Family is where it is!!!!!

Family is where it is!!!!!
Christmas in Disney
Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if there are topics I should be spouting                                   off on.  

Remember that "Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly,                love fully and laugh uncontrollably....."


Monday, December 28, 2009

It's time to look inward for 2010

It's time to look inward
As we head into 2010, the lessons of faith can guide individuals to change their ways. Only then can the nation as a whole better itself. Three New Year’s resolutions can put you on the right path

By Oliver Thomas
Peer into 2010, and you can't help feeling a little queasy. The planet is getting hotter, drier and more crowded. It's also getting angrier. Terrorism shows no signs of letting up, and the global economic crisis has left millions unemployed. Throw Pakistani, Iranian and North Korean nukes in the mix, and I find myself wanting to crawl under the bed rather than out of it in the morning.

And while many Americans would like to change the world, few of us see the need to change ourselves. Take our national leaders, for example. As I watch members of Congress thrash around over various policy issues, I'm convinced that the struggle our country faces extends beyond health care, war and the deficit. It's an inner struggle. The rancorous incivility and obdurate partisanship are not the necessary byproducts of healthy political debate. They are the childish symptoms of a populace that is losing its capacity for empathy and compromise — characteristics of any successful society.

But the problem extends beyond our elected leaders. Behind the housing bubble and resulting economic meltdown lies an inner problem: greed. Young couples wanted more house than they could afford; banks wanted to make easy money on loans they never should have made. And behind the gargantuan federal debt lies yet another inner problem: indiscipline. We want more government than we're willing to pay for. Our unwillingness either to pay more or spend less is literally bankrupting the country.

Here's where our religions might be able to help. It's a fundamental tenet of most faiths that the journey inward precedes the journey outward. As Gandhi famously put it, we must embody the change we wish to see in the world. If the world is to be less violent, then I — not you — must be slower to anger and kinder in my speech. Is everyone who drives slower than I really an idiot? Are the ones who drive faster really maniacs? And what am I teaching my kids when I talk like this? If there is too much sex and violence on TV, then I must turn it off — not just complain to my wife that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

This unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for one's own share of a collective problem sometimes surfaces in marriage counseling. Here's what I used to say to the individual who kept blaming his or her spouse: "Well, how much would you say is your fault? Ten percent?" "Oh, sure," the person would reply. "I'm good for at least 10%." "Great," I would say. "Let's talk about that 10%."

It's time to steal a play from members of the World War II generation. Those people took individual responsibility seriously. They were restrained in their speech and frugal with their money. And, they were determined to put more back in the world than they took out — especially when it came to their children. They understood that the greatest self-actualization (my generation's obsession) came not through titillating their nerve endings but through service to others, whether on the battlefield or in their communities. Neither America's problems nor the world's are insurmountable if we can follow their example.

Of course, it won't be easy. Becoming a better person never is. That's why we work like hell to avoid it. But until we are willing to improve ourselves individually, we will never become a better nation collectively.

So here's my best advice on how to improve us. Starting with me.

New Year's resolution No. 1: Become more empathetic

This is where it all starts. If I can't see the world through others' eyes, I will never be a good citizen, much less able to love my neighbor as myself. Until we understand each other, we will never make common cause.

So how does one become more empathetic? By engaging with people different from ourselves and listening. So take a gay work colleague to lunch. Visit a mosque, synagogue or African-American church. Invite a friend from a different political party over for a beer. Then, ask questions. And listen.

New Year's resolution No. 2: Practice compassion

The Dalai Lama says if you want to make other people happy, practice compassion. If you want to make yourself happy, practice compassion. The quickest way to become more compassionate? Volunteer. I do it once a week at a local children's home, but there are a thousand other choices. Call your local United Way for a list of good options.

Here's another way. Do as the bumper sticker says and start engaging in random acts of kindness. Don't just walk by the homeless person. Take her to lunch. Give your coat to the man standing on the windy street corner in a threadbare jacket. You've probably got more at home. Throw a twenty in the Salvation Army's pot when you're shopping. Just start doing kind things for others. Compassion must be practiced, and here's the thing: Behavior begets habit. Habit begets character. Next thing you know, you've become a compassionate person.

New Year's resolution No. 3: Hold your tongue

James, the brother of Jesus, had this to say about the human tongue: "How great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! ... For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison."

Rarely have I gotten into trouble for things I didn't say. More often, I'm hoisted with my own petard.

Accordingly, I'll start with this simple goal: Speak no harm. When I'm tempted to do otherwise, I'll try to follow my mother's sage advice and count to 20 before I speak. This one will be the hardest for me.

We have much to be thankful for. But while some are being called on to die for our country, perhaps the rest of us are being called on to live for it. Whether we can become the people we must be in order to be the nation the world needs us to be is entirely up to us.

Oliver Thomas is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors and author of 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

College degree: Not a must for most?

Americans Considering Alternatives To Four-Year Colleges

By Staff
November 10, 2009

With four-year college costs surging, Americans are increasingly considering different educational pathways towards successful careers.

While experts agree that virtually everyone should have access to some sort of post-secondary education, not all concur that obtaining a bachelor's degree is the optimal choice. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently tackled the issue by posing a question to a panel of education officials: Are too many students going to college?

"It has been empirically demonstrated that doing well (B average or better) in a traditional college major in the arts and sciences requires levels of linguistic and logical/mathematical ability that only 10 to 15 percent of the nation's youth possess," pointed out Charles Murray, political scientist and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who was quoted in the Chronicle. "That doesn't mean that only 10 to 15 percent should get more than a high school education. It does mean that the four-year residential program leading to a B.A. is the wrong model for a large majority of young people."

Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University, agreed. "A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense," he told the Chronicle. "The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified."

Many Americans appear to be of the same opinion. A recent survey by the Career College Association and conducted by Harris Interactive found that 86 percent support alternative approaches to postsecondary education. In addition, 84 percent said that sometimes this education should focus on careers rather than more academic pursuits.

"Traditional higher education is extremely important in shaping the national character and nothing in this survey diminishes its critical role in society," said CCA President and CEO Harris N. Miller in a press release. "It's not coincidence, however, that private not-for-profit colleges and universities are seeing the higher education landscape shifting quickly. Americans view college as less of a privilege and more of a basic economic necessity. The bottom line: People are more than willing to consider alternative approaches to traditional colleges and universities."

As might be expected, others disagree. As reported in USA Today in an article last summer, the College Board estimates that the lifetime "earnings premium" for a college graduate is $450,000 in today's dollars. Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst for the College Board, noted that a college education is particularly valuable during a recession.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Does College Cost So Much? (in the Motley Fool)

Why Does College Cost So Much?
By Rich Smith
October 29, 2009 | Comments (55)

Two William & Mary professors tackle the "hot-button issue" of the skyrocketing cost of higher education in a new book to be published by Oxford University Press next year. Here, Fool contributor Rich Smith shares the answers he got from his former economics professor David Feldman, co-author of the book with colleague Robert Archibald.

Why does college cost so much? If you have kids in college -- or kids, period -- in America today, the question's more than academic. It can mean having to make a choice between getting your child a college degree or planning a comfortable retirement for yourself.

As college tuition costs soar, a lot of us wonder why. What's wrong with these people that they keep raising prices that are already unaffordable? And what can we do about it? I sat down with Professor Feldman to talk over these issues, and more.

Rich Smith: So, Professor, let's tackle the question head-on -- does college cost too much?

David Feldman: Not "too" much. "So" much. What we've tried to do in this book is go back over the history of the last 60 years and examine college from an aerial view that is rooted in broader U.S. economic history, comparing cost trends in the higher education "industry" to those of other similar industries. We take each of the common arguments against college costs -- that colleges are dysfunctional, that they engage in arms races with their peers, and that give "Country Club U." amenities to their students -- and examine whether they hold water, whether college costs really are rising faster than they should, and if so, why?

Smith: And ...?

Feldman: And what we've found may surprise you: College costs are rising faster than the inflation rate. But that isn't because they're "country clubs" -- it's more because they're "prep schools."

To prepare an undergraduate these days requires a lot more expensive stuff, like high-intensity lasers and big computing resources, than it did in the past. It costs money, sure, but our students demand it because their potential future employers demand it.

Nor is higher education alone in seeing higher costs. Lots of other industries show trends in cost appreciation that mirror those found in higher education, and there are two key reasons for this -- neither of which supports the "country club" critics. If you look at the trends in education costs at not-for-profit four-year colleges, at two-year community colleges, and at for-profit educational institutions like Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL), they're virtually identical, up across the board. Yet you don't have the same "gold-plating" at a two-year community college or for-profit institution as critics suggest afflicts four-year, on-campus universities. So clearly, there's something else driving costs upwards.

To understand what's happening, you need to understand that college is a service. As opposed to manufacturing, where labor is just one input in pricing and improvements in productivity generally lead to lower costs, labor is the primary input in service industries like higher education. This makes college especially vulnerable to cost disease ...

Smith: Hold up a sec. "Cost disease?"

Feldman: Right. That's the real culprit behind the rising cost of college. You see, in a labor market, when one worker's wages rise, so do wages for other workers -- because employers compete to attract them. How does this work in higher education? Improvements in productivity can lead to higher wages at firms like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ). But they also raise wages at colleges that must compete for a limited supply of labor.

The problem lies in the fact that when HP raises wages, it can offset higher labor cost with improvements on its other input costs -- more energy-efficient machinery, better manufacturing processes. As a result, PC prices actually get cheaper every year. Colleges are different because their primary input cost -- labor -- is terribly resistant to productivity improvements.

Example: In 1960, students paid roughly the same for tuition and fees as they did for room and board. Today, you see tuition and fees together exceeding room and board by perhaps two to four times. So tuition has been growing much faster.

Why is this? You can make the teaching process more "efficient" by using Blackboard (Nasdaq: BBBB) software and the like. But generally speaking, every move you make to decrease the amount of time a professor spends with students is viewed not as "improved productivity" but as less personal service.

And so costs rise faster than inflation in any service-intensive industry -- higher education, law, or medicine. This is exacerbated by the fact that ever since the 1980s, workers with college degrees and even higher levels of education have become much more expensive than workers without such degrees. This accelerates the rise in the cost of any industry that uses a lot of this well-educated labor, and directly leads to increased costs for service-oriented industries like higher education.

Smith: So what's your take on last week's news that the government is slashing compensation for executives at AIG (NYSE: AIG), Citigroup (NYSE: C), and the other bailout recipients? Would you expect this to depress wages for university professors, for example, and lower college costs?

Feldman: Actually, no. Remember our aerial view! Compensation in finance has soared relative to compensation in many other industries that use similarly educated people. Ask engineering grads. They'll tell you. What happens in one industry, like finance, is not likely to have a big impact on higher-education wages unless it is part of a much larger market movement toward lower compensation for highly educated workers. I don't see that at present.

Smith: So what is the solution?

Feldman: There really isn't any -- this is a solution in search of a problem. You see, the fact is that the same productivity growth that's pushing education costs up by driving wages higher ... drives wages higher. This provides the income needed to pay the higher costs of higher education.

Our research shows that despite the rapid increase in education's cost, over the long haul, higher wages mean families wind up with more money in real dollar terms after paying the tuition bills.

Smith: Good to know. But let's see if we can help our readers keep even more money. From your vantage point at the college, can you see any "bargains" in higher education? How can parents of soon-to-be-college students best spend their dollars wisely?

Feldman: You can get a fine education at many of the nation's flagship public universities, where tuition remains quite low compared to elite private universities. But remember, list price tuition is paid by a small fraction of students at private universities. Between federal financial aid and discounted tuition that most universities offer on a "need" or "merit" basis, very few students pay the list price.

Smith: Professor, before we close, I'd like to ask if you see the high price of higher education shutting out qualified students. Will the 21st century see U.S.-based companies like Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) starved of talent?

Feldman: It could happen. While our research shows that a rise in the cost of higher education is not a problem on the whole, it is a problem in certain instances -- namely in how it discourages poorer students from seeking a higher education.

Over the past 30 years, income in the U.S. has become increasingly polarized. More people are becoming very rich -- and more very poor. The hollowing of the middle class is an even bigger affordability issue than cost disease. But we believe that a few common-sense changes to how we distribute financial aid could make real progress towards making college more accessible to those who need it most.

Start with the FAFSA application for federal student aid, which all students seeking Pell Grants much fill out. Currently, students must fill out and submit a FAFSA indicating their income and assets, then apply to colleges, and then find out how much financial aid they qualify for. It's absurd to require students to apply to colleges before they know which colleges they can afford.

Second, the government can improve access to higher education and reduce the price of it (not the cost, mind you, but the price students pay directly) by increasing financial aid. We realize that increased government spending is not a popular subject these days, but if legislators were to offer a universal, standard stipend -- and make this the standard student financial aid package -- this could gain broad support and improve access to higher education across society.

Such financial aid, by the way, would be only an incremental increase over the substantial, but extremely disorganized, system of federal programs that currently exists. As such, it would not cost much more than we are already spending on financial aid. In fact, Prof. Archibald and I have developed new evidence suggesting that increases in federal financial aid lower the list price tuition. It could be that extra federal aid reduces each school's need to discount tuition for its own needy students, and this allows the school to cut the list price tuition faced by everyone else.

The changes we suggest in the federal financial aid system would not cost much more than the current system -- really, they would just make it more straightforward, easier to understand, and more reliable for the students.

What do you think about the cost of college, and how are you handling it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sometimes, Putting on a Happy Face Does a Disservice to Reality

This is a very powerful piece on poverty and society with a very different twist.

November 2, 2009 by Teresa Basich from her her blog , Overcommunicated
Breaking through the noise.

Update: After receiving some feedback about this post coming off as whiny and entitled, I want to clarify a few things. I didn’t bring up my inability to buy an iPhone or expensive body wash to shine a light on “Poor Little T”–I made those points to show that I *feel* the quality of my life has diminished; things that I used to be able to afford without question now qualify as investments I have to mull over. Seeing and feeling the quality of your life diminish is a bad and scary thing, no matter who you are. I think a heightened sense of awareness to change in quality of life is common in those of us who’ve lost our jobs, and it bears recognizing. Honestly, I bet we all are a little more aware right now. And I’m sure it’s especially obvious, and infinitely scarier, to job seekers taking care of children and spouses, and I know they have a harder road to walk down than I do. I get that.

The face of poverty and financial hardship isn’t just the face of a starving child in Africa. Am I discounting the validity of supporting children in Africa? Not at all! We all deserve fair and good treatment. But, fair and good treatment is becoming less and less prevalent in the US, and if we don’t recognize where we’re heading we won’t be able to stop our momentum before it’s too late. THAT is my point.

I in no way meant to display any sense of entitlement here other than the entitlement we as humans have to a life we each subjectively define as good, fair and abundant.


No snark. No wit. Just numbers. And anger.

The 2009 poverty line, stated to be an individual’s or family’s pre-tax annual income, for a single person living in one of the 48 contiguous US states is $10,830.

California awarded me unemployment benefits of approximately $11,500 for a year. My weekly award is the maximum a jobless individual can receive from the state.

But, I’m not receiving regular unemployment right now. Because of the inadequacy of my state’s employment department, because it finds you guilty before proven innocent, I’ve received $470 this year from the state. Even though I paid into this system. Even though this system was created to protect me from severe financial hardship.

Read this. Then come back so we can talk about it, because we’ve been sweeping the implications of rising unemployment under the rug for too long and I’ve had it with the bullshit cover-ups.

You know what stuck out to me in this piece? The inadequacy of our current means of poverty measurement and the potential alternative forms of measurement we could be using to better gauge what poverty really means—specifically, the alternative that measures not only material hardship but “…to what extent that hardship blocks full participation in society.”

Financial hardship blocks full participation in society.

How many of your friends and family are struggling with financial hardship right now due to unemployment, furloughs or reduced pay? Are you struggling?

Have you thought about what that financial hardship has done to their or your ability to engage with society?

And, related, have you taken the time to consider the completely outlandish distribution of money in this country?

Does all this make you angry? Does it make you want to FIX things?

It should.

But the funny thing is here we are, still trying to follow the same business strategies that got us into this mess, still acting from a greedy and self-absorbed place, still being narrow-minded and decidedly ignorant about what the future holds if we keep going down this road.

What the hell is it going to take to get us to change?!

In my current situation I can’t really participate in society. I haven’t been able to for about 6 months. When I do, now, it’s because some gracious individual stepped in to make it possible. And it’s SO invigorating that when I go back to non-participation, to living in limbo, it’s like I had the breath knocked out of me…and I can’t seem to get enough breath to bring me back to good.

My luxury item is coffee twice a week. That iPhone I wanted? Yeah, that was a joke. I used to buy this fantastic body wash from Lush—haven’t purchased it in a year. Those slacks my mom helped me buy for MPDM? I didn’t wear ‘em, so they’re going back to the store this week. I need that money to help pay my car insurance.

And I consider myself lucky. I have a family willing to help me.

Do you guys GET this? Do you understand what all this means? This problem of non-participation and real, increasing levels of poverty that keep us from CONSUMING will perpetuate for as long as we ignore what’s caused it—working and living from a place of greed and covering up the truths of what that’s done to people.

Don’t ask me to cheer up or make the best of my situation. I do that often enough. Don’t tell me it’ll all be okay. Let me cry for a bit and show people what the frustration of financial hardship and a year of job searching really look like. Constantly covering up these issues doesn’t motivate us to work to fix them; it just lets us ignore their existence. And the more we continue to ignore, the worse life and business and this world will get

Think about what you’ve sacrificed this year and let yourself be mad about it. You don’t have to cover up all the time what’s happened to your life this past year.

Masks are made to be temporary, and we, as a nation, have worn the “Everything is Okay, This is Just a Phase” mask for way too long. Only when we recognize how far we’ve fallen and where we’ve landed can we plot an effective course back to the top.

Friday, October 16, 2009

About one in eight girls at Robeson High School are pregnant. Officials say a variety of factors are to blame.

We obviously are letting our kids down. What are the answers?

Why Did 1 Of 8 Girls Get Pregnant At Robeson High?
Officials Say A Mix Of Factors Are To Blame, As They Try To Help The Young Women

CBS 2's Kristyn Hartman reports.

All those young ladies are moms or moms-to-be at Paul Robeson High School. It's not a school for young mothers, it's a neighborhood school. And all of the pregnancies have happened, despite prevention talk.

If you want to know why, the people closest to the situation say there's no simple explanation.

Chicago Public Schools says it does not track the overall number of teen moms in the district. But Robeson Principal Gerald Morrow knows the count at his school in Englewood: 115 young ladies who are either expecting or already have had children.

To put it in perspective, their school pictures would fill roughly six pages of their high school year book.

Why is it happening at Robeson?

"It can be a lot of things that are happening in the home or not happening in the home, if you will," Morrow said. Absentee fathers are another factor, he said.

LaDonna Denson and two other Robeson students say parents not talking to teens and, in some cases, the pursuit of public assistance also factor into the pregnancies. None of them thought they'd be moms at such a young age.

They said they have support at home. But not all girls do, they said. In fact, some girls get thrown out of the home.

Not on Morrow's turf. "We're not looking at them like 'Ooh you made a mistake,'" he said. "We're looking at how we can get them to the next phase, how can we still get them thinking about graduation?"

So there's help in a teen parent program. And coming soon, right across from Robeson, developers are turning a one-time crack house into a day care for student use. "We have to provide some type of environment for them and some form of support for them," Van Vincent, CEO of VLV Development, said.

It's all made an impression.

"Just cause you have a baby, that doesn't mean your life is over," one student said.

One thing they might not know about their principal: His mom had him when she was 15. That's why accepting the problem -- and working through it -- is so important to him.
(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nixon's plan of 71 and Obama's plan of today-similar?

Article written by Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin in October issue.

“A sweeping new program,” President Richard M. Nixon called it when he introduced his bold national health plan in 1971. “One that builds on the strengths of the present system, and one that does not destroy these strengths. One based on partnership, not paternalism.”

Nixon’s plan required employers to provide health care insurance for their employees. It provided federal subsidies for the poor and created rural health clinics and a network of state committees to set industry standards, guarantee basic coverage and coordinate insurance for the self-employed. In the process, it would have extended health care coverage to almost all Americans.

The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, author of his own national plan, led the critics. “It’s really a partnership between the administration and insurance companies,” he raged. “It’s not a partnership between patients and doctors of this nation.”

That was then. On reflection, Kennedy came to view the Nixon proposal as a missed opportunity. “We should have jumped on that,” he told the Boston Globe earlier this year. In the years since Democrats rejected Nixon’s “sweeping new program,” battle lines have hardened and the partisan breach has widened. And costs have soared. When Nixon proposed his plan, health care spending accounted for less than $100 billion, 7 percent of the $1.4 trillion U.S. economy. Today, it accounts for $2.3 trillion, approximately 17 percent of the economy. And the number of uninsured has nearly doubled—to 46.7 million last year.

Republicans have championed the free market as the key to reform. They stymied the last major overhaul effort 16 years ago. With the help of the drug industry and AARP, they expanded Medicare with a prescription drug plan. They created tax-free health savings accounts (and named them after Republican chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee). As recently as April, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to convert Medicare into a system of vouchers that future retirees could use to purchase private insurance. And they seem to have set their sights on scuttling President Obama’s health care initiative.

Democrats, just as stridently, have pursued successive iterations of Kennedy’s original, federally funded and regulated plan. The Clinton administration’s public and private plan, hatched in private and in suffocating detail, collapsed.

Today, with control of Congress and the White House, Democrats are advancing Obama’s plan, a combination of private, employer-provided and individual-based coverage and care. It’s striking how closely that resembles the plan outlined by Nixon four decades ago.

There’s a lesson here, and an important one that Kennedy learned four decades too late: Don’t allow partisanship and ideology to blind you to opportunity. But who in the nation’s all but dysfunctional capital has learned Kennedy’s lesson? Who has the common sense and the willingness to listen? Who will set aside the partisanship that has paralyzed the health care debate? Who will step forward and seize the opportunity before them?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Barack Obama, College Administrator by Victor Hanson

Our commander-in-chief seems to think he’s president of the University of America.

If you are confused by the first nine months of the Obama administration, take solace that there is at least a pattern. The president, you see, thinks America is a university and that he is our campus president. Keep that in mind, and almost everything else makes sense.

Obama went to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard without much of a break, taught at the University of Chicago, and then surrounded himself with academics, first in his stint at community organizing and then when he went into politics. It shows. In his limited experience, those who went to Yale or Harvard are special people, and the Ivy League environment has been replicated in the culture of the White House.

Note how baffled the administration is by sinking polls, tea parties, town halls, and, in general, “them” — the vast middle class, which, as we learned during the campaign, clings to guns and Bibles, and which has now been written off as blinkered, racist, and xenophobic. The earlier characterization of rural Pennsylvania has been expanded to include all of Middle America.

For many in the academic community who have not worked with their hands, run businesses, or ventured far off campus, Middle America is an exotic place inhabited by aborigines who bowl, don’t eat arugula, and need to be reminded to inflate their tires. They are an emotional lot, of some value on campus for their ability to “fix” broken things like pipes and windows, but otherwise wisely ignored. Professor Chu, Obama’s energy secretary, summed up the sense of academic disdain that permeates this administration with his recent sniffing about the childish polloi: “The American people . . . just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act.” Earlier, remember, Dr. Chu had scoffed from his perch that California farms were environmentally unsound and would soon disappear altogether, “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.”

It is the role of the university, from a proper distance, to help them, by making sophisticated, selfless decisions on health care and the environment that the unwashed cannot grasp are really in their own interest — deluded as they are by Wal-Mart consumerism, Elmer Gantry evangelicalism, and Sarah Palin momism. The tragic burden of an academic is to help the oppressed, but blind, majority.

In the world of the university, a Van Jones — fake name, fake accent, fake underclass pedigree, fake almost everything — is a dime a dozen. Ward Churchill fabricated everything from his degree to his ancestry, and was given tenure, high pay, and awards for his beads, buckskin, and Native American–like locks. The “authentic” outbursts of Van Jones about white polluters and white mass-murderers are standard campus fare. In universities, such over-the-top rhetoric and pseudo-Marxist histrionics are simply career moves, used to scare timid academics and win release time, faculty-adjudicated grants, or exemption from normal tenure scrutiny. Skip Gates’s fussy little theatrical fit at a Middle American was not his first and will not be his last.

Obama did not vet Jones before hiring him because he saw nothing unusual (much less offensive) about him, in the way that Bill Ayers likewise was typical, not an aberration, on a campus. Just as there are few conservatives, so too there are felt to be few who should be considered radicals in universities. Instead everyone is considered properly left, and even fringe expressions are considered normal calibrations within a shared spectrum. The proper question is not “Why are there so many extremists in the administration?” but rather “What’s so extreme?”

Some people are surprised that the administration is hardly transparent and, in fact, downright intolerant of dissent. Critics are slurred as racists and Nazis — usually without the fingerprints of those who orchestrated the smear campaign from higher up. The NEA seems to want to dish out federal money to “artists” on the basis of liberal obsequiousness. The president tells the nation that his wonderful programs are met with distortion and right-wing lies, and that the time for talking is over — no more partisan, divisive bickering in endless debate.

That reluctance to engage in truly diverse argumentation again reveals the influence of the academic world on Team Obama. We can have an Eric Holder–type “conversation” (a good campusese word), but only if held on the basis of the attorney general’s one-way notion of racial redress.

On most campuses, referenda in the academic senate (“votes of conscience”) on gay marriage or the war in Iraq are as lopsided as Saddam’s old plebiscites. Speech codes curb free expression. Groupthink is the norm. Dissent on tenure decisions, questioning of diversity, or skepticism about the devolution in the definition of sexual harassment — all that can be met with defamation. The wolf cry of “racist” is a standard careerist gambit. Given the exalted liberal ends, why quibble over the means?

Some wonder where Obama got the idea that constant exposure results in persuasion. But that too comes from the talk-is-everything mindset of a university president. Faculties are swamped with memos from deans, provosts, and presidents, reiterating their own “commitment to diversity,” reminding how they would not “tolerate hate speech,” and in general blathering about the “campus community.” University administrators instruct faculty on everything from getting a flu shot, to covering up when coughing, to how to make a syllabus and avoid incorrect words.

Usually the frequency of such communiqués spikes when administrators are looking for a jobelsewhere and want to establish a fresh paper trail so that their potential new employers can be reminded of their ongoing progressive credentials.

Obama has simply emulated the worldview and style of a college administrator. So he thinks that reframing the same old empty banalities with new rhetorical flourishes and signs of fresh commitment and empathy will automatically result in new faculty converts. There is no there there in health-care reform, but opponents can be either bullied, shamed, or mesmerized into thinking there is.

Czars are a university favorite. Among the frequent topics of the daily university executive communiqués are the formulaic “My team now includes . . . ,” “I have just appointed . . . ,” “Under my direction . . . ” (that first-person overload is, of course, another Obama characteristic), followed by announcement of a new “special” appointment: “special assistant to the president for diversity,” “acting assistant provost for community affairs and external relations,” “associate dean for curriculum enhancement and development.”

Most of these tasks are either unnecessary or amply covered by existing faculty, department chairs, and deans. Czars, however, proliferated on campuses for fairly obvious reasons. First, they are spotlights illuminating the university administration’s commitment to a particular fashionable cause by the showy creation of a high-profile, highly remunerative new job. When loud protests meet the university’s inability to create a new department or fund a trendy but costly special program, administrators often take their loudest critics and make them czars — satisfying the “base” without substantial policy changes.

Second, czars are a way to circumvent the usual workings of the university, especially faculty committees in which there is an outside chance of some marginalized conservative voting against putting “Race, Class, and Gender in the Latina Cinema” into the general-education curriculum.

Special assistants for and associates of something or other are not vetted. Czars create an alternative university administration that can create special billets, hire adjuncts (with de facto security), and obtain budgeting without faculty oversight. The special assistant or associate rarely is hired through a normal search process open to the campus community, but rather is simply selected and promoted by administrative fiat.

One of the most disturbing characteristics of the new administration is a particular sort of whining or petulance. Dissatisfaction arises over even favorable press coverage — as we saw last weekend, when Obama serially trashed the obsequious media that he had hogged all day.

Feelings of being underappreciated by the public for all one’s self-sacrificial efforts are common university traits. We’ve seen in the past a certain love/hate relationship of Professor Obama with wealthy people — at first a Tony Rezko, but now refined and evolved much higher to those on Wall Street that the administration in schizophrenic fashion both damns and worships.

Michelle Obama during the campaign summed up best her husband’s wounded-fawn sense of sacrifice when she said, “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics.”

Academic culture also promotes this idea that highly educated professionals deigned to give up their best years for arduous academic work and chose to be above the messy rat race. Although supposedly far better educated, smarter (or rather the “smartest”), and more morally sound than lawyers, CEOs, and doctors, academics gripe that they, unfairly, are far worse paid. And they lack the status that should accrue to those who teach the nation’s youth, correct their papers, and labor over lesson plans. Obama reminded us ad nauseam of all the lucre he passed up on Wall Street in order to return to the noble pursuit of organizing and teaching in Chicago.

In short, campus people have had the bar raised on themselves at every avenue. Suggest to an academic that university pay is not bad for ninth months’ work, often consisting of an actual six to nine hours a week in class, and you will be considered guilty of heresy if not defamation.

University administrators worship private money, and then among themselves scoff at the capitalism that created it. Campus elites, looking at a benefactor, are fascinated how someone — no brighter than they are — made so much money, even as they are repelled by a system that allows those other than themselves to have pulled it off. No wonder that Obama seems enchanted by a Warren Buffett, even as he trashes the very landscape that created Berkshire Hathaway’s riches. No president has raised more money from Wall Street or has given it more protection from accountability — while at the same time demagoguing it as selfish and greedy.

Many of the former Professor Obama’s problems so far hinge on his administration’s inability to judge public opinion, its own self-righteous sense of self, its non-stop sermonizing, and its suspicion of sincere dissent. In other words, the United States is now a campus, we are the students, and Obama is our university president.

-- NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Miranda Warning for the Pledge-What's your reaction

By Allison Pataki in Fox News

Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class.

It's a new school year, but an old fight is brewing in American classrooms. Teachers and administrators around the country are scratching their heads once again over the Pledge of Allegiance.

The courts have consistently ruled that students have the right not to recite the pledge in public schools. But now some First Amendmentadvocates are taking it one step further, arguing that the law compels educators to inform kids at the beginning of school that the decision is entirely up to them.

They're advocating a "Miranda warning" for the Pledge -- an administrative notice to students that they have the right to remain silent.

“The Pledge of Allegiance creates a constitutional problem. You have to tell students they can opt out,” the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told FOX News.

New Mexico dealt with this question last month when its education secretary upheld that students are permitted to opt out of the Pledge, but rejected an ACLU-backed amendment that would require schools to inform parents and students that they have the option.

In Florida, schools have tried to resolve uncertainty by announcing a new policy — students don't have to participate, as long as they have a letter from Mom and Dad.

These are just the latest in a litany of challenges to the Pledge and its place in the classroom.

Americans have recited the tribute to the stars and stripes since the oath was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, in 1892. But Bellamy's pledge did not include the words "under God," which were added by Congress in 1954 during the McCarthy era, when Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union — an atheist nation — were high in the United States.

Thirty-six states now have laws requiring that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited daily in public schools. But the oath as it's written does not sit well with some Americans.

“The Pledge doesn’t even state the truth. We are not one nation under God," Lynn said. "I don’t think we should lie to students, and there’s no way we can require them to say it.”

But supporters of the Pledge insist that the words are both constitutional and an important part of our national heritage.

“There has been a recurring effort by the ACLU and others to try to stop the Pledge of Allegiance from being said. The fact of the matter is that the American people like the Pledge of Allegiance, they like it the way it is,” Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, told

“The teachers are government employees, their paychecks are paid by the taxpayers, and the American people support the Pledge. I’m with the American people,” Schlafly said.

The majority of Americans do, in fact, overwhelmingly support the Pledge of Allegiance in its current form. A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll from November of 2005 showed that 90 percent of Americans approve of the oath. Only 7 percent of people polled said they would change the language of the Pledge, while three percent of Americans were undecided.

The Pledge's popularity aside, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that mandating a student to participate in the oath was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Now the ACLU and other critics of the Pledge are taking the dispute a step further — arguing that students, whether they do or don't support the oath, should be told up front that they are not required to recite the words.

They lost the first round in New Mexico last month, when state Education Secretary Veronica Garcia ruled not to change state policy — which requires that the Pledge be recited daily — to inform students of their right to opt out.

"The department believes that the existing rule and practice in schools respects the rights of all students," Garcia said a statement. "Any issues related to rights of students will be handled at the local school district level," the statement read.

New Mexico ACLU Director Peter Simonson protested the ruling, telling the Associated Press, "I think it's a cop-out not to affirmatively state that students have a First Amendment right not to participate in the Pledge." Simonson declined to elaborate when contacted by

In Florida, ACLU attorney Randall Marshall successfully argued a case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of high school student, Cameron Frazier, who abstained from reciting the Pledge because of “personal political beliefs” and, according to the lawsuit, was “singled out and humiliated” by his teacher.

“We made the case that students must be informed that they are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” Marshall told

"It’s not a challenge to the content of the Pledge. Only that students be informed that they are not required to recite it."

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Children of 9/11 Grow Up by Peggy Noonan

The Children of 9/11 Grow Up
College students talk about how the attack shaped their lives.

It is eight years since 9/11, and here is an unexpected stage of grief: fear that the ache will go away. I don't suppose it ever will, but grieving has gradations, and "horror" becomes "absorbed sadness." Life moves on, and wants to move on, which is painful for those who will not forget and cannot be comforted. Part of the spookiness of life, part of its power to disorient us, is not only that people die, that they slip below the waves, but that the waves close above them so quickly, the sea so quickly looks the same.

I've been thinking about those who were children on 9/11, not little ones who were shielded but those who were 10 and 12, old enough to understand that something dreadful had happened but young enough still to be in childhood. A young man who was 14 the day of the attacks told me recently that there's an unspoken taboo among the young people of New York: They don't talk about it, ever. They don't want to say, "Oh boo hoo, it was awful." They don't want to dwell. They shrug it off when it comes up. They change the subject.

This week, in a conversation with college students at an eastern university, I brought it up. Seven students politely shared some of their memories. I invited them to tell me more the next morning, and was surprised when six of the seven showed up. This is what I learned:

They've been marked by 9/11 more than they know. It was their first moment of historical consciousness. Before that day, they didn't know what history was; after that day, they knew they were in it.

It was a life-splitting event. Before it they were carefree, after they were careful. A 20-year-old junior told me that after 9/11, "a backpack on a subway was no longer a backpack," and a crowded theater was "a source for concern." Every one of them used the word "bubble": the protected bubble of their childhood "popped." And all of them said they spent 9/11 and the days after glued to the television, watching over and over again the footage—the north tower being hit by the plane, the fireball. The video of 9/11 has firmly and ineradicably entered their brains. Which is to say their first visual memory of America, or their first media memory, was of its towers falling down.

I'd never fully realized this: 9/11 was for America's kids exactly what Nov. 22, 1963, was for their parents and uncles and aunts. They were at school. Suddenly there were rumors in the hall and teachers speaking in hushed tones. You passed an open classroom and saw a teacher sobbing. Then the principal came on the public-address system and said something very bad had happened. Shocked parents began to pick kids up. Everyone went home and watched TV all day, and the next.

Simon, a 20-year-old college junior, was a 12-year-old seventh-grader at a public school in Baltimore. He said: "It's first-period science, and the teacher next door, who was known to play jokes on other teachers, comes in completely stone-faced and says a plane has hit the World Trade Center, and no one believes him." Simon didn't know what to believe but remembered reading that in 1945 a plane had struck the Empire State Building, and "the building stayed up," so he didn't worry too much.

"At lunch time the vice principal comes up and he explains that two planes had hit the World Trade Center and one had hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Center was gone, and I never—when you have your mouth agape it's never for anything important, but I remember having my mouth agape for a minute or two in complete and utter shock. I went to my art period and I remember my art teacher sitting there with her hands on her face just bawling, she was so frightened. My mom picked me up, and I remember walking with her, and I'm saying 'This is Pearl Harbor.'"

Nine-eleven, he felt, changed everything for his generation. "It completely destroyed our sense of invincibility—maybe that's not the right word. I would say it made everything real to a 12-year-old. It showed the world could be a dangerous place when for my generation that was never the case. My generation had no Soviet Union, no war against fascism, we never had any threats. I was born when the Berlin Wall came down. It destroyed the sense of carefree innocence that we had."

Juliette, also 20 and a junior, was in eighth grade in Great Falls, Va. "I think the kids were shocked," she said. "The major question was how could this happen, who would do that—like, how does something so crazy happen? What I had is a sense that it was going to be one of those days of which 30 years down the road, people would ask me, What were you doing on that day, where were you on 9/11?—that my children would ask me. And so I set myself to remembering the details."

I told her that it is interesting to me that no great art has yet come from 9/11. The reason may be that adults absorbed what had happened, and because we had absorbed it, we did not have to transmute it into art. Maybe when you are still absorbing, or cannot absorb, that's when art happens. Maybe your generation will do it, I said.

She considered this. "There's always the odds that something much more horrible will happen that will really shake us out of our torpor, that will wake us up," she said.

The attack was not only an American event. Robbie, an 18-year-old freshman, was 10 and in primary school in England. "We were near the end of school. There were murmurs from teachers about something happening. I remember going back home, and my mum had both televisions on with different news channels. I remember the tower and the pillar of smoke. The big pillar of smoke was very vivid to me, and my mother trying to explain the seriousness of it. I think 9/11 brought us bang slap into the 21st century. I remember when the millennium came people said 'new time, new world,' but 9/11 was the 'new time, new world.' I understood it was something big, something that changed the world."

Then he told me that after we had talked the previous evening, he'd had a dream. "I was back in my old school in England, and in front of me I could see the city of Bristol, nothing distinct, but big towers, big buildings. And I could see them crumbling and falling. There was a collective fear, not just from myself but amongst everyone in the dream. I remember calling in the dream my mum, and saying 'Are you safe, are you safe?' I think this perhaps shows that after 9/11 . . . as a small child you felt safe, but after 9/11, I don't think I personally will ever feel 100% safe. . . . I think the dream demonstrates—I think the dream contained my hidden feelings, my consciousness."

He remembered after 9/11 those who rose up to fight terrorism. Even as a child he was moved by them. There are always in history so many such people, he said. It is always the great reason for hope.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Obama's closing remarks about Ted Kennedy

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those that he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good that he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image -- the image of a man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Have you seen British Teeth?"

A disturbing look at socialized medicine
By Cal Thomas | Columnist
Published: 8/19/2009 12:01 AM
PORTADOWN, NORTHERN IRELAND - For the past month I have watched British media report and comment on the American health care uproar. American cable networks are also available here. The back-and-forth reporting and commentary resembles a replay of the War of 1812, this time with verbal salvos. Conservative American politicians and commentators fire at the British NHS system and the British fire back, sometimes on the same program, repeating the Democrats' mantra of how 47 million Americans are "uninsured" and how medical treatment in the United States depends on how much patients, or their insurance companies, will pay. Here, they say, health care is "free," thanks to taxpayers, a minority of which (i.e. the successful) bears ever-greater amounts of the burden.

A conservative British politician trashes the NHS on Fox News and the BBC carries an excerpt, along with a defense of the NHS by other British politicians, including Tory leader - and prime minister in waiting - David Cameron. In an apparent effort to outflank the critically ill Labour Party, Cameron promises to strengthen the NHS.

The British media are conflicted. They patriotically defend the NHS, while simultaneously acknowledging its serious shortcomings. One example: A recent Daily Mail editorial praised the NHS for its free care and universal availability, but then added, "Our survival rates for breast, prostate, ovarian and lung cancers are among the worst in Europe, despite huge additional expenditures." Free is nice, but best is better.

Beyond the headlines are some disturbing trends within the NHS that ought to serve as a warning to Americans, should they wish to abandon, rather than improve, our current system for treating the sick.

Last week, a London Times story began: "Hospitals Creaking Under the Strain as NHS Vacancies Are Left Unfilled."

The story reported that socialized medicine has created a shortage of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff. As of March 31, a survey found a 5.2 percent vacancy rate in these critical fields, compared to a 3.6 percent vacancy rate a year earlier. A poll conducted by the Royal College of Nurses found that among 8,600 young people, aged 7 to 17, "only 1 in 20 considered nursing to be an attractive career."

Anthony Halperin, a Trustee of the Patients Association, said: "Nursing staff see that there are higher rewards in the private sector while doctors and dentists no longer see medicine as a career for life, or are having their hours cut back by European legislation. All of this has negative outcomes for patients." A man attending a town meeting in America and who opposes the Democrats' reform plan said on Fox News, (and replayed on BBC): "Have you seen British teeth?"

Anyone wishing to revise America's medical system and model it after Britain and Canada ought to thoroughly examine how these health care systems function before plunging into the same pool. A reasonable conclusion is that these systems require long waits and treatments (if you can get them) that are inferior to the U.S., based on government "guidelines" that frequently approve care only if the patient is deemed "worthy of the investment."

As a symbol, Adolf Hitler has been overused, but the philosophy behind the horrors he unleashed can be found in the beliefs of some of those who would use the power of the state to determine who gets help and who doesn't.

The 1933 Sterilization Law was one of Hitler's first acts after taking power. Called "The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring," it required compulsory sterilizations for those deemed by the state to be "racially unsound," including people with disabilities.

As with a journey, so it is with inhumanity: both begin with a single step.

© 2009, Tribune Media Services Inc.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care: the 'right' solution

This is a letter published in the University of Richmond's student newspaper , the Collegian. It was written by one of UR's students. It is great when our young people begin taking positions on critical issues such as this.

I post it for thought and dialogue.


Letter: Health care: the ‘right’ solution
Published: August 9, 2009, 9:34 pm ET

Richmond College '11

In recent weeks, the debate over health care has grown fierce, but, unfortunately, extremely petty. Whether it is the claim that old people will be euthanized if it is too expensive to keep them alive or that a public option will prevent people from receiving life-saving medical procedures, the lies and smears spread by the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies have muddled the facts about health care reform. Even more unfortunate is the obvious truth that the politics of fear is again finding traction among many conservatives. So let’s look at the facts.
One popular argument against health care reform is the idea that it will decrease medical quality and efficiency, and the “world’s best health care system” will become nothing better than that of a Third World country.
Fact: America’s health care system is already worse than those of some third world countries. According to the World Health Organization, the United States’ health care system ranks 37th in the world, right behind health care systems in Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Costa Rica. So let’s get this straight: the average American family pays more than $400 a month for health insurance. Fifteen percent of the national GDP is spent on health care, but yet as a country, we rank 45th overall in life expectancy and 50 million Americans don’t even have insurance. This is the system Republicans want to maintain? Even more, even if you are insured, insurance companies still only pay about 80 percent of a patient’s costs after premiums and deductibles. Often, “pre-existing conditions” are not covered at all by insurance!
Let’s face it: health insurance companies are blood-sucking vampires that prey on human suffering. Health care and profit simply don’t mix.
With this said, however, the health care reform currently floating around on Capitol Hill really isn’t all that revolutionary. It still allows insurance companies and pharmaceuticals to turn extraordinary profits, it allows every American to choose his or her own doctor and medical options and it does not require any American to purchase insurance from the government or from the private sector against his or her will. The goal of the plan, simply, is to make insurance accessible for those who can’t afford it: small business owners, blue collar workers and the shrinking middle class.
The second popular argument against health care is that it will wreck the U.S. economy and churn up massive deficits.
Fact: if the health care system is not changed, the country will go bankrupt. The current health care system, if left alone, will rise to more than 20 percent of the GDP by the year 2017. The only option is reform, unless, of course, we want deductibles and premiums to continue rising while millions of Americans die from avoidable illnesses. The plan in Congress, albeit expensive, would prevent health care from ever reaching this percentage of GDP, and don’t forget, Americans would actually have health insurance.
Republicans like to turn the health care debate into an draconian dilemma between some people not being insured and the end of capitalism and the American way as we know it. But not all the blame should go to the Republicans; Democrats, elected to an super-majority in the House and the Senate, are folding like a house of cards. And let’s be honest, their opponents on the right are pathetic. If the Democrats can’t cut through the Republican blockage now, when the only counter to reform Republicans have is labeling it as socialism, then I’m afraid true reform will not be right around the corner.
Daniel Colosimo
University of Richmond, 2011

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gates/Crowley scenario--racial profiling or power moves

The scenario between the black professor from Harvard and white police officer from Cambridge might well be racial profiling.

More than that, I think it had to do with power. Both the police officer (Crowley) and the professor in their daily duties are use to being around people who respect them and look up to them. Both are significant others in their environments. Both are powerful individuals

Two good people decided that they couldn't show weakness and had to act. The white officer acted with an unnecessary arrest. The professor with accusations of racial profiling.

Both are fine folks. Both have provided us with an educational opportunity for discussion, thought and growth. Let's use this regrettable situation and have more than a few beers together.

We have come along way as a country and hopefully as individuals in valuing diversity. We have further to go though. Lets do more than having a cold one.........

Obama on Health Care

I am not posting this for or against, just wanted you all to have his recent memo on the subject.
Dear Friend,

If you’re like most Americans, there’s nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.

Given the status quo, that’s understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees – and sometimes isn’t there at all if you become seriously ill.

It’s time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:
No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
No cost-sharing for preventive care
No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
No gender discrimination
No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
Extended coverage for young adults
Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
Learn more about these consumer protections at

Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.

It’s time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OBamas e-mail supporting Sotomayor for the Supreme Court

What's your thoughts on this nomination?
Good Morning,

Yesterday, Judge Sonia Sotomayor made her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee and moved another step closer to taking a seat on the United States Supreme Court. In case you missed it, watch the video of her opening statement here:

As President, there are few responsibilities more serious or consequential than the naming of a Supreme Court Justice, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the qualifications and character that informed my decision to nominate Judge Sotomayor.

Judge Sotomayor's brilliant legal mind is complemented by the practical lessons that can only be learned by applying the law to real world situations.

In the coming days, the hearings will cover an incredible body of work from a judge who has more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the last 100 years. Judge Sotomayor's professional background spans our judicial system — from her time as a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, to her work as a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

And then there is Judge Sotomayor's incredible personal story. She grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx — her parents coming to New York from Puerto Rico during the Second World War. At the age of nine, she lost her father, and her mother worked six days a week just to put food on the table. It takes a certain resilience and determination to rise up out of such circumstances, focus, work hard and achieve the American dream.

This character shined through in yesterday's opening statement: Watch the video.

In Judge Sotomayor, our nation will have a Justice who will never forget her humble beginnings, will always apply the rule of law, and will be a protector of the Constitution that made her American dream and the dreams of millions of others possible. As she said so clearly yesterday, Judge Sotomayor's decisions on the bench "have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice."

In anticipation of today's first round of questioning, I hope you'll share this email widely, because Judge Sotomayor's confirmation is something that affects every American. It's important for these hearings to be about Judge Sotomayor's own record and her capacity for the job — not any political back and forth that some in Washington may use to distract you. What members of the Judiciary Committee, and the American people, will see today is a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into breaking from the rule of law.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

Saturday, June 27, 2009

N.C. States football team spends time with Marines

Athletes make the news when they win, get injured or break the law. How about this news maker! This kind of inspiring news goes on so often with athletic teams in my experience on three different campuses but we rarely hear about it.

BY J.P. GIGLIO - STAFF WRITER for the News Observer
Published: Fri, Jun. 12, 2009 09:45AM Modified Fri, Jun. 12, 2009 09:46AM

JACKSONVILLE -- You couldn't wipe the smile off Cpl. Bobby Joseph's face with a beach towel and bottle of 409.
The visit by members of N.C. State's football team to Camp Lejeune had that effect on Joseph and the other Marines in the Wounded Warrior Battalion on Thursday.
"I was actually going to go home and sleep," Joseph said. "This was worth it."

For Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien, who served nine years in the Marine Corps, the second annual trip to visit the Wounded Warrior Barracks, where injured and ill Marines convalesce, is a way of thanking the war veterans and adding a sobering dose of reality to his own players. A group of a dozen Marines, most age 19 to 22, spent an hour and a half talking with the Wolfpack contingent.
"Our guys think they are special," O'Brien said. "I think it's important that they are around a bunch of people that are really special, that have done so much to keep us free and protect us."
It was Joseph, 27, who took center stage in the barracks' recreation room, entertaining the gathered Wolfpack crowd of about 20 players and coaches with his, well, war stories. Armed with his laptop and a megawatt smile, Joseph showed the players pictures from his combat duty in Iraq, an ad hoc slideshow that included everything from his machine gun to his wounds.
A roadside bomb in Anah, Iraq, left Joseph with 200 pieces of shrapnel in his body and a hole the size of a whiffle ball in his left calf. He entered the Wounded Warrior Battalion in January 2007. In another two months, his rehabilitation will end, and he'll head back to his home in Florida.
Visits like the one by the Wolfpack on Thursday help keep Joseph motivated and focused on his recovery.
"This place can be depressing," he said. "It's not what happens here, but we're all afraid of what's going to happen next."
Joseph wasn't the only Marine with visual evidence of combat. Cpl. Karl Golian showed a group of players a video on his iPod of a Cobra helicopter airstrike in Iraq.
Golian's video hit N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon.
"That was mind-blowing," Glennon said. "That just goes to show how fortunate we are."
That's the impression O'Brien was hoping his players would get.
"Maybe they'll remember when they're a little tired or a little sore, the sacrifices these men have made," O'Brien said.
Not all of O'Brien's intentions with the visit were altruistic. He said he's trying to convert fans.
"It gives them somebody to root for," O'Brien said, joking.
It's working. A white "Let's Go Pack" banner, adorned with the autographs of the N.C. State players who visited in 2007 and on Thursday, hangs between the two televisions in the rec room.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson from Lisa Marie Presley's blog (

Friday, June 26, 2009

He Knew.
Years ago Michael and I were having a deep conversation about life in general.
I can't recall the exact subject matter but he may have been questioning me about the circumstances of my Fathers Death.
At some point he paused, he stared at me very intensely and he stated with an almost calm certainty, "I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did."
I promptly tried to deter him from the idea, at which point he just shrugged his shoulders and nodded almost matter of fact as if to let me know, he knew what he knew and that was kind of that.
14 years later I am sitting here watching on the news an ambulance leaves the driveway of his home, the big gates, the crowds outside the gates, the coverage, the crowds outside the hospital, the Cause of death and what may have led up to it and the memory of this conversation hit me, as did the unstoppable tears.
A predicted ending by him, by loved ones and by me, but what I didn't predict was how much it was going to hurt when it finally happened.
The person I failed to help is being transferred right now to the LA County Coroners office for his Autopsy.
All of my indifference and detachment that I worked so hard to achieve over the years has just gone into the bowels of hell and right now I am gutted.
I am going to say now what I have never said before because I want the truth out there for once.
Our relationship was not "a sham" as is being reported in the press. It was an unusual relationship yes, where two unusual people who did not live or know a "Normal life" found a connection, perhaps with some suspect timing on his part. Nonetheless, I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much.
I wanted to "save him" I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened.
His family and his loved ones also wanted to save him from this as well but didn't know how and this was 14 years ago. We all worried that this would be the outcome then.
At that time, In trying to save him, I almost lost myself.
He was an incredibly dynamic force and power that was not to be underestimated.
When he used it for something good, It was the best and when he used it for something bad, It was really, REALLY bad.
Mediocrity was not a concept that would even for a second enter Michael Jackson's being or actions.
I became very ill and emotionally/ spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain self-destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.
I was in over my head while trying.
I had my children to care for, I had to make a decision.
The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.
After the Divorce, I spent a few years obsessing about him and what I could have done different, in regret.
Then I spent some angry years at the whole situation.
At some point, I truly became Indifferent, until now.
As I sit here overwhelmed with sadness, reflection and confusion at what was my biggest failure to date, watching on the news almost play by play The exact Scenario I saw happen on August 16th, 1977 happening again right now with Michael (A sight I never wanted to see again) just as he predicted, I am truly, truly gutted.
Any ill experience or words I have felt towards him in the past has just died inside of me along with him.
He was an amazing person and I am lucky to have gotten as close to him as I did and to have had the many experiences and years that we had together.
I desperately hope that he can be relieved from his pain, pressure and turmoil now.
He deserves to be free from all of that and I hope he is in a better place or will be.
I also hope that anyone else who feels they have failed to help him can be set free because he hopefully finally is.
The World is in shock but somehow he knew exactly how his fate would be played out some day more than anyone else knew, and he was right.

I really needed to say this right now, thanks for listening.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

A message from Michelle Obama about Fathers DAy

Happy Father's Day,

I’m writing to share a special video of Barack talking about fatherhood, but first I want to share some thoughts of my own.

My father, Frasier Robinson, was the rock of our family. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion and our hero.

He worked tirelessly through good days and bad to make sure my brother and I had every opportunity he didn't -- to go to college and pursue our dreams. His example continues to guide me every day.

Barack didn't have my good fortune -- his father left when he was just two years old. But he has always been determined to give our daughters what he never had, and he values being a good father more than any other accomplishment in his life.

On Friday, Barack brought some men (and a bunch of kids!) to the White House to talk about fatherhood. Check out a video of the event:

We all know the remarkable impact fathers can have in our children's lives. So today, on this 100th anniversary of Father's Day, take a moment to celebrate responsible fatherhood and the men who've had the courage to step up, be there for our families, and provide our children with the guidance, love and support they need to fulfill their dreams.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

How Can God Still Bless America ? by Betty Gray/Williamsburg

I share a letter to the editor printed in the Richmond Times Dispatch on 6/11/9 titled "How Can God Still Bless America?" While I can't say that I agree with it in its entirety, it is thought provoking and very well written. I would hope that this might generate some thoughts, discussion and/or comments.

World War II General Omar Bradley said that by the end of the 20th century, we would be a nation of "technological giants and moral midgets."

Did he know that we would be putting men in outer space, but that back home we would be killing babies buy the thousands, while quibbling over waterboarding terrorists?

Did he know that we would deny our children the right to pray or read the Ten Commandments, but give them cell phones to "sex text" at will and allow them to absorb violence and smut 24 hours a day via TV?

Did he know that we would refuse to allow our schools to teach our teens abstinence and responsibility, but instead we would teach them about homosexuality and how to have safe sex---and if they do accidentally get pregnant, they're free to have abortions without notifying their parents?

Do you think he knew we would encourage children to read the fantasy Harry Potter series but discourage them from reading Bible stories because they're only fairy tales?

In our culture, truth has become whatever we want it to be and right and wrong are whatever we judge them to be---although we're not really judging because we have no basis with to judge.

And least one think I am pointing a finger at those outside the church---immorality and confusion are as rampant within our church as they are without. How can God possibly bless America?

Reaction anyone?

Monday, June 1, 2009

from the book "Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can't Read Write or Add." by Charles J. Sykes.

Often times this appears, apparently in error, as a graduation speech from Bill GAtes.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Twitter is spiritual--it really is :-)

After six weeks of writing tweets, Frederic Brussat says it is for him. To see how he is practicing his spirituality through Twitter, read his feed here or Here are 25 reasons why Twitter is a spiritual.

1.) Twitter challenges us to pay attention to what we are doing, to stay awake and totally alert.

2.) Twitter prompts us to focus on the present moment and in doing so we realize all we need is right here, right now.

3.) Twitter provides opportunities to connect with others around the world so we can sense how self and world are linked in ever-expanding circles.

4.) Twitter inspires us to practice hospitality in a time when too often strangers are feared and the "other" is shunned.

5.) Twitter enables us to share our deepest dreams and to encourage others not to lose hope.

6.) Twitter prods us to find the divine energy of joy in our daily lives and to share it with others.

7.) Twitter invites us to be receptive and to hold an open house in our hearts for new people, ideas, and organizations.

8.) Twitter draws out our playfulness and celebrates, in a variety of ways, the holiness of savoring pleasure and the lightness of being.

9.) Twitter promotes the art of listening in which we lean toward others in love, realizing that everyone wants to be heard.

10.) Twitter allows us to probe on a daily basis the significance of what we are feeling and thinking: it makes meaning makers of us all.

11.) Twitter encourages us to see spiritual teachers all around us, however unlikely or unlike us they may be.

12.) Twitter facilitates our exploration of the wider world of other cultures and wisdom traditions.

13.) Twitter reminds us to share the stories of our lives with other companions on the journey.

14.) Twitter illustrates how often when we are looking for one thing we come upon another in a moment of grace.

15.) Twitter proves that although we think we are living in a universe, it's really a pluriverse of voices.

16.) Twitter shows us why we need to cherish all parts of creation from ants to wolves to the Grand Canyon.

17.) Twitter encourages us to spell out all our days with a grammar of gratitude.

18.) Twitter elicits our wonder as we see the world moving toward us with a deluge of epiphanies.

19.) Twitter taps into the enthusiasm that lights up our lives and spreads it around.

20.) Twitter helps us banish boredom when we realize that there is always something new to be seen, felt, or made known.

21.) Twitter gives us opportunities to bless others through our affirmations of who they are and what they do.

22.) Twitter challenges us to be mindful of every word we write and to honor others as best we can.

23.) Twitter provides another space where we can be deeply moved by reverence or a radical respect for all life.

24.) Twitter, like koans, mantras, and flash prayers, teaches us that brevity can be a path of rich communication.

25.) Twitter helps us to relearn the arts of generosity wherein we give to others that which means the most to us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

10 trends we might see in restaurants in the near future

By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor -- in Restaurants and Institutions, 5/21/2009 9:18:00 AM

Green technology. Equipment with smaller footprints. More than one seminar dedicated to environmental concerns. This was one side of this year's NRA Show. The other side was, simply, survival.

But the economic slump may be a good thing for the show, as exhibitors stripped back their wares to showcase innovations. This hasn't always been the case. In 2007, Peter Backman, owner of London-based foodservice consultancy Horizons, found the show's exhibits to be less about what was new and more about what was comfortable:

"I sense that the new ideas, the real innovation, have gone out of the U.S. market and there has been a flight to the center," he told R&I. Click here for the video.

Old habits die hard. But unprecedented challenges in the marketplace make today the ultimate time to shake things up. Even Backman acknowledges that this year's show demonstrated the many ways in which U.S restaurateurs are approaching their businesses with a fresh pair of eyes. Here, 10 comments and ideas collected from the show’s exhibits, seminars and keynote speakers:

On Food

Kimchi quesadillas 1. Korean/Mexican fusion, the next big thing.
Already popular among street-food savvy eaters in Southern California, the kimchi quesadillas served by the team from Kogi, a mobile Korean barbecue concept in Los Angeles, demonstrated how well Korean and Mexican flavors meld together.

2. Fresh Iberico pork, now available.
It wasn’t until last year that USDA allowed Spain's prized Jamon Iberico into the country. Now chefs in Chicago are experimenting with a few fresh cuts from the acorn-fed pata negra pigs. At Latin-focused Carnivale, Chef Mark Mendez is braising the pork collar in duck fat for a rich confit. Because it's a pricy product (the collar wholesales for about $12 per pound, the loin even more) he is planning on running the meat as part of an appetizer special.

3. Made-to-order ice cream.
It might be the next incarnation of cold-surface blending scoop shops such as Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cold Stone Creamery: ice cream frozen to order on a icy metal slab. The advantage of this style of preparation is more about customization than flavor and texture. For example, because each serving frozen to order, customers can opt for their ice cream to be made with low-fat or lactose-free milk.

On Green

4. A restaurant that runs on French fries.
Well, not exactly, but close. Instead of paying for a service to haul away used fryer oil, a generator on display at the Green Restaurant Pavilion converts used fryer oil into electricity that can keep the lights and the water hot.

5. Telling customers "no."

Chef Charlie Ayers Chefs acknowledge that one necessary evil of year-round food purchasing is buying out of season produce, such as tomatoes, in order to meet customer expectations.Chef Charlie Ayers of Calafia in Palo Alto, Calif., doesn’t think it has to be this way. He tells customers "no" whenever they request out-of-season produce. But in order to do so gently, he trains staff to explain why he avoids serving the items. (Ayers sources food within a 150-mile radius of his restaurant.)

6. Power in numbers.
Nearly 500 NRA attendees, from operators to suppliers, pledged to reduce waste, energy use and water use as part of the NRA’s Conserve initiative. For a place to start, here’s the initiative’s Top 10 restaurant greening tips.

On Business

7. Discounting dangers.
In an aggressive effort to retain customers counts, upscale eateries are offering low-priced, prix fixe menus. But the revenue generated from the promotions isn’t aways enough to cover operating expenses, reminds Joe Bastianich, partner in New York City-based B&B Hospitality Group. “That kind of slash-and-burn discounting is overall a negative trend,” he says, because it puts the pressure on nearby restaurants to lower prices to unsustainable levels.

8. The importance of being specific.

CEO Sally Smith CEO Sally Smith of Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings recommended that operators look beyond check averages when encouraging servers to boost sales. “We break it down by sales per hour. To help your servers understand what you need from them, get specific. Don’t tell them: ‘We need to increase sales by $300 this hour.’ Tell them: ‘We have to sell 30 more hamburgers this hour.’”

On Service

9. Store-level leadership.
With customers acutely sensitive to how much they spend on food, bad service can hurt opportunities for repeat business. To encourage strong leadership at the store level, Denver-based Chipotle recognizes general managers who have a track record of training staff and grooming future managers through its “restaurateur” program, which includes a bonus for participants.

10. Embracing social media.
According to Damian Mogavero, CEO of New York City-based restaurant consultancy Avero, everyone will be using social media in the future. The differentiation factor will be found in how well-integrated it is into the company’s culture. The time to start experimenting with the technology? Now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ellen DeGeneres -- Graduation Speech at Tulane

This was a wonderful graduation speech full of humor, wisdom, self analysis and of course dance. Check it out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

For Twitter users--Seven Habits of Highly Effective Twitterers by Wayne Sutton

“Think of me as the social media lead car on the Autobahn of the Internet.”
Wayne Sutton (@waynesutton) is a Social Media Strategist, Consultant, and a prolific twitterer who’s passionate about using new media and technology to connect businesses and consumers. You can catch his tech reviews and insights on

1. Filters and searches

Using Twitter Search and filters for your searches save you a ton of time when you’re looking for information via Twitter. Mashable has previously compared 6 great Twitter search services and Mr. Tweet’s Blog Editor, Corvida Raven, has recently posted about great ways to use filters combined with Twitter’s saved search feature to help you harness some of the benefits of Twitter Search.

The value in utilizing the filters is they help you to fine tune the results of your searches. For example if your looking for content on Twitter that fall within the niches like SEO or Social Media, you could do a simple search. But this opens up to a bunch of noise. What if you only want tweets with links? “social media filter:links” would return better results because all of these twitter messages contain a link in them along with the keywords “social media”. Louis Gray has done a nice summary of the importance of filters.

2. There are no rules, but establish your “twitter goals”

What do you want to get out of Twitter?
What topics would you like to continuously discuss?
What do you want to give to your followers?
Would you rather keep your conversations private or open to the public?
Are you going to have them between small groups of friends, or are you open to networking?
Do you want to broadcast? To how many people?

3. Understand prime tweet hours for conversations and traffic

Recommended Prime Tweet Hours: Twitter has replaced the morning email time for some. Between 7:30 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. EST Mon. - Fri. most twitter users are at work, reading tweets, tweeting, checking rss feeds and sharing information. However, this can vary when it comes to your followers and followings.

4. Setup your workflow and apps

I’m a big fan of Tweetgrid but for some, Seesmic Desktop or Tweetdeck works. I also recommend using, use Twitter web apps like Hootsuit, Cotweet and Tweetbeep. Dig into these apps and understand how they can better help you. Read the tips about how to better utlize their features. Why are you doing all of this? You want to make them work for you.

5. “Always a tweet away”

Meaning, be it your iPhone or Blackberry, you can send a tweet from anywhere, anytime. You want to appear to be always thinking about your followers or the entire twitter community. You might see something important such as breaking news, or it could be a thought; be able to tweet on the spot.

6. Sharing information and being helpful

This probably is the #1 reason I have as many followers as I have now. Before the celebrities, nba players, and music artist, I was finding and sharing a lot of helpful information or information I thought others could benefit from. Be consistent with your sharing habits and try not to make too much noise.

7. Understand what Twitter really is

For me, Twitter is a means of communication. It generates and enhances relationships through social networking. I find value in not only my connections, but also by giving back to the community (see Habit 6 for more). What is Twitter for you?

Bonus: Attend tweetups or understand how to use twitter offline as much online for your personal life or busines
[ Authors Note] We recommend checking out Wayne Sutton’s excellent post on great Twitter Conferences to attend.

Share your Twitter habits in the comments!

*Note: This is the second part of our Highly Effective Twitterers (#het) series to highlight Twitterers who have achieved significant professional and personal success via Twitter. They share their unique approach towards building great networks here!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Being the "smart, intelligent and bright" student that I was...

We should be able to laugh at ourselves. Here goes my chuckle for the day as I think back to my past.
While attending Evanston Township High School (ETHS) a number of us were working on the summer ground crew. It was raining so a few of us were assigned to clean up an old attic some where in the ETHS building. While cleaning, we ran across what looked to be a grenade. Being the "smart, intelligent and bright" student that I was, I pulled the pin just knowing that it couldn't be a real grenade.

Several hours later, after the entire school had been vacated and closed down for the day due to smoky class rooms and terrible odors by the fire department, we realized that it was a live smoke grenade used by the ROTC program and obviously misplaced.

Needless to say, all of us were a bit embarrassed. The Evanston Review featured us on the cover of the next weeks magazine in all of our sheepish glory. Then there is my golf story that happened recently but that is another story for another time

Sunday, May 10, 2009

About Moms and for all Moms on Mothers Day By Reginald Holmes

There is a sweet angelic look
on every mother's eyes
That makes us stop and wonder
If they're angels in disguise:

For they are always standing by
When someone needs a friend.
No one has as much compassion,
None are quicker to defend.

There is a little bit of God
In every mother's heart.
He molded them of finer clay
That sets them well apart.

They are an earthly blessing
That heaven itself supplies:
And so we can't help believing
They are angels in disguise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Concordia Commencement Speech by Margo Melnicove

Roxana Saberi was scheduled to give the commencement speech this year at her undergraduate alma mater, Concordia College. Her former mentor, Margo Melnicove, a lecturer in the journalism program at Brandeis University, delivered the speech in her stead. In it she addresses Roxana directly and imparts lessons drawn from Roxana’s own personal and professional experiences

“Lessons Learned from a Concordia Grad”

Thank you, President Jolicoeur, Chairman Offutt, and Dean Krejci. And to the graduates, congratulations!

Dear Roxana.

I’m looking out at the bright, beaming faces of the class of 2009. They’re surrounded by their proud families and friends, and Concordia’s faculty and staff.

How we wish that our prayers and love reach you in your cell in Tehran, and that they give you hope and strength.

How we wish you were here.

I’ve been thinking about how we met.

It was 2001. I had selected you to participate in National Public Radio’s Diversity Initiative. I was so impressed by your application. In fact, it was an editor’s dream-come-true. There was not a single typo, misspelled word, or grammatical error.

Now Roxana, I’m trying to channel you so I can figure out what you’d say to the graduates if you were here. And I think I’ve already hit upon your first piece of advice: Don’t count on Spell Checker to catch all errors! Proofread whatever you write very, very carefully. (This may sound trivial, but these really are words to live by.)

But, Roxana, it wasn’t just the style of your application that got me. I was also impressed by the substance. At the time, you were working as a cub reporter at KVLY-TV in Fargo, and enjoying your first real job in broadcast journalism. But you were itching to see the world, and cover international news. You were also eager to learn the public radio way of storytelling, because you wanted to dig deeper into the issues of the day.

The Diversity Initiative kicked off with a week-long seminar at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. It started on September 10, 2001. We all know what happened on September 11th. You were pressed into duty by your station back home, and spent much of the rest of the week filing breaking news stories. You did live shots from the Pentagon and the halls of Congress. You interviewed senators and generals and ordinary, grief-stricken Americans. I remember you were nervous, and afraid you weren’t up to the task. But you forged ahead and did it anyway, and very well, I might add.

I can hear you now, giving the graduates this advice: Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before. You can do it. You have what it takes!

As part of the Diversity Initiative, I had the pleasure of serving as your mentor for several months after the seminar ended. Remember those long talks we had about what you wanted to do with the rest of your life? I hope you don’t mind if I share this with everyone…it’s from something you wrote back then, which I happened to save. I had asked you to spell out your goals as a broadcast journalist, and you wrote:

“Think less about my image, and more about the value of my story. Read more, especially with different perspectives. Discuss issues with a variety of people. Try to empathize. Tell myself to be less self-involved!”

No wonder you were determined to become a foreign correspondent. What you have been all about…since well before I met you…is this drive to deepen your knowledge of other people, other countries, other cultures. Not just for your own benefit. No, you want to share this knowledge with a broad audience. Because your ultimate goal is to enable cross-cultural understanding and mutual respect among all kinds of people.

Now, I have a confession. I never told you this, but before we met, I felt a little intimidated. I mean, I had never known a beauty queen before, and my head was full of stereotypes about such people. I expected you to be stuck up, full of yourself, terribly vain…and a bit-of-a-bimbo.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only are you smart, I mean really smart, but you are unpretentious, modest about your considerable gifts and accomplishments, and so grounded.

There you were, a former Miss North Dakota, a top-ten finalist in the Miss America pageant, and I believe well on your way to becoming a network news star. Fame and fortune were well within your reach.

But neither was important to you. You craved something more meaningful. You had your sights set on broad horizons. You were also looking deep within. You wanted to understand and experience your heritage…the Japanese part from your mom, and the Iranian part from your dad. Eventually Iran won out, because of its prominence in the news. You started to learn Farsi, and applied for an Iranian passport, though you had no idea how you’d support yourself if you went there.

I introduced you to Simon Marks, the head of Feature Story News. That same day, he offered you a job. In February 2003, at the ripe old age of 25, you arrived in the Iranian capital and quickly established a one-woman news bureau there. This is not easy to do. The logistics alone are a nightmare. And doing this in a country where women don’t usually do such things….

But there you were, fully accredited by the Iranian government, and equipped with a small video camera and laptop computer. You started sending a stream of broadcast news reports that were supplied to networks in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa.

Talk about being resourceful! Talk about following your dream!

The thing is, Roxana, I know if you were here, you’d tell the graduates that yes, it was scary and difficult and very lonely at times, but with determination and hard, hard work, they can overcome obstacles and do great things, just as you have done.

We’re colleagues now, Roxana, and friends thanks to you and your genuine interest in people. Even when I was your mentor, you were as interested in me as I was in you.

A few years ago when your press card was revoked without explanation, I asked if you would be coming home. You said no, you loved Iran, and you wanted to finish your book and your studies at the university.

“I’m going to stay,” you said. “I still have so much to learn.”

I could go on and on about what I’ve learned from you, Roxana, and how you continue to inspire me. But like any good journalist…and I know you’ll appreciate this…I interviewed several people to get their take on you.

Let’s begin right here, at Concordia. I’m sure you remember Kristi Rendahl, like you a piano scholar and a member of the class of 1997.

Kristi reminded me that Roxana, when you were a student at Concordia, you played soccer, reported on the campus radio station, and excelled academically. I’ll say. You had a GPA of 3.97, majored in communication studies and French, completed your degree in three years, and graduated summa cum laude and with Credo Honors.

Kristi says that you embody what a liberal arts education is all about, and you embody the mission of the college.

(OK, let’s have it…”The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.”)

Roxana, did you hear that? I’d been told that a surprisingly high number of students know the mission by heart, and they really do.

Here’s something else. Your piano professor, Jay Hershberger (Jay, where are you?) sums up what he has learned from you in one word… “tenacity.”

He says if he gave you something really challenging, you would see it through to the end.

Rachmaninoff’s G-Minor Prelude is a case in point. Word on the street is that when you got to the really tough spots, you tended to stiffen up. But you worked and worked and sweated through it until you mastered the piece. And by all accounts, you played it beautifully when you competed for Miss North Dakota and then for Miss America.

(Speaking of over-achievers and Miss North Dakotas, communications professor Stephanie Ahlfeldt was Miss North Dakota the year before Roxana. In fact, she put the crown on Roxana’s head in 1997. Stephanie, where are you?)

Now Roxana, Stephanie, your friend and Miss North Dakota predecessor, says you’ll probably laugh at this one. But when she thinks of you, she thinks of poise and grace…even though it took her hours to teach you how to walk right in high heels.

I also interviewed Jack Doppelt, a professor at Northwestern’s Medill Graduate School of Journalism where you got your first of two master’s degrees. He says that by example, you teach the importance of giving back. Like how you jump at the chance to share your experiences with journalism students and others who are just starting out. Jack says now it’s time to give back to you.

He urges everyone to go to freeroxana-dot-net. I bet you don’t know this, Roxana, but at freeroxana-dot-net, anyone can sign up to fast for a day, so you can quit your fast and regain your strength. The Free Roxana Hunger Strike begins today, World Press Freedom Day, and will continue for 12 days.

This brings me to lessons that professor Catherine McMullen has been teaching to her journalism students here at Concordia. (Catherine, where are you?)

Catherine taught you well, Roxana, when you took her news reporting class back in ‘96. And now you’re teaching her current students an invaluable lesson: Do not take our free speech, free press and other First Amendment freedoms for granted.

Catherine helped organize yesterday’s vigil on the bridge between Fargo and Moorhead. About 200 of your supporters were there, Roxana, plus the governor, your congressman, and Fargo’s mayor-who-fought-the-river…all saying, “Let Roxana and her parents come home to Fargo.”

One of Catherine’s students, Marissa Paulson, has posted photos of the vigil on her Facebook page. (I think Marissa helped marshal in the faculty today, which someone said is a bit like herding cats. Marissa, where are you?) Marissa was among many journalism students who staffed a Free Roxana information booth in the atrium of the Student Center the other day. And members of the Student Government Association have been busy tying yellow ribbons around trees and lamp-posts all over campus. I heard that your parents’ neighbors started the yellow ribbon tribute, and now they’re cropping up everywhere.

How about if everyone who has done something to support Roxana gives a wave, so she can see you.

Roxana, there’s one more person who wants to thank you for the lessons you’ve taught him…your big brother, Jasper.

(Don’t panic, he didn’t say anything bad about you…well, he did mention that you’re stubborn, but I don’t think he meant it in a bad way.)

Jasper says he’s grateful for your ability to listen well, and to be able to speak soul to soul. (I love that.) He also says you had faith in him when he lost faith in himself, that when he was weak you were strong and kind. Here’s how he put it: “Sister…you helped me to believe in myself.”

I think I’m over my time limit, Roxana, so I better wrap this up. But before I go, I want to do a quick review, because there will be a quiz at the end. (Just kidding.)

Here you go…lessons learned from a Concordia grad by the name of Roxana Saberi:

Live fully. Make the most of your gifts and talents.

Pursue excellence. Practice may never make you perfect, but if you work hard at something, you can come close.

Listen to others with an open mind, heart and soul.

Honor your teachers and seek out their friendship.

Be true to yourself.

Be generous.

Keep learning.

Have courage.

Do it all with poise and grace, but don’t take yourself too seriously. You can be confident, yet humble. You can learn to walk in high heels, though you’re still a klutz.

Roxana, I know you join me in wishing the class of 2009 good luck, good health, and a great future.