Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Day 2007                         Dan Bosley

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today. This is always one of my favorite days as we come here every year to celebrate the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. As many of you know, I have had quite a time over this past few weeks. I want to thank all of those who have given me words of encouragement during this time and have shown me many acts of kindness and friendship. In the end, it was an easy choice to stay in a job that I love and enjoy. But the wellspring of kindness that people in and out of my district have shown me has been incredible and I thank you very much.
Whenever we go through something such as this, whenever we examine our lives, we wonder if people care. I should say that I am not down about returning to the best job one could ask for. Service to a community is a noble cause. And as my friend Margie Ware so aptly stated recently on her blog site,  “a reminder that when the last client you talked to was someone battling leukemia and looking at a bone marrow transplant, life is a bit more complicated than whether or not you get to run for office.”  But I know that we all have trouble in our lives, some great and some small. We all have times of stress or introspection.  In those times we sometimes wonder if we can make a difference in this world or if anyone cares if we do. I believe we all make a difference. And do people care? I believe, no, I know they do. And on this day, we celebrate that caring. You see it is not only the great deeds of Reverend King that we should remember. It is not only his incredible acts of courage that we should remember. It is not just his ultimate sacrifice on April 4, 1968 that we should remember. But we must remember that he reminds us of our humanity and that there is much good in this world. This good must be embraced and celebrated whenever we are troubled by the dirty ways of men. That is what must sustain us and fill us with the spirit and inspiration to carry on the great work of Reverend King.
I know we don’t always believe in the good in mankind, especially some nights watching what goes on on the evening news. We sometimes wonder if the good deeds outweigh the evil in the world. I believe it does. At the end of the day, it is the good deeds that we remember with reverence of those who came before us. We remember the humanity of people such as Mother Teresa, who placed herself in squalor and spent a lifetime helping those in desperate need around her. We remember Mahatma Gandhi, whose message of nonviolence changed his nation.  We revere the carpenter from Galilee whose life transfigured the world for billions of people. And we remember and celebrate the life of this gentle, but forceful minister from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. We embrace this knowledge that the good that these people and many others have given us betters the world, celebrates our humanity and the goodness therein. It reminds us of the one rule, the golden rule that every faith on this planet has embedded in its teachings: “Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you.” It’s a simple but powerful rule. And this simple but powerful preacher that we celebrate today reminded us of that power by changing laws, by changing attitudes, by moving a nation with his simple message. It is a message of peace. It is a message of equality. It is a message of economic justice. It is a message of hope and inspiration. And that message continues today through us, as we come here to remind ourselves of his life and his work.

Dr. King didn’t dwell on what was wrong, but went about setting it right. He looked forward, forward to what we could be because he had faith in humanity and in this nation. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest man to ever receive that award) in 1964, this is what he had to say:

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.”

Dr. King’s path was not easy nor was everyone with him. In the 60’s, there was little consensus on how to promote equality on a national level. Groups such as the NAACP, CORE, and Dr. Martin Luther King's SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), endorsed peaceful methods and believed change could be affected by working around the established system; other groups such as the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Nationalist Movement advocated retaliatory violence and a separation of the races. There were numerous marches, rallies, strikes, riots, and violent confrontations with the police. Today we know which was the righteous path as today; we celebrate the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. We do not celebrate the violence of those who chose another path, but the peaceful nonviolent simple eloquent words and deeds of the preacher from Montgomery, Alabama. That is what has endured.

At the time he gave his speeches, sermons, tended his church, and rallied others for freedom, this nation was in turmoil. Vietnam had split the nation in half. Civil rights were not a fact, but were, in fact, a lie to millions of Americans. Civil Rights activists were harassed and killed. There were no voting rights for millions of Americans and people were set against people. The 60’s were turbulent times for our nation and our people.
Today, thanks to the work of Reverend King, those civil rights activists, and others, many rights have been won. We have laws that mandate equal rights for all. The nation has passed laws guaranteeing the rights that our forefathers wrote into the Constitution that all men are created equal. For that we can be proud.
The old discriminatory Jim Crow laws were outlawed. And for that we can be proud.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stated that discrimination in restaurants, hotels, and all other public places were outlawed. It barred discrimination at work. And for that we can be proud.
Everyone at last had the right to vote and there are no more separate water fountains for separate peoples. We have broken the color bar, and our schools are integrated. And for that we can be proud. 
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also insured that government would cut off funds for any activity that was deemed to discriminate. Any activity! And for that we can be proud.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was aimed at ending discrimination in purchasing or renting housing. And for that we can be proud.
This past year, a book was published by the Berkshire Publishing Group titled “African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley”. It celebrated the role of African Americans in upper Connecticut and the Berkshires. We have an incredibly rich history with tremendous contributions from our African American citizens, some of them famous, some just our neighbors, but important all. And for that we can be incredibly proud.
And in Massachusetts, for only the second time in the history of this great nation, we have elected a man of color, an African American, (and a good man) as our leader in this state, Governor Deval Patrick. For that we can be proud.

Of course, with this progress comes great responsibility. We need to work constantly to ensure that we keep these freedoms. We must be ever vigilant and guard these rights and pass them to the next generation as the last has passed them on to us. More than that, we need to strive to further the work of such great men as Dr. King.

Because for all that has happened, we know we must not sit still for the work is still unfinished. We have miles to go before we reach the America that Dr. King envisioned and that is promised to us in our Constitution.
 And there are still those who don’t want us all to go there. There are still people who would like to return to those days before the 60‘s. There are those who believe that there is a natural law that is survival of the fittest and that government should stay out of such areas. So we must continue our vigilance. There is still much work for us to do.
We know that passing laws that mandate equality doesn’t give us equality and passing laws to stop hate crimes doesn’t stop hate. There is still much work for us to do.
We are faced with great challenges today. We are engaged in another war that threatens once again to divide our nation. We need to make sure we do all we can to support the brave men and women who have been sent overseas by the leaders of this nation, but we must work just as hard to get those leaders to see that the best way to protect those brave men and women is to get them out of harm’s way by finding a way to end this war and get them home. There is still much work for us to do.

We are still faced with challenges at home every day. We see the division between the rich and poor growing wider. This is inequitable and threatens to divide this country. It breeds poverty and misery and violence in our neighborhoods. As Bruce Springstein sang, you can still get killed just for living in your American Skin. There is still much work for us to do.

There are those who feel threatened by some people’s choice of who they love and partner with. We should not place discrimination in our Constitution. There is still much work for us to do.

There are those who are profiled today because of their ethnicity or their race. In a land of equal rights there are still some who are more equal than others and we need to address this. There is still much work for us to do.

And all of us have had rights taken away in the name of safety and security. Some people think that in order to maintain our freedom, we have to take those freedoms away! Regardless of their intentions to make us more secure, this is an erosion of the freedoms that this country was founded on. As long as people talk about eroding those rights, however small and for whatever reason, there is still much work to be done.

My friends, we live in troubled times. We still see violence against spouses, minorities, and our fellow man each night on the news. We still witness greed and war and division of class today. There is still much work for us to do

Should we despair that we still have so much to overcome? The fact that we are all here today answers with a resounding no. We cannot despair and celebrate the works and deeds of Reverend King. Look around us each day and despite the fact that there is still so much to do, there are people at work each day to make life better for those around them. I see it every day. As a state representative I see the many small things that are done by ordinary people on a daily basis to keep the spirit of Rev. King alive. It happens everywhere, everyday. You don’t have to be Reverend King or Mother Teresa to change the lives of others. Change comes when each of us together works to change the world around us each day in a small way. A smile as we pass by others on the street changes the world. A pat on the back or a kind word in times of need changes the world. Listening to others tell us their story changes the world. Learning about each other; our differences and our sameness changes the world. Each of us has the ability to change the world. How about Wesley Autrey? This was the man that jumped into the path of an ongoing subway train to save a man who had a seizure and fell onto the tracks. With no regard for his life, he jumped onto the tracks and held the man down while the train passed over them with inches to spare. He changes the world for someone somewhere who read the story of this act and has been inspired to help others. How about Kevin Sullivan? When he saw a tractor-trailer barreling towards a state trooper parked on the roadside, he immediately pulled his truck into the path of the oncoming tractor-trailer and was pushed over 200 feet, flipping over and going down an embankment. With no thought for his own life, he saved the life of that state trooper. He changed the world for that trooper and for all who have heard this story of sacrifice and selflessness. And these are the cases we heard about just this week. Those kindnesses happen time and again by people who hold the spirit of goodness and love for their fellow human beings in their hearts.

It takes courage to act like this. It takes a noble soul to act instantly instinctively with no regard for their own lives. I would suggest it takes even more courage to work day after day putting oneself up for criticism and personal harm as Reverend King did. Dr. King knew that his life was in danger. He knew his family was in danger. But he knew that to act differently and ignore the plight of his fellow man held a greater danger for humanity. So he acted. So he acted. Can we do any less?
So as these people have changed the world, Dr. King’s challenge to us is to find our ways to change our world. We cannot and must not let him down. In his “I have a dream” speech, he said, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”  That must be our dream also. We need to dedicate ourselves to try everyday to make a small difference in the lives of those around us and together we can continue the work so nobly advanced by Dr. King. Let us rededicate ourselves today by pledging that we won’t just think of Dr. King on this day, but everyday with some gesture, great or small to help someone else.
Where do we go from here? Well, Reverend King gave a speech entitled just that in 1967. As I try to do every year, let me leave you with his words.

“And so we still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom. Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shores of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice. We still need some Paul Revere of conscience to alert every hamlet and every village of America that revolution is still at hand. Yes, we need a chart; we need a compass; indeed, we need some North Star to guide us into a future shrouded with impenetrable uncertainties.
And the other thing is, I'm concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
And so, I conclude by saying today that we have a task, and let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction. 
Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. 
Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.
Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin.  Let us be dissatisfied.
Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. 
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.
Let us be dissatisfied, and men will recognize that out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.
And I must confess, my friends, that the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. And there will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. …. But difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. And as we continue our charted course, we may gain consolation from the words so nobly left by that great black bard, who was also a great freedom fighter of yesterday, James Weldon Johnson:
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days
When hope unborn had died. 
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place
For which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way
That with tears has been watered.
We have come treading our paths
Through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the bright gleam
Of our bright star is cast.
Let this affirmation be our ringing cry. It will give us the courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.
Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Let us realize that William Cullen Bryant is right: "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again." Let us go out realizing that the Bible is right: "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is our hope for the future, and with this faith we will be able to sing in some not too distant tomorrow, with a cosmic past tense, "We have overcome! We have overcome! Deep in my heart, I did believe we would overcome."
Thank you and God Bless you all for being here today.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blarney Blowout

What do the hypodermic needle, tractor, submarine, tank, periscope, stethoscope, caterpillar track,endoscope and first true steam turbine have in common? Well, they have the same thing in common with artificial fertilizer, nickel zinc rechargeable batteries, the ejector seat, the guided missile, and high speed photography. They were all invented by the Irish. In terms of science, the induction coil and the self-extracting dynamo changed the way we produced power. The Irish invented them. Boyle’s law, Stokes Parameters and the Beaufort Wind Scale? Named after their Irish inventors. 

In the realm of health care, the discoveries and inventions range from Milk of Magnesia, to ways to use Radium through Radon as a treatment for cancer. Irish scientists were responsible for treatments for Leprosy, as well. .  Irish scientists were the first to split the atom. An Irishman created the light pipe, paving the way for fiber optics. They created advances in seismology, physics, math, and health care.
Here in Massachusetts, we know what a tremendous role the Irish have played in society. Our government has been populated with Irish and Irish American from our present Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh, through the State House, in Washington and across Town Halls throughout the state and throughout our entire history. Many of our most successful elected officials are of Irish Descent. House Speaker Tip O’Neill and the Kennedy family are but a few. Their contributions to our government and way of life have not only shaped our society in Massachusetts but throughout the US. 

My point, obviously, is that the Irish played a very major role in science, literature, music, and government.  They should get credit for that. In fact, there may not be a society without the Irish or at least a world that looks very different. After the fall of Rome, it was Irish monks who traveled Europe at great personal risk to collect books and knowledge. They brought these back to Ireland where they kept language, literature and culture alive until they could reintroduce these to the rest of the world.

It is distressing that these accomplishments are not celebrated when we think of St Patrick’s Day.  It is not surprising that some students and locals around UMass Amherst celebrate the day with a “Blarney Blowout”. I stress some students,Most UMass Students are hard working and focused on studies.But events like this continue the stereotype of the Irish for the next generation. It is not just this incident. Walmart sold cheap t-shirts this year that had sayings such as “I’m not Irish, but I drink like I am” or “Blame the Irish for my behavior”. The fact that these retailers stereotype this holiday should be unacceptable to us all. Don’t get me wrong, I love an Irish pub song and a Guinness as much as the next person, but as proud as I am that the Irish have been selling Guinness since 1759, I am more proud that Trinity College has been educating and giving scholarships to students since 1592! (The Medical School was established in 1711 and the Center for Molecular Medicine just won an award for cell imaging).

The Irish helped build our infrastructure in America, our bridges and railroads. They fought in our wars, sometimes as their own regiment. They’ve bled for us, have formed philanthropic organizations to better our condition and have provided us with culture and more stories than we can ever hear. I only wish some students were celebrating that heritage and culture as they raised a pint.

More than the students, I am disappointed that in all the stories  I read about this Blarney Blowout, I haven’t read one response from school officials criticizing the depiction of the Irish embedded in the incident. I have read that the incident is bad for the university and that drunken behavior isn’t tolerated, but not one mention has been made over the depiction of the Irish. What a shame. The UMass campuses of Boston and Lowell actually have Irish studies courses. The Amherst campus doesn’t.  I am proud of my state university. My daughter received her degree there. However, their response to this should have been to create a campus event to educate students. They should have an event to celebrate the accomplishments of this proud and ancient culture that influenced the development of Europe as a counterbalance to the prevailing attitude that St Patrick’s Day is a drunken bash.

I hope everyone has fun on St Patrick’s Day. I hope you go out and lift a pint or two and listen to some Irish music in celebration of the day. But I also hope that you raise a glass and think of the many wonderful contributions of the Irish here and throughout the world. That’s the real celebration! Slainte!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I flew to Detroit to sleep in the airport!

Recently, I was scheduled to go to Chicago for a few days to a business conference. I never made it there. I flew to Detroit and back again in a 24 hour adventure that was not of my making. Here is how my 24 hours went.

I arrived at the airport and checked at the Delta counter. My flight was from Albany to Detroit and then on to Chicago. The flight should have taken a few hours. At the check in desk, I was told that the flight was rescheduled from 4:25 to 4:55 p.m., but that there were no worries as there was still plenty of time to make my connector flight in Detroit. After we boarded at the later time, we pushed back and ran out to the runway, where we were stuck for over an hour and a half. We sat out there so we wouldn’t lose our position as next in line according to the pilot. The pilot also said that the reason for delay was instruction from the air traffic controllers in Detroit. They told us that traffic was stopped in Detroit and no one was landing there. So we sat in Albany.

After we landed, late, in Detroit, we sat for some time because there was not an available gate to taxi to. After we found a gate, we had to wait because no one was sent to drive the gangway to the plane. The pilot at that point, apologized and said we should complain to

There was no one to greet us as we came off the plane and after waiting for some time for a second ticket agent to come out and help at the gate where we landed, I was told to go to the help desk as they (the gate agents) couldn’t help. There was no information on our connections that we had missed.

I walked to the other end of Detroit airport to the help desk. It was quite a hike. Upon arriving I was greeted with a line stretching out for hundreds of feet. One of my fellow travelers, also waiting in this queue said he had counted over 1,000 people in line! We were stretched out along the corridor in the Terminal B area, where we could see people lined up to get into the help desk area halfway down a long corridor.

After standing in line for almost two hours, we got far enough along to see that there were only two people at the help desk. Everyone was more than a little cranky. You have to understand, this line stretched way down the B corridor and then snaked into the help area and went into a serpentine line set up to wind around like a bank teller line, back and forth. By the time you came far enough to see that the line didn’t end when you got to the help desk area, I had been in line for two hours. At no time during this wait did we receive any info from anyone with Delta. At the entrance to the help desk area, there were scanners so that you could scan your ticket or boarding pass and get electronic help or information. I scanned my ticket as I saw on the flight information boards that there were two flights to Chicago that were cancelled, but there was still one flight that may be late enough for me to catch. I thought that Delta may have booked me on a later flight after it became clear that I would miss my scheduled connection. The electronic scanner spit out a paper stating that no info was available and I should call an 800 number. I did that as did my fellow line dwellers, all of whom knew each other pretty well by then. I got a person on the phone and she asked me for my line number. I told her I didn’t know what that was and asked where I would find it. She told me to look on the ticket. I said there were a lot of numbers on the ticket and asked which one she was looking for. She said to look on my itinerary.  I told her I only had a boarding pass and not an itinerary. She reiterated that the number was on the ticket. At this point I overheard another person in line giving a number so I told her the similar one from my ticket. She was not helpful and seemed to treat the call as an annoyance. She found my info and asked me to hold. She came back some time later and told me that I had been booked on a flight at 5:50 p.m. the next afternoon. I told her that I needed something earlier because I needed to be in Chicago for a morning event. She put me on hold and came back to tell me that this was all they had. I told her that this was unacceptable and I wanted her to look at transferring me to another airline. I couldn’t believe that it would be that difficult to get from Detroit to Chicago. She asked me to hold and after a long wait, came back on and said I was booked on an 8:52 p.m. Delta flight the next night. I asked her what happened to the 5:50 flight and asked about other airlines. She told me that they weren’t going to put me on another airline and that none were available because traffic was backed up from today (Sunday). She also disputed that she had given me any flight other than the 8:52 p.m. flight. We actually had an argument where she denied giving me any info on a flight that we had talked about just a few minutes earlier.

I then told her that this was unacceptable and I wanted a full refund for my ticket so that I could make other arrangements. She refused and I asked who I could talk to. She said she would get a supervisor. I was then placed me on hold for approximately another ten minutes. After coming back on the line at that point to tell me I needed to continue holding, I was on hold for another ten minutes. She came back to tell me that she had talked to a supervisor and there was nothing else they could do for me. I told her that this was unacceptable. I also told her that I was not blaming her, but that I had close to a half million miles on Delta and the reason I hadn’t booked with them for a few years was because I couldn’t remember the last time I had a flight that was on time or that my baggage had arrived with me. I told her that she wasn’t being helpful and I wanted to speak to a supervisor directly. I was placed on hold.

By the time I talked to a supervisor, I must admit I had a bad attitude. However, so did the supervisor who argued with me. He told me that he would refund my ticket except for the portion that I used, from Albany to Detroit. I insisted on a full refund stating that the ticket was of no value. He said, well, I was in Detroit, I had used the ticket and must pay for it. I told him that I knew I was in Detroit. I didn’t want to be in Detroit, I wanted to be in Chicago, but because of them, I was in Detroit. He said that wasn’t his fault nor the airlines fault that flights were delayed into Detroit. I told him I knew that, but while they were able to let me know (after I arrived at the Albany airport) that my flight was changed to 4:55, they didn’t let me know that there were considerable delays into Detroit. If we had been taken back to the terminal in Albany to wait for the hour and a half that I sat on the tarmac, I would have explored my options there. I would have looked into later flights knowing I was going to miss my connection. I may have decided not to take a trip that was useless without a connection to Chicago. That was their fault to keep us waiting on a flight that they knew was going to miss connections.

I also told him that Delta had no one at the gate to help us once we deplaned, and hadn’t any info on changing our flights so that we could make arrangements or consider alternatives. Even having someone to direct us to the help desk center would have saved time for the people amassed around the gate desk. I told him that hundreds of people were in line at a help desk that was woefully understaffed with just two people, and after 2 ½ hours in line, I was restricted from finding alternative flights myself because of the lateness of the hour. I pointed out that I had spent a lot of time on hold because there were not enough people taking phone calls on their 800 line. I told him that all this was Delta’s fault. I also said that my time in Chicago was valuable if I attended meetings for two days and they were not helpful in getting me there at all. Since I was going to Chicago for two days and the airline couldn’t get me there until one of those days were over, it was a waste of time and money to go to Chicago. I reiterated that I knew that weather or air traffic decisions weren’t Delta’s fault. However, not having information, making decisions to keep us waiting on the tarmac, understaffed help desks, long waits or no answers on their phone line, and no attempts to book us on alternative flights were all Delta’s fault and that is not a way to run a business. They couldn’t deliver a product and in any other business, you would get your money back. He argued with me and was pretty rude. He said it wasn’t his fault that there were only two people on the help desk on a Sunday night, but I pointed out that if flights had been delayed all day, they should have anticipated this. He said he can’t make people take overtime and come in. The conversation pretty much went downhill from there.

At any rate, he reiterated that he was cancelling the remainder of my flight and would give me a refund for that. I told him I was calling Amex and placing a hold on the entire payment. He was unimpressed.

After hanging up with him, I stood in line for approximately another twenty five minutes. People around me were getting angry and one man was hung up on by the person on the 800 number while yet another was placed on hold for quite a while to talk to a supervisor that he never ended up talking to. At this point, one of the two women working the help desk came out and asked for everyone’s attention. She said she didn’t know what we wanted but it was going to take forever to talk to everyone. She said nothing could be done that night so we should all go find hotels and come back tomorrow. She said we could stay in line, but that is what she would tell everyone once they got to the help desk. Someone shouted that we were waiting for hotel vouchers because of our missed flights and the fact that we weren't leaving Detroit that night. The woman said that the delays were due to air traffic controllers in Detroit and that they weren't giving vouchers because this wasn’t their fault. She said they weren’t responsible and we should go someplace. She had a list of hotels that she waved at us, but said she heard everything was booked. She also said that we couldn’t even get luggage because the terminal was closed for the evening and there were hundreds of bags sitting in luggage claim that would take a long time to go through. She also told us that almost everyone had gone home for the evening.

At this point, I had been in line for three hours. I gave up on the “help” line and went to baggage claim. I found another very long line. I stood in this one for about 45 minutes. When I got to the claim counter, I was told that no one was getting bags tonight. I told this woman that I was a diabetic and needed my meds in my checked luggage. (I know that I should have kept them with me, but the flight with connections should have taken a couple of hours and I thought, “What could go wrong?”)

There was a very nice guy behind the counter and he took my claim number and told me to sit in the area. He also asked me if he could do anything else; did I need water or food or anything else. He was very nice and it took him almost an hour, but he found my bag and I was able to take my meds. The people at the luggage claim desk were very nice and a big thanks to the sky cap who helped me out.

So now it was after one o’clock and I didn’t have a hotel room or a flight. I called my wife and daughter and asked them to check flights out in the morning. There was nothing from Detroit to Chicago, so I had them check Detroit to Albany. A Delta flight the next day would have sent me to Atlanta to get to Albany and it was $1,300.00! Finally, my daughter found a Southwest flight to Albany with a stop in the Baltimore Washington International Airport. That flight was $210.00, so we booked it at around 1:30 a.m.

Next I called the Palmer Regency Hotel (A Hilton Hotel) and told them I wasn’t there (obviously) and that I needed to cancel my reservation that I should have had since the day before. They couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. They said they understood that weather sometimes prevents travel and they cancelled the entire reservation without a charge. What a change in service after dealing with Delta officials. Thanks Hilton!

I then took the shuttle to the North Terminal and camped out outside of the Southwest ticketing check in. There is a lot that goes on in the terminal in the early hours of the day. I was trying to cat nap, but the floors were being swept with machines and the announcements about increased security and “not taking luggage from a person you don’t know” evidently play 24/7! I wasn’t the only one sleeping in a chair as there were fellow travelers, some with children roaming the hallways of the airport.

Finally, at 4:00 a.m., I got into line with a bunch of other people at the Southwest counter. We traded Delta stories. The Southwest people came in around 4:30 a.m.and were great. It cost me $25 to check a bag at Delta (a charge that was not taken off my refund). It didn’t cost anything on Southwest. I was on a plane by 5:30 and we left on time for BWI. We arrived on time and after an hour wait, I boarded another on-time flight back to Albany.

Having left the house around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, I arrived home shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Monday. I realized that my 24 hour adventure was nothing more than flying to Detroit to sleep in the terminal before flying home.

So that the day is not a total loss, I am thinking about getting a t-shirt that states, “Delta East Coast Tour” and it would list Albany, Detroit, Chicago (with a circle and a red slash through it), Washington, Baltimore, and Albany. If I get a full refund form Delta, that is what I will use the money for.

I know that Delta is not responsible for the actions of air traffic controllers or the weather in the USA. But they could be better prepared and could care about their passengers. Here is where they failed. Delta should have been working on rebooking our flights early on. They could have had people at the gate to assist passengers and they could have beefed up their help desks. They used to do this. I was proud to be a Delta medallion customer. No more. They don’t care about people and it shows. That is disappointing. Even if I receive a full discount (like that’s going to happen), I still had to pay for parking, food, a baggage charge, and my lost time which has a value. I certainly can’t charge my client for a meeting I didn’t make, so this 24 hour excursion cost $12 for parking, $244 for the Delta flight to Detroit, and $210 for the Southwest flight home, plus gas, time, and lost business. Thanks Delta.  The sad truth is that Delta doesn’t care about that. They used to care. For me, I am now a Southwest customer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2006 Convocation Speech

I listened to some Harry Chapin today. I don't know why it's been so long since I listened to his music, but it was far too long. In 2006, I was asked to give the Convocation speech for incoming freshmen at MCLA. Listening to Harry Chapin today reminded me that I talked about him in that speech and thought I would post it here. Far too many people don't get involved in our society, and Harry's admonition to each of us to "Do Something" is good advice. Hope you enjoy the speech, or at least the music references.

Convocation 2006

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Church Street Center
Daniel E. Bosley
September 5, 2006

Chairman Lamb, Members of the Board of Trustees, President Grant, distinguished faculty and administration, and particularly, the members of the class of 2010. Class of 2010, it seems like a long way away, doesn’t it? Yet it will be over in a flash and will be the most rewarding time of your lives. I want to thank you for the privilege of speaking to you today. I am very honored by this invitation. I am a little nervous though. Convocation speeches are daunting tasks; trying to tell you everything you need to know to succeed in college in fifteen minutes or so. I thought that maybe I should follow the traditional formula of a few jokes, followed by telling you how much the world depends on you, while throwing in a pithy quote or two. Should I admonish you that it is your responsibility to change the world and then send you off? That’s been done before and tends to be scary telling you that the whole world depends on you. Perhaps I should use a few Latin or foreign phrases. This always seems popular. And it always seems profound, whether it is or not. In regards to this, I am reminded of the former Congressman from this district, the First Massachusetts District. The late Silvio Conte used to end many of his speeches with the Italian phrase (and this is from memory), “Svegli l’amico, Il discorso finito.” In English, this means “Wake up, pal, the speech is over.” Goofy, but it sounds wonderful and would get applause.
As I thought about what I would talk about, I thought back to my own freshman year in 1972. Who was our convocation speaker? Did we have a convocation speaker? I don’t remember. But I do remember freshman year very well. I remember what it was like to be a freshman. I spent half my time excited that I was here, and half the time scared to death over the prospect of college. It is all different and new. Could I do college work? Would I make friends? My daughter is a freshman at UMass this year and she is going through the same mixture of anxiety and excitement that I went through and I imagine all of you are going through. That is a natural reaction. This is a big change from anything you have encountered so far. College is much different than high school. There, you were seniors last year. I would imagine you felt pretty comfortable. Here, you are back to being freshman again. There, you had the routine of high school pretty much down. Here, everything is a new experience. There your parents made sure that there was structure and reminded you that you needed to do your homework. Here you are on your own and have to do all this yourself, including laundry! There you were surrounded by your friends of at least the last four years. Here, you have to make new friends all over again. There you were home, and here, many of you are away from your families for an extended period for the first time. It is natural that you should be apprehensive about this. As I said, I know I was. But I will tell you that you are about to embark on the four most exciting years of your lives. College is a life changing experience. It is the bridge between the last vestiges of growing up and adulthood. Here you will learn to be your own person.
You will make new friends, friends you will keep and stay close to for the rest of your lives. I talked to my college roommate three days ago. We keep in touch and he is still one of my best friends. His daughter, who is my goddaughter and the rest of the family are coming to town in a few weeks as her college plays Williams in field hockey. You will have friendships such as this that will last a lifetime.
A whole new world will open up to you. I remember so many of my professors who made profound differences in my life. The world opened up from merely my local community and a small circle of friends to the rest of the world. Some of these faculty members are still here, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and all of the faculty and staff who make this a great institution. I hope that you rely on the faculty, especially your advisors as you get acclimated to college life. These advisors are invaluable. They will answer your questions, keep you on track, give you advice, hold your confidence, and tell you where the best pizza in town is.
While the commitment of this institution to educate you remains the same, there are many big changes since I started my freshman year here in 1972. The campus center was under construction and wasn’t going to open until 1976. There were no townhouses. Even the name was different. This was not the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, but North Adams State College. We had no cell phones; fax machines, Ipods, Laptops, or any computers for that matter. We didn’t have Instant Messenger (IM) or myspace. It wasn’t that we didn’t have them. They hadn’t been invented yet! It wasn’t until four years later in 1976, that Apple Computer was formed. Their first home computer, the Apple 1 ran off of a cassette tape and they sold 175 of them. So computers were not to be had. In 1972, the first hand held scientific calculator was marketed. We didn’t have them either because they were marketed at $400. But we were probably the last class that actually knew how to use a slide rule.
And it wasn’t just technology that was different. Richard Nixon was President and it was the first year that women were allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. Can we even imagine not allowing women into a race today?
In many ways, your lives are much different. You will be the best-educated generation ever. The Internet and ease of travel have made the world much smaller and that gives you opportunities that we never had when I was in school. You have far more opportunities than I did at your age to experience life elsewhere in the world. Take advantage of this. You will have a much longer life span and more technology than we ever dreamed of. And your education here will help prepare you for the opportunities and the challenges that lie ahead of you. This college will do more than educate you. The faculty and staff will give you the tools to learn and more importantly, to reason. Especially at a liberal arts college such as this one, you are taught critical thinking. And hopefully, they will inspire you along a course of action that you will follow the rest of your lives. That happened to me. I grew up in a single parent family in a very small town. My eighth grade class consisted of 8 students and my high school class was something like 216. I arrived on campus not knowing what to expect from college or quite frankly, what to expect from myself. But the professors and staff here did more than educate me. They gave me a passion that has lead to a career in public service. I was inspired by my teachers to get involved in my community and that has lead to being the state representative for this area for the last twenty years. I have been able to make a difference in my hometown and surrounding area. I have been able to touch the lives of so many others. I have been able to travel all over the world, Russia, South Africa, all of Europe, China, and Israel, to name some of the places I have been in order to gain a greater understanding of the world and our global neighbors. I have been able to give back to my community and fellow citizens because this college inspired me to give back, and gave me the tools to do so. Without the ability to go here and to grow here, I don’t know where I would be and I know that I owe this institution a large debt of gratitude. They will do the same for you.
Now you don’t have to run for office to get involved, but hopefully they will point you in a direction that not only involves a career, but also makes your lives more fulfilling. It isn’t enough to be educated, but we must be enriched by our experiences here. Our collective experience allows us all to contribute to the well being of our community. That contribution, helping each other become more enriched is what makes us a community out of a collection of individuals.
And that is what defines the collegiate experience. It is not enough to be book smart, but you need to be able to use that knowledge and have the desire to use that knowledge. That makes all of the difference. Are there any Red Sox fans out here? You may know that there is a website for fans called the Sons of Sam Horn. It is a site for real hard-core fans where baseball fanatics argue over such things as the Whip, which is walks and hits per inning as measured against individual batters or they argue over the replacement value of a lesser player over the salary of a regular on the team. I am intimidated by the statistical expertise on that site, but they are not always right in trying to predict how a player will do in Boston or even in the major leagues in general. That is because they can’t measure the value of the intangibles of a player. That is the spirit or passion that motivates a person to succeed. That is hopefully what you will learn from your next four years; that heart and commitment to excel at whatever course you take through life.
I know that you had a summer reading assignment. If I could suggest a companion to this may be Doug Morris’ book, “It’s a Sprawl World After All”. I will make sure that the library has a copy. It also talks about ways to do better than we have done in making communities more responsive to the needs of its citizens. In preparation for today and as you have that reading assignment, I was asked if I had a book that inspired me that I would like to have placed in the library. I thought a lot about this and decided that there are many books that have inspired me over my lifetime. One of these was a book that I read in a Clark Billings class on city politics in 1976. That book is “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro. I love that book and have given it out as a Christmas present almost every year since. I formed the literacy caucus in the State House in 1993, and I have gone around the state promoting literacy and reading ever since, so there are a lot of books I could suggest. However, I would rather they include some music in the library, especially music from the sixties and early seventies. That was what inspired my generation. It shaped our thinking. In many ways it spurred us to action. Music spoke to us. One of my favorite singer songwriters was a folk singer named Harry Chapin. Chapin died in 1981 in his midthirties, September 3, 1981, so Sunday was the 25th anniversary of his death. In 1980, he wrote a song called “Remember When the Music”. The first verse of this song went,
“Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we'd sing.”
And we did believe in things and people sang as a form of social conscience and protest. Music was a unifier. It taught us that we were not alone in our thoughts and actions and formed social opinion. It moved people to action. Some of the issues are the same as issues today; “Immigration Man” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash spoke of the problems concerning immigration. Country Joe MacDonald asked “what were we fighting for” in Viet Nam and Phil Ochs sang “we aren’t going a ‘marching anymore.” Peter Paul and Mary sang about the environment in their song “Power”; and Bob Dylan asked “How many years can a people exist, before they’re allowed to be free” in the song “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Robert Lamm wrote a very powerful song for his band Chicago called “Dialogue Parts 1 & 2”. The song is a conversation between two college students. One is an activist worried about the problems of the world. The other is oblivious to what is going on and doesn’t think there are any problems, or at least, it’s not up to him to solve them. Student One asks, “Will you try to change things with the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
Student Two replies, “What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change? I always thought that everything was fine.”
The reason I mention this music is two fold. First, some of the problems today are the same as then. We are still arguing over immigration. Instead of Viet Nam, we are involved in a similar struggle in Iraq. Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” reminds us that we still need to do much better regarding the environment. While my generation was experiencing the roll out of the Civil Rights Act, today we are still hearing about racial profiling, questioning equal rights, and debating whether we should keep affirmative action. The need to be involved remains as strong today as it was in 1972.
The second reason I mention this is that like the second student in Lamm’s dialogue, apathy is as bad as making a bad decision. It leads to having no role in the decision-making process and let’s others make choices for you. So you have to be involved somehow, somewhere, some way. When he was much younger, Academic Vice President Steve Green used to wear a button that simply said, “Give a damn.” That was the attitude that many of us had. It wasn’t a statement about any particular political philosophy, but just said that you should care about what was going on enough to be involved. I am asking you to care and get involved, as it is a matter that is about self-preservation as much as anything else.
As I said earlier, you don’t have to be a politician to be involved or to make great changes. People who one day made a simple decision to take a small action made some of the most important changes in my lifetime. Rosa Parks decided one day that she was too tired to stand for a white passenger on the bus home and from this simple action of standing up for herself by sitting down, great changes occurred. One student stopping a tank in Tiananmen Square with a flower in his hand fed tremendous change in China. Sometimes it is the simplest action. And to act doesn’t mean that you have to create huge sweeping change. I am fond of saying that we need to keep changing the world incrementally, one day at a time. Bobby Kennedy said this far more eloquently when he said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Whether it is to join in a local activity, to get involved with some interest group, or to help your fellow students, get involved. To quote Harry Chapin, again, he once said, “When in Doubt, Do Something.”
This is a wonderful time to be in college. These are challenging times. Microsoft’s Bill Gates calls this the “Decade of Velocity”. We see changes in technology and science on an almost daily basis. The speed of this change is accelerating, and some of those changes are monumental. For example, we have hopes through stem cell therapies that we can cure diseases previously thought incurable. Through nanotechnology, machines are getting smaller and more intuitive. But through new technologies and scientific discoveries, we are also making life more complicated. How do we react towards our global neighbors in a global economy? How do we provide meaningful jobs? How do we deal with new issues of ethics brought about by new treatments involving genetics and stem cells? What we do with this technology and how we use it to change society depends on those of you who get involved to make those changes. Soon, it will no longer be up to me to make these decisions, but you will be the ones that will have to take on these tasks.
Let me end by going back to Harry Chapin. I met Harry in Williamstown one night in the mid seventies after a concert. A few friends and I walked into a local restaurant for dinner and he was at the bar. We stopped and said hi, and he graciously asked us to sit down. We ended up in a long conversation that is memorable to this day. Harry Chapin wasn’t just a musician, but also believed in the music that he sang. He started something called World Hunger Year (WHY), a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to wiping out hunger and poverty at the grass roots level since 1975. Every day they work with over 5,000 organizations on the grass roots level community by community to bring self-help programs to those in need. Every day, they create miracles for thousands of people. And they do it all at the local level. He didn’t just sing about this, he lived the life.
Back to his song, “Remember When the Music”, Harry sang,
“ And I feel that something's coming, and it's not just in the wind.
It's more than just tomorrow, it's more than where we've been,
It offers me a promise, it's telling me "Begin",
I know we're needing something worth believing in.”
He lived that life and 25 years after his death he is still making a difference. We lived that life and we sang and have helped change people’s lives for the better. And that is something worth believing in. Class of 2010, will you try to change things with the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas? Now it’s your turn to sing, and your voice lessons start with your first class tomorrow. Good luck. I wish you the very best success here at MCLA. Again, I want to thank you for this opportunity. And in closing, let me say, Svegli l’amico, Il discorso finito!
Thank you!