Remembering our past and crafting our future

Hello to each of you.

It is Fall Break Sunday.

I hope these few days have offered you opportunities to pursue required projects and some refreshing recreation. You still have this stunning day to make the break memorable.

We Americans, as a nation of diverse nationalities, look to anniversaries of national importance as a way of re-enforcing our connections with one another, of securing our identity as one people. For example, much is being written and images re-created of the American Civil War these days about 150 years after the four devastating years when the USA suffered more casualties by far than all other wars combined, and we did it to ourselves. Figures quoted this morning on CNN’s GPS program noted that 2.5% of the US population died, the equivalent of 7 million people today. Unimaginable numbers for us today with consequences still being discerned and debated. As was noted in the program, it was Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address that helped define and unite us as a Nation in the wake of a conflict that so divided us.

A more contemporary event highlighted this month is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Many historians and analysts conclude that it was during those days of October and November that the world came closest to the global nuclear war. Its specter hung over the globe for over the 40 years of the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union and their allies. Much has been written about those tense hours and days in 1962, and about the high stakes analyses and planning that consumed both President Kennedy and his team as well as Soviet Premier Khrushchev. Recent investigation is pointing more to the success of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy and moderating, compromising decisions than the saber-rattling and “waiting for the other side to blink” dimensions of the crisis that were the focus as the situation unfolded in public. Some analysts believe that the crisis marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, though it would be almost three decades before the Soviet Union would dissolved from the inside and the global political landscape would change in unprecedented ways..all without the clash of the armies that had been poised across from one another in Europe. This is a 50 year remembrance of events whose outcomes were positive, and players are to be recalled with a combination of admiration and gratitude.

This week the US presidential debates will continue. Last week the vice presidential candidates met in front of the American and global publics and sparred on a broad range of issues. Political scientists are often divided on assessing the impact of these face-to-face encounters, but the data does indicate that many people do watch or listen. These debates may prove to be more consequential the closer the race is and the more undecided a particular subset of Americans are. All current indicators point to a tight contest. The Electoral College emerges as even more central to success as the election could be won or lost in a handful of states among a small number of voters.

Whatever your candidate preferences are, local and national, you need to be an active member of the attentive public and vote. It is one of the fundamental precepts of our political system and our rights/responsibilities as citizens. November 6th is election day, and you can arrange for an absentee ballot in advance should casting your vote on that Tuesday prove problematic.

Expect an evening and night of political drama as the polls begin to close in the eastern parts of our country while the west, Alaska and Hawaii have hours still to vote.

See all of you soon. Homecoming is almost upon us. I look to seeing you at some of the many events and activities.

I wish you a week of discovery and success.

Take care,

Don Betz