Remarks: Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution David Skorton at Chesapeake College

Editor’s Note: Dr. David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, gave the commencement address in Wye Mills yesterday.  We have reprinted his remarks in their entirety.
Thank you for that introduction, Dr. Viniar (Barbara). I’m not surprised that you’ve been such a successful and innovative leader here at Chesapeake College, given your earlier successes, including your excellent track record leading the Institute for Community College Development when we were colleagues at Cornell. Thanks for inviting me to be here today.

It’s my pleasure to be here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for this auspicious occasion. Go Skipjacks!

And let me share one of many congratulations to the 2017 graduating class! Well done!

As I thought about what I wanted to share with you and your families and friends today, the state of the world brought to mind a particularly relevant phrase: “May you live in interesting times.”

Supposedly a Chinese curse, there’s no evidence it is actually a curse, nor that it’s Chinese. Perhaps we can think of it as an early example of fake news.

If you are predisposed to thinking of our interesting times as a curse, you would certainly have justification to do so. This graduating class will have to contend with the effects of climate change. You will face a job market which is likely to become increasingly uncertain because of the proliferation of automation. And we are all living through a hyper-partisan era in which our elected officials seem less likely than ever to seek common ground to find solutions.

Given the realities on the ground, it is all too easy to become discouraged if not cynical.

However, I think these really are interesting times in the truest sense of the word. They hold great promise for the future. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us, if only each of us and all of us grab hold of it.

I believe that wholeheartedly, because when things have been at their bleakest—wars, depressions, existential crises—the American people have always found a way to persevere and thrive. And I believe that we can and will do this again.

Despite your achievement today, it is understandable that you may feel somewhat anxious about your future or even be unsure what you want to do next. But the fact that you’ve taken on this challenge shows you have the fortitude to be successful in life. It’s true whether you arrived fresh out of high school or came later to continue your education; whether your next destination is the workforce or a four-year school.

So, before you feel the urge to rush out and prove my optimism right—or at least to get out of these robes and celebrate somewhere—I’d like to tell you why I feel so good about our collective future.

As the Secretary of the Smithsonian, I get to see what smart, dedicated people do every day. Not just the 6500 employees who work for us, but also the 6300 volunteers who work at our 19 museums, nine research centers, and the National Zoo.

In many ways, museums, like institutions of higher learning, are going through a massive transformation. Much of that is due to the pervasive influence of technology, from interactivity to communication to outreach. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the explosion of connectivity brought about by the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones.

Author Clay Shirky has written extensively about the kinds of active and engaged networks of people that social media can enable. In a TED talk, he called our internet-connected age, “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

I see a lot of that expressiveness from the Smithsonian’s digital volunteers. Outnumbering our on-site volunteers, this army of 8700 people around the world transcribes Smithsonian documents and data online. They are critically important to our mammoth effort to digitize much of our collection of 154 million objects. In this way, technology is helping us reach people globally with our collections. But it is also enabling the people who help us to do so.

The power of social media also becomes obvious when groups pool their money to accomplish goals that don’t receive enough funding through traditional means. This crowdfunding can take the form of philanthropy like the viral “ice bucket challenge” that raised 100 million dollars in a month for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. That money led directly to researchers identifying a gene associated with the disease, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments.

The Smithsonian has also been the beneficiary of people’s collective generosity. The National Air and Space Museum had a successful Kickstarter campaign to preserve the spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore during his historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Technology is also increasingly giving hope to the underserved around the world. In developing nations, solar power, microloans, and clean water are lifelines to modernity.

Bringing technology to underserved populations has made huge differences in people’s ability to care for, educate, and feed their families. For instance, between 2011 and 2014, the explosion in mobile technology in developing nations led to a twenty percent drop in people who didn’t have bank accounts. This is a crucial development since, as World Bank

Group President Jim Yong Kim said in 2015, “Access to financial services can serve as a bridge out of poverty.”

The tools of the digital age also allow people from a large variety of backgrounds to engage in what has become known as “citizen science,” collecting data on a massive scale and giving the naturally curious the ability to experience first-hand the scientific method. One such program that our Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute takes part in is the

Global Amphibian BioBlitz. Its aim is to observe one of every amphibian in the world and create a database to study and protect them. So far, more than 16,000 amateur herpetologists have participated.

My outlook continues to be optimistic because so many of these technologies are being deployed by people for the benefit of their fellow human beings. Technology is a powerful tool, but ultimately it is only as important and effective as the people who wield it. The collective power of people to do good is so frequently underappreciated. Working toward a common goal, people can topple dictators, help cure disease, and change the course of history.

Making our individual voices heard is still one of the most powerful aspects of the United States. That truth is at the heart of our democracy. It is why people from around the world still aspire to the American Dream. I’ve had the good fortune to meet many of them at our National Museum of American History, where each year many people from distant shores come to be sworn in as new citizens in naturalization ceremonies. As someone whose father was a Russian immigrant and a naturalized citizen, the annual event is always a moving experience for me. I challenge anyone who meets these people and hears their stories of how they got here to question their patriotism. Seeing America through their eyes is to truly appreciate the ideals this nation embodies.

Immigration has always been important for the diversity it has brought to our nation. When people talk about diversity, they usually mean ethnicity, gender, or background. That is certainly important, for what is the American Dream but the notion that all have an equal opportunity to succeed? Thankfully, younger generations are already on board with a more diverse society.

But just as critical for the dynamism and innovation that drives the U.S. is a type of diversity that author Scott Page identifies in his book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies.”

He addresses the value of “cognitive diversity”—the differences in how people think. Everyone sees the world a bit differently, everyone has different strengths, and these different perspectives facilitate problem-solving.

In fact, his research showed that the most diverse groups consistently outperformed the most talented groups.

And here is another reason for you to be optimistic today: education is still the greatest predictor of earnings in the workforce.

According to the Department of Education, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than high school graduates. Over the course of a lifetime, that translates into a 1-million-dollar gap between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. And in three years, approximately two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training, including associate’s degrees.

Colleges like Chesapeake play a critical role for their students, their communities and the country. That is why I have for decades admired and worked closely with colleagues in community colleges in Iowa, New York State, and beyond.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, associate’s degrees awarded increased from 634,000 to more than 1 million from the 2002 school year to the 2012 school year, a jump of 59%, more than the rate that bachelor’s degrees rose.

And an associate’s degree provides tremendous value. The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges found that the average 2016 tuition of a community college is about a third of a 4-year in-state public school. And it’s about a tenth of a 4-year private university.

Even more impressive is the value an associate’s degree can provide once you hit the workforce. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workplace, about 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

It is why there is a push to make community colleges free of charge, as the state of Tennessee recently did for all adults without a college degree or certificate.

Another encouraging and quite important aspect of community colleges is their forward-looking devotion to a robust emphasis on the liberal arts. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicator Project, the share of humanities-focused associates’ degrees grew from 25.8 percent in 1987 to 38.9 percent in 2013.

The liberal arts are a big part of the curriculum and culture at Chesapeake College, which I think is so important today. You know that the arts and culture enrich individuals and communities intrinsically and practically. That understanding is reflected in the college’s vision, “to prepare students as independent learners who are intellectually competent, technologically proficient, and who share the responsibilities and privileges of global citizenship.”

Those are the very skills that the arts, humanities, and social sciences help provide. They improve our ability to think critically, analyze, synthesize, and communicate. They provide a historical and cultural perspective. All of which can benefit scientists, society, and employers, so I know that you are prepared for the next phases of your lives, no matter what comes your way.

This past Earth Day, I stood on a stage not too different from this, looking at a large gathering of scientists, environmentalists, thought leaders, and students not too different from you.

They were there as part of the Smithsonian’s first Earth Optimism Summit, a conference of people working on one of our most critical challenges, the environment.
If there is something that should be daunting, it’s the state of our planet. Increased floods and droughts, dwindling natural resources, increased opportunity for pandemic disease—all seem like intractable problems with no easy solutions.

But the people who work on these very real problems weren’t intimidated. They were engaged. They were energized. And, yes, they were optimistic. They knew that nearly every problem has a solution, that every challenge is also an opportunity.

As I looked over that crowd, I was encouraged and hopeful, just as I am standing here today.

So, before I leave you today, as a long-time educator I would like to give you one last assignment in a few parts.

First, imagine the world as you would like it to look in five years. Ten years. Then figure out how to get there.

Second, don’t let life’s inevitable challenges dissuade you from making a difference. Author Dr. Angela Duckworth has written about “grit,” the perseverance and passion toward achieving one’s goals, that her research shows is more essential to success than talent. You need to be possessed of that if you want to go as far as you can.

Third, be adaptable. Life is likely to throw several curveballs at you, for good and bad. Having agility of mind and spirit will allow you to roll with the punches and come out ahead.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t become cynical.

 

Reflections: Beware What You Wish For by Professor Joseph Prud’homme

Editor’s Note: Reflections is a new column by Joseph Prud’homme,  professor in political science and religious studies at Washington College in Chestertown.  Joseph is also the founding Director of the College’s Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture . Meant to stimulate reflection and facilitate critical discussion, each short essay examines the kinds of issues explored in depth through the multi-faceted programming of the Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture. For more information on the Institute go here

“Beware what you wish for” is a sage reminder tested by the centuries. The old chestnut is especially apt in the era of President Trump. A number of our fellow citizens have felt called to a resistance movement its most passionate advocates liken to the heroics of Jean Moulin and Charles de Gaulle. No matter what one’s views of our crisis-riddled president, the anti-Trump “resistance” movement has defended positions that, following the World War II metaphor, are more in line with Vidkun Quisling (the Norwegian turncoat) than Johanna Solf or Dietrich Bonhoeffer (noble examples of German resistance). Let’s be careful of what they espouse—and what an Anti-Trump sentiment might impel one to hope for.

Indeed, some in the “resistance” wish for the federal courts to police the campaign histrionics of candidate Trump and to find all measure of suspect motives informing facially legal executive orders and administrative decrees—and to strike these orders down solely on the basis of Trump’s campaign rhetoric. No matter what one thinks of the temporary suspension of immigration from terrorist hotspots, there has never been a rule in our constitutional law that campaign speeches and vote-seeking rally-mongering can justify the awesome exercise of judicial review by unelected legal elites.

Leaders of the “resistance” should recall that the rule they now espouse would have sounded a death knell for much done during the Obama administration—including its signature health care legislation much debated today. We need to remember how the junior senator from Illinois, in the primary campaign against Senator Clinton, intoned in stem-winding sermons in African American churches across the Palmetto State that his administration would “restore faith to public life” by “building the Kingdom here on earth.” (See http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/08/obama.faith/index.html.)

How could the executive orders and legislative enactments of the Obama presidency have survived constitutional inspection were a legal eagle to have ventured the same inquest of campaign rally-making some resisters now seek against President Trump? The Supreme Court (whether one agrees or not) has repeatedly ruled that laws must have a secular purpose (an element of what lawyers call The Lemon Test, from the 1971 decision of Lemon v. Kurtzman). But Obama made clear to the African American churchgoers he desperately needed to secure South Carolina in the hotly contested Democratic primary that he meant to build God’s kingdom on earth—scarcely the stuff of secular legislation.

Happily, no one dared apply the same rule resisters now seek to unleash throughout the federal judiciary. And that’s a fact of which resisters must take heed.

For what kind of mischief would be unsheathe were we to take this view seriously? Every judge an inquisitor. Every campaign stump speech a mine layer. Every campaign a lawsuit. Every candidate blackmailed by political opponents.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly trampled under toe.

Beware what one hopes for, indeed.

For more information about Washington College’s Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture, please go here.

Op-Ed: What’s the Truth about Maryland’s HB 924? By Marc Castelli

“In general, Americans view ignorance, particularly of public policy, as a virtue”. (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols). Pretty harsh words, but if you review the tactic of panic that Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently used to push its agenda in House Bill 924, you might understand the relevance of the quote.

The oyster issue has been and apparently will always be driven by a select few using the media to achieve their goals, and who seem to find it difficult to separate fact from fiction or research a balanced story, for the benefit of their readers. It has become a tool of shrill advocacy and not for reportage. “Even the nature of coverage becomes complicated; social scientists have shown that repetition of a false statement, even in the course of disputing it, often increases the number of people who believe it.” (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols). “For Trump (and CBF et al.) shamelessness is not just strength, it’s a strategy”. (From the Editor, Time Magazine, 4-3-17). The modern media with so many options tailored to particular views is a huge exercise in confirmation bias. (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols). If the media consistently refuses to print the truth about oysters and oyster issues, it must have an agenda. What is it?

Many people and the media have been blind to a sea change in the attitudes of watermen towards science and expertise. Marine biologists have been slow to recognize a need to fill in the blanks of science with the empirical knowledge gathered by generations of watermen. In the past, it was the watermen who loudly voiced an outright rejection of science. Watermen seemed to claim that they knew everything there was to know about whatever resource they were actively harvesting. They thought that if a scientist tried to make a living from what he/she knew about a resource they would starve.

Empirical knowledge is powerful stuff, especially when one depends on it to make a living. But it is not the whole picture. On the other hand, scientists usually reject anecdotal information until oddly enough they quote it. HB 924 is an excellent example of this sea change. The bill’s purpose was to permanently set sanctuary boundaries. Its proponents used hysteria, experts quoting opinions about facts, partial facts, innuendoes, and falsehoods to push this bill. Most of our politicians, who we used to think of as guardians of truth, should have been protecting the truth. Instead, they caved into less than truth and non- truth. Now it is watermen who want to know where the science is.

The Baltimore Sun and Bay Journal keep referring to the OAC as predominantly made up of industry and industry-favoring members. “In fact, the commission is composed of 24 members. Eight members are either scientists or members of specific environmental organizations (CBF among them). Eight members are from the oyster industry. There are five legislators, two Maryland senators, two House members and one county commissioner. The remaining three are private citizens which include the two co-chairs”. (Letter to Sen. Miller from the OAC). Yet Mr. Wheeler (now a managing editor on the Bay Journal) insists on describing the commission as having,” half of its members as representing or sympathetic to the oyster industry”. Why does Mr. Wheeler persist in this mischaracterization of the OAC? He never once criticized the first OAC when it obviously favored the science and environmental side. The original OAC membership was heavily weighted towards the environmental and ecological side. The chair was the past president of WWF, then there was CCA and MSSA each had a seat, 1 from CBF, 1 from NOAA, 1 from ORP, 1 from Nature Conservancy, 4 seats from the U. of M, 2 scientists, 1 senator, 2 delegates, 1 real estate developer (!), 1 technocrat, I MWA representative and one sea food buyer (for a total of only 2 industry members). There is no comparison. The current incarnation of the OAC is far more balanced, and representative and any recommendations coming from it are more inclusive. It is clear that Mr. Wheeler has an agenda that is just an exercise in confirmation bias. What is his agenda? CBF and The Baltimore Sun both loudly “blamed” the DNR for having “created” the strawman proposal. In truth, the department serves only to facilitate meetings and conferences for the OAC. It has no seat at the table or sway in the discussions.

Apparently, CBF, U of M, CCA, RiverKeepers and school teachers did not like the legislature’s amendment of placing of the 2016 stock assessment bill’s (SB 937) process in the hands of the DNR. They wanted it controlled by the U. of M. and CBF. SB937 did not want to include any sanctuary oysters in the stock assessment. The bill was aimed at one specific user group, the industry, with no regard for facts. U. of M. and C.B.F. along with something called the Oyster Advocacy Group returned in 2017 with a vengeance to re-tweak that bill, which became HB 924. By sheer force of largely ignorant hysterics, they forced the more than compliant legislature to agree to circumvent the OAC and make the sanctuary boundaries for all 51 sanctuaries permanent. This despite a task assigned to the OAC by the legislature to review sanctuaries after five years. The department is now at that mark.

Not once did the CBF or its followers use any facts or science to prove the point that all sanctuaries were in danger, which was shamelessly insinuated. Despite numerous requests from only a handful of senators and delegates during the senatorial hearings, the CBF, U of M and the other groups did not produce one iota of hard fact to prove their case. “The collapse of the relationship between experts and citizens is a dysfunction of democracy itself” (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols). Nor did the remaining senators request the proof. They just knuckled under to the wide spread Trump induced panic of losing federal bay clean up funds. Instead of respecting the procedure the CBF and its surrogate, The Oyster Advocacy Group, did an end run on the Oyster Advisory Commission, which was discussing the sanctuaries as tasked by the legislature.

The OAC is a state-mandated commission appointed to find solutions to the oyster issues of Maryland. Watching our country’s and now our state legislature’s slavish adherence to partisan divisiveness has been a major disappointment for me. House Bill 924 did expose one thing. It proved to the Maryland watermen that the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have only been paying lip service to the idea that Maryland’s sea food industry is important. Dialogue between experts and laypeople is essential to a functioning democracy. The politicians believe that their own and the bill’s supporters biased opinions are as relevant if not more important than informed views. “Studies show that those with the least knowledge are the most confident in their opinions”. (The Death of Expertise ,T. Nichols)

I was told many years ago when I was a believer in our system of legislative representation, that if you are explaining something to a legislator, you are losing.” Sentiment against experts is what influenced the Brexit vote and the election of our current president”. (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols). If our elected legislators, in chambers composed of Democrat majorities, would realize that they are as guilty of the political power shenanigans our president is they might have walked away from the bill or at least allowed for the strawman proposal to proceed for discussion in the OAC, where it might have survived, been modified ( toned down), or even ended. But the process was obstructed and abruptly ended.

The OAC proposed portions of sanctuary areas in the Upper Chester River and the Upper Patuxent. Both had few oysters but had the oyster bottom that was going fallow. A majority of industry members initially wanted to open up portions of the big three sanctuaries, where tens of millions have been spent. There were many emotional discussions in the OAC about the infeasibility of such an action. Ultimately watermen realized that when the federal government steps into Maryland waters and spends its budget on restoration, the federal government controls that river. The state of Maryland loses control over it. County oyster committees were asked to submit ideas about other sanctuaries. Few responded. Some committees came up with unrealistic ideas while others respected the process and sent in workable ideas that in part became the basis for the OAC plan. Not just the industry but each group represented by members in the OAC was asked to present proposals based on constituent input. Ecologists, environmentalists, restorationists, replenishment advocates all presented proposals.

Having gone through difficult and sometimes very contentious small group meetings and full membership commission meetings the OAC arrived at a compromise that would in effect add millions upon millions of oysters to just a few tributaries that have barely functioning ignored sanctuaries and have none of the big dollar investments. If the CBF had truthfully represented the proposal, the politicians would have seen that it was to improve only six of the 46 remaining sanctuaries. This would have been accomplished by taking certain low-yield areas and creating what would be hybrid harvest reserves. The change would involve planting oysters in perpetuity in exchange for the ability to sequentially open and close 4 zones for harvest. This harvesting would be supervised and done in a severely limited fashion. The watermen would plant after each harvesting, and pay for these oysters with their own funds. What can possibly be wrong with adding millions upon millions of oysters each year to the Bay and tributaries at no expense to the state? CBF alarmist Prost, and Chester Riverkeeper Hardesty refused to recognize the benefits or acknowledge that not one of the Big Three (of the planned 5) sanctuaries would have seen any such redrawing of boundaries. They would proceed unaffected by the OAC proposals. Nor would they benefit from the perpetual planting by the industry that had been proposed. Those areas were never on the table for change. The bill’s supporters refused to acknowledge the benefits of this plan to the ignored sanctuaries. It could have been used to benefit many of the 46 remaining sanctuaries that do not get any planting, bar cleaning or active management.

House Bill 924 was a reaction to this misunderstood and mischaracterized proposal. Its sponsors had members who were party to the decision to create a strawman proposal that would benefit all user groups. Then the panic mongers stepped in. The Baltimore Sun’s reporters raised the temperature with outrageous and misleading headlines about DNR approval of the destruction of sanctuaries by opening hundreds of thousands of sanctuary acres for harvesting. The panic mongers went ballistic over the proposal to redraw two sanctuary boundaries. CBF cried foul in the Bay Journal and the Baltimore Sun which printed articles and opinion editorials that went even further to mislead the public. CBF actually posted a misleading alert to all of its members and the public about the loss of habitat, and sanctuary oyster bars represented by the random harvesting of sanctuary oysters. Just as false was the claim that some of the most productive sanctuaries were at risk from this proposal. CBF and its progeny The Oyster Advocacy Group then sent the very same hysterical outburst to the governor. “Experts contribute to the problem when they comment publicly on issues outside of their areas of expertise”. (The Death of Expertise, T. Nichols)

We the public have been sold a pig in poke by the CBF and have been ill served by a majority of our elected legislators. This embrace of self-righteous ignorance bodes ill for all of our futures. Below is a list of questions that were asked at the Senate hearing but were never answered. Some were not even allowed to be heard. These questions are on the record as having been ignored.

Maybe you the readers can ask CBF, the Baltimore Sun, The Bay Journal and the Oyster Advocacy Group why they chose rhetoric, hysteria and, false facts, to stop a project that would have benefitted all user groups?

1. Where is the evidence that would prove the sanctuary boundaries were scientifically drawn? What were the parameters used in deciding the boundaries? Why should they be considered sacrosanct?

2. How much money have River Keepers, the CBF, the U. of M. spent on actively managing the 46 other sanctuaries in Maryland?

3. Why did CBF do an end run on its own co-members who sit on the OAC by going to the state legislature to stop the OAC’s strawman proposal?

4. Where is the hard science to prove that Harris Creek Sanctuary is such an unqualified success? Why was this even brought up at the hearing? Harris Creek was never included in the OAC proposal.

5. Why did the chair of the Senate Environmental Committee keep stating that she was waiting for the stock assessment survey to come in before any further discussion on hybrid harvest reserves/sanctuaries would be heard? What special knowledge is she expecting that would prove the OAC process (mandated by the legislature) should be halted?

6. Why was the just completed DNR annual fall oyster survey pointedly ignored by the Senate committee?

7. Why do all of the environmental and ecological groups feel that proposing, even more, studies instead of acting on the mountains of information already available is a good strategy?

8. Why do politicians feel that voting for more surveys and studies is good public policy? Perhaps it is that there is no political risk in constantly proposing more studies. The chair of the Senate committee hearing the bill plainly ignored the volumes of already available information in order to do the more politically expedient solution of waiting for the results of one more study. Why?

Marc Castelli is an artist who lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Christine Lagarde at WC Commencement: What Comes Next?

Editor’s Note: Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director was Washington College’s Commencement speaker on Saturday for its 234th graduation ceremony. Here is her remarks in their entirety.

Thank you, President Bair, for your very kind introduction.

Your leadership of this school – especially your commitment to alleviate the burden of student debt – is a model for higher education. You are a trailblazer in your own right, and your passion for Washington College is inspiring.

President Bair, Board of Visitors & Governors, faculty, and administration, thank you for this honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. I am proud to be your most recent alumna!
Graduates – it is a privilege to be here with you, the class of 2017!

To your families, your friends, your professors – congratulations. No student can get here on his or her own. This is your moment to celebrate as well.
I would like to begin by posing a question.

Has anyone here seen or listened to the Broadway show Hamilton?

As a former Finance Minister, the idea of a musical focused on the life of a Treasury Secretary is appealing to me. I hope this is the start of a global trend!
In the musical, a question is asked that seems particularly appropriate to raise at graduation. In one scene, King George quizzes General Washington right after the end of the Revolutionary War – and sings these lines…

Don’t worry! I will not sing them! But I may ask WACapella for some help.

So, the King sings:

‘What comes next? / You’ve been freed / Do you know how hard it is to lead ?’ [1]

It is an intriguing question – What comes next?

I imagine that from the time you were young, just like my two sons, you were asked some version of ‘What comes next?’

When you are in middle school, people ask if you are excited to start high school.

In high school, people – and by people, I mean your parents’ friends – ask what college you will attend and what your major will be?

In college, other people – usually your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents – ask what job you will have when you graduate – or, perhaps, if you will go on to grad school?
If so, what school? Law, medicine, business? Trust me, the questions do not go away.

1. Saying ‘I Don’t Know’

We are all asked the difficult question of ‘What comes next’ at various stages in our lives.

What I would like to suggest to you today – and I will share a little of my own story to illustrate the point – is that it is ok, in fact it is often wise, to say ‘I don’t know’ when someone asks you, ‘What comes next?’

Saying ‘I don’t know’ is one of the hardest things to do in life. At the IMF, my team never wants to tell me they do not know – although I can tell if they are guessing!
We have all been trained from a young age to have an answer at the ready. But the reality is that the answer is not what matters most – it is knowing how to find the answer that is key.
Your education – this wonderful, complex, classical, liberal arts training – has given you the foundation you need to begin to solve the puzzle of ‘What comes next?’
In what ways?

The first is your skills – your academic experience has taught you how to think critically. It has opened your eyes to fields of study you might never have otherwise explored and to diverse voices whose opinions will help shape your world view.

The second is your values – your time at Washington College, and the legacy of Washington himself, have instilled in you the importance of public service, of serving others before serving yourself.

Finding the way to apply your skills, and keep them in line with your values, is the question in front of you. And if you can answer that question, you will have also begun to answer the question of ‘What comes next?’

2. Your Skills – Learning How to Think

First, your skills. You have surely heard the critique of a liberal arts background; that the training does not prepare you for the ‘real’ world, where a student educated in engineering and coding is far more desirable than one who can recite Aeschylus from memory.

As the child of a classics teacher, I take some personal offense. As a lawyer, who now leads the International Monetary Fund, I can tell you this criticism misreads the evolution of the economic landscape.

The future, your future, is one where technology, automation, and artificial intelligence may eventually supplant humans in a variety of tasks – from retinal scan payment systems to machine-made hearts and lungs to, one day, perhaps, even robot lawyers. Of course, some say lawyers are robots already – but that is a different conversation!

Two-thirds of today’s children will have jobs which have not been invented yet. [2]Studying Aeschylus, not to mention a little Sappho, Brontë, and Dylan – while cultivating an interest in design – is what allowed Steve Jobs to see the Walkman and dream of the iPod. This renaissance education is your comparative advantage in the years ahead.

Many of the founders of this country, who were lawyers, businessmen, and farmers by training, could also recite orations from Pericles by heart. Those polymath skills not only gave their revolution historical context, it informed the society they hoped to build.

Your school embodies their vision and has instilled in you a love of knowledge. Success for your generation requires a commitment to life-long learning and an understanding that today is a milestone in your education, but it is not the end.

The truth is that college has taught you how to learn, not what to learn. Many of the most valuable lessons have come from outside the classroom. You have done more during your four years than study music, history, theater, literature, and science.

And no, I am not just talking about the ‘War on the Shore.’

I am talking about developing empathy and perspective. These are the in-demand tools of the future. And Washington College has trained you well.

In your four years, you have shared late nights at the Miller Library and long weekends by the Chester River. In those moments, I hope you have had your ideas questioned by your peers and gained insight from their life experience.

There is an old proverb: ‘ Only a fool wants to hear the echo of his own voice.’

Remember that maxim as you go forward into your first job or on to graduate school. If everyone in a room agrees with you, you might be doing something wrong. Seek out those who disagree with you, learn from them, and try to understand their world view.

When I was 17 years old, I left France, my home, as part of a scholarship program designed to bring people from different backgrounds together. I attended Holton-Arms School in Maryland. To be completely candid, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. But I learned more about France in my first year in America than I had learned in sixteen years of studying French history and literature.

I had to step away to gain perspective. I interned on the Hill, answering phones, opening mail, and translating correspondence for constituents who spoke French. Every now and then I felt a bit like Tocqueville – an intrigued French observer of American democracy.

I realized that, to help someone solve a problem, you must understand how she sees a problem. I took that lesson with me – from my practice as a lawyer to serving in the French government.
It is a perspective that I brought with me to the IMF, where our 189 member nations are united by the idea that through cooperation we can maintain economic stability and prosperity for the world.

Needless to say, my career didn’t prepare me for every aspect of this position. Nearly every day on the job, there is something new. A new crisis, a new acronym, a new ‘on the one-hand, on the other other-hand…’

I almost feel as if I am back in law school – I read all the time, ask questions, challenge assumptions – and learn.

As Abigail Adams once said, ‘ Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence .’ Learning does not stop at commencement, it begins anew, and requires a ceaseless curiosity about the world.

This is the gift of your college education, and this is the training which will pay dividends throughout your life.

3. Your Values – Public Service

And yet, the training by itself is not enough. How will you use your training?

This brings me to my second point: values, and specifically the value of public service.

Public service comes in all shapes and sizes. It encompasses far more than working in government. It might mean volunteering, community activism, or joining a parent-teacher association.
Public service is about applying your values no matter what job you have. For me, one of those values has been gender equality. It is something that I have fought for my entire life.
Okay, another question. How many of you have gone on a job interview recently? That’s good – I hope it went well! I am sure your parents hope so too.

So, I will tell you my own first job interview story.

When I was coming out of law school I interviewed at a law firm in France. The conversation went well but towards the end one of the interviewers told me I could never become a partner at the firm. ‘Why?’ I asked him. ‘Because you are a woman,’ he replied. Well, I walked out of there and never looked back.

And then, what did I do? Believe it or not, I asked myself, ‘What comes next?’

I took a deep breath. I thought about my training as a lawyer and about my values. I was determined not to let this experience hold me back. But I was also under no illusion about how difficult the journey would be.

Eventually, I found a law firm that promoted diversity and creativity. I joined Baker McKenzie in 1981. Later in my career, I changed my working hours so I could have Wednesday afternoons off to spend more time with my son.

At first, it did not go over well with some of the partners. But the partners adapted. I became a partner myself. The culture shifted. In 1999, I had the honor of becoming the first female chairman of the firm.

But what was true in 1981 is unfortunately still true today. In many countries, women are either prevented from entering the workforce through legal restrictions, or they are discouraged from working by expensive childcare and inadequate maternity leave. I asked myself, what role could the IMF play in helping solve the problem?

At the Fund, we see ourselves as firefighters – providing financial assistance in times of need so nations can help their citizens. We also see ourselves as doctors – checking up on countries and guiding them to improve their economic health.

Thinking outside the box, our talented economists began showing member nations that women’s economic empowerment could reduce income inequality and help all businesses succeed.

Progress is slow, but we are making a difference. So far, we have done gender-related work in 22 countries. In our new program with Egypt, for example, we are exploring ways the government can increase funding for public nurseries and improve commuter safety. The goal is to provide women more opportunities to find employment.

I am proud that gender equality is now a mainstream part of IMF analysis and I am grateful for the intelligent, dedicated women and men with whom I have the honor to work every day.
President Bair, I know you share my commitment to gender equality, and it is a part of your life’s work. I was so pleased to learn that Washington College is planning a major celebration to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19 Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in this country.

4. Applying Your Values

This is what I mean when I say you must take your values with you. Whether your career is in the private sector or in government, public service is a calling, not a job description.
By choosing Washington College, each of you has stood up and said that public service is important in your life. The values of this institution come directly from Washington himself; his example serves as the inspiration for your honor code. You have made a promise to help others and now you must follow through.

Think about what matters most to you – is it climate change? Homelessness? Improving education? Whatever it is, fight for it.

· If you are entering investment banking, find out how your company’s philanthropy is being managed.
· If you are trained as a nurse, find out how your hospital assists people in the community without health insurance.
· If you aspire to be a journalist (god bless!), use the power of the pen to investigate how your city is rebuilding its public transportation system.

Do not be surprised when you meet resistance. If you pursue public service with zeal, you will inevitably run into skeptics throughout your professional life.

But, as Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, once said, ‘ I have an almost complete disregard for precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better .’

The lawyer in me hesitates at Ms. Barton’s disregard for precedent, but the rest of me appreciates her point!

Do not be limited by what has or has not been done before. Become creative champions for your values in ways large and small throughout your career!

Constantly look for opportunities to make progress in every position you hold.
Allow me to give you one minor example, from this speech, actually.

This morning I have referenced the Greek poet Sappho, Charlotte Brontë, Abigail Adams, and Clara Barton.

Having informally surveyed other commencement addresses, I realized that far too many quotes come from famous men, and not nearly enough come from famous women. So, we are beginning to shift the balance today!

You see, you never know when you will find an opportunity to promote the values you believe in.

Conclusion – What Comes Next?

Let me conclude by returning to the music of Hamilton.

Immediately after King George asks ‘What comes next?’ he presses the point by saying:

‘You’re on your own / Awesome / Wow / Do you have a clue what happens now ?’ [3]

Well, Washington and his countrymen were not on their own. And they had an idea about what would happen next. The same is true for you, the students of Washington College.

Remember that you do not have to answer the question of ‘What comes next?’ right away.

Take a breath. Be confident that you have the foundation to find the answer.

Trust that your training and your values – along with the support of your family and friends – will guide you, and serve as a lighthouse in the journey of your life.
That has been true for me, and I trust it will hold true for you.

Op-Ed: Chesapeake Bay Foundation Says Teamwork is Needed

“We are stronger together than alone.” It’s an idea that can benefit many people and situations – even those who serve us in government.

In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine government officials standing together in unity on much of anything.

Yet just this week representatives of six local jurisdictions on Maryland’s Eastern Shore signed off on a proposal to work collaboratively to control polluted runoff – one of the few sources of Bay pollution that’s increasing.

The collaborative comes out of the Healthy Waters Round Table – a network of county and town officials on the Shore that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners helped launch in 2015. The network helps participating communities share resources to keep pollution out of local rivers and streams.

County and town collaboration is a win-win idea. Under the Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland’s local governments are partners in the multi-state commitment to get projects in place by 2025 that will collectively meet water quality standards for the Bay. The problem is that most rural communities like those on the Shore have limited resources at their disposal to contribute to the effort.

Leaders of some jurisdictions are charging new fees to help fund pollution control. Salisbury, for example, assesses homeowners about $20 per year to pay for street sweeping, new plants and trees, and other practices that filter and treat runoff near its source.

But even with this extra effort, Salisbury finds it difficult to get the necessary work done to protect local water quality. That’s why it recently joined Cambridge, Easton, Oxford, Queen Anne’s and Talbot in the new partnership to try share resources. (Round Table partners including Caroline, Cecil, Chestertown and Kent declined to participate.)

The time and effort it takes to bring a municipal or county pollution control project from conception to completion is not insignificant. Scoping out projects, ushering them through design and approval, and managing construction, can sometimes slow projects almost to a halt.

With CBF’s help, county and town partners agreed to work collectively to try to get through this bottleneck. For instance, localities this week partnered on a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to bring in new technical support staff and funding that can speed up project delivery.

If the proposal is approved, a “Regional Service Provider” will be hired who helps locals plan, prioritize and invest grant dollars in high-value projects. The process also will ensure that pollution reduction efforts get results, and that local governments get credit.

The Hogan Administration likes the idea. State agencies under the Governor’s purview have pledged resources of their own that together with cash contributions from participating local governments will provide some significant horsepower to get work done. If awarded, the three-year initiative would begin as soon as this August.

On the Shore, limited resources are a major impediment to county and town progress on controlling polluted runoff. The new collaborative may be just what’s needed here to get communities what they need to help them do their share to finish the job of restoring the Bay to health.

by Alan Girard

Alan Girard is the director of the Eastern Shore Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Op-Ed: Hogan’s worst nightmare is Trumpcare by Barry Rascovar

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare is starting to come true. Trumpcare has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. If the Senate finds a way to give President Trump what he wants, it could spell a heap of trouble for Hogan in 2018’s general election.

The Republican Party’s mania with obliterating Barack Obama’s massive health insurance law has led the majority party in Washington to ignore common sense.

“Repeal and replace” is a GOP obsession – though an estimated 24 million people could lose their insurance, tens of millions more could be out of luck due to pre-existing conditions and medical programs for the poor could be cut 25%.

It also would damage the nation’s economy. That’s especially true in Maryland, where healthcare is one of the state’s biggest employers.

It is almost certain to be the No. 1 issue in the 2018 mid-term elections, even if the Senate approves a diluted Trumpcare bill.

What a devastating state of affairs for Republican Hogan. Until the House vote last week, he appeared in excellent shape to win a second term.

Now he has to figure out how to tiptoe around this explosive issue that already is proving highly unpopular.

Unfavorable poll numbers

A Washington Post-ABC poll last month found 61% of Americans opposed Trumpcare. A Quinnipiac poll the month before found Trumpcare support stood at just 17%.

Most Americans, it appears, would rather stick with the existing – though seriously flawed – Obamacare medical insurance program and fix parts that aren’t working well (“keep and improve” as opposed to the GOP’s “repeal and replace”).

Wait until the Congressional Budget Office issues its cost and impact analysis of the House-passed version of Trumpcare. It could expose the bill’s soft underbelly. Public resistance could grow louder.

For Hogan, House passage of Trumpcare might be the beginning of bad news.

He could be trapped in a nearly untenable position: A Republican who might have to disavow his own party leaders in Washington to survive.

Hogan won election in 2014 by promising “no new taxes.” Does that mean he will let Trumpcare’s 25% cut in federal Medicaid funds lay waste to Maryland’s health programs for the poor and near-poor? Where would he find hundreds of millions in state dollars to cover those unfunded programs?

How does he run for reelection with Trumpcare hanging over his head?

Justifying the Republican plan

How does Hogan justify to voters his party’s plan to let insurance companies charge outrageously high premiums – or deny coverage entirely – for people with “pre-existing conditions”? This could be anyone with acne, anxiety, depression, diabetes, obesity, cancer, pulmonary problems, asthma or even allergies.

How does he tell older working Marylanders that under his party’s plan their insurance premiums could jump an unaffordable 500%?

How does he explain a cut of $600 billion in taxes that supported Obamacare – a massive windfall for wealthy Americans, insurance companies and medical device companies?

How does he justify $880 billion in healthcare cuts to Medical Assistance for the poor?

Hogan & Company should be praying that the Senate junks the House bill and takes a few years to figure out what to do next.

Otherwise, the GOP across the country – including here in Maryland – could take a shellacking for its all-out effort to appease its conservative base.

Gift to Democrats

There’s no doubt Democratic candidates for Maryland governor will tie Hogan to Trumpcare.

Every candidate will be running ads with tales of how middle-class and working-class Marylanders would be hurt, how lives hang in the balance.

It is a gift from heaven for Democrats.

One Republican pollster called the GOP’s insistent quest to wipe out Obamacare “political malpractice.”

Until recently the notion of Democrats regaining control of the House by picking up 24-plus seats next year appeared wishful thinking. Thanks to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s determination to pass a draconian Trumpcare bill, that’s no longer the case.

Little wonder Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi – the former Nancy D’Alesandro from Baltimore’s Little Italy – was practically giddy.

Every Republican will be vulnerable, unless he or she disowns the GOP’s No. 1 issue and risks losing support from Trump’s supporters. “This vote will be tattooed to them,” Pelosi vowed.

That includes Republican Hogan, who has made an extensive effort to distance himself from Donald Trump and his controversial comments and proposals.

That may not be enough to give him immunity from this highly contagious political disease.

When virtually every healthcare group – from the American Medical Association to the American Hospital Association to AARP – as well as virtually every insurance group vehemently opposes the Republicans’ “repeal and replace” crusade, smart politicians should pay attention.

Failure by the GOP to “listen and learn” could prove fatal come November 2018 – both in Maryland and nationwide.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be contacted at brascovar@hotmail.com.

Op-Ed: Bye, Bye, Bill By Fletcher Hall

Bill O’Reilly is out of the building, So is Roger Ailes and Bill Shine. All Fox News’ executives. The primary reasons given for the exits are sexual harassment scandals; however, the reasons are more complex.
In addition to large settlement payments and buyouts of contracts, there are other reasons the network and their owner, 21st Century Fox, were forced to make these decisions. Primarily, it was just business.

The Fox Network simply could not afford the cash drain and potential loss of advertising revenue they are facing. In the 24-hour-news cycle, it is vital to secure and retain adequate income streams to cover costs and guarantee profits. Fox has long been profitable and maintained very favorable ratings among the various cable news channels.

The Fox News prime time offerings had a rather long run while continuing to yield high ratings. The new prime time lineup will have to prove that wise business decisions have been made in the corporate offices of Fox News.

Conservative leanings have been the forte of Fox. It is ironic that their preferred presidential candidate and their preferred congressional candidates (the Republican Party) control the executive and legislative offices of the national government. Should the ratings for Fox fall, will the President and congressional leaders be as inclined to grant exclusive interviews and use the bully pulpit for their views and philosophy?

This new reality now faces the Fox News Network and may have implications for advertising revenue and ratings. Both of these issues are corporate business decisions which will determine the future of the network.

It was difficult to determine if O’Reilly was a news broadcaster or a television showman. I suspect he was more of the latter, which was reflected by the high ratings of “The O’Reilly Factor” show. “The Sean Hannity Show” may well be in the same category. Regardless of their format, all of the Fox Network programs promote the conservative cause.

On the other hand, CNN exhibits the same programming tendency, promoting the liberal point of view. Watching both news channels is somewhat like watching a tennis match. Both can bore one to tears with the repetition of the same news item hour after hour during the 24-hour-news’ cycle. Thank goodness for weekends. Obviously, there are other outlets through which to find news programming, but many of these networks have lost both prestige and viewership.

Cable news and social news appear to dominate the national conversation. I am not sure whether this trend is healthy or destructive. In a republic, the dissemination of knowledge is essential. The question in 2017 is the truthfulness and value of how that knowledge is being disseminated. Too many newscasters appear to editorialize or provide innuendos that meet the outlook of that particular news channel.

As for the exit of Bill O’Reilly, the “king” of cable news, it was time for him to move on and explore new horizons. He can write more books, do more personal appearance shows, or perhaps consider the job of White House press secretary, should that job become available. Laugh all the way to the bank, Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Ailes, and Mr. Shine. Parting is so financially remunerative.

O’Reilly was at Fox for almost 20 years and will be missed by many. Not so much by others. Some people can identify a blowhard when they see one. Now he can find other venues in which he can pontificate and bloviate.

The spin has stopped. Let’s hope there will be someone new and, perhaps, more humble to look out for us. Perhaps that will become the real mission of President Trump. Now that Bill is gone, there has to be someone to care. If Bill were still here, we could just ask him.

Op-Ed: Science Saved The Day For Crabs, But A Hero’s Battles Are Never Over by Tom Horton

Dear Governor Hogan,

Please watch the Bay Journal’s recent film, “Beautiful Swimmers Revisited.” It celebrates a great Chesapeake success story, to which you seem dedicated to writing a bad new ending.

The hour-long documentary picks up where William Warner left off in his Pulitzer Prize winning 1976 book about crabs and crabbers, “Beautiful Swimmers.” The film traces the following 40 years of attempts by Maryland and Virginia to manage the Bay’s most iconic seafood, Callinectes sapidus, that most savory beautiful swimmer, the blue crab.

Just a decade ago, our story line would have been an all too familiar downer—fishing pressure was increasing, conservation efforts were mired in politics, natural resources were in decline.

But our movie has a victorious hero. It is not the watermen we show — though Morris Goodwin Marsh and Grant Corbin, who took Willy Warner out in the early 1970s and are still crabbing strong, are marvelous presences in the film. Nor is it Will Wertz, who was 14 in the film and the most endearing would-be waterman you’ll ever see.

The real hero enters about 23 minutes into the film with a frigid winter scene of oilskin-clad biologists, on their hands and knees grubbing through mud and shell that been dredged onto the heaving deck of a research vessel:

Men and women of science . . . trying to make sense of a mysterious world, an age-old quest that stretches from magic to science, from shamans divining the future from the entrails of sacrifices to modern researchers sifting through the Bay’s guts for answers.

The hero’s name is science, governor. In particular, science with an uninspiring name: the Baywide winter dredge survey, which began collecting vital data more than a quarter century ago.

The survey involves randomly sampling more than a thousand sites each winter to see how many crabs, big and small, are overwintering in the mud. As it has matured with decades of data, the survey has become one of the best fishing management tools in the world, allowing us to count with a high degree of accuracy how many crabs are in the Bay.

Counting crabs — or oysters, or rockfish or menhaden — sounds simple, but until you invest the time and money to do it, you cannot manage them sustainably. We never did it with oysters or shad, and neither species has recovered from near-depletion.

Crabs took a turn toward a happier ending in 2008, when growing confidence in the science of the winter survey gave Tim Kaine and Martin O’Malley, governors of Virginia and Maryland, the political will to jointly take conservation measures that brought the blue crab back from the brink — to the brink today of sustainable management that benefits watermen and all of us who love our crab cakes.

The latest winter dredge survey tallied a record-high number of spawning-age female crabs in the Bay this year, validation of the strategy adopted in that crisis — to focus conservation efforts on protecting those in the population that produce the next generation.

Sustainable doesn’t mean the end of ups and downs, of alternating good years and bad years — that’s nature. The overall crab population this year is down some from last year, and juveniles way down. It does mean we no longer have to blame watermen for it.

But governor, you are actively subverting this hard-won victory, ignoring the science at the whim of your watermen political supporters. You are eviscerating our state Department of Natural Resources’ ability to regulate pressure on the Bay’s seafood.

You campaigned on ending what you called the “war on watermen.” You have given them unprecedented influence: removing a number of respected natural resources regulators they don’t like, even though many other watermen had no problem with the ousted regulators.

You have let their concerns about the state’s oyster sanctuaries cost Maryland a million bucks in federal restoration funds that were given to Virginia. With oysters estimated to be down to 1 percent of historic abundance, your administration fought a legislative bill to finally do a scientific survey of them. (It passed anyway.)

You hit bottom this February when you met with a tiny minority of watermen who wanted more crabs no matter what the science said. After that meeting, your people at the DNR summarily fired Brenda Davis, their longtime blue crab manager. She began her career in 1988, about the time the winter dredge survey began. No reason was ever given.

But the message to those charged with sustaining the Bay’s seafood is chilling and clear: If you value your job, don’t even think about following the science if it ticks off a waterman.

We interviewed Davis for our movie. She totally gets that she wields science that affects the livelihoods of watermen. I’ve seldom seen a regulator more willing to go the extra mile to listen to watermen’s concerns; but responsible management of the blue crab in this case was crystal clear: If you give some watermen more crabs by easing a catch regulation, you take crabs away from other watermen. Davis was just the messenger for that, and she got shot. The watermen didn’t even get their extra crabs.

When I show the movie now to groups, I have to tell them how the ending may be changing, how you are foolishly wrecking decades of good science.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been joined much by environmental groups around the Bay. Davis’ main defenders have been other watermen who understand the big picture.

There actually is a war on watermen, Governor Hogan, and it’s in our movie, explained eloquently by watermen. It’s the pollution from farms and stormwater and dirty air. It’s the loss of crab habitat from developing natural shorelines.

Plenty of good targets to shoot at. Let the Bay Journal know if you want a copy of the movie.

Tom Horton has written about the Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

Op-Ed: Even Individuals Can Help Save the Bay

As someone who grew up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the United States Environmental Protection Agency deeply concern me. Revoking the Bay’s federal funds would not only undermine years of progress, but would devastate communities within the watershed as well.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to nearly 20 million people across six states and Washington, D.C. The beloved Maryland blue crab and Virginia oyster support thriving fisheries thanks to the efforts that have been made to clean the Bay over the past decades. The Chesapeake Bay supports precious ecosystems, a thriving economy, and a way of life. Anyone who grew up on the coast knows what it’s like to meet up with old friends at a local oyster roast or to crack into the first “Jimmy” of the season. Unfortunately, with the proposed budget cuts, this way of life may become a luxury of the past.

One of the major problems contributing to the Chesapeake Bay’s health is runoff from farms, gardens, and lawns. Runoff includes excess sediments, nutrients, and chemicals that otherwise would not be introduced to the Bay. For clarification, I’m not blaming anyone in particular or suggesting that we more heavily regulate the sources of runoff to the Bay. As the granddaughter of a farmer and a resident of a small town in rural Virginia, I will always support the men and women who devote their lives to serving their community through farming. What I am suggesting is that each resident of the Chesapeake Bay watershed take it upon themselves to help alleviate the problem of runoff to the Bay.

But what can you, an individual, do to help “Save the Bay”? The answer is probably easier than you think and it’s something you can do in your own back yard (and front yard too!). Better management of your soil, yes—dirt, can make an impact on the Bay’s health. If everyone took it upon themselves to better manage their lawns and gardens, and even farms, we could make a big impact. Individuals can make a positive change in the Bay through conservation tillage, reduced or more targeted use of fertilizers and pesticides, and managing plant species to help reduce runoff.

Well managed soil can help reduce runoff by absorbing rainfall like a sponge. There is less pore space to “soak up” the water when soil is compacted. However, when the soil is rich with plant material and open pores, rain can infiltrate the ground and runoff is reduced. Another soil management approach is to never leave a field or a garden fallow. Empty fields expose the soil to erosion from wind and rain, which eventually enters the Chesapeake Bay. To reduce your input of sediments and other pollutants, make sure to plant cover crops for all seasons. A simple, but important soil management method, is to only fertilize your soil if absolutely needed. Cutting down on fertilizer application will help alleviate the input of nutrients to the Bay. A potential alternative to fertilizers is making your own compost.

When people across the entire watershed implement these management practices there can be great cumulative effects on the Chesapeake Bay’s health and prosperity. Better yet, individual action will not only help the Bay, but can help sustain a way of life.

Morgan Rudd is first year graduate student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

CBF View: Legislation Passes to Prevent Harvesting on Oyster Sanctuaries until Science Complete by Tom Zolper

Harvesting on oyster sanctuaries won’t be allowed, at least for the time being, after the Maryland General Assembly reaffirmed that it wants to proceed with caution when it comes to the state’s famous bivalve.

A bill, HB 924, approved overwhelmingly in both houses, reiterated that the state wait for a scientific assessment of the oyster stock in Maryland waters before contemplating any major changes in oyster management. Governor Hogan took no action on the bill, so it became law April 6.

The legislature approved the stock assessment a year ago. But in the meantime, the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC), with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), had begun to consider a plan to harvest oysters on nearly 1,000 acres of oyster sanctuaries.

Sanctuaries are protected areas where oysters can’t be harvested. That protection allows the reefs to grow vertically out of the silt, to filter polluted water, and to create habitat for fish. Sanctuaries make up about a quarter of the oyster reefs in Maryland. The remaining three-quarters are open to harvest.

Scientists on the OAC, as well as 30 environmental groups, had repeatedly cautioned DNR and oyster industry representatives on the OAC that it was premature to consider opening sanctuaries to harvest without the scientific stock assessment, set to be completed at the end of next year.

Even current scientific information provides no justification for opening sanctuaries. A study by DNR in July found biomass had increased on sanctuaries generally. Oysters were growing, thanks to the protection. DNR cautioned in that report that the healthiest sanctuaries should be left alone.

Yet a proposal presented in February by DNR recommended that several of those healthy sanctuaries be “declassified” and opened for occasional harvest, as well as several other, slightly less healthy sanctuaries.

The passage of HB 924 indicated the legislature’s desire to continue a more precautionary approach than DNR and the OAC were pursuing.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) supported HB 924. With the oyster population at such precarious levels in the Bay, it makes sense to consider a sustainable oyster management harvest plan. The stock assessment will provide the science for that plan. All other fisheries have similar plans, but none has ever been developed for oysters.

Some watermen and others have blamed CBF for acting in “bad faith” by supporting HB 924. They say the bill was used as a tool to disrupt an otherwise collaborative OAC process. But we aren’t the bad guy here.

We agree that too many hours in OAC meetings were wasted developing a proposal to harvest on sanctuaries. We should never have started down that path—before scientists finish a stock assessment. The OAC could have looked into many other aspects of state oyster policy: aquaculture, harvesting in general, poaching, etc. We encouraged the OAC to look into a pilot program of rotational harvesting in the area of the Bay where harvesting already is permitted—but not on sanctuaries. Once the talks headed down the road of harvesting on sanctuaries, a process DNR Secretary Belton abetted, a clash was inevitable.

We also disagree that environmentalists had in any way agreed to harvesting on sanctuaries, only to renege later. Thirty environmental groups submitted a letter to OAC and DNR in December underscoring the need to leave sanctuaries alone, absent sufficient scientific information. CBF also presented a bipartisan poll showing that about 90 percent of Marylanders, across party lines, share those sentiments about sanctuaries.

Despite all this resistance, Belton asked county oyster committees for their proposals for how harvesting on sanctuaries could happen. Then, the secretary asked the environmental groups if they had any proposals for changing the sanctuaries.

Needless to say, that’s like asking someone who doesn’t like spinach to propose how he’d like to eat it. CBF kept our lips pursed. So did scientists on the OAC, and other environmental groups.

A few community groups stepped up with proposals for small expansions of oyster reefs that their volunteers had been planting with baby oysters over the years. They wanted official ‘sanctuary’ designation for those small reefs.

But no environmental groups expressed support for harvesting on sanctuaries. There never was consensus for this idea on the OAC. The idea came from watermen, seafood industry representatives, and legislators on the panel (all of whom generally strongly support watermen on policy issues).

In the end, CBF and other groups supported HB 924 because they weren’t being heard at the OAC, and by DNR.

That support wasn’t meant to disrupt. Just the opposite. It was meant to prevent a disruption of the state’s cautious, science-based approach to oyster management.
Tom Zolper is the Assistant Media Director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.