Several months ago, I was reviewing in court the file on a long-standing matter when I came across a letter that I had written on September 10, 2001. Seeing that date, I was momentarily stunned by that stark reminder of my normal life on the eve of 9-11, a life so completely unaware that the world was about to be radically changed, that I would soon be pulled from my family, from my seat on the county council, and my law practice to spend the next 9 years in support of counter-terrorism efforts, including 3 years in Iraq. Now, having lived those events and more recently observed the travesty in Afghanistan, I offer three key reflections:
1. The United States of America is a leader. Leaders look forward and, in the process, leave their backsides exposed to the ash and trash of the world, including some of our own, who seek to excuse their own failures by attacking the leader. They believe that criticizing and attacking the leader somehow makes them better than the leader.
2. Our national memory fades quickly and we must all work hard to teach the next generation about the incredible sacrifices made by those whose lives were shed for liberty and the amazing progress the United States of America, that great shining light on the hill, has brought to the world. It wasn’t long ago that we lionized police as our heroes, taught our children about our founding fathers, and never abandoned our own.
3. There are a lot of beautiful people in this country who will display amazing courage and selflessness when duty calls. We recently lost 13 of them in Afghanistan but there are many more serving today in our military and police, in our hospitals, schools, fire companies, and churches.
On Saturday, I will be attending a number of 9-11 remembrance ceremonies. I want to thank all of those involved in creating those opportunities for the next generations to learn about the sacrifices that Americans have made for us and for the world.
As we prepare for the start of the upcoming school year, we must remember that what our children learn in the classroom can have a life-long impact. I want to share with you the following passage that appeared this past school year in a 4th grade lesson in a Harford County Public School:
“When I think about power in the world, one thing I think about is race. I think about the color of a person’s skin and what that means for power. For example, I am a white person. The fact that I am white means I have a lot of privileges which is very much like power.”
I find this disturbing. We should not encourage racial division among our children. Since I was a child in the 1960s, our nation, our state, and our county have made tremendous strides in improving race relations and expanding opportunities for people of all races. We did not do that by telling young children to distrust each other, to harbor guilt or resentment toward other races, or to believe that the accumulation of power is the end game in life, which are often the elements or impact of Critical Race Theory teachings.
We advanced racial harmony by teaching the message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that all children are equal in the eyes of a loving God and that anything that we do to interfere with God’s plan is sinful. That very basic lesson has been, and continues to be, highly effective. Casting it aside for a new, radical theory that divides our children is wrong and will only serve to damage them and our future.
Civil rights lessons are an essential part of history curriculums. Children should know that hatred and evil still exists in the world, but these recent messages are aimed at creating division where it doesn’t exist so that politically driven groups can exploit victimhood and ultimately deny people of color true equality.
I have spoken at length with the Harford County School Superintendent and others in the educational system to express my considerable displeasure with this lesson, as well as my sincere hope that all such damaging lessons will be removed from the schools. I also spoke with a gathering of parents who appeared before the Board of Education in opposition to such lessons and thanked the parents for taking the time to stand up for our children. It is important that we all remain alert to and express our outrage with any lessons that preach division. Our children deserve our careful attention to this matter.
With the school year on the horizon, it’s disconcerting that Harford’s public schools, like schools across the nation, are considering a resumption of their mandatory face mask policy and requiring little kids to wear face masks for 8 hours a day, from the time they get on the bus until they return home. The very good news is that Harford’s public schools will open on time and will finally join the many private schools that remained open throughout the pandemic without major incident – kids must be in the classrooms, learning.
I have spoken out over the past year as public-school children, unable to gather at schools, clustered together, unmasked everywhere but in schools during the 20 hours they were not isolated for “distance learning.” This made no sense given that kids are at very low risk of serious illness from COVID-19, most childhood cases are asymptomatic or result in a mild illness, and the great successes of the private schools in remaining opening full time throughout the pandemic.
Moving forward, we are all anxious to see school children speak without filters, smile openly, breath freely, make friends with faces – not masks, have their facial expressions understood, enjoy childhood, and be comfortable.
In my discussions with school officials, they appear to appreciate the vital importance of getting kids back in the classrooms, full time, but say that they are concerned with the possible increased risks of the COVID Delta variant and they see masks as a way to mitigate that risk so that in-person leaning can proceed.
My grandchildren and a dozen nieces and nephews attend Harford County Public Schools so these issues are very real and personal – not political – as nothing is more important to me than their safety and mental health. My requests to the schools are that they: act based upon logic – not in response to campaign rhetoric or political correctness, act solely in the children’s best interest, consider best practices employed by the private schools to completely avoid or minimize masking (open the bus windows, eat lunch in classrooms and not a common cafeteria, isolate kids within individual classes to minimize outbreaks, limit any masking to certain situations, etc.), be flexible and responsive to special needs, and take all reasonable measures to let our children be children.
I encourage parents and grandparents to contact the Harford County Board of Education before August 9th to express their own opinions on this important issue by clicking here.
In 1492, the vast expanses of the American continents were opened to the empires of an Old World that had for thousands of years presumed the legitimacy of slavery, indentured servitude, racial and sexual superiority, debtor prisons, child labor, and other conditions that our modern world now almost universally condemns. As was the practice of empires throughout recorded history, the British empire established slave colonies in the Americas to support the mother country’s economy. Those slave colonies existed as such in this land for over 250 long years before the birth of the United States.
Despite this troublesome foundation, in the decades leading up to 1776 a new spirit of Liberty and enlightenment awakened in Colonial America to challenge the injustice of the Old-World concepts. This new awakening was a result of the combined effects of the inspired writings of enlightened thinkers, the self-determination demanded by the rugged frontier life, the personal liberties afforded by the great expanses and isolation of vast American wilderness, and the simple reality that the immense hardships and dangers of the new world made it essential for the colonists’ survival that they accept to their fullest measure the talents and abilities of every person, regardless of race, sex, or national origin.
The new spirit of Liberty inspired the signers of the Declaration of Independence to declare on July 4, 1776, that each of us is endowed by God with certain unalienable rights and that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Declaration did not expressly define the full nature and extent of the new American Liberty. The struggle to define that Liberty continued on after 1776 with increasing intensity and hostility for another “four score and seven years” when it finally erupted into the great Civil War. It was a war that claimed the lives of over 600,000 Americans, destroyed families and economies, and culminated in the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, outlawing slavery and demanding equal rights throughout the States. Still, despite the horrors and pain of the Civil War, the debate and struggle to fully define the new Liberty continues. For another 100 years after the Civil War the breadth of that Liberty was severely constrained by legally sanctioned separation of the races and violence.
Throughout our Nation’s history, millions have suffered, died, and see their lives horribly degraded in the struggle to define and realize the fullest measure of that Liberty with which our Creator endowed every person. As major struggles often do, the immense challenge of erasing the ancient prejudices rooted in every human heart has shaped the American experience like no other. Some, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and President Abraham Lincoln, have emerged from this struggle with great honor. Others have fared very poorly. But, as a Nation of God, we are called upon to turn the other cheek. And so it is that “with malice toward none and charity for all” that we give the heroes among us full credit for their brave determination while allowing those who did not rise to the demands of great moral challenges to lie quietly for eternity.
The U.S., like the rest of the world, continues the struggle against the evils of racism and other forms of prejudice and hatred. While our American history is an important part of that struggle, we have not been alone in witnessing the terrible violence inspired by oppression and hatred. The fierceness of the American Revolution was rapidly eclipsed by the terrible violence of the French and Russian Revolutions, WWI & WWII, and the worldwide communist revolutions that cost more lives than all previous wars.
In the midst of the eternal fight for Liberty, Americans can hold their heads high knowing that our Country, as the leader of the free world, has for over two centuries inspired and moved the world, like none before, towards a more just, equal, and humane existence for all people in all lands.
As all do who dare to take up the fight for justice and freedom, America has sometimes failed and even failed mightily. Still, we have not and do not now shy away from the fight.
Please join me on this Fourth of July, and stand tall and proud and thank God for America’s many blessings, his guidance, and for his gift of the heroes and the struggles that have elevated and inspired our Nation and the world.
This past legislative session, I urged my Senate colleagues to reject the numerous anti-police bills pending in the General Assembly. I argued that these bills were counterproductive and, if passed, would seriously harm public safety by driving officers from the force and discouraging the rest from actively policing the community.
In a sincere effort to avoid such outcomes, I worked long hours with my Senate colleagues to negotiate a series of bipartisan, compromise bills that would have brought reasonable reforms without damaging public safety. Unfortunately, those bipartisan compromises in the Senate were flatly rejected by the progressive leadership in the House and the compromise bills were thrown in the trash. The bills returned by the House and passed by the Senate on a party line vote are politically motivated and anti-police, intended to capture the substantial political funding offered by the national progressive movements.
In the months since these bills were passed, it is readily apparent that the laws are doing serious damage to public safety in Baltimore and beyond. The Baltimore Police force has declined by 10% and a sharp increase in violent crime in a city already suffering record levels of violence is rocking Baltimore City and expanding into the surrounding counties.
Here is a brief sample of local news reports this week on the growing violence:
“According to police statistics, the current 160 homicides so far represent a 6 percent increase from this time last year. Non-fatal shootings have increased by 18 percent year-to-date. Eight people were shot and two killed over Father’s Day weekend in Baltimore.
“It’s just gotten so bad. You got to be scared to walk up and down the street, especially in the evening. Now, it’s broad daylight, too,” a Southwest Baltimore resident who did not want to be identified said Monday. “[Police] make their presence well-known, so it’s not like they are not here. I see police officers on every corner just about every night.”
Felicia Carter, who is originally from North Carolina, said she sees this going on in a lot of areas. She has lived in Northwest Baltimore for 30 years. “Since I’ve been here, I’m like I need to pack and go back home,” said Carter.
President Biden has announced that he opposes efforts to “defund the police.” But that rhetoric means little to cities like Baltimore where the big problem with police retention is not a lack of funding but laws that communicate quite clearly to law enforcement officers that the political leaders do not have their backs, that political leaders will go after police at every opportunity to appease demands by radical political activists, and that police earn no respect for risking their lives.
Rather than their usual response of simply throwing money at every challenge, the progressives need to account for the new anti-police laws that criminalize police officers who make innocent mistakes in the heat of the action, subject officers and local governments to extreme financial penalties for mere mistakes, rob police officers of basic dignities and legal rights afforded to all other government employees, and cobble police with unnecessary restraints on effective policing.
The most revealing outcome of President Biden’s violence summit at the White House this week, attended by Baltimore’s Mayor, is the lack of any response by President Biden or the progressive leaders in Maryland or Baltimore City to the fundamental problem raised by Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison who said that Baltimore has “a criminal justice system that either has no consequences or these individuals fear no consequences or believe there are none.”
We will know that progressives mean business when they dare to renounce their support for state laws that are increasingly pro-criminal and anti-victim and condemn Baltimore’s state’s attorney for dereliction of her prosecutorial duties.
Thank you and, as always, I look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments.
Below is a copy of my letter to the Harford County Board of Education
regarding school redistricting:
Dear Board Members:
It has come to my attention that the Board of Education has once again begun the difficult process of redistricting to balance attendance in our public schools. While the redistricting process is an essential part of Harford County’s public education system, I request that you act with caution and not allow that process to move in the direction of an efficiency exercise of placing bodies behind desks at the least cost.
I am proud that our Boards, principals, staff, and PTAs have for many years worked diligently to encourage parental, family, and even whole neighborhood involvement in our Harford communities’ schools. The benefits of that approach are obvious. Harford citizen’s support for the schools goes well beyond the immediate students and their parents. Every community is invested in its schools as volunteers, taxpayers, donors, parents, and so many other ways. It is vital that the redistricting process not undermine that support and the high quality of education it promotes.
As the Board undertakes this current round of redistricting, I ask that you please make every effort to support the continuation of community schools and minimize education disruption. Moving children from one district to another should be done as a last resort and only when absolutely necessary, not in response to temporary fluctuations, to streamline school boundaries, or to shave a couple of miles off of bus routes. Whenever possible, students and their siblings should be allowed to attend and complete their education in the schools in which they and their families have already invested their time and talents. Each school should remain part of an established community so that parents can choose housing near elementary, middle, and high schools that afford families the greatest opportunities to attend and participate in school activities and support community schools.
The outcome of a well-managed redistricting process ought not to be a streamlines school district map but the creation of school communities that maximize the ability of faculty, staff, and parents to educate children. Moving a similar number of students between two schools simply to streamline a map is disruptive to the goal of supporting community schools where students can thrive.
Thank you for your hard work and you attention to these important matters. Please do not hesitate to call upon me if I can be of any assistance.