Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A poignant response to the shootings in Pittsburgh…. From 1790 and signed by Gorge Washington

As a son of Pittsburgh who still claims it as my hometown, I have been deeply saddened  and angered by the news of the violent madness that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood last week.  I was devastated to hear of the eleven shooting deaths, and the number of individuals wounded, all the work on a madman who somehow thought that this act of anti-Semitic violence was part of his patriotic duty.  There are no words to bring enough comfort for the families of those lost, no indignation great enough to express my, and broadly our revulsion of this act of hatred and violence.  

We live at a moment in our country when a political language of fear, hatred, mendacity, distrust and violence has replaced the concepts of common decency, fact based debate, and neighborly civility.  I am confident that the silent majority of this country is more than annoyed or embarrassed by this trend and we need to stand up, and take action in our own day to day language to find a more thoughtful, balanced , tempered and reasonable vocabulary for our civic dialogue.

It is in that spirit that I share the following inspiration; the letter that George Washington wrote to the Jewish community in Newport Rhode Island in 1790. Early in my career, I held a sales meeting in Newport at The Viking Hotel, very close to the Touro Synagouge, one of our nation’s oldest dating from the 1760’s.  It was there, back in the late 90’s when I first heard of the famous “Washington Letter” and had a chance to read a copy at that time.  A model of governmental ideals, religious liberty, and beautiful civic language, this letter has provided inspiration to many for centuries, and for me has never been more applicable than now!

Take a moment and read the letter, copied below from the Touro Synagouge website, http://www.tourosynagogue.org, and find a way to appreciate the words AND take action to apply them today.  I took the liberty to put in bold font a key paragraph that has affected me deeply, the core sentence being 

…”for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

Let us “give bigotry no sanction,” let us give “persecution no assistance,”  and instead work hard in our actions and our language to be “good citizens,” working TOGETHER to give our country and all our neighbors “effectual support.”

George Washington's Letter 
to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Vote for America; voting is the lifeblood and oxygen that our democracy needs now!

I am very proud to say that earlier this week, I went to one of my identified early voting sites

DeKalb county:
Fulton county:

 in metro Atlanta and cast my votes in the mid-term election of 2018!  This year's voting experience has seemed more vital than even, as our country and our democracy is facing real challenges on many fronts.  Now maybe more than ever the voice of the people needs to be heard not only in demonstrations/social media bursts or blog posts( yours truly totally included) but at the voting booth all across our country and across all ages, demographics, etc!  Our country and our democracy needs us to vote now!!

Walking out of the polling location,  I had a complete flashback to a moment coming out of the 2000 election where I was taught a very valuable lesson on this same point, that the voice of our country needs to be heard through the voting booth.  It was in 2001 or 2002 when I was a senior marketing executive at Coke, where I was sent to a meeting held at Home Depot headquarters to a meeting of Atlanta based companies being convened by Norman Lear.  For those who don't know, Mr. Lear is an award winning ( Emmy, Peabody, National Medal for the Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, etc.) writer, director and producer who was the creator of the TV shows "All in the Family," The Jeffersons," "Good Times," "Maude," to name just a few.  He had convened this meeting to gain support from Atlanta based companies for a personal project of national interest.  Compelling and mysterious... I was hooked!

As we gathered in the board room at Home Depot, we all quickly caught a glimpse of what the meeting was all about!  Norman Lear had purchased one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence ( a life size facsimile was in the center of the room) and he wanted to take it on tour across America and he wanted our support.  While I was totally blown away by the presentation, I sheepishly asked what his objective was for the tour.  He quietly responded that " a healthy democracy is an active democracy" and that the sole purpose of his tour was to expand voter registration and turnout.  He reflected back to the 2000 presidential election and commented that it was a major setback for our democracy that the election had been decided by a few hundred "hanging chads" in Florida while voter turnout nationally was only 54% of eligible voters... as he said the voice of the people was not "heard" in 2000.

While we can't go back eighteen years, we can take action now!  This is a moment in our county's history where we need less complaining and MORE VOTING!  Less anguished social media threads aghast at the latest tweet or commentary and MORE VOTING!  Fewer journalists or amateur blog writers wringing their hands at the state of our democracy (again me 100% included) and MORE VOTING!  Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your kids and their friends and find ways to encourage and help them to vote!  Get absentee ballots to your kids in college (and even to their friends!)  Help folks find their way to their polling locations or send around directions to early voting sights ( as my friend Pete did with the links above) but vote yourselves and help others to vote!!  Vote to help our country and our democracy.... Vote for America!

postscript: walking to my car yesterday at the polling spot, a fellow voter in a Braves t-shirt slapped me on the back ( a total stranger so I was a bit startled for sure) and said "this is a great day in America!"  While I have no idea of his name, background , political orientation, etc. I agreed with him ... any day we get a chance to vote is a "great day in America!"