A Teacher Union Dinner

Wednesday evening I traveled out to suburban Minneapolis for what I believe is the 19th annual year-end appreciation dinner of the Union representing the teachers of the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

This is not an unusual trip for me.  I’m sure I’ve missed a dinner or two over the past 19 years, but that has been rare.

I was invited to speak at the first dinner.  It was a memorable event for me.  It was a Tuesday – May 4, 1999.  National Teacher Day.

Three days earlier I had slowly trudged up “Cross Hill” above Columbine High School in Littleton CO, viewing, with my son and family, the wooden crosses erected in memory of the thirteen victims of the carnage on April 20, 1999.  One of the thirteen was a teacher at Columbine High School.  My family lived, then and now, about a mile from Columbine.

May 4, I decided to wear the exact same clothing I had worn on that rainy and slow walk up Cross Hill – actually a pile of construction dirt – as one of hundreds of pilgrims to the site of the first school massacre in the United States.

I recall, that evening in Anoka, talking about a second grade teacher, Clem Gronfors, who was a special hero to my daughter, Joni.  In 1999, Joni was a teacher herself, and today, in 2018, she is a Middle School Principal.  I recall Susan Evert, formerly a President of the teacher union during its single strike in 1981, burst out in tears in the room when I mentioned Clem’s name.  That very day she had delivered “meals on wheels” to Mr. Gronfors, by then long retired from teaching.

Susan was at last nights dinner for a time, and we chatted.  She is the same Susan only, as with all of us, a bit older.


I wish I could just conclude this post with the above memories.  But it would not be honest.

Last nights dinner, while having  its usual share of light moments, including a delightful improv program by the Mystery Cafe, had a palpable and darker side, never mentioned by anyone, but hanging over the room full of teachers like the vog currently over the Big Island of Hawaii.

These are darker, more uncertain times for, among many others, public schools and their teachers.

Visible evidence have been wildcat statewide teacher strikes or major demonstrations in several states in the United States in past months – strikes and large and very visible public demonstrations occasioned by slow and deliberate strangulation of public education by legislatures and the federal government.

There is an ominous federal presence over public education policy.

The NRA seems to have successfully defanged, at least for the moment, the Parkland students campaign for common sense changes to gun law.  Money talks.

Probably on most teachers minds last night is the looming decision of the United States Supreme Court on the most recent attempt to destroy or at minimum severely handicap teacher unions – an effort that has been ongoing since the 1970s.

As I write, the Supreme Court decision is expected very shortly – it was actually expected this week – and when it is released, whatever it says will be national news.  No one knows what it will be, but few think it will do voluntary unions any favors.

Watch for it.  And look at the decision more carefully than most news, regardless of the verdict.

And take a moment to consider what we are doing to ourselves in this country, especially if we are in the vast majority called “working people”, whatever our occupation.


This has become a time where the rich are getting much, much richer, and the poor, poorer.

Where do you stand?

Dick Bernard, son of two public school teachers; nine years a junior high teacher; 27 years (1972-2000) field staff for Minnesota Education Association, then Education Minnesota, including nine years (1972-81) with what is now Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota; father of four, grandfather of nine, two of whom graduate from high school within the coming month.

LeMoyne Corgard, retiring President (4 years) of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, 39 year career in public education. May 9, 2018

Retired educators, from right, Julie Jagusch, Dee Buth, John DeSantis May 9, 2018

Mystery Cafe cast with guest teacher performer, May 10, 2018

A Korea Walk in Minnesota

UPDATE:  Follow the walk at Walk for Hope & Peace 2018 on Facebook.  Earlier post on Korean war era here.

Today, Kyong Juhn, a Korean born photographer from Rochester MN begins a 323 mile walk from Rochester to Bemidji to mirror her mothers 323 miles walk from North Korea to South Korea years ago.  The May 2 article in the Rochester Post Bulletin describing the Minnesota walk can be read here.

Here is Korea in perspective, from my 1960 Life Pictorial Atlas.  (Pyongyang to Seoul is about 120 miles “as the crow flies”.)

Korea and Chinese neighboring area

The route and timeline are pretty straight-forward, details about the Twin Cities “leg” follow the illustrations (below).

Kyung Juhn’s is a walk for peace and hope and the Twin Cities area Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 is providing its”Harold and Louise Nielsen Peace Bus” bus as “sag wagon” for support.  She hopes to find shelter along the journey  She will stay in motels if necessary, but she would like to stay with folks along the way as a way to bond.  Those wishing more information can call Vets for Peace President David Logsdon (612-203-9768).

David says “The route has been considered with regard to a balance between visibility and safety.  We expect this to be a true adventure, both challenging and regarding.  the time for peace is now!”

Again, below the illustrations are specifics about the Twin Cities “leg” of the walk.

The Twin Cities “Leg”:  Wednesday May 9, the walk will leave Rosemount at 7 a.m. enroute to Minnehaha Park.

Thursday May 10, there will be a short program at Minnehaha Park beginning 9:30 a.m., then the walk goes up West River Road, ultimately arriving at KFAI for Don Olson’s broadcast at 1 p.m.  After the program, the walk will cross the UofM pedestrian bridge, and then walk up University Avenue to Fridley.

Friday May 11, the walk will be from Fridley to Ramsey.  Those wishing to do portions of the walk can possibly work out schedules with the Northstar Commuter rail which begins at the Target Field area.

Looking back….

It is nice to have a piece of positive news, as this reflective and honoring walk will be for Kyong Juhn.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to join a portion of the walk on Thursday.

But copying the map (above) caused me to think back to the time when I bought the Atlas, shortly after college and in the U.S. Army in 1962.  It was a major purchase at the time, and inconvenient too – Army infantry men, as I was, had almost no storage space, but it was a treasured possession, and still is.

What interested me, looking at the map, was that I had long harbored the impression that “China” (as in the big cities) was north of Korea.  I really had no reason to look closely at the map, which reveals, as you can see, a different reality.  So, it was a good learning to look at the old map.

I was a geography major in college (1958-61).   During my college years, Fidel Castro threw out Batista in Cuba;  Communism replaced Corruption.  In the Army I was one of those GIs who heard President Kennedy speak of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962.  “A History of Latin America” (1961 ed.) by Hubert Herring says this in the very last sentence of the long chapter on Cuba (p. 422): “Reflecting upon the sorry state of Cuba in 1960, the onlooker could say that two things are reasonably clear: Cuba was indeed overdue for a revolution, and revolutions are never mild and gentlemanly”.  (For anyone interested, I made a copy of this chapter on Cuba some years ago.  It is here: Cuba to 1963001)

Earlier, the Korean “War” (it has never been a declared war) had lurched to an end five years before I started college in 1958.  It was a deadly conflict.  I’m old enough to remember the fall from grace of Gen. Douglas McArthur, and it was in these times in the early 1950s that Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee were raging on about excising Communists among us.    It was a generally nasty time.

In a sense, both the Korean Peninsula and Cuba are residues of the “Cold War”.   Both have gone on for a very, very long time.  Any opportunity for even small positive changes should be welcome.  No need for any “victory lap” by anyone for anything positive that happens.

It is a welcome coincidence for Kyong Juhn that her long-planned walk to come at a time when the Korean Peninsula is more positively in the news.  But as anyone who has ever been in negotiations knows, it takes more than a meeting and words on paper to accomplish major objectives; in the end, the best result is that we not blow ourselves to bits, and that relationships are a tiny bit better and improve in small increments over time.  Don’t expect miracles.


from Andy: Regarding the piece on Cuba and sugar:  I cut sugar cane in Cuba for 6 weeks in the 1970 harvest when the economic policy was to maximize sugar production and reach the goal of 10 Million tons. The whole economy was mobilized around this goal. It was almost reached (8.5), but later, with sugar prices consistently so low, the policy was reversed.  I went to Cuba a few months and talked to an economist from the University of Havana.  He told me that now sugar is produced essentially only for domestic consumption. Tourism is now viewed as the most important sector of the economy.

from Larry: That was an excellent scan of the map of the Korean peninsula. Very interesting. I know so very little about this part of the world and, like you, this helped my understanding of the geography. I have a Fargo friend who was in Korea during the “police action” or whatever – he calls it a war and rightly so – and I will share your post and map with him. He, like so many of that era, is not a “computer guy.” He will certainly find your post of interest.

World Law Day, May 1, 2018

UPDATE May 22: World Law Day program was a success last evening.  Here is the program: World Law Day Program001.  Supporting materials are linked below.  Video of Louisa Hext talk on Forgiveness can be viewed at the Citizens For Global Solutions website, here.


Today is World Law Day.  Late this afternoon about 40 of us will gather at Gandhi Mahal restaurant in Minneapolis to remember a memorable World Law Day 50 years ago in 1968, and hear Louisa Hext talk on “Hope for a Better Tomorrow – Forging the Path Towards Forgiveness: Breaking the Cycle”.  This is a dinner meeting.  There are still openings if you wish, but please call or e-mail first.  The flier is at the end of this post.

World Law Day?  “May Day” is lots of things.  I remember May Baskets as a little kid, “Mary, Queen of the May” as a young Catholic Boy.  I recall May Poles, for some reason – there must have been a year….  On and on.  No one has a copyright on May Day.  It’s centerpiece has always been, I think, nature centered, a hopefully nice Spring Day in the northern hemisphere: a time of renewed beginnings in nature.

World Law Day” was a creation of Lynn Elling, Martha Platt, Dr. Asher White and others in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The first event was May 1, 1964.  World Law Day was a simple adaptation of Law Day, proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1958, and enacted into U.S. Law in 1961.  Law Day was the U.S. “cold war” response to the martial tradition of May 1, May Day, in the Soviet bloc.  Not coincidentally it came only months after Sputnik was launched in October, 1957.  World Law Day dinners went on in the Twin Cities for many years, and were resurrected six years ago by Lynn Elling, before he died.  It now has a history of its own.

The premise of World Law Day was peace through World Law, rather than through constant war or threat of war.

As President Harry Truman said during his time as a public servant, if there is a dispute between U.S. states over water rights involving a river which makes up their border, rather than go to war, they go to court for peaceful resolution.  There should be no difference on the Global stage…where all of us live, after all.  “World Law” makes a great deal of sense; more sense than killing some enemy who will, ultimately, get revenge.

The group gathering today will each get a 50+ page packet called “A Rough Draft For History”.  The title is intentional.  For those interested, here is the entire packet, in two parts: World Law Day 2018001 and Minnesota Declarations 002

(In the “World Law Day” packet, at pages 25-26, I take a stab at summarizing 300 years from 1768 – 2068.  I’d invite your own similar reflections, private or public.  We’re at a crucial point in our history, I think, more so than at most any other time so far.)

The second packet deserves a scroll as well, just to see what’s there.

Here’s the flier for tonights event, should anyone have an interest.

World Law Day 2018-05 Louisa Hext FLYER

UPDATE May 2, 2018

Louisa Hext May 1, 2018

March 5, 1968

50 years ago, March 5, 1968 – it was a Tuesday – the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted “A Declaration of World Citizenship”. Three days later, on March 8, the Mayor and City Council of Minneapolis adopted the same Declaration. Less than two months later, on May 1, 1968, a large contingent of suburban Minneapolis mayors, as well as a who’s who of the political and civic leaders of the time, participated in a flag raising at what was to become Hennepin County Plaza.

The actual resolution is here: (click to enlarge, double-click for more)

Declaration of World Citizenship March 5 and 8, 1968, adopted by Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis.

Details about the events can be read at pages 3-10 here: MN Declarations Mar 18003. (The other pages describe several other significant and analogous events, and you see names like Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson….)

50 years later, today, we’re a country in turmoil, possibly about to see the beginning of a trade war, where positive relationships between parties are a dim memory, and our country is in a state of acute dysfunction. “We, the people” elected the leaders 50 years ago and in more recent times. What has happened to us?

1968 was a worried time, of course. Everyone with access should take time to view the exhibit “1968” at the Minnesota History Center this year.

February, 1968, was the Tet offensive in Vietnam; a display at the exhibit says that the last week of February, 1968, was the deadliest week in the deadliest month for American military losses in Vietnam. Martin Luther King was assassinated April 4, and on and on.

Still, the narrative in Minnesota, then, and other places was much as it was after World War II. We needed to figure out how to get along. War was a waste.

1968 now seems to have been such a quaint time. 2018 by contrast seems in so many ways so bizarre.

Getting to the Declaration in 1968 took citizen work. It was a years long process started by two Minneapolis businessmen, who in 1963 had seen in person the Tokyo government declare itself a World Citizen City. Tokyo in turn had followed the example of other cities, who had “mundialized”. Lynn Elling, one of the leaders, many years later recalled to me that when they took their idea to then-Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin, his first response was “what the hell is mundialization?” (See it described at the link.)

Of course, each declaration fit each communities circumstances. In Minneapolis/Hennepin County, 1968, the culminating event included raising the United Nations flag beside the American flag, fully in compliance with the U.S. Flag Code. Former Governor Elmer L. Andersen (Republican) gave what he considered one of his most important speeches that day. (page 6-7 at MN Declarations Mar 18003)

The most important subsequent events occurred in 1971 when Minnesota declared itself a World Citizenship State.

All were not happy campers, of course. Mayor Naftalins archive included 16 letters from citizens, 13 of them distinctly anti-United Nations; all but three of them from other states. The protests were vigorous, but hardly overwhelming.

The UN Flag flew at Hennepin Government Center for 44 years, until it was unceremoniously removed by the Hennepin Board of Commissioners March 27, 2012. They could, of course, fly any flag they wanted, but their excuse for taking down the flag – violation of the U.S. flag code – was false, and to this day I am not certain the chain of events which led to the flags demise (though I have some pretty clear ideas, I will not share since my opinions would likely be denied.) Four of the current Hennepin Commissioners were among those voting to take down the flag six years ago. They would know the story.

Two lengthy blog posts remain as a “file cabinet” for this issue, for anyone interested, here and here.

“We, the people”, in our democracy, have a huge responsibility: to elect those who serve us.

If we don’t like what we see from our government leaders at any level, we need first to look at ourselves – were we cause in the matter for change?

There exists today an international organization called Mayors for Peace. Take a look.

#MeToo. Time for honest conversations…lots of them.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sometime before she began first grade in about 1913 my Aunt Lucina got a Valentine from a young friend, Stella, who lived on a farm a couple of miles down the road in Henrietta township North Dakota.

(click to enlarge illustrations)


Her friends Mom helped make this card for her daughter. Most likely it was delivered in person by horse and buggy. A year or so earlier, rural telephone (“two longs and a short”) had entered the vocabulary of these country neighbors, but in those days the phone was “party line” for everybody, and not for casual use. Stella was apparently missing her young friend down the road, my Aunt Lucina.

Valentine’s Day has a very long history. You can read about it here; (do a quick scroll to “Modern Times” for the more contemporary history.

All of the following are Valentine cards from the Busch farm in ND, which I had borrowed from Uncle Vince and Aunt Edithe, and scanned years ago. They were in a box, and I wrote a bit about them a dozen years ago. My post says there were 19 Valentine’s in the box. I scanned the nine you see here.

The remaining illustrations in this post are all from that same box, that same scan, just waiting for the appropriate time to see the light of day, albeit on a computer screen in 2018.





Valentine 1911

Valentine 1913

Valentine 1913


The following are my scattered/random comments as we wade through the swamp of #MeToo. #MeToo is about relationships of one sort or another gone awry. It has overtaken most everything else in the national conversation the last few months, but if you think about it, the high profile #MeToo’s are very few and very rare.

What follows are some personal unpolished thoughts out loud, hopefully to encourage other thoughts out loud, but mostly to encourage people of different genders, ages, points of view, to discuss together, in person, the “#MeToo” issue. There will be squirming and defensiveness, but the conversations are worth having, far better than the insanity we’re going through today.

I have relevant experience with this, beyond simply being a human being.

As a teacher union staff person from 1972-2000, I and my colleagues had plenty of experience with the “sex” issues of those days: accusations similar to todays, most in the area of inappropriate contact between student and teacher; often front-page news. They were also rare, mostly men were accused (but not all), and mostly there was provable guilt to some degree (but not always). There came to be instant and severe punishment: almost automatic loss of the license to teach.

There was an over-reaction by society generally, and by the teacher community. Some saw individual incidents as opportunities to tar the entire teaching profession, particularly the Unions (including myself) whose duty was to represent our members. At the height, my own union adopted a “no touch” rule for members to avoid problems. It made sense at the time, but was also crazy (such as the female kindergarten teacher afraid to help tie a kindergarten boys shoes).

“Innocent until proven guilty” was not part of the conversation. I’d say it was impossible to get a fair trial that ended with exoneration, or rehabilitation. Once charged, you were presumed to be guilty.

How little we have learned EXCEPT that “sex” has become a very useful political tool….

Fast forward to today, very, very briefly: Full disclosure: two of my personal heroes, Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, have been felled by the recent rounds of #MeToo. Again, once accused, convicted. The “whole truth” unnecessary; all that matters, the result. If you like the outcome against one person, be aware, another person you like, including yourself, may be next on the chopping block.

For some reason I kept the Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose top of the front page headline was: “Most believe Franken’s accusers“, with subhead “But nearly half of voters say senator shouldn’t have stepped down.” This was a month after the first allegation against Franken was made, for something which occurred before he ran for U.S. Senate, an accusation accompanied by a single photograph suggesting…. Then came some other allegations, “anonymous”. Then the “court” of public opinion:

(click twice for additional enlargement)

We may as well dispense with hearings or courts or privacy: just take a poll and publicize it…the sample will render the verdict. This is a dangerous way to do things.

I did watch 60 Minutes Sunday night, the “#MeToo” topic was one of the segments. I’m sure you can still watch the segment on-line. Now we move, righteously, to kill sexual harassment. It is a wonderful idea. So was prohibition, and the move to eliminate abortions, or to keep slavery, or get rid of illegals…the lists of schemes to prohibit go on and on and on.

To #MeToo as an issue: I read, and I talk to people of other genders with possibly differing points of view…. “Sex” is a part of every one of our beings. It has a very long history. In our country, there is a fascination with sex, as practiced by someone else.

The objective must be to make things better, rather than to attempt to make things perfect.

Then there is our national moral and legal arbiter Donald Trump. While there is much talk about the sanctity of “due process”, including from me, there is no level playing field when it comes to Trump. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be found guilty of anything. He is a proven serial liar – nothing he says can be taken at face value, even in writing, most certainly not in court, and sexual harassment is generally a very personal deal, rarely public, subject to interpretation. He needs only to deny…and countersue.

Lots of people who should know better, say what he allegedly did happened long ago…we should get over it. (There is something of that mantra about Judge Roy Moore, whose incidents happened, they say, “40 years ago”.)

Trumps reputation as a very rich man is that he is one who can afford to, and does, counter-sue almost at every opportunity. If you have power and lots of money, you can buy much better “due process” justice than if you are poor or less powerful or one of those teachers I used to represent.

With Trump, we have what we deserve, and we’re probably stuck with it. Make it a learning opportunity.

A NEW FAVORITE BIBLE STORY comes via an evangelical guy who attends an every Saturday Bible Study one table away from me at coffee. There seems to be an intended public witness by the half dozen men who usually attend, all nice guys, and knowledgable.

Anyway, a few Saturdays ago one gentleman – likely a PhD and a very decent man from all indications – was saying he’d been at something or other and the speaker talked about the first two commands in the Bible: “have sex and eat“. It got a good laugh from the assembled Christians….

Comments are welcome, but probably this forum is not the best – engage with others where you live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And Ash Wednesday, too.

From Norm: Those old valentines brought back many memories of my grade school days when we used to exchange them I school. As I recall, there was usually a box set-up in our home room that had been decorated by our creative peers with a slot on its top for us to insert the valentines that we had brought in.

The box would later be opened on or close to Valentine’s Day and its contents distributed with all of the be my valentine messages on them.

I can even recall a few valentines that had a small red sucker attached to them as well.

Thanks for bringing back those special memories, Dick.

from Jeff: I think you make a good point, and one often pointed out, that if you are able, you can buy more due process if you can afford it.

I think the #metoo is a good thing, but while he said she said isn’t always right, sometimes it is (Aziz Ansari)

The French-Canadians; The Franco-Americans

Years ago I signed up for a workshop – I think it was titled “Family of Origin” – and the first assignment was to find out what we could about our ancestors, something which I had never explored before.

I was 40 at the time.

My parents took the bait; I found that my Dad was 100% French-Canadian, with very deep roots in Quebec, though near lifelong North Dakotan.

There are millions upon millions of people with French-Canadian ancestry today; hundreds of thousands of them in my own state.

“Quebec” (name first established in 1608) long pre-dates use of the name “United States of America (1776)” and “Canada” (1867). Here’s a National Geographic map from my copy of the Historical Atlas of the United States, Centennial Edition, 1988 (p. 96). Note the extent of “Quebec”. This was before the naming of “Canada”

(click to enlarge)

My first French-Canadian ancestor was in North America in 1618, and French-Canadians have had a very rich subsequent history all across North America.

I stay active in the quest to keep this rich culture alive, and yesterday prepared a reintroduction to be sent to our local mailing list. The 9-page mailing is here: French-Canadian001

If you wish, open and just scroll through the link. I’d especially recommend the last four pages, a recent essay entitled “Why Are Franco-Americans So Invisible?” by David Vermette, which appears in the Winter (Hiver) 2017 edition of Le Forum from the state of Maine.


I dedicate this post to my great-grandparents, Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette, who married at what was then called St. Anthony, soon to become Minneapolis MN, in 1868; thence 1875 to the Dayton MN area, thence to Oakwood (near Grafton) North Dakota in 1878.

Below is the tintype photo of them about the time of their marriage. Clotilde would have been about 5 when they arrived in Minnesota Territory from eastern Ontario in the early 1850s; Octave was about 17 when most of the Collette family moved from St. Lambert QC to St. Anthony (later, Minneapolis) in about 1864.

(click to enlarge, double click for close-up)

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1869

I also dedicate this to my grandparents: Henry Bernard, born 1872 and raised in rural Ste. Sylvestre Quebec, coming to North Dakota in the 1890s; and Josephine Collette, born 1881 at the now disappeared Red River town of St. Andrews, where the Park River enters the Red. They married in 1901 at Oakwood ND.

Henry Bernards of Grafton ND about 1920, with visitors from Winnipeg. Henry, Josephine, Henry Jr, Josie, and Frank Peter are center part of photo. Their home was on the bank of the Park River, then 115 Wakeman Avenue.

World War I, and War, generally.

Saturday, Nov. 11, turned out to be a very significant day for me.

The intention was to be at the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at the Minnesota History Center (MHS), and that was accomplished. The same day, the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI, at the same place, was the final day of the excellent “WWI America” exhibit. Later that afternoon, the outstanding film The World Is My Country, about Garry Davis, a WWII bomber pilot who gave up his U.S> citizenship, disgusted by war.

Those who lead wars always portray them as necessary and thus good (our “side”) versus evil (theirs). It is politically useful to have an enemy. War is not nearly as simple as that. It is the young who go to die “for our country”; and who are proclaimed “heroes” when they do…. In this modern age, it has been the innocents who are slaughtered.

The entrance to the WWI exhibit at MHS said it pretty well:

(click any photo to enlarge)

The bare basics of WWI are simple: 1914-18, the good guys won, the bad guys lost. The truth is not nearly so simple. Part of another side of WWI came from my friend, Michael, who sent a long article from the Guardian newspaper expanding on the story of WWI. It is not politically correct from those who have written the official narrative of WWI, but it is very interesting. You can read the long article here.

In the hall outside the WWI Exhibit, Vets for Peace remembered Nov. 11 as Armistice Day; elsewhere in the building was a lecture about aspects of the War. In England, the day is now called Remembrance Day.

The local Vets for Peace especially recognizes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed 1928, which was supposed to end war permanently. The Vets for Peace podium had this explanation of Kellogg-Briand:

In “The World Is My Country”, Garry Davis went to war on a B-27 as part of the U.S. Army Air force after Pearl Harbor. In the end, his conscience couldn’t square killing innocent German people from a U.S. bomber over Germany to avenge the loss of his own brother, killed aboard a U.S. Destroyer in the European theater in 1943. At 26, he gave up his U.S. citizenship, and became a stateless citizen of the world.

Davis’ story is riveting and keeps everyones attention, and especially well suited for young people of today. The film is not yet fully released, but watch for it when it is.

Back at the Vets for Peace, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Bellringers rang their bells 11 times to commemorate the end of a terrible war in 1918. This is a long tradition of the local Vets for Peace. I have been to many such remembrances since 2002.

Back in the nearby WWI exhibit down the hall were three displays which particularly spoke to me: the first of the Treaty of Versailles, which helped lead to WWII; and the second which needs no explanation, coming as it did before woman gained the right to vote in the United States.

At the time of the Treaty of Versailles

Both my mother and grandmother contracted the influenza but survived. The hired man on the farm went to war and died.

The most powerful songs I know, about WWI, and the folly of war are “Waltzing Matilda”, and Green Fields of France. Give a listen.

Vietnam, 17 hours, 30 years, and the road ahead.

Earlier posts on the Vietnam series: Sep 9, Sep 13, Sep 19 , Sep 21


I watched every hour of the now complete and powerful Ken Burns/Lynn Novick retrospective on the War in Vietnam, 1945-75.

Today begins reflection after a powerful two weeks. What does this all mean to me? To us? How can I personally translate Vietnam into personal action to help us grow, to learn, from this tragedy.

Likely, midweek next week I’ll share my thoughts, such as they will be; and I encourage you to share yours as well, including at this blog space. If you wish your own blog space, just let me know. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. All I ask is respectful opinion, and willingness to share your name and your own personal role 1961-75. There is no judgement. We did as we did, then. Vietnam is an indelible part of our national history. We need to own and learn, from the experience.

To begin, among a flood of memories the series brought to the surface for me, below are two: meeting Daniel Ellsberg Feb. 23, 2008; and a totally unexpected visit to the newly dedicated Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, Nov. 14, 1982.

(click to enlarge)

Then, remembering a powerful afternoon with Daniel Ellsberg and other anti-Vietnam war activists, Feb. 23, 2008: Daniel Ellsberg 2008001 Daniel was here in connection with a powerful program conceived by peace activist Frank Kroncke about the Minnesota 8, of which Mr. Kroncke was part.

Daniel Ellsberg (at right) being recognized for his contribution to peace Feb. 23, 2008, Minneapolis MN.

Here are shared some reflections received in the last days from friends. Doubtless there are thousands of such reflections, and they are just beginning. Thomas Bass, America’s amnesia; Jon Pilger. I have not picked these to pass along; they were forwarded by friends. There is room for lots of points of view in the conversations that are already being generated by this powerful series.

* * * * *

At a time like this, I feel very, very, very small…what can I do?

It is not a matter of moving on; rather feeling very, very, very small.

There is a great plenty which can be done, one small act at a time.

Just being attentive to the plight of the people of Puerto Rico, a country 4% the size of Minnesota, with 60% of Minnesota’s population, devastated by hurricane. One is tempted to say that we should pay more attention to them, because they are all American citizens. But how about the residents of tiny Barbuda, essentially completely destroyed in an earlier hurricane. How do they fit into my world view? Humans, anywhere, are our brothers and sisters. The globe has no borders.

We don’t need to live within a single event. There are endless opportunities to get constructively involved.

Tuesday, October 3, I plan to join what promises to be a very interesting 4-session course on women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are details. Course leader, Maureen Reed, MD, has sterling credentials to lead this course. Among other experiences, she served as Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, through which she worked with both the Nobel Institute and its laureates. Consider enrolling, investing, in this class.

My friend, Donna, makes another suggestion: “I wanted to tell you about a group Rich and I have joined called the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM). People from many faiths are doing some actions in regards to DACA and immigration. One action is to hold a vigil from 8-9 AM on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Whipple Federal Building [at Ft. Snelling – near the airport]. It is there that the immigrant deportation court is housed. Last vigil we had 85 people attend, including both concerned citizens and religious. Our goal is to grow this group so if you know of anyone interested please pass the word. After last vigil some attendees attended a court hearing on someone in deportation. We have done this as well and it truly feels so evil. Many of these deportations tear stable families apart. Anyway I hope you can join us sometime and spread the word. The next vigil is scheduled for October 10, National Immigration Day.”

And on, and on, and on.

Be “on the court” for solutions.

Take time to read this: Don’t Bother. It is long and it is depressing, but it cries out for activism. We live in this country.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum

PRE-NOTE: Yesterdays post now includes details about Ken Burns 17-hour, 10 day film about The Vietnam War. You can check the schedule and get other information here.


The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, convenes this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16. All details are here.

The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg began in 1989 and has a long history of excellence; it is the only international adjunct of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which has administered and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its beginning in 1904.

The other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. It has never been clear why Alfred Nobel, whose fortune funded the prizes, reserved the Peace Prize for award by Norway.

John Rash wrote an interesting commentary about this years Peace Prize Forum in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune. You can read it here.

I have been actively engaged with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for quite a number of years. I have never been disappointed. There is a great deal to be learned, both from the sessions themselves, and the other participants. Check it out.

POSTNOTE: For those with an interest, Dr. Maureen Reed, for several years Executive Director of the Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg, will be teaching a four session series, “Of Courage and Controversy: Women and the Nobel Peace Prize“, at the University of Minnesota Oct 3 – Dec 5, 2017. All details, including enrollment information, are accessible here.

Ken Burns “The Vietnam War” film series on PBS September 17-28 ; plus other notes

We saw the one-hour Preview of Ken Burns Vietnam Thursday night, September 7.

Twenty four hours later, I attended a rather remarkable event at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where a distinguished speaker, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a distinguished responder panel talked about “The Past as Prologue: the Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”. In between was eight hours on the road, yesterday, with my brother. Suffice: it was a rich and exhausting 24 hours or so.

And, of course, devastating Hurricanes continue ‘front and center’ on news pages.

1. Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War screens on your local Public Broadcasting Channel, beginning Sunday evening September 17. There will be ten nights of programs, with the final segment on September 28.

I have always had feelings about this topic, as I’m an early Vietnam era Army veteran (1962-63, stateside), and my two air Force brothers served in southeast Asia war during the late 60s and early 70s.

I will write specifically about Vietnam War from my perspective in a few days. (In Vietnam, the conflict is called “The American War”). Whatever its name, the conflict covered a thirty year period, beginning 1945, and ending April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon. “There is no single truth in war” is an apt introduction, in my opinion.

I urge everyone, particularly high school age and young adults, to view and discuss this entire series. Our moderator on Thursday said he was six months old when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. He’s 42 now…. Vietnam began over 50 years ago. Burns Vietnam is no abstract war film. It shows the reality of the times; the reality of war.

(click to enlarge)

Here is the PBS magazine, at least the pages which talk about the programming upcoming: PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

Here is the schedule of the ten episodes (each program is shown twice on its evening):
Sun. Sep 17: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 18: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Tue. Sep 19: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 20: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 21: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Sun. Sep 24: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 25: 7 and 9 p.m.
Tue. Sep 26: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 27: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 28: 7 and 9 p.m.

2. 500 Year Anniversary of the Reformation. “The Past as Prologue. The Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”

Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN Sep. 8, 2017

In my growing up, as Catholic, I could not have conceived of a gathering such as I attended on Friday night at Basilica of St. Mary, the co-Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

There were over 70 in attendance, including as speaker the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, and the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Bernard Hebda. Here is the program for the evening: Past as Prologue001

Everyone has their own opinion about religion, relationships between churches over the centuries, and the often less than benign role of religion in war itself, including today. Christianity in substantive ways has been at war within itself.

As noted, twenty-four hours earlier I had been to the preview of Ken Burns “The Vietnam War”. As noted in the above photo, the complexity of the debate about “Truth” in War was stated, and even within the audiences on Thursday and Friday there was likely a long-learned sense of conflict about “who is right”.

How can there be different “truths” about War? Or Christianity and religion generally? Well, there are differences. And pretending there is only a single valid “truth” is not productive, in my opinion.

The Reformation raises the same intense question about “Truth”. For 500 years within Christianity itself, there have been differing interpretations of Truth, often intensely expressed.

I thought the evening to be very stiumulating, and I plan to attend some of the ongoing events, which can be reviewed here: Reformation001

3. The March of the Hurricanes: About two weeks ago I used this space to follow the story of my nephew Sean and family in Houston.

It seems like ancient history, and the recovery is still at its earliest stages in Texas. This becomes a lonely time, when it seems no one is interested in the plight. Harvey is old news, shoved off the news by Irma about to reach Florida, or other crises du jour. And there are new hurricanes in the wings, and, I suppose, Typhoons in the Pacific area. Very soon Florida will be old news.

The immensity of the tragedies is beyond simplification.

On Thursday, the tiny island of Barbuda, a place I had never heard of, was basically destroyed, and its entire population evacuated to nearby Antigua. Barbuda’s website remains frozen in what it was before the hurricane destroyed the tiny country.

Friday, I picked up my brother at his hotel near the Mall of America, and he said that he had been chatting with a couple from Ft. Lauderdale Florida area who, when the prospects of hurricane hitting Florida crossed their screens, called the airport, made reservations for the next plane available. It turned out to be Minneapolis and so they came here for a vacation. At the time, Florida was anticipating the possibility of Category 5 Irma and the Atlantic coastal side. Apparently they could afford the potential disruption at home.

I don’t know if their property will be damaged by the storm, but I was struck by the contrast between the people of Barbuda, traveling in an open tow boat to some refuge on Antigua, and the couple who could take a vacation far ahead from the troubles back home in Florida.

All is so very complicated, and made to sound so simple.

Keep everyone in your prayers and do what you can to support the recovery efforts wherever they are.