Out and About (Sort of): Call to Action is Urgent by Howard Freedlander

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The Under Armour slogan, “Protect This House,” aptly characterizes the current campaign to fight the Trump Administration’s proposed cut of $73 million for continued cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is the beating heart of Maryland. It requires constant attention. Keeping it alive despite relentless pollution warrants critical, if not acute care.

The bay, the largest estuary in the United States, provides measurable commercial and invaluable recreation opportunities for millions of residents in the Maryland-Pennsylvania-Virginia-Delaware region. Its upkeep is impossible without federal dollars.

It daily undergoes a stress test. In recent years, due largely to an expansive—and, yes, controversial cleanup based upon an oft-distasteful “pollution diet”—the bay has experienced a steady reduction in nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that rob it of oxygen and destroy recreation and industry.

Ignoring slightly the emotional and cultural impact of a body of water that runs through the veins of those of us fortunate enough to live so closely to this generous force of nature, we residents of the Eastern Shore absolutely must fight hard to ensure that the Trump Administration’s intention to strike the $73 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget is a silly figment of a bean-counter’s mean-spirited imagination.

An argument that the state of Maryland, along with five other states and the District of Columbia in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, should shoulder the cost of improving and preserving the Bay’s fragile health ignores the federal government’s important role in forcing cooperation among independent-minded states lacking the financial means to fix a complex ecosystem.

EPA’s compulsory pollution diet, prescribed in 2010–and including the requirement of updated stormwater systems–upset local municipalities. It seemed unfair. It required local expenditures. It set deadlines. EPA understood that the Chesapeake Bay’s health could not survive on questionable and half-hearted life support. Immediate action was the cure.

While it’s true that a President’s budget document is merely a blueprint typically shunted aside by Congress, it nonetheless provides unmistakable insight into the thinking and priorities of an administration. Therefore, it cannot be ignored.
It calls for action.

I feel confident that Maryland’s congressional delegate will coalesce to oppose destruction of the embattled Chesapeake Bay. I feel confident that the argument for preservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay resonates in the halls of Congress, resulting in bi-partisan support of, and commitment to a future marked by abundant harvest of Blue crabs and the increasing health of long-endangered oysters. I trust my optimism is justified.

As stated in a March 22, 2017 editorial in The Washington Post, “It (Bay revival) will take a concerted political effort and public pressure to recover the funds eliminated in the administration’s proposed budget. It is critical that they succeed.”
The future of our Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay are inextricably connected. As they must be.

If we care about the bay, then we must speak up. We must “Protect This House”(substitute “Bay”), to echo the assertive Under Armour slogan.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Tubman Museum Captures Relentless Determination by Howard Freedlander

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For 45 minutes I felt transfixed by a museum exhibit focused entirely on a simple, driven black woman who refused to accept the scourge of slavery as an impenetrable part of American life in the mid-19th century. Through guile and gumption, in the 1850s, she helped 70 people flee the Eastern Shore for freedom in the north.

By now, many of us have learned how “Tubman ensconced herself in the anti-slavery networks in Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, where she found respect and the financial support she needed to pursue her private war against slavery on the Eastern Shore,” according to Dr. Kate Clifford Larsen, author of Bound for the Promised Land, a biography about Harriet Tubman.

In her shrewd use of Underground Railroad; this extraordinary woman used disguises; depended on reliable people who hid her; walked, rode horses and used wagons; sailed on boats and rode on trains; used certain songs to mark danger or safety; used letters written for her by others to send to trusted allies as well as personal communication; bribed people; followed rivers coursing their way north; used the stars and other natural means to lead her north and had faith in her instincts and God to support her crusade.

For me, the museum bore similarities to the much larger and more complex United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I’ll explain.

For several minutes, I sat on a bench at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek in Dorchester County. Seated with me was a bronze statue of Harriet Tubman, as I listened to people like the Civil Rights-era icon and United States Congressman, John Lewis, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and others commend Tubman. It was funny, but I kept looking at the statue, engrossed in the moment, moved by the inanimate object on the bench.

Strange emotions can overcome you, unexpectedly.

As I sat on the bench, I remembered visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum, sitting in an unadorned room and listening to the “voices of Auschwitz.” I was equally moved by the power of the moment. I didn’t expect to be so utterly engaged.

The Holocaust Museum chronicles horrendous mental and physical slavery, unprecedented depravity and enormous, senseless death. American slaves died too, often at the hands of their merciless masters, or from malnutrition. Deaths of slaves didn’t matter, except to their families.

The voices that emanated from a small video at the Tubman Visitor Center—and the beautifully designed and somber exhibits– portrayed steel-like courage—and described a person who refused to be shackled by an inhumane system prevalent in our young country. Harriet Tubman set an example with no intention to do so.

Still fixated on the nexus between the slavery that stained our freedom-loving nation and Hitler’s systematic campaign to eradicate Jews, I believe that plantations too were work camps that forcibly and cruelly employed and repressed untold numbers of African-Americans. Life on plantations stilled spirits and deterred dreams.

While plantations may not have had prison-like barbed wire fences, the barriers for escape were invisible and insidious. Those who escaped faced death and persecution. They were considered mere chattel.

Harriet Tubman had incalculable willpower. Once her days as an invaluable conductor for the Underground Railroad ended, she served as a nurse, scout, cook and spy for the Union forces during the Civil War. She even participated with 150 black Union soldiers of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment in the Combahee River operation to destroy several estates owned by leading secessionists and free roughly 750 people. One of the more powerful exhibits captures this dangerous mission.

Living eventually in Auburn, NY, Tubman became involved in suffrage and civil rights activism.

Often an impatient visitor to museums, I found the Tubman visitors center soul-searchingly absorbing. I highly recommend it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Self-Righteous? You Judge by Howard Freedlander

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In recent weeks, I read about the reprimand of Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County for ethical misjudgment.

Then, I read about bribery charges brought against former Delegate Michael Vaughn of Prince George’s for actions during his stint in the Maryland General Assembly.

And, of course, I constantly read about ethics concerns raised about President Trump and his business interests.

And, as a former deputy treasurer for Maryland, I recoil with disgust. I question the behavior by some to the obligations of public service. I wonder why good people do stupid things. Just human nature? I guess those two words cover a wide range of misdeeds.

Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County

Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County

While I certainly don’t ascribe to the frequent refrain that politicians are just crooks—in fact, the comment is patently untrue—I do understand why this conclusion may seem apt in light of disturbing headlines.

I will focus my ire at Del. Morhaim, whom I knew as a serious, conscientious legislator and one of the few medical doctors in the Maryland General Assembly. I worked with him a bit on procurement matters, which typically were remarkable for their dryness and lack of attention paid them by most legislators.

So what did Morhaim do that drew a reprimand by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics? While promoting legislation and then regulations concerning the medical use of marijuana, he signed a consulting contract with one of the vendors seeking a license to sell cannabis in Maryland. He failed to disclose his consulting contract to the very commission responsible for establishing regulations for a new statewide industry.

The ethics committee’s wording, though cumbersome, stated that “his belief that he could keep his role as a legislator, advocating for the implementation of policy and regulations for the use of medical cannabis, separate from his position as a paid consultant for a company seeking to entire the medical cannabis business, reflects poor judgment to the detriment of the broader interests of the public and other government officials who work with legislators, bringing disrepute and dishonor to the General Assembly.”

Morhaim issued a three-page apology. His defense was that while he followed the letter, he failed to follow the spirit of the law He wrote, “I did not recognize the public perception that might be associated by my speaking before the Cannabis Commission on regulatory issues, even if they were detrimental to my client’s interests. For this, I apologize.”

I find his comment lame and unsettling.

What bothers me is Del. Morhaim’s belated recognition that perception is reality, particularly in politics. The appearance of an ethical transgression or poor judgment can be just as destructive as the act itself. That’s a well-known fact.

In my opinion, the responsibility to develop and retain the public’s trust in the conduct of public business supersedes all else. You lose that trust; you lose the opportunity to be an effective public servant. You operate under a cloud. Your peers know if you are ethically flawed. Your constituents eventually discover your fallibility and choose to entrust someone else with their faith.

What bothers me also is the willingness of a public official to delegate common sense to the ethics counsel. Yes, I fully understand that the ethics office exists to counsel and advise. But it shouldn’t provide a cover for questionable behavior. I believe that responsible legislators, whether on the local or state or federal level, instinctively know or sense when an action or decision bumps up against acceptable and trustworthy behavior.

My dictum as a public servant: if in doubt, don’t.

A caveat is necessary. Citizen-legislators as we have in Maryland, as opposed to their full time contemporaries in Congress, face frequent conflicts and conundrums. As a citizen-doctor, Morhaim had pushed hard for 15 years for the medical use of marijuana. He believed in its need, as do others.

Delegate Morhaim, however, crossed the line. He besmirched his excellent reputation. He damaged his credibility.

Further, he propagated an unfair but prevalent image of public officials. Democracy suffers when the public believes the worst.

Perception is a tough, unrelenting judge.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Togetherness amid Tragedy by Howard Freedlander

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On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, I escaped the pre-game hoopla for a memorial service at American Legion Post #70 in Easton to pay homage to the “Four Chaplains” who died as the U.S.A.T. Dorchester sunk in the frigid North Atlantic waters off the coast of Greenland.

The story about the Four Chaplains, though well known, poignantly underscores cherished values of faith, unity, courage and selflessness. Little wonder that this touching tale continues to resonate.

Carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers, the 5,649-ton vessel, once a luxury coast liner converted into an Army transport ship, the Dorchester was steaming from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. Officers knew that German U-boats were a constant threat; several ships had already been struck and sunk by German torpedoes.

And so that too was the Dorchester’s unfortunate fate.

Hit about 1 a.m. on the starboard side, amid ship, far below the waterline, this packed transport ship took on water, rapidly sinking in less than 20 minutes. The icy seas became a grave for 672 men in the wee hours of Feb. 3, 1943.

Panic consumed the ship as men jumped from the ship into rafts, some capsizing due to overcrowding. Death was a stark reality.

Lt. George L, Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic) and Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed) became heroes by offering prayers, a sense of calm and help for those seeking the safety of lifeboats. They distributed life jackets to men trying to escape a doomed ship.

At this point, the chaplains did something remarkable: they removed their own life jackets and gave them to the men. Then, as the ship went down, the four chaplains linked arms, according to survivors, and offered prayers

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 7.52.56 AMA prayer read in the stillness of the American Legion spoke beautifully about the “unity that transcends all our differences and makes us one in loyalty to our country and our fellow men and to you, our God…may we remain faithful to the spirit of our Four Chaplains who, having learned to live and serve together, in death were not divided.”

This story has many overriding themes, all tied to the best in us. Crises have a way of doing that. Tragedy begets goodness, in most instances.

The four chaplains cared nothing about the religious preferences of the men whom they helped. Differences in liturgy and faith were irrelevant. What did matter to them were their faith in God; their lives belonged to a higher power, one that superseded the calamities and tragedies imposed by war.

Their arms linked in unity on a rapidly sinking ship, Reverend Fox, Rabbi Goode, Father Washington and Reverend Poling exemplified ultimate selflessness and uncommon courage amid chaos and certain death. They remained loyal to each other—and their devotion to the desperate men fighting for their lives on a dark, freezing night.

As the U.S.A.T. Dorchester sank, these four young clergymen raised themselves in the eyes and hearts of the survivors who watched in disbelief and admiration from their lifeboats.

Were this a thankfully short sermon, instead of a weekly column, I would tie the overarching themes of sacrifice, faith, unity and courage to our everyday lives. I would stand on my imaginary soapbox and plead for the application of these enduring values to our body politic.

But I won’t. It’s not necessary. It would seem preachy, maybe even a bit pompous.

The “Four Chaplains” story stands on its own human and spiritual foundation. Its lessons are clear to any of us who believe that goodness and grace mark our lives. In a communal tragedy—such as 9/11—we pull together and amass our collective strength and empathy, at least briefly.

As organized mayhem and tasty nachos awaited me, during our national paean to sports and physical dominance called the Super Bowl, I took a welcome, early afternoon respite to pay tribute to four men who died 74 years ago in the icy North
Atlantic waters during World War II. They were heroes of the highest order.

Their story is a powerful one. Their story touches your soul.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Day 1 -Trump Undone by Howard Freedlander

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On my way to writing a different column, I learned again on Day 1 of the Trump Administration that truth is a terrible distraction to the spanking new President. Nothing new, really.

Our new President takes narcissism and insecurity to new heights. If held accountable to facts, he feels insulted and disrespected. The real world is an unpleasant circumstance. Nothing new, really.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, his first full day as leader of the Free World, Mr. Trump disputed the number of attendees at his inauguration the day before, despite visual evidence, and claimed that his feud with the nation’s intelligence community was a creation of the “dishonest” media, despite evidence of his tweets during the transition period damning the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At a January 2017 news conference, he even charged U.S. intelligence officials with conducting a Nazi-like smear against him

What was sorely lacking on Day 1 was even a scintilla of substance.

Instead, our new President appeared before the CIA’s Memorial Wall of heroes and said nothing about the brave people whose names are listed on this hallowed wall. As is his annoying and self-serving custom, Mr. Trump demeaned the audience by citing his war with the media over the number of people who attended his swearing-in. While he expressed strong support of CIA employees—and that was commendable—he failed again to focus entirely on the subject at hand.

It was during his remarks that Mr. Trump ascribed the ill will between him and the intelligence community to the hateful media.

So, what we saw during the Presidential campaign and the tweet-filled transition will be a mind-boggling staple of the Trump reign of power. The “you, “the American people, whom he addressed repeatedly during his inaugural speech, was merely a rhetorical device. His self-preoccupation underscores his being. Nothing new, really.

The first of 1,460 days of occupancy of the White House by the highly-flawed Donald J. Trump was actually an incredible and historic one not only in Washington, DC and throughout the world. The Women’s March the past Saturday illustrated the power of peaceful protest in a strong democracy.
Family members and friends descended on the nation’s Capital to proclaim their objections to Mr. Trump’s documented behavior toward, and comments about women.

Crowds exceeded expectations in Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Juneau, Alaska, London, Paris, Melbourne, Australia and other cities.
Maybe that’s why Mr. Trump was mad. His words and behavior possibly have spurred a movement. That would be ironic. He constantly boasts of the movement that his candidacy spawned.

It’s because I have to accept the truth—that Donald Trump’s boorish behavior, his paper-thin skin, his incessant self-glorification and his alarming lack of personal and intellectual depth will most likely not yield to Presidential growth—that I write this column. It’s human to expect the best.

Some might ask: what did you expect? Some might assert: he never indicated he would change his garish stripes. Some might say: this authenticity is what got him elected. He’s a change agent, some might argue, and you better accept that reality.

Further, some might suggest that I and others should give the billionaire businessman a chance. After all, he just was sworn in. He needs time to adjust to the demands and laser-like scrutiny that accompanies his exalted position.

If past is precedent, our 70-year-old President sees little need to change. He won the election, and that’s all that matters.

I suspect that impeachment will shadow, if not end the presidency of Donald Trump. Bound by his own rules and standards of conduct, he likely will step over the legal and ethical lines. He will find that utter service to himself does not translate into service to his fellow Americans.

Day I brought out the worst in Mr. Trump. We can only hope for the best—whatever that is.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): 90 Days Matter by Howard Freedlander

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Some years ago, former Congressman Bob Bauman, a Talbot County resident who once represented the First Congressional District, quipped that the American people were always in trouble when Congress was in session. The sharp-tongued United States representative used self-deprecation to describe democracy and the oft-criticized actions of our 535 federal legislators.

Rep. Bauman used humor to portray himself as a fiscal conservative who might not be as dangerous in budgetary matters as his associates.
I’ve often thought about Bauman’s crowd-pleasing comment when the Maryland General Assembly meets for its annual 90-day session. The 2017 session began last Wednesday, Jan. 11 and adjourns at midnight on Monday, April 10. Then, the 188 state legislators leave their “mischief” and return home.

Having worked with our state legislature for a large part of my career, I view our delegates and senators as public servants seriously conscientious about enacting legislation helpful to their constituents. I well understand that some disagree with me and question the value and motives of our state legislators.

I don’t. In fact, I would urge all citizens to watch what happens in Annapolis for three months.

Why do 90 days matter in our state capital?

Budget decisions affect the money going to our public school system. That’s critically important. New school construction and renovations only happen with state funds.

Non-profit capital projects in Talbot County and the Mid-Shore receive dollars due to the largesse of state legislators and the governor.

Money for new roads and bridges result from budget decisions made in Annapolis.

In this session, the General Assembly will decide whether to fund a study of a third Chesapeake Bay span. That’s unquestionably important decision for those who favor as well oppose expansion.

New rules and regulations concerning environmental matters and the health of the Chesapeake Bay are directly tied to legislative actions.

Funding for Program Open Space affects the preservation of farms and forests on the Eastern Shore.

There are so many issues that I haven’t mentioned, such as law enforcement, economic development, health care, higher education and workplace conditions, that fall under the purview of the Maryland General Assembly.

Does politics, both local, regional and state, play a role in the final products of an often divisive legislative session? Of course it does. It always has and always will. It’s the nature of the process.

Though our national epidemic of political polarization has infected deliberations in Annapolis, I believe it’s a little less pronounced, a little less poisonous. That’s my take, perhaps a bit naively.

We are now in the third year of the Hogan Administration. Typically, the Republicans and Democrats begin to position themselves for the 2018 gubernatorial and legislative elections. At times, deliberations over bills and policies resemble a slugfest.

The political environment will likely become toxic at times. Gov. Hogan will face off against Senate President Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch. The public will watch either with interest and glee or despair and disgust.

Your perspective depends on your political bent.

I recommend that citizens closely observe the machinations of our General Assembly. Bills passed and killed all have impact. They matter to individual and interest groups.

This column is not intended to be a clarion call for civic engagement. It’s meant to inform readers that the 90-days session has significant implications for all of us.

Notwithstanding former Congressman Bauman’s admonition, I recommend vigilance—and participation. Even a dash of admiration.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): White House Messages Give Us Pause by Howard Freedlander

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Often times, others’ words carry more meaning than ours. I thought, therefore, that Christmas messages issued over the years by some of our U.S. Presidents might be appropriate for this column.

Amid World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who began the tradition of Christmas words for the nation, said on Dec. 24, 1944, “…sad and anxious thoughts will be continually with the millions of our loved ones who are suffering hardships and misery, and who are risking their very lives to preserve for us and for all mankind the fruits of His teachings and the foundations of civilization itself.” The scourge of Adolph Hitler was coming to an end.

During a time of peace and prosperity, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, lighting the National Community Christmas Tree on Dec. 24, 1953, said: “Tonight, richly endowed in the good things of the earth, in the fellowship of our neighbors and the love of our families, would it not be fitting for each of us to speak in prayer to the Father of all men and women on this earth, of whatever nation, and of every race and creed—to ask that He help us—and teach us—and strengthen us—and receive our thanks.”

Again during war, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a Christmas message to Americans in Vietnam on Dec. 23, 1964, said, “In every generation the burden of protecting liberty has fallen to a few stouthearted men. We Americans celebrate this holy season because our forebears had the courage, the determination, the will to sacrifice, that was equal to the challenges before them.’

In his Christmas message on Dec. 24, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford struck a decidedly upbeat tone during a period of political turmoil when he said: “The spirit of Christmas is ageless, irresistible and knows no barriers. It reaches out to add a glow to the humblest of homes and the stateliest of mansions. It catches up saint and sinner alike in its warm embrace. It is the season to be jolly—but to be silent and prayerful as well.”

President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the nation on Dec. 23, 1981, about Christmas and the uprising in Poland, said: “Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for another.”

On Dec. 20, 1995, in observance of Christmas, President Bill Clinton said about the Christmas story: “…This Child was born into poverty in a city too crowded to offer Him shelter. He was sent to a region whose people had endured suffering, tyranny, and exile. And yet this Child brought with Him riches so great that they continue to sustain the human spirit two thousand years later: the assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives and the promise of salvation.”

In his weekly address on Dec. 25, 2010, President Barack Obama said, “This is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his love to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another—we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.”

I omitted some Presidential messages only for lack of space. By citing these powerful messages, I mean no offense to those who practice religions other than Christianity. I believe, however, that the underlying themes–of gratitude for those risking their lives in foreign combat, of charity and love for those less fortunate than we, of unity and comity among people of all races and creeds and of respect and admiration for those strong in spirit but lacking in material possessions–encompass all religions and beliefs.

As my family and I prepare for a joyous and fulfilling holiday season, I find the words of U.S. presidents compelling. They carry universal sentiments.

They give me pause.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Shore Fit for Seniors by Howard Freedlander

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It’s been five-and-a-half years since I retired, as a former associate reminded me last week at lunch. When I think about that fact, I marvel at what a wonderfully livable place the Eastern Shore is for all residents, but particularly for retirees, most of whom are senior citizens, defined as at least 60-years-old.

I just celebrated my 40th year as a content Shore resident. As a 71-year-old retiree, I have come to appreciate our piece of Planet Earth more fully than I ever did as 30-year commuter to Baltimore and Annapolis.

Allow me to cite my reasons. Others may differ, or perhaps even agree.

A man without any aptitude for woodworking and activities requiring manual dexterity, I quickly found that I had no constructive hobbies to occupy my time and mind. So, I chose to focus my time and limited funds on non-profits. Though there are days filled with meetings and prep reading, when I think I’ve lost complete control of my retirement, I thrive on the activity and mental stimulation.

Familiar primarily with Talbot County, I find I’m in the perfect place to participate in philanthropic endeavors. I’ve heard that this county has more than 250 non-profit organizations. Sometimes, all you have to do is raise your hand and volunteer. Other times, you must face a selection process to determine if your skills suffice and benefit the organization.

I’ve learned too that Talbot County, but others as well, comprises some of the most talented, accomplished and capable people whom I’ve ever known in 71 years of life. Serving on boards and committees with these individuals is a real bonus in my stage as an active retiree.

I recall when I first retired in early May 2011 I found myself frightened by the free time facing me every day. As a committed extrovert, I yearned for human interaction, something missing after leaving the workplace. Large blocks of unscheduled time concerned, rather than pleased me. When I would disclose this discomfort to friends who are committed introverts, they looked at me as if I were crazy. Why not just pick up a book and read for hours on end? Good for the mind.

Life has changed considerably since my initial dive into retirement. I now complain, mostly to myself, that I don’t have enough down time.

What I’ve determined after 66 months absent without leave from the work world is that retirement can and should be creative. While I can’t paint on a canvas, I can design my own version of life as a retiree. I can create opportunities to contribute my time, talent and funds (not a treasure) to activities that enhance our area’s culture and history, preserve our landscape and viewscape, nurture future leaders and support my university.

I’ve also discovered that I can spend more time on strengthening longtime friendships and developing others. That gives me great joy. I feel as if I reverted to my late teens by spending time, usually involving a meal, with people who mean a lot to me.

And, like many folks my age, I can enjoy the fruits of grand-parenting. Nearly two weeks ago, I attended a Veterans Day ceremony at my six-year-old grandson’s elementary school in West Annapolis. I loved having the time participating in an activity filled with patriotism and family bonding.

Back to life on the Eastern Shore, I must show my age and things I have to think about. We are fortunate to have excellent health care on the Shore. We are even luckier to be near some of the best hospitals in the world in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia. In the spring of 2015, while grappling with the reality of prostate cancer, I could and did feel confident that Johns Hopkins Hospital, widely renowned throughout the world, was at my doorstep, or at least in the neighborhood.

Speaking of proximity to quality of life institutions, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the ease of travel for those who have the time to do so. Major airports in the cities mentioned in the prior paragraph, not to speak of the ubiquitous Route 95 that runs down the spine of the East Coast, make escapes from home easy and convenient.

As I enter the beginning of my 41st year on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I can think of few places where I would rather live my years as a retired senior citizen.

I suspect that Spy readers have their own thoughts about this creative passage of life. Care to share?

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Hope is a Good Remedy by Howard Freedlander

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I ended my Election Day column last week by saying that I opted for hope and optimism. Though the result was one I abhorred, I still choose hope over despair and optimism over gloom.

It seems that in every conversation that I’ve had since Nov. 8, 2016, that “hope” seems to be the constant fallback position. I believe that this sentiment applies to those who disdained President-elect Trump, and those who supported him, “hoping” for change.

“Hope” takes on a different tint depending on your viewpoint. Nonetheless, it’s a common reaction to that which pleases and displeases us.

While listening Sunday to a sermon by the Rev. Dr. William J. Ortt, rector, at Christ Church, Easton, urging reconciliation and kinder words on the part of all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, I thought about the meaning of his message. Some may consider Bill Ortt’s words wishy-washy and representative of unrealistic thinking. I thought they were just right in summoning a healing process in a country riven so starkly, frighteningly so, in an ugly election.

Taking a different tack than I normally do, I will devote most of this column to quoting five stanzas in an Ode to Hope written by John Keats, a British poet, confessing that poetry can be more poignant and useful than what this writer can reckon:

“When by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom:
When fair dreams before my “mine’s eye” flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed—
Beneath thy pinions canopy head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud:
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.”

Hope is a wonderful resource, a safe house where you can go and seek comfort from disappointment. I prefer a readier and more convenient to place to which I can escape, instead of Canada, to hide from a Trump-led country.

President-elect Trump deserves a chance to perform on the biggest, most watched stage in the world. He won the election. He warrants some leeway before being criticized.
Our country is strong and resilient. I hope that Donald Trump captures and embellishes our nation’s innate goodness and grace.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.