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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Picture of Mothers' Day Pin

I was searching through some old boxes of memorabilia when I came across a little white box was a small handwritten note on the cover. It was my mother's handwriting. She said,” I wear this every Mother's Day. It's a lot of years ago”. Indeed it was a long time ago. It was May 1944. Bill Irwin, Dwight Holmes I had volunteered for overseas duty and left our training division the Golden Lion 106 Infantry at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

We were about to sail when I realized that it was almost Mother's Day. We were at Fort Meade, Maryland. I rushed down to the PX to get a Mother's Day gift. The clerk told me I was too late. It had been a rush from other soldiers to honor their mothers and there was nothing left.

I was terribly discouraged and about to leave when she said, “Wait a minute. Here is something that slipped off the counter and fell on the floor.” He held up this tiny heart-shaped pin. In the center was the inscription MOTHER. There was a brass star beneath the Inscription. In WWII parents hung in the front window a small flag with a picture of a brass star in the center. It proudly indicates that a son or daughter served in the armed forces. If the loved one had been killed it was a gold star. .

I was happy to have something to honor Mother but this was a terrible choice. It was made of cheap mother-of-pearl. To me the war was a very serious business. This flag in the window bit seemed superficial. I was terribly embarrassed but bought it anyway.

Next day we were off to war on the Queen Elizabeth. The whole matter dropped from my mind. It was to return. On Mother's Day on my first year home from the war there was my mother proudly wearing the pin I thought was in such poor taste.

At every opportunity she would proclaim,” My son Bernard sent me this pin during the war”. Mother wore that pin with the same attribution every Mother’s Day until her death.

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This is amazing. Bush has already earned a big credit for his legacy. Because his administration has been such a disaster we have an opportunity for political equality for women and for blacks. We at last have a woman and a black as Presidential Candidates.

It is ironic. If Bush had been even a grade C. President the Democratic Party could not possibly have any chance of electing Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. History is clear on this point. Super conservative Americas are mostly Republican. They continue to be about 25% of the electorate (just as about 25% are liberal). Historically they helped kill the presidential aspirations of Governor Al Smith. He was the first serious Roman Catholic Democratic Presidential candidate. They later helped shoot down the Vice Presidential candidacy of Geraldine Ferro. Even today these right wingers in the Republican Party are against representation in Congress for the citizens of majority African /American District of Colombia.

It is also frightening. The right wing republican sexism and racism may very well elect Republican presidential candidate. Many believe John McCain as “the third term” George W. Bush. Racism and sexism has a very long shelf life. It may still be alive enough to ignore the terrible costs of the Bush/Chaney debacle

My Democratic Party must soon face an absolutely critical decision. Can we leave Colorado and unite our party behind either a woman or black candidate? My heart is with the Democratic Party. My heart says yes. My reason tells me something else. Exit interviews show that there is a strong possibility of alienated one part of our women and black base. If we alienate one part of our base we may lose a major part of our party and hence the election. Senator John Mc Cain has earned the profound respect of every American. He is a genuine hero. He is also genuinely wrong on the Iraq war and domestic policy just as Bush continues to be. The problems America face are of such vital importance that we must respond with the post Pearl Harbor unity of Democrats, Republicans and Independents that so astounded the world in WWII.

Perhaps it is time to marshal our old unity cry: REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR

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We are destroying our United States ground forces!

Osama bin Laden is winning militarily. The Bush/ Cheney war in Iraq is systematically destroying American ground forces. As we start the sixth year U.S. forces have suffered more than 30,000 casualties with more than 4000 killed. The finest army in the world is forcing its soldiers to serve endless repeated combat tours. Large numbers of soldiers and Marines are understandably suffering combat fatigue. Military equipment has been drained from the United States. It is wearing out in combat and not being replaced The Bush military strategy is to bypass the Armed Forces chain of command and to base everything on the judgment of General David H. Petraeus. In spite of intense congressional Republican and Democratic grilling the General has no definition of what constitutes a victory. We do know that there is not a single reserve brigade available for any other constituencies.

Osama bin Laden is winning financially. The exact costs of the Bush/ Cheney War are lost in domestic politics. Some estimates of the ultimate cost today and into the future are in the trillions. The cost of the war is being passed on to our children in the form of the addition of $2 trillion of added debt during this administration. Many financial experts directly attribute the precipitously decline in the American economy to the cost of this war. There is much evidence that the American economic decline, the collapse of the US dollar, and weakening of American financial institutions is contagious and threatens to swallow the rest of the world.

Osama bin Laden is winning in world politics. The Bush Cheney War is now opposed by 60% of Americans and by world public opinion. As we start the sixth year of an unnecessary war it has cost from 600,000 to 1.2 million Iraqi casualties most of them civilians. Two thousand Iraqis have been forced to flee their country into nearby Arab states.

Osama bin Laden is winning his freedom. He continues to have power to war against the United States and most the rest of the world. In and effort to capture this terrorist hate monger the U.S. and our allies continue to be engaged in an apparently endless war in Afghanistan. It is spilling over into Pakistan.

Will Osama bin Laden continue his victory streak? To me Iraq is a critical question at the center of this year's presidential election. The presumed Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain and his Democratic supporter Senator Joe Lieberman want the war to continue until victory. The leading Democratic candidates Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are both committed to ending the war as soon as is humanly possible.

Perhaps the most astounding fact is that the United States military, by all odds the most powerful in the history of the world, in not winning. At the end of five years of intense effort the U.S. is totally incapable of militarily subduing Iraq. This is a country with no air force, navy, missiles, or no atomic bombs. Its army was twice defeated in wars against Iran and in the Desert War.

Now is the time for everyone to display Bush inspired “Support our Troops” by adding a second line “For God’s Sake Bring Them Home”.

Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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The news coverage of the visit of Pope Benedict reminds me of the October 6, 1979 White House Visit of Pope John Paul as the guest of President Jimmy Carter. I was invited to attend the ceremony on the White House lawn. My son John was with me.

It was magnificence fall day. The blue sky was laced with brilliant white clouds. There was the excitement of being at the White House on an historic occasion. A very gentle breeze was filled with the scent of the flowers and vegetation in the Garden. It was a gathering of very prominent Washington and foreign leaders. We guests were seated facing the White House in folding chairs. It formed a square. We looked up to a podium with two microphones. John and I chose to sit at the back in the very last row. From here we could take pictures without disturbing others. Vernon Jordan President of the Urban League sat in front of us. I remember him well. He is a huge man. It was difficult to photograph over his head. He was in one of my shots. There as a particular magic to the event because Leonine Price’s marvelous voice just sent electricity through the whole gathering.

President Carter welcomed the Pope. The Pope then joined the President in calling for nuclear disarmament and increased aid to the Third World. There was a famous photo taken when the breeze blew the Popes cape and the President reached over to straitens it.

When the formal session ended the two of them decided to “work the crowd”. They started side by side down the left side of the guest’s chairs walking straight towards a huge stand filled with hundreds of TV and Still camera people. The pair moved slowly and shook many hands. At the end of the row to our surprise and delight they turned left and started up the back where John and I we were standing.

As they moved along Pope John Paul was closest with President Carter at his side on his right. They were a couple of feet away. I was planning to shake the Pope’s hand. In an instant a very frail and agitated woman shouting in a foreign language burst between John and me. In the European tradition of the blessing from kissing the Pope’s ring she grabbed and kissed the Pope’s ring on his left hand. She clung to his hand and fell the ground literally across my feet. The Pope then bent and took the woman’s right hand as he reached down to help her to her feet. At this instant President Carter reached down to gather her left hand. . I was half facing the pair. I also reached down and took both her hands to help her up. All our hands touched.

For that instant I was holding the hands of Pope John Paul and President Jimmy Carter. She was on her feet quickly and on her way. That instant was absolutely unique. It is almost certain that no American has ever before at the same time held the hands of the U.S. President and the Pope and certainly not on the White House lawn.

This incident was in contradiction of my profound belief in the separation of church and state. However I was so impressed that I vowed not to wash my hands for the rest of the day.

Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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