Woman's Suburban 
Democratic Club                                
   of Montgomery County, Maryland

September Newsletter  - Volume 2, Issue 1



Upcoming WSDC Events

Upcoming Obama Campaign Events 

"Are you 'In'?" House Parties  

The Board Report 


General Assembly Special Session on Congressional Redistricting 

WSDC Board of Directors Opposes the Tar Sands Pipeline  

MLAW Annual Legislative Conference             

Health Care Reform 

       Budget Woes Continue  

Marvin and Deborah Kalb Shine at September Luncheon 

It Takes a Village 

Help Wanted 

It's Time to Renew Your Membership 

Political Book Club - October 

Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary 


You may click on one of the above titles to go directly to that subject, or simply scroll down the newsletter.     


Thanks to Sybil Cantor, Sheila Fyfe, Lenna Israbian-Jamgochian and Carole Brand for their contributions to the newsletter.




Mark your calendars now for these upcoming events. For more information on locations and registration, watch for future e-mails and daisy cards - or visit our website at www.mcWSDC.org.


Thursday, October 13


Happy Hour with Women Elected Officials  

5:30-7 p.m.   

Redwood Restaurant and Bar, 7121 Bethesda Lane, BethesdaGirls


Happy days are here again! And this month's WSDC happy hour will be a particularly special one, because we've invited all the women elected officials in Montgomery County. You won't want to miss the opportunity to meet them and enjoy the great political conversation. Members and potential members are welcome, so bring your friends. See you there!


Tuesday, October 18


District 18 House Party with Obama for America

Time: 7 - 8:30 p.m. (Program to begin at 7:30 p.m.)

Home of Beth Tomasello

7010 Hillcrest Place, Chevy Chase

Phone: 301-656-0969   


Calling all District 18 residents! Join us for our first house party to learn about the plans of Obama for America in Montgomery County. Click here for more information.  

Thursday, October 20

WSDC Monthly Luncheon: Steve PearlsteinPearlstein

Time: 12 noon  

Normandie  Farm Restaurant

10710 Falls Road, Potomac

Cost: $ 25 members; $27 non-members


Steven Pearlstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning business and financial columnist for The Washington Post will speak on "Magical Thinking: What Will (and Won't) Fix the Economy".


Tuesday, October 25


District 15 House Party with Obama for America

Time: 7 - 8:30 p.m. (Program to begin at 7:30 p.m.)

Home of Ginger Macomber

11905 Tallwood Court, Potomac

Phone:  301-340-0171 


Calling all District 15 residents! Join us for our second house party to learn about the plans of Obama for America in Montgomery County. Click here for more information.


Tuesday, November 1


Montgomery County 101 Visits the Montgomery County Council    

Tuesday, November 1

10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 

100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville

Montgomery Co. Council Logo 

Next up for our Montgomery County 101 series: a visit to the Montgomery County Council. Join us at the County Council building when we attend a Council session, tour the facilities and have lunch with Council members.


Watch for more information in your e-mails and daisy cards or go to www.mcWSDC.org.    


Wednesday, November 9


District 16 House Party with Obama for America

7 - 8:30 p.m. (Program to begin at 7:30 p.m.)

Home of Lucy Freeman

4708 Dorset Street, Chevy Chase

Phone:  301-654-8116


Calling all District 16 residents! Join us for our third house party to learn about the plans of Obama for America in Montgomery County. Click here for more information.



Monday, November 14


Gayle Tzemach LemmonAn Evening with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon


The author of the New York Times bestseller The Dressmaker of Khair Khana will discuss how one woman in Afghanistan managed to survive under the repressive rule of the Taliban. Don't miss this fascinating talk about the status of Afghan women and the resilience of the human spirit.







Wednesday, November 16


District 17 House Party with Obama for America

7 - 8:30 p.m. (Program to begin at 7:30 p.m.)

Home of Elly Shaw-Belblidia

340 Tschiffely Square Road, Gaithersburg

Phone:  301-216-9549


Calling all District 17 residents! Join us for our fourth house party to learn about the plans of Obama for America in Montgomery County. Click here for more information. 







Obama 2012 HQ

3750 University Boulevard West, Kensington

Monday-Thursday, 12 noon to 8:30 p.m.

Friday, 12 noon to 6 p.m.


All hands on deck! Help out in the Obama campaign headquarters. Make calls, conduct in-person and telephone interviews, enter data and help prepare for upcoming events.



Tuesday, October 11


Reception with First Lady Michelle Obama
Time:  4:30 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
2660 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, DC


This is an event you won't want to miss.  If you would like to serve on the host committee, contact Adam Barr at  albarr@gmail.com.  General admission is $250 but there are a limited number of tickets available at $100.  The VIP reception is $1,000.  To RSVP click here.

Wednesday, October 26


Obama for America One-Year-Out Rally with Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Doors open at 7 p.m. Program starts at approximately 7:45 p.m.

Montgomery Blair High School

51 University Boulevard East, Silver Spring


Debbie Wasserman SchultzLet the countdown begin! Join Maryland elected officials, the Maryland Democratic Party and our special keynote speaker, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for this special campaign 2012 kickoff.


Invited speakers include: Governor Martin O'Malley, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and Representatives Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, Donna Edwards and John Sarbanes.


Woman's Suburban Democratic Club is a co-sponsor along with the Maryland Democratic Party, the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, the Prince George's County Young Democrats and the Leisure World Democratic Club.  


You must register to attend at:  http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/gpzh8j.





Working with Obama for America (OFA), we have scheduled the first two house parties of the 2012 campaign.  (See dates and locations under "Upcoming WSDC Events.")  We plan to hold eight - one in each legislative district.  These parties will help our members - but especially our working members who can't often attend our daytime events - to get to know each other in an informal and fun setting.  The parties also will give us the chance to learn more about OFA's campaign plans and what we can do to help re-elect Obama-Biden next year - and we will re-elect Obama next year!  Check our website www.mcWSDC.org for additional details.  





WSDC Contemplates Name Change to Woman's Democratic Club of Montgomery County



Director Chair

At its May 2011 meeting, the WSDC Board voted by an overwhelming majority  

of 10-2 to recommend to the membership that we change our name by dropping the word "suburban". Subsequently, the Board voted to bring the issue to the membership for a vote at our January 2012 meeting. (Our bylaws require that any change to the bylaws requires a 2/3rds vote of our members.)


The Board made the recommendation for the following reasons:  

  • The name is no longer accurate because Montgomery County is no longer "suburban." The proposed name change would emphasize the economic and political power of Montgomery County in its own right.  
  • Media portrayals of "suburban women" have created an image that disserves the intelligent, vital and politically involved women who founded this club and who constitute its membership today.  
  • Because of the societal connotations of the term "suburban women" in today's world, the name that has served us so well in the past is now hampering our outreach to potential new members throughout the County.  
  • Most importantly, young women who are the future of this club do not define themselves as "suburban." We are concerned that unless we change our name now, we will fail to attract these vital new members and will see our numbers decrease.  
  • The Board believes that dropping the word "suburban" from our name will help us sustain and increase our membership.

You will be receiving a letter shortly explaining the reasoning in more detail. In addition, out of respect to the long-term members of the board who argue against any name change, we will include a letter from them, which reflects their opinion.





Article9General Assembly Special Session on Congressional Redistricting  

The General Assembly will convene in a special session on Monday, October 17 to consider the Governor's congressional redistricting plan. Speculation is that the districts will be reconfigured in such a way as to give the Democrats an opportunity to pick up an additional seat. The Governor will submit the state legislative redistricting plan to the General Assembly when it convenes on January 11 for its 2012 regular session.  


TarSandsWSDC Board of Directors Opposes the Tar Sands Pipeline

Woman's Suburban Democratic Club's Board of Directors recently sent a letter to President Obama to block the proposed Tar Sands Pipeline. The President is in the process of deciding whether to approve tar sands processing in the United States, including the construction of a 1,700 mile pipeline to pump the tar sand sludge all the way from Canada to Texas for refining. This process does not require Congressional approval.  


Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay, sand, waterandbitumen (a heavy black viscous oil). Deposits are usually mined through strip mining or open pit techniques. Both of these techniques, along with the processing of extracted oil, involve significant environmental impacts, actually much more than traditional drilling. In fact, 90% of the water used in processing the tar sands oil becomes so toxic it takes years before the landscape where it is stored can be reused.



MLAWMLAW Annual Legislative Conference

Woman's Suburban Democratic Club is proud to be a member of the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women. MLAWwill hold its Annual Legislative Conference on Saturday, October 29, 2011 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Montgomery County Education Association, 12 Taft Court, Rockville, MD 20850.


The theme of this year's conference is "Coalitions: Getting Things Done". During the conference, legislative issues will be presented by advocacy organizations and/or legislators who are working together to advance specific initiatives. Those initiatives that support MLAW's mission and criteria will be placed on a ballot and circulated for consideration. The issues that are selected will be presented at a Legislative Briefing and Reception to be held in January in Annapolis, and will be the focus of MLAW's primary activities during the 2012 General Assembly session.


For more information and to register for the MLAW Annual Legislative Conference click here.

Article10Health Care Reform 

Maryland continues to be a leader in implementation of health care reform. Currently four Advisory Committees on the Exchange Board are developing recommendations in four areas - Navigator Program & Enrollment; the Exchange's Operating Model and Insurance Rules, the Small Business Exchange (SHOP), and Financial Sustainability. The Board will use their input to prepare a report to be submitted to the Governor and Legislature on December 23, 2011 that will form the basis for legislation to be considered in the 2012 General Assembly.


Approximately 400,000 now-uninsured Marylanders will be eligible to enter the Exchange in 2012 (44% of these are women). The Maryland Women's Coalition for Health Care Reform will be working with its partners, including the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club, to ensure that the implementing legislation in 2012 fully supports the needs and interests of all Marylanders.    


BudgetBudget Woes Continue

On November 23, a bipartisan "Super Committee" of 12 Members of Congress (including our Congressman Chris Van Hollen) is scheduled to propose a plan to reduce federal deficits by $1.5 billion over 10 years. To the extent that this proposal lowers federal payments to states, this could dramatically impact our state budget and the state's ability to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Please let your members of Congress know that the "Super Committee" proposal should balance any such cuts with additional revenues during these difficult economic times.





Father-daughter team Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb discussed their recent book Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 members and guests at our September 12 luncheon.



Kalb Luncheon
Photo by Ellie Dayhoff

They discussed how the war has affected every President since then, each of them in a different way. They concluded their remarks by reading the final paragraph of the book:


"In the wake of that defeat, each president had his own way of dealing with the legacy of Vietnam. Ford, eager to prove that the United States still had its fighting spirit, sent massive firepower to liberate the merchant ship Mayaguez. Carter, seeking a bloodless presidency, came up short when faced with the Iranian hostage crisis and then sanctioned the creation of a bloody anti-Soviet alliance in Afghanistan. Reagan, persuaded that Americans had been 'spooked' by the Vietnam War, refused to retaliate against Islamic radicals who had murdered 241 marines in Beirut, even though he enjoyed projecting a tough image. Bush I, the president perhaps most determined to battle the ghosts of Vietnam, sent a powerful force into the Persian Gulf to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait. Clinton, facing his own Vietnam-draft-era demons, withdrew from Somalia after Black Hawk Down and then used limited force in Bosnia and Kosovo but accomplished his purpose. Bush II, ready after 9/11 to wage war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, instead went all-out in Iraq, determined to bury the inhibiting legacy of Vietnam."





We need your help creating a vibrant Club and we solicit your ideas and participation. And the most valuable contribution you can make to the Club is - you guessed it - your time. Sharing your skills and expertise with us and joining a committee are fun ways to meet other members and make new friends while helping the Club accomplish its goals. Go to www.mcWSDC.org and click on "Volunteer" to complete the volunteer form.




Graphic Designer: We need someone to help design flyers, special invitations and a printed newsletter.  Are you able to do this? Do you know someone who might be able to help us? If so, please contact us at wsdc44@gmail.com.


Alma Mater Outreach: To help get the word out about our programs, WSDC would like to contact the alumni associations of our upcoming speakers' colleges and universities. But to do that, we need your help! Are you an alumna of any of these speakers' schools? If so, please let us know by sending an e-mail to wsdc44@gmail.com.

  • Steven Pearlstein -Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Gayle Lemmon - University of Missouri School of Journalism, Harvard Business School



Annual dues-paying time has arrived. By now you should have received our renewal package for 2011-2012. Payment was due by September 1. We hope that each of you will return the form that was enclosed with the letter, or go online at www.mcWSDC.org and click on "Renew Now."




The October 19 selection is The Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman. The New York Times called it "a smart and engaging group biography of four larger-than-life justices appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt." If you're a fan of SCOTUS history, you won't want to miss this one.


The book club meets the third Wednesday of every other month, 10:30 a.m. at members' homes. A facilitator leads the discussion for each book. Want to join the conversation? New members are always welcome. Contact Estelle Stone at estelles@webtv.net.  

If you're interested in seeing what other books have been discussed, please go to www.mcWSDC.org and click on Political Book Club.  




Peace Corps volunteers often ask, "What did we do for the host country?" When actually, the question is: "What did the host countries do for America?"


It's an important question - because Peace Corps volunteers were not there to force change upon the countries in which they served. They were there to bring new technology and information and ideas about government and fairness; and to show respect for the local people and their customs.


In return, something significant happened. The Peace Corps' thousands of volunteers brought their organizational skills home. They worked here in the United States to make government work for the people. They applied the lessons of helping others abroad to their fellow citizens in America. They embodied the concept of public service.


Many of these experienced volunteers worked in the Foreign Service and the Agency for International Development as well as in Congress. They brought the thinking of our country down to earth - to the level of the average person in developing countries. This made a huge impact on our foreign policy, and in the way we treated one another at home.


The Peace Corps was and still is one of the best foreign aid investments - and, in turn, one of the best domestic investments - our country can make.


Susan Elwell, Past President of WSDC

Peace Corps Washington and spouse of Peace Corps Niger PC Director


In 1963 I was fortunate enough to work in Peace Corps Washington (PC/W) which was an epicenter of the Kennedy Administration. PC/W was run by Sargent Shriver and his deputy Bill Moyers. My husband Richard Elwell who had worked there since 1961 was an Evaluator of the newly-installed PC programs and traveled all over the world writing "on the scene" reports for "Sarge".


In 1966 my husband chose to go overseas as Peace Corps Country Director in Niger (later the country was briefly famous as the possible source of uranium for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction).


Niger was a life changing experience for our whole family. We had two sons-15 and 13 years old with us and they attended the French Lycee in Niamey along with the local Nigeriennes The Peace Corps/Niger program was one of the best in the world with 150 volunteers settled generally two by two in villages spread across many hundreds of miles of sahel and the Sahara Desert where there were no roads and no directions but the sun and the moon and local nomads who knew where they were going!. The volunteers were completely safe living among the gentle and dignified Nigeriennes.


Our instructions from Peace Corps Washington were to separate from the American diplomatic team as much as possible and to associate and live like our Nigerienne counterparts. Many Nigeriennes became our friends including the President of the country, Hamani Diori.


Even though Niger is mostly the Sahara Desert, there was a narrow agricultural band across the bottom of the County. Drought which brings famine was not a problem in those days and the markets were filled with food. My job as a quasi-diplomatic spouse; entertaining volunteers and government officials except it was all very informal. I traveled by a small motorbike (not in a car as other Americans did) and visited Nigeriennes at their homes. Since it was a Muslim country I always went to the homes of government officials to invite the wives (whether there were one, two, three or four wives and because I had done that they often came to the parties they would normally not attend).


I learned French and the local language Djerma and shopped in the local markets; tutored some children who were not in a school and traveled around the country to visit the Peace Corps volunteers. A volunteer and I made a booklet written in French with photographs of their various PC jobs such as well-digging, maternal and baby health care, helping to run a peanut cooperatives (at the time a cash crop for Niger) and running a hospital complete with Peace Corps volunteers who were American doctors and nurses.

It is difficult to convey the sense of joy working the Peace Corps brought to us every day. Coming home was a real let down and we have always clung to our original Peace Corps friends as family and to this day they are our closest friends. We participate in Nigerienne activities, going to the Embassy and participating in charities. Niger will always be a most special and wonderful place to us.


The Peace Corps program was shut down last year due to concerns about Al-qaeda style terrorists infiltrating the country and the possibility of kidnapping and other harmful events. The program has yet to reopen and may not reopen in the foreseeable future although return volunteers from Niger have formed a lobbying group to see that it is reopened.


Susan Messitte,Past President WSDC

PC Volunteer Brazil


My husband, Peter Messitte, and I entered the Peace Corps in September, 1966.  Since my husband had lived in Chile and already spoke Spanish, we selected a project in Urban Community Development in Brazil, which gave us the opportunity to learn Portuguese, and for my husband, a recent law school graduate, to use his education.  We trained for three months at the Experiment in International Living in Brattleboro, Vermont. The training was primarily intensive language class.  We had Brazilians living with us and we were required to speak Portuguese day and night.  We learned to speak the way a child learns to speak--by listening and repeating.


After the three idyllic months in Vermont in the Fall, we were split into two groups.  One group went off to Brasilia which was in the process of being built, and our half was sent to Sao Paulo to work with the local Y, (ACM), in poor, undeveloped neighborhoods.  While my husband and I lived and worked with the Y and groups of children, our backgrounds also allowed us to teach at the University of Sao Paulo Law School.  Peter's language skills allowed him to teach a law school class about comparative law, and I taught English to Brazilian law students.  The Peace Corps was very encouraging of this dual role and we were allowed to create our own work experience.


The most unique event that happened to us while in Brazil was my giving birth to our first child, Zachariah Paulo Messitte.  It had been Peace Corps policy to send a pregnant volunteer back to the States, but conditions were such in Sao Paulo, (then a city of only 10-12 million!)  that I was allowed to stay and used the birth as a teaching moment for my neighbors.


We still keep in touch with our Brazilian friends and have a close friendship with our fellow volunteers.  We reunite regularly every five years and are doing so again in September, 2011.  Peter, a U.S. Federal District Judge, often is asked to represent our judiciary in Brazil and other countries, and receives visitors from abroad in his court.  Because of his work with the Brazilian Judiciary and Law Schools over the years, Peter was made an "Honorary Citizen" of Sao Paulo.


Last year we took our daughter and son-in-law on a trip to Brazil.  We visited our basement apartment in what had been a poor neighborhood in Sao Paulo.  It has now been gentrified and the streets have running water, electricity and fancy clubs and restaurants.  Our daughter who lives in New York City was not impressed with our former living quarters.  She commented that in NYC our apartment would probably rent for over $2,000 per month!  Brazil has not had a Peace Corps presence since 1974.


Belva Findlay, WSDC member

PC Washington and Ghana 1,Peace Corps Volunteer


After finishing my graduate course in international relations in 1961, I worked at the offices of the fledgling Peace Corps in Washington for a few months and got interested in becoming a volunteer.  When my boyfriend, who had just finished his doctorate at Stanford, got a grant to go to Ghana and other new African nations to collect documents on their independence movements, I applied to join the second Peace Corps group going to Ghana to teach school.  Our group trained for two months at UC Berkeley. I was assigned to teach history at a secondary boarding school on the outskirts of the capital city of Accra.  All instruction in Ghana was in English, and the curriculum and textbooks were holdovers from British colonial days, covering mostly European history.  I taught all six grades, so I had six different preparations each night.  I tried to add what I could to make the lessons more relevant to my students, but I wasn't very well prepared myself for such a challenge.


My boyfriend had extended his time in Ghana by taking a teaching job at the University of Ghana, and we decided to get married in the middle of the school year.  When we asked the Peace Corps Director in Ghana for permission, he told us he had to get an OK from Sargent Shriver, which he did.  (David used to love to tell people that he had to get permission from the President's brother-in-law to marry me.)  In Ghana, it was possible to have more than one wife, but an "official" marriage had to meet certain requirements: bans had to be posted two weeks ahead, and the ceremony had to be conducted before sundown in a public building.  We learned all this after we had planned to be married at the private home of the US Ambassador in the evening, and I had hand-written invitations to my fellow volunteers across Ghana.  In the end, we were married twice: once at the University at noon and once at the ambassador's home in the evening, surrounded by our Peace Corps and Ghanaian friends.


Meanwhile, Ghana's independence leader and president, Kwame Nkrumah, was growing increasingly suspicious of US intentions toward Ghana and other new African states.  At the end of the school year, Nkrumah insisted that in the future all PC volunteers would teach "non sensitive" subjects such as math and science.  I felt unqualified to teach either subject, and since David wished to continue his document-collecting trip through Africa, I resigned from the Peace Corps, and we traveled to newly independent African countries for the next thee months.


I have never returned to Ghana.  When I was in Africa, extraordinary hope and excitement about the future was palpable, but the decades since then have brought such disappointment and suffering, I have been reluctant to go back. Now I'm feeling encouraged that Ghana, at least, is on a more positive economic and political path, and I'm hoping to participate in a Habitat for Humanity house-building project there next March and I'm getting excited about the idea of joining it.


Sandra F. Robinson, Ed. D., Member, WSDC and Democratic Club of Leisure World

Peace Corps, Tanzania, 1966-68, and spouse of Fred Robinson, Education Director


We spent 1965 in Tanzania where Fred was part of a research team from Syracuse University. I was working with the Ministry of Education in Dar es Salaam conducting research and supporting a Tanzanian effort to improve its literacy. Our two young daughters were with us, but we cut our trip short because of an automobile accident that I had and a serious medical condition that Fred contracted. So, we returned to Syracuse in December 1965; but we were anxious to continue our work in Tanzania. Fortunately, Fred received an appointment from the Peace Corps and we returned in August 1966 and stayed until August 1968.   I think we learned more from the Tanzanians than maybe they learned from us. As part of my work in literacy, I worked with secondary school students on a self-reliance project in which they taught illiterate women Swahili while I taught their spouses English. The spouses were wood carvers who wanted to deal directly with clients rather than going through a third party. The project was very successful and satisfying for both the students and me. Unfortunately, I haven't returned to Tanzania, but I have remained in contact with several Tanzanians.   In addition to living in Tanzania, we were fortunate to travel to Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar. My Peace Corps experience gave me a broader perspective of people and the world


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Woman's Suburban Democratic Club
Jane Merkin
Woman's Suburban Democratic Club
Sybil Cantor
Email Coordinator