THE EDITOR’S COMMENTARY ON DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.’S “LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL” — APRIL 16, 1963…

Original December 2007 – Revised/Corrected January 1, 2008

 

We include these documents in Accountability Central because of the importance of Dr. King’s comments to his fellow clergy leaders in the south…and to clergy and leaders everywhere in the USA. His words continue to ring true and call out to our conscience 44 years later.

 

While still a young minister (still in his 30’s), and at first a somewhat reluctant “street” warrior in the battle for human rights and dignity for all, in his early pastoral years Dr. King becomes a fierce advocate for Negro rights. As he campaigns, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is jailed in Birmingham for joining the civil protests underway in the early 1960s. There in the cell, on scraps of paper he hides from his jailers Dr. King answers his critics, citing important Biblical precedent, important milestones and events in American history, and the emergence of new nations from former colonies in Africa and Asia. Old colonial empires were shattering. But in the USA the “southern empire” of the post-Civil War era was mostly still intact; this nation had its own version of the South African Apartheid, including structured denial of voting rights for blacks. One day, he writes in the letter, the south will recognize its real heroes.

 

Dr. King: “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” Inspiring words!

 

The young church leader appeals for help in this letter; this was released and widely read in time. Then, he would have a much larger stage for his soaring commentary a few months later on August 28, 1963 when he mounted the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and a quarter-million people awaited his words…”I Have A Dream” is still his best-known work.

 

But read this letter from inside a jail cell once again (or for the first time) and see if the words don’t ring true for you across four-plus decades. Born to a middle-class family, educated at Morehouse College and then in Boston at grad school (Boston University 1953, Ph.D.). Dr. King was not expected to be in the streets heading marches…he was born to lead from the pulpit, and the “higher pulpit” at that…in a big city church, for example, perhaps there in Atlanta where his father served as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. (Which he later joined as co-pastor.)

 

Instead, early in 1963 still only a few years into his ministry he sits in an Alabama jail cell pleading for help, and calm, and social justice. He could not count on the Kennedy Administration for much – President John Kennedy and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy were reluctant to anger the long-tenured southern senators and congressmen who ruled Capitol Hill. The Kennedy’s needed their support to win re-election in November 1964. The Kennedy brothers were then also reluctant warriors to the civil rights struggle emerging in the 1960s.

 

Shortly after, Dr. King would be eulogizing the four little African-American girls killed in a cowardly, racist bomb blast at their church in Birmingham…at least one of them a friend of another little girl, Condoleezza Rice, our present Secretary of State. (September 15, 1963.)

 

Dr. King continued to speak out and to be the voice of civil rights activism, and the leader who could best appeal to the nation’s conscience, north and south, east and west.   He would be awarded the Nobel Prize for his non-violence campaigning in December 1964.

 

But then, in a short while — in June 1968 – US Senator Robert Kennedy would be announcing the slaying of Dr. King (in Memphis) to a crowd of African-Americans…and a dramatic change would occur in Senator Kennedy’s attitudes toward civil rights. He would become a man with a mission that clearly included addressing the wrongs of racism.

 

And not long after that, sad to recall, it would be his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy eulogizing his late brother, Bobby, the presidential candidate (murdered in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968, as he won the California Democratic Party primary).   1968 – terrible year – two leaders slain within months of each other.

 

But today there is a prayer for all of us as a People in the concluding words from that jail cell letter four decades ago.  Dr. King said, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” May that ever be!

 

On the day that celebrates this brave, intelligent civil rights and religious leader, go back to 1963 and that cold jail cell in Birmingham and read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and think about his struggles when we celebrate him on January 21, 2008. A deserved honor, in our opinion. He helped move this nation forward in many, many ways, in his very short life. Imagine if he had lived his biblical four score-plus years!

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

 

 

Martin Luther Articles on Accountability Central:
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2008
Letter From A Birmingham Jail
Thoughts on Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Personal Courage

COMMENT 2 ON – BROCADE CEO GREG REYES – BACKDATING OPTIONS

December 27, 2007 Update on Commentary (see below, December 10 post by this writer.

 

Just before Christmas, CEO Gregory Reyes received his gift for the season — the federal cour postponed his sentencing (“indefinitely, says the Associated Press)and a hearing is set for January 9 for a motion for new trial. The “opening victory” for the federal government in pursuing the backdating options cases by boards and CEOs occurred in August when CEO Reyes was convicted on 10 felony counts. But winning these cases will not be easy.

 

Turns out a Brocade financial executive (Elizabeth Moore) apparently recants her testimony against the CEO. She first told jurors that her staff did not know about backdating because they were misled or deceived by the CEO. Not good for the defense team.

 

Then, in December, as the CEO awaited his fate (could be up to 20 years sleeping on a government bed), a legal publication reported that Ms. Moore was telling people her testimony was not accurate — apparently she and members of her staff did know about backdating. True? Not true? And, reported “The Recorder,” none of those who knew about the backdating practice or were involved thought there was anything wrong with it. (We’ve commented before about Silicon Valley execs and boards thinking that certain securities and investor protection rules didn’t apply to their new ways of doing business.)

 

This affair is not over, even if a new trial is won by the CEO’s defense team. A former CFO of Brocade is charged by federal prosecutors with helping to backdate millions of dollars’ worth of options. (May be an esoteric argument to some, but this is shareowners’ money in the end.) Feds say practice went all the way back to 2000 — necessary, most likely, because of the collapse of tech stock share prices.

 

The former head of HR of Brocade was also found guilty on two counts and faces up to 20 years in prison.

 

Question for 2008 is: Where do the SEC and Department of Justice probes / prosecutions for backdating options go in the new year? Stay Tuned first to the Brocade proceedings in San Francisco. May be bellwhether case that determines pace (and outcomes) of these slow-moving, cautiously-assembled legal matters.

 

Hank Boerner
Editor – Accountability Central

 

 

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EXTREME CEO PAYOFFS: WHEN SHAREHOLDERS LOSE; EXEC PAY FIRMS SCRUTINIZED; STUDY SEES NO TIE BETWEEN LAVISH SALARIES FOR HONCHOS, SHARE PRICE PERFORMANCE

On CEO Compensation and Public Response to Those Egregious Pay Packages…

 

The compensation advisory industry experienced real growth and penetration of corporate suites when a fellow named Graef Crystal was on the consulting side, growing a company that now is one of the three our four major compensation advisory organizations. CEO compensation apparently got so out of control in Mr. Crystal’s view that he switched sides, becoming a very vocal critic of out-of-control pay in the late – 1980s and through the 1990s. He was headlined often in Fortune and other publications and was one of the early canaries-in-the-coal-mine on mismatched pay issues (comp vs. performance).

 

You will find his excellent commentary on Bloomberg — Web athttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/commentary/crystal.html  “Thain Finds $64 million Pay Oasis at Merrill” and “Prince Shows its Not So Good to be The Prince” (at Citi) are two recent headlines.

 

The folks at The Corporate Library have also been at this game a long time — do you remember / have you heard of The Lens Fund? TLC grew out of the very capable research efforts of that investment fund. Under the able direction of corporate governance reform pioneers Robert Monks and Nell Minow, the Lens team launched the first round of shareholder challenges at companies where overpaid CEOs at way-underperforming companies were leading share prices down, down, down — that led to dramatic changes at the top (Sears, now Kmart and Westinghouse, now Viacom – CBS, for example) and for a time, brought about real reforms in some company pay practices. A few attempts at reform, anyway. It took the more recent corporate scandals and passage of Sarbanes-Oxley and new SEC disclosure rules to kick the reform can down the road some more. A ways, anyway. Apparently there is a long, long way still to go.

 

So watch for vigorous 2008 shareholder challenges to overpaid CEOs and C suite execs at underperforming companies. (“Pay for Pulse,” Lens/TLC’s Nell Minow has in the past characterized outsize pay at underperforming firms. Measurement? Stock price, usually, and return for owners.)

 

And watch for intensifying focus on the compensation advisory companies — they are in somewhat of the same leaky PR boat that credit rating agencies are now. (You know, the folks who gave high fives to patched together packages of subprime loans destined to go belly up and screw both homeowners and investors, and create turmoil in the capital markets here and abroad.)

 

The comp advisory folks come in, often hired by senior management, to tell the board that management is underpaid. OK, they don’t exactly say it that way. But if you were on a board, and had hired this “star” to drive profits and lead the organization to greatness…would you feel good about him (usually a him) being paid in the bottom quartile? Second to the bottom quartile? Lower than his peers? (Uh, uh, don’t look at marketplace return at the comparable companies — this is about the competition to pay more than the competition.)

 

Like Garrison Keiler’s folks in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average in intelligence, isn’t our CEO worthy of top quartile pay (if compared to peers he’s a star)? Of course! Maybe the solution to all this is to figure out how to get everyone in the top quartile and zero out the bottom three or four groups’ names and rankings. What is a quartile worth, anyway, other than to leverage up the pay package at some firms?

 

Or, maybe we can get board comp committees to directly hire and supervise and carefully question the exec comp advisors — and ask for help in designing pay-for-performance packages that really do reward those outstanding CEOs and top C execs who drive shareholder value up the charts. That would be good for advisors, too, because they would step back from this market where the seller (CEO) often tells the buyers (the hiring board) what the price will be…only place in the auction market process where this may be happening?

 

Self-regulation and voluntary reform of practices is usually better than government reform and rules and oversight. There’s still time in 2008, corporate directors.

 

What are your thoughts on CEO compensation? Are we communists and philistines when we attack overpay for underperformance? When we address CEO pay issues at all? It’s a free market after all…or is it? Well, remember that a good number of employee pension funds utilizing indexes cannot step away (the Wall Street Walk) from companies that have egregious pay practices. So — action is needed — and has been evident in “Say on Pay” investor coalition challenges. (After all, it really is the investors’ and their beneficiaries’ monies stuff in some pay packages.)

 

Stay Tuned to Proxy Season 2008 and the “Say on Pay” and other initiatives of shareholders fed up with some (underline: some, not all) corporate pay schemes. The media is ready to pounce on the tales of high-paid CEO stars. The new SEC rules (“CD&A – Compensation Disclosure and Analysis”) are in effect for the second year now and lots of numbers have been crunched for the 2008 contests. Expect many more headlines…

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor, Accountability Central

 

 

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COMMENT ON – APPLE MACINTOSH COMPUTERS LIKELY TO GAIN MARKET SHARE; AN IPOD, IPHONE “HALO EFFECT’; CHANGEWAVE’S NEW SURVEY CONFIRMS TREND OF THE MAC GAINING GROUND ON HP, DELL

Oh, we love this Apple-Microsoft and PC World marketing competition.

 

The first computers we bought for our business were expensive IBM “5100” minis — at $8,000 (then) or more per processor with a whopping 64-k RAM. Two processors and four printers set us back $90,000 in 2007 dollars. But miracle machines they were and we anxiously awaited what was to come in the 1980s.

 

Then when we began buying personal computers to replace IBM Selectric typewriters we made the decision to go with both IBM Personal Computers (green phosporous screened-PC’s) and Apple MacIntosh (with its annoyingly tiny screen). From 1984 on there were Macs and PCs in the office, some for word processing and numbers crunching and others for graphics and publishing. There are still some Macs here…but.

 

Think about “unintended consequences” here — as IBM was pursued over a 15 year period by the federal Department of Justice, and ATT was being dismembered by Federal Judge Harold Green’s court  in the 1970s / early 1980s.  Both companies pursued for allegiations of anti-trust, anti-competitive business practices, and at IBM new approaches to marketing were evolving.  IBM was  working on a secret project in South Florida (far from the operating base in New York’s Hudson Valley) to bring a “personal computer” to market. A wonder-worker named Philip Donald Estridge and his tiny engineering team created the PC under budget and ahead of schedule — and the little desktops IBM-PC were launched. (Don Estridge unfortunately died in a plane crash on a business trip in Dallas in 1985.)  Read about him and early PC days at:

 

www.thocp.net/biographies/estridge_don.html

 

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Don_Estridge

 

On the other coast, entrepreneurs Steven Jobs and Steven Wozniak were working away day and night in that fabled Silicon Valley garage creating the miraculous Apples. Toys, some computer pros called them. Educators snapped them up for school use; so did creative organizations welcoming their ease of use and publishing platforms. And the marketing and product positioning races were on. For a while.

 

Because of those federal lawsuits against Big Business, and especially Big Blue, IBM is said to have grown cautious and management made a fateful decision to outsource many key components of the PC, including the operating software. And so “DOS” became a wealth-producing machine. (It was a diskette-based “Diskette Operating System” using BASIC language.) A small team at a tiny company called “Microsoft” got the contract for the PC operating system — the rest is tech history.

 

It helped that generic manufacturers quickly began copying and marketing “PCs” — using Microsoft operating systems. DOS was everywhere (and Apple’s operating system was not.) Since many of these components were sourced in the Far East, that region emerged quickly as a supply-center.

 

And then the product marketing race seemed to be over — and MSFT was king of the hill. Until now. The history written over two decades, of course, is that of MSFT’s almost-absolute global dominance of the small computing (personal and small business) environment. Thanks to brilliant marketing and savvy intellectual property protection, plus the comparative opening of the kimono for business partnering (vs. Apple’s closed kimono), Bill Gates became the wealthiest American.

 

But savvy investors didn’t count Apple down and out. From a low teens pricing, the stock is approaching $200 per and the products are being whisked off shelves. “I-pod (R)” is almost a generic phrase, like “Kleenex(R).” Apple just opened a huge store in New York City in December — a symbol of its expanding marketing power.

 

And so – Stay Tuned here — to the tale of the hare and the tortoise. The little hard-shelled crittur with an multi-colored Apple on its back may be sprinting at last…

 

And isn’t this a wonderful demonstration all around of American business ingenuity and what our Capitalistic Democracy excels at!

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor & Publisher

 

Accountability Central

 

Disclosure: The author holds APPL in retirement portfolio…bought low a long time ago. And GA&I continues to be an Apple user in the editorial offices. MSFT is also in there somewhere in the IRA, a lagging stock over the past few years. – HB

 

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COMMENT ON – BROCADE CEO GREG REYES – BACKDATING OPTIONS

We Are Not Always Happy When CEOs are Sentenced…

 

We don’t think anyone likes to see someone else go to jail for “white collar” crimes. “There but for grace…go I…” we might be thinking when we read about these cases.

 

Violent criminals, yes. Fraudsters who malicously and cunningly trick elderly folks into giving up their savings, yes, most likely. But jail for corporate executives…well, there’s often a lot of sympathy for someone “who strayed” rather than deliberately defrauded. That’s why the emerging [criminal] options backdating cases are so complex, and tend to draw criticism from supporters of the accused / convicted. As in this editorial from Silicon Valley. (Sending a 6-inch pile of supporting letters to the court, for example.)

 

Given the enormous wealth-building success of the Valley, with go-get-’em entrepreneurs teaming with savvy venture capitalists to build empires (Google, Intel, Apple, Cisco…et al) and reward shareholders, many folks benefitted from the unique stew of Silicon Valley brains-capital-can-do spirit-technical skills. Many employees of start-ups have become wealthy — that’s good.

 

But we remember back in the early 1990s when we talked about the importance of “governance” and “accountability” with Valley folks, including some of immense fame and money, there was a real skepticism about the surrounding issues. “Corporate Governance?” Something to blow off. “Corporate Accountability?” Only to build wealth.

 

My board, one CEO told us, are close friends and trusted alliles who know what we need — we don’t need “share-renters” to tell us what to do…

 

And as various committees of Congress would look at CEO pay and options, the committee members were first ignored and then bought off (healthy campaign contributions swayed most office-holders that the Valley Boys were right on comp issues). So the problems went away…for a time.

 

Because of the sea of options that Silicon Valley seemsto float on, there was bound to be trouble on the coastline…and so there was. Backdating options to favor the option-holder is an illegal activity if the acts are not disclosed or are covered up. Is this really a criminal practice? The law says so. Is it a breach of fiduciary duty? Famed investor Warren Buffett once thought so — he asked when all the option approvals were floating out of board rooms, if this is practice is not an expense to the taxpayers, a hit on their holdings, then what is it? (Paraphrasing Mr. B.) These options are not created out of the air, he said, with no impact on shareholder value. The impact is real — the shareholders lose money.

 

And so we come to the difficult decisions Federal Judge Charles Breyer must make regarding the sentencing of one of the Valley’s most upstanding and successful citizens, Greg Reyes of Brocade Communications.

 

The SEC is reported to be looking at 100+ potential cases of options backdating. The Wall Street Journal has a much longer list. The California-based “Audit Integrity” team has identified the practices that are symptoms of the disfunction surrounding board-backdating and projects that up to 600 companies that may have engaged in the process. (See details of Audit Integrity here)

 

 

This case if probably the first of a parade of similar federal court actions, depending on the Department of Justice’s appetite for CEO and even board prosecutions (the SEC recommends, the DoJ pursues the accused). Stay Tuned — it could be that the California sentencing sets the pace for other jurisdictions. (Note: The Northern California- and New York City-based US attorneys prosecute most of these types of cases.)

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor & Publisher

 

Accountability Central

 

 

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COMMENT ON – TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

An interesting story from Ireland…worthy of reading by USA boards and executives…more on what’s heading this way…and what is now global in scope…

 

This is about Ethics and Social Investing and more Accountability from companies…investors are tuning in to these things and making financial (investing, spending) decisions on what they like…

 

Fintan O’Toole’s article in The Irish Times tells us about sea changes in consumer buying patterns and in investor decisions, mostly occurring in the United Kingdom and Ireland…and related to issues and topics that we feature here in Accountability Central.

 

The trends are clear and evident — “accountability” expectations are high and getting higher around the world — and we’re publishing content of value to leaders in the corporate, social and public sectors from all around the globe…such as this from Ireland.

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor & Publisher

 

Accountability Central

 

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COMMENT ON – OFFSHORE COMPETITION NO JOY FOR TOYMAKERS

A moment here for jingo-ism. Free and fair trade is good for everyone — may the best products make it to the marketplace, at the best prices. Many more Americans are able to enjoy the good life — we are a nation of passionate, obsessive consumers! — thanks to the lowering cost of goods from the USA and all over the world. That’s good. Folks in low-to-moderate income ranges can afford the nice things for their families, their kids and grandkids and nieces and nephews. That’s good!

 

Bad: Foreign competitors underpricing American firms to drive them out of business. Often with the elected officials in our country looking the other way — and former officials hiring on to represent foreign interests (as lobbyist and trade representative) and thereby sealing the fate of a few more plants. There were serious allegations of this happening for 40 years with Japan’s output — goods were priced lower in the USA and higher at home (the Japanese subsidized exports).

 

The USA invented clock radios — any made here anymore? (Send us the list.) And televisions — any made here anymore? And great cars (although the Americans were not the first or the only manufacturers) — look at the penetration of foreign makers into the market once dominated by GM-Ford-Chrysler et al. Industrial labor unions are also being hollowed out by globalization. The opinions on this are all over the place — but let’s not forget what union pioneers achieved for all workers, not just their members. All that proud legacy of unionism is at stake in the race to globalization.

 

So this type of story, about an upstate New York manufacturer and its Pennsylvania-based toy manufacturing customer (both) steadily sliding toward “going out of business” signs in the windows, is most disturbing. Yes, globalization is good. No, hollowing out American manufacturing on the altar of low, lower and lowest prices is not good. Not good. (Also not good: The practices of Big Box predators — from the story: “Holgate toys will not be found in the big-box stores. Television journalist Rick Smith showed how Wal-Mart, for example, forces companies to move their manufacturing, often all their equipment, offshore to comply with Mal-Mart’s pricing structure.” And to think — Sam Walton’s great autobiography was “Made in America!”

 

 

Pick up your phone and call 814-368-4454 and ask the Holgate folks what they might have for your gift-giving needs this year. (Among their offerings: Mister Rogers trolleys and toys.) Their toys are made in America. A few jobs may be saved (in Pennsylvania and New York, once towering symbols of USA manufacturing). You’ll probably feel better. The folks at Forsyth and Holgage will feel better. It’s a “little bit” but every little bit helps — we may rue the day we sold out our American manufacturing prowess to distant lands…

 

Hank Boerner

 

Accountability Central

 

And your thoughts on USA manufacturing?

 

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ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE STANDARDS: GLASS HALF-EMPTY OR HALF-FULL?

Well done! Bill Baue is one of the best, most informed commentators in the business, writing in depth on the important “corporate social responsiblity” and “social investing” and “sustainability” issues that affect the private, public and social sectors.

 

His column here is worth reading again…and printing for your future reference. As the world of business shrinks and we become more of the global village, as the world flattens (thanks, Tom Friedman, for this great symbol of globalization), these “ESG” issues become more important — to shareholder, stakeholder, regulator, lender, corporate executive, etc.

 

We are a long, long way from the late-1960s and early-1970s, when industry in the United States and Europe (and UK) continued to pump smog-producing chemical compounds into the air, and harmful chemicals were poured out of factories and into streams and rivers and then our oceans. The US EPA was created in 1972 (by President Richard Nixon) and since then the USA has had a book shelf of environmental rules and regulations created (tens of thousands of pages of federal, state and local rules and regulations to govern industrial activities).

 

But as Bill points out, with all our progress we have a long long way to go before we have uniform standards worldwide, that companies, banks/lenders, regulators, social advocates, investors and others can rely on. The voluntary codes he describes are very encouraging. So is the United Nations’ efforts at standard-setting and voluntary buy-in to UN programs by corporations.

 

We have come a long way, as stated, and while we may have a long way to go — I am encouraged by all of the initiatives, codes, programs, protocols, etc. that are outlined here.

 

More good news than bad; the glass is filling up, not emptying. Good work, Bill.

 

Elsewhere in Accountability Central, there’s a commentary or mine on “ESG” factors for companies — you can read it here:http://www.accountability-central.com/?id=1569 (Your Company’s ESG – Why it Matters.)

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor & Publisher

 

Accountability Central

 

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COMMENT ON – IMMIGRANTS’ CHILDREN GROW FLUENT IN ENGLISH, STUDY SAYS; LATINOS SEE THE LANGUAGE AS THE KEY TO SUCCESS, PEW RESEARCH SHOWS

I remember reading that back in the last great wave of European immigration to the USA (in the early 1900s), more than 100 languages were spoken in the New York City schools. (There are even more today!) But by third or fourth grade all youngsters, no matter their backgrounds, were usually proficient in English, no matter what was spoken at home. And so Poles and Italians became “Americans” –quickly!

 

The great flows of humanity from eastern Europe, Italy, Poland, Russia and other nations into New York City and other seaports was criticized at the time by many “nativists,” earlier arrivals from other lands who were now “Americans” and wanted the borders closed. Ultimately, two decades later, with Europe locked in conflict, during / after WW I , America did close its doors to immigrants.

 

More than 125 million Americans can trace their origins back to ancestors who passed through the port of New York, past the Statue of Libery and then stepped ashore on Ellis Island. Those “…tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of [your] teeming shore…” did come to NY by the millions. Some settled in the city and many others moved west, south and north. They and their descendants were educated, built wealth, enriched our land, contributed to our culture, secured our heritage as the Land of the Free, and made many educational, economic, scientific and public service contributions to the USA. The English language written and spoken was key to upward mobility — no laws were needed, no hard and fast rules on what could or couldn’t be spoken. There was universal buy-in to the common language of the land. And this story points out, there still is that buy-in.

 

So it’s good news that recent immigrants, yes, speaking a different language and with different customs, are assimilating as did generations past, and embracing “America” as did so many men and women and children in past centuries. This says great things about our country and about them (our most recent arrivals).

 

We were inspired by this from the story…

 

“A study released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, reports that in families like the Peredas, for whom Spanish is the dominant language among immigrant parents, English fluency increases across generations. By the third generation, Spanish has essentially faded into the background.” Opportunity is enhanced by fluency in English — Spanish language can be maintained within the family, of course, and in the neighborhood. And as this story points out, there is usually a Spanish-speaking person who can help those who have not mastered English.

 

But opportunity is usually found in the greater society, and English lanugage is a key that opens doors. We don’t have to feel threatened because some of us speak Spanish or another language. Maybe more Americans should be multi-lingual.

 

One of the first tests for earlier immigrants was the entrance of the US in the Great War (1917) and the hanging question was, would immigrants or their descendants go to war against the Old Country. (Biggest population was of German origin.) Question answered: Yes, they did go to Europe to face Germans in trenches. In two wars. And the government turned to its immigrants for financial and other help — like this:

 

“Remember Your First Thrill of American Liberty,” a government ad headline read (with photo of Lady Liberty) — “Your Duty: Buy US Government Bonds in the 2nd Liberty Loan of 1917.” And buy they did — through the series of Liberty Loans and the war bonds of WW II.

 

America — the Nation of Immigrants, President John Kennedy called us in his prize-winning book. Not many other nations have welcomed so many nationalities and peoples to its shores, and actually asked so little in return. Do well, we might say as they arrive. What the Lady in the Harbor actually does say is “…I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” as 34-year old Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty. “…Mother of Exiles, from her beacon hand glows world-wide welcome…”

 

Oh, and a Frenchman, Fredric Auguste Bartholdi, who conceived of and created the Statue of Liberty — He said the sculpture would have to be “monumental,” to “produce an emotion in the breast of the spectator … because its size is in keeping with the idea that [it] interprets, and with the place it will occupy (the USA).” A fitting monument to American independence and freedom. It is – well done!

 

And the findings of the Pew study are also a fitting and comforting monument to America in this century, too — the last to come continue to master English and embrace the ideas and ideals of what it means to be an American!

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

 

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COMMENT ON – VENEZUELA’S LAME-DUCK DICTATOR

The world is continuing to shrink and become a village. “Red Hugo” (as Institutional Investor magazine characterized him four years ago in a cover story) was and is a threat to democracy and capitalism — thus putting him and the US on the road to a showdown at some point. (the US gets a good supply of oil from Venezuela.)

 

But the People of Venezuela were smarter than their blustering would-be dictator — they have enjoyed their freedoms, even in a nation of many have-nots, and cut the oxygen off for President Chavez. Enough! the voters seem to be saying this week.

 

Folks on Wall Street and in Corporate America do worry about Red Hugo and his followers in other Latin American nations. This should help them sleep better tonight — while President Chavez may rant even more, Venezuelans seem to be awake and alert to the dangers within, including threats to their freedom. Now all we have to wait for is word about Uncle Fidel in Cuba…the cagy dictator who has outlasted ten American presidents (Eisenhower thorugh Bush 43)and who encouraged Mr. Chavez in various mischievous ways. Will the Cuban people pursue democracy at some near point?

 

Another key question — will democratic rule continue to be the dominant form of public governance in Latin America? The whole world has a stake in the future of democracy on the continent. A powerful and positive signal was sent this week from Caracas, so we have some good news now and a partial answer to that question. Stay Tuned to Latin American politics — 2008 could be a roller-coaster year. Oh, and did we mention the oil…

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

 

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