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We Are All Connected!

American Sunshine

‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on how we are all connected and the value of treating others with civility, compassion and respect.’

When I wrote the book, ‘American Sunshine,’ several years ago, it was with a desire to rise above the negativity and divisiveness that dominates so much of the discourse in our country today. Instead, I wanted to share an inspiring vision that would focus on the positive – all those wonderful values and foundational beliefs that connect us as Americans. And, in so doing, strengthen the ties that connect us. In other words, we have an opportunity to look past our differences, restore civility back into our human interactions and create an exciting, shared vision for our future.

Meanwhile, when we launched the Sunshine Initiative in my hometown of Newport, it was also with this positive, inclusive intent. With the understanding that we are ‘all connected,’ our goal has been for the Sunshine Initiative to benefit everyone in the community, not just a few. And, with a mission to help ‘every’ individual have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential. So, as we move forward, let’s all focus on seeing each other as valuable human beings and do all we can t to find the good in one another. Because after all, we are all connected.

By way of example, a little over 4 years ago a group of friends - Dave Blankenhorn, Bill Doherty, and Dave Lapp - were sitting together in their hometown of Lebanon, Ohio following the incredibly divisive 2016 presidential elections. Like many of us, they had grown frustrated with the nature of the national political debate. Even though the friends came from different sides of the political aisle, they wondered if America was truly as divided as the media was portraying. So, with passions still high, they took on an unlikely endeavor to see if they could find common ground between the two different camps, bringing together a group of supporters of President Trump and his opponent Hillary Clinton from their community for what they called a “Red/Blue Workshop”. Naturally, most people they shared this idea with expressed skepticism that any common ground would be found. Yet what they found would prove their skeptics wrong.

They started by bringing together a diverse group of individuals. Native born and Immigrant, Black and White, Gay and Straight, Christian and Muslim. By most stretches of the imagination, organizing such a group in today's climate would sound almost dead on arrival. Yet instead of beginning with a political dialogue, Dave, Bill, and Dave encouraged each individual to share stories about themselves, their families, what they want out of life and finally, and finally how these elements informed their political positions. Instead of approaching each other from the perspective of stereotype, they were offered a more humanistic perspective that converted disdain into empathy and hatred into respect for the other person's position. They saw a neighbor whom they share a community and country with rather than an enemy with whom they share nothing. After their first meeting, each of the 22 attendees said they felt more connected to those they thought they opposed, even if they didn’t fully agree. Their organization, Braver Angels, was born.

Since then, Braver Angels has traveled across the country with chapters now stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Inspired by the words of Abraham Lincoln “act with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right” their goal is to bring more than civility to our national discourse, but to challenge Americans to work together even when we disagree, rediscovering the idea of what it truly means to be American.

If you’re a regular reader of the Sunshine Report, you’ve probably noted that we often discuss the need for civility and community. We do this because at a time when mainstream discourse encourages us to believe that we’re divided, the work of Braver Angels and organizations and individuals like them tell a much different story, one that actually says we’re more connected than we think. John Wood Jr., Media Director for Braver Angels and the son of an African-American mother with liberal political views and a White conservative father observed that, “it seems pretty clear to me that there are seminal themes or values that really do jump across one side of the political aisle to the other. Fundamentally, liberty and equality, or freedom and equality, and justice as well, are some of the primary examples. They just tend to express themselves in different ways in the context of politics. Pluralism itself is kind of at the heart of American identity.” By focusing on our shared identities and the values that connect us, we discover valuable ways for people in diverse societies like ourselves to bridge our differences without shedding or suppressing what makes us unique or different in the first place. Doing so allows us to come together with people who we previously imagined we had nothing in common with, building an important pathway towards healthier communities and a stronger national identity.

Enjoy the Leaves!

This week began the official start to fall and there is so much to be excited for. Apple Cider Donuts, Pumpkin Regattas, and of course, the splendid colors of the leaves changing. For New Hampshire, it is a major tourist attraction. Back in 2019, it was estimated that 3 million people visited the Granite State to see the amazing fall foliage - generating millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

One of my favorite things as you may know is running. And, this is such a great time of year to enjoy the outdoor weather. I especially enjoy going out for a run on a cool, crisp fall morning, enjoying the leaf filled streets in the neighborhoods of Portsmouth or a run along country roads around my hometown of Newport. While I was out on a run the other day, I got to thinking, where are some of my favorite spots across New Hampshire to see the leaves change color?

I’m sure you may have some of your own, but I would definitely include the North Country where you can travel along the Kancamagus Highway and see mountain ranges and incredible views filled with color and nature from Conway to Lincoln. If staying in a car isn’t your thing consider a hike, taking the Cog Railway up to the top of Mt. Washington or maybe even the Tram at Cannon Mountain in Franconia. Down in the Lakes Region you can enjoy a crisp morning boat ride or afternoon cruise on the MS Mt. Washington. Maybe you want to enjoy the view from the porch at the Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough.

The foliage is very important on so many levels in New Hampshire. We cherish it and want all to enjoy it so much in fact that the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism has created the ‘Fall Foliage Tracker.’ Here you can determine the best times to see peak foliage based on location. Visitors can download maps, get reports on the foliage, and plan a road trip through the 10 counties of the Granite State to see some of the best foliage in the country!

For those who haven’t visited New Hampshire during the foliage season, I encourage you to experience this autumn wonder. To learn more about foliage and to start planning your trip visit

Wentworth by the Sea – Grand Old Hotel

Just outside of Portsmouth, NH, in New Castle, sits one of the last grand hotels in New England – Wentworth by the Sea. While the building itself is breathtaking, the story of how it came to be and the events that have taken place there are quite intriguing.

Wentworth by the Sea was first constructed in the early1870’s by a distiller, Daniel Chase, of Boston. Originally named Wentworth Hall (possibly after Samuel Wentworth, the first innkeeper on the island), it was marketed as a seaside get-away and conference center. Unfortunately, Chase went bankrupt shortly after its opening, and it was left to its new owner, Frank Jones of Portsmouth, who purchased the property in 1879 to do much of the build out and expansion. It was Jones who (as many historians believe) who installed the iconic towers that still sit atop of the hotel to this day. How do we know this? Well the towers look almost identical to the ones on Jones’ own home in downtown Portsmouth – all inspired by what came to be known as Second Empire Architecture.

As the hotel became well-known, it began to attract many prominent guests including presidents, notably President Chester A. Arthur, and governors and in 1905 was the site of the signing of the armistice to end the Russo-Japanese War. The hotel even gave the space to the diplomats for free at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt! Teddy earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending the conflict which was not without its theatrics when the Russian delegation at one point packed their bags and threatened to leave.

As the twentieth century progressed, the hotel continued to enjoy prominence. The legendary sharp-shooter, Annie Oakley visited and even performed a demonstration at the hotel in 1916. The renowned golf course designer Donald Ross was responsible for creating a challenging 9-hole course on the hotel property. With all its notoriety and prominence the hotel continued to be a popular destination for vacationers from Boston, New York and beyond well into the twentieth century. And, this period of stability continued under the ownership of Margaret and John Barker Smith who operated the hotel from 1934 onward to 1980.

However, unable to find new owners, the hotel closed in 1980 and lay dormant for nearly the next twenty years. The beautiful, majestic wooden building gradually deteriorated during this period and was nearly demolished. Thankfully, the hotel was purchased in 1997 by Ocean Properties. Thanks to an amazing $30 million renovation, the hotel was restored to its former glory and more - and now is one of New Hampshire’s premier getaways! Please make it a point to visit this wonderful Granite State Seacoast treasure next time you have an opportunity!

Meanwhile, fun fact that I suspect you might enjoy. Here are some of the well-known people who have stayed at the hotel: Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Ralph Nader, Ted Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Temple, Richard Nixon, Milton Eisenhower and John Kenneth Galbraith, among many others.

Positive Profile of the Week: Kurt Strandson

This week, we are delighted to highlight a successful entrepreneur and leader in his community – my friend, Kurt Strandson of Manchester. I have great respect for his dedication and commitment to giving back to the place he calls home.

Kurt is the President and CEO of the Pinnacle Mortgage company which is located on the east side of Manchester. Kurt founded the business and has now grown it into one of the leaders in the mortgage industry with operations in several states. Kurt is no stranger to the community for he is always there to support causes making a difference. I first met Kurt at a mutual friend’s annual spaghetti supper to support the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Both Kurt and I were honored to sponsor the event and when I spoke to him you could hear the passion in his voice when it came to giving back to ensure real difference was being made.

In addition to raising a family of six children, Kurt and his wife Hollie are determined to give back. From youth sports to food pantries, Kurt and Hollie are there and always ready to assist. Their commitment has resulted in more than 20 charities and associations feeling their love and support. In 2021, they launched the Pinnacle Foundation, a program committed to supporting the community. But it's not just the donation side of Kurt that shows his belief in giving back.

Kurt serves on numerous boards including the Elliot Hospital’s ‘Mary & John Elliot Charitable Foundation,’ as well as the Mortgage and Bankers Association. Kurt is a true advocate for his industry and for the preservation of our state’s values. He’s never shy about sharing his feelings and living his values. When he says you can count on him to be supportive, you can certainly count on it.

Those who know Kurt also know that I have just scratched the surface on the positive and impactful things he is doing for his community. He is the true definition of a role model and someone I am honored to call a friend. Thanks for all that you do Kurt. Your efforts are making a difference day in and day out!

Positive Quotes of the Week: We Are All Connected

“A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. Our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville

“We are members one of another; so that you cannot injure or help your neighbor without injuring or helping yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

“All is connected… no one thing can change by itself.” – Paul Hawken

“We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” – Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.” – Margaret J. Wheatley


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