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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

So begins Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” about the famous midnight gallop that happened 244 years ago. The poem was first published in The Atlantic Monthly on January 1861, and I dutifully learned the first lines as a young student. As a result, every April 18 I think of Paul Revere. 

Who, exactly was Paul Revere?

I know that he was a talented silversmith because I have seen some of his work, starting with teapots and engravings, at antique shows. I also assumed that Revere was an ardent colonialist, hanging out with the likes of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, to whom he rode through the night in Concord to warn them of imminent capture by the British troops. That was about it until I did a little research, and here is what I found.

Revere was born in Boston on either Dec. 21, 1734, or Jan. 1, 1735, depending on different calendar conversions. That still makes him 40 years old that famous night. His father was Apollos Rivoire, a French Huguenot immigrant who had come on his own at the age of 13 to the New World and eventually married Deborah Hitchborn, the Boston-born daughter of an artisan and wharf-owning family (whose last name was also spelled Hichborn and Hitchbourn). Revere, the third of 12 children, attended school from age 7 through 13 and then learned the silversmithing trade. He was married twice, having been widowed in 1773 and remarried that same year, which means he was little more than a newlywed the night of the ride. 

In addition to his work with silver, Revere did some dentistry to augment his income. He participated in the Boston Tea Party, during which Bostonians threw tea into Boston Harbor from the holds of ships anchored there to protest against parliamentary taxation without representation. 

The colonists were increasingly angered by severe taxes imposed on them by their mother country to help repay the considerable debt Britain had incurred from fighting the French and Indian War. Revere, as a rider for Boston’s Committee on Safety, had devised a system of signals with lanterns to communicate the whereabouts of the British soldiers. Hence that night, the message was, “One, if by land, two, if by sea.” In a sense, Revere was Boston’s first media man.

With others, he was aware that the British troops might shortly be on the move because on April 16, 1775, he rode out to Concord, Massachusetts, to urge the patriots there to move their military stores to a different location.

On the night of April 18, Dr. Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes that the king’s troops were about to embark in boats from Boston to go to Cambridge, and from there to Lexington and Concord by road that night. Revere borrowed a swift mare named Brown Beauty, and waited on the far bank of the Charles River for the signal from the steeple of the Old North Church. Revere and Dawes made the ride from different locations should one of them be blocked from leaving Boston.

Revere, however, had the benefit of a distinguished publicist, Longfellow, who honored him accordingly. Also left out of the story was Dr. Samuel Prescott, who rode on to Concord after Revere was captured by a British patrol in Lexington. Revere soon escaped, while Dawes lost his horse and had to walk back to Lexington. But Prescott made it through to carry the warning.

Revere and the others surely did not yell, “The British are coming!” despite tales to the contrary. They were, in the final analysis, all British. They probably said, “The redcoats are coming!” and they surely didn’t yell since British troops were stationed throughout the countryside. Such is the mystique of history. 

But “that famous day and year,” we know from ensuing battles, is true and to be celebrated this day.

The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a week of celebrations, and it gives me great pleasure to share them with you, our readers. First is the delightful news that Times Beacon Record newspapers won 12 awards for outstanding work over the past year from the New York Press Association this past weekend.

The convention was in Albany, and we loved hearing our names called out before a group of more than 300 attendees from weeklies and dailies, paid papers and free, representing communities throughout New York state. The prizes are listed elsewhere in the paper, and I am particularly pleased that they span the two primary responsibilities we carry: good editorial coverage and attractive advertising. Those are our two masters, and we need to serve both well in order to survive.

Speaking of surviving, a major part of the convention and its workshops was concerned with just that. As most of you know, newspapers — and the media across the board — are engaged in a gigantic struggle. Small businesses, long the backbone of community newspapers like ours, are falling by the wayside. Consumers are buying from Amazon and Google. It’s so easy to toddle over to a computer in one’s pajamas and order up Aunt Tillie’s birthday present, have it wrapped and delivered in no time at all, and perhaps even save some money in the transaction. Only small stores with highly specialized product for sale can compete. Or else they offer some sort of fun experience in their shops, making a personal visit necessary. And it’s not only small stores that are disappearing. Stores like Lord & Taylor — “a fortress on Fifth Avenue,” according to The New York Times — are also gone, directly impacting publications like that esteemed paper.

But that is only one existential threat to media. The other is the drumbeat of fake news. The internet and social media have been significantly discredited as news sources. Cable television hasn’t done much better in the public’s regard. Print, which has always been considered the most reliable source of fact-based news, mainly because it takes longer to reach the readers and is vetted by editors and proofers, can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and the accusation, “Fake news!” 

On the other hand, polls show that print is still the most trusted source. And that is particularly true for hometown newspapers, where reporters and editors live among those they write about and have to answer to them in the supermarket and at school concerts.

Which brings me to my next cause for celebration. Monday, April 8, marked the 43rd anniversary of the founding of The Village Times, which began the Times Beacon Record expansion. We were there in 1976, we are here in 2019, and I believe a good measure of success is simply survival. We are still just as committed to the high ideals of a free press — carrying those ideals and passion to our website and any other of our other platforms and products — as we were that day of wild exhilaration when our first issue was mailed to our residents. We will remain so in the future with the support of the communities we serve.

There is one other happy occasion this week. My oldest grandchild, Benji, is celebrating his birthday. When Benji was born, 24 years ago, I became a grandmother. This is, as we know, a club one cannot join on one’s own. One needs a grandchild to be admitted to this lovely existence. And in addition to the joy of watching him grow up into an honorable and talented young man, I have the exceptional pleasure of working with him as he goes about his chosen career of making quality films. It was he who directed and helped write our historical movie, “One Life to Give,” and now its sequel, “Traitor.” It is he who will be the first of our family’s next generation to graduate from college next month.

I am writing this column on the eve of your birthday, Benji. Happy Birthday, Dear Grandson! And I salute your parents for letting you follow your heart. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

friend mentioned an article he had seen that asked the question, “What’s the best restaurant if you’re over 50?” and proceeded to ask me the same question.

Now he well knows that I am over 50, and he also knows I eat in restaurants, sometimes for business and occasionally as a social event. In fact, as we have gotten older, my friends and I seem to do less cooking each year and more splurging on dinners out when we get together. So it was a relevant question in more ways than one. I don’t know what the article he was referring to concluded, but I can tell you what is important to me when I dine in a restaurant.

First and most critical is the food. It is certainly not the ambience or even the picturesque location. Those last are pleasant enough, but the quality and taste of the meal are most vital. I like food that I would describe as, for lack of a better term, clean. That means the ingredients should be allowed to speak for themselves and should not be buried under cheese or slathered on top with butter. Both of those can make food taste good, but unless the dish particularly calls for those ingredients, they should not drown the main offering.

I also like seasoning but again not with a heavy hand. To my mind, a heavily spiced meal knocks out my taste buds. But I know lots of people, even a couple of my sons, like their food “hot.” For me, it is fun to try and analyze what spice or combination of spices make the food so tasty. Sometimes I can tell; sometimes I have to beg the answer from the chef, and surprisingly the answer is usually forthcoming. And sometimes I bring along a dear friend, who is herself a celebrated chef, to sleuth out the mystery.

I don’t have a large capacity for food at one sitting, so I frequently bring home half the meal to eat the next day. That not only makes me feel economical but also not wasteful, and I especially like a meal that will still be tasty when it is reheated. Not all dishes are up to that challenge, but occasionally one, like chicken, will be even better after it has lolled around in its spices in my fridge for 24 hours.

When I go out to a restaurant with other people, I need to hear them when they speak. I also do not care to shout while I am chewing. That means it has to be reasonably quiet wherever we are eating. And unless the experience is deliberately family style, which can be fun, I don’t care to be stuffed into a crowd of diners. A moderate distance between tables is nice. So is a comfortable chair. I try not to be interested in the conversation at the next table — although there have been a few exceptions to which I will admit — and a little privacy is welcome. That also helps to keep the ambience low key. Ditto for the background music, if there is such. I am not looking to have my large intestine jitterbug during a meal.

Finally, it is pleasant to have a waiter or waitress who is not conspicuously weighed down by the problems of the world. Although I well understand that being a server in a restaurant is one of the hardest jobs, because pleasing so many different people with so many individual tastes has to be challenging, I prefer not having to deal with someone cranky or impatient. It is helpful when servers introduce themselves by name because it facilitates getting their attention and nicely personalizes the service in both directions. And I feel the tip ought not be an automatic percentage. That’s just a minimum. Exceptional service should be acknowledged in the one way that is most meaningful. That person after all is earning his or her bread, even as we are eating ours.

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

For those of us who daily or occasionally drive into Manhattan, it looks like congestion pricing is going to happen. New York would be the first such city in the nation to impose this, but other countries have embraced charging vehicles entering the downtowns of their major cities as a solution to overcrowding, accidents and especially air pollution and revenue shortfalls. London, Stockholm and Singapore have congestion pricing, although critics insist that it is an unfair tax that particularly targets the poor who do not otherwise have easy access to public transportation.

Debate on this subject has continued ever since former mayor, Michael Bloomberg (R, I), introduced the idea in 2008. But the state, which has to approve such a move, wasn’t interested then. Now, however, with shortfalls in income tax revenue coupled with the immediate need to upgrade the city’s deteriorating subway system pressing upon them, the legislators seem to be agreeing to approve the move. The Democratic Assembly had been the holdout but at this point is willing to charge for city driving. The Senate has indicated support, as has Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). Suburban legislators are willing to go along with the plan if some of the added revenue will be
designated for commuter railroads.

Once having reached this remarkable consensus, work still remains for most to agree on what exemptions to allow. So far these might include drivers who are poor, have disabilities or are going to medical appointments, according to this week’s articles in The New York Times. The more exemptions, the less revenue, as the legislators well recognize. One pricing plan is projected to raise about $1 billion annually.

So how would we be affected?

Electronic tolls might be imposed on vehicles heading south from 60th Street to the Battery. “That money would, in turn, be used to secure bonds totaling $15 billion for MTA capital projects through 2024,” according to The Times. Some consideration would include a credit for drivers entering the congestion zone through tolled tunnels or the Henry Hudson Parkway on Manhattan’s West Side, as well as for drivers coming over the Brooklyn Bridge to travel north on the East River, or FDR Drive beyond the zone.

One Queens assemblyman, David Weprin (D), insists that all city residents should be exempted, pointing out that many in Queens do not have public transportation. This is the type of detail still being discussed.

In Central London, where congestion pricing has been in effect since 2003, drivers pay about $15 per day to enter the roughly 15-square-mile zone between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Those with disabilities are exempt, while residents living in the zone pay 10 percent of the fee to enter during those hours. The plan has been a success in many ways, earning £122 million (about $160 million) a year net benefit in 2005-06, although some aspects are being updated this year. The number of vehicles in the zone has decreased by some 25 percent in the last decade. However, the private hire vehicles, like Uber, which have not been taxed, have increased by more than 75 percent from 2013-17. City officials are looking to change that
exemption this year.

Further, the number of private cars in Central London has fallen by 39 percent between 2002-14, while cycling has increased by 210 percent from 2000-16. Congestion in London, though, is still a severe problem, the blame now being placed on those same private hire vehicles and more deliveries. The congestion zone there is less than 1.5 percent of the city.

In Stockholm, there is a variable charge in the congestion zone, depending on the time of day, distance and location, with a maximum of about $11.30. Technological advances make such determination possible. The zone covers two-thirds of the city, as opposed to London, but then London is eight times the size of Stockholm. Londoners may soon be subject to all of London falling into the zone, as well as fees applying on weekends and for all road users. London’s changes, after 16 years, may predict where New York’s plan may morph.

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Probably the worst part of the fraud committed by parents to get their children into top colleges is the message it sends to their children. The parents are saying plainly that the children are not capable of succeeding on their own. Regardless of what they may have told their children, actions speak louder than words, and these parents have demonstrated that in order to succeed, one has to lie, cheat, bribe and otherwise con one’s way to the goal. 

And what is the goal here? Just getting into college, not making a million-dollar deal or getting on Easy Street for life. Yes, a college degree usually helps a person to get a better job. It also supposedly helps that person to become a more developed human. But a college graduate is merely on the threshold of the rest of his or her life, with no guarantees of any sort except the number of years one has spent in schools.

There are colleges considered top tier, but they promise nothing more than a sheepskin if one passes all the requisite courses. Are the professors better in a top-tier college? One might think that. Or one might suspect that some of the big name faculty use postgraduate teaching assistants to do the daily teaching with little student contact while they do research, travel to give lectures and win grants, contributing to the university’s standing more than to that of the students’ education. A top college degree might be a good name to drop in social circles, but in a long life performance is ultimately what counts.

Who gets the benefit of that name? Is it the child? Or is it the parents when relating the successes of their offspring? I remember a cartoon in one of the magazines about the time my children were going through that nerve-racking period of receiving acceptances — and rejections. In the center of the cartoon was the back of a car, with a close-up of the rearview window. And at the bottom left corner of the window, proudly displayed, was the sticker of the desired college, followed by the words, “also accepted in” with the other top-tier college stickers paraded across the width of the glass. Exactly whose victory was that touting? Why, that of the parents, of course. Many of the kids probably didn’t have a car or couldn’t even drive yet.

Now let’s be honest here. Some parents have always tried to help their kids succeed, whether by throwing in a hand with the eighth-grade science project or polishing French pronunciation. And those parents who could afford it have sometimes made lavish donations to colleges in the hopes of aiding the admissions process. But those donations, if they build a new room for the library or contribute to the purchase of equipment in the lab, ultimately help many students. Most important, they are visible and not dishonest. And whether we like it or not, people with more money sometimes use their money to their own advantage. Even the ability to pay for tutoring for the SATs divides the students into the haves and the have-nots. But that’s not illegal.

The other truism is this. Whether in college or in life or just inputting on a computer, garbage in means garbage out. If a student is committed and diligent about studying in college, and there are many good colleges in this country, that student will benefit from the college experience. The opposite is also true. It doesn’t so much matter where one goes to college, but rather what one gets from the college in addition to the piece of paper documenting one’s attendance and tuition payments.

My granddaughter is a high school senior this year and waiting to hear where she will go for the next four years. We all are waiting to hear with her. She has already received acceptances so she knows she will be a college student by fall. Wherever she goes, she will get there honestly and because of the exceptional person that she is. We are so proud of her.

 

 

Leah Dunaief

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? Do you even remember what they were? If you are sticking to them, heartfelt congratulations. You are one of few with the discipline and tenacity to hang on. But if you are in the majority for having slipped or temporarily abandoned your resolves, here is some help. It’s called habits.

Habits can be a valuable tool to change your life, both for the better and not. By that I mean, we can slip into some unwelcome behaviors and they become habits almost before we realize it. Or we can consciously take control and set out to break or redefine or make new ones, and as they become part of a routine, they become easier to follow.

This is all far simpler than it sounds, of course. There is a whole branch of science dealing with habits, the unconscious behavioral patterns formed to deal with actions. “We do not so much direct our own actions as become shaped by them,” wrote Jeffrey Kluger in his introductory chapter for a special edition from Time Inc. called “The Power of Habits.”

He points out, by quoting Léon Dumont — the 19th century French psychologist and philosopher — that “a garment, after having been worn a certain amount of time, clings to the shape of the body better than when it was new. There has been a change in the tissue, and this change is a new habit of cohesion.” That is certainly true of the old, comfy pair of slippers that, despite their age, you hate to replace them, and the old pair of pants that have come to fit you like a glove.

Accordingly, the manner of our actions “fashion for themselves in the nervous system more and more appropriate paths.” Kluger here is again quoting Dumont, who studied the science of laughter, of gratitude, of empathy and, for our purposes here, the science of habits.

William James, the American philosopher greatly influenced by Dumont, suggested that people were little more than “bundles of habits.” The point of all this is to build on the idea that if we can shape our brains and the rest of our nervous systems the way we shape a pair of pants, we can control and redirect our lives to follow the actions we wish to take, namely our resolutions to be better.

Think about how many of our daily moves are just programmed in. We get up in the morning and automatically brush our teeth, take a shower, dress, put up the coffee, get our keys, slide behind the wheel of the car, place the coffee cup in the holder, drive to work, all probably while thinking of something else. Occasionally we are surprised to find we have arrived at our destination without consciously paying attention to the route. Almost all of that execution was the result of habit.

Well, suppose you built another step in there, like running 20 minutes on that treadmill or stationary bike collecting dust in your basement before you got into the shower. You like to watch the morning TV shows? Jog along with them as you watch. If you repeat that action for awhile, it could become a habit and presto! You are doing the recommended minutes of exercise a week without the ironclad discipline seemingly required each day.

It just becomes as much a habit as brushing your teeth. If you are forever locked into dipping into the candy jar in the evenings, and you find you are gaining weight, substitute chilled blueberries or red grapes from a cut-glass bowl within reach of your fingers. Of course you have to remember to buy the blueberries or grapes beforehand, wash them and keep them in the refrigerator at the ready.

Complex habits, like procrastination or chronic lateness or smoking are harder to unlearn — but not impossible. We can rewire ourselves, using substitutions or rewards, splinting a bad habit onto a good one for support or hanging out with those whose actions we would like to emulate.

Here’s the bottom line: We can do it. It will just take time for a new behavior to feel part of our routine, an average of two weeks or so. To become a habit will average 66 days.

Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson on March 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is the time of mixed seasonal emotions. On the one hand, the deep cabin fever that sets in with February is still with us. Winter is upon the land, the trees are skeletons, the bushes just sticks and the lawns an anemic greenish brown. Even the evergreens, instead of being a lusty hunter green, are more like a drab olive, branches hanging dutifully but limply, to remind us that all color has not entirely disappeared from view.

That’s probably also an apt description of our souls, suffering from winter’s darkness and yearning for color and warmth. Patches of snow, remnants of the recent storm, have also lost their luster and serve only to nudge us that winter still has us in its grip. So do the ever widening potholes.

But — and this is only a tiny “but” — March is here. That means we have made it through the coldest, darkest months. This weekend, we will switch to daylight savings time, so those who work past 6 o’clock in the evening will not be stumbling out from their stores and offices into the darkness. There will still be evidence of some day left. Remember, though, to drive with extra care during the week following the change, for statistics tell us there are more car incidents after losing even one hour on one’s biological clock.

Mill Creek in Port Jefferson on March 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

With the advent of March, if we hold on three weeks, comes the official start of spring. Now we know that Mother Nature doesn’t check the calendar, and we can get wicked snowstorms after spring officially begins. But that likelihood is less and would be a grand finale rather than the beginning of a long siege. So there is the smallest whiff of hope for the return of better weather. Also if you look closely at the bushes, you can see buds. Buds! That means flowers will be coming, and leaves, the bright green leaves of early spring. If we really want to get delirious about color, we can trek to Philadelphia to drink in the world’s oldest and largest indoor flower show, now happening at the Pennsylvania Convention Center until Sunday, March 10. This year’s theme is Flower Power, celebrating the contribution of flowers to our lives.

Sometimes on a winter day when the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless and intensely blue and the air, with its low humidity, crisp and invigorating. For those who ski downhill or through the woods, snowshoe or ice skate or even take a walk on a country road, the scene is poetic, an artist’s dream. To come inside after such activity and be greeted with the scent of hearty soup or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies is a treat most keenly appreciated when the temperature is low.

As the season turns, and we think about putting away the shovels and salt — not yet though! — we can also cheer ourselves on a bit by conjuring up the benefits of winter. What are they, you ask? Well, no mosquitoes for one. And the ticks have disappeared. No lawn to mow, although we do sometimes have to shovel snow, so that’s probably only a trade-off at best. We can gain a few pounds and hide beneath our tunics and sweaters until the change in wardrobe forces us to acknowledge the slothful truth. There are no emergency calls to fix the air conditioner in winter. But the boiler is no angel either. It always seems to give way on the coldest nights. A dark and cold winter night can be cheered with a crackling fire, as we sit before the fireplace sipping a favorite beverage and exchanging deep thoughts with a loved one. Even the dog seems to enjoy the warmth and glow, curling up at our feet.

But we are willing to cast all that away for the excitement of spring, with its birdsong, flowers and warmth. The return of light, longer with each day, is a magical salve for our moods. Just for a little while longer, dear friends, hang in there.

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Before February’s Black History Month moves away for another year, I would like to share with you the exciting story I read in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” with lessons from four presidents as leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. Now you might be thinking that’s not the sexiest subject to be writing or reading about, but in her storytelling hands, it is a page turner. 

We all know too well that Johnson, the Democratic vice president, became president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. At that time, Kennedy’s progressive legislation was totally bogged down in Congress, going nowhere. What might not be so well known is that LBJ, as he was fondly known, was a “master mechanic” of the legislative process for he had come of age in politics in Congress. “It was his fierce resolve not simply to dislodge Kennedy’s stalled agenda but to realize a society built on racial and economic justice far beyond the [FDR’s] New Deal and [Kennedy’s] New Frontier,” Goodwin wrote.

Taking advantage of the short burst of sympathy and support that he expected to realize from the nation, Johnson, a Texan, wanted to get the contentious civil rights bill, designed to end segregation in the South, enacted. “We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for 100 years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law,” he told Congress in his address to the nation on Nov. 27, 1963. 

But first he needed some congressional momentum to oil the rails and cleverly called for Kennedy’s tax cut to pass. Less divisive than the issue of civil rights, the bill had passed in the House after 13 months but was opposed by Virginia Sen. Harry Byrd, a conservative Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Conservatives then adamantly believed in a balanced budget. The idea of tax cuts came from liberals.

Johnson was able to work out a deal with Byrd. If he could get the proposed budget down below $100 billion in 1965, Byrd would bring the bill to the floor for a vote. With great effort, Johnson did, the bill was voted on and the Revenue Act of 1964 was passed into law on Feb. 26, barely three short months after the assassination. 

Now came the bigger challenge: civil rights.

Once the tax cut bill passed, promising more revenue from increased business that could be spent on social services, Lyndon Johnson focused his
attention and his legislative expertise on securing the mandate of law for civil rights. 

To say the least, Southern Congressional Republicans, many of them Johnson’s friends, adamantly opposed his effort. He liked to tell them his personal story about his longtime black employees, his housemaid and butler, Helen and Gene Williams, and his cook, Zephyr Wright.  

Each year Johnson asked them to drive his extra car from Washington, D.C., back to Texas, a three-day journey. One year Johnson asked Gene to take along his affectionate beagle as well. It was then that Johnson learned how difficult such a trip was for those of color: almost no places on the road to stop and eat, almost no bathrooms in which they were allowed, few places to sleep. “A colored man’s got enough trouble getting across the South on his own, without having a dog along,” Gene explained. Now, all these years later, the winner of the best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards, “Green Book,” tells us the same story about traveling through the South in the 1960s with its unjust system of segregation.

Johnson knew his passionate advocacy for this bill would separate him from the South and from his Southern friends and colleagues. 

Johnson confronted those in Congress with how wrong segregation was and tirelessly worked the legislative system for passage of his bill. He challenged Virginia’s defiant Judge Howard Smith, a Democratic congressman and chair of the House Rules Committee by resorting to the discharge petition, a rarely used procedure, to blast the bill out of committee with the help of a majority of representatives. He rallied those outside the House to pressure their elected representatives to free the bill. The strategy worked, as leaders all over the country organized to do just that. 

Once out of committee, the House passed the strongest civil rights bill since Reconstruction. 

Next came the Senate. Johnson took on Richard Russell (D-Georgia), Senate leader of the Southern opposition, in a pitched battle that proved history is the result of individuals in the right place at the right time. Only a son of the South could have persevered at that juncture. Johnson managed, with the help of Republicans, and especially Senate minority leader, Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois), to break the Southern-led Senate filibuster. The bill then passed in the Senate. 

On July 2, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. He ended by saying, “To the extent Negroes were free, really free, so was I. And so was my country.”

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Presidents Day, as we honor those we hold on a pedestal, is a time for inspiration. Here are some inspirational sayings, some humorously so, that have been culled from the internet. 

1. Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.

2. Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient and the best things come to those who don’t give up.

3. Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it, time will pass anyway.

4. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. (Marilyn Monroe)

5. What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create. (Buddha)

 6. Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom. (Jim Rohn)

 7. Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. (Frank Outlaw)

 8. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. (Herman Cain)

 9. Rule No. 1 of life. Do what makes you happy.

10. No matter how you feel … get up, dress up, show up and never give up.

11. If you can’t change the circumstances, change your attitude. Funny thing is, when you do, you’ll find that the circumstances often change.

12. Hustle in silence and let your success make the noise.

13. Home is where the Wi-Fi connects automatically.

14. The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present. (Alice Morse Earle)

15. Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

16. You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens. (Mandy Hale)

17. When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you. (Lolly Daskal)

18. Follow your passion. Listen to your heart. Trust the process. Be grateful. Life is magic and your dreams matter.

19. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

20. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new. 

21. You should never regret anything in life. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it is experience.

22. For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.

23. Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.

24. One: Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two: Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it. Three: If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away. (Stephen Hawking)

25. Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

26. Be with someone who knows exactly what they have when they have you.

27. Money talks … but all mine ever says is goodbye.

28. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

29. Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond, but by the end you wish you had a club and a spade.

30. An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.

31. Yawning is your body’s way of saying 20 percent battery remaining.

32. What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!

Renee Fleming

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As befits a woman born on St. Valentine’s Day, Renée Fleming grew up to become the sweetheart of the opera world. Possessing a powerful yet silky voice, great beauty and impressive acting skills, Fleming has moved from a single dimension to any number of new musical venues, with a major role in Broadway’s “Carousel,” singing the national anthem at the 2014 Super Bowl, and innumerable appearances on television, in movies and in concerts.

The opera diva will be the star attraction at Stony Brook University’s Gala, the major fundraiser at the Staller Center March 2. I’ve long known about her spectacular professional career but thought I would like to know more about the person that she is, so I had a brief, 10-minute chat with her on the phone at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain. We were time-limited to protect her voice, which is as immediately recognizable when she speaks as when she fills the Metropolitan Opera House with glorious music.

Q: You are coming to Stony Brook to perform. Do you have some special connection with SUNY?

A: Yes, I went to SUNY Potsdam, and so did my sister and brother. My two nephews are at SUNY, so we are a fan club.

Q: You undoubtedly travel a lot. What do you do to keep yourself healthy and protect your voice during plane trips?

A: I try to stay hydrated, get enough rest. I live moderately and believe in mind over matter. And I do the same as others, trying to avoid those who are coughing on the plane.

Q: I believe you grew up in a musical family, your parents both being high school music teachers. Did you always want to sing?

A: It was the furthest thing from my mind! I loved horses, thought I might be a vet, or maybe the first lady president — which has yet to happen. I had ambition, was a very good student. I always wrote music growing up. But I never heard of a woman composer so that wasn’t an option. I majored in music ed, my parents thought that was a good idea, went on to the Eastman School and Julliard. Then I fell in love with jazz.

Q: Do you get nervous when you are to
perform?

A: I was not a gregarious person, that wasn’t my personality. I was shy. So that was one of the skills I had to learn.

Q: Do you have a favorite role or composer?

A: I’m not so much into favorites. Verdi, Strauss …

Q: Do you speak other languages?

A: Yes, I speak French, German, some Italian.

Q: Do you need to know those languages to sing in them?

A: No, there have been great singers who have not known the language they were singing in. You do not need to know the language but it is helpful.

Q: You have two daughters. How did you manage the work/life balance?

A: It’s hard for a working mother. You never feel you are doing anything well. You have to manage everything. It’s challenging. Fortunately I have a tremendous amount of energy and a great work ethic.

Q: Did you get that from your parents?

A: (Pauses.) Yes, probably.

Q: Do you ever have nightmares that you had forgotten your lines?

A: Yes, those kinds of nightmares like
everyone else.

Q: Did that ever happen?

A: No.

Q: Are your dreams set to music?

A: Hmm, I don’t really know. 

Q: What else about music?

A: I’m working with the National Institutes of Health. When children are exposed to music early, their oral comprehension is increased. Studies have shown that.

A major passion of the opera superstar is the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. She is artistic adviser at the Kennedy Center and has launched a collaboration with NIH — the first of its kind between a performing arts center and the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. She gives presentations on her concert tours with scientists, music therapists and medical professionals. She recently co-authored an article with Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Be sure to come out for the fundraising Stony Brook University Gala Saturday night, March 2, at the Staller Center. You will not only hear fabulous music. You will see one of the 21st century’s most remarkable
women.

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