As we approach the historic moment of inaugurating our first African-American president I think back to the famous inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. It was enormously important for me personally because the event killed forever the idea that we could never have a Roman Catholic president.. I of course my whole family were Roman Catholic.

I was then Executive Director of the National Association of Counties. Mayor Beverly Briley of Nashville, Tennessee and Commissioner Dan W. Gray of Anniston Alabama two of my officers were in town for the great event. Our offices were off Connecticut Avenue on De Sale St. adjacent to the Mayflower Hotel. On the evening before the inaugural at dusk we got into my car to drive them to their Hotel just across the Potomac in Arlington , Virginia . A great snow storm was in progress. Dan Gray noted that he had no bourbon in his room and asked to stop the car at the liquor store across the street. He quickly returned with a whole bag of liquor.

We passed onto Pennsylvania Ave at the White House and started towards the Key Bridge. In two hours we reached Washington Square a few blocks for the White House and were completely stopped.. A long convoy of Army trucks was stalled on its way to the White House. We did the logical thing. We decided to share our refreshments and party with our soldiers. .We passed the bottle of bourbon around to the whole group. It was another first. Most of the soldiers were black and they joined two devout Southerners to drink to our new Commander in Chief. .

It took hours but we finally got down to Georgetown at the bottom of the steep hill Pennsylvania Avenue. No one was able to make the grade in the now deep snow. I got the idea of all of all of us pulling together and pushing the cars one at a time to the top. By the time it was our chance the group lost interest. I abandoned the car underneath the overpass at a Boat House.

We made our way very slowly up the hill to the end of the Key Bridge. There was an old man in a beat up truck filled with trash. We gave him $20 to drive us to the hotel across the bridge. The three of us jumped in on top of all the junk finally after about an hour in the wind got to the hotel. We discover that all of the telephone lines were so jammed with traffic that I couldn't get through to home and I would have to spend the night ..

The next morning we got to the inaugural site somehow in deep snow and our seats were literally within the baseball throwing distance of the podium. These choice seats were courtesy of Dan Gray's close friend former Vice Presidential candidate Senator John Sparkman (D-Ala. The he podium stand caught fire as Robert Frost delivered his poem. The inspiriting moment however came when the handsome young Irish Catholic President said” Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your count

A small group at Oliver St. celebrating the Inauguation of President Obama
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The Gospels record several instances of this miracle, with small differences in details. In the best known, Jesus was preaching to a crowd of thousands who grew hungry and needed to be fed. Only five loaves and two fishes could be found. He blessed the food and then commanded his disciples to distribute it among the people. After everyone had eaten and were satisfied, twelve baskets of food remained.

The usual interpretation is that this was a miracle of creating bread and fishes from thin air. I have heard another interpretation. It was from a minister in Toms River, New Jersey. He identified this story as a miracle of a different nature. He attributed the miracle as the inspirational power of Jesus. Some 5,000 were inspired and had followed him into a desolate place. Christ taught love. He proclaimed that we are our brother's keeper. The minister reasoned that the miracle was not the creation of bread and fishes. The miracle came when Christ inspired the group to share their food.

If the conventional wisdom here and abroad is correct we are headed for very desperate financial crisis. Obama is not going to be able to create material wealth from nothingness. You can however with his towering integrity and ability to inspire us as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to meet the crisis as united Americans. He can perhaps create the same kind of a miracle we witnessed in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inaugural. Those who did not live through it cannot understand the enormous power to give hope in the President's words… “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.


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Osama bin Laden the world's most despicable terrorists on 9/11 simultaneously struck the New York Trade Center and the Pentagon. killing more than 3,000 innocent Americans and others. The first target was a symbol of American dominance of the world of finance. The second was a symbol of American military supremacy. Americans and most of the world were behind President Bush when vowed to “bring them on” in a war on bin Laden and other terrorists.

Where are we today half a decade later? Our United States financial system is in a terrifying meltdown with worldwide repercussions. The ground forces of the United States are hard-pressed fighting two endless wars. After years of military action and billions of expenditures we are not able to defeat the Iraqis. This is a tiny nation innocent of any part in 9/11 with no air force or navy and with an army decimated by two bloody wars. We have unsuccessfully chased bin Laden in Afghanistan. We are confronted by the reinvigorated the Taliban financed by bumper poppy crops. . He continues to dominate the world of terrorism.

At home we have responded by creating an absolutely massive federal bureaucracy t at enormous unfunded financial costs. We are not much safer from terrorists and the costs to honest Americans in their travel and their daily lives have been considerable. President Bush has humiliated our county by asking for and receiving permission to continue to torture terrorist suspects.

In my opinion these are the realities that will face a new president and Congress. For those of us old enough to remember the current crisis facing our country is almost identical to the collapse of American economy and foreign enemies at the end of the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt with the help of a Democratic Congress brought us two things. The first was a feeling that if we Americans were united we couldn't win against any odds. The second thing he gave us was a clear understanding that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself.

This is the dark hour just before the dawn. In less than two weeks in the most important election we have ever had we will decide who is likely to be the next Roosevelt either Democratic Senator Obama or Republican Senator McCain. History is on the side of Obama and we Democrats.

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Grand Summer 

Grand Summer

For Aliceann and I who have decided to “age in place,” this has been a grand summer. We are healthy. Our home is like a shore vacation.. We get into our pool in seconds. No packing for the beach or concern for bridge traffic. This summer however began on the dark side. We had a tragic loss in the death of daughter Susan’s much loved husband Tony Avallon.

On the upside we were so proud of the high school graduation honors bestowed upon our granddaughter Katherine Hillenbrand. We were thrilled to see her off for her first year at Amherst College.

This has been a spectacular summer weather-wise with plenty of rain and almost no oppressive heat. With ample rain our farm crops are sensational. We have corn at 13 feet. The pasture grass is so thick that it's like wading through snow.

There were great summer guests highlighted by the visit of Susan with the twins Quinn and Perris They saw their first fireflies and were greatly impressed with the pandas at the zoo. We also had a great visit from Jeanette Zalder and her intended Alfredo Ramirez and their 13 month old baby Adrianna. I taught the little one the word Obama. We also had a surprise visit from William Wan. He changed plans at Dulles and his flight was canceled so he spent the night with us.

As a part of aging in place we exercise mentally and physically as much as possible. I am exercising through gardening, pool maintenance, car detailing and other chores. Aliceann keeps house and handles both flowers and bill paying. We have responsibility for four houses: a farm: a vacation farm house rental and have responsibility for three trucks and two cars. Aliceann is in a book club; visits museums and art centers with Dee Farber and keeps up with our neighborhood through a local list serve. She continues to be a leader in the local Juniata College alumni and helped with her class’ 50th reunion celebration. I am active in the Wednesday Clergy Fellowship and the Cosmos Club old-timers. I have been supportive of our Foundry Methodist Church efforts to welcome homosexuals. Despite the efforts of many clergy, we were unsuccessful in our effort to stop the location of the Bush Library and Rightwing think tank a Methodist University in Texas.

Together with Lee and Susan Fritschler we have purchased a condominium for our son Craig Fritschler. Now all our children have homes. We are delighted and so are Craig and his roommate of several years Keith who will continue as a tenant in the two bed bedroom apartment.

My year old blog HILLENBRAND REPORT has had only 400 hits and three responses. My first impulse is to be discouraged. Google, however, reports in excess of 10 million blogs. We are a wash in a gigantic hurricane of information. We have, for example, a new digital television with 300 stations.

One of the compensations for getting old is being grandparents. Our youngest grandchildren are Aidan Fritschler age eight and his sister Phoebe soon to be four who visit every week. Aliceann and Susan Fritschler take turns babysitting the pair. One of the highlights of our summer was Aidan’s poolside birthday party with ten of his eight-year old friends.

For a year and a half we have been intensely involved with the election process. In the primaries Aliceann and I supported candidate Hillary Clinton me in Maryland and me in Maryland. On our tour of Asia a studied Obama’s book Audacity of Hope. I think he is an incredible person and if elected will be an outstanding president. Politically I now have a new pro Obama cause. Every day I take time to comment by email on the major political stories of the day. My sense is that Mc Cain is as incompetent as Bush and much older.

With love, Bernie

Daughter Susan, Perris and Quinn Avallon with Grandpa at poolside
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Bob Herbert in a June 21st New York Times piece summarized the importance of Obama's Father's Day Sermon. He noted that “In 2006, a majority of births to women under 30 (50.4%) were out of wedlock. Nearly 80% of births among black women were out of wedlock”. By comparison in 1960 these numbers were just 6%.

It is significant that Senator Obama who is part white and part African-American chose to deliver his remarks in a church. In the Judeo- Christian context this is a moral issue. He advanced several policy proposals that might help address the resulting consequentially severe problems. He suggests that African/ American men should stop acting like boys and start behaving like men.

In the District of Colombia for example 80% of black babies are born to single mothers. Fifty per cent of young black males fail to graduate from high school and 50% are on their way to jail, in jail, or just out of jail. The leading cause of death in young black men is murder. There simply are very few jobs available for an uneducated black man with a prison record. When a man, black or white abandons his pregnant partner he dooms her and his child to a life long sentence of poverty and hardship.

Up until now with the exception of Bill Cosby and a few others this problem has been ignored by both black and white political leaders. It is enormously significant that the problem is so destructive in both white and black communities because Senator Obama comes from both communities. He has the courage to raise the issue. Up until now both black and white leaders have found it more convenient not to offend either white or black man but to blame the problem on social injustice or poor schools.

It is entirely possible that this sermon will go down in history as being immensely important to all Americans particularly if Senator Obama is elected President of the United States.

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