Georgia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Savannah Morning News on the passing of former President George H.W. Bush:
President George H.W. Bush died Friday, and as is often the case with the death of a significant world leader, the public has spent the days since debating his epitaph.
Oddly, many seem ready to chisel his long-ago dismissal of “the vision thing” on his tombstone.
Bush made the reference during a 1987 magazine interview in answering a question about whether he could inspire people. He’d go on to win the presidential election a year later, so he obviously connected with a significant portion of the American populace — or at least more so than his opponent, Michael Dukakis.
Remembering Bush now, though, we realize his vision for America was both explicit and poignant. He outlined it during his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 1989.
“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”
Today, many find such a notion naive, even silly. “Kinder, gentler” is almost a joke in political circles, eliciting smirks, snorts and eye rolls. Power is something to be wielded, both within the federal bureaucracy and on the world stage.
Our “purpose today”? To win, no matter the arena.
Bush’s passing reminds us of leadership’s greater responsibilities.
Even as Bush is given a fond farewell, many Americans will remember Bush as much for his shortcomings as his accomplishments.
His re-election loss to Bill Clinton. His decision not to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein after U.S. forces liberated Kuwait in the first Gulf War. His breaking his “read my lips” tax vow.
Yet, let us take a moment to consider the legacy of “kinder, gentler.” He implemented that vision while in office, promoting democracy as the Iron Curtain fell and advocating for historically significant policy changes, such as the Clean Air Act, among our country’s first serious efforts at environmental reform, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Even his reneging on his tax pledge proved a prudent decision, at least in hindsight: The move was part of a compromise with Congressional Democrats to reduce the federal deficit and contributed to his successor, Clinton’s, ability to balance the budget.
Another U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, summed up Bush’s presidential legacy in a statement issued.
“His administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience,” Carter said. Bush “espoused a uniquely American volunteer spirit, fostering bipartisan support for citizen service and inspiring millions to embrace community volunteerism as a cherished responsibility.”
Bush lived his “kinder, gentler” mantra after leaving office.
He became a fierce advocate for volunteerism with his Points of Light Foundation. He supported numerous educational programs, including the literacy outreach championed by his wife, Barbara.
Bush is beloved at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was instrumental in the founding and long-term success of the Morehouse School of Medicine. Bush endowed a professorship, in the field of neuroscience, at Morehouse.
Bush also exhibited a remarkable graciousness late in life. Clinton recently said of Bush, “This man who’d I’d always liked and respected and run against, I literally came to love. He can virtually do no wrong in my eyes.”
Bush’s final random act of kindness was to insist that our sitting president, Donald Trump, attend his funeral service. The animosity between the Bush family and Trump are well chronicled, highlighted by Trump’s belittling of Bush’s son, Jeb, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump did not attend the funeral of Bush’s wife, Barbara, earlier this year and wasn’t invited to the public farewell of another Republican scion, John McCain. Trump’s wife, Melania, did visit both services to pay the family’s respects.
But Bush made it known he wanted Donald Trump at his service. Bush never gave up on his “vision thing.”
Neither should we. Bush continues to inspire us, even in death.
The Brunswick News on the dangers of e-cigarettes:
Everybody knows about the dangers that cigarettes pose on one’s body. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. That is more deaths than alcohol use, illegal drug use and motor vehicle accidents.
New ways have been devised to help people get their nicotine fits. E-cigarettes, devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that users can inhale, have become a popular trend in America, particularly among teens and young adults.
The misconception about e-cigarettes is that they are somehow better for you than cigarettes. According to a U.S. Surgeon General report released in 2016, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
E-cigarettes, like their namesake, contain nicotine. The dangerous substance has been making people addicted to cigarettes for years.
The fact that it is now available in liquid and aerosol form doesn’t make it any safer.
The harshest of nicotine’s side effects occur on younger people. The surgeon general said that youth and young adult brains are uniquely at risk from long-term, long-lasting effects of nicotine because they are still developing. Those issues include nicotine addiction, mood disorders and a permanent lowering of impulse control.
The aerosol from e-cigarettes are also incredibly dangerous. Along with nicotine, other chemicals like diacetyl, found in flavoring, have been linked to serious lung disease, according to the surgeon general.
Another chemical e-cigarettes could expose users to is benzene, an organic compound usually found in car exhaust and heavy metals. If you wouldn’t wrap your mouth around a car exhaust, you should probably stay away from a vape pen, too.
It’s important to educate children, teens and young adults on the dangers of vaping. Something that looks cool on TV or social media could have lasting effects on their bodies for the rest of their lives.
The Savannah Morning News on Hanukkah:
Time to celebrate the annual season of light and giving.
The Hanukkah story is a familiar to many. A band of rebels drives out their oppressors and regains control of the sacred temple. They find only a one-day supply of oil, needed to light the menorah and rededicate the temple. By a miracle, the oil lasts eight days.
The eight days of Hanukkah typically involve lighting a menorah in synagogues, in homes and in public squares to recall the miracle and to underscore the importance of faith.
Hanukkah follows the lunar Hebrew calendar, which means the dates vary from year to year. In 2018, the holiday ends Dec. 10. As it often does, Hanukkah falls before Christmas, which is, in many ways, also a celebration of light, faith and generosity.
In the wake of the fatal shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, which killed 11 and injured seven, it’s especially important to honor religious freedom in America and to condemn anti-Semitism around the world.
One important Jewish tradition that resonates at this time of year is tzedakah, the religious obligation to do what is right and just. Tzedakah typically takes the form of giving back to the community in a wide variety of ways.
In its highest expression, it is a gift, loan or partnership that will result in the recipient becoming self-sufficient. Gifts are often given anonymously and without fanfare.
However, the Jewish tradition of tzedakah involves more than just philanthropic donations. All observant Jews, even those of meager means, are expected to give for the betterment of the community and for the welfare of all.
Fortunately, charity is a value shared by all faiths around the world.
Buddhism teaches that the act of voluntary giving recognizes that all beings exist in interdependence. The connection of all things, combined with an awareness of the helplessness of those who are less fortunate, inspires compassion.
Jesus reminds his followers that we are all neighbors, even the stranger by the side of the road. He teaches that those who show charity and mercy obey God’s law.
An Islamic parable speaks of a voice commanding the clouds to rain on a man’s garden. In thanks for the rain, the man gives a third of his produce to the community, keeps a third for his family and plows the rest back to enrich the garden, so more abundance can be shared in the next season.
Giving back is a shared value and a high priority here in Savannah, which has always been a remarkably generous community.
During the holiday season, there are many different ways to “pay it forward” to help others in need and many charities that need our support. We hope you’ll choose to be an angel this holiday season and to offer your own selfless acts of tzedakah.
Every year, generous Savannahians make it possible to provide gifts for children who would otherwise have none, put extra food on the table and pay overdue utility bills. If you’ve been blessed in 2018, please take a moment to remember those who have been less fortunate.
The reasons for giving this holiday season are as varied as the people who make up our amazing coastal community. Regardless of your faith or your religious beliefs, we hope you will give back to help our neighbors who are experiencing hardship this holiday season.