Monday, February 23, 2015

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 02.21.15

I wonder if Mattel's new Hello Barbie will talk with children about body image

68% in poll say qualified Americans should have access to health subsides from a state or federal exchange @thehill

Phone Stack + other #millennial signs of the search for balance + wholeness 

a lot of heated opinions about the president's speech on countering violent extremism - #readityourself

So teenagers gravitate to "dark" young adult novels...what's wrong with that? @gayleforman

you are what you eat? | (if you can afford it) what you are determines what you eat 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

read it yourself | on countering violent extremism

Remarks by the President in Closing of the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

South Court Auditorium
4:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  For more than 238 years, the United States of America has not just endured, but we have thrived and surmounted challenges that might have broken a lesser nation.  After a terrible civil war, we repaired our union.  We weathered a Great Depression, became the world’s most dynamic economy.  We fought fascism, liberated Europe.  We faced down communism -- and won.  American communities have been destroyed by earthquakes and tornadoes and fires and floods -- and each time we rebuild.        
The bombing that killed 168 people could not break Oklahoma City.  On 9/11, terrorists tried to bring us to our knees; today a new tower soars above New York City, and America continues to lead throughout the world.  After Americans were killed at Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon, it didn’t divide us; we came together as one American family.  
In the face of horrific acts of violence -- at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, or at a Jewish community center outside Kansas City -- we reaffirmed our commitment to pluralism and to freedom, repulsed by the notion that anyone should ever be targeted because of who they are, or what they look like, or how they worship. 
Most recently, with the brutal murders in Chapel Hill of three young Muslim Americans, many Muslim Americans are worried and afraid.  And I want to be as clear as I can be:  As Americans, all faiths and backgrounds, we stand with you in your grief and we offer our love and we offer our support.
My point is this:  As Americans, we are strong and we are resilient.  And when tragedy strikes, when we take a hit, we pull together, and we draw on what’s best in our character -- our optimism, our commitment to each other, our commitment to our values, our respect for one another.  We stand up, and we rebuild, and we recover, and we emerge stronger than before.  That’s who we are.  (Applause.)    
And I say all this because we face genuine challenges to our security today, just as we have throughout our history.  Challenges to our security are not new.  They didn’t happen yesterday or a week ago or a year ago.  We've always faced challenges.  One of those challenges is the terrorist threat from groups like al Qaeda and ISIL.  But this isn't our challenge alone.  It's a challenge for the world.  ISIL is terrorizing the people of Syria and Iraq, beheads and burns human beings in unfathomable acts of cruelty.  We’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa and Sydney and, Paris, and now Copenhagen.
So, in the face of this challenge, we have marshalled the full force of the United States government, and we’re working with allies and partners to dismantle terrorist organizations and protect the American people.  Given the complexities of the challenge and the nature of the enemy -- which is not a traditional army -- this work takes time, and will require vigilance and resilience and perspective.  But I'm confident that, just as we have for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.     
And part of what gives me that confidence is the overwhelming response of the world community to the savagery of these terrorists -- not just revulsion, but a concrete commitment to work together to vanquish these organizations. 
At the United Nations in September, I called on the international community to come together and eradicate this scourge of violent extremism.  And I want to thank all of you -- from across America and around the world -- for answering this call.  Tomorrow at the State Department, governments and civil society groups from more than 60 countries will focus on the steps that we can take as governments.  And I’ll also speak about how our nations have to remain relentless in our fight -- our counterterrorism efforts -- against groups that are plotting against our counties.      
But we are here today because of a very specific challenge  -- and that’s countering violent extremism, something that is not just a matter of military affairs.  By “violent extremism,” we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people.  We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists --the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence.  We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalized.  Around the world, and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths -- which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths.  It's not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time. 
But we are here at this summit because of the urgent threat from groups like al Qaeda and ISIL.  And this week we are focused on prevention -- preventing these groups from radicalizing, recruiting or inspiring others to violence in the first place.  I’ve called upon governments to come to the United Nations this fall with concrete steps that we can take together.  And today, what I want to do is suggest several areas where I believe we can concentrate our efforts.
First, we have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence.  Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge.  So I want to be very clear about how I see it. 
Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy.  They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam.  That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.”  And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam.  That’s how they recruit.  That’s how they try to radicalize young people.  We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.  Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek.  They are not religious leaders -- they’re terrorists.  (Applause.)  And we are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.  (Applause.)  
Now, just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict, or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well.  Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts.  They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations. 
Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology.  They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.  No religion is responsible for terrorism.  People are responsible for violence and terrorism.  (Applause.)   
And to their credit, there are respected Muslim clerics and scholars not just here in the United States but around the world who push back on this twisted interpretation of their faith.  They want to make very clear what Islam stands for.  And we’re joined by some of these leaders today.  These religious leaders and scholars preach that Islam calls for peace and for justice, and tolerance toward others; that terrorism is prohibited; that the Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.  Those are the voices that represent over a billion people around the world. 
But if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we're going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people, if we're going to lift up the voices of tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim community, then we've got to acknowledge that their job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion. 
The reality -- which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to -- is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances  -- sometimes that's accurate -- does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it's been polluted by Western values. 
So those beliefs exist.  In some communities around the world they are widespread.  And so it makes individuals -- especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated -- more ripe for radicalization.  And so we've got to be able to talk honestly about those issues.  We've got to be much more clear about how we're rejecting certain ideas.
So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations.  Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn't defend Islam or Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims.  (Applause.) 
And when all of us, together, are doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists, when all of us are doing our part to be very clear about the fact that there are certain universal precepts and values that need to be respected in this interconnected world, that’s the beginnings of a partnership. 
As we go forward, we need to find new ways to amplify the voices of peace and tolerance and inclusion -- and we especially need to do it online.  We also need to lift up the voices of those who know the hypocrisy of groups like ISIL firsthand, including former extremists.  Their words speak to us today.  And I know in some of the discussions these voices have been raised: “I witnessed horrible crimes committed by ISIS.”  “It’s not a revolution or jihad…it’s a slaughter…I was shocked by what I did.”  “This isn’t what we came for, to kill other Muslims.”  “I’m 28 -- is this the only future I’m able to imagine?”  That's the voice of so many who were temporarily radicalized and then saw the truth.  And they’ve warned other young people not to make the same mistakes as they did.  “Do not run after illusions.”  “Do not be deceived.”  “Do not give up your life for nothing.”  We need to lift up those voices.      
And in all this work, the greatest resource are communities themselves, especially like those young people who are here today.  We are joined by talented young men and women who are pioneering new innovations, and new social media tools, and new ways to reach young people.  We’re joined by leaders from the private sector, including high-tech companies, who want to support your efforts.  And I want to challenge all of us to build new partnerships that unleash the talents and creativity of young people -- young Muslims -- not just to expose the lies of extremists but to empower youth to service, and to lift up people’s lives here in America and around the world.  And that can be a calling for your generation.     
So that’s the first challenge -- we've got to discredit these ideologies.  We have to tackle them head on.  And we can't shy away from these discussions.  And too often, folks are, understandably, sensitive about addressing some of these root issues, but we have to talk about them, honestly and clearly.  (Applause.)  And the reason I believe we have to do so is because I'm so confident that when the truth is out we'll be successful.     Now, a second challenge is we do have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.  Poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist, any more than poverty alone causes somebody to become a criminal.  There are millions of people -- billions of people  -- in the world who live in abject poverty and are focused on what they can do to build up their own lives, and never embrace violent ideologies. 
Conversely, there are terrorists who’ve come from extraordinarily wealthy backgrounds, like Osama bin Laden.  What’s true, though, is that when millions of people -- especially youth -- are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester.  The risk of instability and extremism grow.  Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas, because it's not tested against anything else, they’ve got nothing to weigh.  And we've seen this across the Middle East and North Africa.
And terrorist groups are all too happy to step into a void. They offer salaries to their foot soldiers so they can support their families.  Sometimes they offer social services -- schools, health clinics -- to do what local governments cannot or will not do.  They try to justify their violence in the name of fighting the injustice of corruption that steals from the people -- even while those terrorist groups end up committing even worse abuses, like kidnapping and human trafficking. 
So if we’re going to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism, then the international community has to offer something better.  And the United States intends to do its part.  We will keep promoting development and growth that is broadly shared, so more people can provide for their families.  We’ll keep leading a global effort against corruption, because the culture of the bribe has to be replaced by good governance that doesn’t favor certain groups over others. 
Countries have to truly invest in the education and skills and job training that our extraordinary young people need.  And by the way, that's boys and girls, and men and women, because countries will not be truly successful if half their populations -- if their girls and their women are denied opportunity.  (Applause.)  And America will continue to forge new partnerships in entrepreneurship and innovation, and science and technology, so young people from Morocco to Malaysia can start new businesses and create more prosperity.  
Just as we address economic grievances, we need to face a third challenge -- and that's addressing the political grievances that are exploited by terrorists.  When governments oppress their people, deny human rights, stifle dissent, or marginalize ethnic and religious groups, or favor certain religious groups over others, it sows the seeds of extremism and violence.  It makes those communities more vulnerable to recruitment.  Terrorist groups claim that change can only come through violence.  And if peaceful change is impossible, that plays into extremist propaganda.
So the essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress is not less democracy; it’s more democracy.  (Applause.)  It’s institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally.  It’s security forces and police that respect human rights and treat people with dignity.  It’s free speech and strong civil societies where people can organize and assemble and advocate for peaceful change.  It’s freedom of religion where all people can practice their faith without fear and intimidation.  (Applause.)  All of this is part of countering violent extremism.
Fourth, we have to recognize that our best partners in all these efforts, the best people to help protect individuals from falling victim to extremist ideologies are their own communities, their own family members.  We have to be honest with ourselves.  Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims, especially those who may be disillusioned or wrestling with their identity.  That’s the truth.  The high-quality videos, the online magazines, the use of social media, terrorist Twitter accounts -- it’s all designed to target today’s young people online, in cyberspace.  
And by the way, the older people here, as wise and respected as you may be, your stuff is often boring -- (laughter) -- compared to what they’re doing.  (Applause.)  You're not connected.  And as a consequence, you are not connecting. 
So these terrorists are a threat, first and foremost, to the communities that they target, which means communities have to take the lead in protecting themselves.  And that is true here in America, as it's true anywhere else.  When someone starts getting radicalized, family and friends are often the first to see that something has changed in their personality.  Teachers may notice a student becoming withdrawn or struggling with his or her identity, and if they intervene at that moment and offer support, that may make a difference.
Faith leaders may notice that someone is beginning to espouse violent interpretations of religion, and that’s a moment for possible intervention that allows them to think about their actions and reflect on the meaning of their faith in a way that’s more consistent with peace and justice.  Families and friends, coworkers, neighbors, faith leaders -- they want to reach out; they want to help save their loved ones and friends, and prevent them from taking a wrong turn. 
But communities don’t always know the signs to look for, or have the tools to intervene, or know what works best.  And that’s where government can play a role -- if government is serving as a trusted partner.  And that’s where we also need to be honest.  I know some Muslim Americans have concerns about working with government, particularly law enforcement.  And their reluctance is rooted in the objection to certain practices where Muslim Americans feel they’ve been unfairly targeted. 
So, in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities.  Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith.  (Applause.)  Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance.  We can’t “securitize” our relationship with Muslim Americans -- (applause) -- dealing with them solely through the prism of law enforcement. Because when we do, that only reinforces suspicions, makes it harder for us to build the trust that we need to work together.  
As part of this summit, we’re announcing that we’re going to increase our outreach to communities, including Muslim Americans. We’re going to step up our efforts to engage with partners and raise awareness so more communities understand how to protect their loved ones from becoming radicalized.  We’ve got to devote more resources to these efforts.  (Applause.) 
And as government does more, communities are going to have to step up as well.  We need to build on the pilot programs that have been discussed at this summit already -- in Los Angeles, in Minneapolis, in Boston.  These are partnerships that bring people together in a spirit of mutual respect and create more dialogue and more trust and more cooperation.  If we’re going to solve these issues, then the people who are most targeted and potentially most affected -- Muslim Americans -- have to have a seat at the table where they can help shape and strengthen these partnerships so that we’re all working together to help communities stay safe and strong and resilient.  (Applause.)  
And finally, we need to do what extremists and terrorists hope we will not do, and that is stay true to the values that define us as free and diverse societies.  If extremists are peddling the notion that Western countries are hostile to Muslims, then we need to show that we welcome people of all faiths. 
Here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.  (Applause.)  Generations of Muslim immigrants came here and went to work as farmers and merchants and factory workers, helped to lay railroads and build up America.  The first Islamic center in New York City was founded in the 1890s.  America’s first mosque -- this was an interesting fact -- was in North Dakota.  (Laughter.)   
Muslim Americans protect our communities as police officers and firefighters and first responders, and protect our nation by serving in uniform, and in our intelligence communities, and in homeland security.  And in cemeteries across our country, including at Arlington, Muslim American heroes rest in peace having given their lives in defense of all of us.  (Applause.)  
And of course that’s the story extremists and terrorists don’t want the world to know -- Muslims succeeding and thriving in America.  Because when that truth is known, it exposes their propaganda as the lie that it is.  It’s also a story that every American must never forget, because it reminds us all that hatred and bigotry and prejudice have no place in our country.  It’s not just counterproductive; it doesn’t just aid terrorists; it’s wrong.  It’s contrary to who we are.   
I’m thinking of a little girl named Sabrina who last month sent me a Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart.  It was the first Valentine I got.  (Laughter.)  I got it from Sabrina before Malia and Sasha and Michelle gave me one.  (Laughter.)  So she’s 11 years old.  She’s in the 5th grade.  She’s a young Muslim American.  And she said in her Valentine, “I enjoy being an American.”  And when she grows up, she wants to be an engineer -- or a basketball player.  (Laughter.)  Which are good choices. (Laughter.)  But she wrote, “I am worried about people hating Muslims…If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn’t mean all of them do.”  And she asked, “Please tell everyone that we are good people and we’re just like everyone else.”  (Applause.)  Now, those are the words -- and the wisdom -- of a little girl growing up here in America, just like my daughters are growing up here in America.  “We’re just like everybody else.”  And everybody needs to remember that during the course of this debate. 
As we move forward with these challenges, we all have responsibilities, we all have hard work ahead of us on this issue.  We can’t paper over problems, and we’re not going to solve this if we’re always just trying to be politically correct. But we do have to remember that 11-year-old girl.  That’s our hope.  That’s our future.  That’s how we discredit violent ideologies, by making sure her voice is lifted up; making sure she’s nurtured; making sure that she’s supported -- and then, recognizing there are little girls and boys like that all around the world, and us helping to address economic and political grievances that can be exploited by extremists, and empowering local communities, and us staying true to our values as a diverse and tolerant society even when we’re threatened -- especially when we’re threatened. 
There will be a military component to this.  There are savage cruelties going on out there that have to be stopped.  ISIL is killing Muslims at a rate that is many multiples the rate that they’re killing non-Muslims.  Everybody has a stake in stopping them, and there will be an element of us just stopping them in their tracks with force.  But to eliminate the soil out of which they grew, to make sure that we are giving a brighter future to everyone and a lasting sense of security, then we're going to have to make it clear to all of our children -- including that little girl in 5th grade -- that you have a place. You have a place here in America.  You have a place in those countries where you live.  You have a future.
Ultimately, those are the antidotes to violent extremism.  And that's work that we're going to have to do together.  It will take time.  This is a generational challenge.  But after 238 years, it should be obvious -- America has overcome much bigger challenges, and we’ll overcome the ones that we face today.  We will stay united and committed to the ideals that have shaped us for more than two centuries, including the opportunity and justice and dignity of every single human being. 
Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.) 
4:54 P.M. EST  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 02.14.15

Are expressions of contrition and humility off-limits at the national prayer breakfast? 

while white people watched | new research documents lynchings of 3959 black Americans 1877-1950 

white male privilege + the benefit of the doubt

blinded by...what? | a week in denial observed

Friday, February 13, 2015

blinded by...what? | a week in denial observed

This week, E.J. Dionne wrote:
Do Obama’s critics think that Christians reduce their credibility by acknowledging their imperfections? Is it disrespectful of Christ to admit that Christians regularly fall short of His teachings?
The prayer breakfasts draw many decent souls, I know, but if expressions of contrition and humility are off-limits and acknowledgments of our own limitations are unacceptable, are these gatherings really about praying to a merciful God or are they just celebrations of ourselves? 

This week, Bill Moyers wrote
The victim’s name was Jesse Washington. The year was 1916. America would soon go to war in Europe “to make the world safe for democracy.” My father was twelve, my mother eight. I was born 18 years later, at a time, I would come to learn, when local white folks still talked about Washington’s execution as if it were only yesterday. This was not medieval Europe. Not the Inquisition. Not a heretic burned at the stake by some ecclesiastical authority in the Old World. This was Texas, and the white people in that photograph were farmers, laborers, shopkeepers, some of them respectable congregants from local churches in and around the growing town of Waco.
When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs.
Jesse Washington was just one black man to die horribly at the hands of white death squads. Between 1882 and 1968 — 1968! — there were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the US. About a quarter of them were white people, many of whom had been killed for sympathizing with black folks. 

I should emphasize that blacks of the era understood lynching as rooted in the Christian practice of white southerners. “It is exceedingly doubtful if lynching could possibly exist under any other religion than Christianity,” wrote NAACP leader Walter White in 1929, “No person who is familiar with the Bible-beating, acrobatic, fanatical preachers of hell-fire in the South, and who has seen the orgies of emotion created by them, can doubt for a moment that dangerous passions are released which contribute to emotional instability and play a part in lynching.”
The only Southern Christianity united in its opposition to lynching was that of black Americans, who tried to recontextualize the onslaught as a kind of crucifixion and its victims as martyrs, flipping the script and making blacks the true inheritors of Christian salvation and redemption. It’s that last point which should highlight how none of this was intrinsic to Christianity: It was a question of power, and of the need of the powerful to sanctify their actions. 
This week, Jonathan Merritt wrote
I have deep disagreements with President Obama, and I have written of them on several occasions. But at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President was right. Sadly, many Christians participated in needless hysteria that robs them of an opportunity for honesty and humility.
Thirty-five years ago, Annie Dillard wrote:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or shall stand in his holy place? There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been—and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day.
—Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, Harper and Row, 1977 p 56-57
And, sometime late in the first century, John wrote:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 
—1 John 1.8-10, New International Version

Poised now at the threshold of Lent, in the face all we have done — and all we've failed to do — what will we write (and value, and believe, and say, and do, and…)?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

white male privilege + the benefit of the doubt

This week, Arthur Chu writes:
The single greatest “privilege” of a privileged class is the benefit of the doubt. And the message that the “outrage brigade” is sending is a simple one:
Either, at long last, as Martin Luther King called for in the stirringly utopian climax to his famous speech, we finally achieve a culture where every hill and mountain has been made low, every rough place made plain, justice flows like a rolling stream and we all get the benefit of the doubt…
Or, in the meantime, no one does.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 02.07.15

six seconds | does this embellishment make Vine kid-safe?

Cocoshow | just add questions and you've got yourself a classroom gameshow

Plenty 0f fiery opinions about fragments of Barack Obama's talk at National Prayer Breakfast | read it yourself

Friday, February 06, 2015

read it yourself | Barack Obama's speech at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.
9:13 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning.  Giving all praise and honor to God.  It is wonderful to be back with you here.  I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger.  These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today. 
I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast.  It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries.  And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.
I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama -- who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.  (Applause.)  I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.  (Applause.)  
There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR.  (Laughter.)  This may be the first.  (Laughter.)  But God works in mysterious ways.  (Laughter.)   And so I want to thank Darrel [Waltrip] l for that wonderful presentation.  Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt.  (Laughter.)  I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives -- Jesus, take the wheel.  (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.  (Laughter.)   
He and I obviously share something in having married up.  And we are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work that they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit, and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks.  And we certainly want to wish Darrell a happy birthday.  (Applause.)  Happy birthday.
I will note, though, Darrell, when you were reading that list of things folks were saying about you, I was thinking, well, you're a piker.  I mean, that -- (laughter.)  I mean, if you really want a list, come talk to me.  (Laughter.)  Because that ain’t nothing.  (Laughter.)  That's the best they can do in NASCAR?  (Laughter.)        
Slowing down and pausing for fellowship and prayer -- that's what this breakfast is about.  I think it's fair to say Washington moves a lot slower than NASCAR.  Certainly my agenda does sometimes.  (Laughter.)  But still, it’s easier to get caught up in the rush of our lives, and in the political back-and-forth that can take over this city.  We get sidetracked with distractions, large and small.  We can’t go 10 minutes without checking our smartphones -- and for my staff, that's every 10 seconds.  And so for 63 years, this prayer tradition has brought us together, giving us the opportunity to come together in humility before the Almighty and to be reminded of what it is that we share as children of God. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Cocoshow | the bells + whistles are loaded - add questions and you've got yourself a gameshow

Hey, teacher friends: here's how to create a classroom quizshow in Cocoshow — the web app I'm working on with Todd Temple for teachers, parents, and youth workers.

We're looking for a few teachers open to making a few bucks writing sample quizzes linked to Common Core Standards between now and the end of February 2015. Lemme know if you're interested...

Monday, February 02, 2015

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 01.31.15

stupid | over 75% of US alcohol poisoning deaths are parents + grandparents, not kids

not all or nothing | 5 myths about young children + screen time

10 YouTube Channels for Boys w/o violence, explosion + macho posing h/t Common Sense Media

Thank you Governor | Michigan's Rick Snyder makes gun violence harder

backward reasoning | a southern white guy retraces his steps on Martin Luther King Day 

no shortage of opinions on the State of the Union Address | read it yourself 

Hey school teacher friends! 1st look at our Cocoshow quiz creator BETA! Grab a free account at gimme feedback

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

read it yourself | 2015 State of the Union Address

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.
9:10 P.M. EST 
THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are 15 years into this new century.  Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world.  It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.  Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  (Applause.)  Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.  More of our kids are graduating than ever before.  More of our people are insured than ever before.  (Applause.)  And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.  (Applause.)

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.  (Applause.)  Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.  And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe.  (Applause.)  We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:  The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.  (Applause.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

backward reasoning | a southern white guy retraces his steps on Martin Luther King Day

How do you want to be treated?

“Negroes,” James Baldwin wrote in the vocabulary of his times, "want to be treated like men: a perfectly straightforward statement, containing only seven words. People who have mastered Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud, and the bible find this statement utterly impenetrable” (“Fifth Avenue, Uptown,” Esquire, July 1960).

A 21st-century writer might say we all want to be treated like human beings, rather than like men, and probably wouldn't say, negroes. Other than that, it would be anybody’s guess whether Mr. Baldwin wrote those sentences to be read in July 1960 or last July.

I don’t think it’s news that the majority election of Barack Obama (twice) failed erase prejudice from that portion of the minority who voted against him because he’s black. No thoughtful person I know seriously expected it would—no more than ending legal slavery in 1865 eradicated the attitudes that assumed and promoted racial inequality in America. Our problem operates at a deeper level than elections and the laws—the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—that define and regulate racially motivated misbehavior and criminal conduct. Our racial problem reaches to our hearts.

I was raised in the segregated southern United States, where through grade school I had limited contact with adults of African descent and no contact whatever with their children. When I was in junior high, the “all-black” schools in my town were closed and our student bodies consolidated—and just like that we were side by side in one place every school day (and into the evening for kids like me playing school sports).

I think the adults--the white ones anyway--anticipated social and educational collapse following desegregation. I know of no such breakdowns in my location. The new normal felt pretty ordinary, pretty quickly to me. I did lose my presumptive starting guard position on the basketball team to a black kid named Elijah Gilliam, who had been in one of the schools that was closed. But, honestly, anyone could see he was a more talented player than me. Starting Eli was a no-brainer.

In those early years, weekends and summers became odd fugue states—spans of time during which black and white schoolmates did not see each other because there were few integrated neighborhoods in our town—I knew of none—and because the city closed all the municipal swimming pools. Swimming, like public education, had been administered on the separate but equal doctrine that still held sway more than a decade after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896. This—the swimming pool closures—was, I think, another situation in which the adults anticipated the worst from what was sometimes referred to as “mixing the races.” So, everyone (except those whose families could afford membership in private clubs) sweated out some very hot summers in obedience to the perception that no good could come from black kids and white kids splashing around in the same water.

There was in those years a rapid increase in the number of private, all-white schools—many of them located in churches—confirming, I suppose, the determination by some self-described Christians to keep a safe distance at home, even as their denominations poured money and human resources into evangelizing Africa.

Despite all that, once the children began to learn and play together 30 hours a week for nine months a year, some things changed rapidly. Then, the first indoor shopping mall opened in our town, attracting regional and national chains more interested in moving product than preserving racial purity. Thus, commerce further diminished the distance between people who had until then, even on shopping days, lived almost entirely separate lives. A decade after the Civil Rights Act, I felt welcome in soul food restaurants in parts of town my family avoided when I was a boy.

That said, there’s a problem with this picture if you think it shows a complete recasting of relationships in my town. To say I felt comfortable eating soul food in restaurants that catered mostly to black patrons says nothing about the restaurants, swimming pools, “white” churches and private schools where my black classmates and their families did not feel—and were not in fact—welcome.

It’s clear that racial integration—or at least desegregation—was faster and smoother for me than for many others in my community. This is another way of saying that desegregation does not equal engagement, inclusion, and life shared.

I was a year or so behind Tommy Curtis, the finest high school basketball player I ever saw. Tommy built on his considerable natural talent with an impressive work ethic. Cruising about in my '57 Dodge Lancer, I occasionally saw Tommy around town. He wasn’t driving; he was training—dribbling a basketball while he ran at a pace I could never match over distances I was sure were meant to be driven. One night, leaving the school gym after the building crew turned off the lights, I heard Tom shooting free throws in the dark. Bounce, bounce, bounce, swish. There wasn’t much I cared about enough to work that hard.

Tom was the first black kid to play basketball at our school. I asked what that was like in the beginning. School desegregation had been hard on Tom. In addition to name-calling and general shunning, rednecks sometimes spat on him from above in the open stairwells of our three-story building. In his first game, Tom controlled the opening tipoff and waited for his teammates to set up to run the offense. While Tommy was still way outside, an opposing player came out to meet him and hissed, “Go on, shoot the ball, nigger.” Welcome to the Deep South in the mid-60s. I cringed when he told me. “What did you do?” I asked.

“I took the shot,” he said, and scored his first high school points from a spot beyond what’s now the three-point line. 

I don't want to make it sound like I hung out with Tommy. By the time we connected, he'd been in  college a while (studying and playing basketball at UCLA for the legendary John Wooden) and I was still in high school. The connection was so brief he may not even remember me. I remember him for being a remarkable student athlete, and because when I asked a few honest questions, he was kind enough to trust me with answers that still resonate down the years. Much later, I learned that Tommy’s parents were both professionals, and his family was likely better off than my own. They probably could have afforded one of those private schools or swim clubs had there been one they cared for.

In the four-and-a-half decades since high school, every American black man I’ve spoken with in any depth about his life has disclosed personal stories about being treated as if he were less than human—episodes of racial bullying from the earliest years of life through adulthood. None of those men ever volunteered these stories; I’ve had to ask, and ask in a way that made these friends and acquaintances believe I could be trusted.

It may be that these men’s hesitation about revealing such episodes explains to some degree why when I say every black man I’ve asked has disclosed a personal story of racial bullying—not against his father or cousin or neighbor, but him—many light-skinned American men don’t believe me. Apparently, most white men in America haven’t heard stories of racial bullying from black friends. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to them to ask. Their friends certainly aren’t going to just volunteer stories of personal humiliation—or even attempted humiliation. (Light-skinned women, by the way, don’t generally disbelieve me; perhaps because it seems like it might parallel the gender bullying so many of them have experienced.)

Even if it’s awkward—maybe because it’s awkward—regardless of our own racial identity, I think we have to be open to hearing our friends’ stories with great sensitivity and compassion and respect. Otherwise we’ll never learn how close we live to people who’ve been, and may today be, exposed to racial bullies. I don’t think we can afford the cost of leaving people we care about isolated with painful experiences that should never have happened and should never happen again. Of course we can’t demand that people reveal those stories— every person’s story belongs to him or her and choosing to tell it is not an obligation but a gift. What each of us can (and I believe must) do is become the sort of person to whom someone might risk telling a painful story.

For me, all this begins with asking a question I've inferred from something the early followers of Jesus remembered him saying: it begins with asking, "How do I want to be treated?” Do I want to be disrespected, devalued, or threatened? And if I were being mistreated would I want people to look the other way?

“Negroes want to be treated like men:" James Baldwin wrote, "a perfectly straightforward statement, containing only seven words. People who have mastered Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud, and the bible find this statement utterly impenetrable.” For the record, Mr. Baldwin was poking fun at people who ought to know better; people whose walk does not match their talk.

You and I may not have, “mastered Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud, and the bible”—I certainly have not—but it doesn’t take a genius answer the question, “How do I want to be treated?”

And what sort of person—what sort of self-described Christian—does it take to obey Jesus when he says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you”?