Newsletter – November 2013













Life isn’t happening to you; life is responding to you.”

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”



November and Thanksgiving Greetings, Dear Friends…

Donna and I both feel Thanksgiving is the holiday closest to our hearts. Partly this is because it has remained relatively uncommercialized over time, but mostly because it is an occasion for gathering our loved ones together, preparing and sharing a glorious meal and pausing to feel gratitude for our blessings. It is one of the times when we all seem to offer the best in ourselves.

In the spirit of this season let me echo Meister Eckhart:  

   “If the only prayer you will ever say is thank you, it will be enough.”   

I also want suggest we all extend his wisdom beyond this season – or any season. The more I mature, the more I understand that giving thanks for all things at all times is the simplest way for me to “live the life I dream.” That phrase comes from Judy Collins’ song, “The Life You Dream”…

   There’s a time that comes once every morning
   When you choose the kind of day you will have
   It comes in with the sun and you know you’ve begun
   To live the life you dream
   You can light all your candles to the dawn
   And surrender yourself to the sunrise
   You can make it wrong you can make it right
   You can live the life you dream

   Pray to Buddha pray to Krishna pray to Jesus
   Or the shadow of the devil on your wall
   Anyone you call…will come…

   The night comes to you dressed in darkness
   Descends on your body like a blessing
   You can lie in its arms it will heal your heart
   You can live the life you dream
   You can wake in this vale of tears
   You can laugh like a child again
   You can make it right you can make it wrong
   You can live the life you dream

   What you see and you believe is not the answer
   To anything that matters very much
   Anything you touch…is gone

   In the valleys you look for the mountains
   In the mountains you search the rivers
   You have no where to go, you are where you belong
   You can live the life you dream
   If you call him, your master will find you
   Seven bars on the gate will not hold him
   Seven fires burning bright only give him delight
   You can live the life you dream

   All your treasure buys you nothing but the moment
   All your poverty has lost you everything
   Love will teach your dream…to sing

I love this song. If you haven’t heard Judy sing it, please treat yourself. The message for me is profound, true and clear. There is a time every morning when I choose the kind of life I will live that day; I am responsible for how I will live each day. Whoever and whatever attitude I call into it will create my reality – and when I give thanks for where I am and what is present, I do live the life I dream.

So giving thanks isn’t something I do for somebody else; it’s the most precious gift I can give myself. It usually also happens that my gratitude is a gift for those around me and the world as well, but choosing to be present, and thankful for what is present with me, is much more than an altruistic act. It is how I survive and flourish in the world.

One of my most helpful teachers in this regard is Brother David Steindl-Rast and the worldwide Network for Grateful Living, an interactive website with thousands of participants daily from more than 243 countries. Here’s a bit of what it says:  

“Gratefulness is a universal principle that serves as the core inspiration for personal growth, cross-cultural understanding, interfaith dialogue, intergenerational respect, nonviolent conflict resolution, and ecological sustainability… The network ‘provides resources for living in the gentle power of gratefulness, which restores courage, reconciles relationships, and heals our Earth’…”

The network is chock full of resources we can all use to deepen our thanks giving. Check it out at

So what do Judy Collins’ song and Brother David’s network have in common?

They are both eminently practical supports for living the lives we dream while we gently do our small parts in healing our world. I recommend trying a small experiment. For a month listen to Judy’s song each morning before you get out of bed and, when you get to your computer, make your first priority reading of the network’s “Word for the Day.”* I guarantee you will be amazed at how easily and simply your life, and our world’s, gets better.

My other major reason for so cherishing Thanksgiving is because it helps me remember how healthy the practice of gratitude is – and how good I feel when I let it flow! This is not just a nicey-nicey idea, but a vitally essential part of attending to our personal well-being. If this is a new idea for you, these articles will offer some convincing evidence and some useful tips on how to build gratitude into your life, too…





So Happy Thanksgiving – this week and for the rest of your life…

Much love, FW

PS: Unless ‘orgasm’ is a dirty world for you, don’t miss Improv Everywhere’s flash mob scene in Katz Deli in THIS MONTH’S LINKS…




Are you bad at gratitude, just like Jeremy Adam Smith? He has some lessons for you from people who know how to say “Thanks!”

I’m terrible at gratitude.

How bad am I? I’m so bad at gratitude that most days, I don’t notice the sunlight on the leaves of the Berkeley oaks as I ride my bike down the street. I forget to be thankful for the guy who hand-brews that delicious cup of coffee I drink mid-way through every weekday morning. I don’t even know the dude’s name!

I usually take for granted that I have legs to walk on, eyes to see with, arms I can use to hug my son. I forget my son! Well, I don’t actually forget about him, at least as a physical presence; I generally remember to pick him up from school and feed him dinner. But as I face the quotidian slings and arrows of parenthood, I forget all the time how much he’s changed my life for the better.

Gratitude (and its sibling, appreciation) is the mental tool we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff. It’s a lens that helps us to see the things that don’t make it onto our lists of problems to be solved. It’s a spotlight that we shine on the people who give us the good things in life. It’s a bright red paintbrush we apply to otherwise-invisible blessings, like clean streets or health or enough food to eat.

Gratitude doesn’t make problems and threats disappear. We can lose jobs, we can be attacked on the street, we can get sick. I’ve experienced all of those things. I remember those harrowing times at unexpected moments: My heart beats faster, my throat constricts. My body wants to hit something or run away, one or the other. But there’s nothing to hit, nowhere to run. The threats are indeed real, but at that moment, they exist only in memory or imagination. I am the threat; it is me who is wearing myself out with worry.

That’s when I need to turn on the gratitude. If I do that enough, suggests the psychological research, gratitude might just become a habit. What will that mean for me? It means, says the research, that I increase my chances of psychologically surviving hard times, that I stand a chance to be happier in the good times. I’m not ignoring the threats; I’m appreciating the resources and people that might help me face those threats.

If you’re already one of those highly grateful people, stop reading this essay—you don’t need it. Instead you should read Amie Gordon’s “Five Ways Giving Thanks Can Backfire.” But if you’re more like me, then here are some tips for how you and I can become one of those fantastically grateful people.


Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I’m not just being perverse—contemplating endings really does make you more grateful for the life you currently have, according to several studies.

For example, when Araceli Friasa and colleagues asked people to visualize their own deaths, their gratitude measurably increased. Similarly, when Minkyung Koo and colleagues asked people to envision the sudden disappearance of their romantic partners from their lives, they became more grateful to their partners. The same goes for imagining that some positive event, like a job promotion, never happened.

This isn’t just theoretical: When you find yourself taking a good thing for granted, try giving it up for a little while. Researchers Jordi Quoidbach and Elizabeth Dunn had 55 people eat a piece of chocolate—and then the researchers told some of those people to resist chocolate for a week and others to binge on chocolate if they wanted. They left a third group to their own devices.

Guess who ended up happiest, according to self-reports? The people who abstained from chocolate. And who were the least happy? The people who binged. That’s the power of gratitude!


And they also smell the coffee, the bread baking in the oven, the aroma of a new car—whatever gives them pleasure.

Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryant finds that savoring positive experiences makes them stickier in your brain, and increases their benefits to your psyche—and the key, he argues, is expressing gratitude for the experience. That’s one of the ways appreciation and gratitude go hand in hand.

You might also consider adding some little ritual to how you experience the pleasures of the body: A study published this year in Psychological Science finds that rituals like prayer or even just shaking a sugar packet “make people pay more attention to food, and paying attention makes food taste better,” as Emily Nauman reports in her Greater Good article about the research.

This brand of mindfulness makes intuitive sense—but how does it work with the first habit above?

Well, we humans are astoundingly adaptive creatures, and we will adapt even to the good things. When we do, their subjective value starts to drop; we start to take them for granted. That’s the point at which we might give them up for a while—be it chocolate, sex, or even something like sunlight—and then take the time to really savor them when we allow them back into our lives.

That goes for people, too, and that goes back to the first habit: If you’re taking someone for granted, take a step back—and imagine your life without them. Then try savoring their presence, just like you would a rose. Or a new car. Whatever! The point is, absence may just make the heart grow grateful.


What’s the opposite of gratitude? Entitlement—the attitude that people owe you something just because you’re so very special.

“In all its manifestations, a preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful,” writes Robert Emmons, co-director of the GGSC’s Gratitude project. “Counting blessings will be ineffective because grievances will always outnumber gifts.”

The antidote to entitlement, argues Emmons, is to see that we did not create ourselves—we were created, if not by evolution, then by God; or if not by God, then by our parents. Likewise, we are never truly self-sufficient. Humans need other people to grow our food and heal our injuries; we need love, and for that we need family, partners, friends, and pets.

“Seeing with grateful eyes requires that we see the web of interconnection in which we alternate between being givers and receivers,” writes Emmons. “The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed.”


At the start of this piece, I mentioned gratitude for sunlight and trees. That’s great for me—and it may have good effects, like leading me to think about my impact on the environment—but the trees just don’t care. Likewise, the sun doesn’t know I exist; that big ball of flaming gas isn’t even aware of its own existence, as far as we know. My gratitude doesn’t make it burn any brighter.

That’s not true of people—people will glow in gratitude. Saying thanks to my son might make him happier and it can strengthen our emotional bond. Thanking the guy who makes my coffee can strengthen social bonds—in part by deepening our understanding of how we’re interconnected with other people.

My colleague Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the GGSC’s science director and another co-director of our Expanding Gratitude project, puts it this way:

Experiences that heighten meaningful connections with others—like noticing how another person has helped you, acknowledging the effort it took, and savoring how you benefitted from it—engage biological systems for trust and affection, alongside circuits for pleasure and reward. This provides a synergistic and enduring boost to the positive experience. Saying ‘thank you’ to a person, your brain registers that something good has happened and that you are more richly enmeshed in a meaningful social community.


Grateful people are habitually specific. They don’t say, “I love you because you’re just so wonderfully wonderful, you!” Instead, the really skilled grateful person will say: “I love you for the pancakes you make when you see I’m hungry and the way you massage my feet after work even when you’re really tired and how you give me hugs when I’m sad so that I’ll feel better!”

The reason for this is pretty simple: It makes the expression of gratitude feel more authentic, for it reveals that the thanker was genuinely paying attention and isn’t just going through the motions. The richest thank you’s will acknowledge intentions (“the pancakes you make when you see I’m hungry”) and costs (“you massage my feet after work even when you’re really tired”), and they’ll describe the value of benefits received (“you give me hugs when I’m sad so that I’ll feel better”).

When Amie Gordon and colleagues studied gratitude in couples, they found that spouses signal grateful feelings through more caring and attentive behavior. They ask clarifying questions; they respond to trouble with hugs and to good news with smiles. “These gestures,” Gordon writes, “can have profound effects: Participants who were better listeners during those conversations in the lab had partners who reported feeling more appreciated by them.”

Remember: Gratitude thrives on specificity!


But let’s get real: Pancakes, massages, hugs? Boring! Most of my examples so far are easy and clichéd. But here’s who the really tough-minded, fantastically grateful person thanks: the boyfriend who dumped her, the homeless person who asked for change, the boss who laid him off.

We’re graduating from Basic to Advanced Gratitude, so pay attention. And since I myself am still working on Basic, I’ll turn once again to Dr. Emmons for guidance: “It’s easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one ‘feels’ grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health or has taken a devastating hit on his or her retirement portfolio.”

In such moments, he says, gratitude becomes a critical cognitive process—a way of thinking about the world that can help us turn disaster into a stepping stone. If we’re willing and able to look, he argues, we can find a reason to feel grateful even to people who have harmed us. We can thank that boyfriend for being brave enough to end a relationship that wasn’t working; the homeless person for reminding us of our advantages and vulnerability; the boss, for forcing us to face new challenges.

“Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth,” writes Emmons in his Greater Good article “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times.” He continues:

So telling people simply to buck up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.

That’s what truly, fantastically grateful people do. Can you?

Jeremy Adam Smith is Web Editor of the Greater Good Science Center and a 2013 fellow with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. He is also the author or coeditor of four books, including The Daddy Shift, Rad Dad, and The Compassionate Instinct. Before joining the GGSC, Jeremy was a 2010-11 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.




Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk and one of the leading figures in a worldwide gratitude movement. Long before gratitude became a hot topic of scientific research, Brother David was writing about gratefulness as the heart of prayer and a path to liberation, helping to promote the practice of gratitude as a way of healing oneself and society. Perhaps best known for helping create interfaith dialogues to increase understanding between religious traditions, he received the Martin Buber Award in 1975 for his work in this area.

Today, he’s helping create a worldwide movement called the Network for Grateful Living through an interactive online forum that reaches several thousand participants daily from more than 240 countries. The author of numerous books, book chapters, and articles, Brother David has recently released a new book called 99 Blessings: An Invitation to Life—a collection of prayers meant to appeal to a general readership.

The UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center is not a religious or spiritual organization, but we are deeply interested in the practice and complexities of gratitude. Few bring deeper knowledge to the topic than Brother David, who, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has engaged in regular dialogue with scientists. Greater Good book review editor Jill Suttie recently caught up with Brother David to discuss his views on the science of gratitude and where the movement is headed.

Jill Suttie: You began promoting the practice of gratitude for religious reasons long before it became a topic of interest in Western science. What do you make of the sudden scientific interest in studying gratitude?

Brother David Steindl-Rast: Actually, the scientific interest did not arise quite as suddenly as it may seem. As long ago as the mid 20th century, alert psychologists like Abraham Maslow became aware of the importance of gratitude—which he writes about in Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences—but mainstream science was stuck in taking physics for its model of inquiry and showed no interest in exploring values. In the 21st century consciousness research and cognitive neuroscience are leading towards new frontiers, encountering new questions, and are beginning to push the envelope of what used to be considered classical scientific inquiry. The change of consciousness that is sweeping the world at large has its effect also on the minds of scientists.

Modern science has the same power over people’s minds that religion had in the Middle Ages. But public interest has a more powerful influence on the direction of science than many people realize. For influencing science, an important point of leverage is the funding of research. For example, the Templeton Foundation’s funding of Robert Emmons’ pioneering studies of grateful behavior has contributed much to making the topic of gratitude acceptable in scientific circles. Scientific findings, in turn, make gratitude respectable in the eyes of the media and so to an ever-growing segment of society. This creates a feedback loop, which accounts for the current “gratitude boom.”

JS: Science has shown that practicing gratitude increases happiness and health in an individual. How does practicing gratitude benefit society at large?

BDSR: Well, the first and most obvious answer is: Anything that produces happier, healthier individuals creates thereby a society in which more people are healthy and happy. This alone is a great improvement. But we can go a step further and show that grateful individuals live in a way that leads to the kind of society human beings long for. In many parts of the world society is sick. Keywords of the diagnosis are: Exploitation, oppression, and violence. Grateful living is a remedy against all three of these symptoms.

Exploitation springs from greed and a sense of scarcity. Grateful living makes us aware that there is enough for all. Thus, it leads to a sense of sufficiency and a joyful willingness to share with others.

Oppression is necessary if we want to exploit others.  It results in competition and in the Power Pyramid: The more power you have, the more efficiently you can exploit those below you and protect yourself against those above you. But grateful people live with a sense of sufficiency; they need not exploit others. Thus, oppression becomes unnecessary; it is replaced by mutual support and by equal respect for all.

Violence springs from the root of fear—fear that there may not be enough for all, fear of others as potential competitors, fear of foreigners and strangers. But the grateful person is fearless. Thereby she cuts off the very root of violence. Out of a sense-of-enough she is willing to share and thereby tends to eliminate the unjust distribution of wealth that creates the climate for violence. Fearlessly, she welcomes the new and strange, finds itself enriched by differences, and celebrates variety.

Thus, grateful living takes away the main reasons for exploitation, oppression and violence; through sharing, universal respect, and non-violence it provides the basis for a healthy society and a world with a chance to survive.

JS: Some people think the science of gratitude is a waste of time—in other words, it’s obvious that gratitude is good for you. Do you think science contributes something important to the global gratitude movement? If so, what are its contributions?

BDSR: We all know that eating is not only good for us, but necessary for survival. And yet, the scientific study of nutrition can bring us great benefits. Similarly, although everyone knows that it “feels good” to be grateful, the scientific study of gratitude can broaden our knowledge, refine our distinctions, and deepen our understanding.

Just as academic interest gave nutrition a new “respectability” it can do the same for gratitude. This is important and can certainly be of help to the global gratitude movement. However, what gives a movement its impetus is not information, but enthusiasm and commitment. The spark that ignited the global gratitude movement is the enthusiasm of men and women who discovered that grateful living makes life meaningful and full of joy.

JS: Some people may experience difficulty practicing gratitude, maybe because they’re depressed or they’ve experienced a severe trauma. What advice would you give to someone in that state of mind?

BDSR: Gratitude is the spontaneous response of a healthy body and mind to life. We should not expect it from a person who suffers in mind or body. With training, however, one can learn to focus on “opportunity” as the gift within every given moment. This attitude towards life always improves the situation. Even in times of sickness, someone who habitually practices grateful living will look for the opportunity that a given moment offers and use it creatively.

 Brother David’s new book, 99 Blessings, came out earlier this year.

JS: Do you ever have days where it’s hard for you to practice gratitude? If so, what gets in your way?

BDSR: Illness and depression make it more difficult to be alert to gratitude, for lack of energy. But even on healthy days, I need to put myself back, again and again, onto the track of grateful living. What gets in the way is familiarity; the proverb is right: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Grateful eyes look at whatever it be as if they had never seen it before and caress it as if they would never see it again. This is a most realistic attitude, for every moment is indeed unique. But of this I need to remind myself again and again. This reminding myself is the dynamic element in mindfulness.

Grateful living is the awareness that we stand on holy ground—always—in touch with Mystery. Jewish sages interpret the words of Genesis 3:5 in a way that is of great relevance to grateful living. “Take off your shoes; the ground on which you stand is holy ground.” The soles of your shoes are leather—dead animal skin. Take off the deadness of being-used-to-it and your live souls will feel that you are standing on holy ground, wherever you are.

JS: Where do you see the gratitude movement heading from here?

BDSR: As someone aptly quipped, “It is difficult to make predictions—especially about the future.” It is, however, pretty evident that greed, oppression, and violence have led us to a point of self-destruction. Our survival depends on a radical change; if the gratitude movement grows strong and deep enough, it may bring about this necessary change. Grateful living brings in place of greed: sharing; in place of oppression: respect; in place of violence: peace. Who does not long for a world of sharing, mutual respect, and peace?

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.  




Friends and Family: Since Friday I have been reading this book by Rhonda Byrne. The essence of this book is that dating back thousands of years to the earliest recordings of humankind, the power of gratitude was preached and practiced, and from there was passed on through the centuries, sweeping across the continents, permeating one civilization and culture to the next.

History is laden with famous figures that practiced gratitude and whose achievements put them amongst the great human beings who ever lived, Gandhi, Da Vinci, Plato, Lincoln, Newton, Einstein and many more.

Einstein when asked about his monumental achievements, he spoke only of giving thanks to others. Isaac Newton when asked how he had achieved the scientific discoveries he made, he said that he stood on the shoulders of giants and gave thanks to them daily. Muhammad said that giving gratitude for the abundance you received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue.

Since picking up and reading this book on Friday I have constantly thought about how incredibly grateful I am for all that has been given to me. I have thought of many of you and how through your lives your interaction with mine, my life has been filled with incredible joy and happiness. During terrible tragedies I have found your love and support inspirational. Many of you I have only met on an airplane ride but others have been in my life for decades. Each of you has played a significant roll in my life otherwise you would not have been included in this e-mail

As many of you know, yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the Memorial service for Ashley.  November has never been an easy month for my family since Ashley’s death on November 14, 2010.  Yesterday when I returned from church I was informed that my son Josh had been involved in a terrible tragic motorcycle accident.  He was riding on a motorcycle with a sidecar with his dog Fiona when a reckless driver pulled across the road in front of him. Fortunately Josh will be okay but will take several months to mend; unfortunately Fiona did not survive the accident. When we got reports from the EMT’s and police they all have said that Josh’s survival was a “Miracle”. They do not understand with so much damage to the motorcycle that anyone could have walked away alive.

Since hearing of this accident all I have been thinking about is how easy the outcome could have been so different. Did my constantly thinking about how grateful I am have a significant impact on the outcome of this situation? If I had not been feeling so much gratitude for Josh and our employees in Florida, would we have been so fortunate. If I had not been thinking how grateful I am to each of you could outcome have been so much different?

Next week is Thanksgiving and a time when we all should seriously think about the blessings we have received. The fact that I will still have Josh in my life will be significant because it so easily could have not been. I ask that as you go into the Holidays, that you take the time to purchase this book and share it with your family and friends. At Thanksgiving dinner take the time to tell them how grateful you are they are part of your life. Josh and my employees will be going through some significant hard times without Josh’s help. I ask that you say a prayer for them because they will need your help.  I have shared the website for Marine Powerhead so you can see what we have lost without Fiona I have also attached a picture of Josh and Fiona that I took last week. It was incredible how happy they were together. She will be deeply missed.

Several of you I have not spoken to in some time, others I have speak to regularly, all of you have taught me some very significant lessons, some I did not want to learn and were hurtful, but those where some of the most important lessons. To all of you I want to say how much I have appreciated all you have done for me and how grateful I am that you have been a part of my life.  I conclude only by saying “thank you, thank you, thank you”.





On the inside of the cover of the program for the memorial for Tom Foley, the former House Speaker who died on October 18, is a quote in which he had said:

In a cynical age, I still believe that we must summon people to a vision of public service….for, in the end, this ethic determines more than anything else whether we will have citizens and leaders of honor, judgment, wisdom, and heart.

An amazing assemblage gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to pay tribute to this unusual political figure. The memorial for the former congressman from Spokane, Washington, who served for thirty years and rose to be Speaker, drew: two presidents (Obama and Clinton); two vice presidents (Biden and Mondale); the current Speaker John Boehner and two former Speakers—Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi; the entire House Republican and Democratic leadership; the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell; the ambassadors of Japan, Great Britain, and Ireland; numerous members of the House and Senate, most of whom had served with Foley; plus hundreds of people—Democratic nabobs and contributors, former Foley aides, and many others who had crossed Foley’s path at some point in their lives and remained attached to him, and lots of the multitude of friends whom Foley attracted. He was a large, friendly, polite, and decent man, a great Irish storyteller, perceptive and thoughtful about politics —people simply liked to be around him. Obama and Boehner sat on either side of Foley’s wife, Heather, who had served as his unpaid staff member from the time he entered Congress until he left, and most of the speakers that afternoon paid special tribute to her, a force herself. It was reminiscent of the opening passages of The Guns of August, when all of the European Royalty turned out for the funeral of Edward VII.

About five hundred people not only filled all the seats placed in Statuary Hall for the event, but stood three deep along its walls. They were there mainly because of what Foley had stood for. Washington, D.C., is a town of people who are very busy or like to think that they are. The country’s most powerful political leaders, some of them bitter opponents of each other, set aside other matters for more than two hours that afternoon in order to honor a man whom most Americans had little memory of, and who was not, in this most transactional of cities, in a position to do any of them any good now.

The people who came knew that the quote in the program represented Foley’s essence. It was only one demonstration of the fact that he understood that our democracy wasn’t to be taken for granted, that good people needed to work to keep it. While he didn’t take himself too seriously—he was a nice guy who didn’t make people feel that they were in an August Presence—he took politics very seriously, saw it as a most honorable course, and he treated his colleagues with respect and an uncommon fairness. Virtually every speaker that day recognized this.

Those present also knew that Foley stood as an emblem of a time that now seemed very long past and was perhaps unrecoverable. The fractiousness that had been developing almost from the day he stepped down as Speaker, having been defeated for reelection in the Republican sweep of 1994, reached its apogee at the hands of some of the very people sitting there paying tribute to him.

The event brought out the surprising best in certain figures. In his opening comments Boehner was gracious and warm; McConnell, too, showed warmth, humor, and respect for Foley, though they didn’t agree on many things. One had no sense that these were canned, politically expedient comments, memorial potboilers drawn up by staff. Something about Tom Foley broke through the conventions. I remarked to a friend later that this was a memorial during which nobody had to lie.

Shortly after he was elected Speaker in 1989, Foley proposed to the minority leader, Bob Michel, that the two of them meet once a week, first in the office of one of them and the following week in the other’s. They did so throughout Foley’s speakership. Such an arrangement now is unimaginable. Foley often crossed the House floor to sit and confer or shoot the breeze with Michel. And so at the memorial, after a series of short speeches by some of Foley’s closest colleagues in the House, the ninety-year-old Michel, by now frail and stooped and needing assistance, approached the podium. One worried that Michel might not be up to the demands of the moment. But as soon as he started talking—with his characteristic ruddy cheeks and cherubic face dominated by a broad smile—Bob Michel’s great baritone voice filled the vast hall. Foley was fortunate to have had as his counterpart this plainspoken representative from Peoria—who never became Speaker because the rising Gingrich forces saw him as too friendly toward the Democrats, which Michel’s supporters argued was the way to strike bargains on their proposals. Michel was also of a positive temperament, almost the last of the guard who put the institution and accomplishing things over sheer partisan competition and combat. In his tribute to Foley, Michel said, “We both saw the House of Representatives as one of the great creations of a free people.”

Michel spoke of the time in 1994, when Foley had just been defeated for reelection—a shocking development, the first Speaker defeated since the Civil War—a devastated Foley asked him to preside while he made his farewell remarks to the House. Michel told of the talk that he and Foley had then about their mutual pride in what they had achieved together, substantively and as an example of how the House should work. And then, Michel said, they spoke of it again years later when Michel visited Foley as he lay dying in his home not far from the Capitol. “We both felt good about that.” Obviously aware of what had become of their beloved institution, Michel, with the main destroyers sitting before him, said, “I only hope that the legislators who walk through here each day will find his spirit, learn from it, and be humbled by it.” Voice choking, growing softer, Michel concluded, “that is what I have to say in honor of my dear friend Tom Foley.” The audience rose at once to its feet to applaud him—and them. No such clearly felt sentiment seemed likely again.

In her courageous closing remarks, Heather Foley said that her husband often came up with arguments for his point of view that amazed her—“Where did he get that?” In a debate in Spokane in the late Sixties over Foley’s support for a some gun control despite strong opposition in that part of the country, he stood on a stage for over five hours, debating a man who had challenged him to argue the issue. Toward the end of the long debate, Foley responded to a charge from an audience member that the Soviet Union had succeeded in overrunning Hungary, in 1956, because Hungary had controlled gun ownership. Foley replied by pledging that he was opposed to controls over people’s rights to own bazookas and stock missiles in their back yards.

As usual, Bill Clinton, who spoke after Bob Michel, dazzled with his talent for imagery, his apparent passion, his humorous lines. He rarely consulted his notes as he told stories to make his points. Portraying Foley as a politician of courage and unusual insight, Clinton recalled that just after he had been elected president and asked Foley to come to Little Rock to tell him what he was in for, the Speaker warned the new president against pursuing an assault weapons ban. We can win it, he said, “but there will be a lot of blood on the floor.”

Clinton spoke of the terrible hurt that Foley suffered when he was defeated in 1994. Having loved his district and the House, Foley took the rejection hard, as happens to serious politicians; it feels personal, it is personal; it’s a public rejection. Clinton, as he was wont, attributed Foley’s defeat, like that of others in the Republican sweep, to the assault weapons ban that Clinton had gone ahead with. But, actually, Foley’s defeat, like most of them, was a result of a combination of forces, including the Clintons’ inept handling of Mrs. Clinton’s health care bill; Foley’s strong opposition to a new state law setting term limits; a mysterious $300,000 in outside money, a tremendous amount for Spokane, that had come into the race against him; demographic changes in his district; and his opponent’s use of the increasingly fashionable faux populist attacks against an incumbent as being “out of touch” with his district. The gun control issue was of but marginal importance; it didn’t defeat Foley. But Clinton, his familiar thin left index finger poking the air, his eyes-narrowing, lip-biting show of intensity, for years remained insistent that the assault weapons ban (nothing he and his wife had done) caused the devastating Democratic defeat in 1994.

It’s never easy to follow Bill Clinton as a speaker; his pyrotechnics and fetching use of the English language can be mesmerizing. He shows the others how to do it. His messy presidency was largely forgotten as he became perhaps the most effective and popular political figure in the country. And so when Barack Obama got up to speak next, he looked diminished. He seemed to shrink in Clinton’s presence. Though, as he acknowledged, Obama didn’t know Foley, he did manage to avoid saying the same things about Foley that the others had. He referred to Foley’s “powerful intellect,” and indeed Foley was a serious reader, especially of history. He spoke of Foley’s “humility,” and with his own difficulties with Capitol Hill obviously very much on his mind, Obama said, “it was his personal decency that helped him bring civility and order to a Congress that demanded both—and still does.” It was clear at whom Obama’s quietly expressed remarks were aimed. But they were barely audible in the big hall, muffling any effectiveness they might have had, and there was cause to wonder uneasily what Obama even was doing there. He seemed clearly outmatched and out of his element.

When I rewatched the proceedings on C-SPAN later that evening, I saw something totally at odds from what so many had thought we had witnessed in the great hall. Clinton’s pyrotechnics—his long and colorful description of a funeral in Japan that he and Ambassador Foley had witnessed, the point of which was no clearer than it had been that afternoon —seemed overdone. (After leaving the House, Foley served as Ambassador to Japan from 1997–2001.) Clinton appeared to be vamping, reaching for his own relevance to Tom Foley. He had as usual put on a good show and later it seemed no less brilliant as a performance but less fitting. It was Obama who was now the far more impressive. Obama had understood that the quiet voice is more effective on television and more suitable to the occasion. His even-toned comments about civility slipped knife-like into the Republican leaders arrayed before him. He didn’t have to look at them. (The news stories later were predominantly focused on Obama’s call for “civility.”) Obama had seen the perfect opportunity to present himself as the calm, restrained, and would-be bipartisan leader by standing witness for Tom Foley. His acknowledgment that he didn’t know Foley, which seemed weak in the afternoon, now came off as plain honesty. He knew exactly what he was doing. Every once in a while Obama reminds us why he became president.

At the close of the ceremonies, as the camera focused in on a striking painting of the white-haired, strapping, dignified Foley, one knew that Washington was unlikely to again see such a figure—and certainly not to witness such an exceptional moment.

© 1963-2013 NYREV, Inc. All rights reserved.  



     BY AMAZON REVIEWS, July 13, 2013

Catch The Tide: Plan Now for Your Ultimate Retirement

This will be your retirement bible!

This book covers all the bases – it is well-researched and engaging. From retirement finances to nutrition to choosing your ideal retirement location, this book will guide you on your way. Dr. Harvey combines a sense of humour with a practical approach to all the questions facing a new (or upcoming) retiree. Don’t even think about retiring until you have read this book from cover to cover! -Robin Smith, July 13, 2013

I have been reading “Catch the Tide: Plan Now for Your Ultimate Retirement” by Penny Harvey PH.D., J.D. It is such a well thought out book, full of inspiration and very helpful tips for us Third Agers/Boomers and beyond. I highly recommend this book. It is a great resource tool for anyone over 40. I found it inspiring, and full of interesting proactive ideas to make the best of life now and to enter retirement with eyes wide open to all the possibilities. Such a well researched book is a delight to read and at 66 it makes me aware how precious these years are and encourages me to make the best of them. -Dr. Rainer Huebner, November 10, 2013  




CAST: James Cromwell as Craig Morrison, Geneviève Bujold as Irene Morrison, Campbell Scott as Gary, George R. Robertson as Chester, Barbara Gordon as Margaret, Julie Stewart as Ruth, Rick Roberts as John
DIRECTOR: Michael McGowan, Rated PG-13, 102 minutes

“Still Mine” earns points simply for being a welcome respite in a summer movie season that is extremely loud and incredibly gauche.

Here is a film about real grownups, that is anything but fast (although its true story is calculated to make you furious), and whose main character, Craig Morrison, is the real iron man, or more accurately, iron-willed man. Morrison (James Cromwell) is an 87-year-old New Brunswick farmer determined to build by himself a more navigable home on his own land for himself and his cherished wife of 61 years, Irene (Genevieve Bujold), who is inexorably sliding into dementia.

That last bit might be a turn-off for filmgoers wishing to spare themselves further “Amour”-type anguish, but “Still Mine,” though not without its wrenching moments, takes its cue more from “Field of Dreams” as the indomitable Morrison grapples with his wife’s worsening condition, the concern of his confounded but supportive adult children, and the maddeningly by-the-book building commissioner, who slaps Morrison, an experienced, old-school home builder, with a stop-work notice until he presents the requisite permits and blueprints. The fact that Morrison’s work exceeds local standards does not sway him, and he threatens to bulldoze the structure. “Is that a threat,” Morrison acts. “It’s the law,” he responds.

“Still Mine” will perhaps resonate most with seniors whom Hollywood generally ignores, but who loyally support films that feature their peers in starring roles and tell relatable stories. This is not quite the feel-good romp that was “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” but neither is it “Away from Her,” either. It thoughtfully and deliberately presents both the pride and perils of aging in a story that recalls the classic Capra-esque battle of wills between an ordinary, principled man vs. the system. (“There’s some kind of regulation for everything these days,” Morrison shrugs when told that a local distributor will no longer buy his strawberries because they weren’t delivered in a refrigerated truck).

Writer-director Michael McGowan admirably shucks away the corn, though, and resists turning Morrison into an eccentric coot spouting folksy aphorisms (Morrison served as a consultant on the film).

And Cromwell, 73, a veteran character actor, is just the man for the job. He is a towering, dignified, presence and his performance, among his best in a near-40-year career, gives “Still Mine” a solid foundation. McGowan affords him some Oscar-clip speeches, but Cromwell resists showboating Morrison’s impassioned responses to the unyielding building commissioner in defense of the soundness of his work and to a judge poised to cite him for contempt in the climactic courtroom confrontation.

Cromwell works wonders with the simplest gestures, as in one touching scene in which his calloused fingers trace over a lifetime of markings, dents and scratches on the family dinner table he crafted. Nor does he sand down Morrison’s rougher edges. In the early going, he raises his voice impatiently when Irene initially shows increasing signs of forgetfulness and leaves an oven mitt on the stove.

Bujold, 71, who first charmed American audiences as one of the asylum inmates in Philip de Broca’s 1966 cult classic antiwar comedy, “King of Hearts,” is as ever radiant, and eloquently portrays both her undying passion for her husband (“Take off your clothes, old man,” she commands early on), and her panic at her now unreliable memory.

Some of the writing is trite (“Age is an abstraction, not a strait-jacket,” Morrison proclaims) but Cromwell and Bujold, without artifice or vanity (yes there are wrinkles, yes, there is nudity) embody the essence of a couple devoted to the land and to each other.









To subscribe email with “Subscribe” in the Subject line. Thank you.


To unsubscribe email with “Unsubscribe” in the Subject line. Thank you.


© Copyright 2002-2012, The Center for Third Age Leadership, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. This newsletter is available by subscription only. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam.

Please feel free to use excerpts from this newsletter as long as you give credit with a link to our page: Thank you!



Leave a Reply