Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
These 10 presidential quotes were gathered and explained by folklorist and free lance writer Ben Gazur. He went into some detail about the background of each quote, which I am not going to do. Let it simply be a test of your knowledge of each of these presidents that you recognize the quotes. Mr. Gazur gave the background of each quotation, and its significance in history. Since I tend to write about politics a lot, they seem apropos. I’d need some time and some access to political books read to compile my own Top Ten Presidential quotes, but these are all good.
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant… I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made. — George Washington
A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. — Abraham Lincoln
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln
It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us. — Woodrow Wilson
Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
The United States pledges before you — and therefore before the world, its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma — to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life. — Dwight Eisenhower
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. — John F. Kennedy
We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in… It is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. — Lyndon Johnson
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! — Ronald Reagan
For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. — Barack Obama
We just watched the premiere of the new series “The Bear.”
The series is set in Chicago and seems almost like a spin-off from the lead’s former role as Lipp (Philip) on “Shameless.” Jeremy Allen-White portrays the lead chef in this story, which is described in the synopsis this way: “A young chef from the fine dining world returns to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop.”
First, the good things about the series: 1) The acting (2) The Chicago setting, especially the exterior shots often used in “Shameless” (3) the cast.
Second, the bad things about the series: 1) the scripts by Alex O’Keefe and Christopher Storer, (who also directed) (2) the opportunities for conflict in this restaurant setting (3) the basic interest in a show that is heavy on cooking lingo where at least half the scenes take place within a gritty Chicago corner cafe.
Jeremy Allen-White is as impressive as he was in “Shameless.” He’s good, and I’m sure he will continue to be good. It is difficult to remember that he is not “Lipp” (Philip) Gallagher any longer, but is now Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto. For one thing, the latter name conjures up images of an Italian family. Jeremy, with his piercing blue mesmerizing eyes, looks about as Italian as I do (which is not very Italian). Let’s just say that he made a better Gallagher than he does a Berzatto. Carmy was Michael’s brother, but Richie was his best friend, if I understood the family dynamic properly (it was not totally clear).
Co-star for the series is Ebon Moss-Bachrach. He is apparently Carmy’s cousin, Richie or perhaps just the dead Michael’s best friend. Unclear, like many other things. Richie is used to doing things “the old way” in the restaurant. Carmy wants to improve things. Change is good for Carmy and Sydney, but bad for Richie. Carmy and Richie spend most of the first episode screaming at one another over changes in the menu, how they prepare food and other topics that were about as riveting as whether or not Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reconcile. [In other words: not interested in either of those things, and certainly the decision as to whether or not to scrub spaghetti from the menu is not High Drama in my world.]
Mediator in the family friction is a new hire, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney, the sous chef. She seems way too good for this corner eatery. Part of the manufactured conflict is apparently going to center on Liza Colon-Zayas as Tina, who resents Sydney’s new-found influence and attempts to undermine her at many turns. Somehow, watching a bunch of stewed onions fall on the floor does not qualify as high drama. The visit from the Health Inspector, who gives them a grade of “C” is also not our idea of excitement, but the feeling that this entire endeavor is sort of doomed by debt and other every-day ills made me think about how stressful it is to fill up my gas tank these days. All of the financial shortcomings that Carmy faces do not make for very good escapist fare. In fact, his inability to pay for the foodstuffs necessary to keep the restaurant going was depressingly true to life. Right now, escapism from the realities of inflation and high food prices is on my menu; watching a restaurant go under because of the inflationary pressure we all feel is not.
What is wrong with the scripts?
The language is very “chill” and “trendy.” My husband and I were confused on at least 3 occasions by various terms used, including the use of the word “fire” over and over (to mean good, we think). There were 2 other terms or phrases that we failed to completely understand. We had to figure out the meaning from context (never a good sign.) This did not add to our enjoyment of the plot. It’s as though O’Keefe and Storer want to use the latest slang to show how cool they are. Regular folk like me out here in viewer-land are not as “up” on junior high/highschool/college slang, so, for us, it just left us feeling lost. We felt like we had not been given the secret password or shown the club handshake, but we ended up not caring.
We also failed to see the point in all the “Yes, Chef” terminology. I actually taught many, many culinary arts students. One of them used to bring me tomato bisque soup in my English class, which I appreciated. Somehow, I don’t see all of this “Yes, Chef” and “We need to organize in battalions” stuff as being Real World. Perhaps I am wrong. [I will ask my favorite student Austin Johns if this rings true next time I see him]. I still get taken on tours of various restaurant kitchens in this area by my former students, one of whom, taking me through the kitchen at Bass Street Landing, when I expressed surprise that he remembered me at all, said, “I always remember anyone who made a difference in my life.”
There were some murky seeds planted that may yield drama and conflict in the future, but I don’t know if we’ll be watching long enough to find out.
What seeds ?: Why, exactly, did Michael, the brother of Carmy and previous chef at the cafe, commit suicide? Was the envelope on the floor Michael’s suicide note? Who is “Nico?” What is going to happen regarding the $300,000 in loans that veteran actor Oliver Platt, who makes a quick stop in the restaurant( but is not even credited on the cast list) is owed. Are we going to see Oliver Platt again? I would tune in again to see Oliver Platt, but when he isn’t even listed on the cast credits, I’m not sure I’ll be back. Why do we care about the
I appreciate that this was a noble effort. I’m sorry that I’m apparently too backward to become excited about the revelation that Carmy took off mid-day to go to an Al-Anon meeting. I don’t know why Carmy seems to have no life beyond the restaurant. I find the character of “Sugar” under-written and underwhelming.
Moving along, “The Old Man” is getting really exciting. It’s some of the best TV of the year. It makes cooking a hot beef sandwich seem even more mundane, by comparison.
Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa (River Center) during the 2008 caucus season.
I don’t know about you, my readers, but I’m missing B.O. (Barack Obama).
And by B.O. I mean Barack Obama. And Michelle, of course. And the days when we had an intelligent, literate, kind, considerate, compassionate adult couple in the White House.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArzB7P9CEy8It is January. It is cold outside. Children in elementary school are dying at the U.S. border while Emma Lazarus weeps. (“Give me your tired, your poor. Your wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. The huddled masses of your teeming shore. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”).
So, I decided to put my 2008 book “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the WhiteHouse” on sale for just $1.99 in e-book format, for ONE DAY ONLY because, well, because I’m missing Barack Hussein Obama and his wife and family and the decency and integrity that his 8 years in Washington, D.C., represented.
In the day(s) when indictments are flying faster than snowflakes and the days stretch ahead of us, gloomy and dark, and we are fast heading towards the cliff of a Constitutional crisis, we ALL need more pictures of the 2008 election. This book fits the bill. It is jam-packed with previously unseen pictures, taken by Yours Truly as she followed the campaign across Iowa and, eventually, across the nation—to Denver’s DNC and St. Paul’s RNC and the Belmont Town Hall Meeting and the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic and the goings-on in Grant Park and at Invesco Field.
It’s only going to be on sale on January 5th, so hurry up and take advantage of this offer. I could be persuaded to put Volume II on sale in the future if this goes well. So crank up your e-book readers and order yourselves a slice of history for under two bucks.
President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton in Washington, D.C. today, February 4, 2010. His remarks on civility are worth repeating, although I am only sharing excerpts, with commentary. . The entire transcript appeared in the Washington Post under the title “Politics and Policy in Washington” in an online posting made at 10:55 a.m. on Thursday (Feb. 4, 2010).
After the normal “welcomes” and reference to how “prayer can bring sustenance to our lives” Obama said, “But there is a sense that something is different now; that something is broken; that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should. At times, it seems like we’re unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth…Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility.”
Obama went on, “Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable…We forget that we share at some deep level the same dreams—even when we don’t share the same plans on how to fulfill them.” The president urged a way “to make an impact in a way that’s civil and respectful of difference and focused on what matters most.
Obama quoted three great leaders in making his point(s) on civility:
1) Abraham Lincoln, who said, on the eve of the Civil War, “We are not enemies, but friends. Though passions may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
2) Martin Luther King: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
3) President John F. Kennedy: “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”
Obama said, “But progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite.” He added, “It seems like the very idea (of civility) is a relic of some bygone era. The word itself seems quaint—civility.”
All of the above excerpts from our president’s February 4th speech are so true and so sad. I have bold-faced the last line, because I think that President Obama may not realize how true it is: civility and politeness are, indeed, values no longer abroad in the land. Civility is a quaint word and a quaint concept in 2010.
It seems that only the older generation—those who grew up in the age of Truman and Eisenhower or before— have even a dim memory of how it used to be in society. Children were taught to be polite; rudeness towards one’s parents, peers or teachers was not tolerated. The longshoreman language we hear spouted by even first-grade students in schools was non-existent in those “happy days.”
In today’s schools at every level, teachers are lucky if they are merely called profane names. Educators are fortunate if they are only assaulted with idle threats and profane insults when things don’t go the students’ way. The teacher is no longer always right. Mom and Dad—if there is one— (and, often, the administration of the school) will very often side with Junior and undercut attempts at enforcing standards of civility and polite discourse. In some noteworthy cases, Junior may become violent, a threat to himself, his teachers, and his classmates. These outbursts, this impolite, dangerous behavior did not happen in the days of civility and polite discourse.
Not just schools and government, but all of our institutions are under attack; none of our institutions are totally trusted any longer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fireman, a policeman, a teacher or a politician. Whatever form of authority you represent, even if it is simply the owner of a store, handling customer complaints is a nightmare in this age of out-of-control anger and uncivil behavior.
What was most telling, for me, about President Obama’s eloquent words, were the three quotes he selected to illustrate his very valid points about civility in 2010. Obama quoted John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the martyred president of Camelot lost; Martin Luther King, Jr., the murdered Civil Rights leader who preached nonviolence to his followers; and Abraham Lincoln, whose enemies chose to still that Illinois president’s voice of reason with a bullet to the brain
I found the words of President Obama’s speech true and moving.
However, I fear that he is pleading for something that is perhaps gone forever, like the dinosaur, or, if not gone, in very short supply. Quoting three murdered leaders only makes me fear more for our president and for our country, which so badly needs polite and civil discourse and both sides working together in civil harmony, rather than radical rants and unreasonable stone-walling.
Something is broken, Mr. President, not just in Washington, D.C., but also in the United States of America. Can chaos give way to order? Can the bell of rude behavior be unrung when it’s been pealing for decades?
Many things are definitely broken in America. I wonder if they can be fixed?
Inaugural balls were not held just in Washington, D.C. on January 20th.
In Davenport, Iowa, where Obama’s race for the presidency got its first big boost when he won the Iowa caucuses, several hundred Obama supporters gathered in formal dress to dine, dance and celebrate.
The event was held in the Davenport River Center, the very same venue that hosted Obama on December 28, 2007 at a rally attended by several hundred supporters, including Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, whose daughter worked for the Obama organization.
When I entered the River Center, I went to the press risers, where photographers and journalists from a Rockford (Illinois) paper were setting up, and I asked them, “Whose rallies are the most exciting, so far?”
They answered, in unison, “Obama’s.”
That night, Hillary Clinton appeared at the Figge Art Museum and John Edwards appeared at the IMAX Theater and Obama was in the River Center, traveling with General Merrill “Tony” McPeak of Oregon. I remember the excitement in the room, and I remembered the assessment of the press corps, which felt that his rallies were drawing the biggest crowds and creating the most excitement.
I raced across town to get to John Edwards’ rally at the IMAX Theater, and it was definitely less well attended and less spirited. I was still wearing my Obama Press Pass when posed with John Edwards. I remember saying, “Try to act like you’re having fun,” as our picture was snapped by a bystander. (Who knew that he really was?)
Returning to the River Center on Inauguration Night seemed fitting. It seemed right. It seemed as though I had come full circle, from seeing him for the first time in the River Center auditorium to celebrating this night in the River Center ballroom. I couldn’t be in Washington, D.C., but I could still dance the night away with kindred spirits and remember that this is where it all began. Without Iowa, Obama would not have won the nomination and, subsequently, the election. And I was there at the beginning and I was there at the end.
Today, I received an invitation to attend all public events connected to the Obama inauguration. Nevermind that there was an ad included, urging me to purchase a variety of collectible items, the invitation, itself, looked pretty impressive. It was roughly the size of “Time” magazine and it was addressed only to me (no spouse included) using both my Chicago address on Indiana Ave. and my East Moline address. (How it got here is a tribute to the efficiency of the U.S. post office, as it was sort of confusing.) Without further delay, and ignoring the snickers of my Republican husband, I am posting my invitation, which clearly states it is from the Inauguration Planning Commission or some such and would, no doubt, entitle me to sleep in a school gymnasium (if I could find one) and spend lots of money. I was spoiled by those Press Passes throughout the campaign just past, so I’ll be staying close to home, awaiting the birth of the twins in Chicago.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our fathers is alive in our lifetime, who still questions the power of our democracy? This is your answer.” With those words, Obama evoked the title of his best-selling book “Dreams from My Father.” He answered the doubters in the world-at-large who may have thought that the American dream was on its deathbed. “What happens to a dream deferred?” Lorraine Hansberry asked in “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” There had been evidence that immigration numbers were down…that fewer people from other countries wanted to come to the United States—-that some abroad no longer viewed this as the land of opportunity, but they are wrong.
“It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited 3 hours and 4 hours, many for the first time in their lives, because that this time must be different, and they believed that their voices could be that difference.” My daughter voted for the very first time. After careful consideration, she chose to register and vote in her college town of Nashville, Tennessee, which went red, anyway. Young people turned out in record numbers, giving the lie to the label of apathetic that had dogged them. Newly registered voters clogged the polling places, a tribute not only to the outstanding organization of the campaign’s masterminds but also to the determination of a battered and bruised nation to make change a reality.
In his next line, Obama paid tribute to all ethnic groups, including “gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” saying that “Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America.” I thought of the American Independence Party, which Sarah Palin seemed to actively support, even from her Governor’s office. I thought of one word: “Amen!”
“It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we an achieve, to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more to the hope of a better day.” The fear-mongering tactics that Lee Atwater taught Karl Rove and Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) used over the past 8 years (and which John McCain’s handlers tried to use this year) have been discredited. The majority of citizens figured out that trying to “scare” us out of rational thinking by using color-coded charts and rattling sabers was not the right way to select a leader for this great land. We have, once again, put our hands on the arc of history and bent it to the hope of a better day. Amen to that, also.
In his next paragraph, Senator (now President-Elect) Obama paid tribute to the old warrior who ran against him, Senator John McCain. Both candidates proved to be class acts on election night, although there were times along the way that we all wondered about some of the tactics we were seeing. Guilt by association? We would all go down to defeat if we were held responsible for the sins of every single person we ever met in our lives. Roslyn Carter would be blamed for the crimes of John Wayne Gacy under the reasoning used in some of the ads. There is no question that the final day’s ad using the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary comments in an attempt to discredit Barack Obama was among the lowest of many low blows. “Too risky,” it said. What is “too risky” at this point in our nation’s history would have been more of the same.
In his next paragraph, Obama thanked his wife and children and let us all know that a puppy is coming to the White House, I immediately thought of another young president with young children who had horses (a pony named Macaroni) and who played beneath the Oval Office desk. This nation can use the happy sound of children’s laughter and the image of a happy nuclear family in the White House during these trying times. I can almost imagine Caroline Kennedy smiling at the thought, just as I am smiling at the thought.
There were echoes of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Obama’s well-crafted remarks. There were echoes of Abraham Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people and for the people” Gettysburg Address. There was a palpable sense of hope despite adversity, of leadership in tough times, of optimism amongst despair.
I felt proud to be an American last night. I felt proud to have elected the candidate who wants war to stop. I felt glad that I had done what I could to help elect the first African-American, and, some day, I hope to help elect the first female President…just so long as it’s not Sarah Palin, who is the antithesis of nearly every belief I hold. Pretty, yes. Prepared, no.
On this “day-after-the-election” I wanted to share with you, my reader, some of my thoughts and feellings about the historic journey we have all witnessed, and explain my fascination with the cause.
I began covering the candidates who appeared at the Iowa caucuses the year that (Dr.) Howard Dean ran for president. My long-dormant political passion was stoked by drifting across the steet from teaching classes at the Kahl Building in downtown Davenport, Iowa, and wandering into the downtown Dean headquarters. We were urged to stay and share our thoughts and feelings about the state of America. I became hugely disillusioned in the wake of the 2000 election that saw “hanging chads” in Florida and the Supreme Court select George W. Bush as our 43rd president. I found it incomprehensible that one man’s brother (then-Governor Jeb Bush of Florida) could hand the most important office in our land to someone totally unprepared. The process was broken. I, along with many others, felt betrayed. I have felt that only once before…when a 1st Ward Alderman race I had labored long and hard in turned out to be “rigged,” was proven to have had officials at the top playing fast-and-loose with the absentee ballots, but nothing…not one word…was written in the local newspaper, despite the presence of a reporter from same (Jenny Lee of the Moline, Illinois, Daily Dispatch). it is one thing for candidates to cheat and get caught. That happens every day. My point: where is the retribution? Where is the “gotcha'” moment that restores the true, natural order of the universe? It seemed that the sense of decency and honesty in the election process that i had watched my father helped preserve in his races for Democratic County Treasurer of Buchanan County (IA) had evaporated, and in its place was corruption at the very heart of the political process…even in small-town America. If counties like Rock Island County, Illinois, were proven to be as dirty as Cook County in Chicago, what was the world coming to? And if proving it, in court, didn’t bring at least a slap on the hand to the perpetrators, could our national election process be far behind in granting complete impunity to those who would steal our democracy from us?
I live in a divided household, an Arnold Schwarzenegger/Maria Shriver split, with no one but me weighing in as a Democrat or…at times…an Independent. When one family member admits to glee at the time that JFK was shot, the feeling of complete alienation from what is right and what is good becomes pervasive. I have never wished death on a candidate, no matter how corrupt or evil I might perceive them to be. I have the same horror of that kind of thinking as I do for not trying (at least) to see the other person’s point of view.
Many times, my life partner would tell me that, in expressing my support for a candidate that (apparently) did not provide congruency with his own choices, I was or had been “obnoxious.” This meant that I had spoken my mind about the lack of preparedness or the general quality of a Repubican, usually, and I had found them wanting. at the same time, I hosted coffees for a Republican neighbor (Ray LaHood, last out of Peoria) and contributed to more than one Republican candidate (Andrea Zinga, Dave Machacek) so, was I really the blind straight-party voting ticket person that my spouse accused me of being during various discussions that generated far more heat than light? No. I was someone who would weigh the candidates and try my best to select that individual who could best lead our country in troubled times.
No times are more troubled than now. The economy is spiraling downward. We are fighting on two fronts. Our esteem abroad seemed irreparably shattered by a pre-emptive war that should never have been started, begun by a man who wanted to show dear old dad that he could do it better. History will judge if junior did a better job or a worse job than his father, but, as for me, in my semi-retirement, determined to write as I had always planned to do, I became political.
Oh, we still observed the political sticker moratorium, after the years of a Republican bumper sticker being applied over a Democratic bumper sticker ad nauseum, but I was not content to sit idly by and watch my country go down the tubes in the wake of George W. Bush. I became convinced that a president who was determined to ‘win at any costs” and a running mate with little or no foreign policy experience and some very esoteric views about the rest of the world and science and religion spelled certain doom for what remained of this once-great nation.
And I also decided that the best way for me to contribute to the victory of one (of many excellent Democratic candidates (Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Edwards, et. al.) as opposed to the reactionary forces of the Republicans arrayed against them was to throw off the cloak of meek-and-mild indifference and DO SOMETHING. Anything. Even if it was the wrong something, it would be better than a Bush clone in the White House. After all, what more could the man ruin.
It was this decision, made during a previous election run, that led me to ‘blog” for Iowa (www.blogforiowa), which, no doubt, earned me a place on George W. Bush’s enemies list. I took popular song lyrics and turned them into political gems aimed at exposing the Man Who Would be King. With humor, I aimed barbs at “the Decider,” covering Abu Ghraib and all things horrible like it. My journey had begun, and it would not end until November 4, 2008, in Grant Park in Chicago (see video above).
Through the bitter cold of Iowa’s winter, I tracked caucus candidates like Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack obama to school gymnasiums and people’s living rooms. I listened to their message(s) of change and hope. I contributed cash, but, more importantly, I contributed time and effort, attempting to let others know what I was able to observe, up-close-and-personal. Yes, some of my early heroes turned out to have feet of clay (Edwards, anyone?), but the eventual winner of this marathon race seems like the right man for the job at the right time in history.
The palpable enthusiasm at last night’s part gathering was like a city celebrating a World Series or a Super Bowl victory. Just a few moments ago, sitting in my 7th floor condo on Indiana Avenue near Hutchinson Field, a red balloon, no doubt left over from last night’s celebration, drifted past my balcony door. Today, though I am tired, I feel that, somehow, we, as a nation are back on the right track. It is a given that other nation’s will see Barack Obama as a worthy representative of this nation’s highest ideals. After years of a stumbling, incoherent leader who not only could not speak well, but could not lead well, we will have a well-qualified, well-educated, hard-working man who seems to genuinely love his family and his country in ways that do not visit death and destruction on the rest of the world.
I pray for Barack Obama on this day-after-the-election. I revel in the knowledge that I was “there,” inside, at the Pepsi Center in Denvr, at the Excel Center in St. Paul, at the Target Center for the Ron Paul Rally in Minneapolis, at the Iowa caucuses, at the Belmont Town Hall Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and, last night, in Grant Park where Barack Obama started this nation on a brand new journey that I hope will restore this country’s honor and reputation, both abroad and at home.
It was just announced that former Republican Senator from Iowa James “Jim” Leach, now serving as the interim Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard is to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado on opening night (Monday, August 25, 2008).
Trotting out this esteemed thirty-year Republican legislator, who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th, is a coup for the Democrats akin to the use of Senator Joseph Leiberman, (former Democratic Vice Presidential running mate with John Kerry) at the Republican convention.
Jim Leach is one of the most respected politicians ever to serve. And serve he did…for 30 years, in fact, from 1977 to 2007, when, after being re-elected 14 times, he was upset in the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Iowa by a mere 6,000 votes by former Cornell College Professor David Loebsack.
Leach, a graduate of Princeton, Johns Hopkins and the London School of Economics, and a Davenport, Iowa, native, has been a voice for moderate Republicans ever since he defeated Ed Mezvinsky (who later served time in prison) in 1976.
If all politicians had the integrity, smarts and scruples of James Leach, this country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in at this time in our history.
Leach was fiscally conservative, socially moderate, but progressive on such issues as stem cell research, which he supported at a time when “W” was banning the use of all but a few strains. Leach also had the integrity to quit during Watergate, in protest over the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Richard Nixon fired Eliot Richardson and Archibald Cox. (At the time, Leach was serving as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the U.N. General Assembly). He never accepted PAC money, refused out-of-state contributions to his campaigns, and put limits on how much one individual could contributions.
After 9/11, I was standing in a long line at the Baltimore Airport, trying hard to get a plane back from a Sylvan Learning Center convention to the Quad Cities of Ia/Il when I happened to notice that the man 2 people back in line was Jim Leach, schlepping his own suit over his shoulder in a garment bag. The lines that day, snaking through that airport, were the longest lines I’ve ever seen in an airport. Airports in Washington, D.C. had been closed and planes had been grounded for days.
I struck up a conversation with Leach, saying something less-than-intelligent like, “Hey! You’re my Representative!”
Everyone, at that time, felt as though they wished they could do something to help, and I sketched for Leach my goal of hosting a fund-raiser for the children of the victims of that tragic terrorist attack. When I asked his opinion of the idea, just then taking shape in my mind, he responded with amusement, “You’re way ahead of me.” I forgot to ask him if he would participate, were I successful in organizing such a fund-raiser, but belatedly thought of this coup and sprinted the length of two airport concourses to ask him (breathlessly), “If I get something together, would you come and be the keynote speaker?” He looked a bit startled, but acknowledged that he would do so.
Fast forward to an Iowa football game one month later in a pancake house in Iowa City, Iowa. Who should be there but Senator Leach, wearing an orange sweater. I went over to his table and said, “Remember me? The Sylvan lady? I’m still working on the plans for the fund-raiser. Can I still count on you?” He chuckled, probably wondering if I were stalking him, but responded affirmatively.
I worked out the details of this event between 9/11 and 11/11, Veterans’ Day. In frequent conversations with the Senator’s office staff, I received word that, although he had many speaking commitments that day, he would, indeed, travel all the way from Iowa City (106 miles, round trip) to the Pleasant Valley High School, whose auditorium I had rented for an event we dubbed “Celebrate Citizenship.” I was warned, however, that, since he had at least 7 prior speaking engagements, he would arrive late.
When Jim Leach entered the hall about halfway through the performance(s) by the Glenview Band, he gave a thoughtful report to the assembled citizens about what was being discussed in the halls of Congress regarding the dastardly attack on the World Trade Center. He was insightful, thoughtful, inspiring, just as I expect him to be on Monday night at the DNC in Colorado.
He did not let me down in my hour of need, and, through the generosity of the people of the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities and the forthright goodness of this man of principle, we raised $5,000 for the Scholarship Fund established for the children of the victims of 9/11, (with matching funds from our Sylvan Corporate company.)
This is the James Leach who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th and who will speak to the nation on Monday, August 25th.
Jim Leach is one of the good ones. Lord knows we need more like him now. I hope that, when he speaks, the nation listens.