Posts Tagged ‘History’

The Case for Optimism: Episode Four

April 27, 2017

THE UU PATH:  Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

Hallas Midgette

This final of four episodes on Hallas Midgette’s April 23, 2017 talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus sums up his case for the UU path being an optimistic way of navigating through life. In the first episode he used the allegory of an amazing sight he witnessed while driving through a Kansas countryside one night. A field was lit by millions, perhaps billions, of fireflies.  He likened UUs to the fireflies lighting the darkness. “In a world of many religions, UUs stand out as a light in the darkness. That light is optimism.”
Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.  
Quote by Howard Zinn
I think Howard Zinn, an American historian, playwright, and social activist sums up best what I’m trying to convey:

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

The Kansas fireflies that inspired me to make this presentation are a beautiful memory and a symbol of optimism for me.  I am trying to be one of those millions of fireflies that helps shine a light in the darkness.  I invite you to join me.

Please open your hymnals to number:  118                    That is number: 118

Song:  This little light of mine.

In a discussion that Hal and I had following his talk, he pointed out that in spite of all the bad news we get daily in the media, the world has actually evolved into a better place than it was. Since my memory isn’t all that wonderful now, I asked him if he would write a few paragraphs for us about our discussion. I asked him to answer this question:

How would your describe the overall social , political, and economic condition of the world now? 

Wow, that is a big question that I don’t even know how to answer.  The world is big and varied and so are the topics.  It varies throughout the world.  There are spots that are bubbling in a bad way, and then others that are seeing millions….no, perhaps hundreds of millions….moving into the middle class.  Examples are China and India.  Then on the extreme, there is Venezuela which is plunging into a black hole….economically, socially and politically.  There are five famines going on, with at least two of them being caused or seriously aggravated by governments, not drought conditions.  While it is not positive, it is not rare, especially in the number of deaths.  While the back ground music is terrible, over all, the music is getting louder and better.

In addition, I could mention that there are constantly good things happening…almost everyday.  But bad news sells better, possibly because of it being a survival mechanism.  Good things generally don’t kill you.  Just looking at recent news things are getting better.  Scientists have discovered that the mesopelagic zone in the ocean is filled with life, and while we might not find it appealing for our dinner plates, it is perfect for fish meal, fish oil and food for fish farms.  In another recent article, scientists have discovered that the waxworm, a plague to bee keepers, can eat plastic bags….the trash that never goes away.  How about March of this year when Elon Musk’s Space X launched a used booster rocket engine and re-landed it, and how much cheaper it has made going into space.  It has taken 75 years since the Germans launched a V-2 rocket in 1942 to get it done.  Then there is the constant inching forward of green energy through out the world.  I mean, look at India and how they have made one of the largest solar power facilities in the world.  According to some, solar power in India is now cheaper than coal generated electricity.  It goes on and on.

CALL Calls Again

September 15, 2016

Live and learn takes on special meaning when it comes to the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning in Columbus, Georgia.

Learning with a lot of friends is quality living. And that’s what happens with about 200 seniors who attend CALL classes, trips, Pinocle and board games, and socials at the Columbus State University’s Turner Center for Continuing Education.

Everyone, who pays registration fees,  is eligible to attend. Mostly retired folks join. There are lots of retired professionals, including educators, health care folks, a lawyer, a broadcast journalist (guess who), and others including a former Jeopardy champion and a Radio City Music Hall Rockette — really!

So, if you want to learn more about thngs like Inventions that Changed the  World, Understanding Great Art, Line Dancing, History’s Great Military Blunders, CSU Theater, and more go to the front desk at Turner Continuing Ed and sign up. $145 pays for annual membership for three quarters, or $65 for one. Believe me it’s a big time bargain.

Classes start September 26.

 

 

 

TED is a Good Friend to Have

January 18, 2015

When I go walking, quite often it’s with a good friend called TED.

TED tells me some really interesting things when I put in my two miles daily – well, most days – on a treadmill.

For instance, the other day David Christian, one of the many intelligent, engaging speakers on TED, told me the History of the World in 18 Minutes.

Now, that might seem something really impossible to do, but, amazingly, he does a pretty good job of it.

Check it out at   www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en and we’ll discuss it in our next post.

 

 

 

Happy 90th Birthday to my “Old Friend” from Plains

October 2, 2014

Carter - Plains 3  015

Yes, I can claim to be an “old friend” of President Jimmy Carter. That’s because he called me that when I met and shook hands with him at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains in July.  A group of my friends and I attended his famous Sunday school class.  That handshake was really special because visitors were asked not to try to shake hands with him.  Too many really firm  handshakes cause problems for someone who  has been around for nine decades.  I was going to follow instructions not to do it, but when he recognized me, his face lit up as he grabbed my hand, shook it, smiled his famous smile and said, “Oh, my old friend. How have you been?” I only chatted with him briefly because there was a line of people behind me waiting to have their pictures taken with him and Mrs. Carter.

It was truly an honor to hear those words “my old friend.”  President Carter – I could call him Jimmy and he wouldn’t mind, I’m sure – but, I don’t.  I like  calling him “President.”  Not only because he is one of the people in this world that I  respect and admire the most,  but because so many people were truly shocked when he was elected President of the United States. I wasn’t. I figured he was going to win from the time that he and Martin Luther King, Sr. joined and raised their hands to sing “We Shall Overcome” with the rest of the delegates at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City.

I was in New York attending a dinner CBS News had for affiliated stations’ news departments during the presidential nominating primaries. One of the CBS staffers raised the question of who might get the Democratic Party nomination.  After a list of names was suggested by those around our table, I said, “What about Jimmy Carter?” The New York fellows almost laughed at the thought. I was thinking how sweet it would be if he got the nomination.  How sweet it was. And how much sweeter it was when he won.

The first time I saw him at a 3rd  Congressional District Democratic Convention at the Rylander Theater in Americus in the 1960s, just based on his looks and charisma, I said to myself that man is going places in politics.  That’s when I started covering the man who would rise from chairman of the Sumter County School Board in 1961 to become the 39th President of the United States in 1977.  

Jimmy Carter is not only a brave man,  but, more importanly, he is a good man.

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

The Price of Ignoring the Lessons of History

June 2, 2014

As I read Doris Kerns Goodwin’s latest historical opus,  The Bully Pulpit,  I become more and more astounded by the parallels between the Gilded Age and now. It’s perhaps a prime example of how history repeats itself.

I just read how President Theodore Roosevelt was blamed by Wall Street for the “Roosevelt Panic of 1907.”  Th big money men said President Theodore Roosevelt’s “crusade against business” caused the crash, arguing that “his excessive regulation had paralyzed the economy.”  The actual cause of the crash was the same thing that caused the Great Recession of 2008.  A very large  investment bank in  New York had abandoned sound banking practices to gamble with customer’s deposits. That caused public confidence in financial institutions to fail, and “customers rushed to retrieve money.” The banks had to be bailed out by, “in the absence of a  central banking system,”  seventy-year old J.P. Morgan, who served as a “one-man Federal Reserve,” and the federal government.  Does that sound familiar?

That’s just one example of the parallels to now.  The book has quite a few more,  including a “do nothing” Congress that wouldn’t pass hardly any bills a progressive president wanted during the last two years of his presidency.

The full title of the book, by the way is, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  .

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Latest: “The Bully Pulpit”

November 18, 2013

Christmas is a great time for book lovers, especially lovers of non-fiction. The book store shelves are bristling with a lot of interesting new histories and biographies.

I just bought Doris Kearns Goodwin’s newest history,  The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism . It’s about how Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft worked together as Republican progressives, and the split after Taft followed Roosevelt as president.

It’s also about the way that Roosevelt made a special effort to cultivate newspaper and magazine reporters of the time in order to get them to get across his messages to the American public.  It’s also about how Taft didn’t do that and paid for it.

The parallels between the turn of the 20th Century and now are amazingly close, things like a wide and widening income gap between the rich and poor and a split within the Republican party.

I’ve just started reading it, and it’ll be a while before I finish because I am a slow reader of histories and biographies.  I read novels like Sycamore Row by John Grishom  fairly fast.  It, by the way, is a good read, in my view, though, not  up to some of his preceding novels.

 

 

My Memoir “The Newsman” is Now an eBook

October 28, 2013

newsman-cover-jpg1While many more people still read traditional print books, the number of eBook readers continues to grow, The latest figures I could find show that  about 23 percent of book sales are eBooks.

My memoir, “The Newsman,” which I highly recommend, is a now an Xlibris eBook. It’s available at Xlibris.com and the Kindle store at Amazon.com.  I read Kindle books on my iPad.

You can still order the printed version in either hardback or perfect bound softback at Xlibris.com.

Lincoln Was Not the First to Emancipate Slaves in America

October 14, 2013
Governor's Palace, Williamsburg

Governor’s Palace, Williamsburg, VA

The things you learn when you actually go to a place you’ve read and seen television show about!  Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia got some attention when I took Dr. John Lupold’s course at Columbus College in historic preservation.  The course was not extremely popular.  I was the only student in the class.  I don’t know why. It was really interesting and changed my views on rundown old buildings.  They have important stories to tell. Colonial Williamsburg really came to life when I visited there recently.

The Governor’s Palace was built in 1706 for the British Governors of the Colony of Virginia.  It is anything but rundown.  It is quite opulent.  It’s not the real thing, though,  but we’re told it is very much like the real thing before it burned.   Like most of the buildings in Colonial Virginia’s second capital city – Jamestown was the first –  it’s a replica,  We can thank philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife for all those replicas, including the second Capitol of Virginia.     

First Capitol of Virginia, Williamsburg

Second Capitol of Colonial Virginia, Williamsburg, VA

 John Murray, better known as Lord Dunmore, was the last British governor to preside in that building.  When the American colonists took over in the Revolutionary War, he, his wife, and three daughters went back to England.  Patrick Henry, of “Give me liberty or give me death” fame,  became the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first governor and not only presided in the Capitol,  but also moved into the Governor’s Palace.  Thomas Jefferson, the second govenor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, also lived there.   

Lord Dunmore, however, did some interesting things during the war, one of which was to issue a proclamation freeing slaves in the Colony of Virginia who would fight  on the British side.  Some 2,000 took him up on the offer.  However, as you know, the British didn’t win, and slavery remained in effect in  Virginia until President Abraham Lincoln freed them during the Civil War.

Actor portraying Maj. Gen. Lafayette, Williamsburg, VA

Actor portraying Maj. Gen. Lafayette, Williamsburg, VA

The employees and volunteers working at Colonial Williamsburg do a great job of giving visitors a feeling for what it was like to live in Colonial Williamsburg.  They wore the clothing and spoke the language of 18th Century America.  They also have finely developed senses of humor. Speaking in the present tense, the guide who took us on a tour of the Governor’s Palace had a great rapport with the tourists, especially the children.  When she explained that Lord Dunmore’s wife insisted that he sleep in the same bed with her because she wanted to know where the governor was at night, an eight-year-old boy who she had cultivated said, “That would do it,” everyone laughed. 

The day is climaxed with a parade by a fife and drum corps,  an appearance by “Maj. General Lafayette,” the French soldier who became an American hero in the Revolutionary War – the guide said when he returned to visit after war,  he was so admired that he never had to pay for his ale in a tavern – and the firing of an 18th Century cannon.  

Experiencing Jefferson

September 30, 2013
Monticello

Monticello

If “you gotta be there” ever applied, it would certainly be when we’re discussing Thomas Jefferson.  I’ve read and heard a lot about the 3rd President of the United States, but it wasn’t until I toured Monticello that I really grasped the genus of the man.  Taking pictures inside the house is a not allowed, which is why I have to tell you about, instead of showing you, his cutting edge technological achievements such as a copying machine on his desk.  It hooked up two pens so that he could have a copy of everything he wrote.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson's home, making it much larger than it looks.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson’s home, making it much larger than it looks.

Standing there in front of his neoclassical home, which he designed, I could almost feel his presence.  Our tour guide told us that he wanted the house to look smaller than it really is.  It appears to be a one-story structure, but it has three floors.  It also has concourse wings which house, among other things,  the kitchen, storage areas, a stable,

Original dormatory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school's founder Thomas Jefferson.  They are still being used.  Only oustanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

Original dormitory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. They are still being used. Only outstanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

As our guide told us, Jefferson was a great promoter of democracy and equal rights,  the founder of the University of Virgina, where he planned for educational opportunities to be available for not just the wealthy; however,  only free white males who owned property were accepted.  The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence who proclaimed liberty for all, owned up to 200 slaves, and freed only a handful during his life and none in his will.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virgina.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia

Someone asked me, “Did your guide mention Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings, the slave who historians now assert bore up to six of his children?”  Definitely.

Yes, he was human like the rest of us, but he was anything but ordinary. He was an original thinker,  an inventor, architect,  diplomat, the first Secretary of State, speaker of five languages, Governor of Virginia, Vice President and President of the United States.  All of this has even greater meaning when you visit Monticello.  I’m really glad I got to see it and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do.