Foodies … it’s your time. On your mark, get set, go!

Summer time is eating time. The food, oh the food. I hope you took heed to some of my blogs from the spring and late winter about fitness and getting your body in shape because now is when you want to not worry about any of that. Now, it’s time for foodies to unite. Eat!

Vacations of course are wonderful. But whether you are on vacation or staycation or not going anywhere at all, summer is for foodies. Farmers markets are bursting with bounties of peaches, blueberries, blackberries, squash, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, tomatoes, butter beans, pink-eye peas, bell peppers, sweet silver queen corn and on and on. I love going to our state Farmers Market this time of year (actually I love going all year). Starting last summer, I began going to pick your own blueberry and blackberry farms. Last week I picked blueberries and blackberries … oh how sweet!

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If you have a farm to table restaurant in your area, summer is a great time to eat there. If you are near a body of fishing water, get the catch of the day and pair it with some fresh vegetables from the garden, cornbread, silver queen corn on the cob and oh my, delicious.

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Some of my favorite memories of summer are sitting on the front porch and eating watermelon. There was guy in St. Pete that we nicknamed the Watermelon Man because he would drive through our neighborhood in the summer in his pick up truck, with it loaded down with watermelons. When I saw him, I would go running into the house to tell Mommy that the Watermelon Man was here, could we please, please buy a watermelon! Nowadays, I go out to the Farmers Market and pick a watermelon, using all of the scientific methods included in the articles that I have read. But of course, it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know until you open it what you will get. That’s part of what comes along with it. Grab one and go for it.

Summer veggies are plentiful. As I walked the Farmers Market last week, the sights of them all were just awesome. Who couldn’t find something they loved. You can even find something you don’t have to cook. Make a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, vinegar, salt & pepper … no cooking necessary. Even with cooking, the vegetables are so fresh that you don’t need to cook them much, in fact you don’t want to cook them much to keep the taste sweet and fresh. Just a little bit of seasoning and herbs added, a light touch of butter or olive oil. Although my hubby is a big meat eater, during the summer he eats a lot of fruit and vegetables (willingly, I might add) because they are so plentiful, so fresh, so awesomely yummy.

Now for the grilling. Well, there is a plethora of what can be done on a grill. Some folks know how to work magic on a grill. My husband grills steaks that don’t need steak sauce. Add a summer salad, a cob of corn and you’ve got an easy summer meal. He can take a little more time and barbecue a rack of ribs with a special barbecue sauce. I can’t tell you what is in the sauce because then we would have to eliminate you. Don’t even bother with a fork & knife, these ribs are best eaten with fingers. For me, he grills steelhead trout or wild salmon or grouper or swordfish. Moist, seasoned well and delish! With some butter beans or baked beans and a roll … that’s a summer dinner for any foodie.

Is your mouth watering yet?

I am okay with going to the grocery store but in the summer time, find your nearest farmers market or corner farm stand. Those are the places to enjoy that you don’t have all year round. Cook up something simple for dinner tonight. Sit out on your deck or front porch, feel the summer breeze and chill with the taste that only summer provides.

 

Divorce American style … otherwise known as 4th of July for the 241st time

This week the United States of America is 241 years old. There are ambivalent feelings about that. Some are celebrating. Some are questioning whether to celebrate.

Do we celebrate that this land was taken from the original inhabitants? Do we celebrate that people were taken from Africa in order to work this land for the benefit of the victors of the Revolutionary War?

Do we celebrate the independence of separating from a nation in order to establish a land of religious tolerance and freedom that now is seemingly being denied by Republicans and the current occupant of the oval office? Do we celebrate the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America which state “liberty & justice for all,” “we are all created equal,” when we see in 2017 that isn’t reality for people of color, people without access to power, people in low-income communities, and people who struggle every day to be visible.

The 4th of July might be cause for celebration for some but for many it is not. This article quotes the feelings of some that feel it is not: July Fourth holiday brings mixed feelings for minorities http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBDAO0B?ocid=se

Recently at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, the living quarters of Sally Hemings was uncovered. Ms. Hemings was the enslaved mistress of Thomas Jefferson who gave birth to at least six of his children. In 2016, a project was announced that would renovate areas of the plantation which include paying homage to the enslaved people who lived there. You can read about the recent discovery of Ms. Hemings living quarters in this article:

Historians Uncover Slave Quarters of Sally Hemings at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBDEsEF?ocid=se

It is interesting that the article notes that visitors to Monticello ask questions relevant to the mixed feelings that some of us have about the 4th of July holiday such as, “Why did Jefferson own slaves and write that all men are created equal?” As an author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson owned 600 slaves. Hmm, that kind of makes ya think.

Inequality is real and still prevalent for many Americans.  It’s a big country and none of us living today was around when the country’s documents were signed or the first shot was fired that resulted in the fight for independence. But, this is where we live now. Whether we were born here or migrated here. Whether our ancestors came here voluntarily or were captured as slaves and dragged here, this land is where we are now. Whether our ancestors were the original owners of this land yet had it taken from them by occupied forces and our ancestors traveled a trail of tears, this is the where we are now. So, even if we may not feel like celebrating what happened on July 4, 1776, my suggestion is to celebrate that we are here now in 2017 and think about where you want our country to be on the next 4th of July in 2018. Decide what you can do to make that happen.

There was not all perfection in the writing of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States of America. There were visions of what should be and how to get there by the writers. Some of that has worked out in one way or another. Some things have come close to being realized and some still have a long way to go. In fact we know that amendments have been made to the Constitution so clearly improvement has been useful. Everything was not always clear … “all men are created equal” certainly benefited from some clarification. Life is a work in process and so too is our country.

On this 4th of July, I am not just celebrating what happened in 1776 because it was one event with many sequels. I am choosing to celebrate that you and I have the ability to keep things moving forward. That the Constitution is a document that guides us but laws can be made that move it further into reality and judges can ensure the spirit of justice is maintained. Too many injustices still happen every time a killer or abuser is not found guilty when evidence seems to show otherwise but the system failed the victim. I will celebrate my right to vote that came with amendments to the Constitution because some people didn’t fully interpret “all men are created equal.”

I will celebrate the blood and lives given by my ancestors so that I could have a job, could buy a home in the neighborhood of our choice, could send our children to the school of our choice, can drink out of a water fountain without a sign on it, and can walk into a store through the front door. I will celebrate the freedom of speech to speak out about change that needs to be changed. I will celebrate that we had eight years of a black man as President who truly made us all proud. Happy 4th of July for now and for what is to come.

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Spiritual experiences may happen in unexpected ways because God Is …

When we step away from our routines, we get a chance to re-set. Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it is unexpected. Going on a vacation or to a conference or to a family reunion can provide that opportunity. Those events might be well scheduled out and so you think they are structured and they will have their own routines. Even then, if you allow yourself to be in the moment, you might have a spiritual experience when you least expected it.

Last week I attended a family reunion for my mother’s side of the family in New Orleans. At so many turns and moments of the reunion, I felt the presence of my mother and at some times my father as well because he went to college in New Orleans. The six days of being in New Orleans provided a wonderful break in my routine and amazingly provided an unexpected spiritual experience that I am still feeling the impact of from the inside.

My routine for so many recent months has been to be on the computer doing emails, gathering information on political stories, reading, doing community volunteering, sometimes going to a political rally or meeting, going to local activities for my local organizations, carrying out my jobs as officers for a couple of the volunteer groups I am in, doing things for my family, mentoring, social media postings, evening watching of Rachel and Lawrence, etc. It’s become standard. But going to New Orleans for the family reunion changed my routine and it was a gift.

The first part of the gift was that the place where we were staying didn’t have cable.  The second part of the gift was that I didn’t have time to do the daily routine described above. Instead, I was with family that I don’t to see often and I was immersed in them. I completely was in the present moment and didn’t want to do my usual of keeping up with politics or do much social media posting or even reading. Some days we cooked at one of our rental houses and some days we ate out. Some days we picked up take out and brought it back to the rental house and played games, laughed a lot and got to know each other better. We had relatives that we had never met before come together, folks we had heard about or seen on the family tree or “met” on Facebook. There’s nothing like meeting folks in person. That was just on Day 1. If you haven’t attended a family reunion in a while, give yourself the gift of connecting with family, I can just about guarantee it is a gift that will keep on giving.

Day 2 brought a consoling and exciting spiritual experience that I really, really didn’t expect. I sort of randomly selected a catholic church for the family to attend, St. Peter Claver. I just did an internet search for New Orleans and read information about several churches in the area. The church that my mother and uncle had attended was no longer in existence so we had to start fresh.  I wanted one with a Catholic gospel choir, just thinking that would be enjoyable since my mother sang in one in Washington, DC. The song the choir sang after Communion “just happened” to be a favorite song of my mother’s. (now you know that was a God wink) It was a song we had selected for Mommy’s funeral, a refrain from which we chose to put on the cover of her funeral program. I was in amazement. I felt my mother’s spirit running through me as the choir gave a rousing rendition of God Is My All and All. My toes are almost curling as I think about it now. Here is a link to a beautifully stirring rendition of that awesome song: https://youtu.be/rh1f1UPMHoA

I helped to do the planning for the reunion, helped to put together the itinerary, suggested the places we would go, the activities, polled the family to find out interests,  sent out the communications, etc. So, you know how you think you are planning and doing something for others but Lawdy have mercy, I was enriched by the experience myself.

We tried to cut down on expenses with the group of 35 or so of us so some of the family meals were cooked at one of the rental houses. That made for a lot of fun as the meals were cooked. Games were played, music was played, conversations were aplenty. And yes, there was some trash-talking too. We exchanged long lost photos of great-great grandparents, great-great aunts and cousins and cousins. We were family. We had come from San Francisco, Berkley, St. Pete, Columbus OH, Raleigh NC, Washington DC, New York NY, Cincinnati OH, Chicago IL, and New Orleans LA … but we were family. Just being together felt like a spiritual experience with God in the middle.

We went to Whitney Plantation on Day 3. The only plantation in the country that is devoted to the enslaved. Words are inadequate to describe the spiritual experience of walking the grounds of that place. It was a first to hear information that informed us of who the slaves really were as people, as humans not just as property and that honored the people who worked the land, who chopped the sugar cane, who boiled the sugar cane, who gave their limbs and lives for the crop that made southern Louisiana resourceful and its owners rich.  If you get to New Orleans, the ride is just about 45 minutes outside of the city and well worth your time: http://whitneyplantation.com/

I have been to other plantations but I left there changed. While their stories were filled with pain, I could also feel the warmth and the humanness of who they were. There were memorial walls with the names of every person who had been enslaved there. To the extent known, their country of origin, their occupation on the plantation, their year of birth and death.  Finally, someone had taken the time to catalogue who these people were, not just what they could produce.

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Day 4 was a celebration of the arts and music of New Orleans. Art and music speak to your soul. Have you listened to a song and felt it deep in your bones? Have you seen a piece of art that cried out to you? Yeah, well that was Monday night and Tuesday day. My oldest sister posted this recently: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.“-Pablo Picasso. Yep, that’s truth. That is what I felt on that day. We experienced visual art and performing musical art and the dust of daily life was washed off.

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Our last day in New Orleans we went to Xavier University campus where my mother and father met and attended college. I felt the presence of them both when we were on campus. There were both brilliant and both very giving people. They were able to raise five very strong-minded, independent daughters and sons who still adore them. We are because they were. None of our children had the fortune to meet our father but I pray we have given them some insights into the accomplished man that he was. All of children knew our mother and she had a strong presence in their lives. They knew her strength and her kindness. To honor them both by being on the campus where they met, working through the endowed scholarship we set up for them, rounded out the spiritual experience that had begun several days before.

I know that I will likely once again get caught up in the every day politics. I will once again start my volunteering … that is after all what my parents did so I must do that. I will once again fall into some of my routines. But, I am adapting to a new normal that keeps with me bits and pieces of what I experienced during those days. I had a spiritual experience that I long to hold onto. I want to embrace it a little longer. I want to figure out how to touch others in a way that my mother & father still touch my life. I want to be the change that I want to see in the world. I still see and hear the choir singing God Is My All and All and it fills me with joy.  I want to keep the dust off my soul with art and music. I want to honor those who worked the plantations of the 1800s. The challenge now is to pause each day, not just slip back. Once you know, don’t forget that you know. Do something about it. Feel what you feel. Sink into the joy of the spiritual experience that God is wherever we are.

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Booking it

Truly one of the best activities of summer is reading for me. Traveling is fun too but sometimes that involves so much effort to get ready for the trip (planning the trip, making reservations for everywhere you are going or doing, deciding what to pack, packing, getting the family ready … all of that for you and your family too — I am exhausted just thinking about it with little ones in tow), the time to get to where you are going, the unpacking when you get there, the getting in line for the attractions or sightseeing. Okay, yeah enough of that. They are what memories are made of and although it took effort, I wouldn’t trade any of those. I do recall the lazy days of summer including the fun of days when we weren’t traveling with our children and they had their Summer Reading Lists. I had my various Summer Reading Lists from the local library or Oprah’s magazine or suggestions from friends. When the kids were playing outside or doing their reading or attending a summer camp, and I had an afternoon to chill, the order of the day was “Booking It.”

So, thanks to several friends and one of my daughters, I am happy to share with you for this week’s Blog, some suggestions for you to “Book It” for your Summer Reading List. Some of these I have read and some I will be including in my Summer 2017 reading. There literally were so many reading lists that I came across as I was researching for this blog that there is no way that you can’t find something you would like.

First up, 10 books read by Chantal James for Pulchram Press’ Summer Reading suggested list: https://www.pulchrampress.com/single-post/2017/06/06/One-Time-for-Your-Mind-Books-of-Courage-for-Summer-2017. Some of you may know that Pulchram Press is a fairly new small book publishing company that is being launched, it’s tag line is “Seeing beautiful books come to life.” Sounds like a cool way to spend the summer. Chantal’s reading list has 10 great suggestions for several age ranges and includes a book by Toni Morrison, “A Mercy“, “I’m Judging You” by Luvvie Ajayi (winner of 2017 AABMC non-fiction book award) a book of poetry, a book for young adults by Madeline L’Engle. One of her book suggestions focuses on how imagination and creativity makes humans exceptional and even gives thoughts / perspectives on living on this planet that are quite timely in light of the President’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional by Augustin Fuentes.

Chantal has included the intriguing, Memoirs of A Dutiful Daughter  by Simone de Beauvoir, which she describes in her review: “This book is written by someone whose life is well known, so the joy is not so much in finding out what happens but in finding out how it happens. Here Beauvoir is sowing the seeds that will blossom into a full-fledged love affair with the life of the mind and the desire to be unfettered by any constraints in pursuit of it, least of all the fact of being a woman.” Check out the full list of 10 books included on her Summer Reading List at the above link.

Summer reading suggestions from Kellye Patrice, a fun librarian at the Riviera Beach Community Library in Anne Arundel County. She has read some fun books lately, including some that may have started out slow but then revved up her attention. Those of you who know me well know that I get much wisdom from Oprah and Maya Angelou so it gave me sheer joy to see that two books on Kellye’s summer lists were What I Know For Sure by Oprah and Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. I have both of these and enjoyed them. If you could squeeze wisdom for life into just two books that you would want to pass along to your kids, consider these books.

Others on Kellye’s list include: The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Now who would think that a manuscript from 500 B.C.E. would still have relevance in 2017. But for sure this does. One review describes this as: “perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.” I say go for it … this might be useful in work and in balancing work and life.

A few books that might be good for the beach while the kids or dogs romp and play: His Third Wife by Grace Octavia, The Other Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey, Kindred by Octavia Butler and The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

Three books that I am planning to explore this summer are very different but have a common thread that reflect what is going on in the America we are living in today. They may not seem like light summer reading but summer is also a time for enlightenment and re-charging the batteries so I am including them on the list. They are all included in O Magazine’s list of 20 Books of Summer in its July issue. Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif describes a journey of a young woman from Saudi Arabia who just wanted to encourage women to drive, self described as the Saudi Rosa Parks, fighting for human rights beginning with the simple task of a woman being able to drive a car.

Senator Al Franken has evolved into the conscience of the Senate, in my view far more than Bernie Sanders and with a sense of humor that some seem to forget how serious he is actually being when he slaps Jeff Sessions for his stupidity. His memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, promotes democracy and defends progressive government at a time when the far-right seems to have convinced voters that too much government means we should allow 23 million people to be kicked off their insurance and cut $800 billion out of Medicaid. He used to be a comic on SNL and now he is progressive, outspoken voice for truth.

The Hate U Give is written by a young voice, Angie Thomas, a 29 year-old who experienced the killings of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and thought they were people she could have grown up with. Her book is written from the perspective of Starr, a 16 year-old who witnesses the fatal shooting of a childhood friend at the hands of a police officer. Her friend was unarmed. Starr struggles with what to do and how it will impact her community.

Several other books are included in the O magazine issue, pick it up and see what else might be of interest. Lastly, the New York Times recently published a column with book recommendations from novelists who own bookstores. I thought that is an interesting perspective. Here’s a link to that article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/books/summer-reading-recommendations-from-6-novelists-who-own-bookstores.html. You might find a good read from their list.

I hope your summer will carve out some time to enjoy several good books. To me, that is a summer ritual. Reading expands the mind, relaxes the mind and enriches the mind. You can go anywhere you want to go through the pages of a book. Several studies have shown a resurgence in books, physical books. E-readers were introduced and some publishers thought people would stop buying paperbacks and hardcovers. They were wrong. Amazon just opened a physical bookstore in New York City. The grand opening was grand. People still like holding a book in their hand. But however you choose to get your book, read. It’s a great escape. Booking it can make your summer.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine …

June is here and school is already out for many will be out soon for the rest of the students. What is your favorite summer past time? Taking vacation. Attending a convention or conference. Going to the beach. Reading from a list of great summer reads. Traveling the US parks or Europe or the Caribbean. Are you going to a family reunion? Oh, there are so many wonderful things to do for summer. One quite sure thing to do is reconnect with yourself.

Find time to sit in the shade on the ground or in a hammock and feel the summer breeze. The Isley Brothers have a song titled, Summer Breeze, that includes a refrain “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom….”

As you get ready for that summer breeze to make you feel fine, you certainly want to look fine. Maybe you are watching what you eat so you can fit in that new bikini or swim trunks without the muffin top spilling over. Ahh, that late winter / spring splurge  might be the ruin of the start of summer with its extra five or so pounds. Well, you might want to consider ginger. Yep, ginger. There was an article in TIME magazine about the health benefits of ginger that now show ginger helps with fat burning, carbohydrate digestion and insulin secretion. It was already established that ginger helps as anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol and lowers blood pressure but now it can help you get into those skinny summer capri pants too. You can view the article at this link: http://time.com/4787027/ginger-body-fat-obesity/ . Consuming ginger can help with calorie burn and reduce feelings of hunger.

Another TIME article covers some ways to rev up your metabolism: http://time.com/4797839/boost-metabolism-exercise-sleep/. Some very simple steps such as eat protein in the morning and afternoon. Believe it or not, the article suggests eating a snack before bedtime … who knew? Another suggestion is go to bed early, a good night’s rest is not overrated for sure. Not having enough sleep has been talked about for years because of its impact on weight retention. Go to bed, it’s not worth that late movie … but if the Warriors are playing the Cavaliers and the game goes into overtime then all bets are off for going to bed early.

The point here is to get body-ready for summer. I see some people invest in clothing and accessories for their summer vacations and their bodies are out of shape. Invest the same effort and energy in yourself as you do in what you buy to carry with you for your trip. It would be ideal if you had started when I blogged about it several months ago but at least go for it now.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to take a couple days to chill out and do some reading and sip some tea. Those are two of my favorite things to in the summer. Reading is enriching and summers are great enrichment periods. Tea is calming and relaxing so good for getting you into a summer mood. Now, I am not a consumer of alcoholic drinks but I guess those can also be on your list for chilling for the summer. I just can’t give you the recommendations for them. Call my hubby for a good red or white wine.

Next week, I plan to share a summer reading list. I would love for you to give me your favorite books for summer, books you have read this year that you recommend, books that others have shared that you are planning to read.

Summer is such a chill time. I hope you will do something fun. See family. Spend extra time with family. Get away from the office for two weeks … Americans historically don’t use all of their vacation days. Instead of being available 24/7, block off time that you won’t check your email and stick to it. Give your kids undivided attention, for real. Seriously. Leave your phone in the living room over night instead of by your bed. Get out of the kitchen, pick up some shrimp and steaks and fire up the grill for dinner along with a summer fruit or mixed green salad. Summer is good for eating light too, forget about the heavy meals.

I can almost feel the summer breeze on my skin because I am so ready for it. Last summer seems like a lifetime ago, actually January 20th feels like a decade ago. Mini vacations are good these days to do self-care. The longer daylight is just begging for some lollygagging time. Get your body ready. I will have a reading list for you soon. Plan your trip. Take off the time. Open your windows on your car and let the summer breeze in.

Cool beans before there was cool

Before there was cool Barack Obama, there was cool John F Kennedy. Before there was cool Michelle Obama, there was cool Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Before Barack Obama was elected as President at the age of 47, JFK was elected the youngest President at the age of 43. I was just a babe but I grew up with the legend of the US version of Camelot, the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the First Lady with a style of her own, a soft voice and shoulders that carried a nation after his assassination.

May 29th marked what would have been the 100th birthday of John F Kennedy. His daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, her daughters & son and the JFK Library produced a short video giving thoughts & reflections on this milestone: https://youtu.be/Hlz355SxDOE.

Would it surprise you to know that JFK planned to be a writer or teacher? I think most of us can’t imagine that. I certainly can only see him as the President that he became. He had so much to give in that role. He was instrumental in our journey to outer space and our journey to civil rights. His assassination left much of the civil rights activities to be completed by President Lyndon Johnson but he advanced its beginning. But, how many of you knew that he was behind the effort to get the Washington Redskins NFL team to finally integrate. The Washington Post published a brief but insightful article on his legacy that included this tidbit: http://wapo.st/2qMIZhw?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.e936528c9c19.

A new collection of essays was published at the beginning of May in honor of the centennial birthday of President Kennedy, JFK: A Vision for America. It is authored by his nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley. One of the things that is interesting about this compilation is that it includes speeches from his time as a Senator. The book has received excellent reviews and is noted to have “thought-provoking, inspiring and eloquent insights.” It includes speeches and essays from today’s leaders on JFK’s life that relate how his life and legacy is still relevant today. As I reflect on the eight years of President Obama and all that he did, I can also look back on the short three years of President Kennedy and see what real leadership looked like. Particularly as we have endured these four months of bad leadership. At least we know what a good President looked like. I am putting JFK: A Vision for America on my summer reading list, consider it for yours.

The book includes a 1960 campaign speech on religious tolerance. That certainly is relevant today given the current occupant of the oval office and his hateful executive order banning Muslim and Syrian immigrants. During his campaign, many tried to make an issue out of his religion, particularly Republicans. But, he implored the nation to see him not as the first Catholic President but a President who happened to be Catholic. We need that same understanding in 2017. It was JFK and Catholicism in 1960. It has been Trump and Muslims in 2016 and 2017. It will be something else in another year if we don’t understand tolerance is needed for all. If they come for your neighbor in the morning and you are silent, you need to worry if they will be back for you in the night.

The current occupant has had a theme of “America First”. The new book reminds us of JFK’s belief in diplomacy, which interestingly is quite similar to President Obama, and how he had a vision of an internationalist America where our country clearly had a role in the world to advance peace, cooperation and avoid militarism. Interesting similarities to today’s times indeed.

JFK had a broad respect for the press and was known for his embrace of reporters. He was amused by them, befriended them. He showed coolness, used wit and had a willingness to hold regular news conferences that actually cultivated friendly relationships (some say he “charmed” the press to the point that they overlooked his womanizing transgressions). His news conferences were televised and with the early use of television in 1960, he grabbed this new medium as an effective direct communication. He did not shy away from being accessible. Another stark contrast from today’s current occupant of the oval office who hides behind the medium of Twitter.

An article in the Washington Post (http://wapo.st/2pOyDKU?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.9c43db50888a) that contrasts the current presidency with JFK’s, notes that a  large reason for JFK’s success is that he came across as being believable. From the beginning lie about the inauguration crowd size, the current occupant of the oval office has been the absolute opposite of believable. He has no credibility because he lies every day.

I didn’t know until recently that JFK was actually a journalist himself at the age of 28 for Hearst newspaper. He learned the business and thought journalists were “well-informed, even intellectual.” Ben Bradlee, who was publisher of the Washington Post said, “Kennedy himself genuinely like reporters.” “JFK understood the crucial role of a vigorous free press in a democracy and liked to point out the absence of journalistic freedom in the Soviet Union.” Such a significant difference from what we are experiencing but a lesson we can learn about real leadership.

Some quotes from JFK that inspire me and give me hope:
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
“The stories of past courage…can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

  <!– [if lt IE 7]>/common/js/jq-png-min.js<![endif]–> “Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot insure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.”

From a commencement address at American University in June 1963: “I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war–and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”
“Our problems are man-made–therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable–and we believe they can do it again.”
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
So, on this 100th commemoration of the birth of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, I salute and thank him. I feel nostalgic for good leadership like that. I feel grateful for good Presidents like him and President Barack Obama. At least we have them to look to and know that we had Presidents like them. One day, we will again. Until then, we have no more urgent task than to speak out but at least we know what cool looks like. Cool was JFK. Cool was Obama. To them I say, cool beans.