Guest writers

Mollette, Glenn New               Glenn Mollette

The world in general can be a dim place. However, here are eight keys to making life better.
Key one – Learn new skills. Education and training are a part of life. Do not embrace the “I am stuck” mentality. You can teach old dogs new tricks.
Education does not necessarily mean college, although it could. There are many trades you can learn today via self-study. Community college and vocational schools also offer a lot of learning opportunities you can complete in less than a year.
Keep learning.

Key two – Live healthily. A long life is never guaranteed no matter what we do. We can at least do our part by not being stupid. Daily activity and cutting back on food portions are important.
Eliminate smoking and drink only in moderation. From Halloween until New Year’s Eve is a big health mess-up period for many. So now is the time to beware.
Key three – Save money. This is very difficult to do if you are living on a meager income. Even putting a few dollars away each week or month might save you when an emergency arises.
Having a little money on hand to pay cash for something instead of using credit will be a relief.
Key four – Live enjoyably. Allow yourself to do something every day that you can really get into. This could be simply reading, listening to music or one of a myriad of hobbies.
Enjoy your life.
Key five – Have a plan. Work toward something. Have something to look forward to. Involve your mind in a project or projects that keep you focused each day on moving forward toward accomplishing something.
This could be as easy as cleaning out the garage or making a quilt. Have something you are doing today and tomorrow.
Key six – Stay bright on the inside. Don’t be negative or bitter about life. Allow yourself to laugh. Enjoy some humor along the way.
Key seven – Maintain real relationships. You need a friend or two. Close relationships whether they are family or friends give us real people to share life with. You probably aren’t going to find these on social media.
Be careful of too many, though, because a person with too many friends will soon come to ruin.
Key eight – Always vote. Sounds out of place in this column but it’s a major factor in bringing about community and society change, which impacts your life greatly.
So there you have it. There is never one silver bullet for making our lives happy.
We can’t depend on the government or even other people to make us happy. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and do the best we can with the lives we have been handed.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

Neuhalfen, Susan          Susan Neuhalfen

By guest writer Susan Neuhalfen

IT’S NOT every day you meet a hero but, then, Robert Webb isn’t one to brag.
Webb, below, served in the US Army for almost a quarter century. Stationed in Vietnam, Germany and Korea, his many accolades include three Bronze Star medals, numerous commendation medals for meritorious achievement and countless letters of appreciation from officers. To say he has worlds of experience under his belt would be an understatement.
A native of Galveston, Webb, now 75, began working in a grocery store at the age of nine. He worked many odd jobs on the island and says that, by the time he graduated high school, he practically had a degree in business management.

Webb, Robert 1
His father, Dudley, was one of Galveston’s first African-American business owners and owned his own garage. Robert remembers helping out at the garage, washing and waxing cars. He also often worked as a driver for several prominent Galvestonians, including Lee Kempner, the CEO of United States National Bank of Galveston, one of his father’s customers.
Kempner was so impressed with his work that he offered to send him to school to become a bank teller. Webb says the offer was tempting but he really wanted to travel so, after being drafted to Vietnam, he chose to enlist in the Army.
Webb doesn’t talk much about life in the Army, especially his time in Vietnam. “I like to put the past behind me and focus forward every day,” he says.
That forward focus begins with his health. As a veteran, he is a member of the US family health plan, a defense-department-sponsored military health-care plan for retired military members and their eligible family members.
It’s a plan he’s needed quite often and, after seven successful surgeries and countless outpatient services, he is much more willing to speak about his experience at Houston Methodist St John, the only hospital in the bay area that cares for USFHP members.
He says his first surgery, a hip replacement, was performed in 2001 by Michael Monmouth, an orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon. Following the surgery, Webb began physical therapy at the hospital’s sports medicine center, where therapists told him about a gym near his home in Texas City and encouraged him to start exercising regularly.

Webb and MonmouthRobert Webb and Michael Monmouth

Webb started walking to lose weight and says it’s now become part of his life. Every day around 4:00am, he meets a fellow gym member for a five-mile walk, helped by a knee replacement in 2007, also performed by Monmouth, and has participated in several 5k walks this year. It almost goes without saying that he is registered for the hospital’s Reindeer Run coming up on December 5.
Monmouth says a key to Webb’s active lifestyle is that he “takes responsibility for his health”. The doctor adds: “His joint replacements have not slowed him down a bit. He just keeps on going.”
The praise is reciprocated and Webb also speaks highly of Eric Santos, a spine surgeon and fellow veteran, who performed two of his seven surgeries.
“These doctors took the time to understand my physical health,” he said. “They didn’t want to rush into surgery unless they felt it was necessary. They are the best there is and, as long as they are around here, they are going to take care of me until I die.”
He extends his praise to the hospital itself. “It’s not like the VA or other hospitals, where you have to wait,” he says. “Everyone has a great attitude and I get great care when I need it.”
Susan Neuhalfen is a freelance writer on health issues.

Aging Americans within a few years of collecting social security are concerned. Will government leaders push the retirement age to 68 or even 70? Will the current promised benefits be slashed by 10 or 20 per cent, or even more?
The government continues collecting social security but some politicians are saying it will be impossible to pay out what has been promised with fewer people paying into the system. Even more frightening is that the social-security administration is saying the same thing.
While we are told that we are living longer, how many millions of people will pay into social security but never live long enough to collect a penny? The government hopes that, if it can raise the age of retirement, then a few more million people will never live to collect. Or, possibly, a few more million will not collect it for very long.

social security administration logo
Americans still have to fear disease. Every day, people still die from cancer, diabetes and neurological diseases. Heart disease still commonly adds to the ranks of death. When was the last time we heard an announcement that a cure for anything had been discovered?
We fear medical bills. Enormous debts after medical care are still the biggest reason for Americans filing for bankruptcy.
We fear the cost of education. Most parents want a better life for their kids but education has become a burden of debt to parents and students. Who is trying to help? We don’t need bigger and
longer loans. We need affordable education.
Millions of Americans have worked their lives for promised pensions that are now in question. Many pension funds are broke and millions of dollars in debt. There is a growing horror that what was promised is not going to be there.
Yet, with all our financial, educational, medical and golden-year fears, we can still throw in a few more. We have brought terrorism from the Middle East to our local movie theatre. Public schools struggle with carrying out their mission because of deficient funding, rising salaries, bullying and tensions from varying sources.
Poverty is growing. So many people have given up and have committed themselves to a life of welfare, which essentially is a life of depression and living with almost nothing. All the while, our communities are changing. People from all over the world are flooding into America and changing every corner of our country. They are working for every dollar they can make and seem to be happy.
As millions of Americans go to bed tonight, fewer might be sweet dreaming
and more could be wrestling with the nightmares now shared by too many Americans.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

The College Board recently released the results of the latest SAT high-school exam. The results showed that the average math-section score of the class of 2015 was nine points lower than last year’s average at 486 and the critics once again wasted no time condemning our nation’s schools as failures.
Placing emphasis on SAT scores is a disservice to the students and also our teachers, who are working hard to increase the number of students aspiring to higher education.
At Friends Of Texas Public Schools, we are committed to educating Texans about the strengths and achievements of our state’s public schools.
My wife Leslie and I founded the organization in 2004 with the mission of facilitating respectful conversations about Texas public schools through honest communication, productive dialogue and relentless encouragement.
We believe that our students, teachers and administrators deserve a great deal more credit than they are given, particularly in light of the release of these latest SAT scores.
We agree with Texas education commissioner Michael Williams that the increased participation rates are actually a positive reflection on the state’s schools and their efforts to persuade more students to consider post-secondary education.
In a state with one of the highest percentages of students needing free school lunch, of students with limited proficiency in English and of students living in single-parent homes, our goal is not to manipulate scores by limiting participation, as many states do. Rather, we would prefer to have more students from all backgrounds aspiring to higher education, even if that causes our scores to decline.
Alief independent school district superintendent HD Chambers has also said that it stands to reason that SAT scores will be lower when more students are taking the test. He said that scores would improve if we aligned our Texas essential knowledge and skills, or TEKS, curriculum with the standards of norm-referenced tests like the SAT and ACT exams.
“We align our coursework to the TEKS, not to the SAT,” Chambers said. To his point, I say it’s like eating an apple then taking a test on what an orange tastes like.
Some have attributed the lower SAT scores in math to the recent decision in our state to no longer require all high-school students to take algebra II. Bill Hammond, one persistently misinformed critic of public education with impure motives, is quoted as saying that not requiring our students to take algebra II and other challenging courses dooms them to lower-paying jobs and a mediocre education.
We disagree. College preparation is not the goal set for public schools by the state. Rather, we focus on helping our students meet state curriculum requirements known as TEKS. Our students are excelling at that goal.
Scott Milder and his wife Leslie live in Rockwall and are the founders of nonprofit organization Friends Of Texas Public Schools.

No one knows for sure who will win the Republican nomination for president. Last week, Ben Caron and Donald Trump were the leaders but things change quickly in politics. Carson will certainly finish strong if he does not win.
While Carson’s campaign is doing an excellent job on funding and advertising, he also has what no other candidate has and that is the African-American vote. I don’t know that every African-American person in the nation will vote for him but I believe that the vast majority will.
African-Americans have something the rest of the general voting population does not have and that is the African-American church. Since the inception of this nation, the weekly gathering of the African-American population on Sunday morning has been a place not only of solace, inspiration and strength but also of incredible information and organization.
I was in Selma, Alabama, recently and walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge. Hundreds of marchers were beaten and bloodied on that bridge on March 7, 1965. They were marching for the right to register to vote in Selma and the state of Alabama. A second march was attempted under the leadership of Martin Luther King on March 9 but King led the marchers to turn around.
On March 21, with the federal protection of almost 4,000 members of the US Army and National Guard, King and Ralph Abernathy led more than 400 people on a 50-mile walk to Montgomery, Alabama. Their courageous march and national attention made it possible for African-Americans to register and finally vote.
Where did this march begin? The gathering began at the Brown Chapel AME church in Selma. The church, just a few blocks away from the bridge, is where pastors, church leaders and hundreds of volunteers assembled and made their first march.
King and Abernathy would come to town and King would speak to a packed house at the church. When they marched to Montgomery with the federal protection ordered by president Lyndon Johnson, the church was where they assembled. The church was where they gathered to rally, share information, encourage each other and organize for success.
Still today, African-American churches are extremely effective in addressing social issues. They are organized and pastors are not timid in telling their congregations what must be done in relation to the community and the nation.
Often, I have the opportunity to speak in African-American churches. Many of my closest friends are from the African-American community. My column is only an observation of their strength and in no way am I negative about the effectiveness of African-American churches. I commend them.
I only wish that America’s white pastors had as much freedom as the African-American ministers but they do not. In most cases, a white protestant pastor will be terminated quickly if he engages in political organizing for a candidate. He will be made a scapegoat in wet-or-dry elections or for running all over town working against a state lottery or something like that.
However, churches are normally divided between Republicans, Democrats and those who just don’t want anything political in their church. White congregations are also threatened with termination of their nonprofit status if they become political.
I understand that a church is a place of faith, scripture teaching and pointing people to God.  African-American churches do that extremely well. However, while they are helping people with their faith, they also know how to organize and bring a strong unified vote to the table.
This time it will be for Ben Carson. Their unified effort propelled Barack Obama to the presidency and they will thrust Carson to either victory or near victory. While they are doing so, the other candidates won’t even know what has hit them.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.