September 2012

What A Woman!

In the spring of 1988, while working at Winter Park Memorial Hospital, I received a phone call from the Executive Director of Crealdè telling me that a new newspaper was forming in Winter Park and looking for columnists. From that one fortuitous call, 2013 will mark 25 years that I’ve written a weekly Observer column. Over 1200 columns, approximately 650,000 words. It, the writing, has been incredibly rewarding at a personal level.

I could not foresee in 1988 how serendipitous, how valuable for the quality of my life writing for the Observer would become. Out-of-the-blue, I would be contacted by individuals who read my “stuff” and wanted to meet. I became so close with one such reader, John Fisher, that we met every Thursday for lunch for 17 years (nearly 800 lunches). What an immeasurable gift. I so miss Fisher and his acerbic wit. In 25 years I’ve developed over half-a-dozen such relationships, readers who became friends, folks I have vacationed with, people who changed my life.

This column is about one such person, Nancy Chambers. About eight or so years ago I received a call from a stranger who wanted me to come to her residence for a chat. She liked my “perspective” and wanted to compare notes on the world.

For a number of years back in the late 1990s I occasionally received humorously threatening, quite creative, anonymous postcards, mailed to the Observer recommending for example that, “Jepson should be used as roadfill for interstate potholes.” That’s a classic. Needless to say, I have a reluctance to meet anyone for the first time in their home. But I did with Nancy and what a gift.

She must have been 79 or 80 at the time. She’d had a stroke a few years earlier but had recovered nicely. Nancy was a lovely woman, the type of gal you just knew was stunning (Gorgeous!) in her physical prime. Diminutive in stature yet anything but demure in personality. She was outgoing, quick, witty and extremely well read. A bit of a flirt. We’d lunch and she’d laughingly say, “Sit down and tell me some gossip.” Nancy divorced three times, thought the institution (of marriage) vastly overrated yet was a hopeless romantic. She’d moved to Winter Park in the 1950s, a doctor’s wife. She had three accomplished sons she forever bragged-on. I met them all and she was right to feel pride in their lives and achievements.

And so with some regularity we’d lunch or have dinners at her residence. I invited her to parties I hosted. Sometimes after a lunch she’d recommend we’d go to the Thrift Shop on Canton and I still have a great cotton robe she insisted I buy for a buck and a half. Nancy knew value.

I was then serving on the Planned Parenthood board of directors when Nancy and I first met. She was an ardent feminist, pro-choice, a woman who understood that history had proved particularly challenging to assertive, strong-willed women. We attended a few PP events together. Nancy had one pronounced regret in life, that she didn’t finish college. She was of the last generation of American women who came of age experiencing “the” rigid societal ceiling for females—that motherhood was the only appropriate expression for what it means to be an accomplished woman.

Nancy Chambers died September 8 and I will dearly miss her enchanting, impassioned femininity in all its delightful manifestations. What a woman. What a gift.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation Achieves $100,000,000 Benchmark.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. Scott Adams.

On September 13, 2012 a public ceremony was held on the lawn of Rollins College. Approximately 100 community leaders and citizens were on hand to recognize a $1,000,000 gift from the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in support of the renovation of the Archibald Granville Bush Science Center.

The Edyth Bush Foundation is about creating ripples and we must go back to 1973 to appreciate how that first ripple was cast to understand the cascading affect of that initial act of vision (kindness).

The Edyth Bush Foundation is named after its benefactress. An accomplished woman in her own right she married Archibald G. Bush in 1922. Mr. Bush was there at the beginning of Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, amassing a $300 million fortune before his death in 1966. Mr. & Mrs. Bush had, over the years, wintered in Winter Park and had become increasingly involved in the community with Mr. Bush serving on the board of directors of Rollins College. Upon his death Edyth Bush moved from St. Paul, Minnesota making Winter Park her permanent residence.

Edyth Bush died in 1972 and a year later her vision came into being with the establishment of the Foundation bearing her name. Its mission today reads, “”Creating innovative civic solutions helping people help themselves.” The Foundation was her baby, so to speak, her inspired creation. It was observed on more than one occasion that she considered the Foundation the “child that she and Archie never had.”

All of us (our lives and actions) to varying degrees are as stones cast in a pond (a sea, an ocean). The ripples we create flow outward and onward influencing events and lives far beyond our ability of ever knowing their impact. Except with Edyth Bush. We can very discernibly determine what one woman of vision created through her Foundation, how she still influences our lives today.

A benchmark was achieved last Thursday. Under the shade of campus trees, with the September heat and humidity relentlessly bearing down, a smiling David Odahowski, president of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation proudly announced that the $1,000,000 gift to Rollins College represented a threshold surpassed. Since 1973 the Foundation has awarded 100 million dollars in grants, primarily to Central Florida charities. The Foundation has cast forth stones, the known—and unknown—impact rippling forth for generations to come.

The Foundation is highly supportive of the strengthening of Central Florida’s non-profit community. It has provided millions of dollars in support of the education and empowerment of local non-profit staffs and their volunteer boards of directors. The Foundation, with accountability foremost, directly, measurably and significantly fosters citizenship, community and service.

Robert Kennedy observed, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

Edyth Bush was such a human being yet her ripples of hope are anything but tiny.
Congratulations to Winter Park’s Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation on the benchmark you’ve achieved. Keep casting the stones. Keep creating the ripples. Just as Edyth Bush envisioned.

Quite The Contrary

Fiddle Dee Dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow. So says Mitt Romney on how he’ll balance the Federal Budget. First he’ll cut taxes by, oh, four-five trillion dollars and then he’ll square the accounts by eliminating loopholes, cutting waste and fraud and other specific government programs. None of this adds up, of course but when pressed to give specifics, Romney demurs saying all will be revealed after he is President. Just wait.

Anyone with half a load on (and that is you Dear Reader) knows that it will require a combination of tax increases and program cuts to achieve a balanced budget. It will involve cuts to the military and Medicare for sure. Age requirements for Social Security will be raised and SS payroll tax rates will be increased as well. What has to be done isn’t that complicated except for the political will to do the unpopular. Neither political party speaks candidly to the nation about realistic solutions for fear of alienating specific voting blocs.

What absolutely slays me is how any American considers the Republican Party the party of fiscal sanity or responsibility. What a joke. The Republican economic mantra—brayed long and loud—is “Cut taxes and job-killing regulations” for a stronger America. Kids, we’ve tried that and how’s that working out for you?

We deregulated Wall Street and banking (a big mistake Bill Clinton) and got the economic debacle of 2008. Bush 43 cut taxes, predominantly for the wealthiest Americans and here we are today coming out of a Republican-induced recession, and the GOP has the unmitigated gall to claim that if only, if only we cut taxes further and eliminated all those troublesome business regulations, all would be right as rain. Republicans, ironically enough, support taking government out of the boardroom yet think nothing of putting it in our bedrooms.

Again, how’s that Trickle Down Economics working for your family? Clean water? Clean air? A clean environment? At the expense of jobs? What? Are you un-American? Republicans would allow soot in our air and the deterioration of our water and call it progress.

We Americans should be slapped in the face for thinking so short term. Perhaps we have been collectively “slapped in the face” by this recent recession. We should be throwing the spear down the field ten or 15 years (minimum) and developing strategies for achieving long-term sustainable prosperity. Lifting the entrenched impoverished out of “their” circumstances has to be pursued (over decades) from a multi-generational approach. What will America be like once the bulge-in-the-python Boomer generation passes (by 2040)? Do we really need/require another 150-200 million Americans in the lower 48 states? How do you balance generational needs (education vs. healthcare for example)? Is it possible to have a sustainable economy that is environmentally green (healthy)? Could money spent on an imperial foreign policy (war) be better invested at home, in America?

Should we respect today’s Republican Party? Is there a “we” in their vocabulary that is inclusive of all Americans? Or, has the Republican Party devolved into “we” vs. “them?” You know, them—the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Once upon a time America stood for something besides the next quarterly earnings report. Remember.

Mitt Romney has been good at making money but it does not follow that he’d be good for America. Quite the contrary.

Is It The Stockholm Syndrome?

Gays, blacks and women. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend why a gay man or a black woman or women, in general, would claim or want membership in the Republican Party? What is going on? What have Republicans the last 50 years represented that would have you as an African-American, gay or female identifying with them? I simply do not understand.

Depending on the specific state, anywhere from 85% to 96% of Republican Party affiliation is white. The Republican Party is the party of older, white, male America. Which is fine. All Americans have the right to associate with their like-minded brethren. I want it no other way. Such polarity, however, suggests underlining values that make the Republican Party exactly what it is, the party exclusively of old, white, straight America.

I am frankly stunned (SHOCKED!) that there is a group such as the Log Cabin Republicans purporting to represent the interests of gay and lesbian Republicans. Why belong to a political party so at odds with who you are as a human being? Not only at odds but aggressively militant (see GOP platform) in opposition to gay rights.

Oh, I imagine the indignant responses now, “Jepson, the gay and lesbian community is about more than just sexual identification.” Un-huh. As well we all should be. We all have issues (economy, environment, banking reform, etc.) that concern us but to belong to a political party that for the past several decades has vilified you and your “choices” begs the question, “Why?”

Whenever I witnessed African-Americans at the Republican convention (all six or seven blacks) I wondered are these individuals bereft of memory? Did they just fall off the bus (homage to Rosa Parks) that they do not recall President Nixon’s 1970 Sothern Strategy (see: Kevin Phillips) of picking-off disaffected Southern whites, disillusioned with the 1960s civil rights initiatives? It is a strategy still very much in play and one that has state Republicans nationwide attempting to suppress minority voter turnout. Shameful. As one critic observed about the oddity of black Republicans, “Isn’t that like black Klan members?” Harsh? Unfair? Tell me again the exact intent of Nixon’s Southern Strategy?

I wonder about the mindset of gay and African-Americans who identify with Republicans. I don’t get it. Anymore than I do with women, in general, who align their futures with the Republican Party. Again, for thousands of years men have run roughshod over women. It has only been in the last several generations that American women have achieved anything like equality with men. Someday historians will proclaim that one of the most significant developments of the entire 20th century was safe, effective and readily available birth control for women. It changed everything. Undeniably. Yet Republicans eagerly restrict your daughter’s fundamental right to control her own body and fertility.

I suggest the Stockholm Syndrome as an explanation as to why some women align themselves with Republican values. Drink the Kool-Aid long enough and you eventually do “embrace” the shackles that bind your thinking and limit your freedom. You end-up identifying with your oppressor. Yet, it can be different.

Join a better future and attend the Friday, September 7th (5:30 PM to 8:00 PM) grand opening of the Winter Park headquarters for the Re-election of Barack Obama. The Obama office is again in the Fountain Building, at the corner of Morse Boulevard and Denning. Jacqueline Jones and her quintet will be entertaining. Bring your enthusiasm and your checkbook.