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Dallas’ own Bishop Kevin Farrell now has a blog!  :D

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Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan recently spoke to the Catholic News Agency about challenges facing the Church in the U.S.

Notice what is the first challenge he mentions:  instability of marriage and family.

“That’s where we have the real vocation crisis,” he remarked, noting that “only 50% of our Catholic young people are getting married.”

“We have a vocation crisis to life-long, life-giving, loving, faithful marriage.  If we take care of that one, we’ll have all the priests and nuns we need for the church,” Dolan said.

I just want to say thank you and amen for shining a spotlight on the crisis of marriage in the Church and noting the relationship between the vocation to marriage and religious vocations.

I’m not sure where that 50% statistic comes from or who it includes.  I’m sure some of that 50% are entirely rejecting the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage, and family in favor of the secular world’s Unholy Trinity of fornication, cohabitation, and artificial contraception.  Some have probably been traumatized by their parents’ divorces and see marriage as something doomed to painful, life-shattering failure.  Some are probably just too immature to think about things like commitment and responsibility.  Some my age have already been married and divorced.

And then a small number of them are probably people like me: faithful Catholics who honor the holy vocation to marriage and indeed desire more than anything to fulfill it–but find it nearly impossible to meet eligible people who would make suitable spouses.  That is, people who actually share our values and beliefs.

In any case, the state of marriage and family within the Catholic Church is pretty much as messed up as in the secular world.  And our bishops and priests don’t talk about it nearly enough.  We need a major wake-up call.  Without strong marriages and families, we’re soon going to be lacking more than religious vocations.  We’re going to be lacking Catholics, period.

On a somewhat related note, I’m very close to signing on with Ave Maria Singles.  It seems to be the best hope for unmarried Catholics who are actually faithful to the Church and actually want to get married and raise faithful Catholic families.  The more I think about it and hear about it, the more I am drawn to it.

What is the very first step to winning any war?  Is it not simply to know that you are war?

Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, knows it and doesn’t hesitate to say it.  In April, he made it the theme of his address to the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention:

We are at war.
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors – members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).

But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.

He is refreshingly frank about what it means and what it costs to wage this war:

What will happen to us if we take up this war in faithfulness?
Do you really want to know? You will be hated by some powerful people. You may be rejected by those whose approval you most desire. You will be loved and supported by some and this will be a wonderful encouragement. You will be misunderstood by many – and this can be very painful. After you have suffered a little in your battle, some will tell you that you have done nothing – or that you have done it the wrong way.

Yes, if you push – others will “push back.” We should always be very careful to obey the law. But, regardless, some will threaten you with legal action, and law suits cost money and you may suffer that difficult hardship. In the end, dear friends, if we err let it be on the side of life. Life! 4000 human lives a day!

What if I suffer greatly trying to change this tragic trajectory – through prayerful, legal, peaceful means? It is in God’s hands, and you and I are warriors for the victory of life. The stakes in terms of human life are high. The stakes in terms of human souls are even higher.

Fortunately, he also gives very practical and encouraging advice on how to survive:

How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?
First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle. I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle. We must live – no longer ourselves – but Christ in us. Be always in the state of grace.

Pray. Be a prayer warrior. One modern day saint said when you are going out to try to change someone’s heart determine to make your effort 80 % prayer and 20% words or actions. Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you. Pray that you will be a warrior of faithfulness and love and mercy. Remember that God often chooses the foolish to shame those who are clever.

Use the symbols and instruments of our devotion. Arm yourself with the rosary. Protect yourself with the scapular or a blessed medal. Ask for a blessing as a sign of unity in the Church in what we do: unity with the Holy Father, with your bishop, with your pastor. What I am supposed to do as bishop (teach and lead, and sanctify) I must, in turn, delegate in proper measure to my pastors. They, in turn, need you as soldiers.

Don’t worry very much about numbers. If you read the accounts of the Old Testament battles, over and over again God used a tiny misfit army to overthrow a legion 1000 times its size. In this way it is so much clearer that God is fighting the battle. We are only His instruments.

I especially like this last point about numbers. And the part about God using the foolish to shame the clever. That inspires a bit more confidence in me! ;)

Bishop Finn took up this emphasis on warfare again in responding to Debacle Day.  From an interview with The Catholic Key:

As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration.

But we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a “wait and see” approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas. I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.

The Catholic Key Blog, by the way, is probably the best source for keeping up with this extremely active and  outspoken bishop, as well as other news and commentary.

He is definitely a man to watch!  God bless him!

From Bishop Emmanuel de Gibergues, Keep it Simple.  I am not sure when Bishop de Gibergues lived, but I think these words are extremely relevant today, not only for individual Catholics but for our Catholic, or formerly-Catholic, universities and institutions:

Make Jesus the beginning, the center, and the end of all things. May His name always be for you first and last, your alpha and omega. May Jesus have the first place, the place of honor, the royal place, in your heart.

In the world, we see silly, frivolous people, vain, material creatures, who think only of the world’s opinion. This thought absorbs and guides them; they are possessed, hypnotized, by it.  On rising, while dressing, when at table, at home or abroad, in their thoughts, words, or actions, always and everywhere, they ask themselves, “What will the world say?” For them, the world is a real and perpetual presence, an ever-watchful eye, by which they are governed, conquered, and enslaved. May Jesus be to you what the world is to them, and may your whole life be inspired by the desire to please Him.

Today the world expels Jesus from its midst. Today men cry as did those before them, “We will not have Him to reign over us; take Him away and crucify Him!” “The nations have trembled,” says the psalmist. “All the powers of the earth have gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.” It is a conspiracy that savors of madness; they would abolish the very name of God.

It is for you to make amends by quietly protesting and resisting as a Christian may. It is for you to give your heart to Jesus all the more generously as the world gives Him less, and to receive Him with all the more love in proportion as others drive Him away with a more intense hatred.

The more the world rails against our Lord and King, the more faithful and devoted to Him we must be.  The stronger the currents of the world, the more vigorously we must swim against them.  As Chesterton said, “”A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

There is nothing and nobody more alive than a Catholic.  And so there is no excuse for a Catholic not to swim against the stream.  If we refuse to do so, we refuse our very selves, the greatest yearnings of our souls, not to mention all that our Lord has given us, He being the source and summit of the life we have.

The Associated Press (AP) has an exclusive interview with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who will be installed as Archbishop of New York this week.  Here is an excerpt, with my emphases:

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said Monday, on the eve of his installation, that he will challenge the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is unenlightened because it opposes gay marriage and abortion.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Dolan said he wants to restore pride in being Catholic, especially given the damage the church endured in the clergy sex abuse scandal, which he called a continuing source of shame.

“One would hope that through education and through the joy that we give by our lives that people will begin to see that these fears and this skepticism we have about the church are unwarranted,” Dolan said.

He said Catholics also must defend themselves against bias, which he said was still deeply ingrained in American culture.

Periodically, we Catholics have to stand up and say, `Enough,’” he said. “The church as a whole still calls out to what is noble in us.”

Sounds very promising to me!  I hope Archbp. Dolan can light a nice fire under Catholic Americans.  It’s way overdue!

I like how he encourages us to give witness to the truth and goodness of our Church by “the joy that we give by our lives.”  I think that in this world, joy is one of the most powerful evangelization tools.  We live among so much sadness, despair, and discouragement.  Joy gets people’s attention.

I may not always succeed, but I do try to share with others the joy that my faith gives me.  People tell me that my face lights up when I talk about my faith.  It doesn’t matter what else may be going on in my life.  And heaven knows there’s been a lot.  But I still find joy in my faith.  And I hope that it comes across and inspires people.

Cardinal George of Chicago has issued a statement calling for continued protection of the conscience rights of medical personnel and institutions who object to being involved with abortion.  Pres. Obama wants to start stripping away this protection by rescinding regulations recently implemented by George Bush.

Obviously, this would affect many Catholic medical workers and hospitals.  Many of these people have already put themselves on the line for their Catholic pro-life practices.  In our society, it takes a true act of courage and personal integrity for a doctor or other health-care provider to stand by his or her values when they are so counter-cultural and make lots of people resentful or angry.  We need to support them at all times, but right now more than ever.

I also think that anybody who thinks it would stop with pro-life medical workers is fooling themselves.  Why should it stop there?  If you can strip away protections of conscience rights, why not just scrap conscience rights altogether?  Is anything worth having that’s not worth protecting?  And if that succeeds with one group of people in society, why not impose it on everybody in society?

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is accepting public comment on this proposed rescinding of conscience rights protection through 9 April 2009.  Here is an easy, fast way to send a comment. You can send the message they provide, which is very good, or you can write your own.

Here is a video of the cardinal’s statement:

And here is the text of the statement:

Hello. I am Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’d like to take a moment to speak about two principles or ideas that have been basic to life in our country: religious liberty and the freedom of personal conscience.

On Friday afternoon, February 27, the Obama Administration placed on a federal website the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers – for doctors, nurses and others – who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith I God.

As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism. Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression. No government should come between an individual person and God – that’s what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans. We therefore need legal protection for freedom of conscience and of religion – including freedom for religious health care institutions to be true to themselves.

Conscientious objection against many actions is a part of our life. We have a conscientious objection against war for those who cannot fight, even though it’s good to defend your country. We have a conscientious objection for doctors against being involved in administering the death penalty. Why shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother’s womb? People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures – a living member of the human family is killed – that’s what it’s all about – and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality.

I ask you please to let the government know that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place. In particular, let the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington know that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society. Thank you and God bless you.

Please speak up!  And, as always, pray, fast, offer acts of penance and reparation.  We Catholics can do things that your typical activist can’t–we can wage spiritual warfare!  And we must do so to the best and fullest of our ability.  For our own sakes, and for the sakes of our nation and world.

Father Z shares a snippet from an online chat with Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles:

Ann Scolari: What are your thoughts on the Trindentine [sic] mass?

CardinalMahony: Ann: The Tridentine Mass was meant for those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council. But there is no participation by the people, and I don’t believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

My very first thought on this is:  Huh?!

That first sentence is bizarre!  It sounds as if the cardinal is under the impression that the Tridentine Mass was invented after the Second Vatican Council as a way of catering to the poor, ignorant, cowering folks who couldn’t bear the difficult transition to… their own native tongue.

That might make sense if:

1.  Latin was the native tongue and was being replaced by some strange foreign language,

2.  The Tridentine Mass had not existed for hundreds of years prior to Vatican II, and

3.  Vatican II had declared that Latin should be completely done away with in the Mass.

In fact, the transition Cardinal Mahony speaks of was abrupt, forced, and not at all supported by the documents of the Council.  We’re only just now starting to correct that mistake by re-introducing the Latin prayers.

But for the most part, that first statement of his was just weird and confusing.

Unfortunately less weird and confusing is the second sentence.  I don’t know what was in the cardinal’s heart when he said that, but the message I get is that people who attend the TLM are soulless drones who do not encounter Christ in the Mass.  The lack of participation thing is a tired, vapid accusation, which my own experience soundly refutes.  And I definitely felt the spirit of Christ too, in a very profound and vibrant way.  So, sorry, Cardinal, I’ll stand by my own lying first-hand experience, thank you.

I have always been rather taken aback by the swift, eager, and yet uncritical manner in which people attack the TLM and its supporters.  I’ve never understood it.  Even amid all the wonderful comments I received when Father Z kindly shared my first TLM experience, I received one really nasty and very personal comment from one person.  Quoth she:

This encapsulates perfectly why I refuse to attend a Catholic church. This person is not worshipping God herself, she’s passively delegated the job to a priest. Anyone who delegates worship to another person will abdicate all other responsibilities of adult citizenship to her “betters” whenever she gets the chance. I don’t want a society made up of such cowards.

Again, my first thought was:  Huh?! Didn’t she even read what I wrote?  And who is she calling an irresponsible citizen and a coward?! At first, I broke a sweat trying to come up with a charitable response.  But after the initial shock and spark of rage, I realized that she was just a fuming bigot using me as the stone on which to grind her axe against Catholicism.  And that I was OK with that.  It’s simply part of being a practicing Catholic.  A little droplet of white martyrdom here and there is a good thing–it brings us to life.

Cardinal Mahony may not have taken the same tone as that woman.  But coming from a cardinal of the Church, his statement was just as injurious, and probably more so.  I just think it’s appalling and irresponsible that any cardinal would make such a statement publicly, to the Catholic faithful.  So maybe the TLM is not his “thing.”  Maybe it’s not a lot of people’s “thing.”  Fair enough.  But to disrespect it and insult it like that is beyond inappropriate.  If nothing else, we can all respect that it is part of our very long, very rich heritage.  We can also respect that our Holy Father clearly sees a great deal of value in it, and so do many clergy and laypeople.  I certainly do.

What is the cardinal saying about us, what is he saying about the Holy Father, what is he saying about our liturgical heritage, when he dismisses the TLM in such an offensive, thoughtless manner?

It’s one thing to be attacked by an angry bigot.  Is it unreasonable for us to expect better from our own spiritual fathers and leaders?

And have I said lately how grateful I am for Pope Benedict, and how much I love him?

I hear that some people are upset at Pope Benedict for allegedly welcoming with open arms one Bishop Williamson who denies that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.  I hear that some smart alecks have even called for the Holy Father to resign.

And I hear that some of our own allegedly-Catholic congresspeople have issued a letter telling him that he needs to clarify his position on the Holocaust.  If they’d taken a minute to look up what the pope has said about the Holocaust, they would know his position; he spoke of it last week at a General Audience.  He always communicates with great clarity.  But I wonder, does it even really matter how clear he is?   I mean, he and the rest of the Church have been explicitly clear on the teachings against abortion… and yet most of the congresspeople who signed the letter are “pro-choice”!  Talk about people who need to remove the planks from their own eyes…

I was pretty upset about all of this for a while.  But not so much any more.  By his own example, Pope Benedict is constantly teaching us to remain calm, remain charitable, and remain confident and secure in our faith.  I’ve never seen him with ruffled feathers.  I’ve never seen him angry.  He is a deeply thoughtful, deeply prayerful person–and all of us should strive to be the same.

At the same time, he is not a push-over.  He stands firm, no matter how unpopular it may make him.  He’s not going to let Bishop Williamson be fully reconciled with the Church until he recants what he said about the Holocaust–of course, Williamson and the other three SSPX bishops have much more serious doctrinal issues to work through if they’re going to fully reconcile with the Church.

Pope Benedict, like the good father he is, has merely made a gesture toward them showing that he is willing to accept them back into full communion and good standing.  That doesn’t mean he’s just going to overlook all their errors or let them off the hook easily.  It definitely doesn’t mean he agrees with or approves of their errors!  It only means he loves them and wants them to come home.  They are his prodigal sons, and even though they are still a long way off, he has apparently seen them taking steps to return.  And that’s what he wants.  That is why he lifted the excommunications.

This all makes perfect sense to me, as I was once a prodigal daughter to a very good father (and mother).  But then, I think it’s true that our society has largely lost its understanding of, and respect for, fatherhood.  And Holy Father is not just a title.  Not for Pope Benedict.

I love him so much!  We absolutely have to pray for him every day, and do our best to follow his teachings and his example.  That is so important for living an authentic Catholic life.  We have to love and pray for our Holy Father.  His responsibilities and difficulties are beyond our imagining, and he bears them all for us, as a true disciple of our Lord.

As true disciples ourselves, we also need to pray for the Holy Father’s, and our, enemies.

I just got home from the city’s Roe memorial events.  It was awesome.  I’d say the march was at least twice as big as last year!  That makes me happy.  I hope it grows more every year!

I met Julie and her husband Tom at the train station, and we rode downtown together.  On one of the little electronic marquees on the train, there was an ad for Planned Parenthood, of all things.  I noticed it was entirely in Spanish.

We got to the cathedral around 9:00, an hour before Mass, and I’m glad we did, because there were already people gathering!  We got great seats near the middle of the church.

Lots of people were praying the Rosary at an abortion mill, but I didn’t fare so well at that last year–my body couldn’t take the cold, and I ended up missing most of the actual praying.  So this year, I just prayed inside the cathedral.  It was lovely.  The organ was playing softly, and it is just such a beautiful, ethereal place.

Before long, throngs began pouring in.  It’s always so impressive and heart-warming to see the huge diversity of people.  Most of them were young people–children, teens, college-age.  But there were people of all ages.  All races.  Priests, religious, laypeople.  It was just awesome to see so many different kinds of people come together as one family.  I saw some of my Dominican family, of course, though didn’t get a chance to speak with them.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Farrell, along with a number of diocesan and religious priests.  The Knights of Columbus were there in full regalia.  I thought the liturgy was lovelier and more solemn than last year.  Last year, there was a band up at the front of the cathedral.  This year, it was organ and choir, and a lady cantor with a lovely voice.

Bishop Farrell’s homily was outstanding.  He really encouraged us not to give up hope and to keep on working to create a Culture of Life in this nation, so that even if pro-abortion laws are on the books, they will be inoperative and inconsequential.  The key to eliminating abortion is not so much in repealing abortion laws as making them irrelevant.  He also spoke of opposition to abortion as being a fundamental human ideal–not a religious ideal, and definitely not just somebody’s opinion.  I thought that was really good, because our opponents just love to make it about religion–and it’s not.  Never has been, never will be.  It is integral to our Catholic faith, but it is not a Catholic invention or opinion.  He also emphasized that we must stand up for this human ideal in public–not just in private.  But most of all, he encouraged us never, ever to give up hope.  Because our Lord is with us, and His grace will keep us going, no matter how hard or even impossible things may appear.  There is always hope.

In the course of the Mass, there was a special ceremony of commemoration–the Procession of Roses.  A representative born in each year since 1973 comes forward and places a red rose in a basket before the altar.  Each person and each rose represents about 1.2 million people whose lives were violated and destroyed before they were even born.  It was so hard not to weep.  I was born in 1976, and I often think about all the people who would have been born the same year as me… people who might have become my friends, my classmates, my co-workers… maybe my enemy, but as hard as it may be to remember, our enemies are human beings too, and as such they deserve life as much as any of us.  That is why Christ commanded us to love them.

I had the special honor of receiving Communion from the hand of my bishop–that was a first for me!  I think he is a wonderful father and a wonderful shepherd.  He especially loves the young people, and was really happy that so many came out to support respect for life.  He sees them, and treasures them, as our future–and I have to say, we have a bright one!

Bishop Farrell instructed us to make today’s march a prayer and a witness before God and man.  And I think we did pretty well.  Today’s march, even as it was much larger, was more organized and a little more quiet and more focused than last year’s.  Of course, a cheer rose whenever one of the onlookers showed support.  Drivers honked their horns… one driver was clapping her hands in her car, and another gave a thumbs-up.  You can’t help but love that!  And who knows, maybe those onlookers will come and march next year.

The one thing I hope will be improved next year is that there will be more loudspeakers!  The crowd was so large, that you couldn’t hear the speakers at the rally or at the courthouse.  Julie and I were straining our ears, but without much luck.  The crowds are sure to grow in the future, so I am sure the organizers will make suitable arrangements.

Well, these are just some highlights off the top of my head.  I will post more later–including some photos!  Alas, it wasn’t until we were at the courthouse that I realized I had my camera with me!  I’ll try to post some soon.

Right now, I am off to my parish church for the Sunday Vigil Mass!

[UPDATES]

Here’s Julie’s post about today.

And, here are my photos!

I posted here about Cardinal Stafford’s speech in which he had allegedly called Obama “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.”  I knew that the article wasn’t telling it straight, and I suspected that the audio clip of the speech was not telling the whole truth either.  No suprise: my suspicion was correct!

Thanks to the good folks at LifeSite News, we now have a full text version of the speech, complete with references.  This is the full version; the actual delivered version was “substantially as it appears here although in a somewhat abbreviated form from written notes and typed materials.”

Turns out that in some of the parts most highlighted in the media, and hence by me, Cardinal Stafford was actually quoting others. For example, the famous “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic” phrase first appears here (emphases mine):

Our own cultural ambience is not dissimilar from the period of the 1920’s when European intellectuals were moving ahead with an understanding of something “new”. Graham Ward’s description of that period highlights elements which characterize the vision of today’s President – elect, the Vice-President – elect, and the legislators elected to assist them in implementing their vision. Graham wrote, “Briefly modernism’s programme was to ‘make it new’. It courted the unconventional and nonconformist in a conscious effort to overthrow the traditional perspective and stock expectations. Its dynamism was aggressive, disruptive and even apocalyptic. Hostility to the………War fed its anger against the status quo and its desire for a creativity that would be transcultural, transclass and transfrontier.”

He later refers back to Graham Ward’s phrase, saying:  “The content and rhetoric of Obama and Biden have elements similar to those described earlier: aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.”

And this section of the speech (the latter part of which I couldn’t clearly make out from the audio)…

“But under all that grace and charm there was a tautness of will, a clenched jaw, a state of constant alertness to detect and resist any external influence which might threaten his independence. A state of alertness? That is putting it mildly: beneath each word he wrote, he was carrying on sapping operations against the enemy city where a daily fight was going on.”

…is actually a quotation of François Mauriac writing about André Gide!  It’s not actually Cardinal Stafford’s direct personal take on Obama, although he does draw parallels.

I haven’t yet read through the entire speech (I’m just not up to it here on a Friday night).  I just wanted to publicize the full text of the speech, and also thought I would shed some light on the sections of the speech that I had read, heard, and commented on myself previously.

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