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D.G. Martin

Making friends with our presidents

The president of the United States today sends troops to fight in distant lands for long periods, enters into binding agreements with foreign powers, and takes other extraordinary actions, all without prior approval from Congress. Presidential candidates promise to reverse their predecessors’ agreements on the first day they take office. And they confidently promise to take other dramatic and costly actions unilaterally on that same first day. We have come to expect, even demand, such power plays from our presidents. So it is fair to ask what explains the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in...

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What book for the perfect gift this season?

Have you seen the TV ad with George Foreman? “People ask me all the time, George, how do I get my idea in front of companies?” Well, this time of year people ask me all the time, “DG, what is a good book for me to give this Christmas?” I don’t have one perfect answer. But I can suggest some recent North Carolina related books to consider. Memoirs: Three prominent North Carolina writers shared their life stories in recent books. In “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless,” former state poet laureate Joseph Bathanti tells how a working class...

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Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Chapel Hill in the Bush 41 Biography

“Were you surprised that so much of the public attention to your book has been focused on President George H.W. Bush’s unflattering comments about the roles of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney in the administration of his son, President George W. Bush?” I asked this question to Jon Meacham, author of The New York Times bestseller, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.” Then, I added, “Especially since you did not report Bush’s comments about Rumsfeld and Cheney until the last 15 pages of your 600-page book.” Meacham responded quickly....

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Our holiday longing for home

“There is something about the holidays,” says Chapel Hill minister Bob Dunham, “that stirs memories and longing for home. “Even if they are better in memory than they were in reality.” He explained that student homesickness is not just about freshmen. Longing for home affects everybody. There is an aching for family now separated and for particular places. Dunham told how minister and author Frederick Buechner remembered when another minister asked in a sermon, “Are you going home for Christmas?” The question brought tears to Buechner’s eyes. Such memories more often than not take me back to family meals...

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Thanksgiving and Happiness

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why? One reason is that it is one of the very few days we have saved just for families and friends. We have done a better job of keeping the Thanksgiving holiday from getting away from us. It has not yet taken charge of our lives. No dressing up with new clothes, no cards to mail, no gifts to buy and wrap, no parties, no alcohol, no high expectations to be crushed, no embarrassing failures to do the right thing. Somehow we have mostly kept it centered around our family dining table. I like...

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Celebrating connections to winners of the North Carolina Awards

Finally, something to brag about, I thought as I made my way to the annual dinner for the presentation of this year’s North Carolina Awards. These awards recognize contributions in the fields of fine art, literature, public service and science. I am always amazed to learn about the accomplishments and contributions of the award winners each year. But most of them usually have been strangers to me. Not this year. Of the six winners, my family and I have close connections with four. This year’s recipients were Tony Abbott of Davidson for Literature; Dr. Anthony Atala of Winston-Salem for Science; Senator Jim...

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An important author’s struggles can help his readers

You can’t go home again. This is what Thomas Wolfe learned after his thinly disguised autobiographical novel cast some of his family and neighbors in Asheville in unflattering roles. It is always dangerous for a successful writer to base fictional characters on real family or neighbors. Like most of us, these people cannot be expected to appreciate unflattering portrayals or the publication of their carefully guarded secrets. Even more risky is what Henderson native David Payne has done in his new memoir, “Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story.” Payne, who now lives in Hillsborough, has written five highly praised...

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Pushing Spellings into the pantheon, not the trash bin

Let’s help her all we can. That is what I am telling my friends in the university community when they express displeasure at the selection of Margaret Spellings as their new president, or when they complain about the UNC Board of Governors’ presidential selection process and some of its other recent actions. First of all though, you should know that I am a friend and big admirer of the current university president, Tom Ross. By all accounts, he has done, a masterful job. Even though the current board of governors signaled the end of his presidency a year ago,...

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Who said this about whom?

The candidate “has the knack of doing things and doing them noisily, clamorously; while he is in the neighborhood the public can no more look the other way than the small boy can turn his head away from a circus parade followed by a steam calliope.” Can you guess who was the target of this comment? I would have guessed Donald Trump, but it was written to describe Theodore Roosevelt, who shared Trump’s flamboyance and strong ego. The following quote sounds like what Republican congressional leaders were saying about Barack Obama after the 2014 and 2010 congressional elections: “Our...

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Good for Nicholas Sparks, good for North Carolina

“My books are all different,” Nicholas Sparks, the No. 1 New York Times best selling author who lives in New Bern, told a group of 500 fans at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Alumni Center last week. Except, he says, for two things. One is that there will always be a couple in love. The other is that the story will be set in North Carolina. With Sparks’s books selling more than 100 million copies worldwide, a lot of people have learned a lot about our state. Then there are the movies and television programs based on the books. These have put...

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