September 30, 2016

In reading the recent biography of Robert Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy:  The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye, I have acquired a very different understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its relevance to the challenging geo-political situation we face today.  
I had always looked at this crisis rather simply.  The Soviet Union had been continuing to extend its military reach, planting missiles in Cuba, threatening the United States.  In terms of fact, that was a reality.
But the background to it needs to be understood.  In the first days of John Kennedy’s presidency, we had launched an aborted attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro.  A fiasco.  But the effort to overthrow, and indeed assassinate, Castro didn’t stop there.  Under the leadership of Bobby Kennedy, we pursued what was known as “Operation Mongoose.”  It involved the CIA and other operatives, again with the intent of overthrowing the Castro government, including plans to assassinate him.  Russia was well aware of this.  To stave off this continued effort to overthrow the Castro government and put in place one of our own liking, Russia decided to put missiles in Cuba as an overhanging threat to dissuade us from regime change.
The resolution of this crisis also needs to be understood.  As most famously told, we threatened to attack Cuba to wipe out the missile facilities unless Russia agreed to remove them.  And, in a tension-filled encounter, their ships, carrying more missiles, turned back and they agreed to withdraw what they had placed there.  
But this only happened because of a balanced, negotiated agreement.  The United States agreed to never invade Cuba.  And while this was not to be announced, we agreed that we would, within six months, remove missiles that we had in Turkey, which Russia looked at as a threat to their country.  It was a “quid pro quo” agreement.  
Flash forward to today.  Russia is extremely concerned about missiles that we are stationing in Eastern Europe.  They are concerned about what was a genuine effort at one point to have Ukraine become linked unilaterally with the West and very likely proceed toward participation in NATO.  This was more than Russia could stomach, just as having missiles in Cuba was more than we could stomach.
The overhanging risk of nuclear war played a major role in bringing both sides to the table back then in 1962.  It should be no less of an incentive to do so today.


September 17, 2016

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never fully gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency?"
Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954
These were the words which went through my mind yesterday as I heard Donald Trump acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States after years of fueling the Birther movement with no apology or explanation. Not only that he went on to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor and claimed that he had ended it. Such outrageous disregard for the truth is mind-boggling. 
But that wasn't all. On the same day he recklessly incites a crowd saying that Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of all guns (of course a lie) and goes on to ask bombastically -- why doesn't she take away all the guns from her security guards and we'll see what happens to her. 
Mr. Trump: have you no sense of decency? No regard for the truth?



September 3, 2016

My wife, Francie,  and I have offered stipends to students at Xavier for many years so they can spend their summer working for non-profit organizations. At the end of the summer, the students write us letters summarizing their experience, many of which have been life and career changing for them. 

One letter we received this past week was particularly mind opening and inspiring.

It came from a student who had worked for an agency supporting people who are blind. The student shared what one of the clients of the organization had shared with her. 

"You know being blind",  the women said, " I don't judge people by the color of their skin, or by how they look in any way. My view of them comes from what they say and how they say it and how they make me feel".

I had never thought about that before. We have heard of "blind" admissions and "blind" performance appraisals, 
Obviously  not making up in any way for the tragic loss of sight but offering a thought of how to approach other people--avoiding the instinctive unconscious bias that can sometimes arise from appearances.