Dee's Blog
Mon 01/16/2012
The Power of a Dream
Topic: Power

If the media had been as sophisticated and as scrutinizing in Martin Luther King's Day, as it is in 2012, there's a good chance that he would have been drug into court for plagairism.  He would have also been arrested for soliciting prostitutes, possibly even for physical assault of prostitutes!

King was an American Baptist minister.  American Baptists are known for their strong stand against slavery and racism.  Yet, from my close-range observations, I can assure you that they are not known for keeping a sexually promiscuous pastor in the pulpit.  Certainly, King's reputation among colleagues would have been demolished if what we now know had been known back then.

Yet it is not King's morality that we laud today.  It is his courage to put his life on the line, leading the masses to join him in working for the Dream that may not even have been his original words!  We celebrate the Power of the Dream that continues guiding people who are working for change in spite of powerful, oppressive regimes.  Especially the one that "kept good people in their place" while punishing anyone who dared to challenge the abusive, immoral thinking and behavior in this "land of the free."

The King is dead in the literal sense.  Long live the Dream!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:20 AM CST
Sun 01/15/2012
Honoring Principles, Not People

Children across the nation will be out of school tomorrow, to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.  Just as they will be in a few weeks, to celebrate George Washington's birthday (though we commonly refer to the national holiday as President's Day).

We now know that both King and Washington had what most people consider to be serious personal flaws. 

Washington was a slaveholder, though he was obviously convinced this was wrong.  He lacked the fortitude and generosity to free his slaves, however, until his death.  Both he and Martha wrote in their wills that their slaves would be free.  Yet only when they could no longer benefit by them! 

What's more:  Washington found a technical loophole that allowed him to keep slaves while President, even though it was against the law in the nation's capitol (ie. Philadelphia) for anyone to hold slaves!

By maintaining two residences, alternating between the two places, he could keep the slaves, provided they weren't kept for more than six months at a time in Philadelphia!! 

So does anyone question why we honor this man's memory with a national holiday?  I've not heard such, have you?  Neither am I suggesting it.  As I see it, we are not so much honoring our first President as we are honoring the principles of freedom that were espoused in that day--even though they were sometimes not lived out very well by the leaders of that day.

Tomorrow, I'll address similar issues with Martin Luther King Day.  Eventually, tying all of this together to raise complex questions that are difficult for most of us to answer.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:22 AM CST
Fri 01/13/2012
How Do We Use Our Power to Vote?
Topic: Power

 Yesterday, I wrote about how leaders of the Hesperian Foundation courageously voted to exercise power in order to remove themselves from the one with greatest power in the entire Foundation.  (ie. the Founder himself!)  Let's look at the power dynamics and see if we can connect the dots to something that, at first glance, looks far afield.

This is election year for the United States.  The world is watching to see how we, as citizens, are going to exercise our power over our elected leaders through our vote.  For countries that do not give citizens a chance to do this on a regular basis, this power  seems enormous.  They watch us like poverty-stricken kids at the window of a candy store!!

How ridiculous, people living under dicatotships must think it is, that almost half of Americans also choose to watch the "circus," but never put forth the small effort required to exercise this wonderful power!  It's hard for any of us to believe the truth--that, in a country this size, one vote can make a difference. 

Well, in the Iowa Republican primary a few days ago, only eight (yes 8!) made the difference for who came in first!!!  Back in 2004, the percentage of votes making a difference for a national election was much smaller and had far more disastrous results, in my opinion, than if that percentage had gone the other way.

Elections aren't the only way we exercise our power. 

In governments, corporations, places of business we frequent, how we choose to spend our time, non-profits we support--in all of these we are micro-managing OUR power!  And the decisions we make can be just as important, and difficult, as they are for a CEO--if we really take them seriously. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:16 AM CST
Thu 01/12/2012
Personal Shock
Topic: Power

While writing yesterday's blog, I decided to find out more about the credentials of David Werner, the founder of The Hesperian Foundation.  What I learned through Wikipedia and the Chicago Tribune sent shivers up my spine!  Never would I have dreamed that this man, responsible for saving so many lives around the world, had been dismissed 20 years ago from the organization he founded, due to strong allegations of having molested disabled teenaged boys in Mexico!

It's a rare example of how a good work, still distributed to Peace Corp volunteers, manages to live on despite the horrific acts of evil that were apparently being perpetrated by one who was, and still is, the author of a great tool.  There is no reason to destroy the good Werner did.  However.....

Sadly, it's also an example of how much more difficult it is to do an investigation of an American citizen operating in criminal behavior overseas.

So it makes me very proud to find this part of the Hesperian story.  It serves as another rare example.  Instead of decades of doubting, colluding and massive coverup, this organization unanimously voted to totally dismiss it's founder, even after it's strongly credible investigations were unable to be legally proven.  They could have done the "church thing" I've seen so often--refusing to take action because of fear of being sued by the perpetrator while knowing that the powerless victims didn't have a chance of ever being in a court of law!! 

Justice?  Marie Fortune would say "approximate justice."  The best that could be achieved under the circumstances in a place where "there is no doctor" and also "there is no court" available.

I'm still very proud of The Hesperian Foundation, proud to have supported it's colossal accomplishments that continue despite the horror that cruelly invaded the lives of vulnerable young people.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:42 AM CST
Updated: Thu 01/12/2012 6:24 PM CST
Wed 01/11/2012
The Hesperian Foundation
Topic: Making Changes

"A chicken in every pot!"  That was the campaign promise of Herbert Hoover in 1928, a year before the Crash!  It's easy to dream, important to set goals.

 More important to find practical solutions to the problems that exist while the dreamers work out the details for greater things.  At least, that's how it feels if you are working in the trenches.

David Werner is not a doctor.  He's a world-renowned biologist who has worked for decades in community health programs, especially in Mexico. 

In 1973, Werner, along with Jane Maxwell and Carol Thurman published a very practical guide for community leaders and health care workers.  It gave life-saving information and illustrations on how to prevent and/or treat health problems.  The title says it all:  "Where There Is No Doctor." 

This book has become the most widely used health education book in tropical and sub-tropical developing countries in the world!  In fact, before the decade was out, I had ordered several copies for myself and others in remote areas.

In 1975, Werner founded The Hesperian Foundation. which I have continued to support monthly now offers an array of health care books for places where there is nothing CLOSE to universal health care.  Places where health care as we know it would seem like utopia!  Donations to Hesperian help them provide many, many copies free of charge to struggling workers with very limited training, in rural areas where health care, otherwise, is simply inaccessible.

A look at the list of materials available will give you an idea of the scope of their growing work, made possible through volunteers and low-paid writers.  How do I know? 

This organization is so dear to my heart that several years ago I applied for a job as one of their writers, thinking that I could do the work through the Web.  No, they wanted me to be able to sit down with their team to hammer out every detail.  No quick productions--clarity on the very basic level wouldn't allow me to do it as I had dreamed of doing it.

Still not convinced, I proposed that I'd be willing to move to CA--until they told me the salary!  That brought me back to earth, convincing me of why I love supporting them from a distance. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:11 AM CST
Tue 01/10/2012
Working for Universal Health Care
Topic: Power

I've been an advocate for universal health care for decades before I knew what the term meant.  Long before the public was hearing much about it in the USA!

Seeing the discrepancy in New Orleans, while doing public health nursing there, opened my eyes a wee bit. Nothing compared to living in Africa, where clinics ran out of drugs as basic as aspirin every year.  I could count on it, back then in the 80's, as a steady stream of people found their way to my back door as supplies dwindled.

I've come to believe that our voices are most needed in the United States.  Monetary gifts are what citizens of all Western countries need to consider if we are to reach people who have the lowest levels of health care in the world. 

Speaking to power takes VOICES and MONETARY GIFTS.

If you are concerned about universal health care in the USA--great!  So am I.  Why not find out how to make your voice heard through

If you'd like to go a little further from our shores, consider Doctors Outreach Clinics or Doctors without Borders.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 4:04 AM CST
Mon 01/09/2012
Convenient Excuses for Passing the Buck
Topic: Power

"You have to really be careful!  Never know who you can trust!"

I've heard those words so many times.  When they express concern for physical safety or health, we definitely have to heavily weigh how we may be putting ourselves at risk.  Even so, parents wouldn't think of not running into traffic for the sake of saving their child who was in a dangerous situation!

What concerns me is that I hear these same words often when it comes to reaching out to empower others with monetary gifts. 

Passing the Buck is an institutional game, we think.  It happens because, out of fear, leaders do not take strong action that is obviously needed in order to protect the powerless or to increase the power of others who deserve more. 

Yet, when I get honest with myself, I can easily catch myself playing the same game on a personal level.  This is exactly what happens when I fail to face just how much power I hold in my own hands in comparison to most people in this world.  

"You have to really be careful!  Never know who you can trust!"  As if what we hold in our hands is better kept in our hands than to risk saving a starving child or poverty-stricken family whose cries we refuse to hear.

Literally "passing the buck" is a risk.  Just like writing or speaking to people we've never met about a serious concern.  We don't know what the end result will be.  Maybe we're just wasting our money or wasting our breath. 

So? What good is our power if we don't give it away?


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:04 AM CST
Sun 01/08/2012
Why Even Try?
Topic: Power

“I will also hunt you in your homes. You will not hide, I will smoke you out, muziwanso. You should go back to your fathers and mothers from the West, who have sent you.” 

One would think these words of  President Mutharika would have made headlines on CNN international news back in July of 2011, in response to riots that resulted in 20 deaths from police brutality.  Maybe the statement received some brief mention, but I dare say you missed it.  As I certainly did. 

For six months, it's been nearly impossible to get news from my adopted homeland of Malawi--even on the Web!  Even though the withdrawal of funds was due to human rights violations.  Even though, the following month the President's entire Cabinet was dismissed and still has not been replaced!!

It's impossible to say what factors into the news we get.  Certainly a complex set of interactions.  It most certainly had something to do with the increasingly watchful eye that the Malawi government has given inside journalists.

While all of this leaves many questions, I believe we must focus on organizations that are operating despite the despondency that so many feel in our world.

For me, in Malawi, I keep my eyes on Malawi Children's Village, an organization that was organized with the help of former Peace Corp Workers who are still very much involved in overseeing the success of MCV.  If you want to read some good news, please spend a while perusing the newsletter.

I know some of the leaders.  In fact, the Malawian head who has faithfully served alongside his wife Faith, visited us in our Iowa home a few years ago.

 Go back and look at the history of how Malawians with a heart were empowered by Americans with hearts  resources, and a vision.

Then, consider getting involved with a small donation

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 11:32 AM CST
Sat 01/07/2012
Being Faithful with the Power You Have

Accept your place among power brokers.  Very likely, by the world's standards, you are somewhere in "middle management" when it comes to the amount of power you have.

Sound ridiculous?  It's not.  Just because you don't have the power of a great politician or a CEO, even if you have a job at the bottom of the totem pole, you still have power.   Not only power to speak to others, influencing how they think or may choose to exercise the power that they have. 

You also have resources to be shared with those of lesser power or to be used by those who are seeking ways to speak to greater power.  These resources can be in the form of tangible items.  Or....

Any money that you have is a form of power!  Every day that you spend OR withhold money, you are exercising power.  Most never think of it that way, but it's true.

Not only do you vote by how you choose to spend or save your money, which items to buy, what price you are willing to pay in order to have anything beyond bread and water, you exercise power in how you choose to show empathy or love to those in need.

Maybe you are so cautious, so fearful that somebody will take your money and mis-use it, that you hoard it away so that it does little good for you or anybody else.  An alternative is to become a penny-pincher so that you will have a few more dollars to give away.

You might consider looking carefully at places to be of influence, empowering others who are much less fortunate than you. is one place where I choose to exercise power through the important discipline of empowering people I will never meet.  What fun it is to make small loans to those who have little hope of seeing their dreams fulfilled, then to see the money come back to me to loan again to somebody else, spreading the power around.

As in so many ventures in my life, I've learned that when I take the risk of giving myself (ie. my power) away, the miracle of love just keeps coming back, making me realize how much power I do possess.

Yes, "being faithful with little" works to grow more power, preparing us to do more and more to change the world beyond ourselves, giving us such a sense of gratitude for being alive to take on even bigger tasks.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:13 AM CST
Fri 01/06/2012
How Powerless are YOU?

Those of us who have never known real hunger or homelessness often fail to see how powerful we are.

Perhaps we have experienced powerlessness for a period of time in our lives, when we were either victims of crime or acute discrimination.   Certainly we know class discrimination or gender discrimination in very personal ways--either we've experienced this personally or someone in our family or close circle of friends has.  So it's easy to forget that we are still powerful people, compared to most in the world.

  If we live in a democracy that allows freedom of speech, that's a form of power.  Yes, freedom brings a degree of power.  We can use that power for good or cause much pain in what we say or do.  There are limits, but we do have the immense power to speak our minds.

Those who live without freedom of speech do not often realize the degree of oppression that envelops their lives.  Even as an American, I was not in touch with just how much I was weighing what I said in public when I lived in Malawi, back in the late 70's and 80's.  We had to be careful, even when speaking to closest friends.  Or writing letters.  Certainly on the telephone, where the government might be eavesdropping!   It was against the law to speak about the condition of the nation, the oppression of the people, and certainly anything the least bit negative about the dictator who forced people to "worship" him in grand parades for propaganda purposes!

Only when I got to Kenya, where freedom of speech was much greater, did I catch myself as I ridiculously looked over my shoulder before speaking!  It was as if my feet were out of shackles!!  I had the power to speak freely for the first time in years!!!  It was like a breath of fresh air, suddenly rushing in so strongly, that this moment is forever etched in my memory!

So if you are thinking that you are totally powerless, stop to consider this idea.  Speak up for yourself and others, especially for those who have no voice in the darkest corners of our world.  Whatever the cause, consider that you are a person of power--even if you are speaking to people with far more power who may not be interested in listening.  Find multiple causes.  Find new words.  Just speak your mind and forget about needing more power.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:01 AM CST

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