I TRY TO STAY INFORMED on political matters, but I've never considered myself a political junkie. Even so, politics has always seemed to have a place in my life, going back, I suppose, to one of the first snapshots of me taken by my parents. In it, my mother is holding me up to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was riding past in a presidential limousine.
From an early age I remember neighbors and relatives talking avidly about politics. One of my grandfathers, John McCracken, told me about growing up in western Pennsylvania in a farm family that included several sons. His father did not have enough land to give to all his sons, so the family farm went to the eldest son, and eighty-acre tracts were purchased for the younger boys, which included my grandfather. He told me that the land he received, which was in West Virginia, near the Pennsylvania border, was purchased under a law for which Thomas Jefferson was responsible and which had made land readily available at cheap prices. I've never checked the land deeds, but I know that he believed the story to be true, and so at an early age I came to see that decisions made by those in high places could affect ordinary Americans.
My other grandfather, Wilbur Ferling, was the son of German immigrants and the first in the family to be born in the United States. He was a skilled artisan, a glass cutter in that thriving industry in the Ohio Valley early in the twentieth century. He endured the agony and uncertainty of