Three generations of courage and commitment

When you search the name Henry Morgenthau, you find remarkable legacies left by three men of one extraordinary family

Three generations of courage and commitmentAs I examined the history of human rights in America, one name kept coming up: Henry Morgenthau. It turns out I was actually learning about three men: Henry Morgenthau Sr., Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Henry Morgenthau III, father, son and grandson. All of them spoke with courage and together advanced the cause of human rights…

COVID-19’s elder virus brother, the Spanish flu

An estimated 500 million people contracted the Spanish flu, and the death toll was between 17 million and 50 million

COVID-19’s elder virus brother, the Spanish fluAs our world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, a couple of interesting personal stories came out of Europe on March 29. The Guardian reported that Hilda Churchill, a 108-year-old woman in Salford, England, became (quite likely) the oldest British person to die from COVID-19 symptoms. And Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and Fox News reported that a…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

Pack up you troubles in your old kit-bag

Our perspective in marking Remembrance Day is definitely at odds with views of the day, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices weren't worthy

As rhetorical formulations go, ”the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” packs a formidable punch. Signifying the coming into effect of the armistice that ended the First World War, the words have a striking resonance: eliciting solemnity, dignity and the sense of something very important. Much more so than VE Day or…

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?

It took far more than our efforts during the Great War to nudge Canada out of its subordinate role in the British Empire

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?If you turn left upon entering the main gate of Toronto’s St. James Cemetery, you’ll soon come to a tall, imposing Celtic cross made of stone and inscribed with the family name Hagarty. There are three people buried there, but pride of place is given to someone whose earthly remains repose thousands of miles away…

Our world forged in the trenches of the Great War

The battle for the values it was fought for – the defense of justice, rights and freedoms – never ceases

Our world forged in the trenches of the Great WarIn Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row. It was at the funeral of his close friend and comrade Alexis Helmer that Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was first moved to write his (now famous) poem. At the time of writing he was physically and mentally exhausted, resting in the back of…

Never shirk responsibility for honest, forthright observation

The rules of writing opinion pieces haven't changed through the generations in the Robinson family

Never shirk responsibility for honest, forthright observationOne day in 2004, Doug Firby, then the editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, took me to lunch. I was the CEO of the Glenbow Museum and I had no idea what we were going to discuss. It turned out that he invited me to write occasional “op-eds” for the paper, on culture and…

The failure of an American president to compromise

Woodrow Wilson failed to accept the limitations and checks explicit in the American democratic system

The failure of an American president to compromiseWhen the Paris Peace Conference opened on Jan. 18, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson seemed to be at the top of his game. America’s entry had played a critical role in ending the First World War and Wilson’s famous Fourteen Points were acclaimed as the blueprint for a just settlement and a future world where…

Central banks’ overreach risks another recession

We need a decentralized, innovative and transparent banking system driven by free-market principals

Central banks’ overreach risks another recessionAs financial markets around the world erupt, dampening the festive spirit of this time of year, plenty of blame has been passed around. There are some notable geopolitical risks in the Middle East, Ukraine, North Korea, Pakistan and elsewhere. There’s the trade war between China and the United States. There are also signs of slowing global…

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of history

The onetime British PM’s apparent affable, avuncular nature masked a lethal ruthlessness

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of historyHarold Macmillan, the onetime British prime minister, popped into mind a few days ago. Watching the problems in extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union reminded me that a humiliating failure to secure entry to that same entity’s predecessor was one of the things that drove Macmillan from office. Macmillan (1894-1986) was prime minister…
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