Inspired by Rockwell

From the late 1930’s through the early 1950’s, Norman Rockwell lived and worked in Arlington, Vermont. He was part of a thriving artist colony that included several other Saturday Evening Post illustrators, including Gene Pelham – who founded the Vermont News Guide!

I feel very honored to be the Publisher of the Vermont News Guide – and to continue to celebrate the best of our community.

One might argue that it is hard to celebrate right now. Fear and isolation are certainly driving our society.

But I disagree.

During World War II, Rockwell and his colleagues – week after week – managed to capture moments of humor, tenderness, and joy in their illustrations. Even Rockwell’s famous “Four Freedoms War Posters” did not showcase the military. Rather, they showcased a family Thanksgiving and parents tucking their children into bed at night.

The War was on, but moments of love and compassion were still ever-present in the day-to-day.

Like Rockwell and his colleagues, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to keep hope and optimism alive during this trying time.

And like Rockwell and his colleagues, I receive tremendous inspiration from my friends and neighbors.

Rockwell famously used his Arlington neighbors as his models. Those same “kid models” are STILL our neighbors today!

The cover of this week’s Vermont News Guide is inspired by a tender moment I personally witnessed as our very own Art Director, Len Kenyon, held his son, Jack. His wife, Kelsey, looked on.

So – yes, it is a strange time in our universe – but there is still cause for celebration.

Love and compassion are still evident as ever… if we all just pay attention.

It’s amazing how some words and phrases disappear from our communal lexicon – only to reappear when the time is right.

“Good old-fashioned ingenuity” has not been in the vernacular for some time, but the moment certainly is ripe for ingenuity to show its lovely face.

And fortunate for us, it has surfaced fully – right here in Vermont.

In our holiday issue of VERMONT Magazine, we published a feature on Vermont Glove – which has manufactured beautiful hand-made gloves since 1920.  The holiday issue was published in November 2019.  Never could I have imagined that less than 6 months later, Vermont Glove would actually be on the forefront in combatting the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The family-run company has paused glove production.  Instead, they are using their employees’ skills and the company’s perfectly-equipped facility to sew protective face masks for medical and community workers.  They openly acknowledge that this pivot in production has dual goals:  They consider producing masks for “the everyday heroes” across the country a great opportunity to meaningfully contribute to society at this dire moment.  This adjustment in their product line will also enable them to keep their employees on payroll during this economic crisis.

If that is not “good old-fashioned ingenuity” at its best, I don’t know what is!

So – like Rosie the Riveter in World War II – who was not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get to work, this week’s cover illustrates and salutes The Vermont Glove Company for demonstrating true ingenuity in the face of crisis.

The world may seem grim, but if we are willing to collaborate with one another and be thoughtful towards each other, Rosie’s original tag line will still hold true.

“We can do it!”

Press On

In 1932, President Calvin Coolidge (a Vermonter!) famously stated:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of PERSISTENCE.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent.

The slogan ‘Press On,’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

It’s pretty common these days to hear the comment, “It’s a strange time.”

1932.  That was a “strange time”, too.  The Great Depression.

Still – certain natural truths that existed then… still remain today:

Paint still peels.

Windows still get dirty.

Tires still get flat.

Branches still break.

Grass still grows.

Therefore – no matter one’s age, race, or gender… in one form or another, we all have a “Honey-do-list.”

So- while I agree, it is, indeed, a strange time… perhaps we can all take comfort in knowing that some things never change.

The only way for us to weather this storm is with Persistence and Determination.

And as for that Spring “Honey-do-list” ?    Press On!

The other night, after dinner, my wife and I danced hand-in-hand (and cheek-to-cheek) in the kitchen.

This is not an uncommon occurrence.

Still, in the midst of the stress of this pandemic, the moment carried added weight.
Added meaning.


Was it simply the pure joy that dancing provides after the stress of a long day?

Was it the relief we felt being close to one another at a time when we are all being told to limit the physical touch of daily human contact?

It was likely a combination of both of these.

But, on a deeper level, I think it was our unspoken recognition and genuine belief that our love is stronger than the problems we are facing. We feel incredibly grateful to have each other, particularly at this time of stress. And while we are both realists, we are also optimists.

The song we danced to was not Irving Berlin’s classic, “Cheek-to-Cheek”, but rather another Irving Berlin tune made famous by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during The Great Depression. The lyrics?

“There may be trouble ahead,
But while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance,
Let’s face the music and dance…
… Soon we’ll be without the moon, humming a different tune.
And then –
There may be teardrops to shed,
So while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance,
Let’s face the music and dance.”

Like our dancing in the kitchen, those words carried extra meaning that night.

But – they also brought me great comfort.

Knowing that countless couples danced to that same song and those same words in the midst of The Great Depression and in the many years since, made me feel – once again – reassured that love really will keep us together.

Memorial Day.

To a child, it traditionally signals the end of the school year.

To a fashionista, it signals the opportunity to “break out” the white shoes.

But this year, I think (and hope) Memorial Day will mean so much more.

This year, Memorial Day’s original intention – acknowledging the heroes who fought and died for our freedom – is more present than it has been in a long time.

Freedom. “Simple to have, but hard to hold.”

That’s a lyric from a song my mom wrote.

I’ve heard that lyric hundreds of times, but the words never meant as much to me as they do right now, for perhaps it is only with the loss of freedom that we can truly appreciate it fully.

And that is my wish for our community, looking ahead to Memorial Day 2020.

I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on those who died fighting for our freedom.

I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on how important freedom really is.

And I hope we can all take a moment and reflect on what we can each do moving forward to help protect the freedoms that perhaps we had previously taken for granted.

The title of the Norman Rockwell painting on the cover is “Mending the Flag” – and it was the cover of The Literary Digest in May 1922. World War I was still in the recent past when the image first premiered. Almost 100 years later, we should all take a lesson from Rockwell.

Each of us must do our part if we hope to see the States of America re-United.

Births. Weddings. A baby’s first step. These are all often referred to as “milestones” or “life cycle events.”

Graduation is another important milestone. And what is it we are celebrating? We award diplomas for academic achievement. But – as is often noted by principals across the nation – the ceremony itself is referred to as “commencement”, because we are actually celebrating the beginning; the start of our graduates’ lives as adults.

This year, not every graduation tradition will occur. Without a doubt, ceremonies will be adjusted and rituals will be altered. How do we reconcile this loss?

Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from The Wizard of Oz.

In the film, The Wizard awards a diploma to the Scarecrow (who longs for a brain), but more importantly The Wizard awards a medal to the Cowardly Lion for demonstrating courage. To the Lion, the Wizard states, “As for you, my fine friend – you’re a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom.”

So, perhaps this week, while we celebrate our graduates, who are receiving their diplomas (like the Scarecrow), we should actually congratulate them all (like the Cowardly Lion) for the courage and wisdom they have demonstrated these last few months.

You’ll notice that this week’s cover is not illustrated. It is a photograph. Why? Because life is moving forward. Shops and restaurants are re-opening. It is a milestone moment in which life begins again. It is our communal Commencement.