The Wright Brothers

David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is a fascinating biography. It tells the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio and how they were able to fly. They were the owners of Wright Bicycle Company that were used to finance their endeavors. Their initial attempts with gliders led them to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina where they were first successful. Their first flight was on December 17, 1903 when the Wright Flyer took off with Orville at the controls.

After a number of experiments the Wrights returned to Ohio to work on developing a practical airplane. They continued tests at Huffman Prairie where on September 29, 1905 Orville flew 12 miles in 20 minutes. Wilbur flew 24 miles in 39 minutes. During these rather demanding times Wilbur and Orville were eagerly supported by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, and their sister Katharine.

Initially, they made attempts to interest the war department in their experiments but to no avail. But foreign nations notably France and Germany were eager to have them demonstrate their invention. This led Wilbur to visit France where he flew their plane at Le Mans on August 8, 1908. Flights were later made at Pau, in Germany, and Rome before thousands of adoring spectators.

While in Europe, the war department began to show an interest in the Wright’s plane with all the positive news in the national and international press. Orrville therefore was able to do successful demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 17, 1908. In one of these demonstrations Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge, who was a passenger with Orville was killed in the plane crash. Orville was badly injured, and took several months to recover.

Flights resumed on Governors Island in New York. Wilbur flew up the Hudson River, and caused a sensation by circling the Statute of Liberty, symbol of the friendship of France and of welcome to America. The Wrights later years were taken up with lawsuits over patent rights that worn out Wilbur, who died of typhoid fever on May 30, 1912. Orville carried on the Wright business ventures with further research. He died of a heart attack on January 30, 1948,

Numerous Wright monuments were erected, one dedicated to Wilbur at Le Mans. The largest Wright memorial is at Kitty Hawk at Kill Devil Hills. There is also a memorial on Wright Brothers Hill overlooking Huffman Prairie, and an aircraft carrier, USS Wright bears their name.         

Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was filled with essential bits of information. How did Hush Puppies become popular? Why did Paul Revere’s ride become of historical importance in the American colonies? How did crime decrease in New York City in the 1990s? Why was there a problem with the suicide epidemic in Micronesia? What accounted for the success of Sesame Street? And why was it that smoking was such a problem among American youths?

Gladwell showed how connectors, mavens, and salesmen were able to play a major role in these developments. But before that could happen, he felt that word-of-mouth had to play an important part. This was when information passed from one individual to others had to reach a critical mass. This phenomenon the author likened to an epidemic that people usually think about when talking about diseases. However, he saw literal analogies when referring to how social causes, advertisements, and movements would begin to catch afire.

Gladwell argued that it only would take a well-positioned connector like Paul Revere to spread the news about the British invasion. A maven was knowledgeable and keen on providing advice to consumers who knew him. Many of these notable individuals were specialists of many sorts. Then, it would take a salesman who was usually an opinion leader to influence customers to buy a product, or to follow his recommendations. The author also discussed what was the optimum size of a company for it to work efficiently. Its workforce had to be no more than 150 strong. If it became larger than this number it would be time to start a new branch.     

Independence Day

July 4th is an auspicious federal holiday.

It’s unlike other holidays.

For the American Colonies were no longer subject to British rule.

This national day is a time for celebration.

Independence Day ushered in America’s freedoms.

So, let’s commemorate this day of deliverance.

Let’s fall on our knees in devotion to Almighty God.

And mark our nation’s birth with pomp and parades.

Let fireworks explode and decorate the evening sky.

Americans celebrate with carnivals, fairs, and games.

It’s time for reunions, ceremonies, and public events.

Independence Day began when the Second Continental Congress

Voted to approve the resolution for Independence proposed

By Richard Henry Lee of Virginia

Declaring the United States independent from Great Britain

From that time on its celebration

Was marked by gun-salutes, speeches, music, and prayers

“God has continued to guide our nation.  Let’s glorify this achievement.  And let America’s universal goal perpetuate freedom for all – young, old, male, female, religious, and non-religious with equanimity for all peoples including LGBTQ+.  Regardless of their creed, color, national origin and beliefs, let America be a beacon of hope to the world.”

Amen

Recycling

Recycling creates jobs.

Its economic returns are well documented.

About 24,000 people work in recycling

That generates some 13-billion dollars annually.

There are many benefits in processing these materials –

Including alumina, plastic, and soft drink containers,

Steel cans, detergent bottles, newspapers, and trash bags,

So, consumers help when they purchase such items.

These materials could be collected, processed

And manufactured into a variety of new products.

But consumers should buy the right kind recyclables,

And they could have these materials collected

At curbsides, drop-off centers, or refund centers.

Remember recycling reduces the amount of waste to landfills.

It helps conserve natural, and valuable resources, and saves energy.

Above all, it creates jobs from which many workers benefit.

Recyclables cost go up, and come down depending on supply,

And recovery facilities sort these products for manufacturing.

“God, help us recycle our products.  Guide consumers to care for the environment, and in providing jobs for people.”

Amen

Juneteenth Freedom Day

Activists have succeeded in pushing Congress

To recognize June 19th as a national holiday

On June 19th, 1865 General Robert Granger

Issued a proclamation notifying black slaves

In Texas they were free.

This “Juneteenth Jamboree” grew in stature

And in many states it has become mainstream.

The Anacostia Museum of the Smithsonian Institution

Has had an exhibition about Juneteenth.

Reading of the works of African American novelists

Like Ralph Ellison, and Maya Angelou are popular.

Singing of traditional songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”

And “Lift Every Voice and Sing” are sung at such gatherings.

Celebrations on “Jubilee Day” are picnics, rodeos, and cookouts.

Families celebrate reunions, park parties,

Attend blues festivals,

And there’s a Miss Juneteenth contest.

But revelers never forget to have a Strawberry soda –

The drink associated with these festivities.

And, for the more serious minded,

There are lectures, exhibitions of African American culture

Accompanied by a voter registration drive.

To top it all, everyone should be part of a barbecue cookout,

The centerpiece of most Juneteenth celebrations.

“God, on this day of remembrance bless these Juneteenth festivities when African Americans began their fruits of freedom.”    

Car Trips

People like going on trips.

They like travelling in their cars,

And going to different places.

But they have to do so safely,

That’s why it’s wise to wear a seatbelt.

It doesn’t make sense risking your life

When you drive in areas that aren’t safe.

That’s why it’s best to know about your destination.

Often, this could be a problem in some cities.

Drivers could be caught up in rush hour traffic.

It could be dreadlock trying to navigate your car.

Is your vehicle in good working condition?

Are you familiar with the area where you’re driving?

These questions are important for a driver’s safety.

A number of other questions come to mind.

What would you do if you have a flat?

Do you have roadside service?

Is the area safe if you’re stranded?

That’s why before venturing out do your homework.

Make sure you have a smart phone for emergencies.

Safety matters the most when you’re driving.

So, it’s good to obey the speed limit.

Drive with lights when it’s overcast,

And always be sure you have enough gas.

These are the responsibilities of a good driver.

“God, help us to make trips safely.  Be with us and let us be cognizant that we ought to take all necessary precautions when driving.”

Amen

Save the Pangolin

The pangolin is an endangered specie.

Eight of these species

Are protected under international law.

Still, they are hunted for medicinal properties.

This creature is prized in Asia

Although there isn’t any evidence

That this scaly mammalian has properties

Beneficial to human health.

But what could conservationists do?

They should help save this bizarre little creature.

So, it doesn’t disappear from the environment,

For man-made threats are causing mass extinctions.

Efforts are made at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife –

A conservation reservation program

Inside the Cuc Phuong National Park.

To save the world’s most traffic mammal,

The Vietnamese government has decided

To crack down on this illegal wildlife trade.

Researchers also found in Thailand

That 36 percent of all reptile species

Are often traded on the Internet.

About 90 percent were caught in the wild.

“God, help conservationists’ programs to safeguard the world’s biodiversity.  Guide them in their efforts to save creatures like the pangolin.”

Amen

Symbolism of Fire

Fire is an emblem of divinity, political, and social unity.

For millions of years our ancestors kept warm with fire.

It protected them from being attacked by wild animals,

Served as a meeting place for tribal communities,

Where religious rites like chanting, and telling stories were performed.

Most importantly, after a hunt hunters cooked their meals with fire.

Ancient traditions glorify fire.

In the Hindu tradition the goddess Shiva –

Destroyer, transformer, maintainer, and preserver is depicted as dancing in a circle of fire.

The Book of Exodus described Moses’s encounter with a burning bush.

Classical Greek mythology showed how Promethus –

The champion of mankind stole fire from the gods to give to humans.

And Acts of the Apostles reminded Christian believers

How the Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples as flames of fire.

In ancient Persia and Rome fire played a prominent role.

The Zoroastrian religion made use of fire, and clean water to represent ritual purity,

While priests tended the eternal fires on fire-altars.

In the Roman religion Vestal was the Roman goddess of the hearth,

Who was the protectorate, and were served by chaste Vestal Virgins.

Today, Paris burns a flame of national significance.

It’s known as The Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe.

John F. Kennedy’s Eternal Flame symbolizes eternal life,

While the flame at the War Memorial

Shows Americans’ profound gratitude towards the remembrance

Of our dead service men and women.

“God, help us to understand more fully the symbolism of fire.  Let us be always cognizant of the good things it signifies.”

Amen

Peacemaking

Peacemaking is more than winning wars.

A peacemaker isn’t a nation’s warrior.

He or she should strive without conflicts.

This person should love their country,

And has its interests at heart.

Peace often calls for patience.

It’s an ability to negotiate sensibly.

A peacemaker has to be able to compromise.

This should be the goal of every ambassador.

Building bridges to people and nations

Should be a silver lining that a negotiator should pursue.

This is what rulers try to accomplish.

But few of them will succeed if this isn’t done wisely.

An ambassador will do anything to seek a lasting peace.

Christian leaders will remember the admonition –

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

They view their subjects as children of God.

Such rulers will be judges among nations.

And they are the arbitrators of warring states.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And used their spears as pruning hooks.

People shall learn war no more.

And their neighbors will live in peace.

“God, help warring nations seek peace and understanding.  Guide their rulers as they negotiate so that they will have a lasting peace.”

Amen

The Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was author of this prayer.

Since its inception in 1943,

The prayer has had an interesting history.

It was hijacked in Germany,

The country where Niebuhr’s parents were born

Before settling in the United States.

Niebuhr’s life was as a preacher, writer, professor,

And ambassador to European countries

Especially Germany and England.

He met with the World Council of Churches,

And shared his thoughts on ecumenical ventures

Of various denominations – Episcopalian, Methodist,

Congregationalist, Reformed, and Evangelical Lutherans.

For 40 years Niebuhr has been prolific.

At the Union Theological Seminary in New York

He ruffled feathers with his opposition to American neutrality

During World War Ⅱ, beliefs in racial equality,

And outreach to the poor in the ghettos.

Niebuhr served as a guest on panels, and was welcomed internationally.

On the lecture circuit he was known for his correspondence

With Church leaders, and lived to see Europe liberated.

The serenity prayer captured life’s vicissitudes.

He did an amazing job in responding to the challenges of his era.

“Loving God, you have blessed mankind with the loving spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr.  Grant that his legacy will live on as people utter the serenity prayer known worldwide through the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and its many renditions on postcards, placemats, and souvenirs.”

Amen