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Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Reminisce below was first published in the Inauguration Issue, 40 years later, of the Carter-Mondale Letter:

by Barry Jagoda

Several of us from the Carter campaign press staff grouped together in the chill just a few steps from the Inaugural platform, waiting for the swearing-in of President-elect Carter and Vice-President-elect Mondale. Most of us had worked together for the past year responding to reporter’s questions, setting up candidate speaking locations and being of general assistance as Carter and Mondale traveled the country.  Now we could hardly contain our excitement in the final moments of our passionate work.

As the new officials took their oaths of office, our group, Kate King, Beth Lumpkin, Casey Cornell, Randy Lewis and others migrated toward the motorcades. In the last such candidate movement some of us had come from Blair House with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Now we were ready to join up with the first official presidential journey.

Hitching a ride from the West front of the capitol to the White House seemed like a normal procedure—a traveling process in which many of us had participated hundreds of times over the months of 1976. But, of course, this was a different: the first Presidential motorcade! Most of us were surprised, as were the huge crowds, when Jimmy and Rosalynn exited their limo and walked up Pennsylvania Avenue.

For me it had begun in the weeks preceding the New Hampshire primary.   What a momentous beginning to a year of campaign stops and media events. As Governor Carter and I climbed into his car on the Primary evening of January 24 the generally recognized top reporter covering Jimmy Carter’s incredible effort, James Wooten, of the New York Times, leaned his head into the back seat window to quietly announce, “Governor, I think you have just won the Democratic nomination.” Wooten, normally quite restrained, uttered these unthinkable words.  Governor Carter looked up, flashed the now famous smile,  “Thanks Jim.  Good deal!”  Months later, of course, Wooten’s prognostication would turn into reality.

On that January night, the candidate and I were headed for the anchor positions of CBS News Walter Cronkite, and the other major broadcast operations to have the New Hampshire victory celebrated and made officially unofficial. This was a pattern we were to follow for the next months: Making it easy for the networks to give Carter the bounce that came from winning elections state by state all the way down through the primary nominating process.

Along with Jerry Rafshoon and Jody Powell, the three of us formed the Carter campaign debate negotiators, arguing out the details of those crucial events with representatives of our opponent, the incumbent president, Gerald Ford.  Cool and collected Carter outpointed Ford as did Mondale in his debate with Senator Robert Dole.

And suddenly it was election night, with the Carter team in Atlanta’s World Congress Center. The thrill was deep and passionate.

Over the next three months, while the President-elect in Plains and Atlanta mulled over and selected officials for the government, hundreds of reporters and office-seekers converged on our transition headquarters” in Washington, hoping for access and consideration. The days and weeks flew by.  Suddenly, it seemed, the new President’s motorcade left the inaugural festivities at the Capitol heading for the White House.

Deputy Press Secretary Rex Granum and I could hardly believe our circumstances: As the new President reviewed the Inaugural Parade, we stood on the White House lawn. Rex said, “Well, I guess we better get over to our offices and get on with it!” As always, Rex was serious and his words gave me a shake of reality.

Having been named Special Assistant to the President, when I opened the top desk drawer of my new workplace, there was a note from the predecessor occupant: “Here I wrote President Nixon’s resignation speech,” were the words from Raymond K. Price. “So, I wish you and your colleagues good luck,” his short message concluded.”

On the first full day of the Carter Presidency, Deputy Special Assistant Rick Neustadt and I had the privilege of hosting his father, the great scholar of the Presidency, Professor Richard Neustadt, to breakfast in the White House.  We asked, “What is the secret to Presidential Power?” Quickly Professor Neustadt answered, “Keep your options open!”

A few days later, along with others, I received as a gift from Rex’s father, Iver Granum, one of the flags that had flown over the Capitol during the Inauguration. It all seemed like a few moments in American history, the capstone of a brilliant political campaign and the beginning of the Carter Years

Barry Jagoda was Special Assistant to President Carter for Media and Public Affairs. He recently retired as Director of Communications for the University of California, San Diego.




Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

by Barry Jagoda

Year after year Summerfest Music Director Cho-Liang (“Jimmy”) Lin gives serious creative thought to the themes, composers and musical players that always seem to turn-out better this year than the years before.

A professor of music at Houston’s superb Rice University Lin suddenly came upon the big picture for 2014:  “Our festival has never done much with Haydn—hardly anything.”  So Summerfest fans are being treated to three evenings of performance totally focused on Franz Joseph Haydn and a couple of his “protégés,” Mozart and Beethoven.

The opening night music was delightful and there are promises of more to come with “Haydn Evenings” on August 12 and August 19.   And this is classical music that provides just plain enjoyment! At the same time though, as the superb performance notes author, Eric Bromberger, put it, “This kind of music takes us deep into human emotions.”

The concert under discussion, performed August 5 in La Jolla, at the Sherwood Auditorium of San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art was titled “An Esterhazy Concert,” reflected the thirty years of service by Haydn to the wealthy Austrian family of that name.  (Their base was in the town of Eisenstadt, about 30 miles south of Vienna where the family leader, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, maintained a complete musical establishment, including a full orchestra.)

There was not a discernable flaw in the five selections chosen for this first featured Haydn evening.  Nearing the end of service to the Esterhazy family, in 1790, the composer produced the wonderfully beautiful String Quartet in D Major which was presented by the fine Miro Quartet, pictured below:

The performing star of the evening was Aisslinn Nosky, a brilliant violinist, also a crowd-pleaser with her passion and brilliance.  She could not be missed sporting, as she did, a shocking bright red Mohawk hair style.  Nosky lead fine performances, in the evening’s second half, of the Festival Orchestra’s presentation of a violin concerto and of Symphony #44:

The concertgoer was presented with a full compliment of Haydn’s repertoire, including trios, quartets and, as the evening’s finale, this dramatic symphony, #44, which eventually came to be called the “Trauer,” the Austrian term for “Mourning.”  As the program notes dramatically explained, Haydn lived to be an old man and, as death approached, when he was asked what music he wanted at his funeral, he chose the slow movement of this symphony.

But the Summerfest attendee has many more opportunities to enjoy Haydn with the evenings of August 12 and 19 also devoted to the composer’s work and legacy.



Sunday, October 6th, 2013

by Barry Jagoda

What a splendid initiative, the just concluded third annual  “Atlantic Meets the Pacific conference again co-produced by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Atlantic Magazine set in the beautiful oceanside environment of La Jolla, California.  As in previous years the event this year, Oct 2-4, brought a very eager and attentive audience of about 300 to a series of interviews by Atlantic journalists who are tasked with coaxing useful ideas from leading scholars and researchers.

This process of bringing experts to present before a well-educated large number of paying guests ($495 for the event) worked very well in the past but was not quite as effective this year because the conference program focused in a much more detailed way on developments and potential in health and medical research where earlier such events zeroed in on more general topics more easily comprehended by non-specialists.

Still the line-up of highly regarded authors, discoverers, medical researchers and health care reformers produced gee-whiz moments.  Much of the useful information came in discussion on topics such as “Big Data, Big Disease:  Mining for Medical Breakthroughs,” which featured a heavy emphasis on use of new understandings from the genome leading toward potential thwarting of unsolved medical mysteries.  A significant portion of the conference was devoted to developments in cancer research, but on this and other topics the experts might well have talking to themselves as the conversation often seemed to require more background for any sort of useful audience take-away.

Many of the major academic and industry players could be seen around the conference venue.  Hard to miss, for example, was Ian Shakil of AUGMEDIX because he jumped right out of the crowd demonstrating the most intriguing “Google Glasses.”  Given an opportunity to test-run this amazing device, one quickly learned ease of operation and within less than a minute of wearing, as seen below, this writer was able to “shoot, record and playback” a video with the entire operation taking place us the glasses.  Google strikes again!

“Atlantic Meets the Pacific” came upon the splendid idea of dividing conference participants into small groups for tours of five of the many biotechnology labs that are ubiquitous in the area of San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood.  Most of these world-class facilities were set-up in the area because of the strong programs in science at UCSD.  Though in the realm of ideas “location” is far less important than the potential for collaborations, Inter-institutional work is a hallmark of the region and the conference planners have been very wise to set-up this annual meeting at La Jolla’s Pacific Ocean.

There was clearly a consensus of appreciation expressed by Conference attendees for a superbly organized program and flawless management of logistics including transportation and good food.  And, even for a generalist journalist, there was much food for thought.


Caleb’s Crossing: Another Triumphant Novel from Geraldine Brooks

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks has produced another wonderful story, the exciting and passionate page-turner “Caleb’s Crossing.”

Brooks has taken us to the 17th Century frontier of Massachusetts, particularly the island known today as Martha’s Vineyard.  Its 1660 wildness was scantily populated by original Indian residents, with their ancient pagan beliefs, and a consequential group of settlers, hard-working farmers, most of whom were believers in a personal God and Puritanical teachings.

The story is told through the eyes and voice of Bethia Mayfield whose adolescence includes the development of a very close friendship with a young Indian tribal heir apparent who gets the English name of Caleb.  Bethia is a precocious young woman, who masters Latin, Greek, her native English and the Indian language, Wampanoag.  She tries to adhere to the strict values preached by her Minister Father.   From Caleb she also learns the ways of the wild, which berries to pick, where to find the best clam flats and what to know about nature on the Island.  But spiritually and intellectually, the “crossing” of the book’s title, is Bethia’s conversion of Caleb from a culture that worships the sun-god, “Keesakand,” to conventional liberal learning and Christian belief.

Were it not for the third-class citizenship applied to girls and women, this would be Bethia’s story.  Instead we are focused, as well, on Caleb’s struggle with his own Indian spiritual values and his gradual conversion to Christianity.  At the same time he dutifully undergoes the rigors of Indian “wilderness training” in preparation for his tribal leadership.  At the heart of the book is learning and self-improvement.  The young men are tutored and prepared for higher learning.  Bethia has to overhear what she will learn.

The Puritan perspective is well-represented here with every character having enough guilt for a whole life.  Imagining some error Bethia tells herself, “Sin stains us at birth and shadows our every hour.”  Here is an expanded engraving of the original sin concept that mirrors the iteration from Robert Penn Warren in the great “All the Kings Men,” where the Huey Long figure announces, “Man is conceived in sin and born in evil.”  This god-fearing perspective is a central theme in “Caleb’s Crossing,” and all one can say is that these same fears are with us today among a very sizable percentage of the population.  Brooks has gotten this religious aspect of her characters exactly right.

Caleb’s more literal “crossing,” in addition to adaptation to the white man’s religion and culture, is leaving the island for the mainland of Massachusetts Bay Colony where he will matriculate at Harvard and eventually be the first Indian graduate of that already august institution.  Brooks, a one-time reporter for the Wall Street Journal,

bases the Caleb character on what was apparently exhaustive research in Island archives, among the libraries of Harvard and from the earliest records of Massachusetts.  Bethia and most of the other figures in this novel are completely made-up but have been given multi-dimensional, compelling lives by this fine story-teller.

The earliest tension in the book is between the Indian spiritual perspective and the Christian.  Bethia decides to rename her new Indian “wild boy” friend:  “I will call you Caleb after the companion of Moses in the wilderness,” she announced.  “Who is Moses,” he asked.  She explained that he was a very great sonquem (leader) who led his tribe across the water and into a fertile land.  “You mean Moshu,” he said.  “Moshu made this island.   He dragged his foot through the water and made this island.”

In her narrator’s voice Bethia says, “I let him speak because I did not want to vex him and I liked to hear him tell the story with expression and vivid gesture.  But as I rode home that afternoon, it came to me that our story of a burning bush and a parted sea might also seem fabulous to one not raised up knowing it was true.”

Brooks has chosen to set the entire narrative and dialogue in the letters and vocabulary of 17th Century New England characters.  This makes moving through the story something of a slower process.  As an experiment I bought the book from Kindle and downloaded the text to my iPad.  There most of the old English words came to life through the “dictionary” feature of Kindle.  Just click on an unfamiliar term and its definition is instantly provided.  I prefer to hold an original book in my hand while reading but here is a good reason to go digital.

Meanwhile Bethia holds our attention.  She’s gone rapidly from 12 to 17 and has become a sexy young woman.  Still she is confined by the anti-feminist mores of the age.  As she puts it, “Silence was a woman’s sole safe harbor.”  And it is time for the island youth to move on.  Caleb and two or three others aren’t quite ready for college admission so they go to the mainland to a finishing school.  Bethia goes along as a general servant to help pay tuition costs.  And the next year Caleb, and two others from the Island, gain admission to Harvard, which had been founded 30 years earlier.  Bethia gets a job as a dining room maid.   She loves the location because this is also the area where the main college lectures are given.  Of course she listens in while pretending to run the service window.

As expected, Caleb receives Harvard’s first diploma for an Indian lad.  Young men are all around at the all-male Harvard College.  One grad student, son of Harvard’s president, gets Bethia’s attention and they marry, on her terms.  She is an unforgettable character in our literature, smart, sexy and determined.


Friday, October 22nd, 2010

 One of the best times of the year to visit the Central Texas Hill Country and Houston/Galveston is in the cooling down period of late October.  Then the broiling sun has begun to recede, Austin is at its wonderfully weird self and the Gulf Coast refinery pollution (sights and smells of people making money) gives way some to a cultural and historic legacy of great interest.


Austin is without doubt the intellectual heart of Texas and houses its political center ring as well.  A visitor to the sometime circus atmosphere of the state capital might be privileged enough to have old friends who are leading lights in journalism, environmental studies and public affairs media.  This would allow for a day of coffees, lunch and dinners amounting to refresher courses in the affairs of the state and region.  The old friends might courteously start out with, “Who’s going to win the game this weekend?” (referring, of course, to the Texas Longhorns football game) but these serious Texans, well- educated, thoughtful citizens of the nation quickly move to conversation of great merit, ideas for the mind and soul.  One feels at home in Austin.

Now quite a cosmopolitan city Austin is uplifted by the great University of Texas with its world class research and teaching faculty.  On the University campus one may spend profitable time at the Blanton Museum of Art and gain access to a vast enterprise headlined by the dubious biblical quotation engraved on the Main Building, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  It was from atop this building’s 26-story tower of book stacks that a psychopath, a former Eagle Scout who had made straight A’s, fired his rifle in 1966 down on the campus killing 26 and wounding  more.   Game winning Saturday nights, and other special occasions, are more than enough cause for the Tower to turn orange!

UT Tower in orange


By a short flight, or just a few hours drive across Texas down to sea level, the traveler suddenly arrives at America’s energy capital, one of the most dynamic business regions of the globe, America’s energy capital.    Much of this financial action is enabled by the amazing Houston Ship Channel a 50-mile water route out of Houston to the world, via Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico.  In the old days Galveston was an alternative port of entry for immigrants when New York’s Ellis Island overflowed.  Today it is still much a very charming place with lovely old houses and a raffish beach culture—though the constant threat of hurricanes lurks.  The Gulf breezes are splendid and seem perfect in October especially high on patios of the luxurious condos enjoyed by the wealthy from Houston which less than an hour down by freeway.

Between Houston and Galveston a visitor can make a side trip to the moon via the Johnson Space Center put there by President Lyndon Johnson to direct the Apollo Manned Space Program.Johnson Space Center, home of Apollo Mission Control

GPN-2000-001141[2] Mission Control Center can be toured.   Here, seen in 1969, there was jubilation at winning the space race over the Soviets, as mission control engineers celebrated American’s landing.

The astronauts, including the first lunar visitor, Neil Armstrong, shown here on the moon, trained at Houston. GPN-2000-001209[1]

Earlier President Johnson and rocket engineering chief, Werner von Braun, visited with astronauts.  Von Braun, though a former Nazi missile designer, seen below at left, was not nearly as controversial as Johnson, who was best known for his prosecution of the American war in Vietnam War as well as many domestic initiatives.GPN-2000-001337[1]

With time and generations comes some giving back.  Houston was a new town first started in 1834 by shrewd land developers from New York.  They invaded what was the Mexican territory of Texas, bringing along hundreds of colonists, and slaves, in their settlement efforts.  Then came war with Mexico, Texas Independence, Statehood, slavery, cotton, the civil war and suddenly modernity.

This began with the digging of the Ship Channel, finished in 1911, and before one could blink an eye the entire stretch of waterway was overflowing with oil and chemical refineries for the whole long trench.  One of the abutting towns, Pasadena, became known as “Stinkadena,” but Houston grew up also in a tradition of cultural boosting.  There was the great Hobby family, who gave a Governor or two to the State and much in the way of gardens and showhouses and pride.  And with the oil companies came top law firms and all this sired leaders of the nation including two recent presidents of the United States.  One philanthropist endowed Rice Institute which, with its changed name to “university” provided Houston what it really needed:  Without a great university there can be no great city.  Everyone had jobs and many began to accumulate fortunes.  Now the place has gobs of museums, parks, ball teams (the Astrodome, in the early ‘60s was the world’s first stadium with a dome permitting air conditioning) theaters, a great Grand Opera—just name it and Houston built it.

Unusual in the world is the Rothko Chapel dedicated to spiritual values, human rights and cultural relativism.  As an air-conditioned shield against the blazing Texas sun the walls of its octagonal inner chamber are formed by the works of the late, cerebral American artist Mark Rothko.

5_rothko_int2Rothko’s 14 nearly all black paintings, create an unforgettable sanctuary for self-examination and the on-going search for world harmony.     Inside the chapel one can find relief from some of Houston’s hot, gritty culture.  Open to believers of all faiths, and to non-believers, this space provides year-around relief from Houston’s gritty culture and less than hospital weather.  The world’s pain can find soothing here.

The outside public plaza is dominated by Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” statue.1_rothko_chapel_ext1

Once upon a time one had to travel all the way to New Orleans to enjoy a good meal, to get beyond fried chicken and steak.  Now Houston is a culinary capital with more spectacular food than one can stop to enumerate. 

In October this otherwise climatological hothouse of the universe can be a weather delight and a wonderful place to visit.

–Posted by Barry Jagoda, October 22, 2010

“Mainly Mozart” Celebrates 22nd Season In San Diego

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

     In the world of classical music Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart” Festival is well-known but the similarly named “Mainly Mozart,” a pride of San Diego, has an orchestra of highly regarded players and visiting soloists just as accomplished and passionate. ORxchestra and John Lill 1155 (1)

     “Mainly Mozart” has just ended its 22nd Summer Festival playing before large audiences and featuring such guest celebrity soloists as pianist Andrew Von Oeyen and violinist Sarah Chang and Mezzo-Soprano Frederica Von Stade. The founding conductor and artistic director of the Festival is David Atherton who has led the London Sinfonietta, the San Diego Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic and guest conducted dozens of the major orchestras world-wide. DA Particular (1)

     Each of this summer’s eight evening programs focused on works of Mozart but paired with another master composer, including Dvorak, Brahms, Copland, all presented in downtown San Diego’s splendidly restored and revitalized Balboa Theater. BalboaExteriornew (1)

     On Saturday night, June 19th, before a packed house, the magnificent violinist James Ehnes delivered a never to be forgotten performance in the difficult and rewarding Beethoven Violin Concerto in D. Ehnes was thrilling in his soloist rendition, particularly the 24 minute opening movement, so long that it took a musical genius to keep the audience focused and deeply engaged. The Festival Orchestra knew they were participating in a great symphony presentation. At the end the audience stood en-mass, clapping with more than a few bravos heard from the crowd. Ehnes has been described as “a modern day Joshua Heifitz,” and this captivating performance justified such an historic comparison. james_ehnes (1)

     Also on the program was Beethoven’s short “Overture to Prometheus” and two lovely Mozart works, the charming and diverting “Serenata Notturna,” which passes for what the conductor might have considered “lighter” music and the great Symphony 38, “Prague.”

     And at the intermission, on this the Festival’s final night, and as the audience filed out at the conclusion one could hear appreciative murmurs along with “I’m definitely re-subscribing for next year!” Echoing this sentiment we will certainly put “Mainly Mozart” on the calendar for its 23rd season in June, 2011.