Perfect as a Peach!

Two days before Thanksgiving, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our second child, a beautiful little girl. Like our son almost two years ago, the joy we felt when we heard that first cry is an unparalleled feeling. Tears came to both our eyes simultaneously.

One of my dearest friends sent me a congratulatory email with one sentence:

“You are a lucky man”.

I am grateful daily for his words along with the health of our new family of 4. Life has been good to me and I do my best to keep it that way by respecting the values taught by my loving parents and never taking for granted the simple joy of waking up in the morning.

During the pre/post excitement of a new child, one can sometimes overlook the extraordinary work it takes for a woman to deliver a child. I made sure to be in the moment and appreciate the awesome power displayed by my wife. I was inspired to see her handle this tougher 2nd pregnancy so well and bear the sometimes brutal pain after delivering our daughter.

My mother-in-law and father were never far away from our thoughts. They both died in the last 4 years and will never have the chance to see their granddaughter. I was wearing my dad’s wedding ring throughout just as I did at our son’s birth

Our son’s reaction to his new baby sister is top of mind these days. I brought him to the hospital to see his mom and new sibling after a couple of days as we thought it was better for him to meet them there rather then to come home and see a new baby on his territory. The visit went well but it probably didn’t register fully with him.

When he came home after day-care, there was no doubt that he was a bit shaken by the tiny girl in the house. It has only been a few days but there have been many moments (some at night) where the reality of his new world is evident. His reaction has been as expected and we look forward to him embracing his sister and taking care of her as a big brother should.

Like most newborns, our princess sleeps quite a bit but still manages to keep mamma from enjoying a quality night’s sleep. She also makes those squeaks and occasional gulps that prevent her mom from sleeping just as she is dozing off.

In Sweden, the father enjoys the right to be off from his job during the first 2 weeks of the newborns life, which is a terrific aspect of the generous parental leave. I love this time as it is so precious and needed; allowing the family to bond for a couple of weeks without the pressures of work.

In addition, my wife will be on maternity leave for 1 year. In late 2009, I will take parental leave for the second time when my wife returns to her job. In 2007, I had 5 months off with my then 10 month old son; time filled with invaluable father & son bonding moments. Kids are only small once and we are fortunate to live in a country that values the family unit.

As we heard many times, life with a second child is more complicated than the first but we are ready for the challenge!

Livet är bra (Life is good) as I like to say in Swedish!

Our little girl is “Perfect as a Peach” and for that we are thankful.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My wife introducing our son to his new baby sister.

A FRIEND in Need

In our busy lives, we might forget to reflect on friendship and what it really means. Here’s a part of how I define it from one of my favorite quotes:

Wherever you are it is your friends who make your world.
-- William James

With a new child on the way and travelling a few days a week, focusing on anything besides my wife and son was difficult as my year end work had a hefty inbox! One night last week, I reflected for a moment and decided to help a friend in need.

It was a Monday night and I was due to travel the next day, having to wake up at 4:30am to catch a train. Our friend (and wonderful godmother to our son) was very cold in her apartment due to the temperature INSIDE being 55 Fahrenheit (13 Celsius). Because of work being done in her home, the heater had had to be taken away. My wife and I had a portable heater that we hadn’t used in years and were planning to give it to her before the cold came to Sweden.

The last thing I wanted to do was leave the comfort of my cozy home and deliver a heater but I knew the small inconvenience for me would be so worthwhile for her. There was only one option; I drove the heater to her home. I have slept in a cold apartment before so I know firsthand the unpleasantness. Our friend was very thankful. The journey through the empty streets of Stockholm took less than an hour and gave me the chance to relax, reflect and listen to some of my classic ipod tunes.

If you are able, try to help a friend when they are in need. Are we really that busy that we can’t stop for a moment and help someone that has been an important and loving part of our life? Usually not.

Friendship comes in many forms:

1) A good friend always picks me up when I fly to America. It takes at least 6 hours of his day to do it but he never fails unless he is out of town.

2) The godfather of our son had a dear friend in America with breast cancer who was receiving treatment in NYC. He wanted to send her flowers but time was short. I called a friend and asked him to deliver them for him and he did so without blinking an eye. The woman was shocked and touched to see the beautiful flowers delivered in person by my friend. Her husband told the godfather of our son how wonderful his gesture was.

3) An ex roommate in Brooklyn, NY had the luxury of having a company car. It always impressed me when he would pick up numerous neighborhood friends before heading into Manhattan for a night of partying. He would go out of his way more often than not to make the lives of our friends a little easier. No one probably noticed but I always did.

4) When I was living in NYC, my friends in Pennsylvania helped me to sell my car on two different occasions.

5) One of my dearest friends had many guests when he lived in Madrid, Spain. I visited him after a particularly gruelling two months of work and was in need of a good time. As his guest, I was taken care of superbly and had one of the best vacation weeks of my life! I heard similar views from others who visited him.

When a close friend was living in Stockholm, he always made sure my guests from abroad were entertained which helped me immensely. Not knowing the city as well as he did, I could always count on him to show my guests a good time or tell them where they could go for an interesting or fun experience.

It doesn’t matter if your act of kindness for a friend is large or small, what matters is helping a friend in their time of need. I would do most things within my ability for my friends especially if they really needed help and would hope that they would reciprocate (most would) in a similar manner.

Never take the blessing of friendship for granted. To have kind, sincere and trustworthy friends to enjoy and rely on is a true privilege that should always be respected.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede's son attending a FRIEND's birthday party

Losing your Life: All at Once or One Day at a Time

Two of the most dynamic and appealing men I know are as they say, "caught between a rock and a hard place". Lately, they have been on my mind as they have common ground in life similarities and level of marital suffering.

I have spent quality time (infrequently) with both men and we share a friend dear to all of us. At a point in the near future, I hope they gain the courage and inspiration to change their lives and move forward in a positive and productive manner. My gut feeling is that they are getting little or no advice in order to improve their situation; something many people need, particularly in an unhealthy marriage.

Below is some basic information about them:

A) Both are smart, intellectual and interesting.

B) One has had several challenging female relationships throughout life and the other seemed to always have cool girlfriends/female friends around him.

C) During our times together, I have enjoyed their wisdom and company.

D) Both are athletic.

E) Both had a WIDE NET (maybe didn't know) to choose from in regards to picking a life partner.

F) Unfortunately, both made the IRRESPONSIBLE mistake (See September article on the right) of not "Choosing Wisely" (See March article) with regard to marriage.

G) Both have endured (at a minimum) several years of unhappiness and today their marriages are at a precarious level.

H) Both have children.

If asked, my message to them would be:

Although you made the mistake of choosing the wrong life partner, it is never too late to turn that negative into a positive. You are two of the most interesting men I know but you have built yourself a "house of cards", that while still standing is not far from collapse. You must DO SOMETHING about it with regard to moving your life and the life of your family forward. There are only two paths to take; Attempting to gain your happiness back in marriage OR a journey in the other less favorable direction (divorce) which could actually be the best thing for everyone in the long run. Each day you "dangle in the wind" is another day of lost hope while the abyss gets deeper and deeper.

And there is hope. There is always hope but you have to go after it by getting the proper help and/or counseling from professionals or friends. Bad marriages don't get better on their own. If you want to save your marriage, you must do whatever it takes to move it in the proper direction. That may involve confronting your spouse and telling her your true feelings and what you really want from family life. It may involve a host of troubling or distasteful elements but if it takes you out of your suffering, it will be worth it. Let's not forgot that an unhappy marriage does little for your wife and could negatively influence your child's future. I firmly believe that it is better for a child to grow up in a world not living with both parents than to grow up in a BROKEN household.

One of the best forms of advice I ever received was from an acquaintance in New York City. We were friends but not extremely close, although he could be trusted and had great judgement. I was dealing with a complicated business situation that I had to confront and bring to a close. Not wanting to face it like a man, I was doing everything possible to avoid an unpleasant situation. For a variety of reasons, I kept procrastinating and procrastinating.

One evening, my friend pulled me aside and asked how it was going. I said, "nothing new, still thinking about it". He said to me, " George, stop messing around and DO SOMETHING about this situation; It will not improve or come to a conclusion unless you make it happen". His tone was strong, a bit angry and to the point. It was one of the most poignant moments and life lessons in my life. The day after, I attacked my problem relentlessly and it was resolved in a matter of days. His words changed my life forever. I think of them constantly and when faced with an important situation that needs action on my part, I never procrastinate even if it is uncomfortable or unpleasant.

Remember these words:

There are many ways to Lose your Life: "All at Once" or "One Day at a Time".

1) All at Once - (i.e. plane crash or tragedy)

2) One Day at a Time - (i.e. each day in a unhappy marriage or not living the life you desire)

DO SOMETHING about your situations as they will not improve on their own. Every day with inaction means a day where a small part of you dies.

I implore you to ACT NOW in much the same way my friend inspired me. If I didn't act swiftly after receiving such spirited encouragement , my life wouldn't have been nearly as interesting, happy or exciting.

Now is your opportunity. Don't wait or your life just might be LOST, One Day at a Time.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede enjoying a moment of relaxtion - (London, England coffee shop, 2006)

It’s a New Dawn, a New Day, a New Life

(Harvard Law School classmates Kenneth Mack and President Elect Barack Obama on Nov 4, 2008)

(Ken and Lisa Mack at President Elect Obama's speech in Grant Park, Chicago)

In April, I wrote about my childhood friend and high school classmate Kenneth Mack’s unique perspective ( on Barack Obama; both having attended Harvard Law School at the same time and serving together on the Harvard Law Review.

Ken was the first call I made to America after Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.

I got goose bumps receiving Ken’s email this week describing the election night festivities at Grant Park in Chicago as he was 50 feet (15 meters) away from Barack when he gave his historic speech! The picture above (hug) needs no words as most Americans, Swedes, Europeans and the World would embrace him in the same manner, especially knowing that there is now hope for a better tomorrow, inspiration to change or live your dream and relief that the last 8 years in Washington will soon be a thing of the past.

(The Promise of a New USA - The Swedish Newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" on November 6)

I wake up almost every day feeling good but this past week was slightly different as I had an extra bounce in my step and joy in my heart. Indeed, this is a proud moment for African-Americans but just as importantly, it’s a proud time for many other Americans and our brothers and sisters all over the world. Always being interested in others cultures, it warms my heart to see the love for Obama and what he represents pour in to me via calls/emails.

What may be lost in this well-deserved euphoria is the challenge that Barack Obama will place on Americans to improve in many aspects of life such as mentorship, the environment and sacrifice in general. Collectively, we must put more emphasis on impacting our country so we can help our new President Elect deliver on the “CHANGE” he wants to bring about.

The facts from the paragraph below are disturbing:

The black illegitimacy rate remains at 70%. Blacks did worse on the SAT in 2000 than in 1990. Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black, though we are only 13% of the population. The academic achievement gap between blacks and whites persists even for the black middle class.,0,1642069.story

Barack Obama cannot solve this troubling problem alone but he can be the inspiration for people to ACT and DO SOMETHING along with caring about other important ills that affect our country like obesity, the financial and housing crises, gas guzzling automobiles, bad parenting, lack of healthcare for millions and insufficient care for the youth and community around us. We all should be willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of America.

In addition, Americans MUST show more interest in the global world. I know many people who sadly have never been outside of the USA despite having the financial means, and far less than 25% of Americans even have a passport! I know our vast country has a lot to see but the disinterest in our fascinating world is disconcerting and has to get better.

The American Ambassador in Sweden, Michael Wood (friend of President Bush and whose wife voted for Obama) said this about the election result in the Swedish Newspaper "Dagens Nyheter":

“I am uplifted, enthusiastic, I think it’s fantastic! I think about my black friends that I played basketball with at home in Flint, Michigan, and of my black friends at Yale when I was 20”.

I am proud of Americans for having the courage and intellect to set our country on a new path by electing Barack Obama. John McCain may have done a decent job as president but it was clear from the Obama “Tidal Wave” of support that his rise to the top was going to be almost impossible to defeat.

We now have the ultimate responsibility to act and sacrifice so that America can correct the last 8 years and once again be the light that shines brightly inside and outside of our borders.

Remember the words of President Jack Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country”.

It’s a New Dawn, a New Day, a New Life………and I am Feeling Good!

Below are 10 heartfelt emails sent to me along with my pictures from Stockholm Sweden’s festive election night party.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

1) From a mother in Chicago, Illinois - USA:

I know it's not particular to Chicago, but I've never seen more smiles on the street, more people with a spring in their step, more folks giving up their seats on public transit to the pregnant and elderly, and (FINALLY) kids without their underwear exposed! The under 30 set has suddenly taken to properly pulled up pants, tucked in shirts and perfect posture.
I've seen endless interviews with school principals (especially in Chicago schools where the black male graduation rate is less than 50%) who say that kids are sitting up straighter, are paying more attention, and attendance is at an all time high. Smart/Geek is the new cool. Could there be anything cooler?!"

2) Venice, Italy:

This morning, having breakfast, I thought exactly about this and I wanted to send you just a brief writing, telling you that what happened yesterday is something more than a hope, it is true and it gives the whole world a great teaching showing that changing is possible if we really want to.
My feelings are the same of all the people in the world who since yesterday have started a new era, and I am happy and proud to share this joy with them all, and with you!

Barack Obama is the new President of the U.S.A. but in some ways he is also ours, his election is the the very symbol of a redemption in respect to all the abuses of power that have been inflicted for ages to Afro-American, and more, he would be the voice of those who believe in values such as freedom, equality and equal opportunies.

3) Montreal, Canada:

Hello George,

I always wished I would be part of this historical event.
Have to say I'm very proud of Americans today.


Love you,

4) Pennsylvania, USA: the wife of one of my mentors:

I am still crying tears of joy for our new president. It was so emotional towatch Obama accept the will of the people to be our next president.There wasa sea of people, a beautiful blend of black and white faces all crying,cheering, singing and dancing and witnessing a new hope for this humble manwho will be our next president. God has sent us another son to lead us outof hatred, despair and greed. A new day is dawning for America. What awonderful time in history to witness this miracle!!
I am renewed with hopefor the future of our people and the world. He is a man for all people. Godhas chosen him to lead us out of the darkness. He is our Moses and will leadus to the promised land. We have a man who will help heal the world. Obamais fulfilling the dream that Martin Luther King had. Our country is risingout of the bondage of slavery into the freedom of all races. He will startto rid our country of bigotry and restore the faith that we are all equal inGod's eyes. I can believe in the words that Obama said, " YES WE CAN " !!
We did and we will restore this great country to honor again. Obama will leadus. I thank God for this wonderful man. We have a new beginning, a new daydawning and a restoration of hope.

5) From a Swede in Stockholm, Sweden:

A new beginning, not only for the US but for the world! A unique chance for the US to recover and take back leadership through action. Action in terms of walking the walk rather than just talking the talk in regards to the actual content of the Constitution. Many of us Europeans want to love and look up to the United States but George W Bush and the religious right has made that downright impossible.
Also hope that President Obama will listen to the 'Code Green' message introduced by Tom L Friedman in his last book 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'. The Financial crisis, recession and wars will all be very challenging but the really big question will be related to climate change. No doubt. Will the US take on leadership here...? I hope so...

6) From New York City, USA. This friend met Obama when he was a law professor in Chicago:


You would have loved NYC last night. There was celebrating in the streets! I am guessing that it was right after 9/11 that may have been the last time you would have seen folks carrying US Flags in the streets. I wish you were here to see it

The Dream is once again alive!

When first, Pennsylvania ... then Ohio ... then New Mexico were each called for Obama, Ellen and I finally allowed ourselves to believe that it WAS going to happen. We were both crying like babies.

I remember talking to someone at an AC Board retreat over two years-ago and discussing the possibility of Barack's nomination as the Democratic candidate for President. He felt that Hillary' Clinton's "machine" and traditional big-money support would be too much to overcome. I suggested that I felt we were in for a "perfect storm" due to the Bush Presidency ... that after two more years of this Adminstration, people were going to be wanting near-unprecedented change ... and this was before our nation was introduced to both Katrina and the Wall Street meltdown.

What I did know, however, was a bit about a man who I had the pleasure of meeting while in Chicago. Over an incredible serving dish of greens at a holiday party at the home of a mutual acquaintance, I struck up a conversation with a guy who was at that time, a Senior Lecturer at University of Chicago Law School. We shared a bit of our love of good greens, jazz and music, art and architecture and even a bit about politics. He was extremely personable and impressed me as someone who was both smart and wise beyond his years. A couple years later, we had the chance to again meet at an event in Chicago and we both remembered one another from that conversation over the greens. Little did I then know that man was going to become our 44th President of the United States.

As an early donor to the campaign, I have watched both intently and intensely. I have seen this former community organizer, surround himself with those that could create an organization that seemed to so well-understand both the nature of the times and how to best "tap-into" the hopes and desires of these times. I saw a campaign run a near-flawless strategy. Like the candidate, they seemed to be unflappable - stay on message; no drama; respond, but in a measured way; attack, yet again, in the most positive manner. I received daily e-mails that somehow seemed to always speak directly to me. This has given me great confidence in his ability to "organize" an effective government.

What none of this says, however, is that my ability to hope and dream has again been restored. As one who became interested in politics as a youth with Bobby Kennedy, I had begun to wonder if I would ever again be able to dream about our Country and its place in the world. I had hoped, beyond hope, that in his remarks last night, Barack would encourage and enable others to dream again. When he told the story of that 106 year-old woman who voted for the first time yesterday ... then asked us to envision what we would hope our world would look like in 100 years, I was so encouraged. When he said that it would not be easy, would take time and would require sacrifice, I finally realized that we were finally again hearing words of truth from our President.

As we once said in business, we stand at a moment in time filled with great challenges ... the exciting thing about this is that also means we have great opportunities to rally together to overcome those challenges to create a new and much better future. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, I am once again proud of my Country and its people.

7) An American living in Stockholm, Sweden:

Thanks so much, George, for helping me get involved.

I left the election watch party just before 5 am and arrived home in time to watch CNN call the election for Barack Obama. Nicholas (my 7-year-old), with his usual impeccable timing, woke up and joined me at the kitchen TV to watch the celebration and listen to Barack's speech. Of course he has been totally devoted to Barack Obama's candidacy, much as one is devoted to the local football team. He cheerfully recites the pros and cons of the two candidates as if he has come to some carefully reasoned choice.

But this morning, I wanted so much for him to understand what a momentous historical occasion that he is privileged to witness first hand. I tried to explain it to him. He listened to the TV commentators. And then he asked me, "Mamma, what is an African-American?" I explained that to him. He didn't get what the big deal was.

At that moment, I realized that I had just had a glimpse into the future as my children would see it. I was filled with a deep sense of contentment.
8) From Boston, Massachussets - USA:
Hi George,

My thoughts and feelings on this historical win are very simple. Having been raised by a single mother as an African-American male in a country where my father was confronted by racism to the degree that his antagonist bought the station where he worked only to fire him, this pivotal moment is a demonstration that despite ignorance and hatred, the Truth Shall Set You Free. And the Truth is that there is no greater power than God. And since we are ALL in His Image and Likeness, no man - human being can hide from the Truth. What this means is that despite the efforts of the few, the many have overcome great odds to demonstrate what is Right.

The other thought about this experience is this:

It is a huge collective sigh of relief for America. It has restored hope and faith in America's people - both black and white - male and female - that we can look at each other as human beings - not as black or white; male or female.

As a citizen it is a collective sigh of relief because the perspective from around the world has also shifted, which is perhaps even bigger than the election of Barack Obama - it has shown the world that there is a change in America that actually is now in-line with the ideology of Democracy. Something which America has tried to force on the rest of the world, despite the hypocrisy (Racism in its own backyard).
9) Pennsylvania, USA:
We, as a nation founded on the basic principles of equality, fairness, and opportunity for all, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Relief that with the eyes of the world focused on us, we didn't make a mockery of the sacrifices so many have made. We can be warmed by knowing that our collective sacrifice is not without its final reward. Imagine if the Iraqis, many of whom have chosen to support our mission in their country, would have learned last night that we think exclusion is good. Using our exclusionary example, keeping the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni "separate but equal" would be the rational choice for the Iraqi nation. Never mind that ultimately its sustainability would prove to be suspect, as our American experiment in separate but equal borne from the 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson proved to be.

And what of the plurality of the American electorate, soured by the diminished living standards brought on by a bankrupt political ideology and the lack of a common national purpose? The leading edge of the supposed beneficiaries of the American way of life are only now coming to grips with the weight of an egregious national debtor mentality that has come to symbolize a country without bearing or common sense. It is with this backdrop that America listened to its better angels. The majority of its citizens rmiraculously recalling in the voting booth that America was meant to be, "..indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We have a reason to hope again.
10) Boston, Massachusetts - USA:
I, like hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, am filled with joy and hope for a more compassionate America and a more peaceful world.

The sobering fact is that the lofty expectations throughout the world will put pressure on this truly impressive man that would be overwhelming for most if not all men.

The problems facing him are manifold, and 8 years let alone 4 is an insufficient amount of time to get the mechanisms in place and get them working to the point where his vision will be realized.

To expect him to solve the world financial crisis, put a peaceful end to two bitter wars, bring the US education system out of the dark ages, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tenable levels, and end US dependence on foreign oil in just 4 or 8 years is unrealistic.

But I do hope it will be enough time for him to change the culture of greed, short-term vision, American imperialism and total disregard for the Constitution that has ruled Washington over the last 8 years. And perhaps we will be able to get a glimpse of his vision as it begins to take form. Then we can only hope that the subsequent leader(s) will take the baton and stay the course.

Should this happen, I do see the possibility that one day this country will have the low poverty levels, high education levels and economic dominance of the past. I also see the US becoming a leader in conservation and sustainable energy development. The ultimate icing on the cake would be if one day the US would be perceived throughout the world as the preeminent world power and peacekeeper, not because of its military might, but thanks to a culture and track record of humanitarian aid and intervention in cases of genocide or equally odious cruelty and oppression.

Of course, I sound like a dreamer, and perhaps the Obama presidency will not be able to get anywhere near to this scenario. But, I have total confidence that he will try his damnedest. And, I am thrilled that we have provided him the opportunity.
November 4, 2008 - Election Night party at Scandic Anglais in Stockholm, Sweden

November 4, 2008 - Election Night party at Scandic Anglais in Stockholm, Sweden

2008 USA Election - Pennsylvania will Show the Way; Maybe

I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and had an ideal childhood filled with parental love, boundaries, good times, basketball and racial harmony. My hometown had and still has a high minority representation and everyone seemed to get along.

In 1992, while living in Pennsylvania, one of my fondest memories was walking to the polling center to cast my vote for president. It was a lovely November morning and although a a bit groggy at 7am, excitement was bubbling for the possibility of "Change" which was well needed in those tough economical times. There is no need to explain the years from 1992 -2000 as everyone should remember how America flew like an eagle.

The election of 1992 is not unlike 2008; the difference being that the economy is in much worse shape today. "Change" is needed now more than ever. Like 1992, I am happy to have cast my vote for what I feel will be a historical change. If that change doesn't happen, Pennsylvania could potentially be the reason why.

John McCain has spent a great deal of time in Pennsylvania as his team feels they can pull off an upset (see link below) even though it has been a long time since a Republican has won the state in a presidential election and Barack Obama is leading in every poll.

One reason McCain has a chance here, is because of the areas surrounding the major cities that are vastly rural and different than inner city life. Here is what James Carville (Clinton's 1992 campaign manager) said about Pennsylvania:

"Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between".

Is he right? You can be the judge by reading an eloquent description from a longtime friend who has lived in Pennsylvania most of his life and went to college in the western city of Pittsburgh.

PA is PA. It's the 2nd oldest state, per capita, in the US; it has the highest number of colleges and universities in the country, yet retains the fewest number of graduates within its borders; has been associated with the term Pennsyltucky due to the central region of the state that looks mostly like West Virginia and Kentucky, two states with the lowest number of minority residents; and as older voters go (as I mentioned above PA as a lot of them), they are the most likely, statistically, whether black or white, to harbor racist or backward leaning views.

A Pennsylvania congressman was bold in his assessment of his constituency which could cost him his seat in Washington. Below is his view from a CNN article (link below) along with an opinion of a top labor leader in the state:

Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a supporter of Barack Obama's presidential bid, apologized Thursday for calling western Pennsylvania "a racist area."

In recent weeks, a YouTube video of labor leader Richard Trumka describing a racist reaction to
Obama he encountered on a trip back to his western Pennsylvania hometown has become an Internet sensation. "Our kids are moving away because there's no future here," Trumka says in a widely circulated clip of his speech to a United Steelworkers convention this year. "And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?"

Those previous opinions speak volumes about why McCain thinks he can win Pennsylvania.

Three memories stand out prominently about my time living in Pennsylvania:

1) My high school was very diverse and it was wonderful to see blacks and whites dating and being friends. The racial harmony was good although there were some underlying issues. In addition, I played basketball from an early age and the issue of race was rarely evident in all my games from age 9 to 17.

2) One of my best friends growing up was white and his family was like none I have ever met. They were warm, loving and treated me like one of their own. I was welcomed with open arms and race was never an issue. I was a groomsmen at his wedding in Pennsylvania and 3 of the 4 groomsmen were black; a rare sight at a predominately white wedding! His choice of representation on his most important day tells you how valuable the values of his parents were to his being. I mention this because I have met families where race played a major part (i.e. # 3 below) in the division of the family.

3) While living in Pennsylvania, I dated a lovely, charming and interesting woman which for my taste was rare in my hometown. We genuinely liked each other and had a fantastic 2 weeks together. The fatal mistake was stopping by her house one day to pick up something. I didn't want to go into her home as I felt there was no benefit but I decided to against my better judgement. Her dad was there with a frozen face as he reached out to shake my hand. I could sense his instability by the way he looked at me. At that moment, I knew our blissful dating would never be the same.

I didn't see her for the next week which puzzled me. She finally appeared one day and we talked. Her dad told her in no uncertain terms, "If you see him again, I will disown you". I couldn't believe it as I had never witnessed such intense hate personally but her facial expression proved this was no joke. She never realized that her father was a racist until that moment and didn't know how to handle it and it was not my job to show her how. Nothing more was said as I knew I would never see her again. With a father like hers, I hope she found the courage to confront or "disown" HIM for his wicked ways.

Finally, the aforementioned friend who wrote about Pennsylvania gave me his assessment about America, our future and this election:

America is demographically speaking at least 10 years from finally being able to throw off the vestiges of the heaviest hands of racial and ethnic stereotyping. In addition, as the waves of immigrants who have migrated here over the past 20 years (in record numbers, even eclipsing the numbers at the turn of the 20th century) begin to fully engage in our representative democracy, we'll see that their lack of fear of government will take hold at the ballot box. The Reagan Revolution with its "the government is evil" rhetoric has spawned an extraordinary period in America. At a time when people need to rely on the power of government, roughly half the country is cynical, and disparaging of the ability of government to do good. Excessive government intervention isn't good, but no intervention is bad, really bad. Let's hope we get it right in this election.

Will Pennsylvania be on the winning side of "Change"? I hope so, but there is always that chance that those who fear change will want to stay in the same dark period of the last 8 years.

Our slogan in Pennsylvania (Keystone State) is "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania".

That friend will either be John McCain or Barack Obama on Tuesday November 4. The choice could be pivotal in determining our next president.

I hope Pennsylvania and America make a well-educated decision.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

These lovely girls live in Pennsylvania and are the children of two friends. What will America and the world be like when they are able to vote?