Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Powerful Little Gift

Sometimes we can be quick to judge.......and we can miss out on a possible gift. Herein lies a powerful, simple gift.......a little message we have heard before, which I could have missed had I not "stayed with" the video as it began.

But as I watched it, and watched it a couple of more times, it's power heightened. For me, it reinforces, in a simple fashion, that yes, The Almighty has put us all, from our families to our neighbors around the world, in this thing together.

This is a collaberation of 35 musicians from around the world. (Be slow to judge......relax, and enjoy). Click on the link below.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Give The Olympics Back To The Amateurs

The 2010 Winter Olympics are coming to a close. I will enjoy the USA/Canada gold medal ice hockey game tomorrow. It will pit the best hockey players in the world against each other. TV ratings will be off-the-charts as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin continue their rivalry on an international stage.

The only problem for me is that they are professional hockey players. I am of the view that the Olympic games, at least men's ice hockey and basketball, should be returned to amateur status. The Olympic games should be about more than America, or other countries, crushing lesser developed countries. The idea of sending multi-million dollar professional athletes like Crosby, Ovechkin, Jordan, Barkley, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to the Olympic games and pitting them against poor and less developed countries makes little sense to me.

The advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur" athletes of the Eastern Bloc countries began our sending the professionals to the Olympics. Those days have come to an end. Now it has become the commercialization of the games which contributes to the presence of the professionals. As a result of Peter Ueberrroth first selling the TV broadcasting rights to the Olympics in 1984, the over-the-top TV ratings thrive on the participation of popular, household name professional athletes.

The USA men's ice hockey team could win the next five Olympic gold medals and all of them combined would not come close to equalling the emotion felt for the 1980 young amateur USA hockey team when they beat the Russian National Team. That game has become the standard for what the Olympics should represent. It is hard to believe today that 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals when it was learned that he played in a semi-professional baseball game in Rocky Mount, NC. (His medals were restored by the IOC in 1983 on compassion grounds).

The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", meaning faster, higher, stronger. The Olympics are to be about excelling and achieving a higher standard than previously existed. The Olympic creed reads, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well". (I certainly realize that alot of my "young buck" friends and relatives don't buy this point at this time in their lives, but hopefully, give the wise ones time).

I realize America is not only about winning, but is about crushing the competition and the opponent. As I look around, I am concerned about the product which that goal and philosophy has created. Can't we set aside that philosophy and purpose once every four years and seek the ideal of the Olympic creed and motto? It might be good for our national soul and psyche.

In the future, I hope the NBA and the NHL rethinks the policy of sending players to the Olympics. Yes, I will enjoy the hockey game tomorrow as NHL players play against each other at the Olympics. But for me, it will be confusing, wrong, and, while it will be very American, it will be contrary to the Olympic creed, motto, and purpose.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Greensboro War Memorial Stadium Memories

The summers of 1958 to 1963 provide my best War Memorial Stadium memories. I hardly missed a game. Men from across America came to my neighborhood to play baseball and try to make their way. Some were great players and some were colorful characters. All had the same passion I had for a great game. For a kid from the Aycock neighborhood, they brought the world closer, made it smaller, made me more a part of it.

In '58, catcher John Malongone was most memorable. He was big, emotional, and feisty. The more upset he got the farther he hit it. One Sunday afternoon he was decked by a pitch, had to be restrained from going to the mound, and hit the next pitch 425 feet over the center field wall. The Yankees were counting on him to follow Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra as the next great Yankee catcher. It was not to be, due to emotional problems as reported in Sports Illustrated some years back.

The '59 season brought to town future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski (.377 batting average) and fireballing Dick Radatz, both playing with the Raleigh Caps. Catcher Chuck Witherspoon (31 HRs), pitchers Tom Butters, and 6-foot-7 left-hander Bob Veale were stars with the Wilson Tobs, managed by my good friend, colorful Jack McKeon. Greensboro had great hitters that year such as Don Lock (30 HRs), Glen Merklen (23 HRs), and 1962 American League Rookie of the Year Tom Tresh.

In 1960, the G-Yanks ruled the league and were Carolina League champions. Phil Linz led the league in hitting and third baseman George Banks and first baseman Jimmy Johnston hit 26 HRs each. Pitchers Jim Bouton, Jack Cullen, and Larry Del Margo combined for 41 wins. Attendance was over 97,000 and it was a joy to be at the ballpark.

Gates Brown, future Detroit Tiger, led the league in hitting in 1961 at Durham. The G-Yanks were led that year by Ike Futch (.305) at second base, big Chuck Riddell (28 HRs) at first base, and shortstop Ronnie Retton, who stole 35 bases, showing some of the agility inherited by his daughter Mary Lou (later an Olympic gold medalist).

The 1962 season brought future big leaguers Curt Blefary (25 HRs by June 25), and Mel Stottlemeyer (17-9) to the Greensboro roster. Tony Perez played third for Rocky Mount where Negro Leaguer Buck Leonard was the hitting coach. Rico Petrocelli was the shortstop for Winston-Salem. The Durham Bulls' Rusty Staub was league MVP.

The 1962 season was capped off by a late October visit by Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, and Jim Gentile for home run derby. They were barnstorming minor league parks after the major league season to make a few extra bucks. The night was misty, cool, and dreary. Something wasn't right about the night for me. Maris had broken Ruth's HR record for the year before. Some old leather lung rode Maris from the stands all evening. I worked as a concession boy in the stands due to high ticket prices.

Times were changing and uneasy. October 1962 brought the Cuban missile crisis. There was civil rights unrest in downtown as Jesse Jackson led the student body and the football team at A&T. I was turning 14. My best friend at the ballpark during those years, Miles Wolff, was finishing high school. (He would go on the own the Durham Bulls, publish Baseball America, and create the Northern League).

As I was beginning to sense the challenges and difficulties that come with time and passages, the one great constant for me was watching men from around America express the drama and beauty of life as the chased their dream at the ballpark right in my neighborhood.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Story of Tom Turnipseed, a Liberal Southern Hero, and "The Southern Strategy"

There is something compelling about a story of someone turning away from an old life and beginning anew. There is something compelling about the story of civil rights in America, combined with southern politics, which draws me in. Such is the story of Tom Turnipseed.

An Alabama native, Tom was the grandson of a wizard in the Ku Klux Klan. His grandfather once killed a black man for sassing him at a neighborhood store. Tom's father, an agricultural scientist at Auburn, had a more moderate view toward blacks, telling his son that "blacks were good people". Even though Tom enjoyed recounting his father's moderate views, Tom became more the grandson than the son where race was concerned.

After graduating from Law School at UNC, Tom moved to South Carolina and got involved in the campaign to get tax exempt status for all-white academies as an alternative to court ordered integration of public schools. Tom's good work with the SC Independent School Association got the attention back home of George Wallace's brother Jack who invited Tom to join Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign. Tom was flattered and quickly became a top aide and strategist in the Wallace campaign. He was by Wallace's side when he has shot in 1968.

As Tom began to see what he later described as "raw hatred" on the faces of Wallace supporters, he grew very disenchanted with the movement. "Wallace knew what he was doing", Tom later said. "He had all the rhetoric, like 'they {referring the the media and the eastern establishment} look down there noses at us and call us peckerwoods and lintheads. We're none of that. We're just as cultured and just as refined as they are.'" Tom began to see that what he was experiencing was "way over the top", he said, and he eventually returned to his law practice in South Carolina.

During the culmination 1968 Presidential race, which Tom viewed from afar, the Wallace campaign got descimated as a result of the Nixon campaign employing, for the first time, what became known as "the southern strategy".

Here, Turnipseed describes "the strategy"; "The Nixon campaign put Strom Thurmond on television in a whole bunch of states that were very close. Old Strom'd come on TV and say, 'Well, you know, the governor is a good man, stands for the same things that Nixon does--but Wallace can't get elected, and Nixon can. Don't waste your vote.' With the race thing, the Nixon campaign took the Wallace message and co-opted it. As a result, the party of Lincoln became the party of David Duke and Trent Lott. The poor white guys who had voted for Roosevelt went for Nixon. The same poor working class whites had exactly the same economic interests as the blacks but they were divided by race".

Therein, you have a clear and concise explanation of the origin of the GOP's "southern strategy" (which, without question, has continued to be employed in various forms). Tom Turnipseed has gone on to become one of the preeminent civil rights attorneys in America. He has worked with the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center on numerous civil rights and "hate crime" cases. He has served as a State Senator in South Carolina. He most recently (the late 1990s) joined forces with the NAACP to have the confederate flag removed from atop the State House in South Carolina. He has his own liberal radio talk show.

Above is a photo of Turnipseed (on the left) with his cousin, Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I personally heard Dees amusingly tell of one case where they jointly won a $37. million suit against the Klan in which a new Klan headquarters was handed over to a black family by the judge.

For Turnipseed, the former Wallace campaign strategist, Gov. Wallace's so-called death-bed apologies were not near enough. "Hell, he says, "what we did, and what I was involved with and helped carry out, deserves more action than apology. It deserves justice for the injustices we did".
Yes, it's indeed inspiring and compelling to see a person turn from that old life, towards justice.

(Interesting additional note:  A dark chapter for Turnipseed which I failed to mention above was his race for the congress in 1980.  In the Spencer-Tunripseed race, a young Republican strategist, Lee Atwater (father of the 1988 Willie Horton Horton ad), conducted a 'push poll' against Turnipseed reminding voters of his involvement with the NAACP and his shock treatment for a mental health condition when Turnipseed was a teenager.  This episode proved the turning point in a race which Turnsipeed lost, and some say that ended his political career.  A decade later, prior to his early death from brain cancer, Atwater wrote to Turnipseed, literally from his deathbed, to ask for forgiveness).

Below is a 'Tom Turnipseed For Governor' button I am pleased to have as part of my collection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ken Starr Goes To Baylor

The Lone Star State has a new star....Ken Starr. The largest Baptist university in America, Baylor University, has named Ken Starr as it's new President. In an open letter to the university Regents, one Pastor/Professor at Baylor said, "The key to success of great movements or institutions is the ability to gather a diverse community around a common mission. .....It seemed clear to all that the next President of Baylor be more like a Billy Graham than a Karl Rove".

Ken Starr was Solicitor General under George W. Bush, was the Independent Council who pursued the Whitewater investigation, Vince Foster's death, and the Lewinsky affair during the Clinton years. He oversaw the House Impeachment of Bill Clinton and his Senate trial to remove him from office, which was rejected by the Senate. Starr most recently, while head of the Law School at Pepperdine University, lead the State of California effort to defeat Proposition 8, which dealt with legalizing same sex marriages.

In choosing Starr, it does not appear that "gathering a diverse community around a common mission" is on the minds of the Regent members. It is hard to figure how the selection of Starr in any way furthers the cause of combining of faith and learning. As another person close to Baylor put it, "they appear to be wrapping Jesus in an American flag to promote the positions of the Republican Party and the conservative movement". Jesus certainly never tried to impose his teachings or ethics on anyone. He never sought to use the power of government or politics in advancing his message.

Baylor has been divided over issues of the day such as gay marriage, the unborn, bible interpretation, and the like, for sometime. With the selection of a President, it seems they would have moved in the direction of more openly encouraging the pursuit of truth, of examining scripture as it relates to the challenges of the 21st century, and of struggling with the idea of what "church" should be, and how it should look, in the 21st century. It is hard to see how the choice of Ken Starr, one of the most polarizing political figures in recent history, advances any of those goals.

Someone said to me, "not alot of people are concerned about who the President of Baylor is. No one seems to be spending alot of time on the subject." A favorite and popular poem comes to mind about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of Hitler. "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out ---because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was was no one to speak out." I am Baptist, I love my faith, I love the freedom of thought and worship my Baptist faith affords me, and I will speak out.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Southern Regional Political Collectibles Show

You are invited to join us on Saturday, March 6, 2010 at the Wyndham Garden Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn Airport) on Burnt Poplar Road off I-40 in Greensboro, for the 26th Annual Southern Regional Political Collectibles Show. It is the only political collectibles show held in North Carolina or South Carolina each year. The show is affiliated with and sponsored by the national organization, American Political Item Collectors (APIC).

Campaign buttons, ribbons, tokens, china, historical documents and much more will be for sale and on display. Dealers and collectors will be present from all over the country. There will be opportunities for appraisal of any items you may own. A floor auction is generally held for "walk-in items" which owners may wish to sell.

There will be a full day of bourse from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 6. Admission is $3. per person, with students admitted free. There will be some collections on display. The showroom is like a museum of political memorabilia. Please mark your calendar and join us for a stroll down political memory lane on March 6 at the Southern Regional Political Collectibles Show in Greensboro.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Alf Landon of Kansas

One of my joys and relaxations is collecting old political items. Here, I am displaying some of my Alf Landon for President buttons. I have numerous buttons for each presidential candidate back to the election of 1896. I also have North Carolina local and statewide campaign buttons. Campaign buttons were very important before the days of media ads.

Known as the leader of the liberal Republicans in Kansas, Landon was elected Governor of Kansas in 1932. He sought the GOP nomination for President in 1936 opposing FDR. Landon proved to be an ineffective Presidential candidate who rarely traveled. Landon actually respected and admired FDR and he supported much of FDR's New Deal legislation. The election of 1936 proved to be very lopsided. Landon lost by 10 million votes and didn't even carry his home state of Kansas. Someone jokingly said, "had the campaign had gone on much longer, FDR would have carried Canada."

Landon was a good man. After the defeat of '36, he played a major role in fighting back the isolationist movement in America in 1939. He later backed the Marshall Plan. Later in 1960, he supported LBJ on Medicare and other Great Society programs. His daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, became a U.S. Senator from Kansas and married Tennessee Senator Howard Baker. Landon died one month after his 100th birthday in 1987. I like his campaign buttons. They are unique, as most of them depict the Kansas state flower, the Sunflower.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Step By Step

Back in the '80s, our church was going through turmoil. We were fortunate to have able lay leadership in the church to help move us forward. A good friend was Chairman of the Board of Deacons during the height of the difficulty and he shared this little poem on one occasion. I have enjoyed glancing at it over the years. Nice to be reminded how faith can sustain.

Step By Step
He does not lead me year by year
nor day by day,
But step by step my path unfolds;
My Lord directs my way.
Tomorrow's plans I do not know,
But he will say, "This is the way,
By Faith, now walk ye in it"
And I am glad that it is so,
Today's enough to bear;
And when tomorrow comes, His grace
Shall far exceed it's care.
What need to worry then, or fret?
The God who gave us His son
Holds all my moments in his hand
and gives them one by one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Country Lawyer....With Conviction, Influence and Elegance

The following is a speech that Senator Sam Ervin gave on the floor of the US Senate in 1967. This was the year that Senator Sam felt compelled to oppose powerful Republican Senator Everett Dirksen's effort to get footing for a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in the public schools. After researching the amendment, Sam, a constitutional attorney and authority in the Senate, came to the conclusion that the Founding Fathers intended the wall between church and state to be absolute. In your mind's eye, see him, hear him now, as Sam took to the Senate floor against Senator Dirkson with the following statement, which some call his greatest Senate speech, and a poignant statement of Sam's religious belief:

"I look at the universe and behold with wonder the life-giving sun, which rises in the east at morn, travels across the sky by day, and sets in the west at eventide; the galaxies of stars, which twinkle in the infinite heavens; the clouds, which bring the soil-refreshing rain; the majestic mountains with the hill at their knees; the rivers, which water pleasant valleys and fertile plains and run endlessly to the sea; the tall trees, which lift leafy arms heavenward to pray; the arbutus and dogwood, which brighten springtime, and the marigolds and roses, which ornament summer; the glory of the leaves and ripened crops of autum; the crystal snowflakes, which descend so gently in the winter; and the other beautiful things past remembering, which adorn the earth."

"I note with awe the order and regularity of the processes of life and nature as the tide ebbs and flows, as the harvest succeeds the seedtime, and as the heavenly bodies move in the orbits without mishap in conformity with natural laws. I observe with reverence that, despite the feet of clay on which he makes his earthly rounds, man is endowed with the capacity to obey conscience, exercise reason, study holy writings, and aspire to righteous conduct in obedience to spiritual laws."

"On the basis of these things, I affirm with complete conviction that the universe and man are not the haphazard products of blind atoms wandering aimlessly about in chaoes, but, on the contrary, are the creations of God, the Maker of the universe and man."

"Religion adds hope to man's desire for immortality. This desire is not to be attributed simply to the egotism of men, or their fear of the unknown beyond the grave, or their repugnance to the thought of their nothingness after death."

"The pessimistic philosopher Schopenhauer was sadly in error in his caustic comment that "to desire immortality is to desire the eternal perpetuation of a great mistake." The longing for immortality is prompted by the most meritorious motives."

"Life on earth is at best all too short and unfinished. Man entertains high hopes of the abundant life with his loved ones, and undertakes worthwhile things for them and his generation. His high hopes vanish as he is robbed of those he loves by death, and his hands drop the working tools of life while his undertakings are incomplete."

"As a consequence of these things, our hearts cry out that there must be some place after life's fitful fever is over where tears never flow and rainbows never fade where high hopes are realized and worthy tasks are accomplished, and where those we "have loved long since and lost awhile" stay with us forever."

"I revere religion. I revere religion because it gives us these promises and this hope. I would preserve and protect the right of freedom of religion for all men."

Senator Sam J. Ervin, D-NC, Senate Floor, 1967
Some say this speech, singlehandedly, put an end to the move in the Senate in 1967 to begin the process of amending the constitution to put prayer in the public schools. What a splendid statement. In my view, Senator Sam got it right, beautifully right, on all counts.
(Photo above is Senator Sam, Gov. Luther Hodges, and Gov. Kerr Scott).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti

A. Bartlett Giamatti once said, "All I ever wanted to be was President of the American League". He became President of Yale University, President of the National League, and the 7th Commissioner of Baseball.

Giamatti was a true Renaissance man. He graduated from Yale University magna cum laude in 1960. He received a doctorate from Yale in 1964. His specialty was English and Italian Renaissance poets. He became the youngest ever President of Yale in 1978. He became baseball commissioner in 1989. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 51.

Giamatti's passion for baseball surpassed even his academic zeal. His baseball writings are classic and will stand time. For those of us who love baseball, who once again struggle through it's winter absence, here are selected excerpts from Giamatti's "A Great and Glorious Game":

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone."

".......That is why it breaks my heart, that game--not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it has fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

"Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun."

From "A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writing of A. Barlett Giamatti".

Beginning With The End In Mind

I have observed this week, with interest and private praise, the heroes of the civil rights movement and the Greensboro sit-ins, those continuing to be committed to helping in Haiti, and those who are just doing small things, of great significance, in the lives of their families and the community. I am reminded of one of my favorite sections of one of Steven Covey's books, a section entitled "Beginning With the End in Mind".

Dr. Covey asks the reader to really focus, and in your mind's eye, visualize yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral, getting out of your car and going inside the building. You notice the flowers and the soft music, and you see faces of friends and family as you pass long the way. As you walk down to the front and look inside the casket you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All the people have come to honor you and to express feelings of appreciation for your life.

There are to be four speakers, one from your family, one from your work, one from your church or community organization, and a friend. Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter; what kind of friend, working associate? What character, what values would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions or achievements would you want them to remember? What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

If you participate seriously in this visualization experience, you touch for a moment on some deep, fundamental values. Dr. Covey says the most fundamental application of "begin with the end in mind" is to begin today with the image or picture of the end of your life as your frame of reference from which you live your life.

What really matters most? How different our lives can be when we really know what is deeply important to us. Keeping that picture in mind can help us manager ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. For me, it is about trying to be faithful to God's purpose for my life. It is not easy or clear. But when I attempt to begin with the end in mind, I can gain a different perspective on life and its demands and activities.

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