This month, the author channels old-time Sunday newspaper notes
Congratulations to the Vanderbilt women’s bowling team on its national championship, the second NCAA title for the team since 2007 and Vanderbilt’s fourth national championship in that same time span, including baseball in 2014 and women’s tennis in 2015. Consider that over that same period between the bowling titles, only five Southeaster Conference schools won more national championships than Vanderbilt’s four. As a relatively small athletic department, offering only 16 sports (Stanford offers 37), the four championships are even more impressive. Among schools nationally with less than 20 sports, only the University of Denver, which has a dominant skiing program, won more national championships since 2007 than Vanderbilt.
Congratulations to Amanda Smithfield of Hume-Fogg High School, named Metro’s High School Librarian of the Year, and Amanda Tucker-Dye of McKissack Middle, MNPS Middle School Librarian of the Year. Over the last year I’ve had a chance to visit schools all over the country, discussing the Young Readers adaptation of Strong Inside, and I have been consistently impressed with the school libraries I’ve seen and the librarians I’ve met — these are not the dusty, quiet and impersonal spaces many of us remember from our youth. Sadly, school libraries and certified librarian positions are under budget threats in many districts. Not only is reading the fundamental building block of any child’s education, libraries are where many students feel most comfortable and valued. This is where they pursue their own interests, discover new worlds beyond their own circumstances and are inspired by real-life heroes. School libraries — and librarians — deserve our support.
If you’re over age 50, have you heard of the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Vanderbilt? These classes, taught by university professors and other experts, are open to anyone in the community and typically cost just $40 for six once-a-week courses. Full scholarships are also available to anyone in need. This summer, classes will be offered on a range of topics, including the history of Fisk University, African American music, Art Appreciation, Nutrition & Wellness, Spanish Cuisine and much more. For more information or to register, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/olli or call Norma Clippard at 615-322-5569.
Speaking at the NRA Convention in Dallas, Vice President Pence repeated the oft-quoted line that the “quickest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Must not have heard of Nashville’s Waffle House hero, James Shaw, Jr.
Also at the NRA convention, President Trump repeated his attacks on what he calls “fake news.” It’s amazing to me the number of people who are buying into his transparent strategy to disparage the media in an attempt to deflect its coverage of his lies and misdeeds. A recent Washington Post analysis showed that Trump made false or misleading claims 3,001 times in his first 466 days in office, an average of 6.5 per day. Yet in a new poll by Quinnipiac University, more than half of Republicans said the news media is “an enemy of the people,” while only 37 percent said it is “an important part of democracy.” As former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said in response: “A party that views the free press as ‘the enemy of the people’ is a party that has surrendered the people’s power to leaders who wish to be unaccountable to them.”
In covering Trump’s NRA speech, Chris Cillizza of CNN noted the “40 Most Breathtaking Lines,” making light of Trump’s many non-sequiturs, false statements, and just plain un-Presidential meanderings. It’s tempting to believe reasonable people will come to their senses and dump a delusional president. But in the research I’m doing for my next book, which takes place in the pre-war days of Nazi Germany, I’ve run across two quotes that keep coming back to me. In a New York Times feature in 1934, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels explained why he was unconcerned with the beauty — or truthfulness — of Nazi speech. “Our unprecedented successes are in large part due to the fact that we are virtuosi in the modern way of influencing the masses,” he said. “The worth of propaganda cannot be judged by esthetic standards but only by reference to the results. Propaganda is a means to an end. If that end is attained, the means are good. Whether they satisfy exigent esthetic requirements is immaterial.” And in his Nobel Prize remarks, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel cautioned that it’s naïve to expect those who are on the wrong side of justice or democracy to recognize and atone for the error of their ways. “Those who were silent yesterday,” he said, “will be silent tomorrow.” It’s not good enough to believe Trump is a liar or fool or a threat to democracy and to be content with our own “wisdom.” We must relentlessly fill the silence.
Andrew Maraniss is the author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South, and a contributor to ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com. Follow him on Twitter @trublu24.