- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rest of the story

You’ve likely seen a photograph or two (we ran one in this column last week) of theRev. Luis Leon, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is across the street from the White House. Most often he’s seen chatting with President Bush, who he accompanies to the church stoop after Sunday morning services.

And now, as our good friend and radio host Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story.

From 1960 to 1962, in a program partially funded by Uncle Sam, 14,048 children and teenagers from Cuba arrived in the United States — sent here by parents terrified that the new communist government under Fidel Castro” would ship their children to Soviet work camps,” according to the National Archives.

Not surprisingly, the historians tell us, Operation Pedro Pan is the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors ever in the Western Hemisphere.

We refer to the National Archives because on Oct. 27, Elly Choval, founder of Operation Pedro Pan Inc., will moderate a discussion in its William E. McGowan Theater featuring three former Pedro Pan refugees. And talk about achievers:

• At 15, Eduardo Aguirre Jr. emigrated from Cuba as one of the unaccompanied minors. Until earlier this year, the former chief operating officer of the Export-Import Bank served as the nation’s first director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an undersecretary position in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This summer, he was named byPresident Bush as U.S. ambassador to Spain, presenting his credentials to King Juan Carlos I on June 29. The ambassador’s wife, Maria Teresa, also was sent to America by her parents at 15.

• Maria de los Angeles Torres is professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. She was 6 when she departed Cuba, obviously confused about the reasons for her uprooting. She chronicles her childhood and later adult emotions in the recent book, “By Heart/De Memoria: Cuban Women’s Journeys In and Out of Exile.”

• In 1961, at 12, Mr. Leon came with his sister to the United States. Because they were baptized into the Episcopal Church in Guantanamo, Cuba, they were cared for by the Episcopal Church in Miami. Luis never forgot the church’s generosity. After graduating from the University of the South and receiving his master’s of divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1977, he began a spiritual journey that saw him building inner-city parishes. He served as rector of Episcopal churches in Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina before becoming director of refugee resettlement for the Diocese of Maryland.

Now, as he does most every Sunday morning from his picturesque church in Lafayette Square, Mr. Leon delivers timely sermons to the leader of the free world sitting up straight in one of the front pews — asking the congregation, at the same time, to keep him in their prayers.

Issue of integrity

Members of Congress will get front-row seats — in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building — for a special screening tomorrow evening of “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a dramatization of the 1950s conflict between Edward R. Murrow of CBS News and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin Republican.

The screening is sponsored by Congress’ recently empaneled Future of American Media Caucus, which says the new film mirrors today’s “struggles for the independence of our media and the integrity of our journalists.”

As this column was the first to report, the caucus was organized by six congressmen — five Democrats and one independent, the latter being Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the group’s co-chairman.

The congressman complains that Americans today have “fewer programming choices and a rapidly dwindling supply of independent news and information sources,” and the caucus “is an important step in the fight to maintain local perspectives and diversity of opinion in the media.”

Other caucus members expected to be eating popcorn: Reps. Maurice D. Hinchey of New York, David E. Price of North Carolina, Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Diane E. Watson of California.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; showtime is at 7.

Hastert’s moment?

In its most recent Insiders Poll, the National Journal asked Republican political insiders to grade the top leaders on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

One politico who gives him an “A” writes: “Speaker Hastert has found himself facing the perfect storm: investigations of top Republicans like [Tom]DeLay, [Bill] Frist, and Karl Rove. The speaker presents himself as an island of calm surrounded by stormy seas.”

While another insider, who gives him a “C” for the current report card, states: “His biggest failing is that many think him a figurehead to DeLay’s Rasputin: Now may actually be his moment.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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