Cleaver continues to lead the way

On Saturday, Feb. 4, Representative Emanuel Cleaver held his first 2017 Town Hall Meeting.  Its focus was on immigration: providing information and responding to concerns of the immigrant communities.

Speaking to a crowd of over 1,000 strong, Cleaver was inspiring and informative, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and the benefits immigrants provide to our communities.  His panel of experts responded to specific, individual questions from the audience.  In addition, outside the hall, organizations had booths with staff available to provide additional information.

IMG_8503.JPG

Cleaver continues to lead the way on these important issues, showing that Missouri’s 5th District is represented by one of the great leaders of our time.

#immigrationpolicy #nobannowall #knowyourrights #revcleaver

Emanuel Cleaver II For Congress: It is a Family Matter

As long as U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver has served in government, the Mesle family has supported him. Our loyalty to him is ongoing because we believe he personifies the ethics, civility and judgment essential to wise governance.

On behalf of ourselves, and my late father, we ask for your support of Representative Cleaver. We believe he is good for Kansas City, good for Missouri, and good for our nation.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II

Congratulations Madam Councilwoman!

V is for VICTORY!

I’m proud to announce that my aunt, Sherry Mesle-Morain, just won a seat on the Lamoni City Council. Congratulations Aunt Sherry! You were an excellent candidate, and you will be an amazing councilwoman.

Image

Big hugs and lots of love from your Chief “Team Sherry” Officer!

Graffiti On Broadway

Graffiti can be found throughout Kansas City.  Recently I discovered another treasure trove of graffiti art.  Hope you enjoy it.

IMG_2363

.

IMG_2366

.

IMG_2371Clever, don’t you think?  I wish I knew the artist, but you will see s/he is identified immediately below the shark in the third photograph.

What issues matter to you? Please take our quick survey!

Now that the craziness of election season is over, politicians and constituents alike are getting back into the swing of the “real world.” Of course, that doesn’t mean the politicking comes to an end. With all of the issues facing our nation, I’m curious, what issues are most important to you?

Don’t worry, we’re not trying to conduct an official poll or gain information for any person or organization. We just want to know what our friends and family think and what issues we might explore as possible blog posts in the future.

Madam Secretary: Hillary Clinton

great_seal_136_1There is a line in the movie The American President, in which Michael Douglas, in his role as President of the United States, explains to his nemesis, that “…being President of this country…is entirely about character.”  As I have studied the three women who have served in the position of Secretary of State, I have come away with the belief that each of these women have proven the quality of their character throughout their careers.  I have written a bit about Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.  As Hillary Clinton [1] ends her years of service as Secretary of State, I decided to write about her.

A contender for the Presidency in 2012, Secretary Clinton’s years as Secretary of State have only enhanced her credentials.  Will she be a candidate for President in 2016?  Who knows.  Too early to talk about it you say?  Maybe, but in her final days as Secretary, she is providing us the opportunity to understand even more fully her own personal values and priorities without the constraints of  being President Clinton’s “first lady” or President Obama’s ambassador to the world.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is one of the world’s most influential leaders. [2]  As we consider Secretary Clinton’s character, there is no better vehicle to study her character than in her December 6, 2012, in Dublin Ireland. Want to understand more about the nature of her character?  This speech is a good start.

There are other speeches where she has established her tenacity, her force of will in fighting for peace and in support of U.S. policies throughout the world. But her speech in Ireland [3] focus is less on any single  country or international crisis than on a description of her philosophy of international relations and impediments to healthy governments.

She begins by complimenting her host nation, and describes the important role of Ireland in the creation of the United States.  She continues by describing her belief that human rights is essential to healthy world governments and should be a goal for the 21st century. She describes human rights as “the God-given entitlement of every person”.

Secretary Clinton describes herself as both an idealist and a realist.  She recognizes that in the face of global economic challenges and preventing terrorism concerns about human rights seem to be easily set aside as secondary issues.  Recognizing that temptation, she believes, instead, that respect for human rights is central to building strong relationships and alliances and supporting societies that are stable and economically strong.

At Dublin, Clinton sets forth what she considers to be the most critical human rights issues of the 21st century as follows:

1)  Religious Freedom and the Rights of Religious Minorities–She reminds us that societies are strongest when they deliver justice not just to the powerful, but also the most vulnerable.  She identifies, in particularly the Middle East and North Africa as regions in which governments have been particularly subject to pressure for real democratic change, to a significant extent as a result of their intolerance for the rights and beliefs of religious minorities. [4]

2)  Internet Freedom–Perhaps not surprisingly, she identifies the internet as a major vehicle for criticism and expression that is particularly susceptible to censorship.  She describes her hope that the internet, symbolic of the right to freedom of expression and thought, can become a means of positive communication between leaders and their people rather than a target for a deepening spiral of repression by leaders angry–or feeling vulnerable–as a result of internet protests.  But she also describes ways in which government actions blocking and shutting down communication on the internet–particularly as to tweets, blogs, and even internet underground news sources–have had a brutal impact on dissidents.

3)  The Role of Civil Society–In many ways, her identification of “civil society” actually incorporates each of the three other priorities identified in her speech.  She believes that the United States’ economic and security interest in helping  tilt what she calls “states in the balance” toward accountable institutions with protections for human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance.  She believes that Instead of focusing only on the compassionate aspects of expanding civil society, civil, stable governments offer greater opportunities for new economic markets.  In contrast, she describes why governments  lacking a civil society, are subject to greater risks of instability and increased risk of inflaming global terrorism.

4)  Respect for the Human Rights of Women and Girls–Rather than identifying women’s rights as secondary to the greater issues of human rights, she considers the treatment of females to be “the unfinished business of the 21st century”.  She describes the brutal treatment of women in areas of the world where they are denied health care, an education, and who suffer the violence of female genital mutilation, virtual slavery, victimization through honor crimes.  She grieves over the forced marriages, often at very early ages, of girls who have no protection from the whims of the men around them.  She describes in particular the Pakistani girl, Malala, [4], shot in the head solely because she spoke out for the rights of Pakistani girls to go to school.

Secretary Clinton ends her Dublin speech much as she began it: with a recognition of the very real dangers threatening the United States and the international community.  But she also expresses a belief that working together to secure the pivotal human rights issues described above will help ensure, not only the interests of individuals, but also help ensure peace, aid in supporting economic development and our other most urgent global problems.

While a single speech does not tells us all we need to know about any government figure, it is a starting point.  As she leaves public office, at least for now, it will be interesting to see where her path takes her next.  We will wait to see.

_________________

[1]  Photograph used by Department of State

[2]    Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice preceded her. Each in her own way has created history, each has been described as “a woman of character”.  See post “What do Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice Have In Common” dated April 13, 2012.

[3]  Her speech of December 6, 2012 was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

[4]  She also accuses Korea (never described as a religious nation) of running some of the “largest concentration camps in the world.”

[5] See post “I am Malala” dated November 12, 2012.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers.

I Am Malala: Honoring A Young Girl’s Struggle

On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala Yousafzai [1] as she rode home on a school bus with her friends.  Malala survived.  She was shot in the head.  The bullet lodged in her neck near her spine. Unconscious and near death, with the assistance of the Pakistani military, Pakistani surgeons removed the bullet in Pakistan and, once stabilized, she was flown to England.  She is now recovering in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.  Eventually she hopes to return to Swat to resume her studies.

Malala was born in July 1997.  Named Malala after a poetess and warrior, she was born to lead.  Her Muslim family is from a large Pashtun tribe in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  As the rest of us bemoaned the treatment of women and girls in Taliban controlled areas of the Muslim world, Malala did something about it. At the tender age of 11, in 2008, with the support of her educator father, she spoke to the press club in Peshawar and asked “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education”.  Her advocacy of her right to an education began and has continued throughout the next 4 years.

When the Taliban threatened and burned schools, Malala continued to attend school.  When the Taliban closed schools, she studied until they reopened. While she initially dreamed of becoming a physician, she changed her ambition to a career in government and politics.

By 2009 she was wrote a blog for the BBC, focused on daily life of a girl living under the Taliban.[2]  She continued to write in her blog even as Taliban and the military fought in the streets.  She continued her work even as her father received death threats.  She agreed to interviews within her own country and with the international press.  When her identity became publicly known, she began appearing publicly on television to advocate for female education. She appeared on a UNICEF supported program as chair of the District Child Assembly Swat in support of children’s rights.

In October 2011, Malala was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.  She received Pakistan’s first  National Youth Peace Prize in December of that year.  She was international recognized for her advocacy for education, by the tender age of 15.

A the time Malala was injured, she was fully aware of the risks she was facing.  She may not have known that the Taliban had voted in the summer of 2012 to have her assassinated, but she had received death threats on her FACEBOOK Page and through notes placed under the door of her home.  She went to school anyway.  She spread her message anyway.  She had to know that these threats were not silly acts of bullying by other children.  These threats were real.  But she continued her campaign in favor of her right, and the right of every girl and woman, to obtain an education.

Malala was not a victim of a random bullet.  She was the target of the attack. The Taliban shooters asked for her by name. Undaunted, she continues her recovering, vowing to return to Swat to be educated. Will she return?  I don’t know.  Will she continued her education?  Without a doubt!

As powerful as her early life has been, her attempted assassination has also furthered her cause of universal education.  President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have all spoken out against the Taliban’s actions, while acknowledging her courage.  Former First Lady Laura Bush described her as “a modern Anne Frank”. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the new U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, adopting the slogan, “I am Malala”, has initiated a petition drive to demand that no children be denied an education.

As of today, her attackers have not been caught. More than 50 Pakistani Muslim clerics have denounced the shooting. Pakistan has honored her by renamed schools in her name.  Malala’s face and message have spread through tweets, Facebook posts, t-shirts and posters.   The slogan “I am Malala” rings throughout Pakistan and beyond. Her life continues to be a symbol of hope, commitment and courage.

I am Malala.

[1]  Photograph by  “123 people.co.uk”

[2] For her safety her blog was written using a pseudonym.

________________________

The opinions expressed on our blog do not represent the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers.

Have You Voted?

Have you voted.  I have!  I feel really good about it.  I smiled at all of the other early voters as though we have a special bond.  We do.  Whether we agree on all of the candidates, we all understand the importance of voting as an essential element in our Constitutional rights and freedoms.  Our respect as voters for our nation and our democracy ties us more closely together than any of our differences.

If you haven’t voted yet, take the time to do so now.  You will feel better for having done so.  Then wear your “I Voted” stickers as a reminder to your family and friends to vote.  And don’t forget, at the end of the day we are all in this together.

Justice In Our Courts: A Fair And Impartial Judiciary

The U.S. Constitution provides for a separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers. [1]  The role of the judiciary is unique among the branches of government.  Our courts are accountable to the United States Constitution, federal and state laws, and the constitutions of the individual States.  Most citizens are in agreement that they want judges to be accountable to the law and not to special interest groups.

In 1940, in response to the increased role of politics in the selection of judges, the voters of Missouri amended the Missouri Constitution when they enacted the “Nonpartisan Selection of Judges Court Plan”.  Identified as the Missouri Plan, it has, since that time, served as a model for 34 other states.  Now that plan is challenged in Missouri by a proposed constitutional amendment that would significantly expand the role of politics in the selection of state appellate and supreme court judges.

The current “Missouri Plan” provides for the selection of state supreme court and appellate judges utilizing a non-partisan commission whose role is to review and evaluate candidates for judicial vacancies and to present the Governor with a panel of 3 candidates for a judicial position, from which the governor selects the successful candidate.  The 7 member commission is chaired by a Missouri Supreme Court judge [2], and includes 3 attorneys, elected by Missouri attorneys, and three lay members appointed by the Governor.  The lay members and lawyers serve staggered 6 year terms.  The governor selects the lay members. The commission picks 3 candidates for the judicial position.  The governor selects the judge from the 3 candidates.  A sitting governor is able, in a single term, to select only 2 lay members, giving the governor control over fewer than 1/3 of the members of the commission.  Over a period of two terms the governor has control of three appointments, still a minority of the commission.  In recent years the selection process has been modified to provide increased transparency in the selection process by providing the public significantly more information about the candidates.

On the November 6, the voters will be asked to consider Proposition 3, a proposed amendment to Missouri’s Constitution that seeks to expand the role of politics in the selection process.  Inherent in the proposed changes to Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan is increased politicalization of the judiciary. The proposed constitutional amendment would remove the Supreme Court Judge from the commission and give the governor the authority to appoint 4 members of the commission, 2 immediately on taking office and two more 2 years after taking office, thus giving the governor the ability to appoint in excess of 50% of the commission in his/her first term.

There is currently no organized support for this Constitituonal amendment.  Neither Governor Nixon nor his opponent supports the amendment.  What, then, is the problem?  Elected officials who support the Constitutional amendment in Missouri also support the direct election of appellate judges.  Why you say?  Purportedly the proponents are seeking increased accountability of judges.  But to whom?

The Missouri Plan was implemented in response to efforts by political bosses to control the selection of judges, particularly at the appellate levels.  The perception was that these political bosses wanted judges who were loyal to them and not to the law.  This risk can be the same whether the perceived loss of independence results from the dominance of the governor over the selection process or the need of judicial candidates to face elections, particularly in large metropolitan areas where the cost of an election can be significant, thus requiring them to solicit the large sums of money necessary for political campaigns.

The role of our courts is to fairly and impartially enforce the laws and to do so without bias. Experience in states including Texas and Illinois suggests that the  election of appellate judges significantly changes the dynamic of the court system. The challenge associated with requiring judges to solicit significant campaign contributions and to campaign for office includes, almost necessarily, an expectation by donors that judges will have some accountability to them. How can this be a benefit to the fairness of the judicial process?  It can’t.

When you are asked to support changes to the processes by which judges are selected, ask yourself whether you would want to appear before judges who are responsible to the law, or who are indebted to one or more special interest groups.  Hopefully, the answer is quite clear.  Citizens should reasonably expect that judges are fair and impartial, responsible to uphold the Constitution and be governed by it and by other duly enacted federal and state laws, they protect individual rights and that they provide access to the judicial system.  There is no place in these responsibilities for judges who are–or appear to be–subject to the desires of any special interest.[3]

John Johnston, Past President of the Missouri Bar and strong advocate for the retention of the non-partisan court plan summed it up:  “When we select judges, we want people who will be good umpires, not players.  We want people who will set aside any feelings they have about who should or who should not win.  We want people who will apply the rules that we made as a people through our constitution, or that our elected representatives made through laws, or that our governors made through executive policies.  when any of these rules conflict, we want judges who will say that the people win, and that our most direct voice, the constitution, wins.”

Perhaps the Federalist Papers say it the best:  “there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.” And further: “The complete independence of the courts of justice is clearly essential in a limited Constitution…” [4][5].

Isn’t that what we all want?  I think so.

[1]  U.S. Constitution, Articles I, II and III.

[2]  By tradition, the Chief Justice sits as the chair of the appellate commission.

[3]  Experience suggests that it is in statewide and major metropolitan elections that we face the greatest challenges associated with expensive elections and the associated concerns about contributors attempting to influence judges.

[4] See our post on The Federalist Papers and the Judiciary’s Role in Government, dated Dec. 29, 2011.

[5] See our post on U.S. Role in World Affairs, Pt. 2: Courts as a Model and Trusted Protector of the Rule of Law, dated Nov. 8, 2011.

________________

The opinions expressed in this blog are not the opinions of our employers, our families or our friends.