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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess you can see where I’m headed.

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

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

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

And that’s where you come in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s where we all come in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Man was never intended to become an oyster.”

That’s Theodore Roosevelt talking.

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

And President Thomas Jefferson wrote,

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

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

Which is where we all come in.

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

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

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

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July 4th, 2007, Jose and I were present for the naturalization ceremony that took place on the expansive lawn of Monticello, the mountaintop plantation of President Thomas Jefferson.  It was a poignant moment for me since this was also the dual-death anniversary of two American icons – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

That morning, following the swearing-in ceremony, motion picture and television great, Sam Waterston gave the address.  I found it incredibly moving, and it has stayed with me to this day.

Tonight, Jose is working on an essay for his US Government class: What Makes A Good Citizen?

It came to us that a good starting point for his essay would be to read Mr. Waterston’s remarks from nearly four years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess you can see where I’m headed.

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

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

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

And that’s where you come in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s where we all come in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Man was never intended to become an oyster.”

That’s Theodore Roosevelt talking.

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

And President Thomas Jefferson wrote,

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

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

Which is where we all come in.

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

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

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

This was well said – finally, someone has presented the facts… Mr. Olberman also stated what I have been listing for weeks – the other Christian parishes immediately ON Ground Zero!!!

In recent months, President Barak Obama has been needled by underground, or less-publicized media, and individual blogs for his support of Muslims celebrating their faith.

AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE

I was just reading a passage in First Lady Hilary Clinton’s book, AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE, in the “Christmas At The White House” chapter. The former first lady wrote (page 198):

“As much as Bill and I love our Christmas traditions, we’ve wanted to be sure other faiths felt welcome during the holiday season. In 1993 we put a menorah in the West Wing lobby to honor the Jewish festival of Chanukah. The President also lights another very special menorah in the Oval Office. Maryim Baram, an Israeli craftsman who lost his young son in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, created it from his love and grief and sent it to the President.

Starting in 1996, we have also hosted a Ramadan event to mark the end of the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims and to increase understanding of Islam.”

Interesting….

Also, from THE WHITE HOUSE: George W. Bush we learn:

“President Jimmy Carter walked to Lafayette Park in 1979 and lit one candle or shammash (the candle used to light other candles) in the 30-foot electric silver menorah.

President Ronald Reagan visited the Rockville Jewish Community Center in 1983 and gave remarks following the lighting of the menorah.

The Synagogue Council of America gave President George H.W. Bush a menorah, which was displayed at the White House in 1989. President Bush participated in a Hanukkah celebration for staff in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in 1991 and also celebrated with children and local Jewish leaders.

President William Clinton lit a menorah in the Oval Office in 1997 and joined Israel’s President Ezer Weizman in lighting the first candle of Hanukkah in Jerusalem in 1998.”

Another site, MUSLIM REPUBLICANS, discusses the following, written in 2007:

“Ohio was the first state to declare October 10th, 2007 as “Muslim Day”. This was over 15 years ago. Now congress and the business world have began doing the same trying to capitalize on the Eid spirit.

On the national level, it all started about eight years ago when the United States Post Office began offering US postage stamps with an Eid theme. Since then, various other government and business agencies began doing the same.

For many years, it’s been well known that Republican White Houses are far more Muslim-friendly than Democratic White Houses. Muslims have held this long standing belief for many years, and one needs to look no further than how each handles Muslim holidays.

Unlike previous administrations which barely mentioned Eid and Ramadan, the Bush White House has held countless Iftars (break fast dinner parties) for the White House staff as well as Muslim community leaders. Previous Democratic presidents never held Iftars, and Clinton even cancelled the one Iftar which was planned due to some “political pressure” from other Democratic party supporters. The White House and President Bush are celebrating and recognizing Eid, in the latest White House statement:

‘I am pleased to send greetings to all of those celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the culmination of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.'”

In fact, the White House has an entire section of their website dedicated to Ramadan and Muslims:http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/ramadan/2007/ Click on the different years to see what this Muslim-friendly White House has been doing to celebrate Ramadan and Eid.

Further, Congress just passed House Resolution 635- ‘The Ramadan Bill’- “recognizing the commencement of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal, and commending Muslims in the United States and throughout the world for their faith.”

I belong to a home-town on-line group. The original premise of the group was to keep alumni connected, and to share stories about life in our little Hoosier community.

Since the 2008 presidential election I have contributed little to the message board. Once upon a time the group was quite enjoyable, and tended to transport readers down the beloved memory lane.  However, during the election, the group seemed to adopt a hideous a tone, and though I attempted to placate the agitated, and the agitators, it became a pointless effort. The hatred, and vicious venom that poured from responses were sad. Anyone of a Liberal persuasion was attacked mercilessly, and often with deep hurt. Those who considered themselves Conservative, especially those repeated The Pledge of Allegiance seemed to place their Bibles over their hearts rather than their right hand.

I finally began posting my items on my blog alone, avoiding any contact with some of the particular folks. This did not, however, prevent several of those critters from harassing me on this blog site. One gal, whom several of us refer to as “SRB” (“Self Righteous Bitch”) even accused me of being a murderer because I supported then-Senator Obama’s Pro-Choice stance. This individual is, to quote a good friend, “a religions zealot that knows everything and respects no one but her own.”

Since the 2008 election, I have paid the site little heed, and only read the group email that arrives each morning. However, this week, one of the moderators, responding to some incredible photos from Afghanistan, simply questioned what we were still doing in that country.

It seemed that most dismissed the question. But SRB was right there on the attack referring to “Barry” and those hideous Liberals.

Now, throughout the 2008 election, when anyone would simply “W” for President Bush, or refer to him in any other manner, this lady would go off on them, even running some favorite submitters away from the site. However, it was, and still is perfectly fine for her to disrespect the office, and the president by referring to President Obama as “Barry.”

This past week SRB went on the Liberal attack as though the Liberals are the only ones questioning why our country is still involved in Afghanistan. I have listened to many Conservatives, and religious leaders from many parts of the country, also question the current purpose, and longevity of this war.

Reading SRB’s comments would not be horrible if she just did not come off in such a self-righteous, omnipotent manner. She is definitely one who spares no room for views that do not match up with hers, and quite often responds to challenging responses with a flippant sarcasm, or pettiness.

Several days ago, I posted the news of Senator Byrd’s passing on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I was familiar with Senator Byrd, but simply took his passing as the end of a long career of service to our country.

Within minutes I was receiving private comments questioning how I could support such an individual who one had ties to the KKK. I simply posted the announcement of his death without writing any commentary. I honestly don’t know all the details of Senator Byrd’s past, nor do I truly care. His constituents in West Virginia must have cared deeply to return him as a representative for nearly 60 years.

Thursday morning I posted an article regarding his memorial service today. Again, the private comments were pouring in. Several responded to the link on my Facebook page, but the ones in private were so petty, ill-informed, and downright sophomoric.

One poster on my page did mention that Senator Byrd had apologized. There you go! The senator apologized. I don’t know why the ones who sent me private messages, most of whom profess to be strong Christians could not accept the apology.

There seems to be a continuing theme of “shoot-to-kill.” I read it, hear it everywhere. It is “hate.” And the hate comes from so many who claim to be weighed in a religion that promotes peace, forgiveness, kindness and understanding. Their ridiculing tongues spit words like poisoned darts, and they hurl verbal stones unlike Jesus who offered forgiveness, understanding, and love.

I have many wonderful Christian friends (Christi, Sue, Val, Duneen and many others) who demonstrate Christ’s teachings, and I appreciate them all the more because they never – at least within my hearing – “shoot to kill.” It is so refreshing to have them in my family’s life because they present such a different picture of what is generally portrayed by so many who prefer to abandon the teachings of Christ by engaging in hate.

One friend, in particular, is Kristen Z. We met Kristen at church, and Ms. Z is such a breath of fresh air. Like several friends mentioned above, I am confident that Kristen lives the life that would make Jesus jump up and down, cheer, and slap some high-fives!

Earlier this week, Kristen posted a very moving article on her Facebook, written by Tim Schraeder, entitled A Very Different Kind of Christian Demonstration at Gay Pride.

Now, I am not necessarily a supporter of Gay Rights. I don’t support Civil Rights, nor Equal Rights for Women. I am all for HUMAN RIGHTS. When I study the Great Teachers – Jesus Christ, Buddha and several others, there seems to always be a steady diet of acceptance, understanding, kindness, and love. I could never see any of them turning their backs on others, or turning them away.

I often wonder, and have for many years, why so many profess their solid beliefs in the various religions, and God, would be so filled with hate for others.

Is it fear?

Is it a projection of self-hatred?

Is it ignorance?

Is it self righteousness (like SRB)?

I don’t have any answers; I am merely thinking out loud…

One day, I hope to find a church that has engraved above its altar, “Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbors.”

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

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The deck, at 1:15pm this Thursday afternoon, is cool, breezy, and filled with the irregular musical tones of the wind chimes. My lunch is finished, and I am now set to blogging, and working on other projects.

This has been a rather ordinary week here at the Haasienda del Shroyer. Not much to report. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was filled with lessons, thunderstorms, and various mundane tasks.

Yesterday’s heat and humidity made the day most uncomfortable. By 2:00pm, I had the air conditioning on, and due to the sun’s placement, my study was an oven the entire afternoon. Fans did nothing to alleviate the discomfort.

Most of my spare time has either been napping, from continuous fatigue, to watching a neat series of on-going documentaries, DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH. I love archeology, and any book or documentary that searches all types of history. This show is absolutely fascinating, and I have learned an incredible amount of history that has escaped me, especially the Lost Tribes of Israel! I do not know how I missed this topic all these years. So far I have watched, and enjoyed:

  1. Who Built Egypt’s Pyramids?
  2. Hunt for the Lost Ark
  3. The Iceman Cometh
  4. The Lost Tribe of Israel
  5. Secrets of the Nazca Lines
  6. Mystery of the Anasazi

Here is a video of the episode about The Lost Ark of the Covenant:

Other interests this week have been listening reports, and reading about the controversy between President Obama and General McChrystral. It is difficult to know which news program to watch as I am never certain as to certain affiliations. Oh, how the days of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather are so far removed from us!

My friend, Bill Hetzer, a retired army brass, did introduce me to war correspondent, Michael Yon, and I am truly enjoying his perspective – non-political!

My gut reaction to this entire affair: the general was wrong. I know it is not a written rule, but militarily, it is the unspoken golden rule involving the chain of command… “thou shalt not publicly speak out against thy commanders.”

Some of the succeeding commentaries from “locals” on DAYTON DAILY NEWS are absurd, and sometimes offensive. I cannot believe the lack of intelligence, and sheer stupidity displayed by some of the readers! It is one thing to be uninformed. It is another to be just downright stupid. Some of the comments are so far-fetched, and it is often tasteless to know some of these people are permitted a driver’s license, and the freedom to walk amongst other human beings.

Quite often, however, I believe some prefer to stir up an excessive amount of drama while hiding behind the fake names.

A growing number of posters are claiming this is the first time in US history where a commander has been relieved of his responsibilities during a time of war… ummm…. wrong…

A number of presidents have traded, or dismissed commanding officers. Lincoln did it a number of times during the Civil War, even dismissing the ever popular George McClellan. President Truman fired another popular general, Douglas MacArthur. President Bush, I believe, changed military leadership once or twice (however, I am not as knowledgeable on this).

If you want a good laugh, an opportunity to groan, or attempting to relieve constipation, scan through some of the comments… they will either leave you howling, scowling or boweling!

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

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

Michelle Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Eyes

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

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

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

This morning, while working at my desk on LOVE IS ETERNAL, a musical about Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, I watched and listened to my all time favorite television program, THE WEST WING. This morning offered two episodes: the first ending with the tragic death of President Bartlett’s secretary, Mrs. Landingham; the second, perhaps my most favorite episode, Mrs. Landingham’s funeral.

Wow!

Great writing, and Martin Sheen, a native of Kettering, Ohio, offered one of the greatest acting moments I have ever seen.

Watch \”Two Cathedrals\” Episode from THE WEST WING

If you have a moment, enjoy the artistry of some clips from this episode.

Thursday, April 2, 2009, I volunteered for the Winter Guard International (WGI) competition at Fairmont’s Trent Arena next to our home.

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I was working with Carol Dittoe at the volunteer check-in booth, and we heard there was an all-male guard from Chicago. Carol, whose daughter, Erin, is in the Fairmont guard, and I were both interested in seeing them so we slipped inside the arena to watch.

24 young Black boys came on to the floor, and the next five minutees were some of the most incredible in my life!

Their music was Red Skelton’s “Pledge of Allegiance.”

As if the audio was not enough, with its powerful, emotional message, their guard’s presentation was unbelievable. Half way through their show, Carol leaned over and said, “All these years I have known you I have never seen you cry.”

I was that moved!

There assistant director came up to our table and shared with us some of the background of the organization.

The South Shore Drill Team & Performing Arts Ensemble was established in 1980 by former Chicago Public School teacher, Arthur Robertson with only 4 members (Curtis Davis, Randall Robertson, Kevin Ray, and Darrell Jones). Today the organization has a membership count of 300+, ranging from ages 9-21. The team sees 99.5% of its high school students graduate, and nearly all go to college or technical school, breaking a cycle of poverty. The group was designed as an alternative to gang activity, high school drop outs, and teen pregnancy. The group offers young people an opportunity to develop self-esteem, self-discipline, goals for their future, and a chance to travel.

The team’s unique marching style and precession allowed them to perform all over the United States and abroad. The South Shore Drill Teams repertoire includes contemporary music, jazz, hip-hop, modern dance numbers and more.

Today the South Shore Drill Team has achieved far more than what Mr. Robertson could ever imagine. To date the team has won countless awards for their unique style of drills and continues to win top honors at parades and special events.

Later in the afternoon, the mixed-group of males and females competed. Again, the tears were flowing as they performed to experts of President Obama’s acceptance and inaugural speeches accompanied by gorgeous underscoring.

Their acrobatic, and pristine performance brought the house down multiple times throughout their drill.

In 30 years of being involved with marching band and winter guard, I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. I still have goose pimples as I write about the blessed experience.

I applaud the efforts of the leaders and directors for making such a positive impact on the lives of these inner-city students.

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By Jessica Wehrman |

Monday, March 30, 2009, 04:20 PM

Amanda Wright Lane spent two years arguing that the national park devoted to her great-grand uncles Wilbur and Orville needed two more sites to fully tell their story. On Monday, March 30, her arguments bore fruit: President Barack Obama signed into law a massive parks bill that included a provision adding Hawthorn Hill, which is the Wright Brothers’ home and the Wright factory buildings to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Wright Lane and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, the key proponent of the measure in Congress, sat in the audience in the White House’s East Room for the bill-signing ceremony.

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Wright Lane beamed as Obama signed the bill, and as the audience applauded the bill’s passage, she turned to Turner and shook his hand. “I’m really happy for our community,” she said, adding that visitors to the park can now learn about her great-granduncles’ family life and learn about how they manufactured commercial airplanes in Dayton.

Not many people, Turner said, knew the latter. Wright Lane confers with Turner before the bill signing.

Hawthorn Hill, in Oakwood, was designed by Wilbur and Orville Wright and was the family’s home until 1948.

The Wright Company factory buildings are the first U.S. buildings designed and built for the manufacture of airplanes.

The park currently includes Huffman Prairie, the Wright Cycle Company, Carillon Park, the Wright Memorial and the Paul Laurence Dunbar House. Wright Lane and Turner.

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The bill also allows community organizations including Dayton History, which operates Carillon Historical Park, Aviation Trail and other partners that operate the park’s sites to receive grants from the National Park Service to help operate the park. Turner, R-Centerville, said such partnerships may become necessary as government funds become tighter and tighter, because it’ll help national and local governments team up to fund similar preservations.

As for adding the sites? “It should’ve been done when the park was created,” Turner said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just go,” they wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The great American transition has begun….

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.

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.
 
 

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.

ST-C22-1-62

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.

theodorerooseveltfamily

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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presidents-c

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.

iamanamericanjpg

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