Featured

Opal Never Gave Up– Recognizing Juneteenth

Two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a Union General freed 250,000 slaves in Texas, saying they would work for hire from then forward. Juneteenth, 1865

Determination does pay off. . . at last!  Opal Lee, a grandmother from Texas, at 89 walked two and a half miles a day from Fort Worth to Washington. DC, surrounded by a caravan of cars. Opal walked to raise support for designation of Juneteenth (19th) as a federal holiday. Last year at 94, she received a signing pen from President Biden after he inked legislation creating such a celebration. Vice President Kamala Harris took her hand while praising her determination.

Opal, who had been a teacher before becoming “the grandmother of the movement”, had a personal reason for her crusade. When she was 12, she lived in Marshal, Texas, in a home surrounded by several white homeowners in Sycamore Park. A band of white men came one night and burned her home to the ground. Freedom means more to her than recognizing the end to slave labor, but safety in one’s home and access to quality education.

No doubt President Lincoln would be pleased with Opal’s determination and Congressional efforts in 2021 to celebrate Juneteenth, but he might hope this was not a consolation prize offered instead of insuring the opportunity for all Americans to exercise their constitutional Voting Rights.

Above you see the document that Lincoln wrote and signed after Congress passed the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, ending slavery in the Confederacy. Governors in Southern states, with economies mainly dependent on cotton, were very slow to pass this information on to the enslaved population, some waited until the end of the Civil War to notify blacks in the South that they were free.

Texans, being the furthest western state in the Confederacy and with an abundance of cotton, were least likely to share this information. And they didn’t. . . until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, backed up by 1,800 U.S./Union troops, issued General Order Number 3, from his headquarters in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865—157 years ago.

Maj. Gen. Granger’s order began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Simple. Then: “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

This order announced the freedom of 250,000 slaves in Texas. In the two and a half years between the Emancipation and Granger’s arrival nearly 200,000 black men had enlisted, mainly in the Union army. Historians estimate that about 500,000 slaves—out of a total of 3.9 million—liberated themselves by escaping to Union lines between 1863 and the end of the war—the rest remained in slavery, according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

More recently, in 1979, Texas State Rep. Al Edwards, “known as the father of the Juneteenth holiday” succeeded in working with the Texas Legislature to make the date an official holiday statewide as a “source of strength” to young people. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations,” Rep. Edwards said. These efforts plus others worldwide can be seen at https://juneteenth.com .

Books

The Great Migration helped spread Juneteenth across the country, as Gates says, one person, one family, one carload or train ticket at a time. Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Sons: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, tells the story brilliantly, spreading the knowledge Juneteenth to places distant to the South, like Los Angeles, Oakland, and Minnesota. Ralph Emerson’s novel, Juneteenth, said to reflect the “mystical glow of history and lore, memory and myth.”

Unveiling

Juneteenth 2021 will also mark the unveiling of Frederick Douglass’s statue in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, the result of long-term efforts of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.  

https://wordpress.com/post/past-becomes-present.blog/1213

Watermelon salad–Immaculatebites,com

Juneteenth Recipes

In honor of the festivities, perhaps these dining festivities will prepare us for the Fourth of July, red, white and blue creations, while Juneteenth recipes focus on the color red. I’m told that’s for resilience and freedom. So I have one offering and links to several others:

Strawberry Watermelon Juice 

4 cups watermelon       

2 cups strawberries

½-1 tablespoons lemon juice

½-1 cup coconut water or water

Can add syrup or sugar to taste

5 fresh mint to garnish

Dash of cinnamon

Place watermelon and strawberries in blender

Add lemon juice and other ingredients.

May add favorite adult beverage.

www.Immaculatebites.com

(2nd row of recipes:

24 Mouth-Watering Juneteenth Recipes)

www.africanbites.com

African Fish Roll – africanbites.com

African Fish Roll (Fish Pie) Popular West African dish sold by venders.

Peach Cobbler

Red Velvet Cake (or cupcakes)

Red Velvet Cake

 Recipes at https: ImmaculateBites.com

Opal Never Gave Up– Recognizing Juneteenth

Two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a Union General freed 250,000 slaves in Texas, saying they would work for hire from then forward. Juneteenth, 1865

Determination does pay off. . . at last!  Opal Lee, a grandmother from Texas, at 89 walked two and a half miles a day from Fort Worth to Washington. DC, surrounded by a caravan of cars. Opal walked to raise support for designation of Juneteenth (19th) as a federal holiday. Last year at 94, she received a signing pen from President Biden after he inked legislation creating such a celebration. Vice President Kamala Harris took her hand while praising her determination.

Opal, who had been a teacher before becoming “the grandmother of the movement”, had a personal reason for her crusade. When she was 12, she lived in Marshal, Texas, in a home surrounded by several white homeowners in Sycamore Park. A band of white men came one night and burned her home to the ground. Freedom means more to her than recognizing the end to slave labor, but safety in one’s home and access to quality education.

No doubt President Lincoln would be pleased with Opal’s determination and Congressional efforts in 2021 to celebrate Juneteenth, but he might hope this was not a consolation prize offered instead of insuring the opportunity for all Americans to exercise their constitutional Voting Rights.

Above you see the document that Lincoln wrote and signed after Congress passed the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, ending slavery in the Confederacy. Governors in Southern states, with economies mainly dependent on cotton, were very slow to pass this information on to the enslaved population, some waited until the end of the Civil War to notify blacks in the South that they were free.

Texans, being the furthest western state in the Confederacy and with an abundance of cotton, were least likely to share this information. And they didn’t. . . until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, backed up by 1,800 U.S./Union troops, issued General Order Number 3, from his headquarters in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865—157 years ago.

Maj. Gen. Granger’s order began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Simple. Then: “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

This order announced the freedom of 250,000 slaves in Texas. In the two and a half years between the Emancipation and Granger’s arrival nearly 200,000 black men had enlisted, mainly in the Union army. Historians estimate that about 500,000 slaves—out of a total of 3.9 million—liberated themselves by escaping to Union lines between 1863 and the end of the war—the rest remained in slavery, according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

More recently, in 1979, Texas State Rep. Al Edwards, “known as the father of the Juneteenth holiday” succeeded in working with the Texas Legislature to make the date an official holiday statewide as a “source of strength” to young people. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations,” Rep. Edwards said. These efforts plus others worldwide can be seen at https://juneteenth.com .

Books

The Great Migration helped spread Juneteenth across the country, as Gates says, one person, one family, one carload or train ticket at a time. Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Sons: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, tells the story brilliantly, spreading the knowledge Juneteenth to places distant to the South, like Los Angeles, Oakland, and Minnesota. Ralph Emerson’s novel, Juneteenth, said to reflect the “mystical glow of history and lore, memory and myth.”

Unveiling

Juneteenth 2021 will also mark the unveiling of Frederick Douglass’s statue in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, the result of long-term efforts of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.  

https://wordpress.com/post/past-becomes-present.blog/1213

Watermelon salad–Immaculatebites,com

Juneteenth Recipes

In honor of the festivities, perhaps these dining festivities will prepare us for the Fourth of July, red, white and blue creations, while Juneteenth recipes focus on the color red. I’m told that’s for resilience and freedom. So I have one offering and links to several others:

Strawberry Watermelon Juice 

4 cups watermelon       

2 cups strawberries

½-1 tablespoons lemon juice

½-1 cup coconut water or water

Can add syrup or sugar to taste

5 fresh mint to garnish

Dash of cinnamon

Place watermelon and strawberries in blender

Add lemon juice and other ingredients.

May add favorite adult beverage.

www.Immaculatebites.com

(2nd row of recipes:

24 Mouth-Watering Juneteenth Recipes)

www.africanbites.com

African Fish Roll – africanbites.com

African Fish Roll (Fish Pie) Popular West African dish sold by venders.

Peach Cobbler

Red Velvet Cake (or cupcakes)

Red Velvet Cake

 Recipes at https: ImmaculateBites.com

What We Have in Common

Bike racers compete for leadership on the straight track. Tattorman 74

While volunteering at the Cap-Tex Triathlon in Austin on Memorial Day, I met a woman preparing to ride her bike for 13.3 miles and run for three. The petite redhead has a great smile, and we quickly learned we’d both spent time in Milwaukee and the Chicago area. She had an accent I could not place immediately—she grew up in Poland. I knew her home country had taken in nearly a million people from Ukraine. Before I could express gratitude, the woman said her relatives in Poland were trying to locate her brother and his family in Kyiv. They hadn’t heard from them since the beginning of the war. It brought the war to a very personal note.

We did not end on a sad note but we agreed that when we meet someone one-on-one and learn about them, we learn about what we have in common, not what makes us different.

She went on her bike, and I helped others in “transition” between swim and bike, bike and run. Across the lane from me, a group of male and female Latinos heralding from Mexico, Central, and South America, and a contingency of home-grown Texans encouraged bikers as they left on their rides and called them in as they switched out with swimmers and runners in the relay.

Athletes came in every color, shape, and size, ignoring the heat (97-100 degrees) for the most part and wanting to beat their former time or set a new one. Achieving their best—that centered their thoughts.

While Americans are known for being competitive, we also reach out to help others. We can’t solve all the wrongs globally, but we have come up to the plate when the odds were stacked against vulnerable people. We take pride in our ability to help, often by gathering other countries into partnership. We are involved in Ukraine. No one wants a bully on their block.

We try to keep bullies from destroying other countries (knowing that bullies are only encouraged by any victory using their “power” against others). Likewise, we cannot allow powerful gun lobbies to destroy our peaceful playgrounds, school classrooms, movie theatres, and churches, making them battlefields where we fear to go.

Now twenty-three years after the Columbine High School shootings and all the senseless loss of life since, can we say, “ENOUGH? Not another person, young or old, will lose their life to the spray of bullets coming from an AK15.” Will we make certain background checks are not quick paperwork, focused on making a sale? Will we admit there is no peaceful purpose for a 100-round ammunition magazine and ban them?

The frontier-man actor, Reagan, carried weight with the gun lobby. Yet he supported the 1993 Brady Bill, named for his Press Secretary, paralyzed for life in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life 12 years earlier. Neither would have survived if a bullet spray from an AK15 had hit them.

Reagan supported a mandatory background check and a five-day waiting period for gun purchases by unlicensed individuals in 1993. The federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994, prohibiting gun manufacturers from creating assault weapons for civilian use and banning large-capacity magazines. Unfortunately, the ban ended in 2004, and mass shootings increased again.

The inability to reign in the gun lobby despite the 10-year ban on assault weapons became apparent after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. In the bombing, 168 people were killed, including 19 children in daycare, and 680 were injured. (I visited the site four years later when I was there on business.)

The response from NRA’s Wayne LaPierre? He defended the bombers as responding to “jack-booted government thugs.” But his anti-government comments were ignored by Congress. NRA “never waivers, never apologizes.” But George Bush resigned his membership after the statement, and 500,000 followed him.

We haven’t experienced repeat bombings. Why? In part because Congress passed legislation prohibiting the sale of large quantities of ammonia and other bomb-making materials to individuals. It’s easier to toat an assault rifle than carry out a full-fledged attack. Why does it seem impossible to reinstate the ban on assault weapons now? We did it before; why can’t we now after repeated needless loss of life?

You don’t find assault rifles used to kill people in Britain, France, Canada, Germany, or many other leading countries.Technology has created a killing machine that entices some moviegoers, but often it is depicted in animation without the pure horror it can create.

George Washington did not revel in killing and would have been horrified that people were being killed in this way. He and those who wrote the Second Amendment carried flintlock rifles, single shots without the ability to destroy a dozen human lives with a single sweep.

When will we be able to gain a rational solution to gun violence—one we can all live with? Please don’t let us lose our grip on the value of human life.

My new friend from Austin’s Cap-Tex came back after her races. A smile still across her face after competing 13 miles on a bike and running two more. We agreed to see each other at the 2023 Cap-Tex and hope the world will right itself by then. But in the meantime, we will appreciate the humanity in every person we meet.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Best Mother’s Day Flowers 2022 Tom’s Guide

Aretha Franklin raised the roof and our self-confidence with that song in 1967. Yes, 55 years ago, but the music resonates to this day. Why? Because as Aretha said: “Everyone wants respect.”

Being respected –no matter what makes the national headlines of the day—is the issue of prime importance. If we feel “dissed” and people don’t consider our needs, we melt on the inside and no longer stand up straight. We may not even look others straight in the eye as our self-confidence has taken a hit.

If you’ve read my blog during the Pandemic, you know that I have struggled to understand what’s really behind the divisions in our country. In the beginning, I thought Americans would find ways to tie the ends of the frayed rope between us after Covid passed. That might have been naïve. The differences among us only tightened when we were stuck away alone. Nothing good comes when we don’t attempt to communicate with others, particularly those with a different view. Instead, we let the concrete set around our ideas and beliefs. Our thoughts spool in our brains in an endless loop. No new ideas arise from that cycle.

It’s more difficult for new friends and ideas to come into our lives if we don’t create room for them. No two people think exactly alike, so there will always be areas of difference, possibly disagreement. Our current friendships already have a foundation of mutual respect that allows us to patch over the rough times when conflicts arise. But when we encounter people or ideas that appear to be the polar opposite of our own, it’s even more challenging to grant them a moment’s consideration.

I know listening to “the other side” strains my patience when I strongly disagree, but we’re stagnating –yelling across picket lines or opinion pages. This discourse does not improve the situation. Instead, we find ourselves digging a deep crevice across which are lobbed some of the ugliest words and images ever used in American public discourse (and there has been strong language used in the past). We are providing a hideous example for our children and laying down an embarrassing digital record that will live long after 2022.

If we as a nation take a small step back from this, we might begin to make a long-term change. Of course, it will take more than a finger snap to solve. But we can start by offering respect to all the people we meet at work, no matter the job they perform, the process can begin. Then if we can carry this on to those we see at the grocery or on a walk, the ball could get rolling. Even our partners and children could appreciate a spur-of-the-moment friendly smile or a nod of understanding. 

None of this will cure what ails the world, but you might feel better yourself, and it might be contagious.

That’s all I’ve got for Mother’s Day 2022.

Living Up to Lincoln’s Sacrifice

Abraham Lincoln lithograph, JoAnn 10, istock

After viewing the devastation in Richmond in April 1865, Lincoln knew the Civil War would be over soon. Yet he also realized that the most challenging task remained—bringing the country together as one people, not unlike the difficulty the nation faces today. This weekend we once again recognize Lincoln’s sacrifice156 years after his assassination. But few acknowledge his death came because John Wilkes Booth could not stomach giving even a few African American veterans the right to vote.

Lincoln wasn’t sure he had the words needed to temper Americans’ anger with their opponents or ease their grief for what we’ve lost. But he agreed to address those gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House. His first words met their expectations: “We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in the gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond and the surrender of the principal insurgent army (he did not identify it as Confederate) give the country hope for a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained.”

Speaking from the White House balcony, Lincoln didn’t notice a tall man dressed in black stalking the fringes of the crowd. John Wilkes Booth scowled at the President’s remarks. Less than a month earlier, on March 20, Booth and his conspirators had attempted to capture Lincoln to use him as a bargaining chip to negotiate Southern freedom from federal rules ending slavery.

Then Lincoln turned to the purpose of his speech–Reconstruction—to restore and unite the nation after the war. “No one man had the authority to give up the rebellion for another man. We must begin with and mould (sp) from disorganized and discordant elements,” he said.

He noted the political differences that stood between Americans. Nevertheless, Lincoln sought to begin to bind the wounds of Americans now that the war had ended. The President stated the nation’s problem: “We, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of Reconstruction.”

But then, the critical message that would seal the President’s fate. Lincoln told the crowd the nation should grant African American men, particularly those who fought for the Union, the right to vote. Before this speech, no president had ever publicly endorsed even limited suffrage for blacks.

Booth became enraged when he heard Lincoln speak of suffrage. The thought of giving any African American the right to vote infuriated Booth. Standing in the shadows across from the White House, Booth turned to his co-conspirator, Lewis Powell, and nearly spat out his disgust: “That is the last speech he will ever make.”  As an actor well known at Ford’s Theater, he learned when Lincoln would be coming to see Laura Keene perform there in Our American Cousin.

On April 14, 1865, just after 10 pm, Booth’s lightning-quick tempter drew him up the stairs, where he pushed open the door to Lincoln’s box and pulled out a derringer that fit into the palm of his hand, which he used to shoot the President. Booth shouted: “Sic Semper Tyrannus! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South be avenged.”

Lincoln’s plans to restore the country equitably died with him. His vice president, who took control, Andrew Johnson, a Dixie Democrat and an enslaver from Tennessee, came from the opposite political view. Johnson believed in States’ rights. He allowed Southern governors to make their own decisions regarding the treatment of African Americans.

Four million enslaved people were freed when the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed on January 31, 1865, while Lincoln was alive. However, laws to establish freedom of movement and voting rights for African Americans would not become law for a century.

What would Lincoln say today as Congress fails to support voting rights for all Americans? He acted because he believed it to be right and just. Today’s Republicans, who express their pride in being “the Party of Lincoln” but can’t support voting rights, the principle for which he gave his life. fail to live up to his sacrifice. They lack the courage to stand up for all the voters in their state. They betray Lincoln’s legacy and further rip apart our delicate democracy.

Sarah Moore Grimke: Trailblazer

Women leaders throughout history. Sarah Moore Grimke takes the pole position in this modern rendition “feminists at work” of the 1932 photograph of steelworkers taking lunch 850 feet above NYC by Lewis Hines.

How did I not know about the contribution of this woman born in 1793, just 17 years after the Declaration of Independence? But if I missed her contribution earlier, I can’t be the only one. So, younger women of all hues and backgrounds with dreams of becoming lawyers or setting right the wrongs in our society, I present Sarah Grimké. Today, she comes to mind as the House of Representatives confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to join the Supreme Court.

The picture above of 11 women and a youngster posed on the steel beam, just like Lewis Hine’s photograph of the steelworkers in 1932, provides a unique view of America’s female leaders throughout the decades. Sarah sits at the head of this group. The Bill of Rights came before her. Yet, even if you were to say that “We the People” meant everyone, the nation did not treat everyone the same. For example, women could not vote until 1920, yet Sarah worked to achieve voting rights more than 100 years earlier.

Sarah Moore Grimke

If you believe we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, Sarah’s strong shoulders and nimble mind form a good foundation. She grew up in South Carolina, the sixth of 14 children on a plantation supported by slave labor. Despite her quest for knowledge, she knew then she would not be admitted to law school as a woman while her brother Thomas was. Nevertheless, she consumed the books he studied for a degree at Yale College while fulfilling all the required “female” arts—embroidery, French, watercolors, etc.—required of a proper Southern maiden.

Her father, an attorney, and speaker of the House of Representatives in South Carolina, realized her intellect but would only allow her to study geography, history, and math, but denied her an opportunity to learn Latin. Her brother, Thomas, secretly filled in the gaps with Greek and a bit of Latin.

Ironically her father praised her ability, saying if Sarah were a man, “she could be the greatest lawyer in South Carolina or the greatest jurist in the country,”

On Sundays during her teens, Sarah would teach the Bible to young enslaved people, which was against the law in South Carolina, where they feared educated enslaved people would revolt. Secretly she taught reading and spelling to her slave, Hetty, by screening out the light in the keyhole to her door and lying flat on their stomachs before the fire. On the plantation, she became aware of the inhuman treatment of African Americans.

Soon realizing that South Carolina would not tolerate her belief that slavery was wrong, she went to Philadelphia when she was 26 and joined the Quakers. They were early abolitionists and allowed women to preach. But Quakers did not tolerate her growing interest in women’s rights and were critical when she and her sister, Angelina, preached to mixed audiences of men and women. They called these groups “promiscuous.” Nevertheless, they were the first women to address a legislative body in New England.

Sarah’s writings, considered radical, were among the first to express the links between racial and sexual oppression boldly. Sarah wrote to the clergy against the evils of slavery. She wrote “Letters on Equality,” which received a rebuke from the General Association of Congressional Ministers. Churches and the public burned her writings, and Sarah received threats of arrest. But Sarah wrote on. In 1839, Sarah, Angelina, and her husband, the abolitionist Thomas Weld, published American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.

The sisters walked the talk. When they learned that their brother fathered mixed-race children before his death, they took the boys in and supported one through Harvard Law and the other as he completed the seminary at Princeton. Sarah didn’t give up. She passed out copies of Harriet Taylor Mill and John Stuart Mill’s pamphlet The Subjugation of Women on the street when she was 79.

Decades, even a century would pass, but the relentless courage reflected in her writing became the bedrock upon which other women built a political case to have their say-so concerning the nation’s decisions.

In her confirmation hearing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg paid tribute to Grinké by using her quote: “I ask for no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” Her predecessor also gained recognition in 1998 when Grinké became recognized by the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Looking back upon Grinké’s work, we recognize her contribution to women in 2022. Yet we wonder what she could have achieved if she and others could have reached their whole potential centuries earlier in her lifetime. Today Judge Jackson opens a new chapter in the history of the Supreme Court, recognizing the capability of an African American woman.

Maybe we will come closer to a paraphrased quote from Grinké: “I know nothing of man’s rights, or woman’s rights; human rights (and human intelligence and judgment) are all that I recognize.”

Notes:

APA: Alexander, K.L. (2018). Sarah Moore Grimké. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sarah-moore-grimke

Chicago: Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Sarah Moore Grimké.” National Women’s History Museum. 2018. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sarah-moore-grimke.

MLA: Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Sarah Moore Grimké.” National Women’s History Museumhttps://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sarah-moore-grimke. Accessed [date]. 

Books for more information:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Life Up Thy Voice  by Mark Perry

The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina  by Gerda Lerner

Lincoln – Kids 2 Turning Around a Bad Situation

President Lincoln, a rendering of his Gettysburg Address, given November 16, 1863.

If you have a bad day, think the next day will be better! Thinking positive can help good things happen. Abe Lincoln had nearly 4 X 365 days of bad days during the Civil War. Everyone came to him for answers, but there weren’t any easy ones. He worried about the loss of life both in the North and the South. He prayed he could find a military leader who could bring the war to an end. Unfortunately, Lincoln did not find the right general until March 1864, three years after the war began. So it might be difficult to believe that Lincoln used humor to turn his bad days into better ones.

In this time of war in Eastern Europe, it might seem a strange time to think of humor. But Mark Twain, known then as the Nation’s humorist in the 19th century, denied that joy created the Nation’s laughter. Instead, he found sorrow to be humor’s, as did Lincoln. Of course, Lincoln had a lot of sadness in his life: the loss of his mother when he was nine, death of his only sister in childbirth when he was 19, typhoid took his first love at 20, and two of his sons died in childhood. Nevertheless, he self-treated himself with humor and even published a book of jokes when he was in the White House.

One tale about two Quaker women particularly tickled Lincoln. They discussed whether Confederate President Jefferson Davis or U.S.President Lincoln would win the war. “Well,” one reasoned, “Davis is a praying man.” The other said: “Lincoln is a praying man, too.” The first smiled and said: “But God won’t know if Lincoln is kidding.”

He liked to poke fun at himself.

After moving to New Salem, after his family went from Indiana into Illinois in 1830, he joked about the nearby Sangamon River being so curvy and serpentine that “he had camped at the same place on three different nights.”

He helped build and then managed a general store there. Clark Carr, who worked with Lincoln, said he was “the most comical and jocose of human beings, laughing with the same zest at his jokes as at those of others.” Carr added that he’d never seen “another who provoked so much mirth, and who entered into rollicking fun with such glee.”

“He could make a cat laugh.”

Lincoln didn’t waste his time between customers at the store. He borrowed books and studied math, philosophy, astronomy, history, and poetry. He asked for help from one of the local teachers to learn English Grammar in Familiar Lectures. Lincoln particularly enjoyed Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Macbeth and went to see them in Illinois and Washington.

 After participation in the Black Hawk War in Illinois (leading a group of men, but seeing no military action), at 23, Lincoln ran for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. In announcing his run, Lincoln said:

“Every man is said to have a particular ambition. But, whether it is true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men that they would have conferred upon me for which if elected I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate the favor. He got 277 votes out of 300 in his home county but lost in the final tally. He was not well known outside New Salem, but that would change.

Before entering national politics, Abe Lincoln worked as a lawyer in Illinois’ Circuit Court. He rode on horseback from one tiny town to another. In Illinois’ Eighth Judicial Circuit, lawyers who opposed each other during the day would be in the same local hotel or tavern at night. Lincoln, according to historian Ronald C. White, Lincoln “seemed to possess an inexhaustible fund” of humorous stories and anecdotes. No one could relate a story without reminding him (Lincoln) of one of a similar character.” Lincoln became known for his laughter, taking pleasure in his humor and others’. “The heartiness of his own enjoyment” drew others to him, even more than being the “Rail-splitter” energized the North for his first Presidential run in 1860.

Lincoln did not take for granted that the country loved him and wanted him to be their President again in 1864. He knew he had the support of half the country– the South DID NOT like or want him to be President. The President expressed as much when the votes for Indiana and Ohio favored him. He knew then that he had the support he needed.

He told the telegraph operator at the War Department down the block from the White House: “It does look like the people wanted me to stay a little longer, and I shall have to if they do.”

Lincoln wanted to stay for a second four years. Finally, as the war wound down, many problems would remain after the war ended. He did not have an opportunity to bind the Nation’s wounds because he died at Ford’s Theater a few days after General Grant signed the surrender.

Gordon Leidner, Lincoln’s Gift: How Humor Shaped Lincoln’s Life and Legacy (Naperville, IL, 2015.)

Vote Your Choice!

Primary voting begins in Texas on Tuesday, March 1. November’s General Election Ballot choices are being made in each state starting now. See dates at bottom. No right to complain later if you don’t vote in your State Primary! Find candidates at http://www.vote.org.

Sure, there’s less whoopla about the candidates, no Presidential or Senator’s races in some states, but here in Texas we have candidates for the top State offices, including Governor. If you are one of the 17 million eligible voters in Texas (who haven’t voted in the Early Voting) March 1 is your last opportunity. (For a list of dates for Primary in the other states -see below.)

It’s your right and responsibility to go to the polls to vote to help solve local, state, and national problems. Particularly right now, as citizens in Ukraine are fighting to remain free and hold tight to their free and fair elections, you who can do so must exercise this right.

I live in Texas, where people are flocking to avoid state taxes. * We do have our own challenges. Voting precincts are being carved up to favor one Party’s candidates, but that is even more reason for Texans to VOTE. Texas historically has had one of the lowest rates of voting in primary elections, 25% in 2020. Even general elections do not entice substantial numbers of voters to turnout here –the rate rose to 66% in 2020, but that’s not a number to brag about. Texans don’t like to rank so low, preferring to be at the top. SO help Texas get on top as a voting state.

Important choices indeed. By failing to vote in a primary, you are leaving it up to others to decide who will be on the ballot in November. Write in candidates very, very rarely stand a chance to win. Others will decide, leaving you with a far-left or a far-right candidate from which to pick. Today’s much smaller net of Primary voters tends to cling to the two sides of the political spectrum because they are voting with their ideology, not their community in mind.

Do not forfeit these crucial primary decisions about who will represent you and be on your ballot in November. If you sleep in, work late, or go out to lunch instead of voting, you let someone else make the decisions about who will lead in Washington, your State Capitol, your local government, and your neighborhood.

If you want to help America to pull back from the edges, check out the League of Women Voter’s Voting Guide online. www.vote.org It publishes a nonpartisan flyer about the candidates and short biographies. If you cannot find this in your community, then go to your local library for a listing of the candidates along with biographical information.  Be informed. If you go to the polls without doing a bit of research, you might actually vote against your best interest. It is well worth the effort to strengthen your community, your State, your country by participating.

Now MORE THAN EVER is the time to vote in your STATE’S Primary. Here’s a list of the Primary voting dates in the States. Check for 2022 Primary times and locations. Go to www.vote.org for local information by inserting your zip code to get specific information about candidates you will be voting for in your precinct at the time of the primary in your state.

State Primary Timetable

DATE                                 STAT

March   1                          Texas, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania 

                                           Michigan also listed on Aug. 12. First date is the primary.

May 3                                Indiana, Ohio

May 10                              Nebraska, West Virginia

May 17                              Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania

May 24                              Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas

June 7                                California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota

June 14,                            Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia

June 28                              Illinois, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Utah

August 2                            Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington

August 4                            Tennessee

August 9                            Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, Wisconsin

August 13                         Hawaii

August 16                         Alaska, Wyoming

August 23                         Florida

September 6                    Massachusetts

September 13                  Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island

November 8                     Louisiana

Exercise your right. Get to the polls early or before 4 pm, so you don’t get lost in the 7-8 pm and avoid the wait.. Insure you don’t miss your opportunity. I commend those of you who stand in long lines. Bring water or snacks, just in case. Trust me, it is worth the effort!

*There are no state taxes and the schools are supported by local property taxes in Texas. Tough decisions will need to be made to maintain quality elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions Texan’s brag about. With the growing number of people flocking to the state, timely decisions about the energy grid that supports the Lone Star state are also essential to those living here. So important decisions need to be made here and in every state. Primaries are the entry point, so we have the most qualified people running in November.

Who Knew Nixon Would Not Be Last?

Tall stack of paper against a background of stormy sky covered with dark clouds represent the rising stack of documents protected by the Presidential Records Act to givde Americans an insight into our past to provide wisdom in making future decisions.

How 44 Years of the Presidential Records Act Impacts Us Today

When Congress passed the Presidential Records Act (PRA) in 1978, it placed the records of subsequent Presidents in federal custody to prevent their destruction. Congress reacted to Nixon’s destruction of incriminating documents. PRA reduced secrecy, allowed the public a peek behind the veil of government, and provided historians and journalists the resources to do their jobs. Politics being politics, PRA didn’t have enforcement teeth, nor could it overcome future Presidential Executive Orders designed to limit what power it did carry. As a young Congressional staffer and future amateur historian, I believed PRA would be a highlight of my four-year career on Capitol Hill. Ignorance was bliss.

A House Government Operations Subcommittee crafted the PRA bill in 1977 to assist America in preventing a future President from swiping or destroying documents created in the Oval Office. At the time, it seemed impossible to believe there would be another President whose ego, fear of reprisals or concern about his (or her) legacy would supersede an interest in the public’s need to examine the Chief Executive’s records.

Specifically, the PRA put the ownership of official Presidential Records in the hands of the American people to build trust in the work of the federal government and its Chief Executives. The National Archives and Records Administration scheduled retrieval of documents under PRA to begin January 20, 1981, as the Reagan Administration began.

Under this custody and management of Presidential records, the Chief Executive would file personal papers separately from official Presidential records. Then, when leaving office, the official records would be automatically transferred into the custody of the U.S. Archivist at the National Archives.

Under PRA, the Archivist has five years to process the documents from a retiring Chief Executive before releasing any. Unfortunately, processing has become a Herculean task with a minimum of 30 million records coming from a single four-year term, including audio files, and videotapes. Freedom of Information requests, based on the 1974 law from citizens, journalists, and historians, are accepted after the documents are processed. But can in emergencies, like court orders seen recently, can be applied earlier.The Archives can have 12 years to protect various aspects of a President’s records. (The Pandemic partially halted the Archives’ efforts to process documents, increasing the timeline.)

Presidential Documents Release: Nixon’s Secret Tapes

President Richard Nixon’s worries about being defeated are evident in the secret tapes he recorded in his office. That marked the beginning of his demise in August 1974, when he left the White House. While Nixon died two decades later, the final release of those secret tapes did not occur until 2013—thirty years after his death and 48 years after he left D.C. for California. LBJ’s audiotapes, recorded in the Administration before Nixon’s, were released piecemeal, but the last batch did not open until 2016.

The temptation to Presidents to protect “certain” documents from public view has stretched America’s patience, and now we are in another battle that could rival what’s gone before. I mention the role Executive Orders have played to amend, stretch, and sometimes erase the intent of the Presidential Record’s Act.

Power of the Pen: Executive Orders

Today, with the nation politically sliced in half, winning legislative battles has become an eternal struggle. However, to accomplish some segments of the legislative agenda that don’t require a Congressional vote, a President can take advantage of the Executive Order.

Now with changes made sinde 1987, the complexity of the guidelines issued by Executive Orders requires a spreadsheet to comply. During the last four decades, the weaving routes of politics and culture have complicated the process.

Three critical Executive Orders concerning Presidential Records have been signed since 1978, adjusting PRA or countermanding the prior President’s penned desires. Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12667 in 1989 when he left office. It allowed former U.S. Presidents to limit access to certain records created in their terms. Before releasing any presidential records, the Archivist must notify both the incumbent and former President which document is requested and whether they may claim Executive privilege.

President George W. Bush increased the number and types of documents and the withholding timetable for Presidential Records when he issued Executive Order 13233 on November 1, 2001. It permitted a President or former President to withhold several types of documents. In addition, his father’s papers (George H. Bush’s Vice Presidential and Vice Presidential papers–1981 and ended in 1998) fell under enhanced protection.

Executive Order 13233 allowed a President to retain certain types of documents longer, including:

“military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President’s advisors and to do so in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), and other cases….”  

Some aspects of George W. Bush’s executive order were a reaction to 9-11, which occurred less than two months before he issued the order. As a result, security rose to top priority. Still, the only way to avoid future disasters would be to know how the intelligence community failed and where America could be better prepared.

The Society of American Archivists and the American Library Association criticized the President’s exercise of executive power. They charged George W. Bush’s order with “violating both the spirit and the letter of existing U.S. law on access to presidential papers as clearly laid down in law. They noted that the order “potentially threatens to undermine one of the very foundations of our nation.”

John Wertman, a member of former President Bill Clinton’s White House staff, wrote in 2006: “Order 13233 “represents a wholesale change in the way the federal government preserves and promotes our national public memory.”

Going Backwards to Iran-Contra

Questions arose about the Iran-Contra Affair in Reagan’s second term. The official justification for arms shipments to Iran in 1985 was that they were part of an operation to free seven American hostages in Lebanon held by Hezbollah. Reagan needed to return these Americans, fearing a repeat of the backlash that chased Carter out of the White House ahead of him.

Senior Reagan Administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to the Khomeini government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. (President Jimmy Carter established the ban after  Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and took 52 hostages. Reagan pledged to continue the arms sale ban after his inauguration in January 1981.)

Congress had passed the Boland Amendment in December 1982 to prohibit further funding of the Contras. Oliver North and his assistant testified before Congress in 1985 that National Security Council documents related to the arms sale were destroyed to prevent proof of the arms sale and funding to the Contras.

International relations and national politics wound their way around Reagan’s pledge. Under the Reagan Administration’s plan or one devised among his advisors, the U.S. would use $15 million from the sale to Iran to fund the Contras fighting the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Reagan vocally supported the Contras but told the independent Tower Commission (in testimony as a sitting President addressing the arms-for-hostages scandal) said he did not authorize the deal. The Commission’s 200-page report criticized Reagan’s oversight of the National Security Council (where Oliver North served as a military aide, who was indicted and fired for his role).

Bush’s Executive Order sealed documents related to Iran-Contra for an extended period. This frustrated historians and others trying to piece together American foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and Central America that still worry the U.S. and the world.

In 1985, personal health considerations arose in the Reagan Administration, which were not broadcast widely. The Gipper underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove two feet of his colon for cancer in July 1985. Three days later he met in the hospital with National Security Advisor McFarlane, who engaged in shuttle diplomacy with Iran to get hostages released. Later McFarlane resigned as one of the two dozen Reagan Administration staff or cabinet members indicted in the Iran-Contra Affair. Ten of those were found guilty, but George H. Bush, Reagan’s Vice President and a former director of the CIA, pardoned all on the last day of his presidency.

Before the PRA, Jimmy Carter, no questions asked, turned his Presidential Records over to the Archives at the end of his term. Former President Gerald Ford said: “I firmly believe that after X period, presidential papers, except for the most highly sensitive documents involving our national security, should be made available to the public, and the sooner, the better.”

Obama Reflects Faith in History

The day after his inauguration Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13489 revoking George W. Bush’s Executive Order. It would be unfortunate if Presidential Papers were to be tossed from one Administration to another like a ping pong ball or hot potato. I merely touched on the current matter of the former President’s records because of their coverage in the daily news, but this background information might shed some light on how we got here.

The lack of trust in American culture today has multiple sources, but locking up Presidential Records for an extended time further erodes confidence in the American government. As we live through dark political times, ignorance of our history can pull us full circle to relive the worst of our past. Or we can learn from our history and shine light into the future.

Lincoln’s: Kid’s Story Birth of Lincoln’s Beard!

Lincoln reaches out to shake Grace Bedell’s hand in 1861. Lincoln stopped on his pre-inaugural train tour in her hometown to thank her. SONY DSC

Did an 11-year-old influence a national election?

Story to remember Abraham Lincoln on his birthday 213 years ago (February 12, 1809).

On October 15, 1860, * eleven-year-old Grace Bedell from Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, a candidate for President from Illinois. She admitted it was “very bold” for her to write just a few weeks before the national election. But she “very much” wanted Lincoln to be President.

Grace Bedell statue in Westfield, New York, commemorating the meeting with Lincoln (1861).

Grace wrote Lincoln that her father “came home from the fair and brought your picture.” She noticed in the picture that Lincoln had a narrow face. “You would look a great deal better if your whiskers grew,” she wrote. Then suggested that “ladies like whiskers” and would “tease their husbands” to vote for Lincoln.

Judge for yourself. Remember facial standards of beauty change throughout time. The image on the left showed Lincoln as a younger man. The right shows Lincoln during the Civil War, when his worries show.

Her four brothers were split on who they preferred for President. But both of her parents supported Abe. She agreed with them.

Before completing her note, she asked Lincoln if he had any daughters. If you have any daughters “as large as I am,” give them my love. Grace thought maybe this older daughter, if he had one, could write her back if Lincoln were too busy.

A copy of Lincoln’s return letter latter typed for preservation. Typewriters were not invented until 1874.

Lincoln responded within the week, thanking Grace for her “very agreeable letter of the 15th. Regrettably, I have no daughters, but three sons: seventeen, nine, and seven.”  At the time of the letter Lincoln questioned the whiskers: “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?”

He closed with “very sincere well wishes.”

After the 1860 Presidential Election, Lincoln took a long train trip to Washington, D.C. from Illinois for his inauguration. Lincoln visited several larger cities, including New York City and Philadelphia. But he made a special stop in one small town: Westfield, New York. There he thanked Grace and had a surprise. He bent his tall figure down to shake Grace’s hand, so she could get a better look at his face:

“You see I grew these whiskers for you!” +

Your chance: Presidents and governors answer letters from Americans of all ages. Maybe you would like to express your thoughts and opinions. You can write the President today at:

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500        or      open   White House.gov   to send an email message.

Your thoughts and ideas are important because you will become voters who are especially important to America’s future!

————————

*More than five months into the Civil War  

+ America did not have national pollsters in 1860 and the letter came so close to the election, the impact Lincoln’s whiskers is impossible to judge. But Lincoln did continue to wear them. He either thought they helped soften his image or he liked not needing to shave!