Plea for Bipartisanship

Early seeds of change?  I had a conversation with former Maine U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe and former Governor Ed Rendell about political gridlock. Snowe is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center which was created 6 years ago by former Congressional leaders, Republican and Democrat.  Rendell told me that it’s “time for those of us in the majority to wake up.” He saysImage“We’re not as avid voters as the fanatics(on both sides.)”  But that people are “hungry” for an end to the stalemate.

Snowe says currently, “There are too many incentives to divide.” She wants the American people to demand that Congress pass a budget (which it has not formally done for several years.)  Rendell believes there is plenty of room to compromise at the margins without violating each side’s principles. He says the “media are a little responsible, too.”  Both think voters can pressure Congress into action. They also want open, not closed primaries and other incentives to take away the political rewards that divisiveness allows right now.

I inferred from Snowe’s comments that President Obama and the White House also need to do more. A “President has to engage and so do his people.”

For Weston

Praying, hoping and all around banking on the best for young Weston Keeton.  The young Tennessee boy has been living up here in Philadelphia for a long time, a couple of years, since he was 4, a third of his life so far, as he waits for a heart transplant at CHOP.  (He’s the 3rd child from the left.)Wes2012-12-23_18-53-47_307

His mom, Julie, has been with him.  Dad, Adam, has been working in Tennessee, but comes up as often as he can.  Siblings are here off and on.  It’s not been easy for the Keetons.  But, it has been especially hard, of course, for Weston.  When I met him back in December, he was able to live for awhile at the Gift of Life House with his family.  He is a happy, beautifully rowdy kid by nature.

Weston 1a2012-12-23_19-04-42_100The Keetons have been befriended by many Philadelphians, some of them Mummers.  The family is grateful for what everyone is trying to do.

Things are getting a little tough for Weston.  Hang in there, buddy.

When do Crab Fries mean XOXO in Philadelphia? 


When do Crab Fries mean XOXO in Philadelphia?  1. All the time. 2. Especially this summer, now that Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) and Chickie’s & Pete’s have teamed up on a new summertime partnership promoting the City of Brotherly Love.

The legendary Jerry Blavat,  GPTMC Vice-President Sharon Rossi, Chickie’s & Pete’s CEO Pete Ciarrocchi, (Pete is also a 24-year member of Polish American String Band), and Mr. Dan Baker of Phillies and Eagles announcer fame (“the Voice of the Ballpark”) unveiled the new partnership at C & P’s Packer Avenue restaurant.  The new campaign is called “Served With Love.”wrapIMG_20130626_123436_091

“Served With Love” will promote the city as a tourist destination now and into the fall.  The campaign includes new branding on food wrappers, table tents and customized “Love” letters.

GPTMC is one of the most successful tourism marketing organizations in the nation. Chickie’s & Pete’s is ESPN’s best sports bar in North America.  Together, they intend to serve Philadelphia with “Served With Love.” Have a crab fry.

Work Hard, Play Hard

2012-12-23_16-04-36_37A fun weekend begins with another annual tradition, the 19th annual Fancy Brigade weekend in North Wildwood, New Jersey.  Of course, there is the Pub Crawl Friday night, but on Saturday, the 8th, after the block party, around 4:45/5:00 or so, there is the 19th annual Fancy Brigade Summer Parade.  It starts at Second Street and Olde New Jersey Avenue. Summer may now pick up steam.  The event also caps an inspirational week.


The week featured SugarHouse Casino General Manager Wendy Hamilton announcing that SugarHouse is the title sponsor of the SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade for at least the next 3 parades. Whoo-hoos still echo along two Street.  This is a great statement of support.  PHl17 continues as the sole broadcaster of the parade.  The station presented Wendy with a new pair of Golden Slippers.

DevFndtionIMG_20130604_184828_372Also this week, I got to spend time again in Lafayette Hill with hundreds of great people raising money for the Devereux Foundation, which is beginning its second century of serving children and adults with special needs.  Devereux has been the “quiet neighbor” that doesn’t toot its own horn, but really makes a difference.

I also was updated with the plans the organization CADEkids has to expand its work in schools to teach good decision-making, how to control impulses and avoid risky behavior.  The nonprofit has been making a difference in young people’s lives for a quarter of a century.  It’s the kind of program that is needed more and more.  It’s got the data to prove it is effective.

On “In Focus” I spoke with Jerry Buckley, the relatively new CEO, of the Pennsylvania SPCA.  That is a remarkable operation which is saving 96 percent of the animals that come into its facility.

I also talked with Beverly Haberle and Fred Martin,  folks from the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania who do a wonderful job of moving people from addiction into effective recovery.  They have a project called PRO-ACT, which stands for Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together. They are actively working to remove the stigma of addiction and get us to a better place.

As I said, another inspiring week.  My thanks to the Mummers, too, who I spent hours with this week as they work to preserve the art and cultural history of Philadelphia’s unique tradition.

Happy 4711!

ImageI had a great time Friday night as the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation celebrated the Chinese New Year at the Ocean City Restaurant on 9th Street in Chinatown.Image  As someone born in the year of the Monkey, I have little in common with the Snake, but being a Monkey, celebrated optimistically with my friends and neighbors.  Comcast employees and NBC10′s Glenn Schwartz were on hand.  PCDC has been a significant, positive force in the preservation of the culture and in the development of Chinatown.Image The annual banquet is always one of the happiest of the year. May you soon fine lucky bamboo stalks near you.

Rethinking Worry over Hurricane Sandy

This puts it in a little perspective, at least for me.

Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknowns

One of Mummer friends shared this photograph.

“My Way”

Pall bearers steadily moved the flag-draped coffin carrying the body of Senator Arlen Specter through massive Har Zion Temple, and as they took their small, halting steps, Frank Sinatra’s large anthem of a full life, “My Way,” played to the 15 hundred people who had gathered to recall a “great statesman” and a remarkable man.Image

Friends, family and dignitaries gathered today in Penn Valley:  Vice-President Joe Biden, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, past and current U.S. Senators, elected officials from throughout the region, the Deputy Israeli Ambassador and more. The nearly two hours of reflection was at times humorous, at times tearful, but always as the Senator might have liked, moving forward.  It was also at times presented as if attorneys were making the case for a man’s greatness.  If it were a debate, they would have won it.

The Vice-President canceled campaign appearances in western swing states today to be here to say goodbye to his friend. He began his remarks with, “My name is Joe Biden. I was Arlen’s friend.”  He was in full Biden seriousness and in full Biden humor. It was no doubt like the train rides the two of them shared. Joe Biden said of his friend, “Arlen had exceptional character,” and that he had “never seen a man with as much undaunted courage.”

Former Governor Ed Rendell, who was hired by District Attorney Arlen Specter,  said ”We were proud of you…We will always be proud of you.” Rendell’s voice broke a couple of times as he praised his mentor and colleague.

Longtime friends of Arlen Specter remembered his early days and the personal side of the very public figure. Words such as “true grit,” “will,” and “integrity” filled the eulogies.  Arlen lived, “A productive and meaningful life.”  “He wasn’t afraid to fail.”

Tribute was paid to widow Joan Specter.  Granddaughters spoke, too. Said Sylvie of her grandfather, “He worked tirelessly to be the best grandfather ever, and he succeeded.”  Specter’s son, Shanin, summed up the afternoon’s recollections and expanded on his father’s love of the fight for fairness and of standing by friends in trouble, regardless of political consequences.  Said Shanin, “He was “the patron saint of lost causes.”

The above were among the public statements I heard, but before the service began I spoke with people from various walks of life, all who genuinely are pained by the loss of a man who made a difference. Among them, those with a stake in the fight against cancer, community leaders, as well as public figures indebted to his leadership. Pall bearer and Congressman, Pat Meehan, for example, who wore the loss on his face.

Arlen Specter did not plan this final  service. As he told his family, “surprise me.”  But as Sinatra filled the quiet of the Temple, it felt, after 82 years on earth, 59 years of marriage, kids and grandkids, students and colleagues, wins and losses, causes, quests, and even windmills, it felt right to say that Arlen Specter did do it his way.

Summer Camp Shines

I spent the day with some great young people today.  They are the campers and counselors at the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp.  They come from throughout eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware to enjoy the week of camp in Worcester Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful.

From swimming to arts and crafts to building floats and just hanging out and having fun, the camp is all a summer camp should be and more.  More, because MDA creates a setting in which these campers get a chance to meet new friends, to have a great time, but also to be in an environment where they don’t have to explain anything to anybody.

It was great seeing Dennis and Carol Schaeffer, of Schaeffer’s Harley Davidson of Orwigsburg.  Schaeffer’s is one of the top HD dealers in the nation in raising money for MDA.

They and a convoy of Harley owners came to give rides to the campers.

The wonderful folks from Lowe’s were on hand to help build floats for the parade.  This year’s theme is Road Trip and they were in the South today. Thus, the many Mardis Gras and racing themes.  Other sponsors and volunteers were there. The Upper Darby Fire Department served a splendid dinner, 24 hours after the Philadelphia Fire Department dished out a meal I heard kids talking about all day. (The ribs were a hit, Local 22.)

The MDA Summer Camp is a week of optimism.

While the Association’s aim is to cure neuromuscular diseases, the camp shows why MDA is an organization of heart, for it it seeks to help people in every way and to do so today.

Make a muscle. Make a difference.

To help those who are hurting

Major Robert Dixon

The Salvation Army told us today it is ready for its Christmas in July campaign.  You’ll be seeing the familiar kettles in Center City every Tuesday in July.

Major Robert Dixon says the need to help the hurting in Philadelphia is great.  The organization last year provided 600,000 meals and 400,000 sheltered nights.  I heard Dixon say today as we gathered at the facility along Conshohocken State Road, “If the Salvation Army were to close its doors, our community (Philadelphia region)  would be in dire straits.”

Besides shelter and nutritional food, SA has music programs, tutoring, computer labs, homework help, the Red Shield House where self-sufficiency is nurtured, and more.  It’s all part of Doing the Most Good.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day and every day, thank you, Dad, and all who served our nation in time of war.


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