Happy Mother’s Day to America’s former First Lady.
Happy Mother’s Day to America’s former First Lady.
[It has been 242 years since Virginia’s own Patrick Henry issued his “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond. Remembering that important part of Virginia and American history, I was reminded of 2007 and a special recognition presented from Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. Originally published March 11, 2007.]
In 1775, unrest in America was growing (see background history here). When Delegate Patrick Henry stood up to speak, his words rang out in St. John’s Church but it was the closing lines that most remembered, then and today.
“Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
David Rockefeller died Monday. He was 101 years old, the grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr., last survivor of John D. Rockefeller Jr’s children, the youngest of his siblings. As heir to the Standard Oil fortune, David Rockefeller was a billionaire who made his way in the world as a banker, a philanthropist, and a patron of the arts with an art collection estimated to be worth $500 million.
John D. Rockefeller’s children and grandchildren were taught that with great wealth comes great responsibility, and over the years numerous projects have been the benefactors of the family’s generosity.
The citizens of Virginia and the nation benefitted greatly from the Rockefeller family’s generous philanthropy that made possible the restoration of a forgotten and run-down Colonial Williamsburg, a premiere living-history museum that is known around the world. The family’s financial support of Williamsburg exceeded $100 million over the years, beginning in the 1920s when David Rockefeller’s father became involved in the restoration and re-creation of this national treasure.
America owes a great deal of gratitude for this influential family’s part in preserving a very important part of our history.
A friend recently lost his grandmother which made my mind drift back to memories of my own grandma who passed away when I was 14 years old. In her 80s, she was the first person to die who was close to me.
Her name was Mollie, and when she was in her late 60s she lost her wedding ring. My mom, who was in her 20s at the time, bought a replacement ring, a thin gold band that was larger than usual to fit over my grandmother’s gnarled fingers and knuckles. They were hard-working hands, hands that had raised 10 children, worked in the farm fields and canned the rewards from those fields; washed, ironed, and cleaned; snapped beans and made dumplings. I was an infant at the time but Grandma said that when she passed on she wanted me, my mom’s oldest child, to have that wedding band.
Engraved inside the thin sliver of gold were their initials, “JFO” for John Francis Osborne, and “MKO” for Mollie Kennedy Osborne, along with the date they were married: August 21, 1904, which was a Sunday.
My mother’s family has deep roots in Alleghany County, North Carolina, where they settled in the mountains just over the state line from Virginia and outside of Sparta, NC. Drive the back roads and you’ll see lots of Kennedys.
Cross the New River from Grayson County, Virginia, into North Carolina and follow the winding country roads to an area called Turkey Knob that has been inhabited for generations by my relatives. This is the location of the Kennedy Country Store, started in the 1880s by my great-grandfather, James L. Kennedy.
James L. Kennedy was my grandmother’s father, and he established the store in the Potato Creek Community in the late 1800s selling peanuts and coffee. He and his son, Carl M. Kennedy, took weekly turns working the store and going home to Turkey Knob Community to farm. This great-grandfather had 24 children … but that’s another family story for another day.
In remarks that lasted a total of seven minutes, President George W. Bush calmed an uneasy nation and the world just six days after the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was September 17, 2001, and he was at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.
In the days following the worst attacks the U.S. had ever experienced on American soil, as the nation mourned the deaths of 3,000 innocent victims, the president knew he had to prevent wide-spread panic. Not far from the White House, he delivered his message, reaching out to the Muslim population as well as America and the global community, with a message of tolerance.
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” he told those in attendance. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
He continued, “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
It’s New Year’s Eve and we’ve decided on a quiet evening after weeks of activities with friends and family. Freshly back in town, I’m content to sit in the light of the Christmas tree on this dark and cold December night with a fire in the woodstove and the outdoor holiday lights turned on to brighten the darkness.
Looking back on 2016, I’m grateful on many levels. In January I happily rejoined Bearing Drift after a 1.5-year hiatus. In February I celebrated 10 years in the Virginia conservative blogosphere. Writing is my passion and politics is my hobby. This year they both took a hit with the crazed primaries and election that left some with many questions. I still continue my LynnRMitchell.com blog with postings about my back road ramblings, sights along the way, and photographs of where I’ve been.
Politics continues to be a swamp with back-stabbers who follow power and change sides on a whim. Those who are truly loyal are a tiny number, not just in politics but life in general.
A few highlights from the year….
It was a happy day in June when former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was exonerated when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously threw out his corruption conviction with an 8-0 decision. It left the former governor free but in debt for millions of dollars after his defense against an overzealous federal government.
2016 started with a blizzard in mid-January that dumped 18 inches of snow on the Valley with three-to-four foot drifts. The storm also affected most of the Commonwealth including Northern Virginia and Richmond.
The Republican presidential primaries and debates dominated the year. The GOP began with 18 candidates and whittled it down to one. The Super Bowl saw the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers. In March Virginians were saddened at the passing of Nelson County native Earl Hamner, author and co-creator of “The Waltons” TV show, and mourned the death of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan.
The Republican Party of Virginia held its state convention in Harrisonburg on the campus of James Madison University. Nelson County’s Devil’s Backbone Brewery was acquired by beer giant Anheuser-Busch. In Bedford, the 72nd anniversary of D-Day was commemorated with a ceremony held at the Memorial and attended by people from around the world. 2016 also marked the 30th anniversary of Hands Across America.
In July Democrats made history by nominating Hillary Clinton as the first woman presidential candidate of a major political party, and she chose Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. In November Americans elected Donald Trump as president.
A devastating flood hit West Virginia during the summer. A National Park warning went out about black bears; at Humpback Rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway a bear broke into a vehicle while at the northern end of Skyline Drive a bear killed a hiker’s dog.
In September, Natural Bridge became Virginia’s newest state park. In April, Shenandoah National Park had the second-largest forest fire in its history, consuming more than 10,000 acres. 2016 was the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks on America, and the tenth anniversary of the death of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.
There were many celebrity deaths during the year as well as notable names of those who are not as familiar but who made a mark on the world. The list of names is almost staggering, leading many to curse the fact that 2016 had taken so many, but blogosphere colleague Doug Mantaconis explains why there seemed to be so many:
… the reason that it appears that more celebrities are dying is a combination of several factors. First, many of the people who have died in the past year became celebrities during one of the biggest population increases in the history of the United States and other nations in the West, which means that there are more people to take notice of their passing and, likely, that there are more “famous” people than there used to be in the past.
Second, the rise of new technologies and new genres of music and other forms of entertainment means that there is more of a likelihood that any particular day, week, or month, will include the death of someone that some significant group of people consider famous for some reason.
Additionally, as I already noted, the existence of online social media and the Internet means that people are more likely to be exposed to things they otherwise might have missed in the past and that the news of someone passing away spreads more easily, and more rapidly than it ever has before. These phenomena also serve as a sort of shared community where people can share their grief over the passing of a favorite actor or singer.
To many 2016 was a good year. Others are glad to see it go. In a few hours, 2017 will roll in and we begin anew.
Happy New Year!
Cross-posted at Bearing Drift
John Glenn, the first American astronaut to circle the earth, has died at the age of 95.
The Washington Post, in noting his passing, wrote:
One of the original “Magnificent Seven” astronauts in NASA’s Mercury program, John Glenn captured the nation’s attention in 1962 when he first circumnavigated the globe and returned as a hero who had scaled heights no American had reached before.
In his post-NASA career, Glenn served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio. Following his last term in 1998, at age 77, he took a final flight of glory, rocketing back into space as a crew member aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
For Baby Boomers, John Glenn was a familiar name as America became more involved in the space race. Glenn and his fellow space pioneers who made up the Magnificent 7 — Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordo Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton — literally went where no man had gone before. They were the first astronauts … they were the space cowboys.
A Marine pilot who went on to run for public office after retiring from NASA, Glenn outlived them all. His body will lie in state in the Ohio Capitol, and he will be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
December 7, 1941 … 75 years ago America suffered the worst attack ever on our soil at the hands of the Japanese who conducted a sneak attack on the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii. It was, in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Or so we thought.
Sixty years later, on September 11, 2001, America came under an even larger attack on our soil and it wasn’t on an island in the South Pacific. It was right here on the mainland. America was attacked in New York City and Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. More people died that day than in 1941. The big difference was that they were civilians.
How on God’s green earth do we expect people to remember Pearl Harbor, an event that happened 75 years ago, when many have already forgotten the terror from 9/11 that occurred just a short 15 years ago? Have Americans lost their resolve? Their will? Their courage? Their honor? Their willingness to stand up for the home front?
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
–President John F. Kennedy
In America, everyone wept — Democrats, Republicans, Protestants, Catholics — all felt the violent loss of a well-liked president who was assassinated. Schools were out, a state funeral was broadcast on television, a nation mourned.
Could it really be 53 years since that fateful day….
Master Craftsman of Pianos and Organs
Geshenke as Glas Studio, Harrisonburg, Va
A work of art emerged from the sorrow of 9/11, a vision insired by the loss of 2,996 souls, and intended to “speak” for each of the perished. Staunton master craftsman Xaver Wilhelmy envisioned this one-of-a-kind pipe-organ featuring glass pipes, a medium he was the first in the world to use, emblazond with the American flag. There would be one pipe to represent each of the 2,996 so their voices would not be permanetly silenced, and so he enlisted the help of Staunton artist Bob Kirchman to design and bring the dream to life.
“I thought, one ought to remember the life. One ought to remember the interaction, the voices of people,” Wilhelmy would later say.
The dream slowly became reality as Wilhemy and Kirchman worked together while Kirchman listened and sketced out Wilelmy’s vision. The design was entered as a contender for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and though another design was chosen, the Sound Sculpture is a melodic reminder of a dark day in America’s history.
When the White House was evacuated on that fateful day in 2001, my sister, part of President George W. Bush’s administration, was among those working at the White House. Instructed by Secret Service to evacuate and then to flee as fast as possible from the White House, women removed their heels as staffers in the White House and Old Executive Office Building ran for their lives, fully aware that United Flight 93 was approaching the nation’s capital. My sister has barely talked about that day … the rawness is still real … but I am forever grateful to the heroes of Flight 93 who prevented a tragedy at the Capitol or White House.
I will never forget September 11, 2001 … and I don’t want to forget. Fifteen Septembers have passed, and I am still easily overcome with emotion.
That week my husband and I were vacationing in Colonial Williamsburg with our two teenage children. The morning of September 11 we had just arrived in the Colonial area, freshly-purchased annual passes in hand, when a Colonial interpreter told us of the World Trade Center attacks. I immediately quickly walked off to the side to call my mom in Richmond to see if she had heard from my sister in D.C. Amazingly, perhaps because her Austin cell phone was still routing through Texas, my sister was able to call and reassure our mom that she was okay even as tens of thousands of others in Washington encountered jammed phone lines.
“We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”
-President George W. Bush (after 9/11 terrorist attacks)
Where were you on September 11, 2001?
Everyone remembers the beautiful clear blue cloudless sky and sunny conditions of that September day. Most remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that planes had plowed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania … and the realization that the United States had been attacked by terrorists.
American flags were pulled out of storage to be displayed on houses, businesses, vehicles. Stores sold out of everything red, white, and blue. There was a sense of unity unknown in my lifetime. We were no longer Democrat or Republican or black or white — we were Americans.
My 90-year-old stepdad was 15 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, a day set in his memory. He was 75 when 9/11 occurred. He worries that younger generations have forgotten Pearl Harbor, and that 9/11 is quickly fading from memory.
Here we have shared some memories from friends and colleagues who wrote their thoughts from September 11, 2001….
Brian Schoeneman, Bearing Drift Editor, Centreville
There are two events in my lifetime that I will always remember exactly where I was – when Challenger exploded and 9/11. Today is the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth. Each anniversary, I like to take a few moments to reflect on where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt. It was an exceptional time – one of those events that can never be recreated and which we will all struggle to explain to our children and grandchildren. But, regardless of the difficulty, I try my best to recreate those memories each anniversary, to help ensure that I never forget them. Where were you? Here’s my story.
I was still in graduate school. I was working my way through my master’s degree at GW in downtown Washington, DC, at the time, and as part of my benefits package, we were given free classes. I was an administrator in the campus housing department, and one of my primary responsibilities was as the fire safety officer for our branch of the student services division. Once every semester we had full fledged fire evacuation drills that were unannounced to the students, and we would observe the results and see where we needed to make improvements. This was a big deal, requiring cooperation with the University Police, our Risk Management staff, the local fire department (to make sure they knew the alarms were a drill), as well as my staff of student employees. We had just gotten to the first dorm we were going to drill and we had gotten everyone staged when people started gathering around the big-screen TV in the lobby. At the time, we were on the far edge of campus – less than three blocks from the White House. We saw the results of the first plane hitting the towers, but time was pressing and we needed to get the drills going.
George W. Bush said nothing to the crowd the night he took the mound at Yankee Stadium, only a few miles from where he had shouted through a bullhorn to people digging through the wreckage of the World Trade Center less than two months earlier.
Wearing a bulletproof vest, the president flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd, then threw a perfect strike before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a signal to the country that the healing could begin.
“It was so moving, so powerful, that it lifted our nation,” sportscaster Jim Gray said Sunday night at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “What President Bush told us without uttering a single word, was that we could once again attempt to carry on our lives. … What an amazing symbol it was.”
Watch the four-minute video from Game 3 of the World Series on October 30, 2001. The crowd roared and waved American flags and patriotic signs. It will make your heart swell with pride for America.
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