Congratulations, Class of 2013!May 18, 2013
(Cap and Gown last September, remember that lovely day?)
From my office window, I can see our amazing Facilities crew hard at work setting up 3500 chairs on the front lawn — it must be Commencement Day! Despite some clouds and forecasts of some moisture (well, ok, showers, but right this minute www.weather.com says only 20% chance of precip at 4 pm in this zip code!), we have every intention of having a beautiful, bright and joyful commencement…. outside! Only lightening and thunder can change that, but I don’t see that on the weather service forecast for 4 pm….
Yesterday’s events were just delightful — a truly uplifting Baccalaureate Mass in our newly-reopened Notre Dame Chapel, such a beautiful sacred space. Then on to a fun and festive senior luncheon in Alumnae Hall, with so many memories, a wonderful tribute by Senior Class Advisor Dr. Mary Lynn Rampolla, and other remembrances.
My remarks to the class during senior luncheon are posted here, and I’ll be posting more remarks and photos on this blog later this weekend after commencement.
For now, CONGRATULATIONS, BLUE CLASS OF 2013!Read comments (0) Add Comment
No Contest: Free Press, Always!May 14, 2013
What in tarnation is going on in this town? First, the I.R.S. decides to get selective about which applications for tax exempt status to hold up, raising the spectre of political intimidation. Then, next thing we know, the Department of Justice decides to do a massive-but-secret dragnet of both professional and personal telephone records of scores of journalists working for the Associated Press because, well, surprise, there was a “leak” that the government needed to find and plug.
Back in the day when I was a Trinity student, there was a group of shady guys who called themselves the Plumbers. They looked for leaks at the behest of the most notorious president in our history, Richard Milhous Nixon. We always thought Nixon was up to something that offended basic rights and liberties.
But the Obama Administration? Hope and Change? Let’s hope that this terrible string of events is not change for the worse!
From where I sit, this is not at all political, although it’s all about politics, to be sure. But regardless of political party affiliation, citizens everywhere can be rightfully dismayed and angry when government officials misuse their power in ways that violate the most basic covenants of our society.
Covenant #1: Freedom of the Press is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution, and government restrains the press at its severe peril.
Covenant #2: The taxing authority must never be used to harass or intimidate political opponents. Period. What’s to discuss about that?
Pity Jay Carney, the White House press secretary; he’s had a very bad week. Or two. He needs his boss to tell his peeps to cut this stuff out!
Attorney General Eric Holder met with the press today — to his credit, he answered questions and did not shrink from the criticism about the A.P mess. He said that he had recused himself from the decision about subpoenas for the phone records because he had participated in an FBI interview about the leak in question — a matter having to do with terrorist activity. Some commentators have already pointed out that the A.P. scandal is due, in no small part, to the Patriot Act and this nation’s obsession with national security to the point that we’ve all already sacrificed many individual liberties in the name of security.
But, still! A massive sweep of journalists’ phone records? Imagine the number of sources who might be exposed, who will never cooperate again in the effort of journalists to ferret out the truth. That’s what’s really at stake: the silencing of sources, the chilling of conversation, the end of tips and trails that might lead to important news that should be made public. That’s what the press is supposed to do, and the government cannot, and should not, ever attempt to stop that process.
Meanwhile, over at the I.R.S., there’s certainly a skewed view of the world and how to do the simplest of tasks, like fairly applying the rules for the evaluation of 501(c)(4) applications. Ok, not so simple, but really, didn’t it occur to them that flagging applications that say “Tea Party” might be a mistake? Maybe they thought it was so simple they let cavemen do it. Or did they think it was the House of Lipton trying to go all tax exempt?
Mother Jones has correctly pointed out that the taxing authority has been used by both political parties over the years to try to intimidate the opposition. No excuse. Other commentators have correctly pointed out that the 501(c)(4) rules need a complete overhaul, and they are right. But that’s no excuse, either. (Full disclosure: I used to teach a course in Tax Exempt Organizations at Georgetown Law School. The bombshell at the start of each class: the National Football League is tax exempt! Go figure….)
Thomas Jefferson said it very well: “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” If we didn’t have a free press, how would we have learned about the I.R.S. debacle, the A.P. scandal, the dramatic play of politics and power that goes on relentlessly in this city?
The sad part of all of these needless scandals is that the real issues that need urgent attention are languishing. Reasonable regulation of guns is all but dead. Immigration reform is fading. Implementation of healthcare reform is on a rocky road. Our government still does not have a budget and the impact of sequestration is hurting many people who don’t have the clout to get attention. Even the press — God love them, our free press — often get overwrought about the wrong things, ignoring serious problems.
Nobody should envy President Obama his job, now made that much more difficult by fairly stupid and ill-considered actions of government agents he probably never met. But the tone starts at the top. What a president in crisis should do right now is order every single person who works for this government to take two giant steps back, a deep breath, and reconsider any and all ridiculous actions that he or she might have been about to commit.
Trampling on fundamental rights and liberties, using governmental power to intimidate political foes — those are tactics of petty tyrants, not enlightened public servants.Read comments (2) Add Comment
Wearing DeathMay 8, 2013
Since my original posting on the evening of May 8, there’s been yet another factory fire in Bangladesh, and the death toll in the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse now stands at more than 900 people. 900 lives sacrificed on the altar of fashion and profits, more than 1,000 counting those killed in other garment factory disasters in Bangladesh since last November.
“When I buy clothes, frankly, I don’t think of where they came from,” was one smiling shopper’s comment on a video clip that featured shoppers’ reactions to the garment factory disaster. I wonder if he’d think more about it if every store maniken and every fashion advertisement displayed this photo from the Bangladesh rubble. The story behind the photo is searing. The fashionista set loves to speak pretentiously in phrases like, “I’m wearing Benetton.” I wonder what would happen if the red carpet celebrities said, instead, “I’m wearing Death.” Not pretty, but pretty accurate. (Note: Benetton’s CEO has confirmed that some of its garments were made at the Rana Plaza factory.)
It’s no secret that modern life divorces consumers from the ugly realities of the production of all that we consume, whether Big Macs or Nikes or Disneyland T-shirts. More than a century ago, Upton Sinclair told us all we need to know about corruption in the food industry and the inhuman conditions of factory workers in The Jungle. Food safety and work conditions in some of the world improved through the 20th Century, but by the turn of the new century, technology made it possible for gigantic multinational corporations to outsource production of everything from LCD screens to fresh-picked strawberries to those places in the global village where labor is cheap and regulations that might cut profits are few. The most advanced toys of the First World — iPhones and iPads and Androids and other tech gizmos —- are produced by Third World workers suffering primitive oppressive conditions in factories in China and other places where the master corporations can squeeze wages to get the most profits.
We cannot choose to remain so willfully, blissfully ignorant of the human suffering that our comforts, foods and technologies require for their production. Paying attention to the inhumane conditions that workers suffer to ensure high profits for certain companies is a serious moral issue. Last week, among many others, Pope Francis condemned the low wages and unsafe conditions in workplaces like Bangladesh as “slave labour” and called for renewed protection for the rights of workers.
The factory collapse was the latest in a string of disasters in the Bangladesh garment factory industry in the last twelve months. A terrible fire killed 112 sweatshop workers in another factory last fall. Last week’s Rana Plaza disaster brought the usual self-protective denials and obfuscations from the big companies whose labels were found all over the collapsed building. Now some companies who deny having any clothes on the machines at Rana Plaza are indicating that they will leave Bangladesh and look for manufacturing sites elsewhere. This solves nothing, of course. The failure of the Wal-Marts, J.C. Penneys, Bennetons, Disneys and other major names associated with these sweatshops to invest in worker safety, improved factory conditions, safer machinery and higher wages will not be atoned for if they simply move their unjust practices to other sweatshops while leaving the people of Bangladesh even more deeply impoverished and traumatized.
The best thing the big retailers and fashion labels could do is to rebuild the factory safely, pay fair and just compensation to the families who have suffered grievous losses, and continue the work with better wages and improved safety conditions. Taking jobs out of Bangladesh is not the solution; investing in a more just system of production is the result a moral company should desire.
Sadly, the people of Bangladesh are powerless to address this conundrum. The real power is in the First World consumers, particularly those in the United States and Europe, whose money fuels the profit margins. Imagine what would happen if we agreed to stop wearing Death. Insisting on moral accountability from our favorite retailers and fashion labels is a power we consumers can exercise every time we think about swiping those plastic cards that make a few big names very, very rich. The least they can do, in return, is protect the lives and respect the rights of the people whose hands sewed that popular, powerful name onto the collar or out on the sleeve for all to admire.Read comments (0) Add Comment
Phenomenal Girl Scout Scholars!May 5, 2013
Last Friday night, I had the great privilege of speaking at a special recognition ceremony for five Girl Scout Gold Award winners who are Ambassador Scouts of Troop 560. And imagine my even greater delight when I met Diossa Fleming (above, left) and Jazmine Allen (above, second from right) who are Trinity Girl Scout Scholars who will enroll here in the fall! Diossa and Jazmine are wonderful examples of the amazing ways in which participation in Girl Scouts builds confidence and leadership skills.
But wait, there’s more! With Diossa and Jazmine above are Julia Dennis and Camille Zoe Swinson, also Gold Award Winners, who are enrolling in Spelman College this fall! So, it was a “sweep” for women’s colleges! Hooray for that!
At the ceremony, I was so impressed with the presence of mothers, troop leaders, and yes, many of the dads as well. Here it was, a beautiful Friday evening in DC when many other obligations might have intruded — but the parents, families and friends took the time to spend a few hours celebrating the great achievements of these young women. What a powerful example about what’s RIGHT in our community!
The Gold Award projects are quite impressive. Consider what these great young women were doing all year while others might have been doing more frivolous things:
- Jazmine Allen completed a Gold Award project entitled “My Own Keeper” which is a four-week self-esteem program targeting teens who are parents or pregnant. She featured presentations from Mary’s Center and Children’s National Medical Center.
- Diossa Fleming too the challenge of HIV/AIDS education. Her project entitled “Free STI and HIV/AIDS Confidential Testing: Why It’s So Important to Know Your Status” is a great example of peer leadership.
- Julia Dennis focused on arts education with “Raising the Roof for Performing Arts and Arts Education” focusing on the vital importance of keeping the arts in schools.
- Camille Zoe Swinson chose “Identifying Independence” as her theme for a 4-week self-esteem workshop targeting 35 seventh grade girls enrolled in a charter school who will explore self-esteem issues in the media.
- Nylah Garnes who could not be with us on Friday completed a “Water Safety Awareness” educational program promoting the importance of knowing how to swim.
Dr. Carolyn Peoples Viega was another one of the guest speakers and she emphasized the vital importance of maintaining the healthy values of Girl Scouting throughout life. The presence of many accomplished adult Girl Scouts at this event was a great testament to the fact that lifelong Girl Scouts really do run the world!
Congratulations to all of these phenomenal women, Phenomenal Girl Scouts! And a very special “Welcome to Trinity!” to Jazmine and Diossa!Read comments (0) Add Comment
Amazing Founders Week!April 28, 2013
What an amazing final week of classes we had last week! With Founders Day in the middle of so many activities, it seems fitting to call it “Founders Week” since we simply could not get all of the great events in on one day! The video clip above shows just some of the highlights. The Trinity Community knows how to celebrate! Check out these items as well:
Founders Day on Wednesday, April 24 included not only the traditional picnic and maypole depicted in the slideshow (see the seniors wearing their academic gowns!), but the “new tradition” of the Spring Honors Convocation. We were so fortunate to hear terrific presentations from Sr. Mary Johnson, SND and Sr. Camilla Burns, SND on the importance of Trinity’s mission, the story of our founders Sr. Julia McGroarty and Sr. Mary Euphrasia, and the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame St. Julie Billiart. More on the Founders and the great talks by Sr. Mary and Sr. Camilla later this week!
During the Honors Convocation, we recognized all students who have earned merit scholarships this year, all members of honor societies, and the students who have received special awards.
Later in the evening of Founders Day, we had the traditional Athletics Banquet honoring all of the terrific women who play on our teams, their coaches and fans. I’ll be posting the Athletics Slide Show later in the week.
Earlier in the week, we celebrated the new members of Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious of all of the academic honor societies. Alumna Gina Perovich ’94 gave a splendid address on the importance of the liberal arts.
Many other honor societies had their induction ceremonies during the last two weeks. Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society, welcomed Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who gave terrific remarks during the ceremony.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth made a special appearance at Trinity on Tuesday, April 23, and several hundred students and faculty members packed Social Hall to hear her give an inspiring address about overcoming adversity, persisting in the pursuit of goals, and “getting out of your own way” in the pursuit of success. Several standing ovations cheered on this brave lawmaker whose injuries in combat did not daunt her, but rather inspired her to make difference in the public square.
At the end of the week we had the special treat of the Trinity Gospel Choir’s spring concert. What a fabulous performance!
The last few weeks in the nation and world have been full of terrible news and great tragedy — the Boston marathon bombing, the garment factory disaster in Bangladesh, the ongoing crisis in Syria and floods returning to the midwest. The Trinity community is mindful of all of these crises even as we celebrate the best of our academic and community traditions. Such celebrations are not frivolity for its own sake, but rather, a time for students, faculty and staff to form bonds that give everyone strength and solidarity for the very hard work that consumes most of our lives — not only on campus, but in the purpose of our work at Trinity to inspire students to be of service to the world that needs these powerful women and men so very much.
Congratulations to our students, especially the seniors who have won so many awards! And many, many thanks to all of the faculty and staff whose hard work and dedication not only made Founders Day and Week a great success, but more importantly, for living the vision of our founders every single day in the sense of mission and purpose you bring to our work together.Read comments (0) Add Comment