By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
It all began when a handful of revolutionary students at the University of Andes closed the University, thereby trapping a delegation from the University of California; who were there on an overseas student program. The rebels closed the University of the Andes and the students who were already there from University of California didn’t get any academic credits for the year. Their parents were furious.
Pressure came to bear on the Chancellor of the University of California system, and he shut down the program in Bogotá. As a result I who was to go to Bogotá had to make a last minute switch to participate in the University of California’s program. I who was supposed to be going to Colombia went instead to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The year was1968 and that is where my story begins.
While I was at the University of St. Andrews I saw a vacancy notice for the representative to the Student Representative Council (SRC). The vacancy that was open was for Faculty of Arts which was fully three quarters of the University.
I had been in Scotland for just 3 weeks but nothing daunted. I decided that I would run for the seat that had my name written all over it. Nothing was going to stop me from coming to a strange country and in the flickering of an eye lash, run for office. It was audacious. It was bold. It was thrilling. And as I pointed it out to my dear friends who were part of the University of California delegation; if I lost; no big deal, no one would know who I was anyway, but if I won… I would be at the cover of Time magazine.
Well, as things worked out. I was elected, to the astonishment of absolutely everyone at the University. However they didn’t like having an American on the SRC, much less as a representative of the largest block at the University. But because they had to do something, they appointed me Chairman of the Rectoral Committee. Rectors are a unique United Kingdom phenomenon. They are the elected representative of students on the board of trustees.
They traditionally come to the University. Spend a few days and don’t intervene too much. I was fortunate enough to meet Sir Learie Constantine (1901-1971) who was at that time the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago. Sir Learie had been a famous cricketer in his youth and was now nearly at the end of his career which was capped by his selection as the first black peer of the realm.
As Chairman of the Rectoral Committee. I worked very closely with the new rector, Sir Learie Constantine and came to know him very well along with his charming wife, Lady Constantine.
The Rectoral celebrations at St. Andrews went off without a hitch giving us national publicity for the first time ever and so to speak put St. Andrews on the map. I spent many hours with Sir Learie planning things. Getting everything in order; arranging the speeches and so forth. It was in short a triumph.
Thereafter I looked around the University for other Triumph. And in my search I learned about the Royal Enclosure at the Ascot Races.
Now, I admit I am not a horseman. The quadruped doesn’t interest me very much. That degree of interest is reserved for my sister, Shelby Allison who is a horse collector and breeder. She would have been a better candidate for the Royal Enclosure. But I had my eyes open on what would increase my network of useful contact and experiences.
I wrote to Sir Learie and asked him if he could get me four sets of tickets. One for me and one each for my three friends from the University of California. Could he get me four tickets for the Royal Enclosure. He didn’t know the procedures but he willingly picked up the phone and called the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England to get us 4 sets of tickets.
His Grace was rather taken aback as he pointed out to Sir Learie, that foreigner like us, had to go to their respective embassies to apply for tickets. That was the correct way. But what do you do when a charming man like Sir Learie ask you for a favor for his buddies? The tickets were immediately forthcoming.
This created a furor amongst my friends, because of what we would wear? The wearing of the proper clothes is absolutely essential for Ascot. You better be impeccably dressed or else you will be tossed out of the Royal Enclosures.
So, we looked around and when the tickets came; they came with instructions. There were three men in the delegation (Mark, Morris, William Powers, Ingoldsby and me) and one lady, Lucy Shepard.
Now, in those days there was a company called Moss Brothers ( universally known as “MossBros”). It is here that the gentlemen were outfitted for the Royal Enclosure.
I can well remember when I came to MossBros in London. I had absolutely no experience wearing top hat and tails. Not to worry. There is no one in the world fussier about decorum than a gentleman’s gentlemen at the establishment. He knew and he dictated. Your job was to stand quietly while the necessary decisions were rendered.
In short order we were out fitted with our royal kit. And we looked absolutely fabulous. Indeed, when I looked in the mirror the day I returned from my final fitting it was “mirror mirror on the wall, need you ask who is the fairest of them all? You are man .You are dude.” And I was.
So prepared for our trip to Royal Ascot. But where would paragons like us stay? We had no money. However, these were the days when it was still possible, according to the famous book by Arthur Frommer, to see “Europe on $5 a day”.
To do so you had to stay in places which were not at all fashionable in anyway. We chose to stay within our meager budget, by checking in the youth hostel nearest to the racecourse which was in Berkshire, England.
Such places were officially called youth hostels, but we in our grandeur called them “hovels”, and no wonder.
Here is the invariable routine of such a place. Up with the larks, to share some humble but nutritious gruel. To cheerfully do the chore you were assigned upon arrival (making beds, sweeping the floor, cleaning latrines) and exit singing “I love to go a wandering”.
As you may imagine we didn’t fit in to the designated routine. Nonetheless we did everything required. Cleaning and dusting in our Cinderella finery in which we would soon present ourselves to Her Majesty.
Work completed, we sauntered across the street to pick up a regular red two tier bus. We garnered every eye in the county. Everyone looked at us from the time when we dressed in the youth hovel to the time we got on the bus to the time we got to Ascot. We were the cynosure of every eye and quite right too. I felt like either a celebrity or a refugee from the winter palace. In those days before the renovation of the Ascot course and buildings, we were exceptionally close to the sovereign. We were, in short, her guests.
Her Majesty arrived with her family and guests in a landau. Highly polished and in the perfect condition, the British are so well known for. It made a lovely sight. Everything in place, it was a thrill for sloppy Americans who moments before were sweeping the floors and cleaning the toilets. Once we settled down, we had ample opportunity to see Her Majesty and I dare say she took advantage of her opportunity to see us. It was no doubt part of the reason why this year she found Ascot so successful.
We became quite comfy and we did this for four days. For four days we watch the queen drive up in different outfits with trademark diamond brooch, always looking regal. Everything Comme il faux.
Ascot is a place for queen to have fun, and she does. She puts some flowers in her bonnet to get into the spirit of the hats competition. She appeared at all times affable. I believe the year I went (June 1968), the queen mother was with her. She was the most affable and jolly old soul imaginable. The whole environment was light and gay.
The queen loves her ponies and no doubt places an occasional flutter at the betting window as we did, losing some of California’s money and subsidizing the profits for the racecourse. We were happy to do so.
For the four days we did this we became quite a sight in the neighborhood, after all every day we left the Royal Enclosure we returned to our youth hovel to our so-called regular life. This had no glamor in it whatsoever.
Liquor, Lunch, and Looking.
Ascot started in 1711 by Queen Ann and has always been about looking. It did start as racing and racing continues to be the official reason for having this outing. The truth of the matter for most people is the chance to be seen and to have their hats on the telly. In this competition gentlemen lose out immediately. Our role is simply to look smart and I have to add, I was delighted to preen, looking like no boy from Illinois has ever looked. In other words terrific.
Things are different for the ladies. Sadly, we no longer have milliners. Ladies have to rely on the help of their own imagination or their friends or someone in the village who creates hats. As a result most of the hats created are grotesque, garish, and something no real lady would ever wish to be seen in.
That’s where Cecil Beaton and Audrey Hepburn come in. Cecil Beaton was a marvelous artist. He designed the Ascot scene for “My fair Lady “(1964) and he did it with exquisite precision laying down a standard that no group of people has ever beaten.
What I want to do now, is show you some of the things which are at display at Ascot this year. As usual some of them were extremely regrettable sort of like a paper plate turned on upside-down on their head with a bunch of cherries or butterflies. All their on ladies heads making ladies look ridiculous. But it is all in a good cause. The queen herself often wears flowers and greenery in her hats as she is driven up in the Royal Enclosure and mingles with hoy ploy like me. Now I say to you,"Everyone who should be here is here. Every duke, and earl and peer is here." It is Ascot Opening Day.
P.S. The costume that took the cake this year (2017) was owned by rather rotund gentleman; who popped out of the crowd in a suit no one from MossBros could duplicate. He promptly became involved in some fisticuffs. There were people who didn’t like his taste so expansively on display. A moment later both ladies and gentlemen were involved in a melee. Oh, how the mighty have indeed fallen.
And click here for Lerner and Loewe’s Ascot Gavotte.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Walk down the corridor at any dormitory at any university campus in the land. One of the things you are sure to see more often than not, are sign that says “Men working” or “No Parking” or “Deer crossing” and many others. These directions are found on signs carefully “liberated” by students out on treasure hunts. The signs are considered wampum, and most college students at some point or other have lifted one or more to decorate their dormitory room. The more rare the direction the more prized they sign.
Now, technically the students know this is theft. Technically, the universities know it too. But no one makes a big deal out of it. It is just something kids do during their college years. Steal things and then post them in their dormitory rooms. It is like wearing eagle feathers in their war bonnets.
Otto Warmbier came out of this tradition, and so when he went to North Korea as part of a special trip for Westerners, he probably didn’t think a great deal about lifting a sign that was in the corridor of the hotel where he was staying. The sign said “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il’s patriotism!” He certainly never thought it would be much of an issue. After all, why do people go to North Korea in the first place? Because it is dangerous. Because they want to come back to his home in Ohio. They want to come back to their homes with tales a plenty, tales for life.
Close to the case
I feel very close to the Warmbier case. In 1968, I was 20 year old and en route to Poland, which was then under the control of the Communist regime of Wladyslaw Gomulka. Gomulka was a very nasty character and Poland was in deep distress at that time. The Communist Party still ruled, and any action against the regime could result in torture or even death.
I was living in London at the time; Like Otto, I wanted to see the world. So a friend and I signed up for a trip offered by the Young Pioneers of Poland. You may not know what a Pioneer is but in those days Pioneers were the young Communists. These were the equivalent of the Communist Boy Scouts. Only the behavior wasn’t very Scout like.
We paid a 150 Pounds to go from London to Zakopane in the south of Poland. The trip was strikingly successfully even although it was billed as a ski-trip. Uncoordinated as I am I didn’t see much time on the ski-slopes except looking up from the ground, head in a drift. However, at the end of the trip which was in January my friend and I decided that we wanted to go to Warsaw to take a good look around the capital. This was not included in the tour price. Nothing daunted we simply got on one of the state railways and rode illegally (First Class no less) from Zakopane to Warsaw. No one stopped us. This was quite an extensive trip involving as it did, traversing the entire country of Poland.
Well, we bluffed our way through to get to Warsaw. Ticket collectors would come to us. We’d pretend we didn’t understand them- which we didn’t because we didn’t speak a word of Polish. The point was that we did this deed of daring-do without having a penny for it or even considering it might be dangerous. We thought it was the greatest hoot of our lives. The danger only added to the spice. I tell you this because American college students then and now haven’t changed that much. They want to one-up their friends when they are travelling. To go to the Eiffel Tower is nothing but to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in a balloon is everything.
Now, I cannot get into the head of the deceased student Otto Warmbier. But I can tell you this, I can picture the scene in Pyongyang that evening when he arrived. He travelled with 10 members on this trip organized by the North Korean Pioneers.
Otto saw in the corridor a sign and I know that he immediately thought hmm, I want this to go on my bedroom in Ohio. It would have made indeed a wonderful addition. Needless to say North Koreans didn’t see it this way. What Otto did was this; he got to the hotel. He saw this sign with its provocative pro-regime message; a message one of-course never sees in Ohio outside of history books and documentaries. He then decided to take it down and keep it. Well, he got it off the wall; then discovered that he couldn’t fold it or easily carry it away. So he took it down to the staff floor in the hotel and left it.
This was all captured in film, because of course being a Communist regime there was tight control run by control freaks. The people who were watching the television screen saw what he did and immediately called in the authorities who promptly arrested him at the airport as he was ready to leave.
The tour guide, Danny Gratton, reported later that Otto didn’t resist and went away with the authorities with a half-smile on his lips, no visible fear, possibly even thinking what a great story it would be when he was back in Ohio telling this tale. And so it might have been had not the North Koreans lost their sense of proportion, something always in short supply.
At no time in the proceedings was Otto Warmbier guilty of anything other than bad judgment. He didn’t curse. He didn’t scream. He didn’t cry. He didn’t try to escape. He didn’t make a fuss. He simply cooperated after all he was bringing to the situation an American outlook. He was behaving in a polite Ohion way because he was sure that he would be out within hours possibly a day or two if the things went longer than expected. And then something went terribly wrong.
Many people know what this is. I am not one of them. You are not going to be one of them either because the people who know are not telling. But I can guess, Otto went uncomplainingly along with the guards and was locked up in a cell. At this point no charges had been brought against him and his mood would have been relatively light. However this all changed quickly.
In the event, he went before a judge, and this is where the bombshell occurred. The judge sentenced him in January 2016 to 15 years of hard labor for the “hostile act”, trying to steal a propaganda poster off the wall at his hotel.
Now think for a moment. Here is a Ohio boy, dressed in Ohio clothes, with a Ohio mentality; no doubt very polite as Ohio boys tend to be. In his eyes he had done nothing wrong, and he was no doubt flabbergasted by the position in which he now found himself.
Why did the regime decide to hit Otto Warmbier with a haymaker, especially at a time when it seemed both the US and North Korea were inching towards a thaw, no matter how slight? No one who is in a position to talk is talking and every day that goes by everyone wants this Otto matter to be silenced.
To err is human
Why? Because one mistake beget another. His captors in a short snippet of film show Otto’s North Korean guards dragging him across the court like a bag of potatoes. Otto looks like a complete and total vegetable, head down no evidence he knows where he is or what is happening. Clearly he did not expect this. No one expected it. But the judge delivered this brutal sentence which probably followed roughing up or worse. I suspect that is what happened. Was he manhandled by some prison guards? Who of course do not have Ohio manners and do not approach their task in a polite and courtly fashion.
They had this hot potato named Otto. He was there; they didn’t know what to do with him. So they probably victimized even tortured him. One thing led to another and all of a sudden there was brain damage, massive brain damage. I imagine this occurred fairly early before any outside authority could be called into the case.
The judge said 15 years. Who told him to say that? How much leeway did he have? Was he being briefed by someone? The regime had a nasty problem on its hands now. They had gone beyond any reasonable kind of punishment. If any punishment in this case; what would have been reasonable?
They had abused Otto. After all he was the prime witness. To cover up what they had done they needed to kill him. A dead Otto was preferable from Pyongyang’s point of view, because a live Otto would have told exactly what had happened, and they didn’t want to have that. So, they covered it up. They kept the brain dead body with all the brutal evidence on his body for what they had done to him. They needed time to prepare the body so there would be no evidence.
It would have been best from the North Koreans standpoint if he had died “naturally” and quickly but they could hold out for a while. Then some bright light in the North Korean government decided that they want the body out and wanted him to die outside North Korea. Anywhere but Pyongyang.
And so the case of Otto Warmbier continued to galvanize people’s attention in the government. What to do with Otto became the persistent question. And what was done with him of course was hours literally couple of days before he died. The body which was now not so much piece of evidence as something appalling which had to be removed from North Korea, everybody had to stay quiet. Nobody wanted to rock the boat.
The real problem of this case was first of all who ordered the beating of Otto? Because I am sure at the very beginning he was beaten in a prescribed North Korean fashion. Who ordered that?
Who ordered the judge to give the 15 year sentence? Because I imagine that sentence was not given by the judge spontaneously but was the result of the government intervention. What benefit would there have been?
Meanwhile Ottos’s body continued to be a silent witness. He was still technically alive but in no position to testify and as soon as the North Korean government decided that there were no telltale wounds on the body and that it was too late for an autopsy. No scabbing of past injuries. As soon as they were certain that the body offered no grounds for accusation against the regime, they got rid of the body.
Now, we have a problem in Washington. The United States government has been trying to build bridges with North Korea. President Trump even offered to go to North Korea to advance things. Now, Otto’s lifeless body was a menace to that. Something had to be done. Poor old Otto; the boy who started the whole thing off, simply by stealing a sign in a prescribed Ohio fraternity boy fashion. His body lay silent. An accusation to everyone involved in the case.
Why had the United States government moved so slowly? Why didn’t they know more about his medical condition? Why didn’t they insist on medical intervention earlier in the case and on and on… The questions are blurring.
It comes to a point where yesterdays’ front page news which is what the Otto story was becomes today’s eighth page news which is where today’s Otto story is today.
June 22nd 2017, today is his funeral where everyone involved just simply wants closure. No more questions. No more accusations. No more evidence. No more speculation. Simply silence. They want the case of Otto Warmbier to be truly buried.
I am here to offer a candle in Otto’s memory. The pictures of him show exactly what he should have been in age 22; bright, clever, a charmer, a bit of wicked wit and high jinx about the boy. The boy who will now never know the joy of marriage, the joy of children, the joy of getting old and cracking jokes on the veranda. All these were denied to him because he became involved in what is probably a human error compounded by other humans trying to cover up. It is a sad story and it is a story that happens every day around the world, the most often of all in North Korea a brutal, stupid, thoughtless, menacing regime.
It involves government officials coming together. They want closure. They want this case to be over and move on and forget Otto. Let’s not do that this time. Let’s remember him as the attractive young man that he was; who made what by any standard anywhere else besides North Korea, that labyrinth of menace was a small mistake that cost him his life. And I say this as we put this matter to rest and continue our talks with North Korea. Let’s never forget this young man. Let’s never forget what North Korea did to him and is capable of.
Let’s also never forget that human error above all is the greatest error that could be imagined and it was human error and stupidity as much as anything else which caused this boy to die. There are now 3 additional Americans in North Korean prisons and one Canadian. Let us not forget the Canadian. I urge President Trump to get on the phone and call Pyongyang and say it would be a kind gesture to let those people go and stay on the case. Otto is dead but there are four lives which could still be saved with prompt intervention. We want the North Koreans to know that what they did was unacceptable. If they wish to be part of the community of nations they must learn our ways. We know their ways; they are the ways of brutality, terror, and random pain. We don’t need to learn theirs, they need to learn ours.
'Look away Dixie Land!' The day that determined the outcome of the U.S. Civil War. The Battle of Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862. And you are there....
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author's program note. The American Civil War began April 12, 1861 with the firing of the rebel forces on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. It officially ended on April 9, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House. In between, 212,938 people from both sides were killed in action, with total casualties exceeding 625,000 in what was the most bloody war ever fought on this planet... and the most embittered, as is always the case when brothers fight each other to the death, enraged, grieving, broken hearted but determined to have victory, whatever the cost...
This war was filled with incident, great deeds of valor, deeds, too, of squalor, treachery, unmitigated cruelty... and chivalry... but of all the deeds in this great struggle, the deeds of just a handful of men determined the outcome. These were the men who fought each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads, Virginia March 8-9, 1862. And I am taking you there today... for you will want to know who won, who lost, and why it happened the way it did.
For the incidental music to this article, I have selected Daniel Decatur Emmett's famous tune, "Dixie," also known as "I Wish I Was in Dixie," a song originating in the black face minstrelsy of the 1850s. It is a tune that makes even the least likely ready to jump up and whirl. I have selected it today because, as Abraham Lincoln himself said on April 10, 1865, it's "one of the best tunes I ever heard" ... but also because of its famous line, "Look away, Dixie Land." After the Battle of Hampton Roads, Virginia and all the other Confederate states had nothing to look forward to... and everything to look away from.
But it didn't look that way on March 8, 1862... quite the contrary.
News of the most alarming portent arrives in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 9, 1862.
Gideon Wells, a New England journalist, found himself urgently summoned to the White House. Come! Come at once! And this Connecticut Yankee, in his unlikely role as Secretary of the Navy, scurried to a meeting where he found Mr. Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, in the greatest possible dismay... and so alarmed himself that he was alarming, too, the President of the Dis-united States of America.
It was a scene to brighten every heart in Dixie... and cause shrewd financiers to sell U.S. Treasury bonds short before Wall Street opened Monday, to chaos and defeatism.
Mr. Stanton could not keep still, could not hide his profound anxiety and fear. He sat down, only to jump up again and rush to the windows... What was he looking for? A savior for the Union cause... What did he expect to see? The CSS Virginia in all her glory steaming up the Potomac, sinking the Federal cause with effortless grace. It was a scene of destiny, and every man on both sides of the struggle knew that history of the gravest magnitude was happening now! To them! At Hampton Roads! And so depending on their point of view and allegiance they either gave way to unbridled joy... or profound despair and lamentation. No one was neutral on this urgent matter.
USS Merrimac into CSS Virginia.
The largest naval installation of the Great Republic was at Norfolk in Virginia... and so after the Old Dominion seceded (April 24, 1861) it became a matter of the greatest urgency to both sides to arrange matters there to their greatest advantage. This to the Federal forces meant moving as much as could be moved, destroying the rest. And, to the rebels, to do just the reverse.
Thus was the USS Merrimac, unable to be removed in time and against the rebel sentiments of her crew, burnt and sunk... but not effectively. Her new owners quickly discovered both hull and engines were serviceable... and so began her transformation into the CSS Virginia, the vessel which made Secretary Stanton quail with acute fear and humiliating anxiety.
Because CSS Virginia, for all that she had just weeks ago been scuttled, was transformed into the mightiest ship of all the navies of all the seas... a ship sheathed in iron, designed to deal death to the picturesque, now ineffectual sailing ships of every navy, but without suffering a single nick at all. Thus did the dead Merrimac come to be the super weapon the Confederacy needed to pulverize the Union and secure their freedom from the meddling, inept Yankees they despised.
Confederate triumph March 8, 1862.
The world changed this day... as the Virginia, with the merest motion, rammed the hapless USS Cumberland, 121 seamen going down with her... then the USS Congress was put out of action, surrendering... and everyone, from the merest cabin boy, saw the future... and knew that every gallant wooden vessel, yesterday puissant, was now dross. And so, as cat to mouse, Virginia moved to her next sure triumph, USS Minnesota... while every telegrapher sent on the news, the news that so discomfited Secretary Stanton... and every other brave Union heart. Armageddon was here... and it flew a Confederate flag.
In August, 1861 Gideon Wells authorized work on a top-secret Union ironclad... and in due course the USS Monitor was born, the most radical naval design ever; the invention of Swedish engineer and inventor John Ericsson. And it was this curious, much mocked vessel that steamed into Hampton Roads March 9, just in time, to reverse what but yesterday had seemed certain, Southern command of the seas and therefore victory.
And as Monitor and Virginia battled each other to a draw, each unable to finish its deft opponent, the entire strategic scene changed. All wooden ships, every single one, was now obsolete; thus a new arms race started for command of the seas. USS Monitor had, simply by maneuvering to a draw, stopped the South's "certain" advance and commenced a war of bloody attrition, a war the North could win, and the South had most reason to fear. For without access to the world, the South could only rely on itself... and that would never be enough to ensure independence as every Southern family would, in tragic due course, come to understand only too well.
As for both the historic ships of this engagement, neither sailed for long. Virginia was burnt again and sunk when Union forces took back the Norfolk port facilities in May. As for the plucky Monitor, she sank December 31, 1862 off North Carolina. The remains of one of her stricken crew, 24-year-old James Fenwick, were just recently brought to the surface for honorable burial. He had been married just a few weeks before Monitor embarked on her final voyage; her history short but
"Old times they are not forgotten; Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land."
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
With over 70 colleges and universities in and around Boston, information on commencements is frequent and suggestive. Speculation begins months before the actual commencement season about who will be the most invited celebrity in the honorary degree competition. Then the coverage transfers to what these new honorary degree recipients are saying and what it tells us about the state of the Great Republic and its peoples.
Sadly, no one has recommended my name for consideration; worse, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. No worries.
I am going to tell you without benefit of invitation my remarks; the remarks I would have given. I am going to give my own Commencement Speech which I modestly tell you is a gem. No doubt about it. Now without further ado, here’s the great speech.
Colleagues of the class of 2017, are you beginning to see you’ve been lied to, deceived and mislead all these years, for the great majority of you will never achieve success, the kind of success you have dreamed of all your life; which you were sure your sheepskin delivered. Instead you will have to brag about today for the rest of your life, for it is the final day you will ever have for living the pampered, coddled, exquisite self deceptive student life you have grown far too comfortable with and which ends today.
Yes starting today, the overwhelming majority of you graduates will not have three nutritious meals placed in front of you with never a dish to wash; all that you need to do is open your mouth and chew. You will not have laundry services that present you with clean linens without you doing any more than sleep on them. You will not have instant friends right on the very floor of your dormitory, no less, just like a sitcom; to cheer you, make you laugh, help you out, and make you think that life is a lark, tra la.
You will discover, perhaps you already have, there will be no one to recommend books and ensure you read them. Worse, as you leave this institution today you already have read most of the books you will ever read in your life. This shocking fact noted historian Arthur Schlesinger (1917-2007) told me many years ago.
Your days of reasonably uncomplicated sexuality will now come to an end unless you live in a commune, or have special expertise in juggling more than one partner at a time. You will be forced to make a decision involving spouses and offspring. Thus the uncomplicated delights of promiscuity end here.
You will no longer be able to face the world In T-Shirt and jeans. You must now dress for others, not for yourself. From here on out you will have to bathe regularly, brush your teeth occasionally, comb your hair, and above all not smell from lack of soap which need not be festooned with some designer’s expensive moniker. Coming as you are is no longer an option. Reading these lines, you are perhaps now aware of the Shangri-La which you will be forced out of in just hours; to pass on to your eager successors, who are eagerly awaiting to repeat your mistakes.
Hey man, you will need to be on time for all appointments for there is no surer way of insulting people than coming late and shrugging it off as if it doesn’t matter. I remember the day this was driven home to me for life. It was at Harvard, in Professor Walter Jackson Bates’ (1918-1999) famous class on 18th Century English literature. Right from the start he made it clear that if you could not trouble to be on time, don’t bother to attend.
Of course the students didn’t believe him. After all they were the most important people in the equation. They could do what they wanted including being on time or not, whatever their lordlings deemed suitable.
Bates however was a man of his word. Thus when he saw a young pup creeping tardily into his class, he acted at once hitting the offender with a copy of his masterful volume on John Keats for which he had won one of his two Pulitzer Prices. Because of his precise and graceful aim he nicked the ear of the offender, as Professor Bates boomed out “Don’t bother to come if you are late. Now get out”.
In your future incarnation as a responsible person, people will expect you to do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. This may well be something no one has properly stressed until now.
Your future will be composed of things you must do completely, and thoroughly and, professionally. You can’t blow them off or ignore them. For example, take your job as a citizen. Most of you have political opinions which are nothing more than slogans derived from a cheap poster. You will become comfortable with mouthing platitudes. Complicated issues, you discover, are far too complicated. Complicated issues after all are just that, complicated. Why bother, then; why study them when all you need is a slogan, a victim who can bring people together, and text messages, which showcase human language in extremis.
You may understand that the nation is a civic entity, where at any given time there is a smorgasbord of essential and compelling issues. You must choose one, it doesn’t much matter which. What matters instead is that you choose a topic larger than you are, in which to invest your time, money, energy, and enthusiasm. You must learn therefore the critical aspects of insuring the Great Republic continues to flourish, and in better shape than now.
One of the most disheartening thing about talking to people who call themselves Millennial is just how trusting they are. If someone posts something on the internet for example, so long as it’s “cool”, they will believe it no matter how unbelievable. Millennials do not want truth. They want lazy habits, sage results in seconds, “Minute Rice” ideas; a society that gives them everything, asking them for nothing.
Thus so long as they are rich enough, they can instantly have what it took their parents a lifetime to get. Everything can arrive at your doorstep, information (never mind if it is accurate or not), food, tickets, a date, a sexual liaison. In short there is a commitment to absolutely nothing and a “no worries” philosophy.
You came to college to learn how to make up your mind, but now it’s constantly updated with more information than you can deal with. You take the easy course and stop investigating in making up your own mind. A recent study showed that people with newspaper subscriptions spent no more than 6 minutes per day reading, claiming they have no time. You know you should read some more, but it never seems enough time. You are left embracing ignorance as your cause.
Many of you will never have an opinion of merit on anything of importance because you will not do the necessary work. Your college doesn’t care. They are worried about continuing the flow of money so they can offer this pap to generations of students yet to come. And all the while the clock is ticking as your college recommends you send in a check or even better set up an estate plan so that Alma Mater gets ever greater amounts of cash. Given this worsening problem, it is necessary to see what you can do to improve matters. Thus here in all humility are the things you can do right now to make sure that you do not become a repository of nothing more than sloth and superficiality.
One, choose the topic you wish to master. Do you want to save polar bears? Then work exclusively to save polar bears. Do not attempt to do it on your own. Tap into the resources that exist and make it a point to know where the resources are and where you best fit in. Do not try to specialize in 5, 10, or 20 different causes. The only way substantial change can occur is by choosing one.
You may think that it is craven or just plain lazy to limit your commitments. The great mistake that budding revolutionaries make is that they use their inability to change everything into an excuse for changing nothing. It is far more important for you graduates to put all your strengths together and seek to make a change in one important area or another. But that takes vision and… work, and you have no time for either.
By now you may be writhing. Just concentrating on one activity may not sound very thrilling to you, but that is because you like to feel important. If you have made a true commitment that comes from the heart and mind you will be willing to give up some or all of the credit in support of others who have made their own selection.
Here, however, where Millennials falter again, you are told (and you believe) that you can be the one who changes the world. But today’s world is far too complicated and doesn’t allow you the luxury of working alone. Instead you must do everything that fosters cooperative effort and forces you to explore ways of increasing the community effort while making it clear that you support the best ways to help in the achievement of the objective.
Two, be honest with yourself. If you have a particular cause, ask yourself if you will be willing to endorse and work for it for years to come. We are at a point in human affairs where great changes can only be effected by great focus and effective organization. Just because you say you want to achieve desirable results doesn’t mean anything.
Three, do your homework. Professor Schlesinger was right. Most college graduates read almost nothing that could achieve for the growth and improvement of the project at hand.
This may all sound depressing to some of you, but let’s simply call it a reality check. At the rate we are “progressively” changing the planet now, Earth as we understand it will soon be a thing of the past. Use yourself as an example. What causes are you supporting? Are you providing them with some meaningful support? What do you do on a regular basis to support this project? Are you engaged in efforts for bringing the cause forward? Are you more than a Sunday soldier or sunshine patriot?
Many years ago there was a famous American comic strip named “Pogo”. It was drawn by Walt Kelly (1913-1973). In the strip the characters blamed everyone for all their problems. The punch line however was stunning. “We have met the enemy and he is us”.
In a few words this master of insight had nailed the problem. We say we want to help. We say the world is a terrible place, a place that yet could be improved by our ministrations. We woke up in the morning determined to be a part of the solution not part of the problem. But here is the worst thing of all: we say we mean what we say, but we do not do what we say. “Do as I say,” my father said “Not as I do”.
You are leaving this great institution today with almost nothing. This lack of preparation highlights the worst thing you will take into the real world. That is arrogance. Arrogance however is one thing you are not entitled to. You have not earned it. Yet here is the real irony. By the time you have earned the right to be arrogant, you will understand that arrogance harms everything you do to help the world. Humility is a far better master.
Leave here today thankful for all the assistance you have garnered, humble before the new world which today you enter. If you do this you will have the best of what is available to you and what will assure you a life of honor, integrity, respect, and most of all, love. These are the things that matter, make them yours for they are the only things worth having and worth living for.
donald trump insults germany. chancellor angela markel holds her nose and says US is no longer a reliable partner.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Donald Trump's offensive remarks to G-7 partners May 25th 2017 cause Chancellor Merkel to question the benefit of traditional alliances like NATO.
It's time for the major European nations to take their affairs "in our own hands", says Merkel. In other words the genie we worked so hard to contain is out of the bottle. Trump strikes again.
Here are the facts:
So, Donald Trump has returned from Europe. He will be remembered for his bumptious antics and rudeness, traits which are epitomized by the fact that he shoved Milo Dukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, to get to his place in the sun, that he knows is always his. Where is Montenegro anyway?
If there is an insulting, foolish, crude thing to be done, Donald Trump will do it… and not even know it. For here is a man so self-centered and arrogant that anyone else’s point of view is completely beside the point. As King Louis XV didn’t say “Apres moi le deluge”. Or in the immortal words of Alfred E Newman of “Mad Magazine”, “What me worry?”.
However, he should be worried. He has got one scandal after another already on his plate. Moreover there isn’t a politician in the Capitol or in Europe’s capitals who thinks that number will decrease. At which I say, “Thank God for Angela Merkel“ (born 1954). Throughout the events of her watch she has been underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated. No more so than now.
Mrs. Merkel understands that to be a German leader is always to have a special responsibility to the German people and the world, for after all, it was Germany, always Germany that caused the great world wars taking the lives of untold millions to prove in the end that “Deutschland über alles” was a cruel joke and that Deutschland needed a firm hand to keep her wayward demons under control.
From April 15th 1945 when Admiral Karl Doenitz surrendered the “Thousand year Nazi regime”, the United States and Europe worked together to make sure there would be no World War III. To this end the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 and may be said to be the most important reason why Europe has not exploded in yet another of its endless destructive wars.
To make this situation work, the very name of Prussia (from which Germany evolved in 1870) was erased from the maps of the world. The map makers were hoping out of sight, out of mind. Thus the policy makers in Washington, London, and Paris worked hand in hand with the progressive German leaders of post Nazi Germany to keep the peace. They did it and succeeded right up to this very minute, one of the most significant achievements in the history of mankind.
Then onto the stage bumbles Donald John Trump, enjoying his midsummer night’s dream about places, people, and things he knows nothing about and never will. However this does not trouble him. No Indeed. His motto is” Lord what fools these mortals be”. For everywhere he goes he knows whatever he does, whatever he does, is right for by definition for after all a Trump can do no wrong. “Lord what fools these mortals be”.
Then something in Angela snapped, for she knows that she will have to pick up so many of the pieces of Trump’s fatuous regime. She will do it uncomplainingly (at least in public) because there is no one else to do it. The Trumps of this world are expert in one thing and one thing only, “Me!”. You are there for their gratification and for no other reason.
Such a person at such a time in the history of Europe could well cause major damage, criticizing as he does and seemingly without restraint. Every person and administration, that has had unfortunate duty to see must put the best gloss on the subject on what to do about the Donald and his almost laughably superficial ideas. Angela has taken the long view, she now running for her 4th term as Chancellor of Germany understands the truth of an old saying my father used to use so many times, “This too shall pass”.
Trump needs Europe, Europe doesn’t need Trump.
This is the problem. Because Angela Merkel is a statesman, she will get what she can get and make no fuss but people with the longer view even admiring Mrs. Merkel as they do are worried that Donald Trump has opened a fissure in the Grand Alliance. Given the malignant history of Germany from 1870 when the German empire was formed out of various German states, the Germans have been a rambunctious and dangerous element within Europe, anything that control and contains Germany is there for good, anything that allow Germany to set up an independent course makes all of Europe anxious.
Donald Trump’s behavior therefore is inexplicable, for he has cast a giant boulder at Germany and opened up a channel of menace with consequences unseen. Nationalist German demons may have been asleep since 1945, but they still exist with all that implies. Mrs. Merkel is just the kind of German leader the continent of Europe must have, cool; calm, not a touch of bombast, a woman you can do business with.
She believes that all problems can be solved without braggadocio or grandstanding. She knows that you can get more done, if you don’t take the credit; which is exactly why she has been so effective. This is why what is happening now is so significant. She now becomes the first head of state (with the possible exception of tiny Montenegro which will not abide being pushed around) to make it clear that Trump is irrelevant, unthinkable for the Great Republic whose standing in the world drips away every time Trump toots his horn.
But there is significant work to be done, and it must be done now. Angela Merkel and all the other nations of Europe are clear on the fact that they will never be able to work successfully with Donald Trump, a man with ants in his pants and an attention span measured in minutes. The agenda of problems to be solved is daunting, and what is necessary now is a joint concerted effort by virtue of size, wealth, and vision. The United States should be leading the ongoing negotiation with Europe in certain key areas including Russia, climate change, regional trade, and collective defense. However the Great Republic under Trump’s bumbling has left the leadership position to Germany and Mrs. Merkel.
Now this will only alarm those who feel the bones of German nationalism capable of rising again like doleful, dangerous artifacts from a “Harry Potter” film. Donald Trump by his unbelievably irresponsible behavior towards Mrs. Merkel and Germany in general has created a situation of menace that need not have occurred at all. Consider the following anecdote from the court of King Louis XVIII of France.
He had received his restored crown from the hands of Tsar Alexander the II of Russia. One evening he invited the Tsar for dinner. When the servants passed around the first dish, they ladled it on the Tsar’s plate. Louis, exploded with rage. “Me first!, “ Me first!”, he shouted thrusting his very hands into the dish.
Never mind that the Tsar had rescued his capital and made him a king again. And so it is with Trump and why wanton and pernicious remarks should never have been voiced even if true, much less because they are not. The peace of the world since 1945 has relied upon an unbroken chain of thoughtful statesmen particularly in Washington, and Berlin, these people, so many statesmen of high standing, have understood the importance of what they have done and congratulated themselves for being able to work together through good times and bad, through difficult political situations, and with a sincere, and thorough desire to maintain the Atlantic Alliance. What they have done, what they continue to do has resulted in better lives for millions of people. They are the beneficiaries, which include you and me.
Now Angela Merkel is called upon to perform the most difficult balancing trick of the century, she must keep the German people happy or at least sufficiently contented, to make sure the German nationalist do not gain power and prestige, and become a threat to stable government. She must work to keep the balance of nation in Europe particularly with Russia. She must find a way of working with the United Kingdom in a post Brexit situation. She must work on the big picture, never despairing, never complaining, never overwhelmed.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies”. This is the value of Angela Merkel. But there is a terrible gnawing fear in all this. Without complete and total agreement on major issues between Germany and the Great Republic it is inevitable the differences will ensue.
Who can expect complete and total harmony? Even the best friends must endure periods of estrangements. Mrs. Merkel is now the most significant leader in Europe where it is not inconceivable to think of additional cracks in the Atlantic Alliance. Donald Trump has no idea what this Alliance was meant to do and why it is so significant, yes even for tiny Montenegro down by the Adriatic. Of Course NATO founded in year 1949, now may be in need of a shakeup. Success often produces lethargy, new blood, new ideas, new ways of doing things is necessary in all organizations, even marriage.
Donald Trump should have traveled to Brussels with a basket full of praise and determination and tangible benefits to know the G7 members better and understand their situation.
Then he should have called these leaders together to begin implementing a strengthened NATO. Mrs. Merkel would have helped him in that situation. When Berlin and Washington work together they can achieve anything. Sadly this did not occur. Instead Donald Trump gratuitously pummeled the Alliance to the extent Mrs. Merkel will no doubt find any means to avoid Donald Trump.
For she has taken the measure of this diminutive man and found it severely lacking. She has found in him no statesman, no visionary, no indefatigable seeking after a better Alliance, a better Europe, a better world.
Thus the President’s trip to Brussels will go down in history as a date of carelessness and unnecessary failure and insult. What will happen next? No one knows for sure. But Mrs. Merkel, Europe’s governess, keeps on doing her necessary work; everywhere willing to labor to achieve beneficial results, irked no doubt by the bumptious Mr. Trump but determined nonetheless.
She can work around him, doesn’t need to see him very often, and as always will go about her crucial work quietly, without flash or wild egotism; content to be what her great pre-decessor Prince Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was, “The Pilot of Europe”. For this we say,“Gott mit dir” for the future of so many, depends on you.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Today, for the 360th time in its exalted history, a history far older than
the republic itself, Harvard will, with all the colorful paraphernalia of the
Academy, send a goodly percentage of the brightest young people on
earth on their way to kismet.
Some of these people will become heads of state, women too; that is why
the address of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of the
Republic of Liberia is so important. It proves that even in territories inclement
towards women, women may rise high indeed.
Some of these people will head corporations and reap billions, some of
which will undoubtedly be given to Harvard in the form of very public generosities.
Some of these people will buck the capitalist trend and found worthy causes
of every kind. The world has need for every one of them and the people who
give up much, the better able to give more.
Others will rise high in the military, in governments of every nation on earth,
in education, science, medicine, the arts... there will even be a movie star or two but,
perhaps, no rap musician. Not, however, because Harvard would not welcome one; it
would. Rappers, however, may demur; it's a matter of image.... and no people on
earth are as stringent about image as they are.
One more category may well appear: terrorist, revolutionary. Harvard does not
go out seeking such people, but Harvard has helped shape many such. Red
John Reed, Bolshevik, (class of 1910) is buried in the Kremlin wall... a signal honor
for a gentleman of Crimson. Like so many Harvard graduates he rose high, though this
time for a cause most every other Harvard graduate loathed and disdained. John
Reed wouldn't have cared about that; Harvard graduates are above such trivia.
They know that what they do is important, even if no one else on this planet agrees.
This profound conviction is part of what the graduates take away today... you can
be sure of it. It is one of the best reasons for the very existence of Harvard.
Many of today's graduates will write about their Harvard experiences; I am one of
them. Most will cherish happy memories and say so, fudging the truth on
which Harvard prides itself and pruning things not quite happy enough. In truth,
their classmates were probably never as bright as they will remember, as bright or
as dedicated. The faculty never as welcoming and helpful as they will recall. And the
university overall not as profoundly influential. But embroidering your Harvard past
is winked at since happy memories beget handsome legacies. And there is no need
to remind so many, and in print, too, that their time here was not as sun-kissed as they
ardently desire it to be. You were young, vibrant, surrounded by possibilities, and you'd
been marked with the most winning brand of all. Under the circumstances, the utmost
joy and contentment are understandable; indeed mandatory.
There will be some of course, but just a handful who will write otherwise, telling, years
from now, of painful isolation, alienation and the persistent thought that they never were, not for a moment, good enough to have gone to Harvard in the first place, that they were a fluke, a sport of nature. Perhaps. But they will write such sentiments in a ringing style, lyric, too, that shows in its careful refinement and clarity another benefit of a Harvard education.
This day, the most important day in the life of virtually every graduate, save only the
day on which they were born, will start early; the ceremony commences in Harvard
Yard at 9:45 a.m., but Harvard Square is awash with the camera-totting hours before,
even from first light. A sign of the times: persons unable to be present can see it all, and
clearer, on the Web. There is not a one who so watches that does not wish to be
in Cambridge instead... for all that they see more and better than the audience
shaded by the great trees in Tercentenary Theater.
Graduates, at once shy and proud, will move today surrounded by their personal
claques, the lucky ones invited to see and venerate. Proud parents, who often dipped deep to make this happen, have been admonished, several times, to be prompt and organized. Graduates have conflicting feelings about these folks. They are grateful, of course, though never as grateful perhaps as they should be. It would not do to slight them, but, this is the last day, the very last day, they can see their classmates and friends, similarly burdened, as they will never be again: present, accounted for, resoundingly young; friends, colleagues, lovers, too. This recognition, this sadness is palpable. The pull of the golden past, slipping away forever, against the dawning future, ardently desired... but not this day. This is why the tears fall today for this must be a bittersweet moment for all. In these precincts the past and future truly collide today, to roil emotions. Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow... and now they truly know it.
It is now just 5 a.m., the dawn of this day of days is nigh. It is a day of memories,
memories retrieved, memories born. Parents will recall memories unbeckoned
of their beloved graduates and their brief lives. They will have, for themselves alone,
moments poignant and keenly felt, the more so if they had, once upon a time, a Harvard
Commencement of their own. Then Cambridge becomes the best it can be: an ever-
renewing place of reverie and remembrance, a place where you are always welcome,
for you are part of what has shaped this special place.
The trickle of early comers, seeking parking spaces more valued than gold,
will soon grow into serious traffic. Ladies in hats otherwise known only at weddings and
gentlemen in ties they will later shake off as gladly as a noose begin to appear as
do the marked men of the day... the sheriff of the county who will ride in on white
horse to declare the proceedings open; officials in their always ill-fitting cuttaways
and top hats... and of course and always the brightly garbed graduates in mortar
boards they never wear quite right. With their gowns a Rosetta Stone clearly indicating
just where the graduates have been and where they are going, these players gather
together, together to march into the ceremonies where they shall become, so the
University's president will pronounce, members of the company of educated men and
This is what every graduate has earned... and everyone has come to hear. And
it is a marvelous thing, not just for those present but for the entire world, soon
to benefit from the skills, dedications, and hard work of this renewed company,
the company we all rely upon so much.
Think of these new members of this company today. They have much to accomplish
and many lives to touch and improve. We must all be glad they have such a day as
this to start them on their way, for they go forward for us all.
Every commencement comes alive when the University's fight song, "Ten
Thousand Men of Harvard", written by A. Putnam (class of 1918) is played.
Listen and rejoice.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
There are many ways to sell products through creative marketing and sales endeavors. But nothing beats coercion. Wouldn’t you like to increase your sales quotas by certain can’t lose methods? Well the British, that nation of shopkeepers, found towards the middle of the 19th Century a sure fire way to fill its voracious coffers.
That way came to be called the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The goal was to turn the entire Chinese Empire into an opium den. You can imagine the British licked their chops at the prospect of having hundreds of millions of constant and predictable users, each one contributing to Rule Britannia.
They used any methods they could dream up, and the results of course were predictable. Imperial China dissolved in a chaos and cruelty of unlimited opium.
As part of their plan, they took a torch to one of the most beautiful and civilized complexes of exquisite and lavish display, the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. It pleased these civilized gentlemen to destroy every beautiful thing they could find, whilst collecting booty to take home, including what was called the bixi, a magnificent 17 foot marble stele which showed a tortoise surmounted by a dragon.
It was presented, in due course, to Harvard University in 1936 for the 300th anniversary. It was said that anyone who rubbed the nose of the statue would have good luck. But of course good luck flowed only one way… towards the gentlemen looters. They were the hare, and while they gamboled, the dragon slept, as it did all over China for so many pernicious years.
China was simply a box of treasures to be emptied as soon and completely as possible, while insouciant Harvard undergraduates walked past the stele and never knew what it was or the tragedy it represented. That was no concern of theirs.
But quietly, sometimes imperceptibly, but always certainly, the dragon began to stir. This time it was the hare who slept, as it was want to do in the famous tale by Aesop. The tortoise simply moved ahead, unheralded, largely unknown, but without opposition or even acknowledgment… until now.
The slow moving tortoise is now about to astonish the world, and economists and financial advisers worldwide are now aghast at what the sleeping tortoise has done, and what the hare has slept through, all unawares.
All hares, tortoises, people everywhere, are moving inexorably now towards the day of the tortoise, now just literally hours from changing the world when the year 2018 will become a date every school child knows… for it is the day the Great Republic is surpassed by the tortoise.
No longer will American students rub the nose of the tortoise for their luck… for the good fortune that was once theirs has shifted forever… and it is now too late to change the dynamic of events, for the American Era is dwindling, dwindling, soon to be just another statistic, no longer the basis for a superior life.
The Conference Board indicates that by 2018, China’s contribution to the world’s gross domestic product will surpass that of the United States. In other words, China’s economy will become more significant than the American economy.
How could such a terrible thing (from our standpoint) have taken place? Was every one of the nation’s captains asleep through his watch, or just praying that he could get through it without further damage, and without widespread public knowledge or concern?
In 1970, the United States contributed 21.2% of the total global economic output. This remained consistent for another 30 years. That is, until the year 2000. In every year since 2000, with one exception, America’s percentage of the world economic output has declined. In 2015, for example, the United States contributed 16.7% of the world’s economy. By 2025, this is expected to fall to 14.9%. Nowsee the other side of the coin.
In 1970, China was responsible for a mere 4.1% of the total. By 2015, this had risen to 15.6%. In 2025, China’s contribution to the global economy is projected to be 17.2%. And so it goes, with the aging U.S. economy more and more at risk; the Chinese dashing ahead, fueled by the kind of enthusiasm and adamant endeavor that distinguishes winners. We talk about our need to succeed. The Chinese simply do so.
Just the other day a body blow to the image of the United States took place, and right down the road, too. This time, the bad news came from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. News & World Report, which annually rates top learning institutions, demoted M.I.T. as the top engineering university in the world, elevating instead China’s Tsinghua University as the top engineering university in the world in 2015, the latest ranking.
Moreover, of the top 10 engineering schools, China and the United States each have four. However, China annually graduates 4 times as many students in the core subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as the United States. In these subjects, there are 1.3 million Chinese students versus 300,000 United States students. Moreover, in every year of the Obama Administration, Chinese universities awarded more PhD’s in the core subjects than American universities. Suddenly the boast that we were #1, always #1, felt hollow, even fatuous. The tortoise had done its work well. Most Americans never saw it coming.
What had gone wrong?
I think one illustration will help show what has gone so seriously wrong, and why we may be slated for a permanent number two position, no matter how much face paint and glory hallelujah music is dispensed.
On May 23rd, 2017, the black students of Harvard University held their own commencement exercises, detached from the main University. Although white and other students were invited to attend this program, only two or three actually did so.
They gathered together to share with each other stories about how ill treated they often have been at the World’s Greatest University. Instead of celebrating all the benefits they had, they chose instead to whine and snivel that their golden road was not richer still.
Of course this was a slap in the face of the University, and showed how off center the Administration at Harvard has become, allowing black students to have their own commencement activities, when every other racial configuration was not singled out for special treatment, and didn’t need it.
Now let me tell you how the Chinese would have handled this matter. The admistration in Beijing or anywhere else in greater China would have said:
“Boys and girls, you are among the privileged of the Earth. Get on with your work. You don’t need a special stole or a special ceremony or a special opportunity to complain, because what you’ve got is the most important thing on Earth… the ability to strive mightily and succeed. Young China, you are privileged. Young China, you know it; now get on with the task at hand.”
And so as all the black students complained about the trivial, the Chinese ate their lunch, and put the whole of the rest of us at risk. For shame, for shame.
We in America, prattling on constantly about how successful we are, have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we no longer understand the necessities for success, and where we do, we are not willing to implement them.
Can you even imagine that the habits of the average Chinese student are so lax and slothful? They have a joy of learning that once distinguished the Great Republic and its proud institutions, that now, like everything else has gone to Beijing, where the joy of learning flourishes.
Who saw all this coming, that we shall have to eat the dust and take the jibes that will surely accompany China’s inevitable rise to the top of the heap. Professors did not see this, for you can check the curricula of universities worldwide for courses that focus on the rise of China in our time, and for the foreseeable time to come. The media never saw this coming. Tracing the development of the new Chinese Empire is not as exciting as following the sexual peccadilloes of so many of our office holders, or their pilfering. They don’t care that the United States declines, so long as their pockets are filled with ill gotten gains that attract no special prosecutors.
For too long, America has believed what is no longer truth. We have become a nation of second rate quitters who fail to see the Chinese will do whatever they need to do, no matter how time consuming, difficult, and thankless the work. In 2018, these people will push their nation over the top to a glory not seen in China for centuries, and which was ours for but a short time.
So remember this: in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president, China’s economy was just 10% the size of America’s. By 2014, the indefatigable Chinese had catapulted to 100%. And today, it stands at 115%. Consider this shocker: China’s economy will be 50% larger in 2023 than America’s, and by 2040 it will be 3 times larger.
We have slept for decades while the Chinese looked to the bixi and rubbed its nose, seeking the luck which did not need to be conferred upon them, but which was hewed out of the raw elements of their unstoppable humanity. They would succeed because any other course was un-Chinese… unthinkable… beyond the pale.
Theirs is the example of our time. Our children, and children’s children will have to learn to live with tattered 2nd place, or even less. For that is what we have left them. It was not good enough, once upon a time, for us, but it is perfectly acceptable now… so long as we can shut our eyes to the facts and accept the reality that is intolerable. God bless America… She needs the help.
“REMEMBER THOU ART MORTAL!” DONALD TRUMP NEEDS HELP. THIS ARTICLE EXPLAINS WHY AND WHAT MUST BE DONE TO SAVE A TROUBLED PRESIDENCY.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
In the days of Ancient Rome, victorious generals were permitted a Triumph. A Triumph was the greatest honor a conquering hero could get and so lavish and important that for the next few days after it occurred, the general was near to God-like status and treated accordingly.
Of course the powers that be were happy for the victory, but they also knew that any general with an army at his instant command could produce chaos and unwanted political instability. Thus each Triumph had to be carefully planned, measured, and controlled. As part of this process of keeping the Triumphal general in check, a public slave was placed on the chariot of the conqueror; his job was to whisper in his ear these chilling words, “Remember thou art mortal!”. You can imagine that no conqueror ever took kindly to such remarks, but he submitted for his own good and the good of the Republic.
Now, Donald Trump finds himself driving a chariot which is going every which way to the consternation of the people who want good government and a nation they can be proud of. There is no one now in the White House or in Trump’s inner circle to give plain, simple, timely advice to the President. There is no one in his present circle who can simply tell him the God’s honest truth.
This is causing disruptions for the good ship United States because no one is at the rudder. Thus this vessel lists, founders, reverses and veers in muddle and confusion. What can be done? What indeed… Right now advisers dispense information from many directions and for many reasons. These advice givers include Steve Bannon (Chief Strategist), Kellyanne Conway (Counselor to the President), Jared Kushner (Special Adviser to the President and Head of the White House Office of American Innovation), Reince Priebus (White House Chief of Staff), and Ivanka Trump (Special Adviser to the President).
Here is the situation. These people, no matter how bright, no matter how seemingly attached to the President are not and cannot be unvarnished truth tellers of the utmost integrity and discretion. Each of these people is an employee, admittedly at a high level, but no employee no matter how well placed, can ever give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, It just cannot be done, especially in the White House where the Presidential incense blowing never stops.
That is why previous Presidents have invited well placed individuals, knowledgeable, loyal, without an ax to grind to assist them. These people are appointed to provide the truth as they understand it, keeping the President focused and quash silly ideas of which the Trump Administration has come up with more than its share.
On my first visit to the White House when Jimmy Carter was President, I saw this incense wafting machine at its full speed. I was taken into the Executive Office and went behind the scene where the White House staff was situated. It was like the harem of the Ancient Ottomans where the President can see no evil, speak no evil and do no evil. You were either in this circle, this charmed circle, or you were not. It was very heady stuff indeed. But it is not what is needed now or in any Presidency to keep the President real, not merely the unquestioned sovereign of the hive.
To show you what I mean, I wish to introduce you to Colonel Edward Mandell House (1858- 1938). You may not know of him now, may never have known anything previously about this once powerful American diplomat, politician and adviser to then President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).
Colonel House, as he was familiarly known, had a challenging task; he assisted a prickly, self-satisfied, difficult man move from the back waters of New Jersey politics, from author, from President of Princeton University and then thanks to a split in the Republican Party in 1912, President of the United States. He was deft indeed, but Wilson needed the help and at this point in his astonishing career admitted it.
Like so many academics he thought himself superior to everyone; thought that he was sent from God himself to the White House to be His agent and keep those blessings flowing. House played a pivotal role in the 1912 Presidential Election and kept the campaign organization purring by focusing on the big picture, the Presidential picture. Although Woodrow Wilson upon election offered him any Cabinet post (except Secretary of State), House made the calculated decision that he would better serve Wilson and the nation by remaining outside of the formal Ins and Outs of the presidency.
As he saw it, his task was keeping Woodrow Wilson on track, focused on the achievement of his expansive and important agenda. This agenda became even more important when World War I broke out in Europe and President Wilson had to lead a reluctant and skeptical nation. All of a sudden this very sharp tongued, egotistical, academically inclined, bookish President became the most important man on earth; the man who could either refrain from taking the United States to war thereby gambling the future of all of Europe and Western Civilization or chivvy the nation bit by cautious bit to bring the nation into the war.
Of course everyone in the nation, indeed everyone on earth, had an opinion on what President Wilson should do, how he should do it, and to what extent he should do it. Here is where Colonel House fit in.
By now House was not only advising the President as executive agent; the title invented for him. He actually had his own apartment in the White House so he could slip in and out at will without the slightest recognition beyond the President himself. From the time the British passenger liner “Lusitania” was sunk by a German U-Boat (May 7th 1915) drowning 128 Americans, Colonel House was in the very center of all the developments in the fast-developing war. He became Wilson’s private and personal agent on such matters as Wilson’s 14 points, the Treaty of Versailles, and the Covenant of the League of Nations. This was important work indeed, and Colonel House did it in an exemplary fashion which is to say he was honest, discrete, totally dedicated, and loyal to Woodrow Wilson and his agenda.
First of all he was a man of the world. He had traveled widely, had business success, helped elect 4 governors of Texas and advise them. He even wrote a political novel which if not a best seller, certainly presented ideas which he would later present to President Wilson. He also believed strongly in Wilson’s progressive liberal ideas.
House knew when to push and when to hold Wilson back. His job was to ensure Wilson's best ideas were presented to the public and his less good ideas thrust aside; all without irritating this very temperamental man. Wilson like so many prima donnas, did not want to believe or acknowledge that any one knew more than he did, and he believed he was the most important man in the world. Colonel House held the executive hand, and always always said the appropriate thing for the moment. Just one notable example will go to prove the point and show House’s importance and insight.
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in other words the government body which could make or break Wilson’s 14 points and League of Nations. By now Wilson who believed, that he has been sent by God himself to save the world from woe and affliction. He had advised kings and queens, presidents and heads of state and was certain that he knew better than they did. Wilson believed he knew how to craft the new world order, a point of view easy to believe because millions of people worldwide had come to venerate and believe in this man whose name they screamed “Wilson, Wilson, Wilson!”
By this time Colonel House knew if the new world order was to have a League of Nations; a key point of Wilson’s message, many more people beside Wilson himself would have to be involved in the process. It could not be, could never be done by any single man no matter how beloved of the desperate people yearning for freedom, peace, and serenity. But of course by this time Wilson walked on water; he didn’t like Senator Lodge, and he definitely did not want to hear anything from him on this matter or any other matter.
Thus Colonel House, who saw the big picture, advised the President that Senator Lodge must be a part of the American delegation along with other key Republican senators. The President was adamant, no way; no how, don’t even think of it. It was a measure of how petty and out of control Wilson could be and how much he needed discrete, honest, thoughtful, and carefully considered advice. Wilson’s decision to blackball Lodge was the beginning of the end, for Wilson, for the tragic millions in Europe who needed all the help they could get, and for Colonel House himself. It didn’t happen overnight but it happened soon enough.
House had been asked to provide advice, and he had done so. Woodrow Wilson like the Roman generals who traveled with the public slave on their chariot, whispering in their ears, “Remember Thou Art Mortal!” Woodrow Wilson heard it and was irritated by it Thus he went forward to do battle with his own demons, alone, for towards the end of his life, the pressure he had created for himself induced a series of strokes which left this once most important man in the world playing out his last months in a dim room in the White House while his second wife Edith, tried to keep the Wilson Administration from falling apart, a story far too many Americans have never heard about our first woman President.
Perhaps by now she didn’t like House or his unprecedented access to the White House. Many people credited her with easing House out. Perhaps by now Colonel House had had enough; it is after all a difficult feat, to keep a head strong leader, prone to self-glorification on track, on the modest trail where he must admit and work with others.
Now then keeping Colonel House in mind, let us advise The Donald. He desperately needs a friend, a confidante, a detached adviser familiar with the Ins and Outs of Washington DC; whose sole task is to help the President and help America. Such a person doesn’t exist in the White House today. This is why the current administration resembles the Keystone Cops, smart people doing stupid, pointless things in the full glare of today's modern media, where a small mistake can be magnified in the world media in seconds.
Take a breath now, Mr. President, and admit you need help, help that your leading advisers cannot provide because in the long run you don’t listen to them and only follow your own counsel; this is the greatest calamity of all.
“Remember Thou Art Mortal!”
You are the President of the greatest country in the world. You cannot have a finger in every pie, and you cannot have different advisers running in and out of your office with policy ideas which are contradictory and are all too often ill considered, vague and, dubious.
Consider then your predecessor Woodrow Wilson and his independent executive agent Colonel House. They forged a model which you could use to your advantage.
Remember intelligence is knowing what you don’t know and knowing where to find it; not bluffing your way from crisis to crisis holding the country and the world to ransom and all of us in it.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) was Controller General of France at an important point in the fast developing Revolution. M. de Silhouette was no more successful in solving the tremendous problems of French finance than any of his hapless colleagues. He talked about them, and talked about them some more. But at the end of the day, he had nothing to show for his regime but pictures cut out to resemble the outline of the sitter without the trouble of creating a truer and more formidable work of art. In short, M. de Silhouette did nothing, and left nothing but his title behind as his contribution to the surging events which became 1789.
His name has become attached forevermore to a party game; namely, he had families all over Europe cutting out profiles of their nearest and dearest, often before a wintery fire. These pictures, which captured the linear essence of the subject, saved the bother and expense of having the complete portrait done. You didn’t need to spend money on a portrait when you could do it cheap as a silhouette.
And so, the silhouette was born, enabling Barack Obama to take advantage of it, which he fully did at the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Here, each year, at the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, the Kennedy tribe and entourage gathers to tell themselves just how good they are, and that there are people, important people too, who are willing to come and tell them all just exactly what they want to hear about themselves.
This rite of spring occurs each year, and has as its task saying too many good things about people who wish to believe them, and are happy to come to Boston to hear themselves lauded, and laud in their turn their colleagues worldwide.
This year, the poohbahs of the Kennedy Library and Foundation inducted recently former President Barack Obama into the fraternity of “I love you, you love me”, and invited him to do his part by getting up on his hind legs and lathering the audience with an avalanche of frothy compliments.
And so, Obama, honoree, gave a 30 minute speech which proved more than anything else that Barack Obama did not deserve a Profile in Courage Award.
Now you and I probably have a pretty good idea of what constitutes courage. That is to say, facing a situation where defeat is a very real likely possibility, and where the outcome depends on you, what is in you, what you believe, what you can do, what you must do to change reality, and bring about a lustrous and even unexpected conclusion. All of us have the ability to be courageous, but the person who stands forth in courage does not just think, but acts, and acts again, and again as necessary to achieve the goal which was once thought impossible.
And so with this definition in mind, see Barack Obama coming to take his place at the podium, and launch into his political beliefs, and what he intends to do to help the country that made him President for two terms. He chose, as well he might, the subject of Obamacare, whose official name is the Affordable Care Act, and which was created to sustain the sick and vulnerable, the people who need the care the most, and have the fewest means of getting it.
Now you would think, but you would be wrong, that it would be a pleasure to take on the task of saving the poorest and most vulnerable among us, and when it is all said and done smile to himself and reassure his friends that he had not lost one scintilla of his high and mighty purpose, or the energy needed.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that he would enjoy the prospect of ripping Donald Trump, shredding him, happy in the good fight for universal healthcare, and be ecstatic to undertake even one more bold battle in the war that is by no means ended.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that before this audience of like minded souls, he would have found an energy, a joy, an exuberance, that would carry him across the nation, with the good wishes and prayers of the millions he was pledged to assist.
You might say, but you’d be wrong, that Barack Obama knows Browning’s great lines, “The best is yet to come. The last of life, for which the first was made.” You would think that being an older man capable of doing a young man’s work, he would undertake the great crusade that could make America healthy, strong, and resilient.
You might think all these things, and in every case you would be wrong. What you got instead was a silhouette… a thread… a mere line without blood or tenacity. The real man, the man of courage and certain purpose and sure touch made no appearance that night. The silhouette of a President had been there, and it was disheartening to see nothing more.
This speech, which should have commenced with high purpose, excitement, and enthusiasm for the good cause, went on paragraph by paragraph, thanking every member of the Kennedy family, present and deceased. As I read these compliments, I thought to myself here was a man who was President of the United States, the proudest office of the land, who came to pay obeisance to the members of the Clan who needed him and his compliments to make themselves and their followers feel certain that the great days of Camelot have not gone by.
One looks in vain for the sense that every Red Sox fan had for 86 long years: “Next year”. For the Democrats, for the country, for the faithful assembled in this ornate dining hall, there must always be a next year. And Barack Obama, on this count as with so many others, let these people down.
I told my father that Obama always acted the lawyer’s role. That is to say, that he knows how to divide pies, but not how to bake them. Dividing pies, as most every lawyer does, enables you to sit high above the teeming masses in the expensive accouterments of the legal office, and divide up the hard work and lifetime achievement of others.
But that is not how money is made. That is not how societies are built. That is not how great events are shaped. For this, we must need the bakers of the pies… the people who know what to do and get out dirtying their hands and doing it.
As I read Obama’s speech to the glitterati of Camelot, I thought to myself, what would happen if he were ill? Don’t we all know. And what about his daughters, and his wife? He and they are well taken care of, to a degree which none of us can even imagine. He doesn’t need you and me to get his healthcare, but all the rest, you and me, need all the help we can get.
We look through his printed remarks of just the other day, and something nauseating rises to the surface. There as Gertrude Stein said, “There’s no there there.” There was the man who had held all the tricks, who could have gone anywhere, said anything, helped anyone. But he is a pie divider, not a pie maker. And one senses about Mr. Obama that it is the little things of life, and the insignificant things about life, that grab his attention. For this man, this word spinner, is no fighter.
Where was he when healthcare facilities across the nation needed his assistance? He had White House-itis of course, the condition that makes you think your presence is more needed in the Rose Garden than in the health establishments around the nation, which could have used a President of the United States and his moxie to help their difficult and often disheartening tasks.
What does Mr. Obama care? For him, only one place in Obamacare counted, and that was his place. Thus, what matter does it make that he comes to accept a dubious award, supposedly given to those of exemplary courage and joy? For let us make sure that joy is not forgotten.
Yes, those with such courage can feel unhappy, distressed, fearful, or tormented. Their work, after all, never ends and often drains them to the very dregs of their humanity. They are not in the business for the reward, no matter how nice it is, no matter how pleasant it is. They are in the good fight for victory.
Barack Obama had the tools of victory in his pocket for 8 years; they came with the job. A nation awaited, prayed, hoped, that he would use the great powers of the Great Republic to succor, heal, and yes love, for those who are greatly courageous are greatly loving, and greatly loved.
Remember this: courage does not come with the job, or the Oval Office. Courage comes from within each of us. It may be found anywhere, may reside in anyone, and exists everywhere to change the world for the better… a thing more and more difficult to imagine, much less do every single day.
And so we find ourselves at this unhappy point. We have the book “Profiles in Courage”, which was not written by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, although his name is on the cover. His assistant, Theodore Sorensen, wrote most of the book and Kennedy’s name was then placed on the cover because the family knew he knew too little, and was of too insignificant a stature to be President.
This book was not originally nominated for the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. Indeed, John F. Kennedy’s father got his friend, columnist Arthur Krock to make some calls so that the book which was not even nominated, ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize. The research to this book was shoddy, the kind of thing a Harvard undergraduate submits for a rushed dissertation.
There is little hint of JFK in the book, because there was little hint that he wrote a single page. What matter that, when you have a father willing to twist the rules, and twist them again, to achieve his objective. Eight Senators were chosen as examples of members of the Upper Chamber who had stood forward on behalf of courage. Subsequently, historians have pounced on these eight selections as being gratuitous, even frivolous. In other words, while there may have been courageous Senators from time to time, they did not necessarily end up in the book dedicated to such people.
And so, sadly, we are able to see the entire situation more clearly. A former President unwilling to use whatever power still remains, whatever prestige he still has, to aid the nation. An annual event which selects honorees with a cavalier nonchalance. What matters who is selected and who comes, so long as that person brings a lustrous name and a willingness to waft incense at them? For don’t they deserve it after all?
And so we began where we started with M. de Silhouette. At least he created a party game of joy. His name will last forever. But can any of us even imagine Barack Obama moving steadily through the eternal future? His remarks, his actions, his commitments, even worthy of any remembrance at all?
And surely that is his tragedy… and ours.
Author’s program note. My mother is dead now. But I want you to know that hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of her… not in some idealized fashion either. For she was a vibrant, beautiful creature whose reality, for me, even if flawed, was more compelling than any fairy tale I might make up. And as for charm, why she was a by-word for that; I knew that before I even knew what charm could lead to. Some say that along with her penetrating eyes I inherited my full measure of that charm too. I leave that to you to find out.
This article is being written because it gives me the perfect opportunity to remember her… not just vaguely… but as she was and remains in my mind’s eye, a real woman, my much loved and often argued with mother. Here I am able to indulge myself in the most profound memories, certain that I am writing this article for you… not just for myself. And because the woman is important and the day I am recalling here one of the handful of truly special days of her life (so she often told me afterwards), I savor every word as I think it, write it, consider it, review it — and if not perfect and exactly so, change it. For there is not a word here or even a comma that I can accept in any other way. For you see, this was one of the handful of truly special days of my life… and I want you to share it and know why.
Thomas Gray, treasured poet.
Where did my mother’s love affair with England and her poets begin? I cannot say, but I can recall that wherever we lived its premises were littered with the lyric beauty of the English language… where words mattered, where understanding them mattered, where using them to maximum effect mattered, and where a word was never an obstacle but a friend not yet known well enough, but welcome for all that. As such, books, rarely closed, always open with makeshift book marks were found in every room. We read as effortlessly as we breathed… and the splendor of language surrounded us, shaped us, sustained us… and no one more than my mother for whom poets were accounted special beings well deserving of the veneration they received from her… and in due course from me. And so the profound love between a mother and her first-born son was made manifest in the poems we discovered and shared, the readings of such poems to each other, and the meanings we strove to find… especially for me when she was gone before. Then these bonds mattered most of all.
Thomas Gray, 26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771, just 54 years old.
Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London, the son of an exchange broker and a milliner. He was the fifth of 12 children… 11 of whom died in infancy. the smell of death permeated his young world… a constant visitor to his home, a constant reality where birth and mourning seemed inextricably linked and inevitable. And so he grew up wondering whether his own expected demise was nigh, accelerated by his abusive father. This recurring thought shaped his life, his outlook, and his poems. Later in life Gray became known as one of the “Graveyard poets” of the late 18th century, along with Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, and Christopher Smart. But for Gray this was not a pose; he had been to the graveyard too often too early for that. Death and Gray were on intimate terms from the start.
His sense of humor.
For all that Gray’s life was turbulent and difficult, it had moments of unalloyed joy, not least because he had the valued knack of seeing the humorous side of even the most oppressive subjects. It is good to see he skewered the masters of Peterhouse at Cambridge University as “mad with Pride” and the Fellows of this College as “sleepy, drunken, dull, illiterate Things.” It was the kind of thing I wrote to my college friends, too, and I knew the joy of such characterizations.
My mother knew I wrote these kinds of acid word pictures; I sent them to her, and she carefully tied them with ribbons adding her own often equally acid responses. These, too, bonded us; we laughed together. Too, there were other traits which may have made her see me in Gray: he spent his time indoors, voracious reader, avoiding athletics and exercise of any kind. But when the companionship of his friends was offered, he was a crowd pleaser with the apt, devastating mot at the ready. Gray and I might have been siblings; surely Kindred Spirits… she must have seen this… and if so have approved.
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.
Thus, my mother traveled to England where I was then working on my first book and asked me to accompany her to the setting of one of her favorite poems, the “Elegy” written slowly, painstakingly between 1742 and 1750. She had waited a lifetime for this excursion… and so she and I on Mother’s Day went hand-in-hand to the ancient village of Stoke Poges, to the churchyard of the Church of England parish church of St. Giles. There great Gray’s remains repose for the numberless ages, his monument weathered, tilted, too much too illegible, special torment for this man of perfect wording.
We had come hence to see, to learn, to venerate…. and in the graveyard to read the “Elegy”, together, in turn, lyrically, each word a pledge to love each other now and forever, though I didn’t know its purpose then.
She had her tattered, well-thumbed Gray in hand, so did I.
So we commenced the reading, the first stanza hers by right to intone:
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day/ The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea/ The ploughman homeward plods his weary way/ And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”
We are borne on these words to the place we most want to be with the person in this sublime moment we both wish most to be with.
Thus we walked and read together from the celebrated words which British General James Wolfe read to his officers September 12, 1759 the day before he was killed in battle, saying “Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow.” It was an admission made by thousands of those who have thrilled to these sonorous words and their eternal relevance to struggling mankind.
‘Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”
Now my mother has gone the way of all flesh, the way we all must trod in time. We know such an end is natural but that does not assuage the bitter grief and finality of the matter, particularly when the dear departed is one’s mother. This loss is bitter indeed at whatever age it occurs.
Thomas Gray knew all this and in his beloved “Elegy”, popular from the moment of publication, popular still, he gave us all the words we need to cope, find hope and resignation — and the words of remembrance and above all of love.
Thus whenever I miss her and want her near me in all her humanity and that dazzling smile I can never forget, I take down from the clutter of my library her copy of Gray’s “Elegy” and read it aloud, as we did that memorable Mother’s Day so very long ago. Whenever possible I go to any search engine and play Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor (published 1738). It was one of Gray’s favorites and perfect accompaniment to his surgically precise words.
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power/ And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave/ Awaits alike the inevitable hour/ The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
But not, with God’s help and with Thomas Gray’s, to the dark void of forgetfulness and oblivion. They have given us the joys of memory and the words we need to summon it –and our loved ones — at will and thus they live again in us.