Category Archives: History

“To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope.”

The Atlantic: The Education of Bill Oliver. “How a letter to Barack Obama tells the story of two strangers who became family, and one lifelong Republican’s journey to a new kind of patriotism.” By Jeanne Marie Laskas.

“Word came that President Barack Obama wanted to see some of the mail just the day after he took office. Mike Kelleher was the director of the Office of Presidential Correspondence (OPC). He got the call from the Oval saying the president wanted to see five letters. Then they called back with a correction. The president wanted to see 15 letters. They called back one more time. He wanted to see 10 that day, and every day.

“It was a small gesture, I thought, at least to resist the bubble,” Obama later told me. “It was a way for me to, every day, remember that what I was doing was not about me. It wasn’t about the Washington calculus. It wasn’t about the political scoreboard. It was about the people who were out there living their lives, who were either looking for some help or angry about how I was screwing something up.”

And why should the president be the only one reading 10 letters a day? What about everyone else in the West Wing? Surely Obama’s advisers and senior staff could benefit from seeing this material.
[…]
Fiona Reeves, an OPC staffer who soon became the office’s director, developed a distribution list, kept adding to it. Letters to the president, dozens of them, just popping into people’s inboxes. Why not? And not just the 10LADs—the president’s 10 letters a day—but also others from the sample piles. “We send out batches of letters we think are striking,” she said. At first she worried about being an annoyance, but then she got bold. “I hope people read them; that’s why I spam them. But I mean, they don’t have to read them.”

They did. Soon people started asking why they weren’t on the distribution list. The people in OPC came to know which people in the West Wing were particularly tuned in to the letters. The OPC staff came to regard these people as special agents, ambassadors, and they had a name for them: Friends of the Mail.”

“This is about our survival.”

Outside: Yosemite Finally Reckons with Its Discriminatory Past. “Pioneers, the government, even John Muir helped kick out Native Americans from their homes on national parks. But in Yosemite, the Miwuk Tribe is getting its village back.”

“Though nobody will live in the wahhoga, the agreement is nonetheless a watershed moment in the park’s relationship with local Native Americans, who have long sought to reestablish their cultural and subsistence connection with the park. The wahhoga could also function as an example for other NPS units, nearly all of which were created following forcible or coerced removal of the Native population. “Our ancestors used to live there, and we always felt that what was available to our ancestors should’ve been available to us,” James says.

James, who chairs the Wahhoga Committee, sees this as one more step toward indigenous tribes reconnecting with their ancestral homeland. Next on the docket, he plans to start programs that teach Native youth about traditional plant and animal harvesting. As James says, “This is about our survival.””

Fresno Bee: Decades after destruction, Yosemite welcomes home Native Americans.

“Wahhoga’s return has been decades in the making. The American Indian Council of Mariposa County/Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation finally got the OK to begin construction a decade ago, only to have their work halted for nearly seven years by Yosemite’s former superintendent, who cited safety concerns.

“We knew how to build a roundhouse from traditional knowledge that’s been passed down. … The park service didn’t understand that,” said Tony Brochini, former tribal chairman and executive director of the Wahhoga Committee. “That is where we butted heads. The park service wanted us to follow project management protocol and we were moving forward with our traditional methods.”

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“She is the reason why women want to sing.”

The Washington Post: Aretha Franklin, music’s ‘Queen of Soul,’ dies at 76. “Aretha Franklin, whose exceptionally expressive singing about joy and pain and faith and liberation earned the Detroit diva a permanent and undisputed title — the “Queen of Soul” — died Aug. 16 at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

Her representative Gwendolyn Quinn announced the death and said the cause was pancreatic cancer.”

The Washington Post: Aretha Franklin’s voice was the sound of an America we’re still trying to become.

“Somebody somewhere once asked the human embodiment of American soul music how she would define American soul music. Aretha Franklin replied, “Being able to bring to the surface that which is happening inside.””

Deutsche Welle: Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin ist tot. “”Respect” musste sie sich schon lange nicht mehr ersingen: Aretha Franklin hatte mehr Grammys, als sie tragen konnte und Exkurse in HipHop und Oper hinter sich. Nach schwerer Krankheit ist die Diva jetzt gestorben.”

If walls could talk…

Arch Daily: The Oldest Building in Every US State.

“The United States is a comparatively young country, but one with a rich and diverse history. From the ancient villages of New Mexico’s Pueblo people and the early Spanish settlers in Florida, to the Russian traders of Alaska and 19th-century missionaries in Utah, each of the 50 states has its own story to tell.

There’s no better way to trace this history than through buildings, which is why we’ve mapped out the oldest intact building in each US state. Whether they’re cottages, grand mansions, fortresses or churches, these historic sites offer us a glimpse into the early days of the regions. They help us to understand what brought early inhabitants to the state – and what their lives might have been like.”

Of the buildings mentioned, I’ve been to these:

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