Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow,
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
-Lyric by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, From “Meet Me in St. Louis”
The end of 2020 approaches and it can’t come soon enough. Like so many of you, my family and I will miss the usual holiday gatherings. But the Christmas season is a season of hope and among the things we are earnestly hoping for is an early end to the pandemic and a return to something at least approaching normality. The vaccines are at last here and inoculations have begun for health workers, first responders and others at highest risk. I can’t imagine a more welcome Christmas present. Development, testing and approval of vaccines, a process that normally takes a decade, was accomplished in less than a year, thanks to the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
“Peace on earth, good will toward men” was the message of the angels, heralding the birth of Jesus Christ. We could use a little more peace right here at home after a year of angry demonstrations, riots and a contentious election. Some cities are not so peaceful and violent crime has risen following calls to defund the police. We could also use a lot more civility in our treatment of public figures.
The stay-at-home restrictions have provided a lot more free time for many of us. Personally I’d rather still be teaching ship handling and seamanship to young naval officers, but at least I’ve had more time to read just about anything I can get my hands on, including some stuff that, in retrospect, really wasn’t worth the effort. I have in mind a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Joseph Epstein who I often find entertaining. Not so much, this time. In “Is there a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” (WSJ, Opinion, Dec. 12), he takes aim at the prospective First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. His piece begins: “Madam First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem a small but I think not an unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name?” He said that “It sounds fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.”
Not to me it doesn’t. She earned her doctorate, as I did, at an accredited university, hers at the University of Delaware, mine at USD, both accredited doctoral degree-granting universities ranked in the top third of the 500 schools listed in the WSJ’s annual ranking. The title “Doctor” is, among other things, an academic title derived from the Latin word for teacher, which is what Dr. Biden is, and I understand a very good one according to her community college students. Physicians do not have exclusive rights to it. Her diploma undoubtedly states that the degree is conferred “with all the rights, privileges and honors” that it conveys. That would include the title which generally requires, in addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees from accredited schools and evidence of scholarly writing such as a master’s thesis, the successful completion of about three more years of coursework, most at the graduate level, and several years of researching, writing and defending a dissertation which adds to the body of knowledge in the field or validates existing research. Dr. Biden plans to continue to teach community college students as First Lady, and will retain her degree and the title long after she ceases being First Lady, which is an unofficial title.
The title doesn’t mean that she is necessarily smarter or better than anyone else but it does signify that she earned academic achievement at the highest level in her field of study. I occasionally use the title when it seems appropriate, but you can always call me Jim, Jimmy, James, mister or captain. However, please don’t ever call me kiddo. The WSJ’s editorial page editor responded to a flood of criticism with a rather lame defense of Epstein’s piece. He referred to President-elect Joe Biden occasionally addressing his wife as kiddo and recalled him quoting his wife as saying, “I was sick of the mail coming to Sen. And Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden,” and that’s why she got the degree. C’mon, Mr. Epstein—Joe--kiddo! Don’t you know when someone’s kidding around? Fox News Channel’s perpetually outraged Tucker Carlson piled on Dr. Biden during two successive shows, ridiculing her use of the title, impugning her intelligence and nitpicking her doctoral dissertation. Elected and appointed officials (and columnists, and other opinion writers) are fair game when it comes to criticism but wives and children ought to be off limits unless they commit crimes, act outrageously or are subjects of investigations.
President Donald Trump delivered a number of Christmas gifts besides the vaccine in his final year in office including another solid, associate justice of the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Since that’s a lifetime appointment, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. His administration also brokered further efforts to bolster the cause of peace in the Middle East as Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in recognizing Israel. Another Covid relief package for those in need will be a welcome present from Congress. In his Christmas message, Mr. Trump thanked God for the gift to the world of his Son, Jesus, and reminded Americans that Jesus instructed his disciples to love one another, which is the greatest of all the commandments. Mr. Trump can provide us now with one final Christmas present by repeating the last words of the Savior: “It is finished.” Concede the election, Mr. President. Leave office with dignity and wish president-elect Biden good luck as we all should,
Merry Christmas, everyone. Love one another.