Archives for category: Courage

I was shocked and depressed to hear the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last night. She was, as everyone agrees, an extraordinary woman, a brilliant jurist, and a champion for the underdog.

Given that she was 87 and had valiantly battled cancer was years, her death was not a complete surprise, though I have no doubt she fought to survive until January 3, when the next Congress takes power.

Saddest of all is that her death at this moment allows the worst president in history, a man elected by a minority of voters, to put three far-right justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It is utterly indecent to choose a new justice less than two months before the presidential election. But no one ever accused either Trump or Mitch McConnell of being decent. Their lust for power drives them forward.

Here is a beautiful tribute that I think you will appreciate.

Dave Pell wrote:

The Jewish holiday being celebrated today is called Rosh Hashanah. Those words translate as “the head of the year.” God knows we could use a new year, and with any luck, this will be a Ruth Hashanah, a year when America returns to the ideals of one if its greatest leaders in the fight for equality and justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah, literally “day of shouting or blasting.” So consider this less of an affront to a Jewish holiday and more a special edition news blast. Today, Nina Totenberg tweeted: “A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment because they were needed most and were the most righteous.” It’s considered a big deal if a person dies on Shabbat, and an even bigger deal when it happens on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah. Ginsburg died as the sun set into both. In Jewish tradition, this would make her a Tzadik (RBGT); a person of great righteousness. It’s a shame to lose another one of those when America needs them the most. Time for the rest of us to pick up the slack. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1933-2020

One of our readers submitted Senator Bernie Sanders’ tribute to Justice Ginsburg. Senator Sanders, by the way, graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, as did Justice Ginsburg, both illustrious graduates of the New York City publuc schools (Susan Schwartz, a frequent commentator here, was a high school classmate of Bernie Sanders.)

Senator Sanders called on his Republican colleagues to honor the statements they made in 2016, when they refused to give a hearing to President Obama’s nominee to full Justice Scalia’ seat after his untimely death in February. The Republicans insisted that it would be wrong to fill a Supreme Court vacancy only only nine months before a presidential election.

Senator Sanders wrote:

First and foremost, the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a tremendous loss for our country. She was an extraordinary champion of equal rights and will be remembered as one of the great justices in modern American history.

That said, the right thing to do here is obvious, and that is to wait for whoever wins the presidential election to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.

Unfortunately, we’ve already heard from Mitch McConnell that he has decided to go against Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish — and his own words from 2016 — in order to bring a judge nominated by Trump to the floor of the United States Senate.

McConnell’s goal, maybe above all others, is to pack the courts with partisan ideologues who will protect corporations at the expense of workers, will suppress people’s right to vote, and will allow the wealthy to buy our elections. And make absolutely no mistake about it, if he gets his way in this Supreme Court fight, that will be the end of Roe v. Wade.

Thankfully, not all Republicans agree with Mitch McConnell, especially if their past words from 2016 are any guide:

Senator Lindsey Graham

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

Senator Ted Cruz

“It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Senator Cory Gardner

“I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.”

Senator Marco Rubio

“I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term  —  I would say that if it was a Republican president .”

Senator Rob Portman

“It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.”

And a number of senators have weighed in even more recently:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, just yesterday:

“I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election.”

Senator Chuck Grassley in May

“You can’t have one rule for Democratic presidents and another rule for Republican presidents.”

Senator Susan Collins very recently:

“I think that’s too close, I really do,” when asked about appointing a justice in October.

Every issue we care about is at stake: abortion rights, campaign finance reform, voting rights, workers’ rights, health care, LGBTQ rights, climate change, environmental rights, gun safety and more.

Together we must do everything we can to hold the House, flip the Senate, and defeat Donald Trump. But now we also must do all we can to hold Mitch McConnell and many Republican senators to the word and let the winner of the next presidential election nominate Justice Ginsburg’s replacement.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.

From Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac”:

The Blitz began on this date in 1940. “Blitz” comes from the German word “Blitzkrieg,” which means “lightning war.” Germany had successfully invaded France, and now Hitler was determined to conquer Britain as well. The German Luftwaffe, or air force, had been engaging the Royal Air Force for a few months, but without much success. Hitler changed his strategy: rather than focusing on military targets, he set out to crush the morale of the British people through relentless attacks on its major cities.

The first wave of bombers — 348 in all — hit London at around 4:00 in the afternoon. The Luftwaffe primarily targeted London’s docks on this first attack, but many bombs fell in civilian areas as well. Four hundred and thirty people died, and 1,600 were seriously injured. The fires that had started as a result of the first wave of attacks served as beacons for a second wave that hit after dark and lasted until 4:30 the next morning. But Hitler’s attempt to crush the British spirit had the opposite effect. Winston Churchill said: “[Hitler] has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe.”

Journalist Ernie Pyle reported from London during the Blitz. He wrote: “It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire. […] The greatest of all the fires was directly in front of us. Flames seemed to whip hundreds of feet into the air. Pinkish-white smoke ballooned upward in a great cloud, and out of this cloud there gradually took shape — so faintly at first that we weren’t sure we saw correctly — the gigantic dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“St. Paul’s was surrounded by fire, but it came through. It stood there in its enormous proportions — growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn. It was like a picture of some miraculous figure that appears before peace-hungry soldiers on a battlefield.”

The attacks of September 7 were only the beginning. The Blitz continued for 76 consecutive nights, with the exception of a single night of bad weather. Bombs fell on London, Liverpool, Manchester, and several other cities in England and Wales. All told, some 43,000 British civilians died by the time Hitler called off the Blitz in May 1941, and more than a million homes were damaged or destroyed. The Blitz cost the Germans most of their air force, however: they lost most of their airmen and hundreds of planes.

Imagine having a leader like Churchill in a crisis, who could rally the American people to stand together for a common purpose.

Eleven years ago, an airline pilot named Captain Sully Sullenberger had to carry out an emergency landing with a flight filled with 155 passengers. He couldn’t make it to the airport, and he coolly landed his plane in the center of the Hudson River, smack dab in New York City. The craft was soon surrounded by small boats that ferried the stunned passengers to land. Not a life was lost. Captain Sully was an instant sensation, and a movie was made about his accomplishment.

Now Captain Sully is speaking out against Trump. He says what so many believe. Trump has neither courage nor character.

He tweeted:

“For the first time in American history, a president has repeatedly shown utter and vulgar contempt and disrespect for those who have served and died serving our country,” Sullenberger noted.

“While I am not surprised, I am disgusted by the current occupant of the Oval Office. He has repeatedly and consistently shown himself to be completely unfit for and to have no respect for the office he holds,” Sullenberger added.

“He cannot understand selflessness because he is selfish. He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward.”

This dramatic story was just reported in the Los Angeles Times. Members of the California National Guard, firefighters, and law enforcement groups risked their lives to save others. Why would they do this? There was no money in it for them. There was service, duty, courage, valor. Call it heroic.

The call came in to the California National Guard at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

A fast-moving brush fire had choked off the only road out of a popular recreation area in the Sierra National Forest. Hundreds of campers were trapped.

The Creek fire, which ignited Friday evening about six miles to the west, had jumped the San Joaquin River and made a run toward the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, where people were enjoying the Labor Day weekend.

“As fire crews and law enforcement were trying to get everybody out, the fire spotted and then basically grew,” said Alex Olow of the U.S. Fire Service. “Exiting out the road wasn’t safe, so people were asked to shelter in place.”

Authorities quickly determined the only way to evacuate them was with a massive airlift done at night as the fire burned unchecked.

That marked the start of a massive multiagency rescue that some officials described as unprecedented in size and scope.

“Our focus was getting the helicopters in and getting as many people out as quickly as possible to save lives,” said Col. Jesse Miller, deputy commander for joint task force domestic support with the California National Guard.

The Guard worked to assemble its teams and line up resources. But by the time it was in a position to send in aircraft, the fire had essentially reached the Mammoth Pool area, said Col. Dave Hall, commander of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, which flew the mission.

“The smoke column’s naturally high, very difficult,” Hall recalled. “And we needed some of that essentially to burn down a little bit in order for us to effect a safe rescue.”

At 6:30 p.m., when conditions improved slightly, the Guard launched a CH-47 Chinook and a UH-60 Blackhawk from about 60 kilometers away in Northern California. The helicopters staged in Fresno to receive guidance about where they could approach to pick people up.

A remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft operated by the Guard’s 163rd Wing based at March Air Reserve Base worked above the site, helping to scout conditions. Personnel identified a small clearing alongside a boat launch road that could be used as an emergency landing zone.

About 8:20 p.m., the helicopters landed at Mammoth Pool.

The seven crew members were greeted by more than 200 campers, many of them clustered on a dock near the boat launch, Hall said. Some had suffered injuries including scrapes, burns and possible broken bones.

But they were ecstatic.

“I spoke with the crew members afterward and they said it was one of the greatest missions they’ve ever done just because of the feeling of relief the individuals who were rescued had,” Hall said. “They were literally giving the crew chiefs hugs as they were boarding the helicopter.”

Rescuers found that some campers had suffered serious burns from the fire as well as scrapes and broken bones.

Some of those at Mammoth Pool described a terrifying scene of driving through flames and finding shelter wherever they could.

Jeremy Remington told ABC30 that he and his family were boating when they went to fill their chest with ice. In less 30 minutes, he said, the fire was roaring toward them.

“The fire completely engulfed everything, all around us,” he said, adding they poured water on their shirts and used them to cover their faces as protection against the smoke and heat.

Two people had suffered life-threatening injuries. They were put in the helicopters first. Then came the 19 “walking wounded,” who needed hospital care but were not considered critical. Crews also prioritized children and those with underlying health conditions, officials said.

“Their focus was on rescuing them, getting them from the point of danger to point of safety and then getting them into the hands of the emergency medical professionals that were on the ground,” Miller said.

Crews dropped off the passengers at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, where a makeshift triage site was set up. There, paramedics assessed injuries and arranged for people to be taken to hospitals, while other emergency workers made sure those who were displaced were matched with shelters.

The helicopters then returned to Mammoth Pool to pick up another load.

By then, between the darkness and thick smoke, conditions had deteriorated again. Not knowing if they’d be able to make it back a third time, the crews loaded as many people into the helicopters as they could — more than 100 passengers in the Chinook and 21 in the Black Hawk, Hall said.

Luckily, they were able to make one more trip, and everyone who wanted to leave was airlifted. Two people chose to stay behind, Olow said.

When the mission was completed about 3 a.m., 214 people and 11 pets had been rescued, Hall said. At least 21 people were taken to hospitals.

“In my career with the Army National Guard, I have not seen an evacuation of this size nor have I heard of anything similar with regards to a fire incident,” Hall said. “So in my book, this is one of the largest events ever.”

But it might not be the last, he said. The fire was 0% contained late Sunday morning and had charred at least 45,500 acres, as evacuation orders continued to multiply.

“We do believe there will be more rescues,” Hall said. “We are posturing crews day and night to support potential rescues. What is unique about the terrain up there is it is a very, very popular camping site and also backpacking site. And because the fire travels very quickly, it is very possible for backpackers and hikers to potentially be stranded.”

Miller credited the work of scores of agencies, including the Madera and Fresno County sheriff’s offices and fire districts, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the California Office of Emergency Services and the California Highway Patrol, for the success of the daring rescue.

Today is the birthday of a great American, Jane Addams.

Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” offers this tribute.

It’s the birthday of the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize: public health worker, community organizer, and social activist Jane Addams (books by this author), born to a wealthy Quaker family in Cedarville, Illinois in 1860.

She suffered from depression and went to Europe, thinking it would help. She visited a settlement house in London, a place that offered social services to the poor. She was deeply impressed by it, and after founding an experimental house like this in England, she returned to the states to establish one on the South Side of Chicago in the 19th Ward, a neighborhood full of poor immigrants from Russia, Greece, Italy, and Germany. It was in an abandoned mansion formerly owned by Charles Hull, and so she called it Hull House. It had a communal kitchen, a day care, a library, and a little bookbinding business.

Women boarded at Hull House, and it was also a neighborhood center, a performing arts center, and a space where book club meetings and classes were held. Two thousand people showed up each week from the area, and Hull House grew to add a dozen more buildings. Addams wrote about it in some of her books, including Twenty Years at Hull House (1910).

Addams was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, fought for immigrants’ rights, and lobbied for labor reform. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

She’s the author of several books, including The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) and Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922).

There is one important fact about Addams that is not included: she was a pacifist and she opposed America’s entry into the Great War. Immensely popular, she risked her reputation by speaking out against the war.

She is a secular American Saint because of her courage, her compassion and her activism.

Last night, while watching the PBS Newshour, I watched a segment about the demise of local journalism. The author of a new book on this subject—Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy— Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, warned about the danger to democracy when citizens are uninformed about local and state issues and get their news only from national sources. When asked if there was any hope for the future, she spoke about the rise of state and local websites.

One of the best of them is Capital & Main, based in Los Angeles, which just won 17 awards at the 62nd annual Southern California Journslism awards.

Capital & Main has posted excellent articles on education and has been vigilant about the abuses committed by errant charter schools and the charter industry. I have posted many of their excellent articles here and am delighted to see that the online journal received the recognition it deserves.

I salute Danny Feingold, the publisher of Capital & Main, for his tireless efforts to keep the new local journalism alive and excellent. He and the journal provide a great service to the community. Not just local news, but heat investigative reporting and fearless independence.

Please read the articles in Capital & Main’s series on teaching in the age of COVID-19, which is titled “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.” They spell out the frustrations and the learning curve that teachers and students have coped with in these uncertain times. Routines went out the window. Teachers had to improvise, to be creative and innovative, and to learn to live with unprecedented challenges.

They are linked here:

Elementary School Students’ Uneasy Year Zero” by Sasha Abramsky.

Are High Schoolers Zoning Out on Zoom?” by Sasha Abramsky.

Middle School Teachers Face a Fall Term of Uncertainty,” by Sasha Abramsky.

Teachers Discover that Distance Learning is a Dance,” by Larry Buhl.

From the last article:

Imagine you’ve been cast in your school’s spring musical – in this case, High School Musical — and you’ve been rehearsing for months, but the COVID crisis closes everything a day before the show opens. Andrea Calvo, a teacher at Orange County’s Ladera Vista Junior High School of the Arts in Fullerton, was directing the show and said the performers, as well as students and in her guitar and choir classes, have been emotionally “all over the place” since March.

“Some days [they are] depressed, some days happy. They went through all the emotions and the ups and downs that teachers did,” Calvo said. There was so much confusion on how online instruction would go, and how long it would last. “We were grieving but didn’t know what we were grieving.”

In July the Orange County School Board stepped into the national spotlight by declaring its schools, unlike Los Angeles County to the north and San Diego County to the south, would open for fall classes – and without masks or social distancing. It would prove to be a moot point, because later that week Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that all schools on the state COVID-19 monitoring list – including Orange County’s – be closed until they are off California’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

A week before the fall term started, Calvo said that teachers’ stress levels have lowered somewhat since the March scramble to take learning online. Now there’s a plan to reopen schools – when the school meets the state criteria and not before – if not an exact date.

“Not knowing is stressful,” Calvo says. “Nobody thinks distance learning went well in the spring. We were in crisis mode.”

After a few months of trial and error, and a summer to connect with other music teachers nationwide on distance learning best practices, Calvo says she’s better equipped to teach online. She adds that the students at her school all had iPads, so they were already better poised for distance learning than students in other schools. Not that it made the switch easy. Nothing in her 20 years of teaching could prepare Calvo for Zoom meetings with choir students who appeared, singing, on 60 little video boxes on a computer monitor.

“We did warmups, they recorded themselves, and I hosted,” she said. “For musical theater, I demonstrate movement [in real time] and they follow.” There were too many students to fit on one computer screen, but fortunately Calvo had help from a student teacher, who monitored a second screen.

But Calvo says Orange County adopted what it calls a “Do no harm” grading policy during the crisis. The idea is that you can’t hold students to the same standards while schools are closed. “Some students were at home with family and quarantining there. Some may be at home all alone caring for siblings, some had sick parents. We don’t know what students are going through.”

But Calvo and fellow teachers and staff do want some idea of what students are going through, and they try to make sure everything is all right. “We make spreadsheets to see, ‘Oh this student didn’t log in for three days. So in that case we call and ask if everything is okay.’”

Not giving up on its plan to force everyone back into classrooms during the pandemic, the O.C. Board of Education last month vowed to sue Gov. Newsom over school closures, claiming that online instruction had been a “failure.”

Distance learning for the long haul
Calvo said that attitudes of parents and county residents have shifted over the past five months as more have accepted that the pandemic will change learning for the foreseeable future. “In May, Orange County posted photos of what classes would look like, with PPE and distancing, and people said, ‘Oh, that looks awful.’ Now, more people want schools to look like that when they open.”

“As a teacher and a parent I think distance learning is safest,” says Calvo. “But that is from a place of privilege, because I know I am able to stay home. A lot of parent friends feel the same way but I recognize we may be in a bubble.”

Calvo assumes distance learning will be the norm well into the new school year. That’s a challenge for any school, but for hers, which has 30 arts electives, it’s an even bigger challenge to maintain its culture. “There is a lot of creativity here. [Distance learning] is a dance.”

Capital & Main published a five-part series on teaching during the pandemic. The series is called “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.”

Sasha Abramsky launched the series with an article about how schools in California were adapting to the pandemic.

Abramsky writes about the uncertainty, confusion, and conflict that accompanied the shutdown, as teachers were required to address new realities and to confront stark inequities.

In March, when Northern California counties issued stay-at-home orders, followed shortly afterwards by a statewide shutdown, schools scrambled to improvise a pivot to online “distance learning.” Some were able to make the change within days; others took many weeks. Grading and assessment systems were largely put to one side, at least in the public school system. And school districts rushed – and in some cases struggled – to purchase and distribute Chromebooks or iPads to students who didn’t have them; to set up Wi-Fi hotspots for families lacking home Internet access; to work out how to keep distributing food to children from low-income families who relied on school breakfasts and lunches; and to set up methods of teaching online that wouldn’t leave out students who had special education plans, or who were English language learners.

Bureaucratic systems fabled for their inflexibility were, suddenly, tasked with finding kluge-like solutions, at speed, to meet these extraordinary challenges. Inevitably, the result was hit or miss.

The articles in this week’s new series, “The Year of Teaching Dangerously,” reflect the extraordinary challenges facing elementary, middle and high schools as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on daily life.

What began as a temporary shutdown evolved into a new way of life, for teachers, students, and parents.

You may recall that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified in the impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives. He did so at risk of his career. He lost his career.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (Ret.), a career U.S. Army officer, served on the National Security Council as the director for Eastern European, Caucasus and Russian affairs, as the Russia political-military affairs officer for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as a military attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

This article appeared in the Washington Post:

After 21 years, six months and 10 days of active military service, I am now a civilian. I made the difficult decision to retire because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career.
This experience has been painful, but I am not alone in this ignominious fate. The circumstances of my departure might have been more public, yet they are little different from those of dozens of other lifelong public servants who have left this administration with their integrity intact but their careers irreparably harmed.

A year ago, having served the nation in uniform in positions of critical importance, I was on the cusp of a career-topping promotion to colonel. A year ago, unknown to me, my concerns over the president’s conduct and the president’s efforts to undermine the very foundations of our democracy were precipitating tremors that would ultimately shake loose the facade of good governance and publicly expose the corruption of the Trump administration.

At no point in my career or life have I felt our nation’s values under greater threat and in more peril than at this moment. Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving.
Our citizens are being subjected to the same kinds of attacks tyrants launch against their critics and political opponents. Those who choose loyalty to American values and allegiance to the Constitution over devotion to a mendacious president and his enablers are punished. The president recklessly downplayed the threat of the pandemic even as it swept through our country. The economic collapse that followed highlighted the growing income disparities in our society. Millions are grieving the loss of loved ones and many more have lost their livelihoods while the president publicly bemoans his approval ratings.

There is another way.

During my testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, I reassured my father, who experienced Soviet authoritarianism firsthand, saying, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” Despite Trump’s retaliation, I stand by that conviction. Even as I experience the low of ending my military career, I have also experienced the loving support of tens of thousands of Americans. Theirs is a chorus of hope that drowns out the spurious attacks of a disreputable man and his sycophants.

Since the struggle for our nation’s independence, America has been a union of purpose: a union born from the belief that although each individual is the pilot of their own destiny, when we come together, we change the world. We are stronger as a woven rope than as unbound threads.

America has thrived because citizens have been willing to contribute their voices and shed their blood to challenge injustice and protect the nation. It is in keeping with that history of service that, at this moment, I feel the burden to advocate for my values and an enormous urgency to act.

Despite some personal turmoil, I remain hopeful for the future for both my family and for our nation. Impeachment exposed Trump’s corruption, but the confluence of a pandemic, a financial crisis and the stoking of societal divisions has roused the soul of the American people. A groundswell is building that will issue a mandate to reject hate and bigotry and a return to the ideals that set the United States apart from the rest of the world. I look forward to contributing to that effort.

In retirement from the Army, I will continue to defend my nation. I will demand accountability of our leadership and call for leaders of moral courage and public servants of integrity. I will speak about the attacks on our national security. I will advocate for policies and strategies that will keep our nation safe and strong against internal and external threats. I will promote public service and exalt the contribution that service brings to all areas of society.

The 23-year-old me who was commissioned in December 1998 could never have imagined the opportunities and experiences I have had. I joined the military to serve the country that sheltered my family’s escape from authoritarianism, and yet the privilege has been all mine.

When I was asked why I had the confidence to tell my father not to worry about my testimony, my response was, “Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all my brothers have served, and here, right matters.”

To this day, despite everything that has happened, I continue to believe in the American Dream. I believe that in America, right matters. I want to help ensure that right matters for all Americans.

Lt. Col. Vindman made one mistake: In Donald Trump’s America, right does not matter. Loyalty to Trump is the only thing that matters, and God help those who make the mistake of thinking differently and putting country above loyalty to the Leader.