“What a difference a day makes…”

PRE-NOTE: Friday evening we got a telephone call about a very serious auto accident involving Grandson Ben and Son/son-in- law David.  Ben was air-evac’ed to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.  This is written on Sunday afternoon, May 27.


“What a difference a day makes…”, a long ago tune, keeps running through my mind.

Friday seems so long ago, when the lives of grandson Ben and Dad and Mom David and Robin and so many others changed instantly.  At that intersection in western Minnesota, one single second would have made a huge difference.

One single second.

I’ve just returned from the hospital.  Those with an interest can check in on Ben Menier.   I notice there have been over 1,700 visits already.  There will be time for individual visits later.

I’ve passed along all of the comments made by you – 40 so far.  Thank you so very much.

A couple of other favorites of mine come to mind today.  Louie Schwartzberg’s short film on Gratitude  is one I highly recommend.

Another is “The Station“, which Ann Landers liked so much she reprinted it from time to time years ago.  You can read it here: The Station001.

Ben and David and Robin were together in Ben’s ICU room yesterday afternoon.  As I write Ben is in surgery, another step towards a hoped for good end to an event no one could have anticipated.

At best, his will be a long haul, with uncertain end.

In peace.


For those who follow my blog, here is my offering for Memorial Day, 2018 written prior to the accident.

Health Care For Some: Our Contemporary Vietnam

We’re in a mad race to another precipice, and once again, “politics”, which is “we, the people”, will be the likely driver.

There is a desperate need to finally kill President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act of 2010. (Sorry: “OBAMACARE”, said with a sneer.) There is no reason, other than repeating a mantra now seven years old, to “repeal obamacare”. The current version apparently will not even be scored by the Congressional Budget Office – it is too rushed. We have to do it NOW.

Long-time Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley probably said it best, very recently: “You know, I could maybe give you ten reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Grassley told Iowa reporters on a call, according to the Des Moines Register. “But Republicans campaign on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.” “That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill,” he added. (You can read all of this in a paragraph maybe two-thirds of the way down, here. Read the rest, too.)

This action is much like the latest hurricanes to devastate the Atlantic, only the victims will be in every hamlet in every county in every state and there will be no disaster relief. Many of the victims will be the same people who in large numbers seem to hate “obamacare” because they were told by people with a motive that it, or Obama, was bad.

The beneficiaries of this will be the already filthy rich, who will ultimately get huge tax cuts which they do not need (or in many cases do not even want).


Politics was similar in the disastrous Vietnam War, too. All along, the leaders knew they were in a losing situation in Vietnam, but the eye always had to be on the next election, and to be against the war was made to be politically dangerous, and over 58,000 were sacrificed in a war that in one sense, one time, or another could be called “the French war”, Truman’s war, Eisenhower’s war, Kennedy’s war, Johnson’s war, Nixon’s war (and which, in Vietnam, is called the “American war”).

Vietnam was our war – the people’s war – period.


Last night I watched the 4th segment of Vietnam – 1964-67.

I have often said, including here, that the 1960s were a lost decade to me. Being up on the news and well versed on current events was a luxury for me after I got out of the Army in 1963. (That story is here.)

For certain, this wasn’t intended. I couldn’t have anticipated that my new wife, just 20 years old, would have to resign from her job one month after I got out of the Army in 1963 because she was, it turned out, terminally ill with kidney disease that would kill her two years later, leaving me with a year old son and immense medical debts.

The rest of the 1960s I was most concerned about getting my bearings, personally. There were angels: as Marion and Louis Smart, Amelia “Bitsy” Polman, Sue and Dave Irber and others.

But, personally, I walked, in the shoes of those whose daily struggle was not navigating the insurance market. Survival was my daily work.


“We, the people” need to wise up. WE are the government, and an effective and functioning government is necessary – essential – to the common good. WE must be the ones who act to help those who are least able to help themselves. In this obscenely wealthy nation, no one should have to worry about being fully insured for their health.

Some day, if my kids are lucky, I’ll die with a little bit left over which they can inherit.

They can rest assured, however, that if some of their cohort have greater needs than others, that our little stash of money can easily disappear as we try to help those who cannot help themselves, including their own families.


I remember a conversation on a street corner in Cebu City, Philippines, in the summer of 1994.

I was with a wealthy man whose wife was a school friend of my cousin Julie. We were staying at their house, as fancy as any you would find anywhere in the states.

This particular moment we were standing at that street corner, and diagonally across was a hospital.

I don’t know how the conversation came up, but the man said: “here in the Philippines, if you have the money you can get as good medical care as anywhere in the world”, including going to the U.S. or Japan. “If you can’t, you die.” I remember the almost matter-of-fact tone….

It was about as succinct and accurate description of where we seem to want to head in the United States: if you can’t afford it, it’s your problem.

It is OUR problem, folks.

Dick Bernard: Killing Obama; Committing Suicide

POSTNOTE Monday June 26: Saturday morning I first saw the three word message on the public blackboard at my coffee place. Six hours later was an added message, also shown below. This morning someone else had written a few words in defense of taxes. Overnight came Just Above Sunset about the disastrous consequences of getting rid of Obamacare. Get involved. Speak out.

(click to enlarge)

Public messages at coffee, June 24, 2017


PRENOTE to readers: I found an additional photo of Whitestone Hill which I have inserted in the May 31 post (here); Also, there have been a couple of contrasting and passionate opinions expressed on Castile-Yanez, which you can read here. Additional comments are solicited.

POSTNOTE June 23: If you have time this weekend, read this column.
If you do Facebook, see Barack Obama’s Official Facebook page for his position on the issue.


Today’s newspaper had a bland headline about the Senate Republicans summary Health Care proposal. This is the secret document that hardly anyone, including Republican Senators, have even seen; for which there have been no hearings, which will be called up for a vote with possibly no debate at all, before the July 4 recess.

It is being rushed through, my opinion, mostly to make a “win” for somebody (the Republican “base”, Trump…); but more important to open the door for huge tax cuts for the very rich. The biggest victims will likely be what might be called Trump’s core constituency, people who won’t be able to bob and weave within the new system, whatever it turns out to be.

There is an easy comparison:

In 2009 and 2010, after over 40 public hearings and endless opportunities for open debate everywhere, the Affordable Care Act (quickly and derisively dubbed “Obamacare”) was enacted. Immediately there were endless repetitions in the House of Representatives to “repeal Obamacare”.

The Affordable Care Act was never perfect. Anything negotiated has problems. (Anything NOT negotiated is far, far worse.)

Consider a system which is, they say, one-sixth of the total American economy…you “don’t turn” such a system “on a dime” – a whim.

In addition, however, to the theater of ritual repeal in the Congress, every means available was and has continued to be used to assure failure of the Affordable Care Act at federal and state level.

Obamacare just refused to die, and we, the people, actually found that it was working well, which has simply intensified the process to kill it and replace it with something much worse, with the savings to go towards tax cuts for the already excessively wealthy.


The contrast in process in 2009-10 and today could not be more stark. Even the most cursory review of the available literature about the long terms goals of “repeal and replace” with something new are frightening. But few seem to care. We will learn who the beneficiaries are.

There is an interesting thread of brief comments at the end of this post. Note what “A” and “B” have to say. They are people just like you and me.


The victims of this and other political games will be today’s young people. And that’s where the “committing suicide” comes in.

Theoretically, the U.S. is a participatory democracy with free and fair elections, open to all, plenty of debate beforehand.

The ascendance of greed as a primary virtue, and the accompanying lack of interest in being well informed or even participate politically, are ultimately our ruin, unless we step in, as individuals, in all the ways we can. “There is no free lunch”, my elders used to say. Too many of us have become adept at gaming the very system on which we ultimately depend.

An example of the quandary: A couple of days ago a friend sent a column by David Leonhardt in the June 20 New York Times.

My friends intro to the column was three words: “If liberals voted.”

Leonhardts first paragraph, in part, said this: “…an extremely short political quiz: What percentage of American citizens between the ages of 18-24 voted in the last Congressional midterm elections in 2014?”

I followed the rules and guessed 40%. Make your own guess before checking the answer.

You have to read the first few paragraphs of the most interesting (and depressing) column for the answer to Leonhardt’s question, with more information as well.


The Republicans ultra right wing is close to fulfilling their fondest dream, “killing” Obama (and all he represents, including liberals like myself).

The traditional way we tend to deal with bad news is to blame someone else for it, and to shift responsibility from ourselves to someone – anyone – else. I can hear the litany already…but the ball is in each and every one of our own “courts”. We are the solution, or we are the problem.

In a dictatorship we might have more of an argument for avoiding being in action. But we’re still in a basically free society…which without our action, is killing itself. The most vulnerable among us, including those who are too young to vote, will in the long run be the first to pay the price.

The wealthy will pay too – it will just take a little longer.

As for the rich, how many yachts do they need? And what good will their tax cut do for them, or for anyone else?

Everybody has a part to play.

Play it.


More on the same general issue, here. I always recommend this long and six days a week resource on national politics. The price is right: it’s free, delivered after midnight.


Here is a conversation starter: some comments from routine e-mail traffic between two friends, yesterday and today (I am neither A nor B):

A. “It’s been (and continues to be pretty) very difficult to be [part of] a health insurance carrier that’s chosen to stay in the exchanges. It’s risky and lots of strategic discussions, contingencies, and last minute changes have made for frustration and long hours.”

B. “Wish everyone would realize that insurance is for the unexpected, get coverage for that possibility, and be covered if/when it happens. We [all of us] are so tuned to having something for little or nothing that we forget that someone will pay when we don’t. Sorry it hits your industry so hard. Personally, I’m glad I’ve reached the “golden years” and only have to stay as healthy as I can, happy when I don’t have to use the insurance that you and yours now subsidize. Thank you!”

A. “Very wise words! People do not get it. The corollary is that if you think that everyone doesn’t deserve and therefore won’t have health insurance, think again. We all pay for one another’s health care costs whether we have insurance or not. From my perspective, why not do it right. Not sure that we know what right is yet but pretty sure we’re not heading that way.”

B. “Every day I’m grateful that we were able to help [our son] stay ensured, even when he was between jobs, as a young man. When his disease process became critical, at age 35, it was love and good fortune that he was married and insured under [his wife’s] family plan. Still, if he had lived, they would have faced a life-time limit on medical care and drug costs. Single payer health care for all is the only way I see out of this terrible dilemma of escalating health care costs.

The ACA was only workable if everyone had to pay in and even that didn’t work. Health care costs are exorbitant here in the US, likely because we demand luxury treatment for everything, but don’t expect to pay for it. Helping people to stay healthy and understand there are choices to be made in anticipation of end of life should be givens in health care.”

A. “The ACA was only workable if everyone had to pay in and even that didn’t work.

Partly it didn’t work because it wasn’t really enforced and the consequences of paying were low. Our chief Actuary, who is not an ACA proponent said that if you want people to buy a plan, price the penalty at the same rate as the cheapest ACA compliant plan in the market. It’s a good idea.

There were (are) loopholes that you could drive a truck through and people used them. They’d also do things like buy a cheaper bronze plan, have a child and switch to the richest plan when the child was born (allowed under the ACA) and have the birth paid as if they’d been paying premium for the more expensive plan all year. People would not buy plans then get sick and find a way to get a special enrollment period that allowed them to buy a plan to cover their often pricey treatment. I could go on about the reasons that it didn’t work well but I think that there were absolutely ways to tweak and improve.

The gamesmanship was unbelievable.”

Death to Affordable Health Care?

POSTNOTE June 15: Today’s Washington Post has a very worthwhile column by E.J. Dionne: “The GOPs fantastically anti-democratic quest to kill health care in the dark”.


Of one thing there is hardly room for a question: the current Republican leadership seems to HATE the very concept of health care for everyone. Indeed, the Republicans seem always to have resisted the idea. I looked this morning at the Wiki entry on Social Security amendments (those intended to lead in the direction of health care for everyone). Take a glance at the “History” section. Note who initiated the ideas, and who killed them….

One of the first actions of Donald Trump was to attempt to kill “Obamacare”. It failed, even in the House of Representatives, who hate the Affordable Care Act.

On my birthday in early May, 2017, the House of Representatives rushed a vote for a new Health Care bill before its impact could be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The rush job passed, and the scoring by CBO was as bad as anticipated. It would have devastating impact. (I wrote a bit about my feelings in the second half of my birthday post, here.)

Now the Senate Republican leadership is doing a stealth move to try to advance a Health Care bill essentially without hearings before July 4 recess. Odds are they will succeed, if iron party discipline holds.

If you haven’t paid attention to this matter, do so. The overnight Just Above Sunset gives another good summary. There is no semblance of involvement of the “American people” unless you’re an insider within the majority camp.

It is simple to contrast the open Debate during the Affordable Health Care Act back in 2009-10, with the present day travesty. In 2009-10, everything was in the open, for many months. I recall such delightful pieces of information as, for instance, page 1014 of a Draft pulled out as an example of how terrible AHCA would be. Even if the page was true, and a current version, it was hopelessly biased, but it was allowed in as part of the public conversation.

I searched my own blog file and under “Affordable Care Act Obamacare” there are multiple entries, especially August 2, 2009, which lists a dozen posts relating to the debate then raging.

At minimum, there were about 18 posts between July 24, 2009 and March 23, 2010. I’m sure there are more, just lacking the key words for the search. The intention was to have full and open debate. You probably have your own memories of that year of Town Halls and loud voices.

Now we’re seven years later. The goal, this “Kill Obamacare” round, is to have no debate, so that people may not see what they are about to lose.

The consequences for the disadvantaged are very real and very stark, whether they happen in the next six months or the next two or more years.



A closing note:

Last Sunday I was at one of those graduation parties so common this time of year. These are places to catch up with folks not seen since the last reunion.

This particular day, I met a niece who was perhaps early grade school when I first met her, and now is an accomplished Nurse who has for a number of years worked in Intensive Care in a major public hospital.

It is my practice to avoid “politics” in any way possible at these kinds of gatherings…best to enjoy the sandwich and the cookies and leave with humor intact.

This day, my niece was wanting to engage in conversation about health care, and how complex a field it is, and how, in effect, we are not a country who leaves people to die in the streets.

If a person is in crisis in her city, they will get care in her or another hospital.

I related my own story, from the summer of 1965, which appears in the previously cited May 4, 2017, blog.

After our meeting it occurred to me that there was a particular intersection of events during that terrible summer of 1965…something I hadn’t told my relative; something I wished I had:

Barbara, my wife, died July 24, 1965, at 22 (kidney disease), and we buried her on Saturday, July 29, in Valley City, North Dakota.

The next day, July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation which among other things brought to life Medicare and Medicaid.

“What a difference a day makes”, goes the song.

July 30, 1965, Medicare and Medicaid were the farthest things from my mind. Survival with an infant was everything, then.

We can’t go back to those “good old days”. We are the only ones who can make a difference.

From experience, I can attest that no one should hope that the Republicans fantasy of less federally established and financed medical care and lower taxes for the already wealthy become the new law of this land.

#1255 – Dick Bernard: Thoughts at 77. “The World is My Country”

Related: here and here.

Today, I’m 77.

This anniversary has something of a “ring” to it.

Those who’ve seen me recently will attest I’m still mobile. I passed the cognition test at my recent physical; so far the frowns from the doctor are not too serious…but on the other hand, there are a few miles on this jalopy! When you get to this age, you notice that you’re no longer 15, which our 6th grandkid, Parker, is, today as well.

Parker is a baseball player, and a very good one, so in recognition of our mutual birthdays, here I am (on the right) with my brother Frank, about the time I was 15, in 1955.

Richard Bernard, at right, circa 1955, with 9 year old brother, Frank.

Grandpa Bernard is my gift to myself today. He is the only grandparent of mine who has a place on YouTube, with ID. You can see Grandpa here for three seconds at about 4:14, kibitzing while they pave Main Street in Grafton ND in 1949.

He was 77 that day in 1949…. He had eight more years to live; his son, my Dad, almost made 90.

Time marches on.

I have always liked “The Station”, which Ann Landers popularized, as a teaching about living life: The Station001.


There may be some of my age, or even beyond, who can honestly say that their road of life has been straight and uncomplicated. That they planned their life, and the plans all worked out.

Those who know me, know that my life had its ruts and other assorted dilemmas.

Today, one very serious topic:

“Out in Washington D.C.”, probably today, will be the vote in the House of Representatives to kill “Obamacare”, which in the years subsequent to enactment in 2010 was symbolically slain by the House of Representatives more than 50 times. Ironically, it was the Republicans who first gave the intentionally derisive nickname to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

I don’t know what the vote will be today. One thing is certain, a vote to kill ACA will not be about improving medical care for people.

Within the last few days, comedian Jimmy Kimmel related his own very powerful story. His monologue is probably still accessible here, about his new son, William. Do watch these 13 minutes.

I also have a story about the unexpected.

It happens that last Sunday a group of us were debriefing the World Premiere of the film “The World Is My Country”. The film highlights the dilemma of being stateless – without papers – in this world.

Sundays discussion reminded me of a time in my own life when my family and I were uncovered by medical insurance, and I talked about it in our discussion of the film.

For myself, it was a 26 month period in 1963-65. It began with my marriage to Barbara June 8, 1963; it ended with her death from kidney disease July 24, 1965. When we married I was near the end of my time in the U.S. Army; when she died we had a son, about 1 1/2; I had just turned 25 and she was 22. We had no insurance and I owed in medical bills nearly four times my then annual salary as a teacher. I faced bankruptcy.

In those years there was no group insurance in the area of our employment; even if we had had full insurance, she would have likely been ruled uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions unknown to us till four months into our marriage.

In the case of Jimmy Kimmel and his wife and son, they had the best coverage available in the most ideal medical setting possible. Until their baby was born, all was going well.

In our case, I will never forget the time spent in the lobby at the University of Minnesota Hospital in late May, 1965, waiting for some unseen people to decide whether they would admit my wife, an economically indigent patient, for a desperately needed kidney transplant. It was both terrifying and humiliating.

In our short marriage Barbara and I had lived in three states, and several counties in those states, and in no case had we satisfied what was usual then: a one year residency. It was a struggle to get into a hospital, then, in the end, with huge bills I couldn’t pay, a very close call with bankruptcy. Would welfare cover the bill? And if so, how much, and which unit of government?

Finally, much of the bills were paid, allowing me to avoid bankruptcy.

But I felt what it was like to be in the horrible world of the uninsured.

Today, in Washington D.C., they advance the process of interfering with the lives of millions of fellow citizens…a matter of spite, and greed. They are fools.

As Kimmel said, there is no reason why any person regardless of circumstances should be uncovered in our society.

I hope it doesn’t happen. If it does, it is a disgrace.

#1246 – Dick Bernard: Life and Death

As I write this post, decision time was at hand in the U.S. House of Representatives to replace what was derisively called “Obamacare” (The Affordable Care Act of 2010). Mid-paragraph came a bulletin that the first move to replacement, the American Health Care Act, failed. The apparent objective had been to figuratively kill “Obamacare” on the 7th anniversary of its enactment, Mar 23, 2010.

A good commentary about the lack of action on March 23, can be viewed here. Visit the same source tomorrow for a digest of comments about what happened today. [Mar. 24, “A Fine Failure”, here. SNIP: “The process toward passing Obamacare began on March 5, 2009, when President Obama convened a “health summit” with various players in the health care industry. It finished 383 days later, on March 23, 2010, when he signed it into law.

Trumpcare began life on February 16, 2017, when Paul Ryan released an outline of what a Republican bill would look like. It was abandoned 36 days later, on March 24, 2017.” from Kevin Drum, here.]

Personally, I view this issue of Health care for all (or some) from these vantage points:
1) My wife and I are greatly privileged to have pensions, Medicare, supplemental and long term care insurance. I would guess we are similar to those folks in Congress who sit in judgement of people with less resources.

That’s where the “Life and Death” title to this post originates. The objective of the supposed replacement bill (my opinion) was to make national health insurance less accessible and affordable, thence to enable another round of huge tax cuts whose primary beneficiaries will be the already very wealthy.

2) The practical reality of the future of Health Care for all lies with the very people who gave a win to the Republicans in the last election; and make no mistake, this is strictly a Republican initiative – look at the votes. Salespeople are good at selling dreams. But as an old saying from my childhood goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. As a society we have to do better at informing ourselves about the consequences of our own actions (or inactions).

Unfortunately, often we get exactly what we deserve.

3) Personally, today, as stated above, we sit here in pretty good shape, if medical need happens.

Everybody should have the same privilege in this hugely wealthy country that is the United States (I would extend that to everyone on our planet, but that’s for another time.)

As this debate goes on I remember a distinct time in my own history:

In September of 1963 I was discharged from the Army, and by early October was teaching school in Minnesota. My recent bride was also teaching.

I don’t recall the exact sequence, but at one point the insurance agent for Blue Cross/Blue Shield came by, and I opted for the doctor plan (Blue Shield) and passed on Blue Cross – too expensive. In the Army, everything was covered.

At about the same time my very young wife had to quit teaching because her health had seriously deteriorated. The ultimate diagnosis was kidney problems, and she died two years later.

We had no hospital insurance, and even if we had, at that point in history, her ailment would have been a pre-existing condition, and disqualified her from coverage.

In the end, in October of 1965, I was saved from bankruptcy only by a County Welfare Board in North Dakota, which paid the greatest share of the bills (which amounted to about four times my then yearly salary.) Other hospitals and clinics basically dealt with us as charity cases. Even welfare was no certainty. In those two years we never technically became a resident of any County or State. We moved too frequently to reach the one-year threshold….

In our circumstances then (which I described recently as trodding through a blizzard), we had only survival on our minds. Making sophisticated decisions was not part of our process. And if we could have thought things through, we had no resources to carry our own share of the load.’

So, I can sit here at my computer, comfortable that something can happen, and most likely I can get treatment quickly and at low and affordable cost.

But I lived for two years in a terrifying world, totally dependent on a system I didn’t understand, and couldn’t afford to leverage to our benefit.

There are millions upon millions of people not so fortunate as I, and why should I not help them out by one of life’s basics: affordable health care? I stand for sharing.

4) There has always been something incongruous about the need to further pad the vast resources of the already wealthy.

Capitalism (unfortunately) is based on consumption, but people in middle and lower classes need resources to buy things and thus enrich the capitalists, particularly the wealthy.

The very wealthy, however, remind me a lot about a favorite childhood comic character, Scrooge McDuck, cavorting around in his money bin.

Salting away wealth in a bank, perhaps even offshore, is not a way to help a great society stay great. Greed ultimately kills us all.

Part 2. Nobel Peace Prize Forum June 6-8, 2016: The Drowning Child and the Shoes…2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on “Globalizing Compassion”, particularly children, and gave a very large role to the co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a native of India who passed over a career in engineering to invest his life work on issues relating to child trafficking. More about his Children’s Foundation is here.
Satyarthi is an immensely engaging and persuasive man. You can see and hear him speak at this years Nobel Peace Prize Conference at the weblink listed below.
(click to enlarge)

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Many of the talks at this years Forum are accessible online here. They are all worth your viewing time.
The brimming-with-information Program Booklet for the 2016 Forum can be read here: 2016 Nobel Forum001
My comments, Part One about the 2016 Forum is here.
Wednesday afternoon, June 8, the final day of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, we were on our final coffee break. One of my colleague participants asked me what I thought of this years Forum. I said I always like workshops like these, where I know hardly anyone, including the speakers. It never fails, I said, that I leave without some insights, useful to me.
The conference adjourned, and I went home exhausted.
There was a final program, a film, The Same Heart, in the evening that I almost decided to miss.
Along with perhaps 50-100 “remnants” (not unusual after long conferences), I was at the theatre, and it was during The Same Heart that I experienced one of those insights I’d mentioned a few hours earlier.
The film is about the realistic possibility of eliminating the worst poverty for perhaps a billion children world wide. The film opened with a camera focusing on what appears to be a lake, and then panning back to a narrow stream.
Peter Singer*, ethicist at Princeton University, posed a question to the viewers: suppose that you are standing on the banks of a brook, and you look across to the other side and see a toddler going in the water, almost certainly about to drown. You are the only adult. The brook is shallow, but entering the water will ruin your new shoes.
What would you do?
His basic point was that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of such toddlers around the world today, in effect drowning in circumstances out of their control, and most of us in varying degrees of affluence are unwilling to sacrifice our personal pair of new shoes to help them out. The message has stuck with me since I watched the film last week. It will not soon go away.
What would, what will I do?
The other insight came in bits and pieces, but it came together during a session on Tuesday afternoon.
An official of UNICEF, Olav Kjorven, Director of Public Partnerships, was talking about a UNICEF “My World” survey, about the “World We Want”, where millions of people expressed their opinion about priorities for humanity.
Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Almost off-handedly he commented on the unlikely creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN at the beginning of the 21st Century, ending 2015. It seemed (my opinion) that a major reason these goals were adopted relatively easily was not so much because anyone thought they could be attained, but that they really were seen as a set of informal goals for the world which would not upset anyone’s “apple cart”, be stuck with commitments, and especially wouldn’t require much funding.
The MDGs have turned out to be much, much more substantive. “Grassroots” people have taken them seriously, and in a sense policy is being proposed and implemented from the bottom up, rather than imposed top down.
I was somewhat familiar with these goals. In 2005, I had attended a session on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the featured speakers was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a powerful Twin Cities businesswoman who came out strongly about tackling child sex trafficking: her business, as we Minnesotans know, is the hospitality industry, worldwide. My notes about that meeting are here: MDG Workshop 2005001
Ms Carlson Nelson was part of a panel at this years Peace Prize Forum, and in her time period she said her insight moment came in 2004 from someone she said was “Amb. Miller” who heightened her awareness that her industry had a major problem with child sex trafficking. She took a very serious look at her own industries cause in the matter, and has taken action, and is still taking action, and most importantly has become a public witness for closer attention to justice in other areas as well.
She quite clearly became a behind the scenes leader in settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout three years ago; most recently Mark Ritchie mentioned her as a very positive actor. The saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” comes to mind; or be careful about “painting with a broad brush”.
Progress is a process, often slow, but progress happens with effort.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

At the same meeting in 2005 was my friend, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who decided to take on the problem of child malnutrition in his native India, implementing one of the MDG’s. Here is a talk given by Dr. Parekh in 2014, talking about the then-progress on his work towards a goal.
I don’t know what his aspirations were, but Dr. Parekh had a plan, and he worked it hard – I watched what he was doing as elements began to come together – to the extent that now he is a Board member of a major organization called Toddler Food Partners, and is making a big difference.
Back at the conference, Mr. Kjorven noted that at the end of the 15 year MDG period, the “World We Want” survey (previously mentioned) gave great grassroots impetus to the current UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I left the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum exhausted and, at the same time, renewed and refreshed.
People can and do make the crucial difference. They just need to believe their capacity to make that difference.
A WONDERFUL POSTSCRIPT: The final session of Wednesday afternoon was dryly described as “Closing Remarks” with a two line descriptor: “Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Director Gina Torry will close the final afternoon of the 2016 Forum.” This was a “don’t judge the book by its cover” descriptor, as the session began with a wonderful tribute to my deceased friend, and stalwart of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum from 1997 on, Lynn Elling, deceased Feb. 14, 2016. Featured was a video by public television made about 1993 which needs no elaboration. The segment concluded with a hashtag #peaceitforward…a wonderful tribute.
June 25: Recently the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper featured a long article about Lynn and his work in his lake country community. You can read it here: Big Sandy Lake and dad article
* * * * *
* I note that Dr. Singer’s views on certain issues have excited some controversy which is hi-lited on the internet. That is of no concern to me, here. We all have points of view. His drowning child and shoes image will always stick with me.

#1097 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Hawaii roadside Dec 15001

Roadside monument to someone, probably a young person, who died near Kawaihae HI Dec. 2015

A few days ago a few folks in California, Tennessee and Florida won the largest lottery in history.  Judging from the news, there was, even knowing the chances of winning were near zero, the thrill of the dream of riches with almost no effort!
The day after the drawing, I had my date with the Internist (annual physical) and Eye Doctor (annual checkup).
A few days before, at coffee after church, my fellow usher friend, call him John, and his wife, Mary, were sitting with me.  Mary not too long ago was a fellow usher with us.  This particular day her Alzheimers took over.  She was uncommunicative, and abruptly walked away.  John knew the drill.  He caught up with her, and they left.
There were no departing words, there didn’t have to be….  Theirs is a very long and loving marriage with several grown children, and such is the lot of their lives at this moment in time.  He has retired from his job, because she needs his full-time care.
And so it is.
The day after the checkups, I attended a very large funeral for a colleague from many years ago.  I didn’t know Bob well, but in our mutual context from about 1972-75, he was a stellar person, a dependable and valued colleague.  The attendance at the funeral was not surprising. He spent his time “on the court” of life.
He had died suddenly, shoveling snow.  He was 77.
Arriving home, my wife told me that the elderly lady across the street, the always pleasant person who I saw just weeks ago walking with her dog to pick up the mail, had just died; there were no details.  Last time I saw her ,she was her usual pleasant self, about to head for some time in Florida with her daughter and son-in-law.
This morning, giving blood, the attending nurse who I’ve become friends with, allowed that five people from her high school class have died in recent years, all from cancer.  She’s probably 25 years younger than me, and while her class was a large one, still….
Both the Internist and the Eye Doctor had a minimum of serious looks as they checked me over this year.
I even passed the memory test given by the pleasant nurse before hand.  So for me it was a good day.  Hopefully, the next visit with both of them is a year from now.
I could extend the above list considerably, of course.  For all of us, life happens.
There is an “end of the road”, in temporal terms, and the more miles our vehicle has traveled, and the rougher the road, the closer the destination is.
Thankfully we’re mostly spared that memo which specifies the day, hour and cause of death.
We all just know that we are somewhere along the route.
One thing I’m sure of: if we’re fortunate to have medical insurance, especially medicare for the elderly, we can almost be assured of a longer and better quality of life than those who preceded us.
The practice of medicine (emphasis on “practice”), with all its abundant and well publicized problems, is in the greatest part full of caring professionals who do their best.
That dreaded memory test is useful to help notice a symptom.  Mary’s ailment probably could not be prevented, but it is helpful for her husband to know earlier, and be prepared.
In the end, I’m reminded of the long ago words of the wise pastor at the same Church I attended the funeral on Friday.
Perhaps 40 years ago, a teacher I knew, Myron Way, died in a car accident enroute to a national conference, perhaps Boys Nation.  He was probably in his 40s, then.
Pastor Hyllengren said, and I’ve always remembered this: “Myron lived before he died; and he died before he was finished.”  “Too many of us”, the pastor continued, “die before we’ve even lived”.  His reference seemed to be a passive approach to life itself: we don’t live, and then we die.  We wait to win the lottery, in vain.
Bob lived….
I’m not sure I remember Pastor Hyllengren as he intended; but he’s not around to challenge my interpretation.
Let’s make every day, a day we win the lottery, just by showing up.
POSTNOTE from Kathy: Thanks for writing your thoughts and sharing. “Be faithful to the day” a 102 year old nun told me…her mantra for life.
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#1052 – Dick Bernard: A Thank You to President Jimmy Carter

Pre-note: I was privileged to hear Jimmy Carter speak in Minneapolis March 6, 2015, in Minneapolis, at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. The near one hour talk and q&a several hundred of us heard can be viewed here.

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis MN

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis MN

A few days ago, Jimmy Carter, 39th U.S. President 1977-81, and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, announced that he has cancer. At age 90, and with a strong family history of cancer, President Carter’s long term prognosis is likely not optimistic.
Jimmy Carter has been much maligned by his enemies over the years. Their criticisms speak more about them, than about President Carter.
I happen to have always been a strong supporter of President Carter, and as his Presidential years turned into now-34 post-Presidential years, President Carter has proven to be one of our nations and worlds most outstanding and respected leaders – unless one’s criteria for success is taking the nation into war, something Jimmy Carter never did, truly a badge of honor.
Jimmy and Rosalind Carter have walked the talk of service.
He has been a prolific author. I have, and have read, most of his many books.
The Carter Center has in its 33 year history been a positive presence in many countries, particularly in the areas of human rights and health.
Jimmy Carter lent early and persuasive support to the Habitat for Humanity program.
He gave a most positive definition to the word “Christian”, for many years leading a public Bible discussion group at his Church in Plains, Georgia.
He is one of a select group, and the only American, of The Elders, an organization founded by Nelson Mandela to share wisdom with the rest of us.
When his term on earth ends, the ledger sheet will show that he more than paid his dues.
Thank you, President Carter.

#1046 – Dick Bernard: 50 years ago today. A personal memory. Remembering a death.

(click to enlarge all photos)

At the Busch farm, August 1964. Barbara at right, Dick next to her. Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

At the Busch farm, August 1964. Barbara at right, Dick next to her. Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

Yesterday afternoon, enroute to a meeting, I stopped to take a couple of photos:

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

Fifty years ago today I lived in a rented upstairs room in this house, just a block from KSTP-TV; and my wife, Barbara, was in the University Hospital less than two miles away, my memory says on 8th floor, in intensive care, .
It had been a very long two months since we arrived in Minneapolis in late May, when Barbara was admitted for a hoped for kidney transplant, her only remaining option to live.
This particular Saturday morning, 50 years ago today, she had fallen into a coma, and at 10:50 p.m. she died. The previous day there had been a brief rally, not uncommon for those critically ill.
Among the whisps of memory was my going to the Western Union office in downtown Minneapolis after she died, sending a telegram to relatives.
Communications was not instant, then. Mine was a very succinct message.
While death is never expected, particularly in one only 22 years old, there really was little hope left: three major operations in two months, no kidney transplant.
July 25, alone, I drove west to Valley City, North Dakota, where the funeral was held on July 29.
In a family history I wrote for our son on his 18th birthday in 1982 I remembered the day of the funeral this way: August 1965001
It was a very lonely time, I have never been able to recall many specifics of particularly the first month after her burial, but life went on for 1 1/2 year old son Tom and I.
It was very early in my life too – I was 25 – and I grew up in a hurry. It has informed my life and my attitudes ever since.
I became very aware of how important and how broad “community” is in society.
There were, out there, among family, friends and many others, people who in diverse ways helped us get through the very hard times. By quirk of fate, the funeral was one day before President Lyndon Johnson signed into federal Law the Medicare Act, societies immense gift to the elderly of this country, one of whom is now me. Here’s Grandpa Busch’s first Medicare card, dated July 1, 1966: Medicare card 1966001
Today in our country we debate whether or not everyone should have a right to medical insurance; whether it is a responsibility of the individual, or of society at large.
Medicare was debated then, too.
It was not on Barbara’s or my radar screen. Debate is a luxury when survival is the only issue.
Our married life was very short, only two years, and almost 100% of the time distracted by the progression of a finally fatal illness. We never really got to know what a “normal” marriage might have looked like.
I think we would have done well together, but that is sheer speculation. The inevitable tensions of a normal marriage were something we were never able to experience.
Three weeks ago I made a visit to Barbara’s grave in Valley City. It is in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, high on a hill just east of town.

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine's Cemetery

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine’s Cemetery

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

Yesterday I went briefly into the University Hospital, including up to the eighth floor, which is now used for other purposes than 50 years ago.
In the lobby area I lingered for a moment by a plaque recognizing the founding of University Hospital in 1916, near 100 years ago.

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

Elsewhere, in the medical wing of University Hospital, doubtless were patients for whom yesterday was, or today will be, the last day of their lives.
It is the single immutable fact that we all face: at some point we will exit the stage we call “life”.
Take time to enjoy the trip. The Station001
My public thanks, today, to everyone who helped Tom and I, in any way, back then in 1965, before and after, especially the public welfare system and public and private hospitals.