A suitable hymn to new beginnings from Michael Hunter Ochs

October 5, 2016

In the spirit of

In the spirit of “Playing for Change,” Jewish cantors and congregations from around the world cooperated to produce the 92nd Street Y’s version of “A New Year,” a song by Michael Hunter Ochs. Pictured is Cantor Julia Cadrain, Central Synagogue, New York City.

New York’s arts-active 92nd Street Y produced a fine little video of several Jewish congregations and cantors from around the world collaborating on a tune for Rosh Hashana.

“A New Year” would be a suitable tune for any congregation that sings, I think, regardless faith. While the video is for the new Jewish year 5777, no reason it can’t be adopted by any group needing a song to see in 2017, or a new liturgical year, or a new fiscal year.

In fact, it would do the nation good were Congress to walk out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and sing this song at the start of every Fiscal Year, on October 1 (not too late for this year, Paul Ryan . . .).

Details about the film from the YouTube site:

Published on Sep 28, 2016

Communities around the world join together in song to celebrate…A New Year. #NewYearPrayer#RoshHashanah2016#RoshHashahah

Download the lyrics and the sheet music here: http://www.92y.org/…/Bronfman/A-New… Special thanks to Michael Hunter Ochs for writing such a beautiful song! http://www.ochsongs.com/bio/

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(Note: I get a “runtime error” when I try to link to the sheet music; I hope you have better luck.)

Top Ten Labor Day songs? What would you add to this list?

September 5, 2016

At Bill Moyers’s site the blog features an historic post from Peter Rothberg, associate editor at The Nation, feature his admittedly-too-exclusive Top Ten Labor Day songs.

It’s a good list, but as he wrote in the introduction, there are many others. In comments, give us your favorites not listed here — with a YouTube link if you have one.

Top Ten Labor Day Songs

1. Pete Seeger, Solidarity Forever

2. Sweet Honey in the Rock, More Than a Paycheck

3. The Clash, Career Opportunities

4. Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons

5. Judy Collins, Bread and Roses

6. Dolly Parton, 9 to 5

7. Woody Guthrie, Union Burying Ground

8. Phil Ochs, The Ballad of Joe Hill

9. Hazel Dickens, Fire in the Hole

10. Gil Scott-Heron, Three Miles Down

Bonus Track #1: The Kinks, Get Back in Line

Bonus Track #2: Paul Robeson, Joe Hill


Celebrating Labor Day 2016

September 5, 2016

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, used to be the traditional school-starts-the-next-day in the U.S. Here in Texas, our students have been hitting the books (we hope) for two weeks. Rules require football practice start no earlier than two weeks before the start of school, so if football practice is to start in the first week of August, school has to start by the third week.

Wagging the dog in education, in other words.

Labor Day is the traditional start of the presidential campaign, with voting about 60 days away. In the 21st century, candidates don’t wait for Labor Day any more. Tragic for the nation to lose that tradition, I think.

So there’s nothing left to do but celebrate labor on Labor Day.

Here are some things to think about, on celebrations.

From a National Geographic on-line feature on women working, around the world: Teachable Moment  A school teacher conducts class in Atobiase, Ghana. Women make up more than half of trained primary education teachers in Ghana, according to the World Bank. Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

From a National Geographic on-line feature on women working, around the world: Teachable Moment A school teacher conducts class in Atobiase, Ghana. Women make up more than half of trained primary education teachers in Ghana, according to the World Bank. Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

You can’t have a labor movement without music. What do you have around the house? Woody Guthrie? Pete Seeger? Leadbelly? Play it!

Music of labor weaves its way into history. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Erie Canal,” barge-pulling rhythms with seeming-nonsense lyrics.  We also remember those who worked and died to advance labor, and those still dying from work-related injuries and disease.

Labor Day cards? AFL-CIO has a series of cards you can send to people who work, to thank them. Send the cards on-line, e-mail, or print them out and mail them.

Sample Labor Day Thank-you card from AFL-CIO, "That barbecue didn't make itself."

Sample Labor Day Thank-you card from AFL-CIO, “That barbecue didn’t make itself.” Find more cards at http://www.aflcio.org/thankyou

Remember to fly your flag for Labor Day 2016, September 5

September 5, 2016

Still important in 2016: Fly your flag for American labor, Monday.

Especially important in 2016. It’s a presidential election year. Wave the flag! Labor Day is the “traditional” start of the campaign for the presidency. In your town, most likely, there is a picnic sponsored by a union or other pro-labor group, at which you would be welcomed and can meet many of the candidates in your local races. Go!

Free Labor Will Win, poster from 1942, (Library of Congress)

Poster from the Office of War Information, 1942

Put your flag out at sunrise, take it down at sunset. (Okay, you may fly your flag all weekend — especially if you’re a union member.  We get the whole weekend, but Labor Day itself is Monday.)

Labor Day 2016 in the United States is a federal holiday, and one of those days Americans are urged to fly the U.S. flag.

“Free Labor Will Win,” the poster said, encouraging a theme important during World War II, when unions were encouraged to avoid strikes or any action that might interrupt work to build the “arsenal of democracy” believed necessary to win the war.  Labor complied, the war was won, and organized labor was the stronger for it. In 2015, some have difficulty remembering when all Americans knew that our future rides on the backs of organized labor.

In war, America turned to organized labor to get the jobs done. Not only do we owe a debt to labor that deserves remembering, we have many jobs that need to be done now, for which organized labor is the best group to turn to.

The poster was issued by the Office of War Information in 1942, in full color. A black-and-white version at the Library of Congress provides a few details for the time:

Labor Day poster. Labor Day poster distributed to war plants and labor organizations. The original is twenty-eight and one-half inches by forty inches and is printed in full color. It was designed by the Office of War Information (OWI) from a photograph especially arranged by Anton Bruehl, well-known photographer. Copies may be obtained by writing the Distribution Section, Office of War Information [alas, you can’t get a copy from the Office of War Information in 2012]

Even down here in deepest, darkest-right-to-work Texas, patriots fly their flags to honor Labor today. It’s heartening.

Flags fly all around in 1882 at the first Labor Day Parade in New York City’s Union Square; lithograph from USC’s Dornsife History Center, via Wikipedia, artist unidentified

What’s the history of labor in your family?

More, Other Resources:

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post, a Labor Day tradition.



Memorial Day 2016 – Fly your flag today

May 30, 2016

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Fly your flag today for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, flags should be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to full staff (and retired at sunset).

Just a reminder: When posting a flag to half-staff, it should be raised with gusto to full staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position.  On Memorial Day, when changing the flag’s position at noon, simply raise the flag briskly to full staff.  At retirement, the flag should be lowered in a stately fashion.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

Presidents’ Day 2016: Fly your flag today

February 15, 2016

It’s Presidents’ Day on most calendars, though the official U.S. holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.”

Presidents’ Day, or Washington’s Birthday, is celebrated on the third Monday in February. In 2016 this will overlap the period of mourning for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.  President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown half staff to honor Justice Scalia; if your flag pole allows, you should fly your flag at half staff, even on Washington’s Birthday.

You’re already flying your flag today, right?  Let’s recapitulate from last year.

Dr. Bumsted reminds us we need to emphasize that the federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, not a day to honor presidents generically.  See the explanation from the U.S. National Archives.

Presidents Day is February 15, 2016 — fly your U.S. flag today.

National Park Service photo, Lincoln Memorial through flags at Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial, seen through flags posted at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; National Park Service Photo via About.com

Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents.  Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR?  Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off?  Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism?  About.com explains the history of the controversy:

Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition. [Take THAT you Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore fans!]

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.

In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.

More, Resources, and Related Articles:

English: Air Force One, the typical air transp...

President’s airplane, Air Force 1, flying over Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota – Image via Wikipedia; notice, contrary to Tea Party fears, the bust of Obama is not yet up on Rushmore (and also note there remains no room for another bust).

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  This event occurs every year.

Darwin and Lincoln and February 12: Cool coincidence or divine intervention?

February 12, 2016

Is it an unprecedented coincidence?  207 years ago today, just minutes (probably hours) apart according to unconfirmed accounts, Abraham Lincoln was born in a rude log cabin on Nolin Creek, in Kentucky, and Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family at his family’s home  in Shrewsbury, England.

Gutzon Borglums 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol - AOC photo

Gutzon Borglum’s 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol – Architect of the Capitol photo

Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination.  Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor. 

In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history.  Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services.  Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London - NHM photo

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London – NHM photo

Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection.  His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle).  At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day.  Hymns were specially written for the occasion.  Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.

Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more.  Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.

Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration.  Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.

Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860.  Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858.   On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.

Darwin and Lincoln might have got along well, but they never met.

What unusual coincidences.

Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.

A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men.  We study them far too little, it seems to me.


Charles Darwin:

Abraham Lincoln:


Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?

Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday, according to the Flag Code; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 15th — and yes, it’s usually called “Presidents Day” by merchants and calendar makers. You want to fly your flag for Charles Darwin? Darwin never set foot in North America, remained a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to the end of his days. But go ahead. Who would know?

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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