Monday, January 16, 2017

Comparing a Couple of Presidential Eras, And a Statement on Trump

I am fortunate to have Tom Huston as a facebook friend. He is a fellow collector of American political memorabilia. He is one of the top collectors in the country. Tom was a Senior Advisor in the Nixon White House (pictured here with Nixon) and a close friend of William F. Buckley. He was one of the originial fixtures in the intellectual conservative movement of the 1950s and 60s.

Tom makes a keen observation about the how history will view the 28-year period of Presidents between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. He views it's significance, or lack thereof, similar to that of the period betweeen Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley.

His point, I believe, is that both eras are characterized by very transitional periods in which societal and historical forces at work disrupt, overshadow, and make difficult attempts at leadership. The transitional period after Lincoln was characterized by a failed and tumultuous attempt at the Reconstruction of America after a great American Civil War. The transitional period between Reagan and Trump has been characterized, as Thomas Friedman puts it, by an age of rapid acceleration and exponential change and disruption in the areas of technology, globalization, and climate, which has upended, confused, and made fearful lives and institutions. Tom would likely point also to weak leadership during both eras, but that is diffucult to judge and evaluate under such circumstances, in my view.

Here is Tom's thought-provoking and insightful observation: "A century from now historians will attach to the presidencies between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump the same significance that they now attach to those between Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley. Of course, they will highlight the election of the first African-American president and may footnote the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the unique achievement of George W. Bush in presiding simultaneously over two losing wars and a cataclysmic collapse of the economy, but the accomplishments of these intervening administrations, such as they may be, will (at best) take second place to great social and technological forces that remade the country during this 28-year period."

In 2017, we continue to move forward in uncertain, transitional, rapidly evolving and changing times. We have very questionable, non-traditional, in my view, unprepared, naive, dishonest leadership in Donald Trump. We shall see where this formula takes us and whether this leadership can sustain in these continuing, unprecedended times, rivaled only by the age of Reconstruction in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Eulogy of Bobby Kennedy, June 5, 1968

Here, Ted Kennedy delivers the closing part  (it is only 7 minutes long) of the eulogy at the funeral of his brother Bobby, using excerpts from Bobby's famous speech to the students of a South African university in 1966.  It is one of the great speeches of the last half of the 20th century.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Babe Ruth's Last Game and a Treasure of a.... Firsthand.... Story

On this day in 1935, Babe Ruth hit three homers and a single in a Boston Braves 11-7 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Many don't know Ruth played his final season with the Boston Braves. His 7th-inning solo shot off Guy Bush - a blast which cleared the ballpark's roof - was to be Ruth's 714th, final home run, and his last at-bat. Amaziing.

My friend, the late Mace Brown, who was from Greensboro, was on the Pirates bench as a rookie pitcher that day in 1935. (He was later a scout in this region).  Mace told a great story many times, and he told me once, personally, during a visit I made to his room in a local hospital when my Mother was on the same hospital floor.  

After Ruth hit the final HR of the day, again, completely out of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, for his final big league HR and his final at-bat, he took himself out of the game and he made his way to the visitor's locker room. To get there, one had to go through the home team's dugout.  As he made his way, a very tired Ruth, flopped down on the bench to rest next to my friend, rookie Mace Brown. He elbowed Mace in the ribs and said, 'son, that last one felt pretty good.'  With that, he smiled, got up, and made his way to the locker room and shower......for the last time.  A treasure of a, firsthand, baseball story.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Churchill's Historic, Lengthy Stay at the White House During December 1941, Just Weeks After Pearl Harbor

This grand and moving piece on Churchill's lengthy stay at the White House in December 1941 over Christmas, just weeks after Pearl Harbor, is a great historic read.

I highlight: "On Christmas Day, Churchill, the Roosevelt's and the rest of the White House party sat down to oysters, clear soup, turkey, chestnut dressing with giblet gravy, beans and cauliflower, and sweet potato casserole."

"In the autobiography she wrote after her husband's death, Eleanor told of how Churchill "stayed up talking, drinking brandy and smoking cigars until 2 or 3 a.m. By all accounts, the only drinking problem Churchill had was when his exacting demands were not met. On the day of his arrival, the White House butler was told how to keep him happy. The menu is recorded in Cita Stelzer's "Dinner With Churchill": "I must have a tumbler of sherry in my room before breakfast, a couple of glasses of scotch and soda before lunch, and French Champagne and 90-year-old brandy before I go to sleep at night."

"David McCullough tells of Churchill joining Roosevelt on a White House balcony for the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The two men addressed a crowd of 20,000 on the White House lawn and a nationwide radio audience. The prime minister went on to say:
"This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. "Still, he said, it was entirely appropriate to pause to celebrate Christmas. "Let the children have their night of fun and laughter," he said. "Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world."

The next morning, Churchill and Roosevelt, surrounded by security men, attended a Christmas service at a nearby Methodist church.

The photos above are FDR & Churchill at Christmas Dinner together, White House 1941, and FDR & Churchill lighting the National Christmas tree, from White House balcony, after US entry into WW2, December 1941.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Brief History of the Montgomery Bus Boycott - The Spark Which Began the Modern Civil Rights Movement

This is a wonderful piece of American and civil rights history.  Below is a description, written by my friend David Abzell, of his father's role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Both David and his father Joe were Press Secretary's (in different era's) to Alabama Governor George C. Wallace.  Joe was City Editor of the Montgomery Advertiser at the time of the boycott (December 1955).  Again, this is quite a piece of history:

David Abzell:  "The man who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott 60 years ago this month was Edgar Daniel “E.D.” Nixon, a black Pullman car porter who led the local chapter of the NAACP. Rosa Parks was the secretary of the NAACP and was personally picked by Nixon to undergo arrest and serve as the plaintiff in the test case regarding bus segregation laws. Nixon also tapped a young minister named Martin Luther King to serve as the spokesman for the Boycott.
On the eve of the Boycott, Nixon called my father, Joe, who was city editor of the Montgomery Advertiser and a long-time friend, and said he had a “big story” for him. Dad would write the very first article about the impending Bus Boycott using the information that Nixon supplied to him, but in order to protect his friend from retribution from the city's leaders, my father attributed the source to an unnamed white woman who got a tip from her black maid.
Dad would serve as a pallbearer for Nixon when he died in 1987. One of my prized possessions is this photo that E.D. Nixon signed for my father with the inscription, “Joe Azbell did more for blacks than any white man in America.”

Below is a short clip (10 minutes) from a documentary of the events and the players surrounding the boycott.  Mrs. Parks, Mr. Nixon, and Joe Abzell are prominently featured in the video. (The video must be viewed on youtube. After clicking on the arrow center screen, click on the youtube icon in the lower right corner of the screen and you will be directed to it).

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"The Birth of a New American Political System", by Bill Moyers

In this great piece, the great American liberal thinker, Bill Moyers, presents the case for a new American political system he sees developing. He says, "based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name. And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so."

"Let me make my case", Moyers says, "however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: 1) political campaigns and elections; 2) the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; 3) the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; 4) the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and, 5) the demobilization of “we the people.”

He concludes, "much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion. In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention. Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon and the officials of the national security state."

Finally he says, "out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening."

Read for yourself.  It is an excellent, important piece.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Interesting, Perplexing Times In Which We Live As We Approach the Second Half of 2015

Interesting times in which we live. We are in quite a transitional time, which is difficult for many people. Globalization, rapidly changing demographics, pronounced shift left on social issues, end of two terms of an African American president, good possibility of woman president on the horizon, America's changing role in the world, extreme income inequity, disorder in many regions of the world, emerging rival super powers in the world, all combine to require seeing the world clearly and unemotionally, requiring unbiased pursuit of new solutions to problems of the much different world in which we find ourselves. I am reminded of the Einstein quote, "We can't our solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them." And, I see clearly, that the same old 20th century political alignments, arguments, bickering will quickly deem us, individually and collectively as a nation, irrelevant. 

I am with Thomas Friedman, my candidate for best lead paragraph on a news article so far this year goes to Tom Goodwin, an executive at Havas Media, whose essay March 3 on began: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

In order to continue to try and see, and more clearly understand, the environment in which the successful candidate for President will find themselves, here is an excellent, even critical, Thomas Friedman article, "Jeb, Hillary, Facebook, and Disorder."

~ Bob Godfrey