Category: Fall 2001 Newswire
Smith’s Everglades Bill Already Helping after One Year
WASHINGTON – Florida’s environmentalists said the Everglades restoration bill Sen. Bob Smith, R-NH, filed and President Clinton signed into law last year is already doing some good after its first anniversary this week.
The restoration project is scheduled to be complete in 2038, but Stu Applebaum, the chief of eco-systems restoration for the Everglades project, said Smith’s “plan itself and the legislation set the stage and planted the seed. It set the groundwork, which is very important for a 30-plus year project.”
Stuart Stahl, president and chief executive officer of the Audubon Society of Florida, said “Bob Smith was the person who made that bill happen. The Everglades have long been drained and this bill will put into place a restoration process that sets the stage for full restoration.”
The bill, signed by Clinton December 11, 2000, has 68 component projects that will restore the water system, and ensure that clean water flows in and out of the Everglades, Stahl said.
“Over the last two years, 8000 acres of water storage area have been bought along the Caloosahatchee River,” Stahl said. “If you don’t store the water you can’t clean it up and flow it right.”
Shannon Estenoz, an Everglades expert with the World Wildlife Fund, said this water storage is a measure the state of Florida has never taken before, and is the most important part of Smith’s bill.
“The Everglades doesn’t get enough water now,” she said. “We don’t want to be introducing new water into the Everglades that’s dirty. It’s absolutely essential. If you don’t get that water quality right, then you’re not going to restore the Everglades. If we get the water right, the creatures that depend on the Everglades will rebound.”
Stahl said the bill is a “historic piece of legislation that initiated the largest eco-restoration undertaking in human history. I can’t tell you how much Senator Smith meant to us in Florida as well as the nation because the Everglades is a national treasure.”
Smith said because Florida’s “main cities are on the coastline, and a lot of fresh water gets diverted to those communities for their own use, it was draining the natural system. [The U.S. government] put a series of canals in there in the 40s because of flooding. When we put the canals in, we dried up the Everglades, and we lost 90 percent of the wading birds, alligators, Florida panthers – all these animals were beginning to die off, so they needed help.”
“We’re a big fan of Senator Smith because he was so fair and so open and allowed such a deliberative process,” said Kathy Copeland, senior policy advisor of the south Florida division of water management. “He very much cared about the state of Florida.”
Copeland said the bill “was monumental. It’s really historic. It did a lot in terms of consensus-building among diverse interests” because it brought people from three different groups – agriculture, environmentalists and urban water users – behind one cause.
“He was very helpful to us and he was a real leader in pushing the planning, the engineering and the design through,” Copeland said. “It was one of the largest environmental bills ever passed in the state of Florida.”
With this particular bill, Smith said he knew he needed to “build a coalition, to develop a compromise.” He said the bill had not taken shape for a long time because the many different groups of people involved in the process, including the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the Army Corps of Engineers, could not decide on a plan.
“We basically got them all at a table and we got them talking and we finally came up with something that everybody can agree to,” Smith said.
“The impact of Senator Smith’s legislation was enormous,” said Rep. Mark Foley, R-FL, whose district includes the Everglades. “Senator Smith’s leadership ensured the protection of the Everglades National Park and also bolstered the water supply of the state of Florida.”
W and Gregg: Bosom Buddies
WASHINGTON - When Americans think of President George W. Bush, they probably wouldn't guess that one of this hearty Texan's good friends and close allies is a quiet Granite Stater.
But Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, and Bush have been pals for a couple years now, and it all started in New Hampshire.
"I like him, he's got a great sense of humor and he's fun to be around," Gregg said of Bush. "He and I have the same views on a lot of things and have the same interests. We're friends. He's fun to sit around and BS with."
Gregg, who said his father, former New Hampshire Governor Hugh Gregg, is close friends with the President's father, visits the White House often for personal and business reasons. He also spends time at the Bushes' Texas ranch home and talks to the President regularly, but he prefers to keep the details private, including the particulars of squaring off with Candidate Bush in mock debates as Al Gore.
A few months after the 2000 New Hampshire Republican primary, where Bush and Gregg had gotten to know each other, Gregg said Bush advisors Karl Rove and Karen Hughes approached him, and "asked me if I would be willing to participate in debate preparation doing Al Gore."
"I really got to know him rather well then, both he and Laura," Gregg said. "People didn't know this but we were meeting every week, starting in early May. [We met] everywhere - Kennebunk, sometimes it would be at the [Bushes' Texas] ranch with he and Laura. It was always a small group, there were only probably six players in the debate prep who were core players, and they'd bring people in and out depending on the issue. We spent a lot of time together, it was very interesting."
This close contact made Gregg come to "really admire" Bush and conclude that "'this guy would be an extraordinarily strong president.' They grossly underestimated him."
"I saw his strengths in the debate prep that nobody ever got to really see," said Gore. "I mean he did a great job in the debates but he was never really tested by Gore. He really is an individual who has a tremendous sense of self, of who he is and where he wants to lead this country."
The Senator said that when his friend is "interested in an issue, his knowledge on the issue is definitely complete - he totally absorbs himself. That's why I think he's such a good leader at this point, because he's an incredibly focused person. They were intense sessions, much more intense than I suspect most people expect."
Gregg said playing the former Vice President was "exhausting."
"I basically spent thousands of hours listening to tapes, watching videos, and reading everything I could, and it was boring as heck," he said. "I put a lot of personal pressure on myself because I felt very strongly that I had an obligation to not miss anything that Al Gore might do in the debates, either in style, in tactics or in substance."
Gore was a tricky character to master, Gregg said, but it was an important task.
"My job was to get this person who might become president of the United States in what was going to be the key element of the campaign, ready to deal with someone who I felt was a bit of a chameleon," he said. "Al Gore can morph himself rather quickly and he's very bright and you have to be anticipating in which direction he's going to go. It was very difficult."
"My wife, Kathy, got so tired of Al Gore tapes and Al Gore videos that she consigned me to the cellar to watch them," Gregg added.
Gregg said the experience was "a lot of work and the only thing I can compare it to is probably preparing for a major trial as a young attorney. You had to anticipate everything, and in order to anticipate you have to be totally informed about what is being said."
Gregg said said Laura Bush and "Kathy [Gregg] get along great."
"Laura is exceptional," Gregg continued. "She's really down to earth, I think the American people are getting to know her now and like her a lot because she's so straight-forward and self-effacing and confident in who she is. She really is someone who it wouldn't bother her tomorrow if she weren't First Lady."
He said he has some personal stories about unwinding at the ranch and the White House with the First Couple, but "one of the things about being friends with the President is you don't talk about it."
"I've never discussed the specifics of the debate prep, or my conversations with him because I think that's important," he said. "It's important to him to know that when we're talking that I'm not going to be talking to the press about it."
Gregg said he and the President "talk at least once a week, sometimes twice a week, sometimes once every other week," he doesn't consider himself part of the President's "inner circle."
"No, his inner circle are people who work for him at the White House," he said. "I like to think I [influence Bush]. Sometimes he actually does things I suggest, but I suspect somebody else suggested them, so he took their advice. He's got a lot of good people around him. I'm probably second or third at the table with the idea but hopefully it reinforces the idea occasionally."
What It Takes To Be A Senator…And How NH’s Pair Matches Up
WASHINGTON - While many people may think a senator's main duty is to propose bills and pass laws, New Hampshire's Republican Sens. Bob Smith and Judd Gregg say it's not that simple.
With about a decade each in the Senate under their belts, Smith and Gregg say representing the Granite State is more complicated than drafting and pushing through legislation. There's also the studying, the personal connections, and the constituents.
This is what New Hampshire's Senators say is most telling about the daily grind of their jobs. This is what they say makes them active representatives, not just their bill record.
Smith took his seat in 1990 after serving six years as a member of the House, and has used his almost 12 years in the Senate to file 337 bills. Gregg was elected in 1992 after serving as New Hampshire's governor for four years and a House member for six, and has filed 193 bills in nearly 10 years. That's a yearly average, before this year, of 30.6 bills for Smith and 21.4 for Gregg.
Not every piece of legislation reached the president's desk for his signature, many died in committee. Not every bill was a full bill; many were amendments offered to other bills. And the Democratic majority in Congress from 1991 to 1993 and the Democratic president in office from 1993 to 2001 factor into the Senators' record. A bill is not always well-received, passed or signed into law by the opposing party.
In his 11 years in the Senate, Smith filed 28 joint, Senate or concurrent resolutions, 80 bills and 229 amendments to bills. Gregg filed nine resolutions, 73 bills and 111 amendments. With two more years of Senate service than his colleague, Smith filed only 7 more complete bills than Gregg.
Interestingly, Gregg filed more full bills than Smith did in 1993-99, but Smith caught up and moved ahead in this Congress and the last.
Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said a senator's bill record alone does not make him active or inactive in his job performance.
"No, it's one indicator among many," Mann said. "It doesn't tell you anything about effectiveness. You'd have to look deeper."
Mann said Smith and Gregg have "very different legislative styles," and though Smith has filed seven more bills than Gregg, "the question is, what happened to those bills?"
"Was it for show or for law?" he said. "Some members work largely through their committee, others work hard on amendments or on the floor, some members introduce bills for local consumption. You just have to get underneath it."
Smith said seeing his Everglades Restoration Bill signed by President Clinton last year was "important" because "the Everglades were really drying up, they were about lost, and had we not passed this legislation, they would have been lost."
"I think the Everglades [bill] was huge because that had lollygagged around here in the Congress for years," Smith said. "It was locked up in bitter debate over how much water should we use for a natural system, how much water should we use for commercial use."
Smith introduced the bill on June 27, 2000, and the Senate approved it on September 25, 85-1. After a Senate-House conference, the bill cleared Congress on November 3, and was signed into law by Clinton on December 11.
Kathy Copeland, senior policy advisor of the south Florida division of water management, said that the state is grateful to Smith for his work, and pleased with what it will bring to the Everglades. Smith "was instrumental in making sure it was a very open process," she said. "There was a lot of very intensely-debated negotiation on all sides. He and his staff spent hours and hours making sure" everyone involved in the process was heard.
Smith said the bill "took a lot of effort, took a lot of my time over the last year and it wasn't a New Hampshire project."
"Some people would say 'what's he working on the Everglades for?' Because the Everglades are a national treasure, for the same reason I'd want the senator from Florida to help me with the White Mountains if something happened up there and we needed help. That's what the Senate's about. If they need help, then we want to be helping each other. It's all America."
Smith said sponsoring bills is not the focal point of the job, or the most telling.
"I would not want to be judged on the number of bills I passed," Smith said. "I think there's much more that I would want to be graded by and I think bills would be a small part of it - maybe 10 percent of it. I think there are literally thousands of other things you do in the course of 11 years of constituent service."
Smith said in "the last six years I've been more effective at passing legislation than in the first six, but I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary on that."
"I think the grades go up as you've been here," Smith said. "When you're a freshman senator you don't have a lot of seniority, it's more difficult. This last term, I think we've done extremely well. Some of these bills have my name on them, some don't, the bottom line is you're the prime mover. You make it happen."
Smith said the longer a Senator is around, the more he knows his colleagues, which makes it easier and "to govern a lot more effectively."
"I think the experience of seniority in the Senate is crucial to passing good legislation," he added. "It's very helpful because you know your way around, you know other people, you develop personal relationships with people, whether they be Democrats or Republicans. That's where it helps."
Smith said a lot of his other senatorial business is more important to him than his bill record. He said he wants to be judged "as the complete Bob Smith. If I could be remembered as one who did always what he thought was right for his country or his state and didn't compromise his principles, that's the way I'd want to be judged."
For Judd Gregg, reforming the social security system is a major goal.
"We're still struggling with social security reform and that's a very important issue because if we don't get social security straightened out soon we're going to run out of time because the baby boom generation is going to retire," said Gregg.
Gregg said he believes "that we have to change the system to give people the opportunity to create wealth so everybody in America has an actual asset, which is actually theirs and is part of their retirement package."
Evelyn Morton, senior legislative representative with the American Association of Retired People [AARP], said Gregg "has some clear ideas of the direction he would like to move social security reform in," she said.
Gregg said this struggle for reform has been "basically a question of education and getting past what is an issue that has been used aggressively for partisan gain, especially by the Democratic leaders."
"Social security is a sacred trust and people are reticent to address the issue because it has very significant political implications, but if we don't address it, then when the baby boom generation starts to retire in 2008, we'll end up passing on to our children a huge financial obligation to support the retired Americans," he said.
In addition to this work, Gregg said that each year for the past five years, he has "authored the Commerce-State-Justice Appropriations bill, which is a very significant piece of legislation because we have begun in that bill initiatives like the fight against terrorism."
President Bush signed the 2001 appropriation in late November. The bill designates $21.5 billion for such departments and programs like the FBI, and anti-terrorism and violence against women initiatives.
Outside of the legislative aspect of his office, Gregg said he likes serving New Hampshire in more ways than just on paper.
"I enjoy the job and I appreciate the fact that the people of New Hampshire give me their confidence in sending me here, and I try to bring what I call 'New Hampshire values' to Washington," Gregg said.
Gregg said he is proud of his efforts to meet the needs of children as well as the conservation work he has done in upstate New Hampshire and with the Great Bay.
He said he doesn't "think passing laws is all that essential to good governance."
"The senatorial job is a balance between two major areas," Gregg continued. "One is taking care of people's problems in New Hampshire, making sure that if you have a problem getting the government to be responsive to you, you've got an advocate. That's my job. The other part is trying to make our government run well and efficiently, getting the most for the tax dollars that are sent down here."
Rosa DeLauro: Fueled by People and the Hustle of Congress
WASHINGTON - At 10:28 a.m. the northwest corridor of the Rayburn House Office Building is quiet except for the muffled sounds of CNN playing on televisions in Congressional offices--the quiet before the storm.
A moment later, the sounds of high heels hitting the ground intensify like hail on a tin roof. Press Secretary Ashley Westbrook holds her clipboard tightly to her body as she hustles down the dimly lit hallway, trying to keep up with the bustling pace of Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd). DeLauro's speed escalates like a steaming locomotive while she constantly adjusts the magenta scarf around her neck that drapes down the back of her green suit jacket. The pounding of her high heels stops once she steps onto the carpet in her congressional office, but she keeps moving at full speed into her office. After two hours at the Capitol, running from meeting-to-meeting, she finally collapses into her seat.
DeLauro whirls around the Capitol every day with the same vigor and intensity that attracts as much attention as her array of bright scarves, large necklaces, and flowing skirts. In 1998 and 2000, DeLauro was recognized as the House of Representative's top "Workhorse" by Washingtonian magazine.
DeLauro said that her work on Capitol Hill isn't as hectic as people think. "People sometimes view that you're running about in downtown Washington. Most of the activities are right in these buildings or in the surrounding area. So you do most of your time here," she said. DeLauro's political roots began at home in Wooster Square, an Italian neighborhood in New Haven. Her father Ted was an Alderman and known for his hard work that earned him the nickname the "Mayor of Wooster Square" Her mother, Luisa, is today the most senior member of the New Haven Board of Alderman.
"I just knew I wanted to be engaged in politics some day, and I've worked to get where I am today," she said. "People ask me if this job has met my expectations, and I tell them it's exceeded my expectations," DeLauro said.
Prior to her election to Congress, DeLauro was a community organizer in President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" program and later served as executive assistant to the mayor of New Haven. She also was the executive director of Emily's List, a national organization committed to increasing the representation of women in politics.
She also married into politics: her husband Stanley Greenberg is a prominent Democratic pollster. Her political work on Capitol Hill included working for seven years as Sen. Christopher Dodd's (D-CT) chief of staff from 1981-'87.
Dodd described his former chief of staff as "a tenacious fighter with a heart of gold" who has always been known to be a hard-worker. "I often joke that Rosa didn't work for me, I worked for her," he said.
She was elected to the 102nd Congress on November 6, 1990 and has established herself as one of the highest-ranking women in the Democratic Party as well as the House of Representatives. In 1999, DeLauro ran for the Democratic Caucus chairmanship but was defeated by Martin Frost of Texas by 11 votes.
After the election, Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt created a new position for her as assistant to the Democratic leader, which not only established an increasing leadership role for democratic women, but also made her the fifth-highest Democrat in the House of Representatives and the highest-ranking Democratic woman. DeLauro's duties included oversight of policy, communications, serving as a liaison to freshman congressmen, and holding a seat on the Steering Committee, which assigns Democratic members to committees. She was re-elected in 2000.
"What I've tried to do is try to have members actively participate in the caucus," DeLauro said. "I've boosted communications, made outreach groups and get members booked onto television shows, so they can have the members engaged and put in the public eye."
DeLauro's schedule became busier after she decided to run for Democratic Caucus chairman in October, after Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX) stepped down from the position earlier that month. She would be running against Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who currently serves as the Democratic Caucus vice chairman. Both candidates decided to run after Rep. Nancy Pelosi won the election as House minority whip, making her the highest- ranking woman in the House of Representatives for a woman in either party.
Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), who serves on the Appropriations Committee with DeLauro, says that her enthusiasm in Congress makes her a role model for women who are interested in politics. "Rosa is a dear friend and a dedicated colleague. Rosa is a leader in Congress and truly stands out for her strong commitment to Democratic ideals. Young girls and even many women in the House look to her as someone that we want to become," she said. "I don't know how she does it day in and day out."
Although DeLauro works 12-hour days that she admits can be overwhelming, she says, "the people here on Capitol Hill, the political energy, and the people who come down from the district give me energy. People get me through the day."
"My day ends around 8-9 p.m., and when I get home, I just want to sit for a few minutes on the couch and chill out. I might go out to dinner if my husband or friends are in town, but sometimes I'll go home and open up a can of Progresso soup. Then, I'll start to look at what I need to do for the next day," DeLauro said.
Opening Our Minds and Hearts: Stronger Faith Endures the Test of Time
WASHINGTON - It was the first brisk night after several days of unusually warm weather for the beginning of December. Young men and women wearing black leather jackets and turtleneck sweaters, along with middle-class people decked out in tattered sweatshirts and dingy Reebok shoes, shuffled into St. Matthew's Cathedral in Northwest Washington, just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Connecticut Ave.
The evening service was, for the most part, like any other service. The same hymns were sung; the traditional Advent rituals were performed; the attendance at the mass was no different from the usual 300-person turnout.
But before the Rev. Phil Reed began offering the Eucharist and wine to the devout, he shut his eyes and stretched out his arms and exposed his plum-colored robe adorned with silver thread that glimmered under the pale yellow lights. His voice flowed like music and reverberated against the walls decorated with hand-painted frescos while his hands shook slightly with each phrase. "Peace in America. Peace in Afghanistan. Peace in Israel. We pray to the Lord," he chanted. There was a spilt second of silence, longer than the other pauses during the Sunday night church service. Some looked upward and some glanced at loved ones next to them as they tightly grasped the tops of wooden church pews and sang "Lord hear our prayers" along with the 10-person church choir and eight musicians.
When the devastating images of the planes striking the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon appeared on television screens, Americans realized that the most powerful country in the world was, in fact, vulnerable and assailable. Many turned to religion to seek comfort and support on Sept. 11, when America's sense of security collapsed. "How could this happen," many people asked, or "why would God do this to us?"
Even though service attendance dwindled within three months of terrorist attacks, Americans have looked to their religions as a way to find a new outlook on life and new ways to treat other people. The tragedy of Sept. 11 affected every American, regardless of age and creed, which as a result caused people to unite and help everyone cope with the attacks through social unity.
"I prayed later that day·it was a meaningful prayer, and was consoling to me. Now, I really felt the meaning of those words 'live for today, for tomorrow is never guaranteed. My faith has been strengthened as a result especially since we were in DC," said Sanam Nowrouzzadeh, a student at George Washington University and vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
American University sophomore and Chi Alpha Christian Organization member Emily Mariapain said her first reaction after the first plane hit the World Trade Center was to pray. She added that she "was definitely really confused for a long time" about her faith. "It's really hard, especially for Christians who might say, 'How can a God that's so good let something like this happen?' "
For a Muslim woman who is a regular visitor to the Islamic Center, the hardest part of coping with the attacks was how her daily life was changed. "We [Muslims] don't need all this trouble," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used, "but if one person did it, people should not blame the whole Muslim group·. "Even today there are children that call my son Bin Laden because he is Muslim."
Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, the rector of St. Matthew's Church, said that several people came to him after the attacks with doubts about their faith. "I think many people, even those who didn't come, at some point had doubt. 'Why? Why could God let this happen? How could I believe in God who is so good and merciful?' Because God is so good, he gives us that freedom, and sometimes people think that it might be easier not to have it."
Army Pentagon Chaplain Henry A. Haynes said that the people directly involved in the attacks were probably the most affected religiously. "I've heard so many stories of people who were in the impact area. They had to crawl through a wall, crawl through a building on their belly. It's just traumatic. I cannot begin to imagine what they must have been feeling·it causes you to think and struggle with some deep issues," said Haynes.
As Americans grappled with the trauma after one of the most atrocious events in United States history, religious leaders added additional services to accommodate the increased turnout in wake of the terrorist attacks.
Michael Godzwa, the chaplain of the Chi Alpha Christian Organization at American University, said that the although increased interest in seeking spiritual comfort is normal after a major crisis, most of the students who approached him with questions or doubts after Sept. 11 were not active religious members. Godzwa said that most of the students who came to him with doubts were "students who hadn't explored faith and set had up some other ways of coping that seemed to be pulled out from under them came and were questioning. Even now I talk to students on campus who are still questioning, still wondering, still searching for answers."
The first service in the Pentagon after the attack was on Friday, Sept. 14 on the National Day of Prayer. On that day, there were four services, three of which were added the night before after President George W. Bush declared the National Day of Prayer. "Each service was overflowing, standing-room-only·I'm sure if we had the resources, we could've started at 8 a.m. and do services until 5 p.m. and every one would be packed. There's no doubt in my mind," Chaplain Haynes said.
"The mood was humble, thankful, appreciative of what they have. No one really seemed to blame God for this. It was, I would sense, that they were thankful for being alive and concerned about those who were missing or unaccounted for or dead. There was an outpouring of love for one another as if they were saying, 'if you need a shoulder to cry on, you can come and take my shoulder. If you need a hand, use mine,'" Haynes added.
Georgetown University's Imam Yahya Hendi, the first Muslim chaplain ever appointed at an American university, said a service was held on campus, three hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. The service "was a moment of prayer, a moment of reconnecting with God, a moment of tears, a moment of true unity of people of different faiths," Hendi said.
Fasih Siddiqui, the president of the Muslim Student Association at George Washington University, said that during "the week of Sept. 11, we were supposed to have our first general body meeting on Thursday. We were anticipating 40-50 people. We ended up having 150 at the meeting. The university let us use the ballroom and had security guards at all events just to make sure that nothing would happen," Siddiqui said.
Todd Schwartz, a member of the Kesher Israel Orthodox Temple, said that most of the support he received after the tragedy came from other members of his congregation. "There were a lot of people who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center, so when I went to service the Saturday after the attacks, I saw people going out of their way to find those people and express their condolences," he said.
For children, turning to religion and prayer helped them to learn and understand the magnitude of Sept. 11. Religious leaders were able to use services as a way to answer the questions about the terrorist attacks. Walt Anderson, the superintendent of St. Paul's Sunday school, said that the children were upset and had a lot of questions. "The children saw how their parents were upset and started to realized how tragic this event was," he said. "I didn't see any kids who were crying or crazy about it. My kids had a lot of questions. 'Are there really dead people down there [in the World Trade Center]? What are we going to do? Are we in danger?' There was a lot of reassurance by the people here. I think it got them through the beginning," he added.
Ten-year old Jordan Wagner, who attends Sunday school at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Northwest Washington, said that she felt better when she prayed more after the attacks. "My sister and I go to a religious school, so we had lots of religious services, and every time before classes we are always praying for the soldiers and the victims. I think that it's good that we pray before every class in the morning and at church services," Wagner said.
Despite the tragic events of Sept. 11 and other subsequent scares around Washington, religious believers remained steadfast to their faith and did not become disillusioned. They used religion as a way to rationalize for themselves and for other why these events occurred.
"For me," Haynes said, "God was where he's always been. God lost his son, you have to be Christian to believe that. God was there but that had to happen in order to get people to do what he wanted them to do."
Hendi said that he received calls people both on and off campus as well as people of different faiths, including Muslims who were concerned about a backlash that they might face in wake of the terrorist attacks. He told Muslim students to offer their knowledge and educate those who don't understand their religion and Islam. "I told them that they needed to reach out to their fellow classmates of other religions and tell them about Islam. We need to make ourselves available to community and invite them to our services on campus."
Rabbi Ethan Seidel of Tifereth Israel Congregation said that Jews turn to the religion to understand and cope with traumatic situations. "As Jews, at such times of turmoil, we have often taken comfort in our ritual and our law. When our lives are so out of balance that we don't know what to grab for stability, our tradition has come through to help us make order out of chaos."
After three months and the country is beginning to return to a state of normalcy, active religious members observe that as a result of Sept. 11, people of all religions are coming together to cope with the tragedy.
Mariapain said, "my faith has increased a lot because I realize that anything can happen at any given moment, and in my beliefs, if my life isn't right, if I'm not living right, if I'm not respecting other people and really taking things for as they are, when they are-that I can be missing out on a lot. If something happened, I could lose my life. I want to make sure that everything is good with me, so I know that I'm going to Heaven."
Pastor Dr. Sterling Morse of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church said that the attacks of Sept. 11 realized that people need to help each other in order to help themselves cope with the tragedy and the events to follow. "One thing that this season of terror has done is remind us that we can't work out our salvation by ourselves," he said.
"As human beings, we are all searching for the strength to move forward through these trying times. As secular humanistic Jews, we are searching for and finding this strength deep within ourselves and within our relationships. We are finding meaning and rewards for our good works here in this life, in this world," said Rabbi Binyamin Biber of Machar, a Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
Msgr. Jameson said that families grew closer after the terrorist attacks. "There was more bonding with families probably that afternoon and evening than it happened in a long time. Families today tend to be so involved in so many things," he said.
Siddiqui said the students at George Washington University were very supportive of the Muslim population, which has resulted in what he described as "a big push to learn" about Islam. "We had our email box flooded for some time. They [the student body] wanted to give us emotional support and ask us about Islam."
Hendi did see positive results from Sept. 11. "I think our religious and ethnic diversity became much stronger after Sept. 11, and I think there is more understanding of Islam and Muslims now than before."
David Hurai, the director at the Islamic Center of Washington, said that the center received only condolences from people of all ages and faiths after the attacks. "It was quite touching. We received thousands of letters from people all over the country. People also left flowers around the mosque, and we constantly had to be picking them up every couple of hours."
Students at the Senior High Sunday School class of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in the Washington suburb of Bowie, Md., sent messages of reassurance and sympathy to the Islamic Center of Washington shortly after the terrorist attacks.
Here are some of them: "We want to let you know that we are praying for you. We know that you did not have anything to do with those horrible acts and we hope you are not discriminated against. We also hope no one you know has been hurt or killed. We are thinking of you." "Unlike some other Americans, we know you are innocent. We can only hope other Americans soon realize this. We are praying for your safety." "I hope you know God loves you."
Pentagon Chaplain Haynes said, "time does make a difference, but overall, the people have a much larger heart than they had before. I think this has drawn people closer to God·I think that's the joy of what is happening. If you look deep enough, you can see the silver lining of the cloud. What we have found here, is people's love for one another has increased tremendously. Their love for God has blossomed. I've heard nobody blame God for this, it's more like, 'God's going to get us through this, yes he is.'"
"We may not be the people who are sitting around the United Nations. We may not be the people who are going to be talking to the leaders of the countries over in the Middle East. But, there is still a lot that we can do in our own neighborhoods, our own parish communities," Msgr. Jameson said.
Wreaths Adorn Arlington National Cemetery Thanks to Mainers
By Dana Razzano
WASHINGTON - As the 48-foot Blue Bird Ranch tractor-trailer carrying nearly 5,000 balsam fir wreaths pulled in to Arlington National Cemetery, more than 70 Mainers and friends were waiting with anticipation.
Veterans, children, wives and friends were brought together by the Maine State Society for the ninth year to place wreaths donated by Worcester Wreaths in Herrington at gravesites in Arlington to remember those who served their country.
"If you don't have any other way to express your gratitude for the troops," said former Gardiner resident and World War II veteran Carroll Newhouse, "this a great way to do it."
Wreaths were also placed on the graves of Air Force Master Sergeant Evander E. Andrews of Solon, the first serviceman to die in Operation Enduring Freedom's fight against terrorism; the late Maine Senator and Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie; John F. Kennedy; at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider; and the memorial to the soldiers who perished aboard the U.S.S. Maine.
In placing wreaths "you really feel a strong connection to the nation" and experience a great sense of unity working with fellow Mainers, said Rep. John Baldacci who was present to place a wreath at the gravesite of JFK.
Baldacci, an event participant since he arrived in Washington in 1995, said he enjoys working with "such a wonderful group of people," all of whom work with big smiles on their faces.
Merrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreaths, started the event in 1993 after realizing he had an overstock of wreaths. "I had all these wreaths that I didn't have homes for," Worcester said, "and I got to thinking about Arlington."
Worcester visited the cemetery when he was 12, after winning a subscription contest when he worked as a paperboy for the Bangor Daily News. That experience, Worcester said, "stuck in his mind."
He called U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe's office to pitch his idea of bringing the wreaths to Arlington and they arranged the event with the cemetery. Worcester was put in contact with the Maine State Society (MSS), which rounded up volunteers for the wreath placing.
Worcester called his friend James Prout, owner of the Blue Bird Ranch Inc. trucking company, about his idea and Prout offered one of his trucks to transport the wreaths. Every year since, the company donates a truck, driver and transportation costs to the event - a price tag which totals about $2,000, said Blue Bird treasurer Darren Prout.
"Most veterans think it's a great idea, and we usually send a few people down with the driver if there's room," said Darren Prout. "A lot of veterans have sent us plaques and letters of appreciation for the service we provide."
That first year only about two-dozen people gathered on a cold, snowy day to place more than 4,000 wreaths, said Hugh Dwelley, event coordinator for the MSS.
Since then, the event has grown so much, Worcester said, "that you hardly get a chance to place any wreaths."
Every year, Worcester makes the 14-hour trip from Maine with a few family members and friends to be on hand to help place wreaths.
Along with MSS members and friends, representatives from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Tom Allen's offices were on hand to help with the event. Even people not affiliated with Maine have an affinity for the placing of wreaths. Members of the Massachusetts State Society and of local VFW units helped out.
"You can take the people out of Maine, but you can't take the Maine out of people," said Lou Pearson, past president of MSS and former Portland resident. MSS has 1,100 members in 26 states and five foreign countries.
A visit to Arlington is usually for one of two reasons, said Barbara Owens, spokeswoman for Arlington National Cemetery. Either visitors are laying their loved ones to rest or are one of the 4.2 million tourists we get each year, Owens said.
This event is "quite different" and allows people to reflect but "not in a sad way or as a rushed tourist," Owens said. "This is a happy occasion."
Owens said this placing of wreaths is the only community outreach event of its kind at Arlington.
Sections of the cemetery to be decorated rotate each year, but those chosen are often areas that are not along the more popular walkways or are not as frequently visited, said MSS president Joan Dollarhite.
Despite the attention the event continues to gather, members of the MSS take it in stride. "We're just a bunch of informal Mainers," Dwelley said.
Tightened Security Puts Squeeze On Border Community Businesses
By Dana Razzano
WASHINGTON - For the past seven years Maureen McBride's daily commute from Woodstock, New Brunswick, to Houlton Regional Hospital in Maine has been the same: a 25-minute drive, a hot cup of coffee, background noise provided by the car radio and a bagel or apple for breakfast. Other than an extra 15 minutes added to her commute, little has changed since Sept. 11.
McBride, the nurse manager of the emergency room at Houlton Regional Hospital, said inspections of cars at the border are more thorough, but only cause minor delays during her 8 a.m. crossing time. Before Sept. 11 there was hardly a wait, but now guards are strict about documentation. As a Canadian McBride must carry a TN (Trade NAFTA) visa that "we have to have on us at all times."
Life, in general, for border community residents remains very similar to its pre-Sept. 11 ways, but smaller ripple effects of the terrorist attacks have caused a different atmosphere in the border communities and some unwanted results for residents and businesses alike.
"We are in a state of war," said Dan Kane, an Immigration and Naturalization Services spokesman in Washington. "This is an extraordinary situation which demands an extraordinary response."
Prior to Sept. 11, Kane said, it was important to facilitate border entry in an expeditious way, so inspectors spent 30 seconds to one minute with each car. Now inspectors are more "scrutinizing," searching trunk and cargo areas and vehicle's undercarriage with mirrors.
Business owners from Calais and Houlton said what is most detrimental to their livelihood is the combination of strict searches of cars at border crossings and the drop in value of the Canadian dollar down to 61 cents.
Aside from some traffic delays, another downside of strict searches is that people who once may have hid purchases are now being forced to declare all the items they buy, said Calais gift shop owner Melissa Royer.
Canadians visiting the United States for less than 24 hours are "technically not allowed to bring anything back" without declaring their purchases, said Sharon Gill, spokeswoman for the Canada Customs and Revenue Service. After a visit of more than 24 hours, Canadians are allowed purchases up to $30 U.S. without paying tariffs.
Paula Gendron, executive director of the Houlton Chamber of Commerce, said the current situation places "more of a financial burden" on Canadians, keeping them away.
Houlton bookstore owner Gerry Berthelette said the tariffs are "a big restriction on sales" and affected local businesses long before Sept. 11.
On the upside of business in Calais is Kendalls Fine Jewelers. Owner Jayne Johnston said the store has "been doing very well" despite the loss of many international customers because of the poor exchange rate.
"I think [Sept. 11] made a lot of people take a step back to appreciate what they have," Johnston said. "We are seeing customers we haven't seen in years and customers we've never had before."
For the Treworgy Pharmacy, the necessity of prescription medication helped keep business strong. "Fortunately from our standpoint, most of our business comes from U.S. customers," said David Peters, chief pharmacist and owner of the Calais store.
The biggest drop-off came from business in the front section of the store, where many Canadian customers would purchase cards, he said. "Anything that makes coming across the border a hassle" will slow business, Peters said. If Canadians can avoid sitting in lines by taking their business elsewhere, they will, he said.
Kane said, "Crossings may take longer, but we ask to be people to be patient."
For other businesses though, local customers are not enough to keep them sustained.
Since Sept. 11, My Favorite Things gift shop in Calais has struggled to regain lost business. Owner Melissa Royer said that before Sept. 11 the shop was doing better than it had last year and that she had "anticipated a profit by the end of the year."
Now, "I'll be lucky if I break even," Royer said.
Though only 50 percent of Royer's business comes from Canadians, her losses were considerably larger. In September, business dropped 80 percent from the same month in 2000, in October it was down 50 percent and in November it dropped 30 percent, she said.
It seems that "everybody is hurting," Royer said. She added that her bank said since she was paying her bills, she was "doing better than most." Business is slowly picking back up, and so far in December the shop is in the same place as it was last year, Royer said.
In Houlton, however, losses seem considerably less drastic.
"Our numbers are definitely down," said Berthelette, owner of Volumes Bookstore, "but things are picking up with the holidays approaching."
"Everybody has felt it," he said of Sept. 11. Because his used bookstore reaches a niche audience, Berthelette said, he believes he "should be less affected than others because if people want used books, there's not many other places to go."
But Gendron, of the Houlton Chamber of Commerce, said "every business has its ups and downs" and that the chamber hasn't received any reports that businesses are "suffering."
Surprisingly, Gendron said, Sept. 11 has actually had a positive affect on her community.
"The most notable [difference] is that the population is going to increase because of it," she said. Additional Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) inspectors will bring people into the area, along with the desire of Americans "to get a little bit removed from urban centers" for personal and professional reasons.
Dan Ross and his wife, Anne, relocated to Houlton from Atlanta after Sept. 11 to open the health club Main Street Fitness. Ross said they moved to Houlton because they "wanted to move to an area with a holistic lifestyle" and low levels of crime.
Ross said though he had researched the area in August, "Sept. 11 prompted us more" to move. "I think the town has a lot of potential," he said Ross of his business prospects.
Trade between Maine and Canada is a $3.4 billion industry per year. From January of this year until September there was a 12.5 percent increase in Canadian exports to Maine over a year earlier, said Ronald Irwin, the Canadian consul general to New England.
Irwin said that Canada is the No. 1 trading partner with 38 states, is a "major trading partner" with New England and conducts $1.3 billion in trade per day with the United States.
"Tourism and trade is going to be down," Irwin said of the effects of Sept. 11. "It's impossible [for Canada] not to be impacted."
For Gendron and others, it's the little things in life have changed since Sept. 11. Her husband, Marc, and their 10-year old daughter were denied access to Canada one afternoon because he didn't have identification for their daughter. It was a situation the family had never before encountered.
Another new situation for the family: Gendron's son, who plays on the Southern Aroostook Minor Hockey Association's 14-15 year old team, now must carry a signed parental permission form authorizing his travel for practice and games in Canadian arenas.
Guards that once would let regular visitors and commuting workers pass through by simple recognition now stop everyone and check documents, Gendron said.
But, said McBride, "they're doing it because they have to."
Border crossings may be even quicker in January, when an estimated 96 Maine National Guard troops would be deployed to state border crossings to assist Customs Service officials, INS inspectors and Border Patrol agents, said Maj. Eldon Hardwick of the Army National Guard.
The announcement of the deployment came with an agreement signed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and Canadian Cabinet members signifying their commitment to fight terrorism and focus on border security.
"This is an important and preventive measure of relief [for those] who have been working without assistance with virtually no time off," said Dave Lackey, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.
U.S. Rep. Tom Allen agrees. "It's at least a good temporary solution to the problem [Border Patrol and INS inspectors] are facing up there," he said. "There is so much work and relatively so few people to do it."
In a written statement, Ashcroft said the guardsmen will only "supplement existing staff temporarily" who have been operating at Threat Level One, the highest state of alert, since Sept. 11 and have been subjected to mandatory overtime and had all scheduled leave canceled.
"We haven't treated our northern border very well," said Chris Sands, director of the Canada Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Despite a 25 percent increase in crossings between1996 and 2000, the Border Patrol was working with the same number of guards it had in 1993, he said.
The agreement also includes an increase in integrated border enforcement teams of U.S. and Canadian officers; the sharing of law enforcement information, including fingerprinting; developing joint visa requirements; accessing passenger information at key international airports in both countries; and developing common biometric identification cards.
Canada was criticized after Sept. 11 for its lack of strict border controls, but those complaints turned out to be "not accurate," Irwin said. Nevertheless, Canadian officials have agreed to step up their security measures. The Canadian government recently announced a proposal to spend $5 billion over the next five years for increased border security and updated border facilities.
"I think that it is good that the Canadians are increasing their security standards," U.S. Rep. John Baldacci said. It is important that the countries have "harmony" in their policies concerning the border, he said.
Border security by itself is "useless" unless there are other systems in place, Sands said. The border is only a checkpoint because we can't guarantee to catch the people trying to get around the system without other help, he said.
Senator Collins said she welcomed Ashcroft's decision in the short term but preferred to see a long-term solution. "We need to figure out a system that provides increased security but that does not needlessly impede commerce and tourists and families from crossing the border," she said.
Baldacci said appropriations to carry out the PATRIOT Act include tripling the authorization for Border Patrol personnel, INS inspectors and customs officials. Though the release of funds and training of new personnel will take several months, this will have long-term results, he said.
What happened on Sept. 11 "has been devastating to us," Irwin said, both personally and professionally.
Canadians have a very close relationship with New Englanders, Irwin said. "Twenty-five percent of New Englanders are Canadian descendants."
"There is almost a seamless border between New England and Atlantic Canada," he said.
Student Visas Forever Changed After Sept. 11
WASHINGTON - The tragic events of Sept. 11 have altered many things in this country, especially the way Americans look at and deal with foreigners including foreign students. For 24-year-old Alain Sfeir, a Merrimack College senior, that reality came when the FBI knocked on his door in New Hampshire.
Sfeir said his name popped up on the FBI's computer because he is Lebanese and flew to California, even though his trip was months before Sept. 11.
"They said that one guy on the plane saw me reading a manual about how to fly an airplane, which is totally ridiculous," he said. But Sfeir had nothing to hide and was open with the agents. "I knew why they are here," he said. "They have nothing against me. They're the good guys."
"They are very nice," said Sfeir of the FBI agents. "But it was very clear stereotyping, like profiling."
Sfeir, who is here on a student visa, believes that after Sept. 11, the visa application process will be much harder for anyone trying to get a United States visa. All 19 of the aircraft hijackers entered the U.S. on legal visas. One of the hijackers, at the controls of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, was in the country on a student visa although he never attended classes.
Only 2 percent of all US visas are issued to foreign students. That means only about 550,000 of the 30 million people receiving visas each year are students. But student visas have come in for heightened attention since Sept. 11 and a number of lawmakers have recently proposed legislation to tighten up the student visa process.
On Nov. 30, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as one of his cosponsors, introduced the "Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act" requiring all visa applicants from a country that sponsors terrorism to undergo a background check.
The legislation also proposes to strengthen the foreign student tracking system implemented in 1996. The reporting requirements for the INS, State Department and universities would be improved to include more information about the student and to monitor whether they attend classes. The INS and State Department will be required to check on schools more often and make sure they are following the requirements for reporting data and record keeping.
How to Get a Visa:
According to an online survey by the Institute of International Education and the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, made public on Nov. 13, 547,867 international students attended American colleges and universities in the 2000-2001 school year.
Chinese students make up the largest group of international students, followed by Indian and Japanese. Asian students make up 51 percent of all international students while only six percent of foreign students are Middle Eastern. California enrolls the most foreign students, 74,281, followed by New York and Texas. Massachusetts, with 29,295 foreign students, has the fourth largest number in the nation attending its academic institutions.
Applying for a student visa can take anywhere from a few days to many months. The visa application process starts only after a student has been accepted at an American school. The school's international student office then sends the successful applicant an I-20 form, which the student fills out and takes to the U.S. embassy in his or her country, along with a passport and financial documents.
To get a visa, students must prove that they will stay in the U.S. only to study and will return home after their education is complete. Students must also show they have ties to their home country, which is one reason financial documents are so important.
For Amrita Dhindsa, 25, a Boston University graduate student from India who came to the United States in August 2000, the evidence she was going to go back home after college was that much of her father's business is registered in her name.
"That kind of proves that I am going to go back to my country at some point because I have to look after my business," she explained. "So it was relatively easy for me to get my visa."
While Dhindsa got her visa with little trouble, Sfeir, who came here in 1997 from Lebanon, did not.
Because there is no American embassy in Lebanon, Sfeir had to go to Cyprus for his interview. "It's not a relaxing situation," he said of his interview experience in the embassy in Cyprus. "You're standing in a place pretty much like a bunker," he said. "Steel doors, bulletproof glass. It's not relaxing."
Sfeir was denied his visa the first three times. The first two times the embassy did not tell him why it denied his request. The third time the embassy told him some of his paperwork was missing.
"It's very hard to get through the process," he said, adding that it is a lot harder for Lebanese to get visas because of the conflict in the Middle East. Keeping
Track of Foreign Students:
There is currently no nation-wide program to monitor international students. However, a program has been in the works since 1997 after the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 became a law. Colleges and universities were given until 2003 to comply with the act, but until Sept. 11, many schools had done little to implement the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Only a pilot program in 21 schools in the southeastern U.S. had been up and running before Sept. 11.
The pilot program, the Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students (CIPRIS), began in 1997. As of Dec. 17, 10 schools in Massachusetts will be involved in a web-based version of CEVIS, SEVIS, and the entire program is expected to begin to go nationwide in January 2003.
"It takes about a year for INS to get paperwork caught up in the old system," said Jim Kenaston, international student adviser at Mercer University in Macon, one of the schools involved in CIPRIS, the first pilot student tracking program in the country. "At present it's difficult for INS to determine if students even showed up at all."
"We have a database we maintain and give the information to INS," said Kenaston of Mercer University. Currently, there is a software system each school uses to upload the information to the INS.
The INS has rarely, if ever checked up on school records. According to Dyann DelVecchio, a Boston lawyer who specializes in immigration issues, in the past 15 years the INS contacted a school only if it had a question about a student.
"When SEVIS is really up and running, it's really going to be a good program; it's just that it's had to take a long time to get off the ground," DelVecchio said. She cited personnel changes at the INS, budget problems and lobbying of the education community as reasons it has taken the tracking system so long to get started.
For years, educators have objected to the collection fee that may be required to keep the system up and running. Many institutions feel that that schools are not equipped to deal with collecting money from students and that this should be a function of the government.
In a January 2000 statement, the American Council on Education urged American colleges and universities to write to Congress objecting to colleges' collecting the fee. But after Sept. 11, many schools dropped their opposition, agreeing that there is no choice but to implement a monitoring system for foreign students.
"It's going to happen," said Joseph Sheehan, assistant dean of admissions and coordinator of international relations at Merrimack College, a school not involved in SEVIS. Despite ACE's objections, he added, there's no way the tracking system will not be implemented.
"Once implemented nationally it'll be a good system," Kenaston said. "This is all information that schools should be collecting anyway and give the information to the INS in a timely manner."
Without such compliance, said John Keeley, a research associate at the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, SEVIS is "just symbolic" and another loophole in the system.
"I think there has to be a fundamental change in the philosophy and mindset [of the system]," Keeley said. Opposition to the system has been driven, he said, by the unwillingness to single out foreign students and by the burden that fees would put on the schools and the students.
"All of these things have to be put aside when talking about national security, and inconveniencing foreign students doesn't seem to be a strong argument," Keeley said.
On the Hill:
The new Kennedy legislation to heighten border security and improve the visa process comes after weeks of discussion and compromise between Kennedy and Feinstein. In September, Feinstein originally proposed a radical six-month moratorium on the issuance of all student visas, which Kennedy and many others strongly opposed.
New Hampshire 1st District Congressman John E. Sununu, R-Bedford, said that he had talked with people in the New Hampshire university system and that there was a "concern" that a moratorium would punish the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding students that come to the United States for an education.
"A moratorium would be a heavy-handed approach," he said. "What we really need is to modernize and reform the system, and that's something we need to make a priority and provide funds to implement it."
Feinstein, after discussing the idea with California universities and the ACE, decided against including a student visa moratorium in her legislation. In her own legislation, Feinstein had also originally considered refusing visas to students from countries that sponsor terrorism unless the Secretary of State issued a waiver to the applicant, but abandoned that approach as well.
When asked why he was against Feinstein's moratorium plan, Kennedy said there are other ways to protect the nation's security, such as securing the country's borders and doing closer screening of visitors.
"Foreign students have a vital role at our universities, and contribute significantly to the spread of our ideals around the world," he said.
Ursula Oaks, associate director for press relations for the Association of International Educators, said the compromise Kennedy-Feinstein bill is a "more balanced way" of dealing with student visas.
She said the United States should be concerned about everyone who enters the country, not just the "small number" of students from terrorist countries. "I can't imagine the Secretary of State would look through piles and piles of applicants," she said, so that effectively, applicants from entire countries would be banned.
"Hooray for the Kennedy-Feinstein bill," said Alan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education. "It's a terrific step forward."
He said under the bill, the schools and government are each equipped to do their part to make the US safer, but not prevent foreign students from entering the country.
"It brings to life in a very 21st century way all the coordination in reporting that's needed to have a good visa system," said Goodman.
But not everyone is pleased with the more liberal approach.
Scott Lauf, executive director of CitizensLobby.com, a non-profit conservative lobbying group, was pleased when he heard about Feinstein's moratorium idea because he thinks the nation's tracking system for visa recipients needs a lot of work. During a six-month moratorium, he said, "we will be able to have time to set up a tracking system and consolidate the resources."
In fact, Lauf prefers more than a simple moratorium. "We should put a hold on the new students who received visas and delay that six months and work with colleges and universities and say we'll hold the slot for you but delay the admission and entry into the country."
Lauf said the Kennedy-Feinstein legislation wouldn't prevent another Sept. 11 and would require only a "flimsy background check" for foreigners to enter the country.
But local Rep. Martin T. Meehan, D-Lowell, believes the new Kennedy bill is the right approach. "The bill introduced by Sen. Kennedy is effective and properly targeted," said Meehan, D-Lowell. It will "plug holes and prevent abuse" in the student visa program, he maintained. "A moratorium . . . would make sense if there is no effective alternative."
"The changes in the Kennedy bill are common-sense reforms to the student visa programs," Meehan said. He added that sharing information among the different agencies and the universities would make the student monitoring system more effective.
Massachusetts 6th District Congressman John F. Tierney, D-Salem said that the Kennedy-Feinstein bill, though it could have a positive effect on the student visa process, is not a "silver bullet" that would solve all problems.
Many universities understand the need for monitoring foreign students but doubt that international students can be prevented from studying in the United States and believe that their presence on university campuses is essential.
"They add culture, they add diversity," said Martha Flinter, director of International/Study Abroad Programs at Framingham State College. Foreign students introduce American students to cultures and customs they would never have a change of being exposed to without the presence of international students.
"There is plenty of [diversity] of college campuses already," Lauf argued. "I think national security is more of a concern than diversity."
"My own problem with the student visa program begins at its essence," Keeley said. He said foreign students, who usually pay full tuition, support a "fair number" of graduate programs at universities, and he wondered about the extent to which graduate programs have aided countries that support terrorism in their sinister plots.
"How much diversity is really being brought to that program?" Keeley asked, pointing out that only a small percentage of students at American schools are foreign. "It's naðve to suggest [that a foreign student program] is anything but a cash cow."
Sheehan admitted that money is certainly one reason foreign students are important to universities, but said that this was only "one side of the coin." International students also add "personality, color and cultural awareness" to each campus, he said.
"In the good things that we want about our nation, a nation of goodness and tolerance, we need to keep foreign students coming in," Sheehan said. "They are people and their differences are not so different."
Baldacci Receives Award for His Commitment to At-Risk Youth
By Dana Razzano
WASHINGTON - The Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) Program, a national non-profit corporation, presented U.S. Rep. John Baldacci with an award Wednesday night for his support of and dedication to the success of at-risk students.
"It is important to have these programs that shed light on so many young people who wouldn't have these opportunities otherwise," Baldacci said in accepting the JAG Government Leader Award.
"They give us all the credit, but I've got to tell you, [the students] are great," he said. "We're just a reflecting pond of them."
Students selected to participate in JAG are identified by school counselors or administrators as those who could benefit from one of the organization's four program models. Programs work with students as early as seventh grade through one-year past high school graduation and focus on dropout recovery, dropout prevention and the school-to-work transition.
"We must provide our young people with the opportunities and the incentives to learn and ensure that they receive the education that will allow their full and continuing participation in our dynamic economy," said Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, the recipient of the Economic Leader for Young People award.
The awards were presented at JAG's seventh annual National Leadership Awards Presentation, which is a two-day event recognizing program participants and supporters.
Baldacci has done "tremendous" work to keep JAG programs in operation in the eight years he has been involved with the organization, said Jobs for Maine's Graduates (JMG) President Pete Thibodeau. That service was highlighted in Baldaccci's response to a young student who placed a call for help to him, Thibodeau said.
Lea Burdick, a 17-year-old junior at Foxcroft Academy, asked Baldacci for his support when the JMG programs at her school were at risk of being eliminated. Baldacci wrote a letter urging the Foxcroft Academy board of directors to continue JMG programs despite their impending budget cuts. "His letter helped significantly turn the tide," Thibodeau said. The programs remained in operation.
Baldacci's selection for the award represents "how closely some of our congressional delegation supports JMG and JAG programs in their state," Thibodeau said.
JMG is the kind of program "that fits certain students well, and it makes them feel very confident," which helps students stay in school, Baldacci said.
JMG, a state affiliate organization of JAG, works with more than 2,300 students from more than 40 public and private schools statewide. Students in the JAG programs work in groups of 35 to 40 students.
"It kept me in school, for one thing," Burdick said of her participation in JMG. "It taught me a lot of responsibility and how to work as a team member."
"Ultimately I learned how to be me," she said.
Burdick said that without the support of the other JMG members her success and the successful continuation of the program at Foxcroft "would not have been possible."
A member of JMG since her freshman year of high school, Burdick is planning for an ambitious career in politics. She said her ultimate aspiration is to be President of the United States. "She's pretty sharp," Baldacci said of Burdick.
"I wouldn't be surprised one day if she is President of the United States."
Granite State Native Finds His Niche on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON - Washington has been getting back to business following the terrorist attacks of three months ago, and that includes lobbysists like Taylor Caswell.
In the weeks following Sept. 11, Caswell and other lobbyists, people who represent particular special interest groups and try to influence Congress to support these groups, were sensitive to the national tragedy and went gingerly about their work. But, as the aftermath of the attacks wore on, he saw that politics "changed at first, but a lot of it is back to normal." The bipartisanship of Sept. 11 is fading, and that's natural, he added.
"When you're down in the trenches, it's not that way," Caswell said. "You knew that was going to happen. Everyone's not going to be all chummy. A lot of things are at stake here. Politics totally disappeared for about three weeks, but that can't last, and it's back - not as in-your-face, but it's there. But I would say that the concerns of members, the return of campaign issues, and the politics that drive this place are largely back in place, just all now being somewhat overshadowed by the war and the need to put those things aside when absolutely necessary."
A Littleton native and the only Washington lobbyist for the Farmers Insurance Group, the nation's third-largest personal insurance company, Caswell said that immediately after the attacks, the lobbyists in Washington "all just stopped because all of the issues we deal with are so very small in comparison."
Caswell, 33, widens his eyes and mixes the air with his hands as he says developing relationships with lawmakers and the people he deals with is a major priority on the job. He prefers to "understand the personalities and personal nuances of key decision-makers; to come at it from a personal standpoint."
"Each lobbyist has their own style," he said. "I spend an awful lot of time developing relationships. I'm not a technical lobbyist (someone with an area of expertise who can write legislation.) I like to work on a personal level with these guys."
Sometimes he'll work from home in the early morning and then about 10 a.m. bike the seven miles to his downtown Washington office from his home in Arlington, Va. "Around here it's actually quicker [than driving] most days."
Caswell says his work "really is different day-to-day. I am hardly ever in my office. My cell phone is my office phone, and my Palm Pilot runs my life." He says a typical day might include spending the early morning reading newspapers from across the country and then jumping into a cab to head up to the Hill for meetings with congressmen, senators, or their staffs.
"Sometimes I have a legislative issue to deal with them on, but sometimes I'm just checking in, talking politics, hearing their concerns," he said. "On days where there are congressional hearings on a subject I work on, I will head to the hearing early to chat with staff, other lobbyists. I am a resource for them on our issues. I don't expect them to take what I tell them as the golden truth, they all have to weigh it against or with what they hear in their districts or what their own personal concerns or feelings are on the subject."
Caswell said "sometimes lunches are pre-arranged but generally I'll grab a few folks for something at a restaurant either up on the Hill or downtown. Afternoons are [spent] on the Hill or downtown at industry strategy or update meetings, or just back at the office catching up on calls. Some evenings are late in the office or back at the house catching up on emails and reading more on our issues and national politics."
And sometimes he's on Capitol Hill until 9 p.m., attending a political function or dinner. He finds that his theory of developing relationships proves itself at these after-hours affairs.
"These guys are like any other normal person," he said. "They don't like talking business that late. I try not to do that. I do that during business hours. There's a whole culture that goes with Capitol Hill and having worked on Capitol Hill, I think you have a better understanding of what that culture is."
Caswell came to this understanding while working as the legislative director for former Rep. Bill Zeliff, R-NH, from 1992 to 1996. "I ran the Washington office," he said. "It was fun, being able to help people was really a lot of fun."
He said he experienced the importance of public service one night when he was alone in the office, and its effect has been lasting.
"It was late, like 7:30, and the phone rang," he said. "I picked up the phone and it was a woman from Portsmouth and she was having trouble with her sewer line. She wasn't irrational, she had a problem and she called her congressman with it."
"I took the address and saw that it was a house I used to live in for a couple years [as a child]," he said. "I took a personal interest in it and we took care of it for her. There are a lot of chances to make a difference."
Zeliff said Caswell was an integral part of his 75-person health care task force in 1993, and was "outstanding" in working on other issues such as small business and defense. "He's a very sharp young guy," Zeliff said. "If he'd be willing to work with me today I'd take him on in a second. He started out fresh, new and inexperienced as all of us did, and he was good enough to be become the boss (legislative director)."
After catching the politics bug early in Littleton High School's chapter of the YMCA Youth and Government Program, Caswell graduated from Gettysburg College in 1991. He shuffled around Europe that summer, touring Austria and Germany, meeting up with his high school friend and future wife, Susan, and wondering about his future.
He was still wondering when he came home to Littleton that fall to have fun and work at the town's Oasis Bar and Restaurant; waiting on tables, working the bar, whatever was needed.
"I was a big skier; I lived at Canon Mountain," he said. "It's been ten years, and I still have withdrawals."
A few months later, Caswell said, he knew it was time to get a steady job and took his life south.
"I decided to throw everything I had into a truck and drove down to Washington," he said. "I ended up hooking up with an old family friend who worked for a congressman" and got an unpaid internship in that office through him.
Soon after, he went to work for Zeliff. Caswell folds his arms easily behind his head as he talks about how he used to be on the inside of a congressional office. But now, however, a major part of his work, he said, is "developing as good a level of access as you can to various members [of congress] and establishing a good working relationship, and that's what you try to achieve."
Kurt Markva, chief of staff for Rep. Don Mazullo, R-Ill., works with Caswell often on insurance and tax issues relating to Mazullo's district. He said Caswell's personal style and approach to his work makes him "a fantastic lobbyist."
"The thing that makes a lobbyist very good is his word and his ability to communicate, and he really is a good people person," Markva said of Caswell. "He's very straight-forward, can cut to the chase and let people know what the deal is."
Markva said he met Caswell when the future lobbyist was working for Zeliff and thinks he "has great political sense. He can read people."
Caswell's colleague, Jeffrey Rouch, associate vice president for government relations at Nationwide Insurance Corp., said when Caswell first meets someone, he does it without any intention of working with them - he just likes to try to get to know someone first. Caswell "is a casual, very approachable young man; he's really engaging but he's not forcing himself."
He said Caswell's young age is often an advantage, especially since he's in the peer group of many people who work on the Hill, but there is the chance that his young years could be a negative characteristic.
"In a lot of ways it's a plus because I think he's got a good energy level," said Rouch. "I think there are probably some situations where some members might pre-judge and use his youth a little bit against him. My experience is that I haven't really met anyone who thinks, 'oh, that little twerp.' He's got a solid reputation."
Rouch said Caswell "does a good job of selling pretty convincingly," and embodies the qualities a good lobbyist needs.
"He's pretty solid," he said. "He learns his issues before he goes in, gets his arguments down, and has a good way with people. Lobbying entails not only the information you have, but how you communicate it. Building good relationships is key and he has good relationships with a lot of key people."
For Caswell, lobbying is a welcome change from politics in some respects.
"That's one of the nice things about being on the lobbying side; it's not nearly as partisan," Caswell said. But "what we do is politics. We deal with that world. We have to be sensitive to a region or a committee."
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-TX, said he has worked with Caswell several times and thinks he is "a top-notch person, individually, and a professional." Sessions said he has "only good things to say about Taylor."
While working directly in politics seems to be Caswell's preferred experience, he is happy in his position now.
"Personally, the congressional office was more fulfilling, but I wouldn't say this job isn't fulfilling either," Caswell said. "But you stay in politics; you stay in the game."
And Caswell's ties to the Granite State aren't broken.
"New Hampshire is my home state, and I've gone out of my way to stay in touch politically," he said. "I talk about Littleton stuff with Charlie [Bass, R-NH]. There's an issue or two that might come up. [Rep. Bass and Rep. John E. Sununu, R-NH] are just both great guys, and I enjoy talking with them."
Rep. Bass said Caswell is "persuasive" and a regular visitor in his office. "The New Hampshire natives who work in Washington tend to come around," he said, because they know the offices and are friendly with the staffs. He said he often sees Caswell that way. The two met after Bass was elected to the House in 1994 and Caswell was working in Rep. Zeliff's office.
"I think he's great," Bass said. "He's quiet but he's effective because he has the Hill experience. He understands how to lobby."
When Zeliff lost the race for New Hampshire governor in 1996 and left Congress, Caswell needed a job," he said. "I could've gone and worked for another congressman, [but] it was going to be New Hampshire or nothing. I thought I'd give the private sector a try."
He said he "might go back to New Hampshire someday. I miss a lot of things about New Hampshire. The worst thing about here [in Washington] is the winter - it's kind of in-between. It's cold, damp, icy and it's not warm. And fall lasts forever down here. Leaves fall for like six to seven weeks. I'm always raking my little backyard."
But the weather isn't the only thing that draws him back home. "I miss the people in New Hampshire, too," he said. "Washington is beautiful, but it's a city."
When he's not making the rounds in Washington, Caswell said, keeping in shape and being with his family fill his time.
"I'm sort of an obsessive cyclist," Caswell, who bikes 150 miles a week, said. "Other than that, my kids keep me pretty busy, and they're fun. They're always first, and I've often jumped out of a meeting or a hearing to talk to [Elizabeth], who knows how to speed dial my cell phone from home. A few weeks ago a congressman from Ohio caught me outside a hearing saying loudly into my cell phone, 'Sometimes the cat doesn't like to be jumped on, Ellie!' He laughed and whispered something about my 'real job.'"