Tag Archives: civility

A Tribute to Barbara Bush

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I’m very lucky that I got to meet Barbara Bush. She was just as everyone is describing. She was no-nonsense and warm. She was gracious, but you knew instantly that she didn’t suffer fools for a minute. She was full of fun and full of dignity. She was funny and irreverent, serious and dedicated. And she was real.

I wasn’t going to tell my story because it’s private, but the first time I met her was such a perfect example of who Barbara was that I can’t resist.

It was in Kennebunkport twenty years ago. We were back there with friends who were close with the Bushes. Four days before we left I was told that I’d being playing golf there.

“But I don’t play golf,” I said.

“You better learn fast,” my husband said.

Let me say here that I’m not the world’s greatest athlete. Nor is golf an easy sport. After twenty years I’m mediocre on a good day. But my first 18 holes was played with Barbara Bush, God help her.

We met at their club, Cape Arundel, me still tearing the tags off my golf attire. It turned out that the Bushes were hosting a cocktail party for 70 that evening at the Walker estate — Barbara was supposed to get a chance to relax and play golf that morning. Instead she got me.

Graciously, she invited me to ride in her cart. I’m not sure who she thought she was getting — I did come with a Hollywood couple, after all, who played golf all the time . She couldn’t have known I’d be a school teacher from Seattle…who’d never played golf. She soon realized the last part as I sprayed balls right and left. One hole of Cape Arundel borders a street and my ball almost took out the windshield of a Secret Service car driving along side. Guns drawn, two men in black leaned out of the car to make sure the former First Lady was not under attack.

I was in awe just being there–pretty tongue tied as well as embarrassed at my inability. I’d hit the ball and then scurry toward it, trying not to hold up play. Barbara must have been going crazy, but she didn’t say anything. On one hole, I actually was running to my ball. Barbara drew up in her cart and said, “Hop in. You don’t have to run. We all started somewhere.”

I rolled my eyes. “But why is my somewhere with you when you have 70 people coming to your house tonight.”

She laughed and patted the seat next to her. And I knew, just like that, I was okay in her book.

On the ninth green, I said, “Mrs. Bush, you can go ahead and putt out.”

A voice from the next hole called out, “Who’s calling my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush’. No one calls my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush.’ It’s Barbara.”

I blushed as I met Jeb who was playing with his dad and my husband.

Barbara, looking pleased, laughed at her son’s teasing. And I relaxed enough to laugh too.

Later that night at their house, she was the perfect hostess. Dressed in her classic style with the signature pearls around her neck, she made sure the evening, an event for MD Anderson, ran like clockwork. But it was with a calm and non pretentiousness that put everyone at ease.

We got to be with Barbara several other times. Each occasion was precious.


America, the Beautiful

America, the beautiful. Or is it America, the beautiful? I think it’s probably both. Certainly this country is not perfect. Certainly, I would live no where else. And I’m eternally grateful to my grandparents who had the courage to flee Russia and Lithuania. As they sailed into New York harbor, they felt the protecting shelter of the Statue of Liberty and the benediction of Emma Lazarus’ words: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.


Their way was not easy when they hit these shores. Instead of the streets of gold they’d heard about, they found only poverty, hardship and prejudice. But they weren’t afraid they’d be killed outright as they had in Europe. With hard work and perseverance, they could build a successful life. And they did.


Fast forward a hundred years and their granddaughter has been lucky enough to go to Washington D.C. three times in the last ten months. Who’d ah thought? I’ve toured the Capitol Building twice and the White House once. I’ve toured the monuments all three times. I’m now a junkie!


The city is built on a grand scale that we don’t see much of in our united states. Statues and magnificent buildings are interspersed with green parkways. It’s beautiful, truly.



This last trip I was at an ADL convention. The Anti-Defamation League was originally founded in 1915 to protect Jewish people from Antisemitism. It has grown and broadened its goal to protect all human and civil rights. I feel safer at night to know the ADL exists. I was impressed by the dedication of the young people attending, and inspired to action, myself.

Our hotel was only a ten minute stroll from the White House and I walked to it a couple of times. Tourists from around the world flock there. It’s impressive both because of its architecture and its significance.  My four-year-old granddaughter walked there with her babysitter. My daughter and grandson walked there to see it at night.

We were home only two days when I heard about the shooting at a White House check point. It sent shivers down my spine. What if one of my family had been there then?



“Did you hear about the shooting at the White House?” I said as I walked into the dentist’s office.

“I hope they shot Obama,” a pleasant looking woman said.

I was taken aback. “Too unkind,” I said. “He’s our President.” Where’s the respect? I thought. There should be some respect for our President, if nothing else. Just plain old human decency.

The woman gave me a dirty look and turned her back on me. I sat down across the waiting room, not looking at her either.

Where has all the civility gone? I wondered. Long time passing.

Will it take another 911 to get out the “United We Stand” posters, and to bring back the realization that we’re all Americans, all part of the same family? Disagree, fine. Disparage, okay. But to wish someone’s injury or death? That’s too ugly of an American for me.









Do you feel like the world has gone crazy—that it’s tilting out of control on its axis? The headlines in the news make me think I’m in the Twilight Zone and we have regressed a century or two. What happened to the progress we had made as civilized people? World War II was brutal, but hadn’t the world learned from this? It could never happen again, right? And what about the gains the Civil Rights Movement made? Were they so negligible? Didn’t we learn over the years that we were part of the same species, more alike than different no matter our race, country, religion or sexual orientation?

In the era when the Berlin Wall went down it seemed like global peace and freedom from tyranny for all were right around the corner. I remember that New Year’s Eve in 1989 when we believed all things possible. We never envisioned that could include the genocides in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda in the 1990’s.

As I began writing this blog, I wanted to know when the Rwanda Genocide had occurred. I googled it and was led to the page below. I don’t remember the history books of my youth including any of these acts of genocide. Reading about them made me feel sick, but I read each one. I encourage you to do so, as well. It puts perspective on the genocidal acts in the Middle East right now. ISIS is following in the bloody footprints of their predecessors.

Man’s capacity for inhumanity seems to be inexhaustible.

Below, copied from : http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/

The term ‘Genocide’ was coined by Polish writer and attorney, Raphael Lemkin, in 1941 by combining the Greek word ‘genos’ (race) with the Latin word ‘cide’ (killing). Genocide as defined by the United Nations in 1948 means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including: (a) killing members of the group (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Recent to Past Occurrences

Americans Need to Stand Together

Are you a Republican? Are you a Democrat? A tea partier or a liberal? Are you so fired up about the transgressions of those in your opposite party that you can’t stand to look at one of them? Well, it’s time to get a life. We, Americans, better start standing up for each other, and we need to do it fast.

Ambassador Chris Stevens

Four Americans no longer have a life to do so. Ambassador Christopher  Stevens and three others: Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods gave their lives in the pursuit of the ideals that have guided the American Dream. At the ceremony for the returned victims of the Libyan attacks, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, said, “Today we bring home four Americans who gave their lives for our country and our values. To the families of our fallen colleagues, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest gratitude.”

The ceremony was marked with a dignity that I find lacking in our customary American attitude today. In our informality, we have become sloppy. Our standard of what is correct has been lowered too far. People feel it’s all right to disrespect our officials. I believe we have the unalienable right to disagree, yes, but we also need some rules of civility. Civility—that’s definitely lacking in this election campaign.

“Four Americans, four patriots. They loved this country. They chose to serve it, and served it well,” President Obama said during the ceremony in Maryland where the flag covered coffins were loaded into hearses. “They had a mission they believed in. They knew the danger, and they accepted it. They didn’t simply embrace the American ideal, they lived it; they embodied it.”

Let’s not forget these men.

And let’s not take this as an isolated event. We have enemies and they mean to do us harm. An American Embassy is under the sovereignty of America. And that’s where the attack was aimed—at you and at me, no matter where our politics lie.

AQAP Fighter.

The Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is taking credit for the attack, saying it was revenge for the killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi. ARAP (which I had never heard of until I started reading about the attack) is reported to have used the demonstrations against an infamous anti-Islam film as a pretext for actual terrorist attack that it was. It worked.

Usually I write about the issues in my little corner of the planet—things that occupy my days but aren’t earth shatteringly important. Today I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm to talk with you about any of it. They’re just too insignificant. I am thinking, however, about how I get so caught up in my “To Do” lists that I barely register events like the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 or the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya or the USS Cole attack in 2000. And they were the preludes to the 911 Twin Tower attacks. We need to pay attention.


Remember all those “United We Stand” posters that sprang up after 911? After the attack, people forgot their partisanship and remembered they were all Americans. But it didn’t last long, did it? We need to remember the second part of the quote: “divided we fall.” We need to start working together to make our country strong, if not bullet proof. We are on the same team, after all.

Lessons in Civility: Being Smart and Polite with Smartphones

This morning on my walk, my friends and I talked about a problem that a lot of us are facing. You are sitting with your family, and all heads are down. Adults and children of every age are texting, tweeting, playing games, facebooking or are otherwise engaged with an electronic device instead of the people they are with.

“I hate it when my kids are checking their e-mails or texting with someone else when I finally get some time to be with them,” I said.

“I know how you feel,” Julie said. “It makes you feel non-existent.”

“I read an article that said kids aren’t learning how to interact with the other people,” Marci said. “Their social skills are non-existent.”

“I think that using your phone has become almost sub-conscious,” Robin said. “I have friends that when they go out to dinner, everyone has to put their phone in the center of the table. The first one who reaches for their phone has to pick up the check.”

We all laughed at that.

“We got a really funny Christmas card this year,” I put in. “It was a picture of our cousin’s family sitting around the dinner table. Everyone was on a phone. The message was: texting you season’s greetings,” I said.

We all laughed again.

“We were just with our niece and nephew who have a seventeen-month-old. The baby had an iPad and could use it,” Marci said.

I shook my head. “That’s amazing. Toddlers have to be a lot smarter than we think. I mean, you have to have some reading skills—at least be able to recognize symbols—to be able to do that.”

“But is it healthy?” Julie asked. “I mean, there’s radiation coming from all this stuff.”

“And it’s an addiction. People spend hours playing games and talking and texting,” Robin said.

“Maybe that’s why productivity is down in the United States. It’s a Communist plot. Maybe all these years there have been sleeper cells planning the demise of America, and one of them invented these devices and the Internet,” I said.

My walking buddies all looked at me as if I were crazy. “It’s the writer in her,” Julie said. “Let’s forgive her.”

We continued on our walk and with the conversation.

“Pretty soon people won’t communicate with each other at all,” Marci said.

“But in some ways, we communicate more,” I said. “If you think about it, we now carry a phone with us where ever we go. And that phone has a camera. So not only are we in constant communication, we take pictures where we never would before. My daughter and daughter-in-law text me photos of the kids almost everyday. Or if we see something interesting we’ll snap a quick shot and text it to each other.”

I sent this photo to my daughter-in-law. We'd been talking about how the men leave just enough Coke or juice in a container so that it can spill all over the refrigerator. She wrote back, "Seriously!" We shared a good laugh in minutes.

“And I keep in touch with my nieces and nephews on Facebook. We don’t live in the same cities and they have such busy lives I wouldn’t normally have been able to do that. But on Facebook I can see what they are doing and make a quick comment,” Robin said. “I think we feel closer to each other that way.”

“And I text with my grandkids all the time. I told my grandsons that when they get a text from me that says: THINKING OF YOU, I really mean, I LOVE YOU. I just don’t want to embarrass them if their friends are reading over their shoulder,” I said.

“So maybe it’s not the electronic devices that are in the wrong—it’s the way people use them,” Julie said. “Like the NRA bumper stick: Guns don’t kill. People do. We just need some rules of how and when to use them.”

Somehow my mind created a picture of an iPhone being blown to smithereens, but I quickly pushed it away.

“What a great idea. We just need Smartphone etiquette guides,” I said.

“Yes! We all jumped in using these great devices without thinking there should be some rules about it,” Robin said.

“It wouldn’t have to be too many rules. Just a few to maintain civility,” Marci said.

By then we’d almost completed our circuit and were ready to go on our separate ways. Again we’d aired a popular topic and had set forth many opinions. Then we’d come up with what was needed.

If only we were in charge of the world, I thought. We could solve anything.