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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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Video clips of presidential funerals from William McKinley to Ronald Reagan, in order of their presidency.

 

Growing up in the late 1960’s, I was surrounded with many familiar words, or terms…

DMZ (demilitarized zone)

KIA

MIA

Viet Cong

Cambodia

POW

Tet Offensive

Ho Chi Minh Trail

On the evening news there were television images of helicopters and jungles.  I was glued to these images – not by a macabre force – but by the hope of seeing my uncle, Garry Jolliff, in those jungles or riding around in one of those nifty helicopters.  I can remember the thrill of having Uncle Garry’s letters read to me allowed by my parents.  I had a little rubber American GI doll that I called, ‘Uncle Garry.’  I watched the Bob Hope Specials, and sat close to the television set so I could search the crowds for Uncle Garry.

I was sure he would be there to see Bob Hope.

One night during one of the Bob Hope shows, I remember turning to Mother, who was standing behind the ironing board while the sweet smell of Spray Starch filled the air.

“Will I have to go to war?”

Since I was a very small boy, I am sure she was relieved to answer, “I hope not.”  However, there was also an expression on her face that was seared into my mind, and still vivid forty-odd years later.  I know that expression well.  My nineteen year old son is finishing up basic training, and the possibility of going to battle for an uncertain purpose looms in the near future.

Now, it is my turn to say, “I hope not.”

This evening, my sixteen year old son and I sat in my sitting room to watch GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM.  I knew most of the Vietnamese War jargon would be over his head, but I was certain he would enjoy Robin Williams’ portrayal of Adrian Cronauer.  And he did.  He asked how old I was when the movie came out…  twenty-three years old.  Did I like the movie when it came out?  Most certainly!  Robin Williams was a box office draw, and I returned to watch the movie several times while it was still in theaters.

Tonight, the movie was still hilarious, but I truly saw the movie for the first time.  It cried out to me like the musical, MISS SAIGON: ‘those living reminders of all the good we failed to do.’

Sunday, the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I did not post anything on Facebook in regard to the modern day of infamy.  The same rhetoric was appearing over, and over on status updates, and nothing really spoke to me.  I am not saying I was not moved by the heart-breaking scenes that were linked across many of the television channels, I simply chose to remain silent.

Always remember… 

Never forget…

Tonight, when I finished watching the movie I thought back to my early youth when Vietnam was nothing but a very long, drawn-out, agonizing form of 9/11.  The dark foreboding of families fearing “the news” might be delivered seemed to linger, and in our own home, as well.  The nightly news tallied the number of soldiers killed that day.  Images of bombings, fires, tanks, helicopters, wounded soldiers blazed from the television set each night.  News of distant family and friends losing a loved-one in combat stuck in the air like the repetitive-scratchy sound of a record player that has run its course in playing a record.  There were scenes of destruction, scenes of a young spy being executed, scenes of Buddhist monks being engulfed in suicidal flames, scenes of… always, more scenes.  The day of 9/11 I saw the scenes live – much like scenes broadcast during Vietnam.  The days following 9/11, the scenes were repeated with numbness.

During 9/11, and especially this Sunday I heard about one hero after another.  As a young child, I do not recall hearing about heroes of Vietnam.  I remember Uncle Garry’s stories on the battlefield, and the story of the fellow soldier beside him on the helicopter who placed his own St. Christopher’s medal around my seriously wounded uncle’s neck – my uncle survived, but the soldier did not – but I cannot recall ever hearing anyone from that era referred to as a hero.

As I sit here in my study, typing out my thoughts of the movie, a National Geographic documentary on Henry Kissinger is rolling.  That voice, coupled with so many photos and video clips of the Vietnam era seems to be a sign that I will be conducting more soul-searching, more research.  For what purpose, I do not know.  Too many God-winks all in one evening.

The scars of WWII and the Korean War have all but vanished.  The scalding scars of Vietnam are healing, but will probably not be entirely extinguished in my life-time.  Two other wars have occurred since Vietnam.  But these wars talk openly about heroes.  It seems as though the Vietnam war had its own ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy but obviously nothing to do with Gays in the military.

I knew one particular hero who served in the Vietnam War.  He died nine years ago, physically crippled by wounds received in Vietnam, but a spirit that rose far beyond the jungles in which he fought.  When completely crippled veterans were only receiving 10% disability funding, Uncle Garry embarked on a mission far greater, far nobler than the mission he was coerced to serve as a twenty-one year old young man.  The veterans – those oft ignored heroes of ‘that’ war – now have full disability coverage.  However, I am confident they still live with those scars.  May God bless them, and aide them in their continued healing.

“And I think to my self, ‘what a wonderful world.'”

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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There is some tennis event on NBC. The skies above the Miami Valley have resembled a tennis match all morning… for a few minutes the sun shines, and shortly, the dark clouds hover… back and forth.

The storms for the past two nights have woke me, and the pounding rains lulled me back to sleep each time. Yesterday afternoon, and evening, the heat and humidity were unbearable. This afternoon, a cool breeze keeps the curtains in my bedroom dancing back and forth from the screen windows while the shadows of trees moves across the kitchen cabinets and floor. The wind chimes on the deck create a continues song.

I know my week was not nearly as busy as so many others, but for me, it was extremely busy. The past few days of relaxation, after nearly nine straight days of continuous activity, were most welcome.

Friday, after teaching, I ran a few errands with Jose, and then we settled on a meal from Steak N Shake. Neither of us were interested in doing anything, so we each settled on our own movies. I had received It’s Complicated from Netflix, but it just did not interest me; so, I settled on several on-line movies:

  • The George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection
  • HH Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer
  • The Bible According To Hollywood

Saturday morning alternated between rain and sunshine, so I settled at my laptop in my bedroom with several books, and my Netflix movies running:

  • Cold Case Files: Killer In The Country
  • The Jewish People: A Story of Survival

A little after Noon, I completed some household tasks, and started several loads of laundry. Rain storms hit pretty hard for a while, so I returned to my room and watched portions of several movies, occasionally chatting with Jose as he passed back and forth from the kitchen to the basement.

I drove Jose to work since the storms were striking intermittently, and ran errands to Dollar General and Kroger. Back at home I worked at my desk a little, keeping an eye on the sky and the clock should Jose need me to pick him up.

I decided to research a little more on Cornelius Vanderbilt, a minor character in the Wright Brother’s musical.

Jose arrived home from One Lincoln Park, and offered me a tray of beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, and stewed tomatoes. As always, the chef created a triumph!

Jose descended to the basement to XBox360 world, and I turned on more Netflix as Flyer and Logan snuggled next to me. I know my selections would boar most, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these historical figures.

The story of the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan, was extremely interesting, as was the story of hotel giant, Conrad Hilton.  The Kellogg brothers, and Conrad Hilton, were all incredible entrepreneurs, well ahead of their times.

Conrad Hilton was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor – who, to my surprise, is still living! Her sister, Ava had died, but I figured this other Gabor sister was also deceased. If you get a chance to Google Ms. Gabor’s more recent photos, please do. I will post them. Despite being in her 90’s, she still grabs some of the glamour… barely. I had not made the connection of this gentlemen to Paris Hilton!

I received an email from a student’s parent that she was watching Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. I knew of the play, but had never seen the movie. She grew up near Katharine Hepburn in Connecticut, and watches all Ms. Hepburn’s movies. I decided to research it, and then pull up the movie on Netflix.

The movie, which includes Ms. Hepburn, also stars Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards (who starred in the original stage play), and a very young Dean Stockwell who is more popularly known from his roles in Quantum Leap and Battlestar Gallactica. I read a good deal about the 1962 movie’s director, Sidney Lumet (1924- ), and his style of directing. What a fascinating director.

I have a feeling I am being “encouraged” to study this director. I was introduced to Mr. Lumet’s work last night. This morning I was watching a morning news program Anderson Cooper, and Googled him. I had no idea he was the 3rd great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt – who I had researched Saturday evening – and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt – a wife of Sidney Lumet!

Coincidence?

I was so moved by this movie that I could not turn it off to go to sleep. At 2:45am, I finally decided that I must. I should have continued watching it as it was less than an hour that the newly arrived storms were waking me.

I had every full intention of being more productive today but it clearly was not meant to be.

Last night, Jose and I attended a “Poor White Trash Birthday Party” for our friend, Christi Salchak. It was a riot. The guests were invited to dress in their finest white trash attire. I was more reluctant than my son who wore his tight “Little Hottie” shirt he bought from Kings Island, a painted on mustache, hiking boots, and a ball cap… he looked the part. The Salchak kids were appropriately dressed for this, as was their mother who appeared in the front yard to greet us wearing a halter top, ratty shorts, a pink bathrobe, leopard print slippers, and curlers in her hair.

jose carrie

The hosts provided hot dogs and boxes of moon pies, and the guests were to bring something. We brought a large bowl filled with individual pudding cups, cheap fruit pies, and plastic spoons sticking up amongst the pudding and pie arrangement. To top it off, which had everyone howling, we plopped down a bucket of Lee’s chicken on the table. We roasted our own hot dogs, and enjoyed a pleasant fair and terrific conversation.

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Later we played “Butt Charades” and “Toss The Underwear Over The Bar” – and the door prizes were items from a laundry basket of garage sale items. While the teenagers played hide and seek on the vast, wooded, stream-lined property, the adults, and one of my former students (now in college), sat and talked around the campfire.

By 11:30pm, Jose and I were pulling into the Haasienda.

This morning I was wide awake after another fitful night’s sleep. I just could not get comfortable, and the light headache I had endured all of Saturday was much more apparent. I read a little between dozing, and finally roused at 8:00am to feed the animals, eat breakfast, check sugar, take morning meds, and prep for the walk.

While on the walk I smoked my pipe, blew a kiss to the neighbor lady who drove by, and laughed at Flyer trying to catch squirrels. Upon the return home I:

  • checked items on the computer
  • endured some Obama bashing on Face Book from some piece of work from my hometown (not the Whack Job who hounded and stalked me all last fall during the election)
  • watched some coverage of Senator Kennedy’s funeral
  • blew the leaves in the front yard
  • waved to the neighbor mowing his yard
  • took out some weeds
  • putzed around the backyard
  • planned to go to the deck to work – but too chilly
  • cleaned my study
  • re-covered the material on my piano bench
  • used the extra material, along with some Magic Stitch, to make a cover for the top of my piano
  • rehung my windchimes – which have failed to chime this summer
  • chatted with Jose – and laughed

Now, Jose is off to work. I shall call Mother for our weekly recap, relax, and then pick up Jose from work for the last part of youth group (SIGNS). I look over my laundry list of today’s activities and I still feel as though little was accomplished…

 

Last night, I sat propped up in bed like I was the King of England, typing away at my laptop resting on the hospital table (a great purchase so that I can work from bed in the mornings and late evenings), watching the special “celebration” for Senator Ted Kennedy. What a wonderful tribute to the Liberal Lion, as he has been dubbed. Brian Stokes Mitchell sang a beautifully arranged version of “The Impossible Dream” from MAN OF LAMANCHA.

The most touching moment, for me, was the tribute paid to “Uncle Ted” by his niece, Caroline Kennedy. Her voice cracked a few times, heightening the emotion following the tremendous tributes from Senator Kennedy’s political friends and foes. Caroline recounted the “history trips” on which Uncle Ted took the massive numbers of nieces and nephews to various historical sites around the country. This grabbed me immediately, wishing I had been a nephew on those excursions, and reminding myself that I am an uncle who enjoys sharing history with his nephews. Caroline stated the trip from Hyannis Port to the Kennedy Library in Boston, passing familiar historical sites, was “my last history trip with Uncle Ted.”

And then, to close the celebration, a rousing Irish number, one of my favorites, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” It was joyful, yet wistful. It seemed to me, the most touching tribute to Senator Kennedy, and the entire Kennedy family.

This morning, I am writing, and watching the preparations for Senator Kennedy’s funeral in Boston. The family is just leaving the Kennedy Library, and the mourners are assembling at the church. It is strange to think that for this service, Senator Kennedy’s voice will not be heard. Since 1968, his voice has become familiar leading family and friends through services for various family members… Bobby, Rose, Jackie, John, and various family members.

The television coverage is showing the casket leaving the library, a fitting exit in a gentle rain. There are also the former presidents and vice-presidents, and their wives gathering in the cathedral, minus George & Barbara Bush. I am sure this will be a fitting, grand farewell to the last of the three Kennedy brothers who served our country.

Irish Eyes

There’s a tear in your eye, And I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such pow’r in your smile, Sure a stone you’d beguile,
So there’s never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter’s Like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be;
You should laugh all the while And all other times smile,
And now, smile a smile for me.

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.

For your smile is a part Of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet’s sweet song, Crooning all the day long,
Comes your laughter and light.
For the springtime of life Is the sweetest of all
There is ne’er a real care or regret;
And while springtime is ours Throughout all of youth’s hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.

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