Dee's Blog
Wed 01/18/2012
Success Doesn't Always Include Character
Topic: Power

"Character is formed through the allegiance to a code of moral and ethical conduct. Integrity is the adherence to that code, no matter the circumstance. It takes a good deal of courage to stand by core beliefs, especially when others are unable or unwilling."  That's what Patrick O'Neill teaches. 

A person can manipulate people, to find a way to get to the top.  One can get a PhD without having character.  Intelligence can be applied for good or evil.

O'Neill encourages us to look for examples of people who had both talent and integrity.  I always thought character and integrity went hand in hand.  Not exactly, I've learned from O'Neill's thought-provoking newsletter

A person needs intelligence and talent to be successful.  Character certainly helps.  Integrity, when the going gets tough, is remarkably rare.   Tomorrow, we'll consider integrity. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:18 AM CST
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
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
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
Wed 12/28/2011
Young Lady Stands Her Ground Here in Kansas
Topic: Power

How thrilled I am to be in Lawrence, a city where speaking one's mind seems to be refreshingly welcome.  It's an oasis in the desert of suppression that permeates so much of Kansas!

 A few weeks ago, a high school student--female, at that--was able to turn power on it's head here in Kansas. 

If you haven't heard the story, or even if you have, you may want to read this abc news blog

Thanks to the courage of Emma Sullivan, we should all be inspired to claim what is rightfully ours.  Our voice, that is.  This freedom carries with it a power that every individual deserves.

I keep wondering what this young lady is capable of accomplishing in the years to come.  Seems to me, the sky is her limit!

Sullivan's story shows that, through such courage, sometimes one individual CAN make a big impression that humbles those in places of great political power.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 4:51 PM CST
Tue 12/27/2011
Life's Challenges Provide New Insights
Topic: Power

 Christmas came early at our house!   A power wheelchair for my husband!  Yet I'm as glad to see it as he is.  It makes life easier and gives us the freedom to go more places.   The chair is just one of the positives in what has been a most challenging two years, since I last posted an entry on this blog.


Those two years have brought adjustment after adjustment, involving:  several hospitalizations for Ron, the death of Ron's mother, the loss of one of his best friends to cancer, and the near-loss of the other best friend, who is waiting in hope of a new, life-saving liver and kidney, as I tried to stand by and offer support and carry on the routine that I had for years.  This blog was just one of those routines that I so enjoyed.


During the two years, we have made two major moves, the last one a very positive one for which we have been working and planning for years.


Only weeks after hanging the last picture, we learned why Ron was again going downhill, just when we thought he was ready to roll.  The news that he was already far into the process of becoming paraplegic, due to a rare condition of the spinal cord, really took the wind out of our sails!!  We reached far into ourselves and found what we knew was already there--the power to take charge of our lives as we searched for new resources.


Despite the shocking diagnosis and prognosis, we have had so many empowering gifts, including some of you dear readers.


New friends have helped sustain us, added to family and friends we've had for years--each providing a unique blend of encouragement, support, and a willingness to help us adapt to a new lifestyle that has forced us to slow down, reset priorities, and find ways to move forward.


The tangible gifts came in the form of equipment.  Most were gifts to ourselves.  We dug deep and found ways to make it happen.  In the process, we have gained a deep, new understanding of the very limited power that so many other-abled people, already living in poverty, face each day.   Ron has pledged to regain his independence as quickly as possible so that he can devote his life to empowering this group through advocacy.  This will be his new ministry here in this welcoming city of Lawrence, KS.  He's already started networking a lot to see where he can plug in. 


This new addition to our household is remarkable.  Weighing in at 400 pounds, it has a way of gaining respect wherever it goes.   No wonder they call it a power chair!!  What a smile it has brought to both of us!  Hills that would have been foreboding only weeks ago are no longer threatening.  Ron actually had to stop one day and wait for me to catch up! 


Oh, that we could so quickly reverse the institutional power imbalances that so many of us have encountered!  



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:26 PM CST
Sun 11/02/2008
When "Enemies" Go the Millionth Mile
Topic: Power

Have you ever noticed how often people who have been ostrasized or shamed, for whatever reason, end up going the extra mile to live by their ideals? 

Of course, it can go the other way, too.  Certainly, even when the larger group of an ostrasized bunch of people stay true to ethical principles and values, a few people in the group may become violent or undertake illegal or unethical actions that can end up backfiring because the prejudice is simply increased as the group is conveniently stereotyped as being something that the majority in that group are not.  This may have been the case with the Japanese who had sought citizenship previous to being shipped off through the internment program.

The internment program, we now recognize, was totally absurd.  Especially since it escalated after the U. S. victory at Midway (June, 42 or a full 6 months after Pearl Harbor).   Instead of the temporary arrangements that took 1500 people from San Diego on trains to an unknown destination, without explanation back the previous April, the victims were taken to permanent internment camps in the summer AFTER Midway, when it was already nearly impossible to consider these people could be a threat in any way!!  

What is amazing to me is how the peace-loving people, many who had never set foot in Japan, continued to revere the soldiers, the U. S. A., and what it stood for.  Despite the prejudice that had never allowed them to even become United States citizens! 

As a whole, the imprisoned innocents refused to abandon their belief system.  They continued to love and support one another, and eventually they worked to become citizens.  Perhaps many of them were able to do this because of people like Ms. Clara Breed--people who stood by their own principles and the treasured values that they shared with the victims. 

Perhaps someday our grandchildren will be reading about the Breed's of the early 20th century--people who were not victims, but empathized with those who were.

That's true advocacy! 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT

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