SCHOOL DIRECTOR MAY 'GUARANTEE' GRADUATES
Just because a person has a high school diploma should colleges or prospective employers assume that the student really earned it? That's a question that has been bugging a Franklin, Tenn., educator. The Tennessean newspaper says the head of schools there, Dallas Johnaosn, thinks that if his county graduates students then the diplomas should come with a guarantee. He tells the publication that in essence his school district is "putting its money where its mouth is." While the program is still in the "idea" stage, if approved it could take effect beginning with the graduation of the class of 2004. A member of the state's board of education says that, if enacted, it would be the first time such a thing has been attempted in Tennessee. Johnson says that he got the idea from a school board in Virginia, which managed to carry out the guarantee at a cost of only about $30,000 a year.
LET OPRAH DO THE DRIVING, THANK YOU
When Anheiser-Busch asked a conducted a nationwide survey asking the question: "Whom you tap to be your designated driver," the big winner was talk queen Oprah Winfrey. Forty percent of respondent said she would be their pick to take the controls where alcohol was consumed. Winfrey beat out other stars, including Jennifer Lopez, George Clooney, Jackie Chan, Will Smith, Julia Roberts and Rosie O'Donnell. People magazine says that the head of the National Designated Drivers Association says that he is not surprised by the choice of Winfrey. Jim Congable tells the newspaper that his organization tells designated drivers "not to preach, but to congratulate the person for deciding not to drive." By the way there are over a million alcohol-related accidents in this country each year. The death toll from those accidents is in excess of 16,000.
CHURCHILL ROSE TO THE OCCASSION
It's hard to drive past the British embassy in Washington without getting misty-eyed when you see the larger-than-life statue of Winston Churchill in the front yard, looking at traffic, giving the "V" sing for victory. Now, three new biographies profile the wartime leader who "mobilized the language" to help lead the Allies to victory. John Lukacs, in a recent Los Angeles Times review, notes that some historians say that Churchill was the quintessential example of a leader who rose to the occasion. Many says that without the war and the need to defeat Hitler, the quirky, cigar-chomping leader would have been a minor figure in the last century. Now he is remembered as the man who pledged to "fight them on beaches" and saluted the victors of the Battle of Britain, saying that "never had so many owed so much to so few."
REBA REALLY RIDING HIGH
Who would have thought that a country singer with an accent so think you could cut it would become the darling of Broadway and a winner at the box office and on television? Well, Reba McEntire has done just that, an in an impressively short period of time. Her latest offering to her fans is "I'm a Survivor," a CD that country.com says "examines and extols the life of a woman who overcomes adversity through hard work and strength of character." The compilation is just the latest in a series of projects in which the star has treated social issues head-on. An album in 1986 dealt with the way divorce can damage children. She talked about immigration in 1987's "What Am I Gonna Do With You?" In "The Stairs" she sang the tale of an abused wife. With all of that under her belt, the new provider's Edward Morris wonders why the Country Music Hall of Fame hasn't rung her doorbell ... yet.
HIKER COMPLETES THE 'TRIPLE CROWN'
Thoroughbred racing has its Triple Crown, so does the world of hiking. And veteran hiker Brian Robinson has just complete all three jewels, hiking the three major American mega-trails: Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail. OK, so nearly 30 others have done that over the years. But Brian is the first hiker to have ever done all three -- all 7,371 miles -- in one 12-month span. Published reports indicate that the intrepid Robinson had to hike at a 30-miles-a-day clip to complete the trek. Along the way he slogged through ice and show and mud and occasionally suffered from mild palsy. His travels took him through 22 states. The worst part for him was not the weather, it was the loneliness. By the way, he surpassed his goal of doing all three hikes in a year; he completed them in less than 11 months.
TEXAS WOMAN REMEMBER 'AWFUL THANKSGIVING'
Thirty-eight years ago on this week a Dallas office worker, Evelyn Ranne (rhymes with "man") was getting ready for Thanksgiving and her 50th birthday. But those two concerns were overshadowed by the fact that Pres. John F. Kennedy was coming to her city and her office was on the parade route, just beside the Texas School Book Depository. Now a grandmother, living in Corpus Christi, she became the first person I have ever met who actually heard the shots that killed JFK. "His limo had just turned the corner and had just left my sight," she told me Wednesday. "I heard what sounded like balloons bursting. I jokingly told friends standing with me that somebody has shot the president. How sadly prophetic I was." Ranne says it didn't take long for the word of what had happened to reach her as she headed back to her office in the old Courthouse building. "I'm kinda glad," she says, "that I saw him just seconds before he was hit and not as it happened." For the past 38 years whenever it's Thanksgiving week and her birthday rolls around she admits she's had a lot to think about.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 209
Today's question was inspired by my story about the JFK assassination and the lady in Dallas who heard the shots. Albeit many of you were not alive on 11/22/63, but for those of you who DO remember, here is today's question: "Where were you when you found out about the events of Nov. 22, 1963, and what was the reaction around you?" Put JFK in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 204
Last week we asked for your comments in an open forum. Here is a sampling of your replies: Robert TM, a frequent contributor, wrote a lengthy dissertation on the way our lives have changed since 9/11. He brings up an interesting point. He says that everybody keeps saying "the world has been changed forever." Has it? Robert lists a litany of things that will go on as usual. Deaths. Destruction. Jealousy. Prozac. I agree with him that the "changed forever" statement is overused. I seem to have heard it, also, the night Elvis died. (Or did he?) My thoughts go back to those days at my grandmother's house. She always made chocolate pies from scratch, from Hershey bars; egg noodles that still had a riffle of flour inside; oatmeal chocolate cookies that would droop but not break if you held them from one edge, and pickeled beets. When she died the daughters-in-law discovered that she had never written down any of her recipies; she cooked by hand, measuring with her hands, often stirring with her hands. When she died, in many ways she took Thanksgiving with her. Finally, let me send the best wishes of everyone at United Press International to you and yours. If you're traveling, have a safe journey. GBA.