Fair District Movement Advances

Many Swarthmorean readers live in or adjacent to the U.S. Congressional District which has become the national poster child for absurdly drawn, gerrymandered districts. The Pennsylvania 7th District has been described as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck in the rump.” Your Rorschach test results may vary, but whatever you see in the shape, it’s hard to conclude that this was the most natural way to represent the constituents of 7th District US representative Patrick Meehan.

Beth Lawn lives in “Goofy’s thumb, as far as I can figure out,” she said, a part of eastern Chester, which was in previous times represented by Democrat Bob Brady in the 1st District like the rest of Chester, but after the 2011 redistricting became part of 7th district.

“I am put in with people in Montgomery County, Lancaster and Berks County, so far away that I don’t really have issues in common with them, I can’t network with them. And Chester is divided. The intent of it was to make a safe Republican district, and I feel that my vote doesn’t really count.”

6-23 Pennsylvania07

Legislative districts are redrawn every decade following the U.S. Census. In Pennsylvania, the process is carried out by legislators who, as Lawn laments, may act in partisan self-interest to retain and consolidate party power, in Harrisburg and Washington. The gathering movement to combat gerrymandering has coalesced into groups which are driving for reform through legislative and judicial channels.

The Public Interest Law Center (of Philadelphia) filed suit this week against the state of Pennsylvania, petitioning Commonwealth Court to order revision of the process used to create legislative districts. Each of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressional districts is represented by a petitioner named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Lawn, who is an active grandmother and a part-time chaplain at White Horse Village in Newtown Square, says she volunteered as a plaintiff to represent her neighbors (near and far) in the 7th district

Lawn said: “It doesn’t matter which party is being favored. [The current system] just dilutes and distorts everybody’s vote. How can we have competitive elections if the districts are drawn to perpetuate the status quo?”

Local Action Matters

Swarthmorean Sharon Lee was among a group of about 100 citizens who convened in early April at the Swarthmore Public Library to learn from State Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky of Swarthmore and speakers from the Public Interest Law Council and Fair Districts PA, which was a joint creation of the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

“We reached a lot of people and got good responses, and we hope to keep spreading the word about what is happening in the effort,” Lee said, noting that the issue has been a concern for many in the borough for years. “Two years ago, Swarthmore Borough Council passed a resolution calling for legislative districts to be drawn by an independent, nonpartisan commission. The goal is to get every municipality in Pennsylvania to do the same. We need to keep getting information to legislators.”

Success in reaching a legislative solution is extremely challenging. Such a change to the process would entail passage of legislation in both the Senate and the House, during two consecutive sessions in order to enshrine new law before the 2020 census gives rise to the next redistricting process. These bills are HB 1114, which has 96 co-sponsors including Rep. Krueger-Braneky, and SB22, which has 13 cosponsors, none local.

Krueger-Braneky said: “Because the redistricting reform bill is actually a constitutional amendment, you would need to pass it in both houses this session, you would need to pass it again next session, and then there would be basically a ballot question that goes to the voters.”

Legislation seems less likely to provide relief than litigation, Leanne continued: “I have personally thought for a while that there’s a better chance of us getting reform through the court system and not a legislative body that would have to vote against its own self interests in order to effect change.

“I think this bill is favored by my constituents who live in Swarthmore, Rose Valley, and Wallingford. It is not an issue I’ve heard about from constituents in places like Aston and Brookhaven and Ridley… my district is pretty diverse in terms of the issues that constituents care about.”

Michael Rader, chief of staff for State Senator Tom McGarrigle of the 26th senatorial district, said that Sen. McGarrigle has received “probably equal input from both sides” of the argument for redistricting. The senator agrees, Rader says, that “The redistricting process in Pennsylvania is far from perfect. But a small group of unelected, unaccountable individuals drawing the lines really isn’t the answer. We need a process that’s more transparent, more accountable to the voters, not less.”

Still, Lora Lavin of the League of Women Voters of Delaware County said, “I would encourage readers to contact Senators McGarrigle and Tom Killion, because until they take a position on SB 22, they need to hear from their constituents.”

A Matter of Timing

The Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear an appeal in a gerrymandering-based case out of Wisconsin, where the a three judge panel ruled in favor of plaintiffs who claimed that the state districting process discriminated against citizens based on political party.

Mimi McKenzie of the Public Interest Law Center, a lead plaintiff in the recently-filed Pennsylvania case, said that the timing of the lawsuit’s filing is only coincidentally linked to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Wisconsin appeal, and has more to do with this moment in the 10 year redistricting cycle. “If you file right after redistricting, say in 2011, you are basically trying to predict how elections will turn out. But by analyzing election results from three cycles, you can actually see how durable this partisan gerrymandering is. No matter how the vote swung in the house, in 2012, 2014, and 2016 the 13-5 Republican majority held. In 2012, 49% of statewide house votes were for Republican candidates, yet they won 72% of seats. Same thing in 2014 and 2016.

“The other part of timing is that it’s now or never if we want to have a shot at having the current map declared invalid for 2018. We seek relief by having maps declared unconstitutional. And enjoin elections under this map. But it’s hard to predict what the court would do. They could send it back to the General Assembly to create a fairer map, with some guidance on what could and could not be included. They could appoint a special mastered to create a new map, or they could ask the parties for alternative maps.”

Though deeply invested in the judicial approach to reform, Mimi McKenzie sees the lawsuit as just a tool to get to the point where the conditions exist for legislative change “A lawsuit only fixes the problem for the next one or two election cycles. With a new 2020 census, maps will be redrawn. The long-term solution really lies with the legislature.”

Come and Get It at SRA Town Picnic

More than 200 Swarthmoreans dined and played at last year’s SRA Town Picnic.

More than 200 Swarthmoreans dined and played at last year’s SRA Town Picnic.

Classic summer family fun is on tap for next Thursday evening, June 29, at the Swarthmore Recreation Association’s annual Town Picnic.

All borough residents are invited to share in a cookout and field day at the field behind Swarthmore-Rutledge School starting at 5:30 p.m. Pulled pork BBQ, hot dogs, veggie burgers and lemonade, plus dozens of homemade side dishes and desserts tempt you to the buffet table, with dinner service beginning promptly at 6 p.m.

Outdoor games follow, including a crab walk contest, wheelbarrow races and the annual tug-of-war. When the sun goes down, we go home, around 8:30 p.m.

The SRA Town Picnic is recommended for Swarthmoreans of all ages. Bring a salad, appetizer, or dessert to share. Be sure to mark serving dishes with your name.

Planets Align for SRS Art Project

The newly discovered planets of SRS are arrayed on a quilt created by the fifth grade class under the tutelage of guest artist Alicia Nock, who is here orbited by (left to right, front) Benjamin McErlean, Danny Wuenschel, Eden Stolar of Wallingford, Marin Horwitz, Jackson Meza, and Matthew Jackson; (back) Evan Yavor of Rutledge and Joe Lynch. All others are Swarthmore residents.

The newly discovered planets of SRS are arrayed on a quilt created by the fifth grade class under the tutelage of guest artist Alicia Nock, who is here orbited by (left to right, front) Benjamin McErlean, Danny Wuenschel, Eden Stolar of Wallingford, Marin Horwitz, Jackson Meza, and Matthew Jackson; (back) Evan Yavor of Rutledge and Joe Lynch. All others are Swarthmore residents.

By Oonie Lynch

Every year, the 5th grade class at Swarthmore-Rutledge School creates an art project together as a legacy gift to the school, a tradition created by the late Sandy Sparrow.

When this year’s art project was introduced over the winter to the now just-moved-up 5th graders, the students were asked to name their favorite art projects. They covered just about all of them, from the Native American murals, to the mosaic dragon bench, to the stairwell mural, to the birds of a feather, the columns in the cafeteria — all of them had their fans. It was very moving to see how artwork influences students during their time at the school.

The original idea for this year’s project was based on the sidewalk solar system pioneered by Susan Larson with her classes in the 1970s, with the sun at the elementary school entrance (now CADES) and planets painted on the sidewalks at approximate scale distances through town. The solar system idea continues to intrigue many of us who attended Swarthmore High School in the current SRS building. It took the committee the better part of the fall to brainstorm ideas and contact artists. The Dimensions in Art Committee of the Home & School Association, Kaycee Conallen, Rinal Parikh, and Cherilyn Scanlon, contacted various artists to ask them if they had a vision for a project for the students based on the solar system theme.

Finalists presented their ideas to the committee in January. All the presentations were interesting and any of the artists would have been great with the kids, but Alicia Nock’s presentation stood out. Her vision for the final product was a perfect embodiment of the theme, as well as a holistic learning and creative experience for the students.

In February, Ms. Alicia was introduced to the students and gave a presentation of her artwork. She taught the students about quilting not just as bed cover, but as art and historical artifact. She shared several of her works with them via slides and also hanging some of her quilts in the auditorium for them to see, and later hosted a trunk show with more examples of materials and techniques.

In four work sessions through March and April, students were given quilting supplies. Each student received material for their planet, pre-cut backing material to create the pillow, pins, needles and thread, and access to embellishments and stuffing. The classroom teachers, led by Renee Strehle, the staff coordinator of the project, helped the students study the skies to inspire their designs, whether it was through planetary poetry in Jennifer Conahan’s class, listening to Holst’s The Planets in Liz Corson’s room, or studying dozens of astronomy books with Eric McElroy. Students designed everything from planets to pulsars and comets or black holes to entire galaxies on their creations. Some students based their work on actual entities in the universe, while others were more fanciful. Students were also given the opportunity to use an inspirational word or phrase as part of their design. Ms. Alicia brought two sample planets she had created, and then showed the students how to achieve some of the same kinds of effects with theirs.

In another session, students painted designs on the fabric that would create their piece of the quilt. Ms. Alicia also provided embellishments, including sequins, glitter, beads, buttons, ribbon, pom poms, and feathers to help each student bring his or her vision to life. Once the fabric paint and glue dried, Ms. Alicia and part of the cadre of 29 volunteer parents taught each child how to sew their creation to backing material, turn it right side out, and stuff it for a three dimensional effect on the final quilt.

At the last session, students placed their planets on the 6’x12’ quilt that Ms. Alicia made for them with a sun and radiant rings appliqued onto a black field. Each student placed his or her creation exactly where they wanted it positioned (parent Gaston Gonzalez’s photos of the students placing their planets were used to create a slideshow that later played during the moving up ceremony) and Ms. Alicia pinned it there until she could take it home to sew it on permanently. Ms. Alicia completed the quilt in May and it was hung at the school by Boedco, a local contractor that donated their services.

As a special gift to the grade, each student had a portrait taken by 5th grade parent Sara Kelly. Sara generously volunteered to take a portrait of each student holding his or her finished work. At the moving up ceremony, the Home & School Association provided each student a copy of his or her portrait, plus a collage that Sara designed with the picture of every student in the grade. A larger version of the collage will hang at SRS under the quilt so that each planet can be matched to the student who designed and made it.

The quilt is hanging in the back of the auditorium, where, one student mused, it will also help with the acoustics.

Quilting Adds New Dimension
to SRS Art Project

Alicia Nock

Alicia Nock

Like SRS arts project coordinator Oonie Lynch, visiting artist Alicia Nock grew up in Swarthmore during the time when planets were found on the sidewalks. “I’m Swarthmore born and raised — I went to high school right here!”, she said, standing before the newly hung quilt in the SRS Auditorium.

Alicia has been quilting for a dozen years, but it was only in 2010, after leaving work in communications technology that she became a full-time artist. Through her Sew Divine business, she makes and sells unique handbags, quilts and accessories. The SRS project was a big undertaking, she said.

“I visited the school twice a week for six weeks, visiting for an hour each day with two 5th grade classes,” she said. “And I did a lot of work at home, prepping the fabric planets. The students cut them out, stuffed and sewed and embellished them. It was up to their imagination what they wanted their planet to be like — we wanted them to think about the things they liked and valued.

“I did a traditional quilt background in black, then hand painted a piece of fabric and appliqued it on as the sun,” Alicia said, the added fabric of varied textures and patterns forming waves or rings around the sun. “We allowed the students to place their planets wherever they wanted them to be, then hand sewed them on. It’s a 3-D effect; they almost look as if they’re floating.”

Nock is at the outset of another Swarthmore-centric quilting project, “I’m going to try to put together a series of landscape quilts, particular to Swarthmore, for a solo show. I’ve been around town taking shots for inspiration. There is so much beauty here!”

Briefly Noted…

6-23 baseball

Red Socks are the Nether/Swarthmore Seniors League Baseball Champions. Despite a last place ranking going into the playoffs, the Red Socks came back to win the Championship game on June 12. Front Row (l. to r.): Will McCambridge, Alex Verona, Brandon Miller, Eddie Boyer, Nate Harrington and Ian Connell. Back Row (l. to r.): John Perlman (Asst), Marshall Wenger, Nate Perlman, Harry Berger, Luke Jacobson, Kyle Lanholm, Joe Bonett and Jim McCambridge (Coach). Not shown: Eddie Bonett (Asst). Photo by Sue Wenger.

As of Monday afternoon, the winners of the Swarthmore Swim Club 2017 hot pink (with navy lettering) 1,000-lap shirt are: 6.) Clark Linderman, 7.) Nancy Crickman, 8.) Anne Papa, 9.) Martha Hodes, 10.) Holly Hellman, 11.) Zong Luo, and 12.) Sally Wadleigh.

A cover story in our June 9 issue caught the attention of Swarthmorean subscriber Nancy Dellmuth from the first line. We boldly led with “For the first time in anyone’s recollection, eight of Strath Haven’s graduating seniors have chosen Swarthmore College as their home for the next four years.” Technically correct, maybe, but Ms. Dellmuth reminded us of an even more remarkable achievement by her Swarthmore High School class of 1956. “We sent eight to Swarthmore College, and seven of us graduated,” she recounted recently. This, from a graduating class of 112. The Class of ’56 was not only gifted, but loyal too: five of the eight who matriculated in 1956 returned to the class’s most recent reunion.

Widener University conferred doctorate and master’s degrees to the following graduate students in a ceremony on Friday, May 19:
Megan Crowley of Wallingford received a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the School of Human Service Professions.
Maureen Hetu of Wallingford received a Master of Business Administration from the School of Business Administration.
Michelle Jacquette of Wallingford received a Master of Education from the School of Education, Hospitality and Continuing Studies.
Charmaine Kemp of Swarthmore received a Master of Education from the School of Human Service Professions.
William Michael of Wallingford received a Master of Education from the School of Education, Hospitality and Continuing Studies.
Allison Davis of Morton received a Master of Social Work from the School of Human Service Professions.
Caroline Yuzvyak of Morton received a Master of Science in Taxation & Financial Planning from the School of Business Administration.

Jamie Morris of Wallingford has been named to the dean’s list at Alvernia University. Jamie is studying nursing and is a graduate of Strath Haven High School.

Megan Ann Ritter of Swarthmore earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies degree from Kutztown University.

Jason Ma of Rose Valley earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology during commencement exercises held in May.

Jamie Leigh Morris of Wallingford, earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Alvernia University last May.

Michelle Lynn Zoch of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Alvernia University last May. Michelle minored in biology.

The University of Scranton has announced that the following students have been named to the dean’s list for the 2017 spring semester: Bailey M. Woods of Wallingford; Katherine N. Feehery of Media; Caroline J. Donovan of Rose Valley; and Sean E. Myers of Wallingford.

Jake Stoutland of Rose Valley earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce and Business Administration from The University of Alabama.

Amanda Carr of Wallingford graduated with a Bachelor of Arts/Science degree in Neuroscience from the University of Vermont.

Gelsey Lee of Swarthmore graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Science & Disorders from the University of Vermont.

Bradley Pratzner of Wallingford graduated magna cum laude with a doctor of physical therapy degree from the University of the Sciences during commencement exercises on May 24.

Jian Yin of Wallingford graduated with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutics degree from the University of the Sciences. Jian was a member of Rho Chi, National Honor Society of Pharmacy.

Emily Wainfan of Wallingford has been named to the dean’s list at the University of Connecticut.

The following students have been named to the dean’s list at the University of Delaware: Allison O’Connell of Rose Valley; Amanda Prokop of Media; Brian Treston of Wallingford; Christina Weathers of Media; Claire Hollyer of Wallingford; Daniel Morreale of Swarthmore; Jordan Hodges of Wallingford; Joy Kolicius of Media; Joy McCusker of Morton; Julia Kane of Wallingford; Julia Dambly of Media; Kevin Mohollen of Rose Valley; Matthew Bastian of Media; Nicholas Diefenbach of Media; Rebecca Robbins of Wallingford; Stephanie Sica of Media; Tanisha Hira of Morton; and Teresa Lawrence of Media.

Widener University conferred degrees in its ceremony for undergraduates on Saturday, May 20. Commencement was held on Memorial Field at the university. The graduates included:
Samantha Newell of Rutledge earned a Bachelor of Arts in education from the School of Education, Hospitality, and Continuing Studies.
Frank Davis of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Business Administration, respectively.
Donovan Davis of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the School of Engineering.
Russell Epp-Leppel of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the School of Engineering.
John Fender of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the School of Engineering.
Matthew Ferkler of Morton earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the School of Business Administration.
Shuo Zheng of Swathmore earned a Bachelor of Science in finance from the School of Business Administration.
Colleen Wortz of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science in management from the School of Business Administration.
Lindsay Desmond of Wallingford earned a Bachelor of Science from the School of Nursing.
Elizabeth Nobbs of Morton earned a Bachelor of Science from the School of Nursing.
Richard Rockwell of Morton earned a Associate of Science in allied health from the School of Education, Hospitality, and Continuing Studies.
Lindsay Thompson of Morton earned a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health from the School of Education, Hospitality, and Continuing Studies.
Elizabeth Cianelli of Swarthmore earned a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health from the School of Education, Hospitality, and Continuing Studies.

What’s happening around town…

Big Time Tennis in Town This Weekend

Top college and amateur tennis players will come to Swarthmore this weekend (June 24-26) for the Summer Tennis Circuit presented by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).

The events are free, and all spectators are welcome to watch the matches on Swarthmore College’s Faulkner Tennis Courts and across Chester Road at the College Avenue courts. In case of rain, matches will be at the Mullan Indoor Tennis Center.

The Saturday first and second round action runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Quarterfinals and semifinals are at the same time Sunday, with finals to take place Monday from 9 a.m. to noon on the College Avenue courts. Players compete to earn points for the ITA National Circuit Finals in Texas this August.

Public Forum on Open Space Thursday at WES

Citizens of Nether Providence Township, Rose Valley, Rutledge, and Swarthmore boroughs are invited to share their views, concerns and hopes for parks, recreation and open space in a session Thursday, June 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the multi-purpose room of Wallingford Elementary School.

With a review of recommendations in a draft open space plan, this session continues the conversation among neighbors and government representatives about these important components of quality of life in our area.

Change Is Expected in
CAC’s ‘Metamorphosis’ Exhibition

Jessica Eldredge’s Kaleidoscope 20 is on display in the exhibition Metamorphosis at Community Arts Center.

Jessica Eldredge’s Kaleidoscope 20 is on display in the exhibition Metamorphosis at Community Arts Center.

“Metamorphosis,” the Community Arts Center’s Summer Fellow program exhibition, opens this Sunday, June 25, with a reception in CAC’s Duke Gallery.

The exhibition starts with selected works by Carol Gannon and Jessica Eldredge. The shape it will take later in the summer is to be determined by the art these two teaching fellows produce in collaboration with children ages 4-11, who are enrolled in Community Arts Center’s Summer Spree Art Camp. Some of this collaborative work will be added to the exhibition as the summer progresses, in keeping with the Summer Spree theme of Metamorphosis.

Sunday’s wine and cheese reception from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at CAC (414 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford) will also celebrate the art and artists of other exhibitions opening this week and running through July 22.

These include CAC’s Ceramic Associates in the Lounge Gallery, the members of CAC’s mixed media studio in the Stairwell Gallery, paintings by Priscilla Bohlen in the Fay Freedman Gallery, and photography by Shari Sikora on the BeaDazzle Wall.

Receptions and exhibits are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

School’s Out; Summer Reading Books Are In

The Swarthmore Campus and Community Store offers students several inducements to get summer reading off to a good start.

At the Swarthmore bookstore, students can hand-pick the books they want to read, selecting among the options and required reading lists specified by grade for Wallingford-Swarthmore district students, as well as hundreds of general interest books and bestsellers.

From June 23 through July 7, the Swarthmore Campus and Community Store offers 10% off in-stock required reading list books for Swarthmore-Rutledge, Wallingford, and Nether Providence Elementary Schools, Strath Haven Middle School, and Strath Haven High School.

Finally, students score a free ice cream sandwich (one per customer) with purchase of two or more titles. The Campus and Community Store is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (6 p.m. on Sundays) at 4 S. Chester Road in Swarthmore.

Waging War on Mosquitoes, Sustainably

Charlie Devaney (left) of Swarthmore Hardware and Charles Cresson of the Swarthmore Horticultural Society gear up for war on mosquitoes.

Charlie Devaney (left) of Swarthmore Hardware and Charles Cresson of the Swarthmore Horticultural Society gear up for war on mosquitoes.

By Heather Saunders for aFewSteps

With the warm summer weather, mosquitoes are returning to our neighborhoods, taking some of the fun out of summer evenings and time spent outdoors. Horticulturalist and local gardening guru Charles Cresson spoke to aFewSteps about how to control mosquitoes without resorting to chemical insecticides.

According to Cresson, “Mosquitoes in this community are an unnecessary plague,” and the best way to combat that plague is by getting rid of standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs and the larvae mature in standing water — a process that typically takes 10 to 14 days, depending on temperature. Cresson encourages us all to think carefully about where water might be standing in our own gardens — in a stack of flower pots, for example, in a child’s toy that’s been left out in the rain, or in a clogged or sagging gutter that doesn’t drain properly. Some mosquitoes can breed in as little as a thimbleful of water — “that’s the crease in a plastic bag.”

For standing water you can’t get rid of (including bird baths and ornamental ponds), Cresson recommends Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti), a naturally occurring bacteria which kills mosquito larvae but is non-toxic to other organisms in the garden, including children and pets. Bti is available commercially in the form of “mosquito dunks” or “mosquito pellets” which float on the water surface. Swarthmore Hardware carries both dunks and pellets. The proprietor, Charlie Devaney, can answer questions about using Bti in your garden and reports success with simple mosquito traps using the dunks. A single application of mosquito dunks lasts about a month.

While effective against mosquito larvae, Bti has no effect on adult mosquitoes. Keeping gardens weeded and lawns mown helps to deprive adult mosquitoes of shelter. Larger insects, birds, bats, amphibians and some fish all eat mosquitoes, but there are no animals native to our region that rely exclusively or even predominantly on mosquitoes for their diet. Because mosquitoes are weak flyers, a fan operating where people are congregating may be the most effective way to keep them from bugging your party.

Both Cresson and Devaney point out that mosquitoes are a very local problem. According to control-mosquitoes.com, the species typically found in and around our homes and gardens have a limited flight range of about 300 feet. In our area, that’s about the size of two typical properties. As Charles Cresson puts it, “You don’t have to suffer in your backyard, but you might be at your neighbor’s mercy.”

Additional tips for homeowners are available on the following websites are at mosquito.org/control and mosquitoworld.net.

Featured Artist Series to Bring Blockbuster Lineup in 2017-2018

MacArthur fellow and Grammy winner Chris Thile.

MacArthur fellow and Grammy winner Chris Thile.

The Department of Music and Dance at Swarthmore College has launched a new Featured Artists Series, which will bring to campus a diverse array of musical performers in varied genres.

Andrew Hauze, lecturer in music at Swarthmore College, said that beyond the performances that visiting musicians bring the college each year, the Featured Artist program “will give us a chance to develop longer-term relationships with musicians who are not only inspiring artists, but who are also dedicated and gifted teachers who love to share their work with younger musicians.”

For instance, vocalist Janis Siegel, a founding member of Manhattan Transfer, will give master classes on October 24, 2017 and February 11, 2018, a vocal concert on February 11, and will perform with the Swarthmore College Jazz Orchestra on April 8.

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster and violinist David Kim will perform November 12 with the Swarthmore College Orchestra, on April 22 with the Swarthmore College Lab Orchestra, and will conduct a master class on March 8.

The Jasper String Quartet will perform and teach in December and March. Virtuoso tabla player Samir Chatterjee lectures and demonstrates Indian folk music forms in October, then will bring his trio to rehearse with and accompany the Swarthmore Kathak dance class at the spring dance concert in May.

Not part of the series, but eagerly anticipated is a September 23 solo concert by MacArthur fellow and Grammy winner Chris Thile, mandolinist and host of NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” The program and concerts are funded by the Gil and Mary Stott Concert Fund and the Elizabeth Pollard Fetter Fund.

Performances in the series will be open to the entire community at no charge, although reservations are advised for the Chris Thile performance. Information on the College’s musical programs is available at swarthmore.edu/music/concerts-events.

The French Presidential Election: Up Close and Personal

Macron’s field workers try to persuade an angry French voter in a spirited pre-election Parisian scene, captured by Swarthmorean Vivian Corbin.

Macron’s field workers try to persuade an angry French voter in a spirited pre-election Parisian scene, captured by Swarthmorean Vivian Corbin.

By Vivian Corbin

After the shock of the election of a President many consider a threat to democracy, world peace, and the environment, I felt that I had to do my part, however small, to prevent the same thing from happening in France where another Putin favorite, right-wing, anti-EU candidate was gaining in the polls.

The first round of voting had winnowed the original 11 candidates down to 2: Emmanuel Macron, a 39 year-old centrist who had created his own party, En Marche, just a year before, and Marine Le Pen, the longtime leader of the Front National who had supplanted her father, the infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Right away I began buttonholing people on the streets, in cafes, even the gendarmes guarding Paris’s beautiful City Hall, reminding them how critical this vote was and how dangerous a Le Pen victory would be, citing the example of the U.S. presidential election. “Don’t make the same mistake that we did,” I pleaded, linking Le Pen to Trump and Putin.

We caught up with Macron field workers — they loved my Obama campaign buttons that I had pinned to my backpack — then we set to work engaging potential voters. While we found genuine enthusiasm for Macron, especially among younger generations, for many, the desire to block Le Pen was paramount. But there were Ni la peste ni le cholera (neither plague nor cholera) voters who were angry with the current socialist government of Francois Hollande and with Macron as its finance minister.

One very enthusiastic Macron supporter, a Muslim woman in a headscarf, told me she feared for her children and grandchildren under a Le Pen presidency. Her parents originally had come from Algeria, and she, her parents, her children, and their children are all French citizens. “I am French,” she declared proudly.

On election night, May 7, Macron supporters were invited to a meeting at the Louvre. As my husband and I walked up the rue Rivoli, the crowds thickened. Police vans lined the street and heavily armed riot police patrolled the area. Once inside, we found ourselves between the Arc du Carousel and the Pyramid du Louvre. A giant screen had been set up for the occasion.

The result of the election was to be announced at 8 p.m. As the hour approached, tensions mounted and our hearts were palpitating wildly from the suspense that had been building up for days. Then exactly at 8, on the large screen before us: Macron 65,1%; Le Pen 34,9%!  Everyone around us was delirious. Macron gave his first speech as President from his campaign headquarters against the backdrop of the European Union flag, to the sounds of “Ode to Joy,” the anthem of the European Union. Then he joined the crowds at the Louvre where he was greeted with overwhelming joy.

Après le vote

I spoke with voters in the days following the election. In the Latin Quarter, in front of a newspaper kiosk displaying dozens of magazines with photos of the newly elected president on their front covers, I encountered the owner of “Les Fetes Galantes,” a restaurant popular with students from nearby Ecole Polytechnique. “Are you happy with your new president?” I asked. She replied: “Oui. Tres.” (Yes, very much so.) “Because he will do many good things; he is young and he has new ideas.”

At the Cafe de la Mairie in the Saint Germain des Pres quartier, I asked a waiter if he had voted for Macron. Shaking his head no, he said: “J’ai vote blanc.” (To vote blanc is to cast a blank paper ballot.) When I asked why, he replied that he didn’t think any politician would do anything for someone like him. When I pointed out that a “vote blanc” was a vote for Le Pen, two women sitting nearby protested, arguing that to “vote blanc” was a justifiable option.

Then there was the truly anti-Macron individual. While photographing the market on Rue Mouffetard in the Quartier Latin, a man approached to inquire about my camera. He clearly was a professional. When he saw my Obama and Macron buttons, he allowed that he dislikes both because they are against Putin.

“Are you Russian?” I asked. “No, I am Sovietique,” he replied. “Do you like Putin,” I asked. “I support him,” he answered, adding, “I can’t understand why so many countries are against him.” Apparently living in Paris for the past 16 years, the ideals of democracy had not rubbed off on him. I had to ask: “Are you a spy?” Funny, he didn’t reply. Hmm, a professional photographer? Perfect cover!

Despite a few negative and pessimistic encounters, the overwhelming sentiment among those I spoke with, is hope that, with this election, at long last, positive change will come to France. Shouted one youthful voter, “Yes we can!”

The 300: Strath Haven Graduates Are Prepared to Impress and Improve the World

Hats off to the Strath Haven Class of 2017. Photo: Hope Graham/Dagny Lott

Hats off to the Strath Haven Class of 2017. Photo: Hope Graham/Dagny Lott

“Prepare for Glory” is the tagline from the epic 2006 film The 300. That is what a class of exactly 300 new graduates has spent the past four years doing at Strath Haven High School.

SHHS Social Studies teacher Richard Foulk.

SHHS Social Studies teacher Richard Foulk.

On Friday, June 9, SHHS’s seniors and their community gathered for Commencement ceremonies at Neumann College. SHHS Social Studies teacher Richard Foulk, chosen by the class as faculty speaker, challenged the class of 2017 to make history as they collectively reach “the end of the beginning” of their adult lives. “You be that dramatic event. Use what you have learned and capitalize on your talents! You make the history.” Mr. Foulk suggested that the characteristics of this class meet a great need in today’s political climate, “You are a unique group and have wealth of energy, enthusiasm, creativity and talent. You are kind, accepting and tolerant. Through your work I have seen that you have an understanding of world issues and a deep empathy for those around you … The world you are about to enter is polarized, and extremes of opinion and perspective seem to be the norm. You will need to bridge that gap.”

Dr. Mary Jo Yannacone

Dr. Mary Jo Yannacone

Dr. Mary Jo Yannacone noted that the seniors — “the last class to graduate from Strath Haven born in the twentieth century, the first to be raised entirely in the new millennium” — will be among the last of the millennials, a cohort sometimes caricatured as “narcissistic, lazy and entitled.” Strath Haven’s Principal asserted that the selflessness of the 2017 seniors stands that stereotype on its head, “I truly want to thank you for raising the bar at Strath Haven, specifically with regard to school climate and culture. Last spring as you began to plan for your senior year and set goals for yourselves as a class, setting a positive tone and raising school spirit were two areas you clearly expressed as significant and important to you. From that point on to today, you have worked consistently and collaboratively to reach those goals, and you leave Strath Haven a better place as a result.”

Dr. Lisa Palmer

Dr. Lisa Palmer

Dr. Lisa Palmer said that “of course” the class endeared itself to her as the first graduates during her tenure as WSSD Superintendent, but also did so through its achievements and its selflessness. The commitment to serve was epitomized in “the jewel in the crown: your participation in the Relay for Life, which … surpassed the one million dollar fundraising milestone this year! … From an early age, your commitment to service has made you an integral part of the very fiber of your community. And, because of the remarkable example that you have modeled for the students who follow you, you have helped to ensure a legacy of service at Strath Haven High School.”

For their part, student speakers Madeline Beck and Michael Atkins appreciated the advantages that had been afforded them, and contemplated the generosity of spirit and presence of mind that will help them and their peers maximize both their contributions to society and the satisfaction that they realize in their lives. Atkins observed: “We must not forget that throughout our nation, and even quite nearby, there are communities where students cannot follow their passions because there is no thriving art or music program, no plethora of AP classes, not even current lab equipment or textbooks.

Michael Atkins

Michael Atkins

“As graduates of Strath Haven High School, we have benefited from the best that public education has to offer — a well-resourced, compassionate, and caring school and a community that models acceptance and love. But with privilege comes responsibility. Now it is incumbent upon us to pursue careers, passions, and activities that foster principles we can accept as universal truths — equality, not bigotry; empathy, not alienation; and inclusion, not isolation.

Madeline Beck

Madeline Beck

“Take your time,” Madeline Beck advised, recounting an influential piece of advice from her mother to her 9-year-old self, “Class of 2017, I encourage you to stop wishing for what is to come. Whether you like it to or not, time never stops. It never slows down. The amazing opportunities in our future will inevitably come. So pause. Take a deep breath. Look around. See the faces of your loved ones, who have come today to support your walk across this stage, as you receive the diploma that will carry you far beyond this day and the walls of Strath Haven.

“See the faces of your teachers, who have taught you with diligence and passion and gifted you with endless knowledge — the most valuable gift of all. Finally, see the faces of your classmates, who have sculpted you into the incredible person you are today.”

6-16 C-line of kids

Commemorating a Great Ride

The Commemoration theme was Toy Story, a movie franchise that was just launching its first sequel when the Class of 2017 came into the world. In song, dance, verse, shared recollections and personal insights, Strath Haven seniors last Thursday commemorated and commented on their journey together. Families and friends took the back seat for this ride — in this fortunate year, seats in the spacious and serene Scott Amphitheater on the Swarthmore College campus.

6-16 C-2 grils

Under the canopy of ancient tulip and oak trees, seniors spoke with humor and honesty, excitement, relief and perhaps some sadness that their shared ride from SRS, NPE and WES, through SHMS, and across the bridge to the high school was ending. It was a last show of the fellow-feeling of an exceptionally close group, expressed by many of its most thoughtful and talented members.

Twisting Tales and Tails at PCS

Donna Dougherty and Liz Iannacci are the silly duo Sam and Alex in this novel play, Furry Tails with a Twist.

Donna Dougherty and Liz Iannacci are the silly duo Sam and Alex in this novel play, Furry Tails with a Twist.

When two bumbling actors try to present a few beloved fairy tales on stage, the script gets scrambled, the actors get addled, and the audience helps make the production work out with smiles for all.

Furry Tails with a Twist starts the Players Club of Swarthmore’s summer children’s series this weekend with familiarity and hilarity. The Three Little Pigs are in the house, Goldilocks, and the Billy Goats Gruff, but the storytelling is nothing like the versions you remember. Instead, actors Sam and Alex improvise and forget and meander, and it’s up to the young people in the crowd to put the story together again.

Donna Dougherty of Media and Liz Iannacci of Morton are the silly duo Sam and Alex in this novel play by Jennifer Hickok DiFratis, which is directed by Jim Carroll. PCS’s Raymond W. Smith Stage is the perfect showcase, with the audience virtually on stage (and the air conditioning cranked up).

Performances this Saturday, June 17, are at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; Sunday’s show is at 11 a.m. Next weekend, the shows will be at 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $10 for adults (12 and over) and $8 for children (ages 2 and under get in free). Buy at the door starting 30 minutes before showtime, or online at ovationtix.com. Group rates and birthday party packaged are available; contact childrenstheater@pcstheater.org.

The Smith Stage is on the second floor of the playhouse (not handicap accessible) at 614 Fairview Road in Swarthmore.