Last Thursday and Friday’s trip to Pennsylvania with the NEU Massachusetts group was quite an eye-opener.

I expected to get an academic, historical view of Gettysburg but with that – presented in a lively and personal way by a terrific guide on the first day of our visit – I got insights, on the second day, into how Parents Forum needs to move forward and, the most surprising, a family connection to the battle itself.

On the trip I brought along a book, Hearth and Knapsack: the Ladley Letters, 1857-1880 (published in 1988 by Ohio University Press), a collection of letters between my great-grand-uncle Oscar -who served in the Union Army- and his mother and sisters. ‘Uncle Oc’ . . . as I remember he was called by my grandmother . . . it turns out, fought at Gettysburg!

The morning of the second day of our Pennsylvania visit, en route to the U.S. Army War College ( by bus, with education policy fellowship groups from other states (PA, NY, DC, OH, MI), I looked up Gettysburg. There I read Uncle Oc’s letter to his ‘Dear Mother and Sisters’ datelined ‘July 5 Battle Field, Gettisburg Pa’ the day after the three days of fighting that ended in a Union victory. I had chills reading his narrow escape from death:

 “…I was standing behind the wall when they came over. A Rebel officer made at me with a revolver with his colors by his side. I had no pistol nothing but my sword. Just as I was getting ready to strike him one of our boys run him through the body so saved me. There was a good man killed in that way….”

I knew from our first day’s tour and through vague rememberings of high school history lessons, that the fighting was close but I had no idea how close it was to me. Now I want to re-read the whole book of Uncle Oc’s letters!

That day’s lectures at the War College were inspiring as well, in a different way. Of the three elements of leadership – that was the focus of our trip, indeed the focus throughout the year-long education policy fellowship program – I recognized that the middle piece is the one Parents Forum needs to work on.

Parents Forum is strong in our mission and vision and, according to participants in our workshops, also strong in our practice. Between those two are strategic and tactical elements. Those need to be our focus. I am ready and I welcome your advice and help!

As a postscript, I learned that the War College, a graduate school for all five branches of our armed services, welcomes high-ranking military officers from nations around the world. The connections among these men and women (only a few women) serve to support the services’ over-arching peace-keeping mission. I was impressed. The question occurs to me: do we need international programs in parenting studies? The answer, of course, is yes! We have much to teach each other if we want our children to learn to live peacefully and work productively together.