Mid-Shore History: Thinking of Frederick Douglass at Wye House under the “Witness Trees”

While there are certainly some very special moments that come with historical discovery for scholars — a rare letter found in an attic or a personal diary uncovered at an antique store — nothing compares to the feeling and emotion that comes with sharing the same habitat as your subject. Whether that be George Washington and Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, or Frederick Douglass and the Wye House Plantation, to be able to experience a connection between these American heros and where they lived cannot be beat.

That was certainly clear last Sunday afternoon at the Wye House when the Frederick Douglass Honor Society hosted for four distinguished historians to discuss one of America’s greatest social reformers under that Douglass had called the “witness trees” of Wye House. Professors David Blight from Yale, Dale Glenwood Green from Morgan State, Hari Jones from the American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum and John Stauffer from Harvard all spoke of the importance that Wye played in Douglass’ writing and mission in life.

The Spy was able to collect a few segments from each speaker.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Frederick Douglass Honor Society please go here.

Out and About (Sort of): Reunions and Losses by Howard Freedlander

I took a week off in writing this weekly column immersed as I was in my 50th reunion at my university in Philadelphia. My perspective about this milestone event was skewed a bit due to my leadership roles. Nonetheless, I joined classmates in celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime experience with gusto and good health.

When I first encountered my classmates at the beginning of a weekend filled with social and educational activities, I perceived a certain shyness, or maybe a human reluctance to accept the fact that attendance at our 50th reunion required you to be 71-72-years-old. A common refrain was: “Twenty-five years ago when we were on campus for an earlier milestone reunion, we looked at those celebrating their 50th and thought they looked awfully old.”

Life is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We all walked more slowly, carried our gray or white or colored hair and undeniable wrinkles with grace, talked incessantly about grandchildren—while simply enjoying the fact that we were able to mark our 50th anniversary as graduates with abundant enthusiasm, sufficient dexterity and overwhelming desire to reconnect to each other.

Appropriately, at our last event, we paid tribute to 261 deceased classmates. The memorial service was a poignant one. I could return home thankful for a fun and festive weekend and pleased that our deceased classmates remained part of our memories and souls.

Herb Andrew

Here at home, the community suffered a terrible loss two weeks ago of Herb Andrew, a native Talbot County resident, longtime farmer, well-regarded bank board member and quietly effective community leaders. He also had served four terms on the Talbot County Council.

Though I didn’t know Herb well, I found him exceedingly and sincerely friendly. He served our community with little fanfare. Our longest conversation happened when we spoke for a few minutes in October 2015 at the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit at the old Maryland National Guard Armory in Easton. This exhibit featured wonderfully evocative paintings of African-American life in Talbot County in the early 20th century. He talked candidly about what he observed in his youth about how black residents were mistreated in Talbot County. He talked about his service in the U.S. Air Force and the bias he observed.

Herb Andrew was a terrific person killed tragically in a car crash. Our community has lost one of its truly good and service-oriented people.

A significant resource in our Mid-Shore region, Chesapeake College has severed its relationship with Barbara Viniar, its hard-working president for the past nine years. Information has been sparse concerning the reasons for Barbara’s departure. While I understand the sensitivity of personnel actions, I find it regrettable that we are losing such a capable educator with so little explanation.

Barbara Viniar

Serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, Chesapeake College is an invaluable asset to residents young and old. Change in top leadership is therefore important to all of us. I can only guess that being responsive to elected officials in five counties is a difficult, often thankless task.

As readers know, I often have moaned and groaned about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the season traffic that heads east from late May to early September. I normally focus on the Shore and the burden on local residents dealing with chronic congestion. This time around, I must talk about Annapolis.

By this time, most people probably have heard about a fatal crash that occurred early afternoon on Route 50 on Wednesday, May 17. Eastbound lanes leading to the Bay Bridge were closed to traffic as police dealt with a total mess. Annapolis became the favorite detour locale. Plans to pick up grandchildren at a day care center and elementary school became delayed.

Many of us are inextricably tied to the Western Shore for personal and professional reasons. Hence, we have to deal with agonizing delays often caused by vehicle accidents. What’s the answer?
For me, it’s patience, which I lack. It’s long-held appreciation for life on the Shore.

I started this column about a college reunion and ended it with angst over a traffic accident on Route 50 near Annapolis. In between, I bemoaned the tragic death of Herb Andrew and the unfortunate end to Barbara Viniar’s relationship with Chesapeake College.

Life moves forward, sometimes with joy at reconnecting with old friends, sadness at the loss of a community pillar, regret over the departure of an educational leader and the travail of navigating Route 50.

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 Health Futures: How Our Regional Hospitals Measure Up

Susan Coe was in search of cottage cheese.

The chief experience officer and senior vice president at University of Maryland’s Shore Regional Health was looking in on a new patient at UM Medical Center at Easton. The patient, she learned, wanted her cottage cheese not in a small compartment on a tray but on a plate.

“She had her heart set on the platter,” Coe said.

The nurse immediately called food services to make the change but Coe said she decided to go get the plate of cottage cheese herself.

“It’s about respecting the patient,” she said.

That attention to patient satisfaction is part of a major change in hospitals, including at Shore Regional Health. Before 2007, hospitals largely measured their success by looking at “hard” data that evaluate patient safety and outcomes for specific procedures or events, such as heart attacks or infections. But in the past decade, the federal government began requiring that hospitals also measure how satisfied patients are with their care. Each hospital patient is given a 27-question survey that asks a range of questions, from how well the doctors and nurses communicated, to how noisy and clean the hospital was, to whether the patient would recommend the hospital to a friend.

And Shore Regional Health didn’t like what it was seeing, at least in one area.

Robert Carroll, regional director performance measurement & improvement, said that for the last eight quarters patient satisfaction ratings had been declining at the Easton and Dorchester facilities (considered one entity in ratings) and at its Chestertown hospital. The latest published data, from April 2015 to the end of March 2016, show that the Shore Regional Health hospitals score below average in patient satisfaction nationally and statewide. This is the despite the fact that the hospitals scored average or above average in most of its quality and safety ratings both statewide and nationally.

By contrast, the latest data show that Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis and Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury rate better than average statewide and nationally in patient satisfaction. Peninsula also scored better than average in quality and patient safety ratings statewide and nationally. And Anne Arundel rated better than average nationally in quality and a safety, while it rated average statewide. In Maryland, consumers can go online to get information on safety, quality and satisfaction ratings at the Maryland Health Care Commission website (http://healthcarequality.mhcc.maryland.gov).

In December, Shore Regional Health launched a program called HEART to change patients’ perception of their care. And that, Coe said, required that caregivers consciously reconnect with what brought them into health care in the first place. “It’s about empathy, communication and connection,” Coe said. “It’s listening, watching, understanding.”

In the first phase of the program, 25 peer counsellors were trained. From January through March, those counsellors then led three-hour sessions among Shore Regional Health’s more than 2,000 employees. The focus, Coe said, was on helping caregivers see the hospital experience through the patient’s eyes.

“Every patient is reluctant to enter the hospital,” said Trena Williamson, regional director of communications and marketing at Shore Regional Health. “But for the medical staff, this is their normal.”

A new mother with a sick baby might see things differently than a veteran nurse with other, sicker patients, Williamson said. The HEART program helps staff “recalibrate” so as to see the situation from the patient’s perspective, she said.

Coe said patient satisfaction surveys are helpful but it is the comments that are most useful.

“The scores give us a number but the comments give us gifts of insight and direction,” she said. “We really look at comments– and we follow up.”

Keeping a patient-centered focus is “baked into the culture” at Anne Arundel Medical Center, where about 10 percent of hospital patients and 1 in 5 office visitors are from the Eastern Shore, said Maulik Joshi, executive vice president of integrated care delivery and chief operating officer.

Joshi said new hires are made based on their willingness not only to deliver the best medical care but also to make sure patients feel a personal connection.

“We own ‘I care’ behavior,” he said. “I—I sit down and talk with a patient at the beside; C—I connect with patients by smiling and saying hello; A—I answer quickly when someone has a question; R—I always tell everyone my role; and E—I always escort people.”

At Peninsula, the team approach and employees who live in the community and have worked many years at the hospital are key to both a high quality of care and patients’ happiness, said Sheri Matter, the hospital’s vice president of patient services.

Nurses and doctors together visit the patient to ensure everyone—including the patient—understands the plan of care, both in the hospital and when the patient goes home, she said.

And, she said, there is a “direct correlation” between patient satisfaction and “higher quality outcomes.”

“You have to listen,” she said.

Coe, at Shore Regional Health, would agree.

There, HEART has entered Phase 2: coaching and helping hospital staff put the program into practice. After that, “we’ll expand, go deeper,” she said.

In the meantime, Carroll said he is not worried about the ratings.

“We’re doing this because it’s a better way to do it,” he said. “The numbers will take care of themselves.”

The Regional Overview

If you have a heart attack, bicycle accident or need knee surgery, it’s useful to know how your hospital rates in quality of care, safety, and patient satisfaction.

Thanks to a growing trend in healthcare that looks at outcomes instead of just treatments, many government and private groups collect and disseminate data on hospitals’ performance. The information includes everything from specific comparisons about the likelihood of getting a hospital-acquired infection to how quiet the hospital corridors are at night. Hospitals are graded on these benchmarks and can be compared across a state or against a neighboring state.

In Maryland, which has a unique arrangement with the federal government for hospital reimbursements, consumers can go to a state website to see how their hospitals compare on many of these milestones.

The Maryland Health Care Commission, an independent agency, has an online consumer guide that can help answer many of your questions:

For example, you can use the website to look at a combined quality and safety score for every hospital in the state. Most hospitals in the state rank average on combined quality and safety compared with other Maryland hospitals, including the University of Maryland Shore Medical Centers at Easton, Chestertown and Dorchester. The only ones listed as better than average statewide are Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. Anne Arundel Medical Center, rated average statewide, is among 21 Maryland hospitals rated better than average compared with hospitals nationwide.

Much of the data come from the federal government, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The federal site also has its own hospital comparison tools. You can also go directly to the centers’ site: Medicare.gov. The direct link to the hospital compare site is found here.

Using that site, you can find and compare hospitals across the nation and check them out against the ones in your own backyard.

With all the information that is collected, using the sites can be a little daunting. But there is a way to cut through the clutter to find what you’re looking for.

Start out with the overall ratings to see how the hospitals stack up

Zero in on areas that align with your procedure–for example, maternity care or orthopedic surgery.

Look at the patient satisfaction measures, which tell you things like how well the hospital staff communicates with patients about the discharge instructions, prescriptions, etc.

If you have to go to the emergency room, there’s also information on how quickly you’ll get attention from the medical staff. Easton, Chestertown and Peninsula hospitals were rated better than average in six measures for how quickly emergency room patients were handled compared with other hospitals in the state. Anne Arundel was below average in four of the six measures.

 

Spy Contributor Robert Tiernan was managing editor of Consumer Reports from 2006 to 2015. Spy Contributor Ridgely Ochs covered health care, personal health and medicine for more than 20 years at Newsday on Long Island. They both now live 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.

The Art of the Matter by George Merrill

My first excursion into art was through photography. I didn’t know then that photography was an art. I just thought it was fun. For over sixty years I’ve accrued hundreds of photographs.

Some, like the accompanying picture, I particularly treasure.

I took it at the Baltimore Museum of Art. A workshop was being offered that day to community children. A good number of children attended, with supervising elders guiding and facilitating the children’s budding efforts to create. The kids were having a grand time.

When I began writing essays later in life, some focused around certain of my pictures. I was sure they had a story to tell me, in the way sculptors believe that, in the stone they are about to carve, there’s something within it yearning to be freed. The sculptor’s task: to give shape to the yearning and thereby liberate it. In whatever artistic medium, the same principle applies; the materials of artistic creation become the expression of things inward and spiritual. Sacraments, like works of art, are defined in this way.

I’m sure this child won’t remember her day at the museum. I remember it vividly. I experienced what legendary French photographer Cartier-Bresson once identified as the “decisive moment.” He describes this as being drawn to a scene in which something fundamental to life is being dramatized right before your eyes. The photographer sees it and he snaps the shutter. A moment – a once and for all – is plucked from the continuum of time to become timeless in the form of a silver-gelatin print, the photograph.

At the museum that day, I sensed that the child painting and I were both engaged in something fundamental to life; the urge to create. I saw in the child, some of the yearning that I, too, have known. She is trying to give her own particular shading, form and color to some matter of the heart that she feels within her. The yearning spurs her on, but offers little specific guidance. She has to find her way. How does she do it? How do any of us engage in the sort of midwifery that facilitates the process of emerging possibilities? Inspiration comes first, encouragement next and then practice. It can be summed up this way: follow your bliss. It’s often first discovered during decisive moments.

The child was totally absorbed in what she was doing. It was all about her, her own inner vision; everyone has an inner vision, but many remain unaware of it. Her expression, as I read it, didn’t have that strained or frantic quality – the kind of hyper-alertness or frantic anticipation that I see in the faces of children on cell phones texting or calling. They are as absorbed on their phones as the child in the museum was in her painting. There is a difference. I believe the child at the easel was more in tune with her inner voice or vision than a child on a cell phone is. Some of her radiance showed it. The energy in texting is primarily outwardly focused, reactive; an artist in the act of creating is both inwardly and outwardly focused at the same time. Maintaining an inner vision while expressing it outwardly by craftsmanship is the practice of an art. It has a meditative character.

Art has many mediums. Art is a process that represents the works and activities resulting from human creative skill and imagination. Einstein formulates the stunning equation E=mc2. While the equation is mathematical, it’s also, at a deeper level, an aesthetic statement. It was created by an inner vision. Einstein first visualized the cosmic dynamism in his imagination before making any of the computations.

This remarkably terse statement of three letters, a number and an equal sign captures the essence of an infinitely stunning and interconnected universe. It’s similar to the way the fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich spoke of the hazelnut she once held in her hand. “And in this [God] showed me a little . . . hazelnut, lying in the palm if my hand. And it was as round as any ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding. It was answered generally thus, ‘it is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.” Good art sees things with the eye of understanding.

Art is an attempt to release the eternity hidden in the grain of sand. It illuminates the nascent grandeur inherent in life’s “little things” that we rarely notice. Art renders them visible for everyone to see. Art keeps truth and its beauty visible saving it from falling to nothing. Art, as the product of our imagination, offers infinite possibilities in the way we see.

One of the rewards of making art is the experience of discovery it offers. I think it’s generally true of the visual and literary arts that what the artist first sets upon to do looks little like the final product. While the essential vision first imagined remains, it gets hewed, tempered, altered, pressed, burnished and polished in all kinds of ways before it takes its final shape.

I do not know what the child was envisioning at the museum that day. I never saw what she finally painted. It was enough that she was trying to claim her vision and give it shape, form and color.

That’s the art of the matter or perhaps more pointedly, the matter of the art.

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.

Profiles in Spirituality: St. Peter and Paul’s Father James Nash

The idea of being the leader of Saints Peter & Paul Parish could easily strike urbanites as the equivalent of being the classic country priest, whose time is spent leisurely ministering to a small flock of the faithful in a beautiful rural setting. But it didn’t take long for Father James Nash to dispel that myth very quickly from his modest office on Route 50 in Easton when the Spy caught up with him a few weeks ago.

In fact, Father Nash oversees an enterprise that is counted as one of the largest employers in Talbot County and includes an elementary school, high school, and three churches with membership in the thousands. And each week, he not only faces the normal challenges that come with any man of the cloth, but must manage over one hundred employees, fundraise for substantial building projects, and administer a $6 million annual budget during his spare time.

And yet none of this seems to weigh too heavily on the priest who left a successful accounting practice to find his real vocation within the Catholic Church. In our Spy interview, Father Nash talks about the business of St. Peter and Paul, but also about the timeless beauty of his faith, the teachings of Pope Francis, and his humble philosophy of leadership in caring for his parish.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Saints Peter and Paul Church and School, please go here.

 

Washington College Journalist Wins Kerr Prize

Catalina Righter has won the 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the award.

Catalina Righter – winner of 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College in Chestertown, MD

Righter is an English major from Manchester, Md., who served as editor-in-chief of the Elm, the student newspaper. Her portfolio combined journalism, a travel essay on New Orleans, and a selection of her poetry.

In addition to editing the student newspaper, Righter was a poetry screener for Cherry Tree, the national literary journal published by the Literary House Press. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglas Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Sigma Tau Delta (the English honor society), and was active in the sailing and dance clubs. After graduation, she plans to look for a newspaper job, she said in an interview with the Spy when she was chosen as a finalist.

Poet Elizabeth Spires announced the award Friday night at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest undergraduate writing award, this year valued at $65,768. The cash award totals more than the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Penn Faulkner prize combined, according to Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

Accepting the award, Righter thanked her family, saying that “that my most true and unwavering sense of self comes from you.” She also thanked her teachers, and her friends and fellow writers, “especially anyone who has trusted me to read a piece of that work.” Finally, she said,  “Thank you for anyone who came today because you love someone enough to tell them to continue to write.”

Catalina Righter rises to accept award as finalists Allison Billmire, Ryan Manning and James P. Mitchell, and Washington College president Sheila Bair applaud.

“Catalina has an eye for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. She brings to bear on her poems a reporter’s objectivity and a journalist’s sense of what makes a story both memorable and beautiful,” said James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

“Catalina’s writing evinces her remarkable ability to capture both the outrageous and the mundane, and to find surprising humor and beauty in both,” said Moncrief.

The ceremony, which drew a large crowd to the college’s Hotchkiss Recital Hall, showcased the five finalists reading from their work, which covered a range from poetry to political commentary.  (See more photos below article.)

Catalina Righter accepts Sophie Kerr Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires looks on.

Spires, a faculty member at Goucher College, began her teaching career at Washington College in 1981. In a speech preceding the announcement, she reminisced about her days at the college, with memories of fellow faculty members Bob Day and Bennett Lamond, and offered advice to the finalists. Among her tips were learning from rejection slips and resisting the temptation to lose themselves in the online world.

The Sophie Kerr award is named for a popular writer of the early 20th century, Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr, who published 23 novels, hundreds of short stories, and even a cookbook. When she died at 85 years old, she bequeathed the College a half-million-dollar trust fund, stipulating that half of the annual earnings go to a graduating senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor. The other half funds student scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, and library books.

Catalina with friends at reception after presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaders and the Physics of Destruction by Al Sikes

In business there are many versions of the virtuous circle. Amazon, for example, gains customer insights on a real-time basis and then puts it to use in acquiring, pricing, selling and distributing inventory. Each element of its business opens a window on improving the other elements.

Virtuous circles in public affairs turn on success or at least its appearance. When a public figure initiates both an effective and popular move, he/she stands a better chance of being given the benefit of the doubt on future ones. Of course, performance in politics is enhanced when there are attractive personal attributes. Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Obama in my lifetime enjoyed halo effects because of intangible assets.

But, when some combination of tangibles and intangibles cause a loss of popularity, a negative circle of consequences develops and is very difficult to reverse. Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Carter, in particular, were defeated by the physics of destruction, an irreversible momentum. President Trump has joined them and at a very unfortunate time for the nation—issues press, division intensifies, and Trump is only in his fourth month.

I was raised to respect Presidents. They were elected; democracy in action. And, they were the most meaningful expression of our nation’s day to day strength or weakness. We didn’t have to agree with everything our President did, but we had to always keep in mind that if he was weak our collective strength was hurt—weak President, weakened nation.

I didn’t vote for the President but have tried to keep my essays dispassionate–time weighed on me, Trump had just begun.

Trump deserves much of his unpopularity. He began his Presidency as if he had spent a lifetime preparing for the burdens. The reality is that he is an amateur—plenty of bluster but little else. Most unfortunately, he has let down his supporters who looked at all of the Republican and Democrat regulars and judged them unacceptable.

Rarely does a news cycle end without Trump attacking the media. The media, an imperfect bunch to be sure, is nonetheless the connectivity between the governed and its leaders. President Reagan’s sparring with Sam Donaldson should be studied. Donaldson’s critical coverage was masterfully disarmed by Reagan. Attempting to destroy the media is destructive on both a personal and collective level.

In my view Trump has made some good choices in assembling his national security and foreign policy team, but then he gets out ahead of them. Surely he learned in running a hotel company that he needed to avoid undermining his managers. It makes no sense.

The problem is he seems incapable of understanding his problems. He seeks out enablers. When you are President this is the single most egregious mistake. Being a successful president is a really difficult job and enablers, and let me add apologists, are inevitably ill-informed and often obsequious.

So where does the nation go from here? It now seems clear that Trump will not become a controlled and stable leader in a position for which he received no preparation. I hope to be surprised.

We have been here before. President Richard Nixon resigned to forestall impeachment. President Bill Clinton was impeached but not convicted. Both sagas were long, drawn-out and debilitating.

When a President is failing, America’s most important institutions and their leaders must recalibrate their roles. They will need to fill vacuums. They will need to cushion chaos. They will need to provide a measure of strength and stability.

The loyal opposition should be measured and careful with their prerogatives. The Republican leadership should lower the decibels of partisanship and be prepared to speak truth to power.

The Fourth Estate has a particularly vital role to play. The knives are out and separating fact from fiction requires capable journalists who go well beyond a crossfire version of the news.
Finally, President Trump has appointed some capable people to head the Departments of State, Defense and Treasury. Their exercise of power and advice to the President will be important.

Let me close with repetition. I hope I am wrong. America needs encouragement—proponents and opponents alike. The appointment of Judge Merrick Garland or a similarly well-regarded FBI head would be a big step in the right direction.

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. 

Piazza Food Bites: Happy Sausages

It shouldn’t be a surprise to local foodies that one of the most requested products Piazza Italian Market customers have been asking for was the addition of meat products that were from farms that treated their pigs and cows humanely. What was surprising was how hard it was to make those requests a reality.

 You would think, given these days of increasingly expanded food choices, that Emily Chandler, Piazza’s owner, would have a number of choices to satisfy her customers wishes, but that didn’t turn out to be necessarily the case given Emily’s high standards, and her use of the same careful research when importing Italian products. In short, reputation is everything.

And that’s what led her to a relatively small distributor in Indiana named Smoking Goose for her sausage and bacon choices. The Spy talked to Emily about her choice and, of course,  some great uses for this special sausage in our latest edition of Piazza Food Bites.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information on Piazza please go here

Trump’s Budget and the Bay by David Montgomery

Although no details are yet available, President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint “Eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than the 2017 annualized CR levels. The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.“

I have mixed reactions to this proposal.  It can be argued that the Bay is a national and global asset, and that its benefits extend far beyond the 7 states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.   As seen in the picture below, the jurisdictions in direct contact with the Bay are Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.  The watershed includes New York, Delaware and West Virginia where the headwaters of rivers and streams feeding into the Bay are located.

In more practical terms, the Federal government sets expectations for the Watershed Implementation Plans that the states must develop in order to comply with Federal Clean Water Act standards for the Bay, yet the states bear the cost of compliance with Federal standards.

There is nothing unique about this combination of Federal standards and state implementation, as it derives from the basic design of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.  The Federal government decides on what standards should be met for air and water quality, in part because emissions and effluents from one state almost always travel across state boundaries to affect other states.

It is left up to the states to create plans for achieving the standards set by the Federal government.  These plans are reviewed by the Federal government, usually by modeling how the specific provisions of the plan would affect future air and water quality.

Once the plans are approved, each state must implement the plans through whatever combination of legislation, regulation and economic incentives it chooses.  Thus the actions taken by each state form part of what should be a cooperative solution for the region and country as a whole.   Maryland benefits from reductions in emissions from coal-fired powerplants in upwind states like Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia, and those states benefit from improved recreational opportunities and less costly seafood from the Bay.

Many studies have been made by environmental economists of the benefits of improved air and water quality, and how those benefits are distributed across different regions and populations.   Thus there is probably a study of how the benefits of improvements in water quality of the Chesapeake Bay are distributed to residents of different states.  Recreational benefits, for example, are usually allocated by distance so that the Bay states themselves would gain most of those benefits.  Improved fisheries would benefit the entire market for seafood from the Bay, and also the watermen who live in the Bay states.  

Nevertheless, there is no broad provision in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act for allocating cleanup costs based on the distribution of benefits.  That distribution was no doubt in the minds of the members of Congress who enacted those two laws, and in the process for setting and meeting standards that they created, and it falls out of the laws as written.  In one case, Title IV of the Clean Air Act, Congress set up a trading program to limit emissions of acid rain precursors, and was specific that costs would be borne by the states where the emissions occurred.

Based on all this, I see no particular claim that the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed could make for funding of Bay cleanup by other states, any more than California could claim that it should be compensated for achieving smog goals in the South Coast Air Basin.

All this is consistent with the great principle of subsidiarity, that decisions should be made at the lowest level of government that can deal effectively with a problem.  

But on the other side of the coin, it is unclear that as individual states, each of the 7 watershed states has the incentive, information or ability to carry out its part in a cost-effective management system.  The so-called “headwater states” of New York, Delaware and West Virginia, are not on the Bay and get no direct benefit from its cleanup.  Pennsylvania borders part of the Upper Bay, but its share of effluents (largely from the Susquehanna) is claimed to be far greater than it share of the Bay’s waters.  

For this reason, there are a number of interstate agreements intended to coordinate action and planning across these states, in particular the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement signed in 2014.  It is described as being a  “plan for collaboration across the Bay’s political boundaries [that] establishes goals and outcomes for the restoration of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.”  It is administered by the Chesapeake Bay Program, which has an Executive Council composed of the governors of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the Administrator of EPA.   

Federal funding may not be necessary to clean up the Bay, but it can certainly be an effective lever for gaining cooperation in this multi-state activity.  Not only can such funding grease the wheels by sharing the cost of particularly contentious tasks, the threat of withholding federal funds can be an effective tool in gaining compliance with plans previously agreed by the states.  In particular, Pennsylvania frequently appears in the news as failing to meet its commitments or reduce effluents sufficiently for Maryland and Virginia to meet federal standards in their waters.

There is an alternative, but one that would also require some initiative from the Administration to bring about.  Unlike the Delaware River Basin Commission, all of the commissions and other agreements about Chesapeake Bay Cleanup are voluntary agreements of states based on each state’s own legislation.  The Delaware River Basin Commission is a formal Interstate Compact, ratified by the U.S. Congress and enforceable under Federal law on all members .  Creating a Chesapeake Bay Interstate Compact including the 7 watershed states would make plans and commitments enforceable by any member of the Compact against another member.  

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has responsibilities for water supply that may or may not be useful for the Chesapeake Bay, but its management of pollution control and flood control would be.  The DRBC can itself finance and build waste treatment plants, and plan for the balance among different sources of effluents.  It also devises its own funding mechanisms.  A similar Commission for the Chesapeake would certainly be able to design and implement an effluent trading program for the entire watershed, which is the only way to make one effective.  In principle, there should be a way for the Commission to develop a single, comprehensive Watershed Implementation Plan binding on all its members.

This is not an entirely original idea, as I discovered after writing this article.  The Environmental Law Institute published a paper  that discusses the merits of an interstate compact for the Chesapeake Bay at much greater length.  I think that decisions on where effluents should be reduced, by what means, and at whose expense should be a responsibility of the 7 watershed states, and not require an external party like the federal government to impose them.  In line with the principle of subsidiarity, a watershed compact appears to me to be the lowest level of government capable of dealing with the problem effectively.  

Perhaps the proposed withdrawal of federal funding for Bay cleanup could provide the impetus for more effective coordination of the efforts of the responsible states.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.