• True Giving. Two brief stories–and moving lessons–on Christmas Day

    The first is about Gen. James Mattis, now the US Secretary of Defense.

    Unheralded giving like his shows the character of a man.

    The story is told by Gen. Charles Krulak (Ret.), who was then Marine Corps Commandant.

    He remembers Christmas Day 1998 when Mattis, a Brigadier General, quietly stood duty for a young Marine officer so the young man could spend the day with his family.

    Every year, Gen. Krulak and his wife baked countless cookies in the days ahead of Christmas, put them in little packages and, beginning at 0400 on Christmas Day, he would deliver cookies to all the Marine duty posts around Washington.

    Making his final delivery of the day, Gen. Krulak asked the Marine Lance Corporal on duty who the officer of the day was.

    The answer: “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.”

    Normally, of course, the officer of the day would’ve been a junior officer, not a general officer.

    According to Krulak, he replied to the Corporal, “No, I know who Gen. Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day?”

    The young Marine gave the same response: “Sir, General Mattis.”

    “I looked around the duty hut. In the back there were two cots: One for the officer of the day and one for the enlisted Marine. I said, ‘OK, who was the officer who slept on that cot last night?’”

    “The Corporal said again, ‘Sir, General Mattis.’”

    No sooner had the question been answered a third time than BG Mattis entered the room.

    Krulak recalls, “So I said to him, ‘Jim, what are you standing the duty for?’ And he said, ‘Sir, I looked at the duty roster for today and there was a young major who had it, who is married with a family. I’m a bachelor and I thought, “Why should the major miss out on the fun of having Christmas with his family?” And so I took the duty for him.’” 

    –NAUS.org (National Assoc. for Uniformed Services)

    The other story is closer to home and involves my late brother, Steve Lipson, and his wife, Mindy.

    Both did what the General did.

    Steve, a member of several volunteer groups, always asked to perform the necessary tasks, such as delivering food to the poor, on Christmas.

    His wife, Mindy, a nurse practitioner for many years at St. Jude’s in Memphis, always signed up to work that day.

    Both are Jewish and knew their Christian colleagues wanted to spend the day with their families. So, they gave the gift of their own time, away from their own family. They knew the day meant far more to their friends.

    We often talk about “religious tolerance” and it is right that we do. It is a hard-won triumph in Western history, worth underscoring.

    Even its minimal definition, forbearance, is a good thing.

    We need far more of it in a world where zealots behead infidels in the name of their religion.

    We need to reiterate those values in our schools and public life.

    Even better is a generous definition, one in which religious tolerance means “genuine respect for others beliefs and for the lives they lead in following them.”

    That generous definition is revealed not only in what we say but in what we do–most of all in how we treat our friends and neighbors everyday.


  • The generosity–and love–of strangers for each other as the hurricane approaches

    You may have heard about this story or seen it.

    Believe me, it is worth a minute’s time to see it–or see it again.

    The site is a Lowe’s store in Orlando this week, overrun with shoppers grabbing last-minute items before the hurricane.

    A line of people were there to buy the last electric generators.

    The next person in line when the supply of generators ran out–with no new ones likely to arrive–began crying, fearing for an elderly parent who needed the generator to keep his oxygen machine working. She had driven 30 miles to the store as soon as she heard they had a shipment of generators.

    Her tears were captured on a cell phone, but, more important, they were heard by a stranger, Ramon Santiago, who had just put the last generator on his cart.

    He walked over to the crying woman and quietly handed her his generator.  Here’s the one-minute video of the event as it unfolded.

    To make the ending even happier, here’s what happened the next day.

    The Orlando TV reporter who saw the episode and broadcast it, was there to welcome Ramon to Lowe’s the next day and surprise him with a gift.

    The two episodes show the rich vein of human kindness around us, a vein that comes to surface in times of trouble.



  • Chicago Cubs’ star and cancer survivor, Anthony Rizzo, makes major contribution to children’s cancer hospital

    Rizzo fights back tears as he visits children at the ribbon cutting

    The Chicago Tribune reports:

    “Geez,” said Rizzo, sniffing, turning away and fighting back tears during a ceremony to commemorate his foundation’s $3.5 million commitment in May to fund programs for patients and families dealing with cancer.

    “I remember sitting with my mom saying we were going to do this 10 years ago. And it’s just a little step toward our mission,” the Cubs first baseman said.

    Rizzo was diagnosed in April 2008 with Hodgkin lymphoma, which has since gone in remission. –Chicago Tribune




  • He heard an old man speak to students–and he did something wonderful for him

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    Drew Principe, 17, was one of the California high school students who recently heard Henry Oster’s talk about surviving the Holocaust. They listened as Oster described the depths of despair, his fear and loss, and finally his survival.

    Dr. Oster, who is now nearing 90, explained that he had been on the eve of celebrating his Bar Mitzvah when the Nazis rounded up–and killed–his family at Auschwitz. (His father starved to death in the ghetto.)

    Somehow, he alone survived.

    After the war, he moved to California, became a doctor, and lived out his life there.

    That’s the story of loss and survival Dr. Oster told the high school students.


    Reaching out to help

    Then, young Mr. Principe did something extraordinary:

    When Principe learned that Oster had never been to Israel, he started a fundraising effort for the once-in-a-lifetime trip [to visit Oster’s last living relative there]. –Daily Mail

    Principe raised $15,000 to fund Mr. Oster’s trip.

    On Monday, 89-year-old Henry Oster left for that dreamed-of trip to visit his last living relative.

    Drew Principe and his family are tagging along to share the joy.

    The story and picture of Principe and Oster are here. (Daily Mail)

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 5

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     UPDATE ON London Terror (from the BBC). Police

    • Know the attackers’ identities,
    • Have detained a “number of people” after searches in East London, on top of 12 people arrested Sunday in Barking
    • Report 21 people are still in critical condition.

    With three attacks in three months, terrorism against soft targets is beginning to feel, to some people, like the new normal.

    The brutal reality is that this kind of threat is absolutely typical of what jihadists sought to achieve in all their attacks across Europe.

    Since 2013 security services in the UK have foiled 18 plots. A large proportion of those have involved suspects who set out to commit acts of violence similar to the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

    Plans to use bombs, such as at Manchester Arena, are rarer because plotters need to have the technical skills for such an appalling attack – but attacking people with cars and knives is far easier and has long been encouraged by so-called Islamic State and other jihadists. –BBC

    Comment: The number of potential jihadis in England is beyond the authorities’ ability to track. The number of soft targets is beyond their ability to protect.

    That means hard political choices are coming, not just in England but across Europe to staunch this threat.

    The public simply will not accept this as the “new normal.”

     Dividends from Trump-Saudi talks to contain terror

    The Kingdom, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its constant support of terrorism. CNN reports Bahrain’s tough statement:

    Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to interfere in its affairs, to continue the escalation and incitement of the media, and supporting armed terrorist activities, and financing groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and the principles of international law without regard to values, law, morals, consideration of the principles of good neighborliness, or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations, and the denial of all previous commitments. –CNN

    Since the US has a major base in Qatar, there are direct implications for the US. As CBS headlines it: Major U.S. military ops based in Gulf nations in throes of deep diplomatic rift


    • The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is noteworthy; they have been grumpy with each other recently.
    • CNN’s story fails to mention Trump or the major meeting during his visit that launched this initiative.

     Since we are talking about CNN’s bias: They were just caught staging a “news event” to fit their narrative.

    They even had the white British police officers leave the frame; they were replaced with Asian officers.

    Comment: If CNN fakes the news, how will airport passengers know what is happening?

     One of those lovely stories about private generosity: 70 years ago, a man (now aged 98) bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. Now, it’s worth $2 million, and, since he doesn’t have a family, he’s giving all of it to his favorite charity: the Illinois Audubon Society. (Fox 32 story here)

     Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says “no smoking gun” on Trump-Russia. He quickly adds “at this point”  (The Hill)

    He did say that Trump telling Comey to “let it go” would be “very concerning,” if Comey confirmed it.

    Comment: If there is hard evidence the Trump campaign really did cheat to throw the election, let’s see it. If there is none, let’s get back to governing the country. 

     New chancellor at U. of Missouri says diversity on campus must include “diversity of thought” (Heat Street)

    Comment: The university’s enrollment plummeted, along with its finances, after 2015 demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, threats against student reporters (“get some muscle over here”), and a spineless administration that couldn’t roll over fast enough. Now, they have a new leader on campus with a different idea.

    The question is whether he can implement it and withstand the pushback.




  • Kudos to “The Marks Project,” Its Leader, Jaby Denton, Willie Lockett and Alcorn State University

    They are helping out–everyday–in an area that really needs it

    Jaby Denton comes from Marks, my hometown in the Mississippi Delta south of Memphis.  It’s the area where the blues were born, and there’s plenty of blues to go around these days. The small towns are getting smaller, and many don’t have the resources to pay for the schools, roads, and police they need.

    Most of all, it’s a place where poor kids can be trapped in poverty, a hard life at home, and limited horizons.

    That’s where Jaby has done so much to help.

    For some years now, he’s been giving back–most of all with “sweat equity”–through the Marks Project he founded.

    It focuses on enriching the lives of children there, most of them black and poor. They have all sorts of activities where adults can give guidance and advice to kids who are eager for it.

    Now, the project is reaching out to do more, involving more people in helping each other. That does more than give material aid, much as that is needed. It builds a community. That is needed just as much.


    Kudos today to Willie Lockett, who is one of the people giving what they can to help their neighbors.



  • Eugene Lang: For his spur-of-the-moment generosity that changed countless lives for the better

    Eugene Lang, who just died at 98, was a very successful investor who rose from poverty.  But that is not what makes his story so remarkable.

    It was something he began, on an impulse, in June 1981, when he spoke to a class of sixth graders at a Harlem Public School.

    The 61 students were black and Hispanic, and poor–as Mr. Lang himself had been at their age.

    He began by telling them how inspiring Martin Luther King had been, how important hard work is, and other familiar observations about how to make your own life and others’ better.

    But he quickly realized that these kids were on another planet and would simply ignore an old, rich white man, even though his background was as impoverished as theirs.

    He had grown up in a $12-a-month cold-water flat in New York, graduated from high school at 14, and went to work in a restaurant. A regular customer there talked with him, realized how brilliant his waiter really was, and arranged a college interview. Lang was accepted to one of America’s best colleges, Swarthmore, and given financial aid to make it possible for him to attend.

    As he spoke to the kids in Harlem, he must have seen a chance to pay back that regular customer a half-century later.

    So, on an impulse, he told the class something remarkable.

    He said he would give each of them a college scholarship if they were admitted to a four-year college.

    Stunned silence.

    Then, after the principal told him that only one or two would make it to college, he began to do more.

    He “adopted” the class and the school and began contributing in ways that would make them ready and eager to take advantage of his offer.

    With Lang’s help and the students’ commitment, the success rate was much higher, around 50%. As the New York Times says in his obituary:

    At least half of the original 61 sixth graders — they called themselves Dreamers — enrolled in public and private colleges, although The Daily News later reported that some students had misunderstood the offer as a promise to pay tuition even at expensive colleges and were bitter. Of those who passed up college, Mr. Lang often found them jobs.

    “I know I’m going to make it,” Aristides Alvarado, then a 20-year-old junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told an interviewer in 1989. “And someday I’ll be big — real big — and pay the tuition for my own class of Dreamers.”

    Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers at the time, observed: “Lang put up a lot more than money. He put himself on the line, too.” –New York Times

    Lang founded the “I Have a Dream Foundation” and established year-round enrichment programs. He persuaded many rich friends to open similar programs or contribute to his or others.

    Over his lifetime, he gave $150 million to charities, including $50 million to his alma mater, Swarthmore, and another $20 million to the New School for Social Research in New York.


    Eugene Lang: a true mensch.

    May his memory be a blessing.


  • A Very Quiet Hero of Philanthropy

    The New York Times calls him the “James Bond of Philanthropy.” 

    Nearly five years ago, Charles F. Feeney sat in a cushy armchair in an apartment on the east side of Manhattan, grandchildren’s artwork taped to the walls, and said that by the end of 2016, he was going to hand out the last of a great fortune that he had made.

    It was a race: Mr. Feeney was then 81, and Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of private foundations he had started and funded, still had about $1.5 billion left.  …

    He [has] contributed $8 billion to his philanthropies, which have supported higher education, public health, human rights and scientific research.–New York Times 

    His name doesn’t appear on buildings. In fact, it was only a quirk in the laws that forced disclosure of his name at all.

    He made the money himself.

    Now, 86, Mr. Feeney and his wife live in a rented apartment in San Francisco. They have retained $2 million to live out their lives.

    But all those billions they had have gone to make others’ lives better.

    I stand in awe.


    Opinionated Footnote about the New York Times:

    (1) The NYT deserves kudos for finding this inspiring story and reporting it.

    (2) But the New York Times deserves brickbats for sandwiching this story between two gratuitous swipes at Donald Trump, one to begin the report, one to end it.

    I am not defending–or attacking–Trump here. But this story has nothing, nada, zip to do with Donald Trump. Not one damned thing.

    To plonk him into the story is simply editorializing in a news report, something the NYT does with such regularity that they probably no longer notice they are doing it.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, Dec. 12

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ If Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is picked to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, lots of Democrats and some Republicans will push back hard, says the Wall Street Journal.

    Republican hesitation over Mr. Tillerson marked the first sign of division between congressional GOP and the Trump team over its likely cabinet picks. All of President-elect Donald Trump’s other nominees so far appear likely to be confirmed by the Senate.

    Mr. Tillerson, a seasoned deal-maker whose company has a long history of doing business in Russia, is drawing unease from senators on both sides of the aisle. Republicans can likely afford to lose only two GOP votes next year in the new Congress when it meets to consider Mr. Trump’s nominees. –Wall Street Journal

    Some reservations, like those of John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are to be expected. But Marc Rubio (R-FL and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) also raised a warning sign. “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir,’” he tweeted, “is not an attribute I am hoping for” in the next secretary of state.

    But it might be an attribute Trump is looking for, or at least doesn’t care much about. Tillerson is a very experienced deal-maker with extensive international experience, and he has run the biggest company in the world extremely profitably.

    Clarice Feldman’s weekly column is always smart and incisive. This week’s is no exception. Her target is large philanthropies, which, she argues, are often engaged in openly political agendas, pay senior officials rich salaries, and operate with little public oversight, despite their tax-exempt status. (American Thinker) She is particularly critical of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, and Pew Charitable Trusts.

    She proposes 5 strategies to rein them in:

    1. Impose greater oversight of their tax-exempt status at both the state and federal levels
    2. Stop their tax-exempt grants for political lobbying
    3. Make them pay out endowments more rapidly
    4. Require them to state their charitable aims more clearly and then stick to those aims
    5. Demand transparency

    Comment: These are characteristically thoughtful ideas. Most seem sensible, and all are worth debating. It’s obvious (to me) that these foundations should not be used for private enrichment and political activity at taxpayer expense. Do that on your own dime. But I have one reservation as we debate these issues. We need to prevent the government from crushing independent elements of civil society, and that includes foundations.

    Private foundations, like other elements of civil society, stands between citizens and their government, largely outside the state’s control. The more control government has over these foundations, beyond preventing fraud, the more like they are to squash the organizations’ independence and direct them to support government policy. That is exactly how Lois Lerner and her comrades were using the IRS. They controlled the spigot of tax exemption, giving it to charities whose purposes they approved and denying it to those they disliked.

    Any changes, like those proposed by Feldman, need to be sure to cut out the cancer and not the healthy tissue of civil society.

    ◆ The Anti-Defamation League is one of the most prominent voices in the Jewish community, particularly in the fight against discrimination, not when it affects Jews but also when it affects blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, and others. For years, it was ably run by Abe Foxman.

    Now, controversy is swirling around his successor, Jonathan Greenblatt, who has deep roots in progressive politics and has steered the ADL in a radically different direction from Foxman.

    Writing the NY Post, Alex VanNess, levels serious criticism against Greenblatt’s leadership of the ADL. Under him, VanNess says, the ADL has devised school lesson plans that promote Black Lives Matter “despite BLM’s support for BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction against Israel) and open hostility toward Israel.”

    Greenblatt has thrown the ADL into the fight in favor of Obamacare, even though it has no clear relationship to his organization’s missions.

    He has supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), running to head the Democratic National Committee, as a “man of good character,” despite recordings of Ellison saying Israel and the Jews control US foreign policy.

    VanNess says Greenblatt won’t change and the ADL should toss him out.

    ◆ Is Turkey Still a Democracy, asks the International Business Times, as Pres. Erdogan seeks to expand his powers still further?

    Comment: The answer to IBT’s question contains only two letters.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Marcia Sukenik Weiss
     for the Anti-Defamation League story
    ◆ Belladonna Rogers for Clarice Feldman’s column


  • Giving back: Dak Prescott sets a great example

    ◆ One of the best things about this season is its emphasis on giving.

    That begins, of course, with gifts to family and friends. But, happily, it does not end there.

    America is filled with great charities that focus on the truly needy, whether they are poor, sick, hungry, lonely, or isolated.

    The best charities do that without spending too much on salaries or collecting donations and with close attention to what recipients need and what actually works.

    Our country benefits in many ways beyond the immediate help given to the needy and the good feelings of those in a position to help. We benefit because we come together voluntarily to give. In doing so, we fulfill our moral and civic responsibilities–and, in the process, create a dense, supportive network of social connections.

    dak-prescott1◆Celebrities and star athletes are in a special position: they can set an example for the rest of us. A prominent, positive example.

    One young man who has been doing so is Dallas Cowboys star quarterback, Dak Prescott. He did so when he starred at Mississippi State. And now, on a national stage, he is doing the same thing.

    NBC in Dallas-Fort Worth has this headline: Dak Spotted Shopping for Salvation Army/NBC 5 Angels. Here’s a picture of Dak and another of the Cowboys team at a Dallas children’s hospital, an annual tradition.


    Congratulations to Dak Prescott and a Cowboys team that knows the real meaning of “giving back.”

    ♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ David Wayne Henley
     for this story