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Considering Philanthropy

Considering PhilanthrophyThe following was originally published in the November/December 2013 issue of Hagerstown Magazine. My hope is that during this time of reflective giving we call Christmas folks might think a little deeper,  dig a little deeper to help those less fortunate.   Merry Christmas …”And God Bless Us Everyone” Tiny Tim

Giving is about time … the gift of time… our most valuable asset and when we give it away to a cause that resonates with our soul …that’s philanthropy. Wikipedia is seldom viewed as an authoritative source on anything. However, I do like the way a definition of philanthropy has been developed on the site. It speaks to a “love of humanity”.  Loving our BFF or someone we have not yet met and perhaps never will.  Philanthropy is taking care of folks.  It is caring for them and the things that are important to them. It is a nourishing activity that enhances the sense of humanity in both the giver (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and the receiver (by benefitting). Succinctly phrased as “private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life”. I am often moved, that point at which chills form upon hearing of a simple act of kindness that touches us to the core of our being. I recently related to a friend who had taken her daughter to college the day before, and as you might guess sad to see her go, about being at the College World Series of Women’s Softball in Oklahoma City. My friends’ daughter is a softball player beginning her first year of college ball. I mentioned that at the World Series game I attended an Oklahoma University hit player it a real slam of a homerun “well into the cheap seats” and then about 5 minutes later an usher brought the player’s mother the ball.  A simple act of kindness that means so very much to us moms. Just sharing the story and a hug might be viewed as philanthropy. Too often though our time is just not the right gift to “get it done”; we lack the skills and experience to craft the needed outcome. So, money is the next best philanthropic gift. Financial resources can purchase those skills, experience level and necessary goods we cannot personal provide. We are called to go out into the world with the strength and courage to serve with gladness and singleness of heart. Sometimes I ponder upon thoughts of have I done enough?  Have I loved humanity enough? Connected all the dots to take down a barriers for people. Written that extra check, shared the blessings I’ve received.  We never know if we have done enough because there is so much to be done. What we can do is be ever mindful of the needs of others. One day you might buy someone a cup of coffee at just the right time in a day gone wrong. Another day you write the check that pays for a mammogram that saves a life. What I am confident of is that giving is what we do here in Washington County and I am honored to call this giving place home.

Challenge: Working with the news media



Like communication in general, working with the news media, is our most difficult task. For elected officials the task often becomes exponentially more challenging. The First amendment protects free speech and a free press because the people have a right to know the truth and all the facts. I recently had a grand day visiting the Newseum in Washington DC. I learned just how hard journalist, dedicated to a free press, work in an unbaised manner to ensure the people get as much information as possible.

At the link is some great information about working with the press. One item seems particularly pertinante today.

  • Many newspapers are open to ideas for editorial comment. Seek to visit editors and editorial boards. Get them useful facts, state your position, and ask them to consider writing an editorial. But don’t write an editorial for them (unless you prefer that your piece run as a “letter to the editor.”)

Below is an e-mail to our local paper which illustrates such effort to ‘get to know’ the journalist and foster a coopreative spirit, Hope it works !!!!

From: Callaham, Ruth A.

Sent: Thursday, March 07, 2013 3:23 PM

To: Linda Duffield

Cc: &Public Relations

Subject: Unemployment Rate Reports

 Linda …Thanks again for the great meeting with the Editorial Board a few weeks ago.  You folks were very kind to offer candid dialog concerning topics of interest in our County.  What follows is perhaps too much information about providing a timely response to questions about the unemployment rate reports. The goal is to agree on the range of employment factors to review routinely and indicate what action if any is warranted. Hmmmm….not sure how that becomes an article of interest to the readers. But at least the County might plan in advance of the reporter’s call and be ready with meaningful comment.

 Anticipating the unemployment rate to be reported for Jan ’13 on Mar 22nd and Feb ’13 on Apr 5th per the link,as well as the March 26th public hearing on a change in the excise tax there are many things that come to mind. It really is all about jobs right now. Jobs for WashingtonCounty residents to the greatest extent possible. However, the regional look as provided at is helpful aswell. That regional look for the Hagerstown – Martinsburg Metro area shows average unemployment at a low of 4.1 in 2007, a high of 10.0 in 2010 and 7.9 in 2012. A look at the Workforce Dashboard for WashingtonCounty at is also helpful. It validates things we already thought we knew such as gender, education level and trends of benefits claims.

At the link  is

some great information about the Western Maryland WIA (workforce investment area). The report categorizes job openings on Jan 30, 2013 based upon employer, industry and occupation. Some analysis is required to determine how well the job openings match the demographics of the unemployed. In our county right now the unemployed folks are for the most part, male – 35-45 yrs old- experienced in the construction trades and have only a high school education. The job openings seem to require a different set of skills.  We also realize that whatever job may open in WashingtonCounty could be filled by an individual from somewhere else in region. In that same context if a major employer to the east or west of our county closes then the unemployment rate for Washington County has the opportunity to increase.

The question then becomes what is the true meaning of the unemployment rate benchmark? The answer is that is nothing more than that, a benchmark with some relevance to our County residents. Will lowering the Excise Tax to stimulate the construction industry help? Sure. Will it solve the problem? No. We need to continue a significant level effort in a variety of areas.

A small tick in the unemployment rate + or – 0.5 points could just indicate that an employer ‘down the road’ expanded operations or closed. A large tick of some value would draw attention and we need to find out the facts and most likely keep doing what we are doing. A really large monthly tick might indicate some greater/quicker action.

Copied on this note is our Pubic Relations/Community Affairs Team as well as the Assistant County Administrator.  I am confident that with all of us working together a great process to fulfill the expectations of everyone can be crafted.

Thanks a lot and I look forward to talking with you again soon.

best wishes

ruth anne

Ruth Anne Callaham 

WashingtonCountyBoard of CountyCommissioners

(office) 240-313-2209

(home) 301-393-4466<>

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Jill Jackson Miller

Making Sense: Congress placed on track with Federal workers


Well folks it seems that we have in fact gone over the draconian fiscal cliff together today. The reality is that I don’t feel any different – yet.  Having worked in the federal government and retired after 23 years, experienced fiscal program cuts, budget gap furloughs, as well as  base closure I know the actual impact is weeks or months down the road.  And I have confidence that the powers that be, will in fact, find a patch for the fiscal leaks. The result being a  slight move forward knowing a lot more than we do now about how to manage our national money.

Ok you caught me. My unabashed “Pollyanna” outlook is showing. There is always something good in everything bad. I found the fiscal cliff good in the March 2013 issue of the  National Active & Retired Federal Employee publication. As of the 113th Congress new members’ retirement benefits will be less generous and they will have to contribute more to fund those benefits.  Wait there’s more: by 2014 it seems all members of Congress and their staff will move from Government based health care plans to state based health insurance exchanges.

The specifics of this good news are in the article above [click on it a couple of times and it should open into a window with large print].  What struck me was that the changes were put into law as a result of a February 22, 2012 budget deal. Dare we hope that the drastic nature of the fiscal cliff will bring us budget deals and improvements of greater magnitude?

If that is the case, then bring it on! We are a nation of smart people that adapt readily. Just plan for a fiscal cliff  jump off every 60 days; gather the positive benefits wherever we can find them; and move on to the next cliff.  Somewhat like the Slinky, we loved as children, walking down stairs. Although clumsy, we will eventually get to the bottom in one piece.

Cross: The movie



Hmmmm….clearly 3 thumbs up outta 5. Patterson’s plots are seldom very thick but applied to the big screen this one was thinner than most. Time spent on character & plot determination was at a minimum. For the serious Patterson in general and Alex Cross specific fan that is not a reader’s problem. We know the characters or at least the character types and can jump right into the action with comfort.

A bit problematic with this film is that Alex Cross has so often been played by Morgan Freeman in previous movie outings. Freeman is analytical and pensive, careful to voice a conclusion or even a guess. Tyler Perry just isn’t there yet.

The minor characters came and went very fast. Tough to follow who loved who and whom might just be on sensual holiday.  It has oft been said that we Americans require too much detail in our mysteries. No loose ends thank you very much.  I’ll tell ya what tho’, when the director gives us repeats of scenes to anchor the storyline it raises doubt that even they clearly understand how the vendettas must flow.

All that said, the action and explosions are epic in nature. Just how does one fire an RPG from a fast-moving train and actually hit the target ….impressive. The film is definitely worth the time to watch, maybe more than one time to make sure you have all the players in the right categories.

Or ~ you could just read the book.

Killing Lincoln: Team of Rivals & Spielberg’s movie Lincoln



Killing Lincoln: Team of Rivals & Spielberg’s movie Lincoln

Done! John Wilkes Booth and the other conspirators are captured, tried and hung. The epilogue place all other characters of interest in their place through history. My thoughts take back to a previous book about Lincoln Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln  by Doris Kerns Goodwin who won  Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995Teams for the book  No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (have to put that one on the reading list). My copy of Team of Rivals is littered with paperclips, bookmarks and the ever present highlighter required to take me back to favored passages.

Page 244, green paper clip, 4th paragraph two sentences are highlighted in yellow. Lincoln speaking of the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago “I am certainly not the first choice there; and yet I have not heard that anyone makes any positive object to me.” Then Goodwin’s observation “To reach his goal of becoming everyone’s second choice, Lincoln was careful not to disparage any other candidate.” Two great thoughts! Since reading the book back in 2009 I have used those thought as benchmarks as my own.  First because it is personally healthy to accept that we are most likely not well liked by everyone. We do things everyday that others take as offensive. We are obviously not everyone’s first choice to lead, serve or maybe just be around. Second, it is also healthy to measure our actions/words so that we do not actively offend anyone.  There is an elected official I have know for many years. That person has yet to seek me out at a gathering and offer a greeting. It is expected to ensure the dialog gets off with a positive beginning. When greetings are not offered with a smile and courtesy it just makes ya go Hmmmm…. Such are the little things that I have begun to attend to since reading Team of Rivals to improve my service as an elected official.

Page 686, bookmark, bottom section, it is after Lincoln’s election to a 2nd term, Goodwin notes “Nothing on the home front in January engaged Lincoln with greater urgency than the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery…Lincoln had fears that the emancipation proclamation would not stand the test of all time and rid the country of the abomination that had so long plagued the nation.”  The powerful movie Lincoln [cast and details of the film are at], spurred me to seek out the portion of Team of Rivals given to actions taken to with members of Congress to ensure the passage of the 13th amendment. So out of character were Lincoln’s actions as portrayed in the movie, I just had to check it out for myself. Yep, Lincoln encouraged and personally did some things that in today’s political world are suspected, expected and yet damned by the public.  Imagine Ole Honest Abe passing out political favors in trade for votes. BUT the 13th amendment really is a good piece of legislation.

It gives one pause…..

Killing Kennedy: a singular, fascinating, hard to put down read

Killing Kenndy


I was never a “Kennedyphile”; life-long southern conservative Republicans usually are not.  Sure, I was a starry-eyed 15 year old teenager who understood “Camelot”, and can recall to this day where I was at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, November 22, 1963. I was heading to fifth period “Solid Geometry”, when news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast over the public address system at Hinton High School, in Hinton West Virginia. School was cancelled and Mom (Blanche Callaham) a history teacher at the high school drove me home that afternoon.  The car ride discussion was all about previous presidential assassinations and ones that had been attempted.  No real fear in Mom’s voice, although later in life she confided that she feared the worst might occur – riots, and possibly even some open national rebellion.  I felt an air of sadness for the loss of the President; however, life in the Callaham family resumed a normal cadence soon after the President was laid to rest the following Tuesday.

But wow!  Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy sure struck a nerve when I read the book recently.  Not only does O’Reilly capture the moments directly around the actual assassination; he leads readers through the ups and downs of Kennedy’s tumultuous 2 years and 10 months as President – and tumultuous may be an understatement.

Sexual relations; international and national political intrigue; racial injustice; civil rights; party and petit politics; domestic tranquility interspersed with violence and arguments; gun rights; mental health; states’ rights; it’s all in the book.  The back drop for O’Reilly’s fact based book includes World War II, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, Marilyn Monroe’s death, the Mafia, Hollywood, Texas, Washington D.C. and more.

Along with rumors the facts bear out that many people may have wanted John Fitzgerald Kennedy dead.  Go no further than Kennedy’s Vice President, Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Johnson was noted as the chief political power broker in Washington prior to his acceptance of the nomination to be Vice President on the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in the 1960 national election.  Once elected, in part by carrying Texas by a mere 46 thousand votes (the reason Johnson was on the ticket), JFK and his younger brother, Robert Kennedy, did everything they could to erode Johnson’s power.  Most, including Johnson, felt that JFK would dump Johnson from the Democrat ticket in the 1964 campaign – some even thought JFK would choose Robert Kennedy as his next running mate.  My, my, how far the mighty fell!

Internationally, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev would be likely suspects if there was a plot to kill Kennedy.  Castro clearly knew of Kennedy’s direct involvement in the batched attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.  Khrushchev on the other hand lost credibility when he withdrew offensive nuclear missiles in the face of an American Naval blockade during the resultant Cuban Missile Crisis.

You want an angry Central Intelligence Agency along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the plot, how about the Secret Service; it’s all there in fact.  Each of those vaunted agencies could easily bear some guilt either through omission or commission.

The Mafia connection to the CIA, spurned Hollywood lovers, bruised star egos, all  factor in the book – not as fictional characters but as real people in real well documented situations.  Away from the glitter of “tinsel town” and the beautiful people, there are plenty of “good old boys” that may have played a part.

 I’ve read excerpts from the Warren Commission’s Report concerning Kennedy’s assassination. I’ve seen and read the “stuff” put out for public consumption by numerous conspiracy theorists.  I’ve also read plenty of supposed expert documentation for both sides of the issue; lone gunman versus conspiracy plots linking various culprits’ involvement.  And truly, until reading Killing Kennedy I always leaned towards some sort of conspiracy involving our government’s covert involvement.

 Now, after reading O’Reilly’s book, a book that ties up a lot of loose ends into a singular, fascinating, hard to put down read; I’m convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone, and fired three shots at John Fitzgerald Kennedy, two of those shots killing the 34th President of the United States.  History may prove me wrong, but the book is a great read!

Killing Lincoln: Makes me Sad



As I close the book at the end of Chapter 47 ~ Saturday April 15, 1865, my heart feels heavy.  The sensitive detail of the final hours of Lincoln’s life gives forth new information of those present in the small back room of the Petersen house.  Before reading the book I thought I knew all about the assassination.  I’ve watched numerous programs about the event on the History Channel. I’ve even been to Ford’s theatre many times and walked slowly through the museum which hosts artifacts from Lincoln and the conspirators. What I was not prepared for was the breath & depth of caring of those attending the President.

 Immediate to the Presidential Box was a 23 year old doctor, Charles Leale, his credentials but two month old.  To quote O’Reilly “He has never performed the sort of critical life-saving procedures…somehow he knows what to do and does it well.” In the course of time more experienced doctors arrive but they yield to the actions of Dr. Leale. By 11:00pm the outcome is known and quietly spoken that recovery is not possible. The focus turns to the hospice care required to keep the President comfortable.         There is a significant effort to move Lincoln across the street to a warm setting. Not only does the man’s height impede quick progress but hundreds of people had already gathered and clogged the street. His body is cold and the wound creates unpleasant pressure upon the brain and must be frequently cleared for comfort. Through the night family/friends post a vigil in the small room. The report is that over 65 people give witness to Abe’s passing and Mary’s agony.  Not long past the hour of dawn on the 15th 20 men in the room hear the last breath and watch as Dr. Joseph Barnes (the Surgeon General of the Army) place a silver coin on each of Lincoln’s eyes.

 I have been in the room during the passing of family, not wanting them to be alone at the final hour. Sad events yet clear recognition of moving closer to God. Placing coins on the eyes of Lincoln is anchored in ancient Greek culture in which God’s grace was unknown. A tradition tied to belief that the dead needed money to pay the boatman for passage to join the gods.   How very sad is that! The last act of ‘kindness’ for Abraham Lincoln, the man of great faith, was to link him to a Godless culture.  Hmmm……


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