Dick Scheuerman talks about Ukraine and community at Cashmere Rotary
There was a heartfelt homecoming last week at the Cashmere Rotary Club when former local teacher Richard “Dick” Scheuerman visited to talk about the war in Ukraine and efforts to support children there who are orphans.
Scheuerman, a celebrated historian and the author of multiple books on Native Americans in North Central Washington and Eastern Washington, has ancestral ties to Russia and Ukraine. His family traces its history to the Volga Germans, an ethnic group recruited by Catherine the Great in the 18th Century to colonize part of what is now Ukraine and Crimea. Ultimately, some of those folk moved into Eastern Washington.
“Cashmere is a place of high relevance to world events,” Scheuerman said. “The Wenatchee Valley itself is an area of most special, close-knit communities and the sense of community that it represents has a lot to say about why conflicts are happening in the world and how perhaps we can find ways to resolve them,” he added.
Scheuerman titled his talk “21st Century Lessons for America from Ukraine and our Nation’s Fathers” and proceeded to try to connect the dots by drawing upon the lessons of history.
The principles of our Republic “have been lived out imperfectly since enshrined by our founders, Sheuerman said.The freedom, security and economic prosperity that has been created is “threatened today because of extremists on both sides of the political continuum in the national, state and local levels,” he added.
The essential problem is leaders who value personal benefit over the common good. “This is an inversion of America’s first principles,” said Scheuerman.
Russia has a leader in Vladimir Putin, a “clever but unimaginative secret police veteran,” as Scheuerman put it, who seeks medieval solutions to perceived threats to his nation’s security.
Scheuerman said he’s “not optimistic” that the war will end soon. American leaders have ignored the historic tensions that exist in Ukraine and have missed opportunities to intervene in ways that might have forestalled the invasion.
“I have likened Russia to an angry bear, and you don’t poke an angry bear with a sharp stick,” said Scheuerman. “And there’s been a fair amount of that happening in U.S. policy in the last ten years,” he added.
While it is easy to wring one’s hands about the ways things are politically, both in this country and in the war in Ukraine, Scheuerman is all about taking constructive action. He is on the board of a nonprofit called A Family for Every Orphan, a nonprofit organization that works to place orphans in their own country.
There are an estimated 65 million orphans in the world today, said Scheuerman. The organization’s work in Ukraine has been highly effective, he said, reducing the number of orphans 85 percent to just 4,500 children prior to the outbreak of the war.
The organization is at the moment raising funds for a program called Operation Harvest Hope, which will support bakeries, coffee houses and churches in distributing bread and other food to orphans and those in need.
Scheuerman draws inspiration for personal action from writers like American Wendell Berry and the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “I cannot imagine them to be more different in outlook and life experience, yet they came to very similar conclusions about the real fulcrum for progressive change,” said Scheuerman.That fulcrum comes down to people that care and look out after each other.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by world and national political events that are swirling around us. But we can all make a difference in small but important ways in our neighborhoods and communities. It’s up to us to be the change and not wait for someone else to do it. That’s the spirit of Cashmere Rotary and so many other civic organizations.
For more information about Scheuerman’s nonprofit, check out afamilyforeveryorphan.org. There is also a Wenatchee Valley fundraising effort for local Ukrainian refugee families. Contributions can also be made out to Friends of Ukrainian Refugees, PO Box 686, Wenatchee, Wa 98807.