Week 21 – In Alphabetical Order: Anger, Leadership and Thugs

In the course of the last month or so, I have been challenged by some good people to think about anger, leadership and thugs – especially as to how they apply to the issues of the day.  And right up front – thanks to those people for prodding me to think about these things.

 

ANGER

 

A friend of mine shares posts on Facebook, some of which are articles about oil spills or human rights or some other hot button issue.   Recently, one of those articles was an opinion piece (by someone other than this good friend) that rudely tore apart another person for tearing apart someone else.  I responded to that article, saying that getting angry and rude at someone for being angry and rude is fruitless.  The issue was important, and I’m sure the two people who I saw as rude were sincere in their passion.  Yet, I found no good in the anger and in the rudeness.  The friend who shared the post asked me if I ever get angry about anything.  I responded that I do wonder if my anger button is broken – and that I just don’t see anger as seen in the two articles as being a fruitful emotion.  And yes, I do have my outwardly angry moments – just ask my wife.

 

That is not to say that anger should be stifled – it is a legitimate human reaction, as are frustration, hate, love, envy and others.   To add a few more to the list: immorality, idolatry, discord, jealousy, selfish ambitions . . . this is sort of a list similar to the seven deadly sins.

 

Let me share another list with you: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I will not say that these are all the living virtues, but perhaps they are close.

 

I think too often we dwell in that first list far too much.  They are by nature very human things, and therefore should not be perceived as being a surprise when they arise.  Yet, we claim to be civilized – and therefore I believe we can control those items in that first list, even when it is difficult to do so.  We have laws that address crimes that may arise out of that first list – you could cite some of those yourself.

 

That second list?  I believe these are also human reactions – just as natural as the first list.  The difference is that I think you would be hard pressed to find laws against any of them.

 

So perhaps we all strive to live up to the second list as best we can – and we will succumb to the first list more than we would like.

 

So is this just so much hogwash on me getting angry or not?  You tell me.

 

LEADERSHIP

 

Another good friend and I were discussing the current events in Baltimore – I had suggested that those in Baltimore needed to have a leader rise up from their ranks to help calm the situation – to bring order out of the chaos.  My friend asked why couldn’t I be a leader.

 

Perhaps I could.  I cannot imagine that I could have gone to Baltimore in those emotional days, pulled out my soapbox and made peace.  Under non scenario can I see that they would have all put down their weapons and said, “Hey, this guy is right.  Let’s stop.”  I have no credibility with those in that town.  It would be folly to think so.

 

I once challenged a leader I knew as to what I thought his leadership was.  I told that leader, “You know – you’re like the guy who stays on the edge of the lake during ice fishing season and tells everyone that the ice is plenty thick and plenty safe – but you never will go out there yourself.”   Do leaders need to take risks that are expected of the followers?  I would venture to say that they are the better leaders.

 

So to my friend who challenges me to be a leader: we’ll see what happens. Sometimes I dare to go out on the ice, sometimes I don’t.

 

THUGS

 

A very dear person, while conversing about current events, asked me what my definition of THUG is.  I came up with the following images:

 

I take you to BATMAN, the TV show of the 1960s.  The Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman – they all had their band of assistants and henchmen – and even henchwomen.  The main criminal was the brains, the others were the strong-armed, brainless minions – hence, they were the thugs.

 

I was a teacher for 34 years, a card-carrying member of the education association – better known at the teachers’ union.  In the local newspapers during a particularly trying financial time of one of the local school districts, we teacher union members were seen as wielding far too much power over the school board – and we were referred to as ‘union thugs’.

 

I recall the movie STAND BY ME, the story about a group of boys who go in search of a dead body they’ve heard about.  In that film, there is another group of older boys, led by Keiffer Sutherland, who are the town bullies.  Keiffer’s character is the leader of the gang, the others are subservient to him in every way.  They do his bidding, his dirty work.  More thugs, yes?

 

And then we get the mayor of Baltimore referring to some of the participants in that city’s problems as ‘thugs’.

 

This very dear person who brought up the question told me that National Public Radio had done a story on how the word “thug” may be coming the replacement word for the “N word”.  Oh, I surely hope not.  I surely hope no one fans that flame.

 

I hope we find that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are what we see in our leaders – whether those leaders are us, are in our midst or ‘out there’ somewhere else.

 

 

Week 20 George Stephanopoulos and his Wallet

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I spent my early morning watching MORNING JOE expound on the story that Mr. George Stephanopoulos donated 75 thousand dollars to the Clinton Foundation.    The concern was that Mr. S was going to pursue Republicans harder in interviews and soft pedal the Democrats.  The concern was that Mr. S. would somehow get some particular favors for his donation.  And on and on they went.

 

Then I was watching CBS MORNING, and there was more of the same.  George and his money were scrutinized for their purpose, for his motives, for the effects of the whole affair.

 

This issue will run for a few more days.  Mr. S. has apologized for his ill-considered decision, and that will be that.

 

And that’s what I’m afraid of.

 

Here’s a guy who gave a five-figure donation to a private organization that is allegedly a charitable organization – that organization may or may not have ties to a presidential candidate, who herself (Yes, I’m talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton) claims that there is no overlap in the two areas – no, none at all.

 

And George gets the business from his fellow journalists.  Maybe he should.  But that’s not my point here.

 

We have people who are giving heaps of money to the Political Action Committees – PACs, they call them – that make George S. look like a candy store shoplifter.  George gave 75K – five figures – and these others give six, seven, eight, and even more figures worth of money to those PACs.

 

And where are the stories on those guys?  Where are the questions about the ethics of their intent?  I don’t care if you’re talking about the Koch brothers or George Soros – conservative and liberal respectively – these folks are filling the coffers of these organizations at rates that would fund a small town for a decade.

 

Let’s look at those numbers.

 

George S – his 75 K is pretty much more than what a whole lot of people make in a year.  Let’s say someone out there gives ¾ of a million dollars – that’s ten times more than George.  Or maybe 7.5 million, that’s a 100 times more than George’s donation.  Or hey, 75 million – and we’ve heard of that amount – a good thousand times more than George.  I hesitate to think that there are numbers much larger than that.

 

So my question again:  do we honestly think that all this money that goes into the till of these PACs are all altruistically motivated?  Do we honestly think that there are no expectation of ‘what goes around comes around’ from all this economic windfall?

 

Oh yes, I know – the candidates have no control over what the PACs do or what they fund – that’s what we are told.  I hope there’s more truth to that than I’m willing to give it credit for.  But, I fear that there’s more interplay between the PACs and the candidates than I would care to see.

 

We get the argument that it is ‘freedom of speech’.  I get that, but you know, the problem is that we’re talking here about the quantity of speech rather than the quality of it.

 

I may give a speech and talk at the top of my voice for 3 hours – that’s my right.  But I shouldn’t expect to have a great deal of folks listening for the whole time.  Just because I can blabber louder and longer that the other guy doesn’t mean I should….

 

And the same with money donations to PACs – maybe it’s the same as the guy who talks too much.  It’s abusive.  It’s wrong.  Its bad manners.

 

So let us take a good look at the whole election funding thing.  I would prefer quality over quantity.

 

 

Week 19 – At a TWINS game

Trains and the Twins – Baseball with Class and Style

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The train at the Target Field Station

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Doris and Casey Stengel, my hosts

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Ted Kotyk

 

May 7th, 2015 found me pursuing something good; a Minnesota Twins baseball game with good friends.  The four of us know each other from our membership at Bethlehem Lutheran Church – but that has little to do with the event – we enjoy a good baseball game.

 

Casey and Doris Stengel have been Twins fans since there have been Twins.  They have attended many games and seen many fine moments in Twins baseball.  For the second time, they have invited me to join them at a Twins game in their seats that they share with their family.  It was my luck that the rest of the family couldn’t make this game.  And since there were four tickets, that also allowed Ted Kotyk to come along.  Ted is another long-time Twins fan, so he was glad to board the van as I drove us down the road.

The plan: take in the 12:10 ballgame at Target Field, Twins taking on the Oakland A’s.  Our route; I drove the four of us the 80-some miles to Big Lake, where we caught the Northstar train right into Minneapolis, disembarking at the Target Field station.  We walked the 100 feet to the door of the station, up the escalator, out to the right, then out the door and to the left, and then into the field itself – up two more escalators, and there we were, very close to our seats in section 224, row 4.

05 07 Twins Target Stadium

On our way in. . .

 

Immediately, it was time to find some food.  I left the three to walk around some – toured the gift shop which was crowded with kids who were there on a school field trip – (oh, I know what that’s like – I was the beneficiary of a similar trip in 1966 for my elementary school patrol …but that’s another story – or it would be if I could remember more of it.)  Then on down to see what other concessions were available – and returned to find Doris and Casey placing an order at the Kramarczuk’s sausage concession ..got in line myself and ordered one with the works (fried onions, sauerkraut) and a nice beverage – and slathered on the mustard.  We walked together to our seats in row four of section 224 and settled in for a fine game of baseball.

Oh, by the way – the weather was cloudy the whole time, with some rain showers in the first inning that didn’t even send us into under cover, and another session of rain in the top of the fourth that DID get us out of the rain …

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some rain in the fourth inning

 

The game started right on time – Nolasco starting for the Twins, which made me a bit nervous – he hasn’t been the most solid pitcher for the Twins; Pomeroy started for the A’s, who I had never heard of.  Much to our dismay, we watched Nolasco give up a few runs almost right away ..and much to our happiness, the Twins answered.

 

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Rosario drives in what would be the winning run

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Hunter swings away

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Danny Santana fouls one off

It was that way all through the game … a run here, a run there, some rain, some funny stuff on the jumbotron, some good talk about who’s up next, whether or not a new pitcher should be put in …

 

And I walked the entire length of the second deck, camera in hand, taking pics of various things and of various angles of the field… and of my pals sitting in their place.

05 07 Twins Kotyk Stengel and Stengel

Ted, Doris and Casey abide the showers….

 

Following the game, we made our way back to the train and enjoyed another ride on the rails, not fighting any traffic at all, talking about the game, visiting about other matters… and then back to Big Lake we came, ready for the ride home.

 

I suggested a stop at the Dairy Queen… no problem, there, folks.  Some DQ, some soda pop, some food, and back on the road we went.

 

It was good to see the Twins win, considering their lame start to the season back in April.  It was good to spend time with some good people … Casey, Doris and Ted are special folks – I am glad to number them among my friends …

 

Baseball and friends – Class and style all the way.

05 07 Twins Infield shot

The view from row 4, section 224

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 18 Awakening

I See Spring Out There

 

Just a week or so ago, the trees were bare, bare, bare. You couldn’t tell a dead tree from a living tree. You couldn’t tell which one was going to burst its buds with the arrival of the right conditions or which ones were going to abide as they stood, no change at all. Branches stood in their skeletal nudity with no hint of any kind of tissue.

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All the grasses were brown; dull brown, boring brown, deep brown, shallow brown . . . and some stale yellows, some ulcerated yellows, some faded orange, some dusty greys . . . lifeless, inert, tasteless.

The snow was clearly gone, but its presence remained like the musty smell of a fire that’s been extinguished with water but still smolders as it fades into its death.

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The wildlife seemed infected with lethargy. At best, the birds reluctantly forced themselves to get out of their winter hiding places to find food. Squirrels were unwrapping themselves from their winter doldrums, but with no enthusiasm, no thrill. Deer moved around the forests, their furs greyed from the winter, their stomachs tired of picking at the tough, bitter twigs that masqueraded as nutritional food. Any reptilian creature is still slogged down into its wintery world, hardly even aware that stirring will soon be an option to them. They are so deep in their winter cycle that they don’t even remember ever having been able to move.

And then . . .

The sun, no longer forced to hang low by the leaden weight of winter, gains altitude with each day. It reaches an angle beginning at dawn that allows it to shower its rays more effectively into the atmosphere and the chilled soil. Its warmth takes hold quicker and last longer now with each passing day.

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In the filaments of their thinnest edges, the trees and the grasses take note of the change. The filaments pass on the news to the width and breadth of every branch and sprig and blade . . . the news that it is time once again to begin the cycle of new growth.

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The creatures . . . on the ground, in the air, in the muck of it all, use the rays as fuel to shake off the last of winter’s shiver. Wings flutter with more purpose, tails perk up, noses point in the air, ears tweak in alertness.

All of nature reacts to the change: the smallest insect, the tiniest sprig of moss, the lowest grass, the tallest tree.

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The world awakens as if it were one organism, rising from beneath winter’s cover to greet another season of bearing fruit, of bearing young, of maturing, of growing.

And we humans, we sentient beings at the top of the food chain who think we know it all, sometimes forget to join in.

Perhaps as you sit there in the comfort of your home, you should take a breath, look out the window, and give some thought to the amazing creation that we have out there, and maybe even drop a word of thanks to God for all of it.

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Week 17 – For My Daughter, on her 30th

That’s her.  The short, blond one wearing a flight suit in the helicopter.  She’s a medical flight nurse and she’s my daughter.  She turned 30 today.  How she got there?  Here it is:

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Flight Nurse Heidi

April 22, 1985 – 25 hours of labor and a caesarean birth – no kidding!   The doc did all the necessary incisions then grabbed Heidi by the back of her neck and sat her up right inside her mother.  Bingo!  A daughter!

Following that came a good deal of adoration from the extended family over her blond curly locks and cute apple cheeks.  Heidi was a good baby.  She grew and started interacting with everyone, friendly and full of joy.  Her hair went all Shirley Temple on her at the age of two, giving her natural ringlets of blond that flopped and bounced as she toddled her way across the room or out in the yard.

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Nothing but Shirley Temple Talent

She always wanted to go to school.  When she turned five, she thought that on that very first day of being five (April 22, 1990) that she would wake up, get dressed and report to her classroom and get busy.  When her mom informed her that no, she’d have to wait until fall, Heidi became angry at such news.  She stomped her way through the house and to daycare, but none too happy about it.  As an academic student, Heidi studied hard and got herself some good grades – and she was even proud of the not so good, because she worked hard at such classes as those advanced placement level courses that found her breaking her butt over writing papers and reading textbooks with quite an advanced vocabulary.

She was always active musically.  The first we really saw of this was back in that Shirley Temple era again, when she could sing for memory the entire ‘PERFECT NANNY’ song from Mary Poppins.  We have her on video, singing the whole thing a capella and screwing up some of the words in a cute way that only a girl of her age could do.  She did piano lessons with our favorite teacher Cleo.  In fifth grade, she started on the flute and then advanced to the oboe.  She sang in the small groups at church (where her mom introduced her Sunday school gang to “JUMPIN’ UP AND DOWN SING HOSANNA to them – and they still sing that song for every Palm Sunday since…) and she sang in elementary choirs, in the middle school choirs, and then in the very elegant and wonderful high school choir – I still listen to the recording of them singing LUX ARUMQUE, which contains one high note from a single soprano right near the beginning of the piece – and that’s Heidi’s clear, high voice ringing out the note.

Then there were the tennis years in high school.  She became known for her tennis tenacity, often taking her matches and her opponents into extra sets – one match  in particular found the coach turning the lights on over the court where Heidi and her foe were engaged in quite the match.  I don’t remember if she won that one, but it was so typical of her to keep at it and keep at it.  Heidi pursued tennis a bit more than her high school team work – she spent a couple of summers down at Gustavus Adolphus college as a camper in the TENNIS AND LIFE camp, led by then Gustie tennis coach Steve Wilkenson – and she thoroughly enjoyed those weeks.

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Heidi Johnson Woerheide

The college years were spent in Duluth, Minnesota at St. Scholastica, where Heidi earned her degree as a registered nurse – and that choice came as a true ‘ah ha’ moment in her life.  Prior to applying to college, Heidi checked out several schools, but it wasn’t until a career day at St. Scholastica that Heidi felt the concept  of nursing jump into her mind in such a way that she never let go.  There were presentations by professors and some tours of hospitals – the clincher being the roof of St. Mary’s hospital, where she was given a tour of the helicopter and learned what it takes for a nurse on such an assignment.  Out went any other plans: Heidi applied to St. Scholastica and earned her degree with super grades and with lots of work, playing tennis for the college on the way.

Upon graduation, Heidi began work at a hospital in Duluth in the emergency room – where she is superbly fit to work, what with her ability to think quickly and make decisions in high pressure moments.

Up to now, Heidi was never much for boys.  She dated one guy for a short period after college, but then she met Jon Woerheide – a young man from Lutsen who had just signed up for the army, where he was to become a helicopter pilot.  She followed him to Alabama for his army training, (where the weather was hot when we went down for his graduation) – and then Heidi and Jon got married.  They now live in upstate New York, where he serves at Fort Drum and she – as could be expected by her past experience –  is a flight nurse on helicopters.  She and Jon have a nice country home, a few fine dogs, and enjoy being each other’s best friend.  They work hard, they play hard (scuba, motorcycles, camping and so much more) – and they have a glowing future together.

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Heidi and Jon

If a dad can get personal and put it in first person, let me put this down:

Happy Birthday, kiddo.  You’re wonderful.  You are a good daughter, a good sister (younger brother Steven loves you, too.), a good wife, and a good nurse.  Luvya.

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Heidi, Dad, Mom, Steven – the family

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 16 – THE SOUND OF MUSIC at my former school – Enjoyed!

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Tonight I went to Pillager High School (where I taught for 34 years) and enjoyed myself. Now, that might seem like no big deal, but let me tell you …

Rob Freelove, who is the guy who is in charge of the show and the senior member of the music staff there now, had brought a great deal to the school with his music. He has done some amazing things with the band and choir, but doing full-blown musicals is all his doing. I admire his tenacity in bringing this to the school. He deserves extra credit and, if it were possible, a bonus check for all this.

rob and lead actresses

Rob couldn’t do it without the support he gets from the parents out there, including his wife, Anne. He goes out and gets help, finding the right people all the time. Somewhere along the way, these people build sets, do the painting, take care of tickets, arrange costumes, play in the pit orchestra.

And then there’s the kids. I hope the Pillager school district administration and school board realize that tonight there were 62 of their kids involved in this show . . . and that’s not just tiddly winking around. All 62 had a job to do, from the leads in the play to the crew that sat at the back table and ran the sound and lights, and the kids who sat in the pit and played the music, alongside some of those parents and other adults that were involved. That’s SIXTY TWO kids who all had crucial parts – – none of them were bench warmers, waiting to get into the game. EVERYONE OF THEM got into the game. Fully. First minute to last.

pit

And in my own joy as a teacher, I got to see some of my last students participate. Some of them I had back when they were in the young grades. Tonya sang solos in those elementary school Grandparents’ Day programs – and did MOTHER ABBESS tonight. Emily and Megan were fine nuns, just as they sang well for me back in those same elementary programs. Chris has done several musicals now, but I remember when he and his family first came to town and brought some fun to the school. Hunter always had a happy smile for me back then, and still does. Miranda Paananen and her sister had to tolerate me calling the PANANANANNEEEN so many times, and tonight she was so good as the housekeeper. Some of the kids I had, including Katie, Julia and Paul (who doubled the part with another former student Gabe – and both of them are kids of teachers I taught with. Good guy Ezra was fun as a student – and he’s made himself a good job of doing the fun parts like Uncle Max . . .and Ben, who I thought was more quiet back then, knocked me over with his singing as ROLF . . . another Ezra did himself well as one of the German officers – as did Colton. Emily was there – always willing to do stuff back in my day, and here she was again, right in there. Alexis, Abby, Maria and Samantha were in there, too, just like they did as my students. I have to mention Brook, because I will never forget how she enthusiastically sang CHICAGO CHICAGO that year when we did a show about American cities .. and brothers Ben and Lewton – proud of you, guys.

In the pit – Lauren, Amber, Dawn, Luke, Ethan, Becky, Tanner, Ella, Levi, Eli, and Aaron – all who I remember – nice pit work from all of you.

And Logan, Chris and Jordan on sound – and Hannah, now graduated, but still involved – and another grad Jesslyn home from college and involved …

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A great big “GOOD JOB” to all of you. With this show (and other shows that Mr. Freelove has brought to you) you have built yourself some amazing memories that you will love for the rest of your life. And I mean that …for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

WEEK 15 — NCAA, Indiana, Baseball, and Potential Presidential Candidates?

NCAA

Is it just me or was that a great tournament? There seemed to be little or no controversies over this and that – the referee work got minimal complaints, there were a good number of upsets, and hey, those final four games were as good as we’ve seen. I’m not a big fan necessarily of the sport, but it sure was a good gig all around. Congrats to the NCAA for running a good tournament and to all the teams who participated.

Indiana

But then Indiana. Having passed their law regarding religion and owners and all that, I have this to say. In the best light possible, giving all the benefits of the doubt out there, this is an example of poor legislative practice in creating, writing, sponsoring, enacting and signing a law as can possibly happen. This law ended up worse than the bills we wrote in our senior ‘social problems’ class in high school. These elected officials should have known better as to how to write a bill and how to use clear language. The whole state government should have been a whole lot more aware of the problems that were to come from this bill. The governor should have sent it back on the bad language alone, regardless of his stance on the issue. As for the other states who have some form of this in place – we’ll see what pressures arise and what happens to those other laws.

Baseball season

I am a serious baseball fan …well, specifically, a serious MINNESOTA TWINS baseball fan. I don’t give much of a rip for the National League until the World Series – I just follow the Twins.

I know. So sad for me. How can I do that? How can I follow that squadron of ill-skilled players? I guess I’m just loyal. That’s all there is to it.

The Twins have started out with no wins and three losses. Here’s to a season with a record of 159-3.

Yeah, right.

Candidates

Cruz or Paul? That’s what the Republicans are offering so far. More to come, I’m sure. Will it be another Bush? Will it be a woman who picks up the Republican banner? In all honesty, I don’t know which woman who would be. Sarah Palin has become a media/sensation/Reality TV stale joke, so I don’t think she’d have the carrying power. Are there any other women out there who might meet the Republican needs for a presidential candidate? I would love an answer to this one.

The Democrats? Okay, it looks like it’s almost Hilary C. Good old Hilary, who has been around since 1992 in one way or another and who carpetbagged her way to a senate seat in New York, which turned me off to her political work. But then, who else? Elizabeth Warren? Bernie Sanders? Joe Biden?

So put this all together. We haven’t really had a president who came into office with a good deal of international political experience… I did like George HW Bush for his work as an ambassadorial work. But look – Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter all came into office with not so hot international knowhow. LBJ had at least a good strong senatorial career before he was thrust into office, as did Ford. Nixon got elected twice because the Democrats did to themselves what the Republicans are trying to do to themselves this time around. Kennedy came with minimal international exposure and experience, so that brings us to Eisenhower – a military guy who wasn’t necessarily a politician.

Maybe that’s what we need.

I sure wish Colin Powell had run before. Maybe he’d do it again.

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