Friday, June 18, 2010

Uganda peace journalism project update
I am leaving for Uganda on June 22, and arrive June 23. My first week will be logistics--interviewing for an assistant, buying a car, organizing meetings, etc.

For details on my peace journalism project, see

For the uninitiated, I have received a third State Dept. grant for about $115,000, and will be in Uganda until April 2011. Stay updated on the project, and on the latest from the two students who will be studying with me in Uganda in July, on this page, on my peace journalism home page ( ), and on my facebook peace journalism page (under search, just type in peace journalism, then join the group).

Anger and Joy

From the Parkville Luminary

This week’s installment features equal parts anger and joy. Let’s dispatch with the anger first.

Sometimes a politician says something that makes you so angry that it leaves you dumbfounded, barely able to breathe and stammering and snorting like a flooded engine. No politician in recent memory from either party has left me as dumbstruck as Ike Skelton, a Democrat who represents Northern Missouri in Congress.

Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recently discussed the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with reporters. The House voted 234-194 in May to overturn the policy. Skelton was one of only 26 Democrats voting against the bill. He said he opposed even debating “don’t ask, don’t tell” because such a public discourse might force families to discuss homosexuality with their children. Skelton said, “I think it would be a family issue that would concern me the most. … What they might see in their discussions among the kids.” He concluded, “What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year old child?” (AP, 6-9-10)

Mr. Skelton, are you bigoted or just ignorant?

To answer your question, Mr. Congressman, here’s what mommies and daddies can say to their seven year old child: “Sweetheart, all people are different. Some are tall, some are short, some fat and some skinny. Would you be mean to someone, treat them differently, if they were tall? Or fat? Of course not, since we know what really counts is what kind of person they are inside. Sometimes, differences in people are hard to see. Most men have women for partners, like mommy and I. But some men are different. These men are called gay, and they have other gay men for partners. There also some women who love other women. They are called lesbians. Gay and lesbian people are different. But, should we treat them differently because they aren’t the same as others? Of course not, since we know that what matters most is if they are a good person inside.”

Any 7-year old can understand this. Can you, Mr. Skelton?

And now, the joy.

I had the honor and privilege of “giving away” one of my Moldovan “daughters” (we’re host parents) last weekend. This was our second Moldovan daughter to marry in the last several months.

The bride this time was Simona, who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Park University. My wife and I were generously honored and recognized as Simona’s American parents last weekend, even though Simona’s real parents flew in from Moldova for the festivities. I was especially honored to have the opportunity to offer a toast for Simona and her terrific husband Curtis at the reception.

In my toast, I recalled how I met Simona in 2001 when I was teaching at her high school in Moldova. (I was on my first Fulbright scholarship). She was 16, and had her hair pulled back, trying hard to pull off an illusion of maturity. She had nothing to worry about. I sensed immediately that Simona was gifted, and not just academically, and that she was going places. My first impression of Curtis was identical—a bright, focused young man who is also going places. I told the guests that it’s wonderful that they’re now going places together, and that their journey will include service to others (Simona, in her work with People to People International) and service to the nation (Curtis, who is in the reserves and has served in Iraq).

My toast concluded with a wish I have for all of my students: for a rich life, full of unlimited opportunities. My family is proud to have played even a small part in providing some of those opportunities for Simona.

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