Out and About (Sort of): After 103 days of Chaos, It’s Personal by Howard Freedlander

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Though 100 days is an arbitrary standard to judge the accomplishments and competence of a new U.S. President, I think it’s fair to judge a man who claimed he would amass significant achievements in his first 100 days in office.

It’s personal to me. We have a president prone to empty hyperbole on a constant basis, uttering statements with scant connection to reality. We’re asked to tolerate these outrageous comments, which, of course, turn out to be sorely lacking in fact or even a scintilla of due diligence.

His staunch supporters—and there are many–will simply claim that I simply dislike Donald Trump and cannot stop grieving the results of the Presidential election. This assertion would be partially true; I find the President’s bombastic, bragging style repugnant, while I respect the election result.

It’s personal. I feel embarrassed and ashamed of our current White House occupant. His credibility sabotages his lame efforts to function effectively in a government built on checks and balances.

On April 18, Trump claimed that no president had accomplished more in 90 days—and then rushed around last week to achieve something momentous. Of course, he didn’t just talk; he issued a one-page tax plan that favors the rich and provides scant assistance to the people who elected him. It strikes me as silly that Trump’s plan, subject to extensive congressional review and readjustment, would represent constructive action on the part of the Trump Administration.

While Trump has signed 24 executive orders, 22 presidential memorandums, and 20 proclamations, he has scored no significant legislative victory. His attempt to torpedo the Affordable Care Act fell victim to Republican dysfunction. His executive orders to ban entry certain Muslim-majority countries have been blocked in the courts.

It’s personal. We have a president skilled in bombast and tweets. We lack someone able and willing to do his homework before commenting on domestic and foreign affairs. He’s capable of shallow observations, such as expressing support of Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly, who shortly afterward was fired for a pattern of sexual harassment. It must have been consoling to have Donald Trump’s blessing. Trump, again acting without thinking, called the president of Turkey to congratulate him on constitutional changes that solidified increasingly repressive autocratic behavior.

Now, let’s be fair to Mr. Trump. His appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court was a good one; even Democrats concerned about the naming of a clone of Justice Antonin Scalia had to acknowledge Gorsuch’s professional and academic credentials. Elections have their consequences; appointment to the Supreme Court is one of them, though even more so than any time in history by divisive politics.

I’m still on my fairness kick. Trump’s attack on Syrian aircraft after an unspeakable chemical attack on its own people was the right thing to do. While I applauded President Obama’s rational, drama-free decision-making, he missed a chance to use U.S. power after a Syrian chemical attack in 2013.

Perhaps because of my military background, I believe that the appointments of generals like H.R. McMaster as director of the National Security Council, Jim Mathis as Secretary of Defense and John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security were worthy ones. My experience is that general officers are often more circumspect about ordering troops into combat, having seen death first-hand in foreign battle, than are their civilian counterparts who often have not experienced the terror of war.

I’ve heard recently that the White House is operating more efficiently, less subject to internecine fights and back-stabbing brought on by a President who supposedly likes chaos as a way of centering attention on him. While pleased that adults driven more by the nobility of public service seem to be controlling White House staff deliberations, I am less sanguine about President Trump’s ability to listen, absorb and think thoroughly and rationally about critical decisions.

It’s personal. Trump lacks credibility in telling the truth and not engaging in hyperbolic baloney. He seems little interested in details, particularly when they are complicated and not easily explained on cable TV. His ethical antennae are stunted. I was amused to read a few weeks ago that his son Don Jr. was troubled by the chaos and criticism of the White House, for fear these journalistic observations would harm the Trump brand. While it’s common for family members to defend the Oval Office occupant, particularly when he is under constant siege, the connection to the family business is usually not a consideration.

Like others, I will continue to pray for the best but expect the worse on the part of a President whose abominable actions during the Republican and General elections continue to define our nation’s poorly qualified leader.

We can hope that he will choose love of country over love of himself.

It’s personal to me. In every other president in my lifetime, I would find something redemptive, even a bit likable.

I’m at a complete loss to like or respect a person whose brand bespeaks self-centeredness and scant sense of personal accountability.

As of today, we have 1,357 days left in the Trump presidency. It’s a gruesome prospect.

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): Lacrosse and Easter Revive the Soul and Spirit by Howard Freedlander

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On the day before Easter, as overcast conditions yielded to sunshine, I went with a friend and our two grandsons to watch a lacrosse game between Army and Navy at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The ancient rivalry between our nation’s two best-known military academies is always thrilling—featuring an equal amount of skill and emotion.

For me, the game of lacrosse fascinates and delights me. I began playing when I was 10-years-old in a Baltimore neighborhood where I’ve often said that had I played any sport other than lacrosse, I would have had no friends. Lacrosse reigned supreme in the community of Mt. Washington.

Funded by Native Americans in what is now Canada as early as the 17th century, according to Wikipedia, “traditional lacrosse games were sometimes major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate.

The games were played in open plains located between the two villages, and the goals could range from 500 yards to 6 miles.”

Fortunately, the American version consumes less distance and stamina.

I played lacrosse through high school and college and even one year in Manchester, England. I loved the sport. My performance was uneven, at least from my current perspective.

Like most team sports containing a degree of controlled violence and disciplined execution, lacrosse offered me a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie, physical conditioning and mind-numbing preparation. The desire to win was all-consuming. The sting of loss was unnerving.

Now 71-years-old, I watch modern lacrosse with great delight. I marvel at the skill level of today’s lacrosse athletes and their physical capabilities. By the latter, I must confess that 50 years ago at my university we were required only to report to practice able to run and survive a demanding game. But we spent no time in a gym training our muscles and bodies to perform better than we could have imagined. I regret that vacuum.

Back to the Army-Navy lacrosse game that past Saturday. Scoring seven goals in the second half, after being down by three at one point, the Navy midshipmen battled back to win 10-6 before a number of Army fans, including my friend, a West Point graduate. Not surprisingly, Naval Academy supporters were ecstatic.

Though I wore an Army uniform for more than 30 years as a member of U.S. Army Reserve and the Maryland Army National Guard, I am always torn when watching these two superior military academies face each other in athletic battle. The U.S. Naval Academy feels like a hometown school, generating loyalty and interest.

While pleased to watch Navy win, I had hoped to see an Army team whose record this year would have predicted a different result.

For me, the Army-Navy lacrosse contest felt like the outset of spring, a renewal of spirit at time when flowers and trees blossom and the sound of lawn mowers fill the air. On the day before Easter, it seemed appropriate to watch a game that stressed athletic excellence, self-discipline and good sportsmanship.

For me, the experience was uplifting, particularly when I could share it with my six-year-old grandson. Maybe he will continue the legacy of lacrosse played by his grandfather and mother.

As I sat in church on Sunday, buoyed by my experience as a spectator and grandfather the day before at a game that is becoming increasingly more popular throughout our country, I took solace and comfort in the resurrection of spirit represented by Easter. I think back at times that were difficult and disheartening. I feel thankful that the grace and goodness of God enabled me to face and tame personal demons and overcome health problems.

We often seek personal and spiritual renewal, sometimes more purposefully and urgently than watching a lacrosse game and remembering moments of youthful exuberance and athletic competition.

A sports stadium provides an escape from everyday worries. A church can compel honest self-examination. They both renew the 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): 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.