We Are Better Than We Have Been

220px-old_north_church_boston_1882I really really don’t want to write about politics. I would much prefer composing lyrical blogs that describe the beautiful beaches that I saw on my most recent camping trip. I enjoy extolling the virtues of my grandchildren and former students. I am essentially a happy and positive person who prefers to concentrate on uplifting topics that leave my readers feeling good about life. I believe that political discussions are mostly fruitless, only meaningful to those who share the same beliefs. Attempting to persuade someone to change course in basic philosophy is akin to turning a cruise ship around in a pond. It is very unlikely to be successful and may even cause more harm than good. So why, you may ask, do I keep coming back to the topic of our current president and his travails? I suppose that it is because I have been concerned about his fitness for the office from the first moment that he entered the political scene and I find that every time I grow silent and complacent he does something outrageous.

I am one who is always more than willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I am a true believer in the power of redemption. While I have harbored the gravest of fears about the reality of a President Trump I have argued in his favor, suggesting that we need to wait to see how things work out before jumping to premature conclusions. I had hoped that his bravado and bullish behavior would mellow into a more presidential stature. The gravity of the office has generally brought a modicum of humility to most who have held it. Seemingly this is not to be so with President Trump who continues to operate with a brashness that taints the dignity of the executive. He continues to be so full of himself that he is unwilling to accept even provable facts, instead insisting with a straight face that the most ridiculous statements are true. God forbid that he might actually be wrong. That is something that he refuses to accept. His temperament is that of the class bully, both annoying and frightening given the tremendous power that is in his hands.

The way that he treats people who disagree with him should have been grounds for ignoring him as a feasible candidate but somehow his narcissistic behavior was interpreted as the sign of a strong leader by enough people to propel him into office. For well over a year now I have misread the mood of the nation, believing that his malicious and immature personality would defeat him. Now his is the face of our country and quite frankly that frightens me more than I care to admit. Still I have reiterated again and again the advice that we remain calm. When I cautioned against freaking out too quickly I did not honestly believe that within a single week he would so blithely sign one executive order after another with little or no thought as to the consequences of his actions. I had also thought that there would be voices from his own Republican party who would speak out when he went too far and somehow there has been mostly silence with the exception of a few brave souls like John McCain and Linsey Graham who will probably be voted out of office for being bright beacons in a dark and tempestuous sea.

Here is what I see as the most basic problem with almost every solution that President Trump is proposing, they are all too simplistic. For example, aside from becoming a terrible eyesore on the land, a wall between the United States and Mexico will do little or nothing to address our immigration issues. There are hundreds of miles where it will be literally impossible to build any kind of structure due to the terrain and the fact that the border is determined by a river for a considerable length. People who are desperate enough will find ways to either climb over the walls or dig under them. A physical barrier does not address the reasons that people leave their native countries. It only makes their journeys a bit more difficult. The other aspect of his so called brilliant idea is to deport those who are here illegally. Again the impracticality of that idea is all too obvious, not to mention the inhumanity of tearing families apart. There are better ways but for some reason we have not yet had the stomach to tackle the hard work involved in creating a more reasonable and lasting solution. That will take compromise and for now we seem more inclined to squabble than to find common ground. I will be the first to admit that both of our political parties are quite guilty of this.

Our educational system is not without its problems but thinking that just giving every student a voucher to use in any school of choice is as ridiculous as the idea of a wall. Few private schools cost less than eight to ten thousand dollars per year and the vouchers won’t even come close to providing that kind of money. Besides most of exclusive schools have tough entrance exams that exclude even those with the income to pay. In addition there are only so many spots in the most desirable public schools and those will go quickly, especially if preference is given to those who live and pay taxes in the area. Ultimately the students who have had to attend the worst performing schools will end up right back in the same desolate places and the system that we have built will be in a shambles without ever addressing the real problems. The quick fix isn’t going to work.

Admittedly the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. There is fairly good proof that it is about to collapse under its own weight. That being said, it provided a much needed safety net to people who in an earlier time might have been bankrupted by a serious illness. To think that it is possible to repeal the law without giving any real thought to what will replace it verges on immorality. Doing that will create chaos in the care of all of us as insurance companies, doctors and hospitals struggle to make sense of what will come next. There will be far too many people hurt unless a carefully thought out plan considers those with preexisting conditions and those who are unable to afford typical health insurance policies. So far we do not have any reassuring examples of President Trump thinking before acting as is all too apparent in the way that he handled the issue of immigration and travel of people from dangerous parts of the world this past weekend. Additionally there is far too much fear and anger impeding any form of progress.

I have grown weary of politicians who march to the drumbeat of a so called base rather than to the voices of all of the people. I am going to scream if I hear one more soundbite from either side and that goes for the voters as well. The rancor that exists is appalling. Instead I want to see individuals who think for themselves and consider each issue based on its merits and flaws rather than on what they think they are supposed to say and do. I am seriously afraid that if we continue with the same old rhetoric and platitudes that we are in for a world of hurt. One of my cousins is becoming increasingly convinced that our day of reckoning as a nation is drawing near and that it will only be when we have endured great pain and tragedy that we will finally come to our senses and begin to work together again as a nation. I truly hope that she is wrong but for some time now I have been thinking exactly the same thing.

I am in my sunset years. At the age of sixty eight I know that my time will be limited. At this point in my life I am more concerned about the future of my children and grandchildren and former students than for myself. This is why I keep writing because if I am able to convince even one more person of the value of working toward a common good then my efforts will not have been in vain. I am but a tiny voice that will not be heard in the halls of power unless it is joined by others who share my concerns. Together we may be able to sound the same bell of freedom that rang in the old North Church on that night when our ancestors made a strike against the tyranny of a king who had gone mad with his own power. We are better than we have been for a while now. This I truly believe. That is why I write.

A Word To The Wise

happiness & freedomOur new president has only been in office for a couple of days more than a week and he is already proving to be the amateur that I feared he would be. He made a number of promises during his campaign which were often ill considered and the boasts of someone who doesn’t fully understand the job of chief executive of a powerful nation. Sadly former presidents Bush and Obama vastly increased the use of executive actions during their terms and thus opened the door for the kind of wholesale orders that Trump signed this week. Perhaps the most egregious thing that has happened in our recent history is the easing of the system of checks and balances through the backdoor tactic that President Trump used so thoughtlessly last week. We certainly may have issues with some or all of the pronouncements that Trump set into action but we should in reality be more concerned with the trend of unilateral decision making by one person that has become more and more fashionable in the past several years. While we may have agreed with the decisions of our former presidents we should always be wary of putting too much power into the hands of a single individual. Our Founding Fathers understood this all too well and now we are witnessing the problems with the reckless use of the power of the presidential pen. We all should have cringed when President Obama told us that if Congress would not act he would instead use his pen to get his wishes. Now we are facing the prospect of enduring four years of rashly considered executive orders and the ensuing chaos that they may engender.

There is so much to be said about the actions that President Trump took last week but I will focus on his temporary ban on immigration and travel to the United States by individuals from six primarily Muslim countries. It is obvious that the president and some of his close aides authored the pronouncements in haste in order to demonstrate that President Trump is a man of action, someone who doesn’t waste time in getting things done. While this might at first glance sound reasonable enough to his supporters it neglects the very necessary step of considering unforeseen consequences of a decision that must be part and parcel of the process. This takes more than a few hours or even a few days and requires feedback even from those who oppose the move. Their ideas are just as important in fashioning a fair and effective order as those from enthusiastic advocates. All of the questions and difficulties should have been openly addressed long before any type of order was signed.

Another problem with this particular order is that it seems to have been done without properly informing the very people who are taxed with its enforcement, leading to unwarranted confusion. By the end of the weekend it was apparent that multiple mistakes had been made that need never have happened. The roll out should have been delayed long enough to include opportunities for everyone to prepare for its enforcement and to note potential concerns and problems that might occur. To suddenly spring such a dramatic change on even those who already had visas and were in transit to our country is unjust. To realize after the fact that the directive was unclear in how to deal with those who already hold green cards was indicative of a lack of adequate planning. All in all it demonstrated that the president is still very much a rookie.

Perhaps President Trump’s most egregious habit is an inability to admit mistakes. This is a fatal flaw and one that I fear he will not be able to overcome since it appears to be an unshakeable aspect of his character or lack of it. Again and again he insists on lying when the truth is so obvious. This weekend he actually seemed to think that we would buy his argument that the confusion at the nation’s airports was caused not by the impact of his executive order regarding his temporary ban of people from certain countries but a computer problem with Delta Airlines. This type of juvenile behavior is unbecoming to his office and an embarrassment. It calls everything that he does into question. He tells us that he is here to work with all of us but then insults anyone who disagrees with him and asks us to suspend reality with his silly excuses when things don’t go as he had planned.

it may be somewhat true that many of the reactions to President Trump’s latest foray into imposing his beliefs onto the nation may have been somewhat hyperbolic, hysterical and hypocritical but it is easy to understand why they so fear his actions. He has been remiss in demonstrating the calm deliberation that is needed for his office. Frankly he is in fact scarring many people. We need to feel secure that he will not involve us in any actions that will be harmful to our democracy and our freedoms. Sadly he has mostly exhibited a profoundly erratic temperament that is far from being reassuring. While bluster may be appropriate in some situations a true leader needs to know when to curb such tendencies. Thus far he has not given us any indications that he knows how to do that.

On this date in history we were saddened by the explosion of the Challenger as it carried our astronauts into space. Then President Reagan demonstrated how to strike a tone that would resonate with the American people as he spoke so sincerely and eloquently of the tremendous sense of sadness that we were all feeling. Mr. Trump needs to begin to develop a connection with all of us. He should have prefaced this executive order by speaking directly to we the people. He might have quietly and rationally provided us with the reasoning behind his thinking. He had the opportunity to include us in the deliberations by asking for our input before he put the new policy into effect. He might have learned from us and gained our respect if only he had explained the timeline and what his ultimate intentions are. Instead he continued to boast in tweets that his is a great plan that is going well and to ignore the concerns that so many have.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not the first president to create a temporary ban of travel and immigration from specific countries. Jimmy Carter prevented Iranians from coming here during the height of the hostage situation and more recently President Obama instituted a six month ban for Iraqis. Presidents sometimes have to do such things. We might have been more open to this executive order had there been more of a sense of thoughtfulness and less of a feeling that it was going to happen regardless of what we think simply because Trump won.

I would caution President Trump, Congress, the Supreme Court and the American people to curb their rhetoric and tribal instincts and begin to rationally dialogue with one another or our beautiful democracy is in danger of being torn asunder. We have to rediscover who we are as a people. It will take great courage to work out our problems. Now more than ever we need leaders who are less concerned about party lines and reelections and more driven by love of country. We are all watching and hoping for evidence that we still have guardians of democracy in our midst.

Love Is Us

beatles-abbey-roadOn September 26, 1969, the Beatles released perhaps their quintessential album, Abbey Road. The timing could not have come at a better time for me. My idealism was badly damaged from the events of the previous summer, a collection of weeks that quite literally changed me and my family in the most devastating ways. I was not yet twenty one and I felt like a forty year old. My mother had endured a crushing mental breakdown during July and August and I had reluctantly accepted the responsibility for her care and that of my brothers. I was shoved out of my naive and isolated world into the hellishness of reality as I struggled to keep everyone together and to make decisions that were foreign to my nature. I was a bride of less than a year who was being tested more than I thought I might bear. The Beatles came to my rescue with their innovative music that eased the beasts that were battling inside of me.

There would be many a time when I would listen to the songs that became so comforting to me, not so much because they were happy and lighthearted, which they were not, but because I marveled at the genius of the work that was unlike anything that the world had ever before heard. I was able to escape into the guitar rifts and poetry of the lyrics. Here Comes the Sun became my mantra. It gave me hope that somehow my little family would one day reclaim the happiness that had been so missing in the dark days of Mama’s illness. To this very day I can’t hear the strains of that tune without remembering both the pain that I was feeling and the tranquility that the music afforded me. 

I was still in a honeymoon period with my husband Mike with whom I was madly in love but I had no idea what an incredible man I had married until those trying times. He would rise to the occasion and never leave my side over the decades in which I struggled to keep my mother healthy. He was loving and understanding and the two of us listened to Abbey Road together sensing that its brilliance expressed the feelings that we shared. My story might have been quite different had it not been for Mike. He was my anchor and my strength. I listened to lyrics from the album like “Love is you” and understood totally what that meant with regard to my devoted spouse. We may have been two babies playing house but we had something quite magical happening and somehow the Beatles had captured every emotion that we were experiencing.

I had little idea that in only a few weeks I would learn that I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Maryellen. We had no plan as to how we were going to find the money to raise a child but we could not have been happier. It was like a blessed miracle to learn that something bright and beautiful was going to happen to take our mind away from the fear and anxiety that had been stalking us. When Maryellen was born the following July I often listened to Abbey Road when I fed her in the middle of the night. It was one of the only ways I was able to keep myself awake when I was so sleep deprived. I loved the line “one sweet dream came true today” because that was exactly the way I was feeling. The contentment that I enjoyed with the birth of my little girl filled my heart. It erased the despair that I had known only a year before and replaced it with a feeling that we were all going to be okay.

The years would go by. Mike and I only grew closer as we raised our little girl and then added another girl child named Catherine. My mother would go in and out of emergencies with her mental illness. I never really became accustomed to the sadness that I felt whenever she had a psychotic break. I did my best in getting her the medical help that she needed but I always felt heartbroken that her problems were chronic. I so wanted her to mend and never be sick again but that was not to be.

Abbey Road would forever be an old standby for me, a favorite of which I never grew tired. I heard new words and musical innovation each time that I listened. It somehow came to remind me of the entire span of my life. All that I am is somehow encapsulated in the music.

Imagine how wonderful it was for me to receive a text from my grandson Andrew this week telling me that he had been listening to Abbey Road at college. We traded stories about the songs that we most love and I could tell that somehow the music had reached as deeply into his psyche as it had into mine. I found myself wondering what he might think if he knew that I had rocked his mother in my arms while listening to the same brilliant harmonics back when I was only a year older than he now is. I found it somehow ironically meaningful that his birthday is on September 26, the same date as when the album first became available to the public. I thought about the enormous influence the Beatles have had on so many souls and particularly on me, providing so much solace during the most difficult moments and the happiest ones as well.

The day on which my mother died can only be described as beautiful. We all will eventually leave this earth and she knew that her end had come. She was ready and convinced that she would soon be in her heavenly home. Everyone who had ever loved her was gathered around on that day, including Andrew. Mama asked my Mike to take care of the family, an honor that he humbly agreed to accept. We said our prayers and our goodbyes. When she had breathed her last I once again thought of the Beatles and their prescient words that seemed almost to have been written especially for her and our family, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” We had overcome one problem after another hand in hand only to emerge with an ever stronger bond time and again. Through it all the Beatles have continuously been there as we have traveled down our long and winding road learning with each step that love is us. 

Dear Me

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Dear Me,

Hey Girl, I’m writing to you because you seem rather anxious about our new president and the general state of the union. I know you better than anyone and I’m thinking that it’s time for a bit of self reflection. I realize that you are still trying to grasp how you so misjudged the election. You were quite certain that Donald Trump would be soundly rejected by the voters and sent on his merry way back to his tower in New York City. I was there when you wrote your blogs detailing why you felt that he should not be elected and I recall the moment when you joined the ranks of the #Never Trump movement. You were convinced that you were being quite noble and that your fellow citizens would follow your lead. It just made sense, right? Now Mr. Trump is President Trump and you and those who think like you are in a bit of a tizzy.

Surely you have to know that you won’t be able to maintain your hyped up level of indignation and concern every day for the next four years. You will likely burn out and be ignored unless you mend your ways, so for what it’s worth here is a bit of advice from yourself that just might help.

You were a good teacher. You had a knack for dealing with difficult students. Why don’t you remember some of the methods that served you so well in the classroom? After all, President Trump is very much like some of those kids who were determined to divert your attention from the important task of teaching. You understood then as you should now that reacting to every single behavior with negativity only insured that your classroom would become a nonproductive battlefield. Think about how self-fulfilling prophecies generally compound problems. If you can only find fault and never show a willingness to compliment and reinforce positive attempts on the part of our president then he will surely give up even trying to please you. Think of that one thing that he may have done that made you feel a bit more comfortable and let him know that you appreciated his effort. If it was nominating Nicky Haley for a cabinet position then tell him thank you for demonstrating some wisdom in that pick.

As both a parent and an educator you understood that it was important to choose your battles wisely. Some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Think of the issues that mean the most to you and save your ammunition for those. If you think the idea of building a wall between the United States and Mexico is ridiculous then make that one of your premiere causes. Let your representatives know how you feel. Be ready to take your trailer to Big Bend National Park for a protest if there is even a second of talk about destroying the natural beauty of the area with an ugly fence. Urge your lawmakers to enact immigration reform that is just and humane. Make this your priority and let the small things go. It doesn’t matter at all if President Trump wants to believe that he had millions and millions of attendees at his inauguration. Let him play the role of the dotty uncle with his outrageous boasts and look the other way.

Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the name calling. Always do what you know is right. Answering ugliness with more ugliness is never the proper way of doing things. Insist that President Trump’s little boy be off limits and that any comments about his wife be respectful. You have almost always managed to keep your cool even when a student or parent was cursing you. Tell yourself that you will stay above the fray. When you get into the gutter you lose your credibility. Don’t let that happen.

You have always been someone who is open to different points of view. Don’t stop being that way. Be willing to listen to the people who earnestly believe that our new president will be good for the country. Find out why they feel that way. Don’t be ready with an argument for everything that they have to say. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They are in all probability as convinced of the rightness of their convictions are you are. Be patient with them.

In the classroom you were always vigilant. You learned how to expect the unexpected. Pay attention to the political world. Do research. Beware of soundbites and catch phrases. Understand that propaganda is floating all around you. Find the facts for yourself. Learn the full context of statements and actions that trouble you. Consider pros and cons. Embrace a full spectrum of ideas.

You have suggested to President Trump that he not be so quick to tweet or post his feelings. Follow your own advice. Most people really don’t care what you think one way or another. They are weary of the haggling and would prefer to keep things lighthearted. It is very doubtful that you will change someone’s mind but very likely that you will anger them if you are always disagreeable. Save your comments for those who might be able to actually do something about the issues. Let your Senator and your Congressperson know what you think. They were elected to serve you. They need to be aware of what you want. If they don’t respond in the way that you prefer then vote them out when they come up for reelection. You have that right, so use it.

Mostly I would remind you that life has always been a marathon rather than a race. You will collapse into a breathless heap if you run at full tilt all of the time. Find a comfortable pace and save your energy for those moments when you need to really turn on the speed. Develop a sense of humor and learn to laugh at the silliness, remembering that much of it is indeed silliness.

Surely experience has taught you that this too shall pass. You have endured some daunting challenges over the decades and come out mostly unscathed. You know you’ve got this if you take good care of yourself and your loved ones. You don’t have to be a constant warrior. Enjoy the beauty of the world that is all around you. There is still much to celebrate each day. It may be a trite platitude but the song was right. Don’t worry. Be happy. We’ve got this.

Yours,

The voice of your heart

A Beautiful Thing

WomensMarchSF_EC_012117-14.jpgFreedom is a beautiful thing. It allows each of us to decide for ourselves what we believe. Of course there are certain restrictions to our liberties. We agree as a society that it is innately wrong to murder or steal. There are extremes of very bad behavior that virtually all of us abhor. Beyond that there is often room for differences of opinion and for the most part we respect and protect one another’s right to divergent thinking. The bedrock of our free society is based upon the notion that we are entitled to our opinions. We generally have a “to each his own” way of getting along in a highly diverse society.

Now and again we get things wrong and yet we find ways of excusing our egregious decisions. For far too long, for example, we Americans prided ourselves in being a great and just nation while still allowing members of our society to own other human beings as slaves. We found any number of reasons to explain away this barbaric practice but in reality it was always wrong and there were individuals and groups who took a hard line and insisted that we had to rid ourselves of slavery for all time, not in bits and pieces. These people were often viewed as being kooky religious zealots, trouble makers with strange ideas. It took courage for them to voice their complaints publicly and for the most part they were viewed as outcasts and pariahs. Still they believed so strongly in their cause that they would not be stilled. From one generation to the next their message was passed down to an ever growing number of converts until one day the most powerful man in the country joined their ranks and boldly declared the emancipation of all enslaved people even while a civil war divided the country and threatened to tear it apart.

Those individual voices that grew into a collective roar mattered. The people who spoke out against slavery did so with the knowledge that they were fighting an uphill battle but they were willing to bear the consequences nonetheless. They eventually wrought powerful change by following the dictates of their consciences. It is a beautiful thing to watch souls who are willing to fight for the rights of people that they do not even know. We have seen them parading through the streets of our country with their signs and their slogans time and again. There were suffragettes who pointed out the absurdity of denying the right to vote to half of the population of the United States. There were workers who insisted on safe working conditions, fair wages and reasonable work hours. The civil rights movement of the nineteen sixties focused a lens on the plight of fellow Americans who were still segregated from society and denied the most basic of rights for no other reason than the color of their skin. Time again peaceful demonstrations, editorials and declarations have helped our country to move to closer and closer approximations of true justice for all. It is the American way and it is beautiful.

Last weekend millions of women gathered together to voice their own concerns. There were many different points of view, some of which were radical indeed, but mostly the cause was about a growing belief that some among us are still being marginalized. The march highlighted the reality that ours is still an imperfect nation with problems that must be addressed with compassion. It was a beautiful sight to see so many loving and deeply well intentioned women along using their First Amendment right to gather together to shed a light on the issues that disturb them. This is democracy in action and if it bothers us just a bit to hear what they had to say then their march was effective because it caused us to think. Hopefully this demonstration of freedom will move us to begin a dialogue about our commonalities and our differences. Protests are almost always conversation starters that force us to think about the way we do things and make us wonder if an issue is serious enough to bring about change. We should never be afraid of entering the fray of controversial topics but we must also do so with a sense of respect and a willingness to consider every possible idea before closing our minds. Otherwise we will only find ourselves fighting senseless battles with one another.

Hidden inside the barbs being tossed between those who applaud the Women’s March and those who found it to be onerous are a multitude of issues each of which should be considered individually. Some women admittedly went because they were disappointed that Donald Trump is now our president. They abhor his attitudes toward women and wanted to make it very clear that they are insulted that such a man would be allowed to lead our nation. Others were more concerned with specific causes whether it be the environment or the treatment of minority groups and religions. Most walked to demand equity for women in the workplace and with regard to opportunities for advancement. There were of course those who believe that every woman has a right to healthcare and contraception, among which is abortion.

The reality is that we can’t react to the Women’s March as a whole. We must instead unpack each of the issues that were noted on the signs and in the speeches. It is in reality a very complex situation and in all probability even those who were part of that sea of pink will admit that they did not agree with everything that they saw or heard. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this new revolution we must be willing to suspend our generalizations and discuss each issue individually. We also need to commend the participants for their courage which is in keeping with the way that positive change has been wrought in our country time and again. In turn we should ask the ladies to demonstrate a willingness to understand the ways in which some of their fellow citizens may differ from them. If we begin the discussions without breaking out into a state of war as we have done far too many times in the past perhaps we will be able to finally put some of these important issues to rest.

Religious and political beliefs are highly individual and personal. As such they tend to elicit very strong emotions for which people are more than willing to go to battle. I for one am strongly pro life for example but I understand that we have to find ways to balance the needs of our diverse ways of thinking with what seems most right and just. We have to ease the tensions between church and state because herein lie many of our most inflammatory arguments. I have always believed that we must be careful to keep the two institutions very separate particularly when it comes to using government funds.

It is important that we learn to celebrate the liberties that we have. When we see a peaceful protest we should not be angered but rather joyful because that is the embodiment of of the freedoms that we cherish. We should use such occasions to find ways of bridging the gaps that exist between us rather than hurling hateful rhetoric at one another. Of course the tolerance of differences must go both ways if we are to be truly effective. 

Last Saturday night my extended family celebrated the birthday of a delightful little girl who turned six years old. She is an innocent who joyfully reveled in the celebration that was just for her. There was a great deal of love in the room in spite of the fact that we all know that we possess a wide variety of philosophies whether speaking of religion or politics. We are able to voice our beliefs and still fully embrace each other.

I’d like to think that my family is a microcosm of our nation. From the same parents we branched out into many different directions and came to different conclusions about the best way to live. We may argue in support of our particular philosophies but in the end we realize that our differences matter far less than our overriding love. This is where we need to begin as a nation, understanding that it is natural and actually quite good that we have a diversity of ideas. Let us embrace all of the voices without preordained prejudice for among them may be the ideas that will ultimately make us better and stronger. Demonstrating our freedom is a beautiful thing.