Archive for the ‘Rhode Island’ Category
Yesterday, I went to NYC”s annual photo convention at the Jacob Javits Center and attended a seminar Making a Difference with Your Photography given by Phil Borges, photographer. His images, mostly photos of indigenous people worldwide are striking, beautiful and deceptively quiet. His work’s mission: To bring awareness and inspire support for individuals and organizations that address social issues around the world.
Borges started out as an orthodontist and practiced for 18 years in CA, before he decided that he would reinvent himself and become a photographer. He moved his wife and young son to the state of Washington and launched his new life and career. He became an international success. He spoke calmly and eloquently about his work for over two hours yesterday. What was most unexpected for me — his emphasis on how his decision to dedicate his photography to doing good has brought him success, resources to shoot more photographs, do more books and venture into multimedia.
Borges showed a photo that he had taken of a 27-year-old Ethiopian warrior, a highly esteemed member of his tribe. The young man belongs to a tribe where disagreements of any kind between the members of the tribe are discouraged. Even raising one’s voice toward another fellow tribe member is considered bad form. The warrior’s arm, clearly visible in the photo, was marked with rows of raised scars. Each scar represented someone he had killed from another tribe.
“This tribe’s circle of compassion extends only to members of its own tribe,” Borges said and showed on the screen this quote from Albert Einstein:
A human being is part of the whole, called by us, “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”
That’s what we’ve tried to do in the United States, Borges said, and now we’re trying to develop a global circle of compassion.
As I sat and listened, deeply moved by Borges’ powerful photos and compelling talk, I remembered sitting in a journalism ethics class at the Columbia j-school several years ago. The course was co-taught by two professors — Stephen Isaacs and Jim Carey (1934-2006). Carey, a native Rhode Islander ( I can’t resist that noting that fact!), was a cultural historian, a theorist on communication and a wonderful teacher. He was a small man with a big voice that boomed out in the big lecture hall. He urged us, his students, to view journalism as the foundation of a democracy, as a conversation required of citizens, and that it was our responsibility to continue to draw more and people worldwide into the conversation.
I am glad to have this chance to honor my former professor (who died not long after my course concluded) by connecting the theme he stressed in his lifetime to Phil Borges’s photography and Albert Einstein’s thoughts.
Ty and I both ended up running the half marathon in Newport yesterday due to the weather, which was AWFUL! (Tyler had originally planned to run the full marathon.)
The temperature was in the low 40s, and the wind blew in gusts of up to 40 mph! Although the weather prediction called for the rain to abate over the morning, it rained nonstop and sometimes sleeted. I ran through stinging sleet at the most exposed points of the race — out at the tip of Fort Adams and along Ocean Drive.
“Well, we can say that we ran through a noreaster!” one man running along near me at Fort Adams yelled out, as we all bent our heads down against the wind, rain and sleet and slogged on.
Despite the horrible conditions, Ty ran the 13.1 miles in 1:40, and I finished in 2:06, although I waited for a while to cross the start line, so my actual race time was a little bit faster.
We have no pictures because the weather was too bad to take out our cameras, but Ty is featured at the start (at the 15-second mark) in a Providence Journal video on the race!
Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., Army chief of staff, reaffirmed the Army’s commitment to its military families and its continuing dedication to meeting the familial needs of an all-volunteer force that has been engaged in eight years of persistent conflict.
Casey, along with Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Sgt. Major Kenneth O. Preston re-signed the Army Family Covenant before a 600-person audience, mainly comprised of over 500 family readiness group leaders from around the country at the first family forum of the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Before he invited feedback on the effectiveness of its family programs from the audience, Casey cited changes that the Army has made to support its soldiers and families. Today, the Army has 44 active brigade combat teams compared to 33 in 2004. The increase in the number of personnel has allowed the Army to move closer to its objective of lengthening the time at home between deployments for its active duty, Reserve and Guard troops.
Two years ago, the Army also doubled its budget for family programs. It has been able to sustain the higher level of funding to continue to provide a broad array of programs and services for soldiers and their families.
“We are much better postured now than we were two years ago to accept an additional commitment of active forces,” Casey said, Oct. 5 referring to the possibility that more troops might be called for in the near future to serve in Afghanistan.
Casey then asked his audience to vote with a show of hands on its satisfaction with the Army’s effectiveness in five areas: standardizing family programs and services across installations, increasing accessibility to quality health care, improving soldier and family housing, providing excellent schools, childcare and youth services, and expanding educational and employment opportunities for family members.
The Army’s ability to help family members with their education and employment received the most positive reaction from the audience.
“We’re moving; it’s a jagged line, but going up,” was Casey’s summation of the audience’s feedback on the Army’s delivery of its family programs and services. “We’ll just keep pushing it,” he said.
Sheila Casey, whose remarks preceded her husband’s, also stressed that families are the Army’s first priority. She noted that First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, a Blue Star Mother, both have shown great support for military families. The audience, mostly military wives, clapped and cheered warmly when Mrs. Casey told them that military family caregivers needed to find time for themselves to create balance in their lives.
Lynn S. Heirakuji, deputy assistant for personnel oversight, reported on the preliminary results of a large-scale survey that examined how well the Army provides programs and services to geographically dispersed personnel.
More than 5000 survey respondents indicated that they did not find large gaps in the services offered by the Army for military families, but that greater awareness of and access to programs is needed. As the distance from installations increases, the difficulty of obtaining information also climbs for military families, especially Guard and Reserve families, who are often unsure whether or not they are eligible for Army programs.
Although the Internet is proving to be a boon for geographically dispersed families, important sites for military families such as TRICARE and Army One Source were reported to be confusing and difficult to use.
“Face-to-face contact is preferred,” Heirakuji said.
Kathleen Y. Marin, director of installation services, recently conducted town hall meetings at six sites to ascertain what programs are making a difference for Army families and where improvements in services need to be made.
She found highly valued programs included: deployment respite childcare, military family life consultants and the Strong Bonds program. Echoing Heirakuji’s findings, town hall participants said they prefer one-to-one, confidential and personally targeted services. They particularly wanted to see improvements in the online registration process for children and youth services.
Marin, along with Brig. Gen. Allison T. Aycock, installation management command, and Brig. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, family and morale, welfare and recreation command, conducted a mini town hall meeting at the conclusion of the day’s military family forum. Their responses to audience members’ suggestions and comments will be posted on the Army One Source site: >>http://www.myarmyonesource.com/default.aspx
To see presentations from Military Family Forum I, held on 5 October 2009, click here.
By Susan M. Sipprelle
I am in Washington, D.C., covering the three military family forums for the AUSA’s annual convention. AUSA is the Association of the United States Army, the nonprofit that supports some of the Army’s endeavors. It’s an interesting experience for someone with little knowledge of the military, like me.
The convention is held at the gigantic D.C. convention center. Army personnel walk around in their camouflage uniforms (A little goofy in an urban setting is my personal opinion. I’m not sure what the protocol is on this — who orders them to wear the camouflage in downtown D.C.? Don’t they have dress uniforms in their closets or duffel bags?) I wish, as I did last year, that I had someone to walk around with me who could identify ranks and whatever else the stuff sewed onto their uniforms is supposed to tell me.
Anyway, there are thousands of people here attending workshops and forums on on all kinds of military topics such as strategy, weapons, cyberspace, as well as on the three forums on the issues that military families face. Vendors display and distribute all kinds of junk on the convention center’s lower level, and people pass by with big bags stuffed with posters, plastic sports bottles, refrigerator magnets and other geegaws. Yesterday, there were several young men in camouflage walking around and riding the long escalators with what looked like real wooden rifles, too. What was that all about?
It’s eye-opening to attend the military family forums, which get an audience of over 600 people, mostly military wives who are the heads of the Family Readiness Group for deployed units.
Last year, I was surprised by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Casey’s forthright approach to the programs and services the military offers for its families. He asked the audience — a highly vested group — to rate the programs and services by a show of hands and the results were lackluster, as I think he expected. He promised progress. His wife, who also spoke, described military families as “brittle” after repeated deployments. Not much gloss there.
At the first of this year’s three military family forums, I ended up sitting in front of three “survivors” — two women and a man. I guessed what this term meant. (There is so much lingo and so many acronyms thrown around at these forums, it almost seems like a a spoof sometimes.) I guessed correctly, it turned out, sadly enough. The two women’s husbands had been killed, as had the man’s son.
Today, I sat next to two young military wives during the second forum. One jumped up in the middle of the forum to answer her cell phone because it was her husband, making his weekly call to her from Iraq. He’s on his second deployment; this one out of Fort Bliss in Texas. She can’t find a job. And although she’s the head of the family readiness group for his deployed unit, all the wives but four went back home to their families when their husbands were sent to Iraq. (I’ve been there for the National Guard multimedia story I’m working on and I wouldn’t want to live there by myself without a job or function to occupy me.)
Today’s forum focused on building soldier and family resilience, which didn’t turn out to be a cheerful topic, although it did seem like the Army is trying to adapt to its demographics realistically. The first presentation, given by a female brigadier general, was about the rate of Army suicides, which exceeds the civilian rate (until 2005, the Army suicide rate was lower than the civilian rate) and is climbing. She said that the Army is evaluating its current suicide prevention programs to see if they work and meet the needs of the current Army population. She remarked that today’s soldier doesn’t need lessons on how to balance his checkbook; he needs help paying child support to the two mothers of the children he has fathered. One of the wives sitting next to me said, “I can’t believe she just said that.”
The second presentation was delivered by Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum who is tough as nails and has an absolutely amazing bio and story. She’s the director of the Army’s new comprehensive soldier fitness initiative aimed at making soldiers strong mentally as well as physically. Seems like they’ve got the right person to take on that job.
All in all, the Army has a tough road to hoe, no doubt about it. Cornum said today that American society and its Army are getting more and more out of synch after she talked about today’s parents coddling their children. Trying to keep an all-volunteer force of mostly married (or familially entangled) soldiers mentally healthy isn’t an easy or straightforward task, not to mention trying to support the military families left behind, which are often geographically dispersed, given the Army’s heavy reliance on the Guard and the Reserve in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
I was vaguely aware that the Newport half marathon was about one month away, but today I received an e-mail from Amica Marathon alerting me that it will be held in exactly 37 days.
Even without the reminder from the race organizer, the half marathon has been on my mind, both because I’ve been running more than usual and because I just read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, a wonderful memoir about running, writing and life.
Murakami’s quiet, self-effacing outlook and his steady, calm observance of his own nature and his surroundings are compelling. He has the soul of an artist, but he believes that the creation of art requires physical vitality. He maintains his vigor through exercise, mostly running, but he also swims and bikes.
In the memoir, Murakami lives and runs in Hawaii, Japan and Cambridge. He writes about the Charles River and how people are drawn to to water:
Seeing a lot of water like that every day is probably an important thing for human beings. For human beings may be a bit of a generalization – but I do know it’s important for one person: me. If I go for a time without seeing water, I feel like something’s slowly draining out of me. It’s probably like the feeling a music lover has when, for whatever reason, he’s separated from music for a long time. The fact that I was raised by the sea might have something do do with it.
That’s how I (also raised by the ocean) feel, and one of the reasons that I want to run the Newport half marathon.
Second or Sachuest Beach in Middletown, RI, January, 2007
I won’t run past Second Beach, my favorite beach, on the half-marathon course, but Tyler will when he runs the full marathon. Although Second Beach is in Middletown, it’s not far from First Beach in Newport — just a mile or so farther east. The land at the distant side of the beach in the photo above is Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge — a gorgeous spot to hike and watch the ocean.
I am going to run the Newport Half Marathon on October 18!
Tyler inspired me because he recently registered for the full 26.2-mile marathon.
Every street along the half marathon route in the city where I was born has meaning and associations for me:
The course starts just off Goat Island in Newport Harbor. My father’s father, a skilled machinist, worked at the Naval Torpedo Station (today’s Goat Island) during WWII when it was genuinely an island (now it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway).
Newport Harbor, with the Newport Bridge in the background. Goat Island, barely visible, off to right
My paternal grandfather, Raymond M. Leary, Sr., (1891-1954)
Left turn onto Long Wharf – a beautiful view of boats in the harbor and home of the Newport Yacht Club
Newport Bridge and Newport Harbor at night
Right turn onto America’s Cup Boulevard — In a small park next to the boulevard, a stone marker commemorates one of my Barrington High School classmates, Jeff Sharver, a first lieutenant in the Marines at the time of the 2003 invasion of Grenada. Tragically, he was killed trying to rescue a fellow Marine.
America’s Cup Boulevard becomes Thames Street (rhymes with games, for native Newporters).
Lobstermen still bring their daily catch in to the wharves along Thames Street.
Aquidneck Lobster Co. on Bowen’s Wharf (Lynne and Troy in 2005)
Many of Newport’s most famous restaurants, bars and shops are also located on the Thames Street wharves. When I was a child, the city’s waterfront was sleazy, but after the federal government closed Newport’s active naval base in the 1970s, the city focused its economy on tourism and Thames Street went upscale.
Tyler, let it be noted here, likes to eat at The Black Pearl or the Clark Cooke House on Bannister’s Wharf. Bryan Waugh, another former high school classmate of mine, is the chef at the Clark Cooke House.
“The Wave,” one of my children’s all-time favorite statues, is located just off Thames Street.
Troy and Lynne climbing on the wave and the bodysurfer’s feet, 2005
Right turn onto Wellington Avenue and into Newport’s Fifth Ward, a locale where I spent some of the happiest times of my childhood.
[Heading straight on Thames, instead of turning off on Wellington, would lead to my current favorite Newport restaurant, Asterisk, 599 Thames St.]
My grandmother, my beloved Nana, lived at 73 Roseneath Avenue, off Wellington. The Fifth Ward is not a political ward (Newport only has three), but a neighborhood, originally settled by Irish immigrants.
My beautiful Nana, Mary Catherine Sullivan Leary Finn (1905-1988)
Am I Irish? Take a look at these names: My grandmother, Mary Catherine Sullivan, was born in 1905. In 1924, she married my grandfather Raymond Moore Leary. Three years after his death in 1954, she married Cornelius Anthony Aloysius Finn, always called Con.
Dashing Con (second from left)
Con was also a lifelong resident of Newport’s Fifth Ward. He served as a Seabee during WWII and returned home to work in the Newport’s public works department.
Cornelius Anthony Aloysius Finn (1913 -1974)
Never previously married, Con began his courtship of my widowed grandmother in the late 1950s at Siggy’s, the Fifth Ward’s favored deli.
“Hello to the prettiest girl in Newport!” he said to Nana, when he spotted her shopping in the deli.
In his job, Con helped maintain Newport’s public spaces, including King Park (we always called it King’s Park) on Wellington Ave at the start of Roseneath next to the harbor. The waterfront park has a playground, a small bandstand and a ballpark. When I was young, the sign over the dugouts read, “A diamond is a boy’s best friend.” At some point over the years, the sign was repainted, corrected and now reads: “A diamond is a kid’s best friend.”
King Park also boasts a statue of Comte de Rochambeau, who arrived in Newport in 1780 and helped General George Washington defeat the British at Yorktown in 1781.
Nana often walked my sister and I down Roseneath to the park when we were children. I have taken my own kids to the park many times, too, when they were young to play on the swings and slides, climb on Rochambeau, hunt for mussels, pop seaweed and gaze out over the harbor.
Continuing along Wellington, the half marathon route passes the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. Lewis, born in Newport in 1842, helped her mother tend the lighthouse and her siblings after her father became an invalid. She was known as the best swimmer in Newport (quite an accomplishment, especially for a woman) and credited with saving at least 18 people. She eventually became a beneficiary of the Carnegie Hero Fund.
Left turn onto Halidon Avenue. No longer fronting on Halidon Ave. is Halidon Hall, former home of the Cowsills, a 1960s family singing group. Halidon Hall is almost directly behind 73 Roseneath. When my family visited Nana and Con during the Cowsills’ brief heyday, my sister and I were thrilled to hear them practicing, despite my father’s scornful teasing about their bubblegum pop.
Right turn onto Harrison Avenue. My sister and I were always reminded that the sculptor of the famous Iwo Jima war memorial, Felix de Weldon lived at Beacon Rock, 147 Harrison Ave.
Also, along Harrison are the fields and pastures of the SVF Foundation, formerly the Beacon Hill estate, known locally as the Swiss Village Farm. The foundation’s mission is to preserve rare and endangered breeds of livestock. Usually some of the foundation’s heritage sheep, cattle or goats are grazing near the road, but the property is only open to the public one day a year, and I haven’t yet had the chance to tour the grounds and buildings, which have been beautifully restored.
The half-marathon route takes a right turn into Fort Adams State Park. Construction of the fort began in 1824, and was completed 30 years later, with the help of Irish stone masons.
Fort Adams, viewed from Newport Harbor, with a rainbow above
My father signed up to serve in WWII at Fort Adams (it didn’t become a state park until 1965).
My father, Raymond Moore Leary, Jr. (1926-1987), with his parents, at 73 Roseneath Ave.
Another right turn out of the park and back onto Harrison Ave., past Hammersmith Farm, originally built by John W. Auchincloss in 1887. He was the great-grandfather of Jacqueline Bouvier’s stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss. Hammersmith Farm was her childhood home, as well as the site of the wedding reception of Bouvier and John F. Kennedy, following their wedding at St. Mary’s Church. JFK used the farm as his “Summer White House.” I remember driving by the house when I was a little girl with my family and having the Secret Service and guards at the gates pointed out to me: “The President is in town.”
Hammersmith Farm and its boathouse from the water, 2005
A note about St. Mary’s Church: The oldest Catholic parish in RI, it was founded in 1828. The congregation grew when the Irish began to help build Fort Adams. Nana’s parents were married in the church, and she attended its parochial school. Raymond M. Leary, Sr., my grandfather, was baptized at St. Mary’s. The funeral masses for both my father and grandmother were held at St. Mary’s.
To be continued in my next post …
Check out this article from The New York Times: A Plantation to Be Proud Of.
I discovered that there will be a ballot referendum in 2010 to change the state’s name from the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” to the “State of Rhode Island.” The article describes the proposal and gives a snappy summary of Rhode Island’s early history.
This week, I’m jumping from topic to topic. Can’t help it — I’ll get back to Africa next week.
Did you see this article in the NYT? In Rhode Island, Hoping a Tall Ship Can Help a Sagging Economy
A nonprofit group in Rhode Island plans to build a replica of an 1812 tall ship. The group bought a hull from an organization in Canada that ran out of money attempting the same project — Is there a message here?
If completed, the vessel will be the second largest tall ship in the United States. It will be 207 feet long and 13 stories tall! The total project cost is estimated to be $5 million.
Some Rhode Islanders are hoping the project will revive tourism and maybe even the state’s declining marine industry. I hope so, too, but I have my doubts.
Here’s what First Beach in Newport looked like early one frigid morning in January almost exactly two years ago:
And a little later the same day — Third Beach (actually in Middletown), my all-time favorite:
Despite what I perceive as misguided optimism behind the tall ship project (By the way, Rhode Island’s motto is HOPE), I’m glad to have an excuse to write about my beautiful little home state.