Friday, June 25, 2010

Perspective and some observations...

I am spending time in a place that is referred to in the local media as "Kentuckiana" - the major media outlets here seem to be based primarily out of Louisville, Kentucky, but my physical location is roughly between there and Cincinnati, Ohio.  It happens to be the "run-up" season to the mayoral election in Louisville.  Last night, I was able to catch the better part of the first debate between the two candidates headed for the general election - one Democrat and one Republican - a partisan race, unlike ours in Lake Worth.  There is also an Independent candidate that was not allowed to participate, but attended as a private citizen.  Apparently, there had been what some refer to as "Mayor for Life" who chose not to run this time who was a Democrat, leaving an open seat.  Most of his voting block was following the party line and behind the Democratic candidate.  You can read the coverage of the debate and some more of the specifics by clicking here.

Don't interpret the above as some sort of endorsement for partisan Commissioner and Mayor races in Lake Worth.  Hardly, Republicans and Democrats both need reliable trash pick-up, friendly customer service and an expectation that things will get better - stability at least.  Party distinctions shouldn't matter at the municipal level.

One of the major issues of the recent past was the merger of city and county governments and the kinks are obviously still being worked on with that arrangement.  Besides that issue, all that was talked about was the need to create jobs, be competitive in the "new" economy, how Louisville stacks up between its competition - seen as Indianapolis and Nashville.  There was wide agreement that Louisville was losing that race and much of the blame could be laid at the cumbersome planning and zoning process, a "we know it all: attitude" in city government and an absence of customer awareness in the delivery of city services.  Sound familiar?

This debate was in front of an audience that contained many Chamber of Commerce types and home builders, so it was a "go-go" pro growth attitude.  But at times, I felt like I had landed on an alien planet as there was no apology for that point-of-view.  They identified the need to work together as a region, which is especially important now that they have more of a metro form of government.

Some other things stood out in both their responses to the debate questions.  One was the universal recognition of the role of the Mayor's office in setting the tone and using the "bully pulpit" to promote the city.  Again, this was a strong mayor form of government as opposed to Lake Worth's, but regardless, I still believe that role should lay squarely with the Mayor - even in our current system.  The other universal recognition was that the Mayor's role was one that "inspires faith and confidence" in the city.  I immediately thought of the recent meeting where our mayor vacated his chair during an important discussion, only to return for the vote.  Then I thought about our last two or three Mayors and how they excelled, at times, running meetings, but at little else.  Why dirty their fingers with Lake Worth stuff if they didn't have to especially if they have their eyes on a higher office?  Just coast through, go through the motions and come out whole at the other end of the tunnel.

Is this leadership?

Today, I received an e-mail from a campaign of a previous Mayor, soliciting funds for his run for a higher office which said "Hey, kid, gimme your lunch money?"  My right hand to God!  Nice way to represent yourself and the city that spawned you.  I'll be voting for someone with a more respectful fundraising appeal, thank you very much.

We need stronger leadership in Lake Worth.  Whether it comes through in a stronger personality and the present form of government, or whether it comes through an overhaul of the overall structure of government.  Something I think we need to think about is seven (7) elected positions, three "at large", including the Mayor and then four (4) positions that are elected from the districts where they live and represent.  I think the time has come for this discussion.  Whether we consider a strong Mayor or someone who just runs the meeting should be part of it too.
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United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the full text of which appears below. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories." 
 Eleanor Roosevelt played a major role in creating this declaration as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and was the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission.

    Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations, Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

    (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

    (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

    (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

    (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

    Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

    (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

    Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

    (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An artifact that you might find interesting...

I am spending some time with my father this summer.  He has a lot of "stuff" - some important, some not - that's part of the reason for my being here.  So, amongst everything else, there is this framed letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to my grandmother, written in December of 1939.
Apparently typed and written by Mrs. Roosevelt herself.  My grandmother was an activist all of her life and always an advocate for peace.  I am sure she was concerned about the ominous signs leading to WWII, penning a letter to the White House about her concern.  The letter is in an archival quality frame, behind UV protected glass.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hands Across the Sand this Saturday!

Tens of thousands of people who support clean energy and oppose haphazard offshore drilling are expected to participate in more than 600 Hands Across the Sand events across the country and around the world on Saturday, June 26. 

Participants will join hands to form symbolic barriers against spilling oil at events taking place on beaches, near waterways, and in land-locked towns. The events will represent the largest-yet outpouring of grassroots activism in response to the disastrous April 20 explosion on the Gulf Horizon rig and the subsequent, devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Hands Across the Sand events will begin at 11 a.m. local time, with participants joining hands at noon. Locations of and contact information for organizers of all 600+ events can be found via the Hands website at 

The photo above was taken at the first "Hands" event, on one of the coldest days of the year.  That was before the BP rig blew up.  

Wear black if you can, but it is not necessary, especially in this heat.

For The Ocean,

Tom Warnke, Palm Beach County Surfrider Foundation

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Control is an Illusion...

The following are excerpts from a sermon given May 23, 2010 at the First Church of Christ in Madison, Indiana by Rev. Gregory A. Russell.  It is based on Acts1:15-2:4.  This coincided with a number of high school graduations that were taking place at the time, but it has significance beyond that audience.  I share it here for reasons that I will explore later. (Emphasis mine)

Graduate Recognition Sunday
And now a final few words: Instead of a commencement address that evaporates quickly in the spring sunshine, here's a seasonal scrap of guidance to be tucked away for tomorrow:  Don't get trapped in the delusion of control.
I say this to our graduate today, to her parents and friends, to those who will move to new homes or start new jobs this year, to church leaders on their way to assemblies, to people facing changes in life - and to you and to myself.
We have to break our addiction to control.
I am concerned about "helicopter parents" who hover over their children and try to guarantee their success in life.  I don't question their love, but their desire to control tomorrow is futile, and their efforts to protect their children from failure and uncertainty are instilling weakness.
I am concerned about Christian fundamentalists - not because their moral agenda and political expressions are different from mine, but because their controlled-thought world of Bible verses simply isn't adequate for understanding reality and living faithfully in the 21st Century.  Not everything fits neatly into the Bible, not everything in the Bible pertains to life today and God didn't stop thinking, acting, speaking and creating in 150 A.D.
I am equally concerned about Christian progressives, because we, too, are chasing control, believing that the right mix of cause, diversity and change will make our world safe.  Even a correct and post-modern agenda isn't going to guarantee tomorrow.
I am concerned about a culture that cannot tolerate mistakes and discomfort, that views neediness as failure and the needy as expendable, that overrates the controllable - those things that provide entertainment, comfort, wealth, pleasure - because the chaotic and uncertain seem too dangerous, as if the vicissitudes of life were a failure to manage and not simply the way life is.
As we read this morning's text, discerning God's will is never easy.  Casting lots is one way to go about it, as are scouring the Bible and consulting the intellect.  That's the point of the story in the first chapter of Acts, where the remaining disciples chose Matthias as a fill-in for Judas; they did not try to control the outcome.  They trusted God to be in the process.  They weren't telling God what to do; they weren't politicking, or maneuvering, or campaigning, or orating, or providing in order to gain control for themselves.  They were letting go.
And that is the piece of advice I'd like for you to tuck away for some tomorrow when you need it: Let go.
We cannot avoid being fools and making mistakes.  Perfection is beyond our grasp.  Certainty is a snare, and control a delusion.  We make promises we cannot keep, and we do amazing things that we never thought we had in us.
Rather than controlling people, we need to accept them.
Rather than punishing failure, we need to practice forgiveness.
Rather than "proving" our righteousness and the other's unrighteousness, we need to live as best we can and trust God to be God.
Give it up.  Let it go. Amen.