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    September 27, 2016

    kidsGrowing up in a household of mostly boys,  I grew pretty tough very early about personal insults. I love my brothers, of course, but things could get rough at times. Learning to give as good as I got became a self-protective habit that served me well over the years.  Guys sometimes don’t know when to stop especially when the target is a girl; they keep needling and taunting until the girl runs away crying.  I was not EVER going to do that!  Not even when my older brother invited me to play baseball with his friends and they started throwing all the balls at me all at once to see if they would bounce off my belly.  Not even when they made the worst hurtful comments about my ample frame.  (Yes, I was a chubette from my earliest days.)  Learning to ignore the nasty “fat girl” whispers from Mr. Peanut-Butter-Breath was almost as useful as perfecting my fast ball.  Learning to pitch high and fast on the inside became a valuable skill that helped me to survive childhood games at the playground.

    Most boys grow up and grow out of their childish need to show their little man power by hurting others, especially girls who can be such easy targets — especially girls who struggle with their weight, since body image is such an American psychological minefield.  Men who resort to taunting grown women about their weight are displaying the vestigial remnants of their sandlot desperation to prove how big they are.  Such sad  little men.

    When the nominee of a major political party resorts to fat shaming a woman to deflect attention from his appallingly bad debate performance, he has revealed how small he really is.  Bad enough that Donald J. Trump called Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy” when he owned the beauty pageant in 1996, and humiliated her about her weight in front of others.  (He also revealed his ugly racism by calling the Hispanic beauty queen “Miss Housekeeping.”)

    But Trump, ever 8 years old on the sandlot and trying to prove how big he could be, went on a rampage after Hillary Clinton called him out on his misogyny during the Monday night debate.  She cited his treatment of Ms. Machado among many other ugly incidents revealing his disposition toward women.  In response, in television interviews the following morning, Trump went off on Ms. Machado, calling her “the worst” and discussing her weight gain in the year after she won the crown.

    THE LIST is a long running series on this blog about prominent men (and a few women) in in the public eye whose scurrilous lies, shameful treatment of spouses and other women, and other misbehavior is the opposite of the kind of leadership and role modeling we need in public figures.  Donald Trump is worthy of his very own list.

    There are so many ways in which Trump has revealed himself as completely unfit to be the president of the United States.  The racism of his cynical description of the African American community “living in hell” to try to curry favor with white voters.  The nativism that is so evident in his attacks on immigrants.  His refusal to disclose his taxes; the incoherent rants when opponents or media cite actual facts about him.  And for someone who notoriously and very publicly cheated on his first two wives, to threaten to try to humiliate Hillary Clinton by dragging her husband’s affairs into the debates is just about a contemptible as it gets.  (Bill Clinton, by the way, is also on THE LIST which is very bipartisan.)

    All of those elements deserve analysis, of course, but there is one thing I and other women know about without doing a lick of research, because it’s deeply personal:  fat shaming is a window into a misogynist’s soul, a truly ugly place that is a nightmare of narcisissm revealing a man whose only true use for a woman is as a sex object that meets his precise standards for body dimensions.  Fat shaming is a way for men to objectify women, demeaning women’s fundamental humanity and denying their real power.   Strong women ignore the little men taunting them, but too many women fall into the trap of self-loathing and the quest for the illusory perfect body.

    Real men don’t feel any need to shame women on body size or anything else.  Too bad there’s not a real man standing up at the podium in these debates.  Just an overgrown 8 year-old, a small-minded little man.

    For a complete rundown of opinion articles on this topic see:  The Daily 202: Trump stumbles into Clinton’s trap by feuding with Latina beauty queen

    What do you think?  Leave comments by clicking on the link below

    Follow me on Twitter @TrinityPrez

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    Celebrating Seniors: Airen Washington @NMAAHC

    September 24, 2016

    airen-museum(Airen Washington ’17 at the National Museum of African American History and Culture)

    Today, Saturday, September 24, 2016 is momentous for two big reasons:  today is the official opening of the great National Museum of African American History and Culture (@NMAAHC) on the Mall.  And today is also the Cap & Gown Convocation celebrating our senior Class of 2017 at Trinity (@TrinityDC)!!!

    Senior Airen Washington exemplifies the great achievements we celebrate today.  She is president of the College Democrats, an active student leader on campus, and she spent part of the summer interning with AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).  She is currently interning with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and as part of her internship she had the extraordinary opportunity to get a “sneak preview” of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.  That’s Airen above outside of the museum, and below are a few of her photos from inside:

    14433199_648810845293357_5571434674279338864_n-114322540_648810895293352_1800943637407111158_n14370144_648810628626712_2301534342911676205_nI know that I can’t wait to get to visit the Museum, and I hope all Trinity students, faculty and staff will get there this semester as well!

    Airen also shared these photos from her summer experience with AIPAC:  Here she is on a lobbying visit to Capitol Hill:lobbyingThis is Airen and student leaders from other colleges on a panel discussing their responsibilities as citizen leaders of the world:

    panel-editedAnd here’s Airen speaking to students about how to lobby Congress on pro-Israel issues:

    sabanAiren also led Trinity freshwomen in “Rock the Vote” activities at orientation:

    airen-1-largeAiren Washington truly exemplifies the ideal of the Trinity Woman who is actively engaged in leadership and service for some of the most important issues and ideas in our society.  We are so proud of her!

    Stay tuned to this blog this week for more stories of Trinity seniors who are making their mark on the world!

    If you’d like your story told in this space, send me an email

    Include a brief essay about your work and photos if you have them…

    Follow me on Twitter @TrinityPrez

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    Constitution Day: Electoral College Edition!

    September 17, 2016

    election-map-viewed-by-candidates(photo credit)

    Each year on September 17, federal law requires schools, colleges and universities to observe Constitution Day.  Over the years, we have done this at Trinity by posing questions about the Constitution and soliciting community opinions for public inclusion on this blog.  This year’s question:  Should we amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish the Electoral College?  Why or Why not? 

    We took a straw poll of the Trinity community and these are the results:


    Below are some well-formulated arguments Pro and Con abolishing the Electoral College:

    From Dr. Dennis Farley, Economics

    Proposals to eliminate the Electoral College come up from time to time.  So far, our republic has been lucky enough to dodge them.  The framers of the Constitution wanted a republican form of government, but they had a healthy distrust of the people at large as decision makers for the nation.  The whole thrust of the Bill of Rights, for example, was to limit the power of a majority to dictate the rights of individuals or groups in the minority.  The method of selecting the chief executive, in Article 2, Section 1, was similarly influenced by a suspicion that direct election might not produce very good results.

    There are two reasons I see why the Electoral College, arcane though it may be, is worth retaining. 

    1. The Electoral College is a potential bulwark against the election of someone truly not fit to be President.

    Hamilton (in Federalist, No. 68) thought that the mere existence of the Electoral College would assure that scam artists and criminals would not be able to make it through the process.  The people would express their preferences by voting, but States would then appoint electors.  These electors would give the preferences of the people great weight but would then use their good judgment in casting their votes.  Direct election would have no such filter to prevent a popular scoundrel from coming out on top.  Our impending election suggests that Hamilton may have been too optimistic. 

    It may seem a low probability event, but suppose that, after the popular vote in November but before the College would meet in December, a candidate for President were revealed to be a serial murderer.  In such a case, the electors would be able to vote for someone else, since they are free to vote their consciences, regardless of any pledges made during the popular vote.

    One can argue that impeachment is the remedy for such a situation, but impeachment is a long and costly process.  In the meantime, do you want the serial murderer to be making decisions?

    1. The Electoral College maintains a winner-take-all structure for the popular vote State by State.

    States are free to set up the rules for how electors are appointed.  Most States have chosen to appoint all the electors associated with the candidate who gets the most votes in that State.  Thus, each State contest is basically winner take all.  (Maine and Nebraska do this by Congressional district, with adjustments for Statewide results).

    This is a good thing.  It maintains the perception that presidential winners are favored by a majority of the people.  Most of the time the winner of the popular vote also wins the most electoral votes.  Anomalies like Gore vs. Bush in 2000 are rare.

    “Winner take all” also prevents the further fragmentation of our body politic.  Imagine for a moment what proportional allocation of electors, or direct election via the popular vote, would mean for future elections.  Knowing that one could get achieve notoriety on a national stage by capturing a few percent of the popular vote, splinter parties would proliferate.  There might never again be a majority President. 

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but I have some strong views on this question.  The Electoral College should be retained.  You may view it as an outdated block on the will of the people.  I view it as a potential safeguard to the republic’s very existence.  And, in fact, most of the time the will of the people will be reflected in the Electoral College result.

    At a time when the major parties’ methods for selecting candidates have broken down (the system of primaries is to blame here), I am loath to even discuss eliminating a safeguard that could protect us from a real disaster.

    From Martha Molina, Assistant Director of Financial Aid:

    Yes.  I believe that we should amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish the Electoral College because I believe that the people should elect the new president not a handful of states. 

    I am basing this assertion on the following:  The truth is that all people that are elected to higher offices cannot do it with the help of certain groups of people that can influence other voters as well.  This doesn’t mean that these candidates are not honest or do not have good character (although some can’t disguised who they really are).  It’s just a fact that you need votes in your favor to win and a good campaign strategy (as in any strategy) is to get people to think that your ideas are better than your opponent. People will always think “what’s in it for me?”  Therefore, for a candidate to win the support of the people or groups he/she desires, the candidate must demonstrate (usually by official/unofficial/subtle/inferred promises) that he/she is the candidate that will make the elector’s desire come true.   

    What does this have to do with the Electoral College?  A lot! Because the candidates will campaign and try to seek the favor of the states that will bring them the most electoral votes. I believe that the responsibility has to be with the people as a whole, not with some states.  For example, we have candidate X and Y. 

    If a state “A” has a population of 10 million and 10 electoral votes and state “B” has a population 6 million and 6 electoral votes. Let’s say that only 3 million people vote from state A (1.7 million for “X” and 1.3 million for “Y”) so state “A” declares X the winner.  Now for state “B”, let’s say that 5 million people vote (1 million for “X” and 4 million for “Y”). 

    If we total these numbers, candidate “X” will win 10 Electoral College votes with 2.7 million votes in his favor while candidate “Y” will lose since he only would have 6 Electoral College votes even though he won the population vote with 5.3 million votes –which almost double the number of votes for candidate “X”.   To me this is not democracy; democracy is the will of the people.  If this were to be a race between 2 states, then the winner clearly would not be the people that took the time to cast their votes to elect the best person to represent them.  There’s always going to be a good argument for each side; however if the question is does the Electoral College represents “We, the people”, then the answer is a resounding “No!”

    From Dr. Carlota Ocampo, Trinity’s Provost:

    I am not a political scientist, but I have grasped an important foundational principle of our American system:  checks and balances.  I appreciate checks and balances as an added layer of protections that shore up our democratic processes, and make what could be a fragile system, strong.

    The electoral college is a good example of checks and balances.  Though three of the four Presidents who lost the popular vote but won the electoral were Republicans (the fourth being John Adams, our Federalist second President) I do not see this as a partisan issue.  I agree with Jason Brennan, the author of “Opinion: The Electoral College is anti-democratic—and that’s a good thing” which you posted below (2016: that “[America’s founders] worried that democratic polities were prone to fits of passion. They might be overcome by prejudice and swayed by populist demagogues … a series of checks and balances and a multistep process [could] slow down the decision-making process with the hope that cool heads will prevail.”

    The hope that cool heads will prevail!  We have seen, in this election, the danger of demagoguery and the chaos of hot-headedness.  Psychology (and history) tells us that group behavior can supercede individual critical thinking when emotions run high.  Group decisions are often poorer than those each member might make individually and outside of the group’s influence.  Hitler’s rise to leadership was the result of democratic processes, after all, Brennan reminds.  The irony here is that a departure from the pure democracy of a popular vote – the electoral college – actually enhances our ability to enjoy the benefits of that democracy.

    In endorsing the electoral college, I realize that MY candidate may lose the popular vote and win the Presidency (in fact, this has happened!).  And yes, I was sore.  But the ultimate winner is the continuation of the American experiment – an experiment which, so far, has produced a strong and stable life for many of the world’s citizens.

    My vote:  for the electoral college!

    And for extra credit, in refusing to hear the Garland nomination, the Senate is not only failing to uphold its sworn duty, it is engaging in exactly the kind of hot-headed political machinations that makes checks and balances necessary.  The Senate is proving my point.

    Additional Comments from the Straw Poll

    • Members of the Electoral College can be influenced by wealthy corporations or individuals who would only support the presidential candidate that proposes policies that would benefit them and not the mass population. In the past it may have been a safeguard to select the president, but in current times it is more of a safeguard for the rich to maintain their status and power.
    • The Electoral College, most times, is not a true representation of who the people want in office. It makes me wonder if “freedom”, in its purest definition, was seen as an actuality in the development of our republic, or was the promise of freedom the old ‘carrot attached to a string trick’, used to lure unsuspecting, under-educated, desperate for change, poor people to believe that their voice and opinion mattered?
    • Checks and balances like the electoral college are the foundation of American democracy, and are important to preserving a broader democratic process.
    • In a government for the people by the people every vote should count equally.
    • No, because this is not a TRUE decision made by the American public. Americans should have a role in the presidential decision–the Electoral College disallows this role.
    • The Electoral College is based on populations of each state. While it is not perfect, it does motivate candidates to campaign in most states, and pay attention to the different issues in each state or region. We are a very diverse country in many ways, including by region, and the state-based Electoral College helps ensure that regional differences are addressed by the candidates. I think it also keeps them on a more even keel – if we had a simple majority vote, I think this campaign season would be even more chaotic, reckless.
    • The idea behind democracy is supposed to give the people power to choose their own president. Unfortunately with the electoral college, that power is being taken away from us because we are voting indirectly and the majority vote doesn’t really count. Ultimately, the electors are making a decision for us, which defeats the purpose of democracy.
    • Trump currently has the popular vote and if we were to abolish the Electoral College our country could go into serious turmoil.
    • The Electoral College is far from perfect, but it reflects our system of representation by both states and the people. I am all for adjusting or amending the process for fairness, but we should not abolish the entire system.
    • The Electoral College allows for checks and balances.

    Thanks for participating in this discussion!  If you would like to add your voice, please offer a comment in the comment box below, or vote in the survey by clicking on this link.

    Below is the information and context I posted in my original email message to the campus community about the Electoral College discussion:

    What is the Electoral College?

     No, it’s not a degree-granting university.  It is a body created by the Constitution of the United States to elect the president of the United States.

    Wait.  Don’t “We, the People” elect the president of the United States?

     Well, yes, indirectly.  Those famous Founding Fathers were actually somewhat conservative men who distrusted the will of the people generally, and were definitely afraid that majority rule could create problems for the then-new nation.  So, among many weird restrictions they created to hedge their bets about the usefulness of full democracy, they created this additional step for electing presidents.

    When you go to the polls on November 8 (or earlier if your state allows early voting), you will cast your vote for president of the U.S., but in fact, you will be electing members of the Electoral College from your state.  Each state gets the same number of electors as the number of Senators and Congresspeople in that state.  (DC is considered a state for this purpose, and though we have no senators, we actually do get 3 electoral votes — 1 for our non-voting Congressional seat and 2 as if we had senators — wouldn’t it be great if we had real senators, though?  That’s another question…)

    So, bottom line, the Electoral College has 538 votes apportioned in the same way as the U.S. House and Senate members represent the states.  A president must receive 270 electoral votes to win the election.

    This is the reason why presidential candidates spend a lot of time in only few states — “battleground states” like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia and others with a lot of electoral votes that might possibly “swing” to one side or the other with intense campaigning.

    But what if a presidential nominee wins a majority of the popular vote?  Isn’t that enough to be elected president?

     No.  In the Year 2000, Democratic Nominee Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College, giving the presidency to George W. Bush.  That was the fourth time in American history a candidate won the popular vote but lost the election because of the Electoral College.  (Another Constitutional question:  the Supreme Court ultimately decided the disputed 2000 election, showing that a full Supreme Court is very important for the balance of our national governance system.  But right now, the Supreme Court has only 8 members, not the required 9, because the Senate refuses to take action on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.  Is the U.S. Senate abridging its Constitutional duty by failing to hold hearings on Garland?  I don’t give extra points but welcome comments on this question.)

    So, should “We, the People” start a movement to amend the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College?

    See The Electoral College is Anti-Democratic — and That’s a Good Thing

    See New York Times:  Where U.S. Presidential Votes Really Count – The Electoral College

    See Nate Silver’s essay:  Would Al Gore have won in 2000 without the Electoral College?

    See the current Electoral Map of the United States

    electoralcollegemap2016(photo credit)

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    September 11th’s Bitter Legacy

    September 10, 2016


    Hard to believe 15 years have passed since that awful September morning.  I remember being in my office preparing for a senior staff meeting when a colleague rushed in to say that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.  My immediate reaction was to call around to make sure that we didn’t have any Development or Admissions staff members in that vicinity that morning.  I turned on my tiny black-and-white portable TV and saw the image of the first tower burning.  It seemed like an accident.  I went on with the staff meeting.  But after a few minutes, the security director rushed into the meeting, exclaiming that there were bombs possibly going off in downtown DC and more explosions in New York.  We immediately left the meeting and rushed into Social Hall where the only available color television (remember, this was a time before the widespread availability of the internet, network broadcasts were still the main way to get news!) was already blaring the dreadful images of both towers burning, and the sickening replay of the second plane hitting the building over and over again.  We then heard the Pentagon was hit, and another plane was missing and we had no idea whether it was coming our way.  Soon hundreds of students, faculty and staff streamed into Social Hall; rumors were rampant, people were crying and in shock, and for a moment I also felt totally panicked — nothing in the “presidential playbook” mentioned how to lead the campus community in the event of planes flying into buildings, a national attack of unknown origin.  Soon, someone set up a microphone, I did my best to ask everyone to stay calm as we learned more about what was going on.  We opened all offices and phone lines for people to call home, to make plans if some had to stay overnight.  The campus community responded beautifully and with compassion for those who had relatives in New York or at the Pentagon.  By nightfall we knew the horrific story of terrorism and destruction and thousands of lives lost to the madness of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  I went home utterly exhausted but stayed up for hours watching those replays of planes flying into the towers, maybe hoping that someone would come on the TV to say it was all just a show.  It wasn’t.

    We have this phrase about the “aftermath of September 11” as if that was a time now past.  In fact, we are still adrift and buffeted hard on the waves created by that catastrophic moment, really still cresting and falling across the first ripples from the crashing planes disrupting the superficially calm waters of the lake of American life circa 2001.  The toxic waste from that catastrophe polluted the depths of that lake soon covered with a sheen of ugliness spreading like so much oil and jet fuel and debris fields strewn with unfathomable grief and anger and desire for revenge.

    We lost so much on that terrible day.  Nearly 3,000 immediate deaths, 6,000 injured, thousands more dead and injured in the wars that ensued in Iraq and Afghanistan and the effects of the toxic dust on lungs and hearts and lifespans of the first responders and others who somehow managed to clean-up the mess.

    We lost something else as well, something that plagues the American disposition to this very day.  I will not call it “innocence” because America hardly could claim innocence before 9/11/2001 — the most powerful nation in the world, then and now, hardly was a naif, and all of the back-story reports since that day tell us that the intelligence failures and willful arming of various bad actors over the years came home to haunt us.

    What we lost on 9/11 was a certain American kind of optimism despite challenges, of confidence in the face of adversity, of belief in our national strength that we did not have to prove through belligerence because we once believed we simply were powerful enough to prevail against all odds.  In the instance of planes striking towers and the Pentagon, and flying into that lonely field in Pennsylvania, we became besieged, fearful, suspicious, vengeful and fundamentally doubtful and pessimistic about America’s strength and likely future.  Our leaders played on those negative emotions — “Be ready” became the constant slogan of pessimism and fear.  “See something, say something,” turned into the mantra of suspicion and division in American life.  We can’t go to the airport without being reminded that we might not land again.  We wake up each morning wondering if this is the day that something truly awful will happen again.

    Awful things have happened again, of course, and the terrorist wave of ISIS-inspired attacks picked up the thread of constant threat and fearmongering from the older and more organized Al Qaeda days.  But terrorism is not an army nor particularly well-organized; it’s whole purpose is destabilization and disruption.  A fearful nation turns on itself.  The greatest weapon the terrorists use is not the explosive vest but the spawning of reactionaries and demagogues who destroy our fundamental American values while claiming to offer salvation for the nation.

    The worst possibly after-effect of 9/11 is the venomous rhetoric against Muslims, the shameful attacks on immigrants and refugees, the encouragement of racial and religious oppression that pits communities against each other, that pledges to build walls to keep some people out while, in fact, hemming-in the people who are infected with so much bitter hatred against the others they seek to exclude.  The rise of the right-wing movement known as Alt-Right crystallizes the ultimate consequence of 9/11 in the formation of a political movement that is unabashedly about white supremacy and the exclusion, if not elimination, of people who do not fit their narrow definition of human life.

    The 2016 presidential election has torn wide the scrim of normalcy that this nation tried to piece together to cover itself after the awful days of 2001.   The superficial rhetoric in this campaign — encouraged by irresponsible media who care more about ratings than substance — spends countless hours on the wrong things, whether poorly managed emails or stubby fingers or coughing or presidential spouses.   Those are not relevant to the choice before us.  We have to choose between someone who blatantly and constantly plays on fear and division, hatred and racism and phobias of all kinds to win support and power; or someone who knows that the ultimate success of the United States depends on effective diplomacy carried out with confidence and optimism.  We have to choose between someone who only discovered African Americans last week, or someone who has worked in legislative and advocacy positions to enact fair and just laws and policies to advance equal opportunity and justice for all people.  We have to choose between someone who wants to build walls and curtail human rights or someone who knows that the best kind of society is one that lifts up all people regardless of their personal circumstances.  When the poorest among us have better lives, we all have better lives.

    This election is an opportunity to move more confidently away from the lingering undertow of the 9/11 maelstrom; or it’s a risk that we will be pulled underwater again, swirling lower and lower into the abyss of bitter nationalism, xenophobia, racial hatred and curtailment of our own rights in the name of security.  The choice is ours, and will will all have to live with the consequences.

    Whatever your choice, if you are eligible, you must VOTE.

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    Trinity Straw Poll Election 2016

    September 1, 2016

    Here are the results of a straw poll of the Trinity campus community during the week of August 26, 2016 through September 1, 2016:  of 312 votes cast….

    • Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party) – 256 votes (83.93%)
    • Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) – 5 votes (1.64%)
    • Jill Stein (Green Party) – 14 votes (4.59%)
    • Donald Trump (Republican Party) – 17 votes (5.57%)
    • Other Candidates – 13 votes (4.26%) – 11 of these were for Bernie Sanders

    See the entire straw poll with comments and identification of top issues here:

    Trinity Straw Poll 9 1 2016

    What do you think?  Offer your comments on the presidential campaign in the box below!  Join the conversation!

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    Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
    Phone: 202.884.9050   Email:



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