Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

Commentator

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.

For weeks, I slogged my way through the almost seven hundred page American Ulysses: A life of Ulysses S. Grant, one of the two recent big biographies of our 18th president, of whom I knew embarrassingly little.

For the past two decades, one of the highlights for kindergarten through third grade kids at the Plainfield, New Hampshire elementary school – and one of the biggest banes of some parents – is a research assignment called Project Sleuth.

For kindergartners it starts out relatively simple and easy: they research themselves, reporting on their heights, weights, favorite foods, and past-times.

It was a warm April afternoon in nineteen ninety nine when I first heard about the Columbine massacre in which two Columbine shooters killed thirteen before taking their own lives. I was about to teach a yoga class and my yoga training hadn’t prepared me for how to respond to an event like this. So my students and I simply sat on our mats and talked.

In nineteen eighty nine, after living in Washington State, Ohio, Virginia, and Connecticut, I moved to New Hampshire to attend college.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

Just as my family departed for our annual camping vacation on Cape Cod, we learned that wreckage of the World War Two era US Warship Indianapolis had finally been found.

According to the New York Times, New Hampshire, where I live, is second only to West Virginia for the highest per capita rate of deaths from opioid addiction.

My state representative Lee Oxenham recently asked me to sign a petition calling on the town select board to commit to the goals of the Paris Climate Accords. I gave it a quick look.

I’ve done a little time traveling, courtesy of The New York Times. The paper recently crunched age and diversity data from the US Census Bureau, combined the result with population projections, and compared 3,000 counties with the country as a whole, over time.

This past weekend we celebrated Memorial Day to honor fallen servicemen and women. I myself am daughter of a decorated Vietnam veteran, and while I don’t attend parades, I do pause and reflect on the price our service members pay to preserve our freedoms.

When my son and daughter look at their baby albums, they see pictures of themselves bundled in blankets alongside other mementos that most kids don’t have – like electrodes that attached to their chests and lead wires connecting them to computers that measured every heart beat and breath for weeks, and tubes used to feed them.

My town school teaches the basics well, but it doesn’t have a lot of extras. Plainfield Elementary School’s gym doubles as an auditorium. Thanks to money raised privately, we’ll finally get a new playground this summer to replace one that’s thirty years old and falling apart.

According to poll data published recently by The New York Times, Vermonters worry and talk about climate change more than the rest of the country. The Times even published a series of maps showing how people in different regions view climate change.

Almost a century ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Carrie Buck’s mother had been institutionalized for what was then called feeblemindedness.

Like millions of kids nationwide, my seven-year-old son glues his ear to the nearest speaker whenever he hears the soundtrack of the Broadway hip-hop smash hit Hamilton.

My 11-year-old daughter, disenchanted with American politics, wants to ditch her New Hampshire home and move to Sweden.

Many towns – including mine - use schools as polling places because they’re handicapped-accessible and have ample parking. But this year, over-heated campaign rhetoric, with repeated assertions that the election is rigged, and fears that so-called “Second Amendment people” may take action if they don’t like the outcome, has put some schools on heightened alert.

Like many parents, I’ve struggled to find age-appropriate ways to talk to my children about election news. My kids are aware that there have been comments made about minority groups, the handicapped, veterans, and families of veterans. They’ve also seen yard signs in town with prison bars superimposed over a candidate’s face.

One memorable moment during the Democratic National Convention seemed to me to have all the elements of a classic New England joke – you know, the kind where a farmer, a flatlander and maybe a chicken encounter one another by the side of the road?

Mr. and Mrs. Khan, both Pakistani Muslim immigrants - stood side by side at the podium at the Democratic Convention last week. As with many immigrants, the Khans came to America empty handed, but Mr. Khan said they were “blessed to raise three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.”

New Hampshire democratic representative Annie McLane Kuster said in a speech on the floor of the U.S. House last week that she’d been assaulted three times as a young woman, including once 40 years ago “on a cold winter night at a prestigious college campus.”

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