From Too Small to Fail: A Little Creativity For the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and so we’re thinking about the things that families can do together to inspire creativity. Whether preparing hand-made gifts for loved ones or participating in family holiday traditions, young children can express their creativity in different ways that encourage the signature trademarks of a creative mind—adaptability, independent thinking and imagination.

Creativity is a trait that we usually associate with children. However, researchers have found that environment plays an important role in influencing creativity, and early experiences can greatly encourage—or discourage—a child’s creative thinking. A young child who has been given ample time to draw, make crafts, explore their environment and engage in fantasy play often shows greater creativity in the school years. Parents can support their children’s creative thinking from infancy by encouraging babies to explore their environments and offering safe items for play that can be used in different ways.

With that in mind, this week we thought it would be fun to give you a run-down of creative ideas that parents and caregivers can undertake with their little ones—from babies to toddlers! By offering positive reinforcement that encourages their children’s imaginations, parents and caregivers can help their children develop flexible thinking that will boost their early learning.

  • If you’ve run out of wrapping paper, this neat little DIY recipe is fun for both kids and adults. Great for young toddlers who may REALLY enjoy driving their toy trucks over non-toxic paint and paper.
  • Three seasonal recipes that will help foster creativity in toddlers!
  • And 50 creative play ideas for any time of the year can be found here!
  • From baby dance parties to learning math with play dough, the ideas in this blog post should get your creative juices flowing.
  • Finally, remember Silly Putty? You can recruit your little one to make your own version here. Then, copy newspaper print or roll it up into a ball and bounce it around (*not recommended for children who put toys or other items in their mouths).

Holiday Special

As the holidays draw near, we’re asking you to share your favorite holiday traditions and moments involving quality time with the kids in your life, whether it’s reading books together, singing holiday songs, or simply spending quiet family time.

Starting Monday, December 22, use #SmallTraditions on Facebook or Twitter to share your most treasured moments. Don’t forget a photo! We will share our favorites, too.

Throughout her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton advocated for an end to the embargo on Cuba which she regarded as providing the Castro regime with a foil for its domestic failures.

When Alan Gross, a U.S.A.I.D. contractor, was detained in Cuba in December 2009, Hillary commenced a long-term effort to procure his release via direct engagement with Cuban officials as well as third party efforts. In her memoir, Hard Choices, Hillary states, “One of my regrets as Secretary was our failure to bring Alan home.”  Alan Gross left Cuba today, released on humanitarian grounds due to health issues,  accompanied by his wife, Judy,  with whom Secretary Clinton remained in close touch during her tenure.

View image on Twitter

In Hard Choices, Hillary noted that a condition Cuban officials levied on Gross’s release was our release of five convicted Cuban spies.  Three of those individuals have been freed in exchange for Gross’s freedom.  Two others were released earlier upon completing their sentences.

The exchange signals a thaw in U.S. – Cuba relations that will include re-establishment of diplomatic ties.   As Secretary of State, Hillary visited 112 countries.  Cuba was not among them.  Perhaps she will soon have the opportunity to visit as a private citizen.    One of Hillary’s last acts as Secretary was to pen a letter to President Obama containing the recommendation that the Cuban embargo be re-examined.  Today it appears likely that the embargo will be terminated sooner rather than later.

U.S., Cuba Seek To Normalize Relations

Posted: 12/17/2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday. The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American Alan Gross and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.

Welcome home, Alan!


Given the chapter on Latin America in her memoir (pages 266 – 289), a statement supporting the action she suggested, encouraged, and actively pursued really was not necessary.  Hillary released one nevertheless.  Anyone who has read her book knows that she campaigned for lifting the embargo right from the start and was a major force  in the effort to revise the Cuba policy.

Hillary Clinton backs Obama move on Cuba

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 17, 2014

(Reuters) – Former U.S. Secretary of State and potential presidential contender Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday she supported President Barack Obama’s move to establish diplomatic ties with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostile relations.

“Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power,” Clinton said in a statement. “As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information and material comforts of the outside world.”

She added: “I support President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy, while keeping the focus on our principal objective – supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom.”

Read more >>>>


Secretary Kerry’s statement on Cuba policy changes.

Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 17, 2014

I was a seventeen year old kid watching on a black and white television set when I first heard an American President talk of Cuba as an “imprisoned island.”

For five and a half decades since, our policy toward Cuba has remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba. Not only has this policy failed to advance America’s goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba.

Since 2009, President Obama has taken steps forward to change our relationship and improve the lives of the Cuban people by easing restrictions on remittances and family travel. With this new opening, the President has committed the United States to begin to chart an even more ambitious course forward.

Beginning more than twenty years ago, I have seen firsthand as three presidents — one Republican and two Democrats — have undertaken a similar effort to change the United States’ relationship with Vietnam. It wasn’t easy. It isn’t complete still today. But it had to start somewhere, and it has worked.

As we did with Vietnam, changing our relationship with Cuba will require an investment of time, energy and resources. Today’s step also reflects our firm belief that the risk and the cost of trying to turn the tide is far lower than the risk and cost of remaining stuck in an ideological cement of our own making.

This new course will not be without challenges, but it is based not on a leap of faith but on a conviction that it’s the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people, and to promote America’s national security interests in the Americas, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American businesses.

In January, as part of the President’s directive to discuss moving toward re-establishment of diplomatic relations, my Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson will travel to Cuba to lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks. I look forward to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba. At President Obama’s request, I have also asked my team to initiate a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

Going forward, a critical focus of our increased engagement will continue to be on improving the Cuban Government’s respect for human rights and advocating for democratic reforms within Cuba. Promoting freedom of speech and entrepreneurship and an active civil society will only strengthen Cuban society and help to reintegrate Cuba into the international community.


Other news emanating from the State Department today includes the forthcoming departure of U.S.A.I.D. Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah.  Some will remember the “infinite frustration” Hillary expressed early in her term in filling that post.  Dr. Shah has done a magnificent job.  We should all be grateful for his dedicated service.

See Dr. Shah’s statement here >>>>

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
USAID Press Office


Tuesday evening, Hillary was honored with the Ripple of Hope Award at the Robert F. Kennedy Gala.  Tony Bennett and Robert De Niro were also honored..  The event took place at the Hilton in New York City.   Congratulations, Mme. Secretary!

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RFK Center
Hillary Clinton’s Remarks from the Ripple of Hope Award Gala

On December 16th, 2014, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights hosted its annual Ripple of Hope Awards Dinner in New York. Former First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was among the night’s honorees. Below are her remarks from the evening.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is not only an ongoing institution that represents a passion for justice and dignity, but it also continues to challenge us. Just look at the record of what has been done: from defending gay rights in Uganda to standing with the families of missing students in Mexico, reducing infant mortality in Kenya, advocating for the rights of farm workers here in the United States, this organization is showing us what Robert Kennedy meant when he spoke of those numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that send ripples of hope out across the world.

And on a personal note, no one has done more to advance this work than Ethel Kennedy. (Applause.) Last month, when President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he called Ethel an emblem of enduring faith and enduring hope. And the truth of those words is reflected in all the lives that Ethel has touched and all the children and grandchildren who have continued to make her proud.

She reminds us that, as Senator Ted Kennedy said – the senator who served in the United States Senate, not the senator who’s going to be serving in the Connecticut senate – (applause) – we’ll be looking for his accomplishments as well, along with other Kennedys who have served, and Representative Joe Kennedy, who I had the privilege of (inaudible) for in the House of Representatives – but as Ted Kennedy said, “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” And so, Ethel, thank you for everything you have done to make that true. (Applause.)

I think it is obvious to us all that we are meeting here tonight at a time when the lessons of Robert Kennedy’s life and legacy are as urgent and relevant as ever. Like many of you, I wonder what would he think if he could see us now. I think he would celebrate the enormous progress we have made over the past half century; the advance of democracy and human rights in many parts of the world once locked in tyranny; the breakthroughs in health and science and productivity, delivered by American innovation; and the great strides we’ve made here at home to build a more just and inclusive society. So in many ways, we have moved forward toward that more perfect union that he dreamed of and worked for.

But what would Robert Kennedy say about the fact that still today more than 16 million children live in poverty in the richest nation on Earth? What would he say about the fact that such a large portion of economic gains have gone to such a small portion of our population? What would he say about the fact that the progress we’ve made has not closed the wealth gap between black and Hispanic families and white families, it’s actually grown wider?

Or what would he say about the cruel reality that African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms; that a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes; and by some estimates, young black men are more than 20 times more likely to be shot dead by a police officer than a young white man? What would Robert Kennedy say to the thousands of Americans marching in our streets, demanding justice for all, to the young people with their eyes open and their hands up, to the mothers who’ve lost their sons?

What would he say to all those who have lost trust in our government and our other institutions, who shutter at images of excessive force, who read reports about torture done in the name of our country, who see too many representatives in Washington quick to protect a big bank from regulation but slow to take action to help working families face an ever greater pressure? What would Robert Kennedy say to us?

I’d like to believe that he would remind us, as he did in that famous Ripple of Hope speech, that in American there have often been wide and tragic gaps between promise and performance, ideal and reality, and that the calling of our country is to extend and enlarge the meaning and practice of freedom to all of our people. That means dignity, that means justice, that means prosperity that gives a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta or the Rio Grande Valley the same opportunities in life as my baby granddaughter.

Robert Kennedy was a man of action and he would urge us to take hold of these challenges to organize, to legislate, and yes, to vote. For those of us who admire his legacy, that seems to be the charge: to narrow the gap between our ideals and our reality. We can stand up together and say, yes, black lives matter; yes, the government should serve and protect all of our people; yes, our country is strongest when everyone has a fair shot at the American dream, that inequality is not inevitable, that some of the social disparities we see today may stem from the legacy of segregation and discrimination, but we don’t have to perpetuate them, that some economic disparities may stem from long-term trends in globalization and automation, but we don’t have to give into them.

The choices we make matter. Policies, politics, priorities matter. But values matter even more. And it is possible. I believe Robert Kennedy would be telling us to restore a sense of security and potential of families struggling, worrying, disappointed, discouraged, revitalizing and re-stitching the frayed fabric of American life, possible to keep us safe from terrorism and reduce crime and violence without relying on torture abroad or unnecessary force or excessive incarceration at home.

Robert Kennedy was our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. He understood everyone in every community benefited when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law. We know that there are so many police officers every day inspiring trust and confidence rather than fear and frustration, honorably doing their duty, putting themselves on the line to save lives, not take them. We can build on that. We can work to restore balance to our public life, our economy, our criminal justice system.

There’s no doubt that at home and abroad, America is at our best when our actions match our values. Yes, the threat of terrorism is real and urgent. Scores of children were just murdered in Pakistan; beheadings in the Middle East; a siege in Sydney – these tragedies not only break hearts, but should steel our resolve and underscore that our values are what set us apart from our adversaries.

I am proud to have been a part of the Obama administration that banned illegal renditions and brutal interrogation practices, including torture. (Applause.) Today we need to say again in a loud and clear voice that the United States should never condone or practice torture anywhere in the world, not under any future administration or in any future conflict. That should be absolutely clear as a matter of both policy and law, including our international treaty obligations. And if that requires new legislation, then Congress should work with President Obama to quickly enact it. And it should not be an issue of partisan politics. (Applause.)

We should never forget the extraordinary service and sacrifice of all those intelligence professionals who do keep us safe, including those patriots who question these practices from the inside. This is an opportunity to reaffirm the strength of the American character. For even when we must contend against opponents with no respect for human rights or life, remember what Senator McCain said the other day: The high standard to which we hold ourselves isn’t about our enemies. It’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are, and who we  aspire to be. (Applause.)

I have no illusions that this is easy. Americans are understandably frustrated by all the division and polarization that seems to block progress at every turn, and it is easy to get discouraged. It’s also easy to get angry, to lose sight of the common humanity that unites us all.

Robert Kennedy was the privileged heir to a famous name, but that never stopped him from finding humanity in everyone, from a single mom in Bed-Stuy, to a steel worker in Buffalo, to a student in South Africa. He had the great gift of seeing the world through their eyes, imagining what it was like to walk in their shows.

I was so honored to follow in Robert Kennedy’s footsteps in the United States Senate, and his example was often on my mind. New Yorkers took a chance on both of us, and I will always be grateful for that. (Applause.) And I followed in his footsteps again in the summer of 2012, when I went to South Africa. And of the places I went was the University of Cape Town to deliver a speech, just as he had decades earlier that continues to inspire today.

Before that speech, I stopped in for what turned out to be my final visit to my friend, Nelson Mandela, at his home in his ancestral village. We reminisced, and I thought about the extraordinary excitement of being at his inauguration in 1994. It was a time of political strife in our own country. I have to confess, my heart had been hardened by all the partisan combat. But then at lunch, the new president of the new South Africa, President Mandela, said something that shook me from my head to my toes. He welcomed all the VIPs who came from all over the world, that he was pleased they were there, and then said this: “The three most important people to me here in this vast assembly are three men who were my jailers on Robben Island.” Mandela called them by name, and three middle-aged white men stood up. He explained that despite everything that divided them, those men had seen him as a fellow human being. They treated him with dignity and respect. Mandela had later told me when he was finally released he knew he had a choice to make – he could carry the bitterness and hatred of what had been done to him in his heart forever and he would still be imprisoned, or he could open his heart to reconciliation and become free.

Robert Kennedy said much the same thing on that terrible night in 1968, when Dr. King was killed. He spoke of his own loss, and he urged Americans to reach for justice and compassion, rather than division and hatred, quoting Aeschylus on the wisdom that comes through the awful grace of God.

So at this moment in our country and, indeed, in the world, let us again turn to the wisdom and the example of Robert Kennedy. It is only in this spirit that we will be able to meet the perils and to seize the possibilities of the 21st century. So thank you. Thank you all for keeping the torch burning brightly and inspiring so many others to keep sending out those ripples of hope. Thank you.

# # #

The brilliant Karen Finney is now blogging at Media Matters.  Her latest is a must-read on the topic of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches in comparison with private funds accumulated by men, including past and current presidential hopefuls, on the Republican side of the aisle.  Hillary continually reminds us of the importance of data and evidence.  This article is a keeper.  File it away for future reference.

Rock on, Karen!  Thank you for proving that the best defense is careful analysis.


The Right’s Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton Double Standard

Conservative Attacks On Clinton’s Wealth Follows Their Defense Of Romney



Jeb Bush Hillary Clinton

Two years after the fact, right-wing media are trying to flip the narrative that sunk their presidential aspirations in 2012 by charging that current personal wealth and the fees for paid speeches since leaving the State Department make former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “out of touch.” Often aided by Beltway reporters who are fixated on Clinton’s so-called “money problem,” conservative pundits are trying to dispel any narrative that supports the majority of Americans’s belief that the potential Democratic nominee for president can relate to and understands average citizens.

The facts show that Clinton’s earnings on the speaking circuit are consistent with a number of men of similar prominence. According to one estimate, over 15 months from the end of her term as Secretary through May 2014, Clinton made $5 million dollars. In the 13 months before former Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran for president in 2007, he earned more than $11 million dollars, charging anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. According to a number of reports former Secretary of State Colin Powell has received between $100,000 and $200,000 per speech, earning an estimated $6.7 million in speaking fees in 2000 alone.

Read more >>>>


Data2X  is a partnership Hillary launched  in July 2012 to identify gender data gaps and spur efforts to fill them.  Better gender data are needed to guide policies, set targets, and monitor progress for women and girls.  Today’s event brought together leading experts for a discussion on the vital role data plays in closing gender gaps, and how lack of data can inhibit progress for women and girls globally.

Hosted by Michael Bloomberg in New York, the event was a team effort sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies , the Clinton Foundation represented by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, and the United Nations Foundation represented by President and CEO Kathy Calvin.

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Washington, DC
Press Release

At White House Early Learning Summit, Partners Commit to Reaching Millions of Hispanic Families with Information, Tools and Resources to Promote Early Brain Development, Strengthen Early Literacy and Early Numeracy, and Reinforce the Benefits of Bilingualism

WASHINGTON, DC— Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America, announced a new commitment in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint effort of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, to help Hispanic parents and caregivers boost early brain development and improve early learning among Hispanic children from birth to age five.  The commitment, unveiled in conjunction with today’s White House Early Learning Summit, builds on “Pequeños y Valiosos” (Young and Valuable), the joint campaign launched by Univision and Too Small to Fail in February 2014 that has since reached millions of Hispanic families with messages, tools and resources.

Univision and Too Small to Fail will deepen and strengthen “Pequeños y Valiosos” in 2015 by:

  • Introducing new programming that integrates messages about early numeracy, the science behind early brain development and the benefits of bilingualism;
  • Expanding reach to be more inclusive of fathers, grandparents and other caregivers with more than 200 million media impressions reinforcing the importance of talking, reading and singing to young children and highlighting the benefits of bilingualism;
  • Providing no fewer than 100,000 Hispanic families with materials, tools, and resources on early literacy, early brain development and early numeracy, through digital content, a new interactive text messaging platform, mobile apps, and dozens of Univision-sponsored community events across the country;
  • Developing and implementing new tools to empower Hispanic parents to better navigate relationships with childcare providers and assess the quality of childcare centers; and,
  • Increasing the number of Hispanic families who have pledged to spend at least 15 minutes every day talking, reading or singing to their young children to over 35,000 families – representing at least 3.5 million hours pledged to these activities in 2015.

The expansion efforts will be greatly enhanced by a new collaboration between “Pequeños y Valiosos” and Vroom, an early learning initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, to integrate Vroom’s positive brain-building messages, parent tools and technology into “Pequeños y Valiosos” in 2015.  Vroom and “Pequeños y Valiosos” will empower families with actionable information about the science of early childhood; provide timely prompts to encourage brain-building interactions between parents and children; and deliver tools to help parents develop early numeracy skills in toddlers, as well as tips about how to incorporate more talking, reading, and singing to their children into their daily lives.

Throughout 2015, “Pequeños y Valiosos” will continue to provide Hispanic parents and caregivers with the latest news and information about early brain development and early learning, through regular news features produced by Univision News, special programming and public service announcements produced by the award-winning Univision Contigo community empowerment team, as well as free online resources for parents from Univision and a range of community partners at www.univision.com/educacion.

“Pequeños y Valiosos” is part of Univision Contigo, Univision’s community empowerment platform that delivers programs to support the U.S. Hispanic community in the areas of education, health, prosperity and civic participation. The Heising-Simons Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provided financial resources to support the production of the “Pequeños y Valiosos” campaign in 2014.

This is the second time this year that Too Small to Fail has worked with the White House and early childhood community leaders to support early learning and help close the “word gap” — or, the disparity in words that children living in lower-income families hear and learn compared to those in higher-income families. In October, Too Small to Fail joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Urban Institute, U.S. Department of Education, and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to highlight the ways that communities across the country are tackling this serious but solvable challenge.



Talking is Teaching in Tulsa

In March 2014, Too Small to Fail announced its first local campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, titled “Talking is Teaching”. The campaign was developed in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, as well as several other community organizations, businesses and individuals that are dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in the local Tulsa community and elsewhere.

This November, our partners rolled out the campaign with the help of hundreds of faith-based leaders, pediatricians, business owners, nurses, and medical facility administrators. These trusted messengers will educate parents about early brain development, and share why talking, reading and singing with children every day from birth is important to their learning and well-being. They will also distribute thousands of materials like books and clothing designed to increase communication between parents and their young children.

During the next few weeks, we will highlight some of these trusted messengers’ efforts on our Facebook page and on our website. Voices like that of Dr. Amy Emerson, a dedicated pediatrician who is also a champion of early literacy programs like Reach Out and Read. In our Q&A with her, Dr. Emerson explains that the best way that parents and caregivers can promote and support early literacy and language development is by integrating it into a daily routine.

There is much to be done in Tulsa and in other communities across the United States to ensure that all children can experience healthy, balanced lives and are prepared to enter school. But we know that with the help of dedicated community leaders—and the efforts of parents and caregivers—more children can meet their potential and succeed in the 21st century.


Dr. Amy Emerson describes how pediatricians are prescribing reading books to children to improve brain development and benefit children’s well-being. >>

Using Every Day Moments to Inspire Early Math Skills

Early math, like early literacy, helps build a foundation for later learning that prepares children for success in school and beyond. Many studies have shown that children who are exposed to math early in life do better in school and apply the math skills they learn to other learning. In fact, it appears that math—more than any other subject area—is a better predictor of future academic success.

The great news is that parents and caregivers can inspire a love of math in their young children using everyday moments. And it doesn’t require flash cards or rote memorization. Math is all around us, and parents and caregivers can use simple tools and activities to share with children important math concepts like shapes, sizes, number order and counting.

Even very young babies get basic math concepts like quantity and space, and are interested in understanding the math around them. Professor Deborah Stipek of Stanford University explains that young children learn best during playful, everyday activities, like counting toes at bath time or buttons on a shirt. At meal times, a parent or caregiver can point out shapes in their baby’s food or in the kitchen. Reading books and singing songs that have basic counting or rhyming patterns also help familiarize children with basic math skills.

Older toddlers enjoy learning math from fun activities like shape hunting or counting games. Once they learn basic skills like counting to ten, children enjoy being asked to find a set number of safe items around the house that match a certain number or shape.

And it is never to early—or late!—to get started. Parents and caregivers can help build math confidence and skill whatever the age of the child.


Resources for Sharing:


Early math experts explain why it’s important to help children discover a love of math in this sweet, original Too Small to Fail video. >>

Yesterday, President Clinton welcomed world leaders to a Future of the Americas Summit at the University of Miami.  Emilio and Gloria Estefan participated in the event and later welcomed President and Secretary Clinton as guests of honor at a fundraiser at their home.  There are no photos, but there is a brief video along with this report.

Clinton Meets With Estefans After Holding Summit

Following the daylong meeting, Clinton and his wife Hillary were the guests of honor at a fundraiser at the Star Island home of Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

“President Clinton, when he left office in 2001, still thought he hadn’t done enough, and thought as a private citizen he would like to do what he can,” Gloria Estefan said of the former Commander in Chief.

Emilio Estefan added, “Doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, you bring everybody together.”

Hillary Clinton thanked the hosts, saying “They have lent their talents and voices in so many ways to try to bring people together. To do exactly as you quote Bill saying 20 years ago. So we’re grateful to you for all that you have done for so many.”

Read more >>>>


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