June 20, 2015


Below are the words of the Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens.

Any flag which recalls the creed and belief  he expresses so baldly can only be the source of pain for many and  and for some demented few the rage to kill as we have seen again in Charleston this week. LET IT BE GONE. 


The “cornerstone” of the Confederate States, Stephens said, “rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”  Speaking impromptu in Savannah, GA a few weeks after the inauguration of the Confederate government, he enthusiastically called the new Confederate government “the first in the history of the world, based upon this great philosophical, and moral truth.”  Its constitution has “put at rest forever all agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization.”  


June 18, 2015


A quite remarkable story, revealing facets of Churchill’s and his administration’s leadership during World War II which I had never perceived.  I won’t try to record all the detail.  But there are some insights and lessons to be drawn from them:

1.     There was a huge debate as to whether Churchill would even take over the Prime Minister slot when Chamberlain was finally deposed. Many wanted the more “temperate” Lord Halifax.  Indeed, at one point, Churchill had recommended Halifax.  There was a lot of “in and out” fighting which finally led to Churchill ascending. 

2.     The cabinet of ministers that came together was deliberately composed of all parties, Conservative, Liberal and Labor.  The amount of back-fighting that went on among them is incredible.  Two times in 1942, there were moves (or at least strong rumors) of Stafford Cripps and William Aitken (first Baron Beaverbrook) seeking to supplant Churchill as Prime Minister.  These came at the worst moments of the military situation when the Japanese were taking Singapore, Britain was losing in the desert and London was being bombed.

With these setbacks came genuine questioning of Churchill’s leadership.  It was the darkest year of his Presidency.  Perhaps like 1861 was for President Lincoln after the defeat of the Union Army at Bull Run.  And like Lincoln that year, Churchill had moments of deep depression, even tears in his eyes, observers reported.  Yet he never let it show to the public.  And it never broke his indomitable spirit to carry on to win.

There was jostling between the ministers (Bevin and Beaverbook) as to who would have control of production as Britain built its armaments.  The temperaments of the individuals varied tremendously.  They often undercut each other and conveyed their disrespect openly.  Their diary entries conveyed even more disrespect.  At times, and I think the book may overdo this, it would seem that Churchill was spending more time trying to control disagreements among his cabinet than having to fight the war.  But, make no mistake, Churchill was focused on just one thing, and that was winning the war and rallying the spirit of the British people.

Just as Lincoln had done with his cabinet, Churchill suffered the barbs and nettlesome behavior of members of the cabinet in order to get the job done.  He sent people who were getting in his way off to other places (Halifax to the United States; Cripps to Russia).

3.     The role of First Baron Beaverbrook was very significant.  A crusty, tough, action-oriented individual, he was the perfect person to lead production.   For example, the production of fighter planes quadrupled between February and September 1940.  The total output of aircraft in Britain from almost a standing start in 1940 was twice that of Germany; yet, Beaverbrook, who owned two of the U.K.’s most important newspapers, was extremely temperamental, threatening to resign from the cabinet many times and doing it once.

4.     What is shockingly clear is that Churchill’s colleagues did not treat him with the reverence that he usually receives today.  As the author writes, “They did not know how posterity would view him.  They saw him at the time as a great and prurient man, no doubt, but also as a difficult and flawed one.”  His hours were absolutely crazy; he drank to the hilt; he ran meetings in a chaotic way.  But he knew what he was about, just as Lincoln did in saving the Union.  His commitment to that mission carried all, and the British people rallied.”

5.     I, of course, had known that Churchill and the Conservatives lost the election in summer 1945.  I had not known the venom of that campaign as the Labor party decided that it could no longer serve in a coalition government and would come out to oppose the Conservatives.  Churchill had actually moved a long way toward Labor’s position.  National health care was being promised; minimum wage and much more, including nationalization of the coal industry.  But that was not nearly enough for Labor, which wanted to go further.

If we talk about demonizing political opponents today, I have to say that the 1945 campaign in Britain showed the way.  Churchill:  “My friends, I must tell you that a Socialist policy (referring to the Labor party) is abhorrent to the British idea of freedom…Socialism is an attack upon the right of an ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clasped across their mouths and nostrils…no Socialist government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, refinely worded expressions of public intent.  They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo.”

Really, I think it’s always been the same.  Often today, we feel we have entered new ground in the polarization of our political rhetoric and, compared to some eras, I suppose we have.  But compared to most eras, we haven’t.  One only needs to go back to the attacks made on Roosevelt, that he was about to introduce a government equivalent to Communism or a Bolshevik regime, to realize that.

6.     In retrospect, this story brings home again that sometimes we are fortunate in having the right person in the right place at the right time.  That was the case with Lincoln and it was the case with Churchill during World War II.  It was also the case with Roosevelt during the Second World War.  Individuals, by no means perfect, though Lincoln comes pretty close; but right for the time.  Each is an example that progress is not made without bitter debate and sometimes bitter accusations, one person to another; yet even so, they worked together to achieve a productive end.  Life isn’t always pretty, but you have to put up with ugliness sometimes to get a big job done; and it only happens when very competent people believe in something deeply and act with all their might to make it happen.



June 13, 2015

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.”
                                                                                                            John Stuart Mill
It was in reading this famous observation that, I came to realize that we do not have a cohesive, fit-for-the-times framework to address two critical questions:

What does “equal opportunity” for a young child entail?

What portion of that should be underwritten and provided by the state and what part left to private or individual means?

I have chosen to address these two questions within the historic commitment our nation made in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – that to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the government.”

What exactly do these “unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” entail?  And when we say that it is to “secure these Rights that governments are instituted among Men,” what exactly is the government’s obligation?  To do what, for whom?

These are profound questions which have been debated, legislated, adjudicated and written about since the very founding of our nation.  These questions have been answered differently at different points in history.  Most glaringly, the Right to Liberty was denied for almost a century to enslaved men and women following the Declaration of Independence.  The Right to vote was denied for many women until 1920. 

It is not my intent to address the history of the on-going debate over individual Rights. 

I will try, however, to address a narrower but, especially today, vital aspect of this question of what are the “unalienable Rights” that should be “secured” by the government. 

Specifically, I will address this question:  What do we mean when we commit to provide “equality of opportunity” for young people as they grow up;  what Rights does that entail and what portion of securing those Rights should be underwritten and provided by the government? 

At the outset, we must acknowledge an overarching reality:  More than any other factor, a child’s development depends more on how his or her parents foster their child’s development, including what is enabled by their economic circumstances and educational background.  Obviously, these conditions cannot in any meaningful sense be made equal and it would be (and has proven to be) folly to try.  It is in the context of this reality that we must strive to answer the question of what we can and must do to provide children with the opportunity so that--as we say in the Declaration of Independence--they are able to “pursue their unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

I submit that the Rights to which children are entitled include an environment that is safe, good health and a good education.  These, I believe, are basic Rights which must be secured by the government. 

In this paper, I will focus exclusively on education—specifically early childhood education.

My major contention:  Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education is A “Right” For All Children.

I believe that we have now reached a sufficient level of knowledge and evidence to conclude that making quality pre-K education available for all children, regardless of their family’s economic means, is a basic Right in the same way that providing quality K-12 education for all children is acknowledged as a “Right” in our Nation.  As such, quality pre-K education calls for public funding just as K-12 education does.  We have learned that quality pre-K is an essential, even more important, part of the education continuum.  We should no more fail to fund it than fail to fund Kindergarten or the 1st or 2nd grades.

To repeat, I believe the evidence now available clearly indicates that providing a quality pre-Kindergarten experience must be taken as an obligation of the state just as is providing K-12 education.  While funding streams will be shared by the federal, state and local governments, like K-12 education, the overwhelming majority of the funding will properly come from the state and local levels. 

There are four reasons why I contend that public funding for high quality pre-K must not be seen as a “nice to do” benefit to be implemented when we can afford it.  Rather, it must be seen as a fundamental Right, just like K-12 education.  Here is why:

1.     It is morally correct:  it is a fundamental necessity if all children are to have as approximate an equal opportunity to develop as can be provided recognizing the overarching role of the family.
2.     It is socially correct:  there is no other way that our nation’s young adult men and women, as a whole, will be able to prosper in the competitive world of the future.
3.     It is financially smart:  evidence shows that the investment required to provide this development and educational experience will pay for itself many-fold in lower costs (i.e. less remediation, repeat grades, costs stemming from criminal activity and incarceration) and from higher incomes and the taxes derived therefrom.  As an intervention, quality pre-K provides a far higher return on investment than any other intervention in the education continuum. 
4.     It is the only credible response to competitive pressure from the many other countries which are already providing quality pre-K education to a far higher percentage of their three and four-year-olds than our Nation is today.
I recognize that calling for public funding support for pre-Kindergarten education for all children as a Right in the same way we do for K-12 education demands a very high level of support.  Here is that support.

Essentially, it rests on the overwhelming evidence that quality pre-K education has a significant impact on a child’s development which lasts throughout his or her years of education and life.  We have evidence for this today that we did not have 10 years ago.  In brief, here is what we know.

1.     Quality pre-K and Kindergarten education dramatically improves Kindergarten readiness as measured on well-qualified tests among students of all incomes.

KRA-L Scores*
By Income and Duration of Preschool Experience
                                                No Center-                  Center Based                           Center Based
                                                Based Program            Program-1 Yr. or less              Program-1+Yr.
            Low Income**                        15.8                             18.5                                         19.6
            Other Income                          19.8                             22.4                                         23.7

            As you’ll see, on average a center-based program of more than one year lifts
            children from low-income families to “ready for Kindergarten” levels.

2.     Being ready for Kindergarten dramatically impacts third grade reading proficiency.  Specifically, research conducted in Southwestern Ohio shows that 85% of those children testing ready for Kindergarten were reading on-grade by the end of the third grade whereas only 43% of those children not ready for Kindergarten were reading on-grade.

3.     This doubling of the percentage of children reading proficiently is enormously significant because third grade reading proficiency correlates dramatically with graduation rates.  A child not reading proficiently at the end of the third grade is four times more likely to drop out than one who is.  And if they are from a poor family, they are 11 times more likely to drop out.

*A score of 19 or better is considered “ready for kindergarten.”

**185% of the Federal Poverty line and below is qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

4.     Finally, high school graduation and educational attainment beyond high school have an enormous influence on earnings and a person’s health and success throughout life.  Data compiled by the College Board shows the following as of 2011: 

Median Earnings and Tax Payments Ages 25+ by Education Level

                                                                        Earnings                      Tax Payment
            Less than H.S. diploma                       $21,000                       $4,100
            H.S. Diploma                                      $29,000                       $6,400
            Associate Degree                                $36,200                       $8,600
            Bachelors Degree                                $45,100                       $11,400

The influence of educational attainment goes well beyond earnings.  It impacts family formation, health and the likelihood of being involved in criminal activity.  In the latter regard, it is a shocking fact that 70% of incarcerated men and women are high school dropouts.

Given the above facts, it is not surprising that studies following students over several decades who received quality pre-Kindergarten education show significant cost-effective benefits.  They stem from a combination of 1) higher incomes attributable to higher education and 2) lower costs attributable to less special education, fewer repeated grades and lower costs in the criminal justice system.*

Now, if everyone could afford quality pre-K on their own or if adequate funds could be provided through philanthropy, there might be no need for public support.  That is not the case.  At a cost of $6,000-$8,000 per year, quality pre-K represents 10-15% of the median average income of about $55,000, and for a person making $12 per hour, it represents over 25% of his or her salary.  Plainly unaffordable.

Philanthropy does help.  In the Cincinnati community, for example, the United Way funds pre-K and in-home visiting programs.  Still, combining philanthropy and existing government support, we are providing less than 30% of our population with quality pre-K experience.**   

*See “Dollars and Sense:  A Review of Economic Analysis of Pre-K,” May 2007, particularly the reviews of the High/Scope Perry Pre-School Program; Chicago Child-Parent Centers and the Carolina Abecedarian Project.

**CEECO policy report—May 2014.  See Appendix A for the impact of poverty on enrollment and quality pre-K. 
This gets down to the basic issues of moral values and financial common sense.  There is no reason why a Nation committed to equal opportunity should have children and grandchildren born into families like my own, receive the benefit of a quality pre-K experience—an experience which we now know significantly impacts their entire lives—while children born into poorer families are denied that benefit.  This is especially true because we have proven quality, cost-effective pre-K programs. 

A few asides:
·      In providing quality pre-Kindergarten education as a fundamental Right, there are questions that need to be answered.  For example:

a.     To what extent should public support be means-tested, providing lower support to families with higher incomes?  I believe that means testing should be a fundamental component of any system.
b.     Should public support cover both three and four-year-olds?  I believe the answer is yes.  There is substantial evidence that two years of pre-school is close to two times as effective as one year.

·      Pre-K education should be totally voluntary. 
·      Pre-K education is not a silver bullet.  Particularly for poor families, wraparound services providing health care for the child and his or her parents, as well as job placement and additional education where appropriate, are critical.


In the end, what I am calling for is nothing more or less than providing equal opportunity to a young child, as best we can, recognizing the overriding influence of a child’s parent.  In this regard, I hearken back to the words of President John F. Kennedy as he challenged the Nation to support legislation that eventually emerged as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Shortly before his assassination in fall 1963, he addressed the discrimination inflicted on African-American children.

“This is one country.  It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.  We cannot say to 10% of the population that you can’t have that Right; your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have...as I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal motivation, but they should have the equal Right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation to make something of themselves.  This is what we are talking about, and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it, I ask for the support of all our citizens.”

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy challenged the nation to give children the equal Right to develop their talents regardless of their race.  Today we are challenging ourselves to give children that Right regardless of their family’s income.

I hope and pray that will happen soon.  In truth, I believe it will.  The evidence is too strong, the cause too right to be denied.  We must act quickly so that future generations of young people have the opportunity which they deserve and our Nation desperately need.
As Krista Ramsey of the Cincinnati Enquirer poignantly writes:
“There really is a sense of urgency–of a clock ticking–for us to get this right because the developmental windows narrow if not close.  We keep acting like we can push a “Pause” button with young children’s learning–as if, if we get this thing wrong, we can just put them into a learning environment whenever we like, and all will be well.  I think people would be appalled if we stopped a young child from walking–just held him back!–or from talking, or learning to feed himself, etc.  It would border on abuse. 

There is another extraordinarily important point Krista makes: 
“Inequality in early childhood opportunities sets people up for a lifetime of inequality:  lower test scores, fewer educational options, lower confidence, fewer career options, lower earnings.  Why on earth would we pour so many resources into trying to close “achievement gaps” at 14 and “earning gaps” at 25, when we ignored the inequality at the educational/cognitive starting gate?  How financially foolish.”
  How financially foolish, indeed.  And how morally wrong.  So let’s get on with it—NOW!


June 10, 2015


Such a contrast.  Reading the essay, “Open Thy Hand Wide,” in which Marilynne Robinson quotes John Calvin in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion:”.

The Lord commands us to do “good unto all men,” universally, a great part of whom, estimated according to their own merits, are very undeserving, but here the Scripture assists us with an excellent rule, when it inculcates, that we must not regard the intrinsic merit of men, but must consider the image of God in them, to which we all owe all possible honor and love.”

Here is the great teaching reiterated in Genesis that, as Robinson writes, “every human being is an image of God and it is another exploration of the unqualified requirement of generosity to be found in Deuteronomy: 15.”

I think about these broad-reaching acts of “generosity.”  I am mindful of how polarized and “ungenerous” so much of our rhetoric is today.

So much of this stems from our own sense of insecurity, our desire to elevate ourselves by deflating or negative altogether the values of someone else.

We do so much damage by having self-fulfilling negative expectations of one another.  We start out assuming the worst, perhaps because it makes us look strong or at least superior.  Nowhere was that in greater evidence this Sunday than in the coverage in The New York Times brought to the relations between Russia and the United States.


In striking contrast to this call to honor others as children of God, to start from the presumption that we can live together not at war with one another, were two articles in Sunday’s (June 7) New York Times dealing with the relationship between the United States and Russia.

The first article carried the invidious headline:  “Obama Seeks To Reinforce Isolation of Russia.”  Written by Julie Hirschfield Davis.

The caption under the picture of President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State John Kerry talking in Sochi states, with absolutely no evidence to support it, that Putin had claimed the meeting “as a diplomatic triumph, creating a challenge for President Obama.”  How is that for taking what could be an opening for constructive discussion as a negative development to be feared? 

The article was filled with innuendo and unsupported allegations.  Referring to the economic sanctions, the writer states, “they evidently have not forced him (Putin) to give up his designs on Ukraine or to surrender Crimea.”  As if anyone ever felt that they would result in the surrender of Crimea or that there is evidence to support that Putin, in fact, has “designs on Ukraine,” beyond those that have been well registered in providing appropriate autonomy for Eastern Ukraine.

The article goes on stating that the visit by Kerry has been “questioned even by some inside the White House,” again a statement totally unsubstantiated.

Obama’s “immediate task” is stated as stealing “the resolve of European powers” to keep sanctions in place.  Mr. Obama’s intent, with again no support, is stated as signaling to our allies that the U.S. “is willing to go even further should Russia escalate its aggression in Ukraine.”

Who knows.  Behind this wall of negative assessment of Russia’s and Putin’s intentions may be at least a glimmer of constructive dialogue of the kind we know Lavrov and Kerry tried to carry out in Sochi.  I hope so.

I’m struck by how the press and some spokesman in the White House in the United States seems so intent on stoking the fires of conflict between Russia and the U.S.  As one reads the transcripts of what Putin and Lavrov are saying, I see far more intent on reaching an accommodation that will provide for a unified Ukraine and a subsiding of this conflict.

It was more than an interesting coincidence that on the adjacent page to the article on Russia in Sunday’s New York Times we read of Pope Francis urging a divided Bosnia to heal, declaring “war never again!”

Some in Bosnia and around the world continue to foment “conflict between different cultures and societies” for their own political purposes, the Pope said; others to make profits on arms sales.  They ignore the human price paid in lives lost, refugees uprooted and property destroyed.  All things occurring right now in Ukraine and, yes, to many other parts of the world. 

“You now this well, having experienced it here:  how much suffering, how much destruction, how much pain!” Francis said.  “The cry of God’s people goes up once again from this city (can’t hear    ), the cry of all men and women of goodwill:  war never again!”


We know that there is evil in this world, evil characteristics that affect us all:  greed, envy, self-righteousness borne out of some combination of fear, insecurity or unbounded pride.  But we also know there are those noble instincts:  generosity and love.  We must act to advance the “better angels of our nature.”  I think our Christian faith is an irreplaceable foundation for doing that.

In our relations with other nations, we must be realistic.  We must recognize that our interests will not always be the same as others, but we should never lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people and all nations seek one thing:  peace, the opportunity for a full life of reasonable if not great prosperity, for themselves and their family.  There have been cases, like Nazi Germany, and there will undoubtedly be some in the future or for whatever reason another nation or group of people have become so inflamed that there is no recourse but to use force to thwart their dominating ambitions.  This is undoubtedly the situation with ISIS today.  But we must beware at all costs of turning relationships which have the potential of going either way, toward a more war-like or more peaceful solution, to be more warlike.

We face such a situation today in our relationships with Russia and we do as well with China.  There will be a lot of instincts that are served by taking a more “warlike” posture.  Some are frankly commercial (the arms industry), others will be based on what is seen as a courageous and “realistic” decision to hold ground against a looming, growing threat which, in fact, if we had handled it differently, would not have turned out to be a threat at all but rather an opportunity to work collaboratively against greater needs and opportunities.  This is precisely the situation with the relationship between the United States and Russia for our working together on such issues as nuclear proliferation and terrorism and is by far the higher calling.