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ImageWhen Lyndon Johnson stepped before a joint session of Congress nearly 50 years ago, on March 15, 1965, to endorse the Voting Rights Act, he proclaimed,: “It is very deadly to deny your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.” Of course, he was referring to blacks.

Yet today, in 2014, the unwillingness of Congress to replace the dangerous and obsolete Electoral College system of electing our Presidents means that we are still far, far away from a one-person/one-vote democracy in America. Twice before, as recently as 2000, the candidate who got the lesser electoral votes was elected President. There is a path open to change that failure. Go to Nationalpopularvote.com to learn how.

States representing about half the electoral votes have already enacted legislation to enable a national popular vote. Has yours? Let’s bring true democracy to America in our lifetimes.

Just happened to chose Thunderball from my James Bond collection to watch. Odd thought related to the plane disappearance in Malasia, is that in this 1965 film, a British Vulcan bomber with two atom bombs is hijacked, and soft landed in the shallow waters near Nassau, where the bombs are removed by Specter, and the bomber is covered underwater by camouflage netting. The pilot gassed the crew while he hooked up to oxygen to hijack the plane. Maybe just an odd coincidence I happened to see this tonight, while the search goes on for the Malasian plane.

With the death yesterday of William Clay Ford, Sr., last grandson of Henry Ford, I’m reminded of a memorable event that I had a role in creating that brought together two great names, Ford and McDonald. Baseball owner and automotive tycoon Ford, who had been long-term design chief of the company his grandfather created, served as chairman of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn from 1951 to 1983, and as chairman emeritus after. He was the museum’s largest donor, and the museum’s core exhibit, the Hall of American Innovation, was named after him. It was there we brought together some great innovators at the hall’s grand opening, as I recounted in my essay for the Chicago Literary ClubP1010939, “Breakfast with Mr. McDonald’s” in the following excerpt:

“Another milestone of excitement and recognition for Dick came about in 1987, crowning several years of effort. The event benefitted both his reputation and the place of the company in the history of a mobile America. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Michigan, is a historic icon of the automobile industry and of American industry in the 20th century. It not only features Ford’s history, but the history of the entire automotive industry, and displays hundreds of historic cars of all brands, locomotives, Thomas Edison’s original laboratories and so on. But the structures that house the cars and trains were antiquated themselves. Looking like a bleak indoor car lot, row upon row of largely black autos seemed to go on forever. Determined to refurbish the place, museum staff envisioned a Midwest Smithsonian, with the auto as the star, creatively displayed in context with dioramas of the roadside culture they had spawned. They had contacted me, seeking assistance in obtaining and rebuilding a 50s era McDonald’s inside the museum, along with full scale antique gas stations, diners, motel rooms, road signs and other such mementos of time past.

“Unfortunately, we found that by then almost all of the early red and white tile drive-in McDonald’s had been replaced by the then current mansard roof building designs, and that the few remaining red and whites were either too modified to represent the brand or would be too expensive to tear down and move. But our luck was to change. Right in the Detroit market, we learned that a franchisee was about to replace a 50s era giant road sign, illuminated with pink and white neon and with an animated Speedee chef character, which was an early symbol of McDonald’s fast service. If we wanted it, we could have it, said franchisee Dan Shimel, if we could shoulder the expense of moving it, right away. In some hurried communications with the Ford Museum they agreed it would be a perfect giant artifact for inside the entrance to their new display building. I was able to put together the funding, with the help of McDonald’s Detroit regional office, and the sign was moved to the museum for restoration and installation.

“The big reopening of the Ford Museum, and its “Automobile in American Life” exhibit hall was scheduled for 1987, and it was to be a national media blow out, with a gala black tie opening fund-raising event attended by the automotive elite. William Clay Ford was to be the event chairman, and McDonald’s CEO was to among the special guests. Then we thought, wait, this historic event, all about roadside history, would be perfect for Dick McDonald, so Fred Turner agreed and Dick was invited to represent the company. We decided to make it memorable for him, which led to a lot of positive publicity.

“We worked out the program carefully with the Ford people. The grand opening moment in the vast museum, that mimicked the floor plan of Henry Ford’s first factory, would be the lighting of the giant restored McDonald’s road sign inside the museum’s entrance. As veteran Chicago auto writer Jim Mateja would write in the Tribune, “As you walk in the door, the McDonald’s sign set the tone.” Beneath the sign is a classic 1955 Chevy convertible and alongside it, the recreation of a room in the first Holiday Inn.

“At the opening, on the podium beneath the sign would stand Bill Ford, Dick McDonald and Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inn. The sign would be lighted by the three pulling a large switch that was used by Thomas Edison to illuminate his first light bulb. They did, and as the McDonald’s sign sprang to life again, the thousand-plus black tie crowd roared its approval, as the cameras flashed and the videotape rolled. Dick McDonald was in the headlines, and in seventh heaven. His wife Dot stood next to me, tears rolling down her cheeks. The event had been filled with glamorous receptions and a dinner in Dick’s honor at one of his favorite old haunts, the London Chop House. My associate Susan McBride, who still heads internal communication for McDonald’s, was there to help coordinate all the arrangements and make sure everyone in the McDonald’s system knew about this historic event and Dick’s role in it.

“Dick wrote Fred Turner after the event, saying he found Bill Ford “very pleasant” and “he told me he is an avid customer of McDonald’s. It was a memorable evening for Dorothy and me,” and he concluded warmly, saying, “Fred, I would like to quietly slip into Oak Brook to see you and hash over the old days.” He wrote Vicki and me saying, “Chuck, congratulations on the fantastic way you handled the entire affair.” A record 1.3 million visitors would tour the new museum in the next year. Indeed, we were now on a roll.”
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It occurred to me that there is a common break in effectiveness of both the U.S. military chain of command and the infallibility of the Catholic Church when it comes charges of sexual abuse.

Yesterday’s defeat of legislation that would circumvent the military chain of command and impose an independent military review of sexual abuse cases (some 24,000 of them per year of late!) seems to reflect an unwillingness by the military and many in Congress to accept that the chain of common is broken in this regard, and that escalating sexual abuse charges in the military is somehow acceptable.

Is this an odd and pathetic parallel to the Pope’s recent assertion that the Catholic Church is the most effective and concerned organization when it comes to dealing with charges of sexual abuses in the church, rather than civil authorities?

That the highest levels of the military and the church appear to have their heads in the sand in regard to sexual abuse is an odd comparison, but perhaps suggests that absolute authority breeds corruption of very basic human standards of conduct, and that independent review is the only way to assure greater justice for the victims of such human exploitation.

Vicki at Naples, 2014

Of course, the deep freeze continues here in Wisconsin, through today, March 4th. Saturday night, I won the prize for first indoor ice fall. Venturing onto the back deck to grill some steaks, I came in across the carpet and then stepped onto the varnished wooden hall floor. Because there was snow on the soles of my slippers, I went down hard, crunching my right knee and twisting my left leg. How stupid — falling on the ice, indoors! Three days later, I’m hobbling around, still with sore muscles and an aching knee, but otherwise, nothing broken but my self respect. I herar the docks on Lake Geneva may not get put in fully until July this year.

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