When You Read This America Will Have Been Changed

This is written before the November 2016 Presidential Election in a time of great uncertainty. In the face of this uncertainty it is well to remember the abiding principles that make America great and give us stability as a nation. In the Constitution Daily there is a wonderful article that speaks of the peaceful transfer of power in American government. I have quoted this article now for its learned and comforting message. “Nothing less than a miracle”: The Constitution and the peaceful transition of power, October 21, 2016 by Nicandro Iannacci (an excerpt)–
“Our grand experiment in republican self-government depends on good-faith cooperation. Under the First Amendment, we can protest the government and criticize the outcome of an election, but if we lose the argument, we must accept the results. And that’s what Americans have always done. In his first Inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan praised our collective achievement:
‘To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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As November Approaches

As November approaches and with it an
election that may be the most important in
recent history, for our nation and the world, a
few thoughts about leadership are in order. An
interesting book was written by Al Gini and Ronald M. Green
(©2013 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) The book is titled: 10 Virtues
of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership & Character
The authors list 10 traits vital to leadership for us to
consider. Here are the traits which are certainly worth
reflecting upon at this precarious time in our nation’s history.
The top 10 virtues of outstanding leaders are deep honesty,
moral courage, moral vision, compassion and care, fairness,
intellectual excellence, creative thinking, aesthetic sensitivity,
good timing, and deep selflessness.
 Leadership is more than a title, occupation, or superior
knowledge or skills—it is a non-autocratic relationship
between leaders and followers who have common
interests and objectives. Leaders have power, but they are
committed to their values and high ethical standards.
 Character is the key defining characteristic of leadership.
Ethical leadership stems from good character.
 Good character requires integrity and a sense of duty and
 Ethical leaders put the needs of their followers (or
employees) and customers ahead of their own needs.
 Their greatest concern is the common good.
 The best leaders exhibit most of the key moral virtues, but
they do not need to exhibit all of them.
This list is certainly not all inclusive. Few lists of traits are.
The traits mentioned are none the less vital and worthy of our
consideration. One would be proud to see these traits in our
offspring. Perhaps that is a good test in our decision making. Is
our candidate one with behaviors and traits we would like to
see in our children and grandchildren. No candidate is perfect
but high ethical behavior and ethical standards are essential to
assuming such an important leadership role. Clearly a leader is
not one who fosters hate and division. In our time such a leader
can have a terrible capacity to destroy. That is something, I
think, few of us want.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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If We Are Only for Ourselves, Who are We?

“As women, we must stand up for
ourselves . . . We must stand up for each
other . . . We must stand up for justice for all.”—
Michelle Obama, first lady of the United States
Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for
me? But if I am only for myself, who am I” If not
now, when?” Ethics of rhe Fathers, 1:14
As we approach the November 2016 presidential
election, there are voices in our society fanning the
flames of exceptionalism and particularism.
Exceptionalism defines a group as unique in a way
that it often suggests it to be superior. In
particularism the group supports goals helpful to
itself without regard to the effect on others.
The quotes from Michelle Obama and Hillel the
Elder cited above reflect another view. As we
prepare ourselves to vote in November, let us
consider the wisdom of these individuals in guiding
our best reflection. It is so important in these
perilous times
Fondly submitted,
The Diversity Committee

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In Search of Clean Hands

Post World War II the United Nations proposed thirty rights that were universal necessities for every human around the world. In an effort to prevent the same cleansing actions that had been orchestrated by Hitler, the members tried to ensure that no matter which country of origin, all people could have quality of life. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Even during WWII the Allies had adopted the Four Freedoms-freedom of speech, religion, from fear, and from want. So, why in 2016, even in the United States, a country that claims to be the most progressive, most democratic, most accommodating country in the world, do we still have to talk about fair treatment and opportunity for all?

February 15th 2008 the U.S. National Academy of Engineering announced the challenges for 21st century engineers. Experts from around the world met and revealed a list of improvements that could vastly improve the way the entire global community lives. These grand challenges follow: make solar energy economical; provide energy from fusion; develop carbon sequestration methods; manage the nitrogen cycle; provide access to clean water; restore and improve urban infrastructure; advance health informatics; engineer better medicine; reverse-engineer the brain; prevent nuclear terror secure cyberspace; enhance virtual reality; advance personalized learning; and engineer the tools of scientific discovery.

It is doubtful that the American representatives to the engineering conference could have predicted that within 8 years, the citizens of Flint, Michigan would need their help as badly as any developing country in the world. 100,000 people and their offspring have been made irrelevant for a few dollar’s savings. They have been exposed to lead poison because a decision was made to stop purchasing water from Detroit. There was documentation available indicating that the Flint River had 19 times the recommended level of lead presence. Three people have been indicted, with a promise of the attorney general that more people will be named. It is doubtful that watching these people go to trial is a real consolation to families who are worried about the future of their relatives.

These stories of greed and disregard for welfare of communities have been in the news before. By 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, we knew that contaminating our water led to disastrous results. Erin Brockovich , was based on a real situation that was investigated in the early 90s. It was not just a movie starring Julia Roberts. There is a reason we don’t use lead based paints any more, and asbestos is used with great caution.

One quote from the engineering academy reports, sums up what I have been trying to say. It states, “A world divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and hunger, cannot long remain a stable place for civilization to thrive.”   If we are not altruistically driven to make the world more comfortable for the masses because it is a righteous thing to do, perhaps our personal survival and the lives of our own families might provide the impetus to challenge decision makers to not support any actions they would not deem safe and productive for their own children. Will we again allow a few people at the middle and lower rungs of the hierarchy to take the blame when the welfare of an entire community of 100,000 has been compromised? What happened to the buck stops here, Rick Snyder, and all the others in leadership positions?

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Is America’s Poor Held to a Higher Standard?

I had an interesting conversation with a parent almost two weeks ago. The discussion was why the scout troop was doing a fundraiser to buy shoes for children in another country when there are so many children in our country who do not have these necessities. This parent’s response was that even though her mother didn’t have wealth, she had the foresight to position her child in programs that would make it possible for her to have a brighter future. Basically, American children were blamed for their parent’s lack of vision and planning. My family did the same for me, but are the children, whose parents don’t provide those opportunities, to be denied help?

Americans often do missionary work in other countries—it is almost expected.   Yet, when asked why the charity doesn’t begin at home, the many chances available in the United States are sited, and those who have not availed themselves of those opportunities are viewed as parasites that are undeserving.

I remember my grandfather’s church raising money for mission work. The congregation was not a wealthy one, yet the members felt it their duty to help those in faraway places who were less fortunate. As we know by now, some of the people in the countries where the funds are shipped were not more impoverished, and in the 21st century, many are quite wealthy. The poor live among them, but quite often the successful neighbors don’t make it their responsibility to uplift the people in their own nations.

Even more striking, is no matter how poor Americans might be, the well to do in other countries don’t think they have a calling to help some of America’s poor. The thought is those in “the land of opportunity can help themselves” if they would but get with the program. The charity does not flow both ways across the oceans. I really came to grips with that way of thinking when I was in an African history seminar this past summer. In questioning African graduate students about their encounters with average Americans and poor people, the consistent response was that there were no regular interactions. The groups were not going out of their way to see how bad some conditions were in this country for themselves. They weren’t concerned, and we were in Michigan. They were here to acquire an education and that was the focus. The scholarships and opportunities that had been provided to them were not questioned, as the guests held onto the notion that those in the US who were not getting ahead were responsible for their fates. The person, who understood this thinking better, cleared up my concern and confusion about this perspective.

She is a coordinator for student teachers. In that capacity, she has the opportunity to see regular Americans, not just fellow graduate students and people who share her academic and economic status. The many people who come to this country for advanced degrees are here for a specific goal, and they rarely encounter the masses in their world that is centered on the ivy tower. Though some may have begun life poor, and are experiencing the chance of a lifetime, they are usually not necessarily concerned about the poor here because they are invisible.

After giving her list of experiences in the non-profit sector the scout mother and the leader continued to explain how important it was that the girls learn to help others. I could barely suppress my disappointment that they were perpetuating the myth that unfortunate Americans are that way because they failed to take advantage of opportunities, but those from other countries were more deserving because they hadn’t begun life here, so they are working hard for change. Not every person in every country we support with our donations, has maximized on every available opportunity, and in some places there are local people who could help, but don’t.   Not all people outside the US collaborate, and support each other in a fair and equitable way. Just looking at human trafficking and exploitation in the manufacturing sectors, and we know this.

So why are struggling Americans held to a different standard? If I could, I would try to ensure that every child has the opportunities listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights! Not one time was it mentioned in this document that the exception was Americans because they had better odds.   Having knowledge of America’s history, it is clear that this is not necessarily true. Our fortunes are still dependent upon a bit of luck—as in the luck of being born into one family or in one location versus another. Fortunes have shifted with economic ups and downs. Our kids deserve shoes too, and our children can learn to help by contributing to the local community too—not just abroad. These efforts will not be reciprocated by people who are invited to this country for upward mobility, because they too believe the stereotypes, and are indifferent to acquiring a different perspective.


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Proceeding with Caution

In some neighborhoods, there are signs asking drivers to drive as if their own children were in the vicinity.   I would ask us to consider this same advice when we speak about ”the other.”  No child picks their parents or the lifestyle they are going to experience before becoming an adult. Many of us are fortunate, and we are nurtured in not only loving environments, but also those in which the basic necessities are available.   Perhaps there is an occasional luxury or two along the way. We also know that we are incredibly influenced by our environments.

It is difficult enough to deal with the hand that is dealt without children being prejudged based upon ethnicity, religion or economic status. I don’t love paying bills for people I believe have made poor choices, but I would rather have the ability to pay than need help. On that, I feel so blessed. I am grateful that my precious grandchildren have what they need with so many loving arms to hold and lead them. They know they are special and they know we are eager to just listen.   If I could, I would give that to every child in the world.

I am afraid of terrorism, but I am not going to assume everyone from a certain religion is going to grow up to do me harm. I believe you should enter a country with the documentation required, just as I am required to do, but I am not sure how to solve the problem of the children who are already here. I do know, from a past situation, that if we want to make a political statement, we will change all kinds of situations. What comes to mind is the child from Cuba, whose mother drowned on a boat and the father was in Cuba. Instead of sending him right back to the other parent, which would have happened to an American child, the kid from an “enemy country,” was wined and dined unlike our poor children who are from this country—just to do an in your face to Cuba.

We have a hard time supporting our own poor, but when I see the faces of the escaping refugees from Syria, watching the reactions of the families who are standing right at the gate as it shuts leaving them still on the other side, is heart breaking. I want to harden my heart, and intellectually I can rationalize that I have to worry about my own, but if a person can just say, “Not my problem.”—Like the Tin Man, they should be off to see the Wizard.

I can’t change everyone’s situation, but I can refrain from making inflammatory remarks that could make “the others” feel badly about themselves. I need to resist placing all members of a group into one representative collection of characteristics, because I have stereotyped them. I can admit sometimes my discomfort with different cultures is because I know nothing about them. My ignorance is my problem, which I must resolve for myself—or not, but I can’t hold that new group responsible for making me feel warm and fuzzy.   Again, I must choose not to inflame situations by making my issues burdens for strangers.

For every unjust label that is put into the universe, some children will carry the burden of being perceived as unworthy, undeserving, and incapable. Words hurt, and the more we become connected with technology, the more different groups discover what we are saying. As we deal with our frustrations, please ask ourselves are we making statements about other children that we wouldn’t mind being made about our own family members, if not, let’s slow down and proceed with caution.

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Who Can represent us in Washington?

As I listen to the rhetoric shared during the current election season, I am once again perplexed about who would be my choice for president. I look at Hilary Clinton, and if I were going to vote on intellect and success as a professional in the legal field, she could be a choice. On the other hand, as I reflect back upon the negativity that surfaced as she began losing ground to President Obama in 2008, and the additional behaviors since that time, I have major doubts. I fear that Clinton determined long ago that she was going to be the first woman president, and she is so determined to reach that goal, that there is an air of entitlement that leaves me neutral if not slightly cold once again. I don’t know how Hilary Clinton would change the world, but I do observe that she seems to work well as an individual, but not so much as a leader/delegator. She doesn’t come across as a team player. Perhaps that is the lot of women in a man’s world, but I would hope in the 21st century a few women may have found a way around that very obvious obstacle.

I am tired of lies and provocative behavior.   Any woman can be just as dishonest, vengeful and calculating as a man. Women are capable of being self-serving. I don’t underestimate the variety and complexity of personality traits among female peers. I respect the diversity among the group, and I don’t expect “Pollyanna” behaviors from women tycoons. If I support equal treatment–which includes pay equity, and access to the most responsible jobs in the country–I also expect high ethical standards, and transparency from my “lady” leaders. I will not judge questionable behavior by a woman any less or more harshly than I would evaluate a man. I will not be voting for a woman simply because she is a woman, just as I didn’t vote for the current President because of his ethnicity.

With that in mind, I must remark about Sarah Palin. I questioned her intellect and abilities when she was McCain’s running mate.   Absolutely nothing has changed my opinion of her for the better. I was in Alaska and I certainly did not see Russia. I have nothing against hunters, but I want my leaders to be refined as well as assertive or adventurous. Making derogatory and inflammatory remarks can lead our country into more danger and division. Once again, a woman who just needs to return to the spotlight is scary, perhaps useful, but not leadership material.

I questioned the timing of S. P.’s run for vice president when her teens needed to be monitored. The daughter has birthed two children, by two different men and has never been married. That situation supports my belief that the priority in 2008 should probably have been keeping up with her children. Women can aspire to be whatever they want to be, but a responsible person keeps that in mind as she is making life choices.   Woman can do many things, but often not at the same time.

Bristol Palin became a “star” and representative for positive choices that she didn’t embrace herself. Having a baby at seventeen, which could happen to anyone, was not an example that other teens should copy. Had the Obama girls participated in the kinds of behaviors of the Palin children, there would have been a public outcry. Those poor children have been criticized for simply not smiling at an event.

The final straw was for the President to be blamed because Track Palin attacked his mate. Instead of spending the time at a forum endorsing Trump, she probably should have been seeking help for her son, the accused abuser, she claims is suffering from PTSD. The family has the resources and connections to seek help, and she should be using them. There was no public outcry from her when other veterans were in the same predicament.

I would really like to see a woman become the president of this country as well as many more women participating in other top leadership positions. I expect better behavior from the women, not because they have to perform better than men, but because the citizens deserve the best leadership possible.   The women know how tough this journey has been, and they must act accordingly. I don’t want champions of causes who are only concerned when issues hit home. In this diverse nation, the personal challenges vary, and a leader must try to consider how resources can be allocated to do the most good for the most people. I don’t care about individual lifelong dreams if the impact of the individual achieving those goals is not productive for the world in which we live. I am concerned that it is so difficult to participate in the elective process, and I am disappointed that there are so few viable choices, as the “woman most likely” has some major lapses in behaviors. Perhaps this is the best that can be expected of politics in America at this time, but I certainly hope this is not so.

Fondly submitted

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