September 11, 2001: Life Is A Continuing Lesson In Humility And Humanity

September 11, 2001 is a day that profoundly impacted all Americans. It was a day that I will never forget. Just 3 days earlier, I was inaugurated as President of the Maine Medical Association during the Association’s 148th Annual Session.

That following Tuesday was a scheduled office day for me. Nothing special or unusual. The patients were arriving as scheduled. I was prepared for a “normal day” at the office. The phones were ringing. There was the usual chatter of the patients in the waiting area. Undoubtedly, these same events were unfolding in physicians’ offices across Maine.

Suddenly everything changed with the news flashes on the television in the waiting area. Incredible! Unbelievable! Our nation was under attack. During this time, I received a phone call from a colleague about a patient she wanted to refer. We discussed the patient and decided on a plan of care. Our conversation then turned to the unfolding events in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. And then things got worse.

My colleague informed me that two of the passengers on American Flight 11 were from our local area. She gave me their names. Those names echoed immediately through my brain. The names were those of two of my patients. I slumped back into my chair as I sat at my desk. At that moment in time, I was truly humbled. Life is a continuing lesson in humility and humanity.

Historically, the medical profession has responded nobly in times of crisis. This is especially important in today’s world, as the potential scope of disasters continues to expand. We immediately contacted the Maine Emergency Management Agency and sent out a blast call to physicians across the state. The response of Maine physicians to the call for volunteers was overwhelming. Within an hour of the call for volunteers by the Maine Medical Association, there were over one hundred Maine physicians standing in line. As the day progressed, that number grew even larger.

As a community, we need to remain vigilant and always be prepared for catastrophic events, be they terrorist attacks or natural disasters, now more than ever before. The need for preparedness spans all of our communities, from individuals to state and local organizations. We must make certain that our hospitals and communities are actively involved in disaster preparedness on a continuing basis. All of these preparations are accompanied by the fervent hope that they will never be necessary. However, these are precautions that we must take.

Fifteen years later, I remain humbled and filled with the spirit of humanity in this place we call America.

“We The People”: No More Standing On The Sidelines For Democrats In Piscataquis County

Why are you running for Maine House District 120? This is a question that comes up from time to time. In each person’s life, come others who pave the way for those who will follow. Yes, it’s a delicate balance to value yourself enough, to believe in your goodness and potential, without destructively becoming self-centered.

It’s about WE THE PEOPLE. Some of you may recall The “Declaration of Conscience”, delivered on the floor of in the U. S. Senate on June 1, 1950 by Maine’s on Margaret Chase Smith. The essence of her speech was that “standing for right is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character. When people keep telling you that you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try it”.

We in Piscataquis County are at a historic point in time. We must no longer stand on the sidelines. As we head into the November elections, we, the Democratic Party of Piscataquis County, tonight are making a statement to the rest of the citizens of Maine. We are not going to take it anymore. We are citizens of this great state and we demand inclusion in the process and accountability from our elected representatives. We will accept nothing less. We often hear the words “freedom” and “democracy”, but what exactly do we mean? We are governed not by armies and police, but by ideas. We want our ideas to be included in our state legislative process as our freedom and democracy do not stop at the edge of the Kennebec River.

As I have been going around the various towns in our county, I am dismayed by the calamities under which many of our citizens are living. I was raised in a family of 5 boys and one girl. My father, a truck driver and proud Teamster only went to the 8th grade. My mother, our home-maker, only went to the 9th grade. We lived in one of the most poverty stricken and violent neighbor-hoods in Houston. I saw how my parents struggled from day to day, just to make ends meet. I know what it feels like to go to bed at night without a meal, or to go to school without a lunch. I know what it’s like to not have the proper school supplies or the latest fashion in clothing, most of which were “hand-me-downs”. Today, it seems that these same struggles are occurring far too often for far too many of Maine citizens. We seem to be trapped in a time warp.

The recent headlines in the news made by our esteemed governor and the actions and inaction’s of our legislature demand that Maine citizens cease voting against their own self interests. We can no longer accept any circumstances that do not recognize the needs our senior citizens, cuts funding for the education of our students, not aggressively pursing resolutions for those who are unemployed, allowing corporations in particular to not pay a living wage to those who are employed, insisting that women must have the approval of men before they can make their own medical decisions and neglecting the needs of our homeless, especially our veterans, the single most important group that has and continues to ensure freedom and democracy for the rest of us.

If our society continues to allow wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority. Progress requires change and a civil society attempts to accommodate this need through openness, transparency and inclusion. The imperative is to define what is right and do it.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands for right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong”.

What Piscataquis County Democrats want is simple. We want a Maine community as good as its promise. If we are going to fail, rest assured, we will fail towards seeking success.

Labor Day: It’s Not Just Another Holiday

This weekend, many are heading to the beach, enjoying a cook-out with friends and family, participating in and watching local parades, and hopefully having an all-around good time.

Let us reflect for just a moment on why the 1st Monday in September is more than just another holiday. Labor Day was created by the labor movement that began back in the late 19th century, becoming a federal holiday in 1894. The evolution of this movement was not always a pretty spectacle. It certainly had its share of hard knocks. Despite those obstacles, the movement survived.

During those early days, the average American worked 12 hour days and 7 day weeks just to eke out a living. Children as young as 5-6 years old were often forced to work in mills, factories and mines, earning fractions of the wages of adults. Not only were there long hours, there were unsafe and unsanitary working conditions and poor treatment by management.

Over the years, as manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of employment, it was the labor unions that rose to the top, becoming more vocal and more prominent. To combat these inequities against workers, labor unions began to organize strikes and rallies to protest poor working conditions and wages, compelling employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

Does any of this sound familiar? Today we have come full circle. As many of you can attest, workers and unions are again under assault in their efforts to maintain achievements made over the years to ensure job security, worker’s rights, and worker safety. Led by state legislatures and scam Right to Work laws, corporate greed and profiteering, stagnant and declining wages, and out-sourcing of jobs, the achievements of unions and workers are at risk and being threatened on a daily basis. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Labor Day encompasses recognition of the contributions of every man and woman who toils on a daily basis to contribute value to our society, from teachers, farmers, carpenters, plumbers and all of the other’s that are too numerous to count. Their efforts don’t just require physical and mental sacrifice, but sacrifices for their families as well.

So as you sit back and relax this weekend, enjoy the time with your family, pause for just a moment to remember and think about today’s labor and union movement. Any regression of the contributions of unions should be repelled at every level. Yesterday was then, today is now. The question for tomorrow is what does the future hold for unions, workers and their families?

And, just for the record, Labor Day is not just another holiday.