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Can a Donor Revolt Save American Universities? Jacob Savage

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Columbia University’s Low Library in 1926. (Photo by Irving Browning/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)

Since the beginning of The Free Press, we have paid particular attention to the story of institutional capture—specifically, to the story of how America’s great institutions of higher education, charged with educating the country’s future leaders, have been taken hostage by an illiberal ideology that has replaced the pursuit of truth with moral confusion and knee-jerk social justice activism. 

 In the days since Hamas began its war on Israel, we have seen that ideology in full blossom as students have cheered for terrorists on the quad and administrators have tried, for the first time, to stay out of it.

The reaction has alarmed university donors. One of them is Marc Rowan, who sits on the Wharton School’s board of overseers. He made news in our pages earlier this week when he announced he was closing his checkbook—and urged other people of conscience to do the same. Some, as you will read below, have followed suit. 

Who will be next? And has the woke bill finally come due? — BW

For years, even though the far left never had real political power, social and cultural power were all theirs. Fortune 500 CEOs bent the knee—literally, during the summer of 2020. NPR aired breathless segments with academics who defended looting, or argued for the destruction of the nuclear family. The more extreme you were, the more attention you got. 

So when Hamas brutally murdered babies, raped women, and took the disabled as hostages, it was business as usual, at least on America’s college campuses. Silence from the universities; cruel and maximalist rhetoric from left-wing student groups.

But then something weird happened. People started to say no. 

It began with Bill Ackman, the hedge fund billionaire, who had been doomscrolling since news of the attacks first broke. On Tuesday, he came across an open letter, signed by over thirty student groups from Harvard—his alma mater—which blamed Israelis for their own murders.

“We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” the Harvard statement read. “The apartheid regime is the only one to blame.” 

Ackman and his friends exchanged incredulous texts. 

“I have been asked by a number of CEOs if @harvard would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organizations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel, so as to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members,” Ackman tweeted. “If, in fact, their members support the letter they have released, the names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known.”

A dozen CEOs quickly joined Ackman.

A few hours later, Ryna Workman, the president of NYU’s Student Bar Association, learned that Winston & Strawn, the corporate law firm that had offered her a six-figure job, rescinded its offer. Not long after, the Bar Association removed her as president.

This was the new cost of publicly supporting Hamas, as Workman had done in an email sent to the entire law school: “Hi y’all,” Workman wrote, in a newsletter that should have been about study breaks and internship opportunities. “I want to express, first and foremost, my unwavering and absolute solidarity with Palestinians.” Workman went on to say that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.” This before the charred bodies were even in the ground.

While schools like Northwestern and Stanford may not have had the moral clarity to condemn Hamas, Playboy cut ties with the porn star Mia Khalifa for cheerleading the massacres in Israel.

Journalists—yes, journalists—who wouldn’t have dared cross the party line suddenly broke hard. Even TMZ got in on the game. 

NPR hosts and Los Angeles Times reporters (Misha Euceph and Adam Elmahrek, say their names), who assumed they would always be on the right side of history, were relegated to hysterical arguments about whether murdered babies were or were not decapitated. 

Normies came out of the woodwork—from my favorite jewelry store owner to Sopranos fan sites to artists and comedians to any number of household names. LeBron James! The Rock! Reese Witherspoon!

Back at Harvard, all those students who hadn’t thought twice about putting their names on a pro-murder statement were in a blind panic. Some tried to explain away their participation. Others sent plaintive emails to professors (“Completely Terrified” read one subject line, oblivious to what it means to be an actual victim of terror). Before long, not a single public signatory to the original statement remained.

There’s more than a little schadenfreude in watching would-be corporate lawyers realize that they do not, in fact, enjoy the Mandate of Heaven. All it took was a single rescinded job offer to reveal America’s pitchfork-wielding socialists as the careerist weasels they always were. 

Ryna Workman walked into a wall so they could all run away.

For years now, liberals and centrists have been mutely seething. “Discussions about these issues have been happening quietly,” Ackman told me. “Problems related to the woke movement, the impact on college campuses, have been bemoaned but not acted upon. People didn’t speak out publicly.” 

We all know the feeling. The hushed whispers as two liberal acquaintances suss each other out, discovering that neither quite believes that natal men should compete in athletics against women, that not all cops are bad.

“You’d see some ridiculous statement, and you’d laugh it off,” Ackman explained. “But people are dying. People are being raped. People are being mass murdered.”

Liberals and centrists seem to have paid attention to conservative boycotts of Bud Light and Target. Then came the scandal surrounding Ibram Kendi’s antiracism center at Boston University. Having burned through over $20 million, he now faces an inquiry from the university. Kendi’s disgrace cracked the window—and the horrific responses to the Hamas attacks opened the door. 

And yet it is only now—after all the histrionic and outraged statements about #MeToo and BLM and Ukraine and Roe v. Wade—that universities are discovering the virtue of institutional neutrality.

“Our university embraces a commitment to free expression,” Harvard president Claudine Gay said of the pro-Hamas protests on campus. “That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous.” This is, to put it gently, a newfound commitment. Just four years ago, the institution she runs sided with the illiberal mob, and opened an investigation into a law school dean after he joined Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense. 

“I do not foresee that I will be issuing statements on political, geopolitical, or social issues that do not directly impact the core mission of our University,” Northwestern President Michael Schill wrote in a public message to senior university leadership. 

“In recent years, many universities have gotten into the habit of issuing frequent statements about news events,” read Stanford’s long-delayed statement. “This creates a number of difficulties. . . . It can enmesh universities in politics and create a sense of institutional orthodoxy that chills academic freedom.”

What strange timing.

For years, the woke left has incessantly appealed to these sorts of authorities to take strident positions on the Current Thing and to squelch dissent of anyone who disagreed. The same people who denounced you as a conspiracy theorist for thinking that Covid might have come from a lab, who have framed and memed every issue, no matter how tangential, through the lens of racial essentialism (including murdered Israeli civilians, as “settler-colonialists,” can never be innocent), are claiming they are the victims now.

Don’t let them. 

Because when the furor dies down, Ryna Workman and her fellow travelers will, no doubt, find suitably remunerative positions. Already the so-called blacklist is being walked back. 

As perhaps it should be. We need neutral institutions. And the silence of Harvard or Northwestern or Stanford matters only insofar as how vocal they’ve been about other issues. In what world should a student body president—or a university administrator or an HR lady or a PR flack—set the terms of our political discourse? 

Maybe, just maybe, a new equilibrium can be reached. Maybe we can agree that political litmus tests for employment are bad, that requiring DEI statements is bad, that not every organization and every individual needs to comment on every political issue.

Until then, Penn offers an example of what a turning point might look like. 

Marc Rowan, the chair of the board of overseers at Wharton who, in 2018, donated $50 million to the business school, called in these pages for donors to close their checkbooks until the university’s leadership changes.

Just yesterday, Vahan Gureghian, a member of Penn’s board of trustees, resigned. He cited the school’s “broken moral compass.” 

The Huntsman family, for whom the main building at Wharton is named, described their alma mater as “unrecognizable” and announced they would “close its checkbook on all future giving to Penn.”

“The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low,” the family said in a statement.

“None of these institutions are solvent without the support of their alumni,” Ackman said of the brewing donor revolt. “Perhaps this is the beginning of a catalyst for change.”

Jacob Savage is a writer living in Los Angeles. 

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Nero’s Guests Chris Hedges

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I gave this talk in Blackburn, England during a campaign event for my friend Craig Murray who is running for parliament. Like George Galloway, who was recently elected to parliament, Craig’s central campaign issue is the genocide in Gaza. He calls for a permanent ceasefire, the establishment of a full and independent Palestinian state and backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the apartheid state of Israel.

Transcript

Craig Murray: Good evening. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming along. I’m Craig Murray. I’m here in Blackburn, as you may know, as a candidate in the general election and one thing I’ve made absolutely plain is that I’m standing here because of the genocide in Gaza. That’s what has brought me here to raise the issue and fight the election here and we’re having a meeting here today which is not like your normal election meeting in that it’s very much focused on that subject and which I hope will give you a lot of information and food for thought and I am extremely proud to have two of the best speakers on the subject in the world, two world leading authorities on the subject who’ve come here to Blackburn.

I had difficulty persuading people today that they are actually here and that it’s not a Zoom meeting or something along those lines. And they’ve both come large distances to be here. And without further ado, because I’m going to be here, as comedians used to say, I’m here all week. I’m here for the next month so you’ll have lots and lots of chances to hear me talk but this is a man who you probably very seldom get to hear talk.

He is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a man of enormous experience, who’s just flown in from Egypt, where he won the Arab World’s Top Prize for Journalism — and we look very much forward to hearing Chris Hedges.

Chris Hedges: Thank you.

Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that is even more savage than that of apartheid South Africa. Its ‘democracy’ — which was always exclusively for Jews — has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country towards fascism. Human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalistsIsraeli and Palestinian — are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, is an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy, along with a culture of anti-Arab and anti-Black racism.

By the time Israel achieves its decimation of Gaza — Israel is talking about months of warfare that will continue at least until the end of this year — it will have signed its own death sentence. Its facade of civility, its supposed vaunted respect for the rule of law and democracy, its mythical story of the courageous Israeli military and miraculous birth of the Jewish nation – which it successfully sold to its western audiences – will lie in ash heaps. Israel’s social capital will be spent. It will be revealed as the ugly, repressive, hate-filled apartheid regime it always has been, alienating younger generations of American Jews. Its patron, the United States, as new generations come into power, will distance itself from Israel. Its popular support will come from reactionary Zionists and America’s Christianized fascists who see Israel’s domination of ancient Biblical land as a harbinger of the Second Coming and in its subjugation of Arabs a kindred racism and celebration of white supremacy. 

Israel will become synonymous with its victims the way Turks are synonymous with the Armenians, Germans are with the Namibians and later the Jews, and Serbs are with the Bosniaks. Israel’s cultural, artistic, journalistic and intellectual life will be exterminated. Israel will be a stagnant nation where the religious fanatics, bigots and Jewish extremists who have seized power will dominate public discourse. It will join the club of the globe’s most despotic regimes. 

Despotisms can exist long after their past due date. But they are terminal. You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to see that Israel’s lust for rivers of blood is antithetical to the core values of Judaism. The cynical weaponization of the Holocaust, including branding Palestinians as Nazis, has little efficacy when you carry out a live streamed genocide against 2.3 million people trapped in a concentration camp.

Nations need more than force to survive. They need a mystique. This mystique provides purpose, civility and even nobility to inspire citizens to sacrifice for the nation. The mystique offers hope for the future. It provides meaning. It provides national identity. 

When mystiques implode, when they are exposed as lies, a central foundation of state power collapses. I reported on the death of the communist mystiques in 1989 during the revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania. The police and the military decided there was nothing left to defend. Israel’s decay will engender the same lassitude and apathy. It will not be able to recruit Indigenous collaborators, such as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority — reviled by most Palestinians — to do the bidding of the colonizers. 

All Israel has left is escalating savagery, including torture and lethal violence against unarmed civilians, which accelerates the decline. This wholesale violence works in the short term, as it did in the war waged by the French in Algeria, the Dirty War waged by Argentina’s military dictatorship, the British occupation of India, Egypt, Kenya and Northern Ireland and the American occupations of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the long term, it is suicidal.

The genocide in Gaza has turned Hamas’ resistance fighters into heroes in the Global South. Israel may wipe out the Hamas leadership. But the past — and current — assassinations of scores of Palestinian leaders has done little to blunt resistance. The genocide in Gaza has produced a new generation of deeply traumatized and enraged young men and women whose families have been killed and whose communities have been obliterated. They are prepared to take the place of martyred leaders. 

Israel was at war with itself before Oct. 7. Israelis were protesting to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s abolition of judicial independence. Its religious bigots and fanatics, currently in power, had mounted a determined attack on Israeli secularism. Israel’s unity is a negative unity. It is held together by hatred. And even this hatred is not enough to keep protestors from decrying the government’s abandonment of Israeli hostages in Gaza.

Hatred is a dangerous political commodity. The Palestinian “human animals,” when eradicated or subdued, will be replaced by Jewish apostates and traitors. A politics of hatred creates a permanent instability, exploited by those seeking the destruction of civil society.

Israel was far down this road on Oct. 7 when it promulgated a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law permits exclusively Jewish settlements to bar applicants for residency on the basis of “suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.” 

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlin called “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state and end the occupation, it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.

“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” wrote Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution,” he warned.

He foresaw that, “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police — mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” 

“Israel,” he wrote, “would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”

Settler colonial states that endure, including the United States, exterminate the native population through genocide and the spread of new infectious diseases such as smallpox. By 1600 less than a tenth of the indigenous population remained in South, Central and North America. Israel cannot kill on this scale, with nearly 5.5 million Palestinians living under occupation and another nine million in the diaspora. They cannot, as many Israelis wish, wipe them all out. 

Israel’s scorched earth campaign in Gaza means there will be no two-state solution. Apartheid and genocide will define existence for the Palestinians. This presages a long conflict, but one that the Jewish State cannot ultimately win.

Run, the Israelis demand of the Palestinians, run for your lives. Run from Rafah the way you ran from Gaza City, the way you ran from Jabalia, the way you ran from Deir al-Balah, the way you ran from Beit Hanoun, the way you ran from Bani Suheila, the way you ran from Khan Yunis. Run or we will kill you. We will drop GBU-39 bombs on your tent encampments and set them ablaze. We will spray you with bullets from our machine-gun-equipped drones. We will pound you with artillery and tank shells. We will shoot you down with snipers. We will decimate your tents, your refugee camps, your cities and towns, your homes, your schools, your hospitals and your water purification plants. We will rain death from the sky.

Run for your lives. Again and again and again. Pack up the few belongings you have left. Blankets. A couple of pots. Some clothes. We don’t care how exhausted you are, how hungry you are, how terrified you are, how sick you are, how old, or how young you are. Run. Run. Run. And when you run in terror to one part of Gaza, we will make you turn around and run to another. Trapped in a labyrinth of death. Back and forth. Up and down. Side to side. Six. Seven. Eight times. We toy with you like mice in a trap. Then we deport you so you can never return. Or we kill you.

Let the world denounce our genocide. What do we care? The billions in military aid flows unchecked from our American ally. The fighter jets. The artillery shells. The tanks. The bombs. An endless supply. We kill children by the thousands. We kill women and the elderly by the thousands. The sick and injured, without medicine and hospitals die. We poison the water. We cut off the food. We make you starve. We created this hell. We are the masters. Law. Duty. A code of conduct. They do not exist for us.

But first we toy with you. We humiliate you. We terrorize you. We revel in your fear. We are amused by your pathetic attempts to survive. You are not human. You are creatures. Untermensch. We feed our lust for domination. Look at our posts on social media. They have gone viral. One shows soldiers grinning in a Palestinian home with the owners tied up and blindfolded in the background. We loot. Rugs. Cosmetics. Motorbikes. Jewelry. Watches. Cash. Gold. Antiquities. We mock your misery. We cheer your death. We celebrate our religion, our nation, our identity, our superiority, by negating and erasing yours. 

Depravity is moral. Atrocity is heroism. Genocide is redemption.

This is the game of terror played by Israel in Gaza. It was the game played during the Dirty War in Argentina when the military junta “disappeared” 30,000 of its own citizens. The “disappeared” were subjected to torture — who cannot call what is happening to Palestinians in Gaza torture? — and humiliated before they were murdered. It was the game played in the clandestine torture centers and prisons in El Salvador and Iraq. It is what characterized the war in Bosnia in the Serbian concentration camps.

Israeli journalist Yinon Magal on the show “Hapatriotim” on Israel’s Channel 14, joked that Joe Biden’s red line was the killing of 30,000 Palestinians. The singer Kobi Peretz asked if that was the number of dead for a day. The audience erupted in applause and laughter.

We know Israel’s intent. Annihilate the Palestinians the same way the United States annihilated Native Americans, the Australians annihilated the First Nations peoples, the Germans annihilated the Herero in Namibia, the Turks annihilated Armenians and the Nazis annihilated the Jews. The specifics are different. The goal is the same. Erasure. 

We cannot plead ignorance. 

But it is easier to pretend. Pretend Israel will allow humanitarian aid. Pretend there will be a permanent ceasefire. Pretend Palestinians will return to their destroyed homes in Gaza. Pretend Gaza will be rebuilt — the hospitals, the universities, the mosques, the housing. Pretend the Palestinian Authority will administer Gaza. Pretend there will be a two-state solution. Pretend there is no genocide.

The vaunted democratic values, morality and respect for human rights, claimed by Israel and the United States, has always been a lie. The real credo is this – we have everything and if you try and take it away from us we will kill you. People of color, especially when they are poor and vulnerable, do not count. The hopes, dreams, dignity and aspirations for freedom of those outside the empire are worthless. Global domination will be sustained through racialized violence

This lie — that the American empire is predicated on democracy and liberty — is one the Palestinians, and those in the Global South, as well as Native Americans and Black and Brown Americans, not to mention those who live in the Middle East, have known for decades. But it is a lie that still has currency in the United States and Israel, a lie used to justify the unjustifiable.

We do not halt Israel’s genocide because we, as Americans, are Israel, infected with the same white supremacy, and intoxicated by our domination of the globe’s wealth and the power to obliterate others with our advanced weaponry. 

The world outside of the industrialized fortresses in the Global North is acutely aware that the fate of the Palestinians is their fate. As climate change imperils survival, as natural resources, including access to water, diminish, as mass migration becomes an imperative for millions, as agricultural yields decline, as coastal areas are flooded, as droughts and wildfires proliferate, as states fail, as militias and armed resistance movements rise to battle their oppressors along with their proxies, genocide will not be an anomaly. It will be the norm. The earth’s vulnerable and poor, those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” will be the next Palestinians. 

“Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths,” the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of those the emperor Nero singled out for torture and death. “Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

Sadism by the powerful is the curse of the human condition. It was as prevalent in ancient Rome as it is, 200 miles to the north from us, in Gaza. 

We know the modern face of Nero, who illuminated his opulent garden parties by burning to death captives tied to stakes. That is not in dispute.

But who were Nero’s guests1? Who wandered through the emperor’s grounds as human beings, as in Rafah, were burned alive? How could these guests see, and no doubt hear, such horrendous suffering and witness such appalling torture and be indifferent, even content?

There is nothing hidden about this genocide. Over 147 courageous Palestinian journalists have been murdered by the Israelis because they have conveyed the images and stories of this slaughter to the world, martyred for their people, for us.

We are Nero’s guests. 

The Palestinians have long been betrayed, not only by us in the global north, but by most of the governments in the Muslim world. We stand passive in the face of the crime of crimes. History will judge Israel for this genocide. But it will also judge us. It will ask why we did not do more, why we did not sever all agreements, all trade deals, all accords, all cooperation with the apartheid state, why we did not halt weapons shipments to Israel, why we did not recall our ambassadors, why when the maritime trade in the Red Sea was disrupted by Yemen an alternative overland route into Israel was set up by Saudi Arabia and Jordan, why we did not do everything in our power to end the slaughter. It will condemn us for not heeding the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust, which is not that Jews are eternal victims, but that when you have the capacity to stop genocide and you do not, you are culpable.

“The opposite of good is not evil,” Samuel Johnson wrote. “The opposite of good is indifference.”

The Palestinian resistance is our resistance. The Palestinian struggle for dignity, freedom and independence is our struggle. The Palestinian cause is our cause. For, as history has also shown, those who were once Nero’s guests soon became Nero’s victims. 

Thank you.

The Chris Hedges Report is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

1

The title and concept of Nero’s Guests comes from a lecture by P. Sainath about the suicides of Indian farmers.

 

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Things Worth Remembering: The Indispensability of Men Douglas Murray

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Camille Paglia in a men’s room. (Photo by Mario Ruiz via Getty Images)

Welcome to Douglas Murray’s column Things Worth Remembering, in which he presents great speeches from famous orators we should commit to heart. To listen to a portion of Camilla Paglia’s speech at the Munk Debate in Canada in 2013, scroll to the end of this piece.

Happy Father’s Day in the United States! I thought that, to celebrate, I would do the obvious thing and highlight a speech by the feminist Camille Paglia.

One of the strangest things that has happened in my lifetime is the emergence of the man as a pathetic figure, or a figure of fun. For the last fifteen years or so, you could see it in every walk of life—nowhere more so than in advertising. 

There are two things you can always predict with 100 percent certainty if a family, any family, is featured in an advertisement. The first is that the family will be biracial. The second is that the man (especially if he is white) will be portrayed as an incompetent or a loser. If the problem is wrestling with the remote control, the children and wife will patiently have to show poor old dad how to work the darn thing. It is a small but significant example of a wider trend, because this is a time in which male role models have been stripped away from the culture. 

We may have the culture of the “strong woman,” which I referred to in my Mother’s Day column. But “strong man” is a phrase now used to denote fear and even loathing. 


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June 15, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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I spent so much time in my friend Mike’s house growing up that I knew his parents as Mama and Papa. His father, Kenneth Edward Nyboe, was born in 1924 in New York City but spent his summers in Maine, where he knew my mother and my aunt and where he met, and secretly married, my aunt’s friend Helen Bryant just before he shipped overseas to be in the tank corps with Patton’s Third Army in World War II.

Papa’s war was not an easy one, although he came home without visible wounds. After the war, he went to the University of Maine on the GI Bill, spurred by Helen, who had never been to college herself but made it clear she expected him to live up to her faith in him by making it through school. 

After college, he went to work for the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., insisting on the simplest solutions—the ones that worked—even when the rest of the team scoffed that they were too easy. For years, while Helen and their two sons were in Maine for the summer, he commuted between there and Washington, driving back and forth on the weekends because even though it was a 12-hour drive, nothing mattered more than driving down Carter’s Lane at the end of it.

Papa was away a lot, but when he was home, he always had time for us kids. He taught me how to shingle a roof and to sand a deck and to wire lights and to spell out the NATO phonetic alphabet and to count hours in military time and what to do when you cut an artery (which came in surprisingly handy after a kitchen accident many years later). 

He took all of us out to the islands in his boat for hiking and picnics. On one incredibly special, brutally hot August day, when everyone else had gone somewhere and the tide was way too low to swim, he took me out into the sound to find deep, cold water so I could jump in. The heat made things waver; we saw mirages among the islands that day.

Papa Ken had a huge heart. He could whistle “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof loud enough to hear all the way across the harbor. And he always said there was nothing anyone couldn’t work out, so long as they talked to each other honestly.

Papa had a wonderful voice, a resonant baritone. When Helen was in the hospital after giving birth to one of their sons—these were the days when you stayed in the hospital for a week—she got lonely and scared. She called Papa in tears. “Say something,” she begged. “Just say something to me. I need to hear your voice.” 

And in the middle of the night, Papa didn’t even say hello. He took a deep breath. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….” 

And he recited the Gettysburg Address until she could sleep.

Happy Father’s Day to dads and to those who fill the role.

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