Is the American Experiment Doomed?

Peter Neame

I preface this brief article (by a biochemist and Brit and thus an Alien!), who has bucked the normal trend of being a leftist while young and right-wing when old to become the exact opposite while absolutely not embracing a true leftist philosophy by saying that it is a very personal viewpoint.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana, 1905.

The writers of the constitution, ratified in 1787 and amended twenty-seven times, created a wonderful document. Based heavily on the Magna Carta of the UK (1215) and heavily tweaked by a consideration of the history of ancient Rome and the city states of Ancient Greece, it was succeeded by the constitution of the French Republic (1793). The writers of the U.S. constitution created a government framework with a number of checks and balances to avoid a despotic government arising, notably the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

So far, so good. Yet the majority of governments in the history of the world have been autocratic in one form or another.

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Christmas Carol Redux

Joan Weaving

This week’s blog ushers in what we hope will be a series of issues about the challenges facing this nation in 2024. We are pairing her thoughtful, short article, where she considers the future we are leaving for the next generation, with a new challenge in the form of an appeal for more opinion content from our subscribers and writers. You can read more about our request at the end of Joan’s article. — Editors


The ghost of Christmas Future visited us this Christmas Eve. It came on the faces of all the little children who gathered at my son’s house. My grandsons, their neighbors and friends, their cousins. The oldest was 10 years and the youngest 2 months. I felt very old.

I thought about the world they will live in. The only thing I know for sure is that it will be different from the one of today, and unrecognizable to the one I grew up in. The events which shaped our understanding of the world will be just a footnote in their history books. But I want them to know.

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Moral Courage In U.S. Politics

Don Menzel
Joyce Carpenter

Here at OLLI Connects, just as everywhere else in our country, we recognize that 2024 is shaping up to be a watershed year. Economic insecurity, international conflicts, climate fears, border chaos and our polarized, explosive electorate will influence life for the foreseeable future. And while we are fortunate that OLLI offers each of us opportunities to engage in learning and activities that provide welcome distraction, the outer world continues to churn with disturbing events that must be dealt with. And so to begin the year, we address the concept of moral courage; and we hope to hear more from you about the important issues of our day throughout the coming year. It is our goal to listen to you, to give you a safe place to express your thoughts, your fears, and your hopes for the future in an occasional series of articles. More on that later. But for today, the first entry written by Don Menzel acknowledges courageous individuals who stepped up in 2023. And Joyce Carpenter invites you to attend a lecture on the same theme.

We begin with …. Moral Courage in U.S. Politics—Editors

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Not in America ?

Joan Weaving

On Monday, September 29th 1941 at 8am, Shepsa and Sura Gershunovich appeared at the corner of Melnikiva and Dokterivskaya streets in Kiev Russia, as ordered by the town police.

Shepsa and Sura were decent, God-fearing Russians who worked hard, and followed the laws of Torah. They raised children, eked out a living, and believed that God would provide. They were my great grandparents.

At 9 am, along with over 30,00 other “Yids” who had gathered as ordered, they were marched to Babi Yar, a huge ravine north of the city. They were stripped of their clothes and belongings and layered like plywood into the ditch. Then they were systematically shot to death and buried beneath the rubble. By 8 pm, all the “Yids” were dead.

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The Ugly Side of American Democracy

Don Menzel

Today’s OLLI Connects article does something that very few of our articles do: it takes a political stance.  We don’t expect everyone who reads OLLI Connects to agree with it, and we welcome opposing Comments, provided they follow our Comment Policy which you can find near the bottom of this page. We would also welcome a well written opposing article. We are confident–well, pretty confident–that OLLI-USF members can disagree without throwing punches or insults at one another. — Editors

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Ending Birthright Citizenship Is Not the Right Thing to Do

Don Menzel

Are you a U.S. citizen? How do you know you are or are not? “Oh”, you say, “I was born in the U.S.” Well, all right, but it may surprise you to learn that the U.S. is one of only 35 countries that offers birthright citizenship—the vast majority of the nearly 200 countries on the planet do not do so.

So, what is controversial about birthright citizenship? Simply put, one view shared by the Republicans running for president is that birthright citizenship is a vehicle for illegal immigrants seeking entry into the U.S. Leading the pack is former President Donald Trump who has said that if elected in 2024 he will sign an executive order ending automatic citizenship for children born of parents who have illegally entered the U.S. In his view, birthright citizenship results in “anchor babies” who upon reaching the age of 21 can sponsor parents and family members for U.S. entry. Joining former President Trump are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy who has said he will add new citizenship requirements.     Read more

Biden and Ukraine

Don Menzel

“Bold, brave, brilliant” are words I use to characterize President Joe Biden’s 10-hour train foray to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky and his subsequent travel to Warsaw to demonstrate America’s commitment to a free, independent democracy. 

Why bold? President Biden’s initiative in the face of Russian President Putin’s continued doubling down on escalating the war cannot be met with weak American resolve. His initiative, although shrouded in secrecy and launched in the midnight skies, must have left President Putin and his minions reeling with surprise and surely cast doubt on the wisdom of his “special military operation.” Bravo!   Read more

The End of the Liberal World Order?

Don Menzel

“America,” former Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, in his later years proclaimed, “is the locomotive at the head of mankind, and the rest of the world the caboose.” The new liberal world order fashioned together after WWII was the “rules-based order” led by the United States. The alternative, Acheson believed, is an international jungle with no “rules, no umpire, no prizes for good boys.” Does Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military incursion into Ukraine signal a return to the jungle and an end to the liberal world order? View more

The Ukraine Invasions

As we write this, the actual invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces is ongoing. Whether that stage of the “war” will be over by the time we publish is something we don’t know. Whether it is or not, conflict will certainly continue. But war and conflict aren’t new to the Ukraine, as you know from your own memory of “history”.  OLLI members have an edge on the general public in that we’re old enough to have lived some of the history that they only read about on the Web.

We have two articles today. They were written separately, but we think they fit together well. 
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A Leap of Faith Helped Soviet Émigrés

Diane Henrikson Russell

Watching the news coverage of refugees fleeing Ukraine during the Russian invasion brought me back to 1980, when a leap of faith helped a family to emigrate from the USSR. Here is how it all began.

A middle-aged, well-dressed man approached us outside of a Tbilisi museum in February 1980. We were wary as he said, “Hello,” in English.

My first husband and I were in Tbilisi, Georgia as part of the (more…)

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