Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katrina : One Year Later

Last year around this time I was simultaneously pissed off and disillusioned. Watching the images coming at me via CNN of the New Orlans convention center gave me a surreal feeling that I was not witnessing an event in the United States. Surely, the US of A would not allow 40,000 people people to linger for five days in a rancid building without food and little water. Surely, my government would never fail to send desparately needed supplies and manpower in the form of our National Guard to the flooded homes of the Gulf Coast. But, that's what I was seeing.

One year later, it is important to reflect on the complete failure of the several layers of government to do what it is intended to do: serve its people. In times of disaster (from hurricanes to terrorist attacks) we turn to our government to help us. The government is our collective will, our common good, with the resources and agency to act in the service of those who we all agree need help.

But, that's not what I saw one year ago. And, it still makes me angry.

[photo from Mother Jones]

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bad Things Come in Threes

A good friend of mine is terrified of flying. She is very attentive to any news of plane crashes or "incidents." After there have been three, she relaxes somewhat, because bad things come in threes.

My rational self says such ideas are silly, but the past few months have given testament to this superstition. Three people have died this summer who have touched my life. The first death was Mike Young, a talented comedian and graphic designer in Philadelphia. A brain tumor stole his life and robbed his wife and young son of an incredible soul. The second death was Uncle Len, my husband's uncle. Len was at our wedding - the jovial, good natured jokester. Len was an important figure in Jon's life, and I'm sorry that we won't be able to enjoy future Christmases at his house.

The third I just learned of. My University's president died yesterday in a swimming accident. Kermit Hall has been president of my University almost 2 years. He was energetic, had vision, and worked very hard to promote the University at Albany in our community and to the state legislature. His work paid off in a line item in the budget desparately needed to upgrade my decaying concrete campus. He pushed to increase the number of tenure-track faculty on campus by 100 over the next 5 years. He was also a distinguished legal historian, with an impressive research career.

President Hall's death will have tremendous impact on my campus. We were gaining momentum and hope under his leadership; Now that will stall as we move to an interim president. Having lived under one interim president before Hall was appointed, it is clear that they generally stay the course until a new president is appointed. So, the progress we were making, including a stronger family leave policy that I worked very hard on for the past two years, now will be on hold.

His death, like Mr. Young's, shakes my assumption that life is a given as I go about my daily routines. One day you could be enjoying coffee on the deck with the Sunday newspaper, and the next day . . . . All the more reason to push boundaries, to get out of comfort zones, to help others, to better yourself, and your world.

All three of these men who have died this summer enacted the virtue of a life lived fully. May we all strive to be so vivid.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Theme of This Summer

"Out of my Comfort Zone."

I ran into a colleague on campus yesterday, and he reminded me that we only have three weeks left of summer. I did not need to hear that.

But, it got me thinking about what has transpired this summer. As usual, I have not gotten as much accomplished as I had envisioned, and a trip to Minnesota is not going to happen. But, I have done some things, many of which are new for me - and challenging: the dogs, the longer runs, gaining authorization to drive the ambulance for Helderberg volunteer EMS, learning guitar, and doing a whole new kind of data analysis than I have done before. The latter two have been the most frustrating. I still cannot get my fingers to make a nice sounding G chord, and the data analysis has been so very slow.

But, I am learning things, and pushing myself out of well worn routines. That makes for a satisfying summer.