Big Birthday Memory #16: (More 1968) Obama, Clinton, New Hampshire And Primaries – 1968 And 2008

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from January 8, 2008.

McCarthy and Cindy wide2In the 1968 New Hampshire primary, 40 years ago, Senator Eugene McCarthy got 42% of the vote running against Lyndon Johnson .

That was enough to be viewed as a win, since no one thought he’d get anywhere close to those numbers.  That  victory by the only national politician with the guts to run against the Vietnam War sent a shock through the Democratic Party.

McCarthy’s effort, often called “The Children’s Crusade,” was comprised largely of college students (including me) who abandoned their studies to come to New Hampshire and work to help to stop the war.  Now, as I watch Barack Obama, and see the the numbers of young people propelling his success, I know just how they feel — and what awaits them if they fail. 

Then too, win or lose, things will be tough for Senator Clinton. Obama, seen not only as a change agent but also as someone who offe

That’s exactly what happened in 1968.  The New Hampshire victory brought Robert Kennedy into the race – establishing, until his tragic death, a three-way battle – two dissidents against the juggernaut of the Democratic establishment.  Then later, Hubert Humphrey, candidate of that establishment and for years, as Vice President, public and energetic supporter of Johnson’s war, won the nomination.

To all of us, he had stolen the nomination.  Many (not me) were so bitter that they refused to vote for him.  (2016 NOTE: Let’s not let this happen again! That reluctance led to the election of Richard Nixon and all that followed.  Think how different things would be…) Remember, for most of us, as for many of Obama’s young supporters, this was our first presidential campaign.  Hillary Clinton, should she prevail further down the line, will face the same broken-hearted campaigners.  Once the anti-establishment, anti-war student and Watergate hearing staffer, in the eyes of these young people she’ll be cast as the villain.


For evidence of how long that bitterness lasts, take a look at this quote from the American Journalism Review, from the 1968 Chicago Convention recollections of veteran Washington Post columnist  David Broder.  It’s about me – but it’s also about any young American who takes a stand and loses .

He recalls coming into the hotel lobby from the park where demonstrations were underway and spotting a woman he had first met during the Eugene McCarthy campaign in New Hampshire. “Her name was Cindy Samuels,” Broder still remembers. “She was seated on a bench crying. She had been gassed. I went over and I put my arm around her and I said: ‘Cindy. What can I do for you?’ She looked up at me with tears on her face and said: ‘Change things.’

NOTE:  As I searched for links for this post I found a David Corn piece saying much the same thing.  I want to take note of it since the ideas came to me independently but I didn’t want it to seem that I drew from his.

Big Birthday Memory #15: John Kennedy, Barack Obama, 2 Inaugurations and 2 Generations of Dreamers

jfk inauguration1NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from May 8, 2014

I seem to be living in the Way Back Machine this year.  Lots of memories of 1968 and even 1963.  Now as January 20, 2009 approaches, yet another looms.  January 20, certainly, but in 1961.

See that crowd?  Somewhere, way in the back, probably at least a block beyond, stand an almost-fifteen-year-old girl and her mother.  Fresh off an overnight train from Pittsburgh, having arrived at Union Station in time to watch the Army flame-throwers melt a blizzard’s worth of snow on the streets of the inaugural route, they make their way to their parade seats: in the bleachers, way down near the Treasure Building.

I spent most of 1960 besotted with John Kennedy.  And Jackie.  And Caroline.  And all the other Kennedys who came with them.  Most of my lunch money went to bus fare as, after school, I shuttled  back and forth “to town” to volunteer in the local JFK headquarters.  I even had a scrapbook of clippings about Kennedy and his family.

JFK Inaugural tickets So.  My parents surprised me with these two parade tickets.  My mom and I took the overnight train and arrived
around dawn Inauguration morning.  We couldn’t get into the swearing-in itself, of course, so we went to a bar that served breakfast (at least that’s how I remember it) and watched the speech on their TV, then made our way along the snowy sidewalks to our seats, arriving in time to watch the new president and his wife roll by, to see his Honor Guard, the last time it would be comprised solely of white men (since Kennedy ordered their integration soon after,) in time to see the floats and the Cabinet members and the bands and the batons.

It was very cold.  We had no thermos, no blankets, nothing extra, and my mom, God bless her, never insisted that we go in for a break, never complained or made me feel anything but thrilled.  Which I was.   As the parade drew to a close, and the light faded, we stumbled down the bleachers, half-frozen, and walked the few blocks to the White House fence. I stood there, as close to the fence as I am now to my keyboard, and watched our new president enter the White House for the first time as Commander-in-Chief.

That was half a century ago.  I can’t say it feels like yesterday, but it remains a formidable and cherished memory.  It was also a defining lesson on how to be a parent; it took enormous love and respect to decide to do this for me.  I was such a kid – they could have treated my devotion like a rock star crush; so young, they could have decided I would “appreciate it more” next time.  (Of course there was no next time.)   Instead, they gave me what really was the lifetime gift of being a part of history.  And showed me that my political commitment had value – enough value to merit such an adventure.

Who’s to say if I would have ended up an activist (I did)- and then a journalist (I did) – without those memories.  If I would have continued to act within the system rather than try to destroy it. (I did)  If I would have been the mom who took kids to Europe, brought them along on news assignments to Inaugurations and royal weddings and green room visits with the Mets (Yup, I did.)  I had learned to honor the interests and dreams of my children the way my parents had honored my own.  So it’s hard for me to tell parents now to stay home.

My good friend, the wise and gifted PunditMom, advises “those with little children” to skip it, and since strollers and backpacks are banned for security reasons, I’m sure she’s right.  But if you’ve got a dreamer in your house, a young adult who has become a true citizen because of this election, I’d try to come.  After all, he’s their guy.  What he does will touch their lives far more than it will ours.  Being part of this beginning may determine their willingness to accept the tough sacrifices he asks of them – at least that – and probably, also help to build their roles as citizens – as Americans – for the rest of their lives.  Oh — and will tell them that, despite curfews and learner’s permits, parental limit-setting and screaming battles, their parents see them as thinking, wise and effective people who will, as our new President promised them, help to change


Facing the Political Future: a Sadly Personal Perspective

Harold Ickes

I’ve been hiding from the news, which is weird since I spent most of my life as a journalist.  I’m not sure though, that after 8 agonizing years of W and then 6 frustrating ones with President Obama (much of it not his fault) I can face what the next congress will do.

Do you remember the various, endless Clinton hearings?  Even more than the impeachment battle, the moment that I keep remembering was deeply personal: Sen. Alphonse D’Amato questioning Deputy Chief of Staff (and my longtime friend) Harold Ickes, whose father, also Harold, had been Secretary of the Interior in the Roosevelt Administration, and credited with implementation of much of the New Deal.

His father, D’Amato told Harold, would have been ashamed of him.

I had worked with Harold when we were all young, so along with political anger came real pain that, beyond the issues, he had faced such very cruel personal grandstanding.

That’s not important in policy terms and is probably mild compared to the harshness that any witnesses at the pending, inevitable deluge of hearings under a Republican congress will face: two years of destructive power escalating the politics of obstruction to that of destruction.  Beyond what that will mean to our country, poor people, women, immigrants, ACA users, voting rights, Supreme Court nominations,  and the jeopardy we face around the world, none of which will receive much attention except as political weapons, it’s just not something that will be easy to watch, especially for an unrepentant dreamer like me.

Lupita, the Oscars, Race and the Un-Funny (I’m Lookin’ at YOU Chelsea)

1815-Oscars-2014-Lupita-Nyong-among-five-biggestMocking LUPITA?  Really?

The presence of President Barack Obama has clearly given haters permission to go public.  It’s given conservative politicians excuses to obstruct nominees and legislation almost to the point of treason.  Today’s criticism of the president’s Ukraine responses, especially that of Senator Lindsey Graham, who knows better and seems to fear his primary opponent more than he fears adversely affecting our country’s future, is the latest example.

We expect that from the predictably-racist and from opportunistic politicians.  We do NOT, however, expect it from mainstream comedians on mainstream outlets like The Huffington Post.  So how does it happen that the much-honored Chelsea Handler, who has 5.4 million Twitter followers, her own nightly E! TV show, and is a frequent guest on others, feels free to:

a) Tweet what she did about African Americans and the Oscars (read this, you won’t believe it)

b) EVER believe these posts would be funny

c) Continue so long on such an influential venue without interruption by her “publisher?”

She is about to launch a stand-up tour and was tweeting to promote it, but in service to that end, repeatedly tweeted what were at least disrespectful and self-occupied and at most patently racist comments not only about Lupita Nyong’o’s win, but also about past Oscar winners Sidney Poitier and Angelina Jolie (who also received this year’s Humanitarian Award,) Whoopi Goldberg, and this: “ looks great -Oscars –@chelseahandler” referring, presumably, to ABC’s endless promos for their new drama Resurrection.

As of this writing, there has been no searchable comment from HuffPo beyond a bland response to the Grio.

The thing is, as the only woman late-night anchor, an edgy humorist and all that stuff, her behavior is somehow especially painful.  She’s reaching younger people and, with this kind of talk, making it a little easier for them to accept it from others. Because of the huge reach of HuffPo, she’s legitimized both by her presence and their silence.

So how is it, in the 5th year of the administration of our first Black president, when best picture, best screenplay and best supporting actress Oscars went to African-Americans, and, as Larry Irving has noted, “Who says Hollywood is stuck in the past… Mexican born Director wins for Best Director. British Born Brother wins for Best Picture… Kenyan born Yale educated woman wins for Best Supporting Actress… Love it!!! In America anything really can happen…” it is possible for this to happen and be almost solely in African-American outlets like The Grio and The Root?

Come on guys!  Free speech, free press indeed.  But we really need to speak up when this kind of thing is still acceptable as humor.  Seriously.


First I got this email from a young friend:  "LOVED IT – Just brilliant and I am happy to vote again."  Then I watched The Speech again early this morning on C-SPAN and marveled at the reaction of 200,000 Berliners in a city that has been, in recent years, a tough room for American leaders.  We've spenta lot of time in Berlin, so I know the city; in my parents' lifetime it was the capital of the most racist country in the world but now it's urbane, cerebral and pretty sophisticated, with a stunning history and a development we've watched throughout the last ten years that is unparalleled.  War(and communist)-ruined buildings and just plain ugly ones have finally been replaced by gleaming new market and skyscraper squares, there's fabulous mass transit as well as renewed activity in its two opera houses and many theaters and ballet companies.  OH and enough museums to keep you busy for months.  Just the kind of place to be particularly hostile to a president like George Bush.

So what did Senator Obama bring that made the difference? David Brooks was pretty harsh in the NYTimes:  " Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney."  To be fair, I guess it can sound that way.  The reality, to me though, is that after eight years of a president of whom we could not be proud and whose policies, war, rhetoric and attitude shoved our allies far from our side, a bit of warmth and solidarity is a legitimate introduction.  Beyond that, the most profound thing about the speech, in my view, wasn't Obama but the response to him.  Sure, Europe is liberal and politically correct (except, often, about their own immigrants, unfortunately) and a black candidate (even half) for president in the US is attractive, but it's more than that.  It looked, at least to me, like Europeans have been longing for a United States they can believe in again; that perhaps part of the reason Europeans have been so angry at us is that beneath the rubble of the Bush years, we still represent a promise and ideal that Europe has been furious that we've abandoned. 

Of course, I could be projecting my own heartbreak over Abu Ghraib and the Patriot Act and all the other profanities done in our name; at the horrific lack of inspired leadership both at home and abroad just after 9/11, at the war (How could it happen again – after Vietnam; the same lessons never learned, the same hubris?), at the craven attitude toward energy and life at the bottom end of our economic ladder – at all of it.  But I don't think so.  Rather, it seems that under all the anger Europeans have manifested toward the United States, they, like us, want an American leader they can believe in.  An America they can believe in.  And Barack Obama is about as close to that is you can get without moving to another dimension.

The foundation laid by that inspiration will get us, and our old friends newly re-engaged, through the terrible, tough days ahead.  Without a leadership of hope and belief, natural allies outside our borders will be lost to us, as they so sadly have been these past years.  And as Senator Obama reminded us, we can't afford that.  Not now.

Is There a Draft in Here? Should There Be a Draft?

Hershey et al
 I can't believe I missed it!  Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the first United States draft lottery drawing,  Every young man my age and many older and younger waited in front of their TVs with sweaty palms and pounding hearts (I'm not kidding) as the numbers came out of the barrel.  And those in this photo were the "old white guys" who did it.  The one drawing the number is Republican House Armed Serviced Chairman Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) and the man to his right is the (then) despised Chairman of the Selective Service (the Draft) General Lewis Hershey.

OH and one more thing:  just beyond that camera, over to the left, was me.  Sitting with a telephone and reading each drawn number to the CBS News studio where the number was then posted on the screen.  Each number was a birthday, and the order in which they were drawn determined the likelihood that the men in the list would be drafted and, most likely, go to Vietnam.  First birthday drawn – lottery number 1.  Last birthday drawn – lottery number 365.

As I read the numbers into the phone, I was reading death warrants.  Of men my own age.  And I knew it.  

Every number, every birthday, could be someone I knew – an old boyfriend, a cousin, someone's brother, a high school classmate, a teacher, another someone's son.  The war was real in a way it hadn't been before, even though there had always been a draft.  Up until the lottery, college students and graduate students were deferred and so were married men.  In fact, there were more than a few weddings to keep boyfriends home.  

Many of these rules, which were, after all, based on class since there were so many more white middle class men in college than other groups, were wiped out when the lottery began.

That meant that on a theoretical level, I should have been proud.  My country was spreading the risk, spreading the pain – and even if I opposed the war, I knew that others were not being asked to fight it for me and my peers anymore.  Those we loved were also at risk.  All I felt though was fear, and anger, and despair.  Which is probably not a bad way to feel when loved ones are about to be drafted to go fight in a "dirty little war" in Vietnam.

So today, after the President's speech last night, I wonder.  We know the military prefers a volunteer military even with all the re-deployments and disruptions.  It's building a "military class" in our country of people who know things we don't – won't learn.  And they're proud to be there, scared or not.  It's effective.  But is it fair?  Is it even productive, when it insulates so many of us from an imminent sense of loss?  When we never have to fear the husband in a wheel chair, the son whose PTSD will not fade and, worst of all, that dreaded knock at the door, 

Now That Wasn’t So Bad, Was It? The President and the Kids


I’m going to post the entire Obama schools speech because it’s so ridiculously safe and regular and parental and sweet — perfect evidence of how insane this whole battle has been. See for yourself

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009 

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can me
et our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending
time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

OK So I’m Mad


It’s been a lazy weekend.  Both Sunday papers got read.  The COSTCO run was made (but not the bed.)  We went out for three different meals so cooking was minimal.  But the news is really pissing me off.

We’ve reduced the President of the United States to a propaganda tool.  I’ve worked in school TV.  I know what will happen when the President speaks on Tuesday.  Teachers who disagree with Obama will talk during the speech; others will just turn off the TV.  Remember the story of the kids in Dallas who cheered when President Kennedy was killed?   They were too young to have an informed hatred.  It was generated in them.  And now, with a President whom we all know faces more danger than most, the President’s enemies are willing to do it again.

OK lets go from there to health care.  With a calculated harshness these same people have managed to stir up every frightened, confused voter in the country by convincing them they’re in infinite danger.  For the elderly it’s nearly a promise to send them all out to die on an ice flow.  For others it’s the promise that they’ll have to wait forever for care, that they’ll never be able to pick their doctors and that their care will lose quality.  And let’s not forget the screaming madness that forever polluted the revered American tradition of the town meeting.

I’m writing this as Labor Day draws to a close.  Cranky and sad, I wish for a renewed commitment, as we honor those who, mostly, work with their hands, that a miracle will move the battling legislators to “man up” and make something happen so that no worker, or any other American, will spend next Labor Day worrying about what they’ll do if one of their kids falls off his bike on the last day of summer and breaks a leg.

Sonia Sotomayor – Sharing the Obama, and the American, Story

It was striking to listen to the President and Sonia Sotomayor today.  Listen to her story, and think of his.  The parallels are striking.  Early "modest circumstances", early loss of a father, strong women supporting them (for Obama his mother intellectually and his grandmother in other ways, for Sotomayor her mom), and the power of – the huge, profound belief in — the power of education to change a life.  It is becoming a mantra of this administration – the President's speeches and appearances with young people, certainly those of Michelle, and, we see today, of his choice for Supreme Court nominee.  I was liveblogging with Kim Pearson at BlogHer and wrote that I believe Obama is "retuning the American sensibility." By "retuning" I mean returning us, like a tuner with a piano, back to the standards that  sustained us for so long.

My father made it impossible not to understand the value of education.  His father came here from Eastern Europe with nothing and my dad, with the help of several scholarships and three jobs at a time, graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School.  He told me once we probably wouldn't inherit much – that "your education is your inheritance."  And so it was.

For much of the past couple of decades though, that belief has been blunted – by the tech revolution (even though much of it was produced by immigrants who also built a life here) and the greedy 80's, by the growing gap between the wealthy and even the middle class, and by what has felt to many like disproportionate power in the hands of business.  It has just looked harder to get from those humble beginnings.  Our values were so much more about money: the sports stars and rock stars and the Donald Trumps of the world than education and service and personal responsibility. 

Of course, the barriers are still devastating for many.  How does a child entering preschool with a 500 word vocabulary keep up with one entering with 15,000 words?  Research tells us that's often the difference between kids from well-to-do versus economically challenging households at preschool age.  There is a wealth of work to do to make it possible for us all to truly start out on a level playing field.

Even so, it's exciting to think about what happened today because the central players have "walked the walk" within their own communities and beyond, managing challenges in race, gender, ethnicity and class.  No matter how the nomination turns out, it's a reminder of what we want to – and often do believe about our country: that those dreams are still possible, that the stories with which many of us grew up are still true.  It's up to all of us to make sure that we continue to return to these beliefs, and where they are not yet true, work to make them so.

Support for Obama Among Jewish (and Other) Religious Voters is High

Obama hebrew button large Wow.  One of my twitter feeds just posted this link:  Jews Unwavering in Support for Obama.  It's a Jerusalem Post story but citing a Gallup poll, reputable and usually more conservative than other top-level pollsters.

Here are the numbers:

Approval through Obama's first 100 days in office

79% of Jews voted for Obama

79% of Jews

85% of Muslims
73% of nonreligious
96% of liberal Jews

77% of “moderate” Jews

45% of conservative Jews w/exactly 45% disapproving


67% of Catholics favored Obama

58% of Protestants

45% of Mormons

And here's Gallup's graphic of the entire breakdown:
Gallup graph

Definitely interesting.