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  • Ray's Story

    Ray's Story In this clip, Ray discusses his journey to a love of theater and acting. Acting has taught him a great deal about life, and is a critical part of his identity. Scroll to Listen Ray's Story 00:00 / 03:52 Ray: So, um, my English teacher in my freshman year English class also happened to be the guy who ran the drama activities at Springfield College. This is 1961 we're talking. He was always trying to get the jocks to try out for the - because he never had enough bodies for the plays that he was doing. Then I tried out for a play in the spring quarter of my freshman year and I got a small part in a play called - by Tennessee Williams - called Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! So I got to see all the plays that they did, which was an eye-opener to me, because I had never seen a play before, really. Never seen the live theater. I fell in love with the idea of making theater. It was imaginative, it was like you all created to- as a, as a group of people, you created something, and, that was imaginary, and you lived in it! And you got to express a part of yourself that might not be able to be expressed in the rest of your life! It seemed very magical to me. So anyway I had decided, “Well I’m going to transfer and become an English major.” But I also said, “Maybe there's some theater going on over at the junior college, maybe they do something in the summer.” So I went over, offering to work backstage, but they said, “Aren't you going to try out for the plays? We do two plays in the summer. You should - ought to do that.” So I tried out for the first play and got a supporting role in it! I'm sure I was terrible. (Laughter) But, I did it, and found it interesting. And then the guy who ran their theater program at the junior college, he directed the second play they did in the summer. And he cast me in the lead for that without me even having to audition! And as it turned out, also I got a headline in the paper, in the Flint Journal, a review, and it said “Burke Scores in Local Play.” In all the time I did athletics, there was no recognition at all, and suddenly I had a degree of public success that just blew me away! I had - amazed me! It made me really turn my head around. Not just to switch and become an English major; I wanted to study theater. That fall, I suddenly was in Evanston at Northwestern University, and found myself as a full-time theater student. My focus was to be acting, but I loved all aspects of working in the theater. After I finished graduate school I did teach, uh, at Southern Methodist University, for, uh, three years. And then that led into working in more professional situations, and eventually I left the educational theater behind. And said, I want to try and see if I can't make it as a professional actor. There’s the same kind of progression that you do there. That led to, you know, working in regional theater for 14 years, which led to I wanted to work in a larger kind of framework, so I said I wanted to do television and film. So we all moved to Los Angeles and I was there for 20 years, doing TV and film and some theater. And after twenty years, um, we shifted and moved to the Twin Cities where I still continued to, ‘cause they have wonderful regional theater there, a really great - the Guthrie Theater. And I worked there for 16 years and only occasionally in television and film, when something would come to town that I’d get a part in. So I’ve been, now, a professional actor now for fifty years, and a student of acting for almost 60 years. My wife has always said that acting for me is a practice. It's not a career as such. So it’s more than just the way I turn my living, it's a way that has shaped me and fulfilled me as a human being. I think I said to you once that I'm a better actor because of having a full personal life. I'm also a better person for having been an actor, I think.

  • Grazy's Story

    Grazy's Story Grazy discusses how her family's immigration to the United States impacted her upbringing and her values and experiences in the U.S. Scroll to listen Grazy's Story 00:00 / 05:10 “I wanted to start my story off with my Dad immigrating from Brazil to the United States. He did this in 1989. At first he came to the U.S. to send money back to my mom and my sister that were back in Brazil, and he was just here working, and he thought he might as well just immigrate our family over to the States. They came over in 99’ and that’s when I was born too in the U.S. I think their experience of being immigrants here was definitely one that had an impact on me growing up. I think that they had a lot of troubles with just being in a new place in general. I think moving, period, is hard, I can’t imagine having to move from one country to another where it’s hard to get used to new people around you, new surroundings. Growing up I always had that in the back of my mind of the sacrifices my parents made to come over here and just their story of pushing forward just to better my future, my sister future, my brothers future by being here. I think their pushing through in this country definitely motivated me, I feel like it adds pressure for you to feel like you always have to succeed, you always feel like you have to do good, you always have to hit different milestones and always work your way up and I would always feel pressure, not because my parents would necessarily put it on me but, I would always think back to them sacrificing their whole life to come to the U.S., and the U.S. is seen as like the land of opportunity, there’s this overall message of if you immigrated to the U.S. you are lucky, you are allowed in the borders. I think today it is definitely a lot harder to immigrate here than when my parents did it, but I think that there’s this message of immigrants are sort of second class citizens almost, because goes Americans just have a leg over everyone. I think being born here, I just thought “Oh ok I have to succeed, I have to make my parents trip here worthwhile.” and it was a lot of pressure growing up and it felt, it felt like I was never reaching that finish line of “Ok I made it.” It was always something else, and I feel like growing up now I can look back and say that all that I have accomplished, it was the best I could do at that time and, my parents were always proud of me and whatever I did, every milestone I hit, every little award that I got, I knew my parents knew that I pushed myself. Especially with them seeing me struggle in school, every grade I got I know they knew it was my best. But it’s hard to feel like youre never enough and, if anything, growing up here made me appreciate things more. I feel like one of the gifts they’ve given me is empathizing with others and having more sympathy for others. I think it’s something that of course if you’re not from a family of people that immigrated, of course you can feel for others, you sort of, view immigration issues differently, you see how the countries government works differently in a way, I just feel like you view people differently. I would never think of someone as an alien to this country, and so many people are so ok with saying that term in referring to people and their stories that way. The majority of my dad’s life has been spent in the U.S., and for someone to look at him and think “Oh he doesn’t belong here”, he’s contributed so much, and everyone contributes so much with what they bring culturally to the U.S. when they are from outside of the U.S., like so much of our food is from different cultures and the U.S., I think we wouldn’t be what we are today without these people.”

  • Emily W's Story

    Emily W's Story Emily W talks to Emily L about how the feminist movement has shaped her growing up and how the culture of women's liberation influenced her ideologies and life. Scroll to Listen Emily W's Story 00:00 / 04:39 The feminist movement which was then mostly called Women's liberation movement was a major civil rights movement when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. In high school I started paying attention to national leaders like Gloria Steinem in particular, who had started Miss Magazine which was kind of the first thing that was called a women's magazine that wasn't about housekeeping and cooking and among many other things she said that women needed to recognize and fight for the right for recognition and equality, the idea that women were equal. It seems like such common sense, but it wasn't people didn't always act as if that was common sense. In a lot of ways I felt that my whole life, but especially when I went to college I went to a women's college, Wilson college in Pennsylvania and I learned academically some of the things that I was picking up from the culture from women's liberation, things about, you know women have always been pioneers, but our history has been often hidden either accidentally or on purpose. Certain women have always defied the norms and excelled but they have not always been celebrated. Just that there were a lot of hidden stories of women, both individual and national. So feminism made me question a lot of the norms that I've grown up with. I certainly was never told as a kid that I wasn't equal to a man. I was always told well you can do whatever you want to do. But the culture saw until I grew up with these sort of Unthinking things around the T. V. Ads magazines. And that in my hometown was the college that my mom went to which was this women's college. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done in my life. When I got there I realized-- I mean it's sort of like my intellectual life took off. There were certainly efforts made by most of the professors to bring women's history or whatever into the curriculum. So in some way I definitely got more academic knowledge than I might have been at another school. But mainly it was just being around all women and when women have all the opportunities women take all the roles. So it was nobody saying you can do this. It was just if you wanted to do it you did it. And so it wasn't political at all. It was just like learning by doing oh you can do anything, you really can do anything. The baseline assumptions have changed considerably and it's much more than the norm for women to have a choice of how they lived their lives. That's kind of the bedrock change. So I think the biggest change probably is that the assumption of inferiority since it and it wasn't all that women couldn't do as good a job at things but there was always the assumption that you probably didn't even want to give women a chance in the workplace or anything serious because they would get married and or have kids and then leave, and so therefore you really needed to give men the opportunities that we're serious. And I don't think that happens as much. There's still some of it, but I don't think nearly as much overall about feminism, it's certainly not a big hot topic today and the way that it was when I was growing up, but I think although there's so much more to be done, it's okay that it's not a hot topic because it doesn't need to be in quite the same way that second wave feminism, which is the era that I grew up, made some progress and therefore feminism for a lot of people could be put on the back burner because men and women and people of other genders just sort of take it far more likely to take it for granted that, of course everybody has self determination. So I don't personally take any credit for that, but I think my generation as a whole, and the generation just before me, um, can take some some credit for kicking up a lot of fuss and making things happen.

  • Bert's Story

    Bert's Story Roberta Liebman shares with Alisson Aleman the remarkable role that neighborhood organizations have played in some of the most significant moments of her life. They have provided her and her family with support and companionship through some of the most challenging moments. Scroll to listen Bert's Story 00:00 / 04:15 I think my story began about fifteen years ago, my son and his wife who lived in California, they both by a bizarre coincidence were diagnosed with brain tumors. They were different types but they were serious. And my son Jamie recognized that they were going to be in big trouble. They didn’t have a lot of resources to help them and they were both needing brain surgery. So Jamie spoke to some friends and said we’re gonna need help and the friends said, okay, we’ll do it. And they made sure that whenever food was needed, whenever a ride was needed to the doctor someone was there to help them. Someone was even there to help them sort through the pile of mail. And all of that was incredibly helpful to a family that was in terrible shape. It was this neighborhood that took care of them. When it was over, we were struck by how extraordinary it was that people just rallied around to help and lend support. And about that time, some of our neighbors began saying you know we can have an organization and we would help eachother, are you interested? And we had just had this extraordinary demonstration of how effective it could be so we said of course, yes we would. And my husband Ernie was on the board and he helped deal with some of the finances. I helped with a number of volunteer things, I had been a volunteer in many other situations and it was beautiful. And then the organization grew, people began really recognizing what a fine thing this was. Unfortunately, Ernie’s health was not great and our house was not safe so we had to move. We moved here to Northampton, our son and daughter in-law made us comfortable, they were living upstairs. But people here began saying you know have you heard of this village-to-village network maybe we should have something like Northampton Neighbors. Well, we had already seen this was a really good idea. So, of course we said yes. And we both prepared to be volunteers, except Ernie wasn’t doing very well and I fell down. I had to say I need some help. My arm is broken, I can’t drive to therapy. And boom, Northampton Neighbors was there and it turned out to be the nicest possible way to meet people in my community as well as to receive the help I desperately needed. I think it’s very easy to offer help, it’s really fun to be a volunteer. The thing that's hard are to learn to accept is to ask for help, we’re expected to be independent and to take care of ourselves. And to recognize that it is okay to say I need help. You know there is a certain level of isolation that older people experience, and making it possible for people to join a group where there all kind of social activities, there’s physical activities, there’s even a group called, I think it’s called FIG for food information group. But, I think it broadens the whole sense of how we all work together and how we all need each other.

  • Edie's Story

    Edie's Story Edie Kirk shares stories with Elise Boehm about her mother. She starts off by talking about her family’s background and her mother growing up. She then shares a story about how her mother became a nurse and shares other stories that show why she admires her mother so much. Scroll to listen Edie's Story 00:00 / 04:18 ​

  • Amy's Story

    Amy's Story Amy shares about moving from NYC to Philadelphia as a young girl. During this time, she learned some of the hard lessons about hatred and what it means to stand out. She also learned that some of her closets friends are the ones who have the most differences between them. Scroll to listen Amy's Story 00:00 / 03:46 ​

  • Jonathan's Story

    Jonathan's Story Jonathan talks with Julia about the importance of his family network during the pandemic. Likewise, he is thankful for social media and zoom technology because it enabled him to stay in touch with his family. Scroll to Listen Jonathan's Story 00:00 / 03:46 Again the family network was very, very important. Your children, where are they currently living? Where are they living? Two of them are in Northampton Massachusetts, which is where I am now. Which explains one hundred percent why once we were both retired why we moved here. My daughter said cheerfully, I am quite happy to look after you when you are a Gaga but I am not driving up and down 91. And that seemed pretty reasonable. She's been, she's been wonderful. During the pandemic, you know before we all got vaccinated and all that, she would go shopping for us. We didn’t feel this way but we pretty much lived an isolated life in our house. And she wouldn’t let us go anywhere and it was wonderful. And she was very cheerful about it, never complained. That's a great relationship to have too, and very selfless of her. Yeah, oh yeah, I mean she's, all three of them are very very caring about these old folks that report to be their parents. Would you say, I know you mentioned that now looking back on it, during COVID you were isolated, but would you say that that isolation translated to feeling lonely or would you say on the contrary, being able to use zoom and connect with your brothers all over the country and also with your son in California and having your daughter around, would you say you actually still felt very connected? Yeah, I know that people who lived on their, who lived on their own, have had to cope with learning, there is no question about it. Which means both our sons, so child number one, child number three, are on their own, and different times it’s been very hard. We have a nephew too who lives in Ottawa and he’s on his own, he's talked about that. I think that for people who are partners and who get on with their spouses, some of course are partners but wish they weren’t, but we are not in that category. It's been, it's been much easier. I felt, right at the beginning of the pandemic when it was totally unexpected and we had no idea what was happening, I suppose I felt a little bit, alone. But, having a spouse, having children and grandchildren who didn't come into the house for months but we would walk up and down the street. You know, and chat with them. And having zoom and being a voracious reader, I don’t think that was an issue for me.

  • Ali's Story

    < Back Ali's Story Ali speaks to Joan about her journey of being adopted. She talks about her mom and her sister and how they became a family. She speaks on how knowing a brief background of her biological family gives her some comfort. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 03:28 Yeah so I was adopted when I was 1 year old I think at the time my mom was living with my sister in Hong Kong and the adoption agency had sent her photos of a few children so she sorta got to see them and she could pick which one she wanted which sounds really weird but those are just the children who are available for adoption at the time and she ended up choosing me who knows why but here I am and when everything was final she actually flew down to Vietnam to bring me home everything was pretty much facilitated through the embassy so she had a lot of help in bring me home and it wasn’t too strenuous just for herself she was actually able to meet my birth parents which is something that a lot of people don’t can't really say that their biological parents and their adoptive parents met in person and yeah she met my mom and dad and she tells me that my birth parents couldn’t keep me anymore because they didn’t have the funds to feed me and my mom was crying and my dad was just kind of there but just knowing that is really special because a lot of kids once again they don’t have that they don’t have that memory so my mom said that I have multiple siblings so I guess I was just the one kid that wasn’t able to be fed at the time so it's interesting to know that I have like other siblings out there and my mom also has a photo of me and my biological mom of just her carrying me which is kind of crazy cause I don't know my sister is also adopted from Vietnam just from the south and she doesn’t have any recollection of like anything from her history I think these little details definitely changed the way i feel about adoption in comparison with other adoptees cause many adoptees get left behind you know left at a door step something like they they don't have any memories but there biological parents can say they know and my sister she's also adopted like I said and she was given up right after birth so she doesn't know anything about who her family is or how many siblings she had or anything like that and I think the fact that my family tried to take care of me for like a year was sort of reassuring that I was cared for its something that I am grateful for and other adoptees can't say that they have that same experience and they live their life not knowing what their birth parents truly thought of them which can very it can be stressful and impact their life so just knowing I was cared for was really important for me Previous Next

  • Leslie's Story

    Leslie's Story In this clip, Leslie shares her passion for improving the quality of life for people with disabilities with a specific focus on young children and families. Scroll to Listen Leslie's Story 00:00 / 04:07 Leslie: So my passion has been improving the quality of life for people with disabilities with a particular focus on young children and families in my professional roles. When I was a teenager, I became interested in what we called at the time, “mental retardation”, today known as “cognitive impairment” or “developmental disabilities”. One of my first professional jobs was working in a grant funded program for visually impaired children and adults in a state institution. I was fortunate to be part of the movement in the 1970s to expose the abuses of these institutions and improve the conditions as a result of state and federal lawsuits with subsequent funding. Leslie: As we developed this new program and learned about the ravages of trauma and deprivation of institutional life on those children and adults, we understood that we needed to develop relationships with many other staff. Including those in direct care roles who had been there for generations and were wary of so many new young professionals. When I left that position a few years later, I knew I had learned a lot understood, that I had cultivated some good advocacy skills and appreciated that teamwork was a very powerful approach for effective change. Working in that state institution was a jarring and humbling experience. When I left the position, I was aware that many of the people I had worked with had no one to advocate for them. Leslie: I subsequently became a legal guardian for a woman, Diana. She had been born in the institution to her mother, another resident, who had been abused and suffered from syphilis. Subsequently, Diana was deaf limited vision in one eye. I was able to use my knowledge and relationships with staff to improve the quality of Diana's life, first in the institution, later in a group home. Leslie: In contrast to my first position at the institution, I was honored to be part of the progressive approach to including these children and their communities and supporting parents in providing for their child's needs. Service delivery was based on interdisciplinary teamwork, including parents, educators, nurses, social workers and speech occupational and physical therapists. Our philosophy had that parents and families were the most important members of that team and without their investment, we professionals would not succeed. I often tell the story of one of my first home visits with Bonnie, our team nurse. I remember sitting on the floor observing and interacting with the baby while Bonnie was sitting on the couch talking with the mother. Initially, I was annoyed that Bonnie wasn't assessing the child's needs, but quickly recognized that the conversation and relationship with the mother was the most important part of the visit. Leslie: When I moved into an administrative position in the public schools in the early 2000s, I worked collaboratively with guidance counselors in the high schools for students with disabilities could have more equal access to academics and extracurricular activities. In these public schools I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a team leader, facilitating meetings with parents and staff to create appropriate educational programs for each student. Leslie: The teamwork during my early intervention years and some relationships built at that time remained today. There have been several reunions over the years. We rallied over Zoom during the beginning of the pandemic to honor our colleague, Bonnie, who had passed away and had been a mentor for many of us. We recently had a physical reunion just a couple of months ago, about a dozen women, some from out of state. In addition to discussing everyone's current activities and families, the conversation always comes back to what great work we did in those early years and how important that teamwork was to our success.

  • Djenabou's Story

    < Back Djenabou's Story Djenabou talks with Rene about her family. She shares her exceptional relationship that she has with her sister. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 03:08 Djenabou: So my youngest brother is named TJ, that’s his nickname but his name is Tijani. He is 17 years old. And then higher from that is my brother named Hamadou. He is 18. Then there is me, 22. And then my other sister named Fanta, she just turned 31 a couple days ago. And then my eldest sister's name is Isha and she is also 31. I'm closer to my sister, Fanta since Isha, my eldest sister left when she was 16, had to leave the country. So I grew up with my sister Fanta for all of my life; all the bickering, arguing, we grew really, really close because we were always together. We would go to the movies together like each week or go to the mall each week and stuff. Rene: “What was it like when you were little?” Djenabou: I think one moment that I remember with Fanta was we were watching High School Musical together on VHS and I love musicals now because she had High School Musical so that was a really connected bond between us. And another thing, I think when I was in elementary school, she would always go to all of my award shows because my parents were always working and stuff like that so my sister would always be there for my award shows and stuff. And it was always important because when she went to see me receive all my awards and even at my graduation too, when my parents weren’t there. Rene: “You know I’m a big sister and I have two younger sisters and I was a stand-in mom for them frequently, so I understand the tenderness of that relationship. So she was like your mom at times, your big sister, tell me a little bit about how you would characterize your relationship with her.” Djenabou: I think about tough love, like she is very honest, very brutally honest. But I know she does that because she cares about everyone in the house. And I know that if I ask her for something she'll do it. No questions asked shell do it. She will ask questions a little bit after but she’ll definitely do it. She's very caring, she's funny too. She has her moments, I guess. She's such a perfectionist also, a very high maintenance person. She's very very independent as well. Rene: So what would you most like, if you could tell her thank you, what is it you would say to her? Djenabou: I would thank her for a lot of stuff, like being the person I can go to. Also, just being the role model for me too. And always making sure I’m good and I have everything. If I don't have anything she will provide me with that. Even planning for my birthday too with my group of friends, she'll pay for it even though the bill is high. She will go out of her way and pay for it. Just like that second motherly figure and stuff. Rene: Really, how lovely. Previous Next

  • Owen's Story

    < Back Owen's Story Owen discusses how he went to college during the Vietnam War and what he learned from not only the education and the professors but also the people he attended the university with. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 03:11 When I was 19, approximately, there was something going on called the Vietnam War and you probably studied it in ancient history or something like that, but for those of us who didn't really want to get out there and get shot at we had to find ways to not do that. And we also didn’t believe that war was necessary. So I was a part of a group of people, there were many many of us, who said no this was not a good idea, and the only way I could stay out was to go to college. So I went to college. Another thing that was big in my life is when I went into college was meeting different people from different parts of the world and more so different parts of the country but I did meet a few people from outside the US. And some people have big influences on you, some people have small influences on you and some people you just dont understand. Part of the not understanding is you just have to learn to accept people as they are. I would say the majority of kids that I was in classes with were white from middle class suburban cities around, middle class suburbs from large cities around the country. I went to school in St. Louis and I came from a suburb around Washington DC. There were so many people from so many other places that were similar to me, then I got to meet people who were different to me. I remember, one young woman came from Hawaii and she was native Hawaiian and that was cool. I had never met anyone from Hawaii before. One day it snowed, and she ran outside and she went absolutely berzerc running in between the snowflakes because she had read about it, seen it in movies, but she had never experienced snow before. And I thought, “Okay, this is cool.” You know, just trying to understand someone's frame of mind, especially when you grow up with snow. You know its like what's this snow. And this is like a life changing event for her. And I thought Okay, that’s cool. It is to be able to do that and not to judge someone based on things like that. And I grew up in a society where alot of people were not accepted as they were. Alot of minorities were looked down upon and legally discriminated against. You know that sort of has gone away but not entirely. There was no such thing as people who were openly gay, that just didn’t happen during that period of time. People did not date interracially. You know you never saw a white woman with ablack guy. It just didnt happen. So when you start meeting people that are different and meeting people that are a little outside your realm of experience you learn about them and learn to accept them. That was a huge thing for me. To transition from living with stereotypes which are reinforced by things like TV shows to getting to know people and understanding who the people were. And understanding a person as a person, not just put into a category- a stereotype. Part of going to school was that piece of education. Previous Next

  • Bert's Story

    < Back Bert's Story Bert speaks about her life journey and how not everything went as she planned. She talks about her adventures with her husband and kids and how she found her way to her career as a Speech Language Pathologist and how that career changed her view on life. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 03:33 It seems to me that lots of people have kind of a plan in their life of what they would like to do, and they set about doing it. I never had such a plan. I was kind of a vague wanderer among libraries and was really interested in English literature and English history and studied for a bit in England for a little while and I didn’t have a glamour of what I wanted to do with my life. It seemed like it would be good to be useful, but I didn’t have much other plan than that. I got married shortly after college and we had a child and then because I had been an only child pretty much in my life, I thought we don’t want this child to be all alone we should have another one pretty soon. And it turned out that that one turned out to be twins. And suddenly wooo, I had three babies, they were less than two years of age, and I was supposed to figure out what to do with them and I had to stop wandering around wondering what book I was gonna read next. So, it was a pretty hectic and transformative time for me. I had to think of myself as a very different person, responsible for these three little babies and then three wild little boys and I started to sort of become somewhat more assertive I think. I had never been before. After being at home for quite some time with them I thought I really gotta get out of here a little bit and I saw a notice that Children’s Hospital School for Kids with Hearing Loss was looking for some volunteers and I thought well I could probably do that. And I arranged for a baysitter and went down and helped out mainly in an art class with kids with severe hearing losses and they were very interesting. But the director of the program kept saying you gotta go to graduate school. And so after a year of so of prompting I did start a graduate program in speech language at Catholic University. A friend from graduate school who was a little bit ahead of me called and said Bert I’m working at this great school you’ve gotta come and work here with me. It’s a school for preschool children, very young children, with a variety of pretty serious physical and neurological problems and they need another therapist. Okay, here I am. It turned out to be wonderful. The schools had a wonderful transdisciplinary approach so that instead of passing kids around from therapist to therapist or teacher to teacher or whatever, we were in teams. The parents, teachers, physical therapists, the occupational therapist, speech language therapist, we were in a team and we all had to understand what everybody else’s goals were for this child so that anytime you interacted with them whether you were changing a diaper or you were helping somebody have lunch, or you were playing together all of those goals had to be integrated. It was an incredible learning experience and it taught me way more than any course ever could ever have taught me. I never imagined so many interesting, challenging situations just kept unfolding one after another and with the enormous good fortune of always having very good people to work with, not a lot of money but a lot of really good, strong coworkers. I feel very fortunate in my unplanned, kind of wandering way. Previous Next

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