The events in Charleston, South Carolina a few weeks ago brought back a flood of memories about the South and how it has changed so much in the past 50 years. Yes the South, and all of us in the North as well, have a ways to travel in improving the relationship between races and although the events in Charleston were horrific, the grace and forgiveness of members of the Mother Emanuel Church will go a long way to improve relations and move us forward a bit more.

One subtopic that has been in the news is the debate yet again about flying the Confederate Flag. My views on the subject are bit more nuanced then most. Although I never lived for any length in the south, except for a stent in the military at Fort Benning Georgia, I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and all my relatives are from the south.

In July of 2015 the Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations hosted Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

While in Des Moines the Ambassador renewed an old friendship with Ambassador Ken Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, met with the editorial staff of the Des Moines Register and met with professors and senior staff of Drake University. In addition he spoke to a full house of our members and members of Drake’s international affairs programs.

His main objective in coming to Des Moines was to speak with possible caucus goers and give them some insight into US foreign policy, past, present and possibly future so that, on both sides of the aisle Iowans would be prepared to ask relevant and in depth questions of presidential candidates.

In 1938 the Council On Foreign Relations, possibly the most prestigious “think tank” in America was very concerned about the isolationist attitudes of many Americans as well as our elected officials. The depression was with us and many still remembered how much blood and treasure America had lost in World War I, which had ended only 19 years before. The general conscious was that two great oceans separated us from the vagaries of the rest of the world and why would we want to become involved in additional crises?

My party affiliation has changed a bit over the years. From college in the late 60s until the mid 80s I was a registered Republican. Since then I have been registered as a Democrat but have occasionally voted for Republicans.

As Iowans enter the caucus season we will be hearing many opinions regarding US foreign policy.

At the head of the list of issues will undoubtedly be comments regarding what we should do about the Islamic State In Iraq better known as ISIS or ISIL.

The most important observation I can make is that the more a person, including the candidates, understands the 1,000 year history of the Middle East the better they will be at offering solutions. The second most important issue is to understand the various religions in their historical context.

While most white Americans believe America is a great country founded on democratic principles, has a culture whereby citizens can move up in society, and where most people are free to go about their daily lives, the African American or black community has a different picture of the situation.

When a black person thinks about their heritage, in many cases it goes back four or five generations to relatives who were slaves. After the generation that escaped slavery the history of the average black family usually turned toward tenant farming or some kind of menial labor. If lucky, in their families history is the first doctor, lawyer, small businessman or preacher.

In almost all cases, from the Civil War until the 60s,the average black family was discriminated against on a daily basis. Although that period was much better then the years of slavery, times were still very tough. Where you lived, where you went to school, who employed you, where you shopped, and in general how you were treated in society was very much controlled by the larger and sometimes racist white community. That is a legacy difficult to get past.

As I watch the current presidential campaign unfold, and I listen to candidates and also some of the pundits, it seems many are very cynical, irritated, and just plain nasty.

The biggest angry attitude is toward immigration, and its many components. In Iowa we have gone from a welcoming state from the Governor Bob Ray years all the way down to where at least one pundit has suggested reverting to enslavement as a solution. My what a fall we have witnessed.

1) Kinder Politics. If all politicians would tone down their rhetoric and have empathy for others who disagree with them the country would be better off and we would get more things done. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every candidate on one side of the isle said just one thing nice about a candidate on the other side?

2) Respect Science. Whether it is global warming, childhood vaccinations, Nuclear Agreements or anything else, if a majority of the scientific community says a certain thing is a certain way, it probably is.

3) Quit Bashing Bureaucrats. They are Americans as well most do a good job. In my personal experience this past year, I have found the folks at the Social Security office, the doctors at the VA and the people behind the counter at the motor vehicle office all helpful.