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Influence others like Eleanor Roosevelt – Rev. Margaret Marcuson

Margaret Marcuson

March 18, 2020 – The Christian Citizen

What does an American First Lady who died in 1962 have to do with leadership in 2020? She was never elected to public office. Yet she was the most well-known woman in America for years. She was both loved and vilified. Eleanor Roosevelt faced challenges and shows us today ways to step up to leadership in anxious and difficult times.

She is one of my heroes. She survived a difficult childhood, a challenging marriage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the many restrictions on what women could and couldn’t do during her lifetime. She was cripplingly shy, yet became the most well-known woman in America. She was a visible First Lady from 1933-1945. During and after that time she spoke publicly, wrote a column and books, and played a key role in the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations (1945-1952). Eleanor Roosevelt’s story is compelling. And her own words and example are inspirational and challenging.

Here are three ways that we can lead as she did, with her own words to reinforce them.

  1. Face up to difficult tasks. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”[i]

Leaders must speak and act in ways that are frightening and difficult. It may be standing up to a bullying staff person or church member or making a public statement about a controversial issue. Sometimes it’s just getting out of bed and going to work when you are discouraged and exhausted. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

  1. Immunize yourself to criticism. No doubt the pace of vicious criticism has accelerated in our day. But Eleanor Roosevelt faced her share of it, both before and after her husband’s death. Many people thought she was too bold (perhaps including her own husband). They tried to put her in her place. In this regard, she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”[ii]

To lead is to invite criticism, condescension and worse. It requires a strong sense of self to handle the barrage that can come your way when you lead, and to hold on to your clarity about who you are and what you are called to do.

  1. Act according to your principles. “In political life I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the best you could.”[iii] She also said, “If silence seems to give approval, then remaining silent is cowardly.”[iv]

Here’s one example: The African American singer Marian Anderson was refused the right to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest. She worked behind the scenes to see that a massive outdoor concert took place instead.[v]

In politics, at church, in our wider world, there are no guaranteed outcomes. Be clear about your principles and assess your actions in their light (sometimes with the help of others). Then do what you can and let go of the rest.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

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An Interfaith Prayer in a Time of Pandemic- The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

Washing my hands, reminds me of the waters of Chautauqua Lake,
Which reminds me of the majestic tolling of the Miller Bell Tower,
Which reminds me of the many kinds of music that fills the air and our hearts,
Which reminds me of the laughter of children and the beauty of our gardens,
Which reminds me of the beauty of different faces, complexions, generations,
and faiths,
Which reminds me of dance and art, being challenged by different perspectives,
and the restorative power of prayer.
Which reminds me of how sacred everything feels at our beloved Chautauqua,
Which reminds me to give thanks to the Holy One for all these blessings we share.
Be with us, Divine One, in this time of anxiety,
Comfort those who are infected, soothe all of us who are affected,
Strengthen and protect the medical caregivers,
Embolden our leaders with strength and wisdom,
Give us holy permission to do what is best in each moment, even if that’s
“hunker down.”
Renew our hope for a world —
With less anxiety and more joy,
With less “me first,” and more “no, please, after you!”
With less fear, and more love.
And bring us safely home, back to the Chautauqua which was, and is,
and will be.
Amen.
—The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson
Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor
Chautauqua Institution
March 18, 2020

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Bucket List Travels with Suzanne and Michael – Part Three

After a very good brunch at Elmer’s Restaurant in Eugene we headed toward Crater Lake National Park. We stopped to explore another covered bridge and resumed our journey. We found to our astonishment an authentic A & W Root Beer Restaurant at Willamette. We had to indulge. It brought back so many memories.  This is the 100th. Anniversary of its founding. Suzanne spotted the snow on the mountains long before I did. Once we entered the park there was snow everywhere. The lake surrounded by the mountains is spectacular. You must add Crater Lake to your travel list. After our stop at the visitor’s center, we had a decision to make. Would we head back to Bend, Oregon and across to Idaho or would we head straight across the southern route? Yours truly made the decision to go the southern route.

We headed across what we learned later was the Oregon Desert. We saw horses, cows, sheep, fields of grass, and irrigation systems. We rarely saw people or other cars. The landscape is beautiful. Fierce battles were once waged here between sheep herders and cattlemen. As daylight was fading, we lost cell phone service and Suzanne said the gas was getting low. I wasn’t worried. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see the gas gage. Finally we came upon a sign for Silver Lake. We found a service station somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Inside we found a very nice lady who told me I had chosen right to skip Bend. We pressed on to Burns where we dined at McDonald’s. We spent the night at a very well used Day’s Inn. After breakfast we headed toward Ontario, ‘where Oregon begins.”  Burns is named for Robert Burns, the Scottish poet. We visited a very interesting Native American Museum and Shop. We ate lunch at an Asian restaurant in Ontario, took pictured and were on our way to Twin Falls.

When we crossed into Idaho, I was elated. We found our hotel in Burley.  Shoshone Falls have not been commercialized and thus are not spoiled. They are actually 35ft. higher than Niagara Falls. What a sight! We headed back to the Twin Falls Visitor’s Center and were off to Boise. We visited Boise State University. Suzanne got a picture of the blue turf and we browsed the book store. We had a very good dinner at Morey’s Steak House. This was bittersweet because this was the end of our wonderful journey.

Saturday morning we relinquished our trusty steed and flew together to Denver where we parted company. Suzanne flew to Nashville and I flew to Charleston. My heart overflows with joy for these two journeys to the Baltic with Michael and to round out my 50 state Bucket List with Suzanne. I am blessed with two wonderful children.

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Bucket List Travels with Suzanne and Michael – Part Two

On September 27, I flew to Nashville on Southwest to meet Suzanne, my daughter. We had dinner in the airport. Our 9:45p.m. flight to Chicago on Southwest was cancelled due to a thunderstorm over Midway. Southwest could not get us to Chicago in time to make our Amtrak connections to the Empire Builder the next day. The first Southwest associate was less than helpful but assured us that our bags would be taken off and would be waiting for us in baggage claim. Not true. The second associate was much more helpful. She said that against policy our bags had been put on an earlier flight that did make it to Chicago. Not true. She did schedule us on a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we could meet the train Saturday night. Suzanne and I made it to a Residence Inn for the night. At 1:o’clock a.m. Southwest called Suzanne’s cell phone to say they had located our bags. Not true. When we arrived at the airport our bags were not there; however we did make our flight to Minneapolis. The Southwest attendant assured us that our bags would arrive with us. Not true. We did learn that Suzanne’s bag did make it to Chicago and mine was still in Nashville. The next flight from Chicago would be at 4:30. The next flight from Nashville would be at 6:30 p.m. All we could do was wait. When we returned to baggage claim at about 5:30, Suzanne’s bag was there. Mine came in on the 6:30 flight. We were without our luggage for about 22 hours.

We boarded the Empire Builder in St. Paul and the remainder of the trip was smooth traveling. We met wonderful companions at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a horrible mistake for Amtrak to discontinue the dining cars from the trains. Meeting new people is part of the attraction. We had booked a roomette. Suzanne climbed into the upper bunk and I was below. The scenery from the train is beautiful. The landscape keeps changing before your eyes. We went through 40 inches of snow in Montana. I’m glad we were inside. After about 36 hours, we arrived in Portland, Oregon. We had already arranged for a rental car. I hated to say goodbye to the train. It was a wonderful trip although I hardly got any sleep which didn’t matter. This train trip has been a goal forever.

We drove around Portland. On our way to Eugene, we had lunch at Buster’s Texas Style Barbecue. Although it was not what we expected in Oregon, it was excellent. Our next stop was off the beaten track to the Brigittine Monastery that advertised chocolates and fruit cakes made by the monks. The chocolate is excellent. The fruitcake is waiting. I am one of the few who admit to liking fruitcake. The monastery is surrounded by hazelnut trees. We finally made it to our hotel in Eugene with rooms overlooking the river and a park. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, Sweetwater. We enjoyed a wonderful brunch the following morning at the Pump Restaurant. Not only was the service efficient and friendly, but I enjoyed the best home fries I have ever eaten. The restaurant is decorated with license plates from several states. It needs one from South Carolina. Our afternoon was taken up by either driving through or walking through seven restored covered bridges and of course a visit with the University of Oregon Duck. We were greeted warmly and had our pictures taken with the famous mascot. .

Tuesday night we enjoyed a marvelous dinner at the Kings Estate Winery Restaurant. The surroundings are beautiful and the service flawless. An-dee was friendly but not intrusive. She provided us with answers to our many questions. They grow their own vegetables and pride themselves on everything being organic. I think this is the largest winery in Oregon. Oregon is the 49th. state on my Bucket List.

Hold your breath for part three next week.

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