While Trump Tweets, Congress Acts

While Trump continues to distract us with his horrific behavior and lies,  Members of Congress are busy following his edicts and submitting bills that promise to destroy the nation as we know it. This list is circulating social media; I used it as my letter this week to my congressman. It speaks for itself in its range of damage.

Dear Rep. Lance:

Please vote NO on the following bills:

  1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
  2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
    3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
    4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
    5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
    6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
    7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
    8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
    9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
    10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
    11. HR 622 Removing federal policing from National Parks turning over to local authorities.

There’s no one more important than the other; however the education bills remind me of my years teaching.   The schools I’ve taught in serve students breakfast and lunch. My sister’s school sends students home with bags of food every Friday.

Being fed, so one can be  productive at work and at school, shouldn’t be a privilege for the rich.

Call, write, and visit your representatives. Track their voting.

Student portrait of me reading Amanda at Bat at Madeline's school

Student portrait of me reading Amanda at Bat at Madeline’s school





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Immigration Control Fiascos

The day after the election, some of my sister’s students came to her, worried they or their families would be deported. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher outside Washington, DC, her students range from gardeners’ to ambassadors’ kids. That fear hasn’t abated.

My husband’s tennis coach, a US citizen from the Dominican Republic, shared that friends  one night had forgotten they’d ordered a pizza. When the knock came on the door, they froze, expecting ICE agents to barge in.

A friend returning home from a trip abroad was asked about her husband’s last name. Her husband, Polish born, arrived in the US when he was 10; his father was a Holocaust survivor.

Border control agents detained a former high school classmate of my eldest son for two hours. You’ve heard of her. An Olympic medal winning fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, was targeted because she wears a hijab and is Muslim.

And recently, American boxer great Muhammad Ali’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained at customs for two hours, for his Muslim name.

These are horrific, cruel and frightening scenarios. We probably all can share personal stories.

The one that really gets me is Mem Fox’s ordeal. Fox, 70, a renowned Australian children’s author, was held for two hours (seems to be the limit of customs patrol attention span), when she tried to enter the US to attend a conference. Fox, whose books like Time for Bed and Possum Magic delight millions of children worldwide, is also a strong proponent of children’s literature in schools and resource for educators. So derailed by her inquisition, she said she cried “like a baby” and vowed never to visit the US again.

This is a huge loss to US educators and children.

These actions are an affront to all religious ideals, democracy and basic kindness.

Let’s continue to stand up and speak out.

My letter to my congressman this week focused on Freedom of the Press:

Dear Rep. Lance:

The White House’s exclusion of major news organizations to its press briefing last Friday is a clear violation of the First Amendment. President Trump continues to call the press “an enemy of the people.”

However, I have not read or heard any statement from you about these actions and statements.

By remaining silent, you exhibit craven attitudes that democracy isn’t important to you and that you welcome a dictatorship.

Remember the words of President Thomas Jefferson in 1787:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

When will you stand up and speak out against regime intent to destroy our democracy?







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Time to Investigate Trump & Putin

Growing up in the early 1960’s I heard about the Russians. I heard about the space race and Sputnik, and remember seeing Khrushchev on television. I remember hearing how we were supposed to be afraid of the Russians, though I had no idea why. In my politically left-leaning family, Communism wasn’t considered a danger. My elementary schools had fall out shelters, left from the Cold War when we feared being bombed by the Russians. I knew it was a huge country far away but had no personal reason to fear it.

As I got older, I followed the news of famous people defecting from the then Soviet Union, seeking the freedom offered by the United States. There was ballet dancer  Mikhail Baryshnikov  in 1974 and tennis champion Martina Navratilova  in 1975 among many others. I read about the imprisonment and eventual release of writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and dissident Natan Sharansky.

Then in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, crumbling the Soviet Union, and opening borders. My brother studied Russian and went to work in Moscow, where he met his wife. A cousin lived and worked in Moscow for years and I visited her a few years ago. We toured Moscow and St. Petersburg, enjoying great food, music, dance, and art.

Now jump ahead nearly 30 years, and the Russians have hacked our election, interfered with our democracy and compromised our national security.

President Obama in a CNN interview said, “Vladimir Putin is not on our team.” This story gives more detail of Putin’s influence in the US. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/07/politics/intelligence-report-russian-interference/index.html

I sent this letter to my congressman, Leonard Lance, this week. Feel free to borrow or share.

Dear Rep. Lance:

Events of the past two weeks show that it is no longer speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin condoned interference in the 2016 election.

However I have yet to hear or read any statement from you about this vile infringement on our democracy.

Why aren’t you concerned about the risk to our national security created by Trump’s affiliation with Russia?

Why haven’t you insisted Trump release his personal and business tax returns to prove, as he maintains, he has no business interests with Russia?

Why aren’t you defending the emoluments clause in the US Constitution, enacted by the Founding Fathers to protect us from the dangers of foreign influence and corruption?

You owe it to your constituents to answer these questions.





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Trump’s Vocabulary

As a child, I discovered the thesaurus and loved finding synonyms for words. My parents had the old-fashioned kind, organized conceptually instead of alphabetically, and I spent hours making word lists. As a writer, I love the thesaurus.

As a teacher, I stressed vocabulary. I pushed students to learn more words, telling them a strong vocabulary would help  in reading and writing. I created lists from class readings and from news articles.  I let students find words from their own reading and I’d use their selections to create a class list. For fun, we’d open a page in the dictionary and pick several words from the page and the next.

A list of between 10-20 words would last about 10 days. Students would look up the definitions and the parts of speech and write sentences using the words. They’d share their sentences on the board. They’d write stories with the words and create quizzes for peers, swapping with a classmate, and returning the quizzes to be corrected by the writer. We’d play vocabulary bingo and have spelling bees. All to increase their familiarity with more and more words.

As a grandmother, I love sharing children’s literature with my grandkids. When there’s a word they don’t know, we discuss its meaning. They learn, and sometimes these words creep into their conversations.

So along comes our president with his limited vocabulary. I remember watching one of the debates and counting the number of times I heard “huge” or “fantastic” or “great.” And I’m not the only one noticing.

As writer Philip Roth wrote in The New Yorker, referring to Trump “…wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Yet this lack of vocabulary apparently isn’t a sign of lack of intelligence. As this article says, Trump’s ability to use repetition with his limited vocabulary proved an effective tool to garner support.

However let’s remember he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. I’m willing to bet most voters would prefer a president with a larger vocabulary than who we have in office and someone who could use his words in ways that don’t insult foreign leaders, members of the judiciary, members of the press, and citizens.



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Trump & Putin

My husband’s column for Bloomberg View.

An omen for the US.




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Defying Trump: Letter #2 to Elected Officials

Here’s the letter I sent today to my Federal, State, county and city elected officials. Feel free to borrow whatever you want. Use this site to find addresses. Some you have to use the contact forms; others you can email directly. It takes a few minutes to set it up but then you’ll have it. Write. Call.  Do not sit idle.


As my elected representative, I ask that you to acknowledge this voter’s concern and stand against President Trump’s dangerous and bigoted executive orders against refugees and millions of Americans who depend on the Affordable Care Act for basic health insurance. You have the responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of citizens you represent.

President Trump’s immigrant ban is creating chaos and tearing apart families, schools and business. The threat of mass deportation poses a potential brain drain in science, medicine, technology and even military personnel.

As a teacher, parent, and grandparent, I work hard instilling moral values and manners in young people. What is your reaction to the president’s behavior as he insults foreign allies, US judges and members of the press?

Sincerely yours,
Lisa K. Winkler

I received one response from one of my local councilmen from my first letter. He wrote:

Thank you for your note. I came to this country as a 7 year old and my father came with only a suitcase to his name.  I have every intention to protect our constitutional rights and preserve the values of this country. 

Today’s letter received one response from another council member.  Here’s an excerpt:

Like you, and many other people in this country, I come from a family of immigrants.  All of my grandparents emigrated from Ireland to escape extreme poverty and all had, going back to the time of their birth, faced real religious and cultural discrimination by a foreign occupying government who in some cases considered them sub-humans.  Both pairs of my grandparents met in the melting pot that was New York in the 1920’s.

While I agree with your call to advocacy to uphold our rights in the Constitution, I disagree with many of what are simply your opinions, not facts, as to what is going on currently in this country.  And I certainly disagree with you lumping me in with a bunch of Weimar politicians because I don’t share those opinions.  For example, you want to not touch the Affordable Care Act?  A law that in my humble opinion, is primarily responsible for the Democratic Party getting decimated at every level of government the last eight years as enormous swaths of people realized they couldn’t keep their doctor, couldn’t keep their insurance and saw their premium costs and deductibles rise dramatically, rather than fall? 

As far as bigotry and discrimination is concerned, of course that should be opposed at all costs.  But again, because you believe that barring immigrants or refugees from seven distinct countries is a ban on Muslims, rather than a ban on people from 7 countries, doesn’t mean I have to share your opinion.  There are plenty of predominantly Muslim countries where there are no restrictions, so I have to respectfully disagree with your opinion there.  I agree with your opinion that barring refugees is cruel.  But I am also of the opinion that no American should be harmed due to terrorism.  

We have an election process.  I wish people would just oppose Trump’s policies, rather than the fact he was elected.  When he does something dumb, like lumping in Green Card holders and vetted Visa holders to his ban, people rightly howled about that and it was dropped.  And continue to oppose his penchant to demean a judge’s character for making a ruling he disagrees with.  So please, share your opinions on why you oppose his actual policies, but I’d prefer you not share your opposition to the “threat” of a policy.  I get it already that you didn’t want him to be President.  But if I don’t agree with your opinions, please don’t imply that I am a racist enabler of a future dictator either.

I countered with a response that included many facts, including the vote tallies for New Jersey and my county that did not vote for Trump. I added links to several news articles from today’s newspapers, including one from a New Jersey father stating how the dismantlement of the ACA would effectively kill his four-year-old son who suffers from a rare disease, thus has a pre-existing condition for life. His is one story among thousands.

My point in sharing is to show that by bombarding our elected representatives with letters, emails, and phone calls, we are holding then accountable. Those who support the actions of Trump by either remaining silent or by endorsing cruel and dangerous policies, will be remembered next time we vote. With each letter, I am resending the previous letters and reminding those I haven’t heard from that I’m anticipating a response.

Make your voices heard.






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Books for Young Activists: Never too Early

As a grandparent, I’m finding it difficult explaining current events to our grandchildren. They’re aware of the election results and know where we stand. They hear rumors from classmates about what may or may not happen.

We try to avoid their questions or just answer vaguely. We don’t want them to worry.

Yet it’s never too early to start children thinking about the world and their role in it. So I’m gratefully sharing this blog post: 35 Picture Books for Young Activists.

Find them at your library. Ask the library to order them. Buy them. Share them. Discuss them.



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