Kansas City Remembers: The World War I Museum

Memorial Day weekend is a fitting time to remember the sacrifices of our nation’s military forces.  There are few places that symbolize this sacrifice as powerfully as the National World War I Museum, located here in Kansas City. It includes over 55,000 artifacts from the war years, a time line of events during the war years, photographs, armaments, and far more treasures than a visitor can absorb in one visit.  Even the setting is a powerful visual experiences, sitting as it does with one of the most beautiful views of downtown Kansas City.  

No visitor can reach the museum without first confronting the Liberty Memorial Tower, which sits immediately above the museum, and which is dedicated to the the “Honor of those who served in the World War in Defense of Liberty and our country”.

On either side of the tower are two giant sphinxes with wing like coverings concealing their faces, as though they are, themselves, traumatized by the reality of war.  Two concrete buildings sit behind the sphinxes, themselves housing exhibits for the museum.

The banners on the doors that mark the entry to the museum are unassuming.  Once inside, visitors face a vast, but well-organized exhibit.  The various rooms, includes a timeline of the war years, uniforms, posters, banners, video histories and other documentation of the war years.

Knowledgeable volunteers are available throughout the building, eager to share their knowledge of the war and of the museum contents.

The munitions they describe are primitive by today’s standards, but were sufficient to cause, in combination with factors such as disease and starvation, horrible destruction to the military forces, civilian populations and the landscape of Europe.  The combined death toll of the military forces exceed 8,528,800.  While World War I was often called the “Great War”, or the war to end all wars, it was neither.  The destruction it caused contributed to events culminating in World War II and influence world affairs even today.

While statistics cannot adequately convey the depth of human misery, they are telling.  The casualty rates for the mobilized forces of the major powers are (approximately) as follows:

Country         Total Forces              Killed  Wounded/Prisoners/Missing        Total Casualties    Percent Casualties

Russia                        12,000,000                   1,700,000            7,450,000         9,150,000              76.3  

Germany                    11,000,000                   1,774,000             6,400,000         7,142,600              64.9  

British Empire           8,904,500                       908,370             2,280,000          3,190,250              35.8    

France                         8,410,000                     1,357,800            4,800,000         6,160,800              73.3  

Austria-Hungary      7,800,000                    1,200,000            5,820,000         7,020,000             90.0      

Italy                              5,615,000                        650,000             1,550,000          2,197,000              39.1  

United States             4,355,000                         116,516                  208,000             323,000                7.1

Because the museum is focused on the war itself, the reality of death surrounds us.  The ancient weapons of various sizes and shapes are on display.  

A restored 1918 Ford Model T ambulance is almost humorous in its quaintness.

But there is also significant information about the culture of the era as evidenced by murals, photographs, clothing and everyday mementos of the times.

There are life-sized murals which can only be described as glorifying, if not war, than the strength and power of those who are successful in war.

It is easier for the eye to turn to the powerful and positive symbols of hope and accomplishment.  But nothing, in a place dedicated to war, can escape the reality of death.  It is everywhere. In the midst of the exhibits are reminders of the humanness of the suffering.  An example of the power of those posters is one quoting the leader of German mutineers, sentenced to death for his role in the mutiny of members of the German fleet, struggling to end the war:  “I have been sentenced to death today.  Only myself and another comrade; the  others have been let off with fifteen years’ imprisonment.  You have heard why this is happening to me.  I am a sacrifice for the longing for peace; others are going to follow”.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, it mobilized forces for war on the ground, on the seas and in the air.  It was a welcome relief to its allies and helped tip the scales for the war’s outcome.  Because it entered the war more than two years after the war commenced, our casualties were comparatively small.  But each casualty, our own, and those of our enemies, is real.

Throughout the museum are portraits, sketches and photographs of those who fought and those who died.  Each had his or her own personal and tragic story.  Each had a family who mourned the lost of their loved one. This portrait is of Lieutenant John F. Richards II, 1st Aero Squadron, killed in action September 26, 1918 over Argonne Forest, (France) part of the final Allied offensive in World War I.  I will not easily forget his face.

The World War I Museum is a place memorializing one of many tragic wars.  It is a place of sadness.  It is also a place of remembrance.  I would like to believe it is a place of hop.  I am not so sure.  But each of us benefits by being reminded of the devastation that is the inevitable result of human conflict.

When to go to war, whether to go to war and why to go to war are issues that have no easy solutions and I will offer none.  But it is important to be reminded of the tragedy of war and of the sacrifices made by our men and women of the military who make great personal and family sacrifices to protect their nation in times of peace and times of war.  We should never forget them.

 

A Day at the Museum: San Francisco’s Legion of Honor

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

San Francisco is full of art and culture. Most of our recent visits into the city have been to see the touristy-type attractions. Pier 39. Ghirardelli. Coit Tower. For our visit this past Saturday with Aunt Carol and Uncle John, we opted for the arts. As our Christmas present from them, the four of us planned a day in the city to visit several museums and have a delicious dinner. Our first stop? The Legion of Honor.

The Legion of Honor is one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It is located in SF’s Lincoln Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was built as a gift from Alma de Bretteville Spreckels in the 1920s to commemorate the Californian soldiers who lost their lives fighting in France in World War I. The collection of fine art inside the museum is beautiful, and the architecture of the structure itself is equally magnificent.

As we walked around the inside of the museum, I couldn’t help but think how much it reminded me of the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The architecture is very similar, and both have Rodin’s Thinker! The collections ranged from impressionist paintings to Annie Leibovitz’s photography to ancient Roman sculptures. These were a few of my favorites.

My favorite piece of art in the whole museum is a ceiling in one of the exhibit rooms. The detail is incredible. The ceiling was carved from wood in Spain in the late 1400s-early 1500s during the Moorish occupation. It is one of four removed from the original setting in the Palacio de Altimira in Toledo, in the Torrijos region in Spain.

It was a beautiful day at the museum. With our busy lives, it is nice to be reminded of all the beautiful things to see around us. I believe the arts to be an important factor in maintaining the balance in society. It is hard to argue with the importance of the arts, especially when we see such beauty through the eyes of the artists, enlightening us about their fascinating perspectives on the world. In a lot of ways, it helps us look at the world through new eyes, learn how to see something from someone else’s perspective, and have a little more appreciation for our own world.

Once we left the Legion of Honor, heavy in thought, we made our way over to Golden Gate Park to see the de Young museum. But I will save that exciting experience for next time.

Our Founding Fathers

On July 4, 11776, our founders declared in the Declaration of Independence: “we hold theses Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty,pursuits Pursuit of Happiness.”  With these words, they began the process of shaping a government that obtains its powers from “the Consent of the Governed.” The Constitution continues in a similar fashion, professing the desire of the people of the United States to “establish Justice”, and to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” to ourselves and our posterity.”  These are powerful words, and the goals expressed in them have shaped this nation.  What kinds of men authored these documents?

When I read Madeleine Albright’s book, The Mighty and the Almighty, her brief description of the philosophical and religious perspectives of our first Presidents intrigued me.  Albright’s own belief in religious tolerance may certainly impact her vision of our founding fathers.  Particularly pertinent is her belief that religion should not be  a source of conflict and hate.  It is reasonable that she focuses on similar attributes in our founding fathers.

What were the beliefs of the men who shaped these documents?  What is it that inspired George Washington and others to create our Constitutional form of government?  How is that these men created a government based on concepts of liberty, freedom and democracy?  What caused them to enact a Constitution that gave so much power and dignity to the common man?  Albright believes they considered themselves to be like the Israelites, guided by God through the wilderness, presumably to the promised land, the a United States.

Almost certainly, the vast majority of early colonial leaders were closely associated with clearly defined religious denominations: Primarily Congregationalists, Puritans, and Anglicans. In contrast are the less clear cut beliefs of a small group of pivotal individuals who took center stage as authors of the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.  Their letters and speeches suggest they were deep thinkers, wise and thoughtful, “primarily political–not spiritual theorists” who focused  on “civil concepts: democracy, liberty, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, jury trial, all of the fundamental rights we hold dear.”

Consistent with their own political and philosophical beliefs, these men were highly respectful of the wide scope of religious and philosophical beliefs found among the citizenry.  What do we know about their beliefs?  Their religious beliefs appear not to have been stagnant.  They grew and changed as they faced the challenges of building a nation.  Historians describe them as very religious, not very religious, atheists or Deists, depending at least in part on the perspective of the various historians who write about the, while relying on whatever quotes fits.  Without question, they seem to have believed that this new nation should welcome people of different beliefs.

Our first President, George Washington, often acknowledged the importance of a supreme being, while advocating “scrupulous support for religious tolerance” including “Mohametans, Jews or Christians of any sect, or Atheists”.  In Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew congregation of Newport, R.I., he wrote: “The government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  He made frequent references to a deity, nonetheless, ministers of his time, including the Rev. Bird Wilson, Episcopalian, and Rev. James Abercrombie, Rector of Washington’s church, described him as a “Deist”.  Certainly as Secretary Albright indicates, he was committed to the right of every citizen to worship “according to the dictates of his own conscience”, as he did himself.

Our second President, John Adams, is described by Secretary Albright as a Unitarian who considered liberty “a gift from God” and democracy “a creation of man”.  She describes him as having had little use for the concept of the Trinity.  A prolific writer in the area of philosophical and religious issues, his various writings provide little clarity as to his personal beliefs. Like Jefferson, his religious and philosophical views were intertwined.  His primary concerns appear to have been civil rather than religious.  As a statesman he was dedicated to religious tolerance. Treatises about him quote him as inconsistently stating both that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people” and in contrast that “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”  I wonder whether this statement was in response to world events of his time.  He expressed concern that people “are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority”, as demonstrated by “every page of the history of the whole world.” Almost certainly a reference to the French Revolution which occurred almost simultaneously with our own, but with a level of brutality we never experienced.

Albright describes Thomas Jefferson, our third President, as a student of science and ethics.  The controversial nature of his beliefs is evidenced by his opponents’ attacks against him, labeling him an atheist. His own words make this suggestion highly suspect. In his letter to Benjamin Rush, in 1800, he acknowledges God, stating: “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”  But he certainly ascribes to a very personal system of beliefs: “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any part of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself.  Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.”  He had little good to say about Christian clergy, describing them as the “greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus”.  Ouch, my dad would loudly protest against any suggestion that his life’s work is an obstacle to the teachings of Jesus!!

Jefferson is the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.  He and George Mason, authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention on June 12, 1776.  In addition to codifying rights including freedom from excessive bond, separation of the powers of the three branches of government, the right to freedom of the press, and the right to jury trial, the document states that: all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience”; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

Jefferson wrote respectfully of atheists in a letter to Thomas Law in June 1814: “If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him whence arises the morality of the Atheist? … Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”  In a speech to the Virginia Convention in June 1778, he proclaimed:  “Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects…For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.”  Finally he states: “Say nothing of my religion.  It is known to my God and myself alone.”  Letter to John Adams, January 1817.

James Madison, the fourth President, and often identified as the “Father of the Constitution” authored major sections of the Federalist Papers, advocating for the passage of the Constitution.  He was certainly one of the greatest champions of that document. Because his early expressions of his religious views are said to have varied greatly from his private statements late in his life, it is difficult to set forth a concise statement of those beliefs.  Early in his political life he described that the “democratic will” is subordinate to the commands of God, but clarified that those commands are “heard and understood in the individual conscience”. Advocating for the Constitution’s language on the separation of church and state, he stated that “Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance;…in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”  Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822.  Madison spoke and wrote frequently on the issue of religious freedom. He authored Federalist Papers #51, in which he wrote a slight variation of his theme, stating that: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

 Last, but not least, of our best remembered colonial leaders is Benjamin Franklin.  Never a President, and always somewhat apart from the main stream even of the late 18th century, his thoughts about faith, only months prior to his death are witty and plain-spoken: “I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe…That the soul of man is immortal…As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.”
What does it matter? It is apparent that they were respected by their peers, that they were able to define themselves as men of integrity who embraced people of good will where ever they found them.  Certainly, in forging a government of people from such varied backgrounds they were able to shape the original “big tent” of which President Ronald Reagan spoke.  But further, they constructed a government in which people were able to come together as equals, with the interests of the majority and the interests of the various minorities all considered and given worth.  They gave respect to the individual, created a government based democratic values and expectations of liberty.  Most important, they gave our citizens a Constitution and Bill of Rights that became the basis for a government that has thrived for over 200 years.  Sadly, they did not protect us from the inhumanity of  slavery or insure the equal treatment of women and minorities.  But over the course of U.S. History. the concepts of liberty, equality and justice have prevailed and these fundamental rights were extended to all citizens.
                                                                                          Out of Many, One

Prague, Glorious Prague–Old Town

Until the end of the cold war in 1991, Iron Curtain countries, including Czechoslavakia, were essentially closed to U.S. tourists.  It was more than fifteen years later that we traveled to Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic. A major European economic and cultural center for more than 1000 years, the city resonates with the power that is its history.  In recent weeks I have learned a bit about Prague and the trauma it’s resident’s have endured through the  last 100 years. I am in awe of what I see and learn.

Totally inconsistent with my expectations, Prague is a vibrant, bustling community.  The old town looks like it is straight from a movie set.  It is colorful, dramatic and gothic. Outdoor cafes make visitors feel welcome and tourists can, for a price, enjoy a carriage ride through the city center.

The hustle and bustle of the city surrounds us.  The mood is happy and upbeat.  The tourist trade significantly impacts the economy and seems to be welcomed by all.  The Powder Gate sits next to the palace in Old Town.  It is of ornamental, not military value.  King Vladislav II placed the foundation stone in 1475.
Everywhere you walk in Old Town you see buildings that appear to be, and often are, the work of centuries. Individual buildings, churches and sculptures date from as early as the 1300s and have survived, against all odds, despite wars and other calamities.  The Old Town Hall gives us a sense of the history of the city that is about more than the expenditure of wealth.  It is the creation of elegance.
The Old Town Hall Tower’s Astronomical Clock is a big tourist draw.  It’s intricate design includes a variety of characters. Images of Death, The Turk  and the twelve Apostles all make their appearance on the hour.
The current home of Prague’s city government is the “Nova Radnice” or New City Hall.  It is situated in Marianski Square.
Perhaps not as colorful as it’s predecessor, it is, nonetheless, a stately center of power.
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn dominates the Old Town Square. Built in 1365 its unique twin spires and gothic appearance make it popular to tourists and travel magazines. Occupied for a time by the Hussites, it later came under the control of Catholic Jesuits.
Construction on St. Vitus’s Cathedral began in 1344.  It was finally completed in the early 1900s.  Its beauty dominates the skyline.  The tomb of Prince/St. Wenceslas, murdered in 929 A.D., is located in the cathedral.  He is best known to Christians from the Christmas Carol, “Good King Wenceslas” for his acts of charity. The intricate design of the exterior is consistent with the elegance of the cathedral’s interior.
Masterpieces of religious art cover the interiors of churches throughout the city evidencing, yet again, the power and great wealth with which Prague has been graced. The craftsmanship evidenced everywhere around us is second to none.
There is no way to capture the essence of Prague’s majestic art and architecture in a single post, nor in a hundred.  But we hope that these photographs give you a sense of the glory of its past, present and future.

What do Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice have in Common? Czech Mentors!

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice are dynamic women whose influences on U.S. and world events had a significant impact on foreign policy decisions.  Both served as U.S. Secretaries of State.

Albright is a Democrat, politically a moderate.  Rice is a Republican, politically a conservative. They are of different faiths, with different philosophic perspectives. Two powerful, but very different personalities, styles and beliefs. Since reading Madeleine Albright’s book, The Mighty and the Almighty, I have enjoyed discovering her world views, her life experiences and her views of the development of the U.S. as a nation and an international power. But I was still surprised when I learned of the political interconnections between Albright and Rice. It is all about mentors.

In her book,  U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, describes her values and beliefs.  She describes being influenced by her father, Josef Korbel, a Czechoslovakian diplomat, and by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia, in whose government Korbel served. Rice also identifies Josef Korbel as a major figure in her life. So, who are these men? And how did they influence two such brilliant and unique individuals?

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) was born in Hodonin, Moravia. He was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Prague and a visiting professor at the University of London.  He served in the Austrian Parliament from 1891 to 1893 and 1907 to 1914.  He went into exile in 1914 and organized Czechs and Slovaks living outside Austria-Hungary. He developed a network of exiles who passed intelligence to the Allies while helping to establish the Czechoslovak Legions who fought with the Allies in World War I. He traveled throughout Europe and the United States from 1916 to 1918, encouraging allied leaders to force the “disintegration” of Austria-Hungary. When Austria-Hungary fell at the end of WWI, Masaryk became head of the provisional Czech Federation.  He was elected President by the National Assembly in 1918, 1920, 1927 and 1934.  He died before the Munich Agreement was signed in September 1938. Korbel briefly served in Masaryk’s government.

Masaryk was raised Catholic and, as an adult, converted to the Unitarian faith.  He married a U.S. citizen, also Unitarian.  Albright describes him as an intellect who did not consider belief in God necessary to be moral, but did believe “religious faith, properly understood, did much to encourage and strengthen right behavior.” Masaryk considered humanism and religion to be intertwined, with religion ultimately being about showing respect for every person and helping others.

Josef Korbel was born in what is now the Czech Republic.  He was a young diplomat when he was forced to flee his homeland due to his Jewish heritage when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. He would also have been at risk of arrest due to his diplomatic ties to President Edvard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia after Masaryk’s. He returned to his homeland after World War II, served as ambassador to Luxembourg, and fled again when the communists assumed power in 1948. Sentenced to death in absentia, he was given political asylum in the United States.  It is little wonder he had a keen interest in democracy and a love for this country.   Korbel ultimately moved to the University of Denver where he founded the school bearing his name, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Even though he was Jewish by birth, Korbel appears to have espoused no religious faith in his youth, and raised his children in the Catholic faith.

Josef Korbel may be best known as Madeleine Albright’s father, but he was also a mentor to Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor and 66th U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.  She studied under him at the University of Denver and describes him as a central figure in her life.  Her PhD dissertation dealt with politics and policy under communism in his homeland, Czechoslovakia.

Both Albright and Rice credit Korbel with the belief that “democratic values are at the heart of peace and stability in the world.” Both women have reflected that Korbel considered the United States the “Indispensable Nation” because of its pivotal role in world affairs. They, too, share that belief.

In understanding Secretary Albright, it is helpful to understand her admiration of Masaryk, her father, and the impact both had on her world view. In understanding her father, it is important to recognize that his beliefs were broad enough to nurture two women with such diverse points of view.  It also gives us insight into the values that influence the beliefs of both women and their perspectives of faith and politics in interacting with world and national leaders. We journey on!

Madeleine Albright–Reflections on Religious Diversity in Colonial North America

A good place to start a discussion of Madeleine Albright’s book, The Mighty and the Almighty, is at the beginning.  For purposes of this post, a better place to start is page 16, page 44 in my e-book.  Here she begins her exploration of the religious differences of the earliest colonies.  This precedes  her exploration of the role of faith in the formation of our nation, the United States of America.  While much of my commentary is based directly on The Mighty and the Almighty, I explored some of her references to understand a little more indepth (I know, it is only a post!) the issues she raised.

Differences in Faith in Colonial America

U.S. History 101 teaches us that the Pilgrims came to the New World to escape persecution in Europe and to build better lives.  Secretary Albright focuses on the way the patterns of that migration, and the related early religious conflicts, impacted the development of the colonies.  It is apparent that the English, Dutch, Spanish, French and other colonists brought with them differing views of religion and that their beliefs, and the conflicts among them concerning their beliefs, helped shape the political landscape then and now.

1) The Puritans arrived in the New World fleeing religious persecution in England.  John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, left England in hopes of building a community that would be a model for “how to live a righteous life,” “escape God’s judgment on the corrupt churches of Europe” and find a refuge from poverty and overpopulation in England while spreading the gospel.   Despite persecution by Anglicans in England, his Puritan colony determined to exclude from full citizenship in their community all but a select view within their own faith.

2) Roger Williams was a theologian in England. Ordained into the Anglican church, he became a Puritan at Cambridge.  Forced out of England, he settled briefly in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  In 1636 he established Providence Plantation after being banished by the Puritans from Salem/Boston.  His transgression, in the eyes of the leaders of that community, was to oppose taking the lands of Native Americans without compensation and advocating for the separation of church and religious functions. He opposed slavery and advocated for freedom of religion for all groups–Jews, Papists and Mohammedans.  He specifically said about the treatment of Jews elsewhere “for whose hard measure, I fear, the nations and England hath yet a score to pay”.  Like-minded settlers and minority groups, joined him in Rhode Island where they found a safe haven.  (This is important to me because my ancestor, John Lewis, was a founder of Westerly, Rhode Island, formed in 1661.)  Williams is said to have established the first Baptist Congregation in the colonies.  Williams renounced the practice of taking land by force from Native Americans and, instead, entered treaties with them.

3) Reverend Thomas Hooker, a popular Puritan preacher, founded the Hartford Settlement in 1636.  He first came into conflict with other Puritan leaders when he opposed the decision of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to limit voting rights to an elite group within the Puritan faith. He drafted portions of Connecticut’s Constitution which declared the “God given” right of people to pick their own leaders.  On May 31, 1638, he presented a sermon in which he espoused the belief that “the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people” and declared that “God has given us liberty, let us take it.” He also attracted followers who settled portions of Connecticut.

4) William Penn, was born Anglican.  He became a member of the Society of Friends (Quaker) at age 22.  He was imprisoned in England for his beliefs, eventually relocated to the colonies, after authoring a “charter of liberties” for Burlington Settlement in New Jersey. The charter guaranteed free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment and free elections. He eventually settled in Pennsylvania Province where he drafted a“Frame of Government” that addressed such rights as freedom of worship, trial by jury, free election, fair trial and fair taxes.  In addition to Quakers, the province attracted Amish, Jews, Huguenots, Mennonites and others. Penn, like Williams, befriended the Native Americans and bought his lands from them rather than taking land by force.

6) While not part of the original 13 colonies, and not a focus of Secretary Albright’s book, Catholics colonized the Southern states and California beginning with the founding of missions in the late 1400s Spanish missionaries and by French traders as early as the late 1600s.  Catholics were also among the founders of Maryland.  Identified as “papists” Catholics were subject to persecution in some colonies until at least the late 1700’s.

There is, of course, far more to this early history than I can presume to understand or to research for my brief summary.  But the ways in which the colonies formed, and the close proximity of these varied and sometimes conflicting religious communities impacted their lives and ours.  The tragedies of their time are truly that–tragedies: the introduction of slavery into the new world, the early wars with native American populations on the East Coast, and the Salem witch trials.  The great successes include, first and foremost, that the colonies became an incubator for the values important to us today: liberty, separation of church and state, freedom of religion and democracy that were nurtured and grew, for over 100 years before the “forging of one nation.”

Next:  From the wisdom of a few men, a great document. The United States Constitution.

The Mighty and the Almighty–Diplomacy and Faith

In my quest for greater understanding of the role of faith in government and diplomacy, I have focused on two books.  Senator John Danforth’s Faith and Politics and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty.  Senator Danforth is a lifelong Republican.  Secretary Albright has been a Democrat since college.  Both are Episcopalian.  Each served as Ambassador to the UN.  Both advocate that people of faith should be active in government.  Both believe it is essential that there be respect for diversity both within the Christian community and that this respect must extend to those of other faiths and philosophical beliefs.

I focused on Senator Danforth in an earlier post.  Now I will focus on Secretary Albright.  She was born in Czechoslovakia.  Her father was a diplomat.  She was a child when Adolf Hitler was in power.  She emigrated with her family from Czechoslovakia to the United States after communists seized power in her homeland.  Educated at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, she received her PhD from Columbia University.  Raised Catholic, she converted to the Episcopal faith and, as an adult, came to learn of her Jewish heritage.  Appointed United States Secretary of State during President Clinton’s administration, she served with great distinction from January 1997 to January 2001.

Her unique family history and academic and professional experiences give her a unique perspective on the subject of her book, the role of faith in international diplomacy.  Because of her childhood experiences, she also has special insight into what a privilege it s to live in a free and democratic society.

Secretary Albright’s book is dedicated to “those of every nation and faith who defend liberty, build peace, dispel ignorance, fight poverty, and seek justice.”  Secretary Albright weaves this dedication, and her personal family history, into a scholarly but easily readable narrative of the role of faith in the earliest years of colonial America, through the founding of the Republic and through to the challenges of international diplomacy in a nuclear age.

She discusses separately and together the roles of religious belief and morality.  Her definition of what is moral as essentially that which “we associate with good:  life, liberty, justice, prosperity, health, and peace of mind.”  She describes these characteristics as the opposite of “death, repression, lawlessness, poverty, illness, and fear.”

She worries about the dangers and challenges resulting from the increase in religious passions throughout the world.  She shares the wisdom of religious scholars that effective diplomacy requires that government leaders become more knowledgeable about the faiths and cultures of the countries with whom we interact.  She believes such knowledge is essential in our endeavors to work toward reconciliation rather than toward armed conflict.  Even as she identifies herself as an optimist, she worries “the prospect of a nuclear bomb detonated by terrorists in purported service to the Almighty is a nightmare that may one day come true.”

The Mighty and the Almighty is a goldmine for those who want a brief history of the role of religious conflict on the founding of some of the earliest American colonies, about the religious perspectives of our first four Presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Because there is no way to do more than touch the surface of the issues raised by Secretary Albright.  It is wonderful material for further posts.

Enchanted Islands-Sailing Dubrovnik to Split (Part 1)

Enchanted islands.  That is the best way to describe them.  When Terry and I left Dubrovnik to begin our week sailing the Dalmatian Coast, we expected a great trip.  But we did not believe it could match the experience we had in Dubrovnik. We were wrong. We expected to see drab buildings left over from World War II followed by years of communist rule.  We were wrong again. With six close friends, we boarded the gulet, “Fortuna Dalmata,” in the harbor outside Dubrovnik and set sail to visit islands, towns and villages as enchanting as their names suggest: Vis, Hvar, Krk, and Komiza. Our crew included experienced sailors and an incredible cook.  They made our island hopping experience as relaxed as it was satisfying. Our food was as good as we would expect in a first class restaurant.  Not surprising, since our chef’s family owns a fine restaurant in Split.  Breakfast included chocolate croissants, fruit, eggs and cereal.  Dinners included veal shank and lobster.  What could be better than dinner served looking out over the sea to the islands nearby. Only 69 of the 1000 or more islands along the Croatian coast are inhabited. The  entire coast has a rich history that extends back long before the birth of Christ.  Various islands and towns along the coast were inhabited by–and/or did battle with–the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Turks and Venetians among others. Many had ruins from those periods.  The fortifications on some islands were evidence of a long history of war. The islands we visited included picturesque rural villages with basic agricultural equipment and few automobiles and taxis. Tractors were common sights.

So were donkeys.
 It was not uncommon to land on islands with Greek and Roman ruins that spoke to their influence along the Dalmatian Coast.
There were shrines and statues to unknown heros.  The sacred nature of the temples and the sculptures, both Christian and pre-Christian were apparent all around us.  The detail of the carving and the powerful portrayals of worship evidence that the populations along the coast were highly religious throughout Croatia’s history.
 The 16th century Church of Sv Nikola at Komiza dominated the hillside as it rose up from the terraced land and towers over the cypress.  It’s sleek lines and sculptured beauty seem to rise up to meet the heavens.
While the beauty of the architecture on Vis and Hvar inspired us with man’s creative spirit, we also visited islands where the natural
beauty appeared incapable of existing anywhere other than an artist’s canvas.
Each island had it’s own personality.  We could be inspired in the morning by nature and arrive in the evening on an island where the ornate buildings evidenced centuries of affluence and commerce long before the Americas entered the world stage.  As you can see, I am way underdressed for this highly sophisticated and elegant harbor town.
 Terry was similarly decked out in his favorite sailing stripes as he walked the gang-plank from the Fortuna to the dock.
As we look at the serenity of the coastal town below, it is hard to believe that only twenty years ago Croatia was involved in heavy fighting that left much of the country in shambles.  It was just as difficult to understand that this wonderful part of the world has seen far more than its share of political and military turmoil from pre-historic times to the present.

There wasn’t an island that we didn’t want to visit longer.  Many of the uninhabited islands are little more than rocky crags dotting the water between the larger islands. They cluster together like hens and chickens.

To show you even more of our favorite sites in the Croatian Islands we will post Part 2 later.

The Few, the Proud, the Montford Point Marines

February is Black History Month.  It is an important time to celebrate African-American history.  It is equally to acknowledge the contributions of our friends of color. The successes of the present arise out of sacrifices from the past.  While they are too many to list, this is a great time to thank the Montford Point Marines who volunteered and served in World War II, after President Roosevelt entered a Presidential Directive integrating the Marine Corps.

We are all familiar with the Buffalo Soldiers formed at Fort Leavenworth in 1866 to fight in the Indian Wars.  We have also heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American aviators in the Army Air Corps, who trained at Tuskegee, Oklahoma, beginning in 1941.  However, I had never heard of the Montfort Point Marines. They were activated in August 1942.  Between 1942 and 1949, 20,000 men volunteered to serve in the Marines. They trained in a segregated facility in Montford Marine Camp[1] in Montford Point, N.C.  Point, North Carolina.   Initially, they were trained by white officers.  Quickly African-Americans took over their own training when, by 1943, American Americans finally became noncommissioned officers.  Like the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen, they chose to fight, despite segregation, in order to show their national commitment.  Cassandra L. Paschal has written about them that they believed “that if they could show their homeland their valor they would return to a country that in its gratitude would give them all of the freedoms provided in our Constitution.”

Montford Point Marines were assigned to support white troops.  However, they often found themselves in the thick of battle. They served, fought and died in the Pacific Theater in places with names like Saipan, Okinawa, Guam and the Mariana Islands.    Shortly after World War II, in September 1949, President Truman ordered the end of segregation in the armed forces.  Thereafter all armed forces were integrated.

On November 23, 2012, House Resolution 2447 was signed into law by President Obama.  The resolution granted the Congressional Medal or Honor to the Montford Point Marines.  While 11 members abstained from voting, not a single “no” vote was entered.

Equality under the law did not come quickly.  But the service of these brave men has finally been acknowledged and honored. To those who served, “Thank you for your service”.


[1] Renamed Camp Johnson on April 19, 1974, in honor of Sergeant Major, Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson, a Distinguished Montford Point Drill Instructor

Chasing the Mayflower

I am fascinated by what I call “my tribe.”  Meg and I are part of a great family and I have always wanted to know more about it: countries of origin, religious affiliations, and all the factors that influence a family through the generations.  When mom and dad moved out of our long time family home, I came upon family records and photographs about which I had no previous knowledge.  Among the records was a copy of my grandmother’s family tree tracing her Lewis family back to Westerly, Rhode Island in the late 1660’s.  I began researching the Lewis and Mesle families and was hooked.  My brother-in-law gave me a subscription to a genealogy research site for Christmas that fed my interest.

Grandmom considered joining the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but disagreed with its refusal to allow Marion Anderson sing in Constitution Hall in 1939.  Knowing we had ancestors who served in the revolutionary army spurred my interest even further.  Many months of painstaking research established in my mind the accuracy of grandmom’s family tree and helped me locate proof that Elnathan Terry had served in the Revolution.  Researching his family led me to Sprague Project, a wonderful internet source, Sprague Project Database. Through the Sprague Project, I traced Elnathan Terry back to Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Richard Warren and Francis Cooke.  The book, Revolutionary War Veterans, Chenango Co. NY, provided significant information, confirmed Elnathan’s service and  confirmed his relationship to my Lewis family.

With evidence in hand sufficient to establish for me the Mayflower connection, I decided to apply for membership in the Mayflower Society, one of the many historical organizations focused on the Mayflower and its passengers.  The proof necessary to join the society is far more rigorous than the proof necessary to satisfy me.  (Once I found my great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis was buried in the family plot with Elnathan Terry, my questions were answered).  But it required 6 months or more contacting libraries, genealogy societies and researching on-line records to find the proof that should satisfy the Mayflower Society.  Some members of the family were easy to trace, because of grandmom’s family tree, but others eluded proof.  One ancestor, Freeborn Lewis, who married Esther Terry, died very young, leaving his widow and their children.  She married again and moved to Iowa, where she died.  Records related to Freeborn and Esther and their son, Lorenzo Lewis, were the hardest to trace.  The last piece of the proof came from Myra Shattuck’s Bible, located in the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich, NY.

Six years after beginning my family research, I am ready to finally submit my Mayflower Society application.  Relying heavily on Mayflower histories, DAR records, family records, and the wonderful assistance of staff in genealogical libraries, I have found and copied my records, completed the Mayflower Society application and am ready to submit it.  Wish me luck.

For those interested in genealogy, my direct lineage, through Rogers’ Mayflower family to the present, in chronological order: Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Hanna Rogers, Benjamin Terry, Benjamin Terry, Private Elnathan Terry, (who married Mary Kenyon, a Mayflower descendant from the Warren/Cooke families), Esther Terry, Lorenzo Lewis, Horatio Daniel Lewis, Mary Ocelia Lewis, Frank Carl Mesle, Catharine Ann Mesle, Meghan Ann (Meg) McCollister.