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#1026 – Dick Bernard: The Minnesota Orchestra goes to Cuba, and some related observations from the early 1960s

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

UPDATE May 14, 2015: from the Minnesota Orchestra on landing in Cuba.
Save Our Symphony has an excellent ongoing compilation of news from/about the Orchestra in Cuba.

Monday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had as its lead story the Minnesota Orchestra’s pending visit to Cuba.

Wherever you are, you can listen to the live performances in Cuba this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm on Minnesota Public Radio 99.5 FM or on-line.

Henri Verbrugghen, conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony  Orchestra at the time of their last visits to Cuba in 1929 and 1930.  From a Symphony Ball poster ca late 1980s, courtesy of Alan Stone.

Henri Verbrugghen, conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra at the time of their last visits to Cuba in 1929 and 1930. From a Symphony Ball poster ca late 1980s, courtesy of Alan Stone.

We’re regulars at the Orchestra and I’ve posted frequently on Orchestra topics, particularly during the long and very painful lockout 2012-14. The Orchestra is amazing; and the mutual intention to recover from the disastrous lockout seems amazing, for both sides.

But today seems a good time for some brief comments about another relationship, Cuba-U.S., as remembered by one who’s never been there.

As a geography major in college, I certainly knew the essentials of Cuba. The first evidence that Cuba reached out into North Dakota comes from a release which was in the July 5, 1961 Viking News (click to enlarge):

Viking News, Valley City ND State Teachers College, July 5, 1961 page one

I am quite certain I went to this performance, since such events were few and far between in the town and on campus. One quickly notices that the “Afro-Cuban Review” apparently is missing the Cuban element. This is likely due to the fact that on January 1, 1959, the Cuban system of government changed, and for 56 years, now, the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has been, officially, non-existent (with a lot of “winks and nods”, especially by business interests: where people exist, there also is a market….)

Back to early 1960s: a year or so later, out of college and in the Army, I witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, as an Army infantryman, mobilized for possible action. We were a long ways from Cuba, but nonetheless in the bullseye of the Russian missiles, and it was a scary time.

In October, 1962, we soldiers watched President Kennedy address the nation on a tiny television screen in our barracks near Colorado Springs.

Very soon, life went on. American and Russian leaders saw the implications of escalation; there was no war. But Castro’s Communist Cuba became and remained a ripe political opportunity in the U.S.; one might say, a North Korea near our shores. Fear is a useful emotion to manipulate and use….

Of course, if you happen to be the resident of the weaker enemy state, as Cubans are, you are unlikely to attempt to overthrow your government; while the stronger enemy, the U.S., in effect punishes you for the supposed sins of the leader, Castro.

Some years ago, likely at my Uncle’s farm in North Dakota, I came across a well-used college text: History of Latin America from the Beginning to the Present by Hubert Herring. This “Second Edition Revised”, 1963, includes a 21-page chapter on Cuba which drew my interest, particularly the Cuban history from 1895-1963. In this chapter on Cuba, Theodore Roosevelt was not even mentioned; nor was the then-more recent nuclear brinksmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis era.

At the end of the chapter, the author states: “Reflecting on the sorry state of Cuba in 1960, the onlooker could say that two things are reasonably clear: Cuba was indeed overdue for a revolution, and revolutions are never mild and gentlemanly.” (p. 422)*

Thankfully, the walls constructed so well over 50 years ago between Cuba and the United States are now, finally, breaking down.

I will listen with great interest to the Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba this weekend.

A previous post with reports by two visitors to more recent Cuba can be read here.

* POSTNOTE: Here’s the entire Cuba chapter, made easy by pdf, hopefully so ancient and unavailable as to not get me in trouble with the author or publisher from over 50 years ago: Cuba to 1963001

#1024 – Dick Bernard: “A Boy Named Sue”, a song for Mother’s Day?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Today we did what has come to be an annual trip, possibly four miles to the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (RCCF) to purchase Mother’s Day Flowers. (More here.)

The seasonal business is staffed by inmates at this place once called the Workhouse; 25% of the proceeds count as a donation. It is a pleasant task, buying flowers at a jail while helping some folks recover from the mistake(s) that got them confined there.

(click to enlarge)
RCCF Flowers001.

I’ve written about this program before. Every inmate there has a mother, and father, and ancestors…and some problem that got them time….

This year I was reminded of a session on “heritage” that I conducted on Monday evening, coincidentally my 75th birthday, in Minneapolis.

Heritage, I said on Monday, is everything about us, brought to us from our past. In Old French the word heritage essentially means “inheritance” from our ancestors.

We usually think of our ancestry, as people we know: our Mom, our Dad, maybe our Grandparents, but we are a sum of thousands of predecessors, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings, on and on and on. Each brings to us something empowering or disabling. Much is DNA; or observed and learned behaviors, and on and on.

Our “inheritance” is far more than money – or lack of same….

Thinking about how to approach Mondays topic, I decided to frame heritage as our collective “baggage” and “balloons”.

If we’re lucky, and determined, the balloons we’ve inherited have greater lift than the weight of the baggage. We can rise above much; sometimes like these inmates who were helping us today, we’re dragged down, but we can recover.

I kept thinking of Johnny Cash’s old tune, “A Boy Named Sue”, and found an unexpurgated and particularly entertaining version on YouTube. (Yes, this version has the cuss words, little kids doing fake violence and the like, but c’mon, every now and then you’ve thunk the same ’bout your own situation and who bears the blame for your state of being at some particular time!).

Somewhere out there on the internet, I’m sure, there’s analysis about what drew Johnny Cash to sing the verses of that song, and made that song so popular. Here’s one. We identify with imperfection, because we’re imperfect. Doubtless in the video that accompanies the song, those little kids who were the “actors” had fun with the rubber knife and the play gun.

I guess it’s part of the life we all experience from time to time, our private face..

But for all of us it started with a Mom and a Dad, and for them, the same, and back all through human history.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And if you’re in the area, and haven’t got your flowers as yet, try the RCCF sale this weekend, or through May 24.

A related post here.

And an interesting commentary, “Teach Your Children Well“.

#1022 – Kathleen Valdez: A Surprise Find from a DNA Analysis.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

PRE-NOTE FROM DICK: For some time I’ve been thinking of having an ancestry DNA analysis done.

A short while ago, the inclination racheted up quite a bit with this e-mail from an out-of-the-blue e-mail from Kathy (Corey) Valdez, an Oregonian whose Mom Ellie Lemire Corey was (she thought) from primarily French-Canadian roots from Quebec to Minnesota to North Dakota.

Here’s Kathy’s e-mail, with followup comment, all from Kathy, passed along with her permission:

March 24, 2015: “In going through mom’s letters, I felt I needed to tell you about the DNA discovery I’ve made and how it’s all come about through the Spirit. You know, the Spanish have a word that is much richer in meaning for our word- coincidence. The word is diosidencia – google it!

In my DNA (autosomal – half from mom and half from dad), I found among the English, Irish and Western European that I was 19% Iberian Peninsula. I first thought, “I don’t have Spanish blood- I’m all French on Mom’s side with some Native American mixed in.”

About 3 weeks ago, I came across a French-Canadian Project for Aunism…Spanish Jews who fled to France as a result of being targeted in the Spanish Inquisition. Yep, that be me! [NOTE from editor: here is a general link to the topic.]

I cross-referenced the 50 or so names of those on the list of Sephardic Jews who fled to France and then 400 years later to settle New France and I found 18 surnames on my Lemire/Parent family tree!

My great uncle Arthur Parent (Mom’s uncle on her mom’s side) passed on to his descendants that they had Jewish blood in their ancestry but I dismissed it because the ‘reporter’ (uncle’s daughter) was way off on some of her other information. She also liked to sensationalize information.

Well, my DNA test showed she was right!”

I asked Kathy for more info, and got her permission to pass on her information:

March 27, 2015: “I first had my test done through Family Tree dna because they test Y and Mitochondria chromosomes as well as the more general testing for autosomal. You are able to find your closest matches in the database and contact these matches, hoping they have some sort of family tree to see where you connect.

Ancestrydna did my second test and it’s more ‘user friendly’ to the public and only tests autosomal. Autosomal is the test for ‘ancestral place’. It goes back 4-5 gen. and matches you with other people who have been tested so you can contact each other.

So both test autosomal and give matches for you to contact but only Family Tree dna finds your Y dna (males) back to the beginning of humankind. Both men and women have the mitro. (X) and everyone has autosomal (half from your mom and half from you father).

Autosomal: It’s a toss up as to which genes you inherit (crap shoot:) Your sibs inherit different combos unless you’re identical twins. I just attended a LDS Conference in Forest Grove last Sat. and a woman from Ancestry was keynote – excellent! She said that AncestryDNA altho has only been around 3 yrs. is growing faster than Family Tree and for all intent and purposes the autosomal is the only test you need….unless you want to find your deep, deep roots!

Ancestry DNA usually has specials from time to time – I think before Mother’s/Father’s Day..$79

The Ancestry.com woman said you’d have to test no less than 5 sibs to get a clear picture of your parent’s dna. Except for Tim, my sibs are reluctant so I guess I need to pay for their tests :) If both parents are alive, that’s all you need to test (not yourself as it’s all there :) Test your oldest relatives.

If you’re a member of Ancestry (AARP membership- I just joined last month because of this) has 10% off membership so I pay $209 annually now as opposed to $299 when you subscribe annually)….on Ancestry they have tutorials about dna that they archive. If you want, I can notify you when specials are happening:)”

from Jeanne: There will be a DNA round table at Minneapolis Central Library: Genealogy Research: DNA Testing Discussion Minneapolis Central Library • N-402 • Share Tuesday, June 9, 7–8 p.m.

from Christine: These Jews were called the Maroons in Spain and in France later. This is a well known migration of population in Europe. They have become Catholic and gradually lost their Jewish practice.

This search of your DNA and origins is very enriching.

from Marshall: It is funny you mention DNA. We have been curious for a while on our own DNA, and Carole and Karen (twins) sent in swabs for “zygosity” testing, meaning the absence or presence of twinship. To my surprise, they are certified identical. Their DNA markers were expressed as numeric, and some were 7 or 8 digits long. Being identical twins, their markers were identical with no deviations. Case closed.

My own DNA testing was through Ancestry.com. Here are my results (for me only).

Great Britain 54%
Iberian Peninsula 18%
Europe West 15%
Ireland 5%
Europe East 3%
Scandinavia 2%
Italy/Greece 2%
Finland/Northwest Russia 1%

From what I know about my family, I expected a higher percent for Europe West (the French influence). The Iberian Peninsula includes western France, the Basque area, Portugal, and Spain.

#1017 – Dick Bernard: Reminiscing Along North Dakota’s I-94

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

For a few hours last Friday I reacquainted with about 130 miles of North Dakota’s I-94, between Mandan and Valley City ND. Thanks for the unexpected trip, and the opportunity to reminisce, go to my Uncle Vince.

Vincent, who died on February 2, was a long-time member of the Catholic Fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, as was his Dad, my Grandpa. Grandpa joined about 1921, and Vincent in 1947.

As part of the annual North Dakota Knights of Columbus gathering, this year in Mandan ND on April 17, about 150 KCs who’d died in the past year were recognized by a reading of their names and procession of candles, one dedicated to each departed Knight.

I was invited as a member of Vincent’s family, and attending was the least I could do.

It was a very impressive event (portion of program here: KCs Mandan 4-17-15001. Listed (p. 4) and somewhere among the candles (below) was Vincent Busch. A retired and prominent Catholic Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick (p. 5), was celebrant.

Knowing Vincent as I do, he’d probably be embarrassed and said, “what did I ever do to deserve this?”

Well, of course, he deserved the recognition, and the others as well.

We all deserve to be remembered.

(click to enlarge all photos)

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

To get to and from Mandan I drove a portion of I-94 I have rarely driven in the past 50 years.

I-94 Bis-Vc001

Thursday, I started from LaMoure, where I’d had a very busy couple of days. Though only 60 miles to “Jimtown” (Jamestown, in Grandpa’s rendering), I arrived pretty well exhausted and “motelled” there. I wanted a beard trim, and learned from the clerk that the J.C. Penney store across from the motel had a walk-in Beauty Salon. Sure enough. A pleasant lady trimmed my beard.

“How much?”

“No charge”.

It was one of those unexpected kindnesses that you relish when they occur, and you don’t forget. It becomes an invitation to pay it forward, to someone else….

Next morning, enroute west, I stopped in at nearby Eldridge, my home from 1943-45. Elridge is a main-line railroad town on what used to be called the NP (Northern Pacific) Railroad. I photo’ed the first place we lived there (upper floor, north side); and the school in which my Dad was Principal, both still full of memories. I visited both with Dad back in the 1990s. Then, the school was occupied by a lady and her daughter. Today the place is empty, like most of those tiny town schools, mostly brick, which have managed to survive, though empty.

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

Enroute again, the map reacquainted me with places from my past, especially college days at Valley City State Teachers College. Many classmates I knew, then, were from places like Tappen, Napoleon, Streeter…. I graduated from high school in 1958 at Sykeston; another place we lived in 1942-43 was Pingree. These towns were tiny, but mostly much larger than they are now.

In Bismarck, of course, I visited the State Capitol. The “Prairie Skyscraper”, built to replace the old capitol which burned down Dec. 28, 1930, was always a place of pride for we NoDaks.

This was a bustling place this day: the state legislature was in session. I was there about lunch time, and Senators and Representatives were among those catching lunch. A group, DigitalHorizonsOnline, was testing our knowledge on North Dakota Trivia. Do visit their site.

On the Capitol Grounds is an immensively impressive and newly enlarged State History Museum and Interpretative Center. I highly recommend it. It matches any such facility I’ve seen anywhere.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015.  Foreground, the old ND State Library.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015. Foreground, the old ND State Library.

Of course, no trip to the Capitol is complete without a trip to the top, to take a picture (below). On the ground level are about 43 winners of the North Dakota Roughrider Award. There are perhaps 43 portraits now, among them my early childhood friend from Sykeston, Larry Woiwode, who is directly across from the portrait of the old Roughrider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt.

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Larry Woiwode

Larry Woiwode

Enroute to the Mass I took a side trip over to the Ft. Abraham Lincoln a few miles south of Mandan. This is the place from which Gen. George Armstrong Custer took his ill-fated trip to the Little Big Horn in 1876. Of course, this is April, and nothing was open, but I could drive around, and walk to see the Slant Village and the Custer home. Earlier, a lady at the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department pointed out that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Parks Department, and each State Park will have their day. Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Day is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Visit over in late afternoon, back on I-94 East, this time to Fargo.

Dominating the trip back was thinking about May, 1965, when my wife, Barbara, was released from Bismarck’s St. Alexius Hospital, and we began the long trip by car to Minneapolis where she was to be admitted for a kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It was her only remaining option to live beyond 22.

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Back then, late May, 1965, someplace along 94, east of Bismarck, the radiator hose chose to burst. Luckily, we were close to one of the very few exits with a gas station. At Valley City, she and her mother and brother and our year old son Tom took the train the rest of the way to Minneapolis. I continued on by car. Barbara was admitted to the hospital, and died there July 24, 1965. 50 years ago, now. A major marker on my life path. We all have such….

I drove on, finding a motel in Moorhead MN about 9:30 pm.

In the morning, at the house breakfast, I saw a number of people wearing bright t-shirts, “Team Fred” on on one side; “Muscle Walk 2015″ on the other. I asked a family of four, “what’s this about?” “A walk for ALS” the Dad said. Fred, I surmised, was someone they knew who has ALS, but I don’t know that.

I went out to the car, remembering the earlier kindness in Jamestown, the free beard trim, took out my checkbook, wrote out a check for $50 to Muscle Walk 2015, went back into the restaurant and left the check with the family: “have a great day”.

Probably the gift surprised them.

Pay it forward, thanks in part to the kind beauty salon person in Jamestown.

It was a great day….

POSTNOTE: Sunday evening came one of those calls from an Unknown Caller. It was Jim F, from Carrington ND. Turned out he was the “Fred” from Team Fred, and he was calling to thank me for the donation Saturday morning. It was a most pleasant surprise; we knew people in common, it turned out.

#1016 – Dick Bernard: Hillary announces….

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

If you need to know what the blog headline is about, you’re probably not much interested in politics…. The longer headline: “Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy for Presidency of the United States beginning 2017.”

This is a long post, mostly my personal political history – “me ‘n Hillary” – from early 2008. If you’re not into history, my current comments begin and end this post…. What is bold-faced from the 2008 comments, in the middle of this post, are those which seem most pertinent, then and now.

Humor me, and read on, just this once, whether or not “politics” interests you.

Please try…. Politics is what makes or breaks this democracy of ours. We Americans are very sloppy about how we go about deciding who should represent us, and we are even more careless about how our government works at all levels. It is a surprise our system works at all, and that’s a shame.


Sunday, April 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton announced that she’s a candidate for President. I see that as good news, though as of right now I haven’t read much about it. There’s plenty of time, and there will be, doubtless, daily polls about what the public thinks – the polls slanted, of course, in the direction the pollster wishes. A great deal of “heat”, hardly any “light”.

One thing is certain, in my opinion: Hillary Clinton is savvy, and she’ll run a very solid campaign.

I’ve long been impressed with Hillary. Most of the words which follow come from two posts I wrote at the time of the Minnesota Precinct Caucuses Feb 5, 2008.

Those who stop by this blog from time to time know that I like to add photos to posts. There are none of her included here for a simple reason: I’ve never actually seen Hillary Clinton in person, anywhere. A few days before I wrote the below comments in 2008, Feb. 2, I saw Barack Obama in person in Minneapolis. He was very impressive. He is ever more impressive; we’re fortunate to have him as chief executive of this immense country.

(click to enlarge)

Feb. 2, 2008, Target Center Minneapolis,

Feb. 2, 2008, Target Center Minneapolis,

At the end of this post, I’ll summarize what I see, at this moment. Whether you like or detest politics, the results determine what we are as a country, and you’re a participant, whether you think you’re a participant or not. (Not voting, or voting for “Mickey Mouse” or a candidate who has no chance whatever, is voting. And everyone has only a single vote, one time, in each election.)

Get involved. Your own future is determined by who will be elected for all offices in each election.

Now, a look back.


P&J#1566 “Super Tuesday” posted February 6, 2008:

“I’m guessing I’ve heard from everyone who has an interest in responding to last night, so here ’tis. Thanks. [Lots of people responded about their experience at their own 2008 caucus. These are not included here.]


Yes, I “gotta get a life”…I got curious, yesterday, about the age U.S. Presidents were when they assumed the presidency.

My time to run is definitely past: Here they are since 1901: Teddy Roosevelt, 42; Taft, 51; Wilson, 56; Harding, 55; Coolidge, 50; Hoover,
54; FDR, 50; Truman, 60; Eisenhower, 62; JFK, 43; LBJ, 54; Nixon, 55; Ford, 61; Carter, 52; Reagan, 69 (THERE’S HOPE – not much); GHWB, 64; Bill
Clinton, 46; the Decider [George W Bush], 54. (At the end of this P&J, I list the rest of the bunch….)

Funny how they seemed so old back when I knew ’em as a kid.

If elected, McCain, 71, would be the oldest President ever elected, older even than the Gipper [Ronald Reagan]. You can bet that this point will be whispered.



I’ve attended precinct caucuses for years. Our particular caucus location for the last several years has been a junior high school a 15 minute drive from me, just off I-94.

That’s 15 minutes on a normal day.

Tonight it took almost an hour to drive to the location, most of that time spent in the last half mile jammed bumper to bumper on the freeway and the exit ramp, and then another 15 minutes to walk to the school from my car which I had to park on the shoulder of the road.

The time spent had everything to do with the precinct caucus attendance, which was HUGE.

My caucus location was teeming with young people. The young guy who serves me coffee most mornings at my local Caribou was there, volunteering for Al Franken. It is nice to make occasional unexpected connections like these.

I cast my ballot – for Hillary Clinton; registered to become a delegate to the next level – an important step, as the next level is where the state delegates are selected. We left early as Cathy needed to get home for some phone calls. It was a long chilly walk back to the car, then home.

Why my vote for Hillary? More on that in a later post.

(The presidential vote in Minnesota last night is simply a straw poll of those who actually registered at the caucus. It reflects who showed up. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see the results.)

I got a sense, last night, that people in my area are wanting their country back. This was a school full of serious looking people. I’ll hope their commitment sustains itself, and in fact grows.

For myself, I’ll be proud to support whoever ends up as the nominees.

More on my impressions at the end of this post.

… [numerous comments from other members of my list, not included here]

Some final thoughts from Dick: a friend stopped by at coffee shop this morning, and said that 2100 were at our caucus location, compared with 700 two years ago. Vote was probably 2-1 for Obama at our location, even heavier in his affluent part of town. Chatting nearby were an older guy and a younger woman, both of whom I know a little, both apparently actively Republican. They were deeply involved in fearing the evils of socialized medicine and Hillary Clinton. So goes the debate.

As candidates so well know, there are two ‘peaks’ to attain: first, the nomination of their party; second, the election by the people, hopefully somewhat fairly through the process of ballots. For eons, organizers have come to know a basic truth about campaigns: don’t peak too soon! If your campaign reaches its high point six months out, you’ll lose as certainly as if it peaks six months after the election. The careful strategists are well aware of this dilemma. The Obama campaign is well aware of this dilemma as well. Super Tuesday (a media creation more than a substantive national primary) makes necessary aggressive and expensive campaigning by all the candidates. But it is just a media creation. Now comes the hard part: keeping people interested, engaged and committed.

This continued engagement can be a real problem. A lot of people showed up last night solely to vote for Clinton or Obama, and immediately left. A heap of us will gather (in my case) March 8, for a long, long, often very boring day at our Senate District Convention where the hard process of selecting delegates to the state convention begins. In turn, the state convention will select the national delegates, and on the process goes. We will work really hard on March 8, and listen to lots of people, and try to make some kind of reasoned and reasonable decisions. The people who came, voted and left, will have no appreciation of this part of the process.

Hang in there.

Here’s the rest of the Presidents, with their age at time of election.

George Washington, 56; John Adams, 61; Thomas Jefferson, 57; James Madison, 57; James Monroe, 58; John Quincy Adams, 57; Andrew Jackson, 51; Martin Van Buren, 54; William Henry Harrison, 67 (MY AGE, but he lived only 31 days in office – bad omen. Keep my day job); John Tyler, 50: James Knox Polk, 49; Zachary Taylor, 64; Millard Fillmore, 50; Franklin Pierce, 48; James Buchanan, 65; Abe Lincoln, 51; Andrew Johnson, 57; U.S. Grant, 46; Rutherford B. Hayes, 54; James Garfield, 49; Chester A. Arthur, 52; Grover Cleveland, 47; Benjamin Harrison, 55; William McKinley, 53.

P&J #1568 Why I Voted for Hillary, February 8, 2008.
This is one of mine I hope you’ll take a moment to read.

Pro or Con responses will go into a future mailbag. (There will be a ‘mailbag’ following this one, then I may give you a break for the weekend!)

Why did I vote for Hillary, and Why am I inclined to support her?

There are no simple answers to those questions, whether answered by me, or anyone else. It is a complex matter. But I can provide some clues, with some data I find significant:

1. No less an authority than archconservative William (Bill) Bennett pronounced on CNN yesterday afternoon (Feb 7), that while he had serious reservations about John McCain as the Republican nominee, he would back him because McCain had an American Conservative Union rating of 82, while Hillary Clinton had a rating of 9. (If those numbers are incorrect, it’s Bill Bennett or American Conservative Union who’s lying, not me! www.acuratings.org is where you can check [Such old weblinks are likely no longer current or in existence]. On this list, which ranks lawmakers performance through 2006, MN Senator Mark Dayton had a ranking of 11, and Norm Coleman a rating of 75. Obama’s ranking is 8. Most conservative: DeMint (SC) 98; most awfully liberal, Ted Kennedy of MA, 2).

2. The same afternoon of Feb 7, a letter came from a good friend, a Catholic Priest friend who’s now in El Paso TX saying he’s now “on board w/the Obama campaign. Clinton has never repented for her support of the [Iraq] war….” He was talking, I suppose, about the October, 2002, resolution on which she voted ‘aye'; and on which my own Senator, Paul Wellstone, wavered until almost the last second before voting ‘nay’ (I know the circumstances on the latter, since I was on the way to banner at Wellstone’s office that fateful October afternoon and on arrival there found nobody bannering. I learned after I got home that he had declared he would vote against the resolution. At the time, I was very new to the Peace movement, and nobody was keeping me in the loop about what was happening (they still don’t, too often!). Of course, that vote was strategized by the administration and Republican leadership to take place in very close proximity to the 2002 mid-term elections. It’s easy research to find out what happened that Nov.)

Clinton was in her second year in the U.S. Senate when that vote occurred, and representing her state of New York. Her vote apparently didn’t hurt her standing with her home state folks – her constituents…she was easily reelected in 2006.

If folks take time to recall, Bush’s approval ratings were still stratospheric then, and they were stratospheric because of his WAR rhetoric and planning, and the politically massaged aftermath of 9-11. It’s useful to think back to those times. Hillary Clinton’s constituency was and is in New York City and State, where the worst of 9-11 happened, and it’s hard to imagine any other vote from her at that time, however ill advised one might think it was in hindsight. I wouldn’t expect her to ‘repent’, either. (When I became a peacenik, October 2001 and the bombing of Afghanistan, 94% of Americans approved of the bombing. Talk about being in the minority.)

3. I have mentioned more than once that in my own assessment of the candidates stated positions, Kucinich clearly was most in synch with my own personal views (40), while Edwards, Clinton and Obama were quite positive and a virtual tie (29, 28, 28), with Huckabee and McCain almost tied far down the list (12, 11), and Romney almost a no-show (4). (In my listing, Mike Gravel came in at 29 also. Thompson, Hunter, Guiliani and Tancredo were at the end, with 3,2,2 and 1 respectively. www.myelectionchoices.com [also, likely defunct as a website now]

This assessment had lots of issues, and lots of position statements from all the candidates, not labeled by candidates, so I don’t know in which areas I was most in synch with Clinton or any candidate, but it was useful for me in trying to figure out the general positions of the potential candidates for the most complex and difficult job in the world.


Debate rages on this network and others about Clinton, and mostly it has been pretty negative towards her. It was an act almost like ‘coming out’ to mention that I was going to vote for Hillary on Tuesday! “What will they say?” I suspect I was/am not at all alone in the big camp of folks who think Hillary is okay, and her own person, too.

I haven’t and won’t rate Hillary based on her years as first lady; nor did I rate her based on Bill, though I admit to being puzzled why even Bill has been made out to be such a liability. Best as I recall, he was very popular with the American people even after the impeachment, and through the end of his term, and most people would take the ‘Bill days’ of the 90s in a minute over what we’ve endured in the last 7 years [2001-2008].

Clinton ended his term, as I recall, with still very high approval ratings. He still is popular here, and around the world.

But the notion has been planted (and accepted) that, somehow, that this is a bad couple, in almost any way someone wants to define ‘bad’, and this includes many assessments from the Left. So be it. Could the description be a ‘spun’ one? Are we witnessing how the Politics of Division and Character Assassination works, directly and/or subtlely? From BOTH poles of the ideological spectrum?

Hillary Clinton seems to have both the stamina and the backbone to endure the brutality of the campaign trail. This is some important evidence to me that she has what it takes to be chief executive of the United States, by far the most complex job on earth (if one takes time to be engaged in the complexity – Bush didn’t. “The Decider” decided and in the process we have become a country governed by a ruler not a President.) Even as first lady, Hillary was molded by and initiated into the vicious crucible of Washington politics with the Health Care reform dilemma early in Bill’s first term. She’s criticized for not achieving the goal; I rarely hear she (and Bill) complimented for trying….

Add to the complexity of governing a monstrosity like our democracy is, the almost certain extraordinarily difficult situations and circumstances that we are entering after this disastrous eight years, and I puzzle as to why Hillary or anyone for that matter would want to be President. FDR may prove to have had a cakewalk in comparison.

That Hillary Clinton is a woman has never caused me to wonder about her ability to lead. My career representing teachers (still basically a female profession), long ago rid me of the business of sex role stereotyping, if indeed, that ever was a serious issue for me.

As I prepare to click ‘send’ on this, I have one last thought, from overnight. Hillary (and the others) are cursed by the ‘Liberal’ label as if it is the mark of Satan himself. This has been one of the most successful anti-marketing campaigns in our history. I commented on ‘liberal’ at a disenchanted conservative’s dinner table a while back thusly: “I’m definitely a Liberal, but if you truly want Conservative government, where people carefully handle your money, and are Compassionate in the process, you’ll elect Liberal every time. We’re careful with our fellow citizens money.” Liberals in my experience are, by and large, careful with the dollar (sometimes ‘cheap’) because they’ve had to be; and they tend to be, I think, more truly compassionate and understanding of other points of view. There could be worse qualities. The best ‘Compassionate Conservatives’ are, really, Liberals. (I know plenty of truly Compassionate Conservative Republicans...these folks are, by their own admission, out of power even in their own party, and trying to figure out how to regain some of the deserved stature and respect they had in the past.

We’ll see what happens these next months. Keep talking.


1. The anti-Hillary “attack dogs” have already been let loose onto the internet, especially. So it will be. The attack dogs are not only on the Right of the Political Spectrum. The far Left types don’t think Clinton, or Obama, deserve support because they’re too conservative,”war mongers”, etc. So be it.

2. By the time of the election in 2016, Hillary will be 69, younger than John McCain had he been elected President in 2008; about the same age as Ronald Reagan at his election in 1980.

3. If nominated by the Democrats a year and a half from now, she will be the first woman to actually run for President of the United States (our country is an anomaly in this regard. There are and have been many women chief executives in other countries. We are way behind.)

4. Perhaps there has been a President who came to office with as much relevant experience for the job as Hillary Clinton already has (U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, to name just two positions she’s successfully held.)

from Corky:
Hi Dick.
Watching the MONEY MACHINES in action concerning the 2016 presidential election.
$2.5 Billion for Hillary camp..

$100,000,000 largest individual contributor for GOP candidate..

TV personality contributed $1,000,000 to Obama campaign and will give $1,000,000 to Elizabeth Warren if she runs.
Warren said she is NOT running for President.

from Fred: Read your “historical” comments and enjoyed the look-back. You have an advantage as a veteran blogger of being able to see what you actually were thinking on past topics. The rest of us can make us of selective memory—I never would, of course—and discover we were right about everything.

Your characterization of “compassionate conservatives” (don’t hear that phrase in GOP circles anymore) as closet liberals was spot on. Hey, that’s why you don’t hear that phrase anymore.

from Bruce: The Sunset guy [here] seems to boil it down to neoliberalism v republican vision and has decided the choice is clear. The neoliberal policies that led to the financial breakdown & the recession is better than that republican vision.

We solve our problems through violence. Using military force is accepted by both parties, accept when the other party’s president is in office. It’s a cynical choice that we’ve been given.

It’s sad, but the status quo may be the best we can hope for. I’ll vote for Hillary with eyes wide open.

from David: You and I choose to differ here. I supported Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke then Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. In 2008 I struck a deal with a Montana progressive citizen to exchange our votes for the green party, but as you may recall the various Just-Us departments didn’t like citizens taking charge of their own destinies.

Dr. Stein is likely running again. Who else in 2012 chose to be arrested twice—once for a sit-in at a bank protesting mortgage foreclosures and next trying to enter the presidential debate being held in Texas?

Residing in the camp of the lesser of the two evils, Obama/Romney and Clinton/To be determined, is like having to use stink bait in my opinion. I choose not to have to hold my nose when I go fishing.

I am 98.5 percent sure that Mrs. Clinton will mouth all the good slogans, just like Mr. Obama has, and then continue to build next generation nuclear bombs, propose ever larger Pentagon budgets, and keep the drones searching for targets.

#1013- Dick Bernard: Flossenburg

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

In today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune I read a most interesting column about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the noted German Lutheran Theologian and Pastor, who was part of the conspiracy to remove Adolf Hitler during the dark days of the Third Reich. He died by hanging 70 years ago today, April 9, 1945.

The first paragraph of the commentary noted “Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Germany for participating in the conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.”

The mention “Flossenburg” especially peaked my interest.

For a dozen years, now, I have been privileged to have as a close friend, Annelee Woodstrom. Annelee grew up as Anneliese Solch in Mitterteich, Germany, near the Czech border.

Now 88, Annelee grew up in the time of the Third Reich, and speaks often of her memories then.

She was 18 when the war ended.

A vignette she always mentions in her talks was the time, very near the end of the war, when a group of POWs were marched past the family home. They were from Flossenburg, she said. Until then she didn’t even know there was a prison at Flossenburg, much less that it was a concentration camp, and she admits that fact may be hard to believe.

(Until this moment, when I looked it up, I didn’t know that Flossenburg was just 20 miles south of Mitterteich.)

It is simple to say, now, that “she must have known. That town was only 20 miles away.”

But if you factor in everything about the place and the time and the circumstances, there is little doubt that townspeople knew only what was told to them. Even today, with all of the means of communication we have access to, we are regularly deceived and misled. Think now of some town 20 miles from you, where you don’t know anyone. Even today, lots could go on in that town without your knowledge….

I sent the commentary along to Annelee this morning. Three weeks from Friday, in Minneapolis, Annelee Woodstrom will remember, among many other memories, the end of World War II as she experienced it in Germany (Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30; VE Day came on May 6, 1945.)

Here is the flier for the event: World Law Day May 1 2015.

Reservations are requested.

#1008 – Dick Bernard: The Negotiations With Iran: “Eve of Destruction” or “Dawn of Correction”?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Last nights news had a rather dismal looking visual image: a rectangular table in Switzerland, around which were sitting many very serious and not at all confident looking men and women, attempting to come to some agreement about the general issue of nuclear and relationships between their own countries and Iran. The general story was that they weren’t at all sure they could come to a bargained agreement.

Of course, outside the room, were endless talking heads and written opinions about what was being done wrong, or should be done this way…or that…or whose fault it would be if things wouldn’t work out…. As is always true with unilateral arguments, these arguments always were airtight: there was no “other side of the story” to deal with.

Overnight, on another topic, came an interesting sentence from a friend to another discussion group about another much more mundane issue in the city of Minneapolis: “Compromise – something Americans are not very good at.” Indeed.

My predictions: there will be a deal, imperfect as such deals always are, which will look better and better as time goes on. Surrounding the deal will be those on all sides with vested interests to protect, but no “skin in the game” at the bargaining table, who will talk about “sellout”, and all the like. In the longer term, President Obama’s negotiations ability will be seen as a great strength, rather than a perceived weakness.

Many who know me, know I spent most of my working career involved in one sort of negotiations or another, from interpersonal disputes, to fairly large contracts between labor and management, to occasional labor strikes.

I’ve been there, done that.

There were quite frequent “deaths door” bargains where, near the end, the “sides” looked much like the parties mentioned earlier around the table in the Iran negotiations.

By the time this “deaths door” stage of negotiations was reached, everyone knew that their cherished non-negotiables most certainly had to be negotiated; that walking away was no longer a viable option.

They also knew that they would have to face their own particular “public”, who would complain vigorously about the results, and make assorted threats; and that the negotiators would have to say, “folks, this is the best we can do”.

The seasoned negotiators – the ones who’d done this thing two or three times or more – would know that, long term, the imperfect deal would look better and better; a building block for a better bargain next time, where both sides would actually win. That “win-lose”, which is actually “lose-lose”, was an undesirable option.

It is no particular secret that the Middle East is a jumbled up geopolitical mess at the moment, and has been for years. You don’t have to read far beyond the headlines to get that sense. There is a great plenty of blame to go around, abundantly including our own country and others past policies in the region. We like being in control. As stated earlier: “Compromise – something Americans are not very good at.”

As I observed so often in those smaller negotiations in which I was involved, it is necessary to go through the messiness to get to the brighter world existing from a negotiated settlement. But to get there you need to let go of many of your own cherished absolutes, and that is very hard to do. Better that the other side concede.

My prediction: there will be a negotiated agreement, and soon. It will be imperfect, but it will be a beginning.

Yesterday, when I was thinking of this post, after watching Charlie Rose’s interview of President Assad of Syria, and reading about places like Yemen, etc., I thought about Barry McGuire’s old song “The Eve of Destruction”. It’s pretty powerful.

I went to find out more about the song: about Barry McGuire, when it was written, etc., and stopped by the Wikipedia entry which revealed the song was a hit in 1965.

It was there, in the “people’s encyclopedia”, that I learned about another 1965 song, an answer to Eve of Destruction, called “Dawn of Correction” by a group called the Spokesmen.

I’d never heard of Dawn of Correction before, and listened to it, carefully. Very, very interesting point of view, also from 1965. Take a listen.

Directly related, from yesterday, here.

#1006 – Dick Bernard: The Plane Disaster in France. Thinking about Flying….

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

1. Links to full length videos of about 10 talks at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Mar 6-8 can be accessed in the first paragraph, here
2. The entire 90 minute video of the powerful Seven Stories from Vietnam on Mar 20 can now be accessed, also in the first para, here.
“I watched the news tonight from a slightly different perspective than usual. My wife is flying home from Arizona tomorrow night, and I am sure she and her sister are watching tonights news with more than a normal amount of interest.”
Those first sentences were written Thursday evening, March 26. What follows is written on Saturday, March 28.

A few hours ago, about 1:30 a.m., I went out to Terminal 2 to pick up Cathy. The plane was full, she said. Not a word was mentioned about the Germanwings catastrophe over France, still dominating the news. The 1280 mile flight was apparently uneventful.

Truth is, of course, that flying is far safer than driving a car somewhere. Over the last 15 months I’ve averaged 1500 road miles per month, 310 miles at a stretch, just traveling between my home and the town in rural North Dakota where my uncle lived. Over half of that trip is on very busy I-94, including big city traffic; the rest is on rural ND roads, sometimes facing icy or snowy conditions, and always meeting oncoming traffic.

We all know, from life experience, that stuff can happen. People are killed in cars all the time. Sometimes we’re the crazy ones; other times the person is driving the other car.

Aircraft casualties kill more at a time, and are thus more newsworthy.

But to be in a plane is, on average, to be much safer than to be in a car. Anytime. Anywhere. It is impossible to enact and enforce rules that guarantee anyone anything.

We tend to forget that.

We are a creature of the air age. This morning at coffee I simply jotted down some memories (below). My Dad’s sister, Josie, my oldest Aunt, who I knew well, was 1 1/2 when Orville and Wilbur Wright made the famous flight at Kittyhawk (Dec. 17, 1903).

Here’s a photo of Josie with a tour group just arrived in Hilo Hawaii in 1969: Airline tour group 1969003

Personally, I would be in the category of occasional passenger on an airplane, several times a year during my work career, but not “frequent flier”. Except for my first flight, which was nerve-wracking (personally, not anything to do with the plane), most of the flights were normal, though some had their moments, like landing in an approaching storm at St. Louis’ Lambert Airport back in the 1990s. Either we’d land or we wouldn’t – nothing you can do about it.

Here’s some of my memories. Maybe they will jog your own.

First sightings of airplanes:
1940s, in Sykeston ND: A local electrician owned a two-seater, and occasionally took off and landed in the pasture north of our house. One time he overshot the runway, ending up in Lake Hiawatha. It was far more interesting to me that he’d run in the lake, rather than what had happened to him. He apparently lived.

Somewhere in the late 1940s, same town, a huge six engine airplane flew over our town at very low altitude. It came from the northeast, as I recall. Later research showed that it probably was a B-36B from Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, South Dakota. They were probably practicing bombing runs. Thankfully, we weren’t a target. It was probably enroute home to Ellsworth, approximately 300 miles southwest of us

About 1953, I saw Air Force One over Minot ND. President Eisenhower came to town, probably to review the in-progress Minot Air Force Base. Later we had a close up and personal view of the President in motorcade down the main street, in an open convertible. Those were the days….

First flights:
In 1962, I flew home on Army leave from Denver’s Stapleton Airport, to Bismarck ND. The plane was one of the class I knew as DC-3 planes, very, very loud. Lots of rattling. It was frightening just to be on the plane. We arrived at Rapid City, and the connecting flight to Bismarck was full. So two of us were switched to a single engine four-seat plane and flew across the night landscape. It was a flight not to be forgotten.

A year later, in the same Army unit, a practice troop deployment took us from Colorado to South Carolina. We didn’t know it then, but the Army was practicing for Vietnam.

We flew in what I’d call a flying cigar, probably a 707 type aircraft, which doubled as troop and general cargo carrier. There were no attendants on this flight, no plush seats, and there was only one tiny window, and the only sensation of whether you were flying or crashing, etc., was your gut. There was not much banter among the GI’s that day.

Most interesting flight:
In 1973, the organization for which I was working chartered an airliner to take a plane full of delegates from Minneapolis to Portland OR. The memorable part of this trip was when the pilots opened the door to the cockpit and allowed us to actually enter the cockpit, a couple at a time, to see the business end of the airplane, in business.

Wouldn’t happen today, that’s for sure.

Most tense flight:
Back in the good old hi-jacking days of U.S. flights in the 1970s, I was on another flight from Minneapolis to Denver.

A man boarded with a metal suitcase which seemed to be very heavy, and there was a protracted and very tense negotiation between the flight crew and the man, asking him to store the suitcase during the flight.

He refused, and ultimately they relented and he kept the suitcase with him.

I’ve often wondered what he was carrying.

The most memorable flight day:
Actually, this was an absence of flight days.

We live more or less on the flight path into and out of Minneapolis. There is always something in the air, and often times you can hear residual noise from planes.

For a few days after 9-11-01 there was no air noise whatsoever. Every plane had been grounded.

We have, it seems, been terrorized ever since.

I’m sure you have your own stories….

Care to share?

from Anne D:
Dick, yes it jogged my early memories of plane sightings and other flying objects… blimps.

I had secured a collection of plane cards, probably from a cereal box. So when one flew over I ran outside to see if I could identify the airborne vehicle. Some of the planes pulled banners. Later I remember many that wrote on the sky. My favorite were the slow floating dirigibles that fascinated me and my grandfather Vanoss. Also, the searchlights that lit the night. My grandfather told me they were friendly ghosts dancing in the sky. We watched them together from the front porch.

#1005 – Dick Bernard: Photos of Positive People, and a Call to Act.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

There are lots of good things going on in the world, every day, every where.

This fact is easy to miss in a contemporary media environment that incessantly emphasizes bad news. But all one needs to do is to look around, listen, and get engaged.

Here’s a little photo gallery, with small captions, from just one recent week, taken at a League of Women Voters Saturday afternoon workshop in Park Rapids MN, and at a meeting about overpopulation of the planet in Minneapolis. Most of the speakers were ordinary folks, just like the rest of us. But this gave particular power to their presentations, in my opinion.

And at the end, a recent article I spied in last Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about Climate Change, and something I wrote about the same topic 10 ten years ago.

The March 14 workshop in Park Rapids was about Sustainable Agriculture, and the citizen speakers well informed, and interesting. (In the end, my opinion, it is always ordinary citizens who will make the difference…and time and time again, I hear the “expert” speakers affirm that the essential folks towards positive change are the folks we’ve never heard of.


Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer talked about the history of Minnesota agriculture, beginning, of course, with the indigenous people. She especially referenced a particularly interesting older book, Helping People Help Themselves, by Roland H. Abraham, about the history of agricultural extension,

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras talked about this experience, as a boy in WWII, with Victory Gardens in his home state of Massachusetts. For those of us of a certain age, we remember gardening, cooking, canning, raising chickens, and the like. These are lost arts which may well again become essentials.

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan gave us a primer on garden seeds.

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz talked about bees and beekeeping. Bees are crucial to sustinability.

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke was the most high profile speaker, and she spoke with feeling and intelligence and intensity about the land and the traditional ways.

March 19 in Minneapolis, David Paxson gave a jam-packed session on the issue of global overpopulation. His website is worth a visit.


David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

Finally, in the March 22, Minneapolis Star Tribune, in the Science section, I found an article about Al Gore and the issue of Climate. The article (pp 4&5), and some of my “history” with Mr. Gore (pp 1, 2 & 3), can be read here: Al Gore, 2005, 06, 2015002

In my opinion, Mr. Gore is a visionary, well worth paying attention to.

For me, personally, the solution ends up with those who are in the seats, listening.

Others better informed and in one way or another more “important” than us, may, in fact, know more than we do. But in the end it is every individual setting out to make a little difference, who will make the big and essential long term difference.

It is what we – not they – do that will make the difference.

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

#1004 – Kathy McKay: Going to Selma, 2015; Remembering 1965

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

The Selma, Alabama, march was actually two marches. The first, March 7, 1965, was the confrontation at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma; the second began March 21, 1965, and ended four days later at the capitol in Montgomery.

My friend, Kathy McKay, decided to go to Selma March 6-7 to remember 50 years ago. Following are her notes as she experienced Selma, and Alabama, in 2015.

Kathy McKay

Why go to Selma?

When I read a short note in January that President Obama was scheduled to go to Selma for the fiftieth anniversary march I knew I wanted to go too.

I remember the first marches in Selma with the really frightening pictures. Selma has become an iconic event of many occurring during the intensity of the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s. It seemed like a way to remember these efforts, to underline their importance, and to participate in a public display of democracy given the challenges to civil rights still so with us. As Obama said in his speech at the foot of the bridge the US is still a work in progress. Democracy is still perhaps more of an ideal than a reality.

Another reason I wanted to go is that Lee and I own property in Alabama. Though I wholeheartedly embrace the unspeakable beauty of the island coast with its birds and quiet beaches I had not yet found a way to feel as though I politically belonged. I winched at statistics of poverty rates, anti immigration sentiment, disproportionate rates of incarceration and a general suspicion of pick up trucks with gun racks.

Perhaps traveling to Selma would expand my orientation to Alabama…give me a better feel…help me see if there is a way I can “fit” better into an Alabaman identity.

Montgomery, March 6th, night before Selma

Here I am at a Waffle House in a town I have never been to before. Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama is about 50 miles east of Selma and the closest place that I could find a room three weeks ago when I started calling.

This week end Montgomery has the Patti LaBelle celebration concert and the Grammy nominated Imani Winds doing a world premiere of a piece memorializing both Langston Hughes and negro spirituals in a nod to the 50th anniversary.

Montgomery has the Southern Poverty Law Center which was started by Morris Dees during the 60’s and is premiering a film highlighting several of the original local marchers.

There is a lot going on in central Alabama celebrating this civil rights event.

In March of 1965 I was living in a college dormitory of 600 women in Winona, Mn. Not only was there no internet but only one television in the whole building. We got our news and commentary from TIME and Newsweek sometime after the events happened.

I was stunned when I viewed the news reports and video on that TV of policeman attacking the citizens they were hired to protect, and the now infamous footage of rage and brutality against the non violent marchers. It is the deep disrespect and de-humanization this event represents that draws me Montgomery


President Obama was scheduled to speak at 1:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, March 7. I was 48 miles away in Montgomery. The news was saying security checks for the up close area would begin at 8:30 in the morning. I made a decision that I did not want to wait in an enclosed area with no water or seats for 5 hours so didn’t try for that deadline.

Wonderfully the Museum of Alabama opened at 8:30 on Saturday morning and had an exhibit of some of the Spider Martin black and white photographs from the first March. I headed to downtown Montgomery and entered the atrium of the museum a few minutes after 8:30am. Walking past busts of Alabama heroes I saw a military general that fought against the Spanish and one from the revolutionary war. I saw a proud bust of Booker T. Washington and one of George Washington Carver There may have been the expected Confederate generals but I did not see them.

Photo: Kathy McKay, March 7, 2015

Photo: Kathy McKay, March 7, 2015

The Spider Martin exhibit was on the first floor. A friendly docent welcomed me and directed me to the Milo Howard room where the large copies of pictures were hung.
Following this visit I headed for the highway to Selma figuring I would get there early and look around. Spring begins in late February in Alabama. The rolling hills had some green and the four lane highway with a broad grassy median was a pleasant drive.

As I reached the peak of one of the many undulating hills I noticed in my rear view mirror flashing blue lights. “Oh oh someone is getting a ticket” I thought. The blue lights persisted and then I notice motorcycle police leading a trail of vehicles. “Oh, a funeral procession.”I slowed slightly. As there were two lanes going in my direction no need to pull over.

Pulling up beside me going, perhaps 55 mph or maybe 60 mph, were eight large motorcycles with leathered drivers and blue lights flashing. Immediately behind them a long black limousine, and then one after another of black SUV’s with license plates 001, 003, etc. As I was counting the SUV’s and got to about seven or eight i was stunned to realize this is the president and his entourage…family, secret service, etc. I was overwhelmed with the impact of driving along side of the president to get to the Edmund Pettus bridge and the city of Selma. The symbolism of a black president coming to the sacred ground of Selma to honor the marchers, the people of Selma and to proclaim to America and the world “what happened here was so important”. I was in tears.
Later came a train of seven tour buses, the congressional delegates, with staff, I believe. About 12 miles from Selma the traffic slowed and for the next three hours we crawled toward the truck route into Selma. The main highway goes across the bridge onto Broad street, the main street in Selma.

The president’s entourage went into town over the bridge, the rest of us through the back door truck route. Along the highway at the equivalent of about every three blocks were municipal police or sheriffs or state police guiding traffic and answering questions. We were all patient. Some stopped at empty lots a mile or so out and walked in to the town. South High school, about a mile and a half out of town was charging a modest fee to park in their lot, a fund raiser. I stayed on the road and went into the heart of Selma arriving about 12:30. Magically I found the last perking space on Clark street in the residential area. I hopped out and headed for the center of town. Needless to say I had missed the opportunity to get up close to the bridge in the secured area. The town was packed with people, tour buses from Atlanta, New Orleans, South Carolina and places unnamed and thousands of pedestrians.

Broad street was solid people so I made my way up the next street over. I could get within a block of the river and there met barriers and secret service. This would be my place for the next couple of hours. Although the sound system was loud enough to reach our area the “noise” was not decipherable. We didn’t care. The music still worked. The cadence of John Lewis was unmistakeable and the instructive and insistent President Obama spoke clearly without the specific words. (we all said we’d catch the actual speech later on tv).

At Edmund Pettus bridge at time President Obama spoke, March 7, 2015

At Edmund Pettus bridge at time President Obama spoke, March 7, 2015

The crowds included lots of children, young people and old people. People dressed up and those more casual. No one seemed in a hurry to get anyplace. Everyone seemed happy just to be there…that was the point, to be there. The weather was friendly, bright sun and about 70 degrees.

After the speeches music played over the several blocks of milling people. There were booths selling food, I bought a roasted corn and then barbecued ribs from these ladies who were running a busy booth but consented to have their picture taken.

Post event hospitality in Selma, Kathy McKay March 7, 2015

Post event hospitality in Selma, Kathy McKay March 7, 2015

Chicken, grits and desserts were available. I bought a memory water bottle with Selma-50 Years written on the side. No one wanted to leave. People sat on the steps of all the churches, in the yards of the schools…everywhere they stayed around.

I, too, milled around feeling totally comfortable, not wanting to leave. I listened to an older gentleman singing tunes he was making up with recorded music background. I wandered back and forth down various streets, had a sweet tea and noticed the overflowing trash bins from all of the food that was being consumed.

As the sun’s light began to change I went looking for my car. Luckily I had written down the intersection and had my GPS with me. I walked by dozens of tour buses waiting for their travelers and got in line again to retrace my route out of town. The line was not as long leaving as it had been coming into Selma.

I left feeling proud, fulfilled, very American…we do create change, we have more to do, there are people willing to put their lives on the line to move the needle in the direction of justice, of fairness.

Alabama is different for me now. The people gathered at Selma both local and visitors enveloped me with assurance that there is room for me in Alabama…maybe, even, with my resist-the-status quo bent, a particular place for my perspective and my voice.