April is National Poetry Month 2014 — are you ready?

March 27, 2014

If you ask me, we don’t have enough poetry in our lives.

In bygone times, newspapers carried poems almost daily.  Magazines carried poems in every issue, but today you find fewer poems published in fewer magazines — can you name the periodical publication in which you last saw a poem that caught your eye, or heart?

National Poetry Month poster for 2006

National Poetry Month poster for 2006. Click image for a larger, more inspirational view.

Rhyme and meter power their way into our minds.  Teachers who use poetry find lessons stick longer with students.

Shouldn’t we use a lot more?

Since 1996, several groups including the Academy of American Poets have celebrated National Poetry Month in April.  There are posters,and of course April is a month with several poems to its creditPaul Revere’s Ride, The Concord Hymn, To a Lady with a Guitar, An April Day, The Waste Land, and several poems just about April as a month.

It’s a good time to beef up our poetry tool boxes, if we are managers of organizations, or teachers, or parents, or human.

Poetry lovers gave thought to how to do that, and there are many good recommendations out there.  For example, from Poetry.org, 30 activities for National Poetry Month 2014:

30 Ways to Celebrate

Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day
The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with co-workers, family, and friends.
Read a book of poetry
“Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”
Memorize a poem
“Getting a poem or prose passage truly ‘by heart’ implies getting it by mind and memory and understanding and delight.”
Revisit a poem
“America is a country of second acts, so today, why not brush the dust off these classics and give them a fresh read?”
Put poetry in an unexpected place
“Books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities.”
Bring a poem to your place of worship
“We define poetry as the unofficial view of being, and bringing the art of language in contact with your spiritual practices can deepen both.”
Attend a poetry reading
“Readings have been occurring for decades around the world in universities, bookstores, cafes, corner pubs, and coffeehouses.”
Play Exquisite Corpse
“Each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem.”
Read a poem at an open mic
“It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local writing community.”
Support literary organizations
“Many national and local literary organizations offer programs that reach out to the general public to broaden the recognition of poets and their work.”
Listen on your commute
“Often, hearing an author read their own work can clarify questions surrounding their work’s tone.”
Subscribe to a literary magazine
“Full of surprising and challenging poetry, short fiction, interviews, and reviews, literary journals are at the forefront of contemporary poetry.”
Start a notebook on Poets.org
“Poets.org lets users build their own personal portable online commonplace book out of the materials on our site.”
Put a poem in a letter
“It’s always a treat to get a letter, but finding a poem in the envelope makes the experience extra special.”
Watch a poetry movie
“What better time than National Poetry Month to gather some friends, watch a poetry-related movie, and perhaps discuss some of the poet’s work after the film?”

.

Take a poem out to lunch
Adding a poem to lunch puts some poetry in your day and gives you something great to read while you eat.”
Put a poem on the pavement
“Go one step beyond hopscotch squares and write a poem in chalk on your sidewalk.”
Recite a poem to family and friends
“You can use holidays or birthdays as an opportunity to celebrate with a poem that is dear to you, or one that reminds you of the season.”
Organize a poetry reading
“When looking for a venue, consider your local library, coffee shop, bookstore, art gallery, bar or performance space.”
Promote public support for poetry
“Every year, Congress decides how much money will be given to the National Endowment for the Arts to be distributed all across America.”
Start a poetry reading group
“Select books that would engage discussion and not intimidate the reader new to poetry.”
Read interviews and literary criticism
“Reading reviews can also be a helpful exercise and lend direction to your future reading.”
Buy a book of poems for your library
“Many libraries have undergone or are facing severe cuts in funding. These cuts are often made manifest on library shelves.”
Start a commonplace book
“Since the Renaissance, devoted readers have been copying their favorite poems and quotations into notebooks to form their own personal anthologies called commonplace books.”
Integrate poetry with technology
“Many email programs allow you to create personalized signatures that are automatically added to the end of every email you send.”
Ask the Post Office for more poet stamps
“To be eligible, suggested poets must have been deceased for at least ten years and must be American or of American descent.”
Sign up for a poetry class or workshop
“Colleges and arts centers often make individual courses in literature and writing available to the general public.”
Subscribe to our free newsletter
“Short and to the point, the Poets.org Update, our electronic newsletter, will keep you informed on Academy news and events.”
Write a letter to a poet
“Let the poets who you are reading know that you appreciate their work by sending them a letter.”
Visit a poetry landmark
“Visiting physical spaces associated with a favorite writer is a memorable way to pay homage to their life and work.”

How will you use National Poetry Month in your classroom, teachers?  And by “teachers, ” I mean you, math teachers, social studies teachers, phys ed teachers, biology and chemistry teachers.  You don’t use poetry?  No wonder America lags in those subjects . . .

What’s do you remember about your teachers’ use of poetry in learning?

What’s your favorite poem?

More:


John Wooden’s favorite poems: They ask me why I teach

February 14, 2014

I played high school football.  Untalented in virtually every other sport, I kept my place in 6th Period Athletics working with the basketball team, keeping statistics and keeping the official score book when we traveled. That was in the era when UCLA’s basketball team dominated the NCAA championships (save for 1966, when Texas Western managed to sneak out of the west and take the title from Kentucky . . . a story for another occasion).  I cannot count the times coaches discussed the wizardry of the coach at UCLA, who seemed to be able to weave a winning team from any talent.

Our basketball team had some great talents — Stan Crump, Clark Hansen, Jim Brock, Steve Whitehead, Craig Davis and Parke Hansen come to mind.  But we played up a level in our league play, and rarely won.  Injuries kept the five I named from playing together in any one game through their last season.  Our football coach used to say you win games, or you build character.  We built a lot of character.

In our junior year, we got a new wrestling coach who followed many of the tenets of John Wooden — and the wrestling team won the state championship in our senior year.  Mark Sanderson led the team; his younger brother Steve Sanderson followed him, adopted winning ways, and went on to father the great Sanderson wrestlers out of Heber, Utah.  Winning can be contagious when solid teaching meets young talent.

John Wooden

John Wooden

Years later, when I consulted with corporations, especially on quality and excellence in performance. I often came across framed quotations from John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach.  His words on getting great performance rang true with crew bosses, executives and everybody in between.

In a meeting on the importance of elders in a church congregation, national church officials referred back to the dramatic testimony from people in a California church, who swore an elder in their church had turned their lives around.  John Wooden was that elder.

How does a guy get so good, and say stuff that is so applicable to peak performance coaching in several different areas?

There’s a new book out on the coach, John Wooden: A Coach’s Life,  by Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis.   Charlie Rose interviewed the author tonight.  At the close, Rose showed a clip of Wooden being interviewed with Bill Walton and Bill Russell; Walton talked about how he’d been inspired by a visit to the Vietnam Memorial with Wooden, and the poetry Wooden recited from memory on that occasion.  Past the age of 90, Wooden recited the poems again.

This one is about teachers:

THEY ASK ME WHY I TEACH

They ask me why I teach,
And I reply,
Where could I find more splendid company?
There sits a statesman,
Strong, unbiased, wise,
Another later Webster,
Silver-tongued,
And there a doctor
Whose quick, steady hand
Can mend a bone,
Or stem the lifeblood’s flow.
A builder sits beside him-
Upward rise
The arches of a church he builds, wherein
That minister will speak the word of God,
And lead a stumbling soul to toach the Christ.
And all about
A lesser gathering
Of farmer, merchants, teachers,
Laborers, men
Who work and vote and build
And plan and pray
Into a great tomorrow
And I say,
“I may not see the church,
Or hear the word,
Or eat the food their hands will grow.”
And yet- I may.
And later I may say,
“I knew the lad,
And he was strong,
Or weak, or kind, or proud,
Or bold, or gay.
I knew him once,
But then he was a boy.”

Author of the poem, Glennice L. Harmon

Glennice L. Harmon, author of the poem, “They Ask Me Why I Teach”

They ask me why I teach, and I reply,
“Where could I find more splendid company?”

*  They Ask Me Why I Teach,” by Glennice L. Harmon, in NEA Journal 37, no. 1 (September 1948): 375

Why do you teach?

More:


Quote of the Moment, October 29, 1941: Churchill, ‘never give in’

October 29, 2013

 Churchill speaking at the Albert Hall in London, 1944, at an American Thanksgiving Celebration.  Churchill Centre image

Churchill speaking at the Albert Hall in London, 1944, at an American Thanksgiving Celebration. Churchill Centre image

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense!

Winston S. Churchill, address to the boys of Harrow School, October 29, 1941.

More:

This is much an encore post, from 2007, with material added.

 


What would a Boy Scout do in this situation?

June 25, 2013

This parallels my experience:

How about your experience with Boy Scouts?

Have you seen this PSA on television stations in your town?  Call the stations, ask when they run it.

More:


Quote of the moment: Eisenhower’s astonishing D-Day leadership example, “Blame . . . is mine alone”

June 6, 2013

Eisenhower's unused statement on the failure of D-Day

Eisenhower’s contingency statement, in case D-Day failed – image from the National Archives

This quote actually isn’t a quote. It was never said by the man who wrote it down to say it. It carries a powerful lesson because of what it is.

In preparing for the D-Day invasion, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower carefully contemplated what would happen if the invasion failed.  What if the Germans repulsed the Allies, and no foothold was established to re-take the main body of Europe from the Germans?

Ike’s answer is a model of leadership:  He would take the blame.  Regardless what happened, Ike took full responsibility for the failure, giving credit to the soldiers who would have sacrificed in vain, perhaps their lives.

The Bathtub recently posted Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s “order of the day” to the troops about to conduct the Allied invasion of Normandy — D-Day — to establish the toehold in Europe the Allies needed to march to Berlin, and to end World War II in Europe. As a charge to the troops, it was okay — Eisenhower-style words, not Churchill-style, but effective enough. One measure of its effectiveness was the success of the invasion, which established the toe-hold from which the assaults on the Third Reich were made.

eisenhower-with-paratrooper-eve-of-d-day.jpg

Photo shows Eisenhower meeting with troops of the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, on the eve of the invasion. It was these men whose courage he lauded.

When Eisenhower wrote his words of encouragement to the troops, and especially after he visited with some of the troops, he worried about the success of the operation. It was a great gamble. Many of the things the Allies needed to go right — like weather — had gone wrong. Victory was not assured. Defeat strode the beaches of Normandy waiting to drive the Allies back into the water, to die.

Eisenhower wrote a second statement, a shorter one. This one was directed to the world. It assumed the assault had failed. In a few short sentences, Eisenhower commended the courage and commitment of the troops who, he wrote, had done all they could. The invasion was a chance, a good chance based on the best intelligence the Allies had, Eisenhower wrote. But it had failed.

The failure, Eisenhower wrote, was not the fault of the troops, but was entirely Eisenhower’s.

He didn’t blame the weather, though he could have. He didn’t blame fatigue of the troops, though they were tired, some simply from drilling, many from war. He didn’t blame the superior field position of the Germans, though the Germans clearly had the upper hand. He didn’t blame the almost-bizarre attempts to use technology that look almost clownish in retrospect — the gliders that carried troops behind the lines, sometimes too far, sometimes killing the pilots when the gliders’ cargo shifted on landing;  the flotation devices that were supposed to float tanks to the beaches to provide cover for the troops (but which failed, drowning the tank crews and leaving the foot soldiers on their own); the bombing of the forts and pillboxes on the beaches, which failed because the bombers could not see their targets through the clouds.

There may have been a plan B, but in the event of failure, Eisenhower was prepared to establish who was accountable, whose head should roll if anyone’s should.

Eisenhower took full responsibility.

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Who in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?  Who else in history would have written such a thing?  Is there any indication that Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, or any other commander of a great army in  a world-turning invasion, considered how to save and perhaps salve the reputation of his troops, though they had failed?

Leadership is more than just positive thinking.

  • The message may also be viewed here. Yes, it’s incorrectly dated July 5 — should have been June 5.  In history, little is perfect.  We can excuse his slip of the pen, considering what he had on his mind.

This is much of an encore post.

More:

General Eisenhower speaks with members of the ...

Another  angle of the meeting with the troops:  General Eisenhower speaks with members of the 101st Airborne Division on the evening of 5 June 1944.  Wikipedia image


Quote of the moment: Reorganization creates illusion of progress, and demoralization – Charlton Ogburn

May 31, 2013

Historian and birder Charlton Ogburn, right.

Historian and birder Charlton Ogburn, right.

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

This quotation is often misattributed to one Greek philosopher or another, or to the Roman Petronius.

Cover of "The Marauders"

Cover of The Marauders

Ogburn’s magazine article became the basis for his book, The Marauders. In turn, that was the basis for a movie, Merrill’s Marauders.  In the book, the quote is different:

As a result, I suppose, of high-level changes of mind about how we were to be used, we went though several reorganizations. Perhaps because Americans as a nation have a gift for organizing, we tend to meet any new situation by reorganization, and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress at the mere cost of confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.

  • The Marauders (1959), chapter 2, page 60 (attributed)

My old friend Frank Hewlett had been a correspondent in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, including Burma, during World War II.  Frank told me that he had been the first to call the American group “Merrill’s Marauders” in a war news dispatch on the progress the group made.  He did not get any credit for the book or movie title, but he said it was great that any group of soldiers that worked that well got popular attention for their work.  I’ve never found Hewlett’s dispatches from that period, but I’ve never found anything else he told me to be inaccurate.

In serious corporate reorganizations, or in corporate culture change operations, this quote is usually trotted out in opposition to whatever the proposed change may be.  Generally reorganizers will dismiss the thing as fictional, in at least one case claiming that renegade corporate leader Bob Townsend made it up.

In our work at Committing to Leadership at American Airlines, CEO Bob Crandall actually read the full quote (misattributed at the time), and observed that it was probably true — but not a good reason to stop a needed reorganization.  Crandall pointed to the last sentence, and said that a good manager’s job is to make sure that reorganization creates real success, not just an illusion of action, and that any good manager will recognize that reorganizations offer the danger of demoralization and confusion.  Those are problems to be managed, Crandall said, not fates that cannot be avoided.

Do you find Ogburn’s snippet of wisdom to be true? So what?

More:

Merrill's Marauders (film)

Advertising poster for Merrill’s Marauders; Wikipedia image


Video profile in courage: Gay Mormon comes out

March 3, 2013

Jimmy Lee Hales had news for his family, friends, mission companions, and a few others:

He seems to be handling things rather well, considering.  Surprisingly, so are others around him handling it well.

Jimmy Hales's self portrait, as he noted,

Jimmy Hales’s self portrait, as he noted, “Taken at location 40°28’44.16″N 111°35’2.45″W.” Gay Mormons may find it helpful to be extroverted.

Credits and more information from Hales:

Published on Feb 19, 2013

Studying at BYU as a closet gay Mormon has been quite an experience. I finally decided to come out and stop living a lie. I’m still, and will forever be, a faithful Mormon. While some gay Mormons still marry someone of the opposite sex, I do not see myself doing this. I will remain celibate and do not plan to marry.

Read more about my experience of coming out at my personal blog:
http://jimmyleehales.blogspot.com/201…

Link to my sister’s channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonsBe…

Mormon Church’s official site:
http://www.mormonsandgays.com

● Twitter: https://twitter.com/JimmyHales
● Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FacetiousFac…

Featuring
Jimmy Hales ————- Myself (Gay Mormon)
Ian Collins —————- Roommate #1
Buddy Lindsey ———- Life Long Best Friend
Christy Buhr ————- Sister
Chloe Ith ——————- BFF
Khanh Le —————— Roommate #2
Tracy Cope ————— My Mom
Kei Ikeda —————— College Best Bud
Janelle Jiang ————– College Friend
Richard McDonald ——- High School Bro
Jonny Liu —————— Mission Companion
Dallin Hales ————— Brother
Lucy Lu ——————– College Friend

–Tech Info–
Shot with a Canon T2i 550D
Audio captured with a Zoom H4n
Visual effects done in Adobe After Effects
Edited in Adobe Premiere
Audio edited in Avid Pro Tools
Green screen & lights purchased at ePhotoInc
Music done by Jimmy Hales
All editing done by Jimmy Hales
————-

My G-day has arrived.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Upworthy.

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Boy Scout membership standards decision delayed for more discussion

February 6, 2013

Dallas’s Circle 10 Council, BSA, issued this statement from Council Chief Executive Pat Currie, about the discussion of changes in BSA membership policies. FYI.

BSA - Circle Ten Council logo - 550 px wide

February 6, 2013

Dear Circle Ten Family,

We appreciate your participation and support of Scouting as we help equip children with the life skills to become a good, strong citizen. This year we will celebrate Circle Ten’s 100th anniversary, and our focus has remained the same, working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. I would also like to take this opportunity to update you on the recent discussions within the Scouting family regarding our membership standards policy.

After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.

To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013.

America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our kids. We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth.

Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us. Be a part of this discussion by staying engaged and continuing your role in Scouting. The kids in your community need you.

Sincerely,

Pat

Pat Currie
Scout Executive/CEO
Circle Ten Council, Boy Scouts of America


Odd juxtaposition of images — but it gives me some hope

January 29, 2013

A great photo from Pete Souza, the current White House photographer.  I’m hoping to track down I’ve tracked down even more details on this, because not all sources like to post all the credit information or other stuff a newspaper or blog should have . . .

Pete Souza photo, lunch in the White House, Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell

Photo of a lunch in an anteroom of the President’s office, with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Consolidated News published the photo for its clients with this information:

United States President Barack Obama has lunch with members of the Congressional Leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, May 16, 2012. The President served hoagies from Taylor Gourmet, which he purchased after a small business roundtable earlier in the day. Seated, clockwise from the President, are: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada), U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican of Kentucky), U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat of California), and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Republican of Ohio)..Mandatory Credit: Pete Souza – White House via CNP

At least we know where to get sandwiches like that, now. (Here’s the photo in the White House Flickr set.)

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield; oil on canvas by Aaron Shikler, 1978;  photo of painting from Wikipedia

Way back in the Early Holocene, when I first interned with the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, held a close friendship with Sen. George Aiken, R-Vermont.  Many mornings they breakfasted together in the staff carry-out in the basement of the Capitol; their wives were friends, too.  One morning we got a question on some hot political issue at the Democratic Policy Committee (where I shared the best office I ever had in the third floor of the Capitol); I was dispatched to find Mansfield at breakfast and get an answer.  I found him dining with Aiken.

I forget the issue, but it was highly politically charged, something about policy on Vietnam.  Republicans and Democrats were much at war on the issue.  Mansfield read the note, and showed it to Aiken.  They discussed the issue while Mansfield penned an answer and handed it to me.  No big deal — two senators dealing with an important issue, talking it over.

When I joined Senate staff in a permanent position, life was much different among the senators.  The easy camradery between Mansfield and Aiken couldn’t be found anywhere.  That was in the late 1970s.  Partisanship was much sharper and nastier than I had seen earlier.  Vietnam was over, and that was probably a good thing.  The divisiveness I found would not have lent itself to any resolution of Vietnam.

At the RARE II conference at the University of Montana, in 1978, I heard a presentation from a staffer to Montana’s Sen. Paul Hatfield, if I recall correctly, a guy who had staffed for Sen. Lee Metcalf before.  He described the difficulties in getting serious legislation done on public lands issues.  As he described it, especially before the installation of air conditioning in the Capitol, the Senate would recess for the insufferable summer heat.  Senators, who had developed working relationships, if not friendships, would visit each other in their home states, for hunting and sight-seeing, among other things.  A Montana senator might show his colleague from Vermont how different the Rocky Mountains are from the Appalachians.  A Louisana senator might show his colleagues from western states how different is flood control on the Mississippi than on the Colorado or Sacramento, or Columbia.  By the time the Senate got back to business in the fall, legislation had been worked out, key alliances formed to get things done for various states, and though opposition was expressed to many projects, it was genuine difference of opinion expressed to friends.

That’s gone.  In 2013, it’s rare a Member of Congress can develop those kinds of relationships with other Members, especially with the fund-raising requirements for re-election.  Members travel back to their states and districts as many weekends as they can; they get to know their staff on each end, but they don’t know the other senators, or members of Congress.

President Warren G. Harding doesn’t have a reputation as a great president; but his poker parties were famous.  Lyndon Johnson didn’t play poker a lot (though I understand he did on occasion), but his presidency’s record in photographs show that he invited Members of Congress individually for afternoon meetings, often punctuated with a drink, always slathered in business and the potential for favors or arm-twisting.  Those sessions are legendary for the legislation they greased into law.

When I saw that photo at the top, I was put in mind of another famous image.

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want

Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Freedom from Want,” part of a quartet based on the Four Freedoms State of the Union Speech of Franklin Roosevelt, in January 1941.

Did Souza have that Rockwell painting in mind when he framed that shot?

Rockwell’s work was more than just iconic, really.  In the simple history, from Wikipedia:

The Four Freedoms or Four Essential Human Freedoms is a series of oil paintings produced in 1943 by the American artist Norman Rockwell. The paintings are approximately equal in dimension with measurements of 45.75 inches (116.2 cm) × 35.5 inches (90 cm).[1] The series, now in the Norman Rockwell Museum, was made for reproduction in The Saturday Evening Post over the course of four consecutive weeks in 1943 alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day. Later they were the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post and the United States Department of the Treasury. The touring exhibition and accompanying sales drives raised over US$132 million in the sale of war bonds.[2]

The Four Freedoms theme was derived from the 1941 State of the Union Address by United States President Franklin Roosevelt delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941.[3] During the speech he identified four essential human rights (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want and Freedom From Fear) that should be universally protected and should serve as a reminder of the American motivation for fighting in World War II.[4]

The theme was incorporated into the Atlantic Charter,[5] and it became part of the charter of the United Nations.[6] Roosevelt’s message was as follows: “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”[3][7]

Torpedo sandwiches from Taylor’s don’t exactly make a Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s not the point.  Rockwell portrayed an American family — at Thanksgiving, perhaps — sitting down to enjoy dinner together, breaking bread together as a Christian preacher might put it in a sermon.  President Johnson famously invited, “Come, let us reason together.”  Around Obama’s smaller-than-Rockwell’s table, the smiles are not so evident.  But I still see hope.

I see some hope for friendship, for the relationships that might move legislation, for the legislation that might move the nation.  God and Norman Rockwell know we could use it.

We can hope, can’t we?

More, perhaps related:


Parkland Hosptial weathered the crises – November 27, 1963

November 27, 2012

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins* wrote a piece for the Dallas Morning News, published November 25, 2012, describing the qualities he hopes the search committee will find in a new leader for Dallas County’s massive medical care institution, Parkland Hospital“Parkland needs an inspiring servant leader.”

Parkland Hospital, Dallas - Dallas Business Journal image

Parkland Hospital, Dallas – Dallas Business Journal image

For more than a decade the hospital has been hammered by a massive load of charity cases, including tens of thousands of people forced to used the emergency room for primary care because they cannot get into the health care system in other ways.  Such crowds, such budget pressures, such pressures on staff, force mistakes.  Parkland has not been immune.

Parkland emergency room wait times for non-critical care are legendary.  I’ve had students miss most of a week waiting for care there.  At the same time, I’ve had students return to class in what I considered record time after being patched up from problematic baby deliveries, auto accidents, and gunshot wounds.

Problems in billing and record keeping for Medicaid and Medicare forced the resignation of a long-time hospital director.  Much of the past two years have been crisis mode for the hospital, laboring frantically not to lose its federal funding (Dallas County underfunds the hospital as a matter of tax-restraint policy).

Friends tell me morale is not great.

I stumbled into this letter at a great site for historical items, Letter of Note.  In times of crisis, those appointed or anointed to lead may do several things to rally workers to do their best, to carry an institution through the tough times.

I wager this letter, in 1963, did more to build Parkland Hospital as a quality institution than all the audits, investigations, and exhortations to abide by federal policy and stop losing money, in the past decade.  What do you think?

November 27, 1963, was less than a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died in a Parkland operating room, the wounding of Texas Gov. John Connally, who was operated on in another operating room, and the shooting of presumed assassin Lee H. Oswald, who also got care at Parkland at his death.

We were not found wanting, thank you letter to employees of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Nov. 27, 1963

We were not found wanting, thank you letter to employees of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Nov. 27, 1963; (Source: Dallas Observer; Image via Wired.) (Click for larger image)

Transcript, from the Dallas Observer, via Wired, via Letters of Note:

Transcript [links added here]

DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT
Office Memorandum
November 27, 1963

To: All Employees

At 12:38 p.m., Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Texas’ Governor John Connally were brought to the Emergency Room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being struck down by the bullets of an assassin.

At 1:07 p.m., Sunday, November 24, 1963, Lee. H. Oswald, accused assassin of the late president, died in an operating room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being shot by a bystander in the basement of Dallas’ City Hall. In the intervening 48 hours and 31 minutes Parkland Memorial Hospital had:

1. Become the temporary seat of the government of the United States.

2. Become the temporary seat of the government of the State of Texas.

3. Become the site of the death of the 35th President.

4. Become the site of the ascendency of the 36th President.

5. Become site of the death of President Kennedy’s accused assassin.

6. Twice become the center of the attention of the world.

7. Continued to function at close to normal pace as a large charity hospital.

What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgement is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.

(Signed)

C. J. Price
Administrator

The people of Parkland Hospital in 2012 will bring it through the current, slower series of jolting events, I predict.

When that happens, will the administrator think to thank them?

More:

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* In Texas, the lead commissioner in the county commissions is called “judge.”  To distinguish between this executive branch judge and court judges, judges of courts are usually identified by the court in which they preside.  Clay Jenkins is the leader of the Dallas County Commission.


Robert Townsend, Up the Organization

October 30, 2012

Web 2.0 asked for recommendations for books on leadership.  I’m sure I swamped them.

One that almost no one today has read should be required reading of every new school principal, and any principal who hasn’t read it yet:  Robert Townsend‘s Up the Organization.  It’s a great book, with very short chapters — each chapter can be consumed within ten minutes.  It’s also loaded with the kind of leadership advice that seems to be beaten out of education “leaders” before they ever get close to a real position of leadership.

I found a blog, LeadingBlog, probably a commercial outlet for a consulting organization, that mentioned the 2007 reissue of the book and carried several pithy quotes from it.  Heck, if most principals practiced just these few points of leadership, their faculties would be astonished.

Up the Organization

Up the Organization

Cover of Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits

Jossey-Bass has released a commemorative edition of Robert Townsend’s (1920-1998) leadership classic, Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits. Originally published in 1970, this candid and provocative book deserves to be re-read every year. Here’s a sample of Townsend’s straightforward and practical advice:

On People: Why spend all that money and time on the selection of people when the people you’ve got are breaking down from under-use. Get to know your people. What they do well, what they enjoy doing, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and what they want and need to get from their job. And then try to create an organization around your people, not jam your people into those organization-chart rectangles.

On Delegation: Many people give lip service, but few delegate authority in important matters. And that means all they delegate is dog-work. A real leader does as much dog-work for his people as he can: he can do it, or see a way to do without it, ten times as fast. And he delegates as many important matters as he can because that creates a climate in which people grow.

On Leadership: True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders. In combat, officers eat last. Most people in big companies today are administered, not led. They are treated as personnel, not people.

On Rewards: Rewarding outstanding performance is important. Much more neglected is the equally important need to make sure that the underachievers don’t get rewarded. This is more painful, so it doesn’t get done very often.

AVISOn Compromise:Compromise is usually bad. It should be a last resort. If two departments or divisions have a problem they can’t solve and it comes up to you, listen to both sides and then, unlike Solomon, pick one or the other. This places solid accountability on the winner to make it work.

Robert Townsend served as the president and chairman of Avis Rent-a-Car from 1962 to 1965 during its celebrated turnaround. You may remember the infamous the “We Try Harder” advertising campaign that helped to transform it into a world-class organization.

See if you can find the book in your school or local library.


We stopped dreaming: Tyson reprise on science policy and spending

October 18, 2012

A more melodic take on Neil de Grasse Tyson‘s “we stopped dreaming” statement:

“We went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth.”

Description from the YouTube site, by Evan Schuur:

The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.

Sign the petition!: http://www.penny4nasa.org/petition
Follow @Penny4NASA1 and like on Facebook!

Episode 1:
http://youtu.be/CbIZU8cQWXc
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.

MUSIC: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/samskeyti-acoustic/id452812943?i=452813003

Credits
The Space Foundation http://www.spacefoundation.org/
NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
HDNET http://www.hd.net/
SpaceX http://www.spacex.com/
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/nasa.html
Disneynature: Earth http://disney.go.com/disneynature/earth/
Planet Earth http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/planet-earth/
HOME Project http://www.youtube.com/user/homeproject
User WolfEchoes http://www.youtube.com/user/WolfEchoes?ob=0
European Southern Observatory http://www.eso.org

Is NASA a handout, or an investment?  What do you think?

If a politician tells you that he or she thinks we cannot afford NASA, doesn’t it strike you that the person does not really understand what the United States is all about?  Doesn’t it make you wonder how they ever got to Congress, or why they should stay there?

More: 

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia photo)


Shutting teachers out of the education conversations, a national pathology – can Dallas avoid it?

September 26, 2012

 

Have you noticed, and has it bothered you, that many of the major discussions about what to do to help education shut out teachers?

This is nothing new.  As Director of Information Services at the old Office of Educational Research and Improvement, I occasionally got tagged to go speak to education groups meeting in and around Washington, D.C.  One or our projects was a reboot of the Educational Resources Information Centers, or ERIC Library System.

At every public function where I spoke, or where I attended and was identified as an ED employee, teachers would seek me out, and ask how long I spent in the classroom as a teacher.  Then they’d tell me teaching college doesn’t count, and they’d complain that education policy makers at all levels ignore teachers.  They didn’t appreciate people making policy for them who didn’t know their situation from having been on the ground with them, as one of them, or at least listening to what they had to say.

It’s a key principle of leadership, to understand what the frontline employee faces, to know what the workers on the shop floor see, to feel the heat from the open hearth, to know the discomfort of hitting Omaha Beach and be pinned down by gunfire while wet and sandy and weighed down with 80 pounds.  It’s one of the keys to understanding how Harry Truman, who saw action in Belgium at the Western Front and who lived in the trenches, could decide against a land invasion as a first option for forcing Japan to surrender at the end of World War II.  It’s why his troops thought so much of Patton, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with them at the front as bullets whizzed by, why Soichiro Honda’s workers listened when he stripped down and stripped an engine to find a problem.

A couple of days ago the president of the Dallas ISD School Board, Lew Blackburn, Tweeted his gratitude for help from Leadership Dallas for a “dine and discuss” session with DISD leaders.  It’s good that Blackburn Tweets.  He has good intentions, most likely — and he’s trying to let people know what’s going on.

What’s the topic?  How to improve education in Dallas, of course.

What ONE group of key stakeholders is left out of these discussions?  Teachers.

It’s a bugaboo for me.  Education discussion sponsored by the New York Times, but no teachers.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan buses across America — school kids show up to sing welcomes, but teachers appear to be left out of discussions along the route.

So I Tweeted back — what’s up with that?  In the past few months, I’ve gotten Tweets back from writers, scientists, friends, and Tom Peters, the management guru.  I was happy Blackburn responded.  it puts him in good company.

It’s not like this once teachers were left out, due to scheduling conflicts.  The process design pointedly includes stakeholders other than teachers.  Trained facilitators — professionals? paid? — are brought in, a touch that suggests these meetings are formal efforts whose products will be used for some formal policy-making purpose.  Invitees include “diverse” community members.

Listen. Learn. Dialogue.

Dallas ISD Dining & Dialogue is a pilot initiative in partnership with Dallas ISD and Leadership Dallas Alumni with support from the Dallas Regional Chamber.  The purpose is to encourage frequent communication over a meal between members of the community and Dallas ISD that address practical solutions to improve education in our community.  The roundtable-style dining events bring together small groups of individuals with diverse backgrounds to foster community-wide dialogue about Dallas ISD in an effort to gain understanding, share ideas, and increase diverse investment in education for the benefit of our region.

The FREE dining events are held quarterly at various sites within the Dallas metroplex. Discussions are led by trained facilitators who guide participants through questions designed to elicit thoughts and opinions on issues facing Dallas ISD.  This dining and dialogue framework is patterned after Dallas Dinner Table, a popular, highly-regarded community event founded by Leadership Dallas alumni, and DeSoto Dining and Dialogue.
Dialogues will include school board members and other important school voices along with community stakeholders such as business leaders, parents, neighborhood associations, nonprofits and members of the Dallas ISD Teen Board.

Picture

I still get some notifications from DISD, but none on this.

Should we be concerned  about any biases of Leadership Dallas, intentional or unconscious?  Leadership Dallas draws its inspiration from Leadership Atlanta, the formal effort to create a band of leaders to lead Atlanta after so many leaders died in a tragic airplane crash years ago.  Alas, the assumption is that educators cannot be leaders.  The course work is scheduled in a way that makes it difficult for any professional to participate, but almost impossible for any hourly worker, or teacher.

Looking through the records, I see very few people participating who have much to do with education, and especially no teachers.  Gross oversight.  There are no garbage collectors, either –  that may be a bigger problem in a place like Memphis with a different history on garbage collectors — or any other workers without graduate degrees.  Small business owners don’t get great representation, either.

Hmmm.  NEA?  AFT? We’ll check with them later.

So, Lew Blackburn — you’re the leader of this bunch, in some cases more than Superintendent Mike Miles (he may not be paying attention to this, either, let alone to the opinions of mere teachers, who make 17% of what he earns.  It’s up to you, I think.  You need to make sure teachers are a part of this dialogue, to be sure it doesn’t become a monologue.

Get some teachers involved in this process.  Get some principals involved, and some other school administrators.  Counselors might have a good, and different view.  Do you still have librarians enough in DISD to get a couple involved?  Libraries should be a key focus point for education in the 21st century, and many Dallasi ISD libraries have librarians who work harder and more effectively than the district has a right to expect (they don’t get paid for what they do, heaven knows).  And, keep records of these dinners.  These meetings are in the gray area of the Texas public meetings laws — but you want to be certain you have an open process that is not open to petty challenges due to bureaucratic miscues.  If any policy comes out of these meetings, you’ll need to be certain they were open for public meetings rules.

Gee, any reporters invited?

Are these sessions designed to improve education in Dallas, or to find new ways to flog teachers? Make sure the actions speak louder than words on these things.

Mr. Blackburn, you’ve made a couple of good moves here — including Tweeting about what’s going on.  Keep these processes going, and improve them.  Make sure teachers are not left behind.

More:


Barack Obama: “Let’s just stay normal”

September 13, 2012

I’m perplexed by people like Lou Pritchett, who claimed not to know who Barack Obama was after the last presidential election, or like Dinesh D’Souza, who make up fantastic webs of stories about how President Obama is Auric Goldfinger, the Brain and Lex Luthor rolled into one, based on less than gossamer.

Cover of Vanity Fair, October 2012, Issue #626

Cover of Vanity Fair, October 2012, Issue #626, containing Michael Lewis’s article, “Obama’s Way.”

One can read Obama’s books.  One can read the stories about him by people who know him.  One can read stories by good journalists who write about people in high office.

I’m fascinated with the profile of Obama in the current issue of Vanity Fair, by Michael Lewis, “Obama’s Way.”  It lends insights on leadership, foreign policy, and how a celebrity or high office holder (or both) can work to stay grounded and do a good job.

To someone who has staffed government agencies, and worked for elected and appointed officials, Lewis’s profile tells a lot in just a few words.

One summer morning I met him outside the private elevator that brings him down from the residence. His morning commute, of roughly 70 yards, started in the ground-floor center hall, and continued past a pair of oil paintings, of Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford, and through two sets of double doors, guarded by a Secret Service officer. After a short walk along a back porch, guarded by several other men in black, he passed through a set of French doors into the reception area outside the Oval Office. His secretary, Anita, was already at her desk. Anita, he explained, has been with him since he campaigned for the Senate, back in 2004. As political attachments go, eight years isn’t a long time; in his case, it counts as forever. Eight years ago he could have taken a group tour of the White House and no one would have recognized him.

Passing Anita, the president walked into the Oval Office. “When I’m in Washington I spend half my time in this place,” he said. “It’s surprisingly comfortable.” During the week he is never alone in the office, but on weekends he can come down and have the place to himself. The first time Obama set foot in this room was right after he’d been elected, to pay a call on George Bush. The second time was the first day he arrived for work—and the first thing he did was call in several junior people who had been with him since long before anyone cared who he was so they might see how it felt to sit in the Oval Office. “Let’s just stay normal,” he said to them.

You should read the article.  And pass it on.  Get the print version, secretly run a few copies and pass them around to your friends and people you go to church with, or your poker buddies, or the other professors in the biology department.  What do they think of the story?

Stick to the facts, in other words.  Make your own decisions on good information.

Lou Pritchett?  You still out in the wilderness?  Read this.

“Let’s just stay normal.”


Teaching the personal meaning of 9/11: Welles Crowther, the man with the red bandana

September 10, 2012

On Facebook, Duncanville Superteacher Medgar Roberts said:

I am using this in my classroom to teach the personal impact of 9/11 on real people. If you have fifteen minutes to spare it is worth the time. You might want to have a bandanna nearby, though. It is a bit of a tearjerker.

Don’t believe him.  Get at least two bandanas.

ESPN produced the film about Welles Crowther.

Ten years later: remembering the man who led people to safety after terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11th — a former Boston College lacrosse player whose trademark was a red bandanna.

If you use this film, please tell us about it.


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