La Plata's Spirit Still Shines Many wonderful things have occurred to our county since April 28, so many that it would take this entire paper to list and we would still leave out someone or something. I am writing today to single out one ongoing tradition that has continued despite being decimated on that fateful Sunday. Along with all the other destruction that day was the leveling of our water tower. This tower also supported the Christmas star that had shone brightly for more years that I can remember. The star and many of the Christmas decorations that made our county seat so unique were destroyed and gone with so many other wonderful places and landmarks. Through the undying efforts of one lady they might have been gone but not for long. All those who helped in years past to install these decorations were enlisted again and with some new assistance our town is once again illuminated for the holiday. The trees in front of the courthouse have been replaced and again show brightly, thanks to our Public Facilities Department and Mike Mudd. New candles and old ones have been hung thanks to the La Plata Lions and SMECO and many other volunteers. And the wonderful star that stood atop the water tower once again shows brighter than ever thanks to the generosity of the Facchina Company as it sets atop of their wonderful new building.

All these efforts were led by Bobbie Baldus. She has been the "Mother Superior" for many years for the Christmas decorations in La Plata. This year even though her own business was destroyed, she made an extraordinary effort to make La Plata beautiful for the holidays. She gathered her committee and through their efforts and hard work our town looks brilliant.

My sincere thanks to all who assisted.

Wm. Daniel Mayer

Charles County Commissioner

La Plata

A Mixed Message I am writing in response to the article on Page 6 of the Southern Maryland Extra, Dec. 19, 2002. It was interesting to read that the government does in fact support the racist beliefs and policies followed by Sen. Strom Thurmond. On Dec. 12 the government spent tens of thousands of dollars to fly a C-17 cargo plane to Andrews Air Force Base, assigned an Air Force enlisted aide to Thurmond and incurred the costs of government personnel to attend a ceremony naming a U.S. Air Force plane after the senator. To quote the Air Force Chief of Staff, "It's a great honor that both the name and spirit of a great American resides on this airplane." All this after the president and his aides have been and are very vocal expressing displeasure about the remarks expressed by Sen. Trent Lott when supporting the views and policies of Thurmond.

Seems to me that this is a message for those with right and left political beliefs.

Fred Lothrop

Leonardtown

A Walk to Remember The 2002 Alzheimer's Association Memory Walks in La Plata, Charlotte Hall and Solomons were resounding successes because of the dedication of the citizens of Southern Maryland. At the three walks there were over 350 devoted walkers, while countless other caring people throughout the three counties assisted with this effort in many other ways. The proceeds raised from the 2002 Memory Walks will benefit the chapter's programs and services for Alzheimer's families residing in the Tri-County community.

We also want to express our appreciation for the generosity of the participants and staff of the Richard R. Clark Senior Center, the staff and residents of the Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home and the Asbury-Solomons Retirement Community. A special thank you goes to Pat Younger, Senior Director of Dementia Planning at the Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, who has graciously chaired the past two Memory Walks. Also, the success of this event is a result of the untiring efforts and support of the steering committee. The Memory Walk appreciates the continual support of the honorary co-chairs, Congressman Steny Hoyer and State Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton.

Once again, the business community rallied support for this event. The participants enjoyed frolicking with the mascots -- Old Country Buffet bee, Charles County's library raccoon "Zak," Chick-Fil-A cow, Charles County sheriff's office crime dog "McGruff," Baysox's Louie and the Orioles' bird. The sponsors included Wal-Mart/La Plata, 2N1 Club, Asbury-Solomons Retirement Community, Morningside House, SMECO, Civista Health, HCR Manor Care, Fenwick Landing Assisted Living, St. Mary's Hospital and GE Long Term Care Insurance.

Thank you one and all for a most memorable 2002 Memory Walk. The success of this event is directly related to the kind of caring citizens of Southern Maryland. The 2003 Memory Walks will be held Saturday, Sept. 20.

Sandra Wheeler

Southern Maryland Office

Alzheimer's Association

La Plata

Ignoring History's Lessons Someone once said, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." I was reminded of this quotation while observing the recent ordeal of Trent Lott, who seems to be wandering through the past like a stranger in a foreign land. We've all seen politicians who seem to inhabit a parallel universe, making up their own version of reality as they go along. But President Abraham Lincoln got it right when he said, "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history." Effective leaders learn the lessons of history, or fail to learn them at their peril. Gifted leaders, like Lincoln, divine the deeper meaning of events as they unfold, without having to be told how significant they are. Unfortunately, some politicians can't pass the history test at all, even when they witness the events firsthand, are given the answers in advance, and have decades to ponder their meaning.

In the relatively short life of our country, Americans have taken part in two or three revolutions since the first one secured our independence from Britain. (The exact number depends on who's counting.) As Americans, we keep reinventing ourselves, adapting and perfecting the model that the Founders left us. About 40 years ago one of the most important of our revolutions began, the great moral struggle to end racial injustice and discrimination, and ensure civil rights and equal justice for all Americans. And even after all the progress that has been achieved in the last half-century, since President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces (an order Strom Thurmond called "un-American") and the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the legacy of racism is still one of the most formidable challenges facing our society. So the revolution continues, and the work each of us must do as citizens to bridge the racial divide in our communities and build a more fair and just society for all Americans isn't finished yet.

When Trent Lott was called upon to speak at Thurmond's 100th birthday, instead of the usual platitudes reserved for such occasions, Lott chose instead to publicly express his view that "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years" if Thurmond had been elected president of the United States in 1948. It's ironic that Lott should do this, because Thurmond himself has spent the last several decades of his life trying to distance himself from his own record and rehabilitate his racist image. Instead of ignoring Thurmond's past, when he was the South's champion of segregation and led his Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Convention to protest the civil rights plank of the Democratic Party's campaign platform, Lott called attention to it, fondly remembering Thurmond's cause, and publicly wishing it had prevailed all across the nation.

To those who participated in the momentous events of a generation or more ago, Lott's words cut close to the bone. Courageous men and women, black and white, worked together in those years to end racial discrimination and injustice, and redeem the Founders' promise of equal opportunity for all Americans, and in one of the great mass movements of history, transformed American society. The civil rights movement here inspired human rights revolutions around the world that eventually brought down the repressive regimes of the former Soviet Union and South Africa.

On behalf of this righteous cause, many Americans put their lives on the line. And some gave their lives. I remember participating in one very tense civil rights demonstration in rural Georgia in 1969, when I was a college student in Atlanta. I was walking in the demonstration with an elderly black man named Willie J. Simmons from Sparta, through a gantlet of racist taunts and jeers, when he suddenly collapsed and died on the street in front of me, overcome by the stress of the threats around us. Since the local ambulance refused to respond, he was carried to the hospital in the back of a station wagon. No monument will be erected in his memory. But he was as much a patriot in the cause of freedom as the soldiers who perished at Valley Forge. I will remember him and the events of that cold February day, forever.

Senator Lott has failed to understand one of the most important chapters in American history, including events he witnessed with his own eyes, like James Meredith's enrollment at Ole Miss in 1962, when Lott was a student there. Is it possible for someone to have such a profound misunderstanding of the events of his time, the self-evident truths upon which our nation was founded and the principles upon which it is governed, and still be an effective leader? . . .

Let's put this controversy in perspective. [Removing] Trent Lott from the position of Senate Majority Leader . . . is not a matter of great historical significance, and will be quickly forgotten. Lott is not an indispensable man. He can be replaced. But by inadvertently providing us with an opportunity for national discussion and reflection on the lessons of our past, the achievements we are most proud of as Americans, and the challenges ahead, perhaps Senator Lott has rendered a public service after all.

Gary V. Hodge

Waldorf

Teamwork in Search On Dec. 6, the Maryland State Police, Prince Frederick Barrack, received a report of a missing person. Samuel Parker had last been seen on Mason Court, Prince Frederick, at 12:30 a.m. Two factors made this situation especially challenging. First, Parker was 82 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's. Second, the temperature overnight on Dec. 6 dipped into the low teens, thereby reducing the time an individual could survive outside.

A number of agencies, resources and individuals were utilized in the search for Parker on Dec. 6 and 7, when he was found deceased in the area of Adelina Road, Prince Frederick. While it is extremely unfortunate, the tragedy of Parker's death could not have been avoided, I would like to thank all those who devoted their time, effort, expertise and resources to the search: Calvert County Sheriff's Office, Calvert County Control Center, Maryland State Police Aviation Division, Prince George's County Sheriff's Department, Anne Arundel County Alarmer's Association, Calvert County Department of Education, Safeway in Prince Frederick, radio stations 98.3 and 97.7 FM, Prince Frederick area merchants who displayed Parker's poster, Calvert County Volunteer Fire Department Companies No. 2 and No. 4, Calvert County Emergency Management, Charles County Sheriff's Office, Southern Maryland Search and Rescue Team, Calvert County Department of Public Transportation, Jim's Air of Prince Frederick, Brothers Johnson Septic Service.

As the on-scene commander, it quickly became apparent the search was well staffed. What was not so apparent, initially, was the nature in which each agency would work hand-in-hand throughout the event. As the search commenced, it was clear the only goal was to find Parker alive and well. We were not successful in this task. However, this willingness to cooperate and assist bodes well for the safety of the citizens of Calvert County.

Joseph C. Consoli

Assistant commander

Prince Frederick Barrack

Maryland State Police

Prince Frederick