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Guardbridge, Fife, Paper Mill - - - to Close

 

My take on the economy or lack thereof.

 

My beliefs may not be yours but I think they are worth your time that you hear me out. Something of good may evolve if each and every one of us contributes and passes on whatever he or she thinks is a plus. 

 

I’m so grateful that I was born in Earlsferry and lived my early life in the East Neuk of Fife as it is from there and from my down to earth mother that I learned the thing that I still think is the most important thing that I ever learned; empathy, putting myself into the shoes of another-------the Golden Rule -------Do unto others-----, and that all else comes after that.

 

The pages that I’ve written on my web site have given me fun and no doubt have been of some interest to the people who’ve found my site but I think that the lessons that I learned when I was a youth about life and economics are of far greater value than anything that I’ve written about so far. How East Neuk of Fifers ran their lives and their businesses was vastly different compared to the lifestyles of today.

 

The joint villages of Earlsferry and Elie operated as an economically self sufficient unit. Unlike today with most of the houses having become little used holiday homes, all of the houses were lived in by families on a permanent year around basis. Every one knew every one else on a social basis and the Earlsferry Town Hall was extensively used as the place where all kinds of social events and functions were held.  To cater to the needs of the villagers a great many of the homes were also shops and also the work places of every trade necessary to carry out the needs of the village. There were painters, plumbers, carpenters, weavers, fishermen, farmers, golf club makers, shoemakers, a doctor, a nurse, hairdresser you name it who could be called on to take care of all the needs and problems of the villagers as they arose. In addition to tradesmen, shops of every description sold things such as clothing, footwear, bakeries, groceries, fish, confectionaries, meats, vegetables, newspapers, books and all the things that people find necessary to buy in order to carry on a lifestyle. Goods laden vans from the larger stores in the outlying larger towns came to the villages on a regular basis with their specialty wares. There was virtually no need, except maybe on a once or twice a year basis, for anyone to travel out of the village for anything. A car was a luxury and absolutely was not a necessity.

 

In the village the plumber engaged the services of the carpenter, the carpenter engaged the services of the painter, the painter engaged the services of the stone mason, the stone mason engaged the services of the golf club maker and so on.  Everyone in the village, who wanted to be, was gainfully employed. Most all of the shopkeepers and tradesmen were self employed. It was unthinkable to go out of the village to fulfill a need if there was someone in the village who could provide the service. Someone in another village could possibly do what was needed for less money but to go out of the village just to get a cheaper price was unthinkable. The same went for quality. What was accepted was the best that another in the village whose trade or profession it was to do it, did it. It was unthinkable to go out of the village unit to obtain goods or services that might be of higher quality. Everyone in the village was family. The thinking was that if we all persevered with each other then over time we would become as good as or better than anyone else in doing that which we did. Everyone knew that if we did not utilize the services of each other that a rot would set in and the entire economy of the village would collapse. We would have unemployed people that would have to be provided for and supported. (Ye can gan faur but ye'll fare waur) All helped and cared for each other. Everyone did the best that he could and traded his services on a fair and even basis. The values of all services and prices were relative and interdependent and everyone was gainfully employed. The people were happy. Everyone paid cash up front. No one was in debt and enslaved to a money lender. However the borrowing of money for a sound business enterprise was encouraged knowing that the interest on the loan could be paid on a regular basis and that over time the loan would be paid off. The dogma was never ever borrow money for personal imagined needs or desires. Do not ever become personally indebted and have to pay interest on borrowed money for that reason. Pay cash as you go and if you can’t do that then do without or settle for less. By all means if you have the money and the desire to own a grander home, a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, go for it but if you can’t pay cash at the time of purchase then settle for what you can pay for. Live within your means and always add to your personal wealth by saving a part of your income even if only a tiny amount. Never be dissatisfied with your lot but at the same time try to steadily improve on your situation and life style.

 

The village had a great asset in that  a considerable number of residents were either independently wealthy by inheritance or they had ventured around the world where they had established successful enterprises and amassed considerable fortunes. This brought in “New Money” to the village that augmented the “old” round-robin money. This was what made Earlsferry's economy sustaining and viable.

 

St. Monans is our next door neighboring village to the east. The economy of St. Monans was somewhat different to that of Earlsferry and Elie but not entirely. The St. Monans people took business to another level. Whereas the people of Earlsferry worked pretty much as self employed individuals who traded their goods and services on a one to one basis with each other, St. Monans people utilized the natural resource of the sea as a means of generating wealth. Boats were built to sail upon the sea and fishermen who were hardy and brave enough to stand up to the rigors of foul weather went out in these boats to reap the harvest of fish that were prolific and were there for the catching in both the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. Fishing required that several men work together as a crew in what today we would call a business unit. The fortunes of the crew and the owner of the boat were dependant on the success of each fishing trip. Because the money that fishermen made was very hard to come by the fishermen were by nature not frivolous spenders. Quite the contrary, they were frugal and saved their money. When a fisherman died, hopefully from natural causes, it was quite common for the widow to take their lifelong savings and invest it in the building of a new boat. She then arranged for a skipper to buy all of the nets and working gear, provision the boat and obtain another 5 or 6 men for the working crew. Each member of the crew was an independent contractor of his services. The word employee was not in the vocabulary of the St. Monans fishing industry. There was no such thing as wages. All concerned with the venture worked on a share of the profit basis including the skipper. The profit was the amount of money that was left over after all operating expenses had been paid including money set aside for accumulated maintenance expense. All business could benefit by studying the model of the St. Monans fishing industry. The participants knew exactly why they were a member of the crew. First and foremost was the responsibility of the crew to do their best to make sure that the owner of the boat would be adequately compensated for risking the money to fund the enterprise. The operation ran lean. There never would be any possibility or reason to downsize as every participant in the venture was a vital link in the operating chain. Every activity was directly pertinent to the end result. Fishermen knew the consequences of the failure of any link of the chain. Every participant was the expert as to what his job was. Although the skipper had overall responsibility for the success of the venture every participant was responsible to do what was necessary at the moment in time that a situation occurred. There were no such things as orders from another to do anything. Everyone knew his part in the game play and it was up to him to perform without having to be told to do so by another. Direct face to face communication was at all times vital and was done when needed. Such a thing as a notice of a meeting was ludicrous. An overhead slide projector would be the ultimate useless piece of equipment, whether at sea or on shore. Each person was responsible for his actions. If a rogue wave appeared from nowhere there was no time to call for a meeting to discuss what should be done. There were several words in the fishing business that were not in the fishermen’s language. The words employee, manager and mistake were not in his vocabulary and did not exist. Every participant in the venture was responsible to manage himself in performing his segment of the operation. He did his best and if the outcome of any one’s decision was less than beneficial, what happened was not a mistake but a very valuable strengthening and learning experience. The creed of the fisherman is there is no substitute for experience and adversity makes for wisdom and ability to better handle the next situation. Whatever is done at the moment in time that it is done is deemed to be the right thing to do, no matter what may be the outcome.

 

The sea and the land are closely linked. I used to wonder why there was always a cloud of seagulls that followed the St. Monans fishing boats as the returning boats got close to their own home harbor. From this observation I learned a very valuable lesson. The fishermen were feeding their own local seagulls the entrails of the fish that they had been gutting when they were further out at sea. The fishermen could have dumped this fish offal overboard when they were far out to sea but they  saved the entrails of the fish to feed to their own local seagulls. These same gulls frequented the local farmer’s fields and kept field pests under control thereby contributing to the success of the local farmers and the general well being of the local economy. The scraps of fish that the seagulls missed sifted down to the bottom to sustain the inshore stocks of crabs and lobsters that ended up on our dinner tables. From this I heard and remember the local adage, “Ye  gie yer ain fish guts tae yer ain sea maws.(seagulls)” Charity begins at home. These St. Monans people certainly had down to earth common sense.  What I was observing was the "Trickle Down" factor from the prime creators of the wealth. 

 

Today we are informed that after 135 years of being in the business of making paper, which provided employment for the locals, the Guardbridge Paper Mill is shutting down. Does that mean that the demand for paper has diminished or is the need for paper still there but the plant is being shut down  because paper can be imported for less money than it costs to make it? Whatever the reason for the closing of the Mill the economic effect in the area by the loss of jobs will be considerable. 

  

When the Guardbridge Paper Mill was operating and raw material was converted into pulp, then paper, wealth was  created.  Guardbridge did it's share of helping to keep the money chests of the nation filled for the consumers of the wealth to dip into.  With the Guardbridge Paper Mill now closing that's one less source of revenue to pay the salaries of the nation's essential but non wealth creating, service job individuals.

 

From flying overhead at 40,000 feet it would be easy for a farmer to look down at his land and see beautiful green fields and from that observation conclude that all is well on the farm. The green that is perceived from a distance and from on high as lush crops on close inspection from ground level can well be green thistles and weeds. I remember a conversation that I had with a St. Monans farmer when he said to me, “there is no substitute for walking the fields and seeing up close, just what it is that appears to be green.” The same is true for C E O’s of large corporations who look down from  penthouse suites and ivory towers and conclude that because the sun is shining and those around them are smiling that all is well. To feel the true pulse of an operation the CEO like the farmer, must walk the "factory floor," to converse  with and listen to the thinking of every one of the ventures participants.

 

Global thinking and concern is good but as we practice it today we have definitely put the cart before the horse.  Global thinking makes no sense if you haven't thought out the long term consequences for your economy.  To say that we are now “Global thinking people,” on the surface sounds very noble and grand, but it absolutely is a rubbish concept. Our idea of global and so called free market thinking today is no more than a way for greedy importers to make high profit regardless of the consequences for the people at large, our children, our grandchildren and the entire nation. 

Why do we tax ourselves and forsake and sacrifice our own American workers, knowing full well that by giving aid in terms of both money and machinery to foreign countries  that these countries then can and will undercut us in price when our own workers are standing idle, in rags, on street corners with holes in the soles of their shoes.? Absolute madness. It's certainly not because American workers don't know how to make things and make them efficiently. The damage has been done.  No matter how hard we now wish to buy products that are made in the USA we can't as there are few that are being made in the USA any more. We now face dire consequences as we are ending up with just about everything in the country that was invented and thought up by American brainpower being produced in places other than the US. It will take more than Heaven to help us now that "Made in the USA" in nothing but a nostalgic memory of the elderly.

Try telling someone who can't find work that we are a global nation when the entire factory where he once worked has been shipped overseas. Maybe a hundred years from now this process of global thinking and global oneness may come about but I very much doubt it. On the path that we are on the American worker is being crucified. 

 

Now our grand children are inheriting what we have brought about.

 

To neglect and  abandon our own nation’s family of working class people is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. We need selfless and thinking leadership and we need it now. Fast buck for a few mentality has got to stop.

 

We can only compete and be successful on a global basis if every country is playing by the same rules, has comparable humanitarian and environmental standards and has the same wage scales which is many, many years away from happening. To allow goods to indiscriminately enter our country from countries where the wage scales are pennies an hour when our country's economy is based on  dollars an hour (or pounds as the case may be) is ludicrous.  This can only have the effect of bringing about the demise of the manufacturing industries within the country and the idling of the workers, the creators of the nation's wealth.  Those within the USA are "family" and all are part of an inter dependant economic unit.

 

The closing down of our manufacturing plants and the auctioning off of the machinery and the equipment which is happening one by one in all of our industries is our self destruction. Lower spiraling downwards standards of living for everyone and especially the retired who are on fixed incomes has to be our ultimate fate. The wealth of our nation is the measure of our ability to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before and today we have caused our "fields" to be laying fallow. 

 

At best, with little manufacturing going on, most displaced, skilled workers can only find low paying service jobs that do not create tangible wealth.  We have to do better than be a nation of shopkeepers and service providers.  I’ve talked to several of those with holes in their shoes who stand on street corners with cardboard signs around their necks begging for help. These men and women were not bums. At one time, before the demise of their jobs thru no fault of their own, every one that I’ve talked to was a well paid wealth creating person. We're in this thing together. Every man for himself (which some in the USA call "economic freedom") is a guaranteed recipe for the eventual collapse of the nation.

A country can’t last for long when the economy is based on service jobs and non wealth creating services. The producers of the wealth, what few are left, must make enough to be able to live and pay taxes sufficient to provide pay envelopes for the millions of the non producers, the nations military and the monetary needs of all the numerous money consuming programs we have voted into law. 

 

Does it make sense to borrow money from foreign countries to pay for these needs and accumulate an ever  higher and astronomical national debt?  The wealth of a nation can only be achieved by creating tangible wealth by adding value to raw materials that are manufactured and produced within the country by the working local residents. There's no other or better way. As value is added to raw materials at all the different levels of manufacture, taxes can and should be levied at the time of value increase and not on the individuals who are creating the wealth. It also doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that if jobs are created within your own country to manufacture shirts, shoes and widgets that those making the shirt, shoes and widgets would also have the wherewithal to buy them. We should be making the wealth, sharing the wealth and all of us consuming the wealth---not just a few.

 

Outsourcing and trade agreements such as the North America Free (one sided) Trade Agreement have sounded the death knell of the USA as to the USA being a country of wealth creating manufacturing enterprises. Today the oceans of the world are jammed with enormous container ships that are loaded with foreign made goods that will be unloaded onto the docks of the USA. Very little is going in the other direction. The bell is tolling but it doesn't seem like anyone is getting the message.  

 

The horrific predictions and dire warnings of the astute business man Ross Perot fell on deaf ears.

 

How can our duly elected government leaders  and our corporate executives really believe that it makes sense and that it’s good for the well being of the nation to have critical component parts of products and indeed entire products manufactured in far away places abroad rather than by our own ingenious and skilled, capable and competent individuals at or close to home? The same unemployed workers who have been idled through no fault of theirs and have been denied the chance to become employed and earn a paycheck are the ones who are expected to be able to buy imported goods. That does not add up. Essentials like shoes and clothes are a good example. The money generated by the manufacture of components and products  is a critical part of any nations economy and the country can only be the poorer by outsourcing when manufacture at home would have provided local employment, payroll and yes, taxes. 

 

Problems of communication, quality, delivery on time and cost, increase in direct relationship to the distance from the home plant to the place of component procurement.

 

It boggles my mind to think of the amount of money that must be being spent by having to send expediters and trouble shooters all around to world to try to solve the enormous number of manufacturing problems that must exist as a result of outsourcing.  I'm told that I have it all wrong.  Long distance and overseas, tax deductible, jaunts are now corporate perks.  

 

As to product integrity and quality, how can we ever be sure that we are getting what we are supposed to be getting when Quality Control and Quality Assurance are out of our control? 

 

A theory of manufacturing that is not for everyone is the concept of “Just in Time” manufacturing. I think that brainwave was the dream of some non-visionist who couldn't see the wood for the trees. It’s virtually impossible and very expensive to operate a money making manufacturing plant without inventory. Inventory you pay for once then keep rotating it until the final batch is sold. The only way to go is to have min/max bin levels of every component right down to the smallest washer. Component parts can then be ordered in “economic order quantity” which is what automation and mass production, low cost, high quality, stream lined manufacturing in the United States is/was all about. The actual and usually unaccounted for cost of making or using components on a hand to mouth, low volume basis to satisfy “just in time” thinking is horrendous not to mention driving the on-the- shop-floor, manufacturing people crazy. I'm convinced that "Just in time" was thought up by our overseas competitors who counted on our gullibility as they planned our manufacturing  demise. 

 

Around the USA, dejected but skilled, more dead than alive, capable and well educated workers are standing on street corners with “Will work for food” cardboard signs around their necks. These down and out beggars are not this by choice. This is The United States of America I’m talking about, not a third world country. No doubt the families of these disillusioned people are shabbily dressed, their children are hungry, their homes, if they still have them, need paint and at best they’re driving an old beat up car while others around the globe are living in "fat city" and are laughing at our stupidity, our greed and our incompetence.

 

The other day the tax payers of the nation received checks from the Federal government to spend in order to stimulate the nation’s economy. I decided to use the money that I was allocated ($600) to have a suspected tooth cavity filled. The dentist’s bill took all of this check plus additional money. As I went out of the dentist’s door the first thing I saw was an almost new foreign car. When we buy these foreign made products it’s a safe bet that most all of the governments stimulus money will immediately be transferred overseas to enrich the economy of some other nation and the downward spiral chain reaction in the home country speeds up.

 

To begin with foreign suppliers of nick knacks use the money they have earned to buy  large, made in the USA, machines such as bulldozers that they didn't know how or have the capability to make but it's only a few years before they master these crafts too and such purchases from the USA then cease. Our bulldozer factories then shrink and if we want a bulldozer there may be no place in this country to get one.

 

Outsourcing, global and world wide “equal opportunity” are unwise concepts and it should be a very rare occasion that manufacturing at home and the filling of a job by promotion from within or locally is not done. There are more willing and able smart individuals right under our noses than there are in far away places.

 

From the global standpoint of manufacturing  we have politically stacked the deck against ourselves. Once a manufacturing plant is shut down and the equipment and the skilled people with their specialty know-how are scattered to the four winds and foreign manufacturers with their cheap labor scale workers have filled the vacuum we've created with our so called policy of free trade, it's well nigh impossible to get back into the market. Once the word is out that you no longer are a manufacturing nation, the price of all commodities rises to astronomical numbers and inflation sets in big time as money loses all of its value. Saving for a rainy day has become a waste of time as we are now in a downpour.

 

I remember when an excellent steak dinner with all the trimmings could be bought for 1 or 2 dollars and  a high quality automobile such as a full size, top-of-the-line, Ford family station wagon, complete with V-8 engine, automatic transmission, radio, etc., etc., etc, was priced at 1700 dollars. Now it's not  uncommon to see  for sale auto ads that offer 13,000 dollars in so called discounts. Yes, today, 10-21-16, on television was a car ad. where the price of the car is $16,000 below the MSRP.  How long will it be before cars are so ridiculously priced that farcical discounts of twenty or thirty thousand dollars are the norm? These inflationary practices are spreading to all commodities and are wiping out the purchasing power of the retired who are on fixes incomes and who thought they had diligently saved enough for the years that they no longer are part of the work force. Savings for retirement get wiped out as all prices escalate. 

 

I’m all for the methodology of doing everything for ourselves that we possibly can with a parent company being at the center of totally owned but stand alone subsidiary mini businesses.

Just imagine the number of jobs and payroll that would be created if just one item such as shoes that are sold in America were also soled in America.

 

With the country in the state that it's in there is absolutely no justification or sense in us shipping our money out of the country by buying foreign made goods of any kind from countries that have vastly different wage scales and economies when our family, friends and local citizenry are available and want to work. Also in every organization there are certain jobs that can be done extremely well by the disabled and the handicapped and these jobs must be identified and reserved to give them employment.

 

Lee Iacocca rightfully asks, "Where have all the leaders gone?"

 

It’s very strange that "We the people" of the United States, for the common good of the nation, choose to tax ourselves so we can spend billions to fund wars, billions to build our atomic powered subs and aircraft carriers, billions to build our lethal aircraft and rockets that can deliver our weapons of mass destruction, billions to give aid to foreign countries, billions to send our space ships to the moon, billions to build and operate our jails and our enormous penitentiaries, billions to bail out losers, etc. etc. etc. yet we who contribute the money to fund our common good programs choose not to include  ourselves when it comes to our funding for the dental and health care of the nation. How can we believe that foreign aid, space ships, nuclear weapons of mass destruction, atomic powered subs and aircraft carriers, penitentiaries, etc. etc. etc., the list goes on and on, are different and more important than the health of our children and ourselves?  Strange priorities. Guns before butter is just plain ludicrous.  With the cost of everything at an all time high it's impossible for wage earners who have homes and families to take care of and who have to work for minimum wages to have any money left over, after paying on a mortgage and paying taxes, to pay a dentist's bill to have even one cavity filled far less pay to have their children's teeth taken care of. Prevention is better than cure and the good health of all Americans is the wealth of the nation.  Why do we,  of all the general fund tax programs that we choose to fund, single out health to require individual funding when we don't with all the other programs for which we tax ourselves?  What is affordable and a pittance to some can be completely out of reach to others.

 

Some say, well just raise the minimum wage but when this is done  all that is done is that the price of  every commodity takes another disastrous upward spiral as the price of everything increases. In order for higher wages to be paid for the same output it now takes considerably more money to make a modest profit in order to stay in business as is required by keystone pricing. For the seller to stay in business the hourly worker and all other consumers must now pay higher prices to buy the same item. The only thing that is accomplished by raising the minimum wage is that goods and services have to be priced higher in order to pay higher wages.

 

Once again the hourly workers find out that they are poorer even though they may now be in a higher tax bracket and those who are on fixed retirement incomes take a beating as the purchasing power of the dollar decreases.

 

The only way to stabilize the purchasing power of the dollar is to rein in selling prices.

 

 It is always the unfortunate who can't afford to pay who have the greatest need. We will always have children who are born with incredible vigor and heath and we will always have children who are born with lifetime disabilities. The roll of the dice, the fickle finger of fate, There but for the grace of God go I.  We are supposed to be a civilized country and like the immigrants who first came to this country, worked together and built their stockades for their common good, we are in this thing together. Greed, selfishness, survival of the fittest, what's mine is mine and every man for himself thinking is below the dignity of the great and enlightened nations of the world. To quote Woodrow Wilson, "A nation is as great and only as great as the rank and file."  There is such a thing as doing what is right. When people with integrity work together they stand taller, the world moves forward and the other peoples of the world are encouraged by such leadership, empathy and example.  

 

A country is like a giant ship, only larger. Each and every member of the crew has to do his job and he can't do it if he isn't healthy. Nor can he do it if he is worrying that he can't pay for his health care and the health care of his family and that he and his family will just have to tough it out and do without. Every member of the crew being in good health is the key to the success of a ship in performing its mission.

 

The problem with our Ship of State is that we have a captain who has on board (because of antiquated tradition) two separate crews who very often don't get along, a blue crew who maintain that the way forward is to the west and a red crew who maintain that the way forward is to the east with the result that our Ship of State goes nowhere or at best that it becomes a tug-of-war as each crew tries to outdo and circumvent the other.  What a frustrating waste of energy.

 

Just imagine what would be the outcome if the Captain of the USS Enterprise had to command his ship with two such crews.

 

Now a word from the captain of "The Torrin",  "A good ship is a happy and an efficient ship.  You can't have one without the other."

 

Our primary problem is that the wealth consuming jobs are outnumbering the jobs that create wealth. This is the trend that must be reversed..

 

 

If I were president of the USA I would raise the money to run the nation by implementing a value added tax. To get the country back on track, my next order of business would be to set policies in place that would  make us one cohesive nation instead of as we are now, split into so called Democrat and Republican camps with greed, infighting and squabbling being the norm. Regardless of our monikers we all need to be pushing the wagon in the same direction.

 

Outsourcing and indiscriminate so-called free trade would be the exception and not the rule. Our giant container ships that jam the oceans of the world would be cut up for scrap and the steel that was used to build then would be remade into steel to rebuild job creating factories in the USA. A scary bit of knowledge is that the Panama Canal is being  reconfigured to accommodate even larger and faster container ships and you can bet everything that is in these enormous containers could have been made in the USA.

 

The health of the people in the nation is the wealth of the nation and our pursuit of happiness should be brought about by making  dental and health care for every citizen of the United States a birth right and our number one priority. Equal for all, which includes our government paid officials. Paperless and paid for from our USA, citizen funded Common Good, IRS collected, tax fund. The same place that we get the money to build and operate our subs and our aircraft carriers, --- from "We the people"---. Just a case of funding priority.

 

No capital gains tax. 

 

100% depreciation fast write off for plant and machinery.

 

No inheritance tax.

 

Taxation would apply only to our working years, that is no taxation of those under 20 and those over 70. 

 

After 70 the retired would be free to put the money that they have saved back into circulation by spending the money that is locked up in their life long savings IRA Individual Retirement Accounts such that the elderly who have done their fair share would  not be taxed right to the day of their deaths, nor would the beneficiaries of their remaining funds -----if there is anything left.

 

Today, for the lack of a sound plan, we have many unemployed, disillusioned people who are unhealthy, down and out and in many cases homeless and hungry who are becoming desperate and violent. We better get our act together and get it fast. Desperation does breed theft, lawlessness, violence  and mass criminal misbehavior. Employed people who have money in their pockets and are healthy and happy, see a bright future and achieve the impossible.

  

Rule number One,  The health and happiness of the people of any nation, both physical and mental, is the rock foundation and the measure of the wealth of that nation.  

 

This must have been my soap box day.   Where was  I ? Guardbridge.

 

What a world it would be if every country in the world would collectively beat their "swords into plowshares" and make Health Care for each and every one of each nations citizens the number one use of their common good general funds. Far out thought but everything worth while started out as an impossible dream.

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We have one enormous task before us. God give the us the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing.