A Hero … A Dreamer … R.I.P.

His name was Alonso Guillén. He died a hero. Last week, he headed south from his home in Lufkin, Texas, with a borrowed boat, insisting he wanted to help rescue flood survivors. A week ago, last Wednesday, Alonso was helping to rescue those trapped by floodwaters in the Houston area when his boat hit an Interstate 45 bridge and capsized.  One of the two friends with Alonso was able to cling to a tree until he was rescued, but Alonso and his friend Tomas Carreon both died.

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Alonso Guillen — DJ Ocho

On Friday, searchers found the body of Tomas Carreon. On Sunday, relatives finally found Alonso Guillén’s body. Alonso Guillén was 31 years old, Tomas Carreon was 25.  Mr. Carreon had three young children. Mr. Guillén’s mother, Ruiz de Guillén, lives in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and was initially denied entry into the U.S. once she learned of his death. According to the Washington Post, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol eventually worked with the Mexican Consulate to reach an agreement to allow Ms. Guillén to enter the U.S. in order to attend her son’s funeral.

 

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Tomas Carreon with 6-year-old son

 

Alonso Guillén was a Dreamer, having entered the U.S. with his parents when he was 15 years of age.  Tomas Carreon was also a Dreamer until his marriage, which gave him permanent resident status.  Dreamers are those who came to the U.S. as children and are temporarily protected from deportation by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Alonso’s family has mixed immigration status and is divided by the border. His mother, a Mexican national, still lives in Piedras Negras, Mexico, with one of his brothers. His father is a legal resident, and his brother Jesus is a U.S. citizen.  Alonso had a driver’s license, a career as a radio DJ, and owned a home.  He had no criminal background, had never been arrested for so much as spitting on the sidewalk.  According to friends, family and coworkers, he was an all-around good guy.

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Alonso Guillen

“He worked hard at everything he did and made life a little more enjoyable for everyone around him,” the radio station Y-100 wrote in a Facebook tribute. “A truly selfless man, he spent the last hours of his life helping others in a time of need.” Alonso’s radio name was “DJ Ocho”, a throwback to his early days when he found it difficult to say his name, Alonso, and called himself Ocho instead. He was known for his generosity in the Lufkin community. If a friend or neighbor needed anything — a wheelchair, money for a surgery, a car fix — he would lend a helping hand, using his reach through his radio show to rally support for those in need. He worked as a disc jockey at dance clubs on weekends, but he did not drink or smoke.

This is the man who would have lost his driver’s license, his job, his home and likely have been deported within the next six months, since the Idiot-in-Chief in the White House decided yesterday to rescind Obama’s 2012 DACA legislation.  This is the man that at least some portion of Trump’s base think are out to take their jobs.  This is a man who represents that group Trump referred to as “murderers and rapists”. This man believed in the U.S. — it was his country too.

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I will have more to say about DACA in the coming weeks, but this post is a tribute to Mr. Alonso Guillén and Mr. Tomas Carreon … nothing more.

Two good men died doing what they believed in – helping people in need.  These two men, like many others, are heroes and deserve our respect. R.I.P. Mr. Tomas Carreon and Mr. Alonso Guillén.  Your courage, bravery and good works will not be forgotten.

Filosofa Returns — With Bits ‘N Pieces

Dearest Readers!  Thank you all for the many well-wishes for my weekend hiatus!  I had a great weekend … no car troubles, no injuries, just a nice, relaxing weekend!  I missed you guys, missed your comments that sometimes make me think, other times make me laugh!  I am now back home, safe and sound, although I DID manage to get lost just ten miles from home!!! I am blaming that one on heavy traffic and not being able to get into the lane I needed to be in.  Still, one might think that since I have lived in this area for more than 20 years, I could find my way around!  I am directionally challenged.

I have been responding to comments this evening, and I apologize that my responses are perhaps not as in-depth as usual, but I wanted to get caught up on that tonight and I had four days’ worth to catch up, so I did not expound as much as I might have another time.  I will be working over the next several days to get caught up reading your posts, so be patient.  Meanwhile, since I am not likely to write a full post tonight, a few snippets from the weekend news:

  • I was saddened to hear of the death of entertainment legend Jerry Lewis on Sunday at age 91.  The official cause of death was ischemic cardiomyopathy, which occurs when the heart becomes unable to pump sufficient blood through the rest of the body due to a coronary artery disease. I did not realize that Mr. Lewis had suffered three heart attacks during his lifetime, the first when he was only 34 years old.  He also had Type I diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, had battled prostate cancer and a fall during a Las Vegas show in 1965 nearly paralyzed him.  He was best known as a comedian, having received several awards for lifetime achievement from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But what set Jerry Lewis apart was his humanitarian work. He supported fund-raising for research into muscular dystrophy, as well as many other causes that go beyond what I could possibly cover in this snippet.  He was a fine entertainer and a good human being who will be missed on this earth.  Rest in Peace, Jerry. jerry-lewis-2

  • So, I heard that Steve Bannon is out of Trump’s administration. I received no less than three messages within an hour of the announcement.  Of course, given Bannon’s ideology, I am glad he is out.  That still leaves Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, of course, but Bannon was, I felt, the biggest threat and from time to time I even wondered if he wasn’t, perhaps, the puppeteer.  But I think there is more to this than meets the eye.  On August 7th, more than a week before his ouster, Bannon contacted Breitbart to let them know he would be returning.  And he made a comment that he can do more good on the outside than on the inside.  I am not sure what I suspect, but I am suspicious of … something.  When I’ve had time to study and ponder it more, I’ll try to clarify my suspicions.

  • You know those annoying ‘speed bumps’ that are intended to slow drivers down in areas where children may be playing, or raccoons dancing in the street, or whatever? We have two on our street and they are annoying, but if they slow traffic down, I’m all for them, for here in da hood, we do have large numbers of children playing, riding bikes and skateboards in the middle of the street.  Well anyway, the Brits have come up with “illusory speed bumps”!  According to a report in the Guardian, “They are painted humps on the road: white arcs, about a metre wide, like slightly asymmetrical Vs that, by the miracle of perspective, fool the eye into seeing them as looming out of the tarmac as drivers approach.”  Sure would save wear and tear on one’s suspension system if they work! speed bumps.jpg

  • The Great American Eclipse. They hyped it for two months.  A total eclipse – 99.4% they said.  As I mentioned last week, I was a bit nervous about driving home from Pennsylvania on Monday, because I feared it would become pitch dark and I would not be able to see.  I drove, and I drove, and I wondered when it was to happen.  I noted that the day had become slightly darker, but there were clouds overhead, so that could explain it.  That was it … it got, maybe 5-7 degrees darker.  When I got home, I asked Miss Goose if it had been spectacular here.  Nope … just got slightly darker.  While relieved that I didn’t have to find a place to stop for an hour or so, I am somewhat disappointed. They ought not to have built up so much suspense.  Was it a spectacular thing where any of you live?  solar eclipse

  • Headline news in both today’s New York Times and The Washington Post is that Trump briefly looked up at the sun without protective glasses today. I ask you:  a) does anybody care?; b) so what – he’s already blind in the ways that matter?; and c) why is every bloomin’ thing the man does considered ‘newsworthy’?  Next we’ll be hearing what he eats for dinner each night and what time he poops! Sheesh. not-too-bright

And on that note, I have emails to answer, a suitcase to unpack, and am shooting for a (relatively) early bedtime tonight, as nine straight hours of driving today has just about done me in!  Thanks again, dear friends, and I will be back on my regular schedule by the end of the day!

 

Art From The Holocaust

Last week, a new art exhibit opened in the German Historical Museum in Berlin. Its title? Art From The Holocaust. A blogger who I only discovered yesterday, thanks to Rob Goldstein, has written a beautiful tribute to this exhibit, complete with some wonderful pictures. This is a bit outside my normal subject matter, but I thought it was very tasteful and beautifully written, and I wanted to share it with my readers. Many thanks to artinmanyforms for this post, and for permission to share!

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A new exhibition in Berlin explores the grim realities of life for Jews in Nazi camps and ghettoes.

A historic new exhibit, Art from the Holocaust, opened in the rear wing of the German Historical Museum in Berlin last week. For the first time ever, art from the collection of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Museum is being shown outside in Germany. The exhibit features 100 works, mostly drawings and paintings, by Jewish inmates of labour camps, ghettoes and concentration camps. Many of the works portray the dark realities of day-to-day life in Nazi imprisonment. The fact that the works survived to the present day is, in most cases, a miracle: many were hidden or smuggled out at great risk by friends of the artists.

The show, which is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, comes at a moment of…

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Respect For A Good Man – Senator John McCain

No political commentary this morning, only deep sadness at the news that Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer.  While I have not always agreed with Senator McCain, I have immense respect and admiration for the man. He is a good man and one of the few in his party who I think genuinely cares about the people of this country.

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Lt. Commander John McCain on return to U.S., March 18, 1973

John McCain has been serving this nation in one capacity or another since 1958, when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He became a naval aviator, flying ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. When he was offered release because of his father’s rank, McCain refused to be freed before those who had been held captive longer. He was a prisoner of war until 1973, during which time he was frequently tortured.  He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics. McCain was first elected to the House in 1982 where he served two terms before winning a bid for the Senate just four years later.

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John McCain & wife Cindy

Senator John McCain has given much of his life to his country and his fellow Americans for nearly sixty years.  Today I take this opportunity to honour him and hope that my readers will also.  No matter what our politics, our beliefs, no matter what side of the aisle we sit on, we must always remember that our humanitarian values come first.  At times like this, we put the politics, the arguments aside for just a moment.  John McCain is a good man, he is in my thoughts and my heart today.

“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.” – President Barack Obama

“John McCain is as tough as they come. Thinking of John, Cindy, their wonderful children, & their whole family tonight.” – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

“.@SenJohnMcCain, you are a true fighter & I’ll be praying for you until you beat this. I know you will.” – Senator Chuck Schumer

“My thoughts and prayers are with @SenJohnMcCain, a true hero. Cancer is up against one Anerica’s toughest fighters.” – Senator Cory Booker

“.@SenJohnMcCain is a man of principle, integrity, and the father to a loving family. The entire country is with him in this fight.” – Senator Dean Heller

“Praying for my friend @SenJohnMcCain, one of the toughest people I know.” – Senator Steve Scalise

“Just spoke to @SenJohnMcCain. Tough diagnosis, but even tougher man.” – Senator Jeff Flake

“John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life.” – Senator Mitch McConnell

“John and I have been friends for 40 years. He’s gotten through so much difficulty with so much grace. He is strong – and he will beat this.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden

“As he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery.” – Former President Bill Clinton

“My thoughts are with John McCain and his family tonight. A true fighter and American hero.” – Senator Kamala Harris

“Heidi and I will be lifting up John, Cindy, and his entire family in our prayers in wake of his recent diagnosis…” – Senator Ted Cruz

“Senator John McCain is a fighter and true, bonafide American hero. We’re behind him every step of the way. Cancer picked on the wrong guy.” – Senator Patty Murray

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.” – Donald Trump

“Karen & I are praying for @SenJohnMcCain. Cancer picked on the wrong guy. John McCain is a fighter & he’ll win this fight too. God bless!” – Vice President Mike Pence

As you can see … politicos from both sides, current and former, have put aside their differences to offer their support and love to Senator McCain.  I hope we can all do the same.

 

 

One Hero In Congress …

Today I am tired of writing about Trump & Co.  I have started two posts, one about the G-20 summit, and another about some strange goings-on among the White House staff his week.  Both remain ‘works-in-process’ at this point, not because I got bored with them, but because I realized I was disgusted by everything pertaining to Trump and the administration, Congress and their boot-licking legislation, and the whole works.  So, I was just flipping through some friends’ posts on Facebook, hoping to gain a fresh perspective, when I came across this:

john-lewisAnd that led me to the thought of writing about somebody in Congress who is not driven by greed, not led by fear of Trump, but a true representative of We The People.  While it is true that there are others in Congress who have more of a conscience than the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, in my opinion, there are none to compare with Representative John Lewis.

Most of you probably know at least a bit of Lewis’ history, but please bear with me as I quickly recap for any who may not.

john-lewis-2John Lewis, one of the most notable heroes of the Civil Rights movement, began his career as an activist in 1959, at the age of 19, by organizing student sit-in demonstrations, bus boycotts, and non-violent protests for voter and racial equality.  Then in 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, becoming one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for whites. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

John-Lewis-SNCCLewis’ was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963, at only age 23!  As such, he became a member of the Big Six, leaders of six prominent civil rights organizations, and the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King gave his I Have A Dream Speech.

5 minutes 17 seconds, and worth every second!

On August 28, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the march, John Lewis along with President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter addressed a crowd at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Also present were Caroline Kennedy and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Other participants included the parents of Trayvon Martin, Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.

 

Perhaps Mr. Lewis’ most notable moment came in 1965 when he helped organize the now-famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and was among 600 demonstrators attacked by police. This day became known as Bloody Sunday, and 58 people were taken to a local hospital, including Mr. Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull.

John-lewis-skullJohn Lewis won the House seat for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1986.  He has since been re-elected 15 times, and has dropped below 70 percent of the vote only once. He is one of the most liberal members of the House, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent a district in the Deep South. On May 21, 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Lewis was the “only former major civil rights leader who extended his fight for human rights and racial reconciliation to the halls of Congress.” In the same article, they referred to Mr. Lewis as the ‘conscience of Congress’.

Though now 77 years old, Lewis’ passion for justice has not dimmed.  In June 2016, he staged a sit-in demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on gun-safety legislation in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Speaker pro tempore Daniel Webster ordered the House into recess, but Democrats refused to leave the chamber for nearly 26 hours. He is no fan of Donald Trump, having compared him to George Wallace at one point during the campaigns last year.  In a Meet The Press interview one week before Trump’s inauguration, he stated, “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in having this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don’t plan to attend the Inauguration. I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians, and others, that helped him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open, democratic process.” Trump, naturally, responded with ugly tweets.

There is so much more to be said about Congressman Lewis, but if you want to know more, there are many good books out there, including his own autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, originally published in 1998 and re-issued in paperback in 2015.

John-Lewis-Barack-Obama-medalIn 2011, John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, and on January 6, 2016, it was announced that a future United States Navy underway replenishment oiler would be named USNS John Lewis. He has won so many awards that I cannot possibly list them all.

Lewis was the only living speaker from the March on Washington present on the stage during the inauguration of Barack Obama. Obama signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis with the words, “Because of you, John. Barack Obama.”

In response to his earlier tweet, one of his followers tweeted the following: Katy Otto ‏@exfkaty to tweet. “You are one of a small handful of politicians that gives me hope for this country. Thank you immensely for your service.” I second that, Ms. Otto. In my opinion, Representative John Lewis is a hero both of the past and the present, and possibly the most conscionable of the 535 members of Congress.

A Breath Of Fresh Air!!!

Tonight I wanted … nay, I needed … to write about something other than … well, you-know-who.  So I spent some three hours searching for a story that had nothing to do with U.S. politics.  You wouldn’t believe how hard that was!!!  Even the European news sites had all you-know-who … every single bloomin’ story!  But I knew I had found my story when I saw this picture …Milner-1This woman’s office is the first I have seen that looks worse than my own!  The woman is one Dr. Brenda Milner, a professor of psychology in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal, best known for discovering the seat of memory in the brain, the foundational finding of cognitive neuroscience. Now, if I knew what all that meant …

Milner-3Dr. Milner is 98 years old and still going strong!  Dr. Milner continues working, because she sees no reason not to. Neither McGill nor the affiliated Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has asked her to step aside. “People think because I’m 98 years old I must be emerita,” she said. “Well, not at all. I’m still nosy, you know, curious.” 

In 2014 she won three prominent achievement awards, which came with money for research. She has a project: a continuing study to investigate how the healthy brain’s intellectual left hemisphere coordinates with its more aesthetic right one in thinking and memory. (Perhaps I should travel up to Montreal, because I am fairly certain that my left and right hemispheres do not coordinate with one another at all!!!)

She has made some concessions to her age … she only goes into the office about three days a week now.  “And I have some rules,” she added. “I will take on postdoctoral students, but not graduate students. Graduate students need to know you’ll be around for five years or so, and well” — she chuckled, looking up at the ceiling — “well, it’s very difficult if they have to switch to someone else, you know.”

Dr. Milner changed the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation. I will leave out the technical detail, as I do not understand it myself, but for any interested, this New York Times article gives more detail about her work and is quite fascinating.

Milner-2Dr. Milner was born in Manchester, England, and was homeschooled until age 8 by her father, a music critic and piano teacher. By the time she was 6-years-old, she was fluent in German as well as English.  She fell in love with mathematics and science and earned a scholarship to Cambridge University.  She has over 20 honorary degrees and many distinguished awards, far too numerous to list here.

Though she does not drive, Dr. Milner did once pass her driving test …

The driving instructor wiped his brow with a handkerchief, and not just because of the heat. His student — a grown woman, squinting over the dashboard — was ramming the curb in an effort to parallel park.

“We reached an agreement, right then and there: He let me pass the test, and I promised never to drive,” Brenda Milner said, smiling to herself at the decades-old memory. “You see, my spatial skills aren’t so good. That’s primarily a right-brain function.” – New York Times, 15 May 2017

Fortunately, she doesn’t need to drive to work.  “I live very close; it’s a 10-minute walk up the hill, so it gives me a good reason to come in regularly.”

I admire this woman very much!  She is dedicated and has a sense of humour, and most important, she isn’t letting age slow her down, but just keeps on giving of her time and talents.  I am 23 years younger than she, and I suspect her energy levels far exceed my own.  I am so glad I stumbled across Dr. Milner tonight!

On this sad day

As frequently happens, I am a day behind (I took a 4-day hiatus and am still playing catch-up), but my blogger-friend Carolyn Dennis-Willingham who writes as CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection, wrote this post two days ago, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of King’s assassination, a sad memory for those of us who remember King. Throughout the history of this nation, there has never been another who did as much for Civil Rights as Dr. King, nor has there been another who was able to speak as eloquently to make his point. Dr. King was an activist, yes, but he believed in change through non-violent means. Please take a moment to read this brief tribute to a great man whose life ended far too soon. Thank you, Carolyn, for this post and for permission to re-blog!

Author Flawed to Perfection

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Yesterday, April 3rd, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermons in Memphis.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

On this day, April 4th, he was assassinated.

God Bless You, Dr. King.

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A Special Tribute To Three Brave Men

“If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom

“A good man’s life is never quite ended; something of it always remains to touch and illuminate other lives.” – Edward Higgins White

“Probably the greatest thing a man can say to himself, or have as his philosophy when he has to tackle a tough job, or make a big decision, is the first eight words of the Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best…” – Roger B. Chaffee

 

Fifty years ago today, tragedy struck on launch pad 34 at Cape Kennedy during a preflight, launch-rehearsal test for what would later be designated Apollo I. The mission was to be the first manned flight of Apollo, and was scheduled to launch Feb. 21, 1967. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module and they were unable to escape.  The fire and the deaths of the three astronauts put the entire lunar landing program on hold.

Today, 50 years and many NASA missions later, the world still remembers the courage of these three men.

apollo-grissomLt. Col. Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom had been part of the U.S. manned space program since it began in 1959, having been selected as one of NASA’s Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. His second space flight on Gemini III earned him the distinction of being the first man to fly in space twice. His hard work, drive, persistence and skills as a top notch test pilot and engineer had landed him the title of commander for the first Apollo flight. Grissom served in both WWII and Korea, where he completed one hundred combat missions with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. Gus was never comfortable speaking with the press. In fact, he went to great lengths to avoid them whenever possible. On one occasion, he went so far as to disguise himself in a floppy straw hat and dark glasses in order to slip by reporters. Some members of the press crew responded by tagging him with the titles “Gloomy Gus” and “The Great Stone Face”.

Grissom joined NASA in 1959, after almost being disqualified because of his allergies.  His response when he learned of this was that his allergies would not be a problem because “there won’t be any ragweed pollen in space”. Grissom was very much a family man, a private man, and when he died he left behind a wife, Betty, and two sons, Scott and Mark.

apollo-whiteLt. Col. Edward H. White was born to fly.  His father was a career Air Force officer who began his career by flying U.S. Army balloons and ended it with the rank of Major General.  White’s first experience at the controls of an aircraft came when he was twelve and his father allowed him to take the controls of an old T-6 … after that, nothing else would do. After graduating from West Point, White followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Air Force, and was stationed in Germany.

In 1957, after reading an article about the role of future astronauts, White knew where he wanted to go, and the desire to become an astronaut determined the paths he would follow.  Though he was not one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, White did pilot flights for weightlessness training for John Glenn and Deke Slayton, as well as the chimps that were sent up prior to the astronauts.  In 1962, NASA once again begin recruiting for their upcoming Gemini program, and in September of that year, Edward White finally realized his dream of becoming an astronaut. On June 3rd, 1965, White became the first American to walk in space.  On re-entering the spacecraft after his walk, he said “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”  When White died on this day in 1967, he left behind his wife, Patricia, a son, Edward, and a daughter, Bonnie.

apollo-chaffee.jpgRoger B. Chaffee was the youngest and newest of the three astronauts, having only been in the program for a year. Chaffee began his flight career as a barnstorming pilot. In 1954 Chaffee’s career as a pilot was almost ended by a failed eye test, a requirement for the Naval ROTC flight training  program in which he was enrolled, but was given a second chance that he passed. Joining the U.S. Navy in 1957, Chaffee became one of the youngest pilots to fly A3D twin-engine jet photo reconnaissance planes.  In the early 1960s during the Cold War, and particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis, Chaffee flew more than 80 missions over Cuba. In 1963 he was one of 14 new astronauts chosen for work on Project Gemini.

Chaffee had an artistic streak, designing his own home and doing all his own home improvements.  He even did all his own landscaping. When his wife once asked him to build a tiny water fountain in the backyard, she wound up with a carefully engineered waterfall crafted from tons of gravel and hours of backbreaking work. The cascading waterfall was complimented by the lighting Roger had installed around their pool. Additionally, he wired their stereo system so that music could be heard in any room of the house.  Chaffee left behind his wife Martha, and two children, Sheryl and Steven.

The tragedy delayed the manned space program, but it would eventually proceed with the Apollo program, and later the Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station (ISS).  Three courageous men gave their lives in the interest of science, in the interest of space exploration, 50 years ago today, and we remember and honour them.  Thank you.

Links for additional information:

NASA Tribute

Apollo 1 – The Fire

Summary of Events

Bio – Grissom

Bio – White

Bio – Chaffee

 

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A Final Thanks To A Classy First Lady

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have less than two weeks left before they return to their private lives.  They have both brought a level of dignity to the White House that has not been seen for many decades, and theirs is the first administration in a long time with not so much as a breath of scandal.  No affairs, no accusations of wrongdoing, no errant children, just respect and dignity.  Yesterday, Ms. Obama gave her final speech as First Lady, speaking at an event honouring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year, and as always, it was filled with encouragement and hope.  I share part of that speech here:

“And as I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people in my last official remarks as First Lady. So for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.

If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.

If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people. Because that is what moves this country forward every single day — our hope for the future and the hard work that hope inspires.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.

And that is true I know for every person who are here — is here today, and for educators and advocates all across this nation who get up every day and work their hearts out to lift up our young people. And I am so grateful to all of you for your passion and your dedication and all the hard work on behalf of our next generation. And I can think of no better way to end my time as First Lady than celebrating with all of you.

So I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.” 

I have said it before, and I shall say it this one last time.  First Lady Michelle Obama deserves a standing ovation from us all, for she has brought values, hope, humour, compassion, dignity and grace back to the White House.  I, for one, shall miss her.  Thank you, Ms. Obama, for all you have given us.

Full transcript of her speech and video, courtesy of Time Magazine

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In Memoriam: Remembering Those Who Transitioned In 2016

I recently stumbled upon a blog titled ‘Thought Provoking Perspectives’. I have only read a few posts by this writer, John T. Wills, but I like what I see. Today I am sharing, with permission, his post providing a very comprehensive list of those public figures, politicians, musicians, actors, etc., who died during 2016. I have seen many such lists in the past week or two, but this one is the most comprehensive I have seen. Some I had forgotten, and some I don’t recall hearing about. The list is long, and that is to be expected, as the ‘baby boomer’ generation is aging. Some I had barely heard of … others, like Elie Wiesel, Shimon Peres and John Glenn were bigger-than-life figures to me. Please take a moment to read Mr. Wills’ post – I bet there are some you weren’t aware of! Thank you, Mr. Wills, for this post and for your permission to share it.

Thought Provoking Perspectives

thLooking back at the year that was and remembering the long list of people that were famous, known nationally, and recognized; 2016 saw the deaths of an unusually long list of political titans and sports icons, famous musicians and Hollywood greats. There was the boxer nicknamed The Greatest, the musician known as Prince, the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

– Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion who transformed himself into a global hero, died June 3 at 74. Ali, who fought a high-profile battle with Parkinson’s disease, died of septic shock.

– George Michael musician, front man for the group Wham.

– Natalie Cole, musician, daughter of the great Nat King Cole.

– Maurice White, songwriter, producer and founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

– The death of Fidel Castro, the cigar-chomping despot who ruled Communist Cuba for nearly half a century, sent shock waves around the world. Castro died Nov…

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