Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Rhetoric of Motives

Motives matter.
In any good crime drama, motive is the thing that captures attention. In an unsolved mystery, who had the motive to commit the crime? Why was someone murdered? Who had motive?
There is a motive behind everything we do. Motives matter. When we look to history we are most inspired by those whose motivations were not focused on themselves but rather toward leaving a legacy of betterment for many. Those who have created riches or sought power for themselves but left no legacy of betterment for many are lost in history or distained in history. We are most in admiration of those who sacrificed much to create something much better. Motives matter.
History is not kind to those who may have meant well but did great harm. History has a way of sorting truth from fiction. Time has a way of sorting things out. We see outcomes - in time. History has a way of bringing motives to the surface. Motives matter.
The two greatest motives that derail potential for greater good are power and greed. History should tell us if a person seeks great wealth and unquestioned authority, they will not work for the greater good. Motives matter.
Our rhetoric reveals our motives. A theme will carry through. Watch for the rhetoric that reveals the motives of power and greed. These motives matter and they will not serve a greater good.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Middle Ground Power

Currently about 30% of the country approves of the current administration's actions. It continues to fall but will likely bottom out and stay steady. About 30% of the country is outraged and concerned. The rest are somewhere between not sure and wishing everyone else would just calm down. That latter group will be the ones to determine what the country looks like in these coming years.
It's those people in the middle that need most to be engaged and make their positions known. They are the ones willing to hear both sides of an issue and try to build bridges, try to see the best of both arguments. They are our best hope for a future. They tire of conflict. They don't like name calling. They are truly the bridge builders and the ones consistently actually rolling their sleeves to getting things done. Don't expect them to march. While others are marching, they are working on something that helps someone. They feel no need to march because they are focused on the next need. They aren't marching on either side of an issue. They are doing things in the community. These community builders don't wear their political views on their sleeves because they care most about building across lines.
They are also the people who are simply uninvolved. As long as they have what they need to survive and live without interference, they just do their own thing. They don't join anything. They aren't connected to much beyond their immediate family. They just want to live their lives and not worry about the rest. These isolationists don't much care about joining because they care most about what's right around them.
The community builders and the isolationists don't want pulled into conflicts. Their reasons are different but they resist the same. If we want to speak to them, we need to speak to them in ways that don't involve drawing them into conflict. The more irrational, erratic and emotional our approach, the less they want to hear us.
Be careful in what you say and how you say it. It matters. Those in the middle will lean one way or the other - quietly. Which way do we want them to lean? I'd like to be on the side of builders and happy to help the isolationists be happy where they are. Let's help them. There's where the power lies.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Vent in Private. Build in Public.

What to do?
While we may feel need to vent concerning whatever disturbs us, the venting then becomes the central focus of criticism not the issue that concerns us. How we express our concerns is really important because those who disagree with us would like to focus attention away from the actual issue. Sometimes we make that quite easy for them. It's the "kill the messenger" approach and it works quite well, if the messenger provides an easy target.
We've become an emotionally focused culture. We are not generally a context or content focused culture. That creates great difficulty in getting voices heard as context and content driven information tends not be emotionally charged and is often ignored or overlooked. So, our challenge is to appeal to emotion without being ignorant of the greater perspective.
I am advocating a context driven, issue driven, content driven approach to all that we do. It's kind of the non-violent approach to written word, social media posts and "memes". I am an activist and an advocate but I am challenging myself to focus on a "do no harm", non-violent, non-oppressive approach.
I am a great admirer of those I follow who are clear and focused but never cruel in how they approach what they say, what they do or what information they share. They are not shy to share a point of view but very careful in how they share it. As a result of their disciplined approach, they have a seat at the table. Their voices are heard and respected. Slowly and carefully, they are making a significant difference in our communities.
They are looking a year down the road, 5 years down the road and 10 years down the road. They know bridges burned today could be important a year, 5 years or 10 years from today. Being so, they are context focused and context lasts years. Emotion is a flash; here today and gone tomorrow. Emotion evaporates and cannot create a solid foundation on which to build anything.
At best, emotion can generate the passion TO build something. But the hard work begins with the actual building. That require content - substance - something that sustains a foundation.
What do do?
Move beyond emotion and into the content that creates context. Be in it for the long haul. We need a 1 year, 5 year and 10 year approach. In the meantime, do no harm. Vent in private. Build in public. Be known as someone who applauds the positive and recognizes those working hard to create something better. Be known as someone who collaborates and builds bridges without doing harm.
Venting is a slash and burn approach. It sets us up to be slashed and burned. Think long term. Think collaboratively. It requires more discipline but it has greater promise of long term success.

Monday, January 23, 2017


In 1964, a young couple with two small children faced a heart wrenching decision. The wife was terribly ill with a leaky valve in her heart caused by rheumatic fever in her teens. Her weakened heart worked so hard to pump her lifeblood that it had grown to the size of a football. Though she fought to live a normal life, there were times she was so weak, she couldn't hold a plate while washing dishes.
The couple learned she was pregnant and the doctor's cautioned that she could not survive the pregnancy. The doctors were exploring options, rather new, for repairing her heart. There was great hope for her long term survival. She was young and determined. But carrying a child to full term would not be possible, they said.
It was an agonizing life and death decision. They chose life - her life. Together, they chose to preserve her life so she could survive to raise their two children. She was my mother.
Because of their decision, I had just a few more vacations to remember. I had just a few more birthdays and Christmas'.
Several years later as they prepared for the planned heart valve replacement, they performed a very new procedure - a heart catherization - a blood clot formed and broke away, stopped her heart, and she was gone.
In 1964, a young couple with two small children faced a heart wrenching decision with their doctors. They chose life. When I think about the many layers surrounding the abortion issue, I see my mother. I support that young couple making that difficult decision with their doctors. It may mean just a few more precious years. I chose life and their right to choose.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Suck it up"

Debating crowd sizes, who are the biggest hypocrites, or who is the nastiest, is wasted energy.
Without great fanfare, without creating personal drama, simply make your voice heard where it counts. Pay attention to the issues being acted upon in Congress, in State Legislation and in local government. Talk about issues that matter.
Call your congressmen every day at 202-225-3121 and let them know how you feel about specific issues that are being debated and soon come up for vote. Our legislators are not likely following Facebook and Twitter to determine what their constituents want. Emails and signing petitions won't have near the impact that actually calling will have.
Don't worry about the trivial stuff. Get focused and get active. Be clear, concise and respectful. Talk personally with your friends about it. Build informal alliances. Inform one another about what the congressional office had to say.
We saw the first action of the GOP to remove the power of the Ethics Office overturned due to collective outrage expressed by phone to Congress. My guess is that many of those calls included Republicans as well as Democrats.
Much of the anger and frustration felt by people of all political persuasion is due to a feeling of not being heard. The answer is to be heard by the people who are making the political decisions.
Telling me how you feel or what you think has no power at all even if I agree with you. Voting every few years is great but needs to be followed by ensuring your representative is actually acting on your behalf.
Don't "suck it up and shut up"! Suck it up and get focused. Get educated and get actively involved in the conversation. Don't wait to see if they will do a good job. There are important issue on the table.
202-225-3121!!! This is the general number for congress.
If you don't know who your representatives are, tell the operator your zip code. They will connect you to your representatives.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Respect is important....

Respect and being respectful are very important values.
Demanding respect despite very disrespectful acts, words and deeds is not going to happen.
"Just locker room talk" is not a respectable answer to someone boosting that they can grab women with benefit of celebrity status. It is not respectable. I cannot be commanded to respect that person.
Wealth does not command respect. How that person gained their wealth and what they did with the wealth accumulated, could be respectful.
Our sovereignty as a nation is an important value. It is our patriotic duty to protect our nation from intrusion by foreign invasion. I cannot respect Russian interference with our election in ANY way. And I cannot respect anyone who would turn a blind eye or think it is, in any form, acceptable.
For years we have heard the cries of "repeal and replace Obamacare" without a single replacement plan defined. I cannot respect that.
The highest standards of ethics should be the cornerstone of the purity of democracy. We should demand confidence that our elected officials are working for the benefit of their constituencies and not for personal gain. I cannot be commanded to respect anyone who refuses independent scrutiny - Independent Congressional Oversight, A free Press, divestiture of personal business/government relationships. I cannot be demanded to respect that.
Our public education system requires advocates that understand the challenges faced by educators. Education cannot be turned into a profit center or an advocate for religious ideology. I cannot respect anyone who advocates for that.
Respect and being respectful are very important values to me. Respectfully, I challenge the positions listed above. I respectfully challenge our nation to something better. I cannot respect less. I will not respect less. I believe we are better. Let's not lower our standards.
If you want me to respect your authority, my voice must be heard. If you want me to respect your patriotic vision, my full rights as a citizen must be fulfilled. If you want my respect, your ethics and your intentions must be honorable. I will respectfully disagree with your approach to a solution but I will not respect a total disregard for human dignity. I will not respect a disregard for social responsibility. I cannot and will not be commanded to do so. The health, dignity and respect of our country is at stake. I will not lower my standards. I will aspire to be better. I will demand better from our leaders.

The One President I saw in person...

Sometime in 1986, I had the most amazing opportunity to cover a Christian Broadcaster's Press Conference in the East Room of the White House. Yes, dear friends, I was working for a radio station and budding Television Station that was part of the Christian Broadcasting Network in Greencastle, PA. It was an odd and interesting experience. It's a multi-layer story and which part will unfold is happening as I write this.
Of course, I was oddly placed in that job. I understood them much more than they could ever understand me. But it was a good "foot in the door" job right out of college, working at a radio station and doing marketing for a newly developing television station. And, suddenly, I was on my way with the station owners (husband and wife) to cover a press conference with the President of the United States of America - President Reagan.
Of course, I was oddly placed again. I was not a supporter of President Reagan's de-regulation and "trickle down" policies. I had not voted for him. I was skeptical of the Christian Broadcaster's "agenda" and how he wanted to connect. But wait - there's another layer to this story.
We arrived early. Screening for such things was very different then than it is today. We had our letter of invitation but the actual credentialing was at the door. Mr. and Mrs. Station Owner and I signed in. I was soon ushered through, having been honorably discharged with a Top Secret Security clearance in recent years. Shortly after I was seated, Mrs. Station Manager sat beside me. Mr. Station Manager never came in.
The Press Conference began and I was sitting less than 50 feet from President Ronald Reagan! I was in awe. The aura of the room, the dignity of his presence, resonated in me. At the end of the Press Conference I hadn't the foggiest idea of what the purpose was of the event but I was feeling great respect for the occasion of it. AND I was wondering why Mr. Station Owner was not in the room.
Back at the radio station I learned why. It turns out that Mr. Station Owner had been discharged from service as "Section 8" and was not permitted into the Press Conference. Suddenly a lot of crazy experiences I was having while "trying" to work there made sense. I moved on soon after that revelation.
Two morals to this story. Don't assume you're the crazy one.
Second - yes we can respect a president who holds policy positions we oppose IF they represent some semblance of dignity and decency. Once upon a time, I could and did.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Long ago in Spain

Long ago circling for hours I felt aimlessly lost but certain I was near where I needed to be in order to find my way home. Then, suddenly I took a turn and saw an American Flag. I pulled over and cried. Home. I knew my home from here. I was sitting in front of the American Embassy in Madrid, Spain.
Many things happened in those two short years that loom large over my life perspective. There was that moment and the sight of the flag - my point of reference to "home" that day.
There was a rise in anti-American sentiment in those early years of 1980. Once I was with a Mexican American friend near the Plaza Mayor, and fortunately before I could comprehend, he understood the chants of the marchers coming down the street. He pushed me into an alcove and stood in front of me as we watched protesters march while burning an effigy of President Carter. In those moments I felt fear, but in the months to follow I experienced hope as I had opportunities to talk with students in Madrid and hear their questions and concerns. I learned much from those personal encounters.
In Torrejon where I was stationed, there were sections of town that were not American friendly. I loved some of those places because they were "authentically" Spain. Some nearby places exhibited America to be American friendly which is very nice but I sought Spanish culture.  When family visited, I took them into the pure Spanish area of Torrejon. We were surprised by two flat tires when we left the restaurant. This was a frightening situation and it was not solved with local help. Obviously, I live to tell the story.
A few months after the family visit, protests sprouted outside my apartment complex which was about 45% American and the remainder Spanish. They were shooting guns and shouting in the field just across the street from my apartment. I was afraid but again, I live to tell the story.
Then there was the attempted overthrow of the Spanish government. I was on duty as the first AP and UPI stories came across the wire with news that the Spanish Parliament had been attacked by military who appeared to be old Franco loyalists, military leaders, and they claimed to be in charge of the country. At the time, our radio station was the only station with power enough to broadcast throughout the country. As such, part of our training included plans to take the station off the air if anyone tried to take over our airwaves. We were obligated to use an ax to sever the lines to the transmitter - an obligation - a duty - that would kill the person doing it because of the the power lines. We had often joked about the need to learn to accurately throw an ax but that night, the three of us stood knowing one of us might be the one - our engineer, our television technical director and me with radio.
As news hour was approaching, we needed to know if we should run the story. It was late in the evening. Our Senior Managers were all gone for the night. In an odd Franco arrangement, long before as the base was built, NCO and Officer housing was separated by miles from the base. At that time in Spain, having a telephone was a luxury. We were not able to reach our superiors. But we knew any story about Spain had to be confirmed by our Ambassador before we could air it. I made the call and woke him up. He's call me back. Soon he confirmed the story.
Our base was a Spanish Base with a Spanish Commander. We were there as guests. Soon as we looked out the windows we saw that we were surrounded by Spanish Guards. Were they protecting us or were they soon coming in? The station had a security system to limit access but there were windows. There were ways. Was our Spanish commander part of the coup attempt? We settled in for a long night. By morning we knew that our local commander was not part of the coup attempt but we could not leave. Our leaders could not get to us. The roadways between the NCO and Officer housing were blocked. There was a stand off.
For several days we stayed on duty. A few other low ranking staff living on base were eventually able to come and provide relief and support. Enough of the Spanish military command had remained loyal to the existing government (including our Commander) that the coup did not succeed. I was able to return to my apartment, a few miles off base, in time to watch President Juan Carlos tell the nation the coup was over.
There is much about Spain that I loved and I often say if the Air Force had let me stay there, I would still be in the Air Force. (Perhaps holding the record for the longest serving AFRTS broadcaster.) But I also remember shocking things that I hoped would never be part of America. One was the military presence with M16's in airports and many public places. I was there during a peak of Basque Separatist activity in northern regions. It was also a time of great struggle between the authoritarian Francoist segments and the reform socialist segments.
It shaped me. It resonates with me still. I struggle to explain it other than to tell the story.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stand out, Stand up or Stand down?

Over the course of time we learn who will Stand out, Stand up, or Stand down in our lives and in our community. There is a great mixture. Some who stood up, stand out because they stood down. Some who stand out are those who stood up. Some stand out because they knew when to stand up and when to stand down.
We remember those who stood out for some reason - up or down. We remember the big idea people. When someone is offering a new idea, we often remember the big idea people that stand out but went down. Any time I hear "somebody should," I am full of questions. Why? Who? How? When I hear "nobody is", I ask Why not? How? Who? It stands out because they stood up to raise the issue.
Ideas are the lifeblood. Ideas are so very valuable but only so if they are properly nurtured. That's the vision. It is crucial but no idea takes flight without wings. Why? Who? How? What? Where? When?
The most significant things have happened when someone stood up, stood out and did not stand down. They stood steadfast. They made a path. They drew followers. The path grew. Stand up. Stand out. Then lead the march. Let others stand out and stand up. What always stands out is what lifted us all the most.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunshine, water and fertilizer

Think about a major project you took on or a major achievement in your life and consider what you didn't know when you started. If you knew all the roadblocks that you would face, if you knew about the setbacks, the challenges, and the "failure" that perhaps came, could you do it again? Would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, could you have done it better or differently?
Always when we start something new, we don't know what we don't know. When we watch others, we are often tempted to point out the flaws in what they are doing but we aren't so quick to accept what others may see as flaws in what we do. We know what we know. We believe what we want to believe.
The people who have achieved the greatest success in the world defied conventional wisdom and created a completely new path. That doesn't mean they ignored everyone around them. They used what they had to chart uncharted waters. They went into a wilderness. They imagined something totally new and different. They somehow overcame the devastating effect that being wrong a lot can create. They did not quit.
But it's more than not quitting. It's about finding the right balance for the garden to grow. The garden needs seeds, warmth and sunshine, water to sustain, and fertilizer for growth and expansion. Your project needs these three ingredients to succeed.
The seed is the idea. An idea is worth absolutely nothing without warmth and sunshine, water and fertilizer. A seed - an idea - dies without those. A seed can do nothing on its own. All the other things - sunshine, water and fertilizer - grow nothing without the seed. A seed is the most magical ingredient. But don't get too egotistical about a seed. A seed is nothing without sunshine, water and fertilizer. It's the tiny part of the garden process. The rest requires real work.
Plant that seed. Then give it warmth and sunshine.
The warmth and sunshine are the passion and inspiration. GROW SEED GROW. This is the hope but hope must continue throughout the life of the nurtured seed. Passion and inspiration have to continue through the life of the project. Warmth and sunshine are always part of the lifeline. No project - no seed - will continue to grow without it.
Water is the day to day discipline. It's the invisible and clear sustainable thing that all projects require. It's the timing and the ebb and flow - just enough and not too much - routine of things. Give enough to grow and not too much to drown. While the sunshine - vision - steers and guides - the water weaves its path gently and drives the course of the current. Too much water will wash a garden away. Discipline - ebb and flow - easy course - is the answer.
The fertilizer is underground "shit". It's the quick jolt of energy needed to provide long term results. This is the PH balance of your project. Get that just right and the seedling is very happy. Overdo it and it can burn out the entire garden and no amount of sunshine or water able to overcome it. Be very careful with fertilizer. That can be start up cash, quick infusions of cash, investment in high cost staff, or any other high energy investment meant to jump start a project. Be careful handling fertilizer. It's very important. If you want your garden to grow, you have to add it. But just like too much sunshine and water, it can kill a garden.
Finally, not every seed in your garden requires the same amount of sunshine, water and fertilizer. They each have their own needs. They each have their own balance. The garden you grew some other place will have different balance in a new place. Seasons will teach you. Time will help you. Listen. Hear. Touch. See. And don't be afraid to learn what you don't know. None of us knows what we don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will you March?

Throughout our lifetimes we see historic moments unfold. . I was an observer. I remember the watching the aftermath of the Kennedy Assassination. I remember watching the news and seeing the footage of the civil rights movement as it was unfolding in the late 60's. I remember. I remember watching the news stories of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, of Robert Kennedy, of Harvey Milks. I remember.
I remember the the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist marches of the 70's seeking women's equality. I remember. I remember why Roe Vs Wade was important. I remember why Planned Parenthood mattered. I remember.
I remember the Stone Wall Riots. I remember the decade sthat followed and the transformative years I experienced with many others. I remember.
In terms of civil rights, women's rights and LGBT rights, - ANY "minority rights" - the supposed majority most wants to silence the voices. We need to UNITE! We need to unite around the central issue of being heard. It's WOMEN who can make that difference because we are not actually a minority or an actually minority voice. We can - we CAN - lead the charge toward a better way. We have a majority. We actually have greater power. We need to use it now more than ever. We remember. We know. We have great potential for influence. This is our time.
I will march with women. It's time to march. It's time to share our collective memory.
I did not march for civil rights. I was a little too young. I did not march for women's rights - again a little too young and timid. I did not march for LGBT rights - again too timid. NOW I want to march for all. I will March. I will March.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Replace ACA with Health Care Savings accounts?

A recent article reported that Paul Ryan has proposed Health Care Savings accounts as an option to the Affordable Care Act. We would all simply put money in the HCS and self pay for medical care. Absent a detailed explanation for how this would work, I can only draw from my own experience and analysis.
At work, we had an option for using an HCS. We could allocate an amount to put in the account each month and it was a yearly commitment. That seemed like a good idea. It could be used for out of pocket medical expenses, such as co-pays, over the counter medicines, prescriptions and such. The benefits were 1) it was deducted before taxes 2) Once I set the amount to be collected for the year, that amount of money was available right away. So, if I needed $300 in January but had only put in $100 so far, it wasn't a problem. I had a special debit card to use so if it was a qualifying expense, I could just use that card.
But then it became very complicated to use. Even if I obviously used the card at a doctor's office or pharmacy where they could see exactly what the card paid for, I had to submit paperwork within 30 days.  If they questioned the paperwork, they froze the card. But, of course, they still kept collecting the money from my paycheck each month. Then, at the end of the year, if I didn't use all the money collected, it wasn't returned to me nor was it rolled over into the next year. Some mysterious entity kept the money.
The first year it worked pretty well and I used every bit that I had put in the account. The second year, things got weird and it didn't work the same as the first year. I lost about $500. I never used the Health Savings Account again.
I cannot imagine putting enough money in a Health Savings Account to be able pay for any major health issue. My experience leaves me with a boat load of questions about how this could possibly work. Those of us who are older with higher risk of catastrophic illness would need to put a LOT of money in an HCS account each month. Those of us who are younger feel indestructible and cannot imagine even needing a Health Care Account. And what about people who already have a serious medical condition that would require much more savings than could possibly be put into an account each year? If, as I experienced, somehow the money wasn't used (perhaps due to odd restrictions) who gets the money?
If anyone has a link to a detailed explanation of this proposal, I'd be very interested in reading it. It sounds like a great plan for wealthy people and for those believing they are indestructible. It could be a GREAT plan for those administering the funds. It makes no sense at all to me in terms of a health care solution. It makes a lot of sense to me as a money making plan for someone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Create a Wave!

The first action of the new congress is clear sign of what's to come. Attempting to take over the independent ethics board is a very clear sign. What happened next is a very clear sign as well. As we see action by this congress that is not in line with our will, we need to act and act fast. We need to call our congressional offices. We need to show up. We need to let them know how we feel about every action they take.
Perhaps this election is a wake up call letting us know that's it's not enough to go the polls and vote, then let the legislators have their way. We need to be engaged. We need to ask questions. We need to let them know how we want them to vote on every single issue. If we don't like how they voted, we need to let them know.
If you're aware of an upcoming vote or one that just happened - share it. If you plan to go to a congressional office express your opinion, enlist some like minded people to go with you. Be polite. Be specific. Be factual. BE ENGAGED!
Don't broadcast what you're doing. Be strategic and specific. Build coalitions. Create a wave.
It will work.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Our Collective Survival

"Conservative" friends and family offer much inspiration. It's important to pay attention to what they are saying and try to gain an understanding of how they think.
Here are a few of my observations:
"Conservative" people tend to be very nostalgic believing that the best is past. They seem to be more focused on getting "back" to a better time.
"Conservative" people tend to be more resistant to change. They view change with suspicion and look for the down side.
"Conservative" people tend to be focused on survival of the fittest rather than efforts for a common good.
Nostalgia, suspicion and a survival focus are not necessarily bad things. Those of us who love building something new, overlook risks and see survival as a common goal, need to find a way to engage with the best our "Conservative" friends have to offer. I'm certain there is a way to bridge these gaps.
Smiling as I write this; it's the liberal, optimist, risk taker in me that drives me to want to try. Our collective survival depends on it.