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American Stories: Liveliness

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With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

My wife Dagmar came to America when she was a teenager, along with her brother and parents. Her stepfather was a political refugee after the second World War and needed a country where he could rebuild his life. Luckily for me, he chose America.

When the family decided to become citizens, my wife demurred. She had left lifelong friends behind in Austria and her hometown was very close to her heart. Several years later, when she realized how much she loved living in this country, she made the choice to become a citizen. Like her parents, she became a committed patriot in her new home.

I enjoy trips to Austria and interacting with friends and family there on frequent visits. I could live comfortably in that culture, but that is the key term—comfortably. Her country is like a friendly grandparent—people speak politely to one another, the streets are safe, the arts are held in high esteem, one’s life options stretch out foreseeably into the future, daily life is structured by traditions (but less and less by religion). It is comfortable … but a bit predictable.

I prefer the lively, diverse America. People are more open and caring but also sometimes more abrasive. The streets are not as safe but the dangers are easily foreseen and navigated. One can enjoy a huge variety of artistic encounters, or little at all. The options for life are sometimes overwhelming—so many directions and difficult to focus, but so freeing. Some traditions are honored, but there are few, if any, violations of dress or behavior or the “right thing” that cause people to be disturbed. There is a lot of tolerance for diversity and other people.

And religion is still strong in America compared to all of Europe. More people are committed to their faith and the result is an outpouring of generosity that is envied in the world. From the Salvation Army and World Vision, to the local neighborhood place of worship or storefront church, millions of people are daily fed and supported and comforted and helped in practical ways. I am invigorated every day by this America!

Dennis Logie has served Sequoia Christian Church in Redwood City for 56 years, 27 as a paid pastor—and he is still serving. He and his wife brought up two children who attended local schools.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

 

American Stories: The American Military

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

Before I was a writer, I was an Air Force brat, and before I was an Air Force brat, my father was a mechanic in Northern China in World War II, keeping P-38s flying through daily strafing. He spent his 23rd birthday on a freight train, being evacuated beyond the reach of the Japanese.

A year before Pearl Harbor, Daddy had volunteered for the Army Air Corps. And yet when that terrible war ended, he couldn’t find a calling as compelling as “the service.” After a brief hiatus, he reenlisted for a 20-year career in the United States Air Force. That meant for the duration, every few years he and Mother —and subsequently three daughters —packed up everything to go wherever Uncle Sam ordered. No arguments. Mother and Daddy had to listen to three squabbling little girls in the back seat (“Your skirt’s on my dress!”) during those long cross-country drives from one godforsaken military base to the next, in service of our nation.

When I think of the best of America, I think of our military, and I’m not alone. The military consistently earns the highest rank of all 15 institutions in Gallup’s annual rating.

Duty. Honor. Valor. Service above self.

They’re not the animating ideals for your average occupation. Every person who leaves behind civilian life to volunteer takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That, of course, doesn’t mean every soldier and sailor meets the highest standards at all times; likewise, the particular wars and missions they’re sent out on may be misguided. But our democracy depends on an apolitical military which answers the call of duty, whatever it may be.

My first learning moment came toward the end of Daddy’s assignment with NATO in France in the mid-1950s. It hardly needs pointing out that this was a country we’d saved not many years before from the Nazis. Yet on a drive through the countryside, our family saw a message someone painted on a retaining wall: “Yankee Go Home.” He shrugged it off, like all solid, turn-the-other-cheek citizen-soldiers are expected to do.

Daddy’s last Air Force stint took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the five of us were living at a radar station in the Mojave Desert. I was the “paperboy” delivering the Los Angeles newspapers to 20 homes at the base, every morning bearing frightening updates about a nuclear strike that could well have taken out nearby Edwards Air Force Base. And us too. My sixth-grade science fair project was about how to tell when it’s safe to come out after a nuclear blast. Our little base was on constant high alert, yet the average American couldn’t possibly have realized how military personnel at remote posts all over the world were quietly going about the business of preparing for war. They still are.

Like many of my generation, I questioned why we were in Vietnam and was swept up in arguments that were more emotional than rational. But the regard I always maintained for our military has deepened over the decades, especially in this time of all-volunteer forces. In putting others first, they and their families sacrifice comfort, wealth and personal independence; the military personnel, sometimes even their lives. Our military leads the way with humanitarian assistance after disasters, such as the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, when service members delivered food and other supplies to devastated Southeast Asian countries.

When I think of “public service,” this grown-up brat salutes the American military.

Climate magazine editor Janet McGovern is a former newspaper reporter and book author.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

American Stories: An American lens

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

My years as a photographer have taken me to locations nationally and internationally. Assignments to Cuba, Israel, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Mexico were a few that exposed me to great diversity — and conflicts. Outside the warm safe bubble I had grown up in, I discovered a fascinating world of cultural differences that forced me to reevaluate my view of the world.

Each situation taught a respect for the passions, traditions and customs of others. Being seen as a foreigner taught me what it was to be an American. Whether wandering the streets of Havana, Ocho Rios or Belfast, I was aware that I was conspicuous — a foreigner.

But I’ve had to learn on assignments in America that I’m operating on someone else’s turf too. At times I can feel like a foreigner in my own country.

We take pride in America being a melting pot, a welcoming home for people from all over the world. Our diversity makes us stronger. But taking someone’s picture is very personal, and sometimes I have to remind myself that everyone doesn’t necessarily operate on the same cultural page, even in Redwood City.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Little Havana, Florida, where I was photographing and interviewing Cuban Americans and expatriates. From Bay of Pigs veterans, still dreaming for the violent overthrow of the Castro regime, to idealistic university students, political asylum seekers and “Pedro Pans” (adults who were born in Cuba but brought to the U.S. as children), passions ran hot. To lose sight of that and appear anything but neutral was dangerous.

Didn’t matter if I was in Alaska, Montana, Wisconsin, New York or Tennessee; I was often seen as an outsider, ignorant of local convention and, if not respectful, prone to social missteps.

I can’t help but think my wanderings helped me view others here at home differently as I take photographs. Critical thinking and conflict resolution have become subjects worth being mindful of.

Bottom line: I discovered I didn’t know what it means to be an American until I left my country. Or gain appreciation of it until I photographed the world beyond our shores.

Mark Twain put it best when he said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Jim Kirkland is the Creative Director of Climate Magazine with 40 years experience as a photographer.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

American Stories: The Vote

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

I am very passionate about voting. I have voted in every local, state and federal election since registering to vote at 21. Each time I have twisted the lever or completed my mail-in ballot I have thought of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Susan B. Anthony and the other suffragists who endured so much in order for American women like me to have the right to vote. I honor them with my vote. And I honor the men and women who fought and those that died protecting my right to vote. It is by voting that we truly participate in democracy.

There are a number of countries that have compulsory voting; their citizens not only are required to vote but face fines or losing civil rights if they do not. There are also countries whose citizens are not allowed to vote for their leaders. And there are places where armed military is present at polling places to intimidate voters. In America we choose to vote and we do so safely and with no intimidation.

It is the responsibility of all Americans to be informed voters. As Thomas Jefferson said, “A well informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy.” Voting is how we make our voices heard. Voting is how we effect change. November 3, 2020, is a presidential election but it is local elections that have the most impact. City councils, the board of supervisors, school district trustees, the sheriff, the district attorney, judges. This November and every election let your voice be heard.

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” –Samuel Adams

Barb Valley is retired from a technology career at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space. Chairman of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, she also served 12 years on Redwood City’s Library Board.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

 

American Stories: American unity

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

Our national Independence Day is upon us and it is a day taken to celebrate America the land of the free. We celebrate with barbecues, parades, street fairs and block parties. Growing up as a daughter to immigrant parents we shared pride in being able to partake in honoring America. As graduations were held, goals were met, bonuses earned they were all reminders that the American dream was attainable. We felt lucky to be a part of the melting pot, yet these things haven’t changed so why does this year feel so different?

Is it because we’re seeing our first pandemic in 100 years? Sadly we will not be celebrating with our loved ones. Is it because we are experiencing “civil unrest?” as so many have deemed it. This country has evolved because of its people. The people have time and time again risen and pushed the glass ceiling and we continue to see that today.

The year 2020 feels different because now more than ever we are taking the time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We are demanding to be better, not only for today but for future generations. We as a nation have come together and we rise together to stand up for what is right. America is defined by what we make of her. This is what makes America special. We have inspired the world and I hope this Fourth of July as we grill and eat and drink we don’t look down on those who have the courage to protest and ask for more, but that we honor that we have the right to.

Jessica Sanchez, 33, was born and raised in Redwood City to parents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the early 1970s. Sanchez is a mother to a daughter whose fifth birthday, coincidentally, is the third of July.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

 

American Stories: The ties that bind us, still

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With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

During the recent period of enforced inactivity, I found that the Civil War provides an inexhaustible number of ways to pass the time.

There’s a new biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, a Reddit group arguing about whether Jefferson Davis was right to replace Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood at the gates of Atlanta, a History Channel series on Ulysses S. Grant.

Civil War issues still assert themselves. Should statues of Confederate leaders be forcibly torn down, as Black Lives Matter protesters are doing? Should the coastal California town of Fort Bragg be renamed to expunge the tribute to a rebel general? Does Abraham Lincoln’s military crackdown against draft rioters in New York furnish a precedent to give Donald Trump the power to call out troops in cities?

“Anybody who’s looked into it at all realizes that it truly is the outstanding event in American history insofar as making us what we are,” Civil War author Shelby Foote wrote.

One of my neighbors flies California’s Bear Flag from his flagpole without the stars and stripes, a more subtle political statement than the Confederate battle flag, but a token of separation nonetheless.

Upset with Trump’s America, people talk wistfully about California leaving the United States and setting out as the world’s fifth largest economy. During the presidency of Barack Obama, Texas’ governor openly speculated that the Lone Star state had the right to revert to an independent republic, as it was from 1836 to 1845.

In fact, the Civil War settled this issue. The Supreme Court in the 1869 Texas v. White decision codified the North’s position—secession is illegal. No state can leave.

In 1850, South Carolina separatist Senator John C. Calhoun made the uncanny deathbed prediction that the Union would “explode in a presidential election” within twelve years. In 2020, it sometimes feels the same way, that inevitably the culture wars will cause a dissolution.

To which I say, not in my lifetime. My great-great-grandfather Tandy Pritchard fought for the Union as part of the 54th Illinois U.S. infantry, including at Vicksburg. To give up that cause now would be a betrayal.

Our ties will reassert themselves. As Lincoln said: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Vlae Kershner is a longtime Bay Area journalist and a frequent writer for Climate.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

Art from Redwood City BLM protest on display at Main Library

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Art from Redwood City BLM protest on display at Library

Artwork painted on plywood boards that covered store windows during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Redwood City on June 2 is now on display in the Main Library parking lot.

Thousands attended the peaceful, youth-led rally in Courthouse Square, which protested police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Before the event, warnings of possible looting prompted many businesses downtown to board up.

The Fox Theatre was among those to do so, and it invited artist Jose Castro, creative director of Anonymous Recipes (Recetas Anonimas), to paint messages on the bare boards supporting the BLM movement. What Castro and others created became a visible, impactful symbol of the protest.

The plywood murals have since been preserved. Now, Redwood City is displaying them at the Downtown Library through Aug. 14 in solidarity with the movement and also “as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue about anti-racist actions we can all take together,” Library officials said.

The library is exploring additional, related displays in the future. Meanwhile, the city has expressed an intention to display the plywood mural at other city locations following its tenure at the library.

Photo credit: Redwood City Library

American Stories: The “Lucky Generation”

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With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

Sometimes I feel like Willy Loman, the main character in Arthur Miller’s celebrated play “Death of a Salesman.” Loman worked hard all his life, but was ignored and unappreciated, leading to the famous line about “Attention must be paid.” I think it’s time attention be paid to me and millions of other members of the generation sandwiched between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

Born in 1937, I missed the big historic moments of the 20th century – too young for World War II and too old for the sexual revolution. That’s okay. A lot of people got hurt in the sexual revolution. I was a mere child of seven when the war ended in August of 1945, but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that the war had a profound influence on my future.

Everywhere I looked I saw men in uniform. I regarded them as heroes, role models who had the courage and determination to defeat evil and save a way of life they thought was worth dying for but they hoped to live for.

The former GIs are passing away at an increasing rate. I expect when the final Taps sound there will be a good deal of rewriting of history by those who want to control the past and thus control the present and the future. There are already signs of this. In Tom Brokaw’s book, “Boom! Voices of the Sixties – Personal Reflections on the ‘60s and Today,” some members of that generation insisted they, and not the WWII veterans, were actually the “greatest.” They cited their fight for civil rights, gender equity, anti-war protests and sexual freedoms, as though they had dared to go where no one had gone before.

My generation, the one born during the Great Depression, had it made. We marched toward adulthood when America was, as Jimmy Cagney shouted from the burning tower in “White Heat,” on “top of the world.” The rest of the globe was in ruins. “Sound as a dollar” was not a simple cliché then. It was true. Along with “gas is cheap.” In addition, our comparatively small numbers benefitted from the large generation that followed. The Boomers needed doctors, teachers, police officers, firefighters and just about anyone else called on to minister to their needs. I had only two jobs during a 40-year career in which one paycheck was enough to support a family, and I consider myself a “Lucky Jim” indeed.

Jim Clifford worked at United Press International and the Associated Press during his journalism career and is the history columnist for Climate and the San Mateo Daily Journal.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

 

American Stories: Arrival stories

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

Ask any American where they came from, and they will tell you an amazing family arrival story. Whether they landed yesterday or 400 years ago, someone in the family began a journey that was as unique as it was intrepid. Here are just a few of the stories I’ve heard over the years:

•The first in my family arrived in 1667 as an indentured servant. His great grandson fought for the American Revolution. That patriot’s grandson chose indenture in 1825 so he could buy his own farm out west – in Illinois. A generation later, his descendant fought for the Union at Shiloh.

•My caddy at a posh country club on the East Coast was nephew to an African king. Just before a bloody coup, he was sent to a relative’s in Virginia. Despite his less-than-grand circumstances, he considered himself the most fortunate of all his royal relatives.

•A young golfer, a psychologist, told me his great-grandfather was a prominent Jewish neurologist in Austria who sensed the impending Holocaust. After sending his wife and young sons ahead to America, he came to New York and on his first day, got mugged. Surprise! Both a boxer and a black belt in Ju-Jitsu, he preserved the family fortune of Krugerrands he had sewn inside his coat. His young sons trained as doctors at Stanford, and three generations continue to thrive.

•A distant cousin tracked some relatives to Poland, among them, 10- and 16-year-old sisters. They sailed unaccompanied across the Atlantic in 1901 hoping to join their parents who had come several years before. These Polish girls landed in New York, speaking not a word of English and wearing signs strung around their necks that bore their names and their parents’ address. But they managed to reunite 800 miles away in Chicago!

Our nation’s 245th birthday comes amid civil strife, a deadly pandemic, economic unease and much unhappiness. Yet however imperfect our nation, we can renew our faith in its purpose of freedom, justice, and equality by remembering, with love, who got us here, and how. Ask anyone: How did your family arrive? They’ll have a story … and it’ll be a good one!

Jill Singleton spent nearly 25 years as Cargill’s public representative in the Bay Area. Her story about the experiences of her physician-father during the polio epidemic in the 1950s appeared in Climate’s May issue.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

American Stories: The generosity of “angels”

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.

Nineteen years ago, I was thinking of retiring after a career in real estate. It was about the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and my husband and I were talking about a memorial to the people who died that terrible day. Rich suggested there should be a memorial at Sequoia High School honoring students who died while in the military. Three of our friends died during the Vietnam War —but their names were not on the Vietnam Memorial because they didn’t die in combat. Our idea was to create a memorial honoring all Sequoia students who died while serving in the military. I decided that would be a good project after I retired.

Fast forward five years, we had raised a little over $50,000 and needed $3,000 more for the project and $2,000 for a dedication ceremony. Donations had slowed, so I put a request in the Sequoia High School Alumni Association newsletter, “Smoke Signals,” asking for $5,000 to complete the project. A few days later the doorbell rang, and my husband said someone was asking for me. The gentleman had graduated from Sequoia a few years ahead of us. “I hear you need more money to finish the memorial,” he said, and handed me a check for $5,000. I was so flabbergasted I’m not sure I said anything but a meek “thank you.” After I closed the door, I cried. I couldn’t believe it.

A drive began a few years ago to raise $50,000 for the Redwood City History Gallery, which will be located on the second floor of the Lathrop House. I wrote to my guardian angels asking if they would be interested in contributing. They sent a check for $5,000. Just last month, this wonderful couple came through yet again with another $5,000 contribution to the San Mateo County Historical Association’s annual campaign.

In the theatrical world, “angels” are generous patrons who save imperiled shows. In business, “angel investors” enable a great idea or product to get off the ground. We are so fortunate in America to have an abundance of people like my guardian angels who match their good hearts to good causes.

Dee Eva of Redwood City is an active community volunteer with a particular interest in local history. She was co-chair of Redwood City’s Sesquicentennial Committee in 2017.

Perspectives:

The Vote

The ties that bind us still

The Lucky Generation

Arrival Stories

The generosity of angels

The American Dream

The opportunity to do better

The great American songbook

Americas can-do attitude

Freedom

The Kaleidoscope

The American Military

An American lens

American unity

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