Journal of the
              Lecture Series

 Volume 3, Issue 4
In This Issue
Happy summer! I am moving a bit slowly getting these out, as demonstrated by the fact that my last note was wishing you a happy spring. Ah well.... 

The start to the second half of the program year got off to a bit of a rocky start, with two lecture cancellations, and a substitution; you'll find the recaps included in this issue go into late March. To begin the new year, Jodi Lyons addressed the elephant in the room, so to speak, with her talk on brain health.  Edamarie Mattei, of Backyard Bounty, came by at the end of February, with spring not far around the corner, to get us all thinking about how we might use our gardens to create a safe space for the pollinators so crucial to our ecosystem. However, we were still in winter, so the wise program committee members made sure we had books to read - by Ann Hornaday, Joseph Dalton, and Bob Levey - to see us through the still-long nights.

I personally found the substitute speaker for February 6, 2019 - Linda J. Blumberg - especially fascinating. She spoke at length about what could be a dry topic, but in her capable hands was an eye-opening look at the scope and challenges of instituting a Medicare-for-all health system in the United States, as well as the health of the ACA, and what might be done to make it both more efficient and affordable. What was most eye-opening was the likely cost differential between the two, figures too significant to be easily dismissed. Once again, WMG strikes to expand not just my understanding of issues, but what issues I should be trying to understand!

We hope you find the recaps entertaining and informative. Enjoy reading them at your leisure!
Adrienne Athanas

Our Introduction to Decoding the Health Care Reform Debate
Linda Blumberg--February 6, 2019

Linda Blumberg
Photo by Casey Crimmins
WMG had an unexpected treat when Dr. Linda Blumberg spoke with us about health care reform. She is an Institute Fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute and an expert on private health insurance, health care financing, and health care reform. Linda graciously stepped in when the planned speaker had a family emergency. You would have thought Linda had planned her talk for quite some time. At the end of a fast hour, we all walked out, our heads spinning with our new awareness and newfound ability to decode the current health care debate -- even if we don't understand it. 

Linda started with a quick review of the history leading up to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known informally as Obamacare. We got a quick tutorial on what the basic terms mean, which included a collective groan when we realized those over 65 are included in the term, "elderly." Linda highlighted some of the major changes the ACA brought following its enactment in 2010: 
  • The opportunity for states to expand Medicaid 
  • Subsidies for low- and moderate-income earners who are entering the private insurance market 
  • An individual mandate to have health insurance 
  • Dependent coverage up to age 26 on parents' policies 
  • Coverage for preventive care 
We learned how implementation of the Act has worked in reality -- the tens of millions additional people covered by health insurance, for example -- as well some of the gaps in coverage that remained. 

Although the Republican Congress' and President's 2016 campaign pledges to repeal the ACA did not happen, since 2017 there are been many changes that have impacted this law.  Among them: 
  • Individual mandates were eliminated, which will reduce coverage and increase premiums for those not receiving subsidies. 
  • Almost all of the funding to enable the states to do outreach and assist with enrollment was eliminated. 
  • The use of "short-term" policies, once used as a stop gap between employer-provided policies, which have few benefits and varying premiums based on health status, have expanded. The result is drawing the healthy out of the insured pool covered by the ACA, making it more expensive for those who stay. 
Because of numerous court challenges, the ACA could continue to change with limitations and eliminations of provisions. At the same time, many Democrats are also promoting expansive new health care coverage legislation, bandying about terms such as "Medicare for All."  Linda explained how these short-hand terms
are not helpful to the average American trying to understand what
Recap by Harri Kramer
is being proposed. She suggested that because Medicare is popular, using that term helps Americans grasp the idea of a plan where payment rates might be set and where coverage is universally provided, but that is not an accurate representation of what these proposals cover. Linda then gave us some insights into how to think about the different options being touted.

This short summary for this Journal cannot begin to go into all of the detail provided. But, great news!  Linda has shared us with a copy of her slide deck, available HERE.  And we all walked away with a new prism through which to view the continuing health care insurance debate.

Invited by Joan Wolf
Brain Health as You Age
Jodi Lyons--February 13, 2019

Jodi Lyons
Photo from Blog by Deborah Kalb

Do you often take a long pause to find the right word? Do you cycle through all your children's names before finding the one that will make your teenage daughter look up from her phone? If so, you are the perfect candidate for Jodi Lyon's specialty, and her new book,  Brain Health as You Age .

Ms. Lyons spoke to WMG members on February 13 about her passion: how the brain ages, what's normal, how to protect your brain, and when to seek help. Lyons is an eldercare expert and advocate for people with special needs.

Most likely, you have a perfectly normal brain, but you are living in an age of maximum distraction. Taking longer to recall a word is a very typical and natural part of aging, Lyons said, and probably not a sign of early mental decline.
If you misplace your car keys, or forget where you've parked, you're probably not sliding into early dementia. If you get lost going to a familiar place, however, there may be a problem.
If your mother sees the same people daily and now can't remember their names, there could be cause for concern, especially if she was once good at remembering names. However, Lyons said the first question should be whether something in an older person's life has recently changed. There's a long list of causes for temporary mental decline in older people including a "Benadryl hangover," anesthesia, a bladder infection, supplements, dehydration, a visit to the ER, hospital-induced delirium, or simply, misplacing eye glasses or hearing aids.
Jodi Lyons's book on brain health, co-authored by Steven P. Simmons and William E. Maneye
No one ever admits to cognitive decline, Lyons said. So, how do you get someone to the doctor? "You just inform them that they're going -- and use your mom voice and your mom look."
"Why can I no longer remember an address or a long phone number quickly?" asked a WMG member from the back row of the chapel: "I have to do it in pieces."   Lyons explained that the myriad steps required to enter content into a smartphone interferes with your memory. "In the past, you were writing it down, not being interrupted."
"We are the club sandwich generation," said Lyons.  "There are kids, parents, grandparents, your spouse, your community, your emails, your texts, your job. It's not just a sandwich. How much do you think your brain can handle?"   People can't multi-task, said Lyons -- the brain must make switches; younger people are able to switch faster than older people.
Lyons spoke briefly about how to protect your brain as you age: exercise, avoid or treat diabetes, socialize, follow a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.   According to Lyons, some researchers think that Alzheimer's disease is diabetes type 3. And interestingly, unless you enjoy them, don't bother with crossword puzzles, said Lyons. Brain health requires mentally challenging exercises 5 days a week, for 30 minutes a day; there are scientifically proven exercises you can do that may help you with recall.
Recap by 
Cathryn Meurer 

More information is available at two websites created by Lyons and her collaborators:,  and, as well as in the book Lyons wrote with her collaborators,
And calling out all your children's names before you get the right one? That's just a mom thing. Nothing to worry about! 

       Invited by Joan Wolf
Making the Case for Organic Natives
Edamarie Mattei--February 27, 2019

Edamarie Mattei
Photo from Bethesda Magazine
Edamarie is a gardener after my own heart. She started her talk not with pictures of her "re-imagined American garden," but rather with a very messy car window. Yes, we all agreed that we had seen this sight before; no, we could not remember the last time we had to clean our front window because of bug splatter. Her point was that our overuse of pesticides has eliminated beneficial insects, and food for our flying friends.
Plants reproduce through pollinators. Since 1989, there has been a 79% reduction in pollinators. Of that 79%, 3/4 are butterflies. And there are 1.5 billion fewer birds compared to 40 years ago.
Native plants
We can bring back the bugs and along with them, song birds, if we plant organic natives. Birds returning in the spring don't have much to eat except caterpillars. Planting oaks will provide host plants for caterpillars. Don't have room for a large oak? Plant native viburnums. Crape myrtles may have pretty flowers, but they offer little for native fauna. 
Edamarie and her team at Backyard Bounty design, install and maintain gardens in the DC area.
Mosquito be gone
There are unintended consequences of using chemicals to kill mosquitoes in our yard. Edamarie reminded us that they also kill beneficial insects -- the very food that our birds and bats snack on. In fact, she suggested that natural predators like birds can reduce your insect problem; hang bird houses for swallows since they love to eat mosquitoes. 
Be water-wise
Since 90% of our drinking water comes from the Potomac river, let's keep lawn chemicals -- from mosquito treatments or chemical lawn fertilization -- from running into our storm drains. We can also save money by trapping water runoff from our property: RainScapes, a Montgomery County program, can give you $7,500 towards installing a rain garden. Edamarie shared with us pictures of her functional and beautiful rain gardens.
Recap by Kristen Mosbæk
You can make the difference
Edamarie made the case for reducing turf in our yards, either by making our non-lawn gardens bigger, or allowing weeds in our lawn. We all know that mono-culture is not healthy for our environment. Weeds in your yard add botanical diversity, and spring flowering weeds provide needed food for insects. Also, when you wait till spring to remove soft wood plants, you will be providing stalks for bees to live in during the winter.
Edamarie concluded with a quote by Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
To learn more about Edamarie Mattei and her business, visit her website or read the article about her in Bethesda Magazine.  

Invited by Mary Beth Etherton
Progressive American Journalist Hope Ridings Miller,
Joseph Dalton--March 6, 2019

Joseph Dalton
Photo by Kirstie Saltsman
Journalist and author Joseph Dalton spoke with us about his newly released biography:  Washington's Golden Age: Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat and the Rise of Women Journalists. Hope Ridings Miller, his first cousin twice removed, was an influential and pioneering journalist known for covering politics, diplomacy, and society in Washington, from the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt through the days of Lyndon B. Johnson.
Joseph first met his cousin in 1979 when he visited Washington from his native Fort Worth at the age of 15, to participate in a model Congress on Capitol Hill. He returned to Washington two years later to work as a congressional page.  Hope took him under her wing, introduced him to her colorful and prominent life, and they formed a lifelong friendship. Later a journalist himself, he reflected on the life of the "other writer" in his family and took on what turned out to be 10 years of research to write a biographical tribute to her.  
Joseph Dalton's book about Washington's Gold Age features his distant cousin, Hope Ridings Miller.
Hope was from Bonham, Texas. She completed her English degree from The University of Texas at age 19 and her master's degree from Columbia University at age 21. After marriage, she and her husband, a physician, moved to New York where she began her journalism career as a freelance writer. The young couple visited Washington for Roosevelt's first inauguration (March 1933) and were persuaded to stay. Hope was hired by The Washington Post in 1934 and was the only female writer on the city desk. During her tenure at the Post spanning the New Deal era and part of World War II, she produced 1,200 columns. As society editor from 1937-1944, she was the  paper's insider at exclusive galas, dinners, and parties. To enhance reporting, she focused behind the scenes; elites turned to her column for what was "really going on."  In 1938, she also served as President of the Women's National Press Club, which served as a meeting ground for female reporters and politicians.
After leaving the Post in 1944, Hope's career included writing a syndicated column, writing for several diverse publications, serving as editor of Diplomat* magazine between 1954 and 1966, and writing three insider books about Washington: Embassy Row: The Life and Times of Diplomatic Washington (1969), Great Houses of Washington, D.C. (1969), and Scandals in the Highest Office: Facts and Fictions in the Private Lives of Our Presidents (1973).  She  became well known as a popular hostess who could bring together an impressive list of guests from diplomatic, political, and journalistic circles . She is credited with making great strides for women in journalism through her own achievements and by encouraging female reporters to pursue their careers. In Washington's Golden Age, Joseph portrays a time when "dignity, courtesy and respect...mattered in our nation's capital" and were Hope's "stock-in-trade."
Recap by Carolyn VanDyck
Joseph has an interesting and eclectic career of his own. A former classical music record producer with degrees in Arts Administration from Southern Methodist University and in Music Education from Catholic University, he now writes the "Classical Notes" column on New York's Capital Region music and art scene for the Times Union newspaper of Albany, NY. 
A review of Dalton's book, Washington's Golden Age, appeared in Washington Life magazine. 

Invited by Joan Wolf

*Editor's Note: After a limited Google search for Diplomat magazine , I came across a number of magazines with the title Diplomat, but only one reference for the one edited by Hope Ridings Miller. It is unclear whether the magazine is the modern-day version of the one she edited, but you can find a sample of the February 1961 issue referenced at .   
Mulling the Movies
Ann Hornaday--March 13, 2019

Ann Hornaday
Photo from The Washington Post 
Baseball may be America's official pastime, but I'd bet for many of us it's going to the movies.  Small wonder then that Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post's chief film critic since 2002, delighted her WMG audience with an insightful talk about the role of a film critic, what's changed in the movie industry since she last spoke to our group six years ago, and offered informed opinions about the recent 2018 Oscars and how the Academy makes its decisions.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Ann attended Smith College in the 1980s and, as a government major, was poised to become a DC-based policy wonk but headed to New York instead. Why?  Because -- as many a young person in their early 20's -- she made the decision on one factor: where would she have the easier time couch-surfing as she figured things out!  

And thus began Ann's career in writing -- first as a researcher and editorial assistant at Ms. magazine, and then, with encouragement from Gloria Steinem, as a freelancer writing for pop culture magazines. Before long, that included writing about movies for the New York Times and eventually, heading west to become film critic for the Austin American-Statesman.  

Since movie-going wasn't a pastime she grew up with, Ann said she is basically self-taught, learning the art of film reviewing on the job -- through such means as frequenting video stores (remember those?) to immerse herself in films about a specific genre or by a particular director.  And, along the way, she had the good fortune to interview artists such as George Clooney and Katherine Bigelow, who taught her how to appreciate the way movies are made. 

Talking Pictures by Ann Hornaday

The best advice she got to guide her film reviewing career was to ask these three questions:
1)     What was the artist trying to achieve?
2)     Did he or she achieve it? 
3)     Was it worth doing?

For her, it's irrelevant whether she personally likes or dislikes a film, because any viewer might feel differently.  Her job as a critic is to help her readers judge a movie on its own merits -- to  determine for themselves whether a movie might appeal to them. Funny and
charming, Ann shared her secret pleasure of seeing beauty in films -- from director Nancy Meyers' gorgeous kitchen designs (It's Complicated) to the intricate costumes in Black Panther.

Ann then walked us through several categories of the recent Oscar awards, and her take on many of the winners, including: 

BlacKkKlansman' s well-deserved win for Best Adapted Screenplay for Spike Lee's "magnificent" screen writing and the film's experimental structure -- opening with the past and ending with present day scenes from Charlottesville; 

Black Panther 's well-deserved win for Best Costume Design for Ruth E. Carter, whose use of symbolism and emphasis on African heritage and power helped immerse us in that world; 

Her lament that Glenn Close did not win Best Actress, as her performance in The Wife conveyed so much internally -- that an excellent acting performance such as hers allows us to "see through the actor, to be a little elusive." 

A question she is frequently asked is "why does the Best Picture and Best Director awards nearly always go to different films?"  Ann shared her own personal theory: the director award goes to the person who presents a visual poem, a work of art, while the best picture award is all about the story and its likeability. In the end, it's about what grabbed us and how the actors elevate the story. Thus, Best Director went to  Alfonso Cuarón for Roma and Best Picture to Green Book.
Recap by Jane Glickman

The Academy, she said, has made a concerted effort to cast a wider net in recruiting new members who are female, people of color, younger, and hail from more countries around the globe. 

In conclusion, Ann gave a shout-out to a liberal arts education as a vital way to foster critical thinking and make sense of our world; as well as to Talk Cinema, a monthly film club she hosts at Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema, to preview and discuss great new films. 

Ann's final words of wisdom: never forget how a film makes you feel.

For all of us who heard her speak, we won't soon forget Ann Hornaday's wonderful presentation.

Invited by Laura Forman
Bob Levey's Washington
Bob Levey--March 20, 2019

Bob Levey
  Photo from
In his discerning and humorous talk, Bob Levey reflected on his many years in Washington and his recent adventure writing his first novel, Larry Felder, Candidate. If you've lived here a while, you likely know about Bob. If you're new, you missed listening to him on the radio, seeing him on television, and reading his column in The Washington Post.  He is a prize-winning journalist who covered the Washington scene since the Johnson Administration.

Bob gave us the inside scoop on being hired at the Post. While living and working in Albuquerque in 1967, he had a romantic interest in a woman who lived in Washington. He scheduled a job interview with the Post to coincide with a weekend visit. He was surprised and nervous to find his was the first appointment on the first day on the job for the new executive editor, Ben Bradlee. The session followed a normal course until the question, "What's the last book you read?" Bob replied, Bridge: Better Bidding in 30 Days, the book he read on the plane from Albuquerque. Good news: Ben Bradlee played bridge, and they talked about the game for a while. At interview's end, Bob was Bradlee's first hire. (Bob quipped that the job lasted; his girlfriend did not.)  
Levey's book,
Larry Felder, Candidate 
Bob stayed with the Post until 2004 and wrote 5,411 columns -- covering local news and sports, the Congress, and presidential politics. For 23 years starting in 1981, he wrote a daily column, "Bob Levey's Washington," looking at all aspects of Washington life. He attracted a million readers per day. One disappointment for Bob is that he didn't make it into the movie, All the President's Men. His newsroom space was between Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Post's star reporters during Watergate.  For weeks during the investigation and high-spirited discussions around their desks, Bob would be shouting "Would you guys keep it down?  I'm trying to get some work done!" He joked that somehow the movie didn't feature him. After leaving the Post, he did background research for the paper, initially writing "advance obituaries" for well-known people. He confided that a few of his personal commentaries never got past his editor's desk. 

Recap by
Karen Deasy
Bob talked about his novel as a "love letter to the early days at the Post." It is the story of a well-regarded reporter who leaves a first-rate newspaper to run for public office in Maryland. Bob commented that the book is "totally real; everything could have happened" and remarked that the setting is "totally Montgomery County." He enjoyed crafting the novel (a sequel is in the works) and found it quite different from newspaper writing. He regularly wrote a 770-word column; his book is about 81,000 words.

Bob remains active as a lecturer, Montgomery College trustee, Senior Beacon columnist, volunteer, and professional bridge player. He is a bridge life master and national tournament champion. He drinks a lot of coffee (please don't tell his wife) and never learned to type!!  
Invited by Julie Goodman
The WMG meets most Wednesdays, September to June, at the
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church,  9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD

Laura Forman

Adrienne Athanas

Kirstie Saltsman
Adrienne Athanas
Pat Cascio
Karen Deasy
Harri j. Kramer
Cathryn Meurer
Melinda Robbins
Kirstie Saltsman

Lisa Forte