Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Amazing Grace

From "The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House" by Ben Rhodes. one of his closest advisors describing the Charleston funeral speech. The last part about the letter, though. I'm not crying, you're crying.

That afternoon, I was working at my desk when the speech came on the White House television channel that played whenever the president was speaking. Over the course of the speech, I stopped to watch as he delved deeper into these subjects. As was often the case in black churches, he fell into a more rhythmic style, feeding off the crowd, a man far more welcome there than he had ever been in Congress. “God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind,” Obama said. “He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency and shortsightedness and fear of each other—but we got it all the same.”
It felt as though he was speaking directly to all of the conflicting emotions about America that I’d come to feel—the disappointment in the reality around me, but also the redemptive nature of the project that we were all a part of. As Obama neared the end of the prepared text, he described the dignity of the victims, the grace in their lives that could heal the hate in America. “If we can tap that grace,” he said, “everything can change. Amazing grace. Amazing grace.” I froze. Obama stopped talking and put his head down. I stared at the television. He paused for what felt like an eternity. The African American clergy behind him sat in prayerful silence, draped in purple vestments. It felt as though he’d reached the end of one kind of speech, a particularly good one, but something was not yet fully expressed.
Then something changed in his face—a face I had stared at and studied across a thousand meetings, a face I had learned to read so I could understand what he was thinking, or what he wanted me to do. I saw the faintest hint of a smile and a slight shake of the head as he looked down at the lectern, a letting go, a man who looked unburdened. He’s going to sing, I thought. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” The pastor behind him let out a joyful laugh. The audience began to cheer, springing to their feet, released from some more passive form of mourning. “that saved a wretch like me…” The voices of the other congregants started to rise in unison with his. One of the preachers behind him opened up into the largest smile that you could ever have at a memorial service, a wistful smile. Obama’s body relaxed into the moment, his imperfect singing voice mining the depths of the hymn. “I once was lost, but now I’m found…”
I started to feel everything at once—the hurt and anger at the murder of those nine people, another thing that I’d kept pressed down in the constant compartmentation of emotions that allowed me to do my job; the stress that came from doing a job that had steadily swallowed who I thought I was over the last eight years; the more pure motivations, to do something that felt right, buried deep within me; the sense that maybe we were all going to be okay even if the world wasn’t. “was blind, but now I see.” An organ was playing, people were giving praise in the audience, and in that instant I was reminded that there were people, good people, kind people out there in the world who were more important than any of the petty controversies that enveloped us every day, people who understood who Obama was and what he had been trying to do, people whose support could allow him to stand there, in the middle of his seventh year as president, and be totally open in a way that I had almost never seen him be in public before. It was always hard to explain what it was that I most admired about this complicated man. Watching him, I felt that I would never have to explain it to anyone again.
He then started reciting the list, punctuated by organ chords, of the names of every one of the victims, a stratagem that managed to do something I had never seen before, as the entire life of each person was celebrated, vindicated, and elevated by the short, declarative words that he spoke:
Clementa Pinckney found that grace.
Cynthia Hurd found that grace.
Susie Jackson found that grace.
Ethel Lance found that grace.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.
Tywanza Sanders found that grace.
Daniel L. Simmons, Senior, found that grace.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.
Myra Thompson found that grace.
Then it was over, this moment that had opened up a window into something—into Obama; into a better America than the one I lived in every day, into a purer sense of what we were all doing, as people who worked for him, what we were a part of, what kept me coming back to work all these years. I sat at my desk, the White House feed on my television now an empty blue screen, and for the first time in many years, I sobbed. —
A FEW DAYS AFTER the Charleston speech, I went up to the Oval Office. It was the last meeting of the day, and Obama wanted to talk to me, Denis, and Anita Decker Breckenridge, now his deputy chief of staff, about the potential rollout of an Iran deal. When the three of us walked in, instead of getting up and walking over to his chair as he normally would, Obama sat at his desk, lingering over a letter. He didn’t offer his customary “Have a seat” or acknowledge our presence, so the three of us stood over the couches awkwardly—people who saw Obama as much as anyone, but still deferential to the protocols of his office. “ ‘Dear Mr. President,’ ” he began to read aloud. “ ‘I used to not like you because of the color of your skin. My whole life I have hated people because of the color of their skin. I have thought about things since those nine people were killed and I realize I was wrong. I want to thank you for everything you are trying to do to help people.’ ” He finished, and put the letter down. None of us knew what to say. It felt as if the whole presidency was for the purpose of receiving this single letter.
He looked at the letter on his desk, as though it were another person in the room. “Grace,” he said. Then he got up and walked over to his chair. “It’s a shame,” he said, sitting down, “that those nine people had to die for that to happen.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Senator Durbin Responds To My Letter RE Net Neutrality

May 23, 2018

Mr. William Rosen

Dear Mr. Rosen:

          Thank you for contacting me to share your views about net neutrality.  I appreciate hearing from you.

          In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to adopt new net neutrality rules that would preserve the internet as an open platform for consumer choice and competition.  These rules prohibited Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down customers' access to websites and banned ISPs from charging content providers for faster delivery of certain information to users.

         The FCC adopted these rules by taking a regulatory step to reclassify broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.  Reclassification of broadband under Title II provided the agency with much broader authority to establish strong net neutrality rules and allowed broadband services to be treated as a public utility.  Opponents argue the reclassification was an overreach of the agency's authority and will increase taxes on consumers.       
          On May 18, 2017, the FCC voted to adopt the proposed rule, Restoring Internet Freedom (Docket 17-108).  The rule rolled back many of the central tenants of net neutrality.  The rule also repealed regulations allowing the FCC to investigate suspected anti-competitive business practices of ISPs.  
          In December of 2017, I joined 38 of my Senate Democratic colleagues in a letter calling on FCC Chairman Pai to abandon his plan to repeal the agency's net neutrality rules. However, on December 14, 2017, despite millions of public comments opposing the action and over the objections of tech companies like Netflix, Reddit, and Etsy, the FCC voted along party lines to repeal the net neutrality rules.
          The rollback of net neutrality threatens access to a free and open internet.  This action amounts to the FCC letting ISPs pick winners and losers, charge people more for service, and even block certain parts of the internet.   
          I am a cosponsor of S.J. Res. 52, a Congressional Review Act joint resolution introduced by Senator Ed Markey that would have reversed the FCC's harmful action of repealing net neutrality rules.
          The FCC officially published the rollback of net neutrality in the Federal Register on February 22, 2018.  On May 9, 2018, I joined 48 of my Senate colleagues in signing a discharge petition to allow for a vote on the Senate floor to save net neutrality.  
          On May 16, 2018, the Senate passed S.J. Res. 52, disapproving of the FCC's rollback of net neutrality rules by a vote of 52-47.  I supported this measure because I believe that a transparent and fairly managed flow of information benefits a growing economy and is essential to a true democracy.  S.J. Res. 52 is now in the House of Representatives, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support the concept of net neutrality.
          I will keep your thoughts in mind as we continue the fight to support a free and open internet. 
          Thank you again for contacting me.  Please feel free to keep in touch.


      Richard J. Durbin
      United States Senator

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bernstein and Broadway Is Next Week!

Bernstein and Broadway – Saturday, March 10, 2018 – 7:00pm
Windy City Performing Arts and Windy City Treble Quire present “Bernstein and Broadway” featuring the “Chichester Psalms” by Bernstein. It is the quintessential 20th-century American setting of the most famous psalms featuring organ, harp, and percussion. The musical theater works of Bernstein and others rounds out the program with selections featuring diverse composers and shows.
St James Cathedral
65 E Huron St.,Chicago, IL 60611
Ticket Prices:
In advance from Brown Paper Tickets: $35 Reserved Seating, $20 General Admission
At the door: $25 General Admission, $15 Seniors 65+, $10 Students with ID/Children 6-17, Free for Children 5 and under