Monday, November 26, 2007

1968 - OH, WHAT A YEAR!

Tom Brokaw's Boom has been getting a lot of attention, so over the holidays, I read the Newsweek article on his portrait of the tumultuous Sixties.

With a focus on 1968, I couldn’t help but to reflect on all of the significant things that happened in my life that year . We got engaged during Christmas vacation of 1967 and scheduled our wedding for June. Returning to school that January as an “engaged man” truly meant that I was different!

Before the wedding, the last semester of being an undergrad was marked with all sorts of challenges. On March 19, 1968, students seized the administration building in a dispute over the right of the campus newspaper to criticize the policies of the university president. The demands soon widened and the University officially closed while the negotiations with Board members were conducted.

This was a first for any university and there was plenty of media attention focused on what would be repeated events on other campuses. Our student body president, Ewart Brown, demonstrated tremendous leadership in holding things together and preventing violence. He is now the Prime Minister of Bermuda.

After five days, we returned to class and just 10 days later, the University closed because of the riots in DC after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. When we returned in mid-April, there were serious questions about how we would make up two weeks of school. The solution was to allow students to take the grade they had at the time or take a final if desired. Heck, there was no debate in my mind and I finished college with no end of term exams!

Before the really “big events” of graduation and marriage, we coped with more violence when Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy was shot on June 5th and died on June 6th. We couldn’t help but reflect on how President Kennedy’s assassination in November of our senior year of high school changed our lives, and now another Kennedy was killed as we left college.

On June 7th, I received my commission as a second lieutenant in the Regular Army at 10 AM and my B.S. in Government at 4 PM. Noted professor John Hope Franklin, then of the University of Chicago, was our commencement speaker, and even under the threat of torture, I can’t tell you anything that he said. Years later when I asked him for forgiveness for not remembering his words of wisdom to us graduates, he simply replied with that patented twinkle in his eye, “Yes, you are just one among many!”

After packing up the next morning and driving to Durham where my wife to be lived, we had a series of pre wedding dinners and other social events. Fortunately, our after graduation celebrations still allowed all of my wedding party to show up at the right time in the right place and wearing the prescribed attire. So, on June 10th at 6:30 PM we had our ceremony in Duke Chapel.

My wife’s famous old Durham church – White Rock Baptist – had been torn down to build the Durham Freeway. Her mother was on a committee with the Chaplain of Duke and he indicated that he had seen the wedding announcement in the New York Times and wondered where the ceremony would take place. Their discussion led to him offering up the beautiful Duke Chapel. As no one could remember any African Americans ever being married there, there was plenty of local interest.

Later in June I reported for duty in the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. The first order of business was to go to Fort Benning, GA and learn how to jump out of airplanes. After learning more than I ever wanted to about the July heat and ever-present red clay of Georgia , I received my jump wings and returned to Fort Bragg. I was no longer a “leg,” that not very affectionate term airborne types call those without wings, and my five jumps from an aircraft while in flight made me part of a special fraternity.

My wife started her fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in computer science and when we toasted in 1969, all we could say was 1968 was some year! Now, we look forward in the coming months to celebrating the 40th anniversary of so many things. And believe me, time does in fact dull some of the sharp edges on some of those memories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Last year I wrote about being thankful for blessings at home and in our community.(click this link to go back) This year, I am feeling not only thankful for all of our many blessing but also for the togetherness that this special day offers.

We are having the family dinner at our home this year, and not having to put the leaf in the dining room table is a clear indicator that there will be fewer feet under the table. This is not going to be one of those years where we have 10 in the dining room, eight in the living room at card tables, and a table full in the kitchen. Typically, some of the “big people” volunteer to be in the kitchen with the young ones; do other families experience the same escape tactics?

Anyway, we are not only dealing with the loss of some family members who were here last year, but also familly members being in other locations. Wherever they are, we know that they will be at our dinner in spirit as we tell stories about other days and share the many things we are thankful for, including the bounty that we are consuming with gusto.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy all of the time you can spend together with family!

Friday, November 16, 2007


We talk a lot about it and maybe now that the election is over, we will think through it as a community and decide what we will do about it. Some may remember back in February I was quoted in the Chapel Hill News for a comment I made at the Community Leadership Collaboration meeting about panhandling. I thought then and still believe now that too many people want to call everybody who is seen as "being different" is a panhandler.

What is the "look" of being different? There’s our problem because panhandlers and lots of other folks are different from others but we want to conveniently call all of them a panhandler. All who are homeless are not panhandlers. Not all panhandlers are homeless. Homelessness and public begging are not synonymous issues. That’s a proven fact! We have criminals prowling our downtown streets and we also have those with disabilities, the working poor, the homeless veterans and those who panhandle. Just "being different" drives perceptions way too much in my opinion.

Just a few weeks ago, a piece in the Daily Tar Heel by a courageous student confirmed my theory. Here in part is what he wrote (go here for the entire piece)::

Why I'm a racist and you might be one too
By: James Edward Dillard

There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make.

I'm a racist.

Until a couple of nights ago, such a thought had never entered my mind. My white pillowcase doesn't have any eyeholes; I've never burnt a cross or tied a noose.

More than that, I like black people. Not just the ones I know, either. I was excited when my hometown Steelers hired Mike Tomlin as its first black head coach because it meant a step toward equality in Pittsburgh.

And I considered myself enlightened. I'd seen "Crash." I knew about white privilege. I was smart enough to know racists still exist, but surely I wasn't one of them.

So imagine my surprise when I found out I was wrong.

Allow me to explain. On Sunday night, after having dinner at Franklin Street Pizza and Pasta, my buddy Duncan and I were walking back to campus when a black man approached us.

He was bald and wearing a coat. In his left hand was a Styrofoam cup. As he walked passed us, he extended his arm and said, "Wassup man?"

Immediately, without thinking, I stuck my hands into my pockets and shrugged my shoulders. "Sorry sir, I don't have any change," I said.

Problem is he wasn't panhandling. When he made this clear, I begged forgiveness. Fortunately for me, he was kind and accepted my apology. I couldn't have blamed him had he punched me in the face. But that's not the point.

The point is that in my mind "black guy" plus "cup in hand" plus "Franklin Street" equaled "panhandler."

Does this make me a racist? I think it does. At the very least, I'm guilty of racial stereotyping. Such stereotyping seems innocent at first - after all, most panhandlers downtown are black men - but this "harmless" stereotyping can be particularly corrosive.

The only way we will have a chance of solving our panhandling problem on Franklin St., — and yes it’s OUR problem, — is to have an open and honest dialogue about it. As the comments to Mr. Dillard’s piece reveals, just like our community in general, some of our students get it but others don’t. Sure, there are people who are fearful when they are on Franklin St. and we must change that.

I am hopeful that we will soon get it and get on it as well. The “Spare Change for Real Change” program is a great start, but there’s more to do. We have to resolve the shelter location question, as it is a symbol to many of the problem. We as a community have the ability to deal with this problem; let’s get the will.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The Orange County Board of Elections denied Cam Hill’s request for a recount so the Chapel Hill municipal election is officially certified. I really think this was a very interesting election not for what happened but rather for what didn’t happen, and that is having a “real” campaign with candidates debating the various issues that voters might use in making their voting decisions.

Yes, we had plenty of forums and many things were said, but try this as a test: ask a friend what the top five issues were that separated the candidates. I suspect you will get pretty much the same reaction that I have gotten every time that I have asked that question: a blank stare!

Here’s my take on what we had in Chapel Hill. Instead of something that I will call “simple incumbency,” where a candidate runs on his or her record against a field of challengers and the other incumbents for the four seats, we had “SUPER INCUMBENCY.” Super incumbency is when all five of the current holders of the seats are seeking reelection AND they decide to “run together” against all challengers.

It’s a good thing that those who have served want to continue to serve, and I absolutely have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is when the five individuals who occupy the five seats appear to have agreed to a mutually beneficial campaign strategy, one that appears to diminish our ability to have a real debate or even a discussion of the issues. Diversity of opinion is a good thing, and we ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

The fact that Matt Czajkowski did come in fourth says a lot about his ability to get his message out to voters while the five “SUPER INCUMBENTS” seemed to want only to talk about their past service and how they worked so well together in atypical harmony. In affirmation of their strategy, Mayor Kevin Foy sent out pre-election “robocalls” to voters asking them to reelect him (no problem with that, and I voted for him!) AND the other four incumbents.

Someone asked me why this troubled me and I told them it was because I would have preferred that the mayor have remained above the fray. He has to lead the council that the voters put in office. When a non-incumbent wins (as just happened), what’s the message to the victor? The “outsider” knows for sure that the mayor didn’t want him to win, but those few who bothered to vote obviously did. Yes, 2,932 gave the winner their vote and in the context of an election where only 15% of us bothered to vote, 13.74% of the Council vote is important.

Look at the results as certified by the BoE:

Matt Czajkowski (4th)/2,932/13.74%
Sally Greene (I, 2nd)/3,917/18.36%
Cam Hill (I, 5)/2,872/13.46%
Will Raymond (7th)/1,409/6.60%
Penny Rich (6th)/2,442/11.44%
Bill Strom (I, 3d)/3,735/17.50%
Jim Ward (I, 1st)/3,929/18.41%
Write-In (multiple)/102/0.48%

Does it mean anything that a candidate can win the fourth seat with under 3,000 votes?

In the mayor’s race, the results were:

Kevin C. Foy /4,333/70.17%
Kevin Wolff/1,803/29.20%

What’s interesting is that if we assume that everyone who voted for a council member also voted for mayor, but all who voted for mayor didn’t use all four of their council votes, it might explain some things. According to the BoE’s data, 6,175 voters cast mayoral votes. If all had voted for four council candidates, the number is 24,700. The total council votes were 21,338. The 3,362 “missing votes” suggests that more than a few voters chose to vote for only one, two, or three council candidates. Of course, the assumption is key, as there are probably people who did vote for the Council and not the mayor, but I think the pattern is obvious.

I wish all of the victors well as they work hard serving us during their term of office. I’m also sure that Mayor Foy and the other incumbents will be welcoming and treat Matt Czajkowski as he should be treated, but I wish I didn’t have to wonder about how he would be treated in the first place. I also wish the “SUPER INCUMBENTS” along with the four challengers had shown where and how they differed on policy. In addition, and most importantly, I wish they had spent more time talking about our future and the issues that face us.

What do you think? I’d really like your feedback on this.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


To all of my fellow veterans, I wish you a heartfelt happy Veterans Day. To those who support our veterans for their service, in spite of how you might come down politically on the issues of state, I say thank you for your support.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, that’s how it all started. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

In spite of the 1968 effort to make Veterans Day a Monday holiday, the law was changed back on September 20th, 1975, by President Gerald R. Ford when he signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. As for a "day off" governments make the decision on when or if workers get a holiday when November 11th falls on the weekend. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management(OPM)generally does the following: when a holiday falls on a non-workday -- Saturday or Sunday -- the federal government is closed on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday).

Therefore, it is puzzling that so many confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. After all, there are only two holidays that celebrate living people — Labor Day and Veterans Day. It’s simple, Memorial Day is to honor those who have died in service to their country. Veteran's Day honors those who served their country and are still living.

To help make the point, "Veterans Day" does not include an apostrophe but does include an "s" at the end of "veterans" because it is not a day that "belongs" to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

I hope people take time to honor our Veterans. One good way to do that is to contact your elected representatives and tell them you want quality medical care and other necessary support for our Veterans, and especially those who are now disabled because of their service. Meeting our obligations to our Veterans as a nation gives real meaning to our words of support for our Veterans.

Happy Veterans Day!


Veterans Day 2007: Nov. 11

23.7 million
The number of military veterans in the United States in 2006.
(Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Female Veterans

1.7 million
The number of female veterans in 2006.
(Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Percentage of Gulf War veterans in 2006 who were women.
(Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Race and Hispanic Origin

2.4 million
The number of black veterans in 2006. Additionally, 1.1 million veterans are Hispanic; 292,000 are Asian; 169,000 are American Indian or Alaska Native; and 28,000 are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. (The numbers for blacks, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders cover only those reporting a single race.) (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

When They Served

9.2 million
The number of veterans 65 and older in 2006. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.9 million were younger than 35.
(Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

8 million
Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2006. Thirty-three percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 4.6 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 3.2 million in World War II (1941-1945); 3.1 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 6.1 million in peacetime. (Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

In 2006, number of living veterans who served during both the Vietnam era and the Gulf War.

Other living veterans in 2006 who served in two or more wars:

350,000 served during both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

78,000 served during three periods: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

294,000 served in World War II and the Korean War. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)
The documented number of living World War I veterans who served with U.S. forces as of Oct. 2, 2007. (Source: Department of Veterans Affairs)

Where They Live

Number of states with 1 million or more veterans in 2006. These states are California (2.2 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1.1 million), Pennsylvania (1.1 million) and Ohio (1 million). (Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)


Percent of veterans 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree in 2006. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

Percent of veterans 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher in 2006. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

Income and Poverty

Annual median income of veterans, in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

Percentage of veterans living in poverty, as of 2006. The corresponding rate for nonveterans was 12.3 percent. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

On the Job

11.1 million
Number of veterans 18 to 64 in the labor force in 2006. (Source: 2005 American Community Survey.)


6.1 million
Number of veterans with a disability. More than half this number (3.5 million) were 65 and older. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)


17.4 million
Number of veterans who voted in the 2004 presidential election. Seventy-four percent of veterans cast a ballot, compared with 63 percent of nonveterans. (Source: Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004, at

Business Owners

Percentage of owners of firms that responded to the 2002 Survey of Business Owners who were veterans. Respondent veteran business owners totaled 3 million. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 at )

Percentage of veteran owners of respondent firms who were 55 and older. This compares with 31 percent of all owners of respondent firms. Similarly, in 2002, 55 percent of veteran-owned respondent firms with employees reported that their businesses were established, purchased, or acquired before 1990, compared with 36 percent of all employer respondent firms. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 and Characteristics of Veteran Business Owners: 2002, at )

Percentage of all respondent veteran owners who were disabled as the result of injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 and Characteristics of Veteran Business Owners: 2002, at )


2.7 million
Number of veterans who received compensation for service-connected disabilities as of 2006. Their compensation totaled $26.6 billion.
(Source: Tables 508 and 509 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Jan. 21, 2007
The date of death of the last World War I veteran receiving compensation or pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Source: Department of Veterans Affairs)

$72.4 billion
Total amount of federal government spending for veterans benefits programs in fiscal year 2006. Of this total, $34.5 billion went to compensation and pensions and $31.3 billion for medical programs. (Source: Table 508 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)