Remember Al Gore?
2000 vs. 2020 (and 2022)
A few trendlines have collided recently that got me thinking of a former vice president, Al Gore. Remember him?
For one, there is the existential threat of our climate crisis. It's been 16 years since Gore's Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" debuted. During that time, the truth he warned about — our planet's spiral toward a new climate reality, fueled by human activity and significantly less hospitable to human existence — has become only more inconvenient, urgent, and dire.
Drought in the western U.S. Severe heat waves across Europe. Unusually heavy flooding in Kentucky and elsewhere. Scientists say these kinds of dramatic weather patterns will become more frequent as climate change progresses. We hear about 100-year storms or even 1,000-year floods, terms that are meant to indicate rarity. But it is increasingly clear such events are no longer anomalous. A horrific tragedy is currently playing out in Pakistan, where immense flooding is causing widespread destruction and mass death.
The warming climate, as Gore warned us, will result in greater hardship and instability. It is a cruel injustice that the countries that contributed the least to greenhouse gas proliferation tend to be the poorest and will suffer the most.
On a more optimistic note, the recent climate bill passed by Congress represents exactly the kind of concrete action for which Gore has long advocated. Start somewhere. In the case of this legislation, that "somewhere" is quite significant, according to climate experts. Once you've started, keep going. Change the direction. Chart a new path forward toward carbon neutrality.
The climate is a grave and unending concern. It should dictate our policy choices and define our national security. Gore saw this clearly. His warnings will cry out from the history books to future generations. "Why were they not heeded?" they will ask in disbelief.
But it wasn't only the climate that has had me thinking of Gore. There is also the matter of the clear and present dangers our institutions and democratic order are facing.
Donald Trump is still at it about the 2020 election (here in August 2022). He just issued a statement saying he was the "rightful winner" and at a minimum, someone (not exactly sure who) should "declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!"
Of course the former president is now under a serious investigation into his retention of highly classified documents (and what he might have done with them). One would have hoped that this grave matter would have Republican elected officials waiting at least to hear about findings before escalating divisive partisanship. But there was Trump's one-time critic and current sycophant Senator Lindsay Graham, alluding to violence. "If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle, there will be riots in the streets," he said. This is completely irresponsible and dangerous.
Against this backdrop, let us remember Al Gore and the 2000 presidential election. Gore won the popular vote, but of course that's not how we choose our presidents. As for the Electoral College, it all came down to Florida, as anyone of memory age at the time certainly recalls. There was a lot of weirdness in that state — "butterfly ballots" and "hanging chads." To make a long and sordid story short, ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. A majority of justices, all appointed by Republicans, stopped the vote count and effectively handed the election to George W. Bush.
It is hard to overstate how big an inflection point that was in American history. Unlike in 2020, when Trump lost decisively, Gore had legitimate claims. And also unlike 2020 (through today) when Trump is eager to blow up American democracy and even spark violence with his lies and refusal to act responsibly, Gore chose a path of reconciliation. His concession speech is one that should be studied for its graciousness and straightforward eloquence.
I have pulled some excerpts to provide examples of Gore's words. Recognize how difficult they must have been for a man who had long harbored dreams of the presidency — and knew he might very well have earned it.
Gore addressed the finality of the rule of law:
He called for common ground:
He argued for country over party:
He ended with a recognition that our country must be bigger than our politics and any single individual:
Contrast this humility with the last president, who will never relinquish the spotlight. Contrast the passionate pleas for unity with January 6. Contrast Gore's appeal to the sanctity of our institutions with the election lies sweeping Republican politics. Contrast how he led in a moment of potential crisis with the enablers and toadies who appease Trump's destructive behavior. Contrast the appeal to reason with Sen. Graham's wink at violence. Contrast how he tried to tamp down passion with those who use their perches in right-wing media to spew divisive hatred.
The Republicans rail against their political rivals for being out of control, violent, subverters of democracy. It is, in poker terms, the ultimate tell. What they complain the loudest about is often what they themselves are pushing. I have said it before: There are so many projectionists among the GOP that they might as well open a chain of movie theaters.
Looking back at what lawyers call the "fact pattern" of the 2000 election, we can see one that had all the hallmarks of bringing American democracy to its brink. But at that moment, Al Gore made the determination that to wreck our constitutional order by undermining the results of a very flawed process was not what leadership demanded.
He stood there, surely believing in his mind that he should have been president. He knew that a majority of American voters had agreed. Imagining "what could have been" must have been intensely difficult. Looking back at what happened in the presidency of George W. Bush, we can see how fateful that election was. But Al Gore knew that to preserve our constitutional system, there really was no other option. He accepted his fate, and so did his party.
As Trump still rages after an election that was not nearly as close, after he lost in the courts, after he spurred a violent insurrection, Gore's example is all the more striking. The Republican officials who are playing along with this attack on American democracy are old enough to remember 2000. And they're old enough to know better.
Note: If you are not already a subscriber to our Steady newsletter, please consider doing so. And we always appreciate you sharing our content with others and leaving your thoughts in the comments.
© 2022 Dan Rather
Providing accurate and timely information about what matters in Franklin, MA since 2007. * Working in collaboration with Franklin TV and Radio (wfpr.fm) since October 2019 *
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Dan Rather: Remember Al Gore?
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Senior Story Hour - WFPR: Ep. 044 - How To Handle Being Bored, Unexpected Science Discoveries, Meeting Ben Affleck and more (audio)
In this episode, The Franklin Senior Center Writers Group share stories, poems, writings plays and more about how to stop being bored when you find yourself bored, weird unexpected science discoveries, how Alice met Ben Affleck at a movie premiere, sharing poems of love, and a collection of sherkus.
This episode aired on Franklin Radio for August 2022.
Audio link -> https://senior-scribblers.captivate.fm/episode/ep-044-how-to-handle-being-bored-unexpected-science-discoveries-meeting-ben-affleck-at-a-movie-premiere-highschool-summer-memories-love-poems-and-more
|Senior Story Hour - WFPR|
Monday, August 29, 2022
Dan Rather: Dear Teachers
You nurture the flames of democracy
One of the great sadnesses of our current age is how politics has polluted so much of our public discourse and spread into realms that once seemed free of partisanship. That this occurs at a time when much of the Republican Party has adopted the posture of a bully and is gripped by extremist ideology and attacks on truth and justice makes it all the more dangerous and dispiriting.
Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the battlegrounds that our schools have become. We are living in an age when the number of books being banned is on the rise and the willingness to confront America's complicated history is on the decline. We see intolerance worn as a badge of toughness, while inclusion, the great promise of what public education can be, is treated as weakness. We see a concerted effort to take over school boards, especially in deeply conservative areas, with true believers in the culture wars eager to inflict their small-mindedness, bias, and mean-spirited ideology on shaping how young minds are taught.
Teaching, already an underappreciated profession in this country, is becoming an even less appealing line of work. We have educators who have spent decades in the classroom now forced to look over their shoulders, wondering whether the books on their shelves or their carefully honed lesson plans will run afoul of the new draconian mandates. And we have young idealists with freshly minted teaching certificates wondering whether they can impart their excitement and new ideas into the students before them.
Some of these concerns are not new. When I was a student, for example, racial injustice in the form of legally segregated schools was a hallmark of public education. Schools have always been shaped by the larger societal forces that whip around them. Public education is, after all, about molding the minds and the mores of future citizens. Few institutions have more power in determining what this country will become than our schools.
But there have been decades of progress on what and how our children are taught, and today that wave of advancement is retreating in many parts of America. Sadly, there are so many examples of far-right ideology shaping curricula, on issues ranging from race to LGBTQ rights to science, that to call them all out individually is an impossible task. This is a broad movement not confined by school or district; much of the effort is being directed at the state level.
Republican politicians have learned that they can rally their base through bad-faith misrepresentations of school culture, which they depict as out of control with so-called "woke" ideology (which we wrote about in Steady here) and the bogeyman of "critical race theory," which they totally mischaracterize — and which is taught in almost none of the schools where they have made it an issue. Nearly every parent wants good schools for their children, and Republicans are playing to fears they have carefully fanned to lure in voters even beyond their base. This was notably true in the last gubernatorial election in Virginia. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has cultivated his political reputation (and a likely presidential run) by attacking professional educators — and indeed the very idea that schools should be welcoming, tolerant learning environments.
The elections that lie ahead — not only the big, marquee ones, but more importantly, those for school boards and other local offices — will do a lot to shape what will happen in our schools in the years to come. But there is another force that is even more powerful, and as we mark the beginning of a new school year, let us recognize it: teachers.
While we should grapple with the political context laid out above, let us shift the tone of this piece now to one of celebration. Writing about teachers, singing their praises, honoring them as American heroes has long been one of my favorite activities. It never gets old, and it never gets less important.
I would like to use whatever platform I have to shine a spotlight of deep respect on these invaluable public servants. And I am pleased that if you search for quotes from me online, one of the most popular is this:
"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth.'"
I believe every word of it. These aren't empty sentiments. They come from my lived history. A while back here on Steady, I shared my own experiences as a student of public schools, including an emotional return to my elementary school in Houston.
For all the challenges our schools face, right now millions of children are learning about the world and themselves thanks to dedicated teachers. Teachers are going the extra mile, reaching out to kids in need, tweaking lesson plans to include new insights, passing their own inspirations to the young people before them.
The work is not easy — far from it. And it can be an incredible grind, especially when it seems that society doesn't value it or is even outright hostile to teachers. With this as a backdrop, it is understandable that many are choosing to leave the profession. This is not a reflection on them, but rather on the nation that is allowing it to happen.
Teachers, you are our inspiration and our hope. You nurture the flames of our democracy. You literally save lives. You work miracles every day. Your resourcefulness, resilience, and creativity are boundless. We saw it during the heart of the pandemic. And we see it now. It is all the more reason you should not be taken for granted.
Dear readers, how many of you can close your eyes and be transported to a classroom from your past? Do you see a favorite teacher? Hear that word of encouragement or hard truth that shaped the course of your life? Teachers are the winds that propel our children's sails forward. They are the North Stars that help guide us all.
I apologize if this reads as a bit trite. I can imagine red ink on the page from some of my previous English teachers marking my excesses. Sadly, those teachers are all now long gone. But in me, as in my classmates, as in all of you, the work of our teachers lives on.
We cannot thank our teachers enough. Each day the gifts they have given us are renewed. We should do everything we can to protect them and value them. A lot of this work must be done at the ballot box, but it can also be accomplished through words of encouragement and support.
To all the teachers out there: thank you.
Note: If you are not already a subscriber to our Steady newsletter, please consider doing so. And we always appreciate you sharing our content with others and leaving your thoughts in the comments.
© 2022 Dan Rather
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Know someone going to college? Consider the "College Admissions Insights" session scheduled Aug 1 at 1 PM
Is the process anything like when you considered college? Or your kids did?
For answers to these questions, consider joining Allison Sherlock, Director of Admission at Saint Michael's College for an informative session on what the college admissions process is like these days.
Allison will provide some insights on
• the application process (now a Common app)
• what the student (and family) should consider in their college search
• lessons learned from reading more than 10,000 college entry essays
Where: Franklin Senior Center (conf room) and via Zoom
Allison graduated from Franklin High in 2004, earned her BA in 2008 and her Masters in 2016 both at Assumption College.
Allison has worked in admissions at Assumption, MCPHS University, Wheelock College, and for 5 years at Saint Michael’s mostly as a Regional Recruiter, now currently as Admissions Director.
Her full LinkedIn profile can be found online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/allisonsherlock/
|Consider the "College Admissions Insights" session scheduled Aug 1 at 1 PM|
Monday, July 18, 2022
Dan Rather: Climate and the Cosmos - "In the end, it is better to bet on the helpers more than the obstructionists"
Climate and the Cosmos
Two stories from this past week
Two pieces of news this past week spoke to humankind traveling in different directions.
On one hand, with severe weather once again gripping the planet and the dangers of our warming world becoming more apparent, present, and urgent, the infuriating antics of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin dashed the hopes of Democrats yearning for meaningful action on climate change.
As many have noted, Manchin has been playing his game of Lucy and the football (from the classic comic strip "Peanuts") since the beginning of this 50-50 Senate. Just when Democrats seem close to scoring a policy goal, he (either single-handedly or abetted by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema) pulls the ball away, driving a stake into core objectives supported by vast majorities of the party — and often even by the country as a whole.
mary ☮️ @marynasca60@brianschatz How many times as Manchin now played the part of Lucy and the football?
July 15th 20224 Retweets14 Likes
It's gotten to the point where, as we noted recently, the rallying cry for Democrats in the midterms has become some version of, "give us two more senators."
Of course, the frustration with Manchin isn't new. At the same time, we would do well to remember that the blame is not his alone. The filibuster, employed in its current state by Mitch McConnell, creates a dynamic that blocks meaningful action and provides a smokescreen on accountability. As we considered in a piece titled "More Than Manchin" over a year ago:
"By focusing so much attention on Manchin, we are not presenting the full narrative to the American people. The press is framing this as a fight within the Democratic Party. That lets Republicans waltz by the microphones and cameras without paying nearly enough of a political price for their cynicism and obstructionism."
While all this remains true, the latest sucker punch from Manchin, who seems to treat good-faith negotiations like a private joke in which only he knows the punchline, hits particularly hard. The specter of our climate crisis hangs over this Earth with foreboding uncertainty. We know it is already bad. We don't know how bad it might get (a lot depends on what we do know). Or whether we will find a way to remediate some of the damage. It's an existential crisis, particularly for younger generations who feel it acutely and wonder, as we all should, about the health of the planet they will inherit.
It is difficult to discern exactly what is motivating Manchin on this issue, but many have noted how he has benefited politically and personally (in terms of his net worth and campaign support) from his ties to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Money talks, but it is also temporal. Focusing on short-term gain at the expense of the future and the needs of others encapsulates the struggles our planet faces. Solutions require planning, rethinking, and perhaps foregoing what is easy now for what is necessary later. Although as we see, the "later" is already NOW with climate.
What fixing the planet also requires is science. For all that is going wrong, we should find some hope in the fact that a global team of scientists over the last several decades has put together a picture of the precariousness of our climate that allows us — should we heed the data — to see what is happening and prepare for what needs to be done. New forms of energy and ideas for greater sustainability can help us reexamine our assumptions and reframe our perspectives.
With this truth in mind, let us reflect on another news story from the past week that, as hinted at the top of this piece, points us in a different direction.
The pictures coming from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have inspired the world. That we are looking back from our little home, only a speck in the vastness of space — what the astronomer Carl Sagan famously called the "pale blue dot" — at the origins of the universe is hard for most of us to comprehend. The images force us to reconsider our senses of time and space. In this framing, the workings — or more accurately, the dysfunction — of our Senate do not mean anything. Our planet itself, in but one solar system of but one galaxy, is of no consequence except to those of us who call it home. The notion that, amid the universe's vast expanse, we are the only planet of life also seems unlikely.
NASA Webb Telescope @NASAWebb👀 Sneak a peek at the deepest & sharpest infrared image of the early universe ever taken — all in a day's work for the Webb telescope. (Literally, capturing it took less than a day!) This is Webb's first image released as we begin to #UnfoldTheUniverse: nasa.gov/webbfirstimage…
July 11th 202297,224 Retweets381,656 Likes
In order to access these images, in order to allow science to open up our cosmos and the mysteries of life, we need people who can make it happen. And it was a welcome addition to coverage of the Webb telescope that more of us got to know about Gregory Robinson, the NASA administrator who put the troubled project back on track. Robinson, "the ninth of 11 children born to tobacco sharecroppers in rural Virginia," offers an inspiring American story.
NPR @NPRGregory Robinson grew up as one of 11 children of tobacco sharecroppers in rural Virginia. He reflects on his journey to NASA, where he directed the groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope program. How the son of sharecroppers helped send the world's most powerful telescope to spaceGregory Robinson grew up as one of 11 children of tobacco sharecroppers in rural Virginia. He reflects on his journey to NASA, where he directed the groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope program.n.pr
July 15th 2022226 Retweets967 Likes
In journalism, sometimes you look for juxtapositions to help provide context for the moment — as if by choosing two events, or people, or trend lines to compare, you can allow for greater clarity on both as well as a sense of the larger picture. Pairing Manchin and the Webb telescope provides, I think, an important perspective and hopefully some sense of hope. There is a battle in this country, and in the larger world, between ignorance and knowledge, cynicism and hope. This is not new. These frictions always exist in human society.
It is oftentimes too easy to focus on all that is wrong, for that provides the greatest danger and the most urgent need for action. But we would be wise to not lose a sense of balance, and of all those pushing against degradation and loss — people like Gregory Robinson. We can look up — at the cosmos and at our own futures — to find the inspiration to keep going. In the end, it is better to bet on the helpers more than the obstructionists, the builders more than the destroyers, and the dreamers more than the cynics.
© 2022 Dan Rather
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Dan Rather: Perfidy Personified
The more we learn, the worse it gets.
Anger and concern well up. Anger and concern that are fueled by love for a country that has been violently transgressed. By a president of the United States no less. And with stunning complicity from those who actively participated in an attempted coup, and those who stood by and did nothing while their country teetered on the edge of chaos. Unbelievable. But believe it we must. Because true it is.
We struggle to keep the mantra: steady, steady, steady. But in doing so may we follow the lead of the January 6 committee whose methodical, steady — admirably steady — pursuit of the facts has brought into the light a perfidy perhaps unmatched in the modern history of this nation.
When one must reach for comparisons to the Civil War to bring context to our current moment, it is to acknowledge the gravity of what we are learning.
Another day of hearings, and yet more details in a tableau of rampant law breaking. It is at a scale that is beyond what anyone could have imagined. Those who screamed into the void about what this man did and what he was capable of were often dismissed as histrionic. But even the most outrageous of suppositions have turned out to have been too restrained. The truth now has far outpaced the speculation. And the probability is that we have more to learn.
Take the news that ended today's hearing, that there is new evidence raising questions about witnesses and a Trump telephone call. Did the president of the United States directly engage in witness tampering? It is impossible to be shocked anymore, yet it remains shocking to even have to ask the question. I've said something of this nature many times before; it only becomes more accurate with each new revelation.
And let us note with emphasis the new revelation that the president indicated that he wanted the U.S. military to seize voting machines as a means of keeping him in power past an election which he had clearly lost.
Perhaps if the reality of what took place was less abhorrent we might be able to process it more easily, and thus be less stunned.
Can this really be happening? Did all of this really occur?
Above all, one question looms for which we must demand answers:
Dan Rather @DanRather"How is all of this only coming out now?" It's THE question for all who could have made a difference. At any step along the way.
July 12th 20227,391 Retweets43,463 Likes
There must be soul searching at all levels.
The cowardice of those who saw this unfold in real time and said nothing is a permanent stain on their characters. Those who would explain it away, or who sought to sabotage this investigation — and that includes almost every elected Republican in Congress — have put their narrow party's unquenched thirst for power ahead of the country.
We must ask: What was happening at the Department of Justice? And what is happening there now?
It brings me no joy to include the press as an institution in this tally of systemic breakdown. How could this story have been so widely missed? And is the full scale of it being given enough prominence? A story of this scale and far-ranging nature is bigger than just the White House press corps. Everyone should have been asking questions. It is not too late to dig into it with more investigative journalism. And while doing so, false equivalence should be banished from every newsroom.
Let us not forget that President Trump was impeached for what happened on January 6, and in the Senate trial that followed, we didn't come close to learning the full truth of his actions. The moment passed without sufficient scrutiny. No longer.
When this House committee was formed, there was a belief among many that the investigation would shed little that was new for those who had been paying attention. Sort of like crossing t's and dotting i's. Yet these patriotic members of Congress, and patriots they all are, have greatly exceeded expectations with professionalism and steely resolve. How stark their example stands in contrast to so many others who were perfectly happy to stay in the shadows in a moment when their country needed them to shed light.
Finally, thought turns tonight to the justices on the Supreme Court who claim to be "originalists." Three of them were appointed by perhaps the most dangerous man to ever have held the office of president. In their decisions blowing up established rights, these justices like to claim to base their rulings on what the Founding Fathers thought.
I wonder what those founders would have made of a would-be dictator who sought to use force to overthrow the will of the people in order to set up dynastic rule. Actually, I don't have to wonder. You can read about it in the Declaration of Independence, and it infuses the U.S. Constitution. It is the words that all of these people swore to uphold and then defiled in a craven play for power over justice and democracy.
© 2022 Dan Rather