Friday, March 21, 2008

An Endorsement for the All the Right Reasons

I have been a parent for twenty years. Every day for those 20 years I feel that my actions, my words, and my choices have important implications for myself and my family. How I conduct myself in the community, how I communicate with my spouse and my children, my decisions to take positions that may or may not be popular (but that I believe are right), how I deal with conflict - are opportunities to teach. For twenty years, my children have watched and learned from me, and as a result I have an awesome responsibility to try to do it right.

I can't help but compare this Democratic primary election to a family. The family is the American people, the parents - our candidates and their surrogates. So when public figures act in ways that are antithetical to basic human values - behaviors that we as parents would never demonstrate and certainly wouldn't accept in our children - it only makes me stand in disbelief. On the other hand, when these individuals stand up and act the way parents should, it make me proud, it warms me and offers hope.

This morning, Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, stood up and did the right thing. Despite his long standing friendship with the Clintons, he endorsed Barack Obama. In his own words,

''I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America's moral leadership in the world,'' Richardson said in a statement obtained by the AP. ''As a presidential candidate, I know full well Sen. Obama's unique moral ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation.'

Govenor Richardson has not let the game of politics blur what he believes in his heart is the right thing to do. He could have easily endorsed Hillary - it was the safe decision. But he did what was right and not necessarily what was easy. This is the standard that Barack Obama is setting for our country. The Governor knows that Senator Obama will lead us with a moral compass. The value and importance of this quality is the beginning of a new kind of Presidency.

Governor Richardson understands his responsibility to the American people and I hope that other Democratic leaders will break their silence. I respect leaders who are thoughtful in their decision-making, however, a leader is not a leader if he or she cannot take a position. This family needs its leaders to act like strong, confident parents who the children depend on to make decisions that will be best for the family. Al Gore, John Edwards, and Howard Dean - stand up, be brave and help put an end to this calamity. This family needs to stop fighting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


These ARE the words I have been waiting for….Today, Barack Obama seized an opportunity to talk to America honestly about race. His words, yes his words, will touch the souls of every race and creed in this country who choose to listen to them. He did not compromise his beliefs by merely explaining away an old friend with whom it would have been politically expedient to cast aside but used that friendship as a springboard for a discourse on race in America. He epitomizes the qualities that we as a nation must have in our President: integrity in his beliefs, sincerity in his thoughts, and hopefulness in his actions. He has the ability to challenge us to be better than who we are and to help us realize that it is the existence of our precious melting pot that implores us to rise above our differences - if we are to make any progress at all.
This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
I have never been more proud to be an Obama supporter today.

I Have Been Waiting for these Words

I have been struggling with my feelings regarding the relationship between Barack Obama and his pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Oddly, my struggle is not that I am having trouble reconciling this relationship; rather it is that I am not.

I have had to ask myself why the absolutely offensive words that the Reverend Wright spewed has not lead me to the same question that many seem to be asking: How come Senator Obama has remained in that Congregation, allowing this minister to officiate at his wedding and to baptize his children, knowing that these views are so discordant and antithetical to his own beliefs?

I have been a member of the same congregation for 10 years. There have been sermons that various Rabbis have given over the years that I have not agreed with. I know that others have found some sermons extremely offensive. Do we leave our congregation because we disagree with the words of our Rabbi? No. We are a community, which is our extended family. What do my friends, who are pro-choice and in favor of gay marriage do when their priest espouses the beliefs of the Catholic Church during a Sunday mass? Do they leave their congregation? No, it is their community, their family. We all gain strength from belonging to a spiritual home and take pride in the good work it does in our communities. We value the relationships we share with our spiritual leaders. I am sure that the congregants of the Trinity United Church of Christ feel exactly the same way. I am sorry that this congregation, that these people, this family, has had to bear the brunt of our own fears – our scrutiny.

First, I do believe that I, as a white, Jewish American, have a lot to learn about the African American experience. I have no clue about what it’s like growing up with black skin in this country. In a few weeks I will be seated at my dinner table, retelling the Passover story as if I were a slave in Egypt – but I can’t begin to relate to the notion of having a great grandparent who was actually enslaved in America. I was young during the Civil Rights movement – I grew up in a white suburb in New England, attended an all white elementary school and sang freedom songs with my family on car trips. I can be empathetic and sympathetic but I refuse to be a hypocrite. I have no right to place judgment on this congregation or this minister.

To have asked Barack Obama to denounce Reverend Wright, which in a way meant turning his back on his congregation makes me cringe. How dare we ask this of him because his pastor spoke words that made us uncomfortable. How dare we judge his congregation without judging ourselves. How dare we disparage Senator Obama’s relationship with his pastor. It’s none of our business. Senator Obama’s actions - his record, has certainly proven that he does not espouse or agree with these particular sound bytes. Reverend Wright is not running for President and he has a 1st Amendment right to speak, even if his words are offensive. Even if what he says makes us angry. Even if we vehemently disagree. We don’t have to listen if we don’t want to. But perhaps we should.

Reverend Wright’s words are a wakeup call to white America – and they are harsh words to hear. There are serious racial tensions in this country. And there is anger. Barack Obama may be the single most important person who has the ability to transcend this racial divide and for the first time in a long history be an effective instrument for positive change. He can begin the dialogue and give voice to both sides of the divide. He is the best hope that can I possibly imagine to finally begin to bring this country together and to move us forward. I don’t mean the Democratic and Republican, Independents and Green parties, I mean the people who make up these parties – the rainbow of colors that is this country.

Senator Obama is speaking this morning at 10:30. That he has chosen Philadelphia as his venue cannot be an accident. This is a speech that I was hoping he would make, that he must make to the people of this country – black and white, women and men, rich and poor, young and old. I know he has the courage to seize this opportunity - to confront and not shrink away from this challenge. This is a time when words do matter. They mattered when our forefathers gathered in Philadelphia to draft the Declaration of Independence and they mattered when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. These words are words that must be spoken and we should all find it within ourselves to listen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama Denounces Controversial Remarks

For supporters and doubters alike....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"That Way Madness Lies"

If you have ten minutes to spare, spend it listening to Keith Olbermann's commentary last night. Finally, somebody from the media has the guts to stand up and speak honestly and thoughtfully. Mr. Olbermann expresses my frustration more clearly and articulately than I ever could. Give yourself a treat and watch this. I assure you, you will see things more clearly when it is finished.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hillary's Response to a "Crisis"

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was pretty desperate 4 weeks ago. You might even venture to characterize it as being in crisis mode. She had lost 11 State Primaries in a row, her top staffers were resigning, super delegates were jumping ship for Obama, and her campaign infighting was becoming notorious. How has she responded to this crisis?

It is common knowledge now that Senator Clinton’s top advisors do not get along. Her intent to form an unorthodox team should be applauded and her vision commended. However, from an ordinary voter’s perspective, the result might be compared to a dysfunctional family. According to a recent Washington Post article:

She assembled her own team of advisers knowing their mutual enmity in the belief that good ideas come from vigorous discussion.

And further on in the article: But while many campaigns are beset by backbiting and power struggles, dozens of interviews indicate that the internal problem endured by the Clinton team have been especially corrosive.

Hillary Clinton is at the helm of her campaign. She is the commander and she alone is responsible for the manner and tone with which her staffers conduct themselves. Although her intent is impressive, her failure to pull it off is more resounding. She has shown an inability to manage all this power and garner the energy into a positive, collaborative team. Instead, nastiness permeates her upper echelon and this is endemic of the true picture. Her campaign serves as an honest lens into which it behooves voters to peer into because it is very likely a microcosm of the future management of her Administration. We are fortunate to be experiencing, first hand, her leadership style in the midst of a crisis, so why not judge it?

Consider her message to voters at the height of her campaign crisis. Although first claiming that voters shouldn’t vote for her just because she is a woman, she pulled the gender card as a last resort. At the conclusion to the Ohio primary, in a desperate attempt to woo women voters on February 26, she said:

I am thrilled to be running, to be the first woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country and around the world…

Later on in the week, CNN’s Judy Woodruff followed up on these remarks with Senator Clinton. She asked her, "What would be different about having a female president?"Her response:
I don’t think we can adequately imagine the difference it would make. It would be the shattering of the highest and hardest glass ceiling and it would send such a message of hope and opportunity to every little girl, to every young woman. That’s probably the most common thing that people say to me out on the campaign trail. There’s two things, actually, one people say I’m here because of my daughter, or my little girl just learned that we never had a woman president and I want her the know that she can do anything. It would be a very deep change in how people see themselves and who is able to fulfill this position…

So what exactly are these characteristics that demonstrate that “sea change” she would bring to the presidency? Examine her message of hope that she is promising to the mothers of these “little girls and to young women”. Her responses so far to the crisis in her campaign: Negative attack ads and fear mongering (the red phone ad), innuendo (as far as I know he (Obama) is not a Muslim), punitive finger-shaking (Shame on you, Barack Obama), caddiness towards her opponent (do you need a pillow, Barack ? or her famous Xerox flub). There is nothing new in her actions that could be characterized as a “sea change”. This is just the same old game of dirty politics yet she has had perfect opportunities to demonstrate something different - to show those mothers (and fathers) that she will do it differently. And this isn’t hope, this is desperation and if this is how she responds in a crisis, no thank-you.

This is Hillary Clinton. This is how she handles crisis. This is how she leads people. This is who she is and there is no denying it no matter how it is spun.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It Does Us No Good

Dear Hillary,
I understand and respect your desire to be President of the United States…. and particularly to be the first woman President of the United States. I know you sincerely want change in this country. The Democrats must win in November. About this we both agree. But please don’t let your personal ambition cloud the opportunity that we as Democrats have to make this a better, a much better America. We need a united Democratic party in order to win. Please don’t divide us.

First of all, you are not being very nice. This is not becoming of anyone, especially a candidate for President of the United States. To me, character is the most important quality in a Presidential candidate. Your negative campaigning and sniveling swipes shows weakness and bad sportsmanship, and quite frankly it makes me question the respect for you that I do have. This is exactly the old politics that we are all fed up with. Please give it a rest. If this is the only way you know how to fight when you are down, then perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency. It does us no good.

Why do you have to pretend that you are doing fine when we all know that are disappointed about the direction your campaign is heading. We know that you are human and not immune from feelings of disappointment. You may think that such an admission shows weakness, but I view it as a strength of soul, a genuineness that I would want, no I would need my President to have.

Instead you seem to brush off your losses as if they mean nothing. Why can’t you be gracious and congratulate your opponent, and why for heaven’s sake can’t you, at the very least acknowledge the efforts of your volunteers who work so hard for you, despite your losses? And how about your voters? They believe in you. If I were giving a speech after a primary, it would be the first words out of my mouth. It is common decency to thank people who have helped you whether it got you closer to your goal or not. A mother teaches her children this basic value, a teacher to her students and friends expect it of friends. A mention of thanks anywhere else but at the very beginning of your speech degrades their efforts. If ignoring those who proved useless to you and not finding it within your heart to acknowledge other’s successes even when you are down is the best you can muster, then perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency. It does us no good.

And, if I may, can to ask you to take a serious look at the momentum of the voters? It’s been a slow drumbeat since Iowa, but if you are a good listener then you can’t deny the steady march toward your opponent’s camp. A successful president listens to the people. I guess it’s an awful lot to ask you to hand him the baton but for the sake of our country might you at least consider it? You can’t deny the numbers: Barack Obama is slowly and very successfully chipping away at your voter base. You can’t deny it and you haven’t been able to stop it.

You are struggling up a hill that is morphing into a mountain. Catching up is becoming a greater challenge. Rather than putting all of your relentless energy into the battle for the nomination, for the sake or our country, please consider putting your ego aside and jumping on the bandwagon. And bring your voters with you. Just think of the power we can have together. So, you would not be remembered in history as being the first woman President, but you would surely be remembered as a hero. You would be my hero. Perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We Are Women for Obama

I hesitate putting too many You Tube videos on my blog, but this one is very dear to my heart. This is my project.

As I have said in other posts, women are not abandoning their feminist beliefs when opting to not to support a woman's run for the presidency. We must vote for the PERSON who best will lead this country.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Grassroots Worker's Work is Never Done

I apologize for my absence - has it really been 10 days since my last post? It is not for lack of subject matter - I am constantly parking ideas in the back of my head - I have a laundry list of comments I want to make about topics in the news or ideas that require some research. And I apologize to my regular visitors whose blogs I have not been visiting either.

Everyday I wish I could sit at my desk and synthesize my thoughts. But over the past weeks, I playcatch-up with myself every day. I think my family is beginning to get frustrated with my less than enthusiastic attitude toward the household chores - I admit the light bulbs need to be changed in more than a few darkened rooms, I only wonder, why has nobody else bothered to changed them?

I continue to be swept up in the excitement of this election. When Connecticut won the primary on February 4, I thought I would return to the regularity and the rhythm of life before Obama. However, I have never been involved in a political grassroots effort, so I don’t know if this campaign is unique in its magnetism that beckons volunteers to feel compelled to continue working even after victory. Maybe not, maybe the reason why grassroots efforts are so successful is the very reason why they exist in the first place. It’s the passion and commitment that volunteers share that keep their adrenalin pumping and their purpose so focused. I have become a grassroots Obama junkie.

My intention was never for this blog to be so focused on one topic. And perhaps I owe an apology to my regular readers, however, there is nothing that seems more important to me than the future of our country. And so, I will continue to write about politics for a while longer… and as I park those other ideas in the back of my brain, hopefully they will wait patiently for a time when I can tap them out on my key board.

As I get more entrenched in this effort, I understand better the risk that making a commitment to something and working hard for its success can bring. Perhaps this is what drives me the most -- I want to feel satisfied with a victory at the end. The fear of losing and the feelings that engender it would be way too much to bare. Our country has an opportunity to fix itself, to fix ourselves, which we may not have again in our lifetime.

Heading off to a State-Wide Obama Day of Action II this morning. Yes, there are still other states to win….

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We are who we have been waiting for....

Indulge me in another posting about the Democratic race for President and let me revel for a few moments in Connecticut’s successful turnout for Barack Obama. I was one of those on the ground Connecticut volunteers. Never having participated in political grassroots organizing I was overwhelmed by my district group’s sense of purpose and quick camaraderie. I also learned that this campaign thrives on neophytes like myself. We were handed a mighty task and I was dumbfounded by the amount of trust staffers had in our own meager skills to see that a job was done. Knowing that every small contribution we made was a crucial part of a much greater whole gave us a sense of belonging and inspired us to want to do more.

It isn’t until now, after the fact, with our primary over, as each of us returns to neglected work responsibilities, overflowing laundry baskets, orphaned kids and lonely spouses that we can begin to really reflect on our success.

Barack Obama said something last night that struck deeply. He said:
“We are who we have been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”

Although I have been chanting his mantra, “Yes We Can” and “I’ve been Fired Up and Ready to Go” for quite a while now, it wasn’t until I heard those words last night that my soul was touched. His speeches inspire me, his oracle is incredible. But those words encapsulate this experience for me. Living in my homogeneous upper middle class suburb, my life secludes me, on a personal level from people of different races and socio-economic backgrounds. But for the past month we have stood together - working side by side for a common goal. Never have I felt so compelled to do so. My life is richer thanks to this experience and now I understand the power that we have if we join together and believe that we can change our country’s course.

We are being asked to act at a time in history that may never come again. Barack Obama is teaching us that first and foremost we must believe in ourselves. From that faith we must take responsibility for our neighbors, acknowledge the inequities in this country, trust in dialogue, even with adversaries, and work side by side to fix all that is broken - no matter how many obstacles we encounter or roadblocks that get in the way. As Americans we can do this - I saw it happen in our tiny district in our very small state against the greatest of odds...... “We are the change we seek".

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Yes We Can Song

Thanks to a friend for this latest Obama video... this symbolizes yet another morsel of hope that we all have as we get closer to the Democratic Primary on Tuesday. VOTE!!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Passing of the Flame

Thanks to Karoli at Bang the Drum for this heartening video. On this very rainy GOTV day in Connecticut - this is in honor of all the volunteers knocking on doors in the rain.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let's Hear Your Voice....

Since I know that I'm getting an unusual number of visitors from Sam Graham-Felsen's blog at the Barack Obama site (thank-you Karoli!), I thought it would be great to engage in a dialogue here - whether about women and Obama or other issues about the campaign . Both my daughter and I have posted our thoughts and it would be great to hear from all of you -- new visitors and old friends!

I realize I've focused here alot lately (okay mostly) on the Presidential election, and there are many other important issues affecting kids going on in the news that must be written about - but pardon my focus -- the Feb 5 Primary is on Tuesday - and aside from other personal responsibilities I have, this has been very important to me. There is an awful lot at stake - for our kids and the youth of this country - and if we don't find time now to help move us in the right direction, it will be too late later. I am working in my community this weekend to GOTV (Get Out the Vote) for our Feb 5 primary -- and I promise after the 5th to return to a more diverse dialogue with a sundry of issues.

So, in the spirit of youth (and you are only as old as you feel!) I've invited some other young adults from other blogs to weigh in with their thoughts on the election and hopefully they'll take me up on my offer. I also know there are other young visitors (you know who you are!) who read this blog -- speak up, even if you don't agree and Let's Hear Your Voice! If you are not young in years, you're not exempt .... chime in ... this is about a dialogue between the ages! Let's have some fun.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A New Driver in the Seat

Posted by one of my daughters who will be contributing to Minivan Diaries:

Dear Grandma,

I sit here at the pinnacle of my youth, or at least that is how it feels to me. I know you would beg to differ. You would tell me that even you, who just celebrated your 74th birthday, are still youthful and that vigor and vitality are just a state of mind, one that is well worth preserving. Every time I see you a new sense of energy emanates from your enthusiastic words and optimism on issues that once seemed impossible. You are a product of success. You were at the forefront of feminism; you were in the vanguard of civil rights and a vigorous supporter of a woman’s right to choose. You know what it is like to work for something, but you also know what its like to win. This is not to belittle the tremendous fight that you prudently fought while balancing raising a wonderful and socially conscious family. How did you do it?

There is something else that you have instilled in me; the importance of retaining a sense of history from all angles of myself. I must remember as a woman, the fight that still rages today regarding equality. I must remember as a Jew the malicious anti-Semitic remarks that lead to the denigration and attempted extermination of our race, I must remember as an American the ideals that lay the foundation of our nation, and most importantly I must remember as a youth that I have a responsibility to prepare for the future.

Just the other day, you told me that you and your friend, Barbra, had had a conversation regarding the upcoming presidential primaries in our states. You were trying to convince your friend to vote for Obama (way to go Grandma!) and in the process the youth of America came up. You told Barbara quite simply that the youth are rallying for Obama and because the future is ours, not yours or Barbra’s, that she needed to follow suit. I had never thought of that. Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone has the right to vote for their own reasons and I am not suggesting that the 65 and older age group should rally behind the 25 and younger constituent and I know you weren’t either. You were stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. You were projecting the future and anticipating based on the past. You, as the older generations have the experience, we have the motivation. So this brings me to Hillary.

I didn’t originally want to write about this. The topic frustrates me as caller after caller suffocate public radio with sob stories on how the media is trivializing Hillary, simply by calling her by her first name. People connect to that. One woman called in saying that she too is called by her first name when her co-workers go by their last. I always thought it was straightforward as to why Hillary chose to be addressed this way. I thought she wanted to disassociate herself from her husband, a move I most nearly admired, but the admiration ended there (and so did the disassociation). Her campaign chose to go by Hillary, she chose to go by Hillary, so please do not tell me that it is degrading to her, to be called Hillary.

Grandma, you fought to put women on a level playing field with men. You stood at rallies, you lobbied legislators, you even opened a home for disheartened and downtrodden women, so you of all people are sympathetic to her plea. So I ask you one more question, do you see it as I do? Do you see this platform of attracting votes by simply being a woman as insulting as I do? To me, we have taken a step backwards. It is not the youth of America that are finding Hillary’s femininity attractive, it is the old feminists, those who themselves stood on the steps of the capital fighting for title IX, that are voting simply on gender. This to me is contradictory to their single most important goal; to be gender blind in situations like this. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe, having grown up with a generation, whether real or not, with the mentality that gender is not a means of distinguishing ability or character has given me and my peers a unique perspective. A recent Facebook and ABC News poll asked the question of what candidate Facebook members would least like to see in the white house. Hillary won with 70%, with nearly 32,000 votes (Edwards was a distant second with 16%). We are generally gender blind with no previous biases of the past directly impacting us, and we are supporting Obama in throngs.

In the end, it comes down to you and me. It comes down to us, cherishing this momentous opportunity to change our country for the better. I remember where I am from and what has formed and then reformed my ideas of what would be best for my generation and me. You have taught me to see through a kaleidoscope lens. You have left a legacy I hope to live up to because you, Grandma, are a true American hero.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

For you...

A Letter to My Mother,

I am honored to be sharing this historical moment in history with you. We have witnessed a lot of historical events together - I remember watching the first walk on the moon with you on a small black and white TV set in your bedroom. I vividly recall the memory of wishing for my Saturday morning cartoons to return instead of the constant image of JFK’s funeral procession and endless media coverage. I remember turning on the car radio and hearing the body counts being reported of fallen victims of the Vietnam War. I remember my confusion of seeing you weeping at the news of Martin Luther King’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassinations. There is the blur of the Kent State shootings and the riots of the 1960’s. We watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and sang freedom songs on our car trips. I sat by your side as we watched Richard Nixon resign as President of the United States. We watched with awe as the Berlin wall came down and sat together after the Twin Towers fell. We walked together to celebrate Israel’s 25th Anniversary and rallied for Darfur.

We shared all of this, as mother and daughter. We often talk about the progress of the woman’s movement and the quandary women of my generation face about choosing to stay home to raise our children or to enter the workforce. We come from different generations, yet as we evolved from mother and child to mother and daughter to mother and friend we have learned much from each other. We look back at history with different lenses, our perspectives and memories shaped by our experiences and our years. But we look forward with the same hope.

We have reached a critical moment in history again. Mother and daughter, mother and friend.... we are two women from different generations who stand upon this precipice of history with a voracious appetite to devour every moment. My memories of those pivotal events in history are clouded by my youth. I want to soak up every minute of this incredible story. And I am glad you are here to share it with me.

Woman to woman, I am proud that you are not shackled by feminist guilt to dutifully vote for a candidate solely because she is a woman. You have told me that you are listening to the voices of our youth because it is their future, not yours. Our feminist forbears made it possible for us to be at this crossroads. But I think you would agree that it was never their intention to burden us with such a ridiculous responsibility to blindly support any woman for the sole reason of gender. I believe that their legacy entreats us to think critically and act responsibly when exercising our precious right to vote.

I know about your hopes for the future and I know that as much as you wish to see the day when a woman is President, this woman is not the one you would choose. But the simple possibility that this nation would consider a woman and an African American as serious contenders for President of the United States is momentous in itself.

We share the excitement of Barack Obama’s candidacy because he symbolizes all of those historical moments that we shared together. He represents hope and a desire to change what isn’t good and to make even better things that are. He has dreams for us to believe again. In all our years as mother and daughter, you’ve taught me to dream and to believe that things can always be better if we put our minds to it. Well, my dear mother and beloved friend, we are doing just that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nate Fisher is NOT in the News Again....

....But he should be.

Back in September, Nate Fisher, a young English teacher from Guilford High School, mistakenly handed a graphic novel to a student in his freshman English class without getting permission from his Dept. Chair. The girl’s parents discovered the book and believed strongly that it was inappropriate reading material for their daughter. Their response triggered the involvement of a whole litany of officials: the High School principal, the School Superintendent and even the police. Mr. Fisher was placed on administrative leave and soon after he resigned his position.

There was a huge backlash from students and parents who strongly supported Mr. Fisher. The young student was apparently harassed at school. A Face book group was created by students in support of Mr. Fisher, which was eventually shut down due to inappropriate postings. The blogosphere voraciously took on many of the issues surrounding Mr. Fisher’s resignation, myself included. The local news media reported quite a bit as well.

And then….nothing. Once Mr. Fisher was cleared of all charges (there ended up being a police investigation), there was nothing left to say. At least nothing left to blog about or to report on. However, for his former students at Guilford High School, for the readers of the blogs and for those who followed the news, everyone was left wondering how he would pick up the pieces of his life. This is one of the reasons why the media can be wearisome. How many times do they report on stories and then leave us hanging indefinitely?

Well, in the case of Nate Fisher, I personally followed up. Okay, I give all the credit to a friend who had heard that he is teaching again in Durham, CT (just north of Guilford). Through her persistence, she found an article about him, written by a student, in the high school newspaper. I feel obliged to send the good word out. Here is a snippet of the article:

“He’s interesting and brings a new perspective to the classroom.” Having experience as the editor in chief of the literary magazine at UConn Mr. Fisher intends to, with the help of his senior creataive writing class, start a literary magazine for the school. This will be the first literary magazine at Coginchaug in four years. He feels that this will be good for the students of the school. Since students spend most of their time writing for classes and teachers, he feels it will be a “good opportunity for students to write for themselves and show Coginchaug’s creative expression.”

Mr. Fisher deserves to be congratulated. He was not driven out of the State of Connecticut or even out of the region, nor was he forced to reinvent himself as something else in order to find a job. He is doing just what he loves, right next door to the town that potentially could have ruined his career. He had the stamina and fortitude to move on with clearly the same passion for teaching that he exuded as a teacher at Guilford High School. Although I am told that Mr. Fisher’s replacement is an excellent teacher; she is not Nate Fisher.

It would be an unforgettable gesture if Mr. Fisher were invited back to speak to his former students to tell them personally that he is doing just fine. A while back, I wrote about how this event was a lost teaching moment. Here is a second chance for the Guilford High School administration to turn this debacle into a significant learning opportunity for its students. It may not be an academic learning moment, but it sure could serve as a character building moment - an equally important skill set that demands attention during adolescence.

Nate Fisher faced a huge consequence for a mistake that he made, but it appears that it only made him stronger and more determined to pursue his passion to teach. If I were the principal of Guilford High School, I might just consider going out on a limb and doing something radical. I might hold out my hand to Mr. Fisher in a gesture of good will and invite him back to talk to his former students. This might at least put a dressing on the wounds of the kids he left behind and serve as the final lesson he never had the opportunity to teach them.

I guess it has the potential to cause some controversy. But hey, isn’t it better to get our kids thinking about the hard stuff that they may confront in their own lives and show them by example that people can move on and maybe even forgive and be forgiven for their mistakes?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr .... take 10 minutes to watch his "I have a Dream" speech....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Canvassing 101

I feel invigorated after this morning’s workout. No, I did not go to the gym or go on a long run... nor did I liberate my lab from behind the fence for a jaunt in the woods - I drove my car to a large urban high school and canvassed (my first time ever!) for Barack Obama. I call it a workout, because after I was done, I felt as good as I do after one of my long, hard hikes on a winter morning.

The "Walk for Obama" gathering was an event to get people like me out to learn how to canvass. This is grassroots at it’s best. I sat in the cafeteria of this large city high school, getting pumped by the mayor’s encouraging words. What we soon discovered was that our Canvassing 101 class consisted only of watching 2 volunteers demonstrating 3 typical scenarios and an overview of the rules and etiquette of canvassing… and then we were deemed A+ students ready to head out on our own - more like Boot Camp 101!

I walked with my daughter and her 3 friends through a neighborhood in the city, which quite honestly, we would have previously only driven through with our doors locked. We had been handed a 3-page list of doors to knock on, mapquest directions to the area and a script to follow in case we got stuck. As the adult in the group, I felt I had to appear confident and show some leadership but honestly, I felt as incompetent and intimidated as the kids.

At first glance, we stood out so badly in that neighborhood. We had walked out of the suburbs and into this broken down neighborhood - and it showed. Hardly anyone answered the door when we knocked. But we knocked on every one that we were assigned. We were a little frustrated -- but soon we started talking to people on the street. We had conversations, asked directions, encouraged people to vote. We even met a woman who knew practically every person on our list. She was so enthusiastic that I thought she was going to take us each by the hand and personally bang on those doors until we got an answer! Instead we got away with some very copious notes on our voter list.

Here was the best outcome of all - these kids would never have walked those streets had it not been for their commitment to help with this campaign. I witnessed their pride after we turned in our completed forms and I commended them for following through. They had accomplished a lot of firsts in a very short time: campaigned for a candidate they hope will be our next President and overcame the trepidation of knocking on doors and talking to strangers. But more important than all that is the other stuff - my mother refers to these things as “the goodies” the extras that you never expect to get. In this case, we bridged a gap between 2 worlds, if even for only a couple of hours, and we realized that as fearful as we were, the people we met were just people like us whose presence in their neighborhood made them feel like they counted - that their vote really was important. For some fleeting moments we all shared something in common.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Consequence or Punishment?

I did something last week that is so uncharacteristic. I grounded a member of my family. For anyone who knows me, they know that I despise punishment. But I do believe in consequences. Some argue that it’s just semantics and I am masking a punishment by calling it a consequence. By definition, this can’t be so:
Consequence: Something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition
Punishment: A Penalty imposed for wrongdoing

I have told my kids that, just because I don’t believe in punishment does not mean that I wouldn’t use it. I just don’t believe in its efficacy. As a parent, it is my job to teach my kids to become responsible, civilized and caring adults. “Punishable behaviors” are opportunities to teach important personal skills such as honesty, humility, problem-solving and mediation.

Foremost is the notion of respect. Since the first day I became a parent, almost 21 years ago, I have always tried to respect my children. During infancy, for example it meant respecting that they coveted the sensory feel of touch and the soothing sound of my voice. As toddlers, I respected their developmental need to show some control. I gave them gave them choices and I very consciously picked my battles. Being a parent is about being reasonable and teaching tolerance, it’s not about power and a misuse of authority. After all, mutual respect yields trust, faith, honesty and forgiveness. If a parent and child can have all of that in a relationship, then really, isn’t this the goal?

Enter punishment. Kids are going to break rules and they are going to do dumb stuff. We all know that as adolescents, their undeveloped brains account for a big percentage of the reason why they often find themselves doing risky behaviors. Just like us, they are going to make mistakes. They are human beings. So as their parent, I adhere to the belief that they deserve my support and not my reproach when they mess up - a timeout, no TV, no dessert, imprisonment in their room, groundings - where’s the right incentive to try to do it better next time? Is it the threat of more punishment? Or is it an understanding of personal accountability and their desire to act proactively to do it right?

When my kids were younger this was easier. Lots of times they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, so it was my job to teach them - consequences were straightforward and sometimes not so obvious. For example, when they were fighting with their siblings, they needed to learn how to work it out. Sending them to their rooms made no sense to me (even if it would have been quieter). If they were generally misbehaving, a time-out might have been a short term solution, but what 4 year old is going to sit in a corner and truly think about why he’s there? A validation of feelings and how to deal with them the next time his “pot got stirred” seemed like a much better resolution and built interpersonal skills that could only help later on.

As they grew older I expected them to know the difference between right and wrong. Consequences. A consequence requires a dialogue, an understanding of the action and once again mutual respect. Punishment simply requires the recipient to be the powerless receptacle of the penalty. The former approach acknowledges that a behavior or action may have been wrong, but promotes a higher level of thinking and problem solving. The latter approach is an unproductive attempt to reach the real parenting goal: to prevent the behavior from happening again.

So, who acted so egregiously to warrant a “grounding” in our household? Our yellow lab, the neighborhood ambassador, and friend to all he meets. He had wandered too far afield and was picked up by a friend outside of our neighborhood a distance from our home. I guess the nature of our relationship of “owner and master” precludes any possibility of a mutually respectful relationship but I believe that he and I have some fundamental understanding - a trust that he will protect me and I will protect him. So, upholding my end of the contract, he faced one single consequence and true punishment. He is now locked up behind his electric fence indefinitely. I know it was for his own good and he left me no choice (isn’t that what punishers always say?). I guess you could argue that this was a consequence. But in my mind, as much as it breaks my heart, I can only say punishment was my only recourse.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Children of Darfur

It’s been a year and half since my kids, their friends, my mom and I drove down to Washington, DC for a rally on the Mall to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. The rally was co-sponsored by the Save Darfur coalition and the American Jewish World Service - two organizations that have worked tirelessly to educate the citizens of our world about the atrocities that continue to afflict the people of Sudan, to help advocate for solutions and to seek financial support for their efforts. There are many groups who are working on the ground in Darfur and neighboring Chad as well, helping the hundreds of thousands of refugees caught in this conflict. And still more who are doing both.

I returned from the rally, feeling empowered and inspired by the speakers. I got involved in our state-wide coalition. My daughter and her friends received a grant to host a screening of the documentary, “God Grew Tired of Us” about the Lost Boys of Sudan and sponsored a “DarfurFast” through STAND to raise money for Darfur. They organized their high school class to sponsor a road race for “Right to Play”, an organization that brings sports and health education to kids in war-torn countries.

And then time got in the way, as always. Or life. Or just stuff. But my involvement has been diminished to reading email alerts from the Save Darfur Coalition and following events in the news. My concern is still as great, my compassion for these souls no less.

I put this slide show together from pictures I found on the WE news archive. It’s not much but maybe it might just nudge us all a little to keep ourselves aware of what is happening across the ocean. As we read news reports of the latest outbreak of civil war in Kenya and the ongoing kidnapping of children by militias for more soldiers in Uganda, the story only continues. As someone once told me, “we’re all made from the same blood” - pain and despair whether down our street, in our country or elsewhere in the world is the same no matter what - we are all human beings inhabiting this earth.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Student Voices

"I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation perhaps because I also became involved in struggle whilst I was still in school." ~ Nelson Mandela

Over the last week or two, I have become unusually intrigued so early in an upcoming Presidential election. I have written about youth voters and the need for our children to become active citizens. I cherish our Constitutional right to express our opinions and furthermore, if we wish, to turn our voices into action. I believe, however, that children, from the very young to those on the cusp of adulthood, all too often have their voices stifled and their ideas quashed, simply because they are kids. As adults, (whether we are parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, principals and sometimes even caring strangers) we can act as both their conduits and their cheerleaders. We can help them get their voices heard and their ideas turned into action by doing something as simple as listening.

I have found some very well intentioned organizations that are encouraging young people to speak, act and deliver. There are so many people involved in this important work. As I am compiling my own list, I have also stumbled upon the voices of some pretty articulate youth through their own comments and blogs. I will be adding a separate blogroll to emphasize the importance of their words. And on occasion I hope they chime in with their own thoughts.

My teenage daughter will be joining me occasionally me on this blog beginning in February to share her thoughts, opinions and ideas. As adult and teen, as parent and child, or as person to person, we will be engaging in dialogue, trying to understand each other's perspectives and stretching our minds to think hard about important issues - whether they be political, personal and everything in between. I am not sure what to expect but I look forward to sharing these pages with her.

..and since we can't have two drivers, at times, I'll give up my seat. She'll be the driver and I'll be the passenger in these Minivan Diaries.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

25 Days to do Something

It was just fortuitous that I came across this blog, this evening, in light of my post earlier today. Laura is a stunning example of the point I was trying to make. She is 10 years old, and I assume with the help of her parents, she is honoring her grandfather's memory by doing good deeds and then blogging about them. The project started out as a 25 day challenge for the month of December, but because of the overwhelming response, she has decided to continue. What a legacy her grandfather left for her and kudos to her parents for providing her support. Reading her posts and the comments, it is evident that her charitable spirit has become infectious and other kids have joined her cause.

Growing Active Citizens

The youth of our nation can have a powerful voice, if they choose to use it. Not long ago I posted about the film 18 in ’08 - which is meant to inspire our 29 million young voters between the ages of 18 and 24 to exercise their democratic voice through the ballot box. It was all the news after the Iowa Caucuses and if Iowa and New Hampshire are any indication, it appears that this is just what they are doing.

I am thrilled that we have reached this point. I am wondering, however, if it’s the timing, the candidates or the issues that has finally moved these kids to action. And are Republican youth driven by the same issues and concerns as their Democratic peers?

There are issues that our kids relate to: certainly a greater awareness of Global Warming brought to us by Al Gore, more knowledge of the health care crisis thanks to Michael Moore and his documentary, Sicko, the Iraq war and Afghanistan, thanks to well, you know, along with a “threat” of nuclear threats in North Korea and Iran. Then there is the genocide in Darfur - also a newsmaker that our youth are actively engaged in. Bigger topics, that are less issue specific such as the economy, unemployment, national security, education, crime and welfare and many other are less glamorous and more difficult to wrap their arms around but still undoubtedly on their minds. Whatever has lit their fires indicates that they are on a mission to help put them out.

Just read the voice of one youth, from a blog called, “It’s Getting Hot in Here” to hear the passion in their voices. It’s electrifying. Here’s just a piece of it:
What does this all mean? Is it all rhetoric? Of course it is. But what it means is that Obama is rallying this state and in turn the country around the idea of a movement. The high-school kids in Concord, NH who rallied for Obama: they’ve never yelled for the civil rights movement before, they’ve never been told they’re part of a movement before - and now, there they are, cheering to be part of something bigger than themselves.

During the 2004 Presidential election, I home schooled one of my daughters who was then in the eighth grade. The election stood as the backdrop to our year of study. We examined the Constitution, voting, citizenship and politics. As a result of that year, she took on leadership positions in high school and is a very active citizen, engaging her classmates in community awareness and service projects. During that home schooling year I discovered that there are many organizations devoted to educating our youth about voting and citizenship. There are curriculums for elementary and middle schools. For example, the mission of Kids’ Voting is:

to get students involved and ready to be educated, engaged citizens. Students learn about democracy through a combination of classroom activities, an authentic voting experience and family dialogue.

PBS sponsors the Democracy Project for Kids that includes an interactive website. Service Vote, a program of Youth Service America,
challenges young people to think critically about how they can affect the issues that they work to address through service by participating in the political process and provides opportunities for them to participate in the presidential election.

Beyond voting, is the notion of civic engagement -- engaging kids in the community through service projects and teaching philanthropy. Making current events a regular part of family discussions and talking about solutions will contribute not only to a more educated electorate but to one that believes that community service is essential to the wellbeing of our country. As kids we had the Boys and Girls Scouts, now such, on-line organizations as,, and Youth Services America have made our world so small that kids can help affect change in their local community or across the ocean.

Rather than receiving gifts from classmates for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, my daughter’s class opted to open a Tzedakah in Action (Charity) fund, where each family contributed the equivalent of the gift each child would have received. Under the supervision of our Rabbi, the class acts as a Board of Directors of a Philanthropic Fund and they decide how the money will be disbursed. They are not only learning about philanthropy, but also about decision-making, compromise and leadership. And it’s never too early to start. During the holidays, the popular on-line game, Club Penguin offered members (elementary aged kids) an opportunity to trade in their virtual "hard-earned" money for real donations to one of 3 chosen organizations:

..."Coins for Change" campaign ending on Christmas Eve in which 2.5 million users donated in some cases as many as 1,500 coins -- enough to furnish an igloo -- to charities. In turn, the site, owned by Walt Disney Co., divided 1 million real dollars among the charities: the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and Free the Children.

This was money that kids had earned on the site that they spend to buy items for their penguin. It was an opportunity for each child to understand first-hand how good it feels to give.

As parents, we must use these early years as a training ground for teaching civic responsibility by seeking out meaningful opportunities. Taking interest in what is going on in our world, participating in activities to help better our own or other communities, practicing philanthropy at an early age and bringing our kids to the polls when we vote will create informed and compassionate adults who will not squander their precious right to vote but instead use it as it should be - to make their voices heard loud and clear.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Let's Restore Hope: Obama in '08

What an awesome responsibility politicians owe to their constituents. As public figures we expect them to act judiciously, courageously, unselfishly and honestly. Yet, time and again, their humanness seems to get in the way, and the simple qualities we expect them to engender slowly erode away. And then we lose trust, hope and inspiration. But, we constantly seek intelligent leaders who will inspire us with vision and honesty - and every election we anticipate that somebody will step out from behind the curtain - who will be decent and humble despite being a politician who must wield influence and power to get their job done. Maybe it’s an oxymoron to expect both. Or maybe not, I still want to believe it is possible.

The first time I ever heard of Barack Obama was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Like many Americans, I was stirred by his speech. Like many Americans, I remember thinking what a great candidate he would have made for president… and then like many Americans I thought, no way - he’s young, he’s black and nobody knows him. So, when he announced his candidacy last February, I was thrilled, but wary.

And then I watched his Victory speech in Iowa Tuesday night and I was sold. Until that moment, I wasn’t exactly sure who I would be supporting - although Obama was cautiously my answer when somebody would ask me. I realized that the Democrats can nitpick and debate over the issues all they want, because at the end of the day, I can live with the positions of any of them. So, who moves me? Who inspires me? Who do I want to trust the future of our country and this world to? Who represents the person I would want my children to respect and maybe even think of as a hero? Hands down, it would be Barack Obama, and so I have registered to volunteer for his campaign despite his youth, his color, his relative inexperience. I believe he is that person who has stepped out from behind the curtain to lead us with intelligence, integrity, pride and humility.

So I signed up to volunteer to work on his campaign, because to win, he needs everyone to help. Back in February when he announced his run for the Presidency he said,

That's why this campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us — it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice — to push us forward when we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. 

I have always taken my role in the Democratic process seriously and I have been one to believe that my vote, my voice counts. Despite our soiled reputation in the world and despite the lying and pomposity that has regaled this administration and despite the message of fear and the eroding of our civil rights that we have become accustomed to, I want to believe there is hope. I want to feel proud to be an American and I want my children to believe that this process can work and that we can each play a vital role in making it happen.

Obama’s word’s Tuesday night touched me. Hope.

Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.


To join the Obama Campaign, click here.
To view Obama's Iowa Victory speech click here.
For the written text of Obama’s Iowa Victory Speech, click here.
To view a great documentary about Obama’s past year and hear some of his entire speeches instead of the sound bytes we hear on the news, click here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Our Sons

The most emailed article from the New York Times on Tuesday was titled, “Giving Boys the Tools for Success and Multitasking”. As I read the article, it took me back to 1999 when my son was in middle school. The teachers nicknamed him “pigpen” because he forever had a stream of papers falling out of his backpack and hanging out of his locker. As much as we tried to help organize him we couldn’t. By eighth grade we gave up. He went through middle school having “nickel and dimed” himself as we were told by his teachers because he would lose homework assignments and get points taken off for failing notebook spot checks. He eventually worked the kinks out of some self-designed system because he completed Honors and AP classes, graduated from high school and attends a top University. But, there was no support - we were told he was just “wired” that way. Not that he would have agreed to see one of the “organizational tutors” in this article anyway - but I am sure no such option even existed.

Back in the early ‘90’s there was an explosion of literature about how boys are failing. Books titled, The Wonder of Boys, by Michael Gurian, Real Boys by William Pollack, and the War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers, essentially reported that boys were on the brink of crashing in every aspect of society - families, schools and the community. Boys were doing poorly in school, abusing more drugs, dropping out of school at higher rates, earning fewer college degrees, crowding special education programs and generally becoming misfits in our society. And today’s statistics support this prediction: girls outpace boys in academics (particularly in reading), in high school graduation rates, and in college acceptances. There continues to be a higher rate of male violent offenders, more boys in special education programs and in the principals’ offices. Take a look at these statistics; they are shocking.

Could it be that when I was worrying about the future for my daughters when they were born in the early 90’s, I should have been equally concerned for my son, being born in the late 80’s? I wasn’t aware then, that boys were becoming more and more disengaged. But it is so clear to me now, that somehow they were left behind.

Ten years after this proliferation of literature the story continues to unfold. A government report called, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2007, examined statistics related to our kids’ health, safety, behavior, economics, education and family and social environment over the past 2 decades. The conclusion is hopeful. Although girls continue to lead by a large margin, the gap is closing. The downward trend for boys has begun a slow turn upward.

During the 1980’s, girls had a lot of catching up to do and progress was made through legislation and programs that equalized access to everything from education to athletics. I am not saying that the playing fields have equaled out yet, but I believe that the close attention that girls were getting in the 80’s directly contributed to who they are today. Perhaps the “boy” literature of the early 90’s was the catalyst to do the same for their brothers.

The mere fact that both sexes are genetically different naturally translates into a divergence of approaches to learning, problem solving and to social interactions. Educators and other professionals are acknowledging that it’s not that boys won’t fit the mold, but the mold doesn’t fit the boys. New teaching styles and methodologies are being investigated, curriculums are being adapted and classrooms are being redesigned. There are all kinds of non-profit organizations that address “boy power issues”, to:

increase academic skills, to increase college success, and to develop the confidence, drive, and determination to contribute to American society.

Sound familiar? Not much different than the organizations that were created to support young girls a few decades back.

With books topping this year’s best seller list like, “The Dangerous Book for Boys” that according to the authors acknowledge:
“In this age of video games and cell phones, there must still be a place for knots, tree houses, and stories of incredible courage"
It is evident that the tide is changing. The book does not promote aggressive behavior, nor does it praise boys over girls, it “exudes the confidence of ages past that boys are to be treasured not cured”. And perhaps this is the direction we need to follow. Boys need to be supported and given the freedom to be who they are. To be believed in. They are the next fathers, husbands and contributors to our society and if they are nurtured as children the results can only be better when they become adults.

Socrates may have had it right, when many thousands of years ago he asked,
“How shall we find a gentle nature which also has a great spirit?”
Perhaps we are moving closer and within time, both boys and girls will grow up being more comfortable in their own skins, content with their decisions, and finding ways to break through some of the issues that our generation has not yet achieved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Killer at Large

I never thought the word "Killer" would be in a title of one of my posts, but it is befitting the content. There is a new film directed by Steven Greenstreet. In 2005, Greenstreet directed the award-winning documentary "This Divided State" which chronicled the furor over Utah Valley State College's decision to bring Michael Moore to speak on campus in the days before the divisive 2004 presidential election.

This film, exposes the details of the American obesity epidemic. And it looks specifically at childhood obesity.
It serves as a call to arms for concerned parents, school districts, and entire communities who have empowered themselves to take a stand and reverse this deadly trend which is set to cripple our entire nation's health care system and bankrupt our economy within the next twenty years.

An interesting thing about this film is that 3 twenty somethings produced this film out their 6x8 studio apartment. This interview, tells alot about the filmmakers and the project. Kudos to these young guys.

Hopefully, Killer at Large, will serve as a catalyst to bring the issue of childhood obesity into the forefront so there can be more dialogue and positive steps to attack this problem.

It is being submitted to 30 Film festivals and is supposed to be released in early 2008. I'll be keeping an eye out for it.