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As I See It… This week we are making my column available Wednesday instead of Friday.
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
December 5 , 2007
Today, a Christmas season smorgasbord of comments on a variety of news - - some of it good, some of it not so good.
Among the recent good news developments: Bo Pelini’s appointment as head football coach for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Pelini brings good credentials to his first head coaching job, including a strong record as a defensive coach at Nebraska, Oklahoma and LSU. He brings also an intensity and emotional fire which have not been enough in evidence on the Husker sideline.
Importantly, Pelini made clear his understanding of the emotional investment which Nebraskans and former Nebraskans have in the Husker football team (an over-investment, some would say).
I should not leave the subject of Husker football without noting that certainly another piece of good news has been the way that former coach Tom Osborne has handled Bill Callahan’s dismissal and Pelini’s hiring.
Osborne moved promptly and decisively and deserves great credit for accepting University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s invitation to take over as acting athletic director. (Another example, one might add, of Perlman’s Teflon-coated avoidance of major public criticism for hiring Steve Pederson as athletic director, then firing him after giving him a contract extension, and then approving Callahan’s firing after approving a five-year contract extension earlier in the season.)
Also definite good news to me - - although badly spoiled fans who enjoyed figuratively dancing on Steve Pederson’s grave will probably disagree - - was the word that Pederson was rehired as athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. It was from the Pittsburgh job which Pederson resigned to accept appointment as Nebraska athletic director five years ago.
In one of the toughest jobs in a football-crazed state, Pederson made some calls understandably subject to some second-guessing. But his standards were high, and he left the Huskers with one of the finest football facilities in the nation. His leadership ability and integrity seemed to me to be vindicated by the fact that the University of Pittsburgh quickly called him back when he became available again.
Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg commented: “For six exciting years, Steve Pederson led the University of Pittsburgh for a period of unprecedented progress. I’m very pleased that he is returning.”
Then there was a news item which had a “good news” tone to it if you read only the headline and first two paragraphs. The headline read: “English grows each generation.” The first two paragraphs said: “Just like previous immigrant groups, Hispanic immigrants in the United States speak little English in the first generation, but English dominates in the lives of the second generation and Spanish fades in the third, according to results of a study released Thursday.”
But read on: Immigrants from Mexico, who comprise an estimated 64% of the United States Hispanic population, “are the slowest to adopt English in succeeding generations.”
I don’t think the Pew Hispanic Center, which conducted the survey, needs to look very hard for the reason for the slow language integration rate of Mexican immigrants. Never before in American history has there been anything approaching the ease with which an immigrant group can enter this country illegally by the millions, find employment here and return periodically - - the Yuletide season traffic is particularly heavy, I have read - - to the adjoining country which they still consider their homeland.
The result is that in many American communities (South Omaha is certainly an example), enclaves exist which can offer a better way of life, better social services and countless opportunities for Mexicans to find employment in or outside that cultural enclave. The result is an environment in which Mexican immigrants can live better than in their homeland, enjoy their traditional food and national festivals and never have to learn to speak English. Indeed, the linguistic shoe is on the other foot in many cases. Americans, in governmental services particularly, are expected to learn to speak Spanish.
One of the facets of this first-in-our-history immigration problem is that in some cases, the immigrants seek special consideration, escaping requirements which apply to American citizens.
One example, of course, is the push to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants - - a movement which isn’t going anywhere, incidentally, probably because of widespread opposition. Another example - - a cruel example - - is currently in the news in Omaha.
The Nebraska Humane Society, saying there’s nothing sporting about tripping a horse or twisting a steer’s tail, has moved against several Omaha residents, all of Mexican ancestry, who have been sponsoring Mexican-style rodeos in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
Armando Pliego of Omaha says that tripping a horse or twisting a steer’s tail are time-honored rodeo events in Mexico (let me repeat, for emphasis, time-honored events in Mexico).
Pliego is treasurer of Charros La Amistad, an Omaha-based rodeo club. He and several others were cited by the Humane Society for suspected animal cruelty. Five horses were confiscated. Pliego said, among other things, “It’s my culture. We are Mexicans. And we are not blind in how to take care of a horse, how to keep the horse healthy.”
The key words here, it seems to me, were these: “We are Mexicans.”
Senor Pliego should be aware that he and his fellow cowboys may be Mexicans, but they are living in the United States of America.
Back to the good news category:
Good news indeed is the announcement that the Omaha Parks Department has proposed that a 175-acre park at the northwest corner of 192nd Street and West Dodge Road be named for Lawrence Youngman, one of the best journalists and finest gentlemen I came to know during my career with The World-Herald.
I still recall the kindness with which Lawrence, a veteran World-Herald reporter whose journalistic record included a stint in Europe as a war correspondent, welcomed me to The World-Herald news staff as a young reporter in 1946.
After 17 years with The World-Herald, Lawrence left to be one of the founders of Travel and Transport, which has since grown to be the fifth largest travel agency in the United States.
After his World-Herald career, Lawrence’s compassionate interest in people continued to be evident. As he prospered, he became a generous contributor to the development of the Omaha parks system in various ways. And he served in a variety of civic roles, including as chairman of the Omaha Airport Commission, predecessor to the Omaha Airport Authority. Lawrence’s daughter, Judy Wigton, has agreed to continue the family tradition of public service by donating $500,000 to help develop the new park.
How appropriate it is that Lawrence Youngman’s dedication to service to others will be remembered in a park which will be enjoyed by residents of this great Midlands area for generations to come.
Moving on to the not-so-good-news category:
It’s disturbing to me when candidates to be president of the United States let their political ambitions carry them to what I consider irresponsible if not simply ludicrous campaign appeals.
Consider Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, an ordained Baptist minister and a former television evangelist. He is appealing to the religious right with, for one example, a statement that his environmental policy is very simple: We are all living in “God’s house” so we should be good guests and not abuse the house which God has allowed us to occupy.
This, it seems to me, is about as close as you can get to preaching that the United States should consider itself a religion-based theocracy, not a democracy, and the ground rules for life in that theocracy start with the Book of Genesis. In 2008 A.D., after centuries of supposed “enlightenment,” I find it disturbing that a presidential candidate can be taken seriously running on this kind of platform.
On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama seems to me to be standing common sense on its head by such claims as: (1) His qualifications for handling foreign policy as president of the United States include the four years he spent as a youth growing up in Islamic Indonesia and (2) he can represent women’s special interests because he was raised by a divorced mother.
I’ve been following presidential politics closely for almost 65 years, and I can’t recall a candidate so pantingly eager to be president as the first-term senator from Illinois.
Incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether Oprah Winfrey’s coming into Iowa to campaign actively for Obama will be a long-term benefit to his candidacy. If he wants to become known primarily for aspiring to be the first black president, Oprah’s enthusiastic endorsement can certainly help him earn that reputation. Whether this would help him in the long run is another question.
I think Doc Sadler, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln basketball coach, would do well to turn down the suggestion that every year’s basketball season should include a home-and-home arrangement for two games between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Creighton Bluejays.
After Creighton, as predicted, won the ninth in the past 12 meetings with Nebraska, Creighton Coach Dana Altman suggested that the Jays and Huskers play again this season (and, presumably, every season). Altman said: “As competitive as Doc is, I’m sure he’d like another opportunity six weeks from now.” I think it’s fair to say that Altman would like a chance to, predictably, make it ten out of 13 Bluejay wins.
It seems to me there is some evidence that the annual game already is emotional enough without adding the potential for something beyond healthy competition between the Jays and the Huskers. “You could see he had that fire in his eyes all week,” CU’s Nick Bahe, a senior from Lincoln, said of Altman’s attitude before the recent Jays/Husker game.
* * *
I didn’t know whether to be amused or disturbed when I read of some of the uses to which Nebraska’s Rural Development Office is dedicating $710,000 in federal grants for economic development efforts in rural areas.
The Southeast Nebraska Development District in Lincoln was given $43,000 to hire a full-time loan packager for a 15-county area to provide technical assistance to small and emerging private business enterprises in applying for federal and state funding. To me that sounds very much like allocating federal funding to teach people to apply for more federal funding.
Then there was the $99,000 grant to the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons to help expand its MarketPlace program to boost Latino-owned business development. I was not previously aware of a need for developing Latino-owned businesses in rural Nebraska. Will there be any consideration given to a requirement that the Latinos to be aided must be legal residents?
* * *
A number of people have been kind enough to send good wishes by telephone calls or flowers after they learned of my recent surgery to repair a badly torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder. (The injury resulted from a fall at Eppley Airfield as I wrestled a piece of luggage into my Jeep, bouncing my head off the tailgate in the process and falling onto my shoulder on the sidewalk.)
My favorite is a balloon and floral arrangement from an associate at infoUSA.
The flowers were in a cup which carried a painting of a chicken which expressed this message: “Get well. Eat veggie soup.”
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