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Duty-Bound: Thoughts on Memorial Day

I was a child raised in northern New Hampshire around country men who had served in both world wars. The men I grew up with didn’t speak of those times; they would look at me long and hard when I asked, and then look away and shake their heads.

Even my dad, with whom I was close, only opened up to share the reality of some of those days when we both got older. He said he didn't want to die with me thinking that he was ‘such a great guy’. So, I listened to those grim tales and I met his eyes when I could, and we shared the knowing of those acts of war and each suffered the telling in our own way.

I processed it over time and loved him not one bit less, understanding that war is madness, and he was in war. It was good that he told me, for it allowed me to understand what my peace-loving college friends could not - that each soldier is a soul on a journey; we cannot imagine the road they walk, nor do we want to try.

 As a teenager, I had friends who didn't wait for their number to come up, but headed out to war with their hearts light. I had friends who came to the farm to tell me and my folks that the lottery had called them, and they went with dread. I remember them, the ones who sought the adventure, and the ones who hated the duty.

We send the children of our nation into this horror and we expect them to stand it, and we know that what we expect them to endure is more than one should endure. Still, we have our flags and our uniforms and our ceremonies, and we all know it will never be enough to thank them for what they have done.

I remember the face of every young man whose name came back by word of mouth, a story in our local paper, letters carved on a memorial - with never a chance to see their eyes and laugh with them again. And I am grateful for every friend I had who came back from that war: those whose lives continued with wives, kids and jobs; and those who walked on alone, building the rich accumulation of living days. Each one is important, each story is critical to the story of our nation, of our intention, and of our commitment.

We honor their duty best not in parades and speeches, although those are good and proper ceremonies. We honor them best when we ensure their well-being when they come back from where we have sent them, when they come home with needs physical, psychological and emotional. When we can ease their path to a good education, to a better job, to a more peaceful family life, to a life that is able to find its stream in the great river of our nation’s prosperity,  that is when we truly honor their service, and show proper respect for their gifts to us.

Memorial Day is powerful, it holds memories and promise, and it reminds us of our duty, even as we honor those who did theirs.

Lisa I Whittemore

Londonderry State Representative



I have some thoughts on the current interaction between science and religion. I was raised in a United States whose President understood that our students require more, not less, study in science and math.

As a student, I heard my President tell the world that the future of the United States of America depended on her children, and he committed our nation to engage the struggle, facilitate this critical learning and ensure that our students could compete on an international level.

That President was able to leave a legacy of programs which helped students to excel in science and math, and which provided historically low-interest rate student loans through the government. For those of you who may not know, these loans originated in the National Defense Education Act, and they were the impetus for many thousands of American students to be the first in their families to graduate college. That investment in the education of our children brought tens of millions and more in tax revenue from successful workers in the vibrant, creative economy.

Many may not remember that in days of my youth, scientific inquiry was an international affair, with knowledge shared among scientists of various countries. Conversations on a single piece of the puzzle could occur among teams from three or four nations at a time. This spurred the advancement of knowledge for all, and winners were not the rich and powerful, but rather the peoples of all the nations of all the earth. It was a different time. We were a different people. Our government operated on a different set of intentions.

On October 22, 1963, President John F Kennedy discussed the challenges facing the United States and the planet as a whole in an address to the National Academy of Sciences.

“The last hundred years have seen a …great… change in the relationship between science and public policy. To this new relationship, your own academy has made a decisive contribution.

“For a century the National Academy of Sciences has exemplified the partnership between scientists who accept the responsibilities that accompany freedom, and a Government which encourages the increase of knowledge for the welfare of mankind…

“Scientists alone can establish the objectives of their research, but society, in extending support to science, must take account of its own needs…

“First, I would suggest the question of the conservation and development of our natural resources. I propose a worldwide program to protect land and water, forests and wildlife, to combat exhaustion and erosion, to stop the contamination of water and air by industrial as well as nuclear pollution, and to provide for the steady renewal and expansion of the natural bases of life.

“Malthus argued a century and a half ago that man, by using up all his available resources, would forever press on the limits of subsistence, thus condemning humanity to an indefinite future of misery and poverty. We can now begin to hope and, I believe, know that Malthus was expressing not a law of nature, but merely the limitation then of scientific and social wisdom. The truth or falsity of his prediction will depend… (on) the tools we have, (and) on our own actions, now and in the years to come.

“The earth can be an abundant mother to all of the people that will be born in the coming years if we learn to use her with skill and wisdom, to heal her wounds, replenish her vitality, and utilize her potentialities. And the necessity is now urgent and worldwide, for few nations embarked on the adventure of development have the resources to sustain an ever-growing population and a rising standard of living…

“This seems to me the greatest challenge to science in our times, to use the world's resources, to expand life and hope for the world's inhabitants.”

We are well advised to consider these words from 1963. Certainly this approach to scientific knowledge is in strong opposition to the current protocols of patent ownership and ferocious legal action to prevent the wider dissemination of scientific knowledge.

The aim of our current American system is to gather knowledge into hidden safe-boxes, and withhold it from the greater world and the greater good it could possibly bring to the American people.

I perceive the current debate questioning the value of science to be a part of this larger revolution of intent, to the detriment of our people and of those living today, and those who would live tomorrow if we can repent of our poisoning the planet and the creatures now alive upon it.

As for myself: I believe that God speaks to us in many languages. Science is one of them.

Lisa I Whittemore

State Representative
Rockingham County District 05
163rd NH General Court

Democracy is not a spectator sport.     ~ Marion Wright Edelman

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