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Odds and ends about anniversaries.

I got a phone call from a reader the other day. "I love how you have redesigned the newspaper," he said. "Your front page is so retro."

We haven't really redesigned the paper, but the front page should look retro. One way that we're marking our 50th anniversary year is by recycling the flags--or what some call the newspaper's nameplate--from past years. The flag on this issue is the second iteration of the NCR flag, which ran from 1972 through 1975. We'll be using it for a few more weeks and then switch to the third iteration.

Another way we're marking our 50th anniversary is with a series of profiles of some of our original readers. Seattle freelance writer Julie Gunter is writing those each issue of the anniversary year. The profile in this issue is on Page 13.

The day I am writing this note is the 88th anniversary of the beginning of the first transatlantic commercial telephone service between New York and London. I learned that listening to the radio as I drove to work. I probably wouldn't have given that particular anniversary a second thought, except as I was driving I was also thinking about the first item on my agenda for the day: a Skype call scheduled with NCR Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee and NCR contributor N.J. Viehland in Manila, the Philippines. Sitting on three continents with 16 time zones separating us, McElwee, Viehland and I chatted--with the aid of Web cameras and high-speed Internet connections--about coverage of the upcoming papal trip to the Philippines as if we were in the same room.

With cellphones now ubiquitous, it's easy to forget how very recently ordinary telephone service was just short of miraculous. When my brother first went to Africa as a missionary with the Society of the Precious Blood more than 25 years ago, he had to schedule a week in advance an appointment to make a five-minute call home to our folks. This Christmas, he exchanged greetings and photos with the family via text messaging.

One would hope that with better communication technologies, we humans would become better communicators, but that is a still unmet goal.

The radio this morning also told me that this is the 60th anniversary of Marian Anderson's debut with the New York Metropolitan Opera. Her debut. By then the African-American contralto had been singing professionally for 30 years and was a headliner across Europe.

Remember that in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution had refused to allow Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership in the group in protest and sponsored Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial. I thought of Marian Anderson as I read Bishop Edward Braxton's very personal reflection on racism (Page 17) and Catholic scholars' discussions of racism and police violence (Pages 1 and 30).

Too many of us--and by us I mean those of us who live comfortably in privilege--too easily forget that the racist snubbing of Anderson is recent, not ancient, history. Such forgetfulness amounts to a kind of societal amnesia that thwarts justice and healing. The words Braxton quotes from the late auxiliary bishop of Newark, N.J., ring in my ears. Asked why there were so few African-American Catholics, Bishop Joseph Francis replied, "If you had seen and heard what I have seen and heard, you would not be amazed that there are so few, you would be amazed that there are so many"

My prayer is that we will have the courage of School Sister of Notre Dame Cathy Arata (Page 1), who has witnessed the trauma of war in El Salvador and South Sudan: "What I saw ... was how pervasive evil can be. But also how strong good is.... Not that God needs us, but our prayer prepares us for God's action."
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S NOTE
Author:Coday, Dennis
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 16, 2015
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