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I felt like a kid, tonight.  In fact, it felt like I had the excitement of all my birthdays and Christmases all combined.

Quintin and I met Brian Pollock at The Greene to watch the movie I’ve waited several years to see.

The theatre, at 6:30pm, was packed for the 7:00pm showing, and we sat down in the lower tier, or as Brian aptly stated, “laying down in front of the TV on the floor.”  I was thrilled to see the theater packed.  At first, when I saw the immense lines of young teen girls, I was hopeful that LINCOLN-fever had reached their generation; however, I soon learned they were there to see the new TWILIGHT movie.

My bottom line reaction:  BRAVO!

I am sure the historians will find fault with this movie.  Naturally, there were items I knew, or believed to be historically inaccurate, but this is not a documentary.  LINCOLN is a fictional account based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS.  Tony Award winning playwright, Tony Kushner, delivered a tight, believable, and emotional script that highlighted some of our country’s greatest individuals set against the backdrop of the Civil War.

Before the movie even hit theaters, folks were complaining about Sally Field being too old, photos of the White House set not being accurate, or a myriad of other picky items.  Folks were concerned the script would not be accurate.  Again, it was a fictional account, based on actual events.  If we were to examine THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, and others, we would be appalled at the truth versus the fictional accounts portrayed on stage.  LINCOLN is no different.

Following a robust applause, the credits scrolled upward.  It was an impressive line-up of names!  I asked Brian if there any actors left in Hollywood to film other movies while this was being filmed.  Incredible performances from some incredible actors.

Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, as President Lincoln & Mary Todd Lincoln, were everything I hoped they would be.  I was not let down.  Hal Holbrook was brilliant, and I did love the fact that a former Lincoln-actor, LINCOLN (television 1974-1975), was included in this list of stars.  There was not one performance that disappointed me.

For me, the most delightful performance was delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, portraying Pennsylvania congressman, Thaddeus Stevens.  Outstanding!  I smell a supporting actor Oscar nomination!

Many have commented on Daniel Day Lewis’ voice in the movie.  I think everyone believes Abraham Lincoln had a booming baritone voice like James Earl Jones; however, Lincoln’s voice was described as “high pitched, thin and reedy.”  It served him well during speeches before thousands of spectators in an era without electronic sound amplification.  I believe Daniel Day Lewis captured Lincoln’s voice.

In the early stages, several colleagues were fearful of Sally Fields being 20 years older than Daniel Day Lewis, and not matching the 9 year age difference between Lincoln and Mary Todd.  I oft reminded the critics that Mrs. Lincoln, at age 44, looked much older, and with the blessings of Max Factor, Sally Field would be right in the ball park.

And, she was!

Sally Field has succeeded a long line of well-known actresses who have portrayed the first lady:

  • Jane Curtin
  • Donna Murphy
  • Sada Thompson (opposite Hal Holbrook)
  • Glenn Close
  • Ellen Burstyn
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Julie Harris (in the Broadway play, THE LAST OF MRS. LINCOLN, penned by fellow Ball State University graduate, James Prideaux)
  • Lillian Gish
  • Geraldine Fitzgerald
  • Ruth Gordon
  • and dozens more…

When Gore Vidal’s LINCOLN premiered on television, I was horrified by Mary Tyler Moore’s abrasive portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln.  With the combined script, direction and acting, I felt Tyler-Moore’s particular portrayal was just awful.  Sally Field, for me, personally, was Mary Todd Lincoln.  Ms. Field was terribly believable, capturing Mrs. Lincoln’s fire, intelligence, grace, doubts, feelings and frustrations of being left out of her husband’s White House work, charm, political savvy, tender and protective maternal nature, and a Mary that was very capable of holding her own in a world ruled by men!

Were there items I feel should have been included to better round out the character of Mrs. Lincoln?

Of course.  But this movie was not about Mary Todd Lincoln.  It focused on President Lincoln and those who fought to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  The writing and directing of this particular character was far better than previous attempts, and Ms. Field’s professional, and personal choices pleased me very much.

There were a few scenes that were historically adjusted, but those moments seemed to strengthen Mary Lincoln’s heartbreak and devastation at the loss of her son, Willie, who died within their first year of residency in the White House, as well as the fire and capacity that Mrs. Lincoln exhibited, much to Abraham’s success.

So… go see LINCOLN.

If you are a historian, take off your historian cap, as I did, and simply rejoice in the truly great work, and the fact that the Lincolns are currently a fairly hot commodity in motion pictures!

gfyjg

Mock trial finds

Mary Todd Lincoln was not insane

Re-enactment at presidential museum finds former first lady wrongfully committed

By Jason Nevel

Posted Oct 01, 2012 @ 10:44 PM

SPRINGFIELD —

Jurors in 1875 made the wrong choice in committing Mary Todd Lincoln to a mental institution, a retrial of the famous case found Monday.

The re-enactment was held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, with area judges serving as attorneys arguing for and against the widow of President Lincoln. The audience served as the jury.

In 1875, the nation’s former first lady was judged insane during a trial in Chicago and ordered to a Batavia sanitarium. She obtained an early release, and, one year later, another jury found her sane.

First Lady Mary Lincon

For more than 100 years, historians have debated whether there was enough evidence to ever commit Mrs. Lincoln to an institution. In Monday’s event, actors in period costumes portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln and her son Robert Lincoln, who filed the petition to have his mother involuntarily committed. The retrial lasted more than two hours.

The vote on whether to institutionalize the troubled first lady was 68 for and 159 against. A similar retrial was held Sept. 24 in Chicago. Audience members there also overwhelmingly disagreed with the initial verdict.

Beth Pendergast, a Springfield audience member, said she believed there was enough to prove Mary Todd Lincoln was insane based on her erratic behavior.

Historical accounts describe Mary Todd Lincoln as slowly going insane after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the death of three sons. However, some people argue Robert Lincoln was trying to protect the family’s reputation.

To open up the trial, Robert Lincoln, portrayed by Zach Kenney of Chicago, was questioned by a lawyer portrayed by Ronald Spears, a circuit judge in Christian County.

Robert Lincoln said his mother, for unknown reasons, thought he was ill and traveled from Florida to Chicago to see him. On the train ride there, she said someone tried to poison her coffee and steal her purse, he said.

While staying at a hotel in Chicago, Robert Lincoln further testified that his mother thought the city of Chicago was on fire, she could hear voices through the walls, and his mother thought he was going to kill her. There was also testimony about Mrs. Lincoln’s spending habits.

Having her committed was for her safety, Robert Lincoln said.

“I want to protect her and provide her the treatment she needs,” he said.

Mrs. Lincoln’s defense said she feared for Robert Lincoln’s safety because her three other sons had died of illness. Her actions were motivated by her desire to protect her surviving son, her lawyer said.

Actress Sally Field as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln

This Saturday morning had a nice little twist to it.  We were up, showered, dressed, and out of the house by 9:45am, and eating breakfast at Panera in downtown Centerville where we were joined by Amy Kress, and her youngest daughter, Sarah, 6.  We moved next door to Town Hall Theatre to watch an 11:00am production of Disney’s adorable stage musical, LITTLE MERMAID, starring my piano student, Katie Kress, as Scuttle.  Katie was hilarious, cute, and did an amazing job with her terribly wordy patter song, “Human Stuff.”  Many other stage performers around could learn a thing or two about perfect diction from this 10 year old!  She rocked her consonants!

Quintin and I did the meet and greet following the show, and then hurried to the newly opened Mernards on OH-741, South of the Dayton Mall  where the original Walmart once stood.  It was incredible, but horribly crowded.  We loaded up on a few things and checked out.

At 2:00pm I attended a funeral of a student’s grandmother.  I will probably have two more this week: the grandfather of a student, and the mother of a former student who has been moved to Hospice.

I managed a quick nap upon my return home, and then we were out the door again.  We grabbed dinner at China Buffet, a shower curtain from Big Lots, and then purchased movie tickets at The Greene for FINDING NEMO in 3D.

With time to kill before the movie, we ventured over to Books & Company.  I quickly found a book on President Lincoln, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN ICON.  Despite finding two errors in the book within five minutes, I still decided to purchase the photo-filled book.

FINDING NEMO was a delight!  Quintin and I laughed, and laughed a lot.  We marveled at the beauty of the 3-D effects, and were caught up in the journey of a father searching for his son.  Very neat.

The movie was followed with some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.

This day was absolutely perfect!  Quintin and I laughed so hard throughout the day, and by dinner our conversation incorporated our Russian accents.  There were times when we were both doubled over with laughter, and tears filling our eyes.  This reminded me of when I was 17, and all the fun times I had, and still have, with my own mother, and my grandparents.  Humor, and even plain silliness is a great form of glue!

It was a swimmingly good day!

Quinny checking out the new Justin Bieber calendar.

 

Quinny sporting his new hat from Menards.

GFYJG

A friend, Debbie Allen, sent me this neat article on Charles “Charlie” Taylor, a mechanic for the Wright Brothers.  Charlie earns a good deal of the credit in the final phase of the brothers’ preparations for powered flight.  I knew a good deal about Charlie’s involvement, but was unfamiliar with the rest of his story.

Charles E. Taylor: The Man Aviation History Almost Forgot

Air Line Pilot,  April 2000, page 18

By Bob Taylor

When I was appointed safety program manager (airworthiness) for the Cleveland FSDO, one of the duties assigned to me was to conduct the Charles E. Taylor Award Program, the purpose of which is to honor the mechanics who have been connected with aviation maintenance for 50 years or more. However, one question always came up about the program: Who was Charles Taylor? I was embarrassed because I didn’t know the answer. So I did some research, and here’s what I found.

Three men were involved in the invention and development of the first powered airplane-that’s right, three. Everyone knows about the Wright brothers, but the third man was Charles E. “Charlie” Taylor, a quiet genius who loved cigars and the sound of machinery. Although he contributed to powered flight-one of the greatest human achievements-his name was almost lost in aviation history, until now; and without Charlie, that first powered airplane would never have gotten off the ground.

Charlie Taylor was born on a little farm in Cerro Gordo, Ill., on May 24, 1868. As a boy, Charlie moved to Lincoln, Neb., with his family. He quit school at the age of 12 and went to work as an errand boy for the Nebraska State Journal. However, Charlie was mechanically inclined, so later, when he began working with machinery in the Journal’s bindery, it came easy for him.

When Charlie was in his 20s he moved to Kearney, Neb., where he went into the business of making metal house numbers. There, in 1892, Charlie met a young lady named Herietia Webbert and married her 2 years later. In 1896, the Taylors moved to Dayton, Ohio, where Charlie worked for Stoddard Manufacture, which made farm equipment and, later, bicycles. In Dayton, Charlie met the Wrights. Mrs. Taylor’s uncle rented a building on West Third Street to the Wright brothers for their bicycle business. This was a convenient connection-in 1898, when Charlie started his own machine shop, Orville and Wilbur Wright brought him special jobs, including a bicycle coaster brake they had invented but later dropped.

Charlie eventually sold his tool shop for a profit and went to work for the Dayton Electric Co. However, he didn’t like his job there, so he accepted when the Wright brothers asked him to work for them at $18 per week. This was a good decision for several reasons: The Wright brothers’ shop was only six blocks from where Charlie lived, he could ride a bike home for lunch every day, he was making $8 a week more, and he liked the Wright brothers a lot.

Charlie started to work for the Wright brothers on June 15, 1901, making routine repairs on bicycles. This let the Wright brothers pursue their glider experiments, which included trips to Kitty Hawk, N.C. After one of these trips, the brothers decided they needed more-accurate aerodynamic data than was available, and they decided to build a small wind tunnel with a delicate force balance. With this, they would measure the amount and direction of air pressures on plane and curved surfaces operating at various angles and would improve their theories based on their gliding experiences.

Building the wind tunnel was the first job that Charlie Taylor undertook for the Wright brothers that had any connection with aeronautics. The wind tunnel was a rectangular box with a fan at one end driven by a natural gas engine. Charlie ground hacksaw blades and used them for balances in the tunnel. The Wright brothers conducted many experiments in their wind tunnel, and from this data, they began to make their 1902 glider, with Charlie machining many of the parts.

On Aug. 13, 1902, the brothers shipped the glider to Kitty Hawk. They made several flights with the glider; and on Oct. 31, 1902, the Wrights returned to Dayton to make plans for a powered airplane. Through their experiments, the Wrights were able to accurately predict the horsepower-eight-that was needed to produce and achieve powered flight. The next problem was where to get a light engine that would produce eight horsepower. The Wrights knew that a steam engine might suit their purpose, but a gasoline engine would be safer and more efficient.

On Dec. 3, 1902, the Wrights sent letters to almost a dozen automobile companies and gasoline engine manufacturers asking if they could produce or modify an engine that would develop eight to nine brake horsepower, weigh no more than 180 pounds, and be free from vibration. Most companies replied that they were too busy to undertake building such a special engine.

Falling back on their own mechanical experience, the Wright brothers decided to design and build their own engine. They estimated they could build a four-cylinder engine with a 4-inch stroke and a 4-inch bore, weighing no more than 200 pounds with accessories included. By their calculation, it would develop the horsepower necessary to power the airplane in flight.

Now the problem was to find someone to build the engine, but that was easily solved. The brothers decided that they would give that task to Charlie and that they would build the airframe.

Charlie was excited about this new challenge. From his knowledge of mechanics and design, he knew that the engine design was basic, straightforward, simple, and capable of succeeding. Charlie had very limited knowledge of gasoline engines, but he used his craftsmanship, genius, enthusiasm, and efficiency to tackle the task.

Charlie started building the engine in the winter of 1902-03. Without any formal drawings available, Charlie or the Wrights had to crudely sketch out each part on a piece of paper. After a thorough discussion about the drawing, Taylor would pin it above his workbench and go to work to complete it. Using these sketches and specifications, he finished the engine in 6 weeks-an amazing accomplishment.

I want to describe in some detail how Charles Taylor made the engine, so you can appreciate the craftsman he was. The first problem that Charlie and the Wrights faced was how to design the crankcase. The case had to be light and strong. Aluminum was still a rare metal in those days, and getting a good sound casting was difficult. John Hoban, foreman of Buckeye Iron and Brass Foundry in Dayton, took on the job of making the crankcase using the strongest aluminum alloy he had. The cylinders were turned from fine-grain gray cast iron and had a bore of 4 inches. The top and bottom of the cylinders were threaded so they could be screwed into the crankcase and a water jacket could be screwed onto them.

Charlie’s next major task was making the crankshaft. Being a mechanic most of my life, I would never even try to take on a project of making a crankshaft with the equipment that Charles Taylor had-a drill press, a lathe (both run by a natural gas engine), and hand tools.

Charlie secured a plate of high-carbon tool steel that measured 15/8 inches thick, 6 inches wide, and 31 inches long. On the plate, he traced an outline of the crankshaft and carefully, painstakingly drilled hundreds of holes along the outline of the crankshaft. This weakened the plate enough so he could knock the excess material away with a hammer and metal chisel.

Once he had done this, he had the rough-cut crankshaft ready for the lathe and the finish cut. With the small natural gas engine chugging away at full power and driving the large, wide leather belts that turned the lathe, Charlie turned out a nearly perfect crankshaft to the thousandth of an inch.

The next part that Charlie worked on was a flywheel made from a solid block of cast iron.

Charlie carefully thought out the connecting rods, intake valves, exhaust valves, pistons, valve guides, rocker arm, and numerous other parts that made up the complete engine and tailored them to fit the operation of the engine. Charlie painstakingly assembled the engine part by part, fitting and refitting each piece with the meticulous care of a jeweler making a watch. He scrutinized every detail. He assembled and disassembled the parts, time and time again, making sure of their operation until all the parts were working in harmony.

Building the engine took a lot of genius and ingenuity, and it was finally complete and assembled in February 1903. It was mounted on a test stand and ran well, producing 8 horsepower at 670 rpm and 11 horsepower at 1,000 rpm.

As a result of getting an engine that produced 12 horsepower at full rpm, the Wright brothers were able to add another 150 pounds to the aircraft, which allowed them to strengthen the wings and framework. The engine drove two counterrotating pusher propellers by means of chains. The Wright brothers designed and tested propellers in the wind tunnel and built several propellers that could be used for their first successful flight.

Charlie also made all of the metal parts, including the metal fittings used to join the wooden struts and to which the spruce spars and Roebling truss wires were attached.

On Sept. 23, 1903, the Wright brothers left Dayton for Kitty Hawk to start preparation for their first powered flights, and the Flyer followed them on September 25. They assembled the Flyer and installed the engine on November 2. To reduce the danger of the engine falling on the pilot in a wreck, they placed the engine on the lower wing to the right of center. When they started the engine, the vibration from the irregular firing caused the prop shaft extensions to fail. Charlie made new shafts out of solid steel, which held up during the first flights.

On Dec. 17, 1903, in the mid morning, after a run of about 40 feet at a groundspeed of approximately 7 to 8 mph, the first successful airplane to carry a human lifted off and flew 120 feet in 12 seconds, thus introducing a new era of transportation. Orville and Wilbur Wright each flew twice that day, making successfully longer flights, until Wilbur’s 59-second flight, which covered 852 feet over the ground, ended in a soft crash. Although the Wrights’ first flights weren’t publicized that much, Charlie and the Wright brothers were very excited.

The Wright brothers decided to build another flying machine, but decided against going again to Kitty Hawk. They looked near Dayton for a level place for flying. After a few days of searching, the Wrights found a suitable 90-acre pasture, often called “Huffman Prairie,” which belonged to Torrence Huffman, a Dayton bank president. He allowed them to use it for free-provided they didn’t run over his cows. Charlie and the Wrights built a hangar to house the airplane and moved into the new facility on April 20, 1904.

Charlie took care of the field and facility while the Wrights went around the country and world. Charlie was the first airport manager.

In a 1948 interview, Charlie said that he had “always wanted to learn to fly, but I never did. The Wrights refused to teach me and tried to discourage the idea. They said they needed me in the shop and to service their machines, and if I learned to fly, I’d be gadding about the country and maybe become an exhibition pilot, and then they’d never see me again.” How prophetic those last words were!

The Wrights were trying to sell the aircraft to the U.S. Army and started to make demonstration flights on Sept. 3, 1908. Orville flew and Charlie kept the aircraft in good flying condition.

On September 17, Charlie was slated to fly with Orville, but before the flight, larger propellers were installed to compensate for the heavier weight of the two men. At the last minute, Charlie was replaced by Lt. Thomas Selfridge, a 20-year-old West Point graduate from San Francisco.

During the flight, Orville heard a strange noise. He looked around, but saw nothing. However, he decided to shut down the engine and land. Suddenly, they felt two large thumps, and the airplane shook violently as Orville tried to control the airplane’s descent to the ground. About 20 feet from the ground, the airplane started to correct itself, but it was too late. The airplane hit the ground, killing Lt. Selfridge and badly injuring Orville Wright. Lt. Thomas Selfridge became the first passenger casualty in a powered aircraft.

After the accident, Charlie investigated the crash scene and found that the new propellers that they installed before the flight had delaminated. Charlie reported his findings to Orville, who was in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Charles was the first person to investigate a powered fatal accident flight.

Charles Taylor continued to work with the Wright brothers until 1911, when an adventurer and pilot, Calbraith Perry Rodgers, wanted to make the first continental flight across the United States. Rodgers bought an airplane from the Wright brothers and enough parts to build two more airplanes.

Orville realized that the airplane would not last more than 1,000 miles without being properly maintained, so he lent Charlie to Rodgers knowing that Charlie would be the only person who could keep the airplane flying for that distance successfully. Charlie sent his family ahead to California and got on the three-car train that was to accompany the flight. One car of the train was a repair car in which the aircraft parts were stored and the airplane repaired.

Crossing the United States took Cal Rodgers 47 days-3 days 10 hours of which was actual flying time. His longest single flight was 133 miles. He crashed 16 times, and the airplane was repaired so many times that at journey’s end only the rudder, the engine drip pan, and a single strut of the original airplane remained-a testament to the skill that Charlie used in keeping the airplane flying.

This was the last of Charlie’s big adventures. Charlie returned to Dayton and worked for the Wright-Martin Company until 1920.

Charlie eventually moved to California and lost touch with Orville Wright, but things turned bad for Charlie. The Depression hit, and Charlie’s machine shop failed. He lost his life’s savings in a real estate venture, and his wife died.

Charlie Taylor’s contribution to aviation was forgotten until 1937, when Henry Ford was reconstructing the old Wright bicycle shop in Dearborn, Mich. Detectives found Charlie working at North American Aviation in Los Angeles for 37 cents per hour. None of his co-workers realized he had built the engine for the first successful airplane.

Charlie worked for Ford until 1941, when he returned to California and worked 60 hours per week in a defense factory. However, in 1945, Charlie suffered a heart attack and was never able to work again.

In November 1955, a reporter discovered Charlie in Los Angeles General Hospital’s charity ward-he was almost destitute. His income was his Social Security retirement check and an $800-a-year annuity fund that Orville Wright had belatedly established before his death in 1948.

The aviation industry immediately started a campaign to raise funds for Charlie. He was moved to a private sanitarium, where he died a few months later, on Jan. 30, 1956, at the age of 88. Having no close relatives, Charles E. Taylor was buried in the Portal of Folded Wings Mausoleum dedicated to aviation pioneers, located in Valhalla Memorial Park, Los Angeles.

Charles E. Taylor was the last of the three who shrank the world by building the first successful powered airplane-the mechanic who made the flight possible.

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

Presidential Sites I wish to visit:

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

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Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

 

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

From The Northwest Herald…

Morton: ‘Willie’ was second Lincoln child to die young

From The Huffington Post…

Santorum: Separation Of Church And State ‘Makes Me Want To Throw Up’

 

Penn Judge: Muslims Allowed to Attack People for Insulting Mohammad

This will be interesting to see how this evolves.

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

 

This is believed to be the oldest known recording of any U.S. President. It was recorded on an Edison wax cylinder sometime around 1889.

“A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.” – Richard Nixon

This morning, while relaxing, I watched the movie, FROST/NIXON (2008), starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, and directed by Ron Howard.  I found the movie superbly crafted, and the lead actors were indefinably believable.  

Ironically, the other night, as I was preparing to fall asleep, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN came on television.

“Always remember that others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them…       And then you destroy yourself.” – Richard Nixon

I was between the ages of 7 and 9 year when Watergate was hot on the airwaves.  I preferred watching the Watergate hearings on television over baseball practice – but, I had to go to practice.  The drama that engulfed our nation was inescapable, even at my age.  When my grandparents took me to Washington, DC in mid-July 1974, the air was thick with tension, and uncertainty. A few weeks later, my parents and I were vacationing at Myrtle Beach.  Mother called me in from the hotel’s swimming pool, and commanded me to to hurry up to the room. Within a few minutes of settling in front of the television set, President Nixon appeared before the camera, offering to the nation his resignation of the presidency.

President Nixon’s history continues to be researched, and translated, and probably will throughout my life-time. Now, that we have entered the 40-years anniversaries of the events that unfolded during Watergate, we will surely be reminded of the darkest hour of our country’s history that defined the end of the twentieth century, and redefined the presidency.

Before President Nixon died in April 1994, he had already defined his legacy through the many contributions throughout his years as an elder statesman.  I’ve always believed this president’s choices were similar to his predecessors, and those who followed, maybe more, perhaps less. I still believe he served the country with great courage, and tremendous dedication.

“Certainly in the next 50 years we shall see a woman president, perhaps sooner than you think. A woman can and should be able to do any political job that a man can do.”

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Since March 1973 I have collected books, and other Lincoln memorabilia.  My most prized possession… the bust of Lincoln given to my by my uncle, Ron Barmes, 1973.  Another is a framed card de visite of Mary Todd Lincoln – signature on back; in emerald frame, a gift from my grandmother, Donna Barmes. 

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My grandfather, Leroy Barmes, enlisted for WWII, and was stationed in Florida when he contracted Rheumatic fever.  He had been studying radio operating with the Army-Air Corps up in Wisconsin.

Here are some of the nurses and soldiers at the military hospital, June 1942.  What was so great – Grandpa wrote their names and addresses on the back of the photos.  Tonight, I researched each individual, and discovered nearly all have passed away.

Melvin Rippentrop, Rapid City, South Dakota

Melvin Rippentrop died 1 Jun 1986 in , Blue Earth, MN.

Lt. Carol Gutzmann, 115 Lake Street, Osh Kosh, Wisconsin

Willis Eggspuehler, Iowa Falls, Iowa

Willis D Eggspuehler was born on 11/24/1922 and died on 06/09/2008. Willis Eggspuehler is buried in Clinton-garfield Cemetery, which is located in Rolfe, IA.

William Blanford, 112 Holland Dr. Chattanooga, Tennessee

Coy Durham, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Coy Dunham died Jul. 23, 1998, and is buried in Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, North Carolina.

Wayne Harrigton

Wayne M. Harrington, age 91, of Holland, Michigan, passed away Friday, January 27, 2012 

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Edward Baker “Eddie” Lincoln (March 10, 1846 – February 1, 1850) was the second son of Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Lincoln’s friend Edward Dickinson Baker, and the youngest Lincoln son to die.  Eddie died one month short of his fourth birthday.

Eddie’s remains are buried at Lincoln tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, USA. Both parents were devastated. Some historians believe Eddie’s death began Mary Todd’s journey to instability. A week after Eddie’s death, a poem entitled “Little Eddie,” was printed in the Illinois State Journal (a newspaper).  Despite a century dispute over the authorship of the poem, the author of this blog firmly believes it was written by Mrs. Lincoln for his mother spelled his name “Eddie,” while his father spelled it “Eddy.”

Those midnight stars are sadly dimmed,

That late so brilliantly shone,

And the crimson tinge from cheek and lip,

With the heart’s warm life has flown –

The angel of Death was hovering nigh,

And the lovely boy was called to die.

The silken waves of his glossy hair

Lie still over his marble brow,

And the pallid lip and pearly cheek

The presence of Death avow.

Pure little bud in kindness given,

In mercy taken to bloom in heaven.

Happier far is the angel child

With the harp and the crown of gold,

Who warbles now at the Savior’s feet

The glories to us untold. Eddie,

meet blossom of heavenly love,

Dwells in the spirit-world above.

Angel Boy – fare thee well, farewell

Sweet Eddie, We bid thee adieu!

Affection’s wail cannot reach thee now

Deep though it be, and true.

Bright is the home to him now given

For “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”‘


The final line is on the boy’s tombstone. The next child of Abraham and Mary, William Wallace Lincoln, was born ten months after Eddie’s death.

* The photograph included in this post has been in dispute since its discovery.  Some believe it is Eddie Lincoln, some believe it is his younger brother, Willie.  I, personally, have always believed it to be Eddie Lincoln.

From the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians

 

“The white people, who are trying to make us over into their image, they want us to be what they call “assimilated,” bringing the Indians into the mainstream and destroying our own way of life and our own cultural patterns. They believe we should be contented like those whose concept of happiness is materialistic and greedy, which is very different from our way.

We want freedom from the white man rather than to be intergrated. We don’t want any part of the establishment, we want to be free to raise our children in our religion, in our ways, to be able to hunt and fish and live in peace. We don’t want power, we don’t want to be congressmen, or bankers….we want to be ourselves. We want to have our heritage, because we are the owners of this land and because we belong here.

The white man says, there is freedom and justice for all. We have had “freedom and justice,” and that is why we have been almost exterminated. We shall not forget this.”

For a number of years I have always wondered why the West-front windows of Mount Vernon were off-set.  I found a “Ask Mount Vernon” link at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

I sent the following note: 

I’ve wondered, for several years, why the windows on the right side of the Western entrance are off-set. During the phases of remodeling was the staircase relocated to its present location thus forcing a shift in the window placements?

Thank you for your time in response!
Darin Haas
Kettering, OH

This morning I received the following note:

“Ask Mount Vernon”
Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens

Dear Darin,

Thank you for contacting us with your question re: the irregular spacing of the windows on the west front of the Mansion.

You have accurately deduced the reason why the windows to the south of the front door are off-set. The windows originally aligned with those in the basement when the house was built in 1735. When George Washington raised the building from 1.5 to 2.5 stories in 1758-59, he also changed out and enlarged the staircase in the hall. That meant that the window there was captured entirely within the stair landing — not a very good situation. So Washington elected to shift both first floor windows so that they would be within the Small Dining Room — and aligned the new second floor windows to match. The resulting assymetry became a more significant concern later on when Washington expanded the house again in 1774-1776, when he added the cupola and roof pediment partly in an attempt to distract the eye from the messy details down below. If you are interested in learning more about the architecture/building of the house, the best book on the topic is Geroge Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America, by R. and L. Dalzell, Oxford, 1998.

I hope that this is the information that you were looking for, and thanks again for your interest in Mount Vernon.

Sincerely,
Dennis Pogue
Vice President for Preservation

I so appreciate the countless individuals, and organizations that help to keep history alive! 

 

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

DMZ (demilitarized zone)

KIA

MIA

Viet Cong

Cambodia

POW

Tet Offensive

Ho Chi Minh Trail

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

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

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

“Will I have to go to war?”

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

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

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

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

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

Always remember… 

Never forget…

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

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

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

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

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

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

On May 25, 1910 at Huffman Prairie, just outside Dayton, Orville Wright piloted two unique flights.

First, he took off on a six-minute flight with Wilbur as his passenger, the only time the Wright brothers ever flew together. They received permission from their father, Bishop Milton Wright, to make this flight. They had always promised their father that they would never fly together to avoid the chance of a double tragedy and to ensure one brother would remain to continue their experiments.

Next, Orville took his 82-year old father on a nearly seven-minute flight, the first and one of Milton Wright’s life. The

airplane rose to about 350 feet while the elderly Wright called to his son, “Higher, Orville… higher!”

And that’s how I felt today while being one of the first to ride the new carousel – the new gem of Dayton’s Carillon Park.

After lunch I rode with several Wright brothers enthusiasts to the site of the Wright family home on Hawthorn Street, just off Third Street in West Dayton. August 19th, 1871, Orville Wright was born in the front second floor bedroom. Three years later Katharine Wright was born on the same day, in the same room. We spent some time in the Wright brother’s bicycle shop on Williams Street, and then the aviation center across the plaza.

We stopped by Woodland Cemetery to pay our respects to the Wright family, and passed by Hawthorn Hill, the gorgeous mansion crowning a gigantic hill in Oakwood.

I retrieved Quintin from home so we could attend the Carillon Park/Dayton History annual meeting. I was slightly miserable from the heat and decided I would show Quintin the same things I visited earlier that afternoon. While at the cemetery, a couple from Oklahoma City approached and asked if I knew much about the Wright family.

It was nearing 5:00pm, and I knew I should be at the meeting. However, with a passion for history, I believe there is a duty as an ambassador to share Dayton’s history with others. By 5:20pm we were heading over to Carillon Park.

We stood in the back of the tent, catching the last 10 minutes or so of Brady Kress’ speech.

Brady Kress…

Dayton was so lucky to be blessed with the likes of Wilbur & Orville Wright, Charles Kettering, Col. Deeds, John Patterson, and countless others, but we are equally blessed with Brady Kress who is equal as a visionary to the Wrights, Kettering, Patterson, and Deeds combined! As local news media maestro, Jim Bucher, claimed, “Brady is Dayton’s own version of Walt Disney!”

Bucher is so right on target!

As Brady concluded the annual meeting, he encouraged everyone to check beneath the seats of their chairs. Thirty-three lucky people would find, taped to the bottom, a gold carousel coin honoring them with the first ride. I was a bit disappointed that I was not seated in one of the several open chairs and even considered making a mad dash for several.

As Quintin and I turned to head to the ribbon cutting ceremony, I saw Amy Kress, Brady’s wife, and her father coming towards us. Her father, Mr. Schwartz handed me the gold coin taped beneath his chair. He had already ridden the carousel during his granddaughter’s birthday party, and Amy said I would probably be thrilled to ride it. Of course, all week long Amy has endured my emails of childish glee – but she did start it several years ago when she first told me of the carousel’s unique design. Two of the special designs were to be Orville Wright’s Saint Bernard, Scipio, and Wilbur Wright’s dog, Flyer. I even loaned Brady one of my books that contained a photo of the original Flyer.

I know Mr. Schwartz was talking to me about something as we walked to the ribbon cutting, but honestly, I was not even close to earth as I held tightly to that gold coin. Being one of the lucky 33 ranked right up there with

  • getting to hold Mary Todd Lincoln’s gloves
  • holding the small portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln’s father, Robert Todd
  • thumbing through Bishop Wright’s family Bible and holding his spectacles (thanks to Melba Hunt)
  • holding Orville Wright’s white dinner jacket which he wore to a White House dinner in 1942 (again, thanks to Melba)
  • meeting Vice-President Gerald Ford in July 1974
  • singing “The National Anthem” as the first actual performance at The Schuster Center for the Hard Hat Concert
  • standing a few feet from John Glenn and Neil Armstrong during the closing ceremonies of the 2003 flight centennial

I am sure there have been other major highlights like these – and beyond the arrival of a new son, or the birth of one my brother’s children. Today was one of those exciting, magical moments for me.

After the ribbon cutting, Quintin and I joined the crowd of 450+ and strolled into the building. The exhibits were great, but to be truthful, I was aiming for the carousel. We can return any time to enjoy the wonderful new exhibits.

We entered the carousel pavilion, and I heard workers calling for folks with the golden coin. I barreled through the bodies with out causing casualty to anyone and presented my golden coin. Willy Wonka, here I come!

I got to Flyer before a kindly looking woman who was eyeing this ride. She just thought it was an ordinary dog displayed on the carousel. Poor thing got a quick history lesson right there, and then. When I told her my dog was named Flyer she backed off and found another ride. One friend asked, “What if Amanda Wright Lane [the great grandniece of the Wright brothers] had been the lady and had wanted to be the first to ride Flyer?” Well, there was a cute little bi-plane representing her uncles and it would have only been fitting for her squat her rights on it!

I am hoping to head to Carillon Park Sunday afternoon to take in the exhibits.

Dayton – thank you for supporting our community’s rich history, and thank you, even more, for entrusting it to Brady Kress.

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”
Charles Kettering

‘1776’ – John Adams: “One useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm; and three or more become a Congress.”

This afternoon, my 16 year old son, Quintin, and I drove 35 miles to Wilmington, Ohio to see Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre‘s production of  ‘1776.’  One of my Ball State University friends, Timothy Larrick, was to perform as Roger Sherman – “the simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

I was slightly hesitant when I read it would be a concert version, that several women would portray the delegates, andthat the director was also performing the role of John Adams.  I am always slightly leery of productions where directors involve themselves in the actual production.  Actually, I find it a tad bit on the tacky side.  Either direct the production, or perform in the production – do not attempt to do both as it seldom works, nor plays well.

The concert version was outstanding!   The focus was on the delightful script and music!  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I did not miss the costuming, the lighting, the scenic designs, etc..  The limited staging was most effective, and kept the show moving.

And the women?  Fantastic!  They blended in with the male ensemble, and carried their male-roles very well.  Stephen Hopkins, portrayed by Claudia Fowler, was not less funny, or growling.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Steven Haines’ performance, and directing of this production which I found to be even more powerful, and poignant in the staged-concert setting.  Mr. Haines never once let me down for a second in his portrayal of one of my favorite presidents, and musical theatre roles.  As for directors performing in their own productions on purpose, Mr. Haines is a rare exception.

There were so many memorable performances…

Timothy Larrick as Roger Sherman…  Tim Brausch as Benjamin Franklin…  Wayne Dunn as John Dickinson…  Dean Feldmeyer as Richard Henry Lee…  J. Wynn Alexander as Thomas Jefferson…  Jack Filkins as Charles Thomson, secretary…

Bryan S. Wallingford mastered the role of South Carolina’s, Edward Rutlegde, so well, that I was actually despising the character as he attempted to squelch the movement.

Tricia Heys gave Abigail Adams an incredible multi-dimensional quality, and by the time we arrived as “Yours, Yours, Yours,” I was a tad damp around the eyes.  Her voice was lovely, and powerful to match John Adams’ mainstay, and her acting and beauty pulled you even closer to the patriotic-duo that helped lay the foundation of this country.

The last two-quarters of Scene Seven – the ending of the show – were incredible.  When the delegates had abandoned John Adams at the eleventh hour, I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in a knot.

This is damned good theatre!  It was like seeing TITANIC… I know how the story ends, but if the production does what it should, I am pulled into their moment on the stage while abandoning any knowledge of history.  ‘1776’ certainly did the job!

As we were leaving, I told one of my friends, Aaron Jacobs, that this production had given me a fine dose of Vitamin-T (theatre) that I’d sorely been missing.  I felt rejuvenated, fulfilled, appreciative of the creators, appreciate of the WCCST, and most certainly, grateful for those true founding parents who stepped into treasonous roles knowingly fully well they were merely experimenting with a belief that they could succeed.

Ironically, I recognized a number of similarities between the portrayed Continental Congress, and our current Congress.  Nothing is ever accomplished quickly, and without agendas.

I wish there was a second weekend of WCCST’s “1776” as I would be shooing folks from The Miami Valley down to Wilmington this coming weekend.  And I would be returning, myself, to enjoy this production – again!

The company is listed as a community theatre; however, they were quite a notch above typical community theatre.   This was not community theatre.

This was DAMNED GOOD THEATRE!

Please be sure to check out Wilmington College Theatre Department and WCCST on Facebook.

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.

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.

All the morning news programs are offering a good deal of their segments to the topic of bullying. The past few weeks bullying has come to the forefront following the rash of suicides of young individuals who have endured bullying in various manners, but with the same results.

This morning there were the following segments:

  • the Rutgers student who jumped off a NYC bridge
  • the 10yo boy from Arkansas who committed suicide from bullying at school
  • the father of a 12yo who killed himself because of bullying is traveling all over the country to educate parents and students on bullying
  • the government’s newly appointed director on bullying was actually bullied as a young boy
  • protests at military funerals
  • a father of a bullied special needs daughter who got on the bus to speak with the driver but, instead, took on the bulliers
  • university dean who bullied students into running errands and cleaning her house
  • the mother of the young girl who took her life because girls from school were bullying her over the internet
  • the mother of a middle school girl who took her life because the mother of the girl’s friend was bullying her over the internet
  • bullying in the work place

Many of these stories are interconnected not only in theme, but by the tragic consequences of bullying.

The thing that I have learned this morning is that bullying comes in so many different packages – some of which I would have never even considered bullying.

Definitions of bullying:

  • the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something
  • noisily domineering; tending to browbeat others
  • Bullying is a form of abuse. It comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful. The power imbalance may be social power and/or physical power. …
  • includes behaviors and actions that are verbal, physical and/or anti-social, such as exclusion, gossip and non-verbal body language. It can occur at school or in transit between school and home.
  • Workplace bullying is the ‘repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice’. Workplace bullying is behaviour that can intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate an employee.
  • Deliberate action or behaviour directed towards another person which may take many forms and can often occur over a long period of time…

What is ironic is the manner in which adult bullies express the reason for their actions. From domestic violence, to bullying in the classroom by teachers, to bullying in the workplace – the theme seems to be the same: “I do it to assist the other to become the best they can possibly be” or “to be helpful” for other reasons, or “because I care.”

The bully always attempts to put a positive spin on their actions for bullying others. And this weekend, many of us have seen how one particular bully has attempted to back-peddle their previous behavior towards many others.

Sadly… very sadly, the victim of the bully, and even those nearest the victim, fall for this ever so cleverly disguised MANIPULATION! These manipulators seem to be craftsmen when it comes to manipulation. And if you have the opportunity to watch a bully, or manipulator in action, their patterns are always predictable. Unfortunately, too many observers are swayed by the manipulative devices and actually begin to agree with the bully’s explanation, or excuses. When the bully can side-step their own abusiveness to place blame for their actions elsewhere, or in a manner that makes their behaviors appear to be in the best interest of the victim(s), they tend to pull of an incredible, dastardly charade.

I have known those who have endured domestic violence – either physical, mental, or emotional. We currently have an on-going episode of domestic violence in our own family, but the hands of all the family are tied.

I had some friends who seemed to have significant marriage problems, and it was not until after their divorce that I began realizing it was emotional domestic abuse. Sadly, the bully in this marriage portrayed himself the victim, garnering tons of sympathy from friends, and colleagues.

On a side note: Sometimes, when a person goes from one abusive relationship to another, I strongly question whether or not they somehow thrive on the abuse, or perhaps, the drama. Some individuals do seem to encourage others to bully them to receive attention… but this is entirely different than uninvited bullying.

Rev. Fred Phelps, who I consider sheer evil, is plowing through his bully tactics using the First Amendment.

Today, the Supreme Court is in session, and their first cases involve freedom of speech, and the fine line of bullying. This should be an interesting turn of events in this vital, yet oft abused freedom.

I read a post this morning where one individual said that everyone is bullied at some point in their life, and he seemed to accept that it is OK. He also went as far to say that some people are just destined to be bullied.

Some people just seem to be magnets for bullies because they are special needs, smare aller stature, are somehow different than the perceived ‘norm’, appear weaker. And, it always seems to point to CONTROL.

What is it in a bully’s life that makes them adopt the need to control another so vigorously, and cruelly?

The first time I encountered bullying was when I became drum-major for the marching band as a freshman. The first few months were a nightmare.

My predecessor’s younger brother, David T., often pushed me into lockers; Troy G., a percussionist, sat behind me on the bus to Kings Island and continually flicked my ear with his finger; pizzas were sent to our home frequently, and some we got to keep; and then, the scariest moment was when the flute section leader, Stephanie K. tried to run me down in the school’s parking lot with her car. Fortunately, the band director and principal witnessed that moment, and her days in band were abruptly ended.

Other than that, in high school, Todd McG., Steve M., and my first co-drum-major were the only ones who exhibited bullying behaviors toward me. Fortunately, thanks to my mother, and her parents, as well as the support from wonderful teachers and administrators, I had a strong sense of self, and rode the wave of bullying.

Sadly, I witnessed others who endured bullying by others at school, and their stories were not quite so happy in the end.

Right now, only 40+ plus states have bullying legislation; however, the states are each different, and there are no government regulations on bullying. All the parents I have seen interviewed the past week claimed to have alerted the schools, numerous times; however, the schools all claim to know nothing about the bullying where the end results were suicides. There are no regulations requiring  schools to document complaints of bullying; therefore, the schools can easily claim they have no documentation of the student being bullied.

So, how do we stand up to the bullies?

One Florida dad got on the school bus and ripped into the students who were bullying his daughter, who has cerebral palsy, because the school was taking no action.

He stood up to the bullies, but he also had to pay the consequences for his actions.

As parents, we want to be assured that when we send our children off to school they are not being bullied – on their way to school, on their way home from school, and most especially, while they are in school. We also don’t want our children bullied by teachers in schools where administrators turn a deaf ear to numerous complaints by parents.

So, what can parents do?

In some ways it seems as though parents’ hands are tied.

One boy, who was always small in stature, received years of bullying at school, even in front of teachers who joked along with the bullies. The parents made numerous reports to the school, but they were not addressed (and, of course, the school had no record of the parent meetings). One day, the young boy turned and swung at a student who was bullying him, and was expelled from school. The boy, a strong student, was so humiliated he tied a rope around his neck and jumped off the staircase in his home.

And what about those who are bullied in their homes by spouses, or significant others?

What those who are bullied in the workplace?

What about those who are bullied in other arenas, amazingly enough, in churches?

I wish I had answers. There are numerous websites regarding bullying, and how to deal with them, especially those concerning school bullies. Those are great, but if schools are not required to document, or are not addressing bullying, then these websites, though helpful, are somewhat pointless.

Here is a website from CNN where many have shared their stories of being bullied: CNN Bullying Blogs

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.”

This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

It is Monday, 1:00pm. The end of the restful, and enjoyable holiday weekend is creeping upon us.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the most perfect days we’ve had in weeks. Saturday was a bit steamy, but not too hateful. Sunday, however, returned with the higher temperatures, and humidity. Today is becoming its evil twin with highs expected to be in the lower 90’s. Tuesday through Thursday we are supposed to be in the mid-90’s.

Friday and Saturday were somewhat peaceful, and relaxing. Jose and I went to see ROBIN HOOD – quite good, and Saturday, Kelley, our delightful neighbor boy next door, joined us for the downtown Dayton fireworks. Several years ago we took a city bus down to watch the fireworks – and it was so simple! We walked out our front door, hopped on the bus, got off the bus downtown, walked several blocks to the river, watched fireworks, walked back to the bus, got off the bus right in front of our house. No traffic. No parking issues.

In 2001, I found a nifty parking place behind the United Methodist headquarters (commonly known as The God Box) next to the Masonic Temple. We were the only ones to park there! I could not believe it. Most years we have been on vacation over this holiday, and I figured our secret parking area would have been discovered by countless others. Nope! We arrived around 9:30pm, parked, walked a few hundred yards to the Masonic Temple’s hill (I always feel as though I am at the Custis-Lee Mansion at Arlington Cemetery), and watched a splended firework display over the river.

Sunday morning, Jose was out the door for work until 3:00pm. I made a cake, and chatted with Mother on the phone.

Cake: yellow cake mix with some lemon extract. Poured some of the batter into the pan and then scattered thinly sliced strawberries; added the remainder of the batter; backed; more strawberry slices, a packet of white icing mix with some almond extract added, along with some liquefied strawberry jam.

At 2:00pm, the cake and I headed next door for a cookout.

As always, the hours escaped me, and it was nearly 6:00pm when I returned home. I love spending time with my neighbors, who have become more like family. Since the crowd was not as large this time, I actually got to spend time chatting with Don who is usually kept busy at the grill, non-stop.

I came home, and began watching some television programs. At 9:00pm, The American Experience on PBS aired the conclusion of HARRY TRUMAN.

Ahhh…. what a unique politician, a giant of a man, and an incredible American was Harry S. Truman. He, along with President Lincoln, is one of my heroes.

This morning I was wide awake, as usual, around 4:00am. By 6:00am, I was retreating back to some sort of sleep, and lingered in bed to watch a great movie, WHITE SQUALL, based on a true story. Great movie!

Now, I am settled on the deck with my laptop. Flyer rests under my chair, and Logan is stretched out under another table across the deck. Jose is swimming with Brandon Tener.

What a great weekend….

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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Declaration of Independence

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration of the

Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

……………………….

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

I discovered this incredible video by one of Dayton’s own young celebrities – Ryan Vallo.

I am adding Ryan’s text for those who may not have Facebook accounts.

“It’s 2010 and change is EVERYWHERE: our government, our environment, our economy, our culture. I’m Ryan Vallo, a 24 year-old from Dayton, Ohio. Join me as we travel around the globe to see how these changes affect our lives, our families, our communities, our nations, and our world. Welcome to…WE THE PEOPLE!”

Recently, Oprah opened a competition in search of a host with a concept for a new television show she will produce on her new network, the OWN Network. Now, I never send out these vote online for this that and the other email requests, however, I firmly believe in this television show concept. If you find yourself with a free moment, please follow the link below to view and vote for my video that explains my concept.

My apologies in advance for the poor image quality – it appears Oprah’s techs were unable to translate the web video file I sent, but the audio is at the least somewhat intact. Hope you are all well, and I SINCERELY thank you for your time and support as it is greatly appreciated!!! Vote for my video online at by 11:59PM on July 3rd!!!

OPRAH LINK:
http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=17418&promo_id=1

To view a better quality of the video, please visit YOUTUBE, but don’t forget to vote on Oprah’s website: COMING SOON!!!

Many Thanks,
Ryan Vallo

* A special thanks to my good friend David Sherman – without his assistance this video would not be possible!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did that thing get into the sky?”

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

Nothing.

The voices continued.

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

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

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

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

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

Gail Whipple - lyricist-composer

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

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

Leslie Merry, Composer

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

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

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

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

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

It was the right path for this musical.

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

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

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

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

What a thrilling journey it has been!

Well, not exactly…

This is the date in 1829 that James Smithson of England died (and not because Germany beat them in the World Cup in 2010).

Here’s the story…

How our country built The Smithsonian Institution

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!

I had heard nothing about a proposal for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero, and opened on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I checked the information out on Google and there were several sites concerning this issue.

I know I should probably have a knee-jerk reaction but I need to read more on it before I truly develop an opinion. Geesh! I am such a Methodist-Libra boy!

This was an interesting video sent by a friend…

http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/06/pat-condell-on-ground-zero-mosque-is-it-possible-to-be-astonished-but-not-surprised.html

AM currently watching an incredible documentary, WACO: Rules of Engagement.

Wow! Amazing documentary, full of some deep information.

I have always been a fan of the musical themes associated with each division of our country’s military. When I was conducting bands regularly, I could not wait to conduct THE ARMED FORCES SALUTE.

Men’s Chorus, The Vocal Majority, performing THE ARMED FORCES SALUTE:

I loved turning to announce each branch of the service, and then see those who served rise, clap, and cheer. It was always, and still is, a moving sight.

My favorite military theme has always been “Anchors, Aweigh!”  My Uncle Ron joined the Navy about the time I was beginning piano lessons, and he bought me the sheet music for the Navy’s theme. It was way beyond my capabilities at that age, however, I worked up my own arrangement to play for him when he returned home. In 1987, my uncle was killed in an automobile accident, and for the past twenty-three years, “Anchors, Aweigh” still chokes me up.

One melody that has become my favorite is the virtually unknown Coast Guard march, “Semper Paradis.” Here is the song:

Today was the start of my summer teaching schedule. It had been delayed a week since a number of schools were not yet dismissed for the summer.

The morning began with the Bane children – Ellie and Jacob – who played the two children in last summer’s production, SOUTH PACIFIC. Ellie has been a piano student for two years, and Jacob began his saxophone lessons today.

It was nice to meet three new students today, and I am looking forward to meeting several more new students Tuesday, and again on Wednesday.

The day ended with Sophie Lockhart’s lesson. Sophie walked over from next door’s Miami Valley Jazz Camp carrying three saxophones – her alto, a tenor, and a baritone.  She is such a good worker, and a smart musician, making her lessons are always such fun.

Our neighbor boy, Kelley, kept Jose company as he cleaned out the car, and washed it. I will be taking it to a body shop to get an estimate on the damage from where someone backed into it.

Supper was brief, and I laid down for a nap which was not brief. Fortunately, I woke at 9:00pm in time to watch a PBS documentary on Andrew Jackson, narrated by my favorite actor, Martin Sheen.

All in all, it was a great day!

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

Right now, Jose and I are watching a documentary, National Geographics: 9/11 – Science and Conspiracy .

I was born the day the The Warren Commission Report was opened for the world to read ten months following President Kennedy’s assassination. Of course, the conspiracy theories were already abundant. As a kid I studied the Lincoln, JFK and RFK conspiracy theories, and anything else that crossed my path.

I don’t readily buy into conspiracy theories, but I am finding this particular documentary quite believable, and possible.

Upon returning from Fairmont’s graduation exercises, and running a few errands with Jose, I curled up in bed with my laptop playing a Netflix instant video on The History Channel’s Modern Marvels – Golden Gate Bridge.

Fascinating!

If you can grab a copy of this DVD, it is well worth it… fifty minutes of reassurance of the American spirit, community, and passion.

Here is a video from You Tube about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge:

I now have red impatiens in pots on the front porch, back deck, and scattered in places around the front corner fence. I am behind in getting flowers out, and felt bad since my neighbors next door have this beautiful setting!

I finished up around 3:00pm, showered, ate a salad for my late lunch, and then took a nap for 45 minutes. I taught a lesson, drove Jose to youth group, ran to Meijer for lettuce, bananas, and Wild Berry Aloe Vera Juice.

Finally, I got to catch up with my dear friend, Jeffrey Carter. Jeff is one of my favorite people in the world, and we tend to play hit-and-miss or telephone tag. He has an exciting, full-filling, often crazy schedule, and I am always hesitant to call him for fear I am interrupting a lesson, meeting, or rehearsal. So, I generally send an email, and he lets me know when his open times are.

Tonight was perfect because he was returning to St. Louis via Amtrak from the Conductor’s Guild board meeting held in Chicago. We spent a good hour catching up. He will be out of town the next four weekends – Kansas City, Philadelphia and New York (he will get to see Angela Lansbury in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC), and I have promptly forgotten the other two locations (argh!).

Now it is time to go pick up Jose, and return home to settle in for the fourth installment of AMERICA: THE STORY OF US.

Yesterday afternoon, I took Jose out to the front yard to help me measure the length in front of the shrubs where I want to put a little stone wall just a foot or so off the ground. I handed Jose the end of the tape measure, and walked to the opposite side. I then asked Jose what the measurement was.

He looked down, searchingly, looked up at me questioningly, and re-examined his end, and realized, I had the measurement on my end. I was howling to see his expression!

Last night I finished teaching around 8:00pm, and Jose and I went to Hothead Burrito for supper.  Ahh… I love their burritos. They are not that different from the famed Chipotle – but the prices, and discounted coupons are certainly different! We returned home, and I settled down with what I had taped of THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY – they are two of my new favorite shows.

This morning, after another three hours of being wide awake from 4:00am-7:00am, I met my friend, Bill Hetzer, for breakfast at First Watch behind Towne & Country Shopping Plaza. From 8:30am until 11:15am, Bill and I, discussed politics, religion, family life, military life, our sons, house projects, music (current and past), musical theatre, and anything else that seemed of interest. This is my best therapy – meeting Bill for breakfast! Now, I just need to figure in a time to meet Kay, as her laughter and smile are both infectious, and I do tend to behave myself much better when I am with this Hetzer family member. With Bill, all behavioral bets are off.

We finished inside First Watch, and then moved outside to finish our conversation in the parking lot by Bill’s car. Grant it, lunch time at the feeding trough was upon us, but some of the incoming diners were quite rude as they prepared to park. Some would drive up, put their car into neutral, grip the steering wheel and lean forward as though to urge us on our merry way. Bill, or I, would wave them on, or indicate we were still chatting.

One gal drove up in her maroon limousine-esque vehicle, and was quite disgusted that Bill and I were talking. For some reason, she was intent on parking where Bill’s car was currently resting. Several times she even nudged us with a toot of her horn to which we waved her on. Had it been winter, or raining, we would have quickly ended the conversation for those more advanced in years, or mommies with children. However, it is the most gorgeous day – and it was already nearing 70-degrees. This lady drove around several more times, and would pull up behind where we stood. Finally, she decided that a parking space, directly opposite, and slightly closer to the door, would suffice. I began to wonder if for some reason she had scattered a late husband’s ashes where we were standing. Eventually, the aggravated lady un-wedged her supple girth from the driver’s side (without the “pop” sound trapped air makes upon release), and moved toward the door, calling to her waiting friend that “those two guys…” I had to chuckle… I am sure her frame had been the model for the 1939 World’s Fair sphere that served as the exposition’s centerpiece, later the seed for Disney’s EPCOT symbol for the world.

Bill and I, while inside, had just been talking about the things in life that matter to us, as well as the minute items that simply waste too much time on our individual journey. I told Bill that the offended/offensive woman would probably be exasperated the remainder of her day, and complaining about “those two guys who…” to any one who wished to share in her misery.

After departing from one of my favorite souls on this earth, I ventured on to CVS to pick up my prescription. As I entered the pharmacy section, there sat a lady who I guessed to be in her late seventies, or early eighties. By seeing her walker, and the way she was seated in the chair, I could see she was not in the best of physical health – but her spiritual health, and attitude toward life appeared to be Olympian! I smiled, and was greeted by the most generous, welcoming smile that could make a bishop forget his prayers. Several times our eyes met, and I attempted to match the warmth in her smile.

Some day, in forty years, I hope I am just like that darling soul in CVS – not an old lady on a walker – but an older gentleman with a healthy attitude, and healthy spirit – and hopefully, a healthy body and system. As I was leaving Kroger next door to CVS, I saw the lady scooting across the parking lot on her walker. Her car was not parked in the handicap space in front of CVS, the pet store, or Kroger – but out in the middle of that huge parking lot. As she maneuvered her walker, taking careful steps, she smiled at people passing by her – some not even noticing – as well as the air around her… her life’s composition was sung silently, but the depth of her joyful melody thundered for all who could feel the vibrations.

This CVS lady made my day!

Karen Carpenter said it best with…

Since the early morning it has been a steady shower here in Kettering. The skies seem forbidden of allowing the faintest glimmer of sunshine through. Jose did a great job on cutting the lawn yesterday afternoon, so the rain will refresh the lawn, and some of the plants I transplanted last weekend.

Have been busy doing nothing but business stuff today, and working with Rita who looks after my studio items. The agenda for tonight’s ACTION board of directors’ meeting is completed, and now I am hoping to do some items around the house.

Yesterday was fun doing yard work with Jose, and then relaxing to some movies on Netflix. I drove Jose to youth group, and then ran some errands. Since he did a nice job on the lawn he had a 12-inch sub waiting on him from Subway.

I settled in with some work while watching AMERICA – THE STORY OF US on The History Channel. The series has not been holding my interest as much as I thought it would. Last week I paid scant attention to the show. Last night, I watched the segment on The Statue of Liberty, and then began paying attention when during the history of Henry Ford thinking they would feature the Wright Brothers… nothing. Grrrr….

Tonight I will finish teaching and hurry to ACTION for the board meeting, and then return home and head to the gym with Jose.

Several neat videos from THE HISTORY CHANNEL:

Wright Brothers First Flight

Wright Brothers First Flight – Part 2

Orville Wright – 1909 Test Flight at Fort Myer

Until viewing 9/11: IN PLANE SIGHT, I was not familiar with The Northwood Document… incredible!

OPERATION: Northwoods

Wow!

I am relaxing with my laptop on the hospital table in my bedroom, watching a Netflix documentary, 911: In Plane Site. Very interesting documentary on the Pentagon’s attack during 9/11.

Neat article about President Richard Nixon’s grandson, Chris Cox, the son of Ed Cox & Tricia Nixon Cox.

You can read the full article: Chris Cox, Nixon Grandson: \’Wherever We Go People Say That My Grandfather Was Their Favorite President\’

Chris Cox, left, and his parents, center.

One of my newest favorite books is HOUSES OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS.

Some day I would love to travel, seeing as many of these homes. My all time favorite is the Ford Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey.

Here are some other homes….

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

As a child, my grandmother frequently reminded me that she shared a birthday with President Truman, and that her 21st birthday was dually celebrated with VE Day!

So here is a birthday tribute to one of my favorite presidents (don’t worry Mr. Lincoln, you are still the top dog!)…

President Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953

President Truman, and “The Boss” – First Lady, Bess Truman

Harry & Bess Truman on their wedding day

President Truman, an accomplished pianist, with Jack Benny

The Truman Home in Independence, Missouri

President Lyndon Johnson signs The 1965 Medicare Act as former president Harry Truman, Bess Truman and Lady Bird Johnson look on.

The graves of Harry & Bess Truman at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence

What a picture!

Two of my favorite guys – Harry Truman and Winston Churchill

One of my favorite photographs of all time… the Trumans.

I discovered this photo of Mary Todd Lincoln. I had never seen this photograph, supposedly taken in Springfield, 1860.

#mce_temp_url#

Vote for the Wright Brothers to represent the State of Ohio at the United States Capitol! From March 20 through June 12, 2010, Ohioans can cast their vote on who should be honored in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building in Washington, DC.

Eleven notable Ohioans are in the running to become the subject of a new statue in Statuary Hall; the Wright Brothers count as one and would be honored together.

Beginning on March 20, you can download an official ballot at http://www.legacyforohio.org, or beginning March 22, you can pick up a ballot at any Dayton History location.

There is no age limit for voting, so the whole family can participate!

However, only one vote is allowed per person, and each person must complete an official ballot.

Ballots may be turned in at the Paul Laurence Dunbar House now through June 12.

Below is some information, taken from the State’s site, on the individuals….

• Grant lived in Ohio from birth until he was 17
• Ashley lived in Ohio all his adult life
• Edison born in Ohio but moved at age 7
• McCulloch lived in Ohio his entire life
• Owens was born in Alabama, lived here through college, and moved on
• Reznik was born in Ohio, moved on at 18
• Sabin moved here at age 38; traveled a good bit and retired in DC
• Stowe lived here for 18 yrs
• Upton lived here her entire life
• Wilbur & Orville Wright: Wilbur born in Indiana and moved to Ohio as a child; Orville born in Dayton; and with the exception of living in Indiana for two years, the brothers remained Ohio residents

Ulysses S. Grant

• Ulysses Simpson Grant was the commanding general of the Union Army at the conclusion of the American Civil War, and the 18th President of the United States.
• Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio.
• In 1823, his family moved to Georgetown, Ohio where his father operated a tannery.
• On March 3, 1839, Grant received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
• Grant graduated from West Point in 1843. He ranked twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine students.
• first military assignment outside of St. Louis, Missouri.
• sent to Corpus Christy, Texas when tensions increased between the United States and Mexico over land claimed by both nations.
• participated in the Battle of Palo Alto in 1846 and the assault on Molino del Ray in 1847
• Grant was promoted to first lieutenant
• moved to Detroit; moved to Sackett’s Harbor, New York
• grew disenchanted with army life; resigned his commission and returned to Missouri
• unsuccessfully tried his hand at several occupations, including farming and real estate
• working as a clerk in his father’s leather goods store in Galena, Illinois in 1860
• visited the headquarters of George B. McClellan in Cincinnati seeking a staff position, but McClellan would not receive him
• appointed Grant to a colonelcy of the Seventh District Regiment
• U.S. Senate approved an appointment of Grant as a brigadier general of volunteers due to his previous military experience
• received permission to begin a campaign on the Tennessee River – captured Forts Henry and Donelson; first major victories of the war for the Union military
• General Henry Halleck, assumed personal command of Grant’s army, reducing Grant’s leadership position; Grant considered resigning from the army, but his friend, William T. Sherman, persuaded him not to
• promoted to the rank of major general in the regular army and given command of all Union forces in the West
• promoted Grant to the position of lieutenant general and named him commander of all Union forces
• Lee surrendered his army to Grant on April 9, 1865
• Congress appointed him General of the Army
• first term as president was troubled with corruption – numerous political leaders, including the vice president, were accused of trading political favors for monetary compensation.
• Grant remained above the corruption, but many Americans faulted him for poor leadership and his inability to control his cabinet.
• Grant won reelection in 1872
• Sought a third term in 1876 and 1880 but rejected
• Congress reappointed Grant as General of the Army

James M. Ashley

• James Mitchell Ashley was an ardent abolitionist and a prominent political and business leader in Northwest Ohio in the mid-nineteenth century.
• Ashley was born on November 24, 1822, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
• When he was four years old, his family moved to Portsmouth, Ohio.
• became the editor of the Portsmouth Dispatch, and later the Portsmouth Democrat.
• admitted to the Ohio bar, but never practiced law.
• moved to Toledo – became active in local politics and helped organize the Republican Party in the Toledo area
• elected Ashley to the United States House of Representatives
• reelected four times until he lost in 1868
• championed abolitionist causes before and during the Civil War
• hard-line Reconstructionist
• first representative to call for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would outlaw slavery
• championed the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution
• served as the chairman of the House Committee on Territories
• strongly opposed Mormonism
• successfully campaigned to reduce the size of Utah to limit Mormon influence
• played a leading role in President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment; believed that Johnson was a co-conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, but he was never able to produce any hard evidence
• appointed Governor of the Montana Territory; unpopular with Montana residents; removed from office after fifteen months
• became involved with railroad construction and helped to establish the Toledo
• ran for the US House of Representatives in 1890 and 1892, but lost both elections

Thomas A. Edison

• Thomas Alva Edison was a world famous inventor and highly successful businessman who designed and manufactured many devices that greatly influenced history.
• Thomas Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio.
• At age seven, Edison moved with his family to Port Huron, Michigan.

William M. McCulloch

• William Moore McCulloch was a civil rights activist and member of the United States House of Representatives from Ohio in the mid-twentieth century.
• William McCulloch was born near Holmesville, Ohio, in 1901
• elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1932
• House Minority Leader from 1936 – 1939
• Speaker of the House from 1939-1944
• first House member to serve three consecutive terms as Speaker
• special election elected McCulloch to represent them in the United States House of Representatives, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Robert F. Jones
• McCulloch went on to represent western Ohio in the House in twelve succeeding Congresses through 1973
• champion of civil rights
• bipartisan support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instrumental in the adoption of that legislation
• President Lyndon Johnson publicly recognized McCulloch as “…the most important and powerful force” in the enactment of the bill.

Jesse C. Owens

• Jesse Owens was one of America’s greatest track and field athletes. He won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.
• James Cleveland Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, Alabama.
• When Owens was eight years old, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
• Life in Cleveland did not prove to be as successful as the Owens family had hoped. Owens had to take jobs after school to help his family financially.
• senior year in 1933 set a world broad jump record of 24 feet 11 ¾ inches
• proved to be one of the greatest athletes in the history of The Ohio State University
• tied one world record and set three new ones
• 1936 – competed in the Olympics in Berlin, Germany; won four gold medals and set or helped to set four Olympic records
• left Ohio State amid pressure to cash in on his newfound fame
• was successful as a spokesperson for a variety of companies, charitable groups, and non-profit organizations, including the United States Olympic Committee
• served as a goodwill ambassador for the United States around the globe
• presented Owens with the Medal of Freedom
• posthumously inducted into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame

Judith A. Resnik

• Judith Resnik was an American astronaut who tragically died in the explosion of the Orbiter Challenger on January 28, 1986.
• Judith Arlene Resnik was born on April 5, 1949, in Akron, Ohio
• received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University
• doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland
• accepted a position with RCA, designing circuits for phased-array radar control systems
• worked for the National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology
• briefly worked for the Xerox Corporation
• selected to join the National Aeronautics and Space Association as an astronaut
• helped develop software for NASA’s space shuttle program
• flew into space as a mission specialist on the Discovery’s maiden flight, making her only the second American women in outer space
• killed on January 28, 1986 aboard the Challenger
• posthumously awarded Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Albert B. Sabin

• Albert Bruce Sabin was an American medical researcher who developed an oral vaccine to prevent poliomyelitis.
• Sabin was born on August 26, 1906, in Bialystok, Poland, then a part of Imperial Russia.
• 1921 – immigrated to Patterson, New Jersey
• became a naturalized U.S. citizen
• enrolled at New York University
• conducted research at the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine in England
• 1939 – accepted a research position studying the cause of polio, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
• served as a consultant to the U.S. Army Epidemiological Board’s Virus Committee during WWII
• returned to Cincinnati to continue his research on the polio virus
• determined that the virus lived primarily in the intestines of its victims
• developed a live vaccine; Jonas Salk had produced a “killed” vaccine for polio a few years before Sabin’s discovery
• World Health Organization permitted Sabin to test his vaccine in Chile, Holland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Sweden
• 1960 – U.S. Public Health Service allowed Sabin to distribute his vaccine to Americans
• last case of polio in the U.S. occurred in 1979
• remained at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital until 1969
• president of the Weizmann Institute of Science
• consultant for the U.S. National Cancer Institute
• Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine at the Medical University of South Carolina
• consultant at the Fogarty International Center for Advanced Studies in the Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health
• died of congestive heart failure (1993) at Georgetown University Medical Center

Harriet B. Stowe

• Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author and ardent abolitionist. She is most notable for authoring Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a fictional work that demonized the evils of slavery, and galvanized anti-slavery sentiment in the North prior to the American Civil War.
• born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut
• 1832 – the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio
• began her writing career
• first story published in Western Monthly Magazine in 8134
• became friends with John Rankin, whose home in Ripley, Ohio served as a stop on the Underground Railroad; formed the basis of her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
• 1850 – moved to Brunswick, Maine; wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin
• objected to the federal government actively assisting slave owners in their efforts to reclaim their runaway slaves in Northern states; hoped that her readers would rise up against slavery
• book sold more than 500,000 copies during its first five years in print
• 1862 – met President Abraham Lincoln while she was visiting Washington, DC; Lincoln reportedly said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!”
• moved to Andover, Massachusetts
• established a winter residence in Mandarin, Florida; lived in Oakholm until 1870;

Harriet T. Upton

• Harriet Taylor Upton was a prominent suffragist and the first woman to serve as vice-chairperson of the Republican National Committee.
• Harriet Taylor was born on December 17, 1853, in Ravenna, Ohio
• moved to Warren, Ohio
• father elected as to Congress
• accompanied her widowed father to Washington, D.C.
• immersed herself in the women’s suffrage movement, working closely with her mentor, Susan B. Anthony
• dedicated herself to securing the right for women to vote
• began Ohio Women in Convention
• emerged as a leading women’s rights advocate during the 1890s
• served as president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association from 1899 to 1908 and from 1911 to 1920
• first woman elected to the Warren Board of Education
• first woman to serve on the Republican National Executive Committee in 1920
• ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in 1926
• instrumental in the passage of the first child labor law, founding the Warren chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and founding and serving as the first president of the Warren American Red Cross Chapter
• authored several children books
• also authored several histories, including A History of the Western Reserve; The Early Presidents, Their Wives and Children; and History of Trumbull County

Wilbur & Orville Wright

• Wilbur born in Indiana, moved to Ohio as a child
• Orville born in Dayton, Ohio, and was a LIFE-LONG RESIDENT OF DAYTON, OHIO! (Did live temporarily in Richmond, Indiana)
• Wilbur attended public schools but never graduated from high school or attended college
• Orville attended public schools and graduated from high school, but never attended college
• Wright brothers had an interest in flight that had been sparked by a toy shaped like a helicopter that their father had given them as children
• the two men began experimenting with wing designs for an airplane
• continued to experiment with their airplane designs, first with gliders and eventually with powered flight
• first successful flight of a powered airplane occurred at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903
• attempted to sell their design to the United States military, but the government was still too skeptical about the possibilities of flight
• 1908 & 1909 – Wilbur Wright was gaining international attention for the brothers’ designs by setting aeronautical records in France; also sought newspaper coverage by flying around the Statue of Liberty and then flying along the Hudson River;
• continued to develop new advances in aeronautical design.
• Wilbur died on May 30, 1912
• Orville continued to work on new developments in aircraft design
• 1916 – chose to sell the company that he and his brother had founded so that he could concentrate on aeronautical research and design rather than on manufacturing
• Orville was one of the original members of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)
• served on NACA for a total of twenty-eight years
• NACA is known as the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
• received the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal for “great achievements in aeronautics”
• elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences

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 I woke at 6:15am and pressed the On/Off button on the television’s remote control. There was a video showing the White House silhouetted against the rising sun… but the flag was lowered to half-mast.

Within seconds my racing mind was informed….

Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009.

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When I traveled to Washington, DC with my brother’s 8th graders in 2000, we sat in the senate gallery and amidst the sea of dark suits, the white, silvery hair of Senator Kennedy stood out. My brother, Destin, also a presidential history enthusiast, leaned forward over the gallery rail, staring down at the iconic figure. It was a moment where we got to see a great performer on the stage of American history.

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It is strange to think of our country without a Kennedy, from the Camelot generation, not at the helm of our government. While the media personalities are expressing their opinion that the next generation of Kennedys are not as powerful as their parents, I believe it is too soon to call the play on this generation. After all, they were overshadowed by their father, and uncle.

This morning, I am not as taken with Senator Kennedy’s politics, nor his successes, or mistakes as I am with Ted Kennedy the family man – especially, Uncle Ted. This morning I think of the nieces, and nephews who have lost a cherished uncle.

I was born the day the Warren Commission released its report on President Kennedy’s assassination. In June 1968, two months following Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit to my hometown of Elwood, Indiana, I sat with my parents watching his funeral at Arlington Cemetery.

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Uncle Ted was the Kennedy of that generation with whom I was the most familiar. My Uncle Ron was my version of an “Uncle Ted,” and had he lived, I have no doubt he would be the revered uncle. However, my brother and I are now the uncles, and we each believe in our obligation to uphold this grand title. I love being a father, but there is something enchanting about being an uncle. There is a mutual adoration, and affection, that is strikingly different with nieces and nephews.

My grandfather loathed the Kennedy’s – a loathing he adopted from his father that sprang back to an episode during The Great Depression. However, I think my grandfather would join me in agreeing that Ted Kennedy appeared to be a much loved uncle. My grandfather seemed to be the favored uncle for his nieces and nephews, and throughout their lives I witnessed his pride, and joy in their accomplishments, and the agony springing from their tragedies. I always marveled at his adoration of his grandchildren, but there was always that “uncle element” in his being that I cherish still to this day. My grandfather, and Uncle Ron were great role models for this uncle, and I can only hope, and trust, that I shall follow in their footsteps as a great uncle.

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Sunday, May 17th, we held auditions for SOUTH PACIFIC.

I was so impressed with so many of the teenagers, and there were a few that blew me away – I had not seen that level of performance from them.

I have been tearing into all the preparation on the schedule, and all the fun things that accompany it. I have also been doing the customary research that makes me happier than anything else in the world.

I wake around 5:30am, read; at 7:00am I sleep until Jose comes in at 7:45am to leave for school; I feed the animals, water plants, take sugar count, eat my breakfast (on the deck in nice weather), check email, and then generally do house work or yard work… today I mowed, trimmed, and planted flowers… then, I am seated at my desk at 9:00am to work until Noon when I take lunch on the deck; at 1:00, I lounge in my bed, reading and researching; at 2:00pm, I break for an hour of BEWITCHED, and then get ready to teach lessons. Somewhere in this time, I also manage a 20 minute walk, and play time with Flyer. After teaching, Jose and I often run errands, and then I am in bed with my laptop at 10:00pm until after midnight…

I love this life!

The music of Rodgers & Hammerstein is always with me. I seldom need to turn it on because it is always going through my brain.

This week has also been filled with concerts, breakfast with dear friends, and more concerts. Friday, if Jose goes to play sand volleyball with some friends, I will elect to have dinner with some of my friends. I also plan on taking Jose to see NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM which comes out this week. Last week we saw th 12:01am showing of ANGELS & DEMONS, and it was incredible. It did make for an extra long Friday since we had the Fairmont choral concert, but it was so worth it!

I would also like to try to see TITANIC this weekend.

My neighbors always have a Memorial Day cookout, but I have not heard anything about it, yet. If it is still on, it is one of my all time favorite gatherings… I love this cookout!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auditions are May 17th @ 5:00pm.

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

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

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

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.

I feel as though I am finally catching my breath for the first time in a month.

Where do I begin?

Well, I am vocal director for Beavercreek High School’s production, The Pajama Game. The director and I are up against a few “waves” to pull this production off. Due to some items beyond our control, the students’ morale was been sinking. Finally, two weeks ago, I began vocal rehearsals, and I managed to bring the cast up in spirits, as well as song.

I have also been working WGI (Winter Guard Internationals) and MEPA (Mid-Eastern Performance Association) competitions. For the hours we work, money is applied to our child’s band fees. By the time I have finished with this season, I believe I shall be slightly over what I owe.

Last summer, Jose was not planning on doing marching band, and therefore, I did not attend the processing day. A bill was never sent to me, and it was not until Rita was doing my taxes that she inquired about last year’s marching band fees. There was a balance of $397, and then I knew I would have $415 for this coming season’s fees.

I have actually had a blast working with the different band parents. For three different MEPA competitions I worked at Centerville High School selling T-shirts and raffles for a Yamaha marching snare. I took my lap top, and plenty to work on, and actually accomplished a good bit of writing and editing. These were fun events.

On top of this, I have been working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, and after sending it off to a local director who expressed interest in reading it for a possible production, I pulled out the musical I began writing in 1986, Love Is Eternal – Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln.

I have truly enjoyed working on these two musicals. I have always loved the musical on Mrs. Lincoln, and am enjoying bringing it back to life.

This past Sunday, after leaving Centerville High School, I hurried to Yellow Springs to meet the Lockharts and their family at Young’s Dairy to celebrate Mike and Valerie’s 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful time with my adoptive Ohio family.

So, today was actually the first day of spring break. I fell asleep last night by 11:30pm, and was wide awake at 4:00am. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and then fell back asleep until 7:00am. I fed the pets, took my sugar, ate breakfast, swept the first floor, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and my desk tops – and was settled at my desk by 9:00am to write on the Lincoln musical.

By 1:30pm I was drained. I thought I’d take a quick power nap so I could watch Bewitchedat 2:00pm. However, I slept until 4:00pm. Jose went to work, and I worked. Flyer and I walked over to One Lincoln Park and walked home with Jose where the neighbor boy was waiting on Jose. Since they were playing XBox, I worked some more.

Tomorrow, I shall teach for four hours, and plan on taking Jose and his friend, Michael, to see a movie at Danburry.

Wednesday I have the entire day off but Jose works – so that shot any chance of us going out of town.

Thursday and Friday I will work at Trent Arena from 6:45am – 11:00pm for the WGI contest. Ugh! But it is a ton of money towards Jose’s band fees.

Saturday morning we will drive to Indiana to meet up with other family for Mother’s birthday dinner. We will spend the night at Mother’s and return home so Jose can work.

Then, Monday, April 6th (Mother’s birthday), I will hit everything full speed – The Pajama Game vocals, writing and editing on Love Is Eternal, perhaps some work on The Bird Let Loose, teaching, and trying to find extra time to spend with Jose during this very busy period. I suppose my weekends will be taken up with rehearsals for Beavercreek’s musical, with the exception of mid-April when I will work one last WGI competition. The production goes up the first weekend of May, and then it is on to all the concerts and events that pile into the last four weeks of the school year.

Ahh… time to rest and enjoy some television…

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

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Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

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Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

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At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Socks, the cat who won international fame during his years in the Clinton White House, was euthanized Friday after months of treatment for cancer.

Socks was adopted by Chelsea Clinton when her father was governor of Arkansas. S

ocks, who was born in 1989, was put to sleep about 10 a.m. at Three Notch Veterinary Clinic in Hollywood, Maryland, said veterinary assistant Rae Dera. Veterinarians say he was probably either 19 or 20 years old. The cat had been losing weight since November and had been treated at the clinic, Dera said. He had been suffering from a cancer in his mouth and jaw.

Since the Clintons left the White House in 2001, Socks had lived with Betty Currie, former President Bill Clinton’s secretary. The Clintons were known to have visited Socks, and Currie, when in Washington.

He had been a stray and was adopted by Chelsea Clinton, the Clintons’ daughter, when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

“Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere,” Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement released by the William J. Clinton Foundation.

“We’re grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years.”

The black-and-white feline was a fixture at the White House during the Clintons’ eight-year run. He was often photographed on the president’s shoulder and was given free rein of the presidential residence — showing up in photos in the Oval Office and White House press briefing room.

He had his own online fan club, appeared at animal charity events and was one of the subjects of now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s book, “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.”

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

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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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Ohioans’ views of the man changed greatly from his 1st Capitol visit to last Wednesday,  February 11, 2009 3:31 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
On his first visit to the Ohio Statehouse, Abraham Lincoln was definitely not a big hit.
The little-known Republican presidential candidate from Illinois, then cleanshaven and without his trademark stovepipe hat, spoke for two hours to a crowd of about 50 people. The spot where Lincoln stood on Sept. 16, 1859, has been memorialized with a bronze plaque affixed to a stone column in the Statehouse Atrium, the building that encloses what once was the east entrance to the Statehouse.
His topics that day: slavery and preservation of the union.
On Thursday, 200 years after his birth, Lincoln’s eventful life and his three visits to the Statehouse — one of them posthumous — will be observed at a 10 a.m. Statehouse ceremony at which Gov. Ted Strickland and other officials will rededicate the Lincoln and Vicksburg Monument in the Rotunda.
The monument, by Cincinnati sculptor Thomas Dow Jones, began in 1860 as a bust of the then newly elected president. After Lincoln’s assassination, Jones incorporated the bust into a monument to soldiers on both sides who died in the Battle of Vicksburg. It was dedicated in 1870.
The event will include the unveiling of a Lincoln photo exhibit, a Statehouse Museum Shop sale and birthday cake for the 16th president. In addition, Lincoln historian Gary Kersey will offer 45-minute presentations at noon and 3 p.m. in the Atrium.
The celebration will be shared by fourth-graders from Saint Mary Elementary School, 700 S. 3rd St., in German Village, who will dress in period costumes and recite the Gettysburg Address. The students will travel to and from the Statehouse in a horse-drawn carriage.
Historical records show that on his first appearance in Ohio in 1859, Lincoln’s position on slavery had not evolved as it would later when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He said slavery was unconstitutional, but argued that he was misquoted in an Ohio newspaper about the comments against slavery he made during his debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois.
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position, the negro should be denied everything.”
As president, Lincoln returned to the Statehouse on Feb. 14, 1861, to address a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly and meet with Gov. William Dennison. Lincoln’s reception was larger and more enthusiastic this time, with crowds around the Statehouse “packed together like pickles in a jar,” according to one newspaper account.
Lincoln’s body lay in state in the Statehouse Rotunda on April 29, 1865. The 50,000 people who paid their final respects to the slain leader set a single-event record.
Read the full text of Lincoln’s 1859 speech at the Statehouse at www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=81&subjectID=2.

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

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

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

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

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

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