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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Defying Trump

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 a 60- year old resident of Summit, NJ, a public school teacher for more than two decades, mother of three and grandmother of 8, I’m asking you to fulfill your responsibility and represent me.

My father is a first generation American whose parents escaped pogroms in Eastern Europe, arrived in the United States without money and no English and met in a sweatshop in New York City’s Lower East Side. They raised three children, who in turn produced 11 grandchildren. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren from that union represent many professions, from music to medicine, education to law, science to engineering, and more.

I implore you to stand up for America and resist the cruel and discriminatory policies of President Trump.

Here’s hoping you will promise to protect 30 million Americans who have health insurance thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Here’s hoping you will protect every citizen’s right to vote.

Here’s hoping you will protect free enterprise by encouraging free markets and free trade.

Here’s hoping you will protect your fellow citizens’ right to clean air and water and will advocate for alternative energy sources amid unprecedented climate change.

Here’s hoping you will honor Emma Lazarus’ words on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Here’s hoping you agree with President Thomas Jefferson that freedom of the press is essential to the American democracy.

Elected officials who fail to uphold our democratic process and institutions need only remember the Germans who ignored Adolf Hitler. By remaining silent, you show you’re complacent and complicit. It’s imperative that you put the interests of your citizens first.

Sincerely yours,

Lisa K. Winkler

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Women’s March: Next Steps

So we donned pink pussy hats, made posters, and marched. We amassed in numbers beyond expectations and capacity; turning marches into rallies when we couldn’t move another step.

So what’s next?

People are grappling with what to do, how to harness the energy from the march and turn it into positive, meaningful actions.

My Facebook feed  is bombarded with requests to sign petitions, donate money, call and email my congressman and senators. Many make doing this very easy, providing automatic links that merely require typing your name and zip code. It’s hard to know if any of this will help but it seems worth trying.

And many of us find it all a bit overwhelming. Too many requests from various groups, too hard to keep track of it all.

This blogger provided what I consider a reasonable, manageable approach to becoming active and making your voice heard. I shared this link, emailed it, and am following it.

There are others out there. Find the method that suits you best and don’t give up.

At a yoga class yesterday, a friend, who is Russian, shared her despair about the state of the nation. “I’m scared,” she said. “People here have no idea how bad it can be.”   We agreed that yoga has helped us find a focus, calm us down, and stay somewhat sane.

Another friend mentioned at dinner last night that she’s been calling her congressman every day. The office must know her by now, expect her call, and register her concerns. She appreciated the link I’d sent her, noting for her, there’s one concern- world order.

For me, I’ve selected the 3 E’s—education, environment, and equality, which has many subsets.

Let’s get started and not quit.





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NYC Women’s March

Yesterday I joined thousands of others- women, men, families, children and dogs in New York City for the Women’s March. As soon as my friends and I left the train station, we felt the energy of the march. We walked to the east side; a friend had found a bagel place to meet up with others joining us before we walked to our designated starting point and assigned time. Of course, this being New York City on a Saturday, the line went out the door and the food preparers said this was totally normal, not at all affected by the march. Food in hand, we walked toward the UN plaza to join the march. By the time we reached Second Ave. it was obvious we’d never get any further and joined hundreds to wait. And wait and wait.

While the march may have started at 11 am, by  12:30 pm, streets were jam-packed. We enjoyed the signs, the costumes, the various hats, and the jovial, respectful, peaceful atmosphere. A fire engine siren sent everyone to either side of the street; this was all done without incident and the firemen high-fived the marchers as they drove through the crowd.

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This morning we attended our granddaughter’s 5th birthday party, happy to participate in a “winter” theme with games and crafts designed by my daughter-in-law. With no snow and a temperate 50-degree January day, the events were inside. We made snow by mixing baking soda and white hair conditioner, pinned the sled on the hilltop, created snow children by wrapping guests in toilet paper, threw paper snow balls, and drank divine homemade hot chocolate   with marshmallows.

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I marched to honor the values I hold; the many causes and concerns that the Trump administration promises to dismantle and destroy. I marched to honor my parents who fought for labor rights, marched for civil rights, and demonstrated against the Vietnam War. And I marched because I have 8 grandchildren and I worry about the world they and all children are inheriting.   Whether it’s health care, equal employment and education opportunities, voting rights, civil rights, marriage and gender equality, or environmental protection, they deserve better.

I will be heard. Again and again.






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