After such a disastrous year in 2009 and a heart-stopping month politically in January 2010, it looks like the last few days of this month are closing out on an upbeat for President Obama and the country.
Economic activity is up, even if job growth is lagging. Then again, jobs almost always lag, much as that hurts in the real world of working families.
The State of the Union and, perhaps even more surprisingly, the President's appearance at the Republican House retreat in Baltimore, were spectacular performances in politics and rhetoric by Barack Obama.
But even the President and the people need a reminder from outside of what we're fighting for. In the YouTube clip below, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka — speaking earlier in the month — provides a great aspirational message. In my opinion, he earns a year's salary in the final two minutes.
Danny Ernstes, a UAW leader and Democratic Party activist in Indianapolis, pointed out this clip. Thanks, Danny!
The bell of the church survived the disastrous fire of 1975 that destroyed the century-old elegant fourth meeting house of the church. Now the bell sits protected in the back of the sanctuary of the fifth meeting house, the modern structure where the church worships today. Still, for the bell, it's a comedown. It used to sit in the Arlington spire at the center of the town in what was thought to be the second-highest church spire in the Commonwealth.
I rang the bell 20 times, one for each of the 18 settled senior ministers and twice for the two settled associate ministers who have served the church. That was fun, but it was also a reminder to me of the living tradition of Unitarian Universalist ministry spanning all or part of five centuries in America.
Lida Junghans, a member of the church, took pictures. I'm in my Dad's old wheelchair for the ceremony because I was recovering from foot surgery. Wheeling me around: David Whitford. (Thanks, David!) This was only my second trip outside the house since returning from my surgery on January 14.
Now I spend three weeks with my feet up. When we're done — and it's a team effort with Marta and my mother helping, plus a lot of support from other friends and family — I hope to be able to walk, ride a bicycle, and sail this spring and summer. In fact, I'm just looking forward to wearing regular shoes!
Just before my father contracted the illness that took his life this past fall, he was listening with my mother to an NPR show that featured Paul Johnson's new book, Churchill, from Viking Press "Give that book to Doug," Dad told Mom.
And that is how I happened to find this entirely manageable less-than-200-pages book under the Christmas tree, six weeks after Dad died.
Johnson encapsulates Sir Winston Churchill's life well, except that I think Churchill's unfortunate racism is not treated fully enough. Johnson is fortunate to have met his subject. He plainly believes that Churchill's greatest achievement was not saving Britain from Nazi domination, important though that may be, but rather living a balanced and scrupulous life that encouraged both saving his country and saving himself through application of work and relaxation, determination and a search for joy over depression, excellence in writing and thought, and generosity to others.
Many works about Churchill are lengthy, sometimes involving more than one volume. To achieve the telling of Churchill's story so briefly, and with such perspective on Churchill's mode for living sometimes make the book seem to be a morality essay. But in Churchill's life and Johnson's summary of it, I find guidance for my own life.
Upon seeing this photo and a story from The Telegraph of London, courtesy of a friend, I was moved to write the ugly mash below, with apologies to Robert Frost (Stopping By a Woods on a Snowy Evening) and William Shakespeare (King Richard II, 2:1).
It's not every day — indeed, this has been Britain's heaviest snowfall in 50 years — that one can see a satellite photo of Great Britain covered with snow from end to end.
Whose sceptered isle this is I think I know This royal throne of kings, though Does not see NASA's satellite stopping here To watch this other Eden filled up with snow The demi-Paradise must think it queer This fortress built by nature is where the snow did veer Including all the woods and frozen lake In the darkest evenings of the year
This little world must want to shake And ask if there is some mistake For this precious stone set in the silver sea The seat of Mars covered with downy flake
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England is covered dark and deep This happy breed of men has promises to keep To shovel a country full of snow before they sleep And shovels full of snow before they sleep
More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That's not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars. Here's my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative. Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books.