President Obama’s Words In Hiroshima Are Insightful, Meaningful

It is no wonder President Obama has increased approval ratings in national polls.  He is a solid leader, reflective, studious, and able to speak with authority.  Today his words from Hiroshima combined emotion, history, and common sense.  I have never before posted a full speech from anyone on this blog.  But the thoughts by President Obama from the place hell opened on earth are so well constructed I offer them in their entirety.

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind. On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism, graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.

Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.

How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.

Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.

Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

And yet that is not enough. For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale. We must change our mind-set about war itself. To prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. To see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. To define our nations not by our capacity to destroy but by what we build. And perhaps, above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.

For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha. The woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself. The man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.

That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

Barry Goldwater Vs. Donald Trump

I find more and more parents talking about why they do not want to have Donald Trump having an influence on our culture through the Oval Office.   They do not wish to have their kids in anyway find the antics of Trump appealing or repeated.

Which brings me to the article I read today from Verdict which showed how Barry Goldwater, a real conservative, was also more in line with modern-day sensibilities and owned some humility when he was the GOP nominee in 1964.

While always self-confident and self-assured, Goldwater was also self-effacing and candid to a fault. Take his interview with seasoned political reporter Stewart Alsop for The Saturday Evening Post (August 31, 1963) entitled “Can Goldwater Win in 64?” Here the senator was being very much himself, as he piloted the reporter around Arizona in his small two-engine airplane. A small sample of Goldwater’s statements from Alsop’s article provide a pretty good sense of the man and the nature of his outspokenness:

On the possibility that he might actually wake up to be president one day: “Frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”

On his own intelligence quotient: “You know, I haven’t got a really first-class brain.”

On his leaving college in freshman year to become a salesman in the family store: “Worse mistake I ever made. But then I guess a peddler doesn’t need a higher education.”

On the possibility that he might emulate Lyndon Johnson, and safeguard his Senate seat by running both for the Senate and the presidency in 1964: “No, I can’t do that after what I said about Lyndon in 1960 – they ran me out of the country. But if I hadn’t opened my big mouth so loud, I might do it.”

On how he achieves his vast literary output‑he’s produced three best-selling books and innumerable magazine articles, and he signs a thrice-a-week column that goes to about 175 papers: “Oh, hell, I’ve got ghosts all over the place. I pick up a lot of Fletcher Canal Knebel’s stuff too. I sent him an item about Bobby Kennedy’s pool, and he sent me two bucks. I sent it right back – I wrote him that if we began paying each other off, I’d owe him $2000 right off the bat.”

On a draft he had written for a humorous speech: “I took it back to the apartment and read it to my wife Peggy and a couple of her girlfriends. I thought they’d be rolling on the floor, but they never cracked a smile. So I said, what the hell’s the matter and Peggy said, look, this is a sophisticated audience, though not a lot of lame brains like you, they don’t spend their time looking at TV Westerns. You can’t give them that corn.”

A Child Might Lead The Way For Congress

This story speaks volumes about the state of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.   It also underscores that a child can lead the way.

Today house conservatives blocked passage of a relatively uncontroversial energy and water spending measure after Democrats attached an amendment that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The appropriations bill failed with many Republicans opposed because of the gay rights provision, which would have the effect of enacting into law a 2014 executive order by President Barack Obama.

A similar amendment caused disarray on the House floor last week when Democrats tried to attach it to a Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.

It is simply galling how out of touch elected Republicans are when it comes to how ordinary Americans think about these matters.

First, so little is being accomplished in congress due to extreme and misguided partisanship from the extreme conservatives that there is no way to justify holding up a needed bill.  Not to be able to get over unfounded bigotry over gay people in 2016 means that perhaps a more socially responsible person is needed to fill that congressional seat.

Last weekend a five-year-old girl sat on our lawn and out of the blue asked James and myself if we were married.   She then made it known in very precise language with hand gestures that a girl can marry a girl, a boy can marry a boy, and a girl can marry a boy.    She also let it be known that she likes weddings and needs a new dress that fits better for any more that she will attend.

Then she asked, without missing a beat, how hail was made.  (Being a weather junkie did I have the answer for her!)

But the fact a child could see the ease of thinking about gay couples being married while grown elected men and women fight over equal rights should make us all pause and wonder about the caliber of people who are sent to congress.

How Many Gay Men And Women Are In America?

(And no, one can not draw conclusions based on college dorm room activity.) There is, however, a most interesting story about ‘the count’ from Time.

As the LGBT population moves into its full and equal place in public life, many people are asking an old question with new urgency: just how many LGBT Americans are there? After centuries in the shadows, many experts believe that we need a full accounting of the nation’s LGBT population and how they live for legal, economic and health reasons. Now, for the first time, a group of experts from 21 federal agencies are working on a project to figure out how to do just that. The results could pave the way for first-ever surveys of America’s sexual orientations and gender identities and influence everything from local laws to military policy to health care.

Many people aren’t even aware that they have a gender identity. Others are but don’t happen to identify as male or female. And though the answers to these questions have public policy implications, many feel they are private matters—perhaps ones they’ve had a hard time admitting to themselves or their families and have no intention of telling the government. Privacy concerns and terminology quandaries are among the issues that the federal working group, led out of the Office of Management and Budget, are working hard to figure out, as politicians across the nation argue that these demographics, and their struggles, must be recognized and researched.

Hillary Clinton Has More Email Headaches Following State Department Report

Though I am a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton for president I am continually troubled by the lack of reasoning that went into the creation and use of a separate email server during her time as secretary of state.

The State Department inspector general has now concluded that Clinton did not comply with the agency’s policies on records.  The report with such a conclusion was released today to lawmakers.  Equally concerning to me is another revelation that Clinton and her top aides chose not to cooperate with the review.

I have been consistent with my concerns about how Clinton dealt with this matter and also am not pleased to know that the inquiry by the department did not have complete cooperation by herself or her aides.  The process of government deserved better.

While the report concludes that the agency suffers from “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” with records that “go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State,” it specifically dings Clinton for her exclusive use of private email and failure to promptly turn over the records.

“Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary,” the report states. “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”

This is just not the way Clinton wants to close the nominating process.   But then the way she handled her emails was not the way business should have been conducted in the secretary’s office.

There are more bumps and grinds for Clinton due to her own mistakes.

16 Years Of Togetherness

Walking our shared road….

Dining 2

Donald Trump’s Ugly Hatreds

From the column penned by Michael Gerson.

As a leader, Trump has succeeded by appealing to stereotypes and ugly hatreds that most American leaders have struggled to repress and contain, His political universe consists of deceptive experts, of scheming, of criminal Mexicans, of lying politicians and bureaucrats and of disloyal Muslims. Asked to repudiate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Trump hesitated, later claiming a ‘bad earpiece.’ Asked to repudiate the vicious anti-Semitism of some of his followers, Trump responded, ‘I don’t have a message to the fans’. This is not flirting with the fringes; it is French-kissing them. Every Republican official endorsing Trump should know: This is the company he keeps. This is the company you now keep.  


Kenneth Star Says President Bill Clinton “Genuinely Cared”

Here is a news story no one thought they would ever read.  From today’s New York Times.

An unlikely voice recently bemoaned the decline of civility in presidential politics, warned that “deep anger” was fueling an “almost radical populism” and sang the praises of former President Bill Clinton — particularly his “redemptive” years of philanthropic work since leaving the White House.

But Mr. Starr expressed regret last week that so much of Mr. Clinton’s legacy remains viewed through the lens of what Mr. Starr demurely termed “the unpleasantness.”

His remarks seemed almost to absolve Mr. Clinton, if not to exonerate him.

“There are certain tragic dimensions which we all lament,” Mr. Starr said in a panel discussion on the presidency at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

He called Mr. Clinton “the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation.”

“His genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear,” Mr. Starr said. “It is powerful, it is palpable and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him — that he genuinely cared. The ‘I feel your pain’ is absolutely genuine.”