Reality Check: Readers’ Responses

Mr. Campion,

This is one of your most moving columns that I will clip and hang in my home. (THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS AT 150—Issue: 11/19/13) You should delve into this area of political history more often. Your normal combative style, while entertaining, is dwarfed by this effort. Thanx.


That was so beautifully written. It should be required reading for everyone who attends school. And I am glad we, as a family, we once shared the trip to Gettysburg together.

Well done my son.


These words of the poet Taras Shevchenko move me, as do the immortal words of Lincoln.

The Testament

Dig my grave and raise my barrow

By the Dnieper-side

In Ukraina, my own land,

A fair land and wide.

I will lie and watch the cornfields,

Listen through the years

To the river voices roaring,

Roaring in my ears.

When I hear the call

Of the racing flood,

Loud with hated blood,

I will leave them all,

Fields and hills; and force my way

Right up to the Throne

Where God sits alone;

Clasp His feet and pray…

But till that day

What is God to me?

Bury me, be done with me,

Rise and break your chain,

Water your new liberty

With blood for rain

Then, in the mighty family

Of all men that are free,

May be sometimes, very softly

You will speak of me?


—Peter Saveskie


Wow. (NELSON MANDELA—1918-2013—Issue: 12/11/13) There is something poignant in the knowledge that a great man with a great cause could have come from such dark places. This honest and powerful tribute pulled no punches. It is rare that you see this level of laudatory material broach Mandela’s terrorist/communist past and speak about his one-goal travels through ideology and politics to arrive finally in an all-inclusive fight for the freedom of all the people of Africa.

One thing I was able to take away from this is that Mandela’s life is a microcosm of the American ideal—the right for every man and woman to stand tall for their rights. It should be inspiring to all of us who cherish the freedom we have and to remember that it should never be ignored for those who strive for it; here or abroad.


—Kelly Ryan



Of course, I remember being one of many students who opposed apartheid while at Columbia in the early ’80s, but what’s really cool is that I later met a woman who actually helped Mandela.

In 1986 or ’87, after I had begun practicing Buddhism, I met a young woman named Loren Braithwaite, who was my young women’s division chapter leader for years. She is African-American but I think has some white in her because she’s got pretty light skin. Anyway, she had graduated from Harvard and was attending Columbia Law School. While there, she was one of a few students selected to work closely with Nelson Mandela to create the new South African Constitution. She worked in a large NYC law firm for years and then later (after her husband died), moved to South Africa to start a business and eventually became president of the Soka Gakkai-South Africa organization.

When I read your article, I thought of her because I’m wondering how she’s feeling right now but I also thought of Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, who was very visionary and revolutionary, much like Mandela. He was an educator who had begun practicing the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin (that forms the core belief of the Soka Gakkai) in the early part of the 20th century and was imprisoned with his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi—also an educator and the founder of the Soka Gakkai in Japan on November 18, 1930—during WWII because they refused to bow to the militaristic government that required all Japanese people and religions to adopt and believe in Shinto. Where other religious leaders did, Makiguchi and Toda refused. Makiguchi, who was 74, died in prison but Toda, who was younger, survived and was eventually released at the end of the war. He singlehandedly revived the Soka Gakkai, which eventually grew to include 750,000 families by the time of his death in 1958. At the time, the Soka Gakkai was berated as being an organization for the sick and poor, but millions and millions of Japanese people who began practicing Buddhism turned their desperation, sickness and poverty around to rebuild Japan and turn it into a prosperous country.

Of course, millions of people now practice in 193 countries around the world with the single-minded goal to create world peace based on individuals becoming happy and helping others to do the same, to overcome suffering. When you—or Dan (Bern)—talk about a true (nonviolent) revolutionary, Toda was another example, someone as great as Mandela though maybe not as obvious to the rest of the world…


—Elizabeth Vengen, Esq.

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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight for Cinderella” and “Y”.