tools they need to make healthy choices for their children and teach their children to make healthy choices for themselves.

This week, we are celebrating Women’s Health Week to promote steps women and girls can take to lead longer, healthier and happier lives.

Mother’s Day is about showing our gratitude for the mothers and mother figures who have influenced our lives. The President and I would like to extend our warmest Mother’s Day wishes to all of the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends who have inspired a child.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Michelle Obama

Well, last night the production team officially met for the first time to prep SOUTH PACIFIC for Beavercreek High School’s new summer stock production company, Summer On Stage. This production team is on fire, and over the past three weeks, has done an enormous job of planning, and most of all -visioneering.

This Sunday, May 17, we hold auditions, and the response from students has been great. My goal is to have tons of men for the Seabee numbers. “Nothin’ Like A Dame” will rock!

Unfortunately, we have little fires to constantly put out due to stagnating issues from the past, and this has infiltrated down to a handfull of students. One particular student, who will be attending a podunk school that has a very mediocre musical theatre (but she clams it is the best in the Midwest even when she could not get into the schools of her choice… [insert laugh here]), has been saying SOUTH PACIFIC will fail because I am a bad vocalist. However, she is all smoke… no substance. A few others have been on the attack, but again, no substance.

It’s sad that some of the students have basically been “bought” with empty promises. In some ways, I do not blame them for their attacks on the previous production, THE PAJAMA GAME, nor now with SOUTH PACIFIC. The students have had these insidious thoughts planted in their minds, and in the minds of some of their parents. How sad they have been used for unethical reasons.

But their small-mindedness shall not chip away at what we will produce this summer. The tidal wave is rolling.

An announcement for orchestra members went out this morning, and a ton of other items were accomplished by the team!

Next week we will interview potential technical directors.

There are so many neat plans for this production, and I cannot wait until we start rehearsals.

Sunday afternoon, the production of THE PAJAMA GAME at Beavercreek High School ended.

I am generally a little teary-eyed following a production, but this time I was relieved.

April 14th, the orchestra conductor was fired and I was handed the position, along with the current duties of vocal director.

Suzanne, the director, and I had so many storms to weather throughout this production – Suzanne more so than myself. Mine was very confined to a week or so, where hers was on-going. My predecessor had 57 students sign up for the orchestra – students thinking I was to conduct (I thought I was to do it, originally, as well). Within 30 minutes, over 30 students had walked out on his first meeting.

Monday morning I had not orchestra. Thanks to the band director, and several of my music friends, I had one of the best orchestras BHS has had – and was told so by MANY faculty and parents, and those who have known the program for many years. I heard the video the other evening and I was so proud of the sound coming from the pit.

We had 3 rehearsals, a sitz probe, and two tech rehearsals before the shows began – and those orchestra members plowed through the difficult score as though they were each born to play a musical theatre score.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to bring as much normalcy back to life as I could. I had a yard to mow, flowers to plant, yard to clean up, laundry, and tons of other things. Jose had done a tremendous job of helping me while I was in production, but there were so many things that I prefer to do – and all was waiting for me.

Monday and Tuesday nights were heavy with teaching – and a number of make-up lessons. Wednesday night was the cast party, and Thursday was a four hour class for part of my teaching licensure.

While wading through all the above, I was also launching the production of SOUTH PACIFIC for this summer.

Auditions are May 17th @ 5:00pm.

The audition announcements are out, and I am swamped in preparation. I think this is when I am happiest – preparing for, and directing a show. The performances are always somewhat dull for me – my heaven, and haven is being in a rehearsal.

I am hoping to write more on preparations for SOUTH PACIFIC… I am in heaven, despite some of the garbage already pouring from some of the preceding issues at the school.

This afternoon, Mother will arrive to spend the weekend with us. At 5:15pm we will head to Beavercreek High School to watch the Friend’s Show Choir’s FINALE – a very moving evening to celebrate the end of the year.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – one of my favorite holidays (and I do not even drink).

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Eleanor Roosevet on her wedding day.

Tomorrow is also the 105th anniversary of Eleanor & Franklin Roosevelt, the 25th Anniversary of my friends, Valerie & Mike Lockhart.

Tomorrow I will have mint green shakes for the students and parents (and siblings who tag along), and THE QUIET MAN will be on the television during the teaching hours.

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Here is a nice link about the movie: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.users.qwest.net/~aknot/quiet3x.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.users.qwest.net/~aknot/quietman.htm&usg=__yHDvVgCnX9Q3P-89iWuQwxk8uIc=&h=262&w=350&sz=23&hl=en&start=10&um=1&tbnid=DdgLwqSkMMKTfM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=120&prev=/images%3Fq%3DThe%2BQuiet%2BMan%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1%26newwindow%3D1

And here is one of the more beautiful scenes in the movie – featuring one of the most beautifully, haunting songs, “The Isles Of Innisfree.” This is, perhaps, my most favorite melody of all time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jreYChl7k10&feature=PlayList&p=5ABA67393EE5BB3E&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=7

If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, please do… Barry Fitzgerald is hilarious, and one of the many reasons I love this film.

And to my Irish ancestry, I salute the Clarys, Daughertys, Bannons and Barnetts!

ORIGINAL LYRICS TO THE SONG:
(by Dick Farrelly)

I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer,
And I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say,
But sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away.
And precious things are dreams unto an exile.
They take him o’er the land across the sea —
Especially when it happens he’s an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Inisfree.

And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous though it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter.
I’m once again back home in Inisfree.

I wander o’er green hills through dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know.
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow.
And then into a humble shack I wander —
My dear old home — and tenderly behold
The folks I love around the turf fire gathered.
On bended knees ,their rosary is told.

But dreams don’t last —
Though dreams are not forgotten —
And soon I’m back to stern reality.
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust,
I still would choose the Isle of Inisfree.

* Gaelic words meaning “love of my heart”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xn7rjlOxfc

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President Obama speaks in front of the box where Lincoln was assassinated.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stood beneath the flag-draped box where Abraham Lincoln was shot inside Ford’s Theatre, honoring the “hallowed space” on the eve of the 16th president’s 200th birthday.

Hollywood stars and Washington power brokers celebrated the theater’s reopening Wednesday night, hearing Obama praise one of his favorite presidents for Lincoln’s conviction that a divided nation could be made whole.

“For despite all that divided us _ North and South, black and white _ he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people,” Obama said. “And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.”

Surrounded by actors and artists, Obama said Lincoln’s passion for education and the arts will thrive at the famous theater after its recent $25 million renovation. The theater is reopening after 18 months of installing more comfortable seats, a modern lobby and new dressing rooms.

Those in the audience stood and turned to applaud Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they made their way down the aisle to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.”

Violinist Joshua Bell opened the show with a traditional spiritual on a violin that hadn’t been played since the night Lincoln was shot in 1865. Later, a video was played of former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush reading the Gettysburg Address. The film will be added to the theater’s museum.

Before the event, guests ranging from Cabinet members and congressional leaders to movie producers strode down a red carpet in sharply cut tuxedos and colorful gowns. Talk included prime-time television plotlines and the economic stimulus package being hammered out in Congress.

Yes! This is an exciting day for me. As a child in elementary school I can remember calculating how many years before it would be Lincoln’s birthday, and how old I would be. Well, the day has arrived… 2009, and I am 44 years old.

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Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

I heard the recording of the Bush twins reading their letter on The Today Show… it was beautiful. What great young women these lovely gals have turned out to be.

CNN) — Jenna and Barbara Bush know a lot about growing up in the White House.

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to “remember who your dad really is.”

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to "remember who your dad really is."

The twin daughters of former President Bush were 7 when their grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, was inaugurated, and 20 when their father became president.

Like their dad, who left a note for President Barack Obama, Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote Tuesday to Obama’s daughters about what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

“We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children,” the twins wrote in an open letter published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The twins reminisce in the letter about important events and historic moments they were able to be part of in a presidential family.

But the Bushes also tried to prepare Sasha and Malia for some sobering truths.

“Although it’s an honor and full of so many extraordinary opportunities, it isn’t always easy being a member of the club you are about to join,” they said. “Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love; a man who always put us first. We still see him now as we did when we were 7: as our loving daddy.”

But as their father was increasingly criticized in the media and mocked by late night comedians, the twins said they learned a lesson.

“He is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV,” they wrote. “Many people will think they know him, but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born, the pride he felt on your first day of school, or how much you both love being his daughters. So here is our most important piece of advice: Remember who your dad really is.”

It helps, wrote the Bushes, to surround yourself with loyal friends.

The rest of the letter was more lighthearted, with the twins sharing some of their favorite memories of living in the White House, including playing house and hide-and-seek in what many children would consider to be the ultimate playground.

“When we played house, we sat behind the East Sitting Room’s massive curtains as the light poured in illuminating her yellow walls,” the girls said. “Our 7-year-old imaginations soared as we played in the enormous, beautiful rooms; our dreams, our games, as romantic as her surroundings. At night, the house sang us quiet songs through the chimneys as we fell asleep.”

They also told the Obama girls to embrace any opportunity they had: “When your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game.”

“In fact, go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, state dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments.”

“Just go,” they wrote.

The twins also reminded Sasha and Malia to be themselves — kids — saying even if they travel over holidays like Halloween, the girls should dress up and trick-or-treat down a plane aisle.

“Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn,” the Bush girls said. “Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.”

Jenna and Barbara Bush told the girls to cherish the pet that their father so publicly promised them.

“Sometimes you’ll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide,” they said.

“Four years goes by so fast,” they wrote. “So absorb it all, enjoy it all!”

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It is 9:11am, Tuesday, January 20th, 2009.

I have been awake since 7:00am watching the beginning of the inaugural festivities. It is my tenth inaugural ceremonies to observe, but my eleventh swearing in of a president. I was in Myrtle Beach, vacationing with my family, when President Ford was sworn in on August 9th, 1974.

My first inauguration was January 20th, 1973, when President Richard Nixon raised his hand for the second time before the American people. Thirty-six years later, I am prepared to watch Barak Obama become the 44th president.

Last night I hung the red, white and blue banners on the front fence, and my neighbor lady placed her American flag at her front door. Despite the 9 degree weather, blanketing the outside with a heavy fog, there is a good deal of warmth, and energy in the air.

Jose is hoping his final exam will get out early so he can be home to watch the ceremonies with me on television.

Right now, the Bush family is bidding farewell to their White House staff, and soon, the Obama family will leave St. John’s Episcopal Church, and motorcade across the avenue to the front portico of the White House. The Bushes will greet them at the steps, and escort them inside for coffee before leaving for the Capital Building.

President Bush has written the traditional “last letter” to his successor, and placed it in the top drawer of the Oval Office desk.

The great American transition has begun….

 (CNN) — Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy, has indicated her interest in filling the New York Senate seat being vacated by secretary of state designee Hillary Clinton.

Caroline Kennedy has her eyes on the New York Senate seat.

Caroline Kennedy has her eyes on the New York Senate seat.

“I’ve talked to Caroline Kennedy and she’s clearly interested,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

He indicated that 12 people were interested in the position.

“She’s interested in the position,” New York Gov. David Paterson confirmed. But at the same time “she realizes it’s not a campaign.” Paterson, who will name Clinton’s successor, noted that Kennedy had indicated a desire to “sit down and tell me what her qualifications are.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton also released a statement Monday indicating that he had received a call from Kennedy “who expressed to me her interest in [Clinton’s] Senate seat.”

Kennedy’s interest in the seat could mean the continuation of a family legacy in the Senate that began 56 years ago with the election of her father as the then-junior senator from Massachusetts.

Her uncle Ted Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1963, and her uncle Robert Kennedy served as New York’s junior senator from 1965 until he was assassinated in 1968.

“Remember, [Clinton’s] seat in the Senate was once held by Robert Kennedy,” said Bill Schneider, CNN’s senior political analyst. “[Caroline Kennedy’s] other uncle, Ted Kennedy, is ill right now. If Paterson appoints Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, it means there could be a Kennedy staying in the Senate for quite a long time.”

CNN reported earlier this month that Caroline Kennedy had called Paterson to discuss the possibility of taking the seat.

Paterson has the power to appoint a replacement, who will then face a special election in 2010 to fill out Clinton’s term. Paterson confirmed to CNN last week that Kennedy had called and “asked a few questions” about the expected vacancy.

One Democratic source close to the Kennedy family told CNN earlier this month Kennedy was “interested to say the least” in the Senate seat and had asked a tight circle of other family friends and political advisers for advice.

Before this year, Kennedy generally limited her forays into the public sphere to nonpartisan activity, penning books on civil liberties and serving as the de facto guardian of her father’s legacy.

But in January, she backed a political candidate for the first time, announcing her endorsement of Obama during the Democratic primary season with an op-ed in The New York Times that drew days of the kind of media attention she has spent her life avoiding.

“I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them,” she wrote. “But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”

“Apparently, she has acquired a taste for politics,” Schneider noted. “She wants to be part of this new regime in America, clearly playing a key role in the Senate if she gets that appointment.”

There are a slew of high-profile candidates for Clinton’s Senate seat, including New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose last name carries some star power of its own New York, where his father was once governor.

Kennedy’s roots in New York also run deep. Her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, relocated to New York after her husband’s assassination in 1963, with children Caroline and John F. Kennedy Jr.

Caroline Kennedy has also spent most of her life in the city, working there after graduating from Harvard, meeting her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, on the job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and attending Columbia Law School there.

Her most prominent public roles involved overseeing her father’s presidential library and presenting the annual Profiles in Courage Award.

She’s also edited several books, from a volume of children’s poetry and an updated edition of her father’s book “Profiles in Courage” to a collection of patriotic verse (“A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love”).

Most of her leadership positions have been based in the arts: serving as host of the annual nationally televised Kennedy Center Honors in Washington and serving as the honorary chairwoman of the American Ballet Theatre, as her mother did.

In late spring and early summer she was mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate and more recently as a contender for secretary of education in an Obama Cabinet. But elected office would mark a major shift for Kennedy.

In a 2002 Time magazine interview promoting the updated “Profiles in Courage,” Kennedy would not rule out the possibility of a run for public office.

“I don’t have any plans to do that right now,” she said. “I don’t plan ahead. My kids are young, and I’m really happy to be able to be around. But I do care about issues, and I’m interested in them. So I don’t see that now, but you know, I have a long life ahead of me.”

By Jessica Wehrman

Staff Writer

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader John Boehner, ever the wiseacre, was quick with a funny when the Ohio congressional delegation started working to get the Ohio State University Marching Band into Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.

He suggested that the delegation offer up U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Columbus to dot the “i” in Script Ohio as the band marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Call it a congressional incentive.

That said, at least Tiberi would know his stuff.

From 1981 through 1984, he marched with the Ohio State Marching Band. His last game was the Rose Bowl in 1985 during the Earl Bruce era.

“We should’ve won,” he recalls. “But we lost.”

Tiberi said he applied for colleges in the early 1980s knowing that he wanted to march for Ohio State’s band. He spent much of his college career practicing with, marching with or performing in the band.

“It was very time-consuming, very competitive but it was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “It’s a lot more than the experience of the music and marching. It’s a life-changing experience. It built lifelong friendships. I learned a lot about teamwork and discipline.”

Being in band has also given him rewards he never expected.

A few years back, he listened in a Republican conference meeting as a colleague urged cutting music and arts funding. “You don’t learn anything in music,” the colleague told a roomful of House Republicans. “You don’t learn anything in art.”

Tiberi stood up and disagreed.

He told them that the lessons he learned in the best damn band in the land were invaluable.

Afterwards, then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert pulled him aside and told Tiberi he had an opening for a Republican on the council that advises the National Endowment of the Arts, and said he wanted Tiberi to fill that opening. Tiberi’s served on the board ever since.

Tiberi has also advocated to get the band in four inaugural parades since the 1980s.

The first time he helped them was in 1988. Tiberi was an aide to then-U.S. Rep. John Kasich, and worked with Kasich to advocate for the band, and they marched when George Herbert Walker Bush was inaugurated.

In 2000, Tiberi got to help them again. It was his first year in Congress. When the band was picked, he arranged tours and spoke to the floor. He did it in 2004 as well.

This year, he wrote a letter. “I cannot overstate my firm confidence in the band’s ability to enhance the ceremonies surrounding the inauguration of our next President of the United States.”

The band was selected. They’ll march Jan. 20.

But Tiberi, alas, won’t be dotting the “i.” Along with other members of the House, he’ll have lunch with the new president instead.

I love this air of hopefulness, this air of accomplishment, this air of vision and foreword thinking. In 2000 we missed the feeling of change, the feeling of renewal because of that hotly contested election that dragged on well into December. In 2004, we missed that air of change and renewal because we were engaged in a war (that had been declared over a year before), and there was really no new change – we were bringing in the same man.

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I hear the previous generation discuss what it was like when Kennedy was elected in 1960. There seems to be a similar excitement – a fresh young senator, a beautiful wife who is both intelligent and cultured, and adorable little girls. I can see why folks are comparing this president-elect to one elected 48 years ago.

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The only time before that was when Theodore Roosevelt entered the White House at age 42 upon the death of President William McKinley in 1901. Roosevelt brought with him six young children – including the irrepressible, Alice – and an energy that propelled us into the Twentieth Century. President Clinton’s youth and invigorating personality was similar, but it seemed his administration/family was always bogged down in one accusation after another.

I like this change.  I like the youthfulness, the energy, the vision, the drive, the class and culture, and the hope that seems to be ringing through the land – at least for those who are willing to hear it.

 

Tuesday morning, I hurried my morning routine along so I could be out the door by 8:45am to vote. As I was getting into the car, I twisted my back – somehow – and was in great pain. Muscle spasms shot through me, and I questioned whether I should even be driving. After all, the church was just across the street; but there were a few errands to run after voting.

I walked right in, signed in with no wait, and took a seat. Normally, I always have experiences at this particular polling site – my political affiliation shouted from one elderly worker to a very deaf elderly worker; a resident from One Lincoln Park who seriously believed my joke that Eleanor Roosevelt was running for president; touch screens that are too difficult to push; and workers that are not adept at policy. 

Today was different.

I sat, gently, in one of the folding chairs set up for those anticipated long waits. A nicely dressed gentleman entered, full of enthusiasm and charisma. The location had been moved from a small, cramped room to the gymnasium in the church, and the elderly gentleman insisted we all get a game of basketball going.

This man had an energy, and enthusiasm about life that made me forget about my painful spasms shooting through my back. I heard him tell the workers, “I will probably be the oldest person voting today.” The one female worker assured him there would be folks older than their 80’s.

“Nope! I am one hundred three and a half years old!”

I looked up to examine the centurion with an additional three and one half years tacked on. Due to my condition, he was walking more erect than I was, and even had a bounce to his step. He finished signing in. There were a dozen chairs set up, and I was the only one seated. I was not in the mood for a chat, but he aimed his stride right towards me, and took a seat. 

He immediately charged into the conversation, sharing that he lived in One Lincoln Park, the retirement village next door to the church (and where my son works).

I asked him when he first voted.

“1924. I voted for Calvin Coolidge.”

I chuckled. My grandmother was born that year.

“I was born in 1905 and Teddy Roosevelt was president. The Wright Brothers had just flown a year or so before.”

I perked up. I asked if he was born in Dayton.

“Yes, I was.” He went on to explain where he lived but I was not familiar with that particular neighborhood.

I asked if he ever had a chance to see Wilbur Wright who died in 1912.

“I saw Wilbur several times and up close. Nice man. I was about six or seven when he died. I remember the funeral – all the carriages and all the bells rining all over town. A few days later my parents took me to the cemetery – you know, the one by the university. There were so many flowers. I met Orville a number of times, too.”

I asked a few more questions about Wilbur but he could not recall much more – just that he had seen him in person and that he, along with his brother, seemed like a nice man.

I asked if he went to dining service at One Lincoln Park.

“I never miss a chance to be with people. I go there every meal.”

I asked if he knew the tall, thin Mexican boy.

“Jose? Of course. He is such a delightful young man. Polite and kind. Do you know him?”

I explained he was my son and the gentleman really sized me up… I knew what was going through his mind.

“I adopted Jose.”

“Ah! Good for you. You chose a good young man.”

The gentleman looked around and said, “I hope this doesn’t take too damned long. I have a walk to get in this morning.”

I asked how often he walked.

“Every day. Two miles.”

Smack! I needed that one. I sucked my stomach in and tried to look a little more perky.

He went on to describe that he gets up at 6:00am every day and is often frustrated that other people are not yet up and “ready to start their day.” He looked over and said, “some people fight old age and don’t welcome it.” I learned that he plays cards, goes to concerts at the Fraze Pavilion in the summer, goes to the Rec Center when the snow and ice cover the sidewalks, chats with others as much as he can, and will not watch television in a group of people. “I like to talk to people – see what makes them tick. You can’t learn anything about others when the TV is loud because most of my friends are completely deaf, and most fall asleep.”

It was my turn to vote. I offered to let the gentleman go before me.

“I’m one hundred three and a half, not one hundred and eight. You go right on.”

Before I left he said, “When I was a kid I loved saying I was six and a half or what ever age I was. Then I stopped using it. When I turned 90 I realized it was time to start saying ‘one half’ again. That ‘one half’ was just as important as the landmark age.”

He soon stepped next to me at his booth and had difficulty figuring out where the credit-card card went.

“Now where in the hell does this damned card go?”

I showed him.

I finished voting and took leave of the wonderful spirit. He wished me well and said he hoped to see Jose soon.

Despite my painful muscle spasms, I was walking a little taller. I tried to match the spring in his own step, but it hurt too much.

Still, I was invigorated.

I had just touched history… all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt and the Wright Brothers. I write about these great Americans. Today, I met someone who remembered them first hand. This gentleman seemed to sum up what life, and our country is all about – hope, enthusiasm, determination, gratitude, and love for mankind.

Now, that is a blessing!

 

Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

Birthdate: October 11th, 1884

Eleanor Roosevelt
White House portrait

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (IPA: /ˈɛlɪnɔr ˈroʊzəvɛlt/; October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and assumed a role as an advocate for civil rights. After her husband’s death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an internationally prominent author and speaker for the New Deal coalition. She worked to enhance the status of working women, although she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because she believed it would adversely affect women.

In the 1940s, Roosevelt was one of the co-founders of Freedom House and supported the formation of the United Nations. Roosevelt founded the UN Association of the United States in 1943 to advance support for the formation of the UN. She was a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945 and 1952, a job for which she was appointed by President Harry S. Truman and confirmed by the United States Senate. During her time at the United Nations she chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Truman called her the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

Active in politics for the rest of her life, Roosevelt chaired the John F. Kennedy administration’s ground-breaking committee which helped start second-wave feminism, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. She was one of the most admired persons of the 20th century, according to Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People.

Early life

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, at 56 West 37th Street in New York City, New York[citation needed]. Her parents were Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt. She was named Anna for her mother and for her aunt, Anna Cowles and Eleanor for her father, who was nicknamed “Ellie”. From the beginning, Roosevelt preferred to be called by her middle name, Eleanor. Two brothers, Elliott, Jr. (1889–1893) and Hall Roosevelt (1891–1941) were born later. She also had a half brother, Elliott Roosevelt Mann, the result of an extramarital relation between Elliot and Katy Mann, a young servant girl employed by Anna. Roosevelt was born into a world of immense wealth and privilege, as her family was part of New York high society called the “swells”.

When Roosevelt was eight, her mother died of diphtheria and she and her brothers were sent to live with her maternal grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall (1843–1919) at Tivoli, New York and at a brownstone in New York City. Just before Roosevelt turned ten, she was orphaned when her father died of complications of alcoholism. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, author Joseph Lash describes her during this period of childhood as insecure and starved for affection, considering herself “ugly”. In the fall of 1899, with the encouragement of her paternal aunt Bamie Cowles, the family decided to send Roosevelt to Allenswood Academy, an English finishing school. The headmistress, Marie Souvestre, was a noted feminist educator who sought to cultivate independent thinking in the young women in her charge. Roosevelt learned to speak French fluently and gained self-confidence. Her first-cousin Corinne Robinson, whose first term at Allenswood overlapped with Roosevelt’s last, said that when she arrived at the school, Roosevelt was “everything”.

Marriage and family life

In 1902 at age 17, Eleanor Roosevelt returned to the United States, ending her formal education, and was later given a debutante party. Soon afterward, she met her father’s (Elliott Roosevelt‘s) fifth cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, then a 20-year-old junior at Harvard University. Following a White House reception and dinner with her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, on New Year’s Day, 1903, Franklin’s courtship of Eleanor began. In November, 1903, they became engaged, although the engagement was not announced for more than a year, until December 1, 1904, at the insistence of Franklin’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt were married on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17, 1905) at Eleanor’s great-aunt’s home in New York City. The marriage produced six children, five of whom survived infancy: Anna Eleanor, Jr., James, Franklin Delano, Jr. (who was born and died in 1909), Elliott, Franklin Delano, and John Aspinwall. Following a honeymoon in Europe, the newlyweds settled in New York City, in a house provided by Sara, as well as at the family’s estate overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York.

The family began spending summers at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, on the MaineCanada border, where Franklin was stricken with high fever in August, 1921, which resulted in permanent paralysis of his legs. Although the disease was widely believed during his lifetime to be poliomyelitis, some retrospective analysts now favor the diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome (see Franklin D. Roosevelt’s paralytic illness). Franklin’s attending physician, Dr. William Keen, believed it was polio and commended Eleanor’s devotion to the stricken Franklin during that time of travail, “You have been a rare wife and have borne your heavy burden most bravely”, proclaiming her “one of my heroines”. A play and movie depicting that time, Sunrise at Campobello, were produced almost 40 years later.

Relationship with mother-in-law

Roosevelt had a contentious relationship with her domineering mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt. Long before Eleanor fell in love with her future husband and distant cousin, Franklin, she already had a relationship with Sara as a distant but highly engaging cousin, with whom she corresponded. Although they had a difficult relationship, Sara sincerely wanted to be a mother to Eleanor and did her best before and during the marriage to fill this role. Sara had her own reasons for attempting to prevent their marriage and historians continue to discuss them. Historians also have had widely diverging opinions on the pluses and minuses of this relationship.

Eleanor and her future mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt in 1904

Eleanor and her future mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt in 1904

From Sara’s perspective, Eleanor was relatively young, inexperienced and lacked the support from her late mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt. Despite her forceful and domineering personality, Sara had much to teach her new daughter-in-law on what a young wife should know. Eleanor, while sometimes resenting Sara’s domineering nature, nevertheless highly valued her opinion in the early years of her marriage until she developed the experience and confidence a wife gains from the school of marital “hard knocks”. Historians continue to study the reasons Eleanor allowed Sara to dominate their lives, especially in the first years of the marriage. Eleanor’s income was more than half of that of her husband’s when they married in 1905 and could have lived still relatively luxuriously without Sara’s financial support.

From Sara’s perspective, she was bound and determined to ensure her son’s success in all areas of life including his marriage. Sara had doted on her son to the point of spoiling him, and now intended to help him make a success of his marriage with a woman that she evidently viewed as being totally unprepared for her new role as chatelaine of a great family. Sara would continue to give huge presents to her new grandchildren, but sometimes Eleanor had problems with the influence that came with “mother’s largesse.”

Tensions with some “Oyster Bay Roosevelts”

Although Roosevelt was always in the good graces of her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, the paterfamilias of the Oyster Bay Roosevelts, as the Republican branch of the family was known, she often found herself at odds with his eldest daughter, Alice Roosevelt. Theodore felt Eleanor’s conduct to be far more responsible, socially acceptable and cooperative: in short, more “Rooseveltian” than that of the beautiful, highly photogenic but rebellious and self-absorbed Alice, to whom he would ask, “Why can’t you be more like ‘cousin Eleanor’?” These early experiences laid the foundation for life-long strain between the two high-profile cousins. Though the youthful Alice’s comraderly relationship with Franklin during the World War I years in Washington is still the object of curiosity among Rooseveltian scholars, both Eleanor’s and his relationship with Alice and other Oyster Bay Roosevelts would be aggravated by the widening political gulf between the Hyde Park and Oyster Bay families as Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s political career began to take off. Embittered as she was by the eclipse of her father’s career, characteristically caustic comments by “Cousin Alice”, such as her later description of Franklin as “two-thirds mush and one-third Eleanor” certainly did not help. When Franklin was inaugurated president in 1933, Alice was invited to attend along with her brothers, Kermit and Archie.

Franklin’s affair and Eleanor’s relationships

Despite its happy start and Eleanor’s intense desire to be a loving and loved wife, the Roosevelts’ marriage almost disintegrated over Franklin’s affair with Eleanor’s social secretary Lucy Mercer (later Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd). When Eleanor learned of the affair from Mercer’s letters to Franklin (found in his suitcases), which she discovered in September 1918, she was brought to despair and self-reproach. She told Franklin she would insist on a divorce if he did not immediately end the affair.

Eleanor and Fala, the Roosevelts' dog during the White House years

Eleanor and Fala, the Roosevelts’ dog during the White House years

So implacable was Sara’s opposition to divorce that she warned her son she would disinherit him. Corinne Robinson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Louis Howe, Franklin’s political advisor, were also influential in persuading Eleanor and Franklin to save the marriage for the sake of the five children and Franklin’s political career. The idea has been put forth that because Mercer was a Catholic she would never have married a divorced Protestant. Her relatives maintain that she was perfectly willing to marry Franklin. Her father’s family was Episcopal and her mother, Minnie, had been divorced. While Franklin agreed never to see Mercer again, she began visiting him in the 1930s and was with Franklin at Warm Springs, Georgia when he died in 1945.

Although the marriage survived, Roosevelt emerged a different woman, coming to the realization that she could achieve fulfillment only through her own influence and life, not someone else’s. Ironically, her husband’s paralysis was soon to place his political future at least partially in her hands, requiring her to play an active role in NY State Democratic politics in order to keep his name alive in party circles. In fact it was a move she had been gradually making, having long held considerable if repressed interest in politics and social issues. During the 1920s as FDR dealt with his illness, with the coaching of his trusted political advisor, Louis McHenry Howe, she quickly became a prominent face among Democratic women and a force in NY State politics (see Public Life in the years before the White House). Although she and her husband were often separated by their activities during these year, their relationship, though at times strained, was close, despite Eleanor’s insistence on severing their physical relationship after discovery of Franklin’s affair. He was to often pay tribute to her care for him during the worst days of his illness, her help to him in his work, encouraging his staff and others to view them as a team, and to her ability to connect with various groups of people. He respected her intelligence and honest and sincere desire to improve the world even if he sometimes found her too insistent and lacking in political suppleness. “Your back has no bend.” he once told her. In 1926 he took great pleasure in presenting her with a cottage on the Hyde Park estate (the Stone Cottage) where she and her closest female friends at the time [Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman] could escape from the main house when her difficulties with Sara became too challenging. In 1928, she was urged by Al Smith, party politican, bold social reformer, NY State Governor, and the Democratic (and first Catholic) candiate for President to press her husband, then in Warm Springs, GA, undergoing what he hoped would be the treatment that would restore his legs, to run for New York Governor in Smith’s place in order to hold the state in the Democratic fold. After repeated urgings she finally placed a call to Warm Springs and was greeted by a cheery Franklin who gleefully told her he’d been successfully dodging all of Smith’s frantic calls. She handed the phone to Smith and the rest, as they say, is history. Though pleased for Franklin she was increasing despondent as he resumed his career, fearing she would be forced to take on an increasingly ceremonial role as governor’s and later, President’s, wife. During the 1932 campaign, Louis Howe was horrified to read a despairing note about her feelings of uselessness she had sent to a friend and tore it up, warning the friend to say nothing. A cautious approach by her to Franklin after the election, to take on some of his mail was gently rebuffed by him to her distress, he suggesting it would offend [Missy Le Hand]. However he and Howe had larger plans for her. The skills she had developed as a political trooper for the women’s branch of the NY State Democratic party as well as during her time as NY State’s First Lady were to stand her in good stead. Howe made immediate use of her in dealing with the problem of the Bonus Army, unemployed veterans of World War I who had marched and encamped in Washington, DC, demanding payment of the bonuses promised to them for their wartime service. President Herbert Hoover had viewed them as a dangerous, Communist-inspired group and sent the Army under Commander-in-Chief Douglas MacArthur to drive the group out with tear gas. Now Roosevelt and Howe took a radically different approach sending food, friendly greetings, and Eleanor… “Hoover sent the Army, Roosevelt sent his wife.” becoming one of the classic lines of the New Deal era.

In 1933 Mrs. Roosevelt had a very close relationship with Lorena Hickok a reporter who had covered her during the campaign and early days of the Roosevelt administration and sensed her discontent, which spanned her early years in the White House. On the day of her husband’s inauguration, she was wearing a sapphire ring that Hickok had given her. Later, when their correspondence was made public, it became clear that Roosevelt would write such endearments as, ‘I want to put my arms around you & kiss you at the corner of your mouth.’ It is however unknown if her husband was aware of that relationship, which scholar Lillian Faderman has deemed to be lesbian. Hickok’s relationship with Roosevelt has been the subject of much speculation but it has not been determined by historians whether or not the two were romantically connected.

Roosevelt also had a close relationship with New York State Police sergeant Earl Miller. Franklin had assigned Miller as her bodyguard. Prior to that Miller had been Al Smith‘s personal bodyguard and was acquainted with Franklin from World War I. Miller was an athlete and had been the Navy’s middleweight boxing champion as well as a member of the U.S. Olympic squad at the Antwerp games in 1920.

Eleanor Roosevelt was 44 when they met, in 1929, and Miller was 32. According to several of Franklin’s biographers Jean Edward Smith, Joseph Lash, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Miller became her friend as well as official escort. He taught her different sport activities, like diving and riding, and coached her tennis game. Whether they were more than good friends is open to conjecture and Miller has denied a romantic relationship. For example, according to Blanche Wiesen Cook, Earl Miller was Eleanor’s “first romantic involvement” in her middle years but she does not speculate further. James Roosevelt wrote that “From my observations, I personally believe they were more than friends.” Eleanor’s friendship with Miller coincided with Franklin’s relationship with his secretary Missy LeHand, and Smith writes that “Remarkably, both ER and Franklin recognized, accepted, and encouraged the arrangement… Eleanor and Franklin were strong-willed people who cared greatly for each other’s happiness but realized their own inability to provide for it.” Their relationship went on until Eleanor’s death in 1962, but there is not much evidence of it. There are some photographs and a few home movies. They are thought to have corresponded daily, but all letters are lost. According to rumors the letters were anonymously purchased and destroyed or locked away when Eleanor died. In later years, Eleanor was said to have developed a romantic attachment to her physician, David Gurewitsch, though it is likely to have not gone beyond a deep friendship.

Public life in the years before the White House

Following Franklin’s paralytic illness attack in 1921, Eleanor began serving as a stand-in for her incapacitated husband, making public appearances on his behalf, often carefully coached by Louis Howe, with increasingly successful results. She also started working with the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), raising funds in support of the union’s goals: a 48-hour work week, minimum wage, and the abolition of child labor. Throughout the 1920s, she became increasingly influential as a leader in the New York State Democratic Party while FDR used her contacts among Democratic women to strengthen his standing with them, winning their committed support for the future. In 1924, she actively campaigned for Alfred E. Smith in his successful re-election bid as governor of New York State. By 1928, she was actively promoting Smith’s candidacy for president and Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination as the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor of New York, succeeding Smith. Although Smith lost, Franklin Roosevelt won handily and the Roosevelts moved into the governor’s mansion in Albany, New York.

Roosevelt also taught literature and American history at the Todhunter School for Girls in New York City in the 1920s.

First Lady of the United States (1933–1945)

Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang Kai-shek

Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang Kai-shek

Eleanor Roosevelt met President Ramon Magsaysay, the 7th  President of the Philippines, and his wife at the Malacañang Palace.

Eleanor Roosevelt met President Ramon Magsaysay, the 7th President of the Philippines, and his wife at the Malacañang Palace.

Having seen her aunt Edith Roosevelt‘s strictly circumscribed role and traditional protocol during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909), Roosevelt set out on a different course. With FDR’s strong support, despite criticism, she continued with the active business and speaking agenda she had begun before becoming First Lady, in an era when few women had careers outside the home. She was the first First Lady to hold weekly press conferences and started writing a syndicated newspaper column, “My Day”. Roosevelt maintained a heavy travel schedule over her twelve years in the White House, frequently making personal appearances at labor meetings to assure Depression-era workers that the White House was mindful of their plight. In one widely-circulated cartoon of the time from The New Yorker magazine (June 3, 1933) lampooning the peripatetic First Lady, an astonished coal miner, peering down a dark tunnel, says to a co-worker “For gosh sakes, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!” Roosevelt saw the job of the First Lady as a buffer between victims of the Great Depression and the government bureaucracy, a guardian of human values within the administration, not just as a social, ceremonial position and her husband encouraged the nation’s view of the couple as a team in politics and their approach to social issues, often reaping political benefits without the risks of committing himself to such positions.

Eleanor also became an important connection for Franklin’s administration to the African-American population during the segregation era. During Franklin’s terms as President, despite Franklin’s need to placate southern sentiment, Eleanor was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement. She was outspoken in her support of Marian Anderson in 1939 when the black singer was denied the use of Washington’s Constitution Hall and was instrumental in the subsequent concert held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The first lady also played a role in racial affairs when she appointed Mary McLeod Bethune as head of the Division of Negro Affairs.

World War II

In 1941, Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and other Americans concerned about threats to democracy established Freedom House. Once the United States entered World War II, she was active on the homefront, co-chairing a national committee on civil defense with New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and frequently visiting civilian and military centers to boost war morale.

Roosevelt flying with Tuskegee Airman Charles "Chief" Anderson

Roosevelt flying with Tuskegee Airman Charles “Chief” Anderson

In 1943, she was sent on a trip to the South Pacific, scene of major battles against the Japanese. The trip became a legend, her fortitude in patiently visiting thousands of wounded servicemen through miles of hospitals causing even the hard-bitten [Admiral Halsey] who had opposed her visit initially to sing her praises. A Republican serviceman insisted to a colleague that he and the other soldiers who’d encountered her warmth would gladly repay any grumbling civilians for whatever gasoline and rubber her visit had cost.

Desirous of improving relations with other countries in the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt embarked on a whirlwind tour of Latin American countries in March 1944. For the trip, which would cover a number of nations and involve thousands of air miles, she was given a U.S. government-owned C-87A aircraft, the Guess Where II, a VIP transport plane which had originally been built to carry her husband abroad. After reviewing the poor safety record of that aircraft type (many had either caught fire or crashed during the war), the Secret Service forbade the use of the plane for carrying the president, even on trips of short duration, but approved its use for the First Lady.

Roosevelt especially supported more opportunities for women and African-Americans, notably the Tuskegee Airmen in their successful effort to become the first black combat pilots. At a time when there was still racial segregation in the armed forces and considerable opposition to allowing blacks to train as pilots, the First Lady was openly supportive of the Tuskegee Airmen. She visited the Tuskegee Air Corps Advanced Flying School in Alabama and, at her request, flew with a black student pilot for more than an hour, which had great symbolic value and brought visibility to Tuskegee’s pilot training program. She also arranged a White House meeting in July 1941 for representatives of the Tuskegee flight school to plead their cause for more support from the military establishment in Washington. Afterwards, the president of the Tuskegee Institute, F.D. Patterson, wrote to her at the White House that he was “greatly heartened to know of your sympathetic interest”. As the war raged in Europe and the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves in combat over the skies of Europe in 1943, Tuskegee President Patterson sent a telegram to her expressing his gratitude: “[I] feel your presence and endorsement … was a major factor in favorable action. [I] am happy men in air now at front are justifying in full measure the great confidence you and others expressed in them”.

Roosevelt was a strong proponent of the Morgenthau Plan to de-industrialize Germany in the postwar period, and was in 1946 one of the few prominent individuals to remain a member of the campaign group lobbying for a harsh peace for Germany.

The years after the White House

United Nations

Roosevelt speaking at the United Nations in July 1947

Roosevelt speaking at the United Nations in July 1947

In 1946, U.S. President Harry S. Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She played an instrumental role, along with René Cassin, John Peters Humphrey and others, in drafting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt served as the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission. On the night of September 28, 1948, Roosevelt spoke on behalf of the Declaration calling it “the international Magna Carta of all mankind” (James 1948). The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The vote of the General Assembly was unanimous except for eight abstentions.

Roosevelt resigned from her UN post in 1953 when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president.

Relations with the Catholic Church

In July 1949, Roosevelt had a public disagreement with Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, which was characterized as “a battle still remembered for its vehemence and hostility”. In her columns, Roosevelt had attacked proposals for federal funding of certain nonreligious activities at parochial schools, such as bus transportation for students. Spellman cited the Supreme Court’s decision which upheld such provisions, accusing her of anti-Catholicism. Most Democrats rallied behind Roosevelt, and Cardinal Spellman eventually met with her at her Hyde Park home to quell the dispute. However, Roosevelt maintained her belief that Catholic schools should not receive federal aid, evidently heeding the writings of secularists such as Paul Blanshard.

During the Spanish Civil War, Roosevelt favored the republican Loyalists against General Francisco Franco‘s Nationalists; after 1945, she opposed normalizing relations with Spain. She told Spellman bluntly that “I cannot however say that in European countries the control by the Roman Catholic Church of great areas of land has always led to happiness for the people of those countries.” Her son Elliott Roosevelt suggested that her “reservations about Catholicism” were rooted in her husband’s sexual affairs with Lucy Mercer and Missy LeHand, who were both Catholics.

Roosevelt’s defenders, such as biographer Joseph P. Lash, deny that she was anti-Catholic, citing her public support of Al Smith, a Catholic, in the 1928 presidential campaign and her statement to a New York Times reporter that year quoting her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, in expressing “the hope to see the day when a Catholic or a Jew would become president” (The New York Times, January 25, 1928).

Postwar politics

In the late 1940s, Roosevelt was courted for political office by Democrats in New York and throughout the country.

At first I was surprised that anyone should think that I would want to run for office, or that I was fitted to hold office. Then I realized that some people felt that I must have learned something from my husband in all the years that he was in public life! They also knew that I had stressed the fact that women should accept responsibility as citizens. I heard that I was being offered the nomination for governor or for the United States Senate in my own state, and even for Vice President. And some particularly humorous souls wrote in and suggested that I run as the first woman President of the United States! The simple truth is that I have had my fill of public life of the more or less stereotyped kind.

With Frank Sinatra in 1960

With Frank Sinatra in 1960

In the 1948 campaign, she was touted by some as the ideal running mate for President Truman. The North Dakota State Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution in 1947 calling for a Truman-Roosevelt ticket, and when Truman was asked if he would consider, he replied, “Why, of course, of course… What do you expect me to say to that?” Nevertheless, Roosevelt rejected the appeals and insisted she had no interest in elective politics. Her son James Roosevelt would later say she refused to be considered for the vice presidency “because she was afraid of it.”

In 1954, Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio campaigned against Roosevelt’s son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., during the New York Attorney General elections, which Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. lost. Roosevelt held DeSapio responsible for her son’s defeat and grew increasingly disgusted with his political conduct through the rest of the 1950s. Eventually, she would join with her old friends Herbert Lehman and Thomas Finletter to form the New York Committee for Democratic Voters, a group dedicated to enhancing the democratic process by opposing DeSapio’s reincarnated Tammany. Their efforts were eventually successful, and DeSapio was removed from power in 1961.

Roosevelt was a close friend of Adlai Stevenson and supported his candidacies in the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections. When President Truman backed New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, who was a close associate of Carmine DeSapio, for the Democratic presidential nomination, Roosevelt was disappointed but continued to support Stevenson who ultimately won the nomination. She backed Stevenson once again in 1960 primarily to block John F. Kennedy, who eventually received the presidential nomination. Nevertheless she worked hard to promote the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in 1960 and was appointed to policy-making positions by the young president, including the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps.

 
Newly-elected U.S. President John F. Kennedy calls on Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill (1961)

Newly-elected U.S. President John F. Kennedy calls on Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill (1961)

By the 1950s Roosevelt’s international role as spokesperson for women led her to stop publicly attacking the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). But she never supported it. In 1961, President Kennedy’s undersecretary of labor, Esther Peterson proposed a new “President’s Commission on the Status of Women”. Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the commission, with Peterson as director. Roosevelt died just before the commission issued its final report. It concluded that female equality was best achieved by recognition of gender differences and needs, and not by an Equal Rights Amendment.

Roosevelt was responsible for the eventual establishment, in 1964, of the 2,800 acre (11 km²) Roosevelt Campobello International Park on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. This followed a gift of the Roosevelt summer estate to the Canadian and American governments.

Honors and awards

Roosevelt at Hyde Park with Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson, filming Sunrise at Campobello (1960)

Roosevelt at Hyde Park with Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson, filming Sunrise at Campobello (1960)

Roosevelt received 35 honorary degrees during her life, compared to 31 awarded to her husband. Her first, a Doctor of Humane Letters or D.H.L. on June 13, 1929, was also the first honorary degree awarded by Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. Her last was a Doctor of Laws, LL.D. degree granted by what is now Clark Atlanta University in June 1962.

In 1968, she was awarded one of the United Nations Human Rights Prizes. There was an unsuccessful campaign to award her a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize; however, a posthumous nomination has never been considered for the award.

In 1960, Greer Garson played Roosevelt in the movie Sunrise at Campobello, which portrayed Eleanor’s instrumental role during Franklin’s paralytic illness and his protracted struggle to reenter politics in its aftermath.

Westmoreland Homesteads, located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, was created on April 13, 1934, as one of a series of “subsistence homesteads” under the National Industrial Recovery Act. In 1937, the community changed it’s name to Norvelt (EleaNOR RooseVELT), following a visit by the first lady.

The Norvelt fireman’s hall located is called Roosevelt Hall.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the only First Lady to receive honorary membership into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the world’s first and eldest sorority for African American women.

Later life

Following Franklin’s death in 1945, Eleanor moved from the White House to Val-Kill Cottage in Hyde Park, NY, where she lived the rest of her life.

Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt at Washington D.C. memorial

Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt at Washington D.C. memorial

Roosevelt was a member of the Brandeis University Board of Trustees, delivering the University’s first commencement speech, and joined the Brandeis faculty as a visiting lecturer in international relations in 1959 at the age of 75. On November 15, 1960, she met for the last time with former US President, Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess Truman, at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. Roosevelt had raised considerable funds for the erection and dedication of the building. The Trumans would later attend Roosevelt’s memorial service in Hyde Park, NY in November, 1962.

In 1961, all volumes of Roosevelt’s autobiography, which she had begun writing in 1937, were compiled into The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, which is still in print (Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-80476-X).

Roosevelt was injured in April 1960 when she was struck by a car in New York City. Afterwards, her health began a rapid decline. Subsequently diagnosed with aplastic anemia, she developed bone marrow tuberculosis. Roosevelt died at her Manhattan apartment on November 7, 1962 at 6:15 p.m., at the age of 78.

Her funeral at Hyde Park was attended by President John F. Kennedy and former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. At her memorial service, Adlai Stevenson asked, “What other single human being has touched and transformed the existence of so many?” Stevenson also said that Roosevelt was someone “who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.” She was laid to rest next to Franklin at the family compound in Hyde Park, New York on November 10, 1962. A laconic cartoon published at the time showed two angels looking down towards an opening in the clouds with the caption “She’s here”.

Roosevelt, who considered herself plain and craved affection as a child, had in the end transcended whatever shortcomings she felt were hers to bring comfort and hope to many, becoming one of the most admired figures of the 20th century.

At 12:05am the five buses carrying the marching band passed in front of the house. I was standing on the front steps smoking my pipe and letting Flyer explore the symphony of smells in the front yard when they passed. Bringing up the rear was Mike Berning, the band director, and his family, honking as they passed.

This week was just incredibly busy. I worked my butt off, but always seemed to be behind in accomplishing all I wished. My email is backed up a mile long, but the study and rest of the house is organized and efficient.

Today I woke after a semi-restful sleep, and plowed right into writing and researching on the Wright Brothers’ musical. I took some time out during lunch to read up on the economy and some of the boiling political issues. At 2:00pm my first student arrived, and at 5:15pm my last student was leaving – an early night with one student ill, and another on a college visit.

I ate some rice, broccoli and cheese casserole, and green beans, and relaxed with two episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN – one of my favorite shows.

At 8:00pm I dove into the musical writing, and edited a good deal. 11:15pm, I was trying to tackle one particular scene with no success. An email from my lyricist, Gail, who now lives in California, arrived, offering some suggestions to the very scene that had been giving me fits for over an hour. With a few more emails, I knew which direction we should take and by midnight I was sending off the latest draft through the miracle of the internet.

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

Around 12:20am I walked Flyer over to the performing arts wing and met up with Jose. It is a beautiful evening, just a little chilly – but still nice.

Tomorrow we will run some errands and try to find something fun to do together until it is time to head over to the stadium for the marching band invitational hosted by Fairmont. We will probably be tripping in after midnight.

In two weeks the marching band season will conclude, and Jose and I shall hopefully have more time together. I so enjoy my time with him, and his humor and cheery disposition is a great comfort. In a few years, it will just be me, Flyer and Logan, unless I adopt more sons.

Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday… what a great lady! Even Jose has one of her quotes posted above his bed.

(CNN) — March 30, 1981. Arguably the most powerful man in the world is shot.

Ronald Reagan

President Reagan waves to crowds just before he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981.

As measures were taken to save President Reagan’s life, the press was trying to bring the story to the American people. But information was scarce; the media both at the scene and at the hospital had no idea just how serious it was.

“We did not know, the general public or the press, how near death he was when he collapsed in the ER,” recalled Sam Donaldson, a former ABC White House correspondent. “The first briefing did not give us any of those details; the first briefing was a fairly upbeat briefing.”

Former White House reporter Helen Thomas has covered every president from John Kennedy to George W. Bush for United Press International. She says the atmosphere was tense and the answers few.

“We were asking many questions, which the White House refused to answer. There was a great sense of frustration in terms of what was really going on,” Thomas said.

Today, HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects the privacy rights of ordinary Americans, but what about when the patient is the president?

Is the next president fit to lead? CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovers the health secrets of presidents past and future.

Over the years, covering a health crisis has been a delicate dance for the White House Press Corps. History shows that administrations have for years covered up presidential illness.

Woodrow Wilson had a series of small strokes before he was sworn in to office in 1913. It wasn’t known whether he would survive his first term, and his doctors never talked about it.

Presidential historian Robert Dallek said Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in 1919. He and his doctor discussed the possibility that Wilson would resign, but his wife talked him out of it. According to Dallek, she largely ran the presidency in 1920.

Elected to the first of four terms in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down with polio. In private, he used a wheelchair, but in public, it was a different story. He was able to downplay his disability — it’s said with the media’s help — and was almost always photographed without his chair. Gravely ill, Roosevelt died less than six months into his fourth term, even though his personal physician claimed that he was in excellent health.

In 1955, Dwight Eisenhower suffered a massive heart attack while vacationing in Denver, Colorado. Facing a run for re-election, he and his staff tried to minimize the political impact.

“We usually received evasive answers,” Thomas said. “James Haggerty, the press secretary and a former reporter, insisted on relaying the un-garbled truth about Ike’s illness. Even then, reporters were given confusing details: some calling it a heart attack, others a stroke.”

Eisenhower announced that he would seek another term when he was cleared by his doctors five months later.

Even presidents who were in good physical health have had medical emergencies while in office. On September 15, 1979, President Carter collapsed while running a 10k race near Camp David, Maryland. After a few tense minutes, he was diagnosed with heatstroke.

“By the time we’d heard about the incident … they’d ruled out heart attack; they’d ruled out something terrible,” Donaldson remembered. “He’d simply collapsed from a combination of exhaustion; he’d lost weight; he’d run himself ragged, if you will, in those months of his presidency.”

Dallek says the public is entitled to a full accounting of the medical condition of the commander in chief but often doesn’t get it. Kennedy had a number of illnesses kept from the public, as was Richard Nixon’s drinking, according to Dallek.

“The people around them want to shield them from the public knowledge that this is an individual who is not going to be able to function all that effectively,” Dallek said. “They think they’re doing it to serve the national well-being, because the public doesn’t want to be so alarmed that a president is immobilized and cannot face a possible foreign or domestic crisis that might emerge.”

The balance between personal privacy and the public’s right to know has shifted some over the years. More recent administrations have been a little more accommodating, a little more open about the health of U.S. presidents. In the search for answers, verbal sparring between the press and White House spokesmen is common. Donaldson said reporters often have to dig deep.

“White House doctors were forthcoming to the extent, I think, that they didn’t lie about the information,” Donaldson said. “But there’s a difference between lying about something and telling it all, expanding on it and giving us the detail … and I think in that sense, they weren’t that forthcoming.”

Former CNN White House correspondent Charles Bierbauer remembers covering George H.W. Bush when the president fell ill at a state dinner in Japan on January 8, 1992. He says he watched in frustration as it all unfolded on a video monitor in the Banquet Hall.

“We couldn’t hear what was going on; we could only see pictures. Which only adds to the consternation of what’s happening and how do we find out,” Bierbauer said. “We tried to get in touch with the White House press office. … I or the producer would get on the phone and say, ‘We need to talk to Marlon [Fitzwater],’ and they would say, ‘Marlon can’t talk right now.’ “

But some in the working press feel that we’re seeing a new era and the lines of communication are getting better.

In 2002, when President George W. Bush choked on a pretzel and passed out while watching a Miami Dolphins football game in the White House residence, then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer alerted the press immediately.

“If the president has a little skin tag removed, does the country need to know? Now, I can make a case for privacy there,” Fleischer said.

“President passes out, country needs to know. So there is still a zone of medical privacy that presidents and candidates should be entitled, to but I think it’s a small and it’s a narrow zone. Anything that could affect a performance in office, I think the public has a right to know.”

Of course, when the president is sporting a bruise on his face that’s nearly the size of a quarter, there’s really no way to keep that under wraps or hidden from the White House Press Corps.

As I work on the Wright Brothers’ musical, I have a DVD running, FDR: A Presidency Revealed. Super documentary with tons of personalities sharing Roosevelt history.

Of particular interest to me are two of Franklin & Eleanor’s grandchildren.

Curtis Roosevelt, born 1930, was the son of Anna Roosevelt, daughter of Franklin and Eleanor. Curtis, known as “Buzzie,” and his sister, Eleanor “Sitsie” were practically raised in the White House.

Curts Roosevelt, center.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, born 1948, is the daughter of James Roosevelt, second child and eldest son of Franklin and Eleanor.

 

These two grandchildren are tremendous historians on their grandparents, and bare a stricking resemblance to Franklin and Eleanor. Curtiss looks identical to his grandfather, and Anna looks identical to her grandmother for whom she was named (Eleanor’s first name was Anna, named for her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt). Eleanor’s uncle was President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

 

My favorite author, and presidential personality passed away today.

I am sad….

 CHICAGO (Reuters) – Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of former president and famously proud father Harry Truman who became a author of popular murder mysteries, died on Tuesday at age 83, the Truman Library said.

Daniel, a long-time New York resident, died in a care facility in Chicago from complications from an infection contracted recently, said library director Michael Devine.

After living for decades in the same New York apartment, she moved to Chicago to be closer to the eldest of her four sons, Clifton, Devine said in a telephone interview from the Independence, Missouri, library.

Margaret Truman did not let being the president’s daughter keep her from pursuing first a singing career and then one as a mystery writer that took off after her father’s death in 1972.

It was her singing and his fatherly protection that ignited President Truman‘s well-known temper, leading him to write one of the most famous presidential letters in history.

After Washington Post music critic Paul Hume panned one of her vocal recitals — “Miss Truman cannot sing very well” — Truman responded from the White House that the review was “poppycock” and the critic was a “frustrated old man” who was “off the beam.”

“Some day I hope to meet you,” the president wrote Hume, ignoring the fact the critic had called his daughter “extremely attractive.” “When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Margaret Truman continued her musical career for several more years, and became a radio and television host.

Later she turned to writing books. First they were books about her family and life in the White House but beginning in 1980 she established her own genre, Washington-based mystery novels.

The titles of these 19 novels, many still in print, all included a famous landmark in the U.S. capital such as “Murder in the White House,” “Murder in the Supreme Court” and later, when a political scandal had made it one of the most well-known buildings in the country, “Murder at the Watergate.” “Murder on K Street” was published last year.

“The reviewers praised her descriptions of the Washington social scene, and the places she described were dead-on,” Devine said. “She bumped somebody off in just about every public building in Washington.”

MOVE TO WASHINGTON

Margaret Truman was born February 17, 1924, in Independence, Missouri, and moved to Washington a decade later when her father was elected to the Senate.

By the time she graduated from George Washington University in 1946, her father had become president and he delivered the commencement address and handed her diploma.

She took her first voice lesson when she was 16 and made her concert debut singing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on a nationwide radio hookup in 1947.

Her singing career continued for the next decade with numerous concerts, including one at Carnegie Hall in New York, and appearances on television shows like Ed Sullivan‘s “Toast of the Town” program.

In 1955, she substituted for Edward R. Murrow on his popular “Person to Person” show and interviewed her parents after they had moved out of the White House. She became a radio program host, interviewing prominent writers on a feature called “Authors in the News.”

In 1956, she married Clifton Daniel, who in the 1960s would become managing editor of The New York Times. He died in 2000, the same year their son William was killed in a New York traffic accident — dealing her a double blow, Devine said.

She was an avid supporter of presidential libraries, including her father’s, in partnership with other children of former presidents.

She is survived by three sons and five grandchildren.

e1.jpgDo what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.

You must do the things you think you cannot do.

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