Tuesday, October 21, 2014


In 1964, my senior year in high school, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty. Here we are a half century later. So how are we doing?
* 1 in 5 children live in poverty
* 1 in 6 adults live in poverty
* 1.2 million students are homeless, including 100,000 athletes
* Here in Massachusetts 25% of families in the suburbs of Boston are on food stamps
* In Massachusetts last night, 2000 families spent the night in a shelter and 2000 more in a motel
* Here in Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury there are 7 soup kitchens and 5 food pantries
* In these same 3 towns there are over 200 homeless students
* Within 1 mile of my house are 3 tents with people living in them year round

I don't think the War is over. Far from it. We have a long ways to go. Eliminating poverty or significantly reducing it is a complicated process. I think one of the keys is education. We have to keep our students in school. Today 25% of high school students do not graduate or don't graduate on time. And 50% of those entering college do not graduate. What happens to all those who drop out of high school? Many will be homeless, commit crimes, turn to drugs, get pregnant and get minimum wage jobs, if that. A recent study indicated that close to 75% of all crimes are committed by high school drop outs. If we keep them in school, see them graduate, they will earn several hundred thousand dollars more over a lifetime than a drop out. So poverty goes down and so does crime. There are close to 2 million prisoners in our jails. The average cost is close to $80,000 a year per prisoner. Keep them in school and the cost to incarcerate prisoners drops significantly as well.

Short term there are many things we can do to alleviate poverty in our towns, increase awareness of those in need, and raise money and food. 6 years ago one person in Newburyport had a dream-that if every citizen just put 2 cents a day into a can, donated 2 food items a month to a food pantry and volunteered 2 hours a month, we could make a difference. A non profit was formed, made up of all volunteers, no salaries and hardly any overhead. Today over $70,000 has been raised and given out as grants and donated to the food pantries. Food drives the past 3 years have raised $19,000 worth of food that was donated to the food pantries. Over 80 businesses in the community have Pennies containers on their counters for donations, which goes to the food pantries.

If everyone just in Newburyport, Ma contributed 2 cents a day, that is over $120,000 a year. 2 food items a month is over 400,000 a year and 2 hours a month is over 400,000 a year. And this is just one town. Imagine if every one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts did this? It wouldn't eliminate poverty but would ensure most of our citizens went to bed (somewhere) with a full stomach.

So the war is not over, there are many battles to be fought and won. Let's continue to march forth.

Monday, October 20, 2014

DAD AT 100

My father would be 100 years old on November 2. He was born in 1914, just as WW1 was beginning. And died November 25, 1980, a young 66. Look at all the wars he lived through, all the inventions, all the technology advancements. Like all of us, he had his strengths and weaknesses. As I remember him on his 100th, I would rather focus on this strengths. He was a WW2 veteran,  a very handsome man and in his younger days had a  great physique. He was a great outdoorsman, and an excellent shot with the shotgun during Deer Week. And he was the unofficial arm wrestling champion of the Cape, besting  a fisherman from Provincetown, who had arms like Popeye, at the 28 Club in Dennisport.

And Dad was a great story teller. At our annual family reunions on the Cape each summer, everyone would gather around Dad as he told family stories and history and did his famous St Patrick paper trick that no one has ever been able to figure out to this day! He knew all the family history and would tell us all about our grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles. I wish I had tape recorded all that history.

As Dad got older he let himself go and gained weight and came down with Type 2 diabetes and ended up taking a shot of insulin every day. His health got worse and eventually he lost toes and then part of his foot. Complications set in and he passed on, 2 days before Thanksgiving. I still remember that entire sequence. Dad died on Tuesday, late that afternoon we are making arrangements with the funeral director, Wednesday I am picking out a casket, Thursday we have a subdued turkey dinner, Friday is the wake, Saturday is the funeral, Sunday we drove back to Connecticut, and Monday I was back at work!! I remember sitting in my office, thinking "what the heck just happened. A few days ago I had a father and now I don't"

When my mother died several years ago, we were going through her papers and found a letter I had written to her a few months after Dad died. It was full of the usual news about the kids and how work was going etc, but I closed with a few thoughts about Dad and here is what I said. They applied back then and still do today:

"I was thinking of Dad this past Wednesday, Feb 25, 3 months already since he died. Its hard to believe I don't have a father anymore. I wear his watch every day plus keep his last driver's license in my wallet and I have his army picture framed and on my bureau, plus I wear a lot of his clothes, so while he may be far away, he is still near. I hope he realized how much I loved him, thought about him, admired him and respected him, and especially for all he went through the past three years. And I hope he was proud of me and all I have accomplished and I hope I did the right things for him when we came to visit. I hope he realized how much I appreciated everything he did for me and I can't thank him enough."

Happy 100th Birthday Dad. I love you and miss you.