Friday, November 28, 2008


I think that it’s safe to say that the reason so many of us like Thanksgiving is because it gives us an opportunity to get together with family and friends and enjoy good food, good fellowship, and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. One of the things that I included on my list this year was the tremendous work of our non-profits in Orange County.

Did you know that November was nonprofit awareness month? Our Board of County Commissioners issued a proclamation to call attention to the many ways that they serve us. We should know that we have more than 266 charitable nonprofit organizations providing diverse services to our community and these organizations spend more than $448 million annually serving the people of Orange County.

We also know that in these challenging economic times, things are getting tough for nonprofits. The same economic forces that affect us personally also affect these groups. Folks have fewer disposable dollars to share. The grant-giving organizations all have fewer dollars to share as the market’s decline has also reduced their holdings. As we struggle to get through this bad patch, what can we do?

Those of us who can still share monetary gifts should continue to do so, but those who can’t might consider donating their time to help one of our many organizations. They always appreciate and can use volunteer help, just ask them! And best of all, the time you donate can help our community in a very significant and powerful way!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Today is a significant generational event for me. It still is as fresh in my mind as the day it happened back in 1963. Many of my friends and I thought August 28, 1963 was a really important day we would never forget because of the 250,000 participants at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech.

But November 22d is at the top of my list because it ended the “era of innocence” for me and many of my classmates. I remember clearly that I was in French class at Detroit’s Mumford High School 45 years ago today. French was my last class of the day and as a senior, I really didn’t think that I should have had a class that late. Worse, because I had lived in France and had taken several years of it, I was forced into French 4, a literature course that I extremely disliked.

When the announcement came over the PA system that someone shot President John F. Kennedy in Dallas (we didn’t know he died), there was stunned silence, followed by the sniffling, the sobs, and then the crying. I often wonder why we had the spontaneous reactions that we did. At our various reunions over the years, the conversation invariably gets around to the question, “What class were you in when they made the announcement?” Just knowing what “the announcement” refers to says a lot about how deeply the event is embedded.

The school sent us home that Friday afternoon and some people missed the last two hours of the day. Taking the City bus home (we didn’t have school a yellow school bus!) was an eerie experience; silence all the way, except for the quiet sobbing and sniffling. Everyone knew. Everyone seemed lost in his or her own thoughts. No one ever seemed to be trying to make sense of what happened.

We all watched TV for the next few days — it was Walter Cronkite in our home who brought all of the news. Saturday the remains were at the White House and laid in state at the US Capitol on Sunday. Our new President, Lyndon Johnson, issued Presidential Proclamation 3561, declaring Monday to be a national day of mourning. As one source reported:

In the only public viewing, hundreds of thousands lined up in near-freezing temperatures to view the casket. Over the span of 18 hours, 250,000 people, some waiting for as long as 10 hours in a line that stretched 40 blocks up to 10 persons wide, personally paid their respects as Kennedy's body lay in state. Many of them were weeping when they viewed the bier. Capitol police officers politely reminded mourners to keep moving along in two lines that passed on either side of the casket and exited the building on the west side facing the National Mall.

That Monday was the first state funeral I had ever seen, and I guess the same applied to most folks. All of the pomp, ceremony, and precession had a lasting impact. And who can forget the image of John F. Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father’s casket while standing with his mother, uncle and sister?

I think we went back to school on Tuesday but I really don’t remember. I do remember that we followed the investigation, read all of the reports in the newspaper, discussed things in our classes even though it was off topic, and followed the coverage at home on TV. As the new year and second semester came, we turned our focus to college applications and preparing to graduate, but the shock never wore off.

Some things in our lives changed and there was a sadness that continued to prevail. With the firing of a bullet in Dallas, it was clear that superfluous stuff like a late afternoon French class became small potatoes. Life went on, but it was clear that Camelot died.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In recent weeks, you have heard two commentaries in support of a petition to create a civilian review board for our Chapel Hill police; today you will hear one opposed.

Mr. Barry Freeman said a board is needed because of the way he and his wife were treated by an officer while they were protesting the opening of the Army’s Career Center in December, 2006. I was there and observed a police officer politely ask the couple three times to put down their sign while on private property, or move to the public area where they could protest with their sign. They refused. The officer told them he would have to cuff and arrest them. They still refused and the officer did as he said he would do. I observed the officer exercising extreme care and courtesy. The Freemans, not the officer, displayed improper behavior.

During 2007, out of thousand and thousands of citizen contacts, the Chapel Hill Police Department received 26 citizen complaints and only one complaint was sustained. I fear that a citizen review board here is a solution looking for a problem because we already have several mechanisms. Also, it would take authority away from our chief to hold officers accountable for their actions in a timely and appropriate fashion, and it would make our force less effective. If we don’t think our chief can the job that we have asked him to do, we need to get a new chief.

Our officers have a very tough job, and they typically do it very well. If only all citizens upheld their responsibilities just as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

2008 ELECTION (WCHL Commentary)

Did you hear or even participate in the collective sigh of release on early Wednesday morning? People seemed happy that the 2008 election was finally over. After all, many believed that at every level the campaigns appeared to be swimming in the deepest end of the slime pool. We were tired of the charges, the counter charges, the attack ads, the robo-calls, and that so many candidates refused to deal with the issues that really concerned us.

But along with the sigh of relief many experienced feelings of extreme joy, ecstasy and delight over the outcome of the presidential election and the North Carolina governor’s race for what it says about us and America. We also heard some amazingly gracious concession speeches, and we heard many talking about what we as a nation, working together, could do when we pull together, regardless of party, race, sex, and economic condition. Good feelings, good words, and good aspirations, but it isn’t going to be easy!

On our local level, our leaders will face similar challenges during what will certainly be tough economic times ahead. Some of our days ahead could difficult, but it would sure be a waste if we squander any of our needed energy on the trivial and insignificant. I think many people really believe that hope won on Election Day.

President-elect Barak Obama laid it out well:
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get
there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

Let’s all come together right here and beyond to do our part to make it happen!