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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….

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Wednesday morning I drove to Columbus to attend the funeral mass of a friend’s father. I met Katie Pfister-Musick in the late 1980’s and absolutely fell in love with this incredible actress. Despite the various moves between the two of us, and me losing my address book, I managed to reconnect with Katie, and her husband, Mike, via Internet research. I found them living in the Kansas City, Kansas area, and have enjoyed communicating with them the past several years – and that includes a hiatus where my email addresses were wiped out.

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Last summer, I received a note that Katie’s mother had suddenly passed away. Katie had been sharing with me that her father was seriously ill with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Her mother’s death was quite a surprise.

I attended her mother’s funeral and was overjoyed to see Katie and Mike, again. She is still just as beautiful as she was when she was a girl (and you know what, Lincoln said that about his wife when they were living in the White House! “My wife is just as lovely as she was when she was young. I fell in love with her then, and what is more, I have never fallen out.”)

Christmas night, I received message from Mike that Katie’s father had left in time to spend Christmas with his wife. 

Wednesday morning, December 31st., the last day of 2008, I drove to Columbus to share in the fond farewell with Katie and her family. I arrived at St. Christopher’s and was struck by the beauty and warmth of the church, decorated for the Christmas season. The candles, the nativity, the poinsettias and greenery was absolutely beautiful. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, I stopped… my chest began swelling with excitement.

I could hear Katie singing!

I walked back into the sanctuary, and immediately teared up… Katie was singing a responsive psalmody.  Her voice is still as beautiful as I remember it from when I heard her in the role of Anna Leonowens in THE KING & I.

I found a seat, and just absorbed the beauty, and the passion of each note she offered up – a musician offering up glorious beauty, a daughter bidding farewell to her father in song.

The service was beautiful. The violinist provided a beautiful prelude with “Amazing Grace,” and it set the mood – touching, but with great rejoicing for a life lived fully by this particular Irishman. The description of Don’s life, by both the priest and family, made me proud of my Clary & Daugherty clans! What truly touched me was that his children each offered something, and I can think of no greater tribute than to hear words and music from one’s own children at their funeral.

The closing hymn that accompanied the pall covered casket down the aisle was “Silent Night.” When I read prepped my hymnal before the service (that’s my German-Irish grandfather in me!), I first thought the final hymn to be too mild to send off this larger than life Irishman that I had never actually met. However, by the time the gentle strains of the introduction began, I knew just how fitting this tune was. It seemed to pull together not only the love for Don from his  family and friends, but it reminded me how much I missed, and still loved so many of my own family members who are no longer with us – especially my grandparents.

As the casket was wheeled past me, an elderly gentleman across the aisle saluted, the tears streaming down his face. I don’t know the relationship this gentleman had to Don, but for me, it was one of the most touching moments from the service. A tribute. A farewell. A salute. Only a soldier and a former drum-major can know the sanctity of a salute.

As the second verse of “Silent Night” began, the church bells began pealing. And throughout the song, they continued.

Bells have always held a special place for me. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has one of the most tender scenes when the bell on the tree rings at the end – an angel received its wings. Also, my grandmother collected bells, and I now possess all the bells I gave her, some from Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Germany, Austria, and of course, New York City. And the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” also one of my favorite carols, has always been a favorite.

And here, on the last day of 2008, while singing “Silent Night,” the world resonated with the ringing of bells.

I bid farewell to Katie and Mike, and walked outside into the brisk December morning. The bells were much louder outside. One elderly lady covered her ears and looked up towards the sound of the bells. I stood for a moment, watching my breath swirl away from me, and hearing the bells.

Don had probably just received his wings…

My grandmother told me that she was still with me…

And the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded me that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

I got into my car. I could still hear the muffled bells. I rolled down the window and listened, thinking they would not ring much longer. As I drove away, I could still hear the bells. I turned on to Grandview Avenue, moving away from the church. Finally, around 3rd Street, the bells began to fade – but only in sound.

Those bells were not pealing “farewell.”

The ringing of the bells were an announcement, and reminder of God’s love.

The ringing of the bells were a fanfare of the blessings to come for 2009.

The ringing of the bells were a reminder that it is, indeed, a most wonderful life!

I had hoped to be home with Mother tonight in Elwood, but the ice storm as prevented us from heading out until tomorrow morning. I called Mother around 3:00pm, and we both agreed we should not chance it.

Jose and I ran to the mall and the main roads were fine… the side-roads were nasty. There is a side street near us, Rockhill Avenue, and I turned on to it and did not press the speedometer much, keeping it between 0-5 mph. I was still sliding into the curb, and angling in the middle of the road. 

Right now, it is sleeting and raining.

I believe the weather kept many inside this evening as the roads around the mall were not lined with traffic, and the stores we visited we not busy. Of course, the sad state of the economy may also be a culprit.

Today, some whack-job who belongs to the same on-line group pestered me with a number of private comments. Seems she disagrees with President-elect Obama, and takes it out on me. I have shared her messages with others, including Mother, and we have gotten great laughs from them. While they are hilarious in their content, and their self-righteous attitude, they are also sad as demonstrate the uglier side of Christianity.

My nephews, Parker and Fred, will be receiving a TON of books. Some books are for when they are older – starting their collection of The Hardy Boys series, and some classics like Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, and others. I also found two heirlooms to give to my godson, Fred. The one book belonged to an uncle, Harry Jones, and was a gift from his aunt around 1907 – one hundred years before Fred’s birth. Harry would have been Fred’s third great-uncle. Another book was a gift to another uncle, Ronald Monroe Clary, brother of my grandmother. The book was a gift from Ronald’s great-grandmother, Grandma Greenlee (Prudence Ball Greenlee) who died in 1929. Since Ronald was born in 1921, it centers around the time of 1921-1929 when the book would have been a gift. Grandma Greenlee would have been Fred’s 4th great-grandmother.

I got Jose several Fairmont Firebird shirts, as well as a navy blue hoodie. I am also giving him a certificate for martial arts lessons at the rec center.

I need to pack, but have no energy.

 (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.

Today is the 190th birthday of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln.

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As a girlhood companion remembered her, Mary Todd was vivacious and impulsive, with an interesting personality–but “she now and then could not restrain a witty, sarcastic speech that cut deeper than she intended….” A young lawyer summed her up in 1840: “the very creature of excitement.” All of these attributes marked her life, bringing her both happiness and tragedy.

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Daughter of Eliza Parker and Robert Smith Todd, pioneer settlers of Kentucky, Mary lost her mother before the age of seven. Her father remarried; and Mary remembered her childhood as “desolate” although she belonged to the aristocracy of Lexington, with high-spirited social life and a sound private education.

Just 5 feet 2 inches at maturity, Mary had clear blue eyes, long lashes, light-brown hair with glints of bronze, and a lovely complexion. She danced gracefully, she loved finery, and her crisp intelligence polished the wiles of a Southern coquette.

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Nearly 21, she went to Springfield, Illinois, to live with her sister Mrs. Ninian Edwards. Here she met Abraham Lincoln–in his own words, “a poor nobody then.” Three years later, after a stormy courtship and broken engagement, they were married. Though opposites in background and temperament, they were united by an enduring love–by Mary’s confidence in her husband’s ability and his gentle consideration of her excitable ways.

Their years in Springfield brought hard work, a family of boys, and reduced circumstances to the pleasure-loving girl who had never felt responsibility before. Lincoln’s single term in Congress, for 1847-1849, gave Mary and the boys a winter in Washington, but scant opportunity for social life. Finally her unwavering faith in her husband won ample justification with his election as President in 1860.

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Though her position fulfilled her high social ambitions, Mrs. Lincoln’s years in the White House mingled misery with triumph. An orgy of spending stirred resentful comment. While the Civil War dragged on, Southerners scorned her as a traitor to her birth, and citizens loyal to the Union suspected her of treason. When she entertained, critics accused her of unpatriotic extravagance. When, utterly distraught, she curtailed her entertaining after her son Willie’s death in 1862, they accused her of shirking her social duties.

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Yet Lincoln, watching her put her guests at ease during a White House reception, could say happily: “My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I…fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out.”

Her husband’s assassination in 1865 shattered Mary Todd Lincoln. The next 17 years held nothing but sorrow. With her son “Tad” she traveled abroad in search of health, tortured by distorted ideas of her financial situation. After Tad died in 1871, she slipped into a world of illusion where poverty and murder pursued her.

A misunderstood and tragic figure, she passed away in 1882 at her sister’s home in Springfield–the same house from which she had walked as the bride of Abraham Lincoln, 40 years before.

DALLAS – A Texas museum hopes a document found in its archives turns out to be an authentic government copy of Abraham Lincoln‘s eloquent letter consoling a mother thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War.

The famed Bixby Letter, which the Dallas Historical Society is getting appraised as it prays for a potential windfall, has a fascinating history.

The original has never been found. Historians debate whether Lincoln wrote it. Its recipient, Lydia Bixby, was no fan of the president. And not all her sons died in the war.

The letter, written with “the best of intentions” 144 years ago next week, is “considered one of the finest pieces of American presidential prose,” said Alan Olson, curator for the Dallas group. “It’s still a great piece of writing, regardless of the truth in the back story.”

Historians say Lincoln wrote the letter at the request of a Massachusetts official, who passed along news of a Boston woman grieving the loss of her five sons. The letter is addressed to “Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.” and begins with an acknowledgment that nothing written could possibly make a grief-stricken mother feel better about such a horrific loss.

“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming,” Lincoln wrote.

After thanking Bixby on behalf of a grateful nation, Lincoln wrote that he would pray that God relieve her anguish and leave her with only the “cherished memory of the loved” along with “the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

The letter, as was the president’s custom in his personal correspondence, is signed “A Lincoln.”

“It is so beautifully written,” said James Cornelius, curator of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. “It is an extraordinarily sensitive expression of condolence.”

There was renewed interest in the letter after it was read in the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan.” It also sparked a new round of debate centering on Lincoln’s authorship and the fate of Bixby’s sons.

Evidence indicates two of Bixby’s sons died, a third was a deserter and a fourth ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp, Cornelius said. A fifth is believed to have received a discharge, but his fate is unknown.

Historians have also argued that John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, wrote the letter. Hay was an accomplished writer who wrote a biography of Lincoln and later became ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“Lincoln probably wrote it,” Cornelius said. “Hay did on some occasions write letters in Lincoln’s name and sign them — or have Lincoln sign them — but probably not something like this that purports to be so personal and individual and heartfelt.”

The letter received widespread attention days after it was written. Bixby either sent it to the Boston Evening Transcript or a postal worker intercepted it and tipped off the newspaper, which reprinted the letter, Cornelius said.

The touching note came about two months after Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had broken through Atlanta on his march to the coast and about two weeks after Lincoln won re-election. Union spirits were high, Cornelius said.

“The letter was so popular that it was published in newspapers and people copied and sent it to relatives,” Olson said. “That letter and the words in it affected the nation. It tugged at people’s hearts at the time of a really bloody period in America.”

Olson hopes he has an official government copy of the Bixby Letter and not something one relative sent to another. In an era before photocopiers or carbon paper, secretaries hand-copied documents to be retained for their files, he said.

The paper and ink appear authentic to the Civil War era, he said. The historical society has asked an expert at Christie’s auction house in New York for an opinion.

Stacy McDermott, an assistant editor at The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, estimated that an official government copy of the Bixby Letter would fetch millions of dollars.

But Cornelius doubts the letter is authentic. He said the Lincoln White House would have been unlikely to make a copy of such a personal letter and points out that a pair of rival New York companies sold copies of the letter as keepsakes beginning in the 1890s.

Olson said he stumbled across the letter over the summer in the historical society archives, which contain about 3 million items. He said he does not know how or why the letter ended up in the archives.

The discovery, Olson said, will provide a teachable moment even if it doesn’t prove to be a bankable one.

“If it’s not worth a lot of money — too bad,” Olson said. “It’s still a fascinating story and it’s still a great display piece.”

This morning, I read this post on Elwood’s internet site. This particular post read:
 
In response to Obama’s complaint that FOX News doesn’t show enough Black and Hispanic people on their network, FOX Network has announced that they will now air ‘America ‘s Most Wanted’ TWICE a week.
What hit me, perhaps for the first time, is that my son will probably have to deal with certain profilings once he leaves the comfort of Kettering where the name Jolliffe-Haas is unknown.
 
I wrote the individual who posted the first comment:
 
Hello,
I was reading segments of Willkie’s Pride and ran across a an item you had posted regarding FOX News.
 
I grew up in Elwood, Indiana, and like so many when I ventured beyond Elwood’s borders, was always trying to shed the stereotypical beliefs about Elwood’s racism. Throughout college, Black students I’d meet would always act hesitant at first, and eventually ask me about my views, mostly in regard to the Ku Klux Klan.
 
In 2004, I adopted a 12 year old Hispanic boy, Jose. Today, at nearly 17 years, my handsome young son is:
  • a good student,
  • a member of the percussion ensemble,
  • a member of this past season’s marching band – in which he had a featured percussion moment/solo,
  • sings in the high school’s concert choir,
  • attends church,
  • is a member of a fantastic youth group,
  • and works in the dining service of a very posh retirement community where he has become respected and loved by a number of the retirees – several of which are retired band directors and my friends.

Jose is adored by his teachers, youth leaders, employers and many other adults who praise his wonderful personality, good manners and courtesy, his kind and thoughtful nature, and his tremendous sense of humor.

Normally, I am not a sensitive individual, nor am I without humor.

However, this morning’s post regarding Hispanic’s and African Americans seemed to smack at the very principles many of us from Elwood have tried to uphold throughout the years regarding Elwood’s racist mentality. I, for one, do not always yield to the current phrase of “political correctness” as it has – in my opinion – gone a bit too far at times. But this morning, I realized I was no longer a former citizen of Elwood fighting stereotypes. This morning I discovered I am the proud father of a young Hispanic son who will probably always battle racial profiling.

This morning I discovered just how sensitive I was to a post that indicated Hispanics were common fodder for “America’s Most Wanted.” I am not ignorant to the various ethnicities and the problems that plague so many. I am also not ignorant of the fact that in Elwood, most of the heinous crimes (murder, rape, child molest) are conducted by mostly Caucasian individuals.

Due to the fact that my son shares the same ethnicity indicated in your post, I have come to understand the great uphill battle that lies before me as a parent.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against drugs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against tobacco use.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against alcohol.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against sex.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against gangs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is with people – even from my own home town – and elsewhere throughout our nation – that do not see the harm in racial profiling. Because my son is Hispanic, he is relegated to third, or fourth, or fifth class status as an American citizen.

Your post this morning opened my eyes a great deal to the work in education that must be accomplished, both for my son, and for individuals who cannot comprehend sensitivity for other nationalities, or ethnicities. My son, no longer in a neglectful birth-family home, and no longer a responsibility of the child welfare system, has a marvelous life that most 16 year old boys would love to have. As his parent, I will see to it that he continues to grow and mature, understanding how to rise above, and beyond, the tremendous wall of unkind, racist views that will probably confront him throughout his adult life simply because he was born of a race that is not Caucasian.

Since I apparently am not equipped to educate my son fully in these areas, I forwarded today’s post Re: FOX News to the NAACP and several Hispanic organizations, asking advice on how I, as a parent of a young Hispanic boy, can better educate my son on the racial profiling that will  certainly haunt him throughout his life.

Until this morning, I simply thought I was the proud father of a great young man. Tonight, I realize I am the proud father of a son who will be categorized a failure, even a criminal in the minds of many — simply because he had the great misfortune to be born of a race so different from mine, and that of a community in which I grew up.

Sincerely…

 
This makes me want to push Jose even harder at being an even stronger student and invidual.
 
 

 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans — in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

“I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.”

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l’Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. “His face was very tired but calm as we wrote,” Allinson recalled. “He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.”

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

“The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.”

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

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.

 

This past week’s election seems to have ignited a multitude of bright shining moments – moments that have touched others in a deep, hopeful manner.

This particular story was on Indianapolis’ Channel 8…

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – When President Elect Barack Obama delivered his victory speech Tuesday night thousands of people were on hand to hear his message. But a Hoosier was also on stage to deliver his message to the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I keep reliving it over and over again,” Lisa Warren said.

On Tuesday night November 4th in Grant Park in Chicago thousands of people watched as President Elect Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech.

“And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices,” Obama said.

Also there to hear President Elect Obama’s speech was Lisa Warren of Indianapolis. Warren was called on by the Obama campaign to interpret his speech for the deaf.

“There’s nothing else that I could ever do in life that’s going to compare to that moment,” Warren said.

Warren signed every word and emotion, “You could see it on my face, you could see it with my body language the emotion that was coming out of him.”

Warren is a certified interpreter with years of experience.

“If you would have asked me would I have ever interpret for the president or let alone be in a moment in time where history was made,” Warren said.

Even before Warren could talk she spoke with her hands, “American Sign Language is my first language because both my parents are deaf. So I’ve been signing since probably about 10 months old.”

Warren is no stranger to the Obama campagin. She signed for Vice President Elect Joe Biden. Warren even signed at an event with future first lady Michelle Obama in Fishers.

When President Elect Obama campaigned at the Indiana State Fairgrounds she was there at his side.

“He is signing I love you to a group of ten deaf folks that were there,” Warren said.

Warren said she was surprised when the Obama campaign called her up for his Chicago Rally. She is hoping they will consider her for his Inauguration on January 20.

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!

 

Tonight, an incredible dawn has begun to emerge. Though there will surely be some storms, we now have a captain that will steer the ship safely into the harbour. We have redefined our national spirit, and rededicated our vision to a better tomorrow.

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Look at the collection of presidential portraits. Yes, the first African American’s photograph will soon be added… something historic.

But it matters not.

What does matter is that this ‘experiment in democracy’ is still strong. President-elect Obama now belongs to this great fraternity that has led this experiment.

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It is 8:30am, and I will leave in a few minutes to cast my vote for the 2008 election.

Right now, I am watching Barack Obama casting his vote. The first African American presidential candidate voting for himself to become the next president. His young daughters are at his side – what a day for them.

Sadly, his grandmother had already cast her vote, but passed away yesterday.

What a mixed day of emotions for this presidential hopeful…

And sadly, Tim Russert’s voice is silent today. His son has been doing a remarkable job, and hopefully, my son will know the name Russert in his own life.

Tonight… our country will be moving in a new, different direction depending on the man who accepts the nation’s nod.

In about 36 hours we may know who our next president shall be. I pray it does not become a fiasco of 2000.

Whomever accepts the country’s charge, I trust like President John Adams wrote his wife upon his first night in the White House (November 2, 1800):

“I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

Today, the lyrics from the wonderful musical, LES MISERABLES seems to refresh me:

“One day more! At the barricades of freedom, tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store. One more dawn, one day more!”

I thought this was incredibly interesting – the break-down of what to expect Tuesday night.

7 P.M. ET
Polls close in the first six states. We’re pretty sure that South Carolina and Kentucky will go to McCain and Vermont to Obama, but three of the states bear close watching. Obama has been leading in Virginia and he’s even in Indiana — both states have gone Republican since 1964. If McCain wins both, he’s still in the game. If either of them goes for Obama, his campaign is on life support.

7:30 P.M. ET
There’s more potential drama here. Ohio was always destined to be a key battleground just as it was in 2004. This is a state McCain must win. North Carolina has seen a massive infusion of Obama’s money and volunteers, so a McCain victory is a hint of real late movement toward the Republican.

8 P.M. ET
A floodtide of polls close at 8 — fifteen states and the District of Columbia. We know where most of those states will go — at least we think we do. But there are three to keep an eye on:

Florida is another one of those contests McCain must win; it’s where Obama’s money advantage has been overwhelming. Missouri, a state that mirrors national results usually, became more Republican in 2000 and 2004. This year, it’s a dead heat.

And Pennsylvania — Democratic for the last five elections — is the ‘blue” state McCain has to win to make his road to the White House plausible. Keep this one in mind, if McCain cannot win Pennsylvania, he almost certainly cannot win the election.

9 P.M. ET
Fifteen more states close at 9 — we’ve assigned most of them, by the map, to where we think they’re going to wind up. If you’re looking for what may be the story of the night, though, go West. Obama has been leading in Colorado and New Mexico; both went for Bush last time. But remember, the real drama of this may be taking place to the East, where votes in the early closing states are still being counted. By 9 o’clock, we should know if we’ve got a clear-cut winner, or if we’ll be up into the morning.

10 P.M. ET
At 10, four states close. I’ll be watching Nevada, usually an easy win for Republicans. It’s another state where Obama has thrown a lot of money and manpower, and has worked the rural areas very hard. 

11 P.M. ET
Take this to the bank – I promise 11 p.m. will bring 77 electoral votes from California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii into Obama’s pocket. You need to remember this throughout the evening. Because if Obama has won Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado by 11 o’clock, he will be declared the winner of the presidency as soon as votes from California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii are tabulated for him.

Of course, there’s always a chance that this will come down to a handful of votes in a state or two, and we’ll have days or weeks of court challenges and recounts… Well, good luck. I will have fled to an out-island in the Bahamas, but I’ll be back in time for the inauguration.

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And… will I ever miss Tim Russert this Tuesday…

A look at the claims made by Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday:

 

 

Tax cuts

The claim: Obama said his tax plan offers three times the tax relief as McCain’s plan does for the middle class.

The facts: The non-partisan Tax Policy Center shows that is the case for the first year of Obama’s plan, but not over the long haul, and only for a narrow slice of the “middle class” — those making between $37,595 and $66,354. The group says Obama’s plan would save those families $1,042 in the first year, compared to McCain’s $319. In later years, the difference is not nearly as great. In 2012, the last year of the next president’s term, the difference is smaller: a $2,197 tax cut under Obama’s plan compared with $1,441 under McCain’s. And for people earning more but who still consider themselves middle class — those earning up to $112,000 — Obama’s plan would cut their tax bill by $1,264 in 2009, McCain’s plan by $994.

Bill Ayers

The claim: McCain criticized Obama’s association with former Chicago radical Bill Ayers, whom McCain called “a guy who in 2001 said he wished he would have bombed more.”

The facts: Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that engaged in domestic bombings to protest the Vietnam War. He was in hiding for years after three Weathermen died in 1970 when bombs they were making exploded. Federal charges against him for crossing state lines to incite riots and conspiracy were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.

In a New York Times story published by coincidence on Sept. 11, 2001, about his memoirs, Fugitive Days, he said, “I don’t regret setting bombs … I feel we didn’t do enough.”

These days, Ayers is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has drawn kind words from the city’s mayor.

Ayers and Obama have moved in some of the same circles. Ayers was a founder of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school-reform group. Obama chaired its board from 1995 to 1999. In 1995, Ayers hosted a brunch for Obama, who was running for the Illinois Senate. In 1997, they were on a juvenile justice panel sponsored by the University of Chicago. Ayers gave $200 to Obama’s 2001 state Senate campaign, and the two were on a 2002 panel on intellectualism that was co-sponsored by the Chicago Public Library.

Spending

The claim: Obama said he has proposed “a net spending cut,” adding “every dollar that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.”

The facts: The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Obama’s spending and savings policies would emerge in 2013 with $144 billion in net savings. However, that’s dependent on a phased withdrawal from Iraq over 16 months, leaving only 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2010. It also relies on several less-than-specific spending cuts and changes. And Obama’s overall economic policies still would lose money, because his tax cuts would cost $360 billion and his health care plan would cost $65 billion over that period, the group says.

Voter-registration fraud

The claim: McCain said the Obama campaign has contributed to an organization that is perpetrating “one of the greatest frauds” in American campaign history.

The facts: The organization — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN — says it has registered 1.3 million people this year. Obama’s campaign paid an ACORN affiliate, Citizens Services Inc., $832,000 this year for get-out-the-vote efforts in the Democratic primaries, according to the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine, which tracks campaign spending. Republicans have repeatedly accused the group of submitting fraudulent registrations; Obama said it had hired some people who “just filled out a bunch of names.” What’s not clear is whether any of the fraudulent registrations can lead to fraudulent votes.

Negative advertising

The claim: Obama said McCain’s television advertisements have been “100% negative.” McCain said that wasn’t true.

The facts: Obama’s claim apparently was based on an analysis released Oct. 8 by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin. The report said, “During the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 4, nearly 100% of the McCain campaign’s advertisements were negative. During the same period, 34% of the Obama campaign’s ads were negative.” But the report also said that overall 73% of McCain’s ads and 61% of Obama’s have been negative. The study used information obtained from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which analyzes data on the airing of every presidential ad in the top 186 TV markets in the country.

The McCain campaign last night released its own tally of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group data based on total ad spending, saying that the Obama campaign had spent $42 million on negative ads to McCain’s $27 million, and that Obama had run 81,638 negative ads to McCain’s 59,835.

Iraq

The claim: McCain said Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden had proposed dividing Iraq into three countries. He called it a “cockamamie idea.”

The facts: In 2006, Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed partitioning Iraq into three regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad. He said it would “maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group … room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.” He did not propose that it become three separate countries.

Supreme Court

The claim: McCain said that Obama voted against Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The facts: Obama voted against Roberts, but he was not in the Senate when Breyer was approved by the Senate in 1994. Obama became a senator in 2005.

McCain’s health care plan

The claim: In discussing his $5,000-per-family tax credit for health care, McCain said the average cost of a health care plan is $5,800.

The facts: The average cost of a family plan purchased by employers this year hit a new high, $12,106, according to an annual survey of nearly 2,000 employers by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group based in Menlo Park, Calif. Individual coverage premiums averaged $4,479.

Obama’s health care plan

The claim: McCain said that under Obama’s health care plan, a small business could be fined for not offering coverage to its employees.

The facts: The key to this charge is what defines a “small” business, and the Obama campaign has not said. Obama has said he would exempt small businesses from having to contribute to their employees’ health coverage or pay into a national fund. He has not, however, said what size company he has in mind for the exemption. In August, Obama adviser Jason Furman said companies with 10 or fewer employees would likely be exempted, but he did not limit it to that size.

Obama did not directly address the charge from McCain that parents would be fined for not insuring their children. Obama has not said how he would enforce his requirement that parents get coverage for their children.

Abortion

The claim: McCain said: “Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois state Senate, voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against that.” Obama said he opposed the bill as a threat to abortion rights, knowing that state law already required doctors to care for babies born alive.

The facts: FactCheck.org, a non-partisan project of the University of Pennsylvania, found that Obama opposed Illinois legislation in 2001, 2002 and 2003 that would have defined any aborted fetus that showed signs of life as a “born alive infant” entitled to legal protection, even if doctors believed it could not survive. Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 “born alive” bills as backdoor attacks on a woman’s legal right to abortion, but he said he would have been “fully in support” of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade, FactCheck.org found.

FactCheck also found that Illinois law already required physicians to protect the life of a fetus when there is “a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support.”

Alaska budget

The claim: McCain said his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, “cut the size of government.”

The facts: Palin has not cut the size of government. State spending under Palin has grown dramatically, fueled by an explosion of revenues thanks to Palin’s multibillion-dollar tax increase on the oil and gas companies that fund most of the budget.

In 2007, Palin vetoed about $231 million in projects sought by legislators in a proposed $1.8 billion capital budget. Even after her cuts, the total capital budget was about $1.54 billion — “a lot more than the level of state spending she outlined when she took office in December,” the Anchorage Daily News reported. The operating budget she signed in 2007 grew to $6.6 billion from $6.2 billion the year before. This year, Palin signed an operating budget that had grown to $11 billion, according to the Daily News. She vetoed about 10% of the proposed capital budget, but that budget nonetheless grew to $2.7 billion. While Palin was mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002, the budget grew 55%, according to PolitiFact.com, a joint project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly.

Oil drilling

The claim: Obama said a key way to expand domestic oil production would be by “telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them.”

The facts: Offshore drilling leases run for five to 10 years because that’s how long the government expects it to take to find and begin producing oil or natural gas. Leases are extended if oil companies are making progress and not renewed if the area is totally dormant. So not nearly all of the 68 million acres Obama refers to can be drilled immediately. Willard Green, past president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, has said Democrats “are suggesting that there’s a great big lake of oil under that acreage, and all the companies have to do is dig a hole down and produce it.”

I am so dreadfully sick and tired of so-called Christians making claims that Obama is NOT a Christian.

How can anyone, with the exception of Senator Obama, know whether or not he is truly Christian? How can anyone be so absolutely sure?

On the Willkie’s Pride site to which I belong – a Yahoo group from my hometown of Elwood, Indiana – this is the constant chatter from all these supposed Christians who write on the site. This was one from today:

Barack Obama insists that he is a “devout Christian” of “deep faith,” and Big Media echoes his claim without question. Even some critics hesitate to challenge the validity of that claim.

The ruse that he is a Christian must be exposed for what it really is: Obama’s cloak to conceal that he is a Marxist from a Muslim background, for which he holds widespread support in the Islamic world. This series of three articles will analyze his exploitation of Christian rhetoric to serve the subterfuge.

Now, who in the hell is this woman – one who claims devout Christianity herself – to say whether or not Obama is a Christian, or not?

Is this a judgement?

If you asked this woman, I am sure it would not be a judgement. How do we draw the line between what is judgement and what is fact or what is speculation?

I have always found myself disgusted by Christians who raise themselves to superior positions, but it has only become worse with this current election. They do not realize they are doing Christianity such a hideous diservice.

As my son said the other day, “Why would I want to be called Christian? I consider my self to be a good person who does not try to pass judgement and am kind and accepting of others no matter who they are.”

Out of the mouths of babes!

 

Thank you for smoking

davis.jpgThis stamp honoring Bette Davis was issued by the U. S. Postal Service on Sept. 18. The portrait by Michael Deas was inspired by a still photo from “All About Eve.” Notice anything missing? Before you even read this far, you were thinking, Where’s her cigarette? Yes reader, the cigarette in the original photo has been eliminated. We are all familiar, I am sure, with the countless children and teenagers who have been lured into the clutches of tobacco by stamp collecting, which seems so innocent, yet can have such tragic outcomes. But isn’t this is carrying the anti-smoking campaign one step over the line?
Depriving Bette Davis of her cigarette reminds me of Soviet revisionism, when disgraced party officials disappeared from official photographs. Might as well strip away the toupees of Fred Astaire and Jimmy Stewart. I was first alerted to this travesty by a reader, Wendell Openshaw of San Diego, who wrote me: “Do you share my revulsion for this attempt to revise history and distort a great screen persona for political purposes? It is political correctness and revisionist history run amok. Next it will be John Wayne holding a bouquet instead of a Winchester!”

portrait_2.jpgThe great Chicago photographer Victor Skrebneski took one of the most famous portraits of Davis. I showed him the stamp. His response: “I have been with Bette for years and I have never seen her without a cigarette! No cigarette! Who is this impostor?” I imagine Davis might not object to a portrait of her without a cigarette, because she posed for many. But to have a cigarette removed from one of her most famous poses! What she did to Joan Crawford in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” wouldn’t even compare to what ever would have happened to the artist Michael Deas.

Look, I hate smoking. It took my parents from me, my father with lung cancer, my mother with emphysema. They both liked Luckies. When my dad’s cancer was diagnosed, they played it safe and switched to Winstons. When my mother was breathing oxygen through a tube, she’d take out the tube, turn off the oxygen, and light up. I avoid smokers. It isn’t allowed in our house. When I see someone smoking, it feels like I’m watching them bleed themselves, one drip at a time.

So we’ve got that established. On the other hand, I have never objected to smoking in the movies, especially when it is necessary to establish a period or a personality. I simply ask the movies to observe that, these days, you rarely see someone smoking except standing outside a building, on a battleground, in a cops’ hangout, in a crack house, in rehab, places like that. In an ordinary context, giving a character a cigarette is saying either (1) this is a moron, or (2) this person will die. Smoking no longer even works to add a touch of color to an action hero. Does Jason Bourne smoke? I haven’t seen James Bond with a cigarette since Pierce Brosnan took over the role in 1995. Daniel Craig smoked cigars in “Casino Royale” (2006), but the producers cut them out. (Craig: “I can blow someone’s head off but I can’t light a good cigar.”)

Two of the most wonderful props in film noir were cigarettes and hats. They added interest to a close up or a two-shot. “Casablanca” without cigarettes would seem to be standing around looking for something to do. These days men don’t smoke and don’t wear hats. When they lower their heads, their eyes aren’t shaded. Cinematographers have lost invaluable compositional tools. The coil of smoke rising around the face of a beautiful women added allure and mystery. Remember Marlene Dietrich. She was smoking when she said, “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

ronny-chesterfield-2.jpgEverybody smoked cigarettes in the movies. Even Katharine Hepburn. Even Loretta Young. Ronald Reagan posed for Chesterfield ads. On the radio, it wasn’t “The Jack Benny Program,” it was “The Lucky Strike Program with Jack Benny,” although in that PBS documentary you only see him smoking cigars. Robert Mitchum smoked so much, he told me, that when the camera was rolling on “Out of the Past,” Kirk Douglas offered him a pack and asked, “Cigarette?” And Mitchum, realizing he’d carried a cigarette into the scene, held up his fingers and replied, “Smoking.” His improvisation saved the take. They kept it in the movie.
If virtually all actresses smoked, Bette Davis smoked more than virtually all actresses. When she appeared on the Tonight Show the night after she co-hosted the Oscars, she walked onstage, shook Johnny’s hand, sat down, pulled out her Vantages, and lit up. Tumultuous applause. I would guess it is impossible for an impressionist to do Bette Davis without using a cigarette. Remember Paul Henried lighting two cigarettes and giving her one? Read this quote from the first paragraph of Wiki’s entry on Davis: Her forthright manner, clipped vocal style and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona which has often been imitated and satirized. Ubiquitous.

I think some smoking is okay even in contemporary stories, if only to acknowledge it exists. Movies can’t rewrite reality. The MPAA cautiously mentions smoking in their descriptions of movie ratings (even if it’s Alice’s caterpillar and his hookah). If, by the time you’re old enough to sit through a movie, you haven’t heard that smoking is bad for you, you don’t need a movie rating, you need a foster home.

And yet, and yet…I could not do without that moment in “Sweet Smell of Success,” where Burt Lancaster plays the big-shot Broadway columnist T. J. Hunsaker, and Tony Curtis is the desperate press agent Sidney Falco, trying to get an item into T.J.’s column. Hunsaker holds a cigarette in his fingers and, without looking, says “Match me, Sidney.” A relationship defined in two words. That still leaves “Cigarette me.” I predict it will turn up as dialog within 12 months.

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Blues legend Robert Johnson’s cigarette vanished on a 1994 stamp.

 

Editor’s note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN’s “Campbell Brown: Election Center” at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the “Cutting through the Bull” segment of Monday night’s broadcast.

NEW YORK (CNN) — You may find it hard to believe that this remains an issue in this campaign, but it does.

Campbell Brown says it's on the record that Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian, but why should that matter?

Campbell Brown says it’s on the record that Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian, but why should that matter?

The candidates, both candidates, are still getting questions about Barack Obama’s ethnicity and religion. If you are even semi-informed, then by now you already know that of course, Barack Obama is an American.

Of course, Barack Obama is a Christian. Yet just a few days ago, there was a woman at a rally for John McCain incorrectly calling Obama an Arab:

Woman at rally: I don’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s an Arab.

Sen. John McCain: No ma’am, no ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not, thank you.

‘Now, I commend Sen. McCain for correcting that woman, for setting the record straight. But I do have one question — so what if he was?

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there is something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too.

We’ve all been too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur.

I feel like I am stating the obvious here, but apparently it needs to be said: There is a difference between radical Muslims who support jihad against America and Muslims who want to practice their religion freely and have normal lives like anyone else.

There are more than 1.2 million Arab-Americans and about 7 million Muslim-Americans, former Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, successful business people, normal average Americans from all walks of life.

These are the people being maligned here, and we can only imagine how this conversation plays in the Muslim world. We can’t tolerate this ignorance — not in the media, not on the campaign trail.

Of course, he’s not an Arab. Of course, he’s not a Muslim. But honestly, it shouldn’t matter.

My thoughts are included in RED

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — At least 900 Christian families have fled Mosul in the past week, terrified by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, officials said Saturday.

An official says Christians protests in Mosul last month ahead of elections may have led to the attacks.  The attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations ahead of provincial elections, which are to be held by the end of January, the deputy governor of Nineveh province said.

Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran said 13 Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in Mosul, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) north of Baghdad. Fleeing Christians have sought refuge in monasteries and churches and with family members in other towns, an Interior Ministry official said.

The attacks began after hundreds of Christians took to the streets in Mosul and surrounding villages and towns, seeking greater representation on provincial councils, whose members will be chosen in the local elections. But isn’t this a predominately Islamic country in which they are residing?

Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, Nineveh’s governor, told The Associated Press that the exodus was “a major displacement.”

“Of course, al Qaeda elements are behind this campaign against Christians,” Kashmoula told AP. Does he have verification of this, or is he merely speculating?

A week ago, leaflets were distributed in several predominantly Christian neighborhoods, threatening families to “either convert to Islam or pay the jizyah or leave the city or face death,” said the Interior Ministry official.

Historically, jizyah is a tax paid by non-Muslims in exchange for protection. Well, if this is one of the rules, play by the rules. But our own country has not commited itself to making illegal aliens follow our own rules.

Goran said that a few days after the leaflets were passed out, gunmen set up checkpoints in parts of Mosul, stopping vehicles to inspect identification papers, searching for Christian names or other signs of religious affiliation. Many of the Christians killed were targeted in this way, he said. They were warned.

Bashir Azoz, 45, told AP he fled his Mosul home after gunmen warned a neighbor to leave or be killed.

“Where is the government and its security forces as these crimes take place every day?” asked Azoz, a carpenter who is staying with his wife and three children in a town about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Mosul, according to AP.

The Rev. Bolis Jacob, of Mosul’s Mar Afram Church, told AP he couldn’t understand the attacks.

“We respect the Islamic religion and the Muslim clerics,” he said. “We don’t know under what religion’s pretexts these terrorists work.” So far in this article it has not been clearly defined who is targeting the Christians. How do they know they are terrorists?

Goran said police have set up security checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods.

In response to the violence, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader al-Obaidi visited Mosul on Saturday morning, conducting meetings with local authorities and military commanders.

His spokesman, Mohammed al-Askari, said that in addition to ordering more checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods, al-Obaidi ordered more troops deployed, additional security patrols and an increase in aerial surveillance of Christian areas.

Al-Obaidi also ordered more guards for Christian clerics, al-Askari said.

The other day, my son, Jose, and I were chatting and he asked, “How can we be over in Iraq killing people when the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not kill?'”

Good question.

But Christianity seems to take exception to this commandment, and has done so all throughout its history. There has always been great chatter about Christian persecution, but a strong wall of defense quickly rises when Christians are accused of persecution – which they seem to do so with regularity. The mantra seems to be strong, “If you don’t think like us, believe as we do, we shall make your life miserable.”

On one of the hometown websites to which I subscribe, the Christian Republicans think nothing of persecuting the Democrats running for office, or even those who vote Democrat on the site. I am amazed at their two-faced postings, and their superior attitude.

Today, one of the spewings revolved around abortion. One poster quoted Psalm 139: 16 with: “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me and in your book all parts of it were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed.”

I checked in the KING JAMES BIBLE and found: (starting with verse 15) “My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in they book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

The NEW AMERICAN BIBLE offers this translation: My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.

I have looked through a number

When Jose and I stopped attending one church – not because of anything with the church, its pastor, or the people – it was because we were both struck with a strong sense of questioning, basically from condemnation of the church on any one who does not believe as they do. We did not experience such things at this church; our concerns questioned which was most important: 1) Do we develop a strong spiritual life, following the credo of love thy God, and love one another, or 2) do we subscribe to a church body that does not practice basic concepts of its own teachings?

The ironic item was that I remained in email contact with a number of folks from the church, but one member, who had adored Jose and myself, asked me to stop sending her email because we were no longer one of them.

One of them…

What does that mean?

Is Christianity a club or fraternity to which one must follow the individual church’s dictates or a truly spiritual body that follows God’s ideals?

Christ reportedly said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

In modern translations it reads, “Go forth and make disciples of all nations…”

Teach vs. Make.

To teach is to offer ideas. To make is to force.

There are several things to be noticed: (1) Go, implies an aggressive warfare. The Gospel army must move upon the nations. The Lord seeks universal empire, and sends forth his armies to conquer the world. Every church and every disciple must understand that they have marching orders. (2) Not only is every saint commanded to go, or to take steps to make the gospel go, but the object is stated. They are to make disciples, or pupils, and scholars of Christ; not great philosophers, but babes in Christ Jesus. (3) Who are to be made disciples is next indicated. Not the Jews only, but all nations. Christ came to be the Savior of the world. His is a universal religion. In the Great Commission he looks beyond Judea, and commands that the Gospel shall be offered to all nations. To teach implies Christ was instructing his own Disciples to share information.

On several of my hometown websites, the Christian Republicans spew all sorts of hatred towards Obama – not just political rhetoric, but absolutely mean things, and call him names – a terrorist, Hitler, etc.. However, when anyone dares to criticize President Bush, or bring up anything against Senator John McCain they burst with even more cruel things.

There was one lady who grew up in the hometown, and whenever she would post anything she was vehemently attacked. Eventually she left the group, but just the other day one lady named, Fran, who spouts her Christian values for all to read, went on this incredible attack against the lady who has been gone from the group for a month.

I truly struggle with these particular Christians who believe they are exempt. To me, these people are the true Hitlers of the world today. They proclaim God’s word and demand the world bow to their beliefs – and yet, there is a knife of cruelty hidden behind their cloak expressing love to all.

It is sad to see people from my hometown – people I use to respect, behaving in such a disgusting manner. The poor community has become an economic disaster through the years, and thus, the class and mentality has diminished greatly… and sadly, it shows in the posts of these individuals who were educators, politicians, and other highly respected career folk.

So, the killing…

The abortion issue is hot. Personally, I have no direct stand on the issue, but I guess I am pro-Choice as I do believe it is a woman’s right to choose – not a church’s decision, nor a politician’s decision.

Capital punishment is another hot topic button – especially when one on death row is up for execution. I never really had an opinion on this topic until I met a wonderful family at church who experienced a traumatic double murder in their family, conducted by their younger brother. In the end, they rose to the occasion as their parents had obviously raised them, forgiving and loving the younger brother who was executed.

But how is it the Christian Church can support the Fifth Commandment – thou shalt not kill – and support invading other nations?

Amazing that once the Ten Commandments were shared with the people of Israel, they continued going to war, killing. In Sunday School we celebrated young David slewing the giant, Goliath!

Why?

This violated the Fifth Commandment. That commandment specifically said, “Thou shalt not kill.” It did not offer an addendum of, “unless it is someone who you feel justified in killing.”

In Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq (1991), and the current invasion of Iraq – we were not attacked. Our imperialistic leaders decided we should go in an kill not only “enemy soldiers” but blameless citizens, as well.

In the book ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, there is the mantra offered by Deep Throat, “Follow the money.”

So, how do we teach our children that it is wrong to kill when we, a nation supposedly created upon Christian principles, continue to invade other countries, killing their people?

And the article in this post expresses concerns over Christians living in an Islamic nation we have invaded…

I cannot wrap my mind around this.

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.

Jeff Carter, my friend who is now the director of music at Webster University in St. Louis, always finds the neatest things. This was an incredible discovery!

http://jeffreycarter.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/candidate-record-on-the-arts.pdf

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.

545 PEOPLE
By Charlie Reese
[Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper]

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t PROPOSE a federal budget.

The president does.

You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. 

 
The House of Representatives does.

You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central
bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.

 
Who is the speaker of the House?
 

She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in  IRAQ , it’s because they want them in  IRAQ.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way. They vote their own pay raises for themselves because they want it that way. There are no unsolvable government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like ‘the economy,’  ‘inflation,’ or ‘politics’ that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the  Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

What you do with this article now that you have read it is up to you, though you appear to have several choices.

1. You can send this to everyone in your address book, and hope ‘they’ do something about it.

2. You can agree to vote against everyone that is currently in office, knowing that the process will take several years.

3. You can decide to ‘run for office’ yourself and agree to do the job properly.

4. Lastly, you can sit back and do nothing, or re-elect the current bunch.

YOU DECIDE, BUT AT LEAST SEND IT TO EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK, MAYBE SOMEONE IN THERE WILL DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Editor’s note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN’s “Campbell Brown: Election Center” at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the “Cutting through the Bull” segment of Monday night’s broadcast.

Campbell Brown says whoever wins should enter the White House with his dignity intact.

NEW YORK (CNN) — By now you’ve probably heard about how ugly things have gotten out there on the campaign trail in the last 48 hours.

Campbell Brown says whoever wins should enter the White House with his dignity intact.

But we thought for just a moment we would take you back to kinder, gentler times.

Remember this:

Sen. John McCain: I pledge again a respectful campaign. A respectful campaign based on the issues and based on the stark differences we have on the vision for the future of America.

Sen. Barack Obama: I said I was looking forward to a civil substantive debate on the issues and he agreed.

McCain: I’ve pledged to conduct a respectful campaign and I urge, time after time, various entities within the Republican party to also do that.

Obama: We don’t need John McCain and I to be demonizing each other. You won’t get that from my campaign.

Oh how far we have come in such a short period of time.

To say, as Gov. Sarah Palin is now doing, that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists is just outrageous.

But Obama’s hands aren’t clean either. Here is what he said in May of this year about McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five, a savings and loan scandal that happened in the late 80s.

Obama said, “I don’t think there is any doubt that John McCain’s public record about issues that he’s apologized for and written about is not germane to the presidency.”

And yet this morning the Obama campaign released a mini-documentary, walking voters through all the details of the Keating Five — making it very much germane.

There is just one month left. Please, please don’t let this devolve into a campaign you are sickened by and embarrassed to be part of.

Here’s a purely practical reason: The negativity you are spewing now will only make your job harder after Election Day.

Bipartisanship is really tough to achieve when everyone on both sides is left with a bad bad taste in their mouths.

Here is the new CNN Opinion Research Corp. When asked “How are things going in the country today?” 80 percent said badly. Eighty percent. Pollsters have been asking that question since 1974. Eighty percent is an all-time low. People want to hear solutions from you. They want to hear how you are going to get us out of this mess.

One of you will have to. Don’t you want to be able to walk into the White House with your dignity intact and your head held high?

This is a message I posted on one of my hometown’s websites, WILLKIE’S PRIDE.

This morning, my sixteen year old son came into my study before leaving for school and said he was really frustrated with something in marching band. The percussion section leader yells all the time at the end of rehearsal when the other members are not moving instruments and equipment along, especially when there’s a lull in the activity. I asked if she provided the section with a schedule/list, outlining the order of items to be moved on to the trailer, as well as an assignment list to move the equipment.

No. There was not.

“What can you do to help this situation?” I asked.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

With that, he knew he had said the wrong thing as I smiled, peering over my reading glasses.

My son nodded his head. “I can suggest to her that we come up with a schedule or list of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.”

I then asked, “Are you and other percussion members standing around, complaining?”

He nodded.

My son got the message. One of the rules in our home is: “Don’t complain, get in there and help fix it.”

As I read various websites of both published and guest entries the election, I read a ton of complaining, side-line-recliner coaching, but what I am not reading, or hearing is, “How can I help fix this?”

We all know that we will be fixing something, one way or another, just by voting this November.

But is that enough?

What more, as a citizen of the United States of American, can I do to help improve what needs to be improved?

The last election of 2004, I took my sons to see both vice- presidential candidates when they appeared in the Dayton area. We also attended several rallies, and information sessions for each candidate (and we do this for local elections, as well). As a parent, I lead my family in discussion of these issues, reminding
them that the votes cast this November can, and will affect their children and grandchildren.

“How is that possible?” one son asked.

I explained: in 1860 the country elected Lincoln, and today, we still thrive as one union. In 1904, when Theodore Roosevelt was elected in his own right (he succeeded the assassinated William McKinley in
1901) he promoted conservation of various natural landmarks that eventually led to the National Parks’ system. A number of FDR’s programs are still with us, as are programs from the administrations
of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. When social security began, my great-grandparents, and maybe my grandparents had voted in an election that brought FDR to the White House. And my fourth great-grandfather fought in the Union cavalry to hold the country together.

The actions, and even inactions of my parents, grandparents (and so on) during election seasons have resulted – both directly, and indirectly to the country in which I live.
 
As a young boy of ten, I campaigned heavily for Congressman Hillis, and even Senator Lugar. There was even a photograph in the Elwood Call-Leader of Congressman Hillis standing with my family.

At that rally, I believe in the building which now houses the chamber of commerce, something Congressman Hillis said in 1974, has remained with me for thirty-four years.

Paraphrased: “You are all here because you believe in making a difference. You are out here working to better your community, your county, your district, your state and your country.”

During the question & answer portion of his campaign, Congressman Hillis was asked about the recent horrors of Watergate, and what he thought of President Ford’s pardon for President Nixon (who was a
Republican).

Congressman Hillis then stressed how important it was for us as Americans (United States’ citizens) to move ahead, and beyond the past, and if we all worked together with a positive attitude we could accomplish do much more.

One gentlemen referred to Nixon as “a thief.” Congressman Hillis smiled, and politely suggested that we not resort to name calling. He then encouraged us to be more positive in our thoughts, comments, and
actions and to continue to work together no matter to what political party we belong.

That advice has been one of my mantras when leading bands, choirs, productions, classrooms, and volunteers organizations. One of the rules for the classroom or rehearsals – “Leave the drama and negative
attitudes outside.”

Last week, a fellow classmate of mine posted something from a national newspaper that pounced on President Bush. Immediately, there were follow-up comments of “Bush Bashing” and ridicule for the author
and newspaper as though a hideous felony was committed.

As the DNC Convention began, the negative mudslinging came out in full force, especially comments about Senator Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident. And naturally, from recent years, recalls of Monica Lewinsky.

When the GOP Convention airs, will we also be reminded that President Harding (R) had numerous affairs, fathered a child or two, and died as his administration was ready to erupt in scandal?

Will we remember the alleged affair General Eisenhower (R) had with his military driver?

Will we recall the horrors of witnessing one of our nation’s most severe testing throughout the Watergate scandal which brought down a Republican President?

Will we be reminded that President Reagan (R), one of the most beloved presidents in recent years, did, or did not know about the Iran-Contra trades?

Will people target First Lady Laura Bush with reminders that she too killed someone in an automobile accident by running a stop sign? (And, yes, I know this is miles apart from the controversy surrounding Ted Kennedy’s scandal at the Edgartown Bridge.)

As I was skimming through some of this morning’s posts on Willkies Pride, I caught sight of one member reminding us there are bigger fish to fry than picking apart the opposition, or any candidate for that matter.

And how I applaud that poster!

Echoing Congressman Hillis… what can each of us do to work towards a better community, a better county, a better state, a better country?

I occasionally read the one website dedicated purely to Elwood, and if all the complaints are true (which some are clearly skeptical) there appears to be plenty to do in the community of Elwood. Instead, on that particular site, a majority of the posters are there to complain. I brought forth numerous suggestions of taking the lead and making things happen by working together, because that’s what I remember most about Elwood when I was growing up. I remember neighbors helping one another; I remember the streets packed with people during parades (and I marched in enough of them to know); I remember citizens flocking to events…

But what is more, I remember fine people of a fine community who practiced a strong sense of community, a strong sense of commitment, a strong sense of pride, and a strong sense of working together to make a difference.

At church, one day, a lady who is a little older than my parents, commented on an upcoming “church cleaning day.”

“That’s for the young folks. I am going to sit back and enjoy life. I did my share.” And then she began berating all that was not right with the church, and some of the people.

I did not say anything, but my down cast eyes alerted her to the fact I disagreed. Finally, she said, “OK, Darin. I know you are thinking something.”

With that invitation, I cheerfully thanked her for her many contributions to the church. I then reminded her how her former positive attitude had been one of the elements in getting others involved in years now past. Then I asked if her work was truly completed? She thought for a minute. Finally, she looked up, smiled,
and said, “Heavens no! I am still alive.”

Sure enough, she was one who joined us for the spring cleaning day. And better yet, she convinced at least a dozen others to participate because they were a part of the church as well, and that it was up to each of them to participate, to help… to be.

This also applies to each of us with our schools, our communities, our state and our country. We each know someone of advanced years who died at their post – whether it was at work, or volunteering for a cause. This is what I desire – I don’t want to retire, sit at my computer desk (which I currently do as a playwright), and run down the beliefs or comments of others. Rather than complain about the items needing improvements, I hope and pray that I am healthy enough to be offering assistance, or volunteering… somehow, still making a
difference.

I hate to echo a Democrat, but there was once this brilliant phrase that resounded throughout the country in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

We have, somehow, evolved into a society of “wanters” with less emphasis on being “doers” or “givers.” We have become complacent.

Think of our parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and WWII… I was so blessed to know many from this generation, and there are still many from this era that are in their 70’s and 80’s and are still vital contributors to their schools, communities, churches and state. We are fortunate to have a
presidential candidate, and now a vice-presidential candidate from this generation!

In our home, we have an expectation of ten (10) volunteer hours each month. My contribution is to teach pre-adoption courses at the agency through which I adopted my sons, or to lead the parent support group,
or represent the agency at local adoption affairs. I am also a band booster, a choir booster, and active with other community/school related activities. My youngest son volunteers by raking leaves, shoveling snow (all without pay), or assisting with the children’s program at the adoption agency.

I have one friend who is 83, and she volunteers at an elementary school as an aide in various areas. She has also encouraged many of her “widow friends” to do the same, or volunteer in other areas.

Once our children leave home, do we cease being their parent? No. Obviously, the roles change, but we never cease being their parent. And, although I am 43 years old, I am still the son of Diana Haas, and David Haas (and a genetic link to my birth father).

As citizens of a wonderful community, as citizens of a wonderful state, as citizens of a wonderful country, how can each of us make a difference?

How can each of us continue to work towards bettering our city, state and country, not just for our own lives, but for our children and grandchildren, as well?

Do we better ourselves, or improve our conditions with name calling, or dirt digging, or chastising another for their beliefs?

Did Michael Phelps win eight gold medals with a negative attitude? How many times did he say, “Neh, I’m not hitting the pool today; I just don’t feel like it.”?

Did our own recent grand champion of the swimming pool stop working towards her own goal to be in the Olympics?

If you cannot think of a reason to involve your self in some way to make a difference, think of someone like Mary Beth Dunnichay. How can we make each of our own children, or children in Elwood reach out
actively for their goals and dreams? How can we work with the schools or community and church organizations to instill in youth the self- esteem and confidence to be gold medal winners in their own lives,
and future careers?

Shouldn’t this be our initial inheritance to our children and grandchildren?

What better inheritance, or legacy can we leave future generations?

How can we teach them not to simply reach for the stars, but to be one?

We do not need to reach the national and international stages as Wendell L. Willkie, or Mary Beth Dunnichay in order to make a difference. There is so much each of us can do alone, or TOGETHER, to make a difference.

Flying your flag each day can make a difference.

For those of us who can do so, parking further away in a parking lot can make the difference for those who truly need to park closer to stores (handicap, senior citizens and mommies with children).

Leaving your quarter in the cart contraption at Aldis for someone else who truly needs it can make a difference. (And I have seen too many seniors who count down to the last penny!) And you can also buy
extra Aldis bags for five cents and tell the cashier to give them to someone who needs them.

Even complimenting a young child who demonstrates courtesy or good manners can make a difference (and don’t forget to thank their  parents for teaching them the difference!).

When I die, I do not wish to have a grave stone, a monument to a life lived. I hope, and pray that the work I do, and that the lives I touch will be my monument, and my legacy to my children, nephews, and their children. Each of us can provide living monuments – let’s do it.

After 9/11 we began flying our flags daily, and then it dwindled.

Why not fly our flags every day, rather than when our nation is in crises?

Can we celebrate our pride, our unity, our faith in our nation by flying our flags each day?

We united immediately after 9/11, and still continue to do so for memorial services each year.

Can we do this each day?

Make a difference in whatever way you can, but in a positive manner. That can also be a legacy to leave your children, and grandchildren.

And I close with words from one of Elwood’s own…

“In no direction that we turn do we find ease or comfort. If we are honest and if we have the will to win we find only danger, hard work and iron resolution.”

“It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong.”

May God bless the United States of America.

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — Standing just 150 feet from the platform on which President Lincoln delivered his most famous speech, one of the few remaining “witness trees” to the Battle of Gettysburg has been severely damaged by a storm, National Park Service officials said.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.

The huge honey locust tree on Cemetery Hill fell Thursday evening.

“The top of it is totally broken off, and [the storm] severely damaged 70 to 80 percent of the tree,” Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Jo Sanders said. “That means there’s not a whole lot left of it. But it didn’t kill the tree.”

The tree, which stood on the right side of the Union lines, “was there as a silent witness — to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the dedication of the cemetery,” park historian John Heiser said.

“I have no doubt that Union soldiers sat under it for all three days of the battle,” he said.

Park maintenance officials will decide what to do with the remains of the tree.

“When it’s something this bad, it’s highly doubtful that a tree like that can survive,” Heiser said.

Heiser said he knows of only three other witness trees that still stand in the heart of the battlefield.

“It’s a shame when you lose the last living entities on this battlefield,” he said. “Nothing lives forever, unfortunately.”

“For united we stand, divided we fall
And if our backs should ever be against the wall
We’ll be together; together, you and I.”

I remember the words to this song when I was quite young. It seemed to resonate hope, and encouragement at a time when our country was mired down, and torn apart by the Viet Nam war/conflict. There was great unrest in the country, and today it seems there is even more.

We have a tough, demanding election approaching this November. Right now, we as United States’ citizens are faced with many incredible issues that are ripping the country in several possible directions. There appears to be an air of uncertainty, fear, mistrust, and this can easily cause even the most level headed individuals to think, speak or act irrationally. We have been blessed with many fine politicians who have stepped to the front lines in our country’s government to take on these massive issues. These individuals are working hard to serve our country, just as the brave individuals in Iraq, and abroad, serve us on another front.

United we stand…

Here in Dayton, we have a true gem!

The National Museum of The United States Air Force. In the Presidential Hangar rests one of the most recognizable airplanes – the original Air Force One. Yes, there is FDR’s “Sacred Cow,” Truman’s “Independence,” and Eisenhower’s “Columbine” standing right along side it – but the silver plane with a blue and white background proudly proclaims “The United States of America.”

However, I just love seeing those words float across the plane: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA…

I prefer not to be called an “American.”

America is the continent on which I live. I am, however, a citizen of The United States of America. We seldom refer to the French simply as “Europeans”, or call Egyptians “Africans.”  I also fly, in front of my house, the flag of The United States of America – not just the American flag. To my knowledge, I have never seen a flag that represents North America, or one for South America.

A number of years ago, I was conducting a joint concert with the Centerville Community Band, and a guest band from Waterloo, Canada. I planned a very regal ceremony for the presentation of the flags, using Dragoon’s beautiful arrangement, “America, The Beautiful,” followed by “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O, Canada.”

At first, my band members were a little perturbed that the Canadian flag would enter to “America, The Beautiful” which my band members claimed was “our patriotic song.”

I began chuckling on the podium, and then asked the members where in the lyrics did it ever refer to just the United States of America.

Suddenly, they all burst out laughing, realizing we were all going to be Americans on that stage! There were those who could not grasp that concept, but eventually, they saw my point.

I am a sucker for the stirring melodies of “God Bless America” and “America, The Beautiful” but as others have tried, I would not wish for either of these to hold the rank of national anthem. I think we selected “The Star Spangled Banner” appropriately. Though a dreadful song to sing (the notes are too high or too low forcing a singer with an average range to struggle, crack and jump back and forth in octaves), the lyrics resonate the very spirit, and heart of our nation.

Divided we fall…

Abraham Lincoln once wrote that if we were to be destroyed as a nation it would not be from some trans-Atlantic giant, but by our own hand.

When I look at numerous programs or groups that fold, I see a good deal of inner turmoil was the result of the discontinuation. Churches seem to have their fair share of turmoil. Booster or support groups run a close second.

Most of the issues seem to fester from an individual, or group wanting to assume control. I have watched this happen with several area arts programs. The programs are running strong for several years, and suddenly, someone wants to change the course or flow, disrupting what was already running smoothly.

However, there are also splitting fractions due to words. Sometimes, people are just down right incapable of saying things which offend or hurt others. I always try to choose my words carefully in the classroom, or private lessons, or whenever I am chatting with friends. Do I screw up and sometimes say something in a way that can be misinterpreted? Yes – we all do. However, I try my best not to do so. And when I do, if I recognize my error, I apologize.

And sometimes, people say things to me that I might misinterpret. It happens.

There are times when I agree with another person’s opinions, and there are times I do not. However, I try to always remain respectful, open-minded, and capable of not taking the comment as a direct, personal hit.

I belong to several on-line groups, two of which are from my hometown. There are times when the posts are invigorating, educational, and enlightening. We even have a state representative who often weighs in, and I love having first hand working knowledge of our government. Plus, when I was young, this state representative was one of my favorites along with Congressman Elwood Hillis and Senator Richard Lugar.

However, more often than not, there tends to be numerous posts which are incredibly petty, and sophomoric. I am appalled at the nature of some of the debates offered on those sites, and then the drama-filled bickering that ensues.

Currently, on one site there is great debate over the number of flags Obama has on the side of his plane. I truly do not understand why this is an issue.

How does the number of flags make a difference about the candidate’s ability to govern a country?

Why does ethnic origin matter?

So what if there is a flag with an “O” on Obama’s plane?

So what if there is no United States’ flag on McCain’s RV?

Why does the fact that McCain is older than Reagan and General Harrison matter?

Our country has men and women fighting a war in Iraq; we are plagued by an unstable economy; we are battling high gas prices; we have factories closing and leaving thousands without jobs (especially here in the Miami Valley); people are losing their homes; unemployment has increased…

AND WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE NUMBER OF FLAGS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES HAVE ON THEIR PLANES OR VEHICLES!

Had there been an Internet in 1860, I am sure there would have been postings bellowing over the fact that Lincoln and Hamlin’s names were sewn across a United States’ flag.

Is this really important? Is the constant knit-picking valuable, or even appropriate. The candidates themselves do this effectively. We should not be hopping on to their band wagons of childish behavior.

If we lower ourselves to the level of campaign smears and oft-appearing childish tactics of name calling, who amongst us will be adult enough to vote?

I somehow feel we as citizens of this country are worrying about, even creating many mundane issues that seem to aggravate, and divert us away from the serious issues at the heart of this vital election in November.

The thing that saddens me most is reading posts from various contributors that are juvenile in their attacks on one another, and even more so in their reception of criticism from others. If you are going to toss an attack out for the masses to read on the site, then for crying out loud, be prepared for a rebuttal attack!

Some posters simply cannot handle this.

In 1968, while still holding office, President Johnson (Dem) seemed to retreat in some ways. The 1969 election had been scarred with assassination, the Viet Nam War, and the hideous unrest in our nation. It seemed as though there was no one to provide focus. We did place our trust in Senator Richard Nixon (Rep), calling him to lead our nation. Despite the Watergate controversy, I personally believe President Nixon was a brilliant politician, and outstanding leader. I have read a number of his books, and am grateful he moved beyond the tragic choices that ended his term in office to become one of the strongest elder statesmen in our country’s history.

Regardless contemporary studies, and theories, I still believe President Nixon provided our country focus at a time when we greatly needed direction.

When my students begin complaining about the hardships, I always direct their attention to a plaque on the wall of my study: “It matters not how many storms you weathered on this journey… what does matter does matter – ‘Did you bring in the ship?’”

Nixon brought in that ship (eventually).

Who will bring in this particular ship?

Will we continue to float aimlessly, bitterly fighting amongst our selves?

Will we finally agree to stand united as citizens of The United States of America?

And does it really matter whether or not there are two flags or a flag with an “O” on that ship? If it does, then we have missed this boat!

For the past several months, or so, I have been experiencing a feeling – as John Adams called it in the musical 1776 – “discontentment.” As I was writing a good friend earlier this afternoon, I feel like all these major musical theatre characters singing about the excitement festering within.

Here are some examples:

Tony in WEST SIDE STORY:

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Jekyll in JEKYLL & HYDE:

This is the moment!
This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,
I have made – ever –
Is coming into play,
Is here and now – today!

This is the moment,
This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment –
This precious chance –
I’ll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,
When all I’ve done –
All the dreaming,
Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day –
See it sparkle and shine,
When all I’ve lived for
Becomes mine!

For all these years,
I’ve faced the world alone,
And now the time has come
To prove to them
I’ve made it on my own!

This is the moment –
My final test –
Destiny beckoned,
I never reckoned,
Second Best!

I won’t look down,
I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!
Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,
I’ll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,
I will always recall,
Moment for moment,
This was the moment,
The greatest moment
Of them all!

Something is festering inside – a burning desire to be doing something else. The past month I have had some strange “reminders” about the Mary Todd Lincoln musical… why? Who knows…

I am so ready for this next great adventure – whatever it is. The signs continue to herald that the time is near. Perhaps it is already here and I am not recognizing it… maybe there is nothing to recognize. Maybe I am supposed to just dig in and work…

For some reason, Mary Todd Lincoln has been resurfacing this past month in a variety of connections. I had begun writing a musical on Miss Todd in 1986, and put it away in the mid-1990’s. And here she is again, beckoning me to finish her story.

This is an op-ed piece from the NY TIMES, written by one of my favorite authors, Samuel A. Schreiner of Darien, Connecticut. Mr. Schreiner wrote a fantastic book, THE TRIALS OF MRS. LINCOLN. I adore this author for being such a great champion of this oft over-looked, vilanized first lady.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

 

PRESIDENTS’ DAY is generally reserved for honoring our presidents. But how about the wives of our presidents? And how about presidential wives who have been unfairly maligned over the years? In this regard, there is no better candidate for rehabilitation this holiday than Mary Todd Lincoln.

For years, authors and scholars have claimed that Mary Lincoln was insane. This is simply not true, and a file of documents found in 1975 in a closet in the Manchester, Vt., home of Mary Lincoln’s son Robert proves it. In 1875, Mary Todd Lincoln was declared insane by a jury, and remanded to an asylum. The charge was brought by Robert, and he must have nursed a guilty conscience about it to keep a file, which reveals that the trial was a sham.

The proceeding was nevertheless an international sensation. Although another, little-noted trial a year later set that verdict aside and declared Mary Lincoln sane, the damage had already been done. A mad Mary Lincoln conveniently validated the tales circulated by her enemies and critics, mostly men, from the time she arrived on the national stage as the vivacious consort of a sorely tried president and on through her years as the neglected widow of a martyr.

Of course, the first lady was an emotional volcano, prone to fiery eruption at sometimes inappropriate moments. An attractive woman with expensive tastes, she could be easy on the eye but hard on the budget. With a well-stocked mind and the nerve to speak it, she persuaded her husband to follow her advice in matters like coveted appointments, and this infuriated the men around the president.

Out of fear of or respect for Abraham Lincoln’s power, comment on his wife was muted until the assassin’s bullet removed him from office and Mary Lincoln became fair game for the gossip mongers, who claimed that Lincoln’s bouts of depression were caused by a lost love and a miserable life with a crazy woman.

Creator of the miserable marriage myth was Lincoln’s longtime law partner in Springfield, Ill., William Herndon. In a lecture he gave shortly after the president’s death, Herndon said that Lincoln had never loved his wife because his heart belonged to Ann Rutledge, a neighbor who died at the age of 22 and whom some historians believe was courted by Lincoln. To claim, however, that her death would have rendered a man of Lincoln’s will and intelligence unable to have a loving relationship with another person is absurd. The untimely loss of loved ones was such a common fact of life in the 1800’s that people simply had to learn how to cope with it to carry on.

In any event, Herndon is not a believable witness to what went on between the Lincolns. Because he was too fond of the bottle and, in Mary Lincoln’s view, too uncouth, he wasn’t welcome in the Lincoln household. As a result, he developed an abiding hatred and jealousy of Lincoln’s wife.

Herndon was also probably put off by what he undoubtedly regarded as the unmanly ways by which Lincoln helped his wife. Lincoln was known to have greeted callers still wearing an apron, and he was often seen shepherding a trio of rambunctious young sons through the streets to his office to give his wife respite. Herndon found Lincoln’s office visits with children in tow especially annoying. Lincoln let them get into everything, as he evidently did at home, and even Herndon would agree that the Lincoln marriage was compatible in one respect: neither husband nor wife believed in disciplining their children.

People who were intimate with the Lincolns did not buy the Rutledge story or the rest of Herndon’s charges. Emily Todd Helm, Mary Lincoln’s half-sister, who lived for months in the couple’s Springfield home while she was a teenager, considered them love birds. She reported that Mary Lincoln would run out to the street to greet her husband as he returned home, and they would enter the house hand-in-hand. Their differences in temperament — she, for instance, was punctual and he careless of time — could lead to clashes, but Helm was impressed by the way they were resolved. Once when Mary Lincoln let loose her anger at her husband’s arriving late for supper, he simply scooped her up in his arms and kissed her.

A frequent guest in the Lincolns’ Springfield house was the Rev. James Smith, Mary Lincoln’s Presbyterian pastor. Although Lincoln was not a churchgoer, he and the minister would spend hours by the fireside discussing religion and everything else under the sun.

When Lincoln went to Washington, Smith was appointed to a consulate in Scotland where he read in a newspaper an account of Herndon’s Rutledge lecture. Incensed, he wrote an open letter to Herndon that was published in The Dundee Advertiser. Reprinted in this newspaper and The Chicago Tribune, the letter made the point that a law office was not a good vantage point from which to judge a man’s home life. Declaring himself fortunate enough to have known the Lincolns well, Smith wrote that the president was a “faithful, loving and affectionate husband” who “was utterly incapable of withholding” love from his wife.

Mary Lincoln’s enemies may have discounted Smith’s testimony on the grounds that he was paying off a debt or piously upholding the sanctity of marriage. They would have a harder time shrugging off an address by Charles Sumner, the worldly and sophisticated senator from Massachusetts, during a debate in Congress about Mary’s pension. After establishing himself as well acquainted with the couple’s home life in the White House, Sumner said, “Surely, the honorable members of the Senate must be weary of casting mud on the garments of the wife of Lincoln.” The president “had all her love,” he continued, and Lincoln loved her “as only his mighty heart could.”

Unquestionably high-strung, Mary Lincoln was under a great deal of stress while she was living in the White House, especially when her son Willie died in 1862. After so many other stresses — the death of another son, Eddie, 12 years earlier; attacks on her extravagance; doubts of her loyalty because she had relatives fighting for the Confederacy — Willie’s death was almost more than she could take. According to people who question her sanity, she wailed so hard and so long that Lincoln led her over to a window, pointed out an insane asylum in the distance and threatened to take her there if she didn’t stop.

The story is probably true and totally in character for Lincoln, who often tried to tease or startle his wife out of her funks. That it did no damage to the marriage was attested by a couple who took a carriage ride with the Lincolns on April 14, 1865, just hours before their fatal visit to Ford’s Theater. The war over, the president and the first lady were talking as happily as newlyweds of plans like trips together to Paris for her and to California for him.

Lincoln’s patience with his wife was apparently reciprocated by her patience with him when he slipped away from her into one of his periods of melancholy or preoccupation with affairs of state. Lincoln suffered recurring episodes of what would now be called depression from early childhood onward. In light of what we know today, an effort to link them to emotional disappointments rather than to a chemical imbalance seems quaint rather than scientific.

Mary Lincoln may have been difficult to live with, but she was not insane and there’s no question that the president loved her dearly. “My wife was as handsome as when she was a girl,” Lincoln once told a reporter. “And I, poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, have never fallen out.”

This Presidents’ Day, let’s finally acknowledge that truth.

I have been watching the first two seasons of THE WEST WING, my absolute most favorite television show.

There is one particular episode that was very moving to me. Toby Ziegler, the communications director, is called to a Washington metro park by the DC police. A homeless man has been found, dead on a park bench, with a business card of Toby’s. Toby had donated his winter coat and apparently a business card remained in the pocket. Toby recognized a tatoo on the dead man’s arm alerting him to the fact that the man had served in the Marines.

Toby, disturbed by the fact this homeless veteran was not going to receive a proper burial, began pulling strings in the president’s name.

In the meantime, the president’s aide, Charlie, speaks with the presidential secretary, Mrs. Landingham. Charlie asks why she seems down. Mrs. Landingham explains, “I miss my boys around Christmas.” Her twin sons had gone to college, gotten medical degrees, and were drafted to Viet Nam. They went where they were needed. Both sons were killed while serving, and Mrs. Landingham never got to bury her sons.

The president confronts Toby upon learning that his office had been used to secure a soldier’s burial in Arlington Cemetery. The president understands, and returns to the room where a choir is singing, “The Little Drummer Boy.”

As Toby prepares to leave, Mrs. Landingham asks to join him….

This is beautifully filmed, and quite moving…

 

Some clips from THE WEST WING….

***NATIONAL NEWS PRESS RELEASE***
LONG-SOUGHT BOYHOOD HOME OF GEORGE WASHINGTON FOUND!
Cellars Contain Evidence from the Lives of the Washington Family

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Archaeologists working at the site of George Washington’s childhood home have located and excavated the remains of the long-sought house where Washington was raised.  The site was the setting of some of the best-known stories related to his youth, including tales of the cherry tree and throwing a stone across the Rappahannock River.

    
Digging at the Ferry Farm site near Fredericksburg, Va., the archaeologists say that evidence unearthed over seven season of excavation has positively confirmed the foundation and cellars that remain from the clapboard-covered wood structure that once housed George, his parents and siblings.      
     “This is it – this is the site of the house where George Washington grew up,” said David Muraca, director of archaeology for The George Washington Foundation (GWF), which owns the property.  Fredericksburg lies about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., and Ferry Farm is just across the Rappahannock River in Stafford County, Va.  
     Muraca, working with historical archaeologist Philip Levy, associate professor of history at the University of South Florida, found from the evidence that far from being the rustic cottage of common perception, the Washington house was a much larger one-and-a-half-story residence, perched on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock.  The evidence also shows that a fire that struck the home on Christmas Eve of 1740 apparently was small and localized.  Historians had long believed that the fire had driven the family to live in out-buildings while waiting out repairs.  

     

“If George Washington did indeed chop down a cherry tree, as generations of Americans have believed, this is where it happened,” said Levy, whose research is partly funded by National Geographic.  “There is little actual documentary evidence of Washington’s formative years.  What we see at this site is the best available window into the setting that nurtured the father of our country.”   
     Although the 113-acre National Historic Landmark site called Ferry Farm was known to have been the former home and farm of the Washington family, several attempts by others to locate the house among remains of five farms that once stood on the land had failed.  In their search, the GWF archaeologists excavated two other areas on the property, uncovering remains of one house that predated the Washingtons’ home and one from the 19th century. 

      

Most of the wood and other elements of the original Washington structure are long gone – many of them “recycled” by builders of houses later built on the property or destroyed by Civil War troops who once camped there – and part of the house foundation has eroded away.  But as they dug through layers of soil, the archaeologists came upon the remains of two chimney bases, two elegantly crafted stone-lined cellars and two root cellars, where perishables once were stored. 
     Excavation of the four cellars yielded thousands of artifacts – pieces of the house’s ceilings, painted walls and family hearth; fragments of 18th-century pottery and other ceramics; glass shards, wig curlers and toothbrush handles made of bone.  The cellars constituted a time capsule of evidence that helped the archaeologists confirm that they had indeed found the long-lost residence.  (Complete press release available here…)

   

* * * * *

Stafford is honored to be home for the George Washington’s Boyhood Home, Ferry Farm.   George Washington moved here to Ferry Farm at the age of six, and lived here until the age of 19.  Here, young George grew to manhood, developing his morals, as we know through tales of the “chopping of the cherry tree.”  Though no structures remain on The Washington Family Farm site, archaeological digs are on-going to locate the foundation of the original house.  Self-guided walking tours of the property are open to the public. 

  • Website:  www.FerryFarm.org
  • Hours of Operation:  10am-5pm, daily
  • Admission:  $5.00 Adults, $3.00 Youth (6-17).  Free for kids under 6.
  • Closed:  Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 24, 25, 31
  • Group Tours:  Available any time by appointment at group rates
  • Archaeological Dig Site:  Open May-September
  • Address:  268 King’s Highway, Fredericksburg, VA  22405
  • Location:  Stafford County, VA (east of Fredericksburg on State Route 3)
  • Phone:  (540) 370-0732
  • Fax:  (540) 371-3398

    Staff & Visitors really “Dig George” at Ferry Farm!

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of one of my favorite show choir performances. It was North Central High School (Indianapolis) show choir’s “Like A Prayer.” I am not a Madonna fan, but I love the exciting rhythm and melody of that particular song. When I first saw this show choir perform this number, costumed in monk’s robes with fantastic choreography by a Ball State University Singers’ friend, Brent Holland, I was thrilled. I found it to be very creative, energetic, and fun.

So, I posted the video on here.

A day or so later I received a comment from a lady whom I do not even know. She blasted the video out of the water – it was sacrilegious. Had the message come from a family member or friend, I may have let it slide, but since this was an unknown, uninvited individual, in my typical, sharp tongued response, I responded. The following day she wrote, “I hope you burn in hell.”

Well, I guess she will only know her wish has come true once she checks me off the list when I arrive.

Last week, while walking through Chicago, we were waiting on a corner stop light to change, and a car cut in front of another car, upsetting the driver who was cut off. The woman who was cut off began screaming obscenities out her window, flipping off the offender, and as she pulled away on the back of her car was the metallic “fish symbol” and a bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot.” There was also another bumper sticker with the name and address of what I am assuming was where she attended church. In the back seat, were three children, one in an infant seat.

So where does one begin to comment on such an observation?

Well, my first thought was, “If God is your co-pilot, was he crawling under the dash from embarrassment?” After all, she had strung together a line of profanity that would have made the nastiest sailor blush.

Oh, and why is it only people can “cuss like a sailor”? I have known several air force friends here in Dayton who cuss, but we never say, “he cusses like an air force captain!” Or if you ever knew my neighbor in Elwood (Nick), who, with a pipe clenched between his teeth could mutter a string to make George Carlin (RIP) proud…

Last Tuesday, my good friend, Christi, and I were chatting after her children’s lessons. I met Christi and her family when I was director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church in 1996. Christi was not in the music program itself, but I directed her husband and children in several shows.

Christi is not at all about making physical impressions, but you can believe she will make an inspiring impression.

Christi would never go on to someone’s blog and write rude, distasteful comments concerning something with which she disagreed. In fact, she would find something positive to say.

I have many friends of many religious faiths – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Christian Science, and Baha’i. I have several wonderful friends who belong to no religious order, yet they possess all the wonderful qualities of those who do practice organized religion.

Tuesday evening, we were discussing how some individuals claim Christianity, but yet, are some of the most cruel hearted, and vicious people out there. Christi said, rather matter of fact, but with a degree of true sadness, “Sometimes, Christians can be some of the meanest people…”

I have seen this over and over.

I once was director of music at a church where the pastoral staff was involved in inappropriate behaviors of all natures – sexual affairs, lying, manipulative, shifting of funds, and other pathetic behaviors that were far from Christ-like behaviors – or appropriate behaviors in general. Yet, church councils, and a majority of the parishioners simply turned their heads to the inappropriate behaviors.

I can remember growing up in church and observing people during church. Since our family frequently joined other church families for various gatherings, I also observed an entirely different side – one that was disturbing.

At age 12, I chose not to join the Methodist church through confirmation. One Sunday morning, we arrived at church later than usual, and the congregation was in an uproar. The evening before, Carol Burnette and Company had an episode with “Eunice & Mamma” and our congregation believed Ms. Burnette’s program was making fun of religion. We had watched it, and I remember my grandmother stating she saw nothing wrong with the episode. The gentleman in front of us said that his family would never watch the Carol Burnette Show ever again. I turned and asked if we could still watch the program, and the gentleman turned and commanded, “You better not!”

Hmmm…

I sat there, stewing. I was furious that someone else told me I could not do something. Mother, and my grandparents – who were a also a tremendous influence in my life – not only provided, but encouraged me to adopt a strong sense of studying my options, or choices. Never would they have said, “You cannot watch Carol Burnette!” Never did they say, “You should not listen to your 8-Track tape of Jesus Christ, Superstar or Godspell.” And when I played the roles of Jesus and Joseph, I don’t believe anyone was offended, and in some ways, those productions could be considered blasphemous.

When it came time to go to confirmation that night, my grandfather, who could have gotten very sour over my decision to not continue with confirmation, asked why. I explained my reasons. Rather than getting all pissy, as he could so easily do, he smiled and said, “I understand completely. I only ask this – if you never ever decide to join a church as a member, or even attend church, I do hope you will always walk with God.”

And 32 years later, I am still walking with God. I cannot buy into any particular doctrine, especially when certain religions believe their way is the only way. In college, I heard campus ministers claim, over and over, that if you did not believe in Christ you would burn in hell. I never heard any of my Buddhist, or Jewish friends say, “If you don’t believe in our God, you will be consumed by the flames of hell.”

About two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon on Lincoln since that particular Sunday fell on President Lincoln’s birthday. The whole point was, “Was Lincoln a Christian?” In all the evidence on Lincoln, it is generally believed he did not buy into any particular religion, and stated that he would join the church with the words carved over the altar, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, heart, soul and strength.” My final conclusion was that Lincoln “may not have been a technical Christian,” as indicated by his wife, but rather, “Lincoln was most certainly Christ-like.” (And I am still grateful to my friend, Jeff Carter for guiding me to that conclusion!)

Disciple means “to teach.” A derivative is “discipline.” We discuss this in the pre-adoptive training classes when I teach the discipline unit. When I think of Christ, I think of this tremendous human being who brought light into the dark lives of many. Where the Old Testament seemed to promote so many “don’t’s” – Christ was all about the “do’s” in life – do love one another, do love God, do help one another, do help those less fortunate…”  If there were any “dont’s” in his message it was “don’t discriminate.”

Christi punched this particular item around last Tuesday. Christ did not discriminate. The fellow loved everyone. He dined with those who were ostracized by political or religious establishments, he touched those others abandoned, and there did not seem to be any one not worthy of receiving his love and attention. Christ was not mean. Even when persecuted, he was still loving and forgiving.

We attended one church, and although I do not buy into the doctrine, I do love the familiar hymns, the sense of community, and the values that help support what I teach my own sons. My youngest son is at the age where some teenagers question – which is fine. In our house, if you question something, you must seek answers, or research your question. You must support your reasons for questioning. However, we both agreed that we wanted to take a sabbatical from organized religion. He belongs to a wonderful youth group that is all about spirituality, not doctrine, and he is expressly interested in this component – as am I.

Our decision happened to fall when we were incredibly busy with percussion ensemble season, show choir contests, and my own illness. For a while, people from church would send emails stating they missed us. Then the emails changed to “where are you?” There are a few who will send messages, or jokes, but for the most part, we have been written off. One person, with whom I continued to send jokes, responded a few weeks ago with “since you cannot come to church please don’t send me any future emails.”

Hmmm….

I did not entertain that email as “mean,” but it did open up some other avenues for thought. It seemed to touch upon a sense of possessiveness I had not really observed before, but now looking back, all the churches with which I have been involved have had an air of possessiveness. The goal seems to be on building membership, tithing and apportionment’s for the denominational hierarchy, and claiming lost sheep in the name of Christ. When my childhood church was irked over Carol Burnette, there was even a possessive mind set of controlling what we watched on television. When in college, I received a letter from my home church stating I should sign a petition and avoid seeing The Last Temptation of Christ. When I did not respond, I received a telephone call in my dorm room – from the same person who told me I was not to watch Carol Burnette! For those who know me well, imagine my reaction!

I saw The Last Temptation of Christ. What is more, I saw it with the pastor of the Lutheran Church where I was director of music! He and I both agreed it was art, and that should a person be shaken in their faith from seeing the movie, their faith may not have been on the right track.

Later when I saw the gentleman from church, I told him of my experience watching the movie I was to boycott… he shook his head and walked away. Nearly twenty years later, he was still avoiding me at my grandfather’s funeral.

I had one Christian friend who admonished me because I allow my son to watch Family Guy!

Hell, I watch it, too. This same friend loves The Simpsons – though milder than Family Guy, it still contains some eye openers. I assured my friend that before I watched Family Guy, I never missed a program with Jimmy Swaggart… she had nothing else to say.  Of course, this same person indicated I could not be a good Christian because I supported Hilary Clinton for the Democratic candidate for president.

I don’t consider this particular person “mean,” just misguided by her religious instruction – but not her faith.

I also had a friend shame me because I like Rosie O’Donnell. I was coached that I should not like her because she is Lesbian, and because she is so outspoken.

Lesbian? Wasn’t Danny Thomas one? [insert chuckle, here].

And outspoken?

A lot of people are… Rev. Jesse Jackson is outspoken – and wasn’t he a bit un-Christian this week with his comments about Obama??? Isn’t JJ a Christian? Rev. Al Sharpton is outspoken. But this friend could not believe I supported Rosie!

Well, Rosie adopts kids, I adopt kids. Rosie is big with adoption, I am big with adoption. Rosie does a lot of great things that do not receive press recognition. Good for her! Now, this friend who does not like Rosie is always certain her works for the hungry/homeless, her contributions at church, her contributions at her children’s school always receives recognition. In programs for Victoria, Schuster Center, or other area arts related products, her name is always listed as a contributer. Rosie receives recognition, too, but there are a number of things she does that go unnoticed.

Bravo!

Besides… who I prefer as politicians, or celebrities is still my choice, and well, my business.

What I shared with Christi the other evening was my growing concern for this “shoot to kill” attitude with some Christians. If a person is not Christian, they are often considered “evil.” In this current election, religion played way too much a part of the concerns. I truly do not care the denomination to which a politician belongs. Throughout our history, we have had a variety of denominations living in the White House, or serving in other arenas in our government. And I am sure we have had leaders claiming a denomination without even practicing.

In 1960, my great-grandfather changed his political affiliation because the Democratic party nominated a Catholic! Was my great-grandfather mean? Hell no! Virgil Barmes was one of the most loving, adorable people in the world. During the Depression, he worked for a granary that was owned by a Catholic, and the owner was firing non-Catholics to hire fellow Catholics.

For me, what is important is that the individual has some sort of spiritual base, or center. Many are hopping on the band wagon regarding Obama’s current or past religious affiliations. If it was true that he did not use a Christian Bible while being sworn in, why does it matter? When a person is being sworn in to political office, they are taking an oath to uphold our constitution – federal, state, county, community.

Besides, how many politicians have placed their hand on The Bible, and turned out to be some of the biggest liars and crooks in public office?

There was one Republican candidate I really liked – Mit Romney, I believe – who was a member of The Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I cannot begin to tell you how many friends commented on his religious affiliation. When I asked about his politics, very few could tell me any more about him. They were so focused on the fact that he was Mormon! I found this more disturbing than sad.

Christi’s comment just seemed to hang with me these past few days, and I simply jotted down some of my thoughts, experiences and observations. I am sure my comments on this page will be crucified by some as blasphemous, condemning me to hell, etc.. That’s fine. But I bet I will be able to tell to which faith they belong!

I believe, even more, in my theory of “The God Wheel.” I always think of a bicycle wheel… God is the hub and God is directly connected to use via the spokes. However, we are connected to one another by the rim which also connects us all back to the God source! Before some swing a cross, I am not saying we are God, but I do believe – my personal belief – that we are all a part of God and God is a part of us – an interconnectedness!

God isn’t my co-pilot. God drives through me.

I am sure if the lady who was so alarmed by my video posting of the show choir reads this post, she will have a priest perform an exorcism!

This afternoon, I watched a DVD about The Duke of Windsor, followed by one of my favorite books/movies, All The President’s Men.  What an incredible movie, and book. Woodward and Bernstein are two of my favorite writers. The movie is packed with great stars – aside from Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford – there’s Polly Holliday, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander (while she was also filming her role as Eleanor Roosevelt), Merideth Baxter, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, F. Murray Abraham, and others… wow! What a fantastic movie.

May 31st, 2005, I can remember the breaking news coming across my computer and television… “Deep Throat is revealed…”  Mark Felt, former assistant director of the FBI, admitted to being the mystery man known as “Deep Throat.” There had been speculation, but Felt always denied it.

The story below is amazing….

By DEAN E. MURPHY

Published: June 5, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, June 4 – Nicholas T. Jones (left) and Jarett A. Nixon (right), law school classmates have met at an intersection of history.

They have practiced speaking Spanish together, and at one point last year, Mr. Nixon, 28, tried to recruit Mr. Jones, 23, to work on a law journal at the school, the Hastings College of the Law.”

He’s a good guy,” Mr. Nixon said of Mr. Jones. “We’ve had a friendly relationship.”

What neither man knew until the identity of Deep Throat was revealed this week, however, was that they come from opposite sides of one of the most profound divides in modern American political history.

Mr. Nixon’s great-uncle, whom he recalls fondly as Uncle Dick, was President Richard M. Nixon, a relationship he had never shared with Mr. Jones. His grandfather, Donald Nixon, was the president’s brother.

Mr. Jones’s grandfather is W. Mark Felt, the F.B.I. source for The Washington Post who helped bring a premature end to the Nixon presidency. It was Mr. Jones who read a statement on Tuesday on behalf of Mr. Felt outside the family’s home in Santa Rosa, Calif., the first time Mr. Felt publicly acknowledged he was Deep Throat.

“When I found out who it was, it kind of put a smile on my face,” Mr. Nixon said in an interview. “It was like, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I know this guy,’ ” he said of Mr. Jones, “and he’s a good guy.'”

Since the intersection of their family histories came to light, the two men have not had the chance to speak to each other. Classes at Hastings have ended, and Mr. Nixon, who graduated two weeks ago, has been studying around the clock for the bar examination. Mr. Jones has been equally consumed by his grandfather’s newfound fame, politely keeping the news media and curiosity seekers at a distance in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

Separately, though, the two men have also been trying the same difficult balancing act, staunchly defending their opposing family legacies while insisting in interviews that the past would not poison their own relationship.

“What he did was the right thing to do, heroic,” Mr. Jones said of his grandfather, in one of several brief exchanges with reporters. “He’s an honorable guy. He has always been guided by a real strong conscience. We stand behind him and what he did.”

Mr. Nixon, who grew up in Orange County and now lives in San Francisco, said he had been taunted and teased since elementary school about his great-uncle, the only president to resign from office.

But his parents, he said, had taught him and his brother to “look for the good in Uncle Dick,” and the family visited the former president during summer vacations when Jarett Nixon was young. He said he last saw his great-uncle in 1993 at the funeral of Patricia Nixon, the former first lady. President Nixon died in 1994 when Jarett Nixon was in high school.

“I definitely stand by my uncle, and I’m proud of him for all the good things he did with this life,” Mr. Nixon said. “He was able to accomplish a lot more than most people out there.”

Until this week, Mr. Jones said he never made the connection between his law school classmate and the former president, describing it in an interview in his driveway as “kind of fun” and a “cool and interesting factoid.”

“I still see him the same,” he said of Mr. Nixon. “I think he’s a cool guy. He seems like the kind of guy who’s going to be pretty successful in whatever he chooses to do.”

Even with the pivotal role his grandfather played in the Watergate story, Mr. Jones said he was unwilling to criticize President Nixon. He said that this is a time when “almost everyone is jumping to conclusions,” and that he did not want to do the same. “I think it’s folly, quite frankly,” he said.

Similarly, Mr. Nixon refused to pass judgment on Mr. Felt’s role as Deep Throat. He said he would have preferred if Mr. Felt had pursued his concerns about Watergate “through a more legal route,” but he had no interest in joining the debate raging on talk radio and elsewhere as to whether Mr. Felt was a hero or a traitor. He said that he had never heard of Mr. Felt until Tuesday; his family, he said, had always speculated that Deep Throat was one of his great-uncle’s secretaries.

“He made a decision and he went with it,” Mr. Nixon said of Mr. Felt. “I’m not the person to say that was something that was essentially wrong. And God knows, Uncle Dick made his mistakes too.”

Both Mr. Nixon and Mr. Jones said it was perhaps easier for them to step back from their families’ Watergate-era passions because they were generations removed from those events. As a bearer of the former president’s name, Mr. Nixon also said he had long ago learned that it was unfair to make judgments about people based on their family history.

“Everybody is here in the world to make their own way, and be their own person,” Mr. Nixon said. In that regard, he said, “I expect the same from Nick as I do from myself.”

Mr. Jones said he hoped the renewed attention on the Nixon presidency and the role his grandfather played in Watergate would make that period in history more real to Americans of his generation.

“A lot of people my age, a lot of people younger than me, don’t really know what it is all about,” he said. “It is good for us to kind of hear all about this, and learn about it, and get the lessons out of it, get the values.”

One such value, he said, had nothing to do with politics. He said he was immensely proud that as cameras around the world captured his grandfather this week, the scene depicted was the home Mr. Felt, who is 91, shared with his family.

“Our grandfather lives with us, he is happy here, he is close to his family and we get to interact every day,” Mr. Jones said. “We think that is a cool lesson.”

When asked about the connection between Mr. Jones and Mr. Nixon, Amy DerBedrosian, a spokeswoman for Hastings College, said there was a further link. Among the graduates last year was Matthew McGovern-Rowen, the grandson of former Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.

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.

 

 

Getting ready to shower and head to training for the update of my adoption license.
 
I finally hit a point last night where I could just write no more on the Wright Brother musical.  Normally I can go strong until 1:00-2:00am. But my brain just gave out. I had completely changed the entire format, and spent all of Thursday and Friday ripping it apart and putting it all back together. I eliminated one character and had to go through the entire script deleting his name, and reassigning his lines that were important to the story. So, around 9:00pm I brought my laptop and everything inside, and came to the bedroom with a DVD on Ronald Reagan – the PBS series. Great movie.
I woke at 7:00am, but have had trouble stirring… dark and gray outside, but the sun is struggling to peak through.
 
Logan, my cat of 14 years, seems to be slowing down in so many ways. Getting up onto things seems to be tougher for her. In the morning, each pet gets a little dish of moist food, and I set Logan’s up on the kitchen table because Flyer always goes after it. Normally Logan would hop right up, but now I lift her to the table. I’ve noticed, for some time, how she calculates getting up to tables, rail on deck, etc. She has even been forgoing  napping or sleeping on my bed, and remaining on the floor. When my alarm goes off each morning she is always up in my face meowing and bugging me to get my butt into the kitchen for her moist food. This morning, I had to call her into the kitchen. She came running and yapping, but she is definitely slowing down. Amazing how youthful and sprite she appears when there is a baby bunny to chase and kill.
 
Tons of stuff in the news: 
  • Obama & Clinton now a team on the trail
  • Nelson Mandela celebrates his 90th birthday
  • and Wal-Mart will now be spelled Walmart and have a burnt orange background.
 
Time to shower and head to training…. ugh. Not one of my favorite things. Material is stuff I have been teaching the past five years.
 

This author of this post is Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler from South Florida. Wexler has been ubiquitous these last months as a top surrogate for Senator Obama — even representing him at the nationally televised DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. Wexler recently called for testimony of Scott McClellan before the Judiciary Committee and delivered it. He has been front and center demanding impeachment hearings for Cheney and now Bush. Now Wexler has published a frank book about his political experiences and his thoughts on why Democrats should be more aggressive. The book is entitled Fire-Breathing Liberal – How I learned to Survive (and Thrive) in the Contact Sport of Congress

___________

The testimony of Scott McClellan this past Friday in the House Judiciary Committee marked an important step forward for Congress in the battle to fully expose the crimes of the Bush/Cheney Administration and finally hold this White House accountable for its appalling actions that have weakened our constitution and our government. I am only sorry that we are taking this step so late in President Bush’s term in office. However, I am pleased that history will at the very least document the shocking revelations that Mr. McClellan testified to on Friday. Scott McClellan under oath last week agreed with me that it is a likely possibility that Vice President Dick Cheney was the individual who authorized the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert status. Mr. McClellan also said that he believes more White House officials should come before Congress and reveal the truth about this Administration’s actions. McClellan’s testimony underscores a simple reality: We must dig deeper.

The fact that much of what McClellan testified to on Friday is already known and reported on in the press should not diminish its import. We have a formerly loyal top official in the Bush White House stating under oath that the Bush Administration carried out a campaign of lying and misstatements to trick Congress and the American people into war in Iraq. This former White House Press Secretary states that Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove likely engaged in behavior that amounts to obstruction of justice regarding the leaking of the identity of covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

McClellan’s testimony only touched the tip of the iceberg regarding the corrupt actions of the Bush Administration. As I have written about in my new book Fire-Breathing Liberal – How I learned to Survive (and Thrive) in the Contact Sport of Congress, this Administration has done more to weaken the balance of powers established by the Founding Fathers than any previous White House. In both domestic and foreign policy this cabal of right-wing true believers have violated our laws and our Constitution. Just this year it was revealed that the highest levels of the Administration including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Colon Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld approved and ordered the torture of prisoners and thereby violated US law, our commitments to international treaties, and vanquished whatever remaining moral authority our nation held in the eyes of the global community. The list goes on and on and includes hiding and censoring scientific findings on global warming and the blatantly political firing of US attorneys.

Earlier this year I began a nationwide campaign to hold impeachment hearings for Vice President Dick Cheney (and I have recently expanded my efforts to push for hearings for Bush as well.) Although the national media completely ignored these efforts, over a quarter of a million Americans did not and signed a petition of support on my site Wexlerwantshearings.com in order to advocate for accountability for this rouge Administration.

Just imagine, ten short years ago our media was obsessed with details of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp and Republicans in Congress actually impeached a popular President of the United States because he had an affair and lied about it. Today we have a President and a Vice President that went to war on false pretenses, illegally ordered the torture of prisoners, obstructed justice by lying about the outing of a covert CIA agent, fired US Attorneys for political reasons, and authorized warrantless spying on American citizens. This president and vice-president took countless despicable actions that surely amount to high crimes and yet the media yawns and even the vast majority of Democrats in Congress are simply uninterested. This arrogant Administration simply does not respect the constitutional powers of Congress and by their actions — and by our reluctance to respond — we threaten to forever weaken the power of Congress. As you know, current and former Bush Administration officials have simply refused to testify before Congress even when subpoenaed.

This has never happened before in the history of our nation. Never before have high level executive officials refused to even appear before Congress when properly summoned by the Legislative Branch. The House of Representatives has held former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress for their failure to appear and a lawsuit is ongoing in order to force their appearance. I think we must do more. I have called for Karl Rove — who has also refused to testify — to be held in inherent contempt and for the other renegade officials such as Miers and Bolten to appear as required by their subpoenas or be forced to do so by the House Sergeant of Arms. The power of inherent contempt is lawful whereas the refusal of Miers and Bolten is not. Congress must stand up for itself against this executive abuse of power.

It is now the time for Democrats to be breathing more fire. We need to show the American people that they chose correctly when they returned our party to majority status in Congress. As I argue in my book, when we give Americans a stark choice — progressive values and policies will carry the day against the defeated ideas and old politics of the Bush Administration and the vanquished GOP Congressional majority.

I hope that the McClellan hearing will only be the beginning of an effort for genuine accountability rather than a culmination of the effort. We owe it to the American people and history to pursue the wrongdoing of this Administration whether or not it helps us politically or in the next election. Our actions will properly define the Bush Administration in the eyes of history and that is the true test.

 

Over the past month or so, I have watched all three series of the movie based on John Jakes’ novels, NORTH AND SOUTH… ahhh…

The writing, the directing, the cinematography, the costuming, the set design, and THE MUSIC… as if all this is not enough, the assembled cast is one of the most talented ever assembled for any one movie…

  • Jimmy Stewart
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Patrick Swayzee
  • James Read
  • Leslie-Ann Downs
  • Jean Simmons
  • Kirstie Alley
  • Teri Garber (Luke & Larua)
  • Genie Francis
  • Wendy Kilbourne (married to James Read)
  • David Carradine
  • Inga Swenson (from BENSON)
  • Morgan Fairchild
  • Robert Mitchum
  • Hal Holbrook (ahh… the best!)
  • Robert Guilluame (BENSON)
  • Johnny Cash (too good!)
  • Gene Kelly
  • David Ogden Stiers
  • Wendy Fulton
  • Jonathan Frakes
  • Mary Crosby (Bing’s daughter)
  • Lloyd Bridges
  • Olivia De  Havilland (Melanie in GONE WITH THE WIND)
  • Wayne Newton
  • Forrest Whitaker
  • Jerry Biggs
  • Cathy Lee Crosby
  • Cliff DeYoung
  • Mariette Hartley
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Brandon Smith
  • Rip Torn
  • Robert Wagner
  • Billy Dee Williams
  • Gregory Zaragoza
  • Kyle Chandler (EARLY EDITION, KING KONG, GREY’S ANATOMY, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS)
  • Philip Casnoff

And these are only the ones I recognize! What a tremendous cast, and a great movie.

I was in college when the movie came out, and I remember watching it in its entirety. The music, however, moved me more than anything… I can remember going to the piano and playing it. Here is a clip from the opening credits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh9LW_19wb8

From IMB:

1842, a special summer day at the huge plantation of Mont Royal. A South Carolinian young man, Orry Maine, leaves his rich home for West Point Academy. On his way northwards, in very strange circumstances, he meets two people who will play a decisive role in his life: beautiful lady Madeleine Fabray whom Orryhelps and with whom he falls in love and a “Yankee” George Hazard by whom Orry is helped and who is also on his way to West Point Academy. From that time, Orry and George are best friends and help each other at every moment, they fight for the USA in the Mexican War at Churubusco where George saves Orry’s life. A few years later, the friendship of Orry and George spread to the friendship of their families, the Maines from South Carolina and the Hazards from Pennsylvania. Yet, the love of Orry’s life, Madeleine gets married to Justin LaMotte, a rich cruel owner of nearby plantation in South Carolina. Their love cannot be fulfilled and they only meet in secret. Years pass by and the relations between north and south are not that calm as in the past. Northern abolitionists demand the end of slavery while the south demands secession and separation from the “damn Yankees.” Although George and Orry badly want peace between north and south, there is no escape from the inescapable fate. April, the 12th, 1861 and the attack on the northern fortress Fort Sumter done by the southerners means the beginning of war. These who fought together at Churubusco will have to fight against each other. Friends will have to become enemies. Will war be stronger than peace of mind? May the storm and noise of canons, rifles and bullets destroy honor, respect and true friendship? Written by Marcin Kukuczka

Based on John Jakes best selling novel this is the story of the friendship between two boys – George Hazard and Orry Main – that meet at West Point. George is from a wealthy Pennsylvania steel family and Orry is from a Southern plantation where his family keep slaves. In the years leading up to the Civil War their friendship is tested as their families interact and hostilities between the North and South increase. Notes: In the book Orry loses an arm during the Mexican war where he and George fight together but the in the TV version his injury is re-written as a limp. Written by Susan Southall {stobchatay@aol.com}

This sweeping, star-studded epic about two powerful families before and during the Civil War is based on John Jakes’ popular novels. The show tells the saga of the Hazards of Pennsylvania and the Mains of South Carolina and their loves, hatreds, jealousies, and robust rivalry. Book II opens in 1861 and continues the families story against the dramatic backdrop of the war. The carefully filmed battle scenes are sure to please Civil War buffs. Written by Anonymous

Two teenage boys; Orry Main from South Carolina and George Hazard from Pennsylvania, meet on their ways to military academy in West Point. Very soon, they become the best friends ever. In the Academy they spend lots of time together and together make the biggest enemy; ElkanahBent. After graduation, they go for a war with Mexico, where Orry gets hurt really bad, but is saved by George. When they return homes, they don’t give up on their friendship – their families spend summer together, their siblings falls in love, they become business-partners etc. But the situation in the country is not getting better, also not all the family members and neighbours like the idea of people from North and South being friends. In December 1860, South Carolina leaves Union. The war is much closer then it has ever been. It starts at a spring, 1861. George and Orry must fight against each other …

 

Yesterday afternoon I just happened to turn on the television as television journalist, Tom Brokaw, was breaking the news of Tim Russert’s sudden death.

This morning, I feel as though I have lost a favorite uncle. There is an emptiness, that great sense of loss. Every Sunday morning, I would call Mother, and then hang up as the musical intro for MEET THE PRESS began. I didn’t care who was a guest, or what the topic – I watched the program to listen to “Uncle Tim.”

I can honestly say I learned more about poliitics, and feel as though I am a better American from what I learned from Tim. I have always loved politics, and Tim encouraged me to love the art of political science even more. The greatest thing I learned, and still practice, is investigate both sides of the issue.

My Sunday mornings, except for my telephone calls with Mother, and THE HOUR OF POWER, will be terribly empty with Uncle Tim. I believe Tim Russert was one of the greatest Americans of this era.

The two hour special edition of THE TODAY SHOW this Saturday morning, hosted by Matt Laurer, and a host of his colleagues and even the vice-president, was a tremendous tribute. The closing shot was of Tim’s empty chair on the set of MEET THE PRESS.

(CNN) — Tim Russert, who became one of America’s leading political journalists as the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” died Friday, the network said. He was 58.

Tim Russert established himself as the face of NBC’s political journalism as host of “Meet the Press.”

The network said the award-winning journalist collapsed at work Friday. He was taken to Washington’s Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he died, the hospital confirmed.

Colleague and former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw broke the news on the network Friday shortly after 3:40 p.m.

Russert had just returned from a family vacation in Italy with his wife, journalist Maureen Orth, and son, Luke, to celebrate his graduation from Boston College, Brokaw said.

“I think I can invoke personal privilege and say this news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice,” Brokaw said Friday.

“He will be missed as he was loved — greatly.”

Friends and colleagues remembered Russert on Friday not only as one of the country’s most respected and influential political journalists, but also as a friend, a devout Catholic and an avid sports fan, especially when it came to his home team, the Buffalo Bills.

“I just loved the guy. He had this enthusiasm about all of the things that life brings to you,” said James Carville, who often attended Washington National games with Russert. “My wife and I are in a complete state of utter shock.”

Russert was born May 7, 1950, in Buffalo, New York. His parents were Timothy John Russert Sr., or “Big Russ,” a newspaper truck driver and sanitation worker, and Elizabeth Russert.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown ordered that all flags on city property be lowered immediately to half-staff in Russert’s honor.

He was a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He was a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia, according to a biography on CNBC.com.

Before joining NBC, Russert served as press secretary for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and as chief of staff to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Russert joined the network in 1984 and quickly established himself as the face of the network’s political coverage, eventually becoming senior vice president and Washington bureau chief of NBC news.

His career at NBC was marked by a number of milestones. In 1985, Russert supervised live broadcasts of the “Today” show from Rome, Italy, negotiating an appearance by Pope John Paul II — a first for American television.

His rise to prominence coincided with his success as the best-selling author of two books, 2004’s “Big Russ and Me” and 2006’s “Wisdom of Our Fathers,” which documented his journey from blue-collar beginnings to law school to Washington powerhouse.

The memoirs, both of which were New York Times best sellers, transformed the award-winning journalist into the son of Big Russ, a Buffalo Bills fanatic, and finally, a husband and father.

Tim was a true child of Buffalo and the blue-collar roots from which he was raised,” Brokaw said Friday. “For all his success, he was always in touch with the ethos of that community.”

Russert credited his upbringing with helping him keep his ego in check as he became the man who interviewed presidents and important politicians of the day.

“If you come from Buffalo, everything else is easy. Walking backwards to school, for a mile in the snow, grounds you for life,” Russert told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz in 2004. “Plus, if you have a family the way I do, it’s a daily reality check.”

Russert, who also served as a political analyst for cable network MSNBC, took the helm of “Meet the Press” in 1991, turning the long-running Sunday-morning interview program into the most-watched show of its kind in the United States.

During his 17-year run as the host of “Meet the Press,” the longest of any host in the show’s 60-year history, Russert earned the respect and admiration of many journalists and politicians.

“He was an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it,” President Bush said Friday.

His professionalism earned him many accolades. The Washingtonian Magazine once dubbed Russert the best and most influential journalist in Washington, describing “Meet the Press” as “the most interesting and important hour on television.”

In 2008, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Brokaw described Russert as a political junkie who threw himself into his work during this year’s presidential contest.

“This was one of the most important years of Tim’s life for many reasons,” Brokaw said. “He loved this political campaign. He worked himself to the point of exhaustion many weeks.”

He was also the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including an Emmy in 2005 for his coverage of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Spirituality of Abraham Lincoln

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these things were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

One hundred and forty-two years ago today, Abraham Lincoln wrote these words. So often, President Lincoln is referred to as our most “Christian president.” Although few today would equate Lincoln with Christ so explicitly, our casual ways of talking about the martyred president embody something of an old idea.

Consider – if you would – these images of Lincoln:
v the common man of uncommon wisdom,
v the man who saved a country and freed the slaves,
v the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief,
v the man who could forgive a hostile, warring nation,
v the man who showed great compassion and love for all humanity
v the teller of simple stories dense with meaning.

The day after Abraham Lincoln’s death was Easter Sunday and it took almost no time at all for the pious and patriotic people to transform Lincoln into the American Christ. American preachers forgot their prepared Easter sermons and rhapsodized about the martyred president. Some compared him with Moses leading his oppressed people to freedom. But most likened him to Christ – the savior of the nation.

A couple of years ago I was driving through the square in Hodgenville, Kentucky, a little community near the site of Lincoln’s birthplace, and I noticed that this town had draped his statue with holly, ivy and Christmas greenery. Without thinking a thing of it, the good people of Hodgenville had merged one humble but redeeming birth into another.

For over a century now, there have been tons of comparisons between Lincoln and Christ:
· Both were born in humble origins
· Both of their fathers were carpenters
· Both worked as laborers before beginning their careers
· Both loved all walks of life – especially children
· Both had many enemies who wished them harm
· Both were great story tellers
· Both were considered radical
· Both men were capable of great love for mankind
· Christ entered Jerusalem a few days before his death to shouts of “Hosanna” and “Savior” and “Messiah.”
· Lincoln entered Richmond, Virginia a few days before his death, also to shouts of “Hosanna” and “Savior” and “Messiah.”
· Both men looked after their mothers until the day of their assassinations
· Christ and Lincoln were both executed on Good Friday
· Christ, moments away from death, asked that his enemies be forgiven with the words, “Father forgive them.”
· Lincoln, in his second inaugural address the month before his death, pleaded with Northern states to forgive the Southern Confederacy – “With malice toward none.”

Modern religious scoffers have been reluctant to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s deep spirituality, in spite of the fact that he was often known as “Father Abraham” and has been described as one of the most deeply religious presidents the country has ever seen. The key to Lincoln’s belief system was a rough-hewn version of predestination that he absorbed from the evangelical Baptist preachers who scoured the frontiers of Kentucky and Indiana.

Yet for all of his familiarity with the Bible, and his invocation of Providence and of the Almighty, he did not actively participate in a church or lend his name and authority to a denomination. Lincoln was not, as his wife, Mary Todd, later described, “a technical Christian.”

The religious aspect Lincoln’s spirituality was this: Lincoln believed some form of providence was at work in the universe, but was unable to believe in Jesus Christ as his savior. He was once quoted to say that he would join the church that had engraved above its altar: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.” Although he was unable to believe fully in Christian doctrine, he was never comfort-able in his unbelief. But what is so difficult to comprehend is how, during the devastation of the Civil War, Lincoln’s self-made theology reshaped American history. And the question that is of-ten asked among my fellow Lincoln scholars:

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

Sadness and suffering appear to be at the core of Lincoln’s spirituality. At the age of nine, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the woman Lincoln claimed as his be-loved angel mother, died in the woods of the family’s Indiana farm. A few years later he lost his sister Sarah who was his closest companion in the world.

In 1850, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln lost their three year-old-son, Eddie. With Eddie’s death, Mary turned to religion by joining the Presbyterian Church, and Abraham turned to the Bible. His thorough investigation of the scriptures launched him on a steady course that permeated his soul and his future political writings.

In 1862, one year into the Civil War, the Lincoln’s lost their cherished eleven-year-old son, Willie. This particular family tragedy tilted the emotional balance for Mary who sought comfort from an era popularized with spiritualists and séances.
But for Lincoln, this personal tragedy, coupled with the grievous casualties of the war, ignited an even greater faith in God and his own belief of a purpose driven life.

Religion became a hot issue in 1846 when Lincoln ran for congress against a famous Illinois Methodist minister, Peter Cartright. The Cartwright camp spread talk of Lincoln as infidel. Lincoln attended one of Rev. Cartright’s campaign speeches and took a seat not too far from the speaker’s stand. The portly and boisterous Rev. Cartright spied his tall, lean opponent and took advantage of this surprise visit. Rev. Cartright worked his audience into an emotional, revival frenzy.

Finally he said, “If you love the Lord, stand up!”

The crowd rose with arms stretched towards the open sky, cheering for several min-utes. Lincoln remained seated.

“If you are a Christian, stand up!”

The crowd rose again with cheers and outstretched arms. Still, Lincoln remained seated.

“If you know you are going to heaven, stand up!”

This time, the response was thunderous. Spying Lincoln still seated, Rev. Cartright looked over at his congressional opponent and pointed a finger. “You, Mr. Lincoln! Where do you intend on going?”

Lincoln rose to his full height of six feet, four inches, looked around at the thousands gathered, turned to Rev. Cartright and said, “Well, I intend on going to congress.”

The crowd roared.

The next day Lincoln responded to Rev. Cartright’s claims of Lincoln’s disrespect for religion with what is probably his most revealing theological statement. Lincoln wrote: “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true, but I have never uttered any disrespect toward religion in general or of any Christian group.”

Lincoln was elected to the United States Congress. It would be his last political vic-tory until the presidential election of 1860. Lincoln would have gained politically by joining a church, maintaining a religious-front and keeping doubts to himself. But that would have been out of character.

Was Lincoln a Christian?

Although Lincoln never joined a church nor ever made a clear profession of stan-dard Christian beliefs, it is obvious that Christianity exerted a profound influence on his life for Lincoln’s speeches and conversation revealed a spiritual perception far above the ordi-nary.

It is one of the great ironies of the history of Christianity in America that the most profoundly religious analysis of the nation’s deepest trauma came not from a clergyman or a theologian but from a politician who was self-taught in the ways of both God and humanity.

The source of Lincoln’s Christian perception will probably always remain a mystery, but of the unusual depth of that perception there is no doubt. Nowhere was that depth more visible than in his Second Inaugural Address of March 1865. This address has often been called the greatest state paper of the nineteenth century, but it is more than a state paper. It is a theological classic.

This occasion on March 4, 1865, gave Lincoln his best opportunity to state the Bibli-cal faith that formed the center of his conviction. He included:
v fourteen references to God
v many scriptural allusions and
v four direct quotations from the Bible.

It is difficult to think of another state paper so steeped in Scripture and so devoted to theological reflection.

Once during the Civil War, a Northern minister told the president, “I hope the Lord is on our side.”

Lincoln, with what I personally believe to be his most prolific statement said, “I don’t think it matters that God is on our side, but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”

During the war, God became even more instrumental to Lincoln because he believed God had a magnificent work for America to perform, a work significant for the whole world. It seemed as though Lincoln began speaking not to his country alone but to aspirants for freedom in all countries around the world, and not to his own moment in history but to the centuries.

The proposition that all men are created equal was a truth for the ages, and if Amer-ica, under God, achieved a new birth of freedom, it would stand as an object lesson to all nations.

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

Yesterday afternoon I called up my dear friend of mine in Muncie, Indiana, who is a music professor at Ball State University and an ordained minister. My friend redirected in my thinking by relating a question proposed by one of his religion professors.

The teacher said to his students, “Many ask, ‘do I have faith?’ But what is important to ask is, ‘Am I faithing?’”

The professor turned FAITH into a verb.

As we discussing the mystery of Lincoln’s spirituality I began forming a much more pointed question:

“We can ask ‘Was Lincoln a Christian?’

But we’ll never know the answer. What we should ask is, ‘Was Lincoln Christian?’”

Now this I believe we can justify -Lincoln was, without a doubt, very Christian. But then my friend stated something that seemed to sum up Lincoln’s spirituality. He said: “If anything, Lincoln’s faith was consistent.”

That began unraveling even more ideas and questions – not about Lincoln, but about myself, and my life.

Am I consistent enough?
Do I love others enough?
Do I serve enough?
Do I forgive enough?
Do I love God enough?

The tapestry of Lincoln’s life is masterful. From his suffering he drew compassion. From his weakness he drew strength. Although today we see President Lincoln in stone and on the pages of American his-tory, he was our most human president, and perhaps our most Christ-like who modeled a consistent practice of his faith.

Lincoln’s summary of faith, which I read at the start, is still vital today.

v Have we forgotten God?
v Do we imagine that all the blessings of our own lives are produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own?
v Have we become so intoxicated with unbroken success that we are too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace?
v Are we too proud to pray to the God that made us?

And I ask myself: Am I consistent in my own faith?

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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