Esteemed thinker: Louis Brandeis

telephone boothWhat if you went to a party and upon entering there was a box, not too big, but large enough to be placed on the foyer table. Posted above the box was a sign, hand written by the host that read, “Please leave your cell phones here. You may retrieve them when you leave. Thank you.”

No texting, no photography, no calls, just you and those who were invited to attend. Such a revolutionary idea would indeed be a most welcome plan. For take just a moment and think…we live in a world devoid of privacy. Privacy being defined as the state of being apart from other people or concealed from their view. No longer are we in total control of our own privacy because those around us infiltrate without consent. Everyone is victim to a socially invasive medium, photography, where they are taken at will, often without our knowledge and posted for the world to see. How often are you recorded, or found yourself in the sentence of a text, misconstrued or erroneously misinterpreted? And in less than a blink of an eye, it reappears a million times over.

So, just maybe a small box where one disposes of their cell phones once in a while just might bring back the good old days of personal space…a time when privacy was not just a word that is now endangered and becoming dangerously on the brink of extinction!

Brandeis Today’s blog brings to you an intellectual and fair-minded man, the esteemed thinker: Louis Brandeis (1856- 1941), born in Louisville, Kentucky. At the early age of 20 he graduated from Harvard Law School and earned the moniker as “the people’s lawyer”. He fought for workers’ rights and the breaking up of large corporate monopolies. In 1916 he became the first Jewish Supreme Court Judge, appointed by Woodrow Wilson, but not without embittered opposition from large corporations and anti- Semitics who opposed having a Jewish Supreme Court Justice serving on the bench. Brandeis is noted for his decisions and affirmation towards individual liberty and his opposition to unchecked governmental power.

As “the people’s attorney,” he refused payment for his services, helped save the Boston subway system and break up the New Haven Railroad monopoly, and represented New England Policy-Holders’ Protective Committee in a suit rendering the establishment of a new form of savings-bank life insurance.

In 1879 Brandeis began a partnership with his classmate Samuel D. Warren. Together they wrote one of the most famous law articles in history, “The Right to Privacy,” published in the December 1890 Harvard Law Review. Take a moment from your day and indulge yourself a snippet from this most remarkable article.

“… The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury. Nor is the harm wrought by such invasions confined to the suffering of those who may be made the subjects of journalistic or other enterprise. In this, as in other branches of commerce, the supply creates the demand. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in a lowering of social standards and of morality. Even gossip apparently harmless, when widely and persistently circulated, is potent for evil. It both belittles and perverts. It belittles by inverting the relative importance of things, thus dwarfing the thoughts and aspirations of a people…. “

First image: New York, New York. Telephone booth inside the Hurricane Ballroom (1943) Gordon Parks, photographer

Esteemed thinker: William H. Seward

alaska 1869 Predicting the future; is it an art or is it a scam? There are people who make their living by claiming they can tell the future using such means as: reading tea leaves, examining “life lines” on a hand, or making predictions with the help of Tarot cards. Naturally, most of us would like someone to forecast our future, tell us what will happen tomorrow, if what we are about to do is a good plan or one that should be abandoned.

Yet, if we examine this notion of telling the future, just possibly there are among us individuals who can anticipate the likelihood of what may transpire at a later date; the ability to analyze a situation and project its outcome. Maybe they are simply individuals like you and I who can dazzle us with what we believe is ‘predicting the future’, but in reality they are merely patient enough to “see” the big picture. If so, then if we all stepped back and took our time…. we too could perform such magic!

Seward, William Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: William H. Seward, (1801-1872) born in Orange County, Florida. He served as New York’s governor, a U.S. Senator, and secretary of state during the Civil war. He was an ardent abolitionist, and one of Abraham Lincoln’s closest advisors helping to ensure Europe did not recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation. On April 14, 1865, nine days after he was gravely injured in a carriage accident, the bedridden Seward was stabbed in the throat by Lewis Powell (alias Lewis Payne), a fellow conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, who had that night assassinated Lincoln. Seward made a remarkable recovery and retained his cabinet post under Pres. Andrew Johnson until 1869.

His purchase of Alaska from the Russians, became known as “Seward’s folly” though, his foresight to negotiate a deal in 1866 certainly proved him to be a man that could “see the future” way beyond those of his skeptics. By 1896 gold had been discovered in the newly purchased regions and Alaska became the gateway to the Klondike gold fields. Years later, during World War II, Alaska would prove to be a strategic importance for the United States and in 1959, earning itself a place as the 49th state.

From William H. Seward’s Alaska Speech of 1869, delivered in Sitka Alaska, I shall take you back to this historic occasion. Take a moment from your busy day and reflect on Mr. Seward premonition or “folly of 1866”…you can decide…

“… Within the period of my own recollection, I have seen twenty new States added to the eighteen which before that time constituted the American Union, and I now see, besides Alaska, ten Territories in a forward condition of preparation for entering into the same great political family. I have seen in my own time not only the first electric telegraph, but even the first railroad and the first steamboat invented by man. And even on this present voyage of mine, I have fallen in with the first steamboat, still afloat, that thirty-five years ago lighted her fires on the Pacific Ocean. These, citizens of Sitka, are the guaranties, not only that Alaska has a future, but that that future has already begun.”

Second photo: Portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States government,
Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), photographer, Created/Published: between 1860 and 1865