Out and About (Sort of): Meet-And-Greets by Howard Freedlander

Since the latter part of 2017, I’ve attended about 10 “meet-and-greets,” a political staple that enables candidates for public office to meet, greet and convince people, gathered in a private home, to support their campaign. I could have attended more.

It’s a longtime tradition that follows a certain pattern. Neighbors and friends, usually of the same political persuasion, chat among themselves, eat finger food and drink beverages provided by the host, listen to a gracious introduction and then settle back for about 10 minutes as the candidate talks about his or her positions and plans according to a mental script. But that’s not all.

Questions—some easy, some pointed—then ensue. This segment may last asking as 20 minutes.

Then chatter and eating resumes.

I can’t speak to as to whether similar gatherings happen in other countries. I consider the meet-and-greets the most basic form of democracy. The process is open and transparent (though an overused word these days). It’s comfortable. It’s informative. It’s polite.

A candidate, wherefore seeking a local, county or federal office, must be precise, clear and prepared. Attendees have their pet causes and peeves. They expect straightforward answers. They eschew vague, self-serving answers. They are trying to get the measure of a candidate.

If democracy values participation, then these gatherings, which come in all sizes and grandeur, are invaluable in generating informed opinions. So simple, so important.

Now, obviously, candidates are seeking funds and friends. No campaign can succeed without either. Votes are vital. Donations are welcomed, sometimes required, at these gatherings.

As of this column, the general election is three weeks away. Hard-working, ambitious candidates will face the electorate’s final judgment. The charm offensive will end. Lawn signs will come down. Television ads will cease. Glee or sadness will accompany the results. Spirits may dim.

Though I generally have enjoyed the many opportunities to meet and listen to earnest candidates, I have my own pet peeve. My irritation won’t matter after November 6—except to me.

I believe that the question-and-answer portion can sometimes be the vexing part. Some well-intended questioners feel compelled to give speeches before asking their blasted questions.

These people must tell the candidate—and the rest of us—how knowledgeable they are, and their credentials—as in their life experiences—before they ask their questions. Often, the answer is shorter than the preamble. My patience is limited.

I want to hear the candidate talk and explain and persuade.

My style is different. I simply ask my brilliant question. No self-important speech. Why would anyone be interested in knowing the background behind my question, and why I feel so utterly capable of voicing the searching query?

Who cares? Answers matter.

Now that I’ve gotten that annoyance off my back, I must express my admiration to those steadfast and patient men and women willing to run for office. Their lives are disrupted. They must repeat their stump speech over and over again. Electioneering demands are relentless. Their “niceness” button is always on.

The 2018 election is nearing its end. I will miss the meet-and-greets. I will miss the good conversation.

But not all the questions.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Floored by Experience by Howard Freedlander

A funny thing happened on the way to what I hoped would be a casual dinner with my wife and my daughter and her family eight days ago at a Stevensville restaurant.  As I awaited an appetizer, I fell backward. I ended up on the floor.

Subsequently I spent 18 hours at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. I never ate dinner. Nor did my wife.

I blacked out. I took the table with me as I fell to the floor. It was frightening. I was conscious.

The medical term for what I experienced is a “syncopal episode.” I fainted. I had no warning, as I repeatedly told the skeptical medical professionals.

I was not seeking attention. I got more than I ever would have imagined.

The 18 hours in the hospital were miserable. More so than losing control of my body and suffering a visible bump on my forehead from the table.

Waiting, waiting and waiting. The hospital regimen is frustrating. Answers are elusive. Communication is sporadic, particularly in an emergency room, often the pathway to further treatment.

So, why did I black out? The diagnosis pointed to dehydration and low oxygen. Because of my heart attack in 1993, this medical history loomed constantly in the background.

I underwent two CT scans, one to look at my brain (that’s intriguing) because of the bump on my forehead, and the second to view my lungs for a possible blood clot or, technically speaking, a pulmonary embolism. Both tests proved negative.

When I was discharged and released from all sorts of tubes, wires and monitors, I was instructed to go home to see my cardiologist for a two-week heart monitor. After all, I wouldn’t want to detach myself from medical inspection. The attention is unwanted but vital.

As I think back about my disrupted dining experience, I cringe. The thought of lying on a floor next to the bar area (our preference instead of the dining room to accommodate our restless grandchildren) haunts me. My wife and a waitress (a trained nurse) tended wonderfully to me before the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and ambulance arrived.

And the EMTs were professional and spot-on with their initial diagnosis. Kudos to the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.

Despite my faint attempt at humor, I remain scared that a blackout could recur. Loss of control, at least in my case, was a sensation that I would like to avoid, if possible. I would like to address the underlying causes as diligently I can under medical supervision.

At the risk of chastising an excellent hospital, I believe that emergency rooms—which are handling very serious problems—are inherently chaotic. Doctors seem to be in short supply. When they do visit, the patient or family member must be prepared, first, to listen carefully, and, second, to ask
unemotional questions. The stress is palpable.

Registered Nurses (RNs), the unyielding backbone of any hospital, also seem to be limited in number. In both the ER and my room, I dealt with traveling nurses. Paid well, so I understand, they typically are extremely competent itinerant nurses who live outside the state, love to travel and provide a valuable service to hospitals throughout the country.

The incessant waiting typically involves the expected arrival of doctors and their words of wisdom. For impatient folks like me, waiting is just awful. Family members also suffer from living in limbo.

Like most others, I feel thankful for the medical treatment that I was fortunate to receive. I don’t want to seem impatiently ungrateful. The two doctors, three nurses, physician’s assistant and numerous technicians were undeniably capable.

My syncopal event was stunningly quick and immediately alarming. I hope it never happens again. I trust that if the episode were heart-related, I can do something about it.

I plan to eat dinner again at the Stevensville restaurant. Uninterruptedly and painlessly.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): “If We Build, They will Come” by Howard Freedlander

For 42 years I’ve driven by the southwest corner of Glenwood Avenue in Easton and never bothered to go inside American Legion Blake-Blackston Post 77. And then I did last week.

I met with Walter Black Jr. and Willis Scott in the meeting/event hall I knew Black only by reputation because of his longtime service as a civil rights leader in Talbot County. I’ve known Scott for more than 40 years from the time we belonged to the same Presbyterian Church in Easton. Of course, he was a longtime and pleasant presence at the Easton Post Office.

Why did I ask to meet with these gentlemen? Because I wanted to learn about Post 77’s plans to expand and raise more than $900,000 to finance renovation of a building, part of which dates to 1958.

What struck me about the planned renovation was the reason. American Legion posts throughout the country are facing diminishing membership numbers. Younger members either are not interested. or are joining conflict-specific organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America or the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America. Black and Scott hope that modernization of the building will draw younger veterans and provide a community center for weddings, banquets and meetings.

Through its slot machines, Post 77 raised enough money the past year to donate $131,000 to non-profit organizations in Talbot County. These include Talbot Hospice Foundation, Channel Marker, the Neighborhood Service Center, Critchlow-Adkins Children’s Centers, Talbot County Historical Society and many others.

Also, of course, Post 77, like others, provides help to veterans seeking much-needed physical and mental health services. I have long known that the American Legion is an invaluable cog in the often complicated business of gaining veterans’ benefits from the federal government. A “friend in court” can alleviate the stress of gaining promised medical benefits.

The image of American Legion posts is often one of portraying a place where veterans gather to drink and tell war stories. While it’s true that Legion and VFW posts and Elk lodges have bars, I don’t believe the common image reflects the services and donations integral to these worthy organizations.

Willis Scott, left, and Water Black Jr., at American Legion Blake-Blackston Post No. 77

As President George W. Bush said on March 6, 2007, at the American Legion’s national convention in Washington, DC, “American Legion halls have been mainstays of our communities and neighborhoods for generations. You have taught millions of young people the importance of good citizenship and the values of “God and country.” And I appreciate these valuable lessons in America. I saw them first hand when I was the Governor of Texas. After all, you sponsor Boys State and Girls State. They’re great programs.”

Bush also said, “People who know something about the Legion understand firsthand how much this organization does for our men and women in uniform, for those who have been wounded on the field of battle, and for their remarkable families. Our Nation has been able to call upon the Legion in times of promise and peril, and our Nation is grateful for your service.”

As I’ve read about PTSD and the comfort and empathy felt by veterans, I suspect that American Legion and VFW posts provide a safe haven to talk about common experiences and maybe to try to make sense of them. If this is the case, as I suspect it is, then these venues serve a valuable purpose.

When I went with my friend Paul Cox the past March to Dunedin, FL to watch the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training, I eyed an American Legion post as we walked through a commercial and residential neighborhood to the ball park. While at first I was surprised by its location, I then thought it fit just right, a symbol of military allegiance.

About the renovation, Scott said, “If we build, they will come. It will provide greater access to veterans and youth. We can provide additional counseling for veterans.”

Black said, “The modernization will enhance and add programs. It will help attract new members.” He also said the renovation will be adjacent to planned redevelopment of the Port Street corridor.

Currently, Post 77 has 148 members.

On the verge of initiating a public awareness and fundraising campaign, Scott is optimistic about receiving state funds.

As readers know, I believe that noir-profit organizations undergird the strength and vitality of a community. In many instances, they cater to the daily needs of residents seeking vital help, whether it’s child care, mental illness assistance, youth mentoring, addiction and recovery support, senior citizen activities, ministering to the dying—and a slew of other critical services.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, American Legion Post 77 plays an unsung role in Talbot County. I was unaware and unappreciative. Now, I feel a bit more enlightened.

Maybe when readers use Glenwood Avenue to enter and depart Easton, they will take time to salute an organization that serves children, youth and veterans. It does so with little fanfare.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Passing Away by Howard Freedlander

Part of living is honoring the recently deceased. It starkly reminds us of our mortality.

In recent weeks, I’ve attended two services for friends, one in St. Michaels and the other in Oxford. Both were Episcopal ceremonies. Both combined solemnity and humor. Both conveyed a sense of the person that rang true to family and friends.

I’ve written previously about Bob Perkins, who retired after a mostly overseas career with the Chrysler Corporation and then became a well-respected volunteer leader at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the YMCA of the Chesapeake. Bob was a gregarious giver.

He was a player, not a spectator.

He sought results, not credit.

Dr. Ann Webb was a local physician who had a private practice and also served as the Talbot County health officer at one point. She practiced general medicine, preventive medicine and geriatrics. She too was a constant giver. She chose a field that catered solely to the health of her fellow citizens.

She too was a player, not a spectator.

She achieved results with little fanfare.

The Rev. Kevin Cross, the rector at the Church of Holy Trinity in Oxford, said at Dr. Webb’s service that while she had passed on, she hadn’t passed away. She would live in the memories of her family and friends—and the “sayings” she voiced frequently to her sons.

Though these are typical words from a clergyman at a funeral or memorial service, voiced to offer consolation and deflect finality, I think they have merit. The person’s spirit never vanishes.

Every time I think about my best friend college friend, I believe I’m feeling his spirit. I think about his quirks, his gentlemanly manner and his great smile. I used to talk to him every two weeks. I miss him.

Nearly daily, I think about my late mother. She was firm but fair and always deadly honest. She instilled in me my love of politics and public service. I still run into people who knew her, or know about her. I feel her presence.

So, yes, life goes on in memories and stories. We all know that. Stories provide the glue that fuel generational legacy and sense of self. Funerals remind us of our long, lasting ties.

At a reception following Ann Webb’s funeral, a friend mused to me whether anyone would say nice things about this person. I assured this friend that would happen. A bit in jest, I promised that my wife and I would offer kind—and honest words.

When I looked around the crowd at the Perkins and Webb funerals, I was impressed with the large number of friends who attended. I wondered: when we’re alive, do we really know how many people care about us, how many lives we touched? It might be hubris to claim we know.

More than eight years ago, when my Jacksonville, FL friend died, a viewing was held at a funeral home. A Catholic priest asked if anyone cared to “testify” on behalf of Bill. A young woman stood up and identified herself as a salesperson at a clothing store that Bill frequented. She then spoke about how well he treated her, pointing to his gentlemanly manner. I was not surprised by her comments—only by her feeling motivated to pay homage to her former customer.

Funeral and memorial services are rituals that allow family and friends to be part of a touching farewell to a loved one or friend. They provide a sense of community to all participants; whatever their connection to the deceased person, they can mourn and grieve together.

I think about the following words from the Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun,” and appreciate the sentiment expressed so well about grief and life:

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

When I heard often humorous stories about Bob Perkins, I felt some connection not only to a man with whom I served as a fellow board member, but also to those who experienced him as he strode the world on behalf of Chrysler.

When I listened to two eulogists at Ann Webb’s service, I heard about someone whom I barely knew. I serve on an organization’s membership committee with her husband. I heard stories about Dr. Webb’s calm and caring nature, exhibited during sometimes hectic boating voyages with friends. I thought I wish I had known her better beyond superficial chitchat on social occasions.

Our lives are enriched by our friends. This is true not only for extroverts like this columnist, but also introverts who savor friendship in smaller doses. We are better for knowing people like Bob Perkins and Ann Webb.

And, yes, we may wonder whether anyone will say kind things when we die. Will a church overflow as in Webb’s case, and a tent burst at the seams as it did in Perkins’ case?

I pray for the Perkins and Webb families as they grieve the loss of a husband and wife, mother and father, grandfather and grandmother. A seat will be left forever open at a holiday meal. Silence will fill the air. A person we depended upon no longer is there.

Yet, when the sun shines, when the burden of grief subsides a bit, we can feel blessed by the sun, the radiance of the warm memory of a deceased family member or friend.

Memories and stories fill the void. They never pass away.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Shore Welcomes Franklin Foe by Howard Freedlander

After listening to the excellent Spy interview last week regarding William Smith, founder of Washington College in Chestertown, I couldn’t help but focus on the underlying challenges faced by a college president in the late 1700s and by a provost, typically the second highest position on a modern college or university campus.

Before playing a major role in founding Washington College, the 26-year-old Smith served as the first provost in 1756 at the newly founded Academy and College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania).

For full disclosure, the inestimable Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s founders, helped establish the Academy and College. He is one of my heroes. The university that he helped spawn is my alma mater.

Here are lessons learned from listening to the interview with Colin Dickson, an English professor at Washington College:

• A provost ought not to engage in politics, particularly during the years leading up to a revolution when passions were taking seed and blossoming into animated partisanship. Smith was a British loyalist and friend of the Penn family, the proprietors of the colony. Because of his politics, Smith clashed with Franklin, when the latter was board president and then an influential board member. Franklin was a vocal opponent of William and Thomas Penn and eventually an ardent Revolutionary leader.

It’s regrettable that the decades-long relationship between Franklin and Smith frayed. For many years, they were very close intellectually. They even traveled together in America and London raising money for the Academy and College of Philadelphia.

• A provost or university president ought not to cross swords with the president (now called the chair) of the board of trustees, nor board members sympathetic to the president/chair. It’s bad for longevity. William Smith, with his strong Tory ties, was dismissed from his job. He then took his drive, intelligence and educational philosophy to what became Washington College.

When recruited to the new school in Philadelphia, Smith had headed King’s College (now Columbia University). He was a graduate of St. Andrew’s in Scotland.

• Then, as now, a college or university leader must raise money, and so Smith did, as I noted. In fact, he persuaded General George Washington to donate 50 guineas to the new college. I wonder, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, whether Smith offered “naming rights” to the esteemed general for his contribution. Smith also knew where to seek money on the Eastern Shore, convincing Talbot County’s Goldsboroughs and Tilghmans and Queen Anne’s County’s Pacas to donate to create the college in Chestertown.

• As I learned from the interview, Smith was a solid educator and a headstrong person. Both characteristics apply equally appropriately to a modern-day college/university president. I’ve observed that a top-level academic leader must have credentials that draw respect from the often skeptical faculty. And this individual also must have a vision that he/she persistently articulates without any self-doubt. Donors respect clarity of mission and clear, persuasive communication.

* Smith was a heavy drinker, as I learned during the Spy interview. That’s dangerous. Moral authority is critical to any leader’s credibility. The Washington College professor said that Smith’s irascibility had roots in his alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, Smith, a fully functioning alcoholic, achieved significant academic success first in Manhattan and later in Philadelphia and Chestertown.

As I wrote, Dr. Franklin and William Smith developed fierce antipathy toward each other during a time of divisive and passionate loyalties. Both were determined to be right; their deep-set self-confidence conspired against reconciliation, at least not until much later. Smith was still unsparing in his criticism—though at the request of the American Philosophical Society, he served as at the official eulogist at Franklin’s funeral on March 1, 1791.

Then, a year before he died and 12 years after Franklin’s death, the poet Smith attached a scathing verse composed by a Tory sympathizer about Ben Franklin to the eulogy that he reprinted. So much for forgiveness on the part of Smith, also an ordained Anglican minister.

In a 1964 article in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography about the Franklin-Smith quarrel, Ralph L. Ketchum wrote that the two antagonists differed notably in their personalities and public philosophies. Franklin believed in seeking consensus quietly, pursuing agreement “in small steps, rather than controversy over big ones.” According to Ketchum, “Smith’s impulse, on the other hand, was to seek the overwhelming victory…his florid style was designed to stampede his hearers or readers.”

Washington College is a superb asset to the Eastern Shore. Though an imperfect person, William Smith helped found what has become a small liberal arts college well respected beyond the borders of Maryland. A liberal arts education supposedly enables and inspires tolerance and open-mindedness.

His foibles aside, Smith made an educated mark on the Shore.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Friendship Between Opposites by Howard Freedlander

Ten days ago on Saturday, Sept. 1, my wife and I visited Sen. John McCain’s gravesite at the U.S. Naval Academy’s (USNA) cemetery.

The private burial service was to happen the next day. We savored the quiet and serenity.

McCain died Saturday, Aug. 25. The burial at the Academy was to be the final event in five days of memorializing the Arizona senator that began in his home state, continued in Washington, DC and concluded on the hallowed grounds of a place that he, his father and grandfather attended.

His gravesite adjoins one containing the remains of Admiral Chuck Larson, McCain’s close and cherished friend, classmate and two-time superintendent of USNA. The poignancy was unmistakable. The burial plots overlook the Severn River.

The two friends were polar opposites. While John McCain accumulated a whaleful of demerits for his reckless, anti-authority behavior at USNA, his friend was a serious student who graduated near the top of his class and led the class of 1958 as brigade commander. With a measure of pride and defiance, McCain often referred to his position as fifth from the last. “Look at me now,” he seemed to be saying, still prodding the institution he later learned to love.

Just last week, I spoke with a Naval Academy friend of John McCain’s. This county resident seemed to smile as he recounted stories about the rebellious midshipman with the famous pedigree. He talked about McCain’s renowned temper. He also said he found him very likable.

I met Admiral Larson in 2002 when he ran as lieutenant governor during Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s losing Democratic campaign as governor of Maryland. My youngest daughter worked in the campaign and always spoke highly of Larson. The retired four-star admiral was friendly and professional.

In the numerous newspaper articles about McCain following his death at 81 of brain cancer, I read that Larson said the toughest part of being McCain’s friend was around midnight when the rambunctious midshipman decided it was time to climb the wall surrounding the Naval Academy and misbehave in Annapolis. The straight-arrow Larson likely learned how to say “no,” repeatedly, to his headstrong friend.

Friendship transcends our lives on earth. Family members long tell stories about their parents and the friends they got to know as they grew up. They learn to understand that friendship, unrelated to blood ties and often complicated family relationships, is based upon a rock-solid bonding nurtured by common experiences, unfiltered emotions and earned trust.

Both McCain and Larson were extraordinary public servants. They shared allegiance to an elite military academy and a deep love of country. They decided more than 20 years ago to be buried as neighbors facing the Severn River, a defining feature of Annapolis.

John McCain received many tributes, all well-deserved. I pay homage to his respect for genuine friendship.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Back to School, Carefully by Howard Freedlander

Back to school. Can you remember?

As I recall, it was bittersweet. I had to vacate leisure for a mandatory structure and incessant demands. I joined friends in coping with academic stress and occasional fun.

Parents are pleased, of course. They encounter no more claims of their children complaining about being bored. On the other hand, they have to prod their children to do their homework and then awaken unwilling, cranky offspring to report to school at the prescribed time.

Mornings can be emotionally challenging. An age-old circumstance of being a parent.

Once ensconced at the neighborhood elementary, middle and high schools, life has changed—and not for the better. Potential violence is a constant and ugly presence.

Unfortunately, children and parents have to live with fear of a mass shooting propagated by an alienated student. The prospect of mayhem is and must be overwhelmingly gruesome for parents throughout our nation. Random and deadly firing by a crazed gunman no longer can be dismissed as something that happens elsewhere, not in my backyard.

Just last March, a 17-year-old student at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland wounded two students.; one later died. A school resource officer fired at the gunman, who later died. The frightening incident took less than a minute.

Teachers and administrators now must spend time and resources on safety to an extreme never before experienced in our young country. It’s absolutely regrettable that teachers. principals, guidance counselors, custodians and security personnel must spend an inordinate time and energy protecting students and staff from senseless violence.

An article in the Aug. 25, 2018 issue of The Sunday Star about the Aug. 22 meeting of the Talbot County Board of Education reported that landscaping will be cleared at all schools to preclude hiding spots for potential shooters; exterior LED lighting will be upgraded; door hinge pins to doors’ interiors will be relocated; science labs’ propane tanks will be secured and tourniquets will be provided at all schools.

The county’s school board discussed the acquisition of 31 additional 700Hz encrypted radios at the cost of $103,850. Communication among first responders during chaos must be crystal clear.

We live in a new reality at schools throughout the country. We can’t ignore the all-too frequent mass shootings. Worse-case preparation is mandatory and repulsive at the same time. School systems necessarily are spending time and money on non-academic needs, because to do otherwise would place students in situations already experienced in Florida, Connecticut, Colorado and other well-publicized towns and cities.

Yet emergency preparedness is an unfortunate but critical distraction.

I feel sickened by the murders visited on our schools. Too many young people have lost their lives. Too many parents have lost their loved ones, scarred forever by senseless violence. True too of friends whose classmates were killed often for incomprehensible reasons.

No column such as this one should end on a sour note. Every day, a school opens for business is a day that makes our future brighter.

Schools often spawn dreams Teachers and coaches serve as invaluable role models.

A new school year is exciting and hopeful. Students grow as people mastering sometimes difficult subjects and forming relationships with fellow students and demanding faculty members. A school is a crucible that tests intellectual and emotional limits.

When I see children waiting for a bus, sometimes with parents, I feel nostalgic, but mostly I feel optimistic. I wonder if these nameless children will accomplish great things, or maybe live good, productive lives. I’m also glad that school is long past.

The word that comes readily to mind to describe my educational experience. is “discipline.” The self -imposed kind.

I recall the continual journey to perform up to my parents’ standards and compete with peers. The struggle at times was worth the benefit.

As children attend their first day of school today, with backpacks filled with supplies and minds filled with nervous anticipation, I hope that the 2018-2019 school year in Talbot County brings hard work, mental and physical growth and periodic fun and laughter—all happening in a safe and comfortable environment.

When I I sit behind a school bus loading and unloading school children, I will be determined to be patient and appreciative of the school bus drivers transporting kids to their futures. I learned patience in school—maybe my toughest lesson.

I’m still picking up bits and pieces of knowledge and self-awareness. Schooling and learning never stop.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): The Message Isn’t Getting Through by Howard Freedlander

For some reason, I cannot ignore the constant specter of global warming. I even eschew the term, “coastal resilience,” the politically correct description of our strange and inconvenient weather trends.

But I seem to be whistling in the wind. The subject rarely comes up in political discourse.

This summer on the Eastern Shore exemplified the new normal, with witheringly hot temperatures in June, July and August. Winter 2017-18 seemed endlessly miserable despite the relative absence of snow.

Brian Ambrette, a key staffer at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), wrote nearly two weeks ago, when referring to testimony in 1988 by Jim Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist, “These three decades have been the hottest on record, each one hotter than the previous. The current decade is on pace to be the warmest yet, containing 7 of the 10 hottest years on record.”

Ambrette added, “The American West seems one spark away from inferno six months out of the year. At the same time, 2017 was one of the wettest years for many other locations in North America and Northern Europe.”

Yet, I have a sense that most people don’t seem to care. I find that bewildering.

While others may say that the climate changes—surges of heat and precipitation—are simply a phase. I call this attitude gross denial. I prefer to blame global warming and climate on us.
We have emitted more carbon in the atmosphere through our indulgent lifestyles, such that we now must cope with living on an increasingly hot and uncomfortable earth.

Not to speak of rising utility bills.

July 2018 is a glaring example of an unpredictable weather episode on the Eastern Shore. We experienced two weeks of drought, followed by the weeks of rain, rain and more rain. How do we human beings explain? it I’m not willing to shrug my shoulders and pretend that conditions are inexplicable.

Early last week I read an article in The Washington Post about a woman who lives in a lovely community in Charleston, SC. Her home, about a block and a half from the Ashley River, has withstood three instances of flooding. Fed up with the flooding, she decided a year ago to sell her home for nearly $1 million. After reducing the price 11 times, she has decided to tear it down and sell the property.

A new buyer likely will build an elevated house, one that might be valued at $1.3-$1.4 million dollars, according to a local real estate agent.

Dueling studies differ on whether homes in beautiful and highly livable Charleston have suffered significant drops in values.

The conclusion by a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School points to continued coastal building. What is happening is that while “beachfront property is not declining in value, rather, the studies suggest that more exposed properties—including properties that have not yet experienced direct flooding—simply are not appreciating as rapidly as their inland neighbors.”

In pointing to effect of constant flooding and potential exposure to storm-related damage, I’m suggesting that real estate values in our area face the same market pressures instigated by the impact of global warming and climate change. We too must appreciate the splendor and peril of living in an area prone to storm surges and consequent damage.

What do we do to reverse frightening trends?

The New York Times’ columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, suggests that climate change warriors must understand that “the public has grown uneasy,” wondering “what’s real?” He thinks that a 50-page report produced by the top experts in climate science, written “in language that a sixth grader could understand, with unimpeachable peer-reviewed footnotes,” would sharpen the message and drive home the need to act.

At the outset, I bemoaned what I consider the current reality: the message about the searing urgency in addressing the disastrous consequences of global warming is simply not resonating with the public. The public will is lacking. Political discourse seems devoid of concern.

This is not my first column about global warming. Nor will it likely be my last. Our fragile world, amid explainable climate changes, has opted for neglect.

As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of President Reagan’s Council for Environmental Quality, said in 1981, ‘There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.’

Baldwin sounded the alarm 37 years ago. The response has been eerily mute.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Good News, Bad News and Comedy by Howard Freedlander

For three hours, in searing heat, I happily strolled around the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM), which hosted Watermen’s Appreciation Day on Sunday, Aug. 12. For full disclosure, I am a CBMM board member.

Watermen’s Appreciation Day

Why did I enjoy this event despite the enervating weather? Like the museum’s annual OysterFest in the fall, Watermen’s Appreciation Day celebrates a much-heralded industry not only in Talbot County but throughout the Eastern Shore. More importantly, it enables the community to come together in a venue that offers food, fun, beverages and camaraderie. It provides an occasion when commercial watermen and their families can mingle with all the rest of us who appreciate the fruit of their labors.

As I’ve learned over the years at special events and festivals at CBMM, the prime byproduct is pride. Members of the community gather in one place and revel in the specialness of their home.

Social and economic barriers fall by the waterside.

Towns and cities throughout the country celebrate their local satisfaction in festivals devoted to apples, wine, music, art, daffodils and so many other centerpieces.
Community bonds require constant nurturing.

Bill Lane

In a much cooler environment in the Tidewater Inn’s Gold Room last Thursday night, I joined roughly 140 others as the Del-Mar-Va Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), presented its Distinguished Citizen Award to Bill Lane, a friend and well-respected community leader. It was a worthwhile evening for a couple of reasons.

Founded in Great Britain in 1908 and in America in 1910, the Scouting movement has always seemed to me to represent a superb training ground for young leaders in our nation. As I looked around the room, as men who attained the highest rank and honor of Eagle Scout rose to receive recognition, I knew that every one of them had achieved success, not only in their careers but also in their civic activities.

I never progressed beyond the Cub Scouts. I have no regrets. However, I deeply admire the BSA tradition in our country and the leaders who have benefitted from their Scouting experience. All of them have been men. The inclusion of women will expand the pool of leaders.

Bill Lane follows in a long line of exceptional award winners, including 24 past recipients. He epitomizes commitment to his nation as a former US Army officer, to his community through extensive non-profit participation, to the insurance agency for which he worked more than 35 years and to his family.

As I noted regarding the Watermen’s Appreciation Day, I found it uplifting to join a large group of people sharing good feelings about Scouting and Bill Lane as a recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award.

While pleased to participate in two significant community events, I feel sad at the closing the past Sunday of the News Center in Talbottown Shopping Center in Easton. It was a convenient, friendly place to buy greeting cards, assorted gifts and real, honest-to-goodness books.

But it was more than that to my wife and Sandy, our Yellow Labrador. Nearly every morning Liz and Sandy have walked to The News Center, where Sandy became a favorite to the women who worked there. They would compete with each other to feed treats to our wonderful dog.

When a business closes, one to which you have become attached, it’s sad. Employees become friends; you learn about their families and they yours.

While it might be easy to ascribe the demise of the News Center to electronic means of reading books and periodicals, I think that management lost interest for some reason. Maybe because profits were down, maybe due to personal reasons.

I sensed a distinct lack of marketing. Book-signings, which typically draw people to a store, suffered from an absence of publicity and signage.

As I end this multi-subject column, I must pay homage to the Tred Avon Players, which presented a superbly well-performed “Little Shop of Horrors” last Saturday

Tred Avon Players’ Little Shop of Horrors

night at the Oxford Community Center. Perhaps because I’ve watched few performances in recent years, I was just amazed at the quality of the acting and singing in this sometimes-dark comedy.

Before my comment strikes the TAP as unintended faint praise, I’m merely remarking that my scant attendance over the years accounted for my ignorance of the quality of the plays at the Oxford Community Center.

I feel thankful to friends who suggested we accompany them. It was a most enjoyable experience.

Our community continues to provide opportunities for pride and artistic enjoyment. A smidgeon of sadness intrudes.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Thriving Assets to the Community by Howard Freedlander

So important to the fabric of Talbot County—whether environmental, cultural, human services, caring of dogs, therapeutic horse riding, helping the impoverished, aiding the dying, day care, aiding the mentally ill, assisting wounded warriors, domestic abuse counseling, providing legal assistance—-are the roughly 220 non-profits that serve the county’s 37,500 residents.

The number of nonprofits often is inflated. I’ve heard a number ranging from 250 to 500. It matters not. The services are the key.

The nonprofits survive and flourish because of volunteers–thousands and thousands of them, contributing time, talent and resources. These unsung heroes are invaluable to any community, particularly one as small as Talbot County. Over the years, I’ve worked closely, happily so, with men and women whose contributions of native ability and financial assistance are indeed impressive.

The combination of competent and committed full-time staff and equally capable and passionate volunteers yields dividends for non-profits.

My hobby in retirement has been non-profits. I can’t do woodwork or gardening or painting, or anything that resembles creative output.

I like to read but not half a day. I like to work with other people. I like to upgrade our community in a small way.

And, of course, I write this weekly column. Readers have to judge its quality. I must admit that every once in awhile this weekly contribution to community dialogue does give me a form of satisfaction akin to producing something tangible and useful.

Like maybe a piece of furniture. A literary night stand, as it were.

When I think about philanthropy—both in treasure and talent—I marvel at the accomplishments of Bob Perkins, a friend and St. Michaels resident who recently died. After a successful 35-year career as a Chrysler executive, including 11 years in Australia, Bob retired to Talbot County in the early 1990s. He duplicated his corporate success in the nonprofit world.

Bob served as a member and then chairman of the board of governors at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM). He then devoted his energy to the YMCA of the Chesapeake. where he was a board member and chair. Watching him as a fellow board member at CBMM, I admired his enthusiasm, people skills and management acuity.

He exuded a positive attitude. He did this amid serious organizational challenges, as is true in any enterprise.

Talbot County is blessed with many people like Bob Perkins. Retirement is just the beginning of a new phase of life devoted to giving back and bettering your community. The pool of talent is rich with selfless, energetic and skilled individuals. They have progressed beyond the need for accolades and promotions.

They want to leave the world a better place.

As I thought about this column, I remembered reading in college Democracy in America, written so adroitly by Alexis de Tocqueville, a French civil servant from an aristocratic family, after a nine-month visit to the United States in 1831-1832. I recalled that he focused upon the slew of associations in our thriving country devoted to a plethora of causes.                  

According to John Huebler, senior major gift officer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, “Tocqueville viewed the proliferation of associations as a unique response that was not only critical to the success of the experiment of democratic government, but also to provide for the well-being of all of its citizens in accordance with a sense of equality that was previously unknown.”

Though this uncannily perceptive observer of our country did not refer specifically to philanthropy, he described the structure that undergirds the burst of volunteerism in the United States and the subsequent financial support generated by associations.

Huebler wrote that Tocqueville “found that Americans had embraced the idea of associations with a zeal unknown to the aristocracies of France and England…associations extended democracy beyond the scope of elected offices, to the level of people who share a common interest around which they effect action for large groups of people.”

When I arrived in Talbot County in October 1976, I was amazed at the size and breadth of the YMCA on Idlewild Avenue in Easton. I saw a vibrant organization that served the needs of young and old regardless of social class. It was brimming with activity. I was impressed.

Particularly since my retirement, I have observed with pride and wonder the value brought to our community by the Talbot Hospice Foundation, Channel Marker, Habitat for Humanity, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (I’m a board member), Shore Riverkeepers, the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Waterfowl Chesapeake, the Mid-Shore Multicultural Center, Phillips Wharf—and so many other worthy “associations.”

My apologies for the short list.

It may sound trite to say that the more than 200 non-profits in Talbot County provide the glue that keeps our community together and allows it to serve numerous interests and people. But it’s true. Abundantly so.

Were Alexis de Tocqueville to visit our community for at least a week, he would see that democracy has prospered in this special place.

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.