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Global Solutions Minnesota: “Russia: The New Cold War” with Todd Lefko

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

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PDF format of the above poster is here: Russia Todd Lefto001

Mr. Lefto comes highly recommended as a knowledgeable resource on Russia, and an engaging speaker. Global Solutions MN President, Gail Hughes, said on May 7, “I attended a community ed Great Decisions talk by Todd last week. He drew a big crowd, and was engaging and knowledgeable.

Todd is a popular speaker and businessman with a background in international trade, specializing in Russia, where he’s lived and visits regularly.”

A longer bio of Todd Lefto from some years ago can be found here. (Andy Driscoll was a well respected twin cities journalist who died in 2014.)

PLEASE NOTE: The talk is a week from this Thursday (June 15). Reservations are requested no later than Monday for planning purposes. Later reservations will be accepted, but please respect the need for planning by reserving in a timely manner.

#1164 – Dick Bernard: A Friend, Annelee Woodstrom, turns 90

Saturday, September 17th, 2016
Annelee holds court, August 13, 2016

Annelee holds court, August 13, 2016

Today, up in Ada, MN, there will be a little party for our friend, Annelee (Anneliese Soelch) Woodstrom, who is about to turn 90.

I say “little”, facetiously. When someone has lived in a town for 57 years; was a longtime teacher in the area public schools (Twin Valley); is a well known author, still writing and speaking publicly about her experiences growing up in Nazi Germany, and living as a war bride in post war United States (Crookston and Ada MN), one picks up a friend here or there.

Annelee wrote yesterday “Tonight 11 people will be here, 10 arrive tonight. Well, we will manage. Four of my relatives flew in from Germany.”

A while back she asked for a print of the old barn at the North Dakota farm of my ancestors, so our birthday gift to her, received earlier this week, is

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Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015

Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015

She said, “Somehow, that photo gives me peace.”

I’m very happy to oblige, with special thanks to the family friend who took the photo in the first place.

I happened across Annelee 13 years ago, when I read in the Fargo (ND) Forum about her new book, “War Child Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany” (see link above). Our friendship started there, and I was honored to help her with her second, “Empty Chairs”, about her years in Minnesota; and now I’m assisting on her third, as yet untitled, which ties her abundant life learnings together. The reunion today puts the third book in the background, but only for awhile. She’ll be back at it, and I have no doubt it will be completed.

It was her lot in life to begin schooling in Mitterteich Germany, (walking distance from today’s Czech Republic) coincident with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Her parents refused to join the Nazi party, and at 13 her formal schooling ended and she was put to work as a telegrapher, living through the worst times of the war, reduced almost to starvation at the end.

Her father, a road engineer by trade, was conscripted into the German Army, and except for one home leave, he was never seen again. They believe he died in Russia, but are not sure.

She met her “Gentleman Soldier” Kenny Woodstrom at war’s end, and in 1947 came to the United States as an “alien” to marry him – a marriage of over 50 years, till his death in 1998.

In the late 1960s, she decided to go to college at Moorhead State, and commuted back and forth from Ada, and for 22 years she taught in Twin Valley Minnesota Public Schools, at one point being recognized as a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year. It was an honor she richly deserved.


One of her two children, a daughter, Sandy, was killed by a drunken driver, and her son, Roy, was a long-time librarian at a Minneapolis public library. Her son, daughter in law, Linda, grandchildren and great grandchildren and a great many others will be greeting her today in Ada.

Annelee’s is one of many life stories. She still does public speaking, and if you have an opportunity to hear her speak, make it a point….

Happy Birthday, Annelee.

#1162 – Dick Bernard: Labor Day, back to school for most of Minnesota’s school kids.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

From Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about the recovery of Jacob Wetterlings body more than 25 years after he was kidnapped near St. Joseph MN and killed in October, 1979: here is the local news.

Jacob is at peace, and the lessons of his tragic death live on through the dedication of his family and many others who carry forward the message of his tragic death. Here for more information.


Most Minnesota schools begin on Tuesday, September 6.

In rough terms, it appears there will be about 900,000 students enrolled this year, with about 125,000 school staff, of which licensed personnel are about half. Roughly one of five Minnesotans will be in public school tomorrow. Here is a snapshot. Public Education is central to a functioning society.

Public Education has been an important part of my entire personal and professional life, from growing up in a family where my parents were both career public school teachers, to, this year, having eight grandchildren in Minnesota public schools.

Each year for many years one of my mandatory stops at the Minnesota State Fair is the booth of Education Minnesota, formerly called MEA (Minnesota Education Association) and MFT (Minnesota Federation of Teachers). This year was no different. Again this year I got my photo at the “Ed MN” booth (see end of post); Saturday, back again, I stopped in and took a photo of a couple of Minnesota Kindergarten teachers.

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Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

I have great admiration for Minnesota Public Schools and the staff who are their face every day. Being a human institution, they are not perfect, but their charge is to serve children from early childhood through 12th grade. They do it very well.

My experience as a school teacher began in 1963; this year I choose to remember 1969, the year my oldest son began Kindergarten at age 5 in the explosively growing Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Tom attended Franklin Elementary School in Anoka. His teacher that year was Miss Murphy, an older lady who was very kindly and a magician with kids. She retired a year or two later.

Kindergarten at that point in time was half day, as I recall. (Full day kindergarten was years away; kindergarten itself did not exist in my own growing up years.)

In 1969, I recall that Tom’s kindergarten class included 36 youngsters. If you can imagine it, Miss Murphy had no classroom assistance. Her way of coping with this was to work with half of the students at a time, and in some magical way keep the other half occupied more or less by themselves in the same room, all by herself.

That is how I remember it.

Anoka-Hennepin was then an extremely rapidly growing school district, with a very low tax base. I can’t find fault with what today would be considered intolerable conditions. Young families moved in, and the district just couldn’t keep up with the growth.

Fast forward to today, and conditions are better.

And it is now recognized that the earlier a child is exposed to all aspects of education, including socialization, the better off he or she will be in the years that follow.

Money spent on children is money invested, not spent.

I wish all Kindergarten teachers, indeed all teachers, and all of their students, a good year. And I also wish that the certain unforseen events are minimal.

Happy New (School) Year!

Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981

Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981


Sunday afternoon I flipped on the local PBS station, and happened across a sequence of three programs on early U.S. Labor Movement history: Minnesota’s Iron Range; Upper Michigan’s Copper Country; and West Virginia’s Coal Country. It was a gripping two to three hours, with characters like Mother Jones, and John L. Lewis. The programs may be repeated and are well worth watching.

Succinctly, management was terrified of organized labor.

In my opinion, in many ways it still is terrified, to everyone’s detriment, including management itself. (Organized Labor built this country’s middle class, which, in turn, built this country’s economy, both as producers and consumers. It is the most elementary economics.)

The programs caused me to revisit my stop at that Education Minnesota booth on Saturday: Education Minnesota is, I think, Minnesota’s largest single AFL-CIO Union.

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to revisit my own part in the labor movement, going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, now near 50 years ago. The short essay was not written for this blog, but nonetheless fits. Here it is, if you’re interested: UniServ, one persons experience, Dick Bernard Aug 19, 2016.

It is easy to criticize unions. As for me, I’m very proud to have been part of the organized labor movement. When Unions die, our society will die along with them.

At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014.  The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 - third in a class of 8.

At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014. The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 – third in a class of 8.

#1161 – Dick Bernard: Two deaths on a lovely and lonely beach.

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Thursday morning I woke up to a bit of news that two people had been found by a solitary kayaker, dead on a beach in Washington state.

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Nothing about that kind of tragedy is particularly unusual: such events are every day on our news. It seemed to have been a murder/suicide. The death was 1500 miles and several states away from me.

But there was something else in this news: one of the dead was a teacher in a nearby Twin Cities suburb in which my daughter is a school board member. He was about to begin his 14th year as a teacher in an outstanding elementary school that has been attended by four of my grandchildren beginning more than 10 years ago. Indeed, two of them will return there with several hundred other students two days from now.

Over the years we’d gone to many school programs there; probably there will be more this year.

Last Wednesday all was probably normal over there. Overnight, everything changed in a single piece of news**.

This will not be a normal beginning to a school year for the young people or their teachers and other school personnel.

The teacher’s Dad had also once been Superintendent of the school district, and in fact, I had met him once or twice when he was employed as an administrator in another nearby school district. He was a decent person, doubtless a good Dad to this teacher who was now dead.

Succinctly, this anonymous tragedy far away had become, for me, a matter of family.

Now these deaths on a Washington beach intersected with my own “circle”, and with the circles of hundreds of others.

There was, of course, more to the story.

The deaths apparently were directly related to apparently credible allegations of sexual exploitation of at least one, and perhaps more, young people by those who were found dead. The couple were male, gay; their alleged victim, a minor male, also gay, probably high school age.

So, into the conversation comes the matter of sexual abuse by people – in this case, a teacher – of vulnerable children. And the business of sex, and gays…inevitable topics.

Suddenly, everybody in the circle becomes at least a little suspect…what did they know about their child, their colleague, their friend?

There is fear, and guilt and all of the attendant negative emotions.

For a period of time, everybody will be ensnared in the web which began for some reason at some point in the past.

Years ago I kept a handout from a workshop on how the response to such a crisis will go. It seems pertinent to share, now.

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Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Other than offering support, as a parent, as a grandparent, there is not much I can do.

All I can say is that we are all family, far more than by the narrow definition (parent, child, house).

Life will go on in this fine school, and school district; for the affected families what was normal will forever be changed.

My hope is that there will be lots of serious conversations about how we all can do better.

And my best wishes go out to everyone who is now or will soon be in the schools of America and every country.

Give them even more support than usual this year.

* – Trust for Public Land sent this card some months ago as part of a fundraiser. Their website is here.

** – I am deliberately not printing specific names, places, etc. The news is very well known in this locality. It is the sad nature of the incident and its aftermath that is the topic.

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s “The War on Science”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s “Unrestorable Habitat”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…

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A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.

I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.

I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.

They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.

(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)

The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.


I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.

There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.

You need to read the book.

Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at One of them is mine.

You will see the book is being very well received.

Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.

The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.

Unrestorable Habitat001

A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.

This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.

She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.

Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.

Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)

Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.


Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.

It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.

(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)

Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.

Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.

Nancy was one of the recipients.

Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat


Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.

The two books complement each other.

I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.

2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).

In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.

There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.

Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).

This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.

The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.

But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.

Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.

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The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001

Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.

My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.

The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.

How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?

The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.

Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.

It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.

Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.

Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)

Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.

Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.

Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.

But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.

Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.

We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.


Part 2. Nobel Peace Prize Forum June 6-8, 2016: The Drowning Child and the Shoes…2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Friday, June 17th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on “Globalizing Compassion”, particularly children, and gave a very large role to the co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a native of India who passed over a career in engineering to invest his life work on issues relating to child trafficking. More about his Children’s Foundation is here.

Satyarthi is an immensely engaging and persuasive man. You can see and hear him speak at this years Nobel Peace Prize Conference at the weblink listed below.

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co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Many of the talks at this years Forum are accessible online here. They are all worth your viewing time.

The brimming-with-information Program Booklet for the 2016 Forum can be read here: 2016 Nobel Forum001

My comments, Part One about the 2016 Forum is here.

Wednesday afternoon, June 8, the final day of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, we were on our final coffee break. One of my colleague participants asked me what I thought of this years Forum. I said I always like workshops like these, where I know hardly anyone, including the speakers. It never fails, I said, that I leave without some insights, useful to me.

The conference adjourned, and I went home exhausted.

There was a final program, a film, The Same Heart, in the evening that I almost decided to miss.

Along with perhaps 50-100 “remnants” (not unusual after long conferences), I was at the theatre, and it was during The Same Heart that I experienced one of those insights I’d mentioned a few hours earlier.

The film is about the realistic possibility of eliminating the worst poverty for perhaps a billion children world wide. The film opened with a camera focusing on what appears to be a lake, and then panning back to a narrow stream.

Peter Singer*, ethicist at Princeton University, posed a question to the viewers: suppose that you are standing on the banks of a brook, and you look across to the other side and see a toddler going in the water, almost certainly about to drown. You are the only adult. The brook is shallow, but entering the water will ruin your new shoes.

What would you do?

His basic point was that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of such toddlers around the world today, in effect drowning in circumstances out of their control, and most of us in varying degrees of affluence are unwilling to sacrifice our personal pair of new shoes to help them out. The message has stuck with me since I watched the film last week. It will not soon go away.

What would, what will I do?

The other insight came in bits and pieces, but it came together during a session on Tuesday afternoon.

An official of UNICEF, Olav Kjorven, Director of Public Partnerships, was talking about a UNICEF “My World” survey, about the “World We Want”, where millions of people expressed their opinion about priorities for humanity.

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Almost off-handedly he commented on the unlikely creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN at the beginning of the 21st Century, ending 2015. It seemed (my opinion) that a major reason these goals were adopted relatively easily was not so much because anyone thought they could be attained, but that they really were seen as a set of informal goals for the world which would not upset anyone’s “apple cart”, be stuck with commitments, and especially wouldn’t require much funding.

The MDGs have turned out to be much, much more substantive. “Grassroots” people have taken them seriously, and in a sense policy is being proposed and implemented from the bottom up, rather than imposed top down.

I was somewhat familiar with these goals. In 2005, I had attended a session on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the featured speakers was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a powerful Twin Cities businesswoman who came out strongly about tackling child sex trafficking: her business, as we Minnesotans know, is the hospitality industry, worldwide. My notes about that meeting are here: MDG Workshop 2005001

Ms Carlson Nelson was part of a panel at this years Peace Prize Forum, and in her time period she said her insight moment came in 2004 from someone she said was “Amb. Miller” who heightened her awareness that her industry had a major problem with child sex trafficking. She took a very serious look at her own industries cause in the matter, and has taken action, and is still taking action, and most importantly has become a public witness for closer attention to justice in other areas as well.

She quite clearly became a behind the scenes leader in settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout three years ago; most recently Mark Ritchie mentioned her as a very positive actor. The saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” comes to mind; or be careful about “painting with a broad brush”.

Progress is a process, often slow, but progress happens with effort.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

At the same meeting in 2005 was my friend, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who decided to take on the problem of child malnutrition in his native India, implementing one of the MDG’s. Here is a talk given by Dr. Parekh in 2014, talking about the then-progress on his work towards a goal.

I don’t know what his aspirations were, but Dr. Parekh had a plan, and he worked it hard – I watched what he was doing as elements began to come together – to the extent that now he is a Board member of a major organization called Toddler Food Partners, and is making a big difference.

Back at the conference, Mr. Kjorven noted that at the end of the 15 year MDG period, the “World We Want” survey (previously mentioned) gave great grassroots impetus to the current UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I left the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum exhausted and, at the same time, renewed and refreshed.

People can and do make the crucial difference. They just need to believe their capacity to make that difference.

A WONDERFUL POSTSCRIPT: The final session of Wednesday afternoon was dryly described as “Closing Remarks” with a two line descriptor: “Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Director Gina Torry will close the final afternoon of the 2016 Forum.” This was a “don’t judge the book by its cover” descriptor, as the session began with a wonderful tribute to my deceased friend, and stalwart of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum from 1997 on, Lynn Elling, deceased Feb. 14, 2016. Featured was a video by public television made about 1993 which needs no elaboration. The segment concluded with a hashtag #peaceitforward…a wonderful tribute.

June 25: Recently the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper featured a long article about Lynn and his work in his lake country community. You can read it here: Big Sandy Lake and dad article

* * * * *

* I note that Dr. Singer’s views on certain issues have excited some controversy which is hi-lited on the internet. That is of no concern to me, here. We all have points of view. His drowning child and shoes image will always stick with me.

2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN. June 6-8, 2016

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum began yesterday, and continues through tomorrow at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America.

I’m attending in person. Yesterday’s program was incredibly powerful, and probably today and tomorrow will be as well.

It is too late to attend yesterdays; and few of you may be in a position to attend today and tomorrow (though you can register at the door, I’m sure), but if you follow through you can likely watch the plenary sessions here, and if past is prelude, film of many of the previous sessions will be archived at the same site.

Yesterdays focus, “Every Minute Matters”, was exploitation of children, ending last night with a very powerful film, “Sold”, about the history of a youthful Nepalese sex worker in India. You could hear a pin drop in the theater.

A card distributed gave weblinks for bringing the film to your local community, here, and to bring the film to your local school, here.

Today’s Forum focus is entitled “Globalizing Compassion“, beginning at 9 a.m.; tonight at 8 p.m. at the Mall of America theater, screening of the film “Antarctica 3D: On the Edge“.

Wednesday, the theme is “Challenging Neutrality“, and the evening film, also at Mall of America, is “The Same Heart” about changing international economics to the betterment of the poor by an extremely small “Robin Hood Tax”. Of course, nothing is easy when you mess with money, but this is a serious initiative, proposed by people of serious mind.

(The venue, the Radisson Blu, is at the south edge of the Mall of America, on Killibrew Drive, a simple and short indoor walk to the Mall. There is on-site parking, the first three hours free.

#1131 – Dick Bernard: Random Acts of Inspiration

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

For many years, actually until quite recently, the prestigious Walker Art Center in Minneapolis had an impossible to miss work of art on its wall on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis: “Bits and Pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole.” (You can see its former presentation at Walker here.) I would guess the phrase was seen by millions of people, day after day – it was impossible to miss.

The phrase is no longer there. I cannot tell you what is there, now, though I go past the Walker as often as in the past.

I miss “Bits and Pieces”.


Random chance, literally, brought me face to face with Bits and Pieces in the last 48 hours. I did not plan my experience. Each quietly presented itself through invitations, or simply my marking time between one event and another.

Everyone of us has had similar glimpses of our real world, far from the mess we see constantly portrayed as “reality” on television or in the media. Here are mine May 14-16 in chronological order. What would some of your similar experiences be?

Saturday afternoon, May 14:

(Click to enlarge photos)

south Minneapolis MN, May 14, 2016

south Minneapolis MN, May 14, 2016

I was invited to stop by a neighborhood garden being planted by young people. This was no ordinary garden. Its produce will be sold to a well known restaurant in the neighborhood, Gandhi Mahal, whose owner believes in being part of the community. A group, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, is a driving force behind this initiative. All Saints Indian Mission and its First Nations Kitchen play an important role in this garden.

As I stood in that backyard, I thought back to my own old days, in the 1940s, Sykeston ND, when Mom and Dad had a big garden, and we kids had to participate in its care. I didn’t much like picking peas, or potato bugs, but somehow it now seems nostalgic and very positive.

A few hours later was a benefit concert for the Huntington’s Disease folks (the disease that got folk-singer Woody Guthrie). I stopped by the venue, left a donation, listened to a bit of the sound check by folk singer Larry Long, but passed on staying for the concert, which I’m sure was packed and outstanding.

Sunday, May 15:

Sunday morning was church as usual. I’m one of those people who like going to church; the people there infuse me with energy and optimism.

Afterwards I decided to stay downtown rather than drive home, as I was to be at another event at 3 in the afternoon.

What to do while marking the four hours? I started by proofreading part of a new book by our friend Annelee Woodstrom. This year is her 90th birthday, and her book will be her third. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. And each of her books have been profitable, as will be the third, I’m sure.

Her passion keeps her going. Her story is compelling.

I wandered back to the church to drop in on an event I knew was happening in the afternoon: the Blessing of Wheels, bicycles, motorized wheelchairs, and the like. This is an annual event. I’d never been before. It was brief, fascinating and uplifting.

I asked the lady, (photo below), if I could take her photo. Yes. She was to bring up the gifts, in this case, oil cans…. The brief ritual for perhaps 50 people, a basically non-sectarian but spiritual event, was really quite powerful – even for a non-biker like myself. Rituals have their place, an important place, in human life. In this case, even if you don’t own anything but a car with wheels.

Basilica of St. Mary Blessing of the Wheels May 15, 2016

Basilica of St. Mary Blessing of the Wheels May 15, 2016

Blessing of the Wheels, Basilica of St. Mary May 15, 2016

Blessing of the Wheels, Basilica of St. Mary May 15, 2016

Then the main event for Sunday, the reason I stayed downtown: the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs at Orchestra Hall. I’ve long been an Minnesota Orchestra fan and have been in Orchestra Hall many times. This time was extra special. Up on that stage, amongst the several choirs for the 35th anniversary, were two of our grandkids, Kelly and Ted Flatley. The concert was two hours; they had prepared for this event for months. It takes work to get results….

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, May 15, 2016

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, May 15, 2016

Monday, May 16:

Finally, yesterday, I ventured out to suburban Blaine, where the Middle School I helped open as a brand-new Junior High School in 1965, recognized its 50th anniversary as a school.

You begin to feel old in such a setting: 50 years ago I was 25, a third-year geography teacher of 8th graders. That is three generations ago.

Roosevelt Middle School, teeming with adults and students, was a very vibrant place yesterday afternoon. There were kids doing Shakespeare; musicians playing jazz, walls and displays full of student projects for parents and visitors. There was lots and lots of life in that place.

It was a great late afternoon.

Roosevelt Middle School band members, Blaine MN May 16 2016

Roosevelt Middle School band members, Blaine MN May 16 2016

Student Art Project at Roosevelt Middle School, Blaine MN

Student Art Project at Roosevelt Middle School, Blaine MN

Event over, I elected to join a group of a dozen or so “old-timers” for a bite to eat down the street, and more conversation.

It was about 8:30 p.m., and I was on the road going east towards St. Paul, when one of the most brilliant sunsets I’ve ever seen showed up in my rear-view mirror.

Events of the previous 48 hours were already in context for me, but this sunset capped it. I thought back to the Saturday ritual in the backyard garden in Minneapolis, where a Native American elder helped the young people understand the significance of their efforts.

Native American Elder and dancer, Minneapolis May 14, 2016

Native American Elder and dancer, Minneapolis May 14, 2016

It was all good. Nature and Humanity in concert with each other.

Bits and Pieces has taken on a whole new life for me.

There is hope, lots of it, and it resides in every one of us, but it is the young who will have to make the difference.


The next few months will be filled with the mud-wrestling spectacle of national politics.

I can say that the last couple of days buoyed me up.

Look at the bright side. There is a bright side to this country and this world. Just look around you.

For some inspiration, check out Louie Schwartzbergs Ted Talk on Gratitude, which I first saw 5 years ago. You can access it here.

#1115 – Dick Bernard: A Sad First Day of Spring, 13 years ago. The Day the Bombs Fell on Baghdad.

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

A few days ago a good friend, Barry, sent some of his friends, including myself, a brief e-mail: “This week on March 20 marks the 13th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. I encourage you all to send of letters to the editor and remind folks what a fiasco that was and continues to be. I have attached my own short article [see end of this post].”

Barry has far more than “paid his dues”: he’s a Vietnam vet who knew people whose names are on the memorial wall. He has walked the talk for peace, visibly and publicly for years. A thirteenth anniversary is an anniversary easily overlooked. I’m glad Barry reminded me.

March 20, 2003 (it was a Thursday) began our invasion of Iraq. Some would correctly contend that March 20 was simply a continuation of the brief Gulf War of early 1991. I still have the letter some anonymous GI wrote from the front at the end of that War. (Back then letters to GIs were encouraged, and my “pen pal” then, must have passed my letter to him along to someone somewhere in Iraq. The letter, 25 years ago, says it all about the reality of peace through war.)

(click to enlarge)

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

A dozen years after this lonely GI wrote from the Iraq desert came what we witnessed between March 20 and May 1, 2003: what was called “Shock and Awe”.

On May 1, 2003, President George Bush gave his celebratory and still controversial Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We were led to believe that the Iraq War was over 40 days after it started; all that remained, we were told, were the candy and the flowers, the gifts to and from Iraqis for bringing “democracy” to Iraq….

Mission Accomplished, indeed.


I have my old e-mails from that awful time in history, Spring 2003, including a halfsheet post sent to friends on March 19, 2003 (#1 below).

And for some weeks now I have been putting together a single sheet of paper which I call “The Human Cost of War For The United States”. I wasn’t planning to roll out either one in connection with today, but Barry’s reminder is sadly appropriate.

I’d encourage Barry and everyone to print out those sheets and discuss their application to today.
1. The E-mail of March 19, 2003 (one half page): E-Mail March 19, 2003001 (At the time I wrote this, I was quite new to the Peace and Justice movement, and not a leader in any sense of the word: just a concerned citizen who routinely participated in protests.)
2. U.S. War Deaths from Civil War through March, 2016 (one page): War Deaths U.S.002
3. Here is a much longer piece of additional data for those with an interest: World and Historical Deaths from War and other anthropogenic disasters here. (The key columns are the first one, and the columns which give duration of the particular catastrophe.)


While, I realize that this topic of war is subject to endless argument, here are a few thoughts to help stir up conversations wherever you are….
4. Essentially war has ceased to be a cause of American deaths; and while we are “armed and dangerous” to an extreme degree, the amount of killing at our hands out in the world is proportionally very low compared with even our recent past (2003-2008). We are still, however, extremely comfortable with violence and too many reverence what they feel is our “power” and past “might” and glory. The slogan, “making America great again” celebrates the glory of War, of dominance.
5. The Iraq War turned out to be ruinous and near catastrophic in many ways for our country, not even to mention Iraq and the Middle East. We didn’t think, 13 years ago, that we were building ISIS from the ground up.
6. Back then in 2003 the word “Drones” was not part of the conversation – the way to go was to “bomb the hell out of ’em”, give ’em “Shock and Awe”; now Drones preoccupy. Drones will not disappear. Back in 2011 I encouraged my own peace movement to enter into a constructive conversation about Drones, generally. I don’t recall much buy-in for the conversation at the time, or since. John Rash in yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune called attention to a new film about the ethical aspects of Drones. I suspect we’ll take in that movie. I continue to support the idea of deep conversation and action to at minimum regulate the use of Drones in War.
7. Far too many in our American society are pre-occupied with protecting an obsession with our sacred guns, and similar. Paradoxically, we now directly kill far more of our own citizens by firearms, than we kill faceless others by bombs, but we seem to refuse to deal with this domestic issue.


8. I abhor war. Nonetheless I believe “war” will never be archaic. All we need to do is look at history (see the depressing data I linked in #3 above. There is always a new rogue, sometimes of our own making, who has fantasies of being in control. It never works, long term…but there are always the dreamers….
9. The ever-increasing wealth gap is a huge problem in all developed countries, but most of all in our own. This seeming out of control gap births conflict. The poor, and those for whom reasonable success is elusive, do not want to be rich; but they do wish to be able to survive with dignity. A saying I once heard applies: in the long run, even the selfish will pay for their own selfishness. It’s just a matter of time.
10. The United Nations is regularly vilified, even by the left, and, yes, the UN needs reform, but without the United Nations this world be in much worse shape. In many ways, the UN or its related organizations help keep an otherwise unstable human world from repeating the 20th century legacy of death and destruction especially before 1945.
11. As individuals or small groups we may seem to have little power, but as Margaret Mead so famously observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
12. Conversely, those who believe that they can take a pass on electing competent leaders at all levels of government, or even take a pass on voting at all, are foolish and short-sighted.

I could go on and on and on and on.

Have a good conversation. And have a great Spring.

Comments welcome, and will be printed unless there is a specific request not to print:


Barry’s submission to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Thirteenth Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

On the thirteenth anniversary of the US most recent invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, let us reflect on its costs. Just a few of which are: Thousands of US lives lost, Trillions of US dollars spent, anywhere from a Few Hundred Thousand to over a Million Iraqi civilians dead, totally destabilized the region, exploded sectarian tensions and led directly to the rising of Isis. Not to mention of course, it was all based on lies.

Let us remember too who voted for and supported this disaster, Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders spoke out strongly against it. Do we really need another War President?

To Barry: Personally I strongly support Hillary Clinton for President. She has the experience to deal with the many great complexities the next President will have to confront in this nation, and in our world.

Your friend, in deep respect,
Dick Bernard

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

from Norm: Thanks Dick for your blog this morning. We are not reminded enough. And thanks for including your Collegiate Press piece. A wonderful second sentence.

I’m reading The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current, April 2016, of The Atlantic which I was surprised the whole article came up online [You can read it] here.

I marked two paragraphs because they say so much for what Obama is about. Here they are:

The Atlantic April 2016
This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”
I first spoke with Obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

from Jim: I read your post with interest. You conclude with your support for Hilary Clinton. She of course voted for the invasion of Iraq. She was part of the debacle in Libya. She has come out against the Pacific trade deal, negotiated by the Obama administration and which I support. Mrs Clinton is an astute politician. Like her husband, she collects thousands for making speeches. When you review her tax returns, about the only charity she regularly contributes to is the Clinton foundation. At the caucuses, I supported Bernie Sanders. I sent $50 each to Bernie and Governor Kasich.

Response from Dick: Thanks for the comment.

To piggyback on your comment a bit: Hillary Clinton was, of course, U.S. Senator from New York at the time of 9-11-01. New York City was the epicenter of 9-11-01. I was always troubled by the fact that 94% of Americans de facto wanted war against somebody after 9-11-01. It was probably even higher in New York. That is a strong wind to buck.

The rest is part of the dilemma of decision making faced by an individual representing a powerful country in an extremely complex world. (BTW, if I could afford to have my own Foundation, I guess I’d be inclined to give preference to it in my donations). And as Secretary of State, representing one of 193 countries in the world, albeit the most powerful, there is not a single simple decision.

She has been under relentless attack for 25 years, and I think she’s more than capable of the position of President of the United States; still the Left piles on. I like Bernie, too, and he’s running a strong campaign, as Hillary did against Barack Obama in 2008 – up to almost the Democratic Convention.

Kasich? I think the more we learn about him, the less likeable he’ll be….

from Stephen: I really try to get along with everyone, peace at home and all that. Some times I can get so angry at even friends and family. Some one I love said to me peace through strength. It just took the wind out of my sails. I just said “ya”. If this e-mail had been in my head I would of said,”Strength maybe War no. Thanks for all you’ve done and do.

Love not War, Stephen

from Barry: I respect your opinion but I believe very strongly that there is the possibility for real change with Bernie (as I did with Obama) if for no other reason than getting corporate money out of our politics. Bernie has also already pushed Hillary to the left on many issues. He has been at this longer than Hillary and has been a voice for reason right along. He speaks his truth whatever it is even though it may not be popular or win him votes.

I read in Friday’s StarTribune Obama stating about Bernies authenticity that “folks say that Bush was authentic too, but authenticity does not make a good President.” Well I don’t know about you but it is certainly a quality I admire. Plus what does that say about Obama? Also he said that at “some point Bernie needs to step aside.” Well it seems to me that the race is not over yet

Your friend.

Response from Dick: Many thanks. The only reason I made the entry about politics, is in response to your comment about politics. I happen to like Bernie Sanders a lot, but I think if he gets the nomination (which is very unlikely) he’ll have as much chance as right winger Barry Goldwater had in 1964.

Most of what I have to say about Hillary is in response to Jim’s comment above.

As it happened, yesterday afternoon I watched her deal with the Libya issue in a one-on-one Town Hall Forum in Springfield IL, at the old state Capitol building. In Libya, she said, credibly, that among the many dilemmas she faced was the need to listen to concerns of allied nations, such as Europe and Egypt, who needed to have something done. And, of course, Libya’s leader, Qaddafi, had never been a knight in shining armor. Etc. She did well in her response.

At these high levels, every decision is wrong, from somebody’s point of view. This was Obama’s reality, too, and I think he knew it well on entering office. The best we can do is select someone who helps to make our nation and world a better place. I think that happened with Obama, and it will happen with Clinton.