Sunday, January 22, 2012
Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
During the winter of 1968 I was involved in a special project at the headquarters of VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) a division of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the agency formed to lead the Johnson administration’s efforts in the so-called War on Poverty.
We wanted to see what impact we could have if we created a special program which selected the very best of the best and brightest who applied for the VISTA program; gave them special training and put them into a small group of counties in the rural south. We called it the VISTA Health Advocates program.
It was a project which would have approximately 20
I was tasked, with among other things, as a young Management Intern at OEO, the job of selecting the participants in the Health Advocates program. I personally went through the thousands of application folders for the
Once selected, the Health Advocates attended a special training program in
Among the volunteers were the only
There was no health care for poor whites or poor blacks in Marianna. If you were ill you had to make a three hour drive to
We needed an executive director for the clinic which we called the Lee County Cooperative. Somehow we found Olly Neal. He had grown up in Marianna and then moved to
Once established, the Cooperative became a vehicle for all manner of community activity, not just health and nutrition. When we first began work in Mariana we discovered that only 18 to 20% of the registered voters were black, while more than half of the population was black. Clearly, a voter registration campaign made a lot of sense.
Over time, enough black voters registered to provide a black majority in the electorate.
The logical next step was to run a slate of black candidates for each office on the upcoming election.
Election night, as ballots were being counted from the precincts around the county, it was looking very likely that the black candidates would win. With only a handful of “mixed” race precincts left to count, the black candidates were ahead. At that moment, the
It was a classic example of racist
And, Olly and the people of Lee County, Arkansas did win. Olly continued to successfully manage the Coop, then returned to school where he ultimately obtained a law degree. He later became a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, retiring in late 2006.
In 1996 I attended a dinner for Hilary Clinton and had the opportunity to speak with her briefly about my time in
A couple of years ago Olly and I traded phone calls but didn’t connect. I just did a search and found that among other things, he just contributed $1000 to Hilary’s Presidential Campaign.
Breakfast with the
I had been traveling in and out of Eastern Arkansas with regularity in my role as liaison between headquarters in
On one trip I stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn at the interchange at the freeway exit for
In the morning I came down for breakfast and walked into the restaurant. The hostess said, as came in with an associate, “The County Judge is here and would like to have breakfast with you boys.” Well, the
We sat down across from the Judge, whose name I don’t recall. He was silver haired and lean. I asked him why he wanted to see us. He said that he wanted to talk with us; that he didn’t like us, “….enticing the Nigras to demonstrate.” I told him we were working with
That day I drove around his county in my rental car checking on various volunteers and projects. I was followed all day at an uncomfortable distance by one the Sheriff’s deputies. I have a strong recollection to this day, of the hair standing on the back of my neck.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Thursday, December 06, 2007
My mother just celebrated her 90th birthday. 120 of her friends attended the reception for her at the
My mom is a great letter writer. Letter writing is fast becoming a lost art. I read with great interest in the Times yesterday that the personal papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. had been obtained by the New York Public Library. Among the trove was the correspondence between Schlesinger and many of the notables of the last half of 20th century in
What will become of the history of this new computer age? Will the New York Public Library receive some computer disks from the estate of the next generation’s premier historian? Will they have archived and kept their correspondence through transitions from 5 and ½ to 3 and ¼ to CD to DVD and on to the next medium?
Mom’s correspondence has all been handwritten. She learned Palmer Method cursive at the
I grew up writing cursive as well. We practiced with our pencils on lined paper beginning in the third grade at a point when our brains and our manual dexterity coalesced to allow the formation of those carefully crafted letters. Practice made perfect. Of course, my practice was aided by the occasional need to write 500 sentences that proclaimed that I would no longer pull the hair of the girl who sat in front of me, or some other indiscretion.
There was something more to the learning of cursive than the simple ability to communicate thoughts in written form. Cursive had a certain flair and elegance and was, when well executed, an art form that communicated not only ideas but something of the personality of the writer as well.
Today, my children don’t learn cursive in school. It has been dropped from the curriculum. I think the loss is a significant one. Not only are children now deprived of an opportunity for tedious, disciplined learning but the fine art of letter writing is undermined as well. Rigor, as an element of the educational process, has been replaced with every increasing opportunity for expression. But, it seems to me, expression finds its fullest form when it springs from a solid base of disciplined learning.
In addition to the loss of cursive, and the death of the fine art of letter writing, the future will miss the opportunity to receive into its archives the reportorial work of the custodians of its history.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The word spread
the small rural
She was not
of failing health
she was now passing
It was a blessing
it was difficult
and a time for
family and friends
to gather around
They sat silently
in the front room
and puttered in
waiting for the
There were three