Florida, My Florida. Citizens Wish to Change Their Racist Tune


© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

This morning, as I rose, I was reminded, of racism and how prevalent it is in America.  I have been aware of this all of my life.  My own history made me more familiar with what life must be like to be Black and live in America.  I do not envy the experiences of those that are told in America “We are all created equal”; yet, they know, with each breath they are not considered so by the dominant white culture.  As I listened to the radio, I learned signs of the Confederacy, principles associated with the Slave States live large in this nation, specifically, in Florida. I had no doubt.  Since moving here, each day, I am astounded. 

In recent years, Left leaning liberals from the North East are flocking to this Southern region.  They stay here not only for the summers; they relocate permanently.  Bleeding heart liberals live in Florida throughout the year.  Yet, the laws in this state remain “Right.”  In recent weeks a discussion began again.  The Florida State Song is a reminder of the past.  Slavery is glorified in the Stephen Foster tune, “Old Folks at Home,” also more familiarly known as Suwannee River.  The time has come for the tune to change.  However, there may be little support for the idea.  Racism is rampant in the Southern States.  In many ways, the Civil War and slavery live on in America.

In January 2001,

About 1,500 members and supporters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, many dressed in Civil War-era costumes, marched a half-mile to the state Capitol Saturday to voice their support for the flying of the Georgia [State] flag.

This banner featured the Confederate symbol, long associated with the advocacy of slavery.  Tens of thousands, of signatures were gather on a petition.  Many Georgians wished to retain this racist representation on their flag.

In June of 2005, the entire country confronted its fatal flaw.  The United Sates had never banned lynching.  Thus, only two short years ago, Americans officially and belatedly stated their regret for a documented 4742 lynchings.  They apologized for their delayed response to a racist reality.  The Senate finally, after decades of trial and tribulation and much deliberation abolished laws that allowed for legal lynchings. America apologized to its Black citizens, not just for offenses in the South.

[T]here were lynchings in the North and West.  In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties.

The causes assigned by whites in justification or explanation of lynching Black people include everything from major crimes to minor offenses. In many cases, Blacks were lynched for no reason at all other than race prejudice.

Racism permeates the American countryside.  The North is not exempt.  In February, 2007, in what might be considered the most cosmopolitan or  most civilized city in the United States, New York City, racial bigotry dominates the day.  Lynching may no longer be legal; however, the use of hurtful terms rules the day.

A city councilman says he hears it over and over on the streets of New York City: young people casually addressing each other using a racial slur that has a painful history intertwined with slavery.

“You hear it 10 times within two minutes,” says Councilman Leroy Comrie.

On Wednesday, Comrie will urge the council to approve a symbolic resolution calling for New Yorkers to voluntarily stop using the N-word. The effort began weeks ago at the start of Black History Month, and has gradually gained nationwide notice and support.

Comrie and other backers of the nonbinding measure say its purpose is to call attention to what they say is a troubling trend among entertainers and youths to try to repackage the N-word as a term of endearment and camaraderie.

Hip-hop artists in particular have been singled out for weaving the term into music and entertainment, which some say waters it down and convinces younger audiences that the word is acceptable.

Some argue that doing so is empowering, and that reclaiming a slur and giving it a new meaning takes away its punch.

Comrie disagrees, saying it is impossible to paper over the N-word’s long and hurtful history.

“This was derived solely from hate and anger, and you just can’t recreate it,” Comrie said.

The word has received increased attention since the incident last year in which actor Michael Richards, who played the nutty Kramer on “Seinfeld,” used the word while blowing up at audience members during a standup routine. Richards later apologized and said that the outburst was motivated by anger, not racism.

I wonder.  It is all so confusing to me; it appears prejudice never truly dies.  People hold on to their traditions, even if, or perchance especially if they reflect a deeply engrained bias.  Perhaps, we as a whole must examine our intent, our interests, and the implications of these.

Today, Florida is.  Citizens are considering their State Song.  This is not the first time in the last seventy years that Florida residents have proposed adopting a new State song.

At least twice in the past 20 years there were serious efforts to replace “Old Folks at Home.”  In 1988, former Rep. Rick Dantzler tried it, met with resistance, and shifted his effort to adopting another song in addition to the old tune.  It failed.

In 1997, former Rep. Willie Logan, of Opa Locka, tried again.  Resistance came from a lawmaker, Randy Mackey, whose district included parts of the Suwannee River.  Again, the effort failed.

The song gets credit as the foundation for Florida’s tourism industry, as people worldwide came to look for the idyllic home Foster described on the river’s banks.  But just because it’s part of state history doesn’t mean it should represent Florida today, said Dantzler, who now works as a lawyer in Winter Haven.

There are other problems with the song, especially if you live in South Florida and don’t feel connected to a tribute for a river that flows hundreds of miles away, through North Florida.  It doesn’t say much about the state, because Foster never saw it.

Stephen Foster never stepped foot in the state of Florida; yet some Floridians are choosing to honor his memory more than the actual state, or the state of affairs that our fore-fathers meant to promote, equality for all.

Floridians that support the change are realizing this harmony leads to divisiveness.  Jacksonville, Democratic Senator, Tony Hill is working to “retire” the song.  Hill states the lyrics are “loaded with derogatory language.”  The newly elected Governor Charlie Crist refused to have this anthem played at his own inaugural.  Crist mentioned to Senator Hill, that tune would never be played in his presence.  However, he explained the final decision is not his to make.  Governor Crist proclaimed, “Whatever the people decide is fine with me.”

“Old Folks At Home” was meant to be an homage to the Suwannee River; yet, it slights more than it honors.

Is a state song really representing Florida if:

  • The lyrics officially adopted seven decades ago are no longer used because they’re widely viewed as racist?
  • The songwriter is from Pittsburgh?  And never visited Florida?
  • The best known line, “Way down upon the Swanee River,” misspells Suwannee River, the song’s sole reference to Florida?
  • The new governor, wary of the racial fuss the song stirs up, axes it from his inauguration ceremony?
  • In addition to these interesting facts, this song was not the original State hymn.  As we review the lyrics, we wonder why this tune was ever adopted.

    Way down upon de Swanee ribber,
    Far, far away,
    Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
    Dere’s wha de old folks stay.
    All up and down de whole creation
    Sadly I roam,
    Still longing for de old plantation
    And for de old folks at home.

    Chorus

    All de world am sad and dreary,
    Ebry where I roam,
    Oh! darkeys how my heart grows weary,
    Far from de old folks at home.

    2nd verse

    All round de little farm I wandered
    When I was young,
    Den many happy days I squandered,
    Many de songs I sung.
    When I was playing wid my brudder
    Happy was I
    Oh! take me to my kind old mudder,
    Dere let me live and die.

    Chorus

    3rd verse

    One little hut amond de bushes,
    One dat I love,
    Still sadly to my mem’ry rushes,
    No matter where I rove
    When will I see de bees a humming
    All round de comb?
    When will I hear de banjo tumming
    Down in my good old home?

    References to slavery and questionably racist terms filter through this Stephen Foster tune.  The lyrics  accentuate an implied ignorance on the part of the slave singer.  The chorus suggests that the ol’ darkey longs for a home back on the plantation.  Could such a silliness ever be true.  It certainly is not a concept current Floridians wish to embrace.  The idea of enslaving equals is loathsome to those living in this state.  Yet, still, many young Florida school children learn this tune.

    One wonders; did those in the past ever truly imagine that people would purposely chose a life of bondage.  Nevertheless, this song stands on the books as the State tune.  Perhaps people did not notice or think through the repercussions.  What we believe we will conceive.  Citizens of Florida do not wish to give rise to greater oppression, or so the organizers of this campaign hope and believe.

    They ask the residents of this state to consider, this melody was adopted to represent the “land covered with flowers” in 1935, decades after Florida, My Florida was chosen.  This song has a history that few would wish to be associated with.

    After it was written, a blackface minstrel performance group called Christy’s Minstrels paid Foster a large sum of money to gain the rights to the song, and they performed the song in blackface for the entertainment of racist white audiences.

    It is time for a change.  The legacy of bigotry has not left this State as of yet.  Racism will reign as long as we subconsciously support it in our State song. 

    Some say, in 2007, we live in a colorblind society.  Oh, were that true.  I ask you, dear reader to consider my own experience.

    I moved to Florida just over a year ago.  Immediately, I was struck; racism not only survives here, it is strong!  Oddly enough, there is a large dark skinned population here.  In South Florida, I encounter more Black persons daily than I ever did in all of the decades I lived in California.  I have long believed, to know people is to love them; thus, my confusion. 

    Much of bigotry is fear of the unknown.  Differences cause anxiety for some.  There is ample opportunity to become closely acquainted with African Americans in Florida.  I was in this region for a very short time before I began to understand.  All of my life, while out and about, I chat with everyone.  No man or woman is a stranger, unless you choose not to speak to him or her.  Here, in Florida, when attempting to converse with many Black store employees, I experienced an astounding reluctance on their part to engage.  I wondered; was management punitive or were there other reasons for this distant demeanor.

    Could cultural differences between the North and the South explain what I observed.  This seemed strange for Southerners are considered friendlier.  Granted, many individuals from Northern territories migrate to the South, still . . .

    I purchased a home that needed some work.  I hired master craftsmen to assist me.  In my interactions with them, I received enlightenment.

    Tony, a tall and wise man.  He worked in my home daily for three weeks.  His work was exemplary; his tales extraordinarily interesting.  Tony’s insights helped me to understand what was unimaginable to me.  I was speaking of my many observations here in Florida.  Racism is among many issues that I think disquieting.

    Tony shared a story or two.  This intelligent and well-spoken man felt a need to supplement his income. In a Right-to-Work state, such as Florida, there is ample reason to have more than one job.  The Economic Policy Institute states. . .

    We find that the mean effect of working in a right-to-work state results in a 6% to 8% reduction in wages for workers in these states, with an average wage penalty of 6.5%.

    However, I digress.  That discussion will wait for now.

    Tony told tales of working as a delivery truck driver for a large national chain of home improvement and major appliance retail stores.  Often, he was scheduled to transport washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and other domestic devices that typically are considered essential for living.

    Upon arrival, a homeowner who may have opened the guard gate for this eloquently speaking man, closed the front door when they actually saw Tony.  His skin was dark, the purplish Black color that glistens in the light.  Tony saw many a curtain drawn as the van approached a house.

    Knowing that a homeowner was within, for he had spoken to them on the telephone or through the intercom moments earlier, Tony would exit the truck and walk up to the home. Gently, as is Tony’s nature, he would knock.  On the rare occasion, he received a reply, people would state they no longer needed the delivery.  Bewildered and not, Tony would turn and return to the warehouse.

    Supervisors, back at the store, stated the customer called.  They want their merchandise delivered immediately; however, they want a white worker to do the deed.  Tony was allowed to “drop” off the appliances at one locale.  Literally, he was told to leave the cargo in the driveway, near the sidewalk.  The homeowner would find a way to bring the freight into the house and hook it up.  Contractual guarantees for workmanship mattered little to these chauvinists.  Their fear and assumptions lived large.

    On this same occasion, where Tony was told to leave the goods and forget the services, he was confronted with further humiliation.  Tony knew that he must obtain the homeowner’s signature confirming that he had received the appliances.  Tony handed the property-owner his pen.  The man refused to touch the writing utensil Tony presented.  He dashed into the house and retrieved his own ballpoint.  Tony offered his hand, a habitual salutation; however, he knew.  He watched as the chap quickly turned, seemingly afraid to be seen with the likes of Tony.

    How sad.  Tony is terrific!  This gentle giant is well read, informed, intelligent, and kind.  The quality of his work is as wondrous as he is as a person.  Nevertheless, in Florida today, he remains separate, equal only in words.  The truth of his predicament is not unique here in the south.  The longer I live here the more I learn.  I am deeply disturbed.  Stephen Collins Foster may have been a great composer of music.  It is said that the musician was a man with a mission.  He hoped to reduce racism.

    Rather than writing nostalgically for an old South (it was, after all, the present day for him), or trivializing the hardships of slavery, Foster sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another, and to convey a sense that all people–regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class–share the same longings and needs for family and home.  He instructed white performers of his songs not to mock slaves but to get their audiences to feel compassion for them.  In his own words, he sought to “build up taste…among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order.”  Stephen Foster was a man with a mission, to reform black-face minstrelsy, then the most pervasive and powerful force in American popular culture.

    While this may be true, some thoughts were lost in the translation of this tune.  Perhaps we might honor the original intent of this anthem, the artiste that created it, and the State that sings this tune. 

    Might we each sign the petition and work to embrace a truer tribute to the Sunshine State.  May we choose a song that represents every region of this beautiful state and all those that reside here.  Possibly, if Florida decides to sing another tune, other states will join in.  Harmony might become more real than racism.  We can only act on our stated principles, separate our selves from ancient prejudices, and hope others will as well.

    Floridians sing for their favorite state . . .

  • Voters Rights Act Provisions Sunset 2007. Still Separate and Unequal By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  August 6, 2005
  • Confederate flag supporters rally at Georgia Capitol. Cable News Network. January 21, 2001
  • Repairing Senate’s Record on Lynching, ‘Long Overdue’ Apology Would Be Congress’s First for Treatment of Blacks.  By Avis Thomas-Lester.  Washington Post.
    Saturday, June 11, 2005; Page A01

  • pdf Repairing Senate’s Record on Lynching, ‘Long Overdue’ Apology Would Be Congress’s First for Treatment of Blacks.  By Avis Thomas-Lester.  Washington Post.Saturday, June 11, 2005; Page A01
  • History of Lynchings in America, Talk of the Nation. June 13, 2005
  • An Incomplete Apology, Lynching is No Longer Legal By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. June 13, 2005
  • Lynching in America: Statistics, Information, Images.  The Shipp Trial.
  • Jacksonville Lawmaker Wants to Change State Song, By Jim Ash.  First Coast News. March 30, 2007
  • Racist Screed Or Enlightened Work?  State Song Stirs Up Folks At Home, By Gretchen Parker.  The Tampa Tribune. January 20, 2007
  • The Wage Penalty of “Right-to-Work” Laws, By Lawrence Mishel.  Economic Policy Institute.  August 21, 2001
  • Florida. NetState.
  • Change Florida’s State Song.
  • State Song Wrong? By David Hunt.  The Times Union. March 7, 2007
  • Floridians can pick their own tune.  WLRN Miami Herald News. March 29, 2007
  • The Change Florida’s State Song Petition. By The People of Florida and written by Stancel Spencer.
  • Stephen Collins Foster. Center for American Music.
  • N-Word on New York City Council’s Agenda, By Sara Kugler.  ABC News. February 28, 2007
  • Open Thread. Paint Your Picture. Friday, March 30, 2007


    As we advance in life,
    it becomes more and more difficult,
    but in fighting the difficulties
    the inmost strength of the heart is developed.

    ~ Vincent Van Gogh

    Vincent Van Gogh
    Born on this day in 1853

    One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul
    and yet, no one ever came to sit by it.
    Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney
    and continue on their way.

    ~ Vincent Van Gogh

    You are the artist, the author, and the avenue for infinite inspiration. 
    Twist the twine.  Weave a tapestry.
    Please tell us your tales in this, an Open Thread.

    W. Got His Groove. MC Rove. Correspondents’ Dinner

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    MC Rove

    They say fact is stranger than fiction; at times, they overlap.  In recent years fiction has passed for fact despite the Government Accounting Office’s best efforts, propaganda continues to pours from the White House.  Last evening, at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner the truth was told, though, as is typical, lies often came first. 

    Assistant to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor, the infamous Karl Rove was asked . . .

    “And what’s your name?” asked the comedians, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.
    Rove’s response: “Peter Fitzgerald.”
    Of course, he meant Patrick Fitzgerald, the off-the-reservation federal prosecutor who convicted former Veep chief of staff Scooter Libby (and hauled Rove before the grand jury five times). Not Peter Fitzgerald, the maverick former Republican senator from Illinois who played a strong role in selecting the other Fitzgerald (of no relation to the senator) to be a U.S. attorney.

    After, doing as the “Architect” routinely does, attempt to deceive a room full of people.  He relented and spoke the truth.  However, I feel certain if asked, the bellicose Bushie will say this was all in fun.  We can only wonder.

    As you, dear reader watch the performance, please assess for your selves.  Recall what you have read and ponder the pronouncement, ‘Life imitates art.’

    The improv actors asked Rove what he liked to do in his spare time. “Tear the tops off of small animals,” Rove replied.  But Rove wouldn’t bite when the comedians asked him what nickname the president had given him. The answer is “Turd Blossom,” but Rove wouldn’t say it to the assembled crowd of several hundred.

    The improv skit quickly turned from random and uncomfortably weird to riotous when Mochrie and Sherwood led Rove in a rap song in which Rove played a rapper — “M.C. Rove” — and danced and hopped around on stage. He got really into it, at one point pulling out his cell phone and blackberry, taking multi-tasking to new heights.

    If the Rove antics are not enticing, extraordinary, and enlightening enough for you, dear reader you might enjoy the earlier portion of the show.  Again, this Administration shocks us.  President Bush offering an honest evaluation of himself, admitting that he is aware of the his standing in the polls, well, it is just astounding.  Please behold . . .

    Before Rove got his moment in the spotlight, President Bush had the room in stitches with a self-deprecating schtick.

    Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner 1


    “A year ago, my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone,” Bush said. The room roared. “Ah, those were the good ol’ days,” Bush added.

    Wow, what a night.  The truth be told Karl Rove and George W. Bush were brilliant!  Might they consider candor an option?  Oh, no, I forgot.  For these mesmerizing men, war, money, and power are the only games in town.

    The Greatest Show on Earth . . .

  • Bush Administration Broke Propaganda Rules, GAO Says (Update1).  Bloomberg News. October 1, 2005
  • The Rap on Karl Rove, By Dan Froomkin. Special to Washington Post. Thursday, March 29, 2007; 2:18 PM
  • Rove Raps At Radio-TV Follies Mary Ann Akers.  Washington Post. Thursday, March 29, 2007
  • Background on the Plame Investigation. Washington Post.
  • Root of the Rove controversy is the war in Iraq, By David Gregory.  NBC News. July 13, 2005
  • Eight Wishes. Ten Thousand Miles. Pedaling For Dyslexia

    8 wishes & 10,000 miles !!NEW DEADLINE 08/08/2008!!!

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Paul Sanchez had a wish, a hope, a dream, and a bicycle.  In 2004, he began a quest different than his earlier diagnosis.  As a child, he was labeled dyslexic.  He was told this dire condition would hold him back.  Paul and his parents were also informed, Paul has Attention Deficit Disorder.  He struggled with these and yet, still dreamt of being more than a characterization.

    Mister Sanchez understood that many successful persons were pigeonholed as he had been.  Alexandra Knight, an entrepreneur expecting to earn $2 [two] million dollars in handbag sales this year was diagnosed dyslexic at the age of thirteen.  Apparently, this reading disability or difference in learning styles is common among entrepreneurs.  The United Kingdom researched and reported on this dynamic. 

    Entrepreneurs five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia

    What makes Sir Richard Branson, Sir Alan Sugar, and Sir Norman Foster special? New research links entrepreneurship and dyslexia
    Monday, 22 November, 2004

    For the first time, new research shows that entrepreneurs are five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia then your average UK citizen and this has major implications for this Government’s key aim of creating a more entrepreneurial British society through initiatives such as this week’s National Enterprise week.

    The research carried out by Simfonec, a science research centre based at Cass Business School, found that 20% of entrepreneurs (business owners employing at least one person) studied were dyslexic whereas employed managers (those who supervise at least one person) reflected the UK national dyslexia incidence level of 4%.

    The research also found that 70% of dyslexic entrepreneurs who participated in the second, more in depth stage of the research, did not succeed at school.  Researcher and Director of Simfonec, Dr Julie Logan notes that some of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, Sir Alan Sugar, Anita Roddick and Sir Norman Foster allegedly suffer from dyslexia and says this research not only links dyslexia and entrepreneurship for the first time but it also has fundamental implications about how entrepreneurship should be fostered.

    Perhaps those that struggle with conventions can create what most rarely imagine.  The aforementioned Missis Knight is one among many success stories in the United Sates.  Numerous American industrialists help illustrate that Learning Difficulties need not hold an individual back.  There are ample instances in this and every nation; a disruptive, less than diligent learner can soar to heights his or her classmates cannot or will not, merely because they are mired in conventions.

    ADD in the Corner Office: Five Top Executives Discovered that an LD can be a Capitalist Tool

    As students, they seemed to be heading nowhere – fast.  A teacher hurled an eraser at one of them, and asked, “Time passes, will you?” Another graduated at the bottom of his high school class and was strongly advised by his principal to go into carpet laying.  A third was labeled lazy by her teachers because she had trouble memorizing basic math facts.  A fourth was a whiz with numbers but found reading a book a difficult task.  The last was always falling behind in his schoolwork and concluded that he was stupid.  “How am I going to be successful in anything if I can’t read and write?” he wondered.

    You might say that these nowhere kids turned their lives around.  They are, in order, Alan Meckler, chairman and CEO of Jupitermedia; Paul Orfalea, founder of the copying empire, Kinko’s; Diane Swonk, a world-renowned economist; Charles Schwab, a pioneer in the discount brokerage business; and David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways.

    Besides having difficulty in school, these executives share another thing in common: They all suffer from AD/HD or learning disabilities.  Neeleman has AD/HD; Swonk, Meckler, and Schwab have dyslexia, and Orfalea has both.  Each managed to turn his or her liabilities into assets on their respective career paths.  If you have difficulty with organization, reading, or remembering math facts, these entrepreneurs prove that such limitations don’t preclude a bright future.

    Paul Sanchez is well aware that many succeed, although they were told they would not.  He is among these.  Unlike many, that profit personally, Paul wants to do more.  Mister Sanchez wishes to help those that suffer as he has.  This man may have begun riding solo; however, as he traveled the perimeter of the United States, he gathered forces.  He rode with the wind at his back and continues on his expedition.

    Please partake in the pedaling.  Read of Paul’s promise to himself and others.  Pedal along with Paul Sanchez, as others have.  Perhaps, if enough of us care, contribute to a cause with cash or consciousness raising, if we share our stories, Learning Difficulties will not be considered a death sentence.  Perchance, we might give life to creative curriculums that further the hopes and dreams of all.

    Paul Sanchez invites you to see the sights and gain insight.  Please view his video travelogue and read of his reality.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Welcome to 8 Wishes

      . . . a project raising awareness and funds for children with dyslexia and learning differences.

    By Paul Sanchez

    In 2004, I set out on a 10,000 mile bike ride around the perimeter of the United States to make a difference in the lives of children with dyslexia and learning differences.  During my trip, I met 13 children around the country who are chasing their dreams despite their learning differences, and I want every child to have the same opportunity.  I have suffered from dyslexia and ADD my entire life, and it held me back for too many years.

    Now, with the ride and these children as my impetus, I made 8 Wishes to raise awareness and funds trough social media and the Internet, as a prologue to my documentary, Solo Ride.  Each wish serves a specific purpose toward creating this documentary and reaching my goal of giving hope and support to these children.

    My 8 Wishes:

    1) Raise $1 million dollars.  All proceeds will be donated to the Dyslexia Awareness Resource Center (DARC) and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

    2) 100 million views of the 10,000 Miles and 8 Wishes video.  Generate the greatest amount of visibility with minimal funding.

    3) Be interviewed by Oprah.  She has the power and the audience to make a real difference.

    4) Interview Paul Orfelea, founder of Kinkos with dyslexia (GRANTED)

    5) Interview Sir.  Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin with dyslexia

    6) Interview Charles Schwab, who also has dyslexia

    7) Be on 88 blogs and websites.  Together, we can prove the power of the Internet and social media.

    8) All in 88 days! I want to keep this fun and exciting, while creating a sense of urgency surrounding this issue.

    In the spirit of this project and the internet, you will see us make changes quickly and move with the response of our readers.  Our greatest advantage is our ability to be flexible and nimble.  Aside from our mission, nothing is set in stone.  If at times we appear unorganized or directionless, it’s because I’m letting you determine our direction – I want to create a fundraiser that’s fun for our supporters.  Our promise is to always be transparent and keep our supporters engaged in granting my 8 Wishes.

    Paul, may I share a secret?  Had these designations been more prevalent when I was a child, I am certain I would have been assigned each of these.  Fortunately, I was a quiet observer of life.  I was distracted by my own thoughts and investigation.  Actively engaging with other students did not interest me.  Often, pupil antics seemed silly to me.  I did not want attention from others.  I had much to attend to on my own.  Thus, educators did not think me a behavior problem.  Yet, I knew, I know, there was much I struggled with.

    My mind races.  I am easily bored.  The standard curriculum is as medication.  I feel sleepy, as though in a stupor when subjected to what for me seems silly and superficial.  My grades did suffer when I was not interested in a subject.  Yet, an instructor could intrigue me.  My saving grace was my parents.  They understood.  They let me be I!  Imagine, if educators offered a program of study that facilitated growth for every student as an individual.  What might the world experience if learning was our love, if we enjoyed the endeavor.

    I thank you Paul for reminding us, we can dream supposed impossible dreams.  We are able to tilt at windmills and give birth to the best.  Classifications need not be our fate.  Only when we accept these labels do we, and society as a whole, lose.  When we allow others to impose descriptions that then define us, we are defeated. 

    To be honest Paul, I wonder.  Who among us is not dyslexic., I suspect we are all impaired when working with words or symbols.  Attention Deficit Disorder is another humbling nomenclature. The brain takes in far more information than any of us can address.

    Might the diagnosis have more of an effect.  Could it be that labels deter learning.  Perchance, if we worked to battle the tendency to accept these characterizations life would be better for everyone.

    Once you label me, you negate me.
    ~ Soren Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher]

    Wishes and Miles . . .

  • 8 Wishes, Volunteers-Friends
  • 8 Wishes By Paul Sanchez
  • Break into the $7,000 purse biz, in 5 not-so-easy steps,  By Jim Hopkins.  USA Today. May 9, 2005
  • Entrepreneurs five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia.  Cass Business School. Monday, 22 November, 2004
  • ADD in the Corner Office: Five Top Executives Discovered that an LD can be a Capitalist Tool, By Lois Gilman.  Written for ADDitude magazine.  SchwabLearning.org.
  • Dyslexia
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  • Myth of ADD, Dr. Thomas Armstrong
  • Exercising a longer attention span DORE treatment gaining advocates, By Peter Schworm.  Boston Globe. May 21, 2006
  • pdf Exercising a longer attention span DORE treatment gaining advocates, By Peter Schworm.  Boston Globe. May 21, 2006
  • Brain Studies Reveal the Mechanisms of the Voluntary Control of Visual Attention, By Monte Basgall.  Duke University. Wednesday, January 3, 2007
  • John McCain, Michael Ware, Truth About Iraq

    McCain is in Neverland


    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Perhaps, I was not alone.  I stood watching the images and listening to the discussion; I was mesmerized.  Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain stood, straight faced, and stated, Iraq, specifically the Green Zone is safe.  Perchance the Wizard, the once magical McCain, is hiding behind the curtain, oblivious to the strife that exists daily in the world of Oz.

    Michael Ware, Cable News Network Correspondent has spent more than one short day in the Emerald City.  He rebuffs the senior Senators claim.  The battle is on, or perhaps, it is only continuing.  Is the mission in Iraq accomplished or aggravated by the presence of America troops.  Stay tuned.

    Wolf Blitzer, of Cable News network offered an introduction to his interview with the esteemed Senator McCain.  Notably, the Presidential candidate McCain ends his commentary by chastising the Journalist.

    Senator John McCain [R], Arizona: You know that’s where you ought to catch up on things, Wolf.  General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee.  I think you ought to catch up.

    After, this snippet, Wolf Blitzer resigns himself and remarks . . .

    Still ahead tonight here in The Situation Room, our man in Baghdad wonders if Senator John McCain is living in Neverland.

    We, the audience are then introduced to Michael Ware, war Correspondent in Iraq.  We hear him state . . .

    Ware: To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous.  I’d love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.

    The segment is followed by another.  The Senator suggests . . .

    McCain: If I’m wrong, you’ve got a lot more problems than anything it does to my political reputation.

    It seems we have trouble, right here in the Emerald City.  We also have deep dilemmas in the United States.  The divide in the States is evident to us, citizens of America.  However, what is a world away is less so.  Who might we believe, a beleaguered Presidential candidate, or the press, Michael Ware a Cable News Network Correspondent stationed in Iraq.

    Our elder statesman loudly proclaims that a surge is and has been sufficient, that peace is found within the Iraqi borders, within Baghdad.  Yet, we watch as the United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon flinches in the face of bombing in the Green Zone.  We hear haranguing tales.  Still, a former prisoner of war declares, there is no need for distress.  Everything is working well.  There is no reason for concern.  Oh really?

    I offer the transcript of the interviews, the intial discussion with Senator John McCain of Arizona, and the ensuing dialogue with Reporter, Michael Ware, postioned and holding on for dear life in Iraq.  Dear reader, you decide.

    I’m Wolf Blitzer.  You’re in The Situation Room.  Tonight, Democrats say they’re taking a new step toward bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.  The Senate voted 50-48 in support of a timetable for withdrawal of the U.S.  forces in defiance of a presidential veto threat, but some Republicans calling it a surrender date. 

    The debate is weighing very heavily on the race for the White House and Republican Senator John McCain.  I pressed the Arizona Republican about his support for the president’s troop buildup and Democrats demands to begin a pullout.  But the Democrats, or at least some of them are saying, you know what, let’s say you’re right.  Maybe you give them another year, the Iraqis — it’s now year five of this war — give them another year to get their act together, strengthen their military, strengthen their police force, strengthen their whole political environment there and then you begin to leave.  Do you think they can get their act together over the next year? 

    McCain: I’m sure.  I’m confident that they can to a large degree, but that’s like saying after the Korean War, after we had a cease-fire that we would immediately pull out.  We kept our troops there and we keep them there as a stabilizing force.  I think that there’s no doubt that we may require troops there for a long period of time, a long period of time, but at the same time we can achieve success and American troops withdraw from the front battle lines… 

    Blitzer: How much time do you think, Senator, the Iraqis need to be really in charge of their own security? 

    McCain: I don’t know the answer to that.  And when I venture a guess, then we have a date for withdrawal.  What I’m saying is we are achieving success.  The key to it is not U.S.  presence.  It’s U.S.  casualties and if we can keep U.S.  casualties down as we did after the Korean War, obviously, Americans won’t mind that and Americans have got to understand the consequences of failure. 

    Failure is catastrophe.  Failure is genocide.  Failure means we come back.  Failure means they follow us home.  The consequences of failure that one of the most disingenuous — two disingenuous aspects about the Democrats’ position — one is what do you do if we leave?  What do you do if Iraq deteriorates into chaos?  And second, if you really feel this way, if you really feel it, then bring them home tomorrow.  That’s the intellectually honorable thing to do. 

    Blitzer: Here’s the latest poll in the “USA Today”/Gallop poll asked about setting a timetable for withdrawal by fall of 2008.  Sixty percent say they favor such a timetable.  Thirty-eight percent say they oppose it.  You would be in the 38 percent.  Why is the American public or at least the majority of the American public disagreeing with you? 

    McCain: Because the American public is frustrated and angry and saddened by our failure and mismanagement of the war for nearly four years.  And they would like to see us be out of there, but they also want us to succeed.  You know better than I do, it’s how you ask the questions in a poll. 

    If I ask the question, if I can show you a path to success that involves maintaining a U.S. presence there for an extended period, you have 80 percent of the American people say yes, if we can show them path for success.  And Joe Lieberman could never have been reelected in Connecticut if it was as clear cut as some describe it that Americans just want us out.  Because his opponent, clearly that was his position. 

    Blitzer: If the situation a year from now, Senator, is what it is basically today, what will that say to you?  McCain: It won’t be.  It won’t be.  It will be better or worse.  No military person… 

    Blitzer: Well, what if it is worse? 

    McCain: Then obviously we are going to have to examine a set of bad options.  But I’m confident it won’t be.  I’m confident hell won’t freeze over.  I’m confident we can succeed if we stay with this strategy.  And if I’m wrong, we have got a lot more problems than anything it does to my political reputation. 

    Blitzer: Here’s what you told Bill Bennett on his radio show on Monday.  “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.  The U.S. is beginning to succeed in Iraq.”  Everything we hear, that if you leave the so-called Green Zone, the international zone, and you go outside of that secure area, relatively speaking, you’re in trouble if you’re an American. 

    McCain: You know, that’s where you ought to catch up on things, Wolf.  General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in a non-armed Humvee.  I think you ought to catch up.  You see, you are giving the old line of three months ago.  I understand it. 

    You certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.  But I know for a fact that much of the success we’re experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts.  Not all.  We have got a long, long way to go.  We have only got two of the five brigades there to go into some neighbors in Baghdad in a secure fashion. 

    Blitzer: Let me refer to a few of your colleagues in the Senate and the House.  Chuck Hagel, John Murtha, former Senator Max Cleland, the current Senator Jim Webb, they’re all like you, Vietnam War veterans.  You say this is potentially a worse situation if the U.S.  were to withdraw from Iraq as opposed to when the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam.  Why are — because they’re saying, just get out, basically, and you’re saying you have got to say.  Why do you think these Vietnam War veterans, decorated just as you are, disagree? 

    McCain: Well, because I hope that all of our experience, knowledge, background, and decision-making is not driven by the experience of the Vietnam War.  I hope it’s an accumulation of all the training, experience, and knowledge I had, including 22 years in the military and 24 years in the Congress and the Senate.  But, look, don’t take my word for it that they’ll follow us home. 

    Look at what they say.  Look what bin Laden says.  Look what Zarqawi says.  Look at what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said at his tribunal down in Guantanamo.  They all say the same things.  Go on their Web sites.  They’ll tell you.  They want to follow us home.  We’re their enemy.  They’re the ones we want to destroy.  They win in Iraq the way they won in Beirut and the way that they won in Somalia, then they will be following us home.  Again, it’s not my stated — not from anything I’ve written or said.  It’s what they’re saying and writing.  (END VIDEOTAPE) 

    Blitzer: So is Baghdad really getting safer? A very different view of the reality there from our own reporter on the ground who says Senator McCain couldn’t be more wrong.  Let’s go back to CNN’s Michael Ware.  (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

    Well, Senator John McCain states his claim and offers a defense against attack from the press vetted on the war-front.  You may have noticed this statement, embedded his ample and rosy assessment, “You certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.”  I guess we do not.  It is difficult to imagine what life is like when missiles are whizzing overhead.  When bombs blast and that seems so ordinary that we do not move, though we hear the sound of a projectile hitting its target only yards away from our feet, admittedly, we do not understand.

    However, we can try to imagine what life is like for those living amongst the barrage of bombs and the people as they panic in the streets.  The voices we hear that have firsthand experience may be working with the media.  Still, as the images race by on our screens, as we see the strife from a safe distance, we can only surmise, this seems authentic.  At least it does to this writer.  I believe a war Correspondent has more credibility than Senator McCain.  I wonder; has the Senator forgotten what it means to be on the front.  Michael Ware may wish he could.

    Journalist Wolf Blitzer turns to Mister Ware and ask for his appraisal.  I watch as he introduces the topic.  I see Ware look on and listen to McCain’s words.  I witness his raised brow and I am anticipating.  Will this mainstream media reporter offer a stilted evaluation.  Will he underestimate so as not to upset Americans or the White House or will he do as he did.

    Blitzer: Michael, you’ve been there, what, for four years.  You’re walking around Baghdad on a daily basis.  Has there been this improvement that Senator McCain is speaking about? 

    Michael Ware, CNN, Correspondent: Well, I’d certainly like to bring Senator McCain up to speed, if he ever gives me the opportunity.  And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that’s because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.  Is Baghdad any safer? Sectarian violence, one particular type of violence, is down.  But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Senator McCain’s confidence. 

    I mean, Senator McCain’s credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry.  To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous.  I’d love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.  And to think that General David Petraeus travels this city in an unarmed Humvee?

    I mean, in the hour since Senator McCain has said this, I’ve spoken to some military sources, and there was laughter down the line.  I mean, certainly, the general travels in a Humvee. 

    There are multiple Humvees around it, heavily armed.  There are attack helicopters, Predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection.  So, no, Senator McCain is way off base on this one — Wolf. 

    Blitzer: Michael, when Senator McCain says that there are at least some areas of Baghdad where people can walk around and whether it’s General Petraeus, the U.S.  military commander, or others, are there at least some areas where you could emerge outside of the Green Zone, the international zone, where people can go out, go to a coffee shop, go to a restaurant, and simply take a stroll? 

    Ware: I can answer this very quickly, Wolf.  No.  No way on Earth can a Westerner, particularly an American, stroll any street of this capital of more than 5 million people.  I mean, if al Qaeda doesn’t get wind of you, or if one of the Sunni insurgent groups don’t descend upon you, or if someone doesn’t tip off a Shia militia, then the nearest criminal gang is just going to see dollar signs and scoop you up.  Honestly, Wolf, you’d barely last 20 minutes out there.  I don’t know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.  (END VIDEOTAPE) 

    Blitzer: And we have just learned that two Americans were killed tonight in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.

    Swoooh!  A moment of truth, or so I believe.  We may laugh at the striking contrast in views.  People safely in the states might debate the conflict.  Perchance we can relax around our round tables or sit in Senate seats and muse, ‘What might we do?’  congress claims to care.  They are setting dates for an allied and American exit.  Still soldiers and civilians are slaughtered daily.  “Do we need more time to see if this strategy will work?” asks Michael Ware.  He rhetorically answers his own query, “No!”  Ware states, “It is in no one’s interest to change their minds.”  Perhaps, that is the problem.

    You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
    ~ Albert Einstein


    The Truth About Iraq – Michael Ware – 6. YouTube.

    Refer to references.  Is Iraq safe? . . .

  • Transcripts, Situation Room.  Cable News Network. March 27, 2007
  • U.N. secretary general holds talks with Iraq officials, By Sinan Salaheddin.  Associated Press.  USA Today.
  • In Life and Death We Trust


    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    They say, “Only the good die young.”  Perhaps, that is true.  My Mom took her last breathe on Earth twenty years earlier than many of her relatives.  You may recall that only weeks ago, a dear departed from my life.  Phillip passed just more than a month after his fifty-fifth birthday.  Days ago, the nation was told that a fifty-seven year young Elizabeth Edwards has an incurable cancer.  Might she too perish before she has had time to truly live.  Each day we lose our younger generation to war.  Drugs take too many lives.  Anna Nicole Smith and her offspring Daniel left G-d’s green Earth very recently.  Today we learn that Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary has a lesion on his liver the outlook is not good.  Might the purely partisan Progressives ponder, ‘Is this man among the splendid.’

    I believe we all are divine.  Our politics, or our lifestyles do not determine our worth.  We are all equally revered in the eyes of any Lord.  Science makes no distinction.  However, I do wonder, does a holy being decide whether one must pass, when, or why. 

    Does Free Will play a more important role?  What of those deaths that are caused by another?  Is human insanity the stronger influence?

    As I reflect on cancer, I continually conclude, much of it is environmental.  I do not know why some are more susceptible.  Theories abound.  Living close to electrical wires, near freeways, on the banks of polluted waterways seem to have an effect.

    Habits can be killers.  Smoking might take a life; then again, it might not.  Imbibing alcoholic beverages does damage.  Yet, not all “drinkers” die from this “dis”-ease.  Food sustains life and destroys it.  Illnesses such as diabetes are often the result of overindulgence.

    Another adage states everything happens for a reason.  Is the rationale for our passing plausible? 

    When we lose a parent, particularly at an early age, is there some lesson to be learned?  If a mother and father depart, each before we are adults, the heart often becomes hardened.  People often become protective.  An individual that shuts out pain, or attempts to, usually creates greater heartaches for themselves and others.  Yet, fear of being alone or abandoned, left behind again, often causes us to hurt ourselves.

    I believe much of what we do gives rise to our own agony.  It seems to me, so much of what kills comes from within.  Perchance, that too is as it must be.  We know not why we feel as we do.  Our lessons loom large.  They can be painful, and all consuming. 

    At times, we drastically decide to take our own lives.  Numerous individuals think suicide does not make sense.  I can only surmise that those that journey into jeopardy are led there for reasons that remain a mystery to most of us.

    On many occasions what cause us to cease, to exist no more as Earthlings is not within our control, even when we think it is.  Thus, I ask again, ‘Why must we leave this life before we think we are done?’

    I personally must believe in Karma.  I do not think life is the luck of the draw.  Actually, I do not think luck is a valid determinate of much, if anything.  I trust that we are goodness.  When we share that quality with all others, when we care, sincerely, when we give to all others equally, and when grace is our guide time and again, then the powers that be honor us.

    We may depart from this planet sooner than we wish to.  We may leave loved ones behind.  However, unbeknownst to us, our work is done here.  We have achieved what we could not imagine.  Destiny calls us.  There are other lessons to learn. 

    I believe that we may have to live on Earth again.  Our bodily presence may differ.  Perchance we will encounter those we met in this life in our next, perhaps not.  Those others may have completed this path.  Their trail may deviate from ours.  Nevertheless, they will always be with us. 

    People are our foundation in this existence and though our physical memory of them may fade as we enter the next generation, they are our history.  Mentors, muses, and mystical influences come in many and every shape and form.

    I believe that we must have faith.  Those that pass are good.  They have come into our sphere for good.  We are changed for the better to have known them, even if we disagree with their politics or lifestyles.  We need not stay silent when people perform, postulate, or practice in ways that we think inhumane; actually, we must not.

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    ~ Martin Luther King Junior

    Let us speak of the taboos . . . sex, religion, and politics.  Please discuss what disgusts you . . . abuse of drugs, alcohol, or power.  Chat about life and death.  Learn what you can while you live.  For if you believe, as I do, what you do not garner in this human form now, will have to be found in a later experience.  The next may not be as pleasant. 

    Nirvana, the attainment of enlightenment comes when we know to our core what is correct.  For me, love and peace are the only absolutes.  I ask that we work towards these.

    Elizabeth Edwards, Tony Snow, my thoughts are with you.  I trust that you are traveling down the path that is best for you.  In this human form I cannot know where you will go.  I only hope that we will meet again in a wondrous world filled with love and peace.

    Peace and Passing . . .

  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . . By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  March 11, 2007
  • Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • pdf Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • White House Spokesman Snow has Recurrence of Cancer (Update6), By Roger Runningen.  Bloomberg. March 27, 2007
  • The Elizabeth Effect. By Chris Cillizza.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • Edwards: Wife’s cancer returns, campaign goes on. Cable News Network. March 23, 2007
  • Reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith dies at 39.  Cable News Network. February 9, 2007
  • Inquest Into Death of Anna Nicole Smith’s Son, Daniel, Begins.  Fox News. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • Middle School. Rite of Passage for Pupils and Educators?

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Recently, I read an article in The New York Times, The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills.  I taught in many Middle Schools and did so for years.  I worked as a mentor, a “guest teacher,” a substitute, and in those early years as an aide.  Students “At Risk” graced my classrooms.  Pupils with Special Needs gathered around my desk.  Advanced Placement scholars, seeking erudition, sat in a room with me.  The socioeconomic Middle class, the upper crust, the impoverished, all shared a learning experience with me, their teacher. 

    I was and am a Middle School teacher by choice.  While I may have stumbled onto a Junior High School playground, I can honestly say, some of my best memories are of time teaching in Middle School.  Apparently, I am not alone.

    [M]any middle school teachers land there by happenstance.  “More people end up in middle schools because that’s where the openings are,” said Carmen Fariña, a former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system who is now helping 35 middle school principals reshape their schools.  “It’s not necessarily a choice.”

    JoAnn Rintel Abreu, 40, an English and social studies teacher at Seth Low, graduated with a masters’ degree in English literature, the “bare minimum” teaching requirements and glorious visions of turning high school students on to Shakespeare and Chaucer.  She was offered a middle school job first.

    Now, after 16 years at Seth Low, Mrs. Abreu takes great satisfaction in trying to figure out how to reach adolescents.  The rewards come with breakthrough moments, like when a sullen eighth grader who rarely does his homework handed in a bitterly descriptive, beautifully written memoir about his father’s new girlfriend, “the witch.”

    I too recall student musings many in writing, some spoken.  When teaching Language Arts, I asked students to journal each day in class.  Often a profoundly philosophical quote was presented on the board, possibly a question was posed.  I would give the pupils time to compose their prose or poetry.  Then, minutes later, we would discuss their perspectives. 

    These entries supplemented other writing assignments.  Some of these exercises were purposely not research based.  Reporting grades was not the only reason for inscription.

    Throughout the term, I would collect papers and the logs.  I read the imaginative, insightful, and interesting student interpretations.  Students taught me of themselves.  I acknowledge that to truly teach another we must meet them where they live.  If an instructor presents rote information in a routine manner, the teacher rarely connects to the individual. 

    In Middle School, scholars are still open to sharing who they are.  Actually, I believe they yearn to be known.  Through student writings, educators realize a window to the personal lives and realities of their pupils.

    What happens at home affects adolescents deeply.  When the curriculum negates the soul, when instructors do not see the sores, they cannot truly teach.  I suspect the sullen eighth grader may have been surly for the “witch” wreaked havoc in his or her life.  I think for an educator to be effective there must be an exchange that involves more than facts or figures. 

    While reading a student essay, I learned that a young and bright girl was a descendant of Davy Crockett.  I discovered that an elder and brilliant sister left one scholar feeling as though they might never achieve enough.

    I also recognized that as good as these compositions were, as much as they revealed, for me, they were less inspiring than classroom conversations.  Young academics in my Middle School classroom trusted that there were no right or wrong answers.  There were only opinions and beliefs.  I reassured them of this often.  For me, a teachable moment is constant in Middle School.  Often one student will tell another they are wrong, an idiot, or another hurtful descriptor.  When I, as an instructor, stopped to share the fallacy of such a statement, much is learned.

    Nevertheless, as we chatted about a profoundly philosophical prompt or a parable, pupils and I learned there are many ways to look at life.  We, as humans, may be similar; however, we are never the same.  These friendly heart-to-hearts, expanded minds, theirs, mine, and ours.

    To teach is to learn twice.
    ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

    Middle school students yearn to understand the world beyond them selves.  They long to discover who they are and what is most important to them.  They are developing a sense of style, their own unique mannerism  They are watching the world around them.  They are asking questions, and challenging perceptions. 

    You might remember as do I, seventh grade boys practice a strut as they walk across the playground.  Girls also perform.  They rehearse a swish, a wiggle in their walk.  Lads watch other young men and the lasses look at their “competition.” The baggy pants fall, the abdominals flail.  The first blush of make-up is applied.  Scientific investigations are abundant.  [Self] discovery surrounds each pupil.

    I learned to love Middle School, or might I more accurately state, the students.

    Another instructor interviewed for this New York Times article stated, “Middle school is like Scotch.  At first, you try to get it down. Then you get used to it.  Then it’s all you order.”  While I have never had a drink of Scotch or any other alcoholic beverage, I do understand the correlation.  I had always imagined teaching in a University.  I did educate college scholars..  I enjoyed that experience infinitely; yet, facilitating growth at an institution of higher learning involves more than erudition.  I trust every school and each department differs.  Nevertheless, at the time of my teaching, the focus seemed to be on power and I want none.  For me, feeding the minds of students satiated my soul.

    Knowing that Elementary Education was never my preference, the children felt too needy and enthralled with supposed authority, and High School positions were not easily found, I returned to what was familiar.  Having taught in Middle Schools while working on my degrees, I trusted I would be prepared and welcome.  It seems districts are always looking for teachers willing to “test their will.”

    Frequently, career professionals choose Middle School placements belatedly.  Circumstances are often the guide.

    Among her colleagues, Mrs. Kaufman, . . . started off as a third-grade teacher but moved on to middle school after a year spent blowing too many noses and zipping up too many jackets. Ben Bass, 59, started teaching middle school math only after losing his elementary school position during the teacher layoffs of the 1970s.

    Mrs. Kaufman apparently, felt as I did.  Perhaps, she too craved a challenge.  She may have realized, as I did she could learn while teaching Middle School students.  Learning is my love.  Junior High students are excellent educators!  They see and feel so much.  Society has not yet, numbed their spirits.

    However, sadly, for the most part, trained educators think Middle School is a last resort, a temporary respite.  Qualified mentors are frequently sought out for Middle School positions; yet, few apply readily.

    Near Claremont Park in the Bronx, Mr. Levy, the principal of I.S. 339, has worked hard to cobble together a staff capable of helping him revive a school mired in years of failure.

    “Just go to a job fair,” he said. “The lines for elementary school and high school are around the corner. We can’t get people to teach in middle schools.”

    One of his solutions has been to rely heavily on Teach for America. Twenty-one of his teachers, nearly a third, are part of the program, which recruits recent college graduates. While such teachers are often well educated and energetic, many leave after their two-year commitments.

    Numerous instructors, after only a few years, flee the Middle School scene.  I recall three superior educators were hired on at an excellent Middle School shortly after completing their Professional Teaching Credentialing coursework.  Each had attended this  same school while in puberty.  Perhaps, these three had good memories and thought of Middle School first; perchance not.  I know one had done her student teaching at this school.  The others may have simply stumbled into open positions.  I am uncertain.

    Nonetheless, these proficient professors worked well with the students.  Their curriculums were exemplary.  This particular school has a pupil population that for the most part yearns for knowledge.  Circumstances seemed idea on the surface.  Yet, ultimately, each of these qualified individuals left.

    Two initially entered other professions.  One realized her love and desire for a career was related to what she had learned and loved in her own childhood home, gourmet cooking.  Another concluded the classroom was not her preference.  This person stayed in Education; however, creating curriculums, or working with media became the preferred path.  The third elected to take a position in a High School.  Teaching may have been in the blood.  Family members were always employed within a school district. 

    These educators were escaping from an exemplary school, one in which the majority of students love learning.  The parents of these pupils encourage education.  Violence was not the flavor in this Middle School.  Test scores were exceedingly high.  These students were superior and scholarly.  Thus, we might ask; was the decision to leave Middle School determined by the conditions in the classroom, or were circumstances the determinant.

    Might these persons have realized their passion lied elsewhere.  Perhaps, they preferred a more prestigious position.  Frequently money is a motivator.  Possibly, they concluded a quieter environment might soothe the soul.  After all, Middle School can be maddening. 

    Students scurry about.  There is much on their minds and not all of it is academic.  I have strolled through the halls only to be pushed aside by a pupil focused on his or her friends.  Perchance, for some teaching in a Junior High requires survival skills.  As this article mentions Middle School teachers must know

    How to snuff out brewing fistfights before the first punch is thrown, how to coax adolescents crippled by low self-esteem into raising their hands, how to turn every curveball, even the biting insult, into a teachable moment.

    These are requirements when teaching in a Junior High School.  Perhaps, not all educators have these capabilities.  Nor do they want these to be part of their daily repertoire. 

    “Middle School,” the phrase alone conjures up so many memories separate from my experience as an educator.  As a student, the tales I could tell.  Might I share the story of how and why my Mom decided that during the Middle School year’s peers are paramount? 

    My Mom and Dad considered academics for an adolescent might be arbitrary.  They believed core curriculums were vital.  Yet, with hormones raging and pupils seeking a sense of them selves, genuine study is supplanted.  Perhaps, this is why teachers consider a Middle School assignment a challenge.  Placing yourself in a situation where every thought, word, and deed is questioned can be threatening.  For some, myself included, it can be stimulating.

    My parents believed that an urban school might be more rousing than a suburban sanctuary.  They believed that I would benefit from an exposure to sex, drugs, and violence during my Middle School years .  Mommy and Daddy did not think it wise to enroll me in a school that left me jaded.

    They concluded, after an active social experience, my curiosity would be quelled.  Upon entering High School, I would know myself, and what I valued.  Searching for an identity and latent desires would be out of my system.  They thought, when scholarship counted, I would be prepared if I experienced the world before grade nine. 

    My parents surmised that pre-puberty and those early teenage years could be trying for every one.  As young persons acquire a sense of self, they explore.  They are excitable.  Their energy level is high and they can be defiant.  If I were to express my wild ways before it mattered, that might be better.

    In my own life, reflecting on my chosen life style while very young was good.  Before I adopted any solid habits rooted in rebellion, I pondered the consequences. Ultimately, I made many wise decisions.  For me, my parents’ theory was correct.  However, I still wish I had a bookish foundation.  I thought of this often while teaching in a highly esteemed Middle School.  When instructing in a world of academics, I often thought, if only I could do it all over again.

    Yet, I acknowledge there was many times I thought of quitting.  Many Middle School educators do.  Increasingly, this is a concern.  Communities are expressing their concern as they observe Middle School teachers fleeing in large numbers.

    Faced with increasingly well-documented slumps in learning at a critical age, educators in New York and across the nation are struggling to rethink middle school, particularly in cities, where the challenges of adolescent volatility, spiking violence and lagging academic performance are more acute.

    As they do so, they are running up against a key problem: a teaching corps marked by high turnover, and often lacking expertise in both subject matter and the topography of the adolescent mind.

    The demands of teaching middle school show up in teacher retention rates.  In New York City, the nation’s largest school system, middle school teachers account for 22 percent of the 41,291 teachers who have left the school system since 1999 even though they make up only 17 percent of the overall teaching force, according to the United Federation of Teachers.

    In Philadelphia, researchers found that 34.2 percent of new middle school teachers in one representative year quit after their first year, compared with 21.1 percent of elementary school teachers and 26.3 percent of high school teachers.

    There may be reasons for such a flight.  Some schools are not as serene as the one I mentioned earlier.  Conditions are not a constant.  Honestly, even in the most tranquil of settings, at times, it feels as though the Middle School students have a no interest in education. 

    As the demands of national standardized testing increase and “teaching to the test” becomes the norm, there is little reason to feel inspired when teaching those that rather “play” with their peers.  Watching or engaging in a less than productive performance can be draining.  Pupils posturing can wear down the already, over worked and weary.  Classrooms full of such antics leave little time for learning.  An educator can feel as though the concept of “teaching” students at this age is a myth.

    “There was a lot more anger and outbursts,” Christian Clarke, 29, a Bronx high school teacher, recalled of the students he encountered during his four years teaching middle school.  “Twice as much time was spent on putting out fires; twice as much time was spent getting the class quiet.  Twice as much time was spent on defusing anger in the kids.”

    ‘Tis true.  Having taught at every level, I do experience that Middle School students are slower to settle.  Years ago, when I was first teaching, I realized that I had prepared a speech.  In truth, I never had.  Yet, as many of us know, when we are the elders, speaking to the young, our parents’ words often pour from our mouths.  As I stood before my first Middle School class, I realized I was pleased as punch that I like my parents and the way in which they taught me.  For as I began speaking, seconds after the first bell, I heard myself sharing the standards I learned in my own home.

    I let the students know that habits are not our nature.  We do have choices.  For me, as a facilitator of knowledge, every second is a teachable moment.  When I present my preferences and discuss classroom demeanor I am speaking of far more than rote rules.  My own predilection is to tell a tale.  For me, the “Mountain Dew” story  says it all.

    Pupils are surprising mesmerized as I offer my personal narrative.  They ask numerous questions.  They relate.  Then, after ample discussion, give and take, students are satisfied that they have choices.  They study quietly, ask for assistance without hesitation; they choose to learn.

    I believe telling personal stories develops relationships. My sharing tells them I am as they are real .  I was, am, and will be learning with them and from them.  My hope and experience is my pupils can feel safe being real with each other and me.  I certainly will to be authentic with them.  They understand I too have had and perhaps have unhealthy habits.  I am willing and wanting to work through these.  I am only asking that we share our awareness and ourselves.  I teach using our similar life experiences.  For me, that is the purpose of school, particularly Middle school.

    “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
    ~ William Butler Yeats [Poet, 1865-1939]

    Life, I believe offers the best lessons.

    A good middle school teacher needs to know how to channel such anger into class work, and whether inappropriate questions like “Are you gay?” (as a Seth Low student recently asked her math teacher) merit serious discussion or feigned deafness.

    “You have to have a huge sense of humor and a small ego,” said Jason Levy, the principal of Intermediate School 339 in the Bronx.  “There are some people who are born to do it and some who learn to do it, and there are some people who really shouldn’t do it.”

    However, we never know with certainty, whether we are Middle School teachers by nature, if the skills can be taught, or if for us, a career in Middle School is not our calling.

    For now, solutions to Middle School teacher flight are being offered.  Schools, states, and Universities are focusing on the educator, teacher preparation, pay scales, and adolescent psychology.  The theory is . . .

    [P]reparation for these jobs is often inadequate.

    The Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group, has asserted that a “scandalously high” number of middle school classes are taught by teachers lacking even a college minor in their assigned subjects.

    Around the country, middle school teachers are often trained as elementary school generalists or as high school subject specialists, with little understanding of young adolescent psychology.

    “We’re really in a malpractice kind of environment, where we’re preparing teachers for elementary classrooms and high school classrooms but not middle-grades classrooms,” said Peggy Gaskill, research chairwoman of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, an alliance of educators, researchers, and others seeking to improve middle school education.

    Dr. Gaskill has found that while 46 states offer some sort of credential specifically for middle school teachers, only 24 require it.

    States and school districts looking to strengthen their teachers are trying a variety of approaches, among them offering special certifications for middle school teachers, paying them extra to work in tough schools, or having them cover two subjects instead of one to let them develop closer relationships with students.

    Three years ago, New York State began offering a special middle school certification for fifth through ninth grade, for teachers whose training emphasizes young adolescent pedagogy and development.

    There is even help for Middle School teachers online.

    Training may not be the answer.  Perchance Districts might look for instructors that have an appreciation for people that challenge their minds and mannerism.  Young teens do that. 

    I often mused that if I were to gain a few pounds, my students would tell me.  We would discuss my theories as to why I was putting on weight.  Pupils would often share their own stories, struggles, body image concerns, and health conditions that led to one change or another.  The lessons were never ending.  I believe, for schools to be truly effective the curriculum must meet students where they live.  Life is more than facts, formulas, and fictional representations of history.

    When a student at Seth Low Intermediate School loudly pronounced Corinne Kaufman a “fat lady” during a fire drill one recent day, Mrs. Kaufman, a 45-year-old math teacher, calmly turned around.

    “Voluptuous,” she retorted, then proceeded to define the unfamiliar term, cutting off the laughter and offering a memorable vocabulary lesson in the process.

    Perhaps a Middle School teacher is best equipped when they are as my parents thought Middle School students were.  If Middle School educators were allowed to be more devoted to the relationships they have with their students, if they were not so rigidly required to be committed to rote curriculums, all would be better served.

    We might surmise a persons’ age or school standing does not define them.  Life history may determine habits.  Teachers coming to Middle School are often led by circumstances.  Educators go through  stages in their development, just as students do.  We, as a society may teach future Middle School instructors to cope, manage, understand, survive, or thrive.  We might also accept that some Middle School teachers evolve as their students do. 

    Middle School educators have an energy and interest at one point in their lives.  Then, after learning in this accelerated environment they discover who they truly are or were meant to be, or what they may be ready to do.  They may appear to move on; yet, the memories linger.  Middle School instructors that leave the profession may have no regrets or ill will towards their young students or the schools. 

    Statistically, the number of professionals exiting the Junior High scene is not that much greater than those escaping other prospects.  Might it be that for the Middle School teacher, just as for the adolescent student, learning is hastened.  So much is raw and vulnerable when mingling with the Junior High School learner. Middle School educators may be more able to learn who they are from and with their agile pupils.  Just as an adolescent evolves, so too do their teachers, or so I believe.

    Please share your perceptions, observations, and opinions.  As a professional educator, a parent, a pupil, or a person [once] committed to their career, what do you think.  Was, or is, Middle School your sanctuary?  Perhaps, you barely survived the experience.  I welcome you evaluation.  Please trust me, your statements will not be graded.

    Sources and schooling . . .

  • The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills, By Elisa Gootman.  The New York Times. March 17, 2007
  • pdf The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills, By Elissa Gootman.  The New York Times. March 17, 2007
  • My 8th-Grade Teacher’s Excellent Adventure (5 Letters) To the Editor.  The New York Times. March 21, 2007
  • Accountability; History Textbooks Receive a Failing Grade, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.og
  • United Federation of Teacher
  • Childhood Obesity. Adult On-Set Diabetes. Osteoporosis. Soda, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  May 4, 2006
  • Davy Crockett.  AmericanWest.
  • Help for New Teachers. Middle Web’s
  • It’s My Life. Middle School.  Public Broadcasting Services.
  • “Not Much, Just Chillin’,” a Window on Middle School Life, Wire Side Chat.  Education World.
  • “Not Much, Just Chillin’,” a Window on Middle School Life, Linda Perlstein
  • Elizabeth Edwards; “Decency Costs Nothing.” It is Priceless

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Last evening, when I first heard the news, Elizabeth Edwards might be in trouble, I wrote of my concern.  Could it be cancer, again?  I shared what I knew and what I thought throughout our cyberspace community.  I received many a beautiful comment.  Scarce shared Elizabeth Edwards CBS Free Speech.  Missus Edwards spoke to me.

    I believe in interdependence, in equality, in people of every race, color, and creed.  Much to the dismay of many, I act on my faith.

    I have been teased, misunderstood, and stared at, for I speak to everyone, no matter where I go.  In restaurants, I chat endlessly with my servers.  The person that cleans the table or delivers the water is no less important to me than the people I am sitting with.  I often befriend restaurant staff.  Many have become part of my life.

    When I shop, I get to know the associates.  I ask for their advice.  I trust their taste and value their opinions.  I perceive their sense of style.  As a customer, a passer-by, as a person that cares for my surroundings, I pick up merchandise or materials that have been carelessly tossed about. 

    Over the years, in many neighborhoods, I have befriended my mail person. 

    While walking, I meet the glance of those crossing my path.  While in a line I will converse with those waiting with me.  These persons may be employed in service jobs.  They might be without a work.  Their careers could be crashing, or they may be profoundly professional.  It is difficult to tell who is who when people are casually dressed and doing their chores.  It matters not to me.

    I speak to bow-wows and kitties, birds, and squirrels.  I love life.  Actually, those that know me well will tell you, I believe nothing is intangible.  What others define as objects are living souls to me.  They too have an energy, an essence, and are essential.  We are all sharing this planet together. 

    Elizabeth Edwards understands this.  She said . . .

    Did you buy groceries today? If so, who was your cashier?  Who bagged your soda? 

    They have names, you know – and chances are they were even wearing their names on their shirts.  But did you notice?

    Sadly, as a country, Americans have gotten used to treating those in service positions as if they were part of the cash register, part of the conveyor belt.  They aren’t. 

    They are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons working hard to provide for their families.  And they are working harder and earning less than most Americans who work behind a desk.

    Everyone in America who works hard deserves our respect.

    But too, often we fail to realize that each of us is connected to the other.

    Too often, we fail to realize that each of us has a name, a life, a dream.

    It is the first step in civility to acknowledge our fellow citizens, to use their names, to look them in the face and thank them for making your life not just easier but possible.  The second step – which is also too rare – is to treat each other with respect and even tenderness.

    I have had hard times.  But my life has been easier not just because of my splendid family or my incredible friends.  But because I had support from unexpected places – from Edward, my mailman; from Drew, who works at my children’s school; from Sam, who bags groceries at my supermarket.

    My life has been easier because the people I have treated tenderly have returned the gift.  Decency, it turns out, costs nothing.

    Elizabeth, I relate.  Friends and family, those close to me, have often said they think my life was hard.  Yet, I was and am happy.  I experience as you observe.  “Decency costs nothing.”  The returns are phenomenal. 

    I have never felt alone.  Support surrounds me.  I give from the heart, for I honor all life.  I receive more than I might imagine.  Tender talk, a soft touch, and perchance a slight smile, treating others as though they are as important as they are, that is priceless.

    Refer to references. . .

  • Elizabeth Edwards CBS Free Speech.  YouTube.
  • John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health, Campaign, and Country, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. March 21, 2007
  • Free Speech: Elizabeth Edwards, Advocate Speaks Out About The Importance Of Decency In America.  CBS Broadcasting.
  • John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health, Campaign, and Country

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Please view the Edwards interview.  Charlie Rose: December 14, 2004

    The news and notes prompt this treatise.  As I sat here tonight, gathering my thoughts, a voice heard rooms away jarred me.  I could barely understand the words.  I only knew something was wrong, terribly, terribly wrong.  A journalist said something of John Edwards and the effect of this news on his campaign.  Recalling how important family is to Presidential candidate Edwards, the history of his wife’s cancer, I wondered.  Only weeks ago we witnessed, Senator Edwards is able to weather media storms.  The tone of the newscaster led me to believe this event was a tempest.

    Last evening I wrote of Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for President in 2008.  Several Progressives relented; although they agree with Congressman Kucinich philosophically, they fear he does not have a chance.  Charisma is not his strong suit.  Popularity equates to electability.  Many mused they were considering former Vice Presidential contender John Edwards.  The Senator is powerful, persuasive, and principled, and profound on numerous issues.  As of last evening and this morning, the persons in the cyberspace community were claiming John Edwards is their choice.  For these Liberals a small step into the White House may yield benefits for Americans.  A foot in the door is better than nothing at all.

    In reading the comments on my Kucinich missive, I concluded John Edwards may be the Left’s last hope in 2008.  Then, tonight, I heard.  Perhaps his campaign may be in trouble.  Bloggers are not the cause; nor have they led the candidate down a path of “crisis management.”

    John Edwards has long been known as a family man, a gentle soul deeply connected to his family.  His wife, Elizabeth is his best friend.  We know that years ago Missus Edwards discovered a lump in her breast.  She took treatment and seemed to be in remission.  However, tonight there is concern.  The Washington Post reports . . .

    John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health
    By Nedra Pickler
    The Associated Press.
    Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 11:21 PM

    WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards accompanied his wife, Elizabeth, who has been treated for breast cancer, on a doctor’s visit Wednesday.  His campaign said they would hold a news conference in their hometown Thursday to discuss her health.

    Campaign officials refused to answer any questions about what the Edwardses learned at the doctor’s appointment or how it might affect his candidacy.  Edwards had cut short a trip to Iowa Tuesday night to be with his wife Wednesday but still attended a barbecue fundraiser later in the evening in their hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C.

    The campaign had said that Mrs. Edwards, 57, had a follow-up appointment to a routine test she had Monday.  The campaign explained that she had similar follow-ups in the past but they always resulted in a clean bill of health.

    The campaign refused to elaborate Wednesday.  Family friends said Wednesday night that they didn’t know of any new complications to her health.

    “Her health has been so good for so long,” said Kate Michelman, an Edward’s adviser who was planning to work closely with Elizabeth Edwards to appeal to female voters around the country.

    Mrs. Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in the final days of the 2004 campaign, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee.  He announced the diagnosis the day after he and presidential nominee John Kerry lost the election.

    Mrs. Edwards wrote about her life, including her breast cancer treatment that included chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, in a book published last year called “Saving Graces.”

    The Edwards family has faced unexpected and unwanted traumas before.  They have experienced deep loss, a passing no one would wish for.  Elizabeth Edwards spoke of this . . .

    Mrs. Edwards spoke about the death of her son and her cancer in an Associated Press interview last year.

    “During the (2004) campaign, people who knew we had lost a son said, ‘You are so strong,’ and when I had breast cancer people would say, ‘You are so strong,’ and I thought, ‘They don’t know that there’s a trick to being strong, and the trick is that nobody does it alone,'” she said.  “I wanted, from the perspective of someone going through it, not tell them what to do, but show them what great support I got.”

    ‘Tis true, people help each other.  Vigor is the outgrowth of love and care.  Elizabeth Edwards has received many good graces.  She has given much to her family, friends, familiars, and to those she touched from afar.  Even now, her story moves us.  Individuals relate to her illness.  They too seek a enduring cure for cancer.

    To date, we know nothing with certainty; yet, the news of a press conference following a visit to the physician seems ominous.  We can only hope all is well, and Elizabeth Edwards is in good health.  Perchance this time loss is not the news.  Gain might reign.

    The Edwards family has been through much.  They have our support, our sympathy, and I wish them well. 

    As I write, I hear a word of optimism.  The broadcaster announces, ‘a close friend and adviser stated in a comment to the media, “Do not assume the worse.”‘  I will not.  It seems to me this family is strong.  They have experienced many challenges in their lives.  Together they grow greater.  Perchance, the Edwards family serves as our example.  They teach us to be courageous, compassionate, and genuinely concerned for family, friends, and for our future.  May peace be with them, with us, one and all.

  • John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health. By Nedra Pickler.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 11:21 PM
  • pdf John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health. By Nedra Pickler.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 11:21 PM
  • Edwards and Wife Plan News Conference, By Adam Nagourney.  The New York Times.  March 21, 2007
  • Kucinich Calls for Censure, Conversation, and Change. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org March 20, 2007
  • Coulter under fire for anti-gay slur. Cable News Network. March 4, 2007
  • A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints, By Howard Kurtz.  Washington Post. Tuesday, February 13, 2007; Page A04
  • pdf A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints, By Howard Kurtz.  Washington Post. Tuesday, February 13, 2007; Page A04
  • Kucinich Calls for Censure, Conversation, and Change

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    Dennis Kucinich Urges Conversation about Impeachment

    In 2004, I had no doubt.  I voted for Dennis Kucinich.  By that time, I felt justified in thinking President George W. Bush must be impeached.  The President had violated many laws.  However, hordes of voters disagreed, or did not care.  Congress clearly rejected and continues to reject my belief; at least they act as they do.  Nothing has been done to prosecute the President  and his pals.  Even today, Progressives have questioned my conviction.  They say, “This “man” and his clan have not committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  As much as I believe they have, I cannot convince Congress or citizens en mass to take action.  Censure is not assured.

    Therefore, I must communicate and cajole.  Yet, I am not expectant.  Change is a challenge. 

    I accept I need to carefully consider my vote in each of the upcoming elections.  Actually, I always have.

    My own attention to the issues caused me to cast a ballot for Kucinich in 2004.  I am not surprised that Representative Kucinich is speaking out, stating we must indict this insolent Executive officer.  Congressman Kucinich has always quietly though consistently been an advocate for truth, justice, and what I believe is the American way.  Kucinich cares about the people!

    It is for this reason that in the last Presidential election, I cast my ballot for principles; popularity is not my preference.  Most of my friends and neighbors mused, “The man is not electable.”  We need to take back the House, the Senate, and the White House.  Vote for Kerry.  Assuredly, he will guarantee us [we the people] a win.

    Perhaps it is just I; nevertheless, I do not choose to work with an associate in hopes my image will be improved.  Credentials may be impressive; however, they are not enough.  I do not gravitate to a perceived strength.  I want substance!  If a candidate or colleague says, ‘Trust me.  I will protect you.’  That, for me, is not enough.

    I do not wish for a mate so that he might complete me.  I am whole already, me, myself, and I.

    I do not purchase shoes knowing they look spectacular; yet, they hurt my feet.  A dress, a pair of pants, or a purse must be more than pretty.  Trends do not excite me.

    Having a beer with a likable guy or gal does not appeal to me.  You may recall, for quite a few voters Bush seemed a likable drinking bud.  Actually, I do not drink.  I have been told that drinking either dulls the senses or intensifies what is within.  I desire authenticity in a Presidential applicant, in my associates, and in my allies.  If a President or pal states they are compassionate, I do not what that to be a character trait they only display when with a select few.

    Early in 2007, Tom Vilsack captured my attention, for admittedly I fear America is not ready for a reserved, yet real gem such as Kucinich.  I was considering giving the former Governor from Iowa a chance.  I did accept that if Vilsack left the scene for any reason I could and would willingly commit to Kucinich.  Now, again I experience as I did in 04, the mainstream media and even the so-called Progressives would focus on a supposed winner.  Flashes in pans, stars, and the well heeled are popular in political forums.

    I have never believed in winning.  The oft-promoted concept of win:win for me is trite.  It is a mere attempt to lessen the blow of a loss for anyone or everyone.  I believe in growth, reciprocal reverence, and shared visions.  I have no desire to be victorious.  Nor do I take pleasure in a conquest.  It is my belief if there is a winner, there must also be a loser.  I trust that we can all grow greater together.

    When I say I want no war, I am not intending to fund what I claim to condemn.  I do not believe the world can wait.  Lives are lost; limbs are crushed.  Eyes are missing and the pain is plentiful.  For me, Dennis Kucinich takes a thorough and thoughtful perspective on this war.

    The Kucinich Plan for Iraq
    Submitted by Dennis Kucinich

    Kucinich unveils comprehensive exit plan to bring troops home, stabilize Iraq
    Dennis J Kucinich
    Monday, January 8, 2007

    In November of 2006, after an October upsurge in violence in Iraq, the American people moved decisively to reject Republican rule, principally because of the conduct of the war.  Democratic leaders well understand we regained control of the Congress because of the situation in Iraq.  However, two months later, the Congress is still searching for a plan around which it can unite to hasten the end of US involvement in Iraq and the return home of 140,000 US troops.

    There is a compelling need for a new direction in Iraq, one that recognizes the plight of the people of Iraq, the false and illegal basis of the United States war against Iraq, the realities on the ground which make a military resolution of the conflict unrealistic and the urgent responsibility of the United States, which caused the chaos, to use the process of diplomacy and international law to achieve stability in Iraq, a process which will establish peace and stability in Iraq allow our troops to return home with dignity.

    The Administration is preparing to escalate the conflict.  They intend to increase troop numbers to unprecedented levels, without establishing an ending date for the so-called troop surge.  By definition, this escalation means a continuation of the occupation, more troop and civilian casualties, more anger toward the US, more support for the insurgency, more instability in Iraq and in the region, and prolonged civil war at a time when there is a general agreement in the world community that the solution in Iraq must be political not military.  Iraq is now a training ground for insurgents who practice against our troops.

    What is needed is a comprehensive political process.  And the decision is not President Bush’s alone to make.

    Congress, as a coequal branch of government has a responsibility to assist in the initiation of this process.  Congress, under Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution has the war-making power.  Congress appropriates funds for the war.  Congress does not dispense with its obligation to the American people simply by opposing a troop surge in Iraq.

    There are 140,000 troops remaining in Iraq right now.  What about them?  When will they come home?  Why would we leave those troops in Iraq when we have the money to bring them home?  Soon the President will ask for more money for the war.  Why would Congress appropriate more money to keep the troops in Iraq through the end of President Bush’s term, at a total cost of upwards of two trillion dollars and thousands of more troop casualties, when military experts say there is no military solution?  Our soldiers stand for us in the field, we must to stand for them in our legislature by bringing them home.

    It is simply not credible to maintain that one opposes the war and yet continues to fund it.  This contradiction runs as a deep fault line through our politics, undermining public trust in the political process and in those elected to represent the people.  If you oppose the war, then do not vote to fund it.

    If you have money which can be used to bring the troops home or to prosecute the war, do not say you want to bring the troops home while you appropriate money in a supplemental to keep them in Iraq fighting a war that cannot be won militarily.  This is why the Administration should be notified now that Congress will not approve of the appropriations request of up to $160 billion in the spring for the purposes of continuing the occupation and the war.  Continuing to fund the war is not a plan.  It would represent the continuation of disaster.

    The US sent our troops into Iraq without a clear mission.  We created a financial, military, and moral dilemma for our nation and now we are talking about the Iraq war as our problem.  The Iraqis are forgotten.  Their country has been destroyed: 650,000 casualties, [based on the Lancet Report which surveyed casualties from March of 2003 to July of 2006] the shredding of the social fabric of the nation, civil war, lack of access to food, shelter, electricity, clean drinking water and health care because this Administration, with the active participation of the Congress, authorized a war without reason, without conscience, without international law.

    The current combat is not all that troubles me.  Much that is occurring in present day America and throughout the globe causes great distress.  I want us to embrace every aspect of life completely.  Reform for me is not wise if it is random.  I have no desire to change for the sake of change.  My interest is in encouraging equality for all.  May we live for the Seventh Generation.  As I assess the Kucinich agenda, I believe this Representative has our shared health in mind.  Kucinich states . . .

    Issues
    I want to inspire America to take a new path, a different direction.

    I envision an America which has the capacity to reconnect with the heart of the world; an America which proceeds in the world optimistically and courageously.  An America which understands that the world is interdependent, that it is inter-connected, and that what we do today impacts future generations.

    I want to break the shackles of fear which have deprived our citizens of rights.  We need to change the way this country values humanity, so that instead of fear and lies, we can live our lives based on principles of peace and hope.  We need to regain the trust of the American people and we need to have a government which trusts the American people.

    It’s time for America to resume its glorious journey; time to reject shrinking jobs and wages, disappearing savings and rights; time to reject the detour towards fear and greed.  It’s time to look out upon the world for friends, not enemies; time to counter the control of corporations over our politics, our economy, our resources, and mass media.

    It’s time for those who have much to help those who have little, by maintaining a progressive tax structure.  It’s time to tell the world that we wish to be their partner in peace, not their leader in war.  Most of all, it is time for America to again be the land where dreams come true, because the government is on the side of its people.

    Ten Key Issues

  • Universal Health Care
  • International Cooperation: US out of Iraq, UN in
  • Jobs and Withdrawal from NAFTA and WTO
  • Repeal of the “Patriot Act”
  • Guaranteed Quality Education, Pre-K Through College
  • Full Social Security Benefits at Age 65
  • Right-to-Choose, Privacy and Civil Rights
  • Balance Between Workers and Corporations
  • Environmental Renewal and Clean Energy
  • Restored Rural Communities and Family Farms

  • As much as I believe there is a need to arraign this Administration, I fear that will not be possible.  Those that can take action have delayed and deferred their responsibility to the people.  Our nation is suffering.  Much in America needs our attention.  I ask, “If not now, when?”  I can only hope that by 2008, America will be courageous.  Citizens will not choose a candidate for their charisma and panache.  A bankroll will not impress and thirty-second commercials will not sway a savvy voter.  I invite you to travel to Congressman Kucinich’s site.  Read what is more than rhetoric; then decide.  As Hillary proposed, I would like to begin a genuine conversation.

    Furthering the future . . .

  • Bush challenges hundreds of laws, President cites powers of his office.  By Charlie Savage.  Boston Globe. April 30, 2006
  • pdf Bush challenges hundreds of laws, President cites powers of his office.  By Charlie Savage.  Boston Globe. April 30, 2006
  • The Beer Test, Presidential personalities. By Jonah Goldberg.  National Review. February 21, 2007
  • Dennis Kucinich for President 2008 Channel.
  • Kucinich for President 2008
  • Issues
  • The World Can’t Wait
  • The Kucinich Plan for Iraq
  • Universal Health Care
  • International Cooperation: US out of Iraq, UN in
  • Jobs and Withdrawal from NAFTA and WTO
  • Repeal of the “Patriot Act”
  • Guaranteed Quality Education, Pre-K Through College
  • Full Social Security Benefits at Age 65
  • Right-to-Choose, Privacy and Civil Rights
  • Balance Between Workers and Corporations
  • Environmental Renewal and Clean Energy
  • Restored Rural Communities and Family Farms