Tag Archives: unity

15 years after Sept. 11: How the unity we forged broke apart

For a time, it felt like the attack that shattered America had also brought it together. After Sept. 11, signs of newfound unity seemed to well up everywhere, from the homes where American flags appeared virtually overnight to the Capitol steps where lawmakers pushed aside party lines to sing “God Bless America” together.

That cohesion feels vanishingly distant as the 15th anniversary of the attacks arrives Sunday. Gallup’s 15-year-old poll of Americans’ national pride hit its lowest-ever point this year. In a country that now seems carved up by door-slamming disputes over race, immigration, national security, policing and politics, people impelled by the spirit of common purpose after Sept. 11 rue how much it has slipped away.

Jon Hile figured he could help the ground zero cleanup because he worked in industrial air pollution control. So he traveled from Louisville, Kentucky, to volunteer, and it is not exaggerating to say the experience changed his life. He came home and became a firefighter.

Hile, who now runs a risk management firm, remembers it as a time of communal kindness, when “everybody understood how quickly things could change … and how quickly you could feel vulnerable.”

A decade and a half later, he sees a nation where economic stress has pushed many people to look out for themselves. Where people stick to their comfort zones.

“I wish that we truly remembered,” he says, “like we said we’d never forget.”

Terrorism barely registered among Americans’ top worries in early September 2001, but amid economic concerns, a Gallup poll around then found only 43 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going.

Then, in under two hours on Sept. 11, the nation lost nearly 3,000 people, two of its tallest buildings and its sense of impregnability. But out of the shock, fear and sorrow rose a feeling of regaining some things, too _ a shared identity, a heartfelt commitment to the nation indivisible.

Stores ran out of flags. Americans from coast to coast cupped candle flames and prayed at vigils, gave blood and billions of dollars, cheered firefighters and police. Military recruits cited the attacks as they signed up.

Congress scrubbed partisanship to pass a $40 billion anti-terrorism and victim aid measure three days after the attacks, and approval ratings for lawmakers and the president sped to historic highs. A special postage stamp declared “United We Stand,” and Americans agreed: A Newsweek poll found 79 percent felt 9/11 would make the country stronger and more unified.

“I really saw people stand up for America. … And I was very proud of that,” recalls Maria Medrano-Nehls, a retired state library agency worker in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her foster daughter and niece, Army National Guard Master Sgt. Linda Tarango-Griess, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004.

Now, Medrano-Nehls thinks weariness from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and combative politics have pried Americans apart, and it pains her to think of the military serving a country so torn.

Larry Brook can still picture the crowd at a post-9/11 interfaith vigil at an amphitheater in Pelham, Alabama. The numbers seemed a tangible measure of an urge to come together.

Now? “I don’t think we’re anywhere close,” says Brook, who publishes Southern Jewish Life magazine. To him, political partisanship and clashes over Middle East policy are walling off middle ground.

Three days after 9/11, Joseph Esposito was at smoldering ground zero as Republican President George W. Bush grabbed a bullhorn and vowed the attackers “will hear all of us soon.” The moment became an emblem of American strength and resolve, and Esposito, then the New York Police Department’s top uniformed officer, was struck by “the camaraderie, the unity” of those days.

He remembers the support police enjoyed then, and how much the tone had changed by the time of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, when police arrested hundreds of demonstrators, many of whom said cops unjustly rounded and roughed them up. Now the city’s emergency management commissioner, Esposito has watched from the sidelines as a national protest movement has erupted in recent years from police killings of unarmed black men, and as police themselves have been killed by gunmen claiming vengeance.

These days, Esposito hopes his job can be unifying. He wants people to feel that the city helps neighborhoods equally to handle disaster. “The 1 percenters should not be better prepared than the 99 percent,” he says.

“If everyone feels they’re getting their fair share,” he adds, “it fosters better feelings toward one another.”

For all the signs of kinship after Sept. 11, the first retribution attack came just four days later, authorities said.

Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot dead while placing flowers on a memorial at his Mesa, Arizona, gas station. Prosecutors said the gunman mistook Sodhi, an Indian Sikh immigrant, for an Arab Muslim.

Seeing hundreds of people gather in solidarity on the night of his brother’s death showed me “the greatness of unity,” says Rana Singh Sodhi, of Gilbert, Arizona. But in the last two years, he’s felt a “change toward hatred again.” He worries politicians are stirring animosity toward immigrants and minorities.

So does Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali.

After 9/11, he invited first responders for tea and coffee at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center to show appreciation and emphasize that Muslims “are regular Americans.” Now, Ali, who is African-American, believes Muslims and people of color are being demonized with “incendiary and divisive” remarks.

“We can’t act like racism hasn’t been a part of all this,” he says.

Can the United States feel united again?

Some Americans fear it will take another catastrophe, if even that can shift the climate. Others are looking to political leaders to set a more collaborative tone, or to Americans themselves to make an effort to understand and respect one another.

When Sonia Shah thinks about the push and pull of American unity since the attacks that killed her father, Jayesh, at the World Trade Center, she pictures a rock hitting a pond.

The innermost ripple, that’s the tight circle of support that came together around the people most directly affected by tragedy. Outside it, bigger and more diffuse, are bands of debate over policies and politics in the wake of 9/11.

“We usually see the outer rings of the arguments,” says the Baylor University senior. “But I think there always is a current of unity that goes underneath things.”

 

Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists P. Solomon Banda in Denver; Nati Harnik in Lincoln, Nebraska; Mike Householder in Farmington Hills, Michigan; Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky; David R. Martin in New York; Jay Reeves in Pelham, Alabama; and Brian Skoloff in Gilbert, Arizona.

Trump refuses to endorse Ryan, McCain

Donald Trump this week refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Trump also declined to endorse U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Trump told The Washington Post he’s “just not quite there yet,” when asked about an endorsement of Ryan. The congressman faces a primary challenge from his right in Wisconsin on Aug. 9.

Trump’s phrasing was similar to comments from Ryan, who was slow to endorse Trump.

This week, Ryan, without referring to Trump by name, criticized the nominee’s attacks on the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq. Others in the GOP also criticized Trump and some influential Republicans — not Ryan — announced their support for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman said she would vote for Clinton, in part because “Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character.”

Also, former Chris Christie aide Maria Comella said she supports Clinton. “As someone who has worked to further the Republican Party’s principles for the last 15 years, I believe that we are at a moment where silence isn’t an option,” she told CNN.

And Sally Bradshaw, who wrote the post-2012 report calling for unity and tolerance in the Republican Party, said she’s leaving the GOP. If the presidential contest looks close in Florida, Bradshaw said she’d vote for Clinton.

Other high-profile Republicans have not said they’d vote for Clinton but they have said they won’t vote for Trump, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.

In the Post interview, Trump also declined to support McCain’s re-election and said Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is weak.

Bernie Sanders to the DNC: What this election is about

Bernie Sanders delivered the closing speech at the Democratic National Convention on the first night, a night to build and celebrate party unity. His remarks:

Good evening.

How great it is to be with you tonight.

Let me begin by thanking the hundreds of thousands of Americans who actively participated in our campaign as volunteers. Let me thank the 2 1/2 million Americans who helped fund our campaign with an unprecedented 8 million individual campaign contributions – averaging $27 a piece. Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight – 46 percent of the total. And delegates: Thank you for being here, and for all the work you’ve done. I look forward to your votes during the roll call on Tuesday night.

And let me offer a special thanks to the people of my own state of Vermont who have sustained me and supported me as a mayor, congressman, senator and presidential candidate. And to my family – my wife Jane, four kids and seven grandchildren –thank you very much for your love and hard work on this campaign.

I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. But to all of our supporters – here and around the country – I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved.

Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution – Our Revolution – continues. Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent – a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice – that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you.

Let me be as clear as I can be. This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency. This election is not about political gossip. It’s not about polls. It’s not about campaign strategy. It’s not about fundraising. It’s not about all the things the media spends so much time discussing.

This election is about – and must be about – the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.

This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty. It is about understanding that if we do not transform our economy, our younger generation will likely have a lower standard of living then their parents.

This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928. It is not moral, not acceptable and not sustainable that the top one-tenth of one percent now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, or that the top 1 percent in recent years has earned 85 percent of all new income. That is unacceptable. That must change.

This election is about remembering where we were 7 1/2 years ago when President Obama came into office after eight years of Republican trickle-down economics.

The Republicans want us to forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. We were running up a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and the world’s financial system was on the verge of collapse.

We have come a long way in the last 7 1/2 years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession.
Yes, we have made progress, but I think we can all agree that much, much more needs to be done.

This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions – not just bombast, fear-mongering, name-calling and divisiveness.

We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger – not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans – and divides us up.

By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that – based on her ideas and her leadership – Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.

This election is about a single mom I saw in Nevada who, with tears in her eyes, told me that she was scared to death about the future because she and her young daughter were not making it on the $10.45 an hour she was earning. This election is about that woman and the millions of other workers in this country who are struggling to survive on totally inadequate wages.

Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. She understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she is determined to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure – our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.

But her opponent – Donald Trump – well, he has a very different view. He does not support raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – a starvation wage. While Donald Trump believes in huge tax breaks for billionaires, he believes that states should actually have the right to lower the minimum wage below $7.25. What an outrage!

This election is about overturning Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country. That decision allows the wealthiest people in America, like the billionaire Koch brothers, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and, in the process, undermine American democracy.

Hillary Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United and end the movement toward oligarchy in this country. Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and the many others who cannot afford to go to college. During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less – 83 percent of our population – will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt.

This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that – unless we act boldly and transform our energy system in the very near future – there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels. She understands that when we do that we can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.

Donald Trump? Well, like most Republicans, he chooses to reject science. He believes that climate change is a “hoax,” no need to address it. Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry.

This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange. She believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers.

And What is Donald Trump’s position on health care? No surprise there. Same old, same old Republican contempt for working families. He wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million people off of the health insurance they currently have and cut Medicaid for lower-income Americans.

Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs and the fact that Americans pay the highest prices in the world for their medicine. She knows that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.

This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools and at good jobs, not in jail cells. Hillary Clinton understands that we have to invest in education and jobs for our young people, not more jails or incarceration.

In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up. While Donald Trump is busy insulting one group after another, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Yes. We become stronger when black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American – all of us – stand together. Yes. We become stronger when men and women, young and old, gay and straight, native born and immigrant fight to create the kind of country we all know we can become.

It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.

I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.

Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight.

At the DNC: Dems showcase diversity, seek unity with 1st night

The Democratic National Convention opened July 25 in Philadelphia with a series of votes, including the adoption of the party’s most progressive platform.

The theme of day one is “putting the future of American families front and center and how we’re stronger together when we build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top and when everyone has a chance to live up to their God-given potential.”

But the early speakers made clear that the first day is about celebrating the party’s diversity and building unity to challenge Donald Trump and Republicans in November.

At the podium, were Hillary Clinton delegates and Bernie Sanders delegates, and all urging the party to come together.

Day one at the Wells Fargo Center began with a call to order by  Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, DNC secretary and the mayor of Baltimore.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, founding and pastor at Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia, delivered the invocation.

Members of the Delaware County American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars presented the colors.

Ruby Gilliam, a 93-year-old delegate from Ohio, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Early speakers included Clarissa Rodriguez, who at 17 is the youngest DNC delegate. She’s from Texas.

Fourteen-year-old Bobby Hill of the Keystone State Boychoir sang the national anthem.

The roll call followed, and then the introduction of and report of the rules committee by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who was met with cheers and boos — and recognized both — as well as former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Marcia Fudge and Maxine Waters, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Next, the draft platform was presented and adopted.

Speakers, before prime time in Philadelphia, included U.S. Reps. Robert Brady, Brendan Boyle, Raúl Grijalva, Nita Lowey and New York Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Oregon Rep. Tina Kotek, California state Sen. Kevin de León,  Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and DNC CEO Leah Daughtry.

Still to come, in the evening, were remarks by Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and labor leaders Lee Saunders of AFSCME, Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA, Mary Kay Henry of SEIU, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Sean McGarvey of NOBTU, Randi Weingarten of AFT.

A segment on combating substance abuse is set to include remarks by Pam Livengood of Keene, New Hampshire, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and be followed by a performance featuring Demi Lovato and the DNC house band: Steven Rodriguez, Charity Davis and Ayana Williams.

Other featured speakers will include U.S. Jeff Merkley, 11-year-old Karla Ortiz and mom and Francisca Ortiz, who will talk about immigration and dreams, DREAMer Astrid Silva, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago.

In a segment on equality, Jason and Jarron Collins, twin brothers and former pro basketball players, will deliver speeches, along with Jesse Lipson and Nevada state Sen. Pat Spearman.

A segment on the economy will feature U.S.Sen. Bob Casey, Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza and comic Sarah Silverman will perform, as will Paul Simon.

Actress Eva Longoria, founder of The Eva Longoria Foundation, will speak.

And then there will be remarks by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Cheryl Lankford of San Antonio, Texas, first lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will deliver the keynote address.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will speak, followed by Bernie Sanders.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the first female rabbi to hold a chief executive position in an American rabbinical association, will close the program with a benediction.

Sanders to vote for Clinton to stop Trump

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said on June 24 he would vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Republican Donald Trump from winning the White House, a lukewarm show of support that his campaign said was not a formal endorsement.

Sanders’ comments come after weeks of pressure from Democratic Party officials to throw his weight behind Clinton, the presumptive nominee. She locked up the required number of delegates this month with a string of wins in state-by-state primary contests.

Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state, senator, and first lady, needs Sanders’ supporters to boost her chances against Trump in the Nov. 8 election. Only 40 percent of them say they would vote for her, with the rest undecided or divided between Trump, a third-party candidate and staying home, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Asked if he would vote for Clinton in November, Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, told MSNBC television: “Yes. The issue right here is I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump. I think Trump in so many ways would be a disaster for this country if he were elected president.”

“We do not need a president whose cornerstone of his campaign is bigotry, who is insulting Mexicans and Latinos and Muslims and women, who does not believe in the reality of climate change,” he continued.

A spokeswoman for Sanders said his comments on MSNBC did not amount to an endorsement of Clinton, adding that “Senator Sanders is also still an active candidate.”

Trump has angered minority groups with his hard line on immigration, including calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border if he is elected.

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The wealthy New York businessman has rejected accusations his proposals are bigoted, and has said his policies would help minorities by bolstering the economy and creating jobs.

Trump has also called climate change a hoax by the Chinese to hurt business in the United States.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, managed to turn his long-shot run into a mass movement with proposals to combat wealth inequality, increase access to healthcare and education, and defend the environment.

His challenge to Clinton, one of the best-known figures in U.S. politics, lasted far longer than expected, running for four months and across 50 states and yielding record numbers of small donations to his campaign.

Sanders has said he will continue to push for a liberal agenda heading into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25-28, when Clinton’s nomination is expected to become official. He has also made clear he does not want his presence to hurt the party’s chances of holding onto the White House.

Three-quarters of likely Democratic voters in the general election say Sanders should have a “major role” in shaping the party’s positions, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted June 17-21. Nearly two-thirds also said that Sanders should endorse Clinton.

 

Carthage College students protest anti-gay speaker

Students at Carthage College staged a rally Feb. 19 to protest the appearance of a speaker who condemns homosexuality as in conflict with “God’s design.”

The action, unusual for the liberal arts college in Kenosha, was organized after students learned that Shannon Marion was scheduled to address a conference of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. A student researched Marion and learned of anti-gay comments he’d made in the past, said Stephen Schreiber, who helped organize the response.

Schreiber said the discovery about Marion’s stance sparked a grassroots movement that coalesced in about 10 days. A dozen students formed a group called “Unity” and met with college officials and conference leaders to create a framework that would allow “both sides of the issue to be heard … in an equal and fair manner,” according to a Unity release.

The strategy included the rally, which drew about 65 students, as well as circulating a petition “in support of our message of accepting everyone,” Schreiber said.

The petition was signed by 460 students.

In addition, Unity was given a classroom near the conference, where students could drop in Feb. 20 to hear a message of pro-inclusion.

“I don’t know if any minds were changed, but I can definitely say that a lot of people walked out of that classroom with a better understanding of where everyone stood on the issue,” Schreiber said.

Unity’s organizers are considering turning their ad-hoc group into a permanent organization.

“I’m a senior, and in my three and half years here, we’ve never had this kind of vocal, grassroots action on campus,” Schreiber said. “That’s why it’s possible that this will continue.”

Carthage is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which welcomes LGBT members and permits ordination of gay ministers.