Category Archives: History

Bernice Sandler, And Why You Should Know Her Name

Bernice Sandler died this week at the age of 90. She is not a household name and my guess is most people don’t know who she is. That’s unfortunate because there are so many women in this country that owe so much to her strength and determination.

She was a schoolgirl in the 30’s and 40’s when she was told she couldn’t do some of the things that boys do, like be a crossing guard, fill an inkwell or operate a slide projector. When she was older and teaching part-time at the University of Maryland she was denied a full-time position because “you come on too strong.” Others suggested she was just a housewife who should be at home with sick children.

That past fueled her desire for change, which led to her becoming the face, voice and force behind the development, passage and implementation of Title IX, the civil rights law of 1972 that barred sex discrimination by educational institutions that received federal funding. It required that male and female students have equal access to admissions, resources and financial assistance, among other things.

To fully appreciate Dr Sanders, you have to go back to the dark ages of 1972, where many universities had limits on the number of female professors they would hire. Salaries for female faculty members were well behind men and while men’s varsity sports received millions of dollars in federal funding, female athletes held bake sales to pay for their uniforms, had no lockers and were forced to dress in their dorms.

Back in those dark ages of my lifetime, sex discrimination was not illegal in education. But Dr. Sandler found a reference to an unheralded executive order amended by President Johnson that barred organizations with federal contracts from discriminating on the basis of sex. She understood that most universities received federal funding so she went to work, beginning a class action lawsuit in 1970 on behalf of all women in higher education. She found that some schools had no woman faculty  and that women were often denied scholarships if they were married. She proceeded to file complaints against more than 250 institutions.

Title IX applies to every aspect of education, including enrollment, courses, financial assistance, housing and student services. But its impact has probably been most visible in college sports. Where resources for, and participation by women, lagged behind men prior to Title IX, participation exploded in the decades following implementation. Before Title IX, one in 27 girls participated in sports. By 2016, that number was two in five.

Sadly, after all these years, Title IX still has a long way to go before it eradicates decades of entrenched sexual discrimination. In Dr. Sandler’s own words, “I was extraordinarily naive. I believed that if we pressed Title IX it would only take a year or two for all the inequalities based on sex to be eliminated. After two years, I upped my estimate to five years, then to ten, then to twenty-five, until I finally realized that we were trying to change very strong patterns of behavior and belief, and that changes would take more than my lifetime to accomplish.”

Unfortunately, like all forms of discrimination and inequality, ignorance and distorted beliefs hinder real change.

Still, there are tens of thousands of women over the last forty-five years who owe so much to Dr. Sandler’s courage and determination. Women who have positions of power on college campuses, who have equal pay, who share the same educational and athletic resources as men, are all indebted to her sacrifices.

Bernice Sandler is a name and life that should be remembered by everyone.

Saying Goodbye To 41 And A Generation

It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn’t make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen.
Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation.

This is not about politics. History will determine the legacy of George H W Bush. The truth is, being President of this great country comes with the understanding that you will never please everyone. You will always have your critics. You will never walk away unscathed. There will be people who detest you for reasons they can’t possibly understand. You will make decisions that may infuriate half the country. You will be loved and fiercely hated.
The truth is, very few people know what it’s like to hold that office. The journalists, correspondents, senators, congressmen; none of them really know what it’s like. It’s a world with great power and even greater isolation.

But that’s the political side. You choose your color and walk the path your beliefs take you.

As I watched the things that were said about President Bush these last few days, I was struck by how different our landscape has changed in the last 25 years. Politics has always been a dirty game but the last 25 years has seen it taken to new levels. It has become more about “ME” than what’s best for our country, and it extends well beyond the last two years.

President Bush came from a different time. He’s the last President we had that didn’t require on the job training. His resume spoke for itself. But more than that, he came from a time when people did whatever they had to do for their country, and asked for nothing in return. He came from a time when integrity and loyalty mattered. Like all of us, he wasn’t perfect, but he gave us something we haven’t seen since he left office; a connection to our history and all the things that make this country great.

We’ve moved away from some of the qualities this office should possess.

The generation of President Bush, of my parents, of those who gave so much, is quickly coming an end. There was a time when integrity, loyalty, decency, sacrifice, patriotism, humility and kindness all meant something. We’ve lost that over the last 25 years and I’m afraid it won’t be seen again.

We buried much more than a former president today. We buried the best part of our past. A generation of selfless dignity that won’t be seen again.

 

Remembering

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, January 10, 1946

We sometimes have a tendency to glamorize war in books and movies. Those who have been there understand it’s much worse than anything that’s been filmed or written. It never captures the brutality or long-lasting consequences.

Last fall I had an opportunity to visit the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. When we were planning a trip to NC/Va, I came across this town and wondered why The D-Day Memorial would be placed in a small farming town of a little over six thousand people in Central Virginia. In 1940, just before World War II, Bedford numbered less than four thousand residents.

During the Battle of D-Day, Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division, were among the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches of Normandy. Nineteen boys from rural Bedford were killed in the first few minutes of landing. Another three boys were killed shortly after. In all, 22 young men from Bedford lost their lives, giving this small community the distinction of having the highest number of casualties, per capita, of anywhere in the country.

           

The story of this town and those that were lost is told in a book titled, The Bedford Boys. In many ways, the town of Bedford died on D-Day. The story of the boys that were lost, how if affected their families and the town itself is a reminder that war, though sometimes necessary, has consequences that can last for generations. It’s a book that should be read by all Americans.

Today is a day we remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. Please remember them and their families.

God Bless them all.

It’s the Soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It’s the Soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech

It’s the Soldier, not the politicians,
who ensures our right to LIfe, Liberty,
and the Pursuit of Happiness.

It’s the Soldier who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

We live in the land of the free
Only because of the brave.
God Bless Our Military
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Every Piece Has A Story

I’m not a person who walks into an antique store looking for something to buy. On occasion I have but our home is not filled with antiques. Instead I enjoy the nostalgia aspect of it; revisiting the past and seeing things that I grew up with on store shelves.

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I love opening or picking up pieces, imagining their history and where they began their journey. I know it sounds strange to say about inanimate objects but even they have a life. They were once new, bought by someone who was excited to have purchased that piece.

I wonder where that old suitcase has been. What trips it took and why it was originally purchased. A honeymoon perhaps? College? Did it fly when air travel was still in its infancy or did it cross the ocean on a three week voyage.

I try to imagine when that woman’s purse might have been purchased and what valuables it may have held. Did it go on dates? Was it held during a first kiss? Did it attend weddings?

That chest of drawers was new at one time and it held a wardrobe back then. How did it look new? How many addresses has it had?

The dining room table and chairs probably once had a family gathered around it. Who was that family? What holidays, birthdays and special occasions were celebrated around that table?

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Jewelry has always fascinated me the most because they are usually special pieces even if it’s only costume jewelry. Did someone purchase it for a special occasion or as a gift for someone special? I always believed the jewelry stories have to be the most interesting because they are not part of those items considered necessary or essential. So the meaning must have special significance.

I also always wonder how these pieces came to be where they are. Was it part of an estate sale or purchased at a flea market or garage sale? I once asked the owner of an antique store how he found some of these pieces and he said many people come in looking to sell them. I suppose they’re either cleaning out the homes of family members or in some cases, their own.

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That last thought always leads me to wonder what will happen to the items in our own home. Eventually, it will end up somewhere. Some things will be passed down, some sold, and some may even be thrown out. But every piece, like those I held in my hand in those antique stores, has a story attached to it. Every piece holds value, monetary or sentimental.

I wonder if one day someone will wander through one of these stores and pick up a piece that was once a part of our life. I wonder what they’ll think and if they’ll find it interesting enough to purchase.  If so, I wonder where in their home it might end up. I’d like to think it will bring someone happiness. I hope so anyway.

Because even inanimate objects can bring happiness.

Even inanimate objects have a life.

 

Elie Wiesel

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
Elie Wiesel, NIght

Elie Wiesel died yesterday at the age of 87.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first read the book, NIght, and these words about his first night in Auschwitz as a young boy. I only know that I have never read anything that has conveyed a moment in time as powerfully as this passage.

You don’t have to be of a certain faith or race to appreciate his life and words. You only have to be human.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Elie Wiesel

Among Mr. Wiesel’s many awards are the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He helped establish the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and has campaigned for victims of oppression all over the world, including those in South Africa, Nicaragua and Sudan, among many others.

There may be times  we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
Elie Wiesel

If you have never read the book, NIght, I encourage you to do so. It’s a very short book, but as we’ve learned, the most important lessons of life rarely require elaboration.

No human race is superior; no religious race is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.
Elie Wiesel

We should listen closely to his words today, because as much as the world has changed, nothing has really changed.

Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving; the child, too light, was still breathing…
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking; For God’s sake, where is God? And from within me I heard a voice answer: Where is he? This is where–hanging from this gallows…

That night, the soup tasted of corpses.
Elie Wiesel, NIght

God rest his soul.

 

Remember And Honor

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Even though numerous communities had been independently celebrating Memorial Day for years, the federal government declared Waterloo, N.Y. the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo first celebrated the holiday on May 5, 1866.

• Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades, but in 1971, Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and a federal holiday.

• Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).

• Roughly 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War — making it the deadliest war in American history. About 644,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts combined.

• President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28, 2000, designating 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance.

• It wasn’t always Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day.

• Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance, and it’s a tradition to wear them to honor those who died in war.

• The crowd that attended the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was about the same size as those that attend today’s observance: about 5,000 people

• Here are the number of casualties in each U.S. war:

Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I: 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II: 405,399 Americans died.

Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 383 U.S. service members died.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,424 U.S. service members died.

Operation New Dawn: 73 U.S. service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom: 2,349 U.S. service members died.

Freedom’s Sentinel Casualties – 22 U.S. service members died as of May 2016.

Inherent Resolve Totals – 20 U.S. service members died as of May 2016.

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What Should Matter

One of the things I enjoy most about subbing for elementary school children is what happens before our day even gets started. Each morning, after they put their belongings away and just before we begin class, they stand in unison, place their hands over their chests and recite The Pledge Of Allegiance. I usually stand to the side as I recite this with them so I can watch their faces. Then I smile at how strong their voices are and how serious they look as they recite the words.

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I’ve always been curious about whether or not they really understood what they were reciting so I started asking a few students in different classes if they understood what some of these words meant. Words like allegiance, indivisible., republic, liberty and justice. As it turned out, they had a very clear understanding of what the words meant and what The Pledge meant to them and to our country. I was a little surprised but I guess I shouldn’t have been. After all, the wording is very simple and clear so understanding it shouldn’t be that difficult.

How sad and unfortunate then, that eight and ten year old children  have a better understanding and appreciation of these words than any politician I’ve listened to in recent years. How sad and unfortunate that these same people, who have supposedly chosen a life of serving the public good is doing the most harm to those who don’t have a voice and whose lives may be most affected in the future by their actions today.

Ego, power and greed should not be the determining factors when seeking any kind of political office.

Maybe before a politician decides to run for office, they should sit in a classroom for a couple of minutes each morning and listen to the voices of those who really understand what it means to be an American.

If they have difficulty grasping the concept, I’m sure a eight year old will be more than happy to explain it to them.