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Our Country Is The World

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Saturday, Jay Shahidi, President of the Minnesota chapter of the United Nations Association, commented on an aspect of the state of our world. I paraphrase what I heard Jay say: ‘about 20 years passed between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. It has been over 70 years, and there has been no World War III. I think a functioning United Nations is an important reason for this’.

There have been wars since WWII, of course, but nothing on the scale of the two World Wars. By the UN’s very existence, imperfect as it is, I’d join Jay’s contention that the UN has been a very positive mediating force for a better world.

At the same meeting, Prof. Joe Underhill of Augsburg University gave an excellent talk, “Connecting the local and global Minnesota’role with the SDG’s” on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Take some time to review these goals, and follow up on any that seem interesting to you.

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Joe Underhill, at UNA MN annual meeting Nov. 4, 2017

Prof. Underhill, who has strong professional credentials, including as professor, and long term involvement with the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum at Augsburg, laid out the basics for local grassroots involvement to make a real difference in our now global society.

Indeed, the very existence of the Sustainable Development Goals has its roots in grassroots lobbying for them at the time the earlier Millennium Development Goals came to an end in 2015. I learned this at another talk last year. The original MDG’s were developed by the UN, resulting in significant accomplishments; the new SDG’s evolved from a ground up process.

There exists a strong substructure of citizen led NGOs which have the capacity and the interest in making a big difference on local, national and Global Issues. While there will always be tensions between those in the traditional power structure (nations, leaders of nations); in the global era, citizens can and do and must have a direct impact.

In my opinion, there are two main impediments to citizen generated progress towards a better world. The first is a tendency of individuals to doubt their power to make a positive difference. The second, and greater, dilemma, is developing the ability to work together, melding people of different points of view.

At the conclusion of Saturday’s meeting I was able to announce a film, showing in Minneapolis on Saturday, November 11. The announcement is below, as well as a pdf for distribution to others: World is My Country002.

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The film is complete, but not yet fully released. This is a film great for inspiration and for discussion. If you’re in the area of Minneapolis, I hope you can attend.

#1306 – Dick Bernard: The Avenue of the Saints

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

About a week ago, I packed my bag and got on the road, destination an annual meeting of Citizens for Global Solutions near Lambert St. Louis Airport, St. Louis MO.

Over 500 miles later, I arrived at my destination, both exhausted and energized. It was good to see the open country between St. Paul and St. Louis, traveling I-494, U.S. 52, 63, I-380, IA 27, U.S. 61, and I-70 (to minimize confusion, the route is more or less a straight line from St. Paul to St. Louis). We are a very large and very diverse country, if one takes a moment to look.

Somewhere around Iowa City, on 27, I began to see a repetitive road sign:

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Somewhere in southern Iowa October 20, 2017

I could see the word “Saints” on the distinct road signs, but finally had to stop and read the rest of the story, and take the photo of Avenue of the Saints, unfortunately with the fleur de lis “impaled”. There oughta be a law!

There had to be a story. Back home I looked it up. You can read the fascinating story here. The “Saints” are St. Paul and St. Louis….

Such journeys have always fascinated me…49 states so far in life. Not much interested in the 50th – Alaska. Maybe I’ll still make it, but it’s not on my “bucket list”.

Even at highway speed, there is much to notice along the way. Friend Steve, hailing from Cedar Rapids, advised bypassing Waterloo due to road construction. His diversion allowed me to see the towns of Raymond and Dewar, and at least wonder about the town a few miles to the right on C66, Dunkerton.

The route took me to the outskirts of Hannibal, Tom Sawyer’s town. “Been there, done that” back in 1976 – stopped for coffee there, both enroute to and from.

After the conference in St. Louis, rendezoused with my brother in Belleville, at beautiful Our Lady of the Snows, where our Dad lived the last ten years of his life, dying there in 1997.

We took a trip to the nearby and very interesting Cahokia Mounds park, and I managed to get a good photo of downtown St. Louis a few miles away.

St. Louis from Cahokia Mounds IL Oct 23, 2017

On the 24th I headed home the same way I’d come, this time deciding to stop at a single point of interest I’d noted on the trip down, found east of Lourdes, Iowa.

Hwy 63, Iowa, south of Lourdes, Oct 24, 2017

The diversion six miles east was well worth the trip, even though there was no one there, and it was a chilly and very windy day.

At the farm site was the country school Dr. Borlaug attended (he was born in 1914). Also, some displays, one shown below.

Dr. Borlaug’s country school, opened in 1865.

Norman Borlaug Oct 24, 2017

Back home I wrote a note a good friend, born and raised on a farm, who I first met as an 8th grader in 1953-54, as follows:

“I made one stop enroute home which may interest you, as a farmer. One of the premier world agricultural experts – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – was Norman Borlaug of rural Cresco Iowa (perhaps six miles south of Cresco, about the same east of Lourdes, Iowa). I saw a sign pointing to the place where he grew up, and I drove the six miles off route 63 to see the place. It was chilly and windy and I was the only person there, but a fascinating stop. Here’s the web description of Dr. Borlaug.

His cousin was the country school teacher, and she recommended to his parents that he go to high school. She said he wasn’t the best student, but he had the attitude he needed to succeed. She called that one right!!!!

I once did a blog which referred to a chance meeting of my uncle and aunt with Borlaug, probably down in the Hankinson area of ND: You can read it here. The meeting with Dr. Borlaug was a vivid memory for Vince. It probably was sometime not long after he had won the Peace Prize. We all have our stories.”

In short order, my friend, a retired scientist, responded with his own message, which added to the learning experience of my week.

“Interesting article on Dr. Borlaug. There are a lot of people that have made great contributions to their respective fields, but as you know from my preoccupation with the forthcoming Ice Age and issues like that, what we need more of are folks that are big-picture thinkers. I was seeing on TV that the efforts of the Gates Foundation may completely eliminate polio. We spend much money on saving children from starvation and other preventable diseases, and yet, as per the population growth curve that I have shown you that I refer to as the “human stupidity index”, there will come a time when billions of people will be dying as nature reduces the earth’s human population back down to somewhere around 3 billion over the next millennium or two. As I have told you, my greatest charitable contributions are now focused on population reduction. I can’t do it by myself, and there are those that detest the idea of population control, but I will keep doing my bit to hopefully reduce the number of people that will lose their lives to natures forces as time goes on.”

In my life, I have found that there is lots to learn, and lots of richness in differences of opinion. Point of fact: I basically agree with my friends concern. What are we leaving those who come after us?

Returning home I did the periodic newsletter for my Minnesota Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions. You are welcome to read it here: CGS News Nov 2017 Final-2. Of course, you can join an e-list for this five times a year newsletter if you wish. Just let me know: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Coming soon: Some thoughts a year after November 8, 2016.

Five Citizens Reflect on the Vietnam War

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Your comments are invited for a follow-up post: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Please include your permission to include in a post.

Following are some thoughts about Vietnam, prior to the beginning of the 17 hour film series on PBS, Sep. 17, 2017 7 and 8:30 p.m. CDT. Here’s the schedule of programs following Sep. 17 (see pages 21 & 25): PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

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photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist.

Re the sketch, above: I’m proud to count the artist as a friend, Padre Johnson. He was a field medic in the Mekong Delta in 1968, among other vocations in life. He sketched the incident, and describes it here: Padre J Viet Combat003.

Padre is one of many Vietnam vets, including conscientious objectors and protestors, I have come to know either in person, or through others. There are many “truths”, and perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge differences, while working to learn from the past.

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from Jim, Sep 10: Fifty years ago my brother was in Vietnam. During the spring and summer of 1967 he saved lives, both American and Vietnamese. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and had tremendous empathy for the people even the so called enemy soldiers. He was soft spoken, kind and generous and very much a hero. He was honored this year in Washington on June 17th. I included a short summary on the Minnesota History Center’s Vietnam Story Wall: here.

As I said in my writing, I grieve for his loss every single day.

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from Norm, Sep 10: I am looking forward to watching the series as I am sure are many, many other veterans who served in SEA during that war let alone many others as well.

Burns has always done a great job with his previous efforts and I expect that this one will be done well also.

There was a series (TPT) on the VNW [Vietnam War] several years ago that I thought was very good as it included perspectives, experiences, reflections and remembrances from people fighting on both sides and in between, i.e. the Montagnards, the Bru, the Sioux and the Hmong, the latter working with the CIA in the “secret war” in Laos.

The feelings about the VNW were still kind of raw at that time so I was aware of many folks including several veterans that were not comfortable with the series as it included comments and perspectives from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, including general Giap. In addition, it showed some of the destruction caused by the B-52’s when they “went north” over Hanoi and Haiphong in the early 70’s coming from Andersen AFB(Guam), Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Utapao (Thailand) where I had been stationed with the BUFF’s(Big Ugly Flying F…….s)in the late 60’s.

The B-52’s had been involved in the Arc Light operations for many years bombing sites in that theater before going north and encountering SAM missiles in or near North Viet Nam. The BUFFs took heavy unsustainable losses early in the effort to go North as a result of the SAM [Surface to Air Missile] missile defenses around Hanoi and Haiphong as they would initially come in on predictable routes over those two cities.

Several of the crews became residents of the Hanoi Hilton albeit for relative short times compared to Alvarez (seven years) and McCain (five years) as the truce was signed not long after the bombing of the north began and the prisoner exchange began.

Some of the crews who survived being shot down in their B-52’s were rescued by the Jolly Greens (helicopters) and the crews of medics. Several BUFF crewman did not survive either hits on the aircrafts by the SAMs, the subsequent crash and/or their injuries from received from one or the other or both.

One of the BUFFs from Utapao was hit by a SAM when over the north and limped back to its home base before crashing just outside its perimeter as it made its final approach to the runway.

I am definitely looking forward to watching this important series.

I am sure that Burns will feature the unrest within our country related to the VNW as well which is of less interest to me as that has been so well and so often documented so many times already.

I am primarily interested in learning about what other veterans were doing in that theater at the same time that I was there, it, 1967-68 as well as when my brother was there as a helicopter pilot in the early 70-‘s working with the “little people.”

I really don’t care about the impact of the war on the domestic side of the equation for various personal reasons.

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from Larry, Sep 11: My “perspective” on War in Vietnam, with direct link to my story on the “wall”, here. And Aug 31 a radio interview at KFAI.org (here).

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from Susan, Sep 11: My husband, Tom Lucas, served four years in Vietnam. He worked in Supply, so wasn’t in the trenches. But he flew in helicopters from time to time and experienced ammunition fire.

Tom loved the children and visited orphanages often. He knew that often children were sent into areas with bombs attached to their bodies. (You probably know all about that.)

I’m sure he knew of other atrocities but never once mentioned any.

In the 37 years we were married he rarely spoke about his time there, and I never once asked him about it. I knew it was too painful for him to discuss it. Once in a great while he would be in contact with someone who also spent time in Nam and did engage in some conversation with that person. But I was not present. Tom had two photo albums he showed.

He left them laying in the living room after their meeting, and he didn’t care if I looked at them. Shortly after our first child was born I received a call from the government asking about Tom’s possible contact with Agent Orange and whether or not our child suffered any disability. Tom was not in the jungles so wasn’t in contact with Agent Orange.

That’s about all I can remember. He did receive a couple of Commendation letters, but right now I cannot recall what they were for. I know you will sum up the whole Viet Nam experience so I’ll let you add the descriptions of that war. Tom died one day short of his 62nd birthday. He planned to retire at 62. He will be gone 9 years the end of October.

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Dick Bernard, Sep 12: I am a Vietnam era Army veteran, which means I was in the service after Feb. 28, 1961. Truth be told, at the time I entered the Army, Jan. 11, 1962, I had no idea of the future significance of that time in history. A vivid memory from early in my Infantry days is of a long time Platoon Sergeant hoping to get assignment to Vietnam duty because he’d heard Saigon was good duty.

Draft Card. I must have lost the original.

I had volunteered for the Draft. At that time, we were required to register for the Draft and carry Draft cards. There was no patriotic impulse: it was something I thought I’d have to do anyway, and may as well get it out of the way. I had just graduated from college. I could have qualified for Officer Candidate School, but declined as it would have required me to extend the two year tour. I had no thoughts of conscientious objection, or alternative service. My family history has many military veterans.

My service time began at Ft. Carson, Colorado (Colorado Springs area), mid-January, 1962. My memory is that the night before we boarded a bus from Fargo ND to Ft. Carson, my roommate and I went to a movie down the street, Bridge On the River Kwai.

Ft. Carson, then, was primarily a Basic Training base for the Army. Midway through Basic Training the announcement came that an Infantry Division was being re-activated at Ft. Carson, and after we completed basic training we were virtually all transferred into this new 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). I ended up in Company C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry of the 1st Brigade (if memory serves) of the 5th Infantry (Mechanized). I became Company Clerk. My recollection is that there were perhaps 140 or so of us in the Company, which shared a block with Companies A and B, and a headquarters Company.

Our routine was no different than anyone else preparing for combat.

Some years ago I contributed some pictures to a website which still exists, here.

Ft. Carson CO. Best I recall, Co C was at the NE corner of the 4th full block up. This photo is from the south and dates from 1962 or so. The church we attended (all denominations) was at the very end of the base.

Succinctly, we were, at that time, a peacetime unit being prepared for war. But if there was talk about a coming war in Vietnam, I don’t recall it.

I left the Army at the end of my tour, just before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

Co. C continued, and ended up in Vietnam beginning in 1968. By this time, I was back home, with a “row to hoe” – working to raise an infant. My first wife had died in 1965, and our son was 1 1/2. I saw the war develop on the news, but that was all. I had no connection to protests, for no particular reason other than home duties.

In 1967 and 1970 my two brothers entered the Air Force as officers, and the war became much more personal to me.

About the same time, Company C became heavily engaged in combat in Vietnam, though I didn’t know that till years later.

The war ended in April, 1975, thence out of sight out of mind. In mid-November, 1982, I happened to be in Washington D.C. for meetings, and while waiting for my flight out of Washington National learned that the Vietnam Memorial was being dedicated that very weekend. I went there. It was a very powerful and emotional experience. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

It was not until last week, when I revisited the unit website, that I learned that my Company C, that small group of about 140 men for whom I had done the Morning Reports for nearly two years had, in four years between 1968 and 1971, lost 37 men in Vietnam; in all the casualties of the Battalion which had earlier shared my block at Ft. Carson totaled 145. War was, indeed, hell. I just happened to get lucky.

May my comrades rest in peace, and may we intensify our efforts for peace.

POSTNOTE: I am always conscious of people who I know are veterans, particularly so at this moment in time – that is a benefit of this 17 hour film by Ken Burns.

Yesterday I was at my barber, a retired guy who works out of his home. I’m a long time customer and we’re good friends. He’s a combat Marine vet from Vietnam – assigned as tunnel rat, at times. His brother, another Marine, was killed at 18 in Vietnam about 1968. His name is on the Wall in Washington, and here on the Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Last Thursday at the preview of the film at the PBS station, my brother, John, was with us. He was an Air Force officer, a navigator on C-141 and other transport planes, for a year or more detailed on flights into Vietnam in the early 1970s, at least once drawing heavy ground fire.

The stories go on and on. I had a chance to say my piece on film at the preview, and I said that while I didn’t think war would ever end, we certainly can do a great deal to keep it to a minimum. There are no “winners” in war, only losers. We all lose.

I stay a committed member of Veterans for Peace. I am also a long-time member of the American Legion. VFP is my personal preference. There is no perfect organization, but such groups are important.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

PRE-NOTE: Yesterdays post now includes details about Ken Burns 17-hour, 10 day film about The Vietnam War. You can check the schedule and get other information here.

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The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, convenes this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16. All details are here.

The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg began in 1989 and has a long history of excellence; it is the only international adjunct of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which has administered and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its beginning in 1904.

The other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. It has never been clear why Alfred Nobel, whose fortune funded the prizes, reserved the Peace Prize for award by Norway.

John Rash wrote an interesting commentary about this years Peace Prize Forum in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune. You can read it here.

I have been actively engaged with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for quite a number of years. I have never been disappointed. There is a great deal to be learned, both from the sessions themselves, and the other participants. Check it out.

POSTNOTE: For those with an interest, Dr. Maureen Reed, for several years Executive Director of the Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg, will be teaching a four session series, “Of Courage and Controversy: Women and the Nobel Peace Prize“, at the University of Minnesota Oct 3 – Dec 5, 2017. All details, including enrollment information, are accessible here.

Ken Burns “The Vietnam War” film series on PBS September 17-28 ; plus other notes

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

We saw the one-hour Preview of Ken Burns Vietnam Thursday night, September 7.

Twenty four hours later, I attended a rather remarkable event at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where a distinguished speaker, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a distinguished responder panel talked about “The Past as Prologue: the Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”. In between was eight hours on the road, yesterday, with my brother. Suffice: it was a rich and exhausting 24 hours or so.

And, of course, devastating Hurricanes continue ‘front and center’ on news pages.

1. Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War screens on your local Public Broadcasting Channel, beginning Sunday evening September 17. There will be ten nights of programs, with the final segment on September 28.

I have always had feelings about this topic, as I’m an early Vietnam era Army veteran (1962-63, stateside), and my two air Force brothers served in southeast Asia war during the late 60s and early 70s.

I will write specifically about Vietnam War from my perspective in a few days. (In Vietnam, the conflict is called “The American War”). Whatever its name, the conflict covered a thirty year period, beginning 1945, and ending April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon. “There is no single truth in war” is an apt introduction, in my opinion.

I urge everyone, particularly high school age and young adults, to view and discuss this entire series. Our moderator on Thursday said he was six months old when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. He’s 42 now…. Vietnam began over 50 years ago. Burns Vietnam is no abstract war film. It shows the reality of the times; the reality of war.

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Here is the PBS magazine, at least the pages which talk about the programming upcoming: PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

Here is the schedule of the ten episodes (each program is shown twice on its evening):
Sun. Sep 17: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 18: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Tue. Sep 19: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 20: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 21: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Sun. Sep 24: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 25: 7 and 9 p.m.
Tue. Sep 26: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 27: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 28: 7 and 9 p.m.

2. 500 Year Anniversary of the Reformation. “The Past as Prologue. The Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”

Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN Sep. 8, 2017

In my growing up, as Catholic, I could not have conceived of a gathering such as I attended on Friday night at Basilica of St. Mary, the co-Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

There were over 70 in attendance, including as speaker the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, and the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Bernard Hebda. Here is the program for the evening: Past as Prologue001

Everyone has their own opinion about religion, relationships between churches over the centuries, and the often less than benign role of religion in war itself, including today. Christianity in substantive ways has been at war within itself.

As noted, twenty-four hours earlier I had been to the preview of Ken Burns “The Vietnam War”. As noted in the above photo, the complexity of the debate about “Truth” in War was stated, and even within the audiences on Thursday and Friday there was likely a long-learned sense of conflict about “who is right”.

How can there be different “truths” about War? Or Christianity and religion generally? Well, there are differences. And pretending there is only a single valid “truth” is not productive, in my opinion.

The Reformation raises the same intense question about “Truth”. For 500 years within Christianity itself, there have been differing interpretations of Truth, often intensely expressed.

I thought the evening to be very stiumulating, and I plan to attend some of the ongoing events, which can be reviewed here: Reformation001

3. The March of the Hurricanes: About two weeks ago I used this space to follow the story of my nephew Sean and family in Houston.

It seems like ancient history, and the recovery is still at its earliest stages in Texas. This becomes a lonely time, when it seems no one is interested in the plight. Harvey is old news, shoved off the news by Irma about to reach Florida, or other crises du jour. And there are new hurricanes in the wings, and, I suppose, Typhoons in the Pacific area. Very soon Florida will be old news.

The immensity of the tragedies is beyond simplification.

On Thursday, the tiny island of Barbuda, a place I had never heard of, was basically destroyed, and its entire population evacuated to nearby Antigua. Barbuda’s website remains frozen in what it was before the hurricane destroyed the tiny country.

Friday, I picked up my brother at his hotel near the Mall of America, and he said that he had been chatting with a couple from Ft. Lauderdale Florida area who, when the prospects of hurricane hitting Florida crossed their screens, called the airport, made reservations for the next plane available. It turned out to be Minneapolis and so they came here for a vacation. At the time, Florida was anticipating the possibility of Category 5 Irma and the Atlantic coastal side. Apparently they could afford the potential disruption at home.

I don’t know if their property will be damaged by the storm, but I was struck by the contrast between the people of Barbuda, traveling in an open tow boat to some refuge on Antigua, and the couple who could take a vacation far ahead from the troubles back home in Florida.

All is so very complicated, and made to sound so simple.

Keep everyone in your prayers and do what you can to support the recovery efforts wherever they are.

Dick Bernard – A look at immigration, past….

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

POSTNOTE: Flo offered this comment on Sep 6: “Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.” My position, too, though it’s mighty hard to understand an opposing position when it conflicts with so much of what I understand to be the truth!”.

Dick: In a way, this mornings Just Above Sunset addresses the the quandary: “The Power to Hurt Others”. And Neal Gabler offers an excellent commentary which relates: “The Conversation We Should Be Having”

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There is a long list of self-imposed crises for Congress to deal with in Washington this month. The most recent is yesterdays bizarre action about the Dream Act (DACA). Atty General Sessions being designated to publicly announce Donald Trumps decision, rather than the President saying so himself, says a great deal about this President-Who-Loves-Publicity.

You can read a more lengthy summary about the pending demise of DACA, etc here.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We all are rooted elsewhere. One of my grandfathers (Bernard) was an immigrant; four of my eight great-grandparents (Blondeau, Collette, Busch, Berning) immigrated to the U.S. Four of these five were men; the fifth a young girl.

Then there are the great-great grandparents…. We each have our own stories.

Even Native Americans, if one goes back far enough, immigrated to what is now the U.S. They had a very long head start on the rest of us.

Collectively, we have plenty of low marks in our history, subjugation and virtual annihilation of Native Americans, and Slavery for our early history two primary ones. But generally, as a nation, we have tried to improve over time, to learn from our mistakes. We are better than we were.

What is happening now is backsliding, an outrage.

Where is the welcome mat today? Congress has avoided dealing positively with immigration reform for years. What chance is there that the next few months will be any different? Who knows what is in Trumps mind? It’s up to each of us to make that difference. We each have to be that “member of Congress”, rather than somebody else.

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Yesterday’s announcement caused me to dust off a family history I compiled several years ago, including interesting detail about my great-grandmother Clotilde (Blondeau) Collette’s early history in Minnesota, including the citizenship paper for her father, Simon (name recorded there as Blondo – not an uncommon error). (Much of these pages are with deep thanks to cousin John Garney, and friend Jean-Marc Charron.)

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Blondeau, misspelled. This was very common in documents, for varied, reasons, including, very often, illiteracy (Simon was illiterate).

There are eleven pages, here: Blondeau 1850s U.S.001.

Succinctly, Blondeaus arrived in the U.S. somewhere in the early 1850s, in the Minnesota Territory no more than a couple of years later. (Minnesota became a state in 1858. Ellis Island opened in 1892.)

In 1868, in St. Anthony (now Minneapolis), Clotilde married another immigrant, Octave Collette. Here is a tintype taken somewhere around the time of their marriage. These are two of my great grandparents

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Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1868

WHAT TO DO? JUST AN OBSERVATION, ROOTED IN MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:

These polarized days, when I hear people talking about issues, they’re talking to/with people who agree with them. Their position, of course, is not only correct, but it is the only position articulated; except that the other side is wrong, without need for rationale.

For 27 years I worked in an arena where arguments, regardless of how petty, started with both sides certain that they were right. Of course, two opposites can’t be correct.

The effort was to find resolution, not winning.

Consider the possibility: when you make a mental note of all the reasons your position is “right”, spend an equal amount of time consider the opposing position.

Attorneys, whose business is “winning” and “losing” are well advised to know the oppositions “side” as well, or even better, than their own.

Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.

Beginning a New School Year…and a “Sha Na Na”….

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Thursday I dropped off a small gift for my daughter, Principal of a Middle School in the school district I live in. It was a 2017-18 computer produced calendar from the always popular Education Minnesota booth at the Minnesota State Fair. “Happy New Year” I said. Teacher workshop week was about over, and school begins (in almost all Minnesota school districts) the day after Labor Day. Here’s the Education Minnesota “welcome back” ad for 2017. Here’s more.

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Education Minnesota booth at Minnesota State Fair. Corey Bulman, 2017 Teacher of the Year, was guest in the booth.

(Best as I recall, the photo calendar idea began as an expensive experiment in about 1990, which was the first year digital imaging connected to computer became commercially available (see history of digital imaging here). Back then, the organization was named Minnesota Education Association. It was, as stated, an expensive experiment, but as best I know every year since the photo calendars have become very popular, a tradition for many, and, I suppose, less expensive, too. It is a great connection of educators with the community.)

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In one way or another over 50 million students are beginning their public school year (in Minnesota, this happens tomorrow). Here’s another view of the same data. Another 5 million or more public school employees (teachers, administrators, secretaries, cooks, bus drivers….) enter school with them. In all, that’s about one of five Americans.

All, beginning with school bus drivers, will have (or already have had) the annual nervous night before the first day of school as they arrive at their assigned places of work. Remember your own first days of the school year: new everything, starting a new year.

Of course, many other students attend parochial, or charter, or home school…but by far the largest, always, is the public school whose charter is to serve everyone, never a simple task.

Daughter Joni (referred to in first paragraph) is beginning her 14th year as a school administrator. Time flies. One of her major tasks, in addition to being Principal, is to supervise the completion of a new Middle School, which will replace her 1951 building in 2018. She’s equal to the task.

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I’m biased towards public education. Both parents were career public school teachers. Six Aunts and Uncles were public school teachers, most for a career…. I was involved in public education for 36 years – junior high teacher (9 years) and full-time teacher union representative (27). As mentioned, one daughter is, and has been for many years, a public school teacher or administrator. Nine grandkids are veterans of public schools. Another daughter was a school board member, very active in her local public schools.

Such a huge institution as “public education” is easy to criticize. All you need is a spotlight and a single someone on which to focus criticism, and a microphone to publicize it. With over 50,000,000 potential targets, there is someone there who will be in the negative spotlight.

But look at the totality before embracing the criticism….

Public education is a noble institution whose mission is to take all, and do the best they can given scarce resources: often too large class sizes, infinite varieties of individual differences and dilemmas, from family crises, to differing abilities, and even personality conflicts between human beings (teachers and students and other school employees are human beings too, after all).

Welcome back. Our country is a richer place because of public education.

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As noted, I have been very fortunate to be associated with public education my entire life.

A down side of this, as one ages, is to be witness at endings. Within the last month, I attended three memorials of public school teachers I knew, each unique persons. About seven people I knew were at the most recent reunion of the junior high school at which I taught in the 1960s and early 70s. The most recent death, Jim Peterson, former Fridley teacher, was the teacher I knew the least. His wife preceded him in death by a year, and he was felled quickly by a disease lurking inside him, so he didn’t have much time to say goodbyes.

I wrote the family afterwards that I had been to many memorials, but Jim’s, which he planned himself, was the most memorable, in all sorts of ways which don’t need to be described, except for the final song at the time we processed out of the sanctuary for the church ladies lunch.

The singer, who said she knew Jim as a neighbor and almost like a Dad, said he’d given her two songs to sing at dismissal.

The one I’ll always remember was the last, a delightful rendition of the “Sha na na” song. Not familiar with Sha Na Na? Here’s the YouTube version sung by the composer of the song back in 1969, and here’s the wiki story about Sha na na.

Imagine yourself walking out of church after a memorial service with this send off!

Do you know a teacher or a school employee or a student or one who has been? Wish them well, as this New Year begins.

POSTNOTE: My message to public schools, from “outside the walls”, remains on-line as it has been for many years. Read the message at Rethinking Community here.

#1290 – Dick Bernard: “Judge not….”

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

POSTNOTE Sep 7: Kathy recommends this article by Neal Gabler, “The Conversation We Should Be Having”.

Today’s newsletter at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis had this headline:

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After Mass, I told the writer I considered the column a “home run”. You can read it here, and come to your own conclusions: Judge Not001.

And while I’m on the topic, beginning this Friday, September 8, there will be a several part series entitled “From Conflict to Communion”, surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation: 1517-2017.

The details are here: Reformation001

Reservations are requested for the first program. The program will open with a welcome from Abp. Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In peace.

Sustaining compassion – nearing the end of a week….

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Prior posts on Houston flood: here and here.

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This mornings e-mail included a photo with very brief text from Sean in Houston at 6:48 a.m.

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Houston TX 6:45 a.m. Aug. 31, 2017

The message was terse: “18 wheeler loaded w fans at Home Depot at 6:45 a.m. Thirty people in line.”

As Sean was sending the photo, I was at my favorite waking-up coffee shop. It was 57 degrees here, and sort of chilly and breezy, but otherwise a beautiful, carefree sunshiny day. Today was our day to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and as I was looking at the photo, I was thinking about how to dress for the Fair – should I wear a sweater, or take a jacket?

There was a certain incongruity: Down in Houston there was apparently a run on the market for fans.

For us, the prospect of an almost perfect day.

It is simple, I think, to retreat into ones individual circumstances, especially if carefree, even temporarily. It is not helpful, either, to get overwhelmed by every one else’s problems. Somewhere there needs to be found a balance.

The tropical storm that hit Houston and a very large area is an immense and continuing problem. Today’s front page in our local Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Health risks luck in Harvey’s water.” We see only the tiniest snips of the reality within which people in Houston are living.

What to do? Going forward: Sean made a good comment about what we could do a couple of days ago (see end of the link).

Today at 4:03 p.m., Sean’s Mom in Rochester NY (and my sister), sent her own e-mail, as follows: “Hi all…communication into and out of a disaster area is lumpy at best but Sean did send a note Wednesday (yesterday) and of course just re-confirmed the reality of impact and anticipated long process of clean up. I don’t expect to hear much, just continuing to trust that they are able to stay safe in their home and will not see the immediate area flood again as the reservoirs are de-stressed.

Houston certainly looks clear and sunny today but I have to take the TV commentaries in small doses – always a surreal feeling for a mom and grandma to know loved ones are impacted and truly not be able to physically help.

Thanks so much for your notes and your thoughts and prayers. That’s a big piece of the answer to the question ‘how can we help’. I am personally humbled by the numbers of friends I have who have family in the Houston area and by the sporadic reports of the positive community efforts in the face of this enormous tragedy. As you, I am doing what I can through trusted relief agencies and churches. The needs will continue for a long time.

I know Sean and Simone have many priorities right now but that they appreciate the time we are taking to think of them and their community. I sincerely believe that they are progressing on the return to whatever the new normal will be in their neighborhood.

And in their lives.”

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Personally, I say we’re all in community, everywhere, and we best never lose sight of that simple essential. What affects others, affects us.

We can’t solve everybodies problems, but we certainly can do small and large things to help make our world a little bit better every day.

(And by the way, the State Fair was good too. The annual “fix” is over for another year.)

I suspect that the better instincts of “community” will stick together in all sorts of ways to keep helping out Houston…and Mumbai…and Bangladesh (both suffering their own tragedies from water in recent days.) Yes, there will be abundant scams and outrages and all, but let’s look at the good.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

from Sean, 6:48 p.m. Aug 31: “People were walking house to house delivering pizza and chocolate chip cookies (different people) everyone just trying to help.

Need to gut our old house tomorrow-surreal. I would send pics but I feel like a ghoul.”

from Sean 11:47 a.m. Sep 2: People delivering hotdogs.

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from Mary, 6:14 p.m. Sep 2: Hello to all…cloudy and rainy here in Fairport New York as some of the remnants of Harvey make their way into our atmosphere. Otherwise, our info on the aftermath continues to be snippets and sound bites from news briefs.

I did speak with Sean for a few minutes this afternoon . He and [family] are still at home o… and one of the biggest residual storm impacts right now is first a ghost town of a neighborhood and second the sporadic internet, telephone and television services. They have electricity, they have water. Many of their immediate neighbors have been able to relocate themselves to apartments in the area and will use them as homes until repairs can be approved and completed. Most anticipate months before a return to living as it looked before Saturday, August 26. Waters in the area are slowly receding but still impact activity.

Sean and friends worked yesterday with demolition contractors as their ‘old’ home on Linkwood was gutted. I can only imagine how surreal that experience is….to have eaten pancakes and taken baths in a home that was beautiful ranch home and now looks to be in the very early stages of sloppy construction. Mold threats are very real in this area and the sooner the ‘wet stuff’ is removed, the better.

Sean and Simone are optimistic that school … will start again this week for [the kids]. Be good for the kids to get back to a routine.

Sean does send all of us a big caution, however, and that is a very real awareness that there will continue be a serious interruption in gasoline production and distribution and as the supplies run low..likely within a week, the lack of gas and the increase in price will be realities all over the United States. I am not seeing much about this on the news channels but I do not doubt for a minute it is real….energy is Sean’s business and he watches it closely.

Message: Fill up and stay put! Road trips need to be on the way back burner….never mind the rest of the energy sucking activities that we become complacent in doing.

They continue to find support from the outpourings of good will as you can see by that impromptu delivery of hot dogs and cookies that was random, unsolicited but meaningful and appreciates. As with other tragedies, the struggle is to remember those impacted over the long haul.

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

from Sean, 9:52 a.m. Sep 3: Some areas will have water for another two weeks – west Houston is still under mandatory two week evacuation. Far from normal.

155 schools had severe damage – some won’t open this year. Will send pics of our gutted home later today. Along with the “before” pictures.

NOTE from Dick: Houston is semi-tropical climate, and the threat from mold is ever present, which means that flood damage has to be removed as quickly as possible.

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One of several photos from Sean, 9:52 a.m. Sep 3

from Sean 2:17 p.m. Sep 3:

from Sean, one of 15, 6:42 p.m., at their former residence:

Houston at Day Four; and an unrelated “heads up” for Ecumenical Christians….

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Nephew Sean sent a couple of photos taken on his Houston street today. You can view them here. At the end of that post he answers a question of mine, “how can we help?”. (More on that below the graphic.)

The two photos in Sean’s neighborhood suggest a normalcy that isn’t…. That neighborhood, Houston and area, east Texas, the Gulf Coast, all are a long, long way from recovery. It is easy to let up, and move on to the next crisis of the day, and pretty soon Houston will be old news (it has made the front page four days in a row up here; that’s pretty much saturation. Something else will take its place.)

from Sean 5:41 p.m. Aug 30: “We got power back quick and everyone has running water. It won’t be normal here for a while. At least forty of the fifty houses around me need to be completely gutted or torn down. The streets will be lonely. My house is truly an anomaly in the area and thankful for it.”

I sent to Sean and his Mom an old graphic that has always made sense to me, even though it dates back to the early 1970s. I’ve used it on this page several times, most recently 2013, but it is timeless and pretty straight forward. Sean worked in NYC at the time of 9-11-01, and lost a number of colleagues and friends in the Twin Towers, I think, so he’s seen crises up close and personal.

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Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

I wish everyone the very, very best. I really like Sean’s suggestion, yesterday: “So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now.

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NOW, a quick pivot to Religion, especially for those in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, at Basilica of St. Mary, a handout caught my attention. It is two pages, and you can read it here: Reformation001

Gracing the front of the handout was a familiar face, though not in a Roman Catholic Church:

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If your interest is even a little peaked, take a look.

I come from the olden days where Lutherans wouldn’t darken a Catholics door, and vice versa.

Things change, and I’m delighted they have.

And I expect I’ll be attending more than one of these programs.