Words from one of The Greatest Generation

My mother was 17 years old when she graduated as Valedictorian of the Rhome High School class of 1943. While she delivered her Valedictory to classmates and guests at the graduation, the man she would later meet and marry, my father, was serving as a U.S. Marine in World War II. He had entered service about 5 months earlier, two days before the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (He had to wait until he was 18 to enlist.) He fought in the Solomon Islands. After the war, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Eagle Mountain Lake. Mama went to business school after graduating, then worked as a stenographer on the base. That’s where they met.

What follows is Mama’s Valedictory to her class. Her words take on deeper relevance to me as I consider the history we know now that she didn’t know then. I am struck by the intelligence and maturity her writing demonstrates. Did you know about The Beveridge Plan that Mama references in her speech? I did not until I read this and then looked it up – it’s worth a Google. I already knew Mama was smart, but here is evidence.

I wish there existed a video or audio of her presenting the speech. But you know – 1943. I’ll do my best to recreate it. I’m told I sound a good bit like her. If you’d like to hear me reading her speech, here is a link. (The applause at the end is for her, not me.) https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TduqUxF6H3Hl8OO1TunWwmuq6Ue0p3Am/view?usp=sharing

If you’d like to just read it yourself, here it is:


THEME: The attitude of America in the years to come will be that of us who graduate today.

By Grace Imogene Johnston

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We who are graduating in this class of 1943 are facing the most important problems yet faced by any class to graduate during our lives. Many of us will soon be on our way to the fighting fronts. All of us will be doing our share in the great world war effort.

Graduating classes of the past have faced problems of local or national significance. Ours faces problems which can be answered only by considering the world as a whole. Already the airplane has altered forever our concept of time and distance. In the world which we face there will be no barriers of sea or desert. Business transactions and all forms of human relations will be carried on between all parts of a rapidly shrinking world.

Does all this still appear a vision to you? It is a reality. In the sky now are pilots, with their training planes, bombers, fighter planes, and transports. The purpose of it all now is to defeat an enemy and to preserve a way of life, to build the structure for a better world. Out of the victory will come a day bright with opportunity for all. With our opportunity in the future there is an equally great obligation.

Almost more significant, we are the ones who will be gaining our place in the world as the post-war civilization is being built. What the world is to be depends in a great measure on us, on the knowledge we gain in the next few years, on the type of mature adult we become. WE must soon become valuable workers and fighters. We must then develop into valuable thinkers as well.

What pattern the world we enter will have has not yet been fully cut out. Perhaps we shall have some part in the cutting of the pattern.

To be worthy of the responsibility which must necessarily be ours, we must yearn, read, study, evaluate – so that when the time comes, we will be equipped to take this part.

Our national leaders are even now studying, investigating the changes which will come to the world economy in order to make this world a better place, a place where wars of greed will not be necessary. These changes may be immense. They may need to be only small but changes there will be, and every man is but one of many seeking the solution.

We too will be among the seekers when this war is over. A few of us may be preparing the blueprints, many of us will be carrying out the work of these few. Therefore, we must be prepared to be intelligent citizens, informed citizens, so that through the democratic system of selection we may choose leaders who will truly represent us.

We must use wisely the tools of democracy. WE must learn to evaluate those who seek political office. We must learn the operation of the referendum, the recall, the community meeting, and the other instruments which we as American citizens will possess.

Too often do we think, foolishly, that the sort of peace we will have depends upon far-off obscure decisions by men whom we do not know. We hope that it will be a good peace and that it will ensure peace in the years to come.

We must not be content to hope. We must not be lulled into laziness by those who prefer to see us apathetic, disinterested clumps of earth who pay our taxes and believe that our responsibility in government ends there.

Our responsibility does not end there. This very war is being fought to preserve our right to do more than pay our taxes and be silent.

We cannot, however, think of ourselves alone. We cannot say, “Here in our community we have good government, we have a low disease and death rate, we have no poverty, we have no un-employment” and believe that we have achieved all that our position as American citizens demands of us. We cannot sit back and rest on our laurels until we can say this of the world.

There have been presented already many plans to ensure this security, notably the Beveridge Plan, which is intended to bring freedom from want to the people of Great Britain. There have been similar plans conceived in our own country and others.

We may not be the planners of these great reforms, but we will very likely carry them out and, perhaps, plan others. Therefore, we must be prepared.

The next four or five years, more or less, will be war years, and, as such, important years. But the years that will count most in the whole course of civilization are the years which will follow. Let us be ready to make the best of those years.

No high school class has yet graduated during our lives which faced as critical a period as the one ahead of us. No other such class has faced as many opportunities and responsibilities in the life ahead. No other class has had to consider so carefully along what lines it should work.

With the closing of this occasion today we cease to exist as a high school class and it becomes my duty to say farewell to the Board of Education which as so ably directed the school system. We thank you for your consideration and the generous application of your wisdom.

To the members of the faculty, we say farewell. They have endeavored to encourage the good in us and develop our individual possibilities. You have been good friends as well as our instructors.

To our parents we do not say farewell, but we wish to thank you for making possible for us a good public school education. As we say farewell to the school you have provided for us, we hope that our benefits will give you joy and pride and partly repay for your work.

Classmates, we may say farewell but there is no farewell between us. As we go different ways in our lives to come, we will be always held together through bright days and dark ones by the common possession of the principles and ideals taught in this school.

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No, not one.

                   “There is no person you can be sure will never let you down.”

A counselor told me this many years ago. I didn’t necessarily disbelieve it then – but I also didn’t completely grasp how completely true it really is. (I was young.)

It doesn’t mean that EVERY person you know definitely WILL let you down. It just means that no person is incapable of it. And to one degree or another, most everyone will eventually. Because you know . . . people.

These disappointments can range from “Well that was unexpected and didn’t feel great, but whatever” all the way to “Oh look. There’s my heart on the floor broken in a million pieces.”

It’s not fun to know, but it’s safer to know. It’s better to not put anyone up on a pedestal – unless they are actually made of stone.

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Unconditional? Almost Unheard Of.

How uncommon is unconditional love and acceptance?

For how many people walking this earth right now,  do you hold this type of love and complete acceptance?

How many people do you know who have this for you?

Are you sure?

Pick someone in your mind who you love this way and feel returns that love.

Got it? Okay.

What if, at some point, after deep soul searching, you stop believing something that, right now, today, the two of you both believe deeply? You don’t ask them to stop believing what they believe – but obviously you feel they are in error, just like they think you are, because you both believe sincerely in opposing ideas.

Can you do that and still love, unconditionally accept, and even respect that person?

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I Am . . .

by Donna Hunter

I wrote these four “I Am” poems in September 2009 while I was a student at Tarrant County College.

A Mother

I am their mother.
I wonder if I did the best I could have.
I hear them tell me I did a good job.
I see that they love and respect me.
I want them to be happy.
I am Sarah’s Mother.

I pretend sometimes that I’m feeling better than I am in front of them.
I feel so very proud of them.
I touch their faces and hair and hug them.
I worry that I’ve hurt them somehow by leaving out something they needed.
I cry when they cry.
I am Will’s Mom.

I understand them better than anyone does.
I say, “I love you” and they know it is true.
I dreamed of being a mother and my dream came true.
I try to be what they need and not what they don’t.
I hope I’m succeeding.
I am Hunter’s Ma.

A Student

I am a student again.
I wonder where I’ll end up this time.
I hear the sounds of learning and living.
I see sunshine and blue jeans.
I want more of this.
I am happier.

I pretend I am 18 instead of 47 and did this when I should have.
I feel most of the time that things will be ok anyway.
I touch the keys of my laptop, the pages of my books, my hair while I study.
I worry about the future sometimes.
I cry when I worry about the future.
I am determined to keep moving forward.

I understand that there is always more to understand.
I say “What’s next?” and wait to find out.
I dream of a career that thrills me.
I try to plan my life, but life does not always cooperate.
I hope I succeed anyway.
I am having fun.

A Dancer

I am a dancer.
I wonder how I managed to wait so long in life to start doing something that I love so much.
I hear music and feel compelled to move to it – Country, Ballroom, Swing, Salsa, Zumba!
I see others dance well and admire it.
I want to know how to dance every type of dance.
I am happy when I dance. It is my drug of choice.

I pretend sometimes that I’m floating on air when I’m spinning on the dance floor
I feel in my element on the dance floor.
I touch lots of sweaty hands when I go out dancing, so I wash frequently.
I worry about being prevented from continuing to dance.
I cry like a big ole baby sometimes if I don’t get to dance as much as I want to.
I am a little embarrassed about that, but I’m afraid it’s true.

I understand (sort of) that it is only dancing, not life itself.
I say, “No, thank you” to slow romantic dances, until I can dance with one special man who can hold me very close.
I dream of everybody dancin’ in the streets – even all of my boring friends who won’t ever go dancing with me!
I try to fight centrifugal force on spins. (I tend to lean outward and you are supposed to stay under the lead.)
I hope there is a good band next time I go out.
I am pretty good if I do say so myself, but I want to keep getting better.


I am a writer, a questioner, not a rule follower.
I wonder what lies ahead
I heard footsteps; Mama heard them too.
I see my house and my life in order, clean and organized.
I want peace.
I am trying.

I pretend – no, I don’t anymore. I used to pretend I was free when I wasn’t.
I feel hope sometimes, fear sometimes.
I touch my remote control and my pillow and try to relax and fall asleep to mindless TV.
I worry sometimes, but I don’t believe in it so I try not to.
I cry when my spirit is stirred by something beautiful or sad
I am a woman after all.

I understand that the best I can do is the best I can do.
I say I am doing my best but I sometimes wonder if it is true.
I dream of everyone being happy and healthy.
I try to help.
I hope it will happen.
I am here.

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How to do a mean thing while trying to be sweet. Or, how to NOT do that.

How to make someone who is trying to overcome depression feel worse and set them back a few steps in their struggle:

Tell them they are doing it wrong – You shouldn’t take medicine. Just choose happiness! Look at the positives in your life! How can you be sad when you have . . . (fill in the blank) Have you tried . . . ? (exercise, meditation, other – fill in the blank with things that yes they’ve probably tried.)

The most well-meaning, kind, sweet people in the world who would never hurt anyone purposely can make this mistake and hurt someone deeply while trying to help. I know this disorder (yes disorder, not bad mood) is near impossible for some people to understand. If I were someone who had never had it, I think I wouldn’t understand it either. (Sort of like I don’t understand how some people think cabbage is good or don’t like cheese – whaaat?) I have struggled to one degree or another with depression and anxiety all of my life – I remember being depressed, although I didn’t know the word yet – when I was just shy of 5 years old.

Please, if you know someone with depression (and/or anxiety – they often travel together), educate yourself before trying to give advice. Below are some links to helpful resources.

Article by Sylvia Kim

Make it OK. Stop Mental Illness Stigma.

The Hilarious World of Depression. The Hilarious World of Depression is a series of frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with people who have dealt with this disease, hosted by veteran humorist and public radio host John Moe.

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Freudian slip: an unintentional error regarded as revealing subconscious feelings.

Ever have a Freudian slip when introducing yourself? I did just recently. As I was being introduced to one of my brother’s fans after his performance, I said to her, “Hi, I’m Donnie.” I was as surprised to hear myself say that as anyone else could have been, more so really, because they may have thought I said it intentionally. I had NO idea I was about to say it. Apparently that’s who I feel I am now.

Donnie is my grandmother for whom I am named. I think Donnie is a very cute name for a girl. I still very much regret not letting her call me that when I was little when she wanted to. (Sad Face) And I still very much love remembering my nephew Kyle calling me “Aunt Donnie” when he was little. OMG, he had me wrapped around his little finger!

Since I became a grandmother myself – quite suddenly and with no notice – 19 months ago, I’ve been having a bit of a grandmother name crisis.

MANY years ago, I told Sarah than when I have grandchildren someday I’ve decided my name will be “Darling.” She smiled and said, “No” in the tone one might use with a silly child about to attempt something foolish. We both laughed and went on with our lives.

Last year, when this little guy suddenly showed up, I was thinking probably Grammie, but I always thought Gammie (no r) was a super-adorable name too, but someone in our family was already using that so I wasn’t sure if it was ok. I asked. It was, so that was it. But it wasn’t. I never felt 100% like that was ME. Once Evan babbled the sound, “Deedah” and I said, “Heeey!” Sarah looked at me funny. More recently, it has seemed several times like he is calling me “DD.” I came up with Gramsy for a while after seeing someone’s post about a Grampsy and Sarah sometimes calls me Momsy, so . . . cute, but… no, back to Gammie, and still almost, but not quite 100% committed to it.

A while back, I had sent out a group text to my family and friends asking if they were in charge of giving me my grandmother name, what would it be. Amanda suggested Nonna or Nonnie because it rhymes with Donna or Donnie. Kyle liked that too. I remembered again “Aunt Donnie” and also Jeff called me Nonna when he was a baby. Smile. My brothers and sis-in-law seemed to like these the best too. Still wasn’t sure. Then the other day, my brother David, speaking to Evan, referred to me as Nonnie, and it just hit the spot in my brain. It felt like he was actually talking about me, rather than like I was playing a part. That’s me. I’m Nonnie. I know at least part of the reason it feels so right is because of the similarity to Donnie. (Also makes sense David saying it would do the trick for me; I’m told he’s the one who named me the first time.)

So that is a very long story to tell you that I am Evan’s Nonnie.

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My Brain on Testing . . .

Ugh . . . 4 hours. Not allowed to do ANYTHING with my brain, and also not allowed to sleep – this is some twisted kind of torture.  Okay.  I can do something with my brain, just nothing that shows on the outside.  Mindfulness meditation.  Let’s try that.  Breathe in . . . out . . . in . . . Hey, I know a good way to rearrange the garage when I get home.  Why do we have all that stuff on that side?  It’ll fit much more efficiently on the other side.  Moving stuff around in my brain, picturing it – yeah I think that’ll work; can’t wait to get home and try it.

It’s been 14 minutes.  Cry.

Urrrggghhh . . . yep.  He’s working on test, not cheating, she’s not cheating, she’s not, he’s not, etc., etc.  Now, from the other direction.  Yep, still testing, still not cheating.  Hey, look, Test Mix. (Like Chex Mix, but made special for test days.)  I’m not hungry, but acknowledging the different tastes while chewing is at least something my brain can do.  Crunch, crunch . . . Mmmm . . . savory . . . some is stuck in my tooth.  Wonder how long it will take to dissolve by itself if I just sit here without moving and wait . . . Now I’ll eat some of the sweet bits.  Frosted Cheerious.  Yum.  Oooh, I know. I’ll eat blind handfuls with savory and sweet mixed together – won’t know what each bite tastes like till I get it in my mouth.  Exciting!

Crunch . . . crunch . . . ooh, pretzel.  Kyle doesn’t like pretzels.  I should make him some snack mix with no pretzels . . . Snack mix sans pretzels.  Pretzelless snack mix.  Pretzelless . . . kind of sounds like a new name some hipster yuppie will name their kid eventually.  Probably spelled differently though – Pretceless,  Pretseles, Pretcelous.  Yep.  I think it’s a boy name.  He could go by Pretz.  Or Les. People would think his name was Lester or Lesley, but then he could surprise them with his real, super cool name.   If he spelled it Pretsullous, he could go by Sully.  Kind of sounds like a royal name.  Prince Pretcelous of Whatevershire.  Royal Pretzel Company.  They could make two kinds of snack mixes – Pretzelous (with lots of pretzels) And Pretzelless (with no pretzels.)  That would be confusing because they sound the same and people would have to read to make sure they got the right kind.  Kyle: Amanda why did you buy Pretzelous, you know I like Pretzelless better.  Amanda: I got both.  The Pretzeless is in the pantry. Gimme my Pretzelous!

Arrgggh . . . 2 more hours.  So tired.  Look at that little girl sleeping.  Grrrr.  I love her when she’s awake but I kind of hate her right now.  Wish I could take a nap.  No, no – I don’t hate her.  I love her.  Sweet baby, look at her sleep.  Smile.  Yawn.  OMG, last hour of the test and only two kids still working. So much harder to keep the others quiet when they have finished.  What is wrong with you two?! Oh my god, hurry up!  No, no, – don’t hurry.  Do your best.   Makes no difference; we are stuck in silent, staring hell till the time’s up anyway.




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Maybe why this feels so personal to me . . .

Many years ago, there was an awful man, inexplicably placed in a position of power – not great power, but enough for him to enjoy and abuse. Entrusted with safeguarding my welfare, he instead used his power against me in a humiliating and sexually inappropriate way. I was young and didn’t know how to defend myself, to say no, to call for help, or even to tell someone after the fact. Years later, as an adult, I watched him, still in that same position of power, given an opportunity to do right by a child, and again choose instead to do harm with his power. Not sexual this time. Just complete lack of concern for the child’s best interest, and gleeful wielding of his powers while doing serious damage to a child’s life.

That awful man is one of the people I am reminded of by this awful man in the White House who loves power.

There was another man I knew. In his 30s, he liked skinny little 13 year old girls. After gaining the trust of my father, and using my love of horses, he managed to be alone with me on several occasions and took the opportunity to ask me questions about masturbation and other topics inappropriate for an adult to discuss with a child. He was the cause of an accident that happened while I was with him which frightened me and caused me minor injuries. He then “played doctor,” cleansing my wounds. He eventually was ballsy enough to walk right into my house without knocking when my parents weren’t home and enter my bedroom where I was completely naked after a shower. He stood gazing and chatting while I scrambled to cover myself with a blanket from my bed. This time I did at least have the wits to say that my brother (who I’m pretty sure this guy knew had guns) would be home soon, and he left. Who knows what might have happened if he hadn’t believed me? And I still didn’t realize I should tell someone.

That pedophile is one of the people I am reminded of by the pedophile in the White House who enjoys young girls.

There have been and continue to be so many others. Men who talk down to me like I am a child because I am a woman.  Men who treat me with extreme disrespect when there are no other men around but suddenly are all “Yes Ma’am” when another man is present. SO many men all my life who have patted my head and told me various versions of “Stay in your place and be quiet.”

They all remind me in one way or another of this Asshat in the White House who is a complete dolt, is rude like a spoiled child, lies constantly, has committed all manner of fraud and bought his way out of it, and demonstrates clearly and frequently his attitude toward women (that their value is measured solely by degree of beauty or usefulness to him.)

He showed me who he is and I believe him.  I recognize him. I see him clearly for what he is because I’ve known pieces of him all my life. Never before though, have I seen them all, so horrifyingly, in one body, and with so much undeserved power as now.

So that’s why when anyone supports him I’m amazed and saddened, but when a man who loves me supports him, it feels like he has refused to defend me against an awful man, a pedophile, a condescending, disrespectful jerk, who would, and one day may indeed, gladly do me harm.

I know they don’t see it that way, these men who love me. I know they would defend me if they knew, if they believed, that I was threatened or insulted. But they don’t know. It’s some type of awful blindness or ignorance. They can’t see him.  They don’t know. They probably wouldn’t understand why I feel threatened and undefended. But I am.

And now I know to say something.

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Go back and fix it.

There’s a point to this story, but it’s gonna take me a minute . . .

Once upon a time in the early 80s, a young man broke my heart. He asked me to marry him very early in our relationship, agreed to slow his roll and give me time to decide, and then, just about the time I was about to decide I wanted to say yes, he left me – abruptly and with no explanation. Time passed. I recovered – gradually at first, completely eventually.  Fast forward to May of 2011 – almost exactly 30 years since the heart breaking. I was completely over it by then of course. Didn’t matter to me at all anymore. I mean really – 30 years, 3 kids, a few other heartbreaks endured and recovered from, and a lot of life gone by. Then I got a letter in the mail from him, asking if I was the Donna Hunter who knew a (his previous name) in Fort Worth in the early 80s. I knew it was him even though he had changed his name – because 1) he had always told me he was going to change it to that (although I sort of thought he was joking but obviously not) and 2) I’d seen him on TV, heard him on the radio, and seen his newspaper column using it since then.  He asked me to contact him and I did.

He wanted to apologize – after 30 years. He said, “You were a good lady, and I was a complete asshole to you, and I’m sorry.” He was making amends – part of his recovery. He said that many times since that time when something really awful happened in his life (like a motorcycle accident that almost killed him and led to prescription pain killer addiction) he had wondered, not completely in jest, if he was being punished for how he had treated me. I laughed and told him that was probably it. I thanked him for contacting me and told him of course he was forgiven. We started a friendship that day that lasted until Jan. 1 of this year when he died suddenly and from somewhat mysterious causes (possibly some effect of his years before recovery.) He gave me counsel and support and laughs for those 5 years and I’m very glad to have enjoyed that friendship.

The thing that truly surprised me about this experience was how good that apology felt, how valuable it was, how much it really did matter to me. So much that I remember exactly where I was standing 5 years ago as I listened to his voice on the phone telling me this. It felt like I was receiving something I needed, and I had no idea until I received it. Hearing him acknowledge the wrong that was done to me – which, as I said, I was completely over – was still a healing kind of feeling. Maybe there’s only a certain degree of “over it” a person can get without acknowledgement and I had just accepted that level as the best it could be, but really there’s something a little better. That’s what he gave me that day. It did my heart good. It made my life better. And it did his too.

So here’s my point, and it is a message to me as well as everyone else: It is worth the effort to make amends for hurt you have caused, whether intentional or not, whether the blame is shared or not, and no matter how long ago it was. Maybe an apology is needed, maybe just an honest explanation, or maybe even just an end of silence. If you are both still alive, it is not too late.  You can still bring good into their life, and into your own, by mending that fence.

Thank you, Lance/Ben for mending ours.




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Boom! Zzzzzzzzz

I really miss the days when a gun shot inside the house did not wake me up. Or one right outside my bedroom window, or my mother screaming from the kitchen only caused me to rouse a bit and then be immediately asleep again.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. There were skunks that needed killing, and a grease fire. Everything turned out alright without any help from me. The scars on Mama’s legs even disappeared.

My point is I really wish I could get more sleep.

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