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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?

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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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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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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just go,” they wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The great American transition has begun….

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

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

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

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

He indicated that 12 people were interested in the position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jessica Wehrman

Staff Writer

Sunday, December 14, 2008

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

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

Call it a congressional incentive.

That said, at least Tiberi would know his stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiberi stood up and disagreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

This particular story was on Indianapolis’ Channel 8…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warren is a certified interpreter with years of experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today was different.

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

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

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

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

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

I asked him when he first voted.

“1924. I voted for Calvin Coolidge.”

I chuckled. My grandmother was born that year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I adopted Jose.”

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

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

I asked how often he walked.

“Every day. Two miles.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I showed him.

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

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

Still, I was invigorated.

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

Now, that is a blessing!

 

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

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

But it matters not.

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

iamanamericanjpg

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

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

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

What a mixed day of emotions for this presidential hopeful…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________

And… will I ever miss Tim Russert this Tuesday…

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

 

 

Tax cuts

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

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

Bill Ayers

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

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

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

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

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

Spending

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

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

Voter-registration fraud

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

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

Negative advertising

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

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

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

Iraq

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

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

Supreme Court

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

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

McCain’s health care plan

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

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

Obama’s health care plan

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

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

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

Abortion

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

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

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

Alaska budget

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

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

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

Oil drilling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this a judgement?

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

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

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

Out of the mouths of babes!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts are included in RED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good question.

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

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

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

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

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

I have looked through a number

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

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

One of them…

What does that mean?

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

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

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

Teach vs. Make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, the killing…

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

I cannot wrap my mind around this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

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

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

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

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

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

Ronald Reagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You and I don’t PROPOSE a federal budget.

The president does.

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

 
The House of Representatives does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Who is the speaker of the House?
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. There was not.

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

“There’s nothing I can do.”

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

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

But is that enough?

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

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

“How is that possible?” one son asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how I applaud that poster!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flying your flag each day can make a difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we do this each day?

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

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

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

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

May God bless the United States of America.

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

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

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

United we stand…

Here in Dayton, we have a true gem!

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

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

I prefer not to be called an “American.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divided we fall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does ethnic origin matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some posters simply cannot handle this.

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

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

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

Nixon brought in that ship (eventually).

Who will bring in this particular ship?

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

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

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

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