Loss of My Father – A Man of Vision and Values // A RepostingJanuary 28, 2012
This blog originally appeared on June 21, 2009, Father’s Day. I am re-posting it in remembrance of my father who passed away peacefully early morning on January 25, 2012. Please also see my November 6, 2011 blog on http://www.aimeechristensen.com honoring my father’s ability to see ahead our current economic situation and make recommendations for righting our ship.
June 21, 2009
Today is both Father’s Day and the Summer Solstice. How wonderful is that, to connect a celebration of fathers to a celebration of seasons, of our planet’s natural cycles. My father taught me so much about caring for others and caring for nature, and loving the great redwoods and blue spruces and pines of our mountains of Northern California, and admiring the strength, loyalty and perseverance of the great wolves of Central Idaho, where we moved as I entered high school. He taught me about caring for those who have the fewest resources, who are most marginalized, and who need the most. He lectured me about unjust economic systems, about the dangers of unchecked corporate greed, and about fairness. And he taught me about hard work. Very hard work.
My father, Douglas Miley Christensen, is a self-made man, born into a very modest household in San Francisco, and joining the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force) in World War II — but then a bad eye operation took that dream away. So he became a builder, the hardest working, most efficient laborer who worked his way up, and actually talked his way into the Carpenter’s Union without the requisite training and time on the job. And he excelled. He started his own company, and began by building modest homes with a little extra style, quality, better siting on the land. He was inspired greatly by Frank Lloyd Wright, who came to Marin to build the Marin Civic Center, an amazing architectural beauty on a hillside among rolling golden Northern California hills.
Those rolling hills are still open space today because my dad worked with others to fight against greed and development. As a builder he served on the board of the Marin Conservation League, fighting strip malls and the filling in of wetlands, and stayed committed to building active and passive solar homes and small office buildings, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. As I grew up in the 1970s, I attended speeches about the threat of nuclear war by Dr. Helen Caldicott, mom and dad held organizing meetings on our interconnected world with “Beyond War”, we had solar on our home from the technology’s earliest days, and Barbara Boxer, then on the Marin Board of Supervisors, borrowed our solar energy books.
What I learned most from my dad was to fight for the underdog, to speak for those who cannot, and that a handshake deal is a deal. His passion for justice is even greater today, he yearns for better lives for all, and for the animals and plants with whom we share this planet, and for protection of the beautiful places. I am grateful that he continues to test me, to ask me the hard questions about my work, and yet he really is just wanting to make sure that I am happy. On this Father’s Day, I share with you today a letter my dad wrote to then-candidate Obama to give to him when we had the chance to meet him on August 17, 2008. The letter implored Senator Obama to see the similarities between 2008 and the time just before the Great Depression, and urges attention to those most in need, to call on all of us to serve. It moved me then and moves me now. And it is most appropriate this week as President Obama kicks off his “Summer of Service”.
My father handed the letter to Senator Obama and said, “I will turn 84 years old on the day we are going to elect you to be President. I have written a letter to you, about the inequalities and greed in our country and how similar I feel it is to the days just prior to the Great Depression, and I hope you will read it.” Perhaps making it the perfect moment, Senator Obama said, “I will definitely read it and learn from it, but what I really want to know is what I have to eat to look like you when I am 84.”
I am confident that there was no better response possible at that moment. Happy Father’s Day.
My Father’s Letter — and don’t miss the Editor’s Note at the bottom! –
FOR SENATOR BARACK OBAMA
This is the best of times, and the worst of times. The best of times because the people of our country are seeking a great leader to guide them to the future they want to know, that they deserve to know. A future based on national equality, with a system of fairness toward all.
The worst of times in my life’s memory was the summer of 1932. The ruling elites’ excesses had led our nation to the inevitable financial meltdown in October 1929. By the summer of 1932 the United States was approaching financial bankruptcy. The Hoover administration had miserably failed to take any meaningful steps to address the national crisis. National unemployment exceeded 20% and was continuing to rise.
During that summer of 1932 a new leader came forth, a leader who came from the privileged class of that time, but who was driven by his compassion for and commitment to those masses suffering the most from the excesses of the powerful ruling minority in our nation. Franklin Roosevelt was committed to bring major change to the ways in which the national economic and social systems of our country addressed the needs of the American people.
From his first inaugural address forward, President Roosevelt broke new ground to advance the rights of America’s working people. Because of his National Recovery Act people were put back to work at a livable wage, and a general sense of hope for possible recovery began to be felt in the country. Sadly, and wrongly, as was widely believed, the arch-conservative Supreme Court soon ruled that the Act was unconstitutional.
F.D.R., as the President soon came to be known, continued to work for the people’s needs, passing two high-employment acts by the Congress, the P.W.A and the W.P.A. Millions were put to work with this legislation. To further employment of young men, F.D.R. proposed and the Congress passed the law creating the C.C.C. , essentially an environmental law, long before protecting our natural assets became the priority it is today.
To acknowledge workers’ rights, F.D.R. strongly supported passage of the National Labor Relations Act. This law required, for the first time in U.S. history, that employers meet with workers and workers’ unions to negotiate wages and working conditions.
Social legislation was made law under F.D.R. with passage of the Social Security Act, which ensured that all citizens would receive income upon retirement.
President Roosevelt today is recognized as the leader who raised our nation from its state of financial and social failure, and isolationist policies, to achieve, under his leadership, worldwide respect and admiration for the United States. Some presidential historians have ranked his Presidency as second only to that of President Lincoln.
This summer of 2008 our nation faces a state of being not remarkably less threatening than that which prevailed in 1932. The Bush administration has consistently violated the constitutional rights of our nation’s people; internationally the Bush administration has earned for our country the disrespect, even the repudiation, from other nations, many of them heretofore long-time friends and/or allies. Our national economy is in a shambles, with President Bush acting as helplessly as did Herbert Hoover, 76 years ago.
Today our country lacks a comprehensive, single payer universal healthcare system, such as is in place for the people of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The citizens of the United States deserve no less. The present system is wholly inadequate, unfair and serves primarily to assure the profits to the insurance industry, much to the detriment of our nation’s people.
Our education system is dysfunctional, crying out for answers to the needs of our children for change. New and enlightened national leadership is essential.
Now comes a leader for our time, Barack Obama, a man with a vision of change, a broad and comprehensive change that will bring the strength of our nation to all its people, too many of whom have been disregarded for far too long. We must remember President Lincoln’s words (paraphrased):
When the government fails to serve the people’s interests, it is the obligation of the people to remove that government and install a government that serves the nation’s people such as to earn their consent to be governed.
Senator Obama is bringing to all American people an important and bold message that embodies the full strength of his commitment to our country, now and for the future. The boldness and conviction of his message are essential for the people to hear, understand, accept and believe, given Barack Obama’s depth of commitment to their needs.
This is a time for all of us to be called on to be part of something greater than ourselves. We must together take our country, and by example, the world, to a more equitable, honorable place. Mahatma Ghandi told us that societies are judged by how they treat those with the least, and as we look at the aftermath of Katrina, at what happens every day in some of our urban communities, and at the foreclosures of homes and farms happening across the country, we see we are losing whole cultures and ways of life –
ALL WRONG, TERRIBLY WRONG.
There are no throwaway people: if we truly believe those words, Senator Obama, you and we must provide for those in need. During World War II, our leaders called on each of us to reduce our individual needs and desires by consuming less, and our leaders overhauled entire industries to support the needs of our nation as a whole. It is now long past time for all of us to give of ourselves to a greater good, for our country, and for our planet. Call on us for service, Senator Obama; we will stand up and join you.