Inauguration Thoughts

We survived.  At long last, we endured the campaign of 2020, its millions and millions of dollars and endless charges and countercharges. At long last we endured the election of Nov. 3 and the aftermath of those who refused to accept its clear outcome. And at long last we endured the two months between election and inauguration when reckless voices became more and more reckless and some of our own citizens attacked our national capitol under the misguided notion that somehow they should be called patriots.

We now have a new president.  Joe Biden now occupies the Oval Office as our 46th president.

Like many I spent much of the day watching on TV as we transferred power under conditions that were anything but normal for this event due to the virus pandemic and the threat that some citizens think chaos is preferred to democracy.

I reread Donald Trump inauguration speech.  I listened to Joe Biden’s same address.  The differences were stark.  While Trump talked about “American carnage” and foreboding, Biden appealed to America’s better angels and repeatedly called for unity

Here are some of Biden’s comments:

Today, we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words.  It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity, unity.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed.  In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward.  And we can do that now.  History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity.  We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.  We can treat each other with dignity and respect.  We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature.  For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.  No progress, only exhausting outrage.  No nation, only a state of chaos.

Let’s begin to listen to one another again.  Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another.  Politics doesn’t have to e a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.

Disagreement must not lead to disunion

We must end this uncivil war.

While I do not recall Donald Thump’s name ever being mentioned, his presence hung over the day.  Certainly many mentally compared his increasingly erratic behavior of the past two months to the normalcy unfolding before them.

To me his greatest transgression was the refusal to take part in the inauguration.  After all, former presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barak Obama, two Democrats and one Republican, were all there.  But then they have class.  Trump does not.

His pettiness was especially noted when Biden, Clinton, Bush and Obama all took part in a celebration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This slight seared me.  As taps rang across the hillside, I thought of the cold February day in 2006 when I stood by daddy’s grave and listed to the same tune.  As I write this, I can glance over my right shoulder and see the flag that draped his coffin that day.

Trump’s failure to recognize tradition and the sacrifices made by daddy and the 400,000 buried at Arlington is now his legacy.

 

Game On

While we fuss and fume about so much of the foolishness we see coming from Washington, we should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget that at its core, politics is as much about gamesmanship as anything else.  Like a game of chess, it is about who can outmaneuver the guy on the other side of the issue.

Power drives it all.  Sure we hear all the rhetoric about how we need to take care of the mamas and the little chillun–but we want to make damn sure that my side is calling the shots on how this is done.

For proof, just look at how these final days of the Trump administration are unfolding.  It all begins with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  At the moment–and since 2015–he has been the most powerful person on Capitol Hill.  He has had absolute power.  And he liked it.

But that now ends with the new administration and the Democrats gaining control of the Senate.  So McConnell is in a position he’s long held, how do i wheel and deal and come out the best I can.

There are 100 U.S. Senators.  This may well be the most exclusive club in the land.  Everything is based on tradition and seniority.  They do not abide “shooting stars” well.  Those who reach the top do so by paying their dues.

McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1985.  He served in local office before that.  No one from Kentucky has ever risen to this height in the Senate.  Trump was an interloper.  He had not paid the price.  He did not understand or respect the institution.  He thought everyone was only there to do his bidding.

McConnell looked at him with contempt.  He did not respect him.  He toted Trump’s water as long as he could and kept his mouth shut.  He knew Trump was a conman.  And most importantly, he knew one day Trump would be gone and he would not.

McConnell is surrounded by people like him.  Long-serving, patient, obey the rules.  Alabama’s senior Senator is Richard Shelby.  He was elected to the Senate in 1986.  He served two terms in the state senate and two terms in Congress before that.  Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware was elected in 2001.  Prior to that he was in Congress and also governor.

Let’s not forget Joe Biden.  He served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009.  He and McConnell served for 24 years together.  They were molded by the same norms.

They were mentored and nourished and counseled by stalwarts like Howard Baker, Robert Byrd, Bob Doyle, Fritz Hollins, Dale Bumpers and John Glenn.  They were men of character and integrity.  They were trustworthy, they respected their peers, they understood bipartisanship.

John Glenn asked President Obama to speak at his funeral.  He didn’t even want Trump to attend the service.

McConnell and Trump come from two different worlds.  Their marriage has been estranged at best.  It is about to cease to exist.  The signals McConnell has been sending in the last week are not unexpected.

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Seeking Grace

Editor’s note:  Some of us thought the Nov. 3 election would come and go and, regardless the outcome, life would move on.  We were wrong.  If anything, the chaos leading to the Nov. 3 election paled amidst what has since transpired.  This chaos turned to violence last week as people stormed the U.S. capitol, leaving five people dead.  Now our thoughts have turned to Jan. 20, inauguration day for Joe Biden to become our next President.  Authorities talk of turning Washington into a virtual military zone in hopes of preventing more violence.

Like so many, the horror of what might unfold that day leaves me totally at a loss for words.  And the more I ponder the situation, the more I am compelled to seek comfort in prayer.

To this end, I penned the following:

Oh God, Our Father:

We come to you seeking peace for our country and comfort for our hearts.  We have turned to you for countless decades when we faced dire circumstances such as war, heath issues and social strife that threated to turned our citizens against each other.

We have sought your wisdom and counsel.  We have sought the calmness that only you can bring to our land.

We have begged for forgiveness and that you rid our hearts and minds of thoughts that betray the foundation our forefathers built this land on.

You have never failed us.

So we lift our voices again.  From every corner of this great land, from sea to sea and from horizon to horizon.

Our voices are more diverse than ever before.  But rather than celebrating this diversity and reaching out to embrace it, too many voices have instead turned to those same prejudices that time after time have set us back, not moved us forward.

We find ourselves mired in chaos once again.  Chaos incited in large measure by voices that betray us and this land we love dearly.

And as we approach the day when a new cadre of leaders are supposed to take over the reins of our government, there are voices calling for disruption and perhaps violence.  At a time when we need sanity, some preach just the opposite.

Oh God, Our Father:

Hear our plea and cast your spirit across this wonderful land so that tomorrow will be greater than yesterday.

Amen

 

If We Have Ever Needed A Laugh

In today’s world:
We all need a good laugh.

Did I read that sign right?
TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW.
—————————— —————————— —————————— –
In a Laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT.
—————————— —————————— —————————–
In a London department store:
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS…
—————————— —————————— ————————-
In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN.
—————————— —————————— —————————— —————————— —————
In an office:
AFTER TEA BREAK, STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD.
—————————— —————————— —————————— —
Outside a second-hand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING – BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
—————————— —————————— —————————— —————————— —
Notice in health food shop window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS…
—————————— —————————— —————————— ————
Spotted in a safari park:
(I sure hope so.)
ELEPHANTS, PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR.
—————————— —————————— ———
Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR.
—————————— —————————— ————————–

Notice in a farmer’s field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.
—————————— —————————— ——————–
Message on a leaflet:
IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS.
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On a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK.)
Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn’t you say?
—————————— —————————— —————————— —
Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife
And Daughter
This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.
—————————— —————————— —————————— —————————— —————–
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Really? Ya’ think?
—————————— —————————— —————————— ———————-
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Now that’s taking things a bit far!
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Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
What a guy!
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Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing’ lazy so-and-so’s!

—————————— —————————— —————————— ———————
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
See if that works better than a fair trial!
—————————– —————————— —————————— ———————–
War Dims Hope for Peace
I can see where it might have that effect!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ———————-
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Ya’ think?!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ———————-
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ———————
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
They may be on to something!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ——————–
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
You mean there’s something stronger than duct tape?
—————————— —————————— —————————— ——————–
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge
He probably IS the battery charge!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ——————–
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Weren’t they fat enough?!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ——————–
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
That’s what he gets for eating those beans!
—————————— —————————— —————————— ——————–
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?
****************************** ****************************** ********************
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
Chainsaw Massacre all over again!
****************************** ****************************** ****************************** ****
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Boy, are they tall!
****************************** ****************************** ****************************** *****
And the winner is…
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Did I read that right?
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Now that you’ve smiled at least once, it’s your turn to spread the stupidity and send this to someone to whom you want
to bring a smile . . . maybe even a chuckle.

RIP. Scooter Howell.

All of us gather a host of friends as we travel this life.  And then we make some very special friends who join a small group.  We may not be in contact with them for five or ten years, but when we do re-connect, we take up where we last left off.  As if time has stood still.

I’ve been very fortunate in this regard.  Such friends are scattered all over the country.  Some I went to high school with 60 years ago, some I met though a job, some I don’t really recall where and how we met.

Scooter Howell would be one of these.  All I remember for sure is that it had something to do with Jaycees and milk cows and about 50 years ago.

Scooter and his daddy ran Rocky Hill all Jersey Farm on Lookout Mountain outside Ft. Payne.  This breed of milk cow is known for producing very rich milk with high butterfat.  The Howells had some of the best ones in the whole country.  And they did it on some of the rockiest land you’ve ever seen.  I was always amazed at what they accomplished where they were located.

I was a young editor for The Progressive Farmer in Birmingham and was state chairman of the Alabama Jaycees Outstanding Young Farmer recognition program for four years.  I don’t recall if Scooter was a Jaycee or not.  But I do think the local Jaycees nominated him for the state program.

I had a lot of fun during this time and met some great folks.  Most of whom have long faded from memory.  But not Scooter and anytime I was in northeast Alabama and had a chance, I caught up with him.  In ran the dairy until the late 1990s when he sold out.  His sweet wife Charney was a good helpmate.

At some point they re-located down the road a few miles to Centre, AL in Cherokee County.  He had the kind of personality that people gravitated to.  A dry sense of humor and usually with a crooked little grin on his face. I would probably be amazed at hos many folks in the county knew him.

Every now and then I would track him down.  Sometimes we met at Lanny Starr’s BBQ to catch up.

So it was with great sadness that I learned that he passed away on Dec. 29.  He had been in failing health for a number of months and had Alzheimers.  A few weeks ago he fell and broke his hip. but insisted that he not go to the hospital.

He and Charney have three children and four grandchildren.

Their 50th anniversary would have been Dec. 31.

Scooter was an original and a good guy.  I will always be thankful our paths crossed.

How Do You Take These People Seriously?

As most political campaigns near the end, we get into “silly season” when accusations become more far-fetched and ludicrous.  Which was certainly the case just prior to the Nov. 3 general election.

However, this year “silly season” went into overtime with Donald Trump and his supporters refusing to believe that more than 7 million more citizens voted for Joe Biden than for Trump.

And not a day goes by lately that I don’t just shake my head at some new far-fetched tale.

One of the best comes from Burgess Owens who defeated Democrat incumbent Ben McAdams in Utah’s 4th Congressional district.  The district includes part of Salt Lake City  He is a staunch Trump supporter and refuses to believe Trump lost.

I don’t know Owens.  But Google does.  After playing football at the University of Miami, Owens played for 10 years in the NFL with the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders.  He has been a successful businessman and is CEO of a non-profit for troubled youth.

He recently told the newspaper in Salt Lake City why he thinks Trump should get another term in office.  Basically he thinks there are several ways to decide who wins a contest.  One being that if you do your best in the game and left everything on the field, then you did not lose.  You actually won.

Do you actually believe that when the University of Alabama and Ohio State University play for the national football championship on Jan. 11, they will both adopt this attitude and that both teams will get a trophy?

For some reason, I don’t.

Owens won his race over McAdams on Nov. 3 by 3,765 votes, one of the closest Congressional races in the country..  Or did Owens really win?  What if McAdams said that since he ran a hard and strong campaign, he really did not lose and should get another term?

What tune would Owens be singing then?

Yep, it is definitely “silly season.”

 

How Countries Responded To Covid

Editor’s note:  While some in this country seem intent on treating the Covid virus as some hoax and ignoring the best advice our scientists give, the truth is that more that nearly 350,000 U.S. citizens have now died from the pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal has devoted tremendous resources in trying to detail how different countries have responded, detailing steps they made and the results of each.

One has to be struck by the fact that there are no “best practices” from this country.  I have been particularly struck by what New Zealand has done.  Jacind Arden is their prime minister.  She has been applauded for taking aggressive action.  It is noteworthy that she ran for re-election several months ago and got 85 percent of the vote.  Obviously she listened to public health experts–not politicians–in putting together a strategy.  Amazing how that works some times isn’t it?

Here is the Journal article:

It has been a year since Covid-19 began to spread. Which countries did the best job of responding to the pandemic in 2020, and what can we learn from them?

A successful response to Covid-19 turned out to depend on more than a country’s wealth, scientific prowess and history of public health successes. The U.S. enjoys all of these advantages but mounted one of the worst responses to the pandemic: 1 in every 990 Americans has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Bad politics, quite simply, can trump good public health.

Other developed countries that did well initially, such as Canada and some European nations, have faltered during the second or third surge of infections, because their governments and people grew tired of implementing effective strategies. In many Asian countries, it has long been common for people to wear masks when feeling ill, so they adopted masks early and widely.

Best at early action: Taiwan

1 reported Covid-19 death per 3,366,140 people

The world’s first awareness of Covid-19 came from cases among travelers arriving in Taiwan from Wuhan, China. The country quickly halted flights from much of China, quarantined travelers from other areas, stopped cruise ships from docking, implemented widespread testing and quadrupled production of face masks within a month.

Taiwan also provided intensive support, including stipends, to patients with Covid-19 and people with whom they had come into contact, helping to increase adherence to public health recommendations. These early actions were pivotal in keeping Taiwan to under 800 cases all year, while avoiding lockdowns. The U.S. now has more cases and deaths every 5 minutes than Taiwan has had all year.

Best at learning from recent epidemics: Liberia

1 reported Covid-19 death per 55,040 people

Liberia, hard hit by the Ebola epidemic in 2014, was one of the first countries to start screening for Covid-19 at airports and to adopt other control measures, such as rapid testing, complete contact tracing and quarantine. Many other countries in Africa, including Senegal and Uganda, also used their experiences from past disease outbreaks to implement swift, expert, comprehensive responses.

Best at crushing the curve: New Zealand

1 reported Covid-19 death per 204,360 people

Like Taiwan, New Zealand is an island, which makes it far easier to enforce travel bans. Initial models showed that community spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand could potentially overwhelm the health care system. The country began implementing its pandemic influenza plan in February, including preparing hospitals and instituting border control policies. Because New Zealand lacked sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity, national leadership implemented a countrywide lockdown in late March with the goal of eliminating Covid-19 entirely.

By June, the pandemic was declared over in New Zealand, with the country reporting one of the lowest coronavirus-related mortality rates among all 37 OECD nations. Later cases were all from international travelers, who were kept in isolation for two weeks post-arrival, and not from community spread.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has exemplified empathetic, clear communication, which greatly increased New Zealanders’ willingness to cooperate and was essential to the country’s success.

Best location in the U.S.: American Samoa

Deaths from Covid-19: Zero

American Samoa remains the only territory in the U.S. without any Covid-19 cases, in part because health authorities were already on high alert following a measles outbreak in late 2019. In an effort to stave off the virus early, the territory of 55,000 people halted all incoming passenger flights. As a result of this near-total isolation, American Samoa has not had to implement widespread closures, distancing or testing. Similar actions 100 years ago allowed the territory to avoid any deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Best at testing: South Korea 1 reported Covid-19 death per 63,290 people

When it became clear that people without symptoms could spread Covid-19, South Korea tested early and aggressively, conducting more than twice as many tests per capita as other countries in the pandemic’s first weeks. Along with other measures, including extensive and highly effective contact tracing and quarantine, this kept cases from increasing rapidly.

Best at quarantining: Hong Kong

1 reported Covid-19 death per 54,810 people

Hong Kong has one of the highest population densities in the world, yet it kept cases low by establishing mandatory isolation protocols and quarantine centers for people with Covid-19 and those who came in close contact with them.

Best economic protection: Denmark

1 reported Covid-19 death per 4,970 people

Some countries excelled at protecting people economically and socially. In Denmark, the government has covered a portion of employees’ salaries in private companies to avoid large-scale layoffs. Notable mentions go to India, the European Union and Australia, which quickly provided income supplements to lower-income people using electronic cash transfers. Colombia went out of its way to protect vulnerable Venezuelan migrants, who weren’t eligible for cash transfers, by establishing shelters and food centers.

Best at public communication: Finland

1 reported Covid-19 death per 10,510 people

A few countries have fought rumors and distrust by sharing information with the public widely and openly. Finland, helped by its high media literacy, was able to build on a 2014 initiative that educated people about how to counter false information. One Finnish project partners with social-media influencers to spread accurate information on digital platforms.

South Africa has also excelled at clear communication, including strategic use of an alert-level system that empowers people to understand their risk and helps the government make transparent and balanced decisions about closures. Germany’s leaders have also been models of clarity and effective communication, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for citizens to exhibit “patience, discipline and solidarity”—three essential aspects of an effective pandemic response.

Most people, including many health professionals, never imagined the toll that Covid-19 would take. The countries that performed best have learned from their mistakes and used data to continuously improve public health, primary care, emergency response and health communication. Even as we begin to roll out vaccines, we need to keep learning from experience what works in fighting Covid-19.

This isn’t the last disease threat our world will face, and the past year has shown that we are all connected: Until every country is safer, all of us are at risk. When the next pandemic strikes, the whole world needs to implement best practices to save lives and protect livelihoods. Now is our opportunity to improve global preparedness; if we don’t apply the lessons of 2020 in 2021, we never will.

Mitch McConnell Proves How Out Of Touch Washington Is

Regardless of how you classify your self politically–red, blue, pink, brown, purple, conservative, liberal, independent–I’m guessing that there would be general agreement among most of us that that the pitiful excuse that passes for “leadership” in Washington is by and large totally out of touch with the reality faced by every day Americans.

It is a joke when I watch a Congressman or Senator do their most heart-felt expression of sympathy for their fellow citizens.  It is a scam.  It is like a homeless person describing what it is like to live in Buckingham Palace.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnel is a prime example.  He is Republican senate majority leader.  As such, he runs the show,  Totally and completely.

Of course congress has been debating another stimulus check because of the financial impact of Covid-19.

Some say it should be $600, some say it should be $2,000.

McConnel is strongly opposed to $2,000 and said on the senate floor that $2,000 would be “socialism for rich people.”  I guess he is talking about folks like himself who have a reported net worth of $30 million.

McConnell was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.  So how has he acquired $30 million?  Reportedly his mother-in-law gave him a $25 million inheritance.  It certainly did not come from his own family.

In fact, when McConnell was two years old he got polio and received treatment at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in Georgia.  McConnell once said that his family “almost went broke” because of costs related to his illness.  The treatments prevented him from being disabled.

As majority leader, McConnell gets an annual salary of $193,000.  So his net worth is more than 180 times his annual salary.

Were I a millionaire like McConnell, I probably wouldn’t understand the difference in $600 and $2,000 either.

But I am not.  And I do understand.  And that’s something McConnell can not claim.

 

A Cold Winter’s Drive

Five days before Christmas 2020 and Covington County is stone cold dead.  The green of Bahia and Bermuda grass pastures has long since dried up.  Cows tug at the tiny tufts which has got to be like chewing cardboard all day.  Fields that grew cotton and corn last summer have been mowed into nothing.

Of course, pine trees are still green and their limbs shake in the December breeze.  Most hardwoods have shrugged off their leaves leaving squirrels to scamper from one bare branch to another.

And for someone whose roots have always been and will forever be tied to the soil, it is a fine day to ride dirt roads and imagine a world that once was.

I turn to the west on a well-established dirt road that leaves four-lane highway 55 in a curve just a trace north of the South community.  I’m sure the road has a name, but I do not know it.  I’m just sure that it goes for a number of miles and that at some point I will cross Pigeon Creek.  This is the same creek where Marion Lloyd had his grist mill and where I would go with grandpa to get corn ground.  And on some days, we went about 100 yards south of the mill to “Rock Wall” swimming hole.  One of those places where mamas told their children to come out of the water when their lips got blue.

I’d driven only a couple hundred yards when I crossed a railroad track  Today it is called the Three Notch railroad and runs 36 miles from Andalusia to Georgiana.  Built in 1901, the then Alabama & Florida railroad went all the way to Graceville, FL, just south of Dothan.  The line still runs right through the middle of Red Level and McKenzie.  But 120 years have sucked most of the life out of rural American such as Red Level and McKenzie and a train whistle is a lonely reminder of long ago times.

I knew my journey would be made mostly in solitude.  When men from south Alabama went off to fight Germany in World War I, many of them came out of the shacks of sharecroppers that covered these sandy hills like fire ant hills once did.  That was the story of Grandpa Lee who was born in 1899 before going to war.

I think of the children of that era.  Kids like mother and daddy.  Poverty was all they knew.  Poverty that was so pervasive, most did not really know what it was.  In a world of scarce to little communications, there was no TV to expose them to other worlds and big cities.  We’ve all heard someone say, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.”  Truer words were never spoken.

I’ve often wished I had a chance to talk again to grandpa.  I would ask a 1,000 questions about his life, his boyhood, being a sharecropper, etc.

But since I can’t, I will just have to make do with afternoons on dirt roads.

Biden Picks Secretary Of Education

Thousands of educators have been anxiously waiting to see who President-elect Joe Biden would nominate for U.S. Secretary of Education.  He has chosen Miquel Cordona, who heads public schools in Connecticut.

He will replace Betsy DeVos who was generally looked at with disdain by public school supporters because of her opposition to public schools.  While DeVos had no background in public education, Cordona has experience as teacher, principal and administrator in public schools. Biden said he wanted someone with public school experience in the role.

During his confirmation hearing before the legislature in February in the selection process for the top state job, Cardona described himself as a “goofy, little Puerto Rican kid” born in the Yale Acres public housing complex in Meriden.
“The passion I have for public education stems from my belief that it is the best lever for economic success and prosperity in Connecticut,” he told lawmakers. “And the belief that public education is still the great equalizer. It was for me.”

Cardona’s father is a retired Meriden police officer and his brother is currently a detective in the department.

After attending public schools in Meriden, Cardona graduated from the state-run Wilcox Technical High School in the city before attending Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and earning his master’s, doctorate and superintendent certification at UConn.

“I hold five degrees or certificates from Connecticut universities and I’m a true product of the system I hope to lead,” he told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.

The 45-year-old and his wife, Marissa Pérez Cardona, have two children who attend Meriden public schools.

Cardona was just 28 when he became principal of Hanover Elementary School in Meriden in 2003. He was the youngest person in the state to hold that job.

“I recognized him as a young teacher with a tremendous amount of talent and I persuaded him to apply for an instructional associate position so he would get some first-hand experience,” Elizabeth M. Ruocco, who Cardona replaced as principal, told the Record-Journal newspaper at the time. “He just is one of the most talented young people I have seen and I know he will do a great job.”
Cardona remained with Meriden Public Schools and eventually shifted to a central office position, first to lead performance and evaluation work in the district and then, in 2013, becoming an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Cardona was one of several finalists for Connecticut’s top education job when Lamont ultimately selected him in August 2019. He was the state’s first Latino education commissioner.

“For more than two decades, Dr. Cardona has dedicated his career to the students of Meriden, where he was himself born, raised, and educated,” Lamont said at the time. “He firmly understands the challenges many of our urban areas face. I look forward to working with him over the coming years so we can fix some of these inequities and collaborate with educators, parents, and community leaders on providing the best outcomes for our schools and our children.”

After being on the job for less than a year Cardona was faced with the challenge of overseeing the state’s schools amid an unprecedented pandemic. While schools were shut down as the coronavirus took hold on Connecticut in March, Cardona and other administrators spent the summer planning for how they could safely reopen.

He and Governor Ned Lamont argued that there were numerous social and emotional benefits to in-person schooling that couldn’t be replicated by virtual classes. They were also concerned about tens of thousands of students who didn’t log on at all when schools were forced to shift to remote learning in the spring.

While the state has left decisions about school reopenings up to individual districts, Cardona and Lamont have urged against long-term closures over coronavirus concerns, saying there is little evidence of virus transmission occurring within schools.

“In-person education is too important for our children to disrupt their education further, unless and until local conditions specifically dictate the need to do so,” Cardona and acting Department of Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford wrote in a letter to school superintendents last month.