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Okay, so I make a tri-annual  pilgrimage each year to see Tony  O. and the Lefty Brothers perform in Vegas.  It is one of my favorite things to do as I consider them to be family, great musicians, great Americans. All of them from the band to Tony and Fran to the others that do as I, in the great and sincere following,  share fellowship, enjoy meals together, and get charged from the wonderful show.  

I returned from one such weekend yesterday.  Sunday evening we had a magnificent dinner and afterwards I had to see if I could double my pre-set Vegas allowance (I didn't, but I didn't give it all back either, I am an amateur by Vegas standards).  I was kind of proud as I lasted until about 1:30 am.  In turn, I got up at 4:00 am to pack and catch an early flight home.  I began my journey home, bug eyed and pooped, finding myself at the Vegas Airport around 6:00 am.  It was still busy as ever... only Vegas...  You can imagine having started this in 2009, I truly thought I had seen it all there (although the shock value was trumped in New Orleans recently). 

So, I decided I deserved a nice greasy breakfast sandwich for my efforts to be up and on time at a time of day usually unbeknownst to me.  I stopped at the airport Wendys on my way to my gate.  I ordered a coffee, orange juice and the greasy sandwich I just referred to and found a fairly obscure booth to hide and pump the coffee, hopeful for a human feeling after it was all said and done.

I sat facing the Air Port window, and even the planes outside seemed still asleep.  There was another booth between me and the window, I noticed there were all kinds of things around; a walker full of plastic shopping bags that were apparently serving as suitcases, an untouched salad on the table, a notably mobile patron, who was clearly the guardian of the walker and was toweling the seats in the booth, both sides, albeit he was only one who would take one seat.  He was a big fellow, wearing sunglasses, and dressed as though he would go to Hawaii, flowered shirt and khakis, flawless. 

I couldn't help but look as he dumped the towel he was using and pulled a collapsible broom out of one of his actual cases, a back pack.  I looked away trying to be respectful and polite.  But... I was so totally compelled I couldn't help but watch him methodically sweep the floor, the whole area under and around his booth, with his salad just waiting for him.  His phone rang, he answered.  He was near enough that I couldn't help but hear his side of the conversation, honestly, at this point I was truly ready to leave him completely alone...

So the one sided conversation went like this:  "Yeah!  (pause) Yeah, I am here...  They lost my ******* baggage.  Yeah, flight was delayed and they put me in a nasty dirty hotel room, I was so ******."  Right about then my own alertness started to kick in, even without my first sip of the coffee.  "Yeah, man, they don't know what the **** they are doing in Paris.  They lost my ******* baggage (which we already knew).  My meds were in there, but I managed to find one at the bottom of one of my ******* carry-ons... Yeah, yeah, man, if I don't take my ******* meds I go to jail."  All this said while he was still swatting the chairs with the resurrected towel, while the salad got warm.

At this point, with him still on the phone, I quietly gathered my sandwich, re-lidded my coffee and grabbed my orange juice and headed for an empty gate to sit at.  As I left the area I could still hear words and combinations thereof. 

I silently thanked God that he was so OCD, psychotic, or what ever that he didn't notice me or that I had even heard a part of his conversation.

No meds, jail? I sat at the empty gate I found and devoured my breakfast.  I hoped now I had truly seen it all.






 
 
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Imagine, I spent all this time in the mountains of Nicaragua.  There were all kinds of things to balance and precaution.  This included but was not limited to; balancing rocky paths, sweating my brains out, swatting mosquitos and  other unidentified vermin... things.

We stayed in a couple of great hotels, very charming, but not for the faint hearted.  I very quickly learned to shake out the sheets before getting in bed, shake out the shoes upon arising...  I also learned to check the shower for six legged guests, and convinced myself that the stress marks in the walls were not a concern.  I found myself wearing my progressive lenses to fight the flickering lights, and convinced myself that the electrical system in the showers (I think to heat the water) would not fry me alive in the name of cleanliness.  Of course I was  avoiding tap water at all costs, amoebas aren't good for the tummy.  I even got good at trekking through woods full of lions and tigers and bears, um I mean, snakes, unidentifiable bugs, and a few rarely seen what-evers, that thankfully didn’t show themselves… you get the picture…  I have to admit, I was very happy that I avoided all of the creatures, microscopic and several legged that I was on guard for.  The nature that I usually relate to is the mammal, the reptiles, and their chums, not so much…


After dinner last night, also swatting mosquitos (everything is outside), my colleagues took me to Managua where I checked in to a Best Western Hotel, directly across from the airport.  I had a very early flight this morning.  I noticed immediately it was very clean as I checked in.  After I walked the what seemed to be 200 miles to my room, I opened the door to a sweet smell, total cleanliness, no dust, no rocks, mud or pits, real towels, TWO bars of soap in the bathroom, two beds that not only had two pillows each bed, but two decorative ones to boot;  the beds each had TWO sheets.  There were curtains with pulls on them, the front desk staff spoke English and there was coffee in the room. 

After checking the shower for uninvited guests, and finding none, I happily took a honking hot shower to dissolve the layers of mosquito repellant and sweat and salvage what was left of my hair, Ahhhhhhhh.

Feeling squeaky clean and ready to sleep, I plugged in all of my devices to charge for the night; happily voltage in Nicaragua is 120 so I even had a super fresh blow dry.  I had to get up at 4:00 am local time for my flight.  I had already stayed up later than I wanted trying to catch up on some of my internet things, but I was okay with that as the sleep was bound to be wonderful.

I was all excited about the plush beds!  They were against opposite walls with a table in between.  I chose the left one which was closest to the devices for my alarm.  I always try to be a good guest, even in hotels, so I very carefully took the decorative pillows off of the bed I chose, and neatly placed them next to their counterparts on the other bed.  I love to sleep with two pillows, good for the neck or not.  With great anticipation I plopped the second pillow on the bed on top of the first and picked both up to move them to the middle of the bed...  To my horror, there was a blond GECKO apparently sleeping under the second pillow?  I wasn't even really sure he was alive. 

I thought, how in the world did this thing get all the way to Nicaragua from Sri Lanka?? (The only place in the world I have seen one like him)  He wasn't cute, green or Australian.  He was translucent, looked like he lived under a rock and okay might have been a baby...  Shattering all of my careful and considerate pillow placements, I grabbed and threw ALL of the pillows, including the decorative on to him so he couldn't move.  I am sure the poor thing didn't even know what hit him.  It was a stack of 8 pillows total.  He wasn't going anywhere.

Now that I had him trapped, I didn't know what to do.  It was just after midnight, I didn't want to bother anyone at that hour, but I wasn't touching him! I was afraid this 2-inch monster was going to get me in my sleep.  After all the careful avoidances of the other adverse wildlife, it ran through my mind that it would be tragic to buy it on the last night...

I sat... on the opposite bed...  I fretted... I anticipated... then I did what any other thinking human being would do.  I googled "geckos" to see if the bite and/or could be poisonous.  Again, I admit he was little, and in retrospect, I don't think his mouth could have gotten in to any kind of flesh, still I have been surprised over much less.  .....he was a baby....humph.

Google was no comfort...  they described geckos as hissing, startling and their bites hurting.  I thought about him being smaller than my thumb.... but logic had long left me and comfort was not available.  I called the front desk (FD), which went as follows:

Four long rings...

FD:    Answers in Spanish too quickly for me to understand...
MJ:     Habla Ingles?
FD:     Jes, of course!
MJ:     I need to ask you about geckos...
FD:     Come on?
MJ:     GECKOS, you know, weird lizards...
FD:     Leezard, come on? (I had obviously used a word    
          out of range)

MJ:     An incrusted being with a big tongue and possibly sharp teeth!
FD:     Si, and?
MJ:     Do they bite?  Are they poisonous? 
FD:     Bite, what?
MJ:     The lizard, GECKO, do they bite and do they hurt? 
           I have one in my room (oey!)
FD:     In the room?
MJ:     Si, in the bed!
FD:     In the towels?
MJ:     No, in the BED.  I can live with that if I sleep in the other bed and 
          know if he happens to make his was to me that I will not die in my
          sleep!  Is this okay, or should someone come get him?
FD:     (pregnant pause) Ay, we should come get.
MJ:     (relieved) okay, thanks, I am in 99, nueve, nueve.
FD:     Si, right away.
MJ:     Gracias, Buenos Notches
FD:     De nada, Buenos Notches

PHEW


I waited for what seemed to be eternity, but was in actual time about two minutes.  There was a knock on the door.  At this point I had my bright pink "Turn of the Lights" jammy tee on so grabbed my conservative black night coat and wrapped it around me.  I answered the door.

A smiling and clearly prematurely aged maintenance in a navy blue uniform stood at the door stoup.  His salt and pepper hair and the deep lines in his face were emphasized by the florescent overhead light.  The Calvary had indeed arrived.  I slightly bowed and swung my hand toward the room as the universal "come in" motion.  We smiled at each other.  It was obvious neither of us spoke the others' language.  He said, "Gecko?"  I said, "Si".  His brow furled a bit.  I don't think any of them knew what I was talking about.  We stepped to where I had the gecko entombed in pillows.  I said, "Here!"  The tension mounted as I reluctantly removed the pillows.

We uncovered the gecko.  When he saw it, his brow relaxed and he chuckled.  The gecko freaked.  It darted under the left bed.  He said, "Pocito", I said, "You say Pocito, I say Grande"!  He grinned.  There was a little twinkly in his milky eyes that I could tell hadn't been there in a while.  he said, "Hokay, Grande".  He moved the left bed.  The gecko freaked again.  It sprinted across the room and disappeared under the other bed.

My grossed out feeling halted for a moment, I was amazed that geckos move so fast.  I refledted on a time in Jaffna when I was so thankful to get a shower at all that I showered around two of them in the shower stall... just now it dawned on me how fast they may have landed on me, or in my hair during that shower.  Suddenly I was thankful that incident was years behind me...  It was a memory without incident.

The caballero moved the next bed.  The gecko flash zipped across the room to behind the desk.  He pulled out the desk, exposing the devilish imp.  At this point the place was completely undone, over a 2-inch beast...

... yet ... if I was going to get sleep ... it had to be done... yes... ferocious comes in all sizes... had to...

Finally he was able to nab the little track star.  He said with a beam, "Pocito", I said, "Grande".  Our eyes met, then my full attention immediately diverted to his full hand with the intruder in it.  All little things are innocent, even reptiles, but lizards, geckos, iguanas, whatever you want to call them are difficult for me to embrace, even if I DO love all of God's creatures...

He cupped the gecko in his weathered left hand and put the beds and rest of the furniture back to their rightful place(s).  When the task was complete, I was secretly thankful that our little buddy hadn't escaped his hand during the activity.  I said, "Okay, bambino."  He smirked and said, "Si!".  I tipped him.  He smiled.  With a spring in his step and a reptile in his hand, he strolled out the door taking the wee gecko to his little casa outside.  They were happy.  I was traumatized.  (Albeit the latter doesn't take much)

I tossed for a couple of hours hoping the gecko was solo, didn't have friends or family that he may have left behind.  Finally I drifted off to sleep.  I left for home a few hours later... to cats, not geckos... So, tonight I bask in the meaning of civility.... cat abundant... gecko free...



 
 
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I just returned from a memorial for my Mom, amazing how life turns and twists.  There were no remarks that surprised me, they all touched me, past word.  The memorial was in Gettysburg, where some 50 years ago we shared a property boundary with Granddad and Mimi and the Eisenhower Farm.  Last week, her love of people showed past any expectations with the love and compassion of so many friends that gathered to show love and respect. 

She was a beautiful and graceful woman, with international diplomatic skills as well as the skills to be a mom.  Below are the remarks I shared at her Memorial.  For the record, all of us shared remarks, and my siblings were inspirational and deep - I wish I had a copy of theirs to share as well.

Mine went as follows:

My mother was an amazing woman.  I really only took her for granted as "Mom", but learned from others explicitly last year when I went to Taiwan.  I was there to help Taiwan celebrate a new exhibit "Hello, Mr. President!"  It was in honor of the friendship between Taiwan and the United States.  Granddad was the only sitting US President to have ever visited Taiwan, which he did in 1959.  My Grandmother, Mamie, was afraid to fly, so my Mom went in her stead, as Granddad's official hostess.  My father was on the same trip. 

When I saw the exhibit, I saw a picture of my mother - wall sized and looking like royalty.  She was absolutely beautiful and the government of Taiwan was celebrating, not only Granddad, but her as well.

We more or less followed the steps taken so many years ago - and it was wonderful to see Taiwan in both her eyes as well as Granddad's, and of course, my father's. 

During this visit, we went to "Victory Chapel".  The priest there was the very same that presided during the presidential state visit. He pointed out where Mom and Dad, and Granddad sat during the historic visit so many decades before.  The priest lauded Mom, saying she was a natural diplomat, all the way to attending Chapel with the president and his wife.  MME Chiang was on the front steps to greet Mom, and was wearing no hat.  Mom had a hat on and saw MME Chiang without one.  She immediately took her hat off and gave it to the driver.  She and MME Chiang walked in to Victory Chapel hatless to a congregation where everyone was wearing a hat!

But, what spoke to me most about that recall from the Priest was that the same mother who was wining and dining with world leaders was the same Mom who tobogganed with us on the banks of the Gettysburg battlefields and taught us how to make toll house chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the Nestle bag of chips. 

She was a gentle woman, but a superwoman when it came to her love of life.  I will never forget after her breast cancer surgery; a lady came in to her room dressed in gingham and sporting a "daisy" basket with pamphlets, etc.  As soon as the lady was at the door, Mom took one look at her and said, "Hold on, I am in denial and it works for me".  She sent the woman away...

I would like now to read thoughts that Merrill, my son, her grandson, shared with me.  As some of you may know, Merrill became quite close to her while he attended Valley Forge Military Academy in nearby Wayne, PA.  He says:

"My grandmother was everything to me.  Looking back over my life, I have not known a time when her influence was not around me.  She was a wordly person with only experiences people read about.  It was in those experiences that she imparted her wisdom and joy for life onto me.  My best memories of my grandmother were of our late night conversations, often at the dinner table.  In high school, I would visit her.  She would just visit, or listen or allow me to talk to her, and there was never a worry about anyone imparting opinion.  Instead of giving advice, my grandmother would just listen, and tell me how proud she was of me.  While it may have been a simple relationship, it was one founded on love and understanding.  For that, I will always cherish our relationship."

I don't think I could have expressed it better than Merrill.

I am reminded of a Dennis the Menace cartoon, it was published just after Mimi, my grandmother died, which was devastating to me.  I found this particular strip amazingly comforting.  Dennis walks up to his mom and her friend who were sitting on a park bench arm in arm.  The friend is crying.  Dennis asks what is wrong, and his mother tells him that her friend lost her mother.  Dennis' reaction is, well then, let's look for her.  His mother then tells him that we cant' look for her, as she has passed away.  Dennis then says, "well then, if she passed away, she must be with God, and since she is with God, she is not lost at all."

That strip has stayed with me for many years.  After this year, I am convinced that Dennis was right.  I have no doubt that our Mother is a part of God's heart now and that all of our blessings in having her here are now a permanent part of God's blessings, which we receive every day.

She has now become a part of our matrix and will live on forever in each of us she touched .  She will also be a part of the next generations that her children have touched with her influence.

When rocking my grandson about a month after her passing, I was feeling low, but getting cheered by rocking him to sleep.  After fifty something years, I remembered part of a tune and a few lyrics of a song that she sang me to sleep with when I was under three years old.  I didn't even remember this when my own son was a baby.  I googled what words I remembered and the song came up!  It went:  With someone like you, a pal good and true, I would like to leave it all behind and go and find a place that's known to God alone, just a spot we could call our own.  We'll find perfect peace where joys never cease, somewhere beneath the stary skies.  We'll build a sweet little nest somewhere out in the west and lest the rest of the world go by.

In my bereavement it was as though she was there reminding me of her love and making me feel safe all over again. 

So, Mom, play with the angels now, and we will see you again.  I hope you now have that sweet little nest somewhere out in the west. Keep the light on for us, Oh, and I hope there are toboggans and toll house cookies in heaven.




 































 
 
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My new Grandson, John, the "Thinker" Just like his great granddad, of whom he is the namesake!

What has he got to think about in his less than a week of life on this earth?

He already knows that his parents, grandparents,  and great grandparents, along with countless aunts, uncles, cousins and friends love him beyond communication.  He knows he is healthy, loved and cared for - more than a great percentage of his world, which he does not know.

Also what he doesn't know is life as we knew it...
Sadly, it is likely that he won't know the luxury of unlocked doors in the night and a word in a handshake deal.  He may not know the smell of a baked pie cooling on the window ledge, he may learn that social interaction comes in the form of a tube...  Sadly it is likely he won't know natural manners without litigation, he won't know checks without ID, he won't know Liaise Faire... a fundamental of our Founding Fathers' criteria. 

While waiting for his birth, I was frantically texting friends and family about the progress of his arrival.  I subscribe to many news feeds, and the headline on my phone popped up, "Harry Reid is confident that the author of the litigation that drones can be used on American citizens will pass legislation".

Do WHAT? (to quote a favorite Alabama phrase of mine)  You mean my country, who I have pledged my entire earnings to, given to programs, defended overseas when things weren't exactly diplomatically perfect, can now not only spy on me, but shoot me if I am a perceived as a dissident???  What in the hell has happened to us?

I normally keep quiet on issues, I was taught that it was rude to speak of them, but I am not getting on that train when my brilliant grandson may be stopped short from fear of security, fear of retribution, fear of anything. This is America, he should feel free from those things, and should enjoy the right to think for himself, for better or worse.

How will I tell him about America?  That it is the greatest country on the planet? Of course.  That freedom and protection of citizens is first and foremost on most minds, of course.  That the American Dream is still existent and possible?  Of course.

What I cannot tell him, and pray to God Almighty that I will never have to is, Citizens of this great country are subject to voyeurism, computer discretion, and possible execution for what was once considered a personal right....

Drones on America???  DON"T GET ON THAT TRAIN!  Fight for your children and grandchildren, it is the right thing to do!

I love my country, let's preserve it and savor the things that MAKE IT GREAT!

If you get on any train, make it the "Peace Train" !


 
 
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We are now a little less than a month upon the interment of my father's ashes at West Point.  He will have full military honors.  The picture of him at the left is with his mother.  I love this picture because it has both of my life's heroes in it, Mimi and Daddy. And, they are sharing such a special moment.

My father grew up in a complicated world, and craved simplicity.  He was shy, but trained himself to be social.  Sometimes his shyness could be interpreted as distant, however, nothing was further from the truth.  He had many fires throughout his life, which he internalized.  It was always about others. 

Truth be known, he was brilliant, had an amazing sense of humor, and could be implicitly trusted.  He graduated West Point on D-day and was sent immediately to be with my Grandfather who was executing the largest military operation in history.  He was there for all of it, including the eventual reviews of the death camps.  He wrote much about Military History, and writing eventually became his passion, with a close tie on the Army.  I asked him a couple of years ago if he would consider taping the "back-story", he had seen so much that no one would ever know.  He told me that the information at the time was confidential, and remained so.  He took the back-story with him.  What integrity.  It is hard to fathom what he must have carried with him all of his life. 

Growing up with him, and all through my adult life, Daddy was my "go to", he always knew what to say, even if he didn't agree with the conversation.  When there was trouble, he built me up, when I made mistakes, he allowed them and allowed me to be myself.  He was there to help me figure it out, and I always felt wonderful after I saw or talked to him.  Everything was all right, not because "Daddy had this", but because he enabled me to say "I've got this".

On the 21st of March, it will be three months since his passing.  I will need the time at the very least ten-fold to adjust to life without him, I don't have him to consult with - this is the first time in my life where something huge has happened and I can't talk to him about it.  Admittedly, I do - all the time - reminds me of the song "What will I do when all that I have left is a photograph to tell my secrets to, what will I do".

If I had to find one word to describe Daddy, it would be "gracious".  He had an episode on Thanksgiving morning, as I sat next to his bed he told me he thought he was in trouble this time.  He told me that I would have to look after him.  I touched his arm when he said that, he opened his eyes and said, "Oh, don't worry, I have lived a good life."

He lasted almost another month, during which he ended up in the hospital.  I think his biggest fear about death was being in the hospital.  His own father had lived 9 months in one and died there.  It became his mission to get home.  After days of begging the doctors to let him go home, on the 20th of December, they agreed to release him as a Hospice patient as otherwise he couldn't be released.  Still, it took until early evening for them to get an ambulance to transport him.  His wife, Joanne, stayed home that day to coordinate equipment and such that he would need at home.  So, I was blessed with him all to myself that day. 

When the ambulance finally got there to take him home, I rode with him.  I think he would have passed a couple of times in the ambulance, but I kept asking him questions which kept that brilliant mind going - it meant so much for him to get home.  I think that was the most difficult thing I have ever done, putting him in the ambulance, I knew he was going home to die.  I realized then what absolute unconditional love means.

When we got there, the elation on his face when he realized he was home is something I will treasure forever.  Joanne had his bed in front of the window in his bedroom so he could see his favorite view, the pier.  He and I traded pictures of it for years - he was a wiz with the iPad.  It is the same pier as at the top of this blog page.  Below is one I took at Thanksgiving, thinking perhaps that would be the last time I would have the opportunity.  I did get to email it to him. That was  what it looked like when he got home on December 20th. 

After a few hours at home with him I was exhausted, I kissed him on the forehead and told him I was headed to the hotel to get some sleep.  He smiled wide.  I then told him I would see him in the morning, his brow furled.  I had the feeling it was likely that he wouldn't make the night.  He died the next morning, my birthday on December 21st, before anyone was up. The beauty of what you see in the picture below is the last thing he saw.  His personal stairway to Heaven.

God has his arms around both of us, and we are both okay. 

Hail and Farewell to an American Hero, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, you were a gracious man in life and in passing on.  I will love you forever.


 
 
http://www.garysinisefoundation.org/news_events/blog

Please click the above link to the Gary Sinise Foundation, and a blog by Gary honoring the Program of Operation International Children.  It was a wonderful program which built bridges, respect and trust to the children and the troops in war torn areas.  Thank you Gary and Laura for the privilege of working with you and supporting the cause of good in such a large way.  Love to you both - Mary
 
 
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The below is from a dear friend in Egypt who has proven time and again that he is a friend not only to me but to all of the USA.  He is very wise, and like the previous post is living with the upheaval.  Please take heed in what he says, his message is very important.  (picture at left is taken in Egypt, but does not include the author of this missive)
_______________________

US- Egyptian relation more engagement needed 

  
 The modern phase of the  relationship between the U.S and Egypt – dating back to the seventies – has been  mutually strategic for nearly four decades due to several crucial geopolitical factors. Primary amongst these is the fact that President Sadat recognized and  acted upon the Unites States of America’s pivotal role in shaping and impacting global geopolitics, in addition to the indirect influence it exerts through economy, culture and global media reach. Similarly, Egypt plays the same role within the Middle East region and the Islamic world, and has always been regarded as the regional leader owing in large part to its history, culture, political maturity and stabilizing role.

The pillars of the bilateral US-Egyptian relationship was born with the signing of the Camp David Accords, which then combined with a safe open passage through the Suez Canal. The US government then began an economic assistance program which was linked directly to the accord and a military aid program which was independent from the accord. 

These, in tandem with U.S-Egyptian military cooperation, and both countries’
shared stance on the war against terror, cemented and formed the relationship.

In recent years, however, there appears to have been a  constant temperature change in US-Egyptian bilateral relations, despite both
parties following through on their commitments. Declining economic US aid, along with a set fixed annual military aid package to Egypt – which has totaled a combined sum of over US$60 billion over the past three decades – has seen Egypt make sweeping economic reforms that has drawn it firmly into the emerging markets towards the end of 2008. 

In the post 9/11 world, successive U.S administrations have adopted a strategic policy that revolves around encouraging the growth of democracy in the Middle East, with the objective of encouraging freedom and political participation to counteract the growth of dormant terrorist cells that have thrived as a result of the seemingly oppressive policies of several of the former dictatorships in the region. These dormant cells have consolidated their grievances into a collective hatred of “the West” whom they regard as an eternal colonial enemy or an obstacle to a way of life they consider sacred.

Widespread poverty, illiteracy and denial of political participation in many parts of the Middle East have added to this hatred, forming a potent mix of politics and religion that has bred radicalism and extremism. It was this reaction that lead the US to adapt their policies to focus on a more inclusive democracy and a stronger recognition of human  rights.

Although the adaptation of US strategies was commendable and forward thinking, it had one major flaw, and that was in trying to apply the theory of "one size fits all" democracy, which may be applicable in more developed countries, like Turkey for example, which has had over 80 years of secular rule and a population that is more European in inclination than countries in the Middle East. But in Egypt – where illiteracy and poverty are rife – a different approach for a lasting democracy was needed. A model that,
whilst still inclusive, would not allow certain segments of the society –
notably the religious groups – to manipulate the huge obstacles of poverty and illiteracy to suit their agendas.

The "one size fits all" approach, which concentrated solely on the ballot box, allowed well-funded religious parties to steer large groups of the underprivileged, uneducated masses in the ultimately fascist direction they wanted to go, with false promises of a better future and a more pious and therefore ‘better’ way of life.  The results proved catastrophic, and were as far removed from democracy as can be.  The Egyptian strategy needed to remain focused on gradual progress verses sudden change, combined with incremental political mobilization, and the consequent creation of a political way forward.  Unfortunately, the steps were much too slow and too little in the eyes of some.

In last 10 years precisely, between 2003-2013, Egypt has witnessed a step-change in political mobilization, with its first phase prior to 2011 where movements were formed, weak parties were established, and the media began to become a fourth line of power.  
  
The second phase was from 2011-2013, when Egypt saw a wave of over 75 parties formed, with complicated names and doctrines. Society became politically vibrant, especially with the engagement of the media in all its forms. This mobilization reached a pinnacle with the June 30th demonstrations that witnessed  over 30 million Egyptians taking to the streets to put their views forward. 
 
Regardless of what view you take, pro or against, with all those different dates and events, something fundamental has changed in Egypt - namely
the growth of political awareness, which became a regular part of Egyptians’
lives, and the conviction that elections and the implementation of democratic rule are the only way to lead Egypt forward. 

Today, accountability, delivering on fighting corruption, and inclusiveness, are all tools which are crucial for a government’s survival. This is surely hopeful for tomorrow; but it is challenging for today. A national reconciliation is paramount to Egypt’s stability and move towards the future – but it needs to happen which fits with Egypt's own understanding of the right and inclusive way forward.

The key focus to maintain a healthy US-Egyptian relationship, whilst simultaneously growing democracy in Egypt, are:

A new course of action needs to be  applied –  primarily, the compartmentalization of the three different pillars of  the bilateral relationship – the political, economic well being - as the creation of a fourth pillar – that of democratic reform.  If each is  handled separately, there is a greater chance of success within a shorter time frame, which will work to the benefit of both parties.

At the same time, Egypt must write its own narrative in terms of the kind of democracy that can grow here and the approach that needs to be taken towards the hugely important issue of human rights.  The basis of this narrative would be a separation of politics from religion, which would allow political parties to thrive, but it would eliminate religion being used as a tool on a largely uneducated public. As we have seen consistently throughout history, religion and politics do not blend well and have often been the cause of a nation’s downfall.

This strategy of separation of church and state, along with an overhaul of the educational system in Egypt, to which US input and guidance is pivotal, can usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt – one that will fulfill the political aspirations of its people and will simultaneously strengthen US-Egyptian bilateral relations and restore them to higher glory.
 
In conclusion, here is some food for thought:

  1. We should be aiming for a more balanced, independent relationship based on the fulfillment of mutual exchange of interests.

  2. Increased independence from US economic assistance would help Egypt build a more liberated vibrant economy, through increased local economic growth (SME) and foreign investment.

  3. There is a need to respect and support Egypt’s requirement to create their own models of democratic reform.

  4. There is an urgent need for investment in education in Egypt, in order
  to create the potential for a better tomorrow.

  5. A strong Egypt  will lead to a better Middle East and Islamic world, and a safer world for all of us.

In summary:
 
we need to connect not split, we need to communicate  as opposed to having separate strategies. We need engagement, not blame or punishment. Sanctions never worked. Engagement always does.


 

 
 
Picture
a bas relief at Edfu Temple, Egypt
From a friend of mine, Tamer El Bendary, in Egypt:

To all my friends abroad I want to deliver a message  to you all and please be responsible to deliver it in our behalf to the media of  your countries and to your friends and families, what happened in Egypt is the people's will, we have left our houses and stayed in the streets to step Morsi  down, we the people of Egypt forced the army to take an action in our behalf, we  wanted the regime out, it's not a coup it's the people's will, please spread the  word to the world.
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I post this for my friend in Egypt because he is there and in the middle of all of it.  He is one of the every day people who has suffered tremendously through all of the turmoil.  I think it is prudent to hear direct rather than hear media analysis, which can so often be subject to interpretation.  

I ask my family, friends and colleagues to please pray for Egypt, it is time for the Mother Country to have peace and the ability to enjoy life and God's great gifts. 
 

 
 
Picture
John Eisenhower with his parents, Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower c WWII.


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As a family member and one who personally knew Dwight D. Eisenhower, I feel especially sad about the controversy surrounding the planned Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C..  Perhaps it is the times we are living in, or perhaps simply the wrong people in charge.

The family, consisting of my father (Pictured above), my brother David, his wife Julie, my sisters Anne and Susan, and me; has expressed concern with the design of the Memorial.  We are united in this feeling.  Somehow we have been dismissed by the Memorial Commission as being ashamed of our 
"Kansas Roots".  And, this has been backed up by unfounded speculation by the Commission Chair, Executive Director, and the press's interpretation of their comments.  (For further detail on the design and controversy surrounding the Memorial, click the above picture)

Nothing could be further than the truth, in fact, my residence is in the Midwest; a la Sarah Palin, I can see Kansas from my front door. I  hope it will be possible to retire to Abilene one day, I truly love it there.  We  are proud of our Kansas heritage and I personally resent this as a use to cloud the real issues, some of which have surfaced in a loud way, some more appalling that have not been publically verbalized.   

I am not going to go into a heap of political discernment, but I want to express my deep sadness that this situation has allowed our family to be humiliated by the Commission, that what we thought were family friends have been divided from us and the horrendous backstabbing that has come of this has ruined life long relationships.

It is said that Ike had an infectious grin, (which he did) I believe the tear in his eye that must be there today would be equally as infectious.

In short, I love Kansas, but find the design inherently objectionable.
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Again, please either click the above picture or http://www.susaneisenhower.com



 
 
Picture
Our dear Ruth - we will miss you, of course.  It isn't often that you find dear, dear friends like Tony Orlando and his beautiful wife Fran, perhaps only a handful of times within these fast lives we own.  And, a handful is a very generous statistic. 

I had luck like that when I met Tony and Fran in 1999, but also when I met and got to know Tony's mother, Ruth.  She was firm with a heart of gold.  Much like Tony and Fran, I fell in love with her the first time we met. 

I met Ruth at one of Tony's concerts (I am an honorary member of the Lefty Brothers Band) and while she was well in to her 80's, I immediately felt I had known her as family, much as Tony and Fran have allowed me to share part of theirs. (I am forever grateful) 

My biggest memory, shall we say significant moment with Ruth, where I really felt our families had melded, was in the middle of a Veterans' Day crowd at the Welk Theater in Branson, Missouri.  Tony was throwing his annual show, which by the way, is awesome, every year!  After the show I was in line for the green room to congratulate Tony on a show well done (that was also the year I gave Tony the PTPI President's Award) - the halls were packed.  I saw Ruth from a distance standing alone, also waiting to congratulate her son.  I made my way to her and gave her a hug as I gushed about the great show. 

She put her hands on my face and looked in my eyes with a half smile and said, "In New York, when Tony was a baby and the war ended, we heard that Eisenhower would be coming through.  It was cold out, but I bundled the baby (Tony) and we went to Times Square to get a glimpse of him."  I replied, "who would have thought some sixty something years later his granddaughter would have fallen in love with you and your family?"  She smiled, we hugged and the crowd broke us up - we ducked in to the green room and joined her awesome family.  I thought at that time, this was a moment no one can take away.

Ruthie went home at the age of 87 - and while I know she lived a full life and is at a deserved rest now, it went too fast, the time I knew her - but at any age, isn't that life?  It is always later than you think.

My heart goes out to Tony, Fran, Jon and Jenny, while a major part of you is
gone, she will always live on in the family she so loved and so influenced.

So, in conclusion, good-bye dear Ruth, we will always love you.  Sleep with the angels and we will see you again, after we leave the party too.  Keep the light on for us.



 

    Mary Jean Eisenhower is the Principal of MJ Eisenhower & Associates