Looking to Macron to Save the Day

Official campaigning for the European Parliamentary elections started on Monday, 13 May 2019 for elections throughout the European Union (including the UK) to take place on 23 to 26 May 2019. These elections happen every five years for a European Parliament that has become increasingly significant in determining the direction of the European Union. The unusual dynamics in this particular election cycle include the Brexit turmoil, the rising strength and signs of unity among the anti-European populist parties of the extreme right, and the possibility that the two main political alignments that have dominated the EU through their strength in the European Parliament might have become so weakened that they will no longer be the major players. That is why this particular election cycle is more important than ever in saving the day for progressivism and European-wide collaboration for democratic values and fundamental human rights.  And the key for that happens to be the potential for the elections to produce a very different, centrally-driven alignment of political interests, something that fits very well with the strategy being pursued by President Emmanuel Macron.  Continue reading “Looking to Macron to Save the Day”

The Interplay of Civil and Human Rights

On the occasion of my visit to the US in April, three powerfully moving experiences illustrated the marvel of the struggle to strengthen and refine the interplay of civil and human rights in the American culture that continues to give me hope that a democracy of inclusiveness is not lost there. They were disparate experiences – in Richmond, Atlanta and Washington, DC – but they all combined to renew my hope in the American culture – and in inclusiveness as a fundamental value of cultures generally.

First, I attended an event on 23 April 2019 to honor the second annual Barbara Johns Day in Virginia. She was a leading figure in the Brown v. Board of Education decision issued by the US Supreme Court in 1954, but the impact of what she did reverberated throughout the State of Virginia and the country at large over the decades that followed – and even today almost 70 years from the fateful 23 April of 1951 when she became that leading figure.

Second, I happened upon a new Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, where I was attending a regional conference for the White House Fellows program at the Carter Presidential Library and Center. The conference was great, but the Center was a revelation for the penetrating linkages between the civil rights movement and the global scope of human rights.

And third, I was back in the capital of Washington, DC where family visitors suggested a visit to something called the “Newseum”, a serendipitous venture into the history, current state and future dilemmas of the role that freedom of the press has to play in the promotion of those same civil and human rights.     Continue reading “The Interplay of Civil and Human Rights”

Searching for the Comte de Grasse in Yorktown, Virginia

 

The Comte de Grasse, the one born in 1722 with the given names of François Joseph Paul, was an admiral in the French navy prior to the French Revolution. In fact, this Admiral de Grasse (in French the “Amiral” de Grasse) was the commander of a French naval fleet that played an instrumental role in the victorious ending of the American Revolutionary War against the British. It is by happenstance that a statue in his memory, located in a somewhat isolated part of a plaza in the town of Grasse, France, where we live, has triggered an adventure in search of discovering how his role has been memorialized where it actually was played out – that is, in and around the Chesapeake Bay and the town of Yorktown in the State of Virginia. I recently had the opportunity to engage in this search, largely motivated by what one might do to memorialize  more respectable war heroes, like this one, in stark contrast to the disturbing array of the Confederate generals whose statues permeate that very same State, including the especially infamous Monument Avenue of the State’s capital of Richmond (to say nothing about the controversy over the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia).  

Continue reading “Searching for the Comte de Grasse in Yorktown, Virginia”

“Laicité” and Islam

French “laicité” has been around for over 100 years – or more. The current legal framework, dating from 1905, was inspired by a reaction to the Alfred Dreyfus affair that exposed the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the French military, Catholic Church and conservative political elites of the late nineteenth century. In this reflection, I share my thoughts about applying the idea of “absorptive” immigration (as opposed to “integrative” immigration) to the challenges of applying “laicité” today, involving a significantly more diverse population than existed back in 1905. Continue reading ““Laicité” and Islam”

Perfumerie and Parasols on International Women’s Day 2019 in Grasse, France

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March. This year’s theme was chosen to be “Balance for Better”.  As a feminist who has supported gender equality in various settings throughout my career, I have found it a useful segue into semi-retirement life to investigate how my local community chooses to celebrate this day. Last year, I was drawn to the artistic rendering of the day in the nearby village of Peymeinade, where I was deeply moved by the impressive exhibit of the paintings of three generations of women artists whose portraits captured the personalities of a representative sampling of women pioneers in history. (See my report of this event here, and a translation into French by the lead artist, Leila Zarif, here.)

This year, I was intrigued by a rather different event hosted by the Soroptimist Club of the Pays de Grasse on “Les Femmes en parfumérie”.  How timely that this colloquium would tackle the challenges and opportunities for women in the perfume industry – just when the Pays de Grasse has been blessed by the UNESCO designation of its unique heritage for perfume. As reported in my commentary about the role of past and future in the work of UNESCO (available here), this designation was only recently approved in November 2018 under the UNESCO convention for protecting intangible heritages around the world. Continue reading “Perfumerie and Parasols on International Women’s Day 2019 in Grasse, France”

Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US

Anti-Semitism seems so ridiculous that no one could rationally or even emotionally be attracted to it. And yet it has been described as “the longest hatred” stretching back, as the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism has pointed out, to long before the Christian era. Moses and the Sea of Galilee come to mind. Romans drove them out of Israel but also saw Jesus as a political threat. Why is it so entrenched? And what can we do about it? As an American living in France, I have been surprised that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is so strong in France, and it has led me to learn more about the circumstances both here and throughout Europe. Continue reading “Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US”

The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary

The “future of work” as a means of achieving and maintaining sustainable livelihoods for all is being called into question these days. Technological change is typically identified as the main culprit, but there are plenty of other candidates to blame – globalization, climate change, demographic trends, human migration, and yes, even trade liberalization, just to name the more obvious ones. In this year 2019 of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO), it is timely to reflect on what this means for the future of work – but also for the prospects of the ILO as the social pillar of our global architecture. The ILO, after all, was established in 1919 to mobilize the world’s capacity for sustainable livelihoods through a just and fair social order in the world of work. One hundred years later, the ILO is using this occasion to redefine its mission, including in the form of a “Centenary Declaration” on the future of work. Continue reading “The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary”

The Reach of the White House Fellowships

Experiences as a White House Fellow

The White House Fellowship has been operating as a one-year program at the highest levels of the executive branch since the 1960s. It is intended for individuals at mid-career to provide first-hand experiences on how American federal governance works in order to integrate a better understanding of the role of government into their continuing career development outside government. Candidates are selected on a non-partisan basis using three criteria – academic achievements, career successes and civic service impact. Katherine was invited to serve as a White House Fellow in 1979 and worked in the Carter Administration as a Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Others in her class worked with other agency heads or key White House offices. Continue reading “The Reach of the White House Fellowships”

Elective Politics and Long-Lasting People Networks

Experiences in Elective Politics

Katherine was elected for three terms in the North Carolina Senate as a member of the delegation representing Guilford County, including the Cities of High Point and Greensboro. She was the first woman to be elected to the State Senate from this district. She was in the forefront of bringing the women’s movement into the mainstream in American politics. Her success in the NC Senate also showed the importance of teamwork and community outreach.  Continue reading “Elective Politics and Long-Lasting People Networks”

The Role of Public Policy in the Corporate World

Experiences in the Corporate World

Katherine was recruited to join a subsidiary of AT&T just as the monopoly of the famous Bell System, otherwise known as AT&T, was breaking up. The court order mandated the formation of seven “Baby Bells” for the delivery of local phone services and one patchwork combination at the national level of the long distance business, the prestigious Bell Laboratories and a manufacturing entity known as Western Electric. The transition of this  combination from these three disparate parts of the old Bell System into a newly constituted AT&T was a strategic challenge – transitioning from a monopoly in control of its telecommunications products and services to a competitive business world while retaining an enlightened human resources policy.  When the dust settled, Katherine was working as a government relations executive for the entire (and new) AT&T in Washington, DC. Continue reading “The Role of Public Policy in the Corporate World”