Doris Haddock (Granny D) 1910-2010


Doris “Granny D” Haddock died peacefully today in her Dublin, New Hampshire family home at 7:18 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, 2010. She was 100 years old. Born in 1910 in Laconia, New Hampshire, she attended Emerson College and lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. She was an activist for her community and for her country, remaining active until the return of chronic respiratory problems four days ago.

I only met Doris once briefly when she visited San Luis Obispo in connection with the Cal Poly Preface Reading Program but she touched me permanently.  As I seek ways to adapt to growing old in a world that feels easy to abandon, her love of life, her pride in her past, her urgent concern with the future, her fighting spirit, and her refusal to give up in spite of disappointment, provide me with guidance and inspiration.  What a sad irony it is that during her last few months, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that, for the time being at least, reverses so much of what she worked for. Finally now she gets a break from that relentless struggle.  Or perhaps, somewhere, her spirit still is on the march.

Two freshman student responses to Granny D’s visit to Cal Poly in 2004

Go Granny Go!

When I got to Cal Poly this fall, I soon learned that not too many people actually read the shared reading book, Granny D., You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell.  Furthermore, those who did read it did not really like it.  I was surprised because I loved reading the book!  I love to travel and have been to most of the states of our country, so I loved hearing about her adventures in the different states.  In addition, I have gotten really into politics over the summer, and I have loved forming my political identity and views.  Doris “Granny D” Haddock is very inspirational, and she demonstrates what a difference one person can make.

I have looked forward to hearing Granny D. speak since I read just a few pages of the book.  I was very excited to finally have the opportunity last Friday night when Granny D. gave her speech entitled “I am in the Example Business.”  She is an engaging speaker, and it was delightful to hear her.  I liked how her speech started regarding writing a cheaper and shorter book, although I was not one of the students with an “independence streak” (at least as far as this book goes).  I liked how she drew us in with her stories of New England autumns, which I remember vividly from the year I lived in Massachusetts.  Additionally, I loved all the “political stuff” and her stories of life in New Hampshire.  My favorite part of her speech was when she said, “We cannot move the world toward our wisdom and love so long as we permit political systems that run on greed and fear instead of love and ideas.”  At the end of the speaking, I enjoyed the question and answer time.  For example, her sticker that said “Vote Dammit!” and when Dennis Burke told her that a question was “regarding Iraq.”  Throughout her speech, I loved to applaud her and give her standing ovations.

Attending Granny D’s speech was one of the most enjoyable things I have done at Cal Poly.  It was motivational, and I felt “the hero inside my heart.”  Granny D. is one of my heroes, and she is what this country is all about!

Granny D

When I found out Granny D was coming to speak at Cal Poly, I was excited but did not think it would be worth my time. Looking back to the event and reflecting on what she said, I am extremely glad that I decided to attend! As in her book, her speech was filled with inspiration, politics, life lessons, biographical anecdotes, and of course humor. Her opening statement “Had I known that 3,000 of you would be forced to buy and read my book instead of enjoying your summer, I certainly would have written a cheaper and shorter book” had the crowd roaring with laughter. That statement was a perfect example to explain her personality. She is a person who loves life and has made her mark in the world and will continue to do so in the United States Senate if she gets elected.

I enjoyed learning about life in her small hometown of Peterborough, New
Hampshire. Her description of autumn made me want to become a “Leaf Peeper”! Peterborough seems to have a lot in common with San Luis Obispo and through the examples she gave, it made me want to get involved here in my new hometown and find out about local issues since I am a citizen. The fact that a play was written about the town struggles showed what a tight- knit community Peterborough is and how it is good that people don’t take things too seriously in the end. There has to be a sense of humor to get through life and not let differences divide one another. That message was strong throughout her talk.

It was nice that the forum was opened for questions. It was good to hear about local issues and hear what Granny D had to say. She is a person who knows her stuff and is not afraid to tell you. She has and will continue to fight for what she believes in until she gets what she knows is right. The United States Senate is a good move for Granny. She will be a strong influence and I believe a good influence to the senators. She will make changes for the better. Granny D will make America better and keep its ideals alive and on track.

My notes in preparation for the discussion of Granny D, during the 2004 Preface Program at Cal Poly

I.   Introduction
A.    This is a discussion”an exchange of impressions and ideas
B.    In a good discussion you don’t  expect to leave with the same ideas and opinions that you entered with.
C.    I’m hoping that in the course of this discussion we all will have express ideas and reactions to the book and its subject matter, and then allow the ideas that we came with be modified, enriched, reversed or deepened by listening to others.  One of the questions I’d like to end with is how has the discussion changed your original response.
D.    So no matter how strongly expressed they are, let’s try to take what say and hear during the first part of this hour as somewhat tentative.
E.    Have you talked about this book with other members of your group or with anyone before our discussion today?
F.    What were some of the things you said about it? And what people you spoke to said.  What did you dislike and what did you like?  Was it a good choice for this immense project.
G.    I’m 62,  heading toward retirement, recently turned  grandfather.  I have no problem identifying with this granny.   But is there any chance you can you connect with such an old person.  Is it possible for 18 year olds to do so?   How do you relate to old people?
II.    Genre
A.    Writing a book”what is a book; relation of book to journal
B.    Journaling”142-3
C.    Journey
1.    Beginning, middle and end”road trip; hike;
2.    pilgrimage”Canterbury tales, Divine Comedy, Odyssey”the adventure journey and self discovery
3.    Travelogue”On the road; America”love song to the country and the culture”Jack Kerouac”meeting the people¦relation to politics
4.    What makes people go on journeys
a)    Thoreau”death of his brother, goes to the woods
b)    Get out of your comfort zone
c)    Renew yourself
D.    Autobiography”through the introduction of memories
III.    Structure and Plot
A.    Structure and style and genre”on writing
B.    Title and subtitle
C.    Forward, Overture, 3 parts, epilog, appendix, speech excerpts,
D.    Part I
1.    Small quirky band”atmosphere of isolation and ordeal
2.    Isolation in desert
3.    Lack of media attention 29
4.    Crossing colorado river brings Marine corps band playing happy birthday and earns credibility
5.    Almost dies from pneumonia and dehydration”rushed to hospital and recovers
6.    Idea of creating a groundswell of support with the walk
7.    Going from disintegration of community and loss of place at the table to being surrounded by friends 80
E.    Part II
1.    Coming alive”excitement of Texas
2.    New York Times reporter”taken seriously
3.    Walking over the mountains and remembering climb of Katahdin and reflecting on mountaintops and cloudsplitters
4.    Crossing pecos river”center of the world”boundary of the far west
5.    Reform Party address; Ross Perot; Flies to New Hampshire to work with John McCain; crowds along the road; Flies to Michigan
6.    Closing off second section with retrospection and address to tired reader 145
F.    Part III
1.    Into the south, reverse of falling out with Ken and tribute to him
2.    Linking up with civil rights movement”memories and present-day; Dick Gregory
3.    New awareness that there are no parental leaders out there”it’s us  195
4.    Long autobiographical narrative about her courtship and marriage
5.    Making way across Tenn and Kentucky”opponent Mitch McConnell
6.    Hills getting steeper; Alaska story from 1960”saving the eskimos from Edward Teller
7.    The whiteout in the blizzard”death is an illusion  231
8.    The skiing trip in the snow
9.    Arlington cemetery”life and death
10.    Meeting with old friends like heaven  242-243
11.    End of the pilgrimage, parading through Washington [like Canterbury, St. John de Compostela, Jerusalem]
12.    Speech at Lincoln Memorial
13.    Arrested in Capitol
14.    Thankful for the  troubles that have shaped me 257
15.    Happy endings finally reveal themselves and flow slowly into the bright and mysterious river of the divine 257 –conclusion
16.    Thanks reader for spending time with her
IV.    Characters
A.    Doris–Present
1.    Self-assertive, confidence grows, becomes a Moses; elder”authority; nothing to lose
2.    Vulnerable and humble and generous
3.    Repetitious and garrulous?
4.    Righteous but unorthodox
5.    Impious but religious
6.    Self conscious”seeing self in others’ eyes  6  Losing self”ego
7.    No longer a village elder; woman scorned; no place at the table
8.    Flamboyance”parade at Rosebowl; grand arrival in Washington
9.    Pain”hip and back  20 [my aching back]; falling apart 27; coming alive 83-5 (the pains)
10.    Cries herself to sleep with pain and grief for loss of husband
11.    Still sexy”a man magnet”attractions to Ken and other male and females
12.    The culture hero.  Her heroics and daring; people’s  response”hugs and worship; expands possibilities of life
B.    Doris”past
1.    Tuesday morning academy”voluntary association 8”self education
2.    Felt backward because dropped out of college to marry Jim
3.    Dundee 66”more walking
4.    On stage”crescent moon70
5.    Learning the power of her persuasion; regret for Sybil, don’t make fun of anyone  92
6.    Overhearing mother say she was most difficult child”wonder if she’s mine;  Doris’ terrible hurt 126
7.    Mother’s hatred of Germans because of brother’s death in war
8.    Not strong enough to stand up for persecuted minority
9.    Scar tissue from social insecurity and class consciousness from being a servant while in college 187
10.    Courtship and Secret marriage; kicked out of college 197
11.    Alaska
12.    Fighting the Interstate  229
C.    Companions
1.    Doug”quirky vegetarian, looking for his groove 25
2.    Ken Hechler “ 84 year-old West Virginia Sec. State
D.    Family and Friends
1.    Jim”developmentally disabled
2.    Supportive but challenging relationship”parent-child role reversal  12
3.    Children, grand children, great grand children
V.    Themes
A.    Journey of self discovery;
1.    mission; ordeal; challenge; accomplishment”having stories to tell and forming
2.    call of the road”wanting to be on the road”jack kerouac, etc. “hitchhiking and adventuring
B.    Walking”using your feet”personal power, human scale, modesty and power
1.    Noticing things, greeting people  58
2.    Political Marches”MLK, march on Washington, pilgrimage
3.    My patented method of putting one foot in front of the other 83
C.    Pain and loss
1.    Of youth and beauty; the walk made her 20 years younger 252
D.    Heroism
1.    Self discipline and training and extraordinary achievement
a)    Getting in Shape  — training and preparation with letters of introduction [Reading this during the Olympics and with victor Plata in mind]
b)    Falling apart in the desert 27
c)    Sleeping the ground; dealing with traffic
2.    Ego and selflessness
a)    She’s being honored as an elder 59
b)    Wanting a place at the table 79
c)    First time in my life not afraid of what someone might think of me 254-5
3.    God does seem to favor gate-crashing heroism  143
4.    Taking on risk  252
5.    The blizzard”hard work  238
6.    Motivational speech to students”your life is not trivial¦241
7.    Arlington cemetery”sacrificial death 243
E.    The personal, emotional, political and spiritual-religious
F.    Old Age”life a journey
1.    Loss and defeat”her husband and friend; her own body”but miraculous extension of energy and rejuvenation
2.    Secret to a happy life¦help other people until you don’t notice your own needs and pains anymore  39
3.    Nursing homes; taking care of elderly 40-41
4.    Jim had Alzheimers 10 years”finally stops eating 40
5.    Rich past comes back with memories of Dundee in commune  70
6.    The ache du jour”after forty its always something.  But after 85 its always nearly everything  84
7.    Adult children interfering 97
8.    Loss of youth and beauty 127
9.    Arlington cemetery”sacrificial death 243
G.    Spiritual enlightenment
1.    Fear of death”fear of death leads to fear of life for life leads to death 44 [related to her near death experience]
2.    Journaling and meditation 142
3.    Granny Luck; providential career  142
4.    Eternity in blizzard 231”Thornton Wilder¦Old Einstein
5.    Responsibility and risk when taking on leadership 252
6.    Moses had wonderful timing “comparison 235
7.    Fitting in with God’s plan”the towpath in the blizzard
8.    Using up ourselves in a good cause 239
9.    Redemption from sin  240
10.    Happy endings finally reveal themselves and flow slowly into the bright and mysterious river of the divine 257 –conclusion
H.    Practical wisdom
1.    Secret of long and happy marriage: never let sun go down on your anger 30
2.    You need to have a purpose to your life and you need friends.  Friends often come from your commitments, your passions¦you need to give yourself away  35
3.    Secret to a happy life¦help other people until you don’t notice your own needs and pains anymore  39
4.    See a therapist 41
5.    Managed to stay married for 62 years”great sex is answer, meaning both people enjoy it.  59
6.    Moving from feeling excluded to becoming a leader and thereby making friends 79
7.    Pains and distractions from pains  84-5
8.    Parents need to convey positive self image and also self reliance, character and empathy  126
9.    Meaningful things”202 people have a need to live a life that expresses their values¦culture makes us people of great longing for meaning
I.    Values: wanting to be of use  7
J.    Love and Friendship and Family
1.    Husband jim still with her
2.    Her father and his role in the family”kingly power resulting from ability to take care of us, discharge responsibility  90
3.    Together and parting and reunion with Ken Hechler
K.    Political organizing
1.    How to approach people  16
2.    Talking to strangers”sense of community
3.    Talking to media 20
4.    Senator Kyl”a bad guy”she makes him look bad
a)    Luxury office  46  contrast to everyone else’s accolades
5.    Congressman Kolbe”courteous opponent
6.    Power of new york times 93
7.    Meaningful things”202 people have a need to live a life that expresses their values¦culture makes us people of great longing for meaning
8.    Politics as personal thing 203”passionate
9.    Max’s connections ¦access is the soul of politics¦should never be sold for cash  225
L.    Campaign finance reform and other populist movements
1.    Lost sense of belonging to America  7
2.    Powerlessness; only money talks
3.    No room of regular citizens
4.    Democratic ideal”populism”small towns, chambers of commerce
5.    Politicians not interested in little people: interstate highway system vs.  small towns
6.    Challenge to take it on “Tuesday academy  9”letter writing campaign
7.    Anti corporate, small businesses
8.    Speech and arg 36-7
9.    Eisenhower’s interstate program he copied from Nazis 38”hates the interstate
10.    Walmart vs. small town 55 annihilate small businesses
11.    Unhealthy vs. healthy communities
12.    HMOs and Drug companies in cahoots with crooked politicians”popular perception
13.    Cloudsplitters: her heros”John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt: populism and progressivism, American Mt. Sinai
a)    Of the people, By the people, for the people
b)    Roosevelt vs. Taft; big money won  102
c)    Progressive party; reform energy
14.    Long X ranch cowboys agree politicians are in pockets of the wrong people 106
15.    The Chatauqua 115”populist education
16.    Val the opponent of nuclear waste dumping in her area  121”representatives no good to her
17.    Reformists all over battling the big bad bullies”cf. Orion
18.    Reform Party”Ross Perot, big money¦different from her progressive populism
19.    Dsicovery of public financing of campaigns 153-5
20.    Attack on fundamentalist preachers  155
21.    In the steps of Dr. King 172
22.    West Virginia struggles agains the coal mine owners”labor unions in 1920s, stop mountain top removal today
a)    Ken’s long struggles, black lung disease, Coal King thugs murder Jock Yablonski
b)    Ken as hero  177
23.    Speech at Lorraine Motel”equal opportunity, economically divided”blames laws favoring wealthy passed by their politicians  193
24.    Destruction  of human scaled cities and towns by developers suburbias and family farms and family units by corporate policies 215
25.    Speech in Washington”her march proves that people do care”shame on you senators and congressmen 248
26.    Modest bill against soft money
M.    American culture
1.    Creeping subdivisions of LA  19  pollution and look-alike
2.    Enjoyment of small towns and quirky places
a)    29 Palms
3.    Trailer parks on Colorado River”runaway grandparents”hometowns ruined by too many vehicles
4.    Tapestry of America”SEWING, FABRICS 43
5.    The reservation”
a)    development stops; middle of nowhere.  Good Morning America promises to come but doesn’t show up”typical
b)    outlines the ancient canal system of Pima Maricopas and attributes invention of Maple syrup to indians
c)    a potlatch of gifts
d)    vignettes of impoverished Indians
e)    causes of Native American suffering: unresolved political defeat and inability to discharge traditional duties”diabetes
6.    what’s behind the curtains 61 Sigma chi and biker bar
7.    Membres”free love commune
8.    Being a valued and honest employee and paid accordingly”honest and modest profit  [is this romanticising earlier capitalism?] 90
9.    Disgrace of illegal immigrants dying 98
10.    Baseball and cowboys and stars spangled banner 125
11.    Jeffersonian Hi
12.    Getting to know the alien west and south  149
13.    Black and white”memories of Ida and Dilsey while working at Nantucket hotel; class difference and racial difference”rope on the beach  162
14.    Meaningful things”202 people have a need to live a life that expresses their values¦culture makes us people of great longing for meaning
15.    Destruction  of human scaled cities and towns by developers suburbias and family farms and family units by corporate policies 215
VI.    Style
A.    Descriptive and narrative”
1.    opening description on p. 1
2.    the flying hat 5;
3.    dust devil  87
4.    dundee story”lost and found and
5.    crossing the ice with Sybil 90-92
6.    from the heat to the cold;
7.    power of imagination; snows of imagination melted”interweaving of two stories past and present
B.    Dramatization”old man on the road  6
C.    Symbolism
1.    Desert 3-4 and blizzard
2.    Cloudsplitters  99ff  mountainous place memory of mountain go tell it on the mountain  mt. Sinai and Moses; prophetic language 103
D.    Structured by voyage and chronology, but also associational”going from riding in car with son to Tuesday academy discussion, and then addressing reader to put us in position of looking at Jim  11
E.    Humor and sarcasm  “Mr. Plan-Ahead”  12, Jim’s company  14  on Doug  25, confidential gossip
F.    Always a bit of sexual attraction or memory 133, 205
G.    Structure of individual chapters”beginning middle and end
H.    Direct address to reader at  end of each section, but also throughout”catches us immediately if it doesn’t put us off.
VII.    Discussion questions
A.    Is this a big accomplishment?
B.    What about the anti corporate message”how do you feel about large corporations, multinationals
C.    You need to have a purpose to your life and you need friends.  Friends often come from your commitments, your passions¦you need to give yourself away  35
1.    Alternative views
D.    What statements do you disagree with
E.    What did you find attractive about her,  her experience, her cause, ; what unattractive?
F.    Corporate wal-mart destruction of small businesses 55
VIII.    Reader responses
A.    Did you not like the book”hate the book?
B.    Old people”any you relate to? “90 year olds
C.    Grandparental relationships
D.    What are Grannys?
E.    What’s nasty about relating to 90 year olds
F.    What’s interesting about relating to them?
G.    What do they have to offer that 40 or 50 year olds don’t
H.    Youth Against Age”both marginal
J.    Read responses and others”hero worship; what is hero worship
K.    What would you want to ask or say to her?  Would you want to greet or touch or hug her?
L.    What is her religion?  How does it relate to your religion?
M.    Anybody Google her”she’s running for the Senate

Dennis’s Burke’s Eulogy for Granny
Dublin, New Hampshire, March 14, 2010

Thousands of news services, from Peterborough to Bangkok, from personal diaries to the New York Times, have reported these last few days on the life and death of Doris Haddock. In her life, she did not cure a disease or end a war. She did not write ten symphonies or do whatever normally occasions such notice. So what did she do? It is worth thinking about in this moment.

If people no longer spoke aloud, or if they no longer looked at things with their own eyes or through their own thoughts, if they let others do those things for them, then they would take it as unusual if one among them suddenly spoke up and dared see the world independently, describing without filter or permission the vivid colors and true conditions of the world.

It is difficult to understand why a lady from New Hampshire who did little more than take morning walks–though she sometimes did so without coming back for several years–should be so lionized in death, unless we also consider what has become of the world around her that made her exceptional by comparison. She is seen as exceptional perhaps because the rest of us have become a little too reticent, a little too slow-moving, in response to these times of high challenge.

A thousand people have told me that, when they reach her age, they want to be like Granny D. I have always agreed with them, but we have had it a little wrong. We must not wait until we are 90 or 100; we have to be, even today, a little more like Granny D. Our challenges will not wait for us to age.

Walking down long highways, I remember that sometimes she would want to look at the small things killed beside the road that others could not bear to look at. She was a great artist in fibers and colors, even in how she dressed. No one had a better sense of hat. She would see rich beauty in places where some would never dare look. She seems to have turned off her hearing aids for the lecture when the rest of us were told we must not look here or there, and told how some things must be presumed beautiful or ugly, true or false. She simply and always wanted to see for herself.

Too often we are told what to think, even about ourselves. We are encouraged to trivialize our lives; to participate in our own reduction to mere consumers of products, passive witnesses to history. She wanted to see for herself what she might become, what she might be capable of doing that was helpful to the people she loved, whom were honestly everyone. She could see no defects in others without measuring them against her own shortcomings. Her anger was real and righteous, but it was about things and actions–it never lodged in her heart for long against people, even those whose actions she most opposed.

Because she could see our present democracy clearly, and because she could remember in properly punctuated detail the conditions of this self-governing country in her youth, this young lady of Lake Winnipesauke, this product of New England’s town halls, this elder resident of the lanes where Thornton Wilder wrote “Our Town,” this friend of ours who will be more durable to history than any Old Man of the Mountain, was the truer granite measure of where we have been going as a people and where we must go, one step at a time, into the American future.

The important thing Doris Haddock would have you remember was that she was no more special than you, and that you have the identical power and the responsibility to make a difference in the community and the world.

She received tens of thousands of messages from people who told her they had decided that, if a woman her age of bent back, of emphysema and arthritis, could step forth to be a player on life’s stage, to make a contribution, then so could they, and so would they. And so they did. Those people live all over the world. We can never know what good that legion of people has done and will continue to do.  Have they cured diseases, ended wars, written symphonies?  Remarkably yes, they do important work now all over the world, and they live their lives, by their own accounts, with more satisfaction and meaning because of what they learned by watching our Granny D. And politically, if you care to trace the origins of the present progressive movement, you will find at its root a bare handful of people, including Granny D.

Her youthful energy lives on through those she touched, just as the youthful energy of the people who raised her and taught her many years ago continued on through her. You could hear the voice of Jesse Eldridge Southwick of Emerson College of Oratory in Doris’s every word, and see in Doris’s constant energy the creative joy of her Laconia High School teacher, Grammy Swain. If Doris was partial to the poetry of Robert Frost, it was because she knew him. He was her husband’s freshman English teacher at Amherst. If you ever heard her recite “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” as I did on a desert road, you may as well have been in Frost’s presence. All of those people lived on past their own lifetimes through her.

She was an extension also of those much younger than her, who are with us today. She was an expression of Jim and Libby Haddock’s supportive love and many sacrifices, enabling her to become what she became. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren were her inspiration to keep working for a better world for them. She was an extension of the love and learning of her study group, led by Bonnie Riley and a remarkable circle of friends. Beyond their warm living rooms, Doris traveled on a river of their love and energy. If there were ever a list in marble of the names of the people in her personal world who supported and propelled her, who, in turn, were inspired and loved by her, it would extend three thousand and two hundred miles across America, and then across the seas.

Doris was always a little confounded by her late-life fame. She deeply believed that she was merely fortunate enough to find herself in a good play with a good cast. The old drama student never wanted to be more than a very supportive player, so that the leaders of our democracy might better move us toward the honest, just and kindly democracy ever just ahead, a vision that she kept as close to her thoughts as that old feather in her hat.

She would have us remember that our country is Our Town, that we each have the power and the responsibility to make a difference while we are alive, knowing that what we set in motion today will make a difference long after we are gone.  Far more important than the old bodies we find ourselves patching up and hitching along, we are each also an idea and a vision of the world. We give the rising gift or dark weight of that vision to each person we deeply know. And that idea, that vision, is like the manuscript that grows from an old typewriter that will soon rust away to earth, leaving but the living manuscript. The Idea of us is the real us. The Idea is the living thing that survives because it lives on in our friends, survives in their hearts to help them better interpret and shape the world.

So, at the next turn of history and of opportunity, will we not wonder what Granny D would have said, would have thought?  It is a part of us now, a measuring tool, something new in us that thinks like her. That is Doris alive and still walking with us.

Finally, she would want us to remember to keep working at things and to take walks every day if possible. To send Thank You notes. To keep asking for and expecting honorable change. To stay strong. After the recent Supreme Court decision that did damage to the bill she walked for, she asked me if I thought she might walk across the country again. I told her that she might only be able to do five miles or less a day. She had last month been in Arizona working on a book and doing three miles a morning.  She calculated how long it would take her to get to Washington at 3 to 5 miles per, and decided she needed a quicker way to fix the Supreme Court decision. Well, now it is up to us, of course, and we won’t let her or our country down.

Thank you Doris. You didn’t fear death very much–you told me so. You needn’t have feared it at all.

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