Forgiving Bataan, doing good, and how others see us (5×8 – 11/14/13)


If you survive the Bataan death march, you should have a long and healthy life. Brainerd native Ken Porwoll apparently did, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

He died on Monday — Veterans Day — at age 93.

Of the original 82 officers and men of the 34th Tank Co. who left Brainerd, 64 went overseas, three were killed, and 29 died as POWs. Only 32 returned to Brainerd, the paper says.

After Porwoll returned home, Tom Porwoll said his dad was told he would never have children because of the malnutrition he endured while held as a POW.

But after marrying his wife, the pair had nine children.

It’s how Ken Porwoll spent his life after the war that to this day amazes his son.

He gave speeches on the importance of a good attitude to groups at schools, community events and military events.

“He said you can do anything with the correct attitude,” Tom Porwoll said. “You can survive the Bataan Death March if you had the attitude to survive.”

Ken Porwoll volunteered at many service organizations, but one especially close to his heart was the Veterans Affairs hospital, where he almost hit 5,000 hours of time donated.

“He was always doing something to give back to the community,” Tom Porwoll said. “I think it’s a direct connection to having so much taken away from him for so long (while a POW). He really spent the rest of his life giving.”


(MPR Photo/Bob Collins)

Over the last few years, I’ve put out calls here for your stories of people you know — or yourself — doing good work or interesting things. And the People You Should Meet Series has been inspiring and/or illuminating as a result.

But we get relatively few suggestions and don’t hear about nearly enough of these people. Today, as you’ve probably already heard ad nauseum, it’s Give to the Max Day, and my inbox is full of these stories. They’re organizations that want money today.

The effort has expanded significantly from its birth a few years ago. Now, if it has a non-profit status, it’s in the Give to the Max list of organizations. Many of them are the usual subjects — the organizations that get most charitable money anyway, have well-tuned fundraising arms, stories that are often told, and shed their grassroots pedigree decades ago.

But it’s these other efforts in my inbox that intrigue me. I’ve never heard of them before and quite often they’re one person trying to do a little good with nowhere near enough help and certainly nowhere near enough money.

I told one of these stories a few years ago when one of you told me about Mary Steiner, who made trips to Uganda and Kenya as a tourist and met women who were dying of AIDS, or abandoned by men and needed help — wings, as it were — to get on their feet (click the link above for the story of Rose, for a perfect example).

Until then, I had never heard of the organization she started — Give Us Wings. I’ll bet you didn’t, either.

Nor did I know about the people who provided legal help with wills and estates for people heading off to war, or the writing workshops for at-risk kids in Twin Cities schools. But I’m guessing there’s one person with one grassroots story and shoestring operations behind them.

Unless they have slick mass-marketing email efforts, you have almost no chance of finding them on the Give to the Max website.

Today is about money and the attention will pass quickly. The rest of the year is about people who had an idea to do something in the face of reasons not to bother. Maybe you should tell me about the ones you know.


How does what America really is compare to what people moving here think was going to be.

Quora asked people who moved here to post what facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? Several of them have been curated by the Thought Catalog online magazine.

Here’s a sample:

  • Food portion sizes which are ridiculous to my view. When we eat out with my husband or friends, we usually share. Not because we can’t afford, but just because we do not need THAT much food. On the other hand I like the can-I-please-have-it-to-go thing for everything left on the table, which is not so common in Europe, and especially in Eastern Europe, where I am from.
  • Sport obsession. In downtown Toronto where I live (I believe this still counts for North America) everyone runs; or rides a bike; or skates; or makes yoga in the park; Public tennis courts and pools are full all summer long, not mentioning fitness clubs. Downtowners are crazy for health and fitness in the positive sense and are generally in the good shape. However, the farther from downtown you get, the bigger people get. In suburbs you barely notice anyone walking.
  • Love for marathons. I was surprised to find out how many marathons take place during summer and how serious many people are about them. They pay $100+ in enrollment fees (usually goes to charity) and train themselves all year long.
  • Under-dressing in cold weather. Shoes (flip-flops?) + tshirt + cardigan + scarf (+ running nose) = winter city outfit often seen in subway and public places when it is REALLY cold outside. If in winter you see a bare-feet child in crocks running from the car to the mall through the piles of snow, it is likely to be a local one. Immigrant kids are often on contrast a bit over-dressed for the weather, wearing snowpants and mittens starting November.
  • Coffee. I just don’t get it.

Did someone say “marathons?”: Stafko: OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It (Wall St. Journal)


This was a bad idea:

JP Morgan finally canceled its planned Q&A when it discovered that people on Twitter ask questions the politicians are too afraid to ask of its rainmaker, Jimmy Lee.

“They totally asked for it,” Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal said.


This is just a promotion for the Olympics in Russia, but it brings up an interesting question: Why not give people the option of doing a little exercise in exchange for a bus or light-rail ride? We’re already taxing people under the premise that it’s all about health.

Bonus I: Vi Hart is leaving YouTube. She’s dissatisfied that you need a Google+ account to leave a comment, which is actually giving more attention — not less — to trolls. “It’s abundantly clear now that there are more than enough people who are willing to be jerks under their real names,” she says. “In the meantime, people who have good reason not to post under their own names — vulnerable people, whistleblowers, others — are now fully on display to those sociopaths who are only too happy to press the attack with or without anonymity.”

Bonus II: Typewriters, somehow, still in demand (Marketplace).

Should sex offenders that have served time for their crime be set free?


Daily Circuit (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.): First hour: Sex offender policy in Minnesota. A follow-up on Gov. Dayton’s announcement that he is suspending future releases of sex offenders. What is the status of the program? What is the best solution to rehabilitate and/or reintegrate offenders back into society upon completing their sentences?

Second hour: The FDA recently moved to ban all trans fat in American foods. While trans fats have been slowly fading from our diet, they still remain in a number of popular items such as microwave popcorn. We’ll look at whether this ban will take care of the lingering problems with trans fat – and whether the FDA should really have a hand in monitoring what we can and cannot choose to eat. How practical is it to actually ban all trans fats – and how will they do it?

Third hour: It’s America’s favorite sport, and a multi-billion dollar enterprise. But the game of football also has some deep seated problems that writer Gregg Easterbrook wants to see addressed, from head injuries and the physical toll of the game to the graduation rates of college players. He’ll join Tom Weber to discuss how the game he loves can be fixed.

MPR News Presents (12 p.m. to 1 p.m.): Historian Thurston Clarke, speaking at the JFK Library about his new book, “JFK’s Last Hundred Days.”

The Takeaway (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.):  A look at the digital strategy in Washington state that’s been one of the most successful ACA rollouts around the country.

All Things Considered (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.): The political fallout from the problems with the health care law have some Minnesota Democrats suggesting they’ll support Republican legislation that could significantly roll back parts of the 2010 law. It’s a sign at least some Democrats are starting the view the Affordable Care Act as a potential political liability ahead of next year’s midterm elections. MPR’s Brett Neely will have the story.

Toward the end of his life, author Roald Dahl wrote the children’s classic, “Matilda.” At the time, he had a deep, genuine fear that books as an art form were disappearing. So he created a spunky little girl who teaches herself to read, and transforms herself through books, a loving teacher and magic. NPR focuses on the book as its Backseat Book Club pick.