In  the Garden by Nancy Mugele

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I don’t have the patience for formal gardening. Don’t tell my friend, Baltimore writer Kathy Hudson, who, among other things, writes a regular feature about beautiful gardens for Style magazine. Kathy and her friend, Penney Hubbard, who In 1969 began to create a garden at her home north of Baltimore which became recognized as one of the finest in Maryland, penned a gorgeous book about the Hubbard garden. I highly recommend On Walnut Hill for transporting us into the garden, through stunning photography and text detailing its beauty in each of the four seasons.

I recently read a post by one of the editors of Well-Schooled, a site for educator storytelling, which I am honored to write for. In her reflection “In the Garden,” Ari Pinkus states: I imagine education as a diverse garden culture where we are the stewards.  This metaphor fits Webster’s definition of a garden as a “rich well-cultivated region,” and its definition of culture as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

I love the imagery of education as a garden, planting seeds of learning in our students which we cultivate over time. Teachers, responsible for the care and feeding of their seedlings, transmit knowledge to generations of learners who blossom in vivid color before our eyes.

My Kent School colleague Tricia Cammerzell, is an accomplished poet who writes when she says she has “a quiet mind.” I recently read her poem “In the Garden,” inspired by her own garden and the memories she has of her father working in his garden – transferring his knowledge to her. Gardening and muscle memory combined in a poignant tribute.

These three in the garden reflections have been on my mind for the past two weeks, especially as Kent School’s unparalleled environment for learning is blooming with spring color seemingly overnight. I stopped into The Mill at Kingstown this week to add herbs and flowering plants to my porch. Mother’s Day weekend always signals to me the start of hanging basket and flowering pot season – that is another story, but I am now finally gardening. Well, that is if you can call watering porch plants, gardening.

In addition to the order of potted plants and herbs on my porch, I prefer an impressionist landscape, complete with the messy mix of untamed native plants and grasses growing wildly in unexpected places outside of the porch. I love wildflowers constantly in bloom, untimed, unordered and unburdened by boundaries. This less formal nature culture is also a metaphor for education which values creativity, perseverance, resilience, and grit.

Whether a formal garden or potted plants on the porch are your ideal, this quote from Sitting Bull sums it all up so eloquently.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come;

the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun,

and we shall soon see the results of their love!

Wishing you love in the garden this spring.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Save the Preakness by Steve Parks

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It’s been 35 years since the Colts were stolen from Baltimore in the dark of night. Now, a new interloper seeks to steal another franchise from Baltimore.

The Preakness Stakes, middle jewel of horse racing’s fabled Triple Crown, has run at Pimlico Race Course in northwest Baltimore since 1873. That’s 146 years of Preakness tradition, nestled between the Kentucky Derby at Louisville’s Churchill Downs and Belmont Park on Long Island. A feuding Canadian family—father and daughter are suing each other—controls the Stronach Group, racetrack owners who have systematically starved Pimlico of basic infrastructure upkeep, never mind improvements, in 15 years of lame stewardship. The facilities at Pimlico are so dilapidated that 6,700 grandstand seats were deemed unsafe for the biggest day in horse-racing this Saturday. Meanwhile, both Country House, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Maximum Security, the disqualified first horse across the finish line, are skipping the Preakness.

Stronach has scrimped on Pimlico from the outset of its 2004 acquisition of Old Hilltop. There are now just 12 days of Pimlico racing. In the last five years, Stronach spent nearly 90 percent of the state’s Racetrack Facilities Program funds—$22.5 million—which the company is required by law to match. Of that $45 million, only $6 million went to Pimlico (Wi-Fi, air-conditioning). The rest—$39 million—benefitted Laurel Park and nearby Bowie stables. The Stronachs’ goal is to create a “super track.”

That goal apparently includes moving the Preakness to Laurel, making it the new home of this premier international event. Stronach is attempting an end run around state law mandating that the Preakness stay in Baltimore except in emergencies. Stronach created said emergency by forcing Pimlico into disrepair to the point of condemnation. It happened on the Stronach watch. Their excuse? Who knew that wind, rain, snow, ice and sun can cause structures to require, say, a coat of paint or repairs over a decade and a half.

The Preakness predates the most celebrated of Triple Crown races. Two years before the Kentucky Derby hosted its first run for the roses, Pimlico debuted the Preakness Stakes for 3-year-olds. It was named for the colt Preakness, winner of the first Dinner Party Stakes, long since discontinued. The Belmont, final leg of the Triple Crown, was the first to launch—1867.

Baltimore’s legislative delegation and its former mayor, Catherine Pugh, turned up the heat on the Stronach Group. But their efforts may be way too little, far too late.

“Allowing a wealthy family from another country to use Maryland tax money for a racetrack to anchor the development of their 300-acre property in Laurel would be a travesty,” Pugh wrote in a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate Majority President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch.

Beyond a travesty, if the Stronachs get away with destroying Pimlico through neglect, losing the Preakness would be still another Baltimore tragedy. It took 13 years before the city landed an NFL franchise to replace the Colts. There are no more Triple Crown gems to be had if Stronach “jewel” thieves succeed in stealing the Preakness.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, along with Baltimore lawmakers, recommend a multifaceted Pimlico renewal—a rebuilt racetrack (Oriole Park at Camden Yards for inspiration?), plus entertainment, shopping and residential add-ons—at an estimated cost of $400 million. Since 2010, Maryland’s horse-racing industry—breeders, harness racing as well as track owners—has received $415 million in state gambling proceeds. Investment in a Baltimore treasure is a bargain compared with the cost of disinvestment. Think of cultivating a tax base, non-existent in distressed neighborhoods. Think of slashing murder rates.

While Pugh stood up for Baltimore and its iconic racetrack, she’s now mayor emerit-less, having trashed her credibility. More tragically, Speaker Busch died just before the end of the 2019 legislative session, while Miller is undergoing cancer treatment. Notwithstanding those misfortunes, the city may gain some clout in the 2020 General Assembly through the unanimous election of Adrienne Jones of the 10th District, which borders Baltimore to its southwest. Dereck Davis, an early speakership frontrunner, is from Prince George’s, which would have given the suburban D.C. county a Maryland leadership trifecta. Both Miller and Hogan have political roots there. Laurel is in northeast Prince George’s.

Hogan spurned Baltimore in his first term. He nixed the Red Line light-rail project connecting job opportunities downtown and points east to West Baltimore, where 2015 riots followed the death of Freddie Gray. He also blocked renewal of the State Center hub in West Baltimore.

The governor could atone for snubbing Maryland’s urban core—its financial, cultural, medical and, yes, sports hub—by saving the Preakness for Baltimore with a visionary redevelopment of Pimlico.

(BTW: I’ve boycotted Mayflower ever since they moved the Colts.)

Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.

 

Poems, People and Leading Your Life by Nancy Mugele

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We all need to read a romance novel once in a while, and I have just read Jill Santopolo’s More Than Words. What I picked up to read quickly last week, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law Tracy, ended up making me think about the journey of life and love for far longer than it took me to read the book.

One of the main characters says something profound early in the book that made me pause and reflect on my family and friends. “I think of people like poems,” he said. “Maybe someone’s a haiku, or a villanelle, or a cinquain, a sonnet – our length and form are predestined, but our content isn’t. And each form has its own challenges, its own difficulties, and its own beauty.”

Or, are poems like people as author Benjamin Alire Sáenz suggested in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. “Poems are like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

So true, that there are people you will never understand. And, then, there are those who you understand perfectly. Don’t tell Jim and my children, but I am going to describe them in poetry today with love. But, I better start with myself, so they will not be mad.

Although William Shakespeare made Sonnets famous, the word “sonetto” is actually Italian for “a little sound or song.” This 14 line form has held the heart of poets for centuries, especially one of my favorites, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I think this may be the metaphor for me – Italian, filled with love, a little dramatic, and a bit lyrical.

Jim is definitely Prose Poetry. Although that might seem to be contradictory, prose poems maintain a poetic quality although they appear to be written as prose. I think this describes Jim well. He is straightforward, a person of incredible integrity, and one who always tries to do the right thing. He also likes to talk, tell stories and be social. But, lest he be prose alone, he also has a soft, sensitive poetic side.

Jenna is Haiku. This form of traditional Japanese poetry follows a specific syllable pattern.

It contains three lines, with a total of 17 syllables. Haikus are usually about nature. Jenna is numbers-oriented, ordered, and matter-of-fact, and very serious about her career which is moving upward quickly. She is also our traveller who believes deeply in experiences. And, when I see her trip photographs she always manages to capture nature’s beauty.

Kelsy is a Narrative poem, and thank goodness she is. A narrative poem tells the story of an event in the form of a poem. Kelsy is the family news source, always filling us in on her puppy, her boyfriend, her job, her sister, her brother, her cousins, her lacrosse team and her friends – not necessarily in that order. She also knows everything and anything about pop culture, and can accurately answer any tv, movie or music question you have.

And James, well that one is the easiest – Free Verse – because these poems do not follow any rules. Their style is completely up to the writer. James is living his best life in Montana where he just started his own fly fishing guide business, living his life his way.

In addition to making me think about people as poems, More Than Words focuses on the eternal question – are you leading the life you were meant to lead? (Granted the heroine is involved in a love triangle, not a career choice, but that is another story.)

I decided I wanted to be a Head of School at The Head’s Network Leadership Seminar for Women fifteen years ago. Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to return to this seminar as a member of the faculty. 54 women from across the country who aspire to be school heads converged at The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA for a weekend retreat led by ten female Heads of School. For me, this was a full-circle event in my life, and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this special weekend. Women uplifting women, and mentoring them along the way. I now have five mentees from schools in OH, PA and TX. I will be asking them in the months to come, are you leading the life you were meant to lead?

I am so fortunate to be leading the life I was meant to lead here in Chestertown, while serving Kent School. I wish the same for my children as they navigate life and love.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Impeachment is Imperative by Maria Wood

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Now that Congress is back in session, it is imperative that Members find within themselves the moral clarity to act on the release of the Mueller report and begin in earnest impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Not to do so is insulting to voters, destructive to our democratic institutions, and political self-sabotage of the most breathtaking kind. Most importantly, it is a gross abdication of responsibility and a moral failure.

Every day that the Congress does not begin such proceedings, Members fail to uphold their oaths of office and neglect their obligations to do the job they were sent to Washington to do. The Congressional Oath of Office, taken by all Members of the House of Representatives, includes the words “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Members of Congress are elected by their districts to do the business of the government, to act in good faith and according to the law in the best interests of their constituents, and to adhere to the democratic institutions and norms of our democracy. The President of the United States has violated United States laws, institutional norms, democratic principles, and basic values of human decency since the moment he took office, and his misbehavior and mobster-style criminality is increasing by the day.

Let’s break down the reasons impeachment proceedings must begin immediately. First, anything less is an insult to voters. The American voting public deserve to make up their minds based on a full picture of the facts, with as much truth available as possible against the wall of lies erected by the Trump administration. To simply put the matter of blatant violations of American democratic values and norms on hold in order to wait for the next election is both supremely cynical and supremely disrespectful to the American people. It is also insulting and crass for Members of Congress to refuse to fulfill their duty in this matter and then ask to be re-elected.

Which leads us to the damage to democracy. Two elements of this damage are even now corroding the electorate’s faith in democratic processes. The more straightforward is the proven interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections by hostile foreign powers—interference that the Mueller report shows was welcomed and encouraged by the Trump campaign. For a candidate or his campaign to accept and participate in the undermining of American elections is patently anti-democratic and anti-American, and should be immediately disqualifying for holding elected office. Once these actions are revealed, the Congress has a duty to impeach to protect the integrity of future elections and assure the voting public that American elections are free of interference—otherwise, the logical conclusion is that voting is useless and futile.

The second element has to do with the trust and faith of the public in their Congressional representatives. Please recall the line in the oath of office: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Duly elected representatives who abstain from this process abdicate a solemn promise made to their constituents. The least of the negative consequences of breaking this promise is the risk to individual Members’ re-election prospects. Far worse is the loss of faith in the institution itself and in democratic processes writ large. If elected officials are not going to do the job they’ve been chosen to do—why vote?

Finally, there is an important political argument for impeachment. Many discussions about whether to impeach or not impeach in recent weeks have centered on the political argument against the process. Looked at from another angle, though, the political calculus can be figured differently. The “blue wave” of the 2018 elections demonstrated the hunger among voters for elected officials willing to stand up and call out corruption and lies in government. Voters are more engaged than ever—although the danger that they will abandon the political process if they perceive that it is irrevocably broken is all too real. People of all political persuasions are calling for an end to the lies, bullying, self-dealing, nepotism, and performative provocation that characterize this White House and the party leadership that supports it. House leadership should consider that these voters will welcome and reward good-faith efforts to restore the rule of law and accountability to the highest office in the land. Should the Republican-led Senate refuse to uphold its duty by responding to the charges, House members should trust that the electorate will recognize where the process broke down, and who is to blame for the continued undermining of American democracy.

Call it moral clarity, call it leadership. But be assured, if there is a shred of our constitution still functioning when this tumultuous time in American history is over, we will owe our thanks to those who had the wisdom to recognize the existential threat of rampant corruption and manipulation at the highest levels of our government, and the courage and patriotism to take bold, decisive action on behalf of the best ideals of the American experiment.

Maria Wood returned to academic life in 2014, after a two-decade career in the music business, earning a BA in American Studies and a Certificate in Ethnomusicology from Smith College in 2018. Most recently, she served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Jesse Colvin for Congress.

Op-Ed: Another Term for our Fake President might be Fatal by Steve Parks

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  “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” –Presidential oath of office

Never mind the Mueller report and whether or not the President of the United States can be indicted for anything, including murder on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, as President Trump once proclaimed that he theoretically could get away with.

Evidently, he can get away with plenty—maybe even thumbing his nose at House of Representative subpoenas following up on the still-redacted Mueller report. Is that faithfully upholding and abiding by the Constitution, Mr. President? It’s clear from his impetuous, imperial behavior that Donald Trump possesses little knowledge of and even less regard for the Constitution, especially when its application thwarts his reckless agenda.

Consider, for instance, Trump’s various “border-crisis” remedies: abolish asylum, get rid of judges, reinstate separation of immigrant children from their parents, keep immigrants on the Mexican side of the border or detain them indefinitely in cages on the U.S. side. These policies apply only to brown immigrants. Crossing the border with Canada? No problem—unless you’re a Muslim from anywhere in the world.

Defiance of constitutional restraints on presidential power, handy tools in Trump’s playbook, are rife in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Did he or his bumbling minions conspire with Russia to influence the election on his behalf. Is ignorance, incompetence and/or stupidity an excuse? Trump exhorted Russians on national TV to hack their way into Hillary Clinton’s email server. (They failed.) Trump subordinates, including his campaign chairman, attorney general, national security adviser, personal lawyer and assorted subordinates all lied about myriad contacts with Russian operatives.

On the second count of what would be a multi-count indictment under normal circumstances, the report cites 10 examples of apparent obstruction of justice. Most are familiar to us due to Trump’s overt acts, such as firing FBI director James Comey, or through stellar news reporting. “Fake news,” it turns out, emanates instead from the White House and Fox propaganda agents.

The lying and cover up continues in high places. The president says Congress has no right to subpoena his financial documents or the testimony of White House witnesses, when in fact it is the legislative branch’s constitutional duty. This presidential stonewalling is itself obstruction of justice.  

Attorney General William Barr, previewing the release of Mueller’s redacted report, stated that it was evidence, not the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel policy, which led the special counsel to punt on recommending indictment of the president on obstruction of justice. Yet on page one of the obstruction volume, Mueller writes:

“The Office of Legal Counsel has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. . . .’ This office accepted OLC’s conclusion. . . .”

In other words, Mueller would have recommended prosecuting the president except for DOJ’s policy that no president can be indicted while in office.

The attorney general outright lied. Further, he repeatedly and incredibly stated there is no evidence—zero—of “collusion” with Russia, then offered the president an excuse on obstruction of justice. Trump, he said, was “frustrated and angry” when he committed acts that are classic definitions of obstruction. (Try that if you’re accused of, say, murder.) Suborning perjury, asking attorneys to place false statements in their files and firing a law-enforcement investigator, then trying to fire another are among Trump’s evident transgressions.

House Democrats rightfully demand the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence. But maybe they should consider impeaching Barr before he shuts down investigations Mueller spun off to New York and elsewhere. Impeaching Trump might elevate him as a political martyr after the Republican Senate predictably refuses to convict and remove him from office. By Tweet, Trump will proclaim “TOTAL EXONERATION!!!” all over again.

Meanwhile, besides the Trump presidency itself, what if we face a true national emergency? Trump owns the border crisis because he created it. Radio ads in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador cite the president’s rhetoric, warning prospective immigrants that it’s now or never to join a caravan. With the resources of the Department of Homeland Security wholly diverted to the southern border, who’s in charge of diverting a major terrorist attack, a la Sri Lanka, New Zealand or, God forbid, 9/11? How about the collapse of a denuclearization deal with North Korea that led Kim Jong-un to renew missile testing? And what if Vladimir Putin messes with the 2020 election? Have we learned nothing? Another term for our fake president might be fatal to democracy as we know it.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.

 

Signs of Spring by Nancy Mugele

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Last Saturday at Kent School we offered a free Egg Dyeing event for the greater community in advance of Easter Weekend. The turnout was wonderful as moms and dads decided to leave the mess with us, and took home beautifully decorated eggs. Along with the traditional cups of dye and lots of bright paint, our inventive Little School teachers created bags of food-coloring-infused uncooked rice which served as a shaker for eggs. I had as much fun as the children shaking my egg, like a chicken leg in a Shake ‘N Bake bag, and the resulting speckled shells were simply surprising! A great morning was had by all.

Dyeing eggs was my least favorite “mom” activity to do with my children (with the exception of helping them learn how to drive a car, but that is another story). I did not like the mess, or the dye soaked into my fingertips for days. Somehow a cup of the dye always spilled, soaking the newspapers we had carefully spread, and dripping dye on the table surface and the floor.

As Easter approaches each year, people around the world make hardboiled eggs and dye them brilliant colors. Did you ever wonder why? There may be many reasons, some religious, but at the heart to me, eggs are symbolic of rebirth and new life, making them a meaningful part of the celebration of springtime.

In my childhood, we dyed eggs each year and ate them at Easter Brunch. The first time I had Easter with Jim’s family, I admired the beautifully dyed eggs on the tablescape. As I reached for a hardboiled egg and proceeded to crack and peel it, the entire table froze and no one said a word. One of Jim’s sister’s finally asked what I was doing. I said “eating my egg.” Jim’s family was completely stunned. Apparently, eating the dyed eggs was not a universal tradition!

And, then there are those colored plastic eggs. Not as pretty as real ones, but definitely happy, especially when they are filled with candy and treats. Yes – we held Easter Egg Hunts annually. Truth be told we only stopped doing them last year when the participants became more and more scarce! I can attest though that adult children are very competitive when it comes to finding the golden egg! Amazon gift cards replaced the huge chocolate bunny years ago and created the cousin’s egg hunt wars.

One of our Kent School families brought me a dozen eggs this week from their chickens. Some of the eggshells were a brownish blue. I have never seen blue chicken eggs before, although I have seen pale blue robin’s eggs. Nature is truly amazing.

Jim and I are anxiously awaiting the sight of eggs in our osprey nest signaling success for our birds of prey who are, at the moment, very busy “nesting.” For the past two years, the osprey couple has not been rewarded with nestlings. Or, should I say, we have not seen any fledglings. Crossing our fingers the third spring’s a charm. The nest is looking quite sturdy, large and homey. You can be sure we will celebrate if baby ospreys should appear.

Happy Spring!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Good Friday by George Merrill

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Good Friday is Christianity’s most solemn observance.

It’s the account of religious authorities condemning Jesus as a false prophet with pretensions to power. They turn him over to the Roman authorities. The Romans fear an insurrection unless they convict Jesus and crucify him. Even Pontius Pilate was skeptical of the accusations, but mob rule prevailed.

Christians today contend fiercely with each other. The toxic kinds of “conservative” vs. “liberal” dualities play out in religion as they do in politics often with similar vitriol.

Commandments such as “Give all you have to the poor.”  “How many times I must forgive my brother.” “Seventy times seven,” Jesus claims. These teachings are unambiguous. But they don’t excite the same kind of energy or even advocacy, as say, love our enemies does.

Among the many commandments of Jesus, there is one called, ‘the last commandment.’ It’s the final direction Jesus issues to his disciples before he is crucified. It defines the kind of community Jesus lived and died to cultivate.

In the Gospel of John, the commandment is simple and unambiguous:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

In this regard, Christians haven’t done well. I have an idea why this might be. Considering loving one another, particularly one’s enemies, feels counter-intuitive; how can I love someone I viscerally despise or love someone who has deliberately wronged me?

Our daughter once brought up a similar matter to my wife and me years ago. She knew we had conducted marriage counseling. One day out of the blue she asked, “When you counsel a couple, you can’t take sides, can you,” she asked?  We assured her that was so.

“What do you do then if one of them is a real jerk?”

Thereby hangs a tale.

If love is defined as a feeling, loving a bona fide jerk is not promising for anyone. On the other hand, if love is the measure of how we behave toward others, the mindset, if you will – not how we feel – it’s a whole different matter. If love is practiced as principle although while not always felt as fondness, it might look something like this: we’d conduct our dealings with others justly, compassionately, and humbly.

Consider the recent congressional hearings involving Justice Kavanaugh. Imagine that they were conducted with self-discipline; with a level of humility by the interrogators? The hearings would have been dramatically different. Outcomes may have been the same, but without the demeaning grandstanding and the thinly veiled hypocrisy which made so many of us cringe.

The Good Friday drama was an epic exercise in religious and political hypocrisy.

With all the brutality and hypocrisy portrayed on Good Friday, from the first of Jesus’

last seven words – “Forgive them father for they know not what they do” –  to the final ones “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”- there is not a hint of retribution for the injustices he bore. Jesus held to a greater vision of what love means.

The kind of love inspiring forgiveness doesn’t necessarily feel-good. It’s about dealing justly. In short, love and moral courage are about compassionately informed discipline, not driven by feelings which are notoriously unpredictable and unruly.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

 

 

 

Op-Ed: Buttigieg’s Challenge by J.E. Dean

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It’s not easy to praise a candidate when you can’t pronounce his name. This is a problem. As the Democratic nominating process moves forward, “Mayor Pete” has to figure out what to do. Simply run as “Pete?” Try to make light of the multitude of mispronunciations out there? Turn the problem around by watching opponents stumble over your name? Remember watching 2016 candidates trying to pronounce the name of Russian President Demitri Medvedev or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Despite his name-handicap, Buttigieg seems to be doing pretty well, so far. His poll numbers are rising—he’s already ahead of better-known candidates like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Julian Castro. He’s raising money–more than $7 million in the first quarter, for example. Most pundits predict Buttigieg is in it for the long run.

Voter interest in Buttigieg is, well, interesting. For some it’s his status as the first openly gay candidate. For others its his status as a medium size city mayor—typically disqualifying. For “Mayor Pete,” it’s prompted curiosity. Who is this guy? Where, exactly, is South Bend? Then there is his background as a veteran and the fact he’s from Indiana. Both are likely to attract Republican voters. If the Democrats can be guaranteed to win Indiana, they are likely to win nationally.

Among the Democratic base, Buttigieg should be solid. His policy positions are those of a mainstream 2020 Democrat. Healthcare for all through a single-payer system, the Green Deal, addressing income inequality, and promoting LGBT rights. So far, he has also come across as intelligent—as the Rhodes Scholar graduate of Harvard and Oxford that he is. Detractors focusing on his negatives will suggest he can’t deliver Indiana or that his demographics will not generate the enthusiasm necessary to win.

Buttigieg’s chances are likely to rise or fall based on how he does when directly matched up with his opponents. He will either disappear quickly, perhaps being awarded with the consolation price of being a “rising star” in the party, or the party faithful, hungry to regain the White House, will adopt him as an effective counterpoint to Donald Trump—someone tested not only in battle (Afghanistan) but also as a gay man in a conservative State.are

Watch Buttigieg with interest. But if you want him to win, figure out how to pronounce his name.

J.E. Dean of Oxford, writes on policy and politics based on more than 30 years working with non-profits and others interested in domestic policy. He is an advocate for the environment, civil public debate, and good government.

Op-Ed: Local Hospital Board And Administration: Are They Our Advocates? By Dr. Eva Smorzaniuk

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The Editors Opinion in the April 11 issue of the Star Democrat rightfully concludes that public trust in the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and UMMS Shore Regional Health (UMMS SRH) has been damaged, and that a full and independent investigation of both of these boards and hospital administrations is essential. Taxpayers deserve to know the extent of self-dealing on the boards, as well as the level of administrative complicity in the self-dealing.

A brief perusal of SRH Board members reveals occupations including health care consultants, healthcare providers, insurance brokers and underwriters, lawyer, lobbyist, wealth manager, and banker.  In addition to Mr. Dillon, there is another local member with a contractual relationship with the hospital. It would be nice to know if the contract between Wayne L. Gardner, Sr., previous owner of BestCare ambulance services, is legal and ethical, and that no other financial ties exist among Board members.

There is a larger and more critical issue that faces our community – have our local hospital Board and hospital administration been our advocates?  The promise of a new hospital that was dangled in front of our Board in 2006 has yet to materialize. Despite the fact that our local hospital is part of UMMS, which has been increasingly profitable over the last few years, it has faced almost annual budget cuts, constriction of services, and a frustrating work environment.  Meanwhile, we see UMMS, with a profit of nearly $5 billion in FY 2018, that can afford to pay its CEO in excess of $4.2 million, and gave out $2.7 million in bonuses to seven top executives in 2017.

Many of the myriad medical facilities under the UMMS umbrella have had construction/renovation plans either completed or in the planning stages.  To name just a few:

  1. An addition to UMMC in Baltimore for over $85 million completed in 2013.
  2. Plans for a $543 million 205 bed hospital for UM Capital Region (acquired in 2017).
  3. Plans for a $100 million renovation of UM St. Joseph’s Medical Center (acquired 2012).
  4. Plans for a new UM Upper Chesapeake (acquired in 2013) for $54 million.
  5. And then there’s us (acquired 2006) – $350 million for a new hospital.

My bet is that we will continue to be the neglected stepchildren across the bridge.

Our community needs a local hospital Board and administration with courage, commitment, and perseverance, that can function independently and stand up for quality care on the Eastern Shore. Their priority must be the patients, and not the profitability of UMMS.

I urge readers to talk to the doctors, nurses, and other staff,  at UMMS SRH facilities and hear their frustrations, as well as their ideas for how it could be better. I urge you to contact officials at UMMS, as well as your elected officials, and tell them you want a robust, state-of-the-art health care delivery system, one that is responsive to the needs of the patients and engages its workforce in its mission.

I also urge local elected officials, including the Easton Town Council, the Talbot County Council, as well as our state legislators, to put pressure on UMMS for a full and independent investigation, and to demand more local control of our hospital board and administration.

Dr. Eva Smorzaniuk is a radiologist in Easton, Maryland and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester. 

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