Thursday, July 31, 2008

My First Delegate Come-on

It's started.

Just got an invitation in the mail to a lobbyist event in Denver.

Reception, hors d'oeuvres, refreshments (alcohol?) at Coors Field
From none other than ....

The Mortgage Insurance Companies of America!!!!!

I'll post a list of those influence peddlers from time to time.

On Flip-Flopping

The New Republic has an incisive article about the shameless use of 'flip-flopping' as a Republican cudgel every Presidential campaign,.

The factual takeaways from the piece: Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama: All Flip-Floppers! Why The GOP Narrative Always Works are:

1. Obama is a politician. Surprise!

The alleged flip-floppiness of the Democratic nominee ... is a hardy perennial. Flip-flopping is a simple accusation that campaign reporters can sink their teeth into. Moreover, there's always grist for the accusation, because getting to the position of running for president without changing your stance on a few issues is essentially impossible.
2. McCain's flip-flopping is pathological
This is a man who, in his quest to make himself an acceptable GOP nominee, reversed his political philosophy (crusading anti-business progressive in the Teddy Roosevelt mode); his political orientation (frequently siding with, and nearly joining, Senate Democrats); and almost every particular undergirding it (taxes, the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, his own immigration bill, etc.). But if you actually think that flip-flopping is a sign of flawed character, and not just a handy partisan cudgel, then, sure, Obama might be slightly cynical, but McCain must be a dangerous sociopath.
For the extent of McCain's flip-flops, see Steve Benen's report: Jukebox John Keeps Changing his Tune -- now at 72 Flip-Flops and counting.

But the real problem is the relentless drumbeat by Republicans and media pundits about "knowing who the candidate really is". They relentlessly frame the debate around 'character' (which is always fungible) rather than issues -- a sure win for the Dems.

They don't need to prove anything and they make no effort to do so --all they need is to sow doubt.

OK, Obama, it's now up to you to prove:
-- you're not an elitist
-- you're not a superficial airhead like Brittany or Paris
-- you don't hate the troops
-- you're not anti-American
-- you're not a secret Islamo-fascist Muslim terrorist
-- You are not the one playing the race card

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

3 Reasons why it is Unthinkable NOT to Support Obama

1. ANY Democratic candidate will:
-- stick up more for working people
-- protect the environment and consumers
-- move us closer to universal health care
-- address income inequality
-- promote renewable energy
-- get us out of Iraq sooner and be less likely to lead us into any other war
-- restore the rule of law, human rights, and our moral leadership in the world
... than ANY Republican candidate.

Plus, there will literally 1000s of decisions by a new Democratic administration that won't get press coverage but will make a positive difference in our lives and the future of this planet:
-- decisions based on sound scientific evidence (for a change)
-- decisions based on the belief that government can work
-- decisions that will reign in special interests
-- decisions that recognize the need for a social safety net
-- decisions that provide a fairer distribution of benefits and responsibilities
-- decisions to hire competent people to make these decisions

2. Barack Obama isn't just ANY Democrat. He has the right stuff: a rare combination of intellect, eloquence, judgment, and natural grace. He makes it seem so easy that many people don't believe it. (And, yes, yes, I know he is far from perfect.)

However, to my mind, he demonstrated his sincerity and dedication with a single life decision: his choice after graduating from an Ivy League college (where he could have had his pick of lucrative, high-powered jobs) to commit his talents to working with the poor in Chicago’s housing projects and African-American churches. To have someone that smart and that accomplished, making that choice in the 80s when the rush was on for investment banking and similar get-rich-quick careers, was truly rare.

I’ve spent 40 years of my own life working in and on behalf of low income communities. The people I knew – the really sharp ones like Obama who made that kind of unconventional choice were extraordinary -- all of them. It is an unassailable sign of character to make such a commitment -- especially in those times when it was far from trendy.

Today, people seem all too willing to grab at any lie, deception, or distortion to convince themselves they are not being naive. But I'm convinced it is a very safe bet to assume that Obama is what he seems: a good person with intellect and vision; a patriot who wants the best for America.

3. The Supreme Court

Gonzo Politics 2008

I just saw an amazing film: Gonzo : the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson -- the drug crazed journalist and truthteller who chronicled the 60s like no one else.

I never appreciated Thompson's work. He seemed a bit extreme to me. However, the film was a revelation about the politics of those times which in many ways parallels our own. Hunter's pieces for Rolling Stone on Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 were especially astute.

I was struck by a comment by Gary Hart that critiqued Thompson and much of the Left for turning against McGovern in 1972 when things weren't going perfectly -- infantilizing (Hart's term and a good one) what needed to be a serious campaign.

Ok, rant coming:

What too many voters forget is that every campaign is about two flawed human beings contesting within the context of a entrenched and corrupt political system that's vastly bigger than either of them and endures beyond a President's term of office. The system is complex and many-tentacled and can never be 'fixed' -- only rebalanced to become a bit more fair. The really serious problems facing this country can not be fully solved -- only engaged. I accept that the political clout to make progress on both these fronts requires compromise.

I don't think that's cynical. It's a reality that those of us who are looking for political saviors (I include myself) need to keep in mind. The true cynics are those who find 3 or 4 or 5 things that disturb them and allow those few things to dash their dreams. It's a quick leap to bitterness and a profound sense of betrayal.

Obama's soaring rhetoric raised our expectations. And the higher the expectations, the greater the danger of a let down. And yes, I am not happy with some of Obama's recent choices. But there are 3 reasons why it is unthinkable for me NOT to support him. See my next post.

Meanwhile, do see Gonzo --especially those of you who experienced the 60s and are tired of seeing the era distorted. It's a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of cynicism and excess. It's a masterful film by filmmaker Alex Gibney who also directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side which won the 2007 Oscar for best documentary (well deserved).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Who's the one the public really needs to know better?

Unstable temperament, militaristic worldview, wanting in intellect and even basic geography. Who is the real John McCain?

Bob Herbert of the New York Times really nails it here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's More Important to be an American

Howard Dean was in Raleigh this morning speaking at Democratic Headquarters. It was the kind of speech which reminded me how proud I am to be a Democrat.

He was promoting the 'post-partisan' perspective that Obama espouses: It's more important to be an American than to be a Democrat or a Republican.

For eight years, George W. has been giving the finger to people like me and questioning my patriotism. Even if I won't be getting every bullet point on my progressive agenda, I see President Obama's effort to reach out and include all Americans as building a broader political consensus for the issues I consider most important: health care, tax fairness, energy, and environmental policies, and the War.

Dean was welcoming to
Evangelicals, promoted the DNC's 50-state strategy ("It's a sign of respect to ask people for their votes," and framed universal health care as a jobs program (witness the struggling auto industry responsible for employer-sponsored coverage), not just a human services issue.

He was pragmatic. I like pragmatic.

A few Deaniacs were there wistfully wearing their 2004 Dean T-shirts. Good people.

Paulette Hill has posted a YouTube video of the event here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

'Poor John'

Obama makes a flawless trip to the Middle East and Europe. Handles himself with dignity and intelligence at every stop. And the media is guilt tripped into commiserating aboout 'poor John McCain'. Poor John doesn't get the breaks. Poor John doesn't do photo ops well. Even the weather is against poor John (depriving him of a photo op on an oil rig).

Meanwhile, McCain makes gaffe after gaffe, screws up timelines, demonstrates that he doesn't understand the basics of the Middle East (repeatedly confusing Shite and Sunni), doesn't remember his own positions on Congressional votes, and flails away at Obama like a drunken boxer.

Obama hits a home run.

But, he has to keep proving himself over and over. And the bar keeps getting higher.

Meanwhile 'poor John' McCain is given a pass.

Fear and 'Egging' in North Raleigh

This is a cautionary tale about stereotypes and jumping to negative conclusions. And the primary culprit in this tale is ... me.

I hosted our precinct meeting earlier this week at my home -- cocooned off a safe suburban cul-de-sac in North Raleigh.

I would call the meeting a success: 16 people, enthusiasm about holding a meet 'n greet this Fall, lots of volunteering, constructive suggestions, thoughtful questions, and good cooperation from Taylor, the local Obama field organizer.

The trouble started when Taylor knocked on our door after the meeting to report his car windshield had been 'egged'. ( see above). Plus somehow an apple had been smashed and added to the mix. The eggs looked brown and fresh. We helped him clean enough off to drive to a car wash, but I was perplexed and embarrassed. We've lived here 11 years and have had zero problems, He had a Obama sign on his car. Could this be have been politically-motivated?

The plot darkened the next evening when our neighbors down the street with an Obama sign in their front yard reported they returned home to find their door 'egged" as well.

Immediately I jumped to conclusions:
"Those %(@&%$ right-wingers! They are starting early with their dirty campaign tricks. We are in for it this season. I had just put out my Obama sign. How long before it would be vandalized? stolen? How soon before our house would be 'egged'. "
I had envisioned Obama signs sprouting throughout the neighborhood. Wouldn't folks be afraid now? Heck. Now, even I was bit nervous now..

A friend suggested it should be reported to the police. "We need to establish a pattern of political mischief"

I was full of conspiracy theories and righteous indignation.

The next day more of the story emerged. It seems that the same night our Obamaite neighbors were egged, so were my next door neighbors -- good, solid Republicans. They made a subtle inquiry to other neighbors with previously well-behaved, but now energetic, pre-adolescent boys. Seems they live next door to a woman who keeps New Hampshire chickens. And that breed lays .. what else? Brown eggs.

Any way, the boys owned up to the pranks and the father (yes, a Republican) was red-faced and made the kids apologize and clean up the mess. Everyone said "no big deal."

So, the mystery was solved, the neighbors (Democrats and Republicans alike) all behaved like good neighbors should, and no harm done.

Except, I learned a lesson about my own biases. And the sad thing was: those biases grabbed hold so easily.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Profile of a Precinct

This is my 5th year as chair of 'lucky' Precinct 07-11 in North Raleigh. In our first meeting in 2004, we could barely find the minimum 5 people to officially organize. Most of us felt isolated in what we perceived was a vast, suburban Republican sea. People were afraid to talk politics. "You wouldn't by any chance be a Democrat?", whispered one neighbor after a stimulating discussion about affordable housing and a kvetch session on chain restaurants.

But 2004 was a motivating year. When we managed to get 60 Kerry-Edwards signs posted in yards all over our precinct, people realized they were not alone and began to come out of their Democratic 'closet'.

After 2 years we had a well oiled machine with 25 active volunteers and an e-mail list of over 100 households. One volunteer designed a logo for us (see above) which went on coffee mugs and cups which we sold and included in welcome packets for new Democrats in the neighborhood. Another published a precinct newsletter.

We organized an annual Meet-the-Candidates event each year. Every year I've been frantic that no one will show up, but they have all been well attended. One year we held an ice cream social. It rained but we tattooed our logo on our arms and giggled a lot. There was no scarcity of food at our events and our teams of poll greeters chat and bond on election day.

Then at the end of last year, it mostly fell apart. The vice-chair who was a committed and energetic partner emigrated to Canada with his family (in part, to experience a more sane political environment in contrast to Bush's America). A number of other active volunteers moved.

And as I contacted the once motivated Democrats, I was confronted with the whole range of human sorrows and afflictions: cancer and reoccurences of cancer, MS, hip replacements, mental illness, alzsheimers, people suffering with constant pain, surgeries and more surgeries and mysterious illnesses that some chose to keep private. Some couples became full time care-givers to relatives with debilitating illnesses. Others devoted all their spare time to their children who were struggling in school or had emotional difficultues. Still others had ever more demanding jobs, traveled extensively, and were clearly stressed with long hours and unreasonable deadlines. Most everyone was stretched for time, After one set of calls, I almost cried at the variety and burdens of human misery. And I am aware that my neighbors comprise a solid, middle class demographic. How this misery index would be magnified in poor and largely minority communities, I can scarcely imagine.

But this historic election has raised the political pulse.

We're building up again --slowly. At our planning meeting in April, only 4 people showed up, but tonight we're trying again and have over 20 RSVPs. The Obama field organizer for our area will be joining us along with a young Obama Fellow I was delighted to learn lives in our precinct.

Some stats about precinct 07-11:
1. With only 1206 registered voters, we are the 11th smallest precinct in the county (198 precincts in total).
2. The party affiliation breaks down like this: Dems: 502, Reps: 423, Unaffiliated: 281. Most Dems were blown away to learn we were actually in the majority here. But this is the classic North Carolina model precinct. In 2004, our democratic Governor Mike Easley won handily here, but so did Bush.
3. We are relatively active voters. In the recent run-off election for Labor Commissioner, we had a voter turn-out of 5.9% which actually was 16th best in the county.

I'm eager to see how it all goes tonight. I'll be reporting.

And watch for the best brownie recipe ever -- a thank-you gift from a volunteer to our poll greeters on primary day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Still Flying High...

I realize that I have been writing here about a wide range of issues - willy nilly, but little about the delegate experience -- or what this blog is supposed to be about. So, let me share -- as they say.

I have to admit that for me, this delegate thing is a big deal. These months feel something like that magical time between my engagement and wedding. Dreams fulfilled. Heady plans to make. Well-wishers. Being the center of attention at times which can also be a bit uncomfortable. A few minor shadows, too, like the loss of my balloon fantasy.

I keep running into my fellow wake county delegates elected with me at the District 13 convention -- John Verdejo, Lisa Hooker, Mark Ezell, and Mary Starkey ( r -l on photo in the upper right of this blog) at various Obama functions. We ask each other , "Feet touched the ground, yet?" The answer is always the same. "Nope."

The reaction from friends and political acquaintances has been wonderful: broad smiles, hugs, and high 5s. Everyone says they will look out for me, but I'm barely 5 feet tall. "Wear a silly hat", they say. So, I'll be packing a selection from old CISCO conventions my husband Bernie (an IBM engineer) attended over the years (photos to follow). IBMers don't seem to have conventions of their own and if they did, they wouldn't wear silly hats.

A few people requested I use this opportunity to send a message at the convention, One of neighbors suggested I wave a sign with a shout out to my local precinct 'lucky' 07-11. An old work colleague gave me her 'John Edwards is my Homeboy' button to wear. I would if I could, but I strongly suspect that we will have a dress and button and silly hat code, be marched in, handed pre-made signs, told when to wave them, and marched out again.

During the delegate meeting at the state convention in New Bern, I came to the realization that fundamentally, we will be bit players in a TV spectacle. I guess I knew that and I hope it's not quite as bad as all that and that all creativity and freedom of expression isn't squelched. I visualize that famous Apple 1984 commercial Well, we'll see.

Still, I'm flying high and I'm still bringing those hats.

Why Liberals are Menschen

A Mensch is a Yiddish word that signifies a good person -- more like a 'real human being'. I like to use Yiddish words -- in part because my mother used them, but also because they invoke the world of my ancestors and a kind of 'wholeness' in their way of thinking that I admire -- a mix of wisdom, humor, keen powers of observation, and a strong hold on reality. There is really no plural in English, but menschen is the plural form in Yiddish/ German and it will have to do.

There are many dimensions to being a mensch, but the one that resonates most strongly for me is empathy -- an ability and natural tendency to put oneself in another's shoes. In the Crossfire style of discussion and debate that our media loves to promote, empathy is a missing element. To my mind, empathy -- a sign of weakness in the mind of most conservatives today (see George Lakoff's work), is the key difference between the liberal and conservative mindset.

It's what I love about liberals -- their ability to imagine themselves into the interior lives of other people.

Two examples struck me recently. We just lost two powerful adversaries: Tony Snow and Jesse Helms --both aggressive right-wing warriors . These pieces struck as reflecting the best of the liberal sensibility:

Elizabeth Edwards 's article in Newsweek on Tony Snow: Common Cause .

John Paul Womble's (a local AIDS activist) comment in the Independent on the passing of Helms. I loathed Helms and appreciate all the other observations from progressives in this article, but Womble's comments touched my soul.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bye Bye New Yorker

Just cancelled my subscription.

Sorta sad since I admire David Remnick, the editor and think they feature some of the most responsible journalists writing today. But this time they crossed the line.

Steamed at the Media. Part 1

After the shameful New Yorker cover this week (and many other examples) , I'm furious about the reckless role the media plays in undermining our democracy.

Bill Moyers, one of my heroes, keeps a keen eye on the declining state of responsible journalism. If you aren't watching his weekly Bill Moyers Journal on PBS , you should be. It's on UNC-TV Fridays at 11:00 pm.

His article Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column? tells a bitter story.

This article was adapted from Bill Moyers’ keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis this June. You can view the full speech on YouTube.

I attended one of the Media Reform conferences in St. Louis a few years back. A powerful experience! Media reform underlies every problem progressives want to tackle because corporate-dominated journalism won't permit substantive discussion of the real challenges facing this country. It doesn't help their bottom-line.

I shudder. It's only going to get worse.

I want balloons!!!

No. This won't happen.

I must admit that my dream of the intimate little tete-a-tete I had envisioned with Barack on the last night of the convention has been dashed.

Now that the speech has been opened to the 'rabble' in the 75,000 seat open air Invesco Field I am completely bummed.

Worse than sharing him with the crowds, worse than sitting for hours in an open air football stadium in August, is the idea of losing out on the massive balloon release experience. What will they do? Drop them from helicopters?

Waaa! I want my balloons!!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blown Away / 3 ways this campaign is different

WoW! That's all I can say. This was an Obama night for me (2 meetings and a conference call) and I came away so very impressed.

As I get more connected with the Obama operation here, the web site, and the delegate minders in Chicago, I am awed by the genuine differences I see between this and any other campaign I've encountered.

I see 3 ways the Obama campaign represents a new politics:

1. The most immediate difference is in tone. Other campaigns have been largely composed of cocky, self=important young snips. (Yep. Showing my age). Everyone, and I mean everyone I've run into in the Obama campaign has been polite, respectful, and listens (or at least appears to). They all seem to have been though Community Organizing 101 training and have absorbed it well.

2. The second difference is in the commitment to collaboration. The county party stalwarts were sitting in disbelief to hear that the Obama team will be merging with the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP)(and possibly the Perdue {Gov} and Hagan {Senate} campaigns as well) to form a new group -- something like the "Campaign for Change -- a project of the NCDP". One noted that in 2004 the Kerry-Edwards folks were in the same building and never even talked to us. And from what I've learned their support extends down ticket as well -- even to the soil and water conservation candidates. How refreshing!

3. The third difference is vision. Obama's approach seems to be focused not just on winning, but on building a constituency for governing. He won't be able to make headway against the special interests unless he has the bulk of the American people squarely behind him. So, his focus is not just on getting folks to contribute to the campaign financially and with their time and energy; he also wants them to feel a sense of ownership of the future -- with him and with each other. This is for the long term.

It's a 'bottom-up' strategy that people like me who have worked on the ground in low and modest income communities can fully appreciate. The whole approach is smart, inclusive, participatory, and focuses on action, rather than talk. And people who have been burned out by politics in the past, are now ready to make a difference.

At the risk of seeming too gushy, this is the politics of my dreams

Friday, July 11, 2008

And then, there is the FISA vote.

Well, it's time to turn off the gush spigot and voice my dismay at Obama's vote in favor of the deeply flawed FISA bill. I think it's wrong -- substantively, ethically, and politically.

On substance: A real constitutional lawyer -- the thoughtful Glenn Greenwald comments here .

On ethics: The American Constitution was trashed and everyone who had a role in that travesty should be held accountable.

On politics: Obama has forfeited a priceless treasure that he can never fully regain: trust. Fewer volunteers. Less impassioned. Crushed dreams. Feeling of betrayal.

But, I fully agree with Greenwald that:
Having said all of that, the other extreme -- declaring that Obama is now Evil Incarnate, no better than John McCain, etc. etc. -- is no better. Obama is a politician running for political office, driven by all the standard, pedestrian impulses of most other people who seek and crave political power. It's nothing more or less than that, and it is just as imperative today as it was yesterday that the sickly right-wing faction be permanently removed from power and that there is never any such thing as the John McCain Administration (as one commenter ironically noted yesterday, at the very least, Obama is far more likely to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will rule that the bill Obama supports is patently unconstitutional).

And I find this op-ed by Gail Collins and this comment, too (despite the wooly right brain-left brain analogy), worth considering.

So, yes, in the end, I am a loyal Obama foot soldier. I am pissed, but not betrayed. It doesn't make sense to put any politician on a pedestal. More on this later.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blog Confessions

This is the real deal about this blog --my first.

I committed to doing a blog when I ran for delegate. I truly wanted to share my experiences with Democrats throughout North Carolina who wouldn't have the opportunity to go to Denver. I know I would want to know the "skinny"-- what it truly looked and felt and sounded and even smelled like. But... here is my confession: I hate to write.

Writing has always been a struggle for me. I envy people whose thoughts flow out of their fingertips onto the page (now the screen). Even though I am a fat, short person without much money or talent (truly in all honesty), if there is one thing I would have wished for in my life, it would be fluency : the ability to write with "eloquence: powerful and effective language."

So, writing this blog is not easy for me. It's way outside my comfort zone. Expect to find me whining about this from time to time.

In the Loop

Suddenly, the Obama campaign has discovered me. I'd been in informational limbo. Yesterday I received an e-mail from Khalil Thompson from the Chicago headquarters who is apparently responsible for the care and feeding of the NC delegation.

There are all kinds of goodies: A blog for delegates, a conference call this evening, a survey to fill out to detail our issues, concerns, and special interests, and the promise of a personal phone call sometime soon. It feels good to be in the loop finally.

And this evening I have to balance a conflict between 2 political events: a county democratic party precinct organizing meeting and an Obama meeting for my state house district.

And my little secret: I'm a meeting junkie -- so this is a good dilemma to have.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Finally! NC is in the Game.

In recent years, North Carolinians have watched Presidential races from the sidelines -- knowing that campaign budgets for TV ads and national staffs and ya know, the important stuff were being spent in the battleground states. While we were purplish at the state level -- one of the few if not the only southern state with a Democratic governer and (mostly) Democratic control of our legislative -- we have voted solidly red at the Presidential level since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Suddenly the Obamacrats have landed and we are lovin' the attention. From what we heard, there are 11 staffed regions in the state. Our region (Wake and 2 outlying counties) constitutes only about half the Triangle. There will be 7 paid staff and gobs of bright Obama fellows --just for this region. Serious stuff!

And what makes me tingle with pleasure is the stated commitment to collaboration up and down the Democratic ticket. That's so cool!

Lesson #1

I must admit that I have been on the edges of the Obama campaign. I signed onto the Obama web site months ago, but never understood why they never remembered me on the site. Duh! I had to go to Once I did that I signed up for local and national groups and now ...
"le deluge" (inbox filling up with pleas for donations, talking points, invites to events, and misc. stuff).

I keep learning new things about the campaign's online strategy. I'll share these lessons from time to time. Today, I see that there are armies of political foot-soldiers fighting for control of Internet web sites like . Digg rates the importance of news stories by either saving or burying them. The operatives send out a digest of stories every day and our marching orders are to save or bury them more furiously than the "enemy". C'est le guerre!

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Mother, My Model

Serving as a delegate to the Democratic convention is a dream come true. I fantasized about this since I was a lonely politics-obsessed kid. Some background:

My mother and I, both isolated with mainly each other for company, talked about politics nonstop during the Presidential campaigns of the 50s and 60s. My father was deaf and worked 12 hours a day on our farm near Danville, Virginia. He was a refugee from Hitler's murderous regime in Austria and my mother had grown up on New York's lower east side. I am a real anomaly: a southern, Jewish farm girl. How did our family end up on a chicken farm surrounded by southern Baptists? That's a long story for another time.

My mother proudly called herself a "liberal" while disdaining the communists she met in NY who she deemed "manipulative" and not to be trusted. There were no progressive groups to join and the Democratic Party in Virginia was the only viable party in the state -- firmly in the grip of arch conservative Sen. Harry Byrd. We were 5 miles from town and my mother didn't drive.

In that environment, my mother did what she could -- talking around our kitchen table or on occasional visits to the nearby farmers, tradespeople, and laborers (when my father could take time from his chores to drive us). In the midst of long chats about the fickle weather, illness, money woes, and family history, people would drop the "N" word and that was my mother's signal to quietly raise the topic of "integration". She was always respectful -- invoking what we now call "talking points" from the Bible and local economic or political realities. But most of all, she appealed to people's simple decency and compassion for those who worked hard like themselves. She didn't change minds, the prejudices were too ingrained for that. Still, she made some people think a bit and I am convinced softened some attitudes.

And there were similar discussions on issues like government help for farmers and what was then called "socialized medicine" of which she was a stong proponent.

When I hear the adolescent, smart alecky, vituperative, tone of today's political arguments --both with our opponents and even worse -- intra-party, I remember her style-- the slow, careful, always deferential cultivation of those on the other side of a social or political argument. I aspire to that, but as you'll probably see if you take this blog journey with me, I expect I'll fall far short.