November 22, 2011

Our Ancestors at America's First Thanksgiving

Our ancestors at the first Thanksgiving

I think the first Thanksgiving feast was a great event first because a religious people showed gratitude to God for their blessings.  But also because it showed that two peoples who were very different could help each other and get along.
After the Mayflower landed in the New World in December 1621, sickness claimed more than half of the group.  The Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans lived nearby and could have finished off the weakened survivors.  They were short on supplies too.  Although the Wampanoag had been treated badly by the first groups of settlers who came to their area, they didn't harm the Pilgrims.  Instead they tried to become friends.  After many discussions among the two groups' different leaders, they made a treaty.  This was mutually beneficial.  The settlers gained from the knowledge of the helpful Wampanoag, and it seemed as if they had the better deal.  But the Wampanoag tribe gained by the alliance with the English in their relations with the other Native American tribes.  Feared English weaponry kept any other tribes from attacking the Wampanoag tribe.
After that first year, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe, they had a good harvest.  The Natives knew how to farm the land.  Massachusetts soil was very different from English soil.  The Wampanoag were skilled farmers, fishers, hunters and gathers.  English seeds didn't do well there.  The Wampanoag showed them how to plant native seeds with herring as fertilizer so that they could harvest corn, pumpkin and beans.  They taught the children to look for berries and nuts.  And they showed the men how to hunt for deer, bear and turkey.  Since they didn't have grocery stores, what they harvested and gathered had to keep them alive through the long Massachusetts winter.   This next winter would be much better than their first. 
It was natural for the Pilgrims to want to celebrate.

One settler named Edward Winslow wrote,  

"We set last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas. According to the manner of the Indians we manured our ground with herrings (alewives) which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase in Indian corn. Our barley did indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering. We feared they were too late sown. They came up very well and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered in the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as many fowl as with little help besides, served the Company for almost a week, at which time, amongst our recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their great king the Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. They went out and killed five deer, which they brought in to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. Although it not always be so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. -- We have found the Indians very faithful in their Covenant of Peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us. Some of us have been fifty miles into the country by land with them. -- There is now great peace amongst us; and we, for our parts, walk as peaceably and safely in the woods here as in the highways in England. - I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have enjoyed." (Mourt)

They all had so much to be grateful for.

We have ancestors who were at the first Thanksgiving.  The Billington family was on the Mayflower, and didn't lose anyone over that first deadly year.  They were the only family untouched by the sickness that claimed so many.  John, Ellen, John Jr and Francis feasted with the Native Americans along with the other colonists.  They had a lot to thank Heavenly Father for.  It's an amazing feeling having this connection with the first Thanksgiving in America.
The Pilgrims were successful at settling this new land because of their alliance with the Wampanoag tribe.  They could have fought over their differences.  But the Native Americans made peace with the newcomers, and both sides worked hard to keep good relations.  Wars with the Native Americans weren't a problem until many years later, when the descendants of these settlers took this peace for granted.
Thanksgiving today, like that first one, gives us ample opportunity to express gratitude for all that Heavenly Father gives us, and it also can remind us that people of all backgrounds can get along and help each other.

Clines, Duane A.  "Part 5:  The First Pilgrim Thanksgiving."  The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony 1620.  2 Nov 2006. n. page. Web.  23 Nov 2012.

Mourt, G.  Mourt's Relation.  1622: London.  Print.  p. 38

Philbrick, Nathaniel.  "Thanksgiving."  Mayflower.  2006: New York.  Print.  pp.  104-120.

November 14, 2011

Jack Tueller's most important Trumpet solo

I couldn't let Veterans' day go unheralded.  Today I want to write about an amazing Veteran who lives near you.  Jack Tueller of Bountiful Utah saved lives in World War 2 through his faith and his trumpet. 
Jack had a rough beginning, but it introduced him to music.  His Mom died when he was just a little boy; his Dad left the family within that week.  He and his little brother went to live with an aunt who gave Jack a trumpet.  Jack played with the trumpet, eventually learning how to play it masterfully.  Jack said, "I was an unruly child.  Music tamed me."
Famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong heard him play with a band for an event at Yellowstone Park in 1939, telling him, "You sound pretty good for white cats."  Taking the opportunity to learn from Louis, he asked him for advice.  This advice proved to be pivotal in Germany.  "Always play the melody, man. Look at them, see their age group, play their love songs, and you'll carry all the money to the bank."

After attending BYU, marrying another trumpet player and beginning a family, World War 2 broke out.  Jack enlisted and trained with a former crop duster to become a fighter pilot.  He packed up his trumpet and took it with him.  He would play for the men at night to entertain them, and after grueling experiences in battle, comfort them.  In his airplane, Jack provided air support when the Allied invaded Normandy on D-day.  

It was in Germany two weeks after D-day that something singular happened with Jack and his trumpet.  Jack and his group of P-47 fighter pilots were in the German countryside.  A sniper was taking shots at them all day, and into the night.  As evening approached, Jack, now a Captain, wanted to get out his trumpet and calm his men.  But his men asked him not to play.  They were worried that if he did, the sniper would be able to locate him better and he'd be shot.

Jack recalled, "I thought to myself-- that German sniper is as lonely and scared as I am. How can I stop him from firing? So I played that German's love song, 'Lilly Marlene,' made famous in the late '30s by Marlene Dietrich, the famous German actress. And I wailed that trumpet over those apple orchards of Normandy, and he didn't fire."

Not only did the sniper NOT fire, but he turned himself in the next morning.  He asked to see the 'man who played the trumpet.'  When he met him, Jack said, "There was a 19-year-old German, scared and lonesome. He was dressed like a French peasant to cloak his role as a sniper. And, crying, he said, 'I couldn't fire because I thought of my fiancé. I thought of my mother and father,' and he says, 'My role is finished.'  He stuck out his hand, and I shook the hand of the enemy, [But] he was no enemy, because music had soothed the savage beast."

Jack flew 140 missions during World War 2 and his plane was never hit by a single bullet.  Later he fought in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  He helped on the ground during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.  He retired as a Colonel with lots of awards for his valor and bravery.

I think Jack was a great pilot and a good man.  But I think he also was guided and blessed by the Holy Spirit. He was an inspired man.  He lives in Bountiful, Utah and went to BYU for his education.  I think he's a Mormon and he knows how to rely on Heavenly Father's inspiration, even in battles of war.

We can count on Heavenly Father's help in all of our battles.  We just need to live worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost and ask for Heavenly Father's help in prayer. 

November 8, 2011

18 Year Old Mayor Michael Sessions

I had a hard time choosing the story I wanted to tell this week because we have both Election Day and Veterans Day.  Election day won out after I heard the story of Michael Sessions.
Michael Sessions registered to vote the day after he turned 18.  He had always been interested in his local government, to the point that he used to watch City Council meetings that were televised on TV.  But that wasn't enough.  Seeing the lack of concern most citizens had for government, he wanted to get involved so he could help them want to be more involved.  Over the years, he saw that most of the local 'races' were unopposed, meaning that no one was challenging the incumbents (people already holding those positions) for their jobs in government.  

He wanted to run for mayor of the small town in which he grew up.  But because registering to run occurred several months prior, when he was too young to run, his name wasn't on the ballot.  That didn't stop Michael.  He ran a 'write in' campaign using $700 left over from his summer job, maybe just mowing lawns.  In his campaign, he promised that he would "devote after-school hours to the job [while attending nearby Hillsdale High School during the day] and use his bedroom as his office."  

He had to work hard to be elected.  He knocked on so many doors that he developed Bronchitis, which landed him in the hospital.  But he only had a few months to make his case to the voting public.  He impressed the local fire department enough that they endorsed him.  The fire department first called Hillsdale High School to check on his grades; he had a 3.25 GPA.  

On Election day, he won by two votes.  Several votes were disqualified, but he still had 670 compared to the incumbent 668.  He thinks the two deciding votes were his parents.  One vote that wasn't disqualified read, 'The 18 year old running for mayor.'  Remember that everyone had to write his name 'Michael Sessions' into the ballot to vote for him, not just check a box.  He really had to work hard so people would remember his name (or at least remember he was the 18 year old running.)  

He took the oath of office in November 2005, becoming one of the youngest mayors in United States history.  He had turned 18 in September of that year.  He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2006 and went on to Hillsdale College, all while he served as mayor.  He earned a stipend of $250 a month for his service and the budget he controlled for the city amounted to about $20 million.  He performed at least ten marriages while serving as Mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan.  After elected, he told people what he was planning on doing, "From 7:50 am to 2:30 pm I'm a student; from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, I'm going to be out fulfilling this job as mayor.  If it's not talking with people, it's meeting with the city manager or the director of public safety or the fire chief or the road workers.  I'm going to make sure people see that I'm visible and I care about this town."

This motivated young man did something amazing, and made a difference in the world.  He had determination and courage, just what it took to convince the people of Hillsdale that he'd make the right mayor for their town.  People in his town think he's doing a good job.  One woman, age 70, said, "He's more grown up than most mayors we've had in this town in the past. I voted for him and I would again.  He can eat dinner at my table any time."  He's delivered on his promises too, adding more firemen and working to make City Hall friendlier.  People like him and the work he has done.

Get out and VOTE!  Every vote matters.  What if two people who would have voted for him had stayed home that day?

 To learn more about Michael Sessions, read about him in Wikipedia, and see pg. 135 of How To Raise an American by Myrna Blyth.
Olbermann, Keith, MSNBC, "18 year old mayor taking his new job seriously" Nov 11, 2005, found at
Wilkins, Korie;  Free Press, "Young mayor emerges wiser - Hillsdale's Michael Sessions, 20, beats cancer, recall effort" Oct 15, 2007 found at

November 1, 2011

Daniel Marie Dives for a Cure

November is National Chemistry Month, and 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry.  These are details most people won’t know unless there’s a Chemist in the family.  So I thought today to celebrate, I’d tell you about a really cool chemist I read about.  His name is Daniel Marie.  He was born in Mauritius, an island nation off the southern coast of Africa.  His dad was a home builder and his mom was a home maker.  He was the youngest of 9 kids, and they barely survived.  But as a teenager, he fell in love with science.  He wanted to grow up to study biochemistry, if ‘given the opportunity.’  But feeding the family took precedence.  He had to quit High School for a time to work to help support the family.
He went to school when he could and eventually earned his ‘high school certificate.’  That might be the equivalent of the High School GED or maybe he actually graduated.  He kept working to save enough money to attend the University of Mauritius, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry and Environmental Studies.  Earning that degree gave him the opportunity to research the extraction of essential oils from the Eucalyptus plant.  Daniel said that his work began what he called his “fascination with natural products, their chemistry and their medicinal properties.”  Now he was more determined than ever to finish his education. 
He began to study for a doctorate degree and earned a scholarship to help.  Another scholarship gave him the opportunity to study for a year in Scotland at a university there, where he learned how to use expensive instruments they didn’t have in Mauritius.  He had brought some marine sponges from his home in Mauritius, and he analyzed them using these instruments.  What he found fascinated him. 
After his doctorate degree, in 2002 he accepted a Post-doctoral fellowship at a University in Belgium.  Again, he took marine sponges that he collected randomly from a Mauritius lagoon.  He found that some of the extracts from one particular sponge exhibited some anti-cancer properties. 
Today he the principal research scientist at the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) where he continues to look for bioactive compounds in natural products.  He and his team of two other chemists have collected specimens from over 100 different varieties of sponges from 40 different diving sites in Mauritius.  He runs a small government-funded laboratory in Mauritius, still without the fancy instruments he used in other better-funded labs.  But because of the contacts he made during his training, he collaborates with labs that have better equipment.  Between their lab and their collaborators’ labs, they take the sponges, extract, purify and isolate the chemical compounds that show anti cancer activity, then study them.  Through their combined research, Daniel has found 14 extracts that show ‘significant activity against specific cancer cell lines.’  Now he has made inroads on his main goal, ‘to alleviate the pain of others.’ 
It’s a great arrangement.  Daniel can live (and scuba dive) in his hometown island where his family is, and he can keep researching his passion, ‘the traditional medicinal uses of marine plants and animals.’  Without much future as a poor child in a tiny African island, Daniel made his future great by hard work and determination.  Who knows—maybe he’ll be the one to isolate the cure for cancer!  Wouldn’t that be great?