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Between You and Me

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Suddenly it’s June. Didn’t we recently put our holiday decorations away? Wasn’t it mid-winter break just a couple of weeks ago? Time warps, especially if we have busy lives. We look up and five months of the year have already passed. 

But of course, June is most welcome. It is the month of high school graduations, of weddings, of the official turning to summer with the summertime solstice and the most daylight hours of the year. For those readers interested in random data, June is the second of four months to have a length of 30 days and the third of five months to have fewer than 31 days. Take that to “Jeopardy!”

June is also the month when all the trees are dressed in their finest, lushest leaves, when the weather beckons us outdoors because it is neither too cold or too hot quite yet. June is when the swimming pools in the neighborhood shed their covers and offer to the eye patches of refreshing blue as we drive along the local roads. June is when allergy season begins to recede with the gradual lessening of tree and grass pollens.

Early June is when I like to travel because each day is longer, and I feel I am really getting my money’s worth on a tour. That’s also when most families are still home, their young ones not yet finished with school, and therefore all services, from palaces to restaurants are less crowded. Unless I am in the southern hemisphere, where it is technically the start of winter, the weather in June tends to be perfect, not much rain, the temperature ideal.

June was probably named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity, Jupiter, There are also other suggestions for how the month got its name, but we really don’t have to list them all because no one I know is actually preparing to appear on “Jeopardy!”

That said, you still might like to know a few of the month-long observances for June. There is: 

African American Music Appreciation Month 

ALS Awareness Month in Canada 

Caribbean American Heritage Month 

LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month 

National Oceans Month 

PTSD Awareness Month 

Great Outdoors Month 

And my personal favorite, National Smile Month, which is celebrated in the United Kingdom and should migrate across the globe.

There is also: 

International Children’s Day on the first Tuesday 

World Bicycle Day on the first Wednesday 

National Donut Day on the first Friday 

Father’s Day on the third Sunday 

Here is one to ponder: Seersucker Day on the second Thursday 

And on the third Friday, National Flip Flop Day. 

Hmmm. Maybe with all that said, we should give a second thought to “Jeopardy!”

When our children were in elementary school, I always welcomed June with enthusiasm. It meant that July and the end of the academic year were not far away, which in turn meant sleeping in and not having to prepare for the early bus to school, long, lazy days at the beach, family baseball games on the empty school fields on weekends and frequent outdoor barbecues. This year, June means, among more hedonistic pursuits, a month with five Thursdays, and therefore five issues of the papers and website to fill with local news that we will report to you. 

Happy reading!

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This past weekend was both fabulous and exhausting. We drove nine hours down to Virginia to celebrate with my granddaughter as she graduated from college, and with my son and daughter-in-law, her parents, who helped make it happen. Both sides of the family were represented, and we were all in, cheering, laughing, eating, strolling and talking, talking, talking for two days straight, not counting our travel days.

We were certainly not alone enjoying this milestone. I never saw so much traffic on the roads between here and Virginia, both going and coming, and we theorized it was all those families and all those graduates driving the highways on this college graduation weekend in May.

The joy of a graduation from college spans generations. Those who seemed to feel the accomplishment most, perhaps, were the families of first-generation graduates, whose members would often boast to anyone listening, “She’s the first to graduate.” We all cheered, clapped, and if we could, whistled during those 30 seconds when our loved one crossed the stage, was handed the diploma, smiled for the camera, then returned to his or her seat.

Predictably, we heard lots of speeches. Those who received honorary doctorates, the president of the college, the chancellor, the student representative, the keynote speaker, all addressed the graduating class and their guests with words of wisdom that, as I recall from my graduation, were promptly ignored. For us then, the tone, however, was hopeful and positive.

This time, though, there were two differences that I heard. The first was a recognition that the world for these young people had changed, both physically and societally. The country was sadly divided, and climate change was altering the globe. People were not listening to each other. That they might enjoy better lives than their parents because their future was bright was never mentioned.  

These graduates had their lives and their studies interrupted by the pandemic and were captive of their computers for part of their  learning. The message was that they had lost out in their four years, lost the easy camaraderie of uninterrupted campus life and the person-to-person contact with their classmates and professors. There was some reference to overcoming challenges and resilience, but on the whole, there was none of the usual comments as to how this next generation was going to make the world a better place. It seemed the goal was just to cope.

The other difference from the educators was, to me, defensive. Stressed was the need and importance of education. Of course, they were preaching to the choir. But still, the comment rang out, “When you have forgotten all [the facts] that you have learned, what you will have left is education.” More than once, the reference was to having learned how to think analytically as being the major benefit of their college years.

I did get a kick out of one dean, who referred in her talk to the various world events that had occurred during the past four years. We listened attentively because we all experienced them. And when she was concluding, she confessed that almost the whole speech had been written by ChatGPT. We laughed but not without a tinge of concern for future college students.

As always, at graduations, it is a happy and also a sad time for the graduates. There is a lot of “goodbye.” They are leaving behind those they had come to know and places that had become as familiar to them as their dorm rooms: where they shopped for food, where they retreated to study, where they played volleyball, where they enjoyed their “midnight snacks” that were probably well beyond midnight.

Our granddaughter keenly felt the yin and yang of moving on. She tried to spend time with us even as she was drawn to the gatherings and parties on campus of her friends and roommates. I wanted to tell her that this time was a beginning, more than an end, and that she would be taking the best with her into the next chapter. 

But I didn’t. She had already heard enough speeches.

Facebook photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“When are you going to retire?” is a question that makes me smile. Of course, it is closely related to another word: age. Put the two words together, and I start to become defiant, which is probably why Martha Stewart decided to pose in a swimsuit for the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual issue.

Now I know about Martha Stewart, who was not called by that name when she was a year behind me at Barnard College. That means she is only one year younger than I, and she, too, was feeling defiant. She wanted to show the world that she was not invisible just because she is older. And indeed, she is showing the whole world because she is an international personality, a businesswoman, writer and television personality, who has written books, publishes a magazine, hosted two syndicated television programs and personifies contemporary graceful living with her Martha Stewart Living ventures.

My guess is that many women in the latter years of their lives are cheering Martha Stewart’s swimsuit photos and her defiance.

Ageism is definitely an unwelcome bigoted “ism” in this century, when people are often living into their 80s, 90s and beyond. One of my personal heroes is Warren Buffett, American business investor and philanthropist. Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, known as the “Oracle of Omaha” and worth over 100 billion dollars, making him the fifth richest person in the world, he will be celebrating his 93rd birthday in August. Even more impressive is his business partner, Charlie Munger, who is 99. Together they still run the fabulously successful company.

Another such story is about Milton Esterow, 94, profiled in The New York Times last Sunday. A publisher at the age of 10 in Brooklyn where he grew up, he made 18 copies of his first publication, each consisting of one handwritten page, and sold them to friends for 2 cents apiece. You can see why he has already stolen my heart. Today he still writes articles for The New York Times about culture and art. In between, he has traveled around the world, met famous artists, owned the country’s oldest art magazine, ARTimes, and won many distinguished prizes. His culture stories had an edge. In 1964 he wrote a front page story for The NYT on treasures stolen by the Nazis during WWII, one of rare culture stories to run on page one. 

His investigative approach made his stories and magazine successes. In the early 1980s, as a result of a rumor he had heard, he and his wife flew to Vienna and visited a monastery that might house thousands of works looted by Nazi soldiers. He met with head of the Federal Monuments Office in Austria and sensed that the man was defensive. He assigned a reporter to dig around and by 1984, the article appeared attesting to the hidden collection. At that point, “All hell broke loose,“ according to Esterow.

“In 1985, the Austrian government announced a plan to return stolen works to their owners or heirs,” according to The NYT. “In 2016, the general consul of Austria presented Mr. Esterow with a Cross of Honor for Science and Art, saying that his work helped to make Austria ‘a better country.’”

Esterow continues to follow the trail of Nazi looting. He does not plan to retire. I particularly like what he had to say about that.

“Work is more fun than fun.”

For all these people and so many more octogenarians and older — Martha Stewart, Warren Buffett, Milton Esterow — retirement is a strange idea. Old age is another.

My sentiments, too.

Photo by Chris Boland/Unsplash: www.chrisboland.com/cambridge-wedding-videographer

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A dear friend is British and sent us an invitation to a coronation party a couple of months ago. It was more like a “save the date” at that point, but we could already feel his excitement. It was to be held at his and his wife’s home. We would not be expected to arrive in time to see the real thing in the middle of the night on May 6, the time difference being what it is, but rather we would catch a recording of the historic event starting at 12:30 p.m., a much more civilized hour.

We were instructed to wear clothes that would be appropriate for a visit to Ascot. For those who might not know, Ascot is a racecourse that was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, when the American colonies were still in their cradles. Described on the internet as being a “pillar of British sporting and social culture,” it is a snooty place. 

We got the idea. We were to dress up. And especially, we were to wear our finest jewelry, with much bling, which in my case consists only of a string of pearls. On the day, I forgot to adorn myself. But for some reason, probably because I must have seen pictures in my checkered past, I associate Ascot with large, elegant, saucer-shaped hats. 

Now I don’t own a hat, if you exempt my ski cap. So I begged a young and chic friend to loan me one of hers, which she did. It was a broad-brimmed brown straw job with a black netting, and it coordinated perfectly with the rest of my outfit, which consisted of a black silk blouse and brown patterned cotton pants. 

Last Saturday, Coronation Day, I sailed into the party as if I were joining the crowd at Ascot, hoping the hat would not in turn sail off from its rakish angle on the side of my head. Happily, it obeyed.

The party was a total delight. The hosts had decorated their home with every possible bit of Britannica, from posters to red, white and blue Union Jacks that were hung from the rafters on the back deck and emblazoned on the napkins and paper plates. By the way, since I didn’t know this and was interested to learn so I am sharing with you, the Union Jack (from Jacobus, the Latin version of James)  represents a combination of the flags of England, Scotland and Ireland. Sadly, Wales is not represented due to historic mis-timing, but was given a “supporter” role in the royal coat of arms of England, used by the Tudors from 1485. The Welsh don’t seem to mind.

The food was symbolic and simply scrumptious. There was beef and kidney pie, pork rolls, two different kinds of quiche, salad, chopped veggies in what seemed like a vinegar drizzle, slices of fresh ham with mustard, croissants filled with lunch meat, and an overflowing bread basket. I’m sure I am forgetting half the delicacies. And then there were the desserts lined up on a groaning dining room table. As you can imagine, all of this was washed down nicely with red and white wines and glasses of champagne. Charles would have been impressed.

The weather cooperated wonderfully, the day bright with sunshine and the perfect temperature for all humans in the 70s. As if all the above were not enough, the hosts created a Royalty Coronation Quiz. With prizes for the winners. (“Stuff I’ve wanted to get rid of for years,” according to the Master of Ceremonies.) There were 20 questions, such as “Name the three children of Prince William of Wales,” and “Explain President Biden’s snub to the British by just sending his wife to attend the Coronation.”

Some 25 guests were at the festivities, four with UK accents, the rest of us Americans, I’m guessing. We acquitted ourselves reasonably well. I came home with four flamingo long stemmed stirrers and a tiny bottle of gin.

Bel Powley stars as Miep Gies in 'A Small Light' now streaming on Hulu and Disney +

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A limited series, “A Small Light,” now streaming on Hulu and on Disney+, tells of Miep Gies and her husband, Jan, the Dutch couple who risked their lives hiding the family of Otto Frank from the murderous Nazis during WWII. We know of them from his younger daughter, Anne Frank’s diary that she kept while in their “annex” above the Frank’s business in Amsterdam. This film marks what would have been Miep’s 114 birthday and relates the familiar story from a different perspective, that of Otto Frank’s courageous secretary and would-be savior.

While I have read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and seen the play, I was riveted by an email I received from a friend, Steve North, who is both a broadcast journalist with CBS and a member by marriage of my extended family. He contacted me to urge that I watch the film, which I will as soon as I can figure out how to get onto Hulu. Meanwhile, I would like to reproduce an abridged version of what he wrote.

In the first half of 1929, two baby girls were born to Jewish families living in and near Frankfurt, Germany. One, sweet and dark-haired, had an older sister; the other, a smiling redhead, was an only child. As they turned 4 years old, the safe worlds their parents had created for them began to crumble. Hitler had come to power, and life for every German Jew was rife with danger. The dark-haired girl’s father decided to flee the country with his wife and children to Amsterdam. Some time later, the red-haired child’s parents made the same decision, eventually making their way to New York.

The dark-haired girl was Anne Frank, whose extraordinary diary, written in the years before her death at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, has made her the single most recognizable victim of the Holocaust.

The red-haired girl is my mother, Brunhilde Bachenheimer, and when I climbed the narrow stairs to Anne Frank’s hiding place 35 years ago, I was overcome with the realization that my own family had so narrowly escaped a similar fate.

On a return trip to Amsterdam in 1998, I felt an intense need to connect with Anne’s life and story on a deeper level. I wrote a note to Miep Gies, who had become an employee and friend of Anne’s father, Otto, in 1933. Back then, Miep took an immediate liking to the vivacious and intelligent Anne, thinking, “This is the kind of child I’d like to have someday.”

In 1942, the brutal oppression of Dutch Jews by the Nazi occupiers of Holland escalated, with an increase in deportations. After Anne’s sister was ordered sent to Germany, Otto Frank approached his loyal bookkeeper and asked if she and her husband, Jan, would be willing to risk their lives by hiding the Franks and four other Jews. Miep’s immediate reply: “Of course.”

The rest of the overall story is well-known. Miep found and hid the diary until she could give it to Anne’s grieving father, the only survivor of the eight hidden Jews. Steve connected with Miep some 50 years after the war and, delighted to have met her, wrote his interview shortly before she died.  

While I have yet to see the drama, which has received excellent reviews, it surely poses the question to the viewers: What would you have done? 

Tofu

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

In the middle of the last century, which is when I was growing up, no one I knew had ever heard of tofu. In fact, restaurants where we might have encountered tofu were few and limited to university campus neighborhoods like the sole Japanese restaurant near Columbia University on the City’s upper west side.

But of course, in addition to all the other revolutions in the intervening years, we have eateries offering unending ethnic foods. Dining out has become a gastronomic visit to every corner of the globe. And I, and my family, have discovered tofu.

I love tofu.

Now for a long while, tofu got a bad rap. Tofu is, of course, soy, and soy has relatively high levels of isoflavones, which are similar to the hormone estrogen. This hormone has been linked to cancer, and further there was the concern that soy might affect fertility and even cause men to develop feminine characteristics.

In fact, after many years of trials and study, soy has not only been declared safe but also to be of possible benefit to good heart and metabolic health. Tofu offers considerable protein and all nine essential amino acids, B vitamins, healthy unsaturated fatty acids and assorted minerals, including calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. And according to a recent article in The New York Times, while isoflavones can “weakly mimic estrogens, they also seem to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.”

Not only does soy seem not to promote breast cancer, studies have shown it may even lower such risk for women compared to those who ate little or no soy. It may even protect against prostate and lung cancers. Further studies have largely disproven any association of soy with diminished fertility or sperm count. And in a more than 30-year study of nearly 120,000 health care professionals in the United States, “those who consumed at least one serving of tofu or soy milk per week were 15 to 16% less likely to die than those who ate less than one serving per month.” There you have it, encouragement to eat tofu for our health.

What about taste?

Tofu is definitely more than a blob in a square package. It can be smoked, made into noodles, baked, shredded and flavored in unlimited ways. Tofu was invented some 2000 years ago in China and consumed throughout Asia. So now that 9% of United States households use tofu in multiple ways, we can helpfully categorize it as presented in three types: basic, chewy and intensely flavored. Like eggs and chicken, basic tofu’s flavor is neutral, which allows it to incorporate profitably any additional ingredients. It can serve in stir-fries or even crisped in an air fryer and presented with a dipping sauce, for example.

To prepare tofu, “high-protein food grade soybeans are soaked, made into soy milk and coagulated with a salt or edible organic acid or both. The resulting semisolid curds and clear whey are manipulated for different kinds of tofu,” according to The New York Times.”Texture is determined by whether and how the curds are pressed. Basic tofu options include silken, medium, medium-firm, firm, extra-firm and superfirm. Many dishes involve slicing, cubing and mashing tofu, but depending on its density, it can be scooped, crumbled and even grated.” 

You may have to visit Chinese or Vietnamese markets  to go beyond silken and firm. Pressed (baked) tofu, tofu sheets and fried tofu are all made with chewy tofu. They can look like pasta if cut up into thin strips for a salad. White and red fermented  tofu are deeply flavored and sold in jars at Asian markets in the condiments section. They can be fragrant, rich from sesame oil or spicy from chile.

Tofu can be used in place of animal protein, as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna or mozzarella in a caprese, or as a replacement for high carbs. Since it is already cooked, tofu can go anywhere without fuss.

See why I like it?

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As I drive along the local roads, the sight of the bright yellow forsythia, the symphony of pink cherry blossoms, dogwood and magnolia and the yellow daffodils waving” hello” uplift my spirits and bring me joy. Yes, it’s spring, glorious spring! And the weather could not be more cooperative. We have been able to shed our heavy jackets, sweaters and such, and even give our air conditioners a brief trial run when the temperature hit the high 80s and stayed there for a couple of days. Best of all, we know this splendor is early, and the beautiful season, when Nature festoons the earth, is just beginning.

At one and the same time, the news about human activities blackens the world. Every day, yes every day, we wake up to the news of more mass shootings, more homicides. Because a teenage boy rings the bell of the wrong house on his errand to pick up his younger siblings, he is then shot to death. Because a car full of teenage girls pulls into the wrong driveway, shots are fired at the vehicle as it is trying to back out and one young woman is killed. Because yet another unarmed young man tries to run away from the police at a traffic stop, he deserves to be murdered.

What is happening to our country?

These horrors are occurring because people are afraid. Unless he has cognitive issues, why would an 84-year-old man answer his door with a gun? Why would someone inside a house shoot at a car that just entered the driveway unless they were terrified for themselves. This is more than a mental health issue, which might be blamed for shooting up employees in a bank. This is about cold, petrifying fear.

Thank heavens that Nature goes about her business transforming the earth into a paradise because we humans need something to offset the hell we are creating. People are asked if they are afraid for their children to go to school. To school, which was always the safest place to get children off the streets. Now more than three quarters of the parents say, “Yes.” And so do more than half of the children in elementary school and middle school. Never mind COVID-19 and inflation. They are passing, or will eventually. But the violence that we are living with? That just seems to be getting worse.

What can we do? We know that bad things happen when good people do nothing. But how can we improve our society?

One answer, I believe, is to turn to family and community. Strong family support and a tight-knit community offer security that is close at hand. Parents who let their children feel the love, who set standards and limits, who teach values by example and talk to their children about fears, who are there when most needed — these actions go a long way toward offering meaningful response to a frightening world.

For us adults, meeting the neighbors and creating a Neighborhood Watch for mutual protection is both a safety and social advantage. Participating in one of the many local non-profits, from Rotary to the civic associations and PTAs in the schools to the historical societies to actually running for office can strengthen a sense of belonging and empowerment.

And then there is kindness. I’m not sure how one goes about teaching kindness except by practicing it. Kindness offsets bullying, it makes both the giver and receiver feel noticed and valued. Who has time to visit a sick neighbor? But then, we all have time to hold the door open for the person behind us, and for that person to thank the door holder, or to let the car waiting to join the line of traffic enter in front of us and in return see a thank-you wave.

And there is always Nature for respite. A walk in the park or along a beach can be restorative. Nature, too, can be violent, but storms pass. With effort and focus, perhaps human storms can, too.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a shout-out to all would-be entrepreneurs. Saturday marks the 47th birthday of The Village Times and hence the beginning of Times Beacon Record News Media. So, if you are thinking of starting your own business or organization, stop thinking.

Just do it.

We know whereof we speak. I mention our start to prove what can be done with energy, commitment, good helpers and a dream.

And a little bit of luck. While we started in 1976, during a depression in the economy, women were beginning to enter the workplace. We had some of the brightest members of the community looking for work just when we needed help the most.

To start something new, unless it is philanthropic in nature, you will need money. Obtaining start-up funds will measure how good a salesperson you are. You will have to communicate your idea and your passion to those from whom you are asking for funds.

We sold shares in a closed corporation to gather our initial underwriting.

Whom should you approach?

The answer to that depends on finding people who might share your passion for what you are starting or who love you enough to support your getting it off the ground. Unless you have tangible assets to offer as collateral, don’t bother going to most banks.

Since we were proposing starting a community newspaper, we went to members of the community and asked for their participation. At the time, the type of corporation we used limited us to 10 stockholders. I believe that is no longer the case.

How much to ask?

We had no idea how much it would cost to get started, so we picked a number that we thought would not seriously affect any investor if it were lost. We also tried to estimate how much the market of investors would be willing to spend.

The result: We were woefully undercapitalized and have always run from behind. That’s exciting but not smart business strategy. Ask others in your field who might be sympathetic to your efforts to estimate one year’s expenses, at the very least, and set that as your minimum goal.

When we ran out of money at a key moment, we were able to include one extra stockholder who brought us fresh cash. This was not necessarily appreciated by the other shareholders because it diluted their equity a bit. But we persevered.

It is vital that you know yourself. Being the founder is not for everyone. Most people would rather work for a company and receive a predictable paycheck rather than take chances every week with not meeting the payroll or being able to pay the bills. The boss has to deal with problems routinely that may seem far removed from the original goal of the company. Personnel matters are an example.

Don’t try to learn everything there is to know about your prospective business before you start, first because you can’t really know what lies ahead and also because you will learn more as you go forward. I believe we fell into every unimaginable briar patch that we could, including a move on us to become unionized, despite the fact that no community newspaper in the state had a union, and a lengthy audit for proper classification of our staff.

That can happen to you. We learned from every thorny experience.

Also, we were protected by our ignorance and just plowed ahead. Not considering failure kept it from entering our thinking.

Surround yourself with good workers. You may not be able to afford experienced people in your field, but more importantly, find bright helpers who totally share your dream. They, and you, will learn as you go. And attribute the successes to them because none of us can go it alone. It is the staff of our newspapers and media company that earned us 11 prizes in this past week’s annual Better Newspaper Contest for New York State publishers. Yay for each one and for the whole team together.

We have been lucky in being accepted and patronized by our customers: readers and advertisers. I believe that if you offer your best work and respond to their needs, all while maintaining a brand known for integrity, your customers will make you a success.

Go for it. And best of luck!

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A recent article that I saw on the Internet claimed that nine out of 10 graduates had regrets about their college. Wow! That’s almost unanimous discontent. Most regretted the heavy debt they had incurred. Some said the college they chose wasn’t a good fit for them. Others expressed disappointment with their major. I, too, have a regret about college; although I am not one generally to harbor regrets, I will confess that regret now.

I regret that I didn’t study harder when I was lucky enough to be in college. Now, this has nothing to do with my particular college. It is a personal failing. I am sure I would have behaved much the same way wherever I had gone to school. But here is the thing about college. It’s much the same thing as is said about computers: garbage in, garbage out.

Had I applied myself a lot harder, I would have gained a lot more in the way of a splendid education from my college courses and years. After all, I went to a fine college. Instead, I was more interested, especially during the first two years, in dating.

Not to be too hard on myself, I had a lot of catching up to do on that front. The last time I was in a co-ed situation before college was in the sixth grade of my neighborhood elementary school. For junior high and high school, I attended one of the schools in New York City requiring an entrance exam, and it was for all girls.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved the school. Many of the teachers had PhDs. I knew I was getting a first-rate education, and I really applied myself to my studies. What else was there to do? I even thrived on the keen competition there, despite the fact that it was considered appropriate to bemoan such a barbaric value.

It was also appropriate to wish the school were co-ed, which we all did, and fervently at the time. Now it is co-ed, and as I look back, I am not so sure that was such a good idea.

But I digress.

My college was also one of what was then regarded as the prestigious Seven Sisters and technically all women, although we certainly didn’t refer to ourselves that way at the time. We were girls, and it was an all-girls college. On the other hand, right across the main avenue that ran in front of the campus was an all-boys undergraduate college.

Needless to say, I crossed the road, both to get to the other side, (as in the old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road”?) and also to use the library at the all-male school. That library was larger, had more comfortable seats, better lighting, and besides, I rarely returned without having at least one date, sometimes two, and even occasionally three dates for the upcoming weekend. It took the first two years to come to something approaching equilibrium.

Life was good. But for my grades, not so much.

Furthermore, I thought that I didn’t really have an appropriate major. I was pre-med. That wasn’t considered a true major, but it did require many hours of science classes that came with many hours in many labs. I could have spaced out those labs — heavy courses — but thought I should get them out of the way sooner. I did have a faculty advisor those first two years, who was a lovely person, and a famous history professor. She knew little about science requirements, confessed as much, and then signed whatever assortment of subjects I put before her to approve.

“You must pick a major,” I was told. And so I picked English because it provided me with an antidote to all those heavy science classes. Reading was a merciful escape. So was writing. I was casual about that decision, though, because I was sure I was never going to use those skills.

Who knew?

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

To see how it worked, when I got the link for ChatGPT, the Artificial Intelligence or OpenAI software sent from my grandson, I asked it to write 650 words about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Why FDR? I had just finished reading a book about FDR’s “Splendid Deception,” the ways the president hid his polio infirmity from the American public, and he was on my mind. 

So, I am going to let you see what was written immediately, on command, in less than five minutes before my disbelieving eyes. Remember, this was authored by a robot.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, commonly known as FDR, is remembered as one of the most influential and transformative leaders in American history. During his 12-year tenure as President, he led the United States through some of its most challenging times, including the Great Depression and World War II.

FDR was born into a wealthy family in Hyde Park, New York, in 1882. He attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School before beginning a career in politics. He served as a New York state senator from 1910 to 1913, and later as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson.

In 1921, at the age of 39, FDR was struck by polio, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this setback, he remained active in politics and was elected Governor of New York in 1928.

It was during the Great Depression, however, that FDR’s leadership would truly shine. When he took office in 1933, the country was in the midst of the worst economic crisis in its history. Millions of Americans were out of work, banks were failing, and confidence in the government was at an all-time low.

FDR responded to the crisis with a bold and ambitious plan to revitalize the economy, which he called the New Deal. The New Deal included a range of programs and policies designed to provide relief to the unemployed, stimulate economic growth, and reform the financial system.

One of the most famous New Deal programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided jobs to young men in conservation and reforestation projects. Other programs included the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which sought to stabilize crop prices and support farmers, and the National Industrial Recovery Act, which established codes of fair competition for businesses.

FDR’s New Deal was not without its critics, who argued that it represented an unwarranted expansion of federal power and an infringement on individual liberties. But for many Americans, especially those who were struggling to make ends meet during the Depression, FDR’s bold leadership and willingness to take decisive action were a source of hope and inspiration.

FDR was also a key figure in American foreign policy during World War II. When the war broke out in Europe in 1939, he declared that the United States would remain neutral. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he led the country into the war with a resolve and determination that would help turn the tide against the Axis powers.

FDR was instrumental in building the alliance with the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, which would eventually lead to victory in Europe. He also played a key role in the development of the atomic bomb, which would be used to end the war in the Pacific.

Despite his many accomplishments, FDR was not without his flaws. Critics have accused him of overreaching in his use of executive power, and of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by the Soviet Union during the war. But his legacy remains one of visionary leadership and bold action in the face of crisis.

FDR’s famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” has become a rallying cry for leaders in times of crisis. It reflects his belief that the American people had the strength and resilience to overcome even the most daunting challenges, and that with the right leadership and the right policies, anything was possible.

Today, as the United States faces new challenges, from economic inequality to political polarization to climate change, FDR’s legacy remains a source of inspiration and guidance. His commitment to bold action in the face of crisis, his belief in the power of government to make a positive difference in people’s lives, and his unwavering faith in the American people, continue to resonate with us today.

How do teachers distinguish what was written by a student or by the bot? By the same token, having a bot help in other contexts, such as planning a schedule or working up a travel itinerary can be a huge help. ChatGPT, launched this past November, can analyze content from a wide range of information on the internet and then create original content. But is it always correct information? Will the bot take jobs from humans? Or will it merely offer a baseline of information upon which humans can then add more nuanced input?

Stay tuned.