The Times They Are A-Changin’ In the past, sending a telegram was one of the fastest ways of sending a message. Today technology has changed that.
President-elect Trump will find it difficult to fulfill some of his campaign promises such as bringing back coal and manufacturing jobs. His followers want him to give them their country back and make it the way it used to be. Make America great again is the chant.

The good news is that, although there are many improvements to be made, America is already great. The bad news is that there is no backward time travel. Technology has built a wall behind us and our only choice is to move forward. If we don’t move forward, we will fail.

We all know how every four years or so, our computers are out-of-date. In the 1980’s I had a Kaypro computer and a Diablo daisy-wheel printer. Eventually, with new operating systems on the market, the Kaypro was retired. I looked for someone to buy the printer which once cost a whopping $500, but there were no buyers. In fact, there were no takers for a free item. It broke my heart to take that beautiful, expensive printer to the dump.

Sadly, that is the story for many. Technology, which has brought us smart TV’s, GoPro’s, mobile phones that take stunning photos and watches that talk like the ones in the old Dick Tracy comics, has created graveyards for things we used every day.

Advances in technology are not only challenging for individuals but for businesses too. Look at one of the largest success stories in this country, Kodak.

After a series of imaging technology successes by George Eastman in 1892, the Eastman Kodak Company began. The company introduced the public to a daylight-loading camera and over the years it grew and introduced new film products. By 1946, two years after I was born, Kodak had more than 60,000 employees. In 1975, Kodak invented the first digital camera that captured black and white images at .01 megapixels. Imagine that! By 1982 the company’s sales soared beyond the $10 billion mark with plants scattered around the country and abroad. Kodak was at its peak in 1988 when the company employed 145,300 workers worldwide. 

Kodak’s stock in 1999 had shares around $80. In 1990, its annual sales were $19 billion. In 2011, its stock was 78 cents per share and in 2012, Kodak entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. What happened?

In spite of inventing the world’s first digital camera, why did Kodak fail? The company failed to accept that digital technology would disrupt the film world which its empire centered on. Around 1981, the company conducted research with results revealing that digital could replace film in as short a time as a decade. With this information, Kodak had time to prepare to adapt to changing times.

The company did not learn from the history of its founder, George Eastman, who avoided earlier failure by recognizing that he had to change with the times. He gave up a profitable dry-plate business for film. Later he invested in color film, even though its quality was inferior to black and white. Kodak, however, did not prepare for the more recent overthrow of film. It was in denial.

Today, the company that used to be a household name has only $2 billion in sales annually and 8,000 employees worldwide. Its Rochester campus once had 200 buildings on 1300 acres. Today 80 buildings have been demolished and 59 others sold.

Like Kodak, other industries have declined in the face of technology and less demand for certain products.

For example, the coal industry is facing a decline in demand. With new inventions in technology and new ways of doing things, fewer miners were needed today. In 1914, there were 180,000 anthracite miners; but by 1970, there were only 6,000. Employment in bituminous that was used for generation of electricity was at 705,000 in 1923, 140,000 in 1970 and 70,000 in 2003. Also, a drop in natural gas prices after 2010 became severe competition for the coal industry. Coal production declined in the U.S. by 29% in the first weeks of 2016. Production expenses increased as President Obama pushed for changes to leasing of public lands for oil, coal and gas. “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future,” the President said. The movement today is away from coal toward cheaper natural gas, even in China. In 2014 and 2015, the amount of power generated from coal in the U.S. fell by 226,000 gigawatt-hours while the amount of power produced from natural gas increased by 208,000 gigawatt-hours. We are not using the same products that were once in demand.

Factory jobs have also decreased. The U.S. lost five million manufacturing jobs since 2000, not necessarily the result of trade with other countries. In 1960, one out of four American workers had manufacturing jobs. Today fewer than one in ten people work in the manufacturing sector. In our history, we have seen jobs go from fields to factories and now to service jobs such as nurses, personal care aides, cooks, waiters and retail sales. In another hundred years demand for service jobs might migrate to yet another area.

My husband is fond of saying he has proof that time travel exists but the bad news is it only goes in one direction. To survive, we need to adapt and change. Those who used to own a horse and buggy eventually bought cars. Those who used typewriters eventually moved to word processors and now computers. Times they are a-changin’. We can appreciate the past and fondly remember the days of our grandparents, but they will never come back. Nostalgia is one thing. Clinging to the past is another.

So, Trump supporters, it just ain’t going to happen. Your new President cannot roll back the clock.

LOVE: Top-Down and Bottom-Up

As a parent, I am aware that the example parents set — the language they use, their actions, their values — profoundly influence their young children. This is the top-down effect. Children are keen observers and followers.

As a retired teacher, I am so aware of how tone is set in schools. Beginning at the top, there is the superintendent who oversees all the schools in a system. Then there is the principal of each school and the teacher in every classroom, followed by all the students. There is a trickle-down effect in the education system that I believe also applies to businesses and government.

The Education Scene

It’s up to those at the top, as leaders, to set the tone for all. One superintendent I worked for  had an attitude of “me against my teachers.” She acted like a dictator. I was appalled to hear her speak to a group at the school system headquarters, including the press, about how her teachers had better obey her. She waved a ruler threateningly as she spoke. She obviously did not view her teachers as professionals and, believe me, her tone trickled down to the teachers in her schools and was reflected in their demoralized feelings.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked under some very good principals who showed understanding of the many layers in an educational institution.  

When I started teaching in 1967, my first two years were extremely rough with a challenging Brooklyn/Curtis Bay/Westport/Fairfield/Cherry Hill student population in Baltimore City. During the first two weeks of my teaching career, I went home in tears every day, questioning my desire and ability to be a teacher. I was trying my best to survive with a group of students who lived in a world foreign to my background. 

At that time, the school system required new teachers in their first two years to attend classes once a month at headquarters in Baltimore City. So, after struggling all day with five classes of 150 students total, at the end of the day, I got in my car and drove to my first class. I was a novice but even I could see that the people instructing my “new teacher” classes had no idea what they were doing. Had they ever stood in front of a classroom and taught? After an hour and a half of after-school class, I went home, prepared lesson plans, graded papers, maybe ate dinner, and collapsed into bed. 

The next month, I dragged myself to the next required meeting. At the end of an unproductive class, we were given a “homework” assignment. Something snapped in me then. Homework?! I was diligently doing my homework every night and every weekend…which was preparing lessons for my students, grading papers, communicating with parents and a thousand other things. I did not attend the third meeting or the fourth one and was prepared to be fired for not doing so. My main responsibility was to my students and not to bureaucrats who had no clue. 

Eventually word was sent to my principal that one of his teachers was not fulfilling her obligation to attend classes for new teachers. He questioned me about my absence and I explained to him that my students came first, that I was doing the best I could as their teacher and that the meetings were a waste of time which I could better spend for my students. Furthermore, I told him that I refused to attend any more meetings. He listened and nodded. I waited for a few days for notice that I had been fired. It never came. There was no more mention of the meetings. I survived my two-year tenure and continued to teach and receive good reviews. If he had not shown some wisdom in this matter, I probably would have left teaching before I finished the first year. This was a principal who set a tone of listening to his teachers and supporting action that was reasonable…a good role model for teachers who also need to listen to their students and to be reasonable.

At another school, a student was bullied by his peers and his math teacher. There was harassment of a student who appeared to be gay. He ran out of class in tears and sat outside in the rain where I found him and learned his story. I talked with him and convinced him to come inside and spend some time in the guidance office. Because running out of a classroom was an offense that would get a student suspended, I then went to the vice principal to explain the situation and ask him not to suspend the student. I closed the door and lowered my voice. The vice principal, hearing about the underlying gay issues, raised his voice so all the students sitting outside his office would hear him react. He even mentioned the student’s name. I left in disgust. Here is an example of an administrator who would encourage bullying because of his lack of empathy.

Teachers set a tone in their classrooms and, hopefully, this trickles down to their students. When I was teaching I discouraged certain language, tried to give everyone a chance, encouraged students and introduced empathy training in my lessons. I was not always successful but the goal was always the same.

The Political Scene

Now that Donald Trump is our President-elect, I recall what kind of example he set while campaigning: he denigrated the “other”—Muslims, the GLBT community, the disabled and women. That’s why I’m so upset. I know how things can come from the top and affect the atmosphere below. I cannot tolerate someone who disrespects women, mocks the disabled and wants to keep out those who are different from him. We have seen how his example has encouraged certain behavior in his followers, especially at his rallies.

After the election results, some of my Facebook friends wrote of incidents in school right after the election:

  • A girl in Virginia was taunted by her classmates, “Trump, Trump, Trump, hope you’re ready to be deported.” A Latina-American girl cried at school when she no longer felt welcome.
  • A classmate told my friend’s little girl that Hillary kills babies. This upset her. The child is also fearful that her grandparents will be deported. They are Iranian-Americans.
  • A middle school video has made the rounds. It was taken in the school cafeteria and shows students chanting, “Build the wall.”
My hope is that Donald Trump will be capable of changing, that he can evolve into a human being more worthy of his new position. He will have lots of power, including the power to set a tone in our country where people will not feel intimidated, where they will not exist in a culture of “them versus us,” where adults do not teach children how to bully by example. If the tone of his acceptance speech carries into his office—the importance of working together— there might be hope because it is our leaders who set the tone of the culture we live in.

If he doesn’t, then it will certainly be up to us at the bottom to set the tone and send it upward. It will be up to us to continue to love and to love better. It will be up to us to make America love again.

You've Come a Long Way Since 1908

One of the first Virginia Slims ads targeting women with the slogan "You've come a long way baby!"

“Anything, everything, is possible.” Thomas Edison, 1908

In 1908, the last time the Cubs won the World Series, the 46th star for Oklahoma was added to our flag, the Times Square ball was dropped in New York City for the first time and New York City passed an ordinance making it illegal for women to smoke in public. Women couldn’t vote either.

Now, 108 years later the Cubs finally won the World Series again, women can vote and a woman is running for the President of the United States. If Hillary Clinton becomes President, she will become the first woman to lead our country and it’s about time. I've lived to see many changes over my lifetime of 72 years. One change that I've wished for before it's time for me to go is to see a woman in the White House. If this happens, Hillary's name will be added to a growing list of other females who are or have been heads of state in our world.

"The following is a list of female presidents, prime ministers, and other heads of state who are presently in power as of January 22, 2015. For several years now, the stable status quo has been around 20 female world leaders at any given time."

When we elected our first black President, I celebrated with much of our country over that milestone. Next week, I will be following the election coverage closely and am looking forward to celebrating again. Stronger Together is absolutely true!        

More about 1908:

  • “Take Me Out to the Gall Game” was registered for copyright.
  • Henry Ford produced the first Model T which sold for $850.
  • Only 14% of homes had bathtubs and 8% telephones.
  • Mother’s Day was observed for the first time.
  • Earthquake and resulting tsunami killed 70,000 to 100,000 in southern Italy and Sicily.
  • Petroleum production started in the Middle East
  • Federal spending was $0.66 billion
  • Unemployment was 8%
  • A first-class stamp cost $0.02.
  • Gabriel Lippman of France received a Nobel Prize in Science for his method of reproducing colors by photography.
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was established—the first Greek organization by and for black college women.
  • Average life expectancy was around 47 years.
  • There were only 144 miles of paved roads.
  • The average wage was 22 cents per hour.
  • More than 95 percent of all births were at home.
  • Most women washed their hair once a month using Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • Leading causes of death: peneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease, stroke.
  • The population of Las Vegas was 30.
  • Crossword puzzles, canned beer and ice tea did not exist yet.
  • Marijuana, heroin and morphine were over-the-counter  drugs available at drugstores.
  • In the Us that year, there were around 230 murders (reported).
  • The 612-foot tall Singer Building in NYC was the highest inhaited building in the world; it was followed a few months later by the 700-foot tall Metropolitan Life Building.
  • Orville Wright set a new endurance flight record with a passenger—nine minutes at an altitude record of 250 feet. Then brother Wilbur flew for 91 minutes and 31 seconds for a new record of 61 miles.
  • In 26 of the 46 states, marriage between blacks and whites was illegal.
  • Kids worked in coal mines and steel mills.
  • A “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between Japan and the US agreed to restrict Japanese emigration to the US.
  • The first tunnel under the Hudson River opened.
  • Frederick Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole. (He didn’t.)
  • Wireless Radio Broadcasting was patented by Nathan Stubblefield.
  • The first horror movie, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, premiered in Chicago.
  • The first federal workmen’s compensation law was approved.
  • The Lusitania crossed the Atlantic in a record four days and fifteen hours.
  • The first Gideon Bible was put in a hotel room. 
  • The Democratic National Convention, Denver 1908: Women Participate in Convention for the First Time (Though the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote was not ratified until 1920, women in Colorado – along with several other states in the West – had earned the right to vote before this time. Colorado gave women voting privileges in 1893; it was one of the earliest states to do so.)