Tuesday

Sep. 22, 2009

Everything Is Beautiful from a Distance, and So Are You

by Michael Blumenthal

The young clarinetist, playing Mendelssohn's Sinfonia #10 in B-minor
in back of the orchestra may be exceedingly beautiful, it's hard to know
from here, just as I, to her, may be gorgeous myself and the day, in

retrospect, divine, as all the past loves of my life have been, and that boring
evening in County Derry as well, oh yes, they are all beautiful, now, when
I look back upon them, as, no doubt, my life will seem from some calm

and beautiful distance, some rapturous perspective, but here in the here
and now let me say that it's midafternoon, my lover is on her way over,
it's been a long chilly day in Budapest, what I thought was a herniated disc

is not, after all, a herniated disc, Mozart's 250th is behind us, as is the 60th
anniversary of Bartók's death, and it is only James Taylor on the stereo—
sweet, sentimental James—and I don't give a damn what anyone thinks

of my taste or emotional proclivities, I only know it's Thursday and in
an hour I'll be making love, and, looking up at me from the pillow,
my lover may or may not consider me beautiful, or even desirable,

but the deed will be already done, the evening before us, there
are roasted red peppers and goat cheese in the refrigerator, I'll be
as far from death as a man can be, oh can you imagine that?

"Everything Is Beautiful from a Distance, and So Are You" by Michael Blumenthal, from And. © BOA, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1961 that Congress passed the Peace Corps Act.

Kennedy (books by this author) first spoke about the idea of a Peace Corps in his final weeks of campaigning for the presidency. At 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, after a long day of campaigning, the young senator stood on the steps in front of the student union at the University of Michigan. The journalists had gone home, thinking that nothing more would happen that day, but 10,000 students remained, hoping to see and hear Kennedy. He gave a short speech, in which he said:

"I think in many ways it is the most important campaign since 1933, mostly because of the problems which press upon the United States, and the opportunities which will be presented to us in the 1960s. The opportunity must be seized, through the judgment of the President, and the vigor of the executive, and the cooperation of the Congress. Through these I think we can make the greatest possible difference.

"How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete."

Within two months of taking office, Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Then, on this day, Congress authorized the executive order that Kennedy had signed, creating an agency whose purpose was "to promote world peace and friendship" by making available to interested countries American men and women "qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower."

Since the start of Peace Corps, 195,000 volunteers and trainees have served in 139 countries. Currently, there are more than 7,800 volunteers (60 percent of whom are female) serving abroad in 76 countries.

It was on this day in 1862, five days after Union forces won the Battle of Antietam, that President Lincoln (books by this author) read to his Cabinet and issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves in rebel states free as of January 1, 1863. Lincoln took this action as commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. He called it a fit and necessary war measure.

Abraham Lincoln said, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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