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February Newsletter  - Volume 4, Issue 5



Upcoming WDC Events

Town Hall meeting with Congressman Chris Van Hollen

Middle East Expert Dennis Ross Enlightens Audience at February Luncheon

First Annual State of Black Montgomery Conference   

New Newsletter Feature - INTERVIEW  

Social Media Update --- We're on Twitter! 

Political Book Club

Volunteers: It Takes a Village 

Suggestion Box 


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, Teddi Pensinger, Bonnie Wicklund, Lucy Freeman, Stacey Maud, Ken Cowgill, and Joyce Lipman for their contributions to this 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.womansdemocraticclub.org.   

Thursday, March 13                  

Happy Hour     Coctail

5:30-7 p.m.  

Lebanese Taverna

7141 Arlington Road, Bethesda


Want to meet new people and talk politics?  Join us at the next WDC Happy Hour. Every second Thursday of each month, Democrats who are passionate about politics gather to relax and network with WDC members and their guests. Whether you want to meet elected officials, make new friends, form new business contacts or just have fun, the WDC Happy Hour is the perfect place to meet and greet fellow Democrats.    



Monday, March 17


Montgomery 101: Living on the Edge, Mental Illness in Montgomery County

10:00 a.m. - 12 noon

The Jane E. Lawton Community Center 
4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase


Stephanie Rosen, CEO of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Montgomery. will discuss the incidence of mental illness in Montgomery County, the laws, and resources available.   


Arthur Wallenstein, Director, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, will cover the incidence and treatment of mental illness and addiction among inmates in the correctional system.


Cari Cho, President of Cornerstone Montgomery, will describe the variety of services offered to the community.


There is no charge for this program.  To register, contact Lucy Freeman at dorset4708@yahoo.com or 301-654-8115.

:  You may park on the streets if the parking lot is full. We have been assured that the police will not ticket cars during this program







Thursday, March 6    


7:00 p.m. - Information tables available

7:30-9:00 p.m. - Town Hall Meeting      
John F. Kennedy High School 
1901 Randolph Road, Silver Spring, MD 20902

Congressman Chris Van Hollen will convene a town hall meeting for residents of the 8th Congressional District.   The Congressman will report to residents about the activities of the 113th Congress and the important issues facing the nation. Congressman Van Hollen will respond to questions and comments from the audience.  All residents of the 8th Congressional District are invited.

Experts and informational materials on consumer protection, health and other insurance, tax preparation, and veterans' affairs will be available to attendees. 

Parking is available at the high school. 

Questions?    Please call (301) 424-3501.



The WDC was proud to be a co-sponsor of the First Annual State of Black Montgomery Conference, which was co-hosted by the African-American Democratic Club of Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Young Democrats.
  Congratulations to both groups for organizing this landmark event which raised important issues of political empowerment and social justice in Montgomery County.

There was a great turn-out at the Conference which was held on Saturday February 22at the Silver Spring Civic Center. Elected officials, business leaders, community activists, and the community at large were all on hand to explore a range of ideas on how to advance the successes of the black community in the County. 

Elected officials addressing the Conference included
Congressman John Sarbanes, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.There were also a series of panel presentations covering a range of topics including economic empowerment, political participation, social justice, and youth engagement.  The Economic Empowerment Panelists were Sterling Crockett - CEO, Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company; Scott Ritter - Chief Lending Officer, Mid Atlantic Federal Credit Union; and Judy Stephenson - Montgomery County Small Business Navigator.  Political Participation Panelists were Valerie Ervin - Former Montgomery County Council member; James Pearlstein - Lead Organizer for Action in Montgomery; and Herman Taylor - Former Montgomery County State Delegate. The Social Justice Panel presenters were Ronnie Galvin - Executive Director of Impact Silver Spring; Caryn York - Policy Associate - Job Opportunities Task Force; and Sharon Lettman-Hicks - Executive Director of The National Black Justice CoalitionFinally, panelists for the Young Engagement Panel were Donald Williams - Founder of The Gamechangers Conference; Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard - President of Montgomery College; and Dr. Yvette Butler - Executive Director of Gapbusters, Inc.  The WDC is looking forward to co-sponsoring the Second Annual Conference next year.


Economic Panal


Congressman John Sarbanes Speaking at Conference

Jay Wilson, Vice President of AADCMC and Robeyell McCormick, President. of AADCMC




                                                                               by Joyce Lipman 


"Nine eleven should be a reminder," says former Ambassador Dennis Ross, "the Las Vegas rules don't apply! What's going on in the Middle East doesn't stay in the Middle East." As an expert on the subject, he reminded us at the Women's Democratic Club's February luncheon that we cannot stay out of what's going on.


The "Arab Spring"


To understand the region, Ross says, we need to appreciate the context, adding, "The truth is there never was going to be an Arab Spring." Change does not happen overnight. Instead, "what you see is an awakening" and only in the nonmonarchies in the region.  


What did change? For the first time people began to see themselves as citizens, not subjects. The problem, though, is that these countries lack the institutions necessary to create accountability in a democratic government. Strong-man leaders, who saw institutions as a threat, did not let them develop. The result: a vacuum where, rather than the nation, in many instances the tribe, the clan, or the sect became the center of identity.  


Egypt the Nation State


Singularly, Egypt, though mostly Sunni, has a 5000-year history as a nation state. Mubarak had held on to power both by suppressing institutions and by making his subjects believe in the false choice of him or sharia law. After he left, the Islam-first Muslim Brotherhood crumbled because they ignored the people's national identity. Now, amidst the unrest, the military has focused more on control than on governance. What happens in Egypt, says Ross, affects the whole region. We therefore have a major interest in making sure this does not become a failed state.


Saudi Arabia the Monarchy


In the monarchies, the upheavals have had a chilling effect, though a stable, legitimate succession has justified royal power. Thus far, oil rich monarchs like the Saudis have used their money to manage the unrest at home and respond to the chaos elsewhere. With a huge stake in the oil market, like us they worry about disruptions and want to see stable prices. They fear Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and see Syria as a proxy conflict with Iran.


Iran and Negotiations


Turning to Iran, Ross offered insights into Rohani's surprise victory. Why did the Supreme Leader allow him to win with a run-off-proof 50.4% of the vote when he ran against the Leader's own policies? Because, says Ross, these policies, which have caused isolation and deep sanctions, simply cost too much. Fearing they would be next after our invasion of Iraq, the regime at the time put out feelers, which the Bush Administration rejected. Ross believes we need to respond to those feelers by building the pressure, then allowing Iran a face-saving path out. We want them to lose the breakout nuclear capability; that is, to roll back progress to a point where they would need a long time to turn nuclear capabilities into weapons. We would then gain time to react.


According to Ross, no one, here or in Iran, knows where these negotiations will end up, but they will "play out this year." Right now, both sides are game-players sending messages saying "You need this more than we do." Rohani, who represents the more moderate strain of Iranian politics, is still subject to the power of the Supreme Leader.


Syrian Slaughter


More than 9 million people have been displaced due to Assad's strategy of starving the opposition and bombing the population even to dissolution. Ross sees no chance of a political process in Syria. A fundamental change in the balance of power would need to take place and the international will does not exist to make that happen.


Palestinian-Israeli Conflict


Although people have asked "why now" in relation to Kerry's strong efforts to negotiate a peace agreement, Ross believes that now is a good time. After all, with all that is going on, no one in the region is paying attention to the conflict. The players can thus find the political space to make something happen. Moreover, the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has weakened Hamas and allowed Abu Mazen to offer concessions he would not have considered before and to make such statements as "we are not going to become a bi-national state."  


By April Kerry hopes to create a framework of principles that would allow the two sides to begin negotiating core issues such as security, borders, and Jerusalem. The agreement's parameters are not as ambitious as Clinton's, but they do have "a decent chance," though less than 50-50, of success--better than with Iran. But for it all to work, both leaders have to overcome the heavy weight of their histories.


Q and A


1.  Can the boundaries in the Middle East be realigned to address ethnic/religious realities?    


T.E. Lawrence's proposed map, which was rejected, did just that. Now although "we are paying the price for borders that do not make sense," we cannot repeat the past by trying to impose something from without. If the realignment occurs, it must come from within.


2.  How effective are liberal American groups like J Street?

Once again, outside groups will not determine policy. The Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) movement in Israel is not popular because of the violence from Gaza; as is said, "The concept of land for peace was never supposed to be land for violence." Barak's concession resulted in the second Intifada. Israel simply does not believe that Abu Mazen can deliver, especially with Hamas in Gaza. Rabin felt that, because of demographics, Israel had to get out of the territories to maintain a Jewish state. He built the separation barrier because, unlike Gaza, the West Bank is close to population areas.

Ross says he has "never been a big fan of unilateralism." Witness the Gaza withdrawal. Only a coordinated plan such as the one Kerry is trying to broker will succeed. He would like to involve Europe, but right now Europe is not focused on peace, but on efforts to attack Israel's legitimacy. We, of course, cannot support that. When the Gaza withdrawal presented Hamas with a challenge to build a society, they turned instead to rockets. On the positive side, Abu Mazen, unlike Arafat, is committed to nonviolence.


3.  Who is calling the shots in Syria?

Assad. Says Ross, "The truth is he's a war criminal backed by Russia and Iran" who has turned the uprisings against him into a sectarian conflict to maintain power. Saudi Arabia needs to stand up to Russia, which is trying to protect its naval facility and fears what might replace Assad. Ross presented the possibility that Syria may split in two with Assad in the West and the Islamists in the East. In the end, says Ross, "sooner or later we will have to do more."  


4.  Will Hagel's reduction of our military forces affect our ability in the Middle East?  


We have 40,000 troops on the ground now. But we are rethinking our doctrine dictating that we must have the ability to fight two ground wars at once. Although we will keep some infrastructure, we will be moving over time towards defense strategies that focus on such areas as Special Operations, cyber capabilities, and small forces for quick response.


5.  Why is Israel so resistant to a diplomatic solution in Iran?  


Netanyahu is not opposed to diplomacy per se, but he fears an Iran that has fast nuclear capability. He is worried that he will be obliged to use force. He also does not want to show flexibility as a starting, rather than as an end, point. In the end he will probably accept an agreement as long as it is limited and includes inspection safeguards. Everyone in the Middle East has the same concern-that we will accept anything just to get an agreement.

Members Enjoying Luncheon



Carmella Cowgill Introducing Dennis Ross




INTERVIEW edited by Bonnie Wicklund


Lucy Freeman


Lucy Freeman divided her preschool years between Nantucket Island, and Tucson, Arizona while her father recuperated from TB.  Her older sisters attended school; Lucy played outdoors with her pet burro, dogs, cats, toads, lizards, etc.  Her father worked as a photographer and there are many photographs of the family on horseback.  After her father recuperated, the family moved to Scarsdale, NY and then Haddam, CT.  Post college and graduate school, Lucy moved to San Francisco, where she worked in the public library and met and married Harry Freeman.  They lived in San Francisco and the Washington area, with one stepchild and three children. Lucy worked in libraries, while Harry worked for USAID, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and American Express.  Sadly he died in 2011, but two children, a stepchild, and golden retrievers keep her company.  Daughter Rachel, with the World Bank, lives in Hong Kong with her family.  Her son is a teacher at Montgomery Blair HS, her other daughter an infectious disease doctor with NIH, and her stepson a socially responsible investor. 




Perhaps the most fascinating book I read this year was Tenth of December by George Saunders, short stories in a creative style with humor, a moral tone, and portrayal of life.  Many of you may have read Citizens of London by Lynne Olson.  Her latest book, Those Angry Days, covers the period 1939 to 1941 in the United States and the struggle between the interventionists and isolationists.  Roosevelt is portrayed as governing by polls, fearful of Lindbergh and the isolationists.  There is much to remind one of today.

At home in the car, I listen to WAMU and C-Span and love the little tidbits of information I pick up.




I feel most fortunate to have traveled to many places with my husband.  Our family, all of us, went on a safari in Kenya, a great experience for everyone.  Harry and I had many great hiking trips in Yosemite, Italy, Switzerland, and Alaska.  With a college friend, I kayaked off Sicily.  Now, each year, I visit my daughter in Hong Kong.




My father was a delegate to the Connecticut legislature, a Republican, but he was finding back then the Republican party was too conservative for him.  Now, I find Chris Van Hollen, my representative, to be so bright, well spoken, informed about domestic and foreign affairs, caring, decent and nice.  How can one person have all those characteristics--but Chris does!




Perhaps my political high point was sitting in the first row in the Rose Garden as President Obama talked about tax inequality and then he shook my hand.  Another was standing in a big crowd in San Francisco listening to Lyndon Johnson speak just before his huge victory over Goldwater



Training the young, the unemployed, everyone to have skills in our current job market requiring technical abilities is an urgent political issue.  When I was in high school, there were vocational classes to enable one to get a job immediately after graduation.  President Obama, in his State of the Union speech this year, urged partnerships with community colleges to achieve this.  This is an issue that could have bipartisan support and I hope it will. 








WDC has a Twitter account!  Our Twitter handle is @WomenDems.  Be sure to follow us!  


Don't forget to like us on Facebook; we're listed as Woman's Democratic Club, Montgomery County.



The next meeting will be on March 19th at the home of Melpi Jeffries.  The book selection is The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military by Rawn James Jr, the son and grandson of African American veterans.  Mr. James narrates the remarkable history of how the struggles for equality in the military helped give rise to the fight for equality in civilian society. 

On May 21st the book selection is The Bully Pulpit
: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She analyzes the friendship between Roosevelt and Taft, which first made for a powerful partnership but then dissolved with disastrous consequences for both. She also describes how journalism can capture the public's imagination and help shape the national agenda.

The book club meets the third Wednesday of every other month at members' homes. A facilitator leads the discussion for each book. Want to join the conversation? New members are always welcome! For more information, contact Estelle Stone at estellestone24@gmail.com.


If you're interested in seeing what other books have been discussed, please go to www.womansdemocraticclub.org and click on Political Book Club, which is listed under Events.  




 Help Wanted

 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.


WDC is looking for members to help on the Communications Committee and on the Membership and Outreach Committee.  We need photographers for our events .  Want more information?  Email Carmela Cowgill at cacowgill@yahoo.com.  You can also go to www.womansdemocraticclub.org and click on "Get Involved" then "Volunteer" to complete the volunteer form.




Suggestion Box  

Do you have ideas for future programs? Do you know someone who would be a great speaker at a future WDC event?  If so, please send an e-mail to wdcmcmd@gmail.com.






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Woman's Democratic Club
Beth Tomasello.President
www.womansdemocraticclub.org     wdcmcmd@gmail.com
Woman's Democratic Club
Sybil Cantor
Email Coordinator