walter-black

In the Footsteps of Martin: Walter Black Jr. Looks Back on Civil Rights on the Eastern Shore

As Martin Luther King Day approaches at the same time the country’s first African-American president is preparing to leaves office, It’s a natural time to reflect on the significant arc of history for civil rights in the United States. And there are very few people in Talbot County that was in a better place to watch that history locally than Walter Black, Jr.

From the age of six, Walter started to realize that there was a racially-divided community when he noticed that white children were being picked up by different school buses than he and his friends. By the time he attended Morgan State in 1960, he had already been active in the NAACP on the Eastern Shore, and from that point forward has dedicated his life to fighting first segregation and later discrimination in Talbot County and the entire state of Maryland as a long-standing president of NAACP’s local chapter and a leadership role in coordinating the civil rights organization in Maryland.

In his Spy interview, Walter, who recently turned 80, remembers what it was like to live in a segregated world and also recalls the tensions that existed in Cambridge during the 1967 demonstrations. Walter also talks about the future of race relations as well as the need to keep Martin Luther King’s words always in mind that, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

This video is approximately eight minutes in length 

Trump: Success or Failure by Al Sikes

Arm’s length is hard in political and ideological battle; and battle is more often than not the game these days. At considerable risk, I am going to attempt to keep some distance from my emotions while engaging in an even riskier task–gauging the prospects of a Trump presidency.

In the Administration of Ronald Reagan, I was frequently on the road working to sort out trade barriers blocking US telecommunication’s products and services. America had opened its market, while most other markets remained tightly controlled by government agencies.

On one occasion I was in London meeting with a longtime friend from Kansas City who was then Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Charles Price. Charlie had spent his career in banking and manufacturing. I asked him whether he enjoyed being our country’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom and will never forget his reply. He said, “This job is too g-damned qualitative for me.” I understood his frustration; I too was accustomed to looking at revenue, expense and profit reports.

The President-elect has a “huge” job and many more levers than a mere ambassador but will often find progress or not measured in small but necessary steps in a strategic plan.

Frustrations have begun, will intensify on January 20 and will then grow exponentially, even though his Party controls much of federal and state governments. He must never forget that his Party’s leaders want nothing more than to be re-elected. Washington is, to paraphrase my first boss, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, a tough town where everybody is after a piece of your ass.

Donald Trump has measured his business life against building permits, construction deadlines, occupancy statistics and the like. His internal operating system (IOS) is not predisposed to accept activity as progress. Does he, for example, regard having a phone conversation with Taiwan’s President moving forward or backward in dealing with China? Was this a tactic ordered by a strategic plan?

At any given time there are a relative handful of former business people in government. One of the more interesting ones I dealt with was Donald Rumsfeld. When I chaired the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Rumsfeld was CEO of General Instrument, an American electronics manufacturer. His company had made impressive progress on digital high definition television (HDTV) and the FCC was making the rules for a transition from analog to digital TV.

Rumsfeld was later Secretary of Defense in the George W Bush Administration. Americans, in the early stages, followed closely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and many will recall Rumsfeld’s compelling press conferences. He enjoyed sparring with reporters and generally besting them; his repartee skills were impressive, and he controlled the microphone.

One of the more intriguing rhetorical refuges for the Secretary of Defense was the impossibility of knowing the unknown unknowns. In oversimplified speak, understanding the law of unintended consequences.

The President-elect will need to move both quickly and slowly. He will need to understand the importance of the unknown unknowns. And this will not be easy for him; but if he is to merit the job it will have to be a skill he learns.

On the hopeful side it is often said that Trump is transactional, which is to say he wants to conclude successfully whatever he chooses or is forced to engage. Hopefully, we can look forward to deals that breach the often impenetrable walls of ideology and polarization. As a nation we have been mired in angry denunciations. It would be ironic if a candidate that used denunciations as a daily tool actually brought disparate parties together in the “art of the deal.”But there is another side to consider. The Economist speculates that Trump might become America’s Berlusconi, as it recalled Silvio’s hapless and often corrupt run as Italy’s Prime Minister. It characterized him as using “crude appeals to wise-guy cynicism” to best the opposition while undermining trust.

Much of institutional America earned low trust ratings well before Trump became a viable candidate. Trump exploited this loss of trust as he took on every established organization (including his own Party) except the Red Cross. In recent weeks he has played off of the Intelligence community in various tweets on Russian efforts to affect our election.

Yet, trust building is the only way to succeed as President. Trump and his Party will soon be in charge of many of the institutions he has pilloried. If Trump charges institutional failure every time he is criticized, he will leave office as America’s Berlusconi. He will have become a loser in the work that will define his legacy; hotels will not lead his obituary.

When my friend left The Court of St. James he was eager to get back to a world he better understood and one that gave him concrete feedback. Some have predicted Trump won’t last four years, that he will miss his life as a high-living hotelier. It is my bet that he will persevere; although, he will need to be a more patient and generous leader or the consequences of what can’t be known will defeat him.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

 

 

Out and About (Sort of): What’s the Answer? by Howard Freedlander

Four years ago, the son of Dr. Russell Schilling, a primary care physician in Easton, died of a drug overdose.

Within recent months, I noticed an unusually large number of cars parked near Fellows, Helfenbein and Newman Funeral Home in Easton. When I asked one of the employees about who died, thinking it would be someone I might know, I was told a 23-year-old young man had died of a drug overdose. The employee seemed particularly struck by the death of the young man.

A deputy sheriff in a nearby county told me about two heroin overdoses at a county high school.

A longtime state legislator and former educator in Wicomico County, told me this weekend about recent deaths of Salisbury University students from an overdose.

So many friends have a sad story about an untimely death due to drugs. It would be easy to ignore, since these “young people” typically are unknown to me. But I can’t. Our community is suffering. The crisis is overwhelming.

As it has been–and getting worse.

According to a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) report, drug overdose deaths are rising. In Talbot County, overdose deaths have increased in the first three quarters of 2016 by 57 percent in the same time compared with the same time period in 2015. A synthetic opioid, fentanyl, has killed seven in the county, an increase of 83 percent.

The trend is terrifying. While drug and alcohol-related deaths in the state rose 39 percent in 2016 over the same period in 2015, the increase was 63 percent in the Mid-Shore counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Heroin-related overdose deaths rose 43 percent; the increase on the Mid-Shore was 62 percent.

Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble is resolute about addressing this headline-grabbing, heart-rending crisis. I watched him listen mostly and talk little when approached by recovering addicts after a community recovery service a few months ago at Christ Church, Easton. One man was expressing pride in his sobriety. Sheriff Gamble, who’s probably heard scores of stories from recovering addicts who fell back into the abyss of drug abuse, encouraged the young man, simply by listening in a non-judgmental way.

After Matt Schilling died, his father, a well-respected family doctor and my physician, talked compassionately about his son during one of my periodic exams. It was my turn to listen.
I heard a father, not a doctor, talk about his son Matt’s downward journey into drug abuse. He tried mightily to help his son combat this scourge. His love for his son never wavered during Matt’s self-destructive decline.

A recent New York Times article related several stories about addicts. The disease affects all socioeconomic levels. It spares no one.

One young lady from a well-to-do family in a Boston, Mass. suburb was an honors student who developed anorexia. She then embraced alcohol. By age 21, she was addicted to heroin. At age 24, alive despite overdosing five times, she checked herself into detox—on her own self-volition—to reclaim her wrecked life.

A 30-year-old man in central Utah raised in a Mormon family struggled with a heroin addiction in Salt Lake City. He returned to his High Desert community in 2013, only to discover that drugs were as available as they were in the city. After 11 years of addiction and rehab, jail and relapse, he has been sober for more than 300 days. He takes a naltrexone pill on a daily basis, brought to him every day by his mother.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), naloxone is another opioid-fighting drug.

Some think that over-prescription of pain pills is a principal cause of the opioid epidemic. It seems a common refrain. Sheriff Gamble believes that addiction begins with early drinking, progresses into daily marijuana use in high school, gradually moves into prescription opiates and graduates into heroin.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs is a common outlet for young and old alike. Humans self-medicate to cope with physical injury, mental distress and insecurity. Some folks eat to excess. Some work to extremes.

Use of opiates, be they prescriptions or heroin, is deadly, as noted earlier in this column. Parents, professionals, law enforcement, the clergy and the court system are on the front lines.

The battle is fought in every corner of our country. Success is hard to achieve.

I have no answers. It would be too easy to blame parents. Though I know that many family units are dysfunctional, unleashing demons in children, I believe, as do many, that the journey to a drug-free life begins with hard-earned self-motivation.

As it did with the young suburban Boston woman who was arrested in 2015 for prostitution. She needed the money to fuel her habit. After one more failed detoxification, she checked herself in on her own.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Mid-Shore Arts: The Looms and Art of Ulrika Leander

The art world has just a few very special heros who take it upon themselves to work in mediums requiring intense intricacy, precision, and endless patience to complete their work. And nowhere else can one find that special breed stand out more than those who chose the art of tapestry for their artistic expression.

And one can officially include the Mid-Shore’s Ulrika Leander in that select group.

Starting at the age of thirteen in her native Sweden, Ulrika has become one of the great masters of the loom with her intentionally beautiful and large tapestries created in her generous studio a short walk from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.

Like clockwork, Ulrika works every day in front of one of her three custom-built looms to produce art that is proudly hung in museums and private homes throughout the world. With a typical project taking well over six months to complete, Leander has found a particular zone to operate in as she plots along a single line of fiber during a day’s work.

In her Spy interview a few weeks ago, she talks about this unique, centuries-old practice, and how she enjoys the special challenges that come with the making one-of-a-kind tapestries.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information on Ulrika Leander work and studio, please go here.

Conowingo Dam No Longer Helping Save Chesapeake Bay

For decades, Conowingo Dam was the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest friend.

Even before scientists realized the Bay was sick from too much nitrogen and phosphorus, the 94-foot concrete wall on the Bay’s largest tributary was holding back tens of millions of pounds of the nutrients that would have fueled even more greenish algae blooms.

The friendship was severely tested at times. Tropical Storm Agnes flushed huge amounts of stored sediment from behind the dam and into the Bay, smothering grass beds and oyster reefs, and causing havoc. And migratory fish were none too happy that it became nearly impossible to swim up the Susquehanna River to spawn, despite huge investments in “fish elevators.”

But without the dam, more nutrients and water-clouding sediment would have poured into the Bay for most of the past century. Algae blooms would have been more intense, and oxygen-starved dead zones would have been larger.

Now, scientists say, the dam’s reservoir can hold no more nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment — what comes into the reservoir goes out.

The Bay’s best friend has nothing more to give.

And now, state and federal policy makers must figure out who has to pick up the slack.

Should it be the upstream states, where the nutrients and sediment originate? Or, because the entire Bay benefitted from past reductions, should the whole region share the pain? Since the job ahead is going to be harder, should states get more time to offset the Conowingo effect?

It’s one of the stickiest questions that decision makers face as they map strategies to help the Bay — and its watershed — meet the 2025 cleanup deadline imposed by the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, the bay’s “pollution diet.”

“It’s probably the decision that will be the most challenging to the partnership because it is potentially so divisive,” said James Davis-Martin, Bay coordinator with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and chair of the Bay Program’s Water Quality Goal Implementation Team. “It can set the us-against-them mentality in place.”

No more ‘free ride’

The Bay Program is in the midst of a “midpoint assessment” of the 2010 clean up plan, which set nutrient and sediment caps for each state and river. The resulting pollution reductions were intended to reduce algal blooms, improve water clarity and enhance oxygen levels to sustain fish, crabs, oysters and other aquatic life.

States were to take all needed actions by 2025 to achieve those reductions — including planting cover crops, installing stream buffers and upgrading wastewater treatment plants. But the pollution diet also called for a review in 2017, during which the states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were to assess progress, weigh new information and make any needed course corrections by the end of that year.

Few issues have changed more than Conowingo since 2010.

When the TMDL was written, the EPA assumed that the dam’s reservoir was trapping as much as 20 percent of the nitrogen and 50 percent of the phosphorus coming down the Bay’s largest tributary as it had for decades — and that it would continue to do so through 2025.

But research shows that’s no longer so. A review by the U.S. Geological Survey found that Conowingo has been trapping fewer and fewer nutrients since the 1990s, and sometime in the last few years reached the point where it essentially was no longer retaining nutrients and sediment.

“The free ride is over,” said Robert Hirsch, a USGS research hydrologist whose work a few years ago was the first to show the dam was starting to leak more nutrients downstream. “What comes in basically goes out under the current situation.”

Recent reports by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee reached the same conclusion.

That lost trapping capacity has masked improvements made upstream. USGS monitoring shows that the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lower Susquehanna River above the dam has decreased since the early 1990s. But because nutrients are no longer effectively being trapped in the reservoir, there has been little net change in the amount passing Conowingo and entering the Bay. In the last two decades, nitrogen levels measured below the dam have decreased slightly, while those for phosphorus have increased a bit.

The upshot is this: Because of the dam’s diminished trapping capacity, the nutrient reductions called for in the Susquehanna watershed by the TMDL are no longer enough to meet dissolved oxygen goals in the Upper Bay’s deep waters .

Who bears the burden?

Computer modeling done for the Corps estimated that to meet oxygen goals without Conowingo’s help, areas upstream of the dam would need to keep an additional 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen and an extra 270,000 pounds of phosphorus annually from getting into the Susquehanna. Those would require 9 percent greater nitrogen and 38 percent greater phosphorus reductions from now to 2025.

In an appendix to the TMDL, the EPA said that if the Conowingo reservoir did fill prior to 2025, it would consider assigning steeper cuts to areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York upstream of the dam to make up the difference.

But some question whether that is fair, or realistic. Pennsylvania — which would bear the brunt of additional reductions — is already lagging far behind in its cleanup. It needs to ramp up the pace of nitrogen reductions five-fold just to meet current goals.

“The idea that they would be able to absorb a bunch of previously unaccounted-for loads may not be a viable alternative,” Davis-Martin said.

And, some question whether all of the additional responsibility should be placed upstream of the dam, as the Bay has been a major beneficiary of the dam’s past reductions.

“We have collectively reaped the benefits of the reservoir and its trapping capacity, and maybe there is a reasonable expectation that we share the consequence of that trapping capacity being lost,” Davis-Marin said.

Beth McGee, senior water quality scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the debate about who bears the burden results from bad timing. The nutrients from Conowingo are considered “new” only because scientists didn’t recognize that the reservoir was nearly filled when nutrient allocations were made to states and rivers in 2010.

Those allocations were based on several principles, including that places with the greatest impact on the Bay bear the greatest cleanup burden, but also that as a matter of equity, everyone must share in the task.

If the dam’s fading benefit had been recognized in 2010, McGee said, those additional nutrients would have been divided across the watershed using that formula.

“We would have factored in the new way Conowingo was behaving, and I don’t think anyone would have debated it,” she said.

Under that scenario, areas upstream of the dam would still have to undertake the greatest action — because they have the greatest impact — but some of the burden would be spread among downstream jurisdictions.

Efficiency vs. equity

But spreading the burden comes at a price, literally.

Modeling estimates in the Corps’ report suggest that meeting the water quality goals would require almost twice the reductions — 4.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 410,000 pounds of phosphorus — if spread using the allocation formula. That’s mainly because the Susquehanna has a greater impact on dissolved oxygen levels in the Upper Bay than almost any other part of the watershed. Spreading the burden would likely increase the cleanup cost by millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars.

Those numbers could increase. The computer models used to make those nutrient reduction estimates are being updated and improved with new research. Final estimates won’t be available until late next spring. Officials don’t expect them to change dramatically, but say it’s more likely the needed reductions would increase than decrease.

Some have argued for a hybrid approach in which actions to offset Conowingo would be carried out wherever, and however they could be done most cheaply,b ut with financial responsibility shared through interstate trading, under which states in other parts of the watershed would send cleanup funds to those where the reductions would cost the least.

Though enticing, that option is unlikely. Right now, Bay Program officials say the tools do not exist to support such decisions. And even if they did, most are skeptical that politically, states would willingly send their cleanup money elsewhere. All states still have substantial work to meet their own TMDL goals — reductions necessary to not only meet Bay water quality goals, but also those within their own tributaries.

Push Conowingo offsets beyond 2025?

Other actions could soften the burden and reduce costs. For instance, it is possible states may be able to reduce more of one nutrient and less of the other if it would achieve the same overall water quality goal. If it is less expensive to control phosphorus than nitrogen, a state could opt to spend more on the cheaper option, if the Bay benefit is the same.

“I don’t think that will be the total solution, but it may help,” said Lee Currey, science services director of the Maryland Department of the Environment and co-chair of the Bay Program Modeling Workgroup. “I think that would be something to add to the menu of how we solve the problem, but not a solution by itself.”

Another idea put forward is that states would continue to be required to meet current nutrient reduction goals by 2025, but they would be allowed extra time to offset the impact of Conowingo.

“One of the guiding principles we’ve been operating on since 2010 is adaptive management,” Davis-Martin said. “It is not unreasonable to say new science requires that we adapt our timeline.”

But the EPA has opposed suggestion of extending the 2025 deadline, calling it a “non-starter” at meetings.

Viewed in isolation, the Conowingo impact seems small. The primary impact of the extra nutrients is on dissolved oxygen in one relatively small area, the deepwater portion of the Upper Bay.

Right now, that area lacks enough dissolved oxygen to support aquatic life about 29 percent of the time during the summer. Under current model estimates, if all currently required nutrient reductions were made, but Conowingo’s impact is not offset water quality standards would be exceeded 3 percent of the time.

That may seem small, but as McGee said, “we need to plan for it. Otherwise, what is the difference between 3 and 5 percent, or 5 and 6 percent? I think you need to draw a line in the sand.”

Indeed, other factors that have changed since 2010 will also pose challenges. Preliminary estimates suggest that offsetting the impacts of climate change on Bay water quality by 2025 might require a level of nutrient reductions similar to those needed to offset Conowingo’s lost trapping capacity. Also, additional phosphorus reductions are likely to be needed in parts of the watershed because in areas with intense animal farming more of that nutrient is leaking from soils than previously thought. Population growth and development will produce more nutrient pollution as well.

“If you start to add all of those up but don’t account for them, then you won’t get back to a healthy system,” said Rich Batiuk, associate director for science with the EPA Bay Program Office.

By Karl Blankenship

Spy Overview: The YMCA’s “Take the Helm” Program

In less than a week or so, the YMCA of the Chesapeake will formally begin a new program designed to orient and train high school age young men and women in the fine craft of wooden boat building. Intentionally copied from an extraordinarily successful program in the Bronx of New York City named Rocking the Boat, The YMCA’s staff, volunteers, and financial backers have been working for over a year to get ready for this moment, including several visits to Rocking the Boat’s offices along the Hudson River for meetings with its founder and director Adam Green.

With the help of Rocking the Boat’s audio and images as well as Easton videographer CeCe Davis, the Spy has assembled a short overview of the program to give our readers a sense of how powerful this has been for the individuals involved, for the community, and for environmental awareness.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Take the Helm, please go here or contact its program director Adam Hollis at 410-822-0566 or email ahollis@ymcachesapeake.org. 

 

Out and About (Sort of): Finding Your ‘Fiddler’ by Howard Freedlander

A highlight of the Christmas season for my wife and me was an exhausting but exhilarating one-day trip to New York City to see the most current version of the renowned and popular “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway. Though familiar with this musical comedy, I paid far more attention this time around to the matinee performance.

Maybe increasing age heightens your sensitivities to themes that may not have resonated so strongly previously.

As Tevye, the main and dominating character in this humorous but sober story about the Jewish residents of an East European town of the fictional Anatevka, points at the outset to the fiddler situated precipitously on a roof as a symbol of balance in a world being turned upset down by persecution and violence. The fiddler’s poignant music combines sadness, despair and joyousness. It speaks to life as experienced by all of us.

It portrays life in a village where the Jews face harsh physical and governing conditions. They are strangers in their own land. They become immigrants merely because of their religion and culture.

The story, particularly the end, is painful and tearful.

On the train rode home, as the music still stirred my heart and soul, I began to wonder: who is my “fiddler?” Who—and what—guides me on a daily basis as I cope sometimes with difficult health and emotional challenges?

Who is yours?

The Fiddler by Marc Chagall

The Fiddler by Marc Chagall

I think often about my Jewish immigrant grandfather who left Austria in 1907 at the age of 14 to journey to Lower Manhattan in search of a better life free of persecution and limited choices. I think of a man who eventually became a successful business owner in Pittsburgh, PA. He saw opportunity offered by his adopted country and grabbed it with gusto.

Based on my grandfather’s path to a fruitful life in America, I look to a “fiddler” who sings to me of perseverance, hope and persistence. And, yes, the music that permeates my being has tinges of sadness and disappointment. That’s to be expected.
W
hen I ponder life’s high and low points, I think about a young man from Austria faced with learning a new language and adopting a different culture. Yet he stuck to his religious roots even when it was uncomfortable, when bias sometimes crossed his path.

In a paper written by Barbara Hort, Ph. D, she writes, “There is a specific blend of courage and whimsy, audacity and poignancy, tenacity and sensitivity that has evolved in the Jewish people throughout their centuries of cultural tradition, religious devotion, and secular persecution. One might say that there is a way in which the Jewish culture and consciousness have been refined and honed by their centuries of suffering, much as fine metal is tempered by a searing fire.”

One doesn’t have to be Jewish to seek succor in a “fiddler” to deal with despair and emotional pain.

Ms. Hort wrote, “It is also important to observe that this remarkable combination of traits is not unique to the Jews. In theory, it is available to any group of human beings who are able to withstand the suffering that it inflicted upon them, while still sustaining their sense of identity, purpose and hope. Caught between the afflictions of their circumstances and the promises of a better future, these are the peoples who manage to find a balance between the traditions that define and sustain them, and the brave innovations that will enable them to incarnate their dreams.”

Among a group of friends at a party in Centreville on New Year’s Eve, I was asked, according to our group’s tradition, to express a resolution for 2017. I chose hope.

More specifically, I said, “I will try to be hopeful” amidst political changes in our country and disruption in our world.

I cannot imagine looking to my “fiddler on the roof” without expecting a song of hope and resoluteness.

It sustains me. And you too, I suspect.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Gray Shore: Looking Back at 2016 – A Year of Changes By Memo Diriker

Editor’s Note:  The Spy is pleased to welcome Dr. Memo Diriker as a guest columnist for our Senior Nation portal. In addition to Dr. Diriker’s highly respected analysis of data and demographics on the Eastern Shore’s growing aging population at the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury, he has become a significant leader in the advocacy of “aging in place,” and its associated support services, as a realistic alternative to the expensive institutional care. 

As a baby boomer, as I look back at 2016, I am both excited and a bit discombobulated to have witnessed two major milestones in our nation’s history. First, this was the year when we, the boomers, ceased to be the nation’s largest living generation. According to population estimates released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials, defined as those aged 19-36, now number 75.4 million. We, the boomers (ages 52-70) are now just behind them at 74.9 million. It is interesting to note that Generation X (ages 37-51) is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028. Tomorrow clearly belongs to these younger Americans. But, don’t write us boomers off just yet. We and the Millennials have much to teach to and learn from each other. As has always been the case, we are stronger together than apart.

As for the second milestone, the jury will be out for quite a while whether it is a positive, negative, or neutral development in our nation’s history. I am talking about the end of the American political order as we know it. We might as well throw any rule book we may have had about how we select, elect, and appoint folks to lead our country. It is an entirely new game. I am a strong advocate for change in all walks of life. In general, change is good for us. It keeps us innovating and learning. Sometimes change can be gradual and other times abrupt. This change might have been a long time coming but the actual disruption we are observing now happened quite abruptly. For us boomers, some of the consequences of this change might not be so welcome. If I had any say, I would counsel these new generation of leaders to phase in some of these changes slowly so no one is too adversely impacted. Then again, I am an eternal optimist. I know that we live in a great country and, in time, all will be well.

Here are a few other milestones we observed this past year:

The percentage of American women in the workforce has passed 57 percent in 2016. These women are not quitters. In fact, the percentage of 70-plus women who are still working is expected to rise from 30 percent today to 39 percent by 2024.

The number of minority babies born exceeded majority babies in 2016. In just a few short years, America will be a minority majority nation. In fact, there will be no single group exceeding 50% of the population. This process of this change will prove to be somewhat rocky. In the long run, this too will make our nation stronger and better. As Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame said, “We rejoice in our differences!”

On another front, in 2016, a majority of Baby Boomers were on record saying that they are accepting of different lifestyles, even gay marriage, whether they are Democrat or Republican. This is especially interesting, since us boomers remain as divided politically as the rest of the nation. Almost as many people turning 70 this year said they were Republican (36 percent) as say they were Democrat (38 percent).

On the health front, us boomers can expect 15 more years of life than our grand parents’ generation. We are reaping a bounty of medical advances in areas like heart disease and cancer treatment. And, thanks largely to improvements in health care and pharmaceuticals, our bonus years can often be lived in a disease-free body.

Finally, we are now approaching our 90th month of recovery since the last recession. 2016 has been the best year of this long recovery period. Most economists expect the good times to continue for at least another year. But, please do not throw caution to the wind. Timing economic slowdowns is very hard to do. What we do know, however, is that they do follow times of recovery, just as night follows day. Being prepared is always a good thing. As David Bowie said, “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it!” I am already turning up the volume of my hearing aid….

Dr. Memo Diriker is the Founding Director of the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON). BEACON is the premier business and economic research and consulting unit of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. BEACON is home to the award winning Community Visioning, ShoreTRENDS, GraySHORE, ShoreENERGY, GNAppWorks, and Bienvenidos a Delmarva initiatives and a proud partner of the GeoDASH initiative.

 

 

 

Only Those Who Know the Longing by George Merrill

Enthusiasts of Tchaikovsky’s haunting melodies will be familiar with his classic, “None but the Lonely Heart.” The title, however, comes from a poem Goethe wrote. The German reads, “Nur wer die sehnsuch kennt,” which translates literally, “Only those who know the longing.” I strongly suspect we’ve all felt this longing, but didn’t know what to make of it. The feeling is unlike anything else.

Have you ever felt such a longing, a persistent and inexplicable yearning that seems to have no clear origin?

I’ve experienced it as a mood that comes and goes and feels like a deep huger for something I cannot quite put my finger on. Then, I see or hear of a particular happening that’s filled with grace and beauty and I’m suddenly moved to tears – not tears of sorrow or sadness, but the tears that release a latent joy that has been hidden from me deep down within my own heart. Yes, you say to myself, that’s it, that’s what sates this hunger of mine, something innately good and filled with love and grace.

This past year capped one of the darker eras in our national life. Over the last several years, hate and ugliness seemed to be insidiously growing like a malignant tumor in our national and world body. It was slowly disfiguring many of our treasured ideals. One ideal suffering disfigurement was that it made no difference anymore how anyone played the game, but only that they won it. Losers didn’t matter. They were non-persons. We stood by and watched, as our values were regularly devalued.

The year culminated in an atmosphere characterized by mean-spiritedness and flagrant amorality. But out of the crucible of the most unimaginable suffering in these last few years, there arose periodic intimations of that sublime beauty. We are finding that noble and grace-filled spark that burns in the human spirit – the image of God – still glows. Even in these troubled years we saw the evidence with our own eyes how love can conquer hate. In two instances the glow manifested itself in the suffering of the African American community in Charlottesville, North Carolina and the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In June of 2015, Dylann Roof entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine parishioners were engaged in a Bible study – he shot them. That’s the ugly and hateful piece of the story. There’s another story. It’s different. During Roof’s bond hearing, several family members of the victims who attended said that they forgave him. The transformational quality of grace and goodness are perhaps one of the oldest miracles of our species. How do they do it, I wonder; would I be strong enough if I were in their circumstances?

Like butterflies these moments of deeper spiritual manifestations suddenly appear. Their beauty stuns us. Such moments are fragile and soon they are gone and forgotten. But like the butterflies’ wings, as fragile as they seem, will transport them across continents. I want such moments of grace to remain, to bring a continuing joy and hope into my life. The experience of grace and goodness is often transient, but it leaves in the corridors of memory something grand and noble, the knowing of something essentially good. Having once beheld it and felt its benign power, I want it to hold onto it always; I want all of us to have it – always.

Ten years ago, ten Amish schoolchildren were shot while in their one room schoolhouse. In the midst of their grief the Amish community did not blame, point fingers, and get lawyers – they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family. They visited the killer’s family to console them.

Again the power of grace and moral beauty to heal and reconcile is an awesome phenomenon to behold. It’s miraculous. How does goodness survive in the fetid fields of violence in which we grow? How can flowers bloom in an arid desert? They find a way and therein rests our hope.

I see little evidence that the antagonistic climate that has seized the country since the election will change that much. It places the burden on people of good will – on those who know the longing – to cultivate, in the small worlds in which each of us lives and has influence, the spirit of grace and goodness. ‘Walk in the light that you have,’ the old inspirational message urges us. That light is all that guides us when all other lights are extinguished.

Some hostilities and divisions remain so intractable as to seem irreconcilable. None more so than the Israeli – Palestinian conflict that only recently has reemerged to threaten the world.

There’s a story I once read about a handful of Israeli mothers that for a while, sated that longing in my heart. It’s a soul story, something essentially good and grace-filled. I think these women knew the longing.

At a checkpoint in Israel, Israeli guards were posted to monitor entering and exiting Palestinians. The tension for the soldiers was as stressful as it was for Palestinian citizens. This led some guards to treat Palestinians aggressively that in turn led the Palestinians to feel hostile and more victimized.

A group of women – Israeli mothers – banded together to undertake the task of monitoring the behavior of the guards, a few of whom were the mothers of the soldiers. When the guards gave evidence of not treating the Palestinians with basic courtesy, the particular mother assigned to monitor the guard would scold him. The legendary power of Jewish mothers to intimidate their sons became a profoundly humane, even a divine gesture, which maintained the integrity of the guards while securing a measure of dignity for entering and exiting Palestinians. It allowed neighbors to at least pass by one another without causing rancor.

No, the gesture didn’t resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. It helped the few whose live it touched to walk in the light. They knew about the longing.
Heed the longing when it comes. Listen to its music. It has messages for us.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Looking Back at the Russians on Pioneer Point: Pizza In Our Time by Douglass Cater

Editor’s Note: Given the closing of Russia’s retreat outside of Centreville a few days ago, we have elected to republish this piece from the Spy in November of 2010. 
 
Ed. Note: Douglass Cater, who served as President of Washington College from 1982 to 1990, had this originally published this essay in the New York Times in December of 1984.  It is printed here with permission by his wife, Libby Cater Halaby. At the time of writing, The State Department had decided to limit the range of travel of the Soviets from their Centreville-based retreat center on Pioneer Point which denied access to Chestertown’s Pizza Hut, a favorite of the then current Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. 

Having tried privately and failed to persuade Secretary Shultz to take a small step in the new negotiations with the Soviets, my friend and I have decided to go public. My friend is James Symington, former ambassador, Congressmen and lately a Washington lawyer not unskilled in diplomatic maneuver. I am a former journalist, assistant in the LBJ White House, and, more recently, head of a small liberal arts college on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My involvement in this episode arises from a keen desire to educate my students in world affairs. Alas, I little reckoned the difficulties.

It began nearly two years ago at a dinner in Symington’s home attended by the venerable Soviet ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin. During a quiet moment, I informed the ambassador that I was now living and working not far from the Soviet weekend dacha. I live in Kent County; the Soviet estate, formerly belonging to tycoon Jacob Raskob, is in Queen Anne’s, across the Chester River.

Anatoly Dobrynin

Anatoly Dobrynin

“I know Washington College well,” Dobrynin replied with his customary ebullience.”  “My granddaughter and I pass the campus almost every Sunday night on our way to the Pizza Hut. She has a great passion for pizza.” Though chastened that my school now entering its third century should have served as landmark for an eatery, I invited the ambassador to drop by and sample our culinary offerings. Students and faculty, I urged, would love to engage him on the issues of war and peace. He replied somewhat noncommittally. Soon afterward, the Korean airliner was shot down by Soviet MIG’s and Dobrynin returned to Moscow for a spell.

Then, during the autumn of 1983, the US State Department posted a revised listing of localities in America where Soviet emissaries would be denied travel. Kent County, home to both Washington College and the Pizza Hut, was added to the forbidden territory. I was confounded. We are the smallest, and probably least populated part of the Delmarva Peninsula.Our largest commercial enterprise is a branch plant of the Campbell Soup Company, where chicken parts are boiled down. An old SAM site, relic of earlier strategies, is now available for sale or rental.

Why were we thus singled out? The College is exclusively devoted to undergraduate education. One of our chemistry professors, currently on leave, is expert in pyrotechnics but conducts his research elsewhere. No, I concluded, not Washington College but the Pizza Hut had provoked the embargo. In the Machiavellian game of tit for tat that engages U.S./Soviet relationships, the Sunday night forays of the Ambassador and his granddaughter must have caught the attention of a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat. Someone had moved with vengeance to cut off the Dobrynins’ pizza.

Douglass Cater (Center) with LBJ and guest.

Douglass Cater (Center) with LBJ and guest.

What was to be done? There was idle talk of establishing a half-way house in Queen Anne’s County to which Sunday night nourishment could be ferried. But our real objective was to nourish our students and, perhaps, to convince our government that an open society gains little by aping Iron Curtain behavior.

These were the arguments my friend Symington included in a letter to Secretary Schultz. Time passed and a routine reply came from someone bearing a long subsidiary title. Making no mention of Kent County, the letter merely reiterated that the United States engages in travel reciprocity with the Soviet Union. No hint that the loosening of travel bans might offer a topic for fresh beginnings.

I do not wish to grow obsessive. Even if Kent Count should be reopened to Soviet traffic, Dobrynin has made no promises to Washington College. And the Pizza Hut is doing quite nicely without him or his granddaughter.

Yet the thought lurks that when Schultz and Andrei A. Gromyko meet in Geneva this January, they will be hard pressed to find the tiny steps for tiny feet that can lead out of the current impasse. What can anyone propose that has not been haggled and rehaggled? Just suppose Mr. Schultz were to announce as Mr. Gromyko’s habitual gloom begins to darken that we have an offer to lay on the table. Unilaterally, without ifs, buts, or maybes. Henceforth, in Kent County on Maryland’s lovely Eastern Shore, we will forsake all claims or reciprocity or weekly visual verification. Let the pundits proclaim that this constitute a bold new policy of pizza in our time.