The loss for the school, is a gain for the internet: public speaking

Mic

I have always enjoyed giving speeches. I do not really get nervous, and the nerves I have I feed off of. I have enjoyed it since public speaking in high school. I and am that guy who volunteers to head up the talking section of the Power Point (not the making of the slides…I am by no means artistic). I took a class at called Public Presenting with one of the best professors I have ever had at BU and it was one of those classes that you look forward to going to every week. I gave speeches on everything from music promotion to a eulogy for Tupac to a commencement address. The catch was that I never wrote speeches, I wrote notes that would structure conversations I was going to have with the audience. That is because I hate delivering speeches, I talk with who ever I am speaking to. Last semester I heard about the student speaker competition for Boston University and it sounded perfect! I would get to have a conversation with 20,000 people?? AWESOME! There was a catch, I had to write an actual speech. I had never written a real speech before and this was going to prove to be the most fun challenge I have ever faced.

It took me a day to draft up a speech and then editing took longer, a lot longer. I spent a long time poring over the text of the speech and figuring out exactly how I want to say what I will say. I sent it to multiple speech professors, my mom, my girlfriend, and a friend of mine who is a state-wide public speaking champion. This process made me realize that I want to be a speech writer one day. It is my goal to be a speech a writer because I want to be the voice for something larger than myself. I want to be the voice for people who have no voice. My dream is to be the voice for the country, the speech writer for the President…but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Finally, the speech was ready (it is at the bottom of the post if you want to read the copy itself).

I submitted the speech to the committee. How it works, is everyone submits their speech to be read, then the best five speeches are auditioned before “the committee”… it is as ominous as it sounds. When I got the call that I was a finalist I was in Washington DC having coffee with my mom before AIPAC Policy Conference…We were excited to say the least!

Long story short I went into give the speech, fumbled twice and did not deliver it up to what I could have. Unfortunately I believe this led the judges to choose someone else, and more power to him. I am sure that the student who speaks at commencement will be fantastic. However, I felt that because I worked so hard on my speech, it is important to share it.

Therefore, I am submitting my speech to you, dear reader. Bellow is a video of me delivering my speech. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about it. If I have to deliver it somewhere, I figured this is the place to do it. Let me know what you think. Special thank you to Tyler Peraino for coming to the rescue with his smart phone (I have a flip phone…those don’t record video), you are a good man Tyler, thank you. Ok, here is the video and the speech, enjoy:

One Moment

 One Moment in Time – The Flip of a Coin

Thank you President Brown. Honored guests, professors, faculty, staff, friends, family, and the class of 2013, before anything I want to say congratulations. It took us four years, but we made it! These four years have been filled with moments and memories that have been both wonderful and dreadful. We have learned that every moment has the potential for happiness to excite us, sadness to shock us, and for the world to change. These moments…these experiences, have affected us as a community and shaped us as individuals.

As a community we mourned the destruction in Haiti and in Japan, we watched as our own homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. We have seen humans commit unspeakable acts around the world and here at home, in Newtown, Aurora, and countless other places. We have wept together on campus when tragedy has struck within our own community. We lost lives on these streets of Boston and abroad around the world. We have been touched by those we lost and we will never forget them. While some moments at BU have brought tears to our eyes, others have brought us excitement and joy.

As a community we have witnessed history and rejoiced together. We watched Obama get inaugurated twice, we cheered as Michael Phelps represented our country. Some of us cried at the Royal wedding, and the song Friday…happened. On campus we have experienced the freak no-snow winter of 2011 which left us all telling the freshman “no, I swear it does get cold.” We have seen great structures erected on campus as our school continues to build towards an even brighter future. We have experienced the city of Boston together, seen Aerosmith concerts on the streets, and have a nationally ranked Quiditch team! All these moments have shaped who we, graduating seniors, are today. Each moment holds within it the ambiguous power of making us feel scared, happy, or hopeful, sometimes, all three at the same time. We cannot know what the next moment will hold.

I would like share a story when a moment helped define my life back in 2008, before I had decided I would attend BU. It is a story about how it only takes a moment to change your thoughts, feelings, and outlook. For me, that moment was during the flip of a coin.

When I was deciding where to go to college my cousin Richard thought it would be a good idea to demonstrate the power that one moment can hold in anyone’s life. He sat me down and said “Jack, do you want to figure out where you are going to go to college?” I responded, “sure.” He took out a shiny United States quarter, assigned the two schools that I was deciding between heads and tails, and, though I protested, he said that he was sure this was the best way. He flipped the quarter, keeping his eyes locked on me the entire time, even when he caught the quarter in his hand. With his eyes still locked on me and his hand firmly grasped around the quarter he asked, “when it was in the air, which did you hope for?”

I answered without thinking “Boston University.” He looked at me, smiled, and said “well that’s it then isn’t it?” Then he opened his fist and showed me that it had landed on Boston University, so either way I guess I was destined to go here.

This story is about more than just having a clever cousin, and I by no means am advocating for the use of this method in making all major life decisions. However, this experience taught me that all it took was one moment, when that coin was in the air, to make me feel an emotion that would help shape the next four years and the rest my life.  And so for me this crazy college experience all started, with the flip of that coin. However, that moment was simply the foundation, the blossoming of my hope, that this university helped me to develop.

This university has supplied me with classes I have loved and professors that I have always been able to approach. Our professors have provided us the tools to make a difference in this world. However, we, together, have supplied a community like no other. People at campus schools think that their community is aided by the physical boundaries of their school. I would argue that our community here at Boston University is stronger than any other. What people do not understand is that while we are in a “city school,” if you stroll down Commonwealth Ave, or Comm Ave as we say, at 3 or 4 p.m. and look in front and behind you, to your left and to your right, I ask you to identify anyone who is not a part of our community. You could be walking side by side with the next PSY, Gangam Style, for those who do not know, he went to BU. Being engulfed by the community of students, faculty, and staff, breeds a unique atmosphere. Not one of a forced community, nor a community with lines drawn to bind it within itself. It is a diverse community of free flowing ideas, a community of shared values in education and self-discovery. This community shares something even when we are not beating BC in hockey or even when Dean Elmore is not walking down Comm Ave giving his million dollar smile. It is an atmosphere that fosters hope, development and relationships.

And so class of 2013, I ask you, do you need a coin to flip? We are a community, a community of leaders, shaped by our mentors, encouraged by our friends, guided by our hopes, and driven by our desires. That is what my education meant to me. It meant that we have everything we need to go forth, to take every moment that arrives, and make a difference in this world; a community of friends to motivate us, a long list of mentors to guide us, and the tools to understand what we must do. These are not empty words, many people from our now Alma Mater have gone on to do incredible yet daunting things. We have the tools we need and I bet we no longer need that coin to point us in the direction of our hopes, dreams, and opportunities to make an impact. We cannot ask for more than one moment. But in that moment we can make decisions. In that one moment we can fall in love. In that one moment we can feel hope. And in that one moment we can change the world. To all the “adults” in the audience we appreciate your help and guidance, now it is time for us to say “we got this.”

Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.

The Holocaust: My family’s story. Never forget. Never again.

Flame

Growing up in my house in Seattle I got two types of stories going to bed. One were stories about Israel, the wars where Israel had to defend herself from the neighboring countries with the heroism of soldiers and average every day Israeli. The other stories I heard right before I lay my young head down to sleep…were Holocaust stories. Both my grandparents on my dad’s side were Holocaust survivors and growing up I heard not only of the horror but of the bravery of my grandparents and family members.

In this post, because today/yesterday is/was Yom Hashoa (Holocaust remembrance day) I would like to share two stories about my family that I grew up hearing. These stories remind me that my family and my people are strong and that even in the darkest of times some humanity can shine through.

The first story is of my Zedi (grandfather in Yidish) who was drafted (forced) into the Polish Army. The beginning of his time in the Holocaust he was a fighter in the Polish army, barley surviving every day. His regiment was captured by the Nazi army one day during a battle and they were brought them back to the prisoner of war camps. The Nazis lined them up and said, all Commisars, step forward. The Catholics stepped forward and were shot and pushed into a mass grave. The Nazis said all Pols step forward, the Pols stepped forward and were shot and pushed into a mass grave. Then the Nazis said all Jews step forward. My grandfather had given up, at this point he was starving and aware he was going to die no matter what. As he was taking the step forward a rather large Polish man next to him grabbed his arm and held him back. He said “no, don’t go,” when my grandfather responded that the had nothing else to live for, the Pol gave him what was considered gold in the camps. He gave him a sugar cube. My grandfather, astounded by the act of generosity and warmth did not go forward. As he watched his Jewish brothers were slaughtered but he stayed strong and stayed alive.

Later that night the overly large Pol and my grandfather, joined by another Pol decided it was time to escape. They escaped the prisoner of war camp and slept that night in the woods. In the morning the Nazis realized that they had escaped and went hunting for them. My grandfather and the other men running away stumbled into an orchard that belonged to a friend of my great-grandfather. The owner of the orchard came out and told them to wait, he would come back with food for them. While the two Pols waited in the orchard my grandfather waited by the house. The Nazis spotted the two Pols and shot them both on sight. My grandfather was scared but kept his cool and hid behind a large tree. As he was hiding the owner of the orchard had a daughter, a beautiful girl, who pretended to faint. The Nazi soldiers ran to her side in order to help and completely forgot about my grandfather (the third escapee). They left and my grandfather was able to escape after being fed by the women and her father who had just saved his life. After that he stole the clothes off of a scarecrow so that he could get out of his Polish uniform and began his journey.

His journey did not end there. He ended up being one of 60 survivors from Trenblinka where almost 1,000,000 died. He was a part of the uprising, survived more near death experiences then I can count, and is the bravest man I have ever met. He passed away 9 years ago when he was on the plane with my dad to move to Seattle, they were over Indianapolis when he had a heart attack and passed away.

My grandmother has many stories as well. She was in the hospital when the Nazis rounded up her town, including her entire family. They took them to the woods, had them dig a mass grave, and shot them. My grandmother survived by luck of being in the hospital but after the Nazis murdered everything she knew. For the entire war, she lived in the woods. She spent years in the woods eating food where she could find it, including dog food, and depending on the kindness of strangers.

When I was 17 I went on the March of the Living, a trip that changed my life. It is a trip for high school students to go on that takes you to Poland and Israel. It tours the death camps and shows the land that is now there to make sure those terrible things never happen again. I got to see the piles of wood that represent where they burned the bodies at Treblinka where they killed Jews so fast, they did not even bother to put a tattoo on them. I got to walk the “death march” into the gates of Aushwitz, the gates of hell in my mind. I experienced all this with an incredible group of people who I still consider my friends.

Now is the important part. The part where I say what I have been able to learn through hearing my families stories (trust me there are more stories than I can tell) and through experiencing this. I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I have heard stories about the horrors of humanity and about its triumphs. The ideology of surviving antisemitism is still in my family. My dad eats faster than any human I have ever seen. When asked why he responds “I want to finish before the pogroms (in the old days groups would ride into Jewish towns and steal food and kill everyone) get here.” The people who took my grandparents in and fed them, the large Pol who gave my grandfather the sugar cube, the daughter of the orchard owner, all these people give me the tiniest bit of faith when I think about the terrible atrocities committed by humanity during this time. Some people claim we do not have to worry about this ever happening again, I would say that while it may not, lets not get complacent.

I thank God every day that there is a land of Israel to keep the Jewish people safe and allow them to have an army to protect them. Men and women in IDF are my heroes. I wanted to join the IDF but being the only male left of my Goldberg family name (I know, there are a lot of Goldbergs…but my dad was the only boy from his father who was the only one left…and I am the only boy). It is crucial that I carry my name on. But just as crucial it is important that the Israeli army continues to defend its people and remember the HolocaustIsrael Rememberancet. In Israel, there is a siren that goes off during the day. Everyone stops. You stop working. You stop driving. You stop doing what ever you are doing and you stand at attention, to honor those who we have lost. Lost for no reason other than because they were Jewish. This is what it looks like (on right).

It is crucial in a time like this, when rocket fire in the south of Israel interrupts the remembrance of those who passed in the Holocaust (see the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpWYoeA7jUw) . When the leaders of a country like Iran not only deny the Holocaust ever existed but want to finish what Hitler started. It is important to remember the past in a time when there is growing unrest in the world and as all signs point to destruction. But I have faith.

I have faith that my grandfather was not the only brave Jewish man. I have faith that my grandmother was not the only women who was a true survivor at heart. I have faith that we, as a nation, have the ability to whether any storm.

Today, let us remember those who perished in the fires of the Holocaust, not only the Jews but also the Pols, gays, commissars, blacks, gypsys, handicapped, and Russians.

Today let us remember the defenseless who perished in the fires of those hells.

Let us remember them and together swear we will never forget them. Let us swear never again.

Soldiers

Seattle Hip Hop: The Town The Movement (part 1)

I know my last post was about politics and I will get back to that, but first I want to write a bit about a passion I have, my city and my music.

The Town Banner (graphic thanks to Joe Gelman)

Seattle, a city of rain, coffee (NOT Starbucks… watch Sonicsgate here and see how Schultz betrayed our city), and music. We have a long history of music from Jimmie Hendrix, to Kurt Cobain, from Bing Crosby to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters, from Alice and Chains to Death Cab for Cutie, from Fall of Troy to the Fleet Foxes, and from Soundgarden to the Head and the Heart. We have many genres coming out of Seattle. In the city known as The Town in modern hip hop culture, we know our music.

2005 was the first time I recognized Town hip hop as a real force when the local legends The Blue Scholars (who went to high school near my house) put out their self titled debut album. From there, the music was going up hill. However, it was slow to take off with any kind of traction until these guys put in the work (click the photo).Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (MacklemoreXRyanLewis)

Along with Town hip hop came Town style, like this shirt The Town Shirtfrom swagger and young and stores began thriving like rapper-owned 35th North Skate Shop and Crisis Clothing. All of these and more began bringing a certain style to Seattle that was lacking in my years growing up. Typical, as I leave for college my city gets “cool” but I like to think that my city has always been cool, other people just haven’t noticed. We have Native American culture like no other state, we have both city and nature at our finger tips, we have got the best of all worlds. In so far as being cool in the music world, watch this incredible trailer about the Town’s hip hop called The Otherside.

With rappers becoming everything from mixers to audio engineers to lyrical geniuses, there is a movement taking place in Seattle.

This blog post is dedicated to not only the current Seattle which is rising up in the horizon of the national spot light, it is also dedicated to the Seattle that came before it. To all the great ball players that came from Beach, Franklin, and Garfield. It is dedicated from the flying fish of Pike Place Market to the Pho stops by the Viet Wah. It is dedicated to the Fremont Troll and the giant white bridge on the way to Ballard that goes over the industrial tracks. It is dedicated to the Dicks on Broadway and to Martha Washington Park.

And finally this post is dedicated to any and all cities that are rising up . I must say I am fortunate to live in another city that is on its way up, Boston, which has never had a hip hop scene till now (check out the #12fo12 movement). Thanks to some innovative work by a few guys who run The Collab Projekt and The Fresh Heir. The city is coming up strong and I am proud to be a part of that, even if it is a spectator.

There is nothing more inspiring than to see a city identify a new culture, a new movement and to develop an identity before your eyes. To be a part of that is something special. And now, the music (click the picture for the music)

– We have a bit of rap history with Sir Mix-A-Lot  Sir Mix A Lot

 

 

 

Raz

– Rapper Raz Simone (click the picture for his mix tape) loves jazz instrumental samples and some dark raps. A coming up hometown hero and one of my personal favorites.

 

 

 

Sam Lachow

– Sam Lachow who often partners with Raz (above) but also puts out some solo features. Click the picture for his recent solo song Banana Goo Pie. He has got a the most soothing deep voice and the flow of an experienced rapper.

 

 

AV Young Blaze

– Avatar Darko is a hard-core Russian who raps with a style like “a white Game”… thoughts on that? Click his picture for a great video for “Feeding My Flame” featuring talk about Kurt Cobain.

 

 

 

Blue Scholars

– Blue Scholars are picture on the left with NBA and Sonics legend Slick Watts. These guys were the first Seattle Hip Hop I got into and to be honest, all of their stuff is good. I have included one of their most recent pieces if you click the picture called “Decisive Moment.” I met these guys when they came to Boston University because I was wearing a 206 sweatshirt.

 

Kublakai

– Kublakai in his video is pictured on the left but you can click his picture and get his EP with some notable songs like “Timeless” and “Phoenix” featuring Gift Uh Gab (see below)

 

 

Dyme Def

– Dyme Def is a rap collective with some fantastic rhymes and style. Clicking the picture will take you to the song “Let It Be” by Fearce of Dym Def. In addition, he is part of BeanOne and Fearce (#YuckTheWorld) (See below again)

 

 

Fearce and BeanOne– Fearce and BeanOne is a collective based off the Dyme Def group. They run 35th North Skate Shop and make some incredible music. If you click the picture you will be going to a serious but moving song called “Bully.”

 

 

 

 

Billy The Fridge

– Bill The Fridge is a Seattle rapper with a sense of humor and clever rhymes. If you have not been acquainted with him, get acquainted. Clicking his picture will take you to his video for “I’m Just A Bill.”

 

 

 

 

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis 2

– Macklemore and Ryan Lewis put Seattle on the map. There is so much to say about these two but suffice to say we owe them a great deal of gratitude. Great music, great style, true Seattleites. Clicking the picture will take you to their video for “The Town.”

 

 

Gift Uh Gab

– Gift Uh Gab is a great wordsmith from Seattle showing that our women from the rainy city can rhyme . Clicking the picture will take you to her song “My Life”

 

 

 

Blue Sky Black Death and Nacho Picasso

– Nacho Picaso/ Blue Sky Black Death is a partnership in the Town who have created some heavy dark music that has become a real part of the scene. Picasso’s tattooed body and their heavy beats blend well with his distinct style of rap. Click the picture and hear “Numbnuts.”

 

 

 

J Pinder

– J.Pinder is a staple in the Town rap scene. He has put in his work and is beginning to reap the rewards and respect. He has got a great flow and works with his beats meticulously. Click the picture and hear “Never No.”

 

 

 

Grynch

– Grynch is a Seattle rap veteran with songs like “My Volvo” (click the picture) that make sure everyone is having a good time. He hails from Ballard and represents Seattle with pride. He is coming up fast and I wont be shocked if he is the next national headliner from Seattle.

 

 

Peta Tosh

– Peta Tosh is a little known rapper with quality music and great beats. He is getting his name out there and has got a lot of skill to come. Click his picture to see “Alright.”

 

 

 

Jake One

– Jake One is a legendary producer from Seattle who has done work on tons of different tracks. He has inspired a whole new generation of audio engineers. Click the picture to hear his track, and one of my favorite Seattle songs “Home.”

 

 

 

 

Nissim Black

– Nissim Black (Formerly D Black) was a pioneer in the Seattle hip hop scene. He has recently converted to Judaism (welcome brother) and is producing all over the place. Click the picture to go to his YouTube page.

 

The Physics

– The Physics are a true Seattle rap group with roots across the city and are true Seattle hip hop artists. They are some of the most respected artists in Seattle and have got a lot of experience in the field and the city. Click the picture to listen to “Seward Park.”

 

 

 

Fleeta Partee

– Fleeta Partee is an old school Seattle rapper who makes fantastic music. He is a committed Town artist helping to put Seattle on the map. Click his picture and see his video for “Inception.”

 

 

 

Sol

– Sol is a true Seattle rapper currently traveling the world. I met him in Boston when he opened for the Blue Scholars and he was as chill as can be. Went to University of Washington and makes incredibly insightful and thoughtful music. Click his picture and check out his album Yours Truly.

 

 

 

Aaron Cohen

– Aaron Cohen is a rapper currently living in Brooklyn but hails from my neighborhood in Seattle. He is a rapper blazing his own trail and could very easily blow up to be the next big thing. He has got a distinct style in clothing, beard, and music that is unique beyond the comfort zone. Click his picture to check out his latest tape MURK.

 

 

 

 

AyeLogics

– AyeLogices is a rapper who is able to represent Las Vegas and Seattle simultaneously. He has got style for days and rhymes for more. Click the picture to watch his video for “Serious Remix.”

 

 

 

Art Vanderlay

– Art Vanderlay is a Seattle rapper who is our own version of Atmosphere. He is an artist who is dark and mysterious but has flow for days and his beats are fantastic. He works with a lot of Town rappers and is someone who really owns his own style. Click his picture to get to his new free EP “Eye 8 The Crow”

 

 

Q Dot

– Q Dot is a Seattle native and Grammy nominated producer who has really trying to bring some of the national spot light to Seattle. He is an incredible producer who has got pride in his work and pride in his home. Click his picture to see the video “24 Hours.”

 

 

 

 

Scribe

– Scribes is a rapper from Seattle who has got an incredible flow and lyrics. His beats are fun with a serious touch. If you click the picture you can listen to “Lift Your Light,” my favorite Scribes song.

 

 

 

 

Common Market

– Common Market is some old school hip hop with Sabzi (the producer of the Blue Scholars) designing the beats. The group is social rap group and well spoken, like a true Seattleites. Click the picture to listen to “Tobacco Road.”

 

 

Vitamen D

– Last but most certainly not least, Vitamin D is described as the “backbone” of Seattle hip hop. He is one of the guys raised in the Town when it was first coming up underground and now that Seattle is on a national stage, it is time for him to produce on the big stage. Click his picture to hear one of his beats…and him rant and rave.

 

 

 

 

I will be posting on more hip hop (though it may be a few weeks) but if you are hungry for more right now check out 206up.com, the best Seattle hip hop blog in my opinion. My next music posts will be about what was described to me by a good friend and musician as “under-underground” hip hop after a post about how rap music can be used in education. However for now,  prepare for The Town The Movement.

Why ___ IS NOT the Republican savior

First of all, sorry for the hiatus again, passover and school work have been eating up my time. However, I am back with a political post! (DISCLAIMER: This post is not designed to insult Republicans or be a partisan post in any way)

Answer the following question wisely, pick what you believe is the Republican savior:

A – Chris Christie Nominating moderate candidates who are electable in Democratic states

B- Rubio 2 + Hispanic Vote  Marco Rubio and the growing Hispanic vote will save the GOP

C – Technology Voter technology like the Obama campaign had with Narwhal (the in-depth voter tracking system)

D – College Students Getting the youngsters who are graduating college and will be voting for the next 50 years

E – Pro LIfeWorking to make single issue voters who are socially conservative be seen as more “accepting”

If you answered any of the above you are wrong.

In this bloggers opinion, and again it is just me, I firmly believe the Republican Party needs a make over, not one thing to change. There is no Republican savior because there can be no “magic bullet” (one thing fixes all).

The Republican party needs to incorporate everything above and more if they want to win. This is not a post bashing conservatives or right leaning people in any way. This post is simply to say THERE IS NO ONE THING ANYONE CAN CHANGE!

In order to fix the party and make it more inviting and electable, the Republican Party has to re-frame their issues, capture the growing demographic votes (aka not the old white vote that is dying out but the young vote and minority vote), brush up on their technology, and nominate electable candidates (sorry Tea Party-ers). If they do all of that they have got a better chance of running against the Democrats. This is of course dependent on the fact that the Dems ‘t nominate someone worth electing, if they nominate an old white male who has no charisma…bets may be off.

I am as non-partisan as you can be in this post, in my opinion these are facts. I purposely have not said my political views on this blog because I am still growing and learning. However, I feel frustrated with all these people saying “Rubio will save the Republican Party.” No, he really wont unless the party does some substantial re-branding/framing and conducts the PR campaign of the century which I believe they should.

One possible frame they could use I read when researching a paper I just talked about the idea that Republicans are compassionate by Gary Bauer. The article you can read  here talks about how Conservatives should be concerned and the champion of life, from the unborn fetus to the 85-year-old and their Medicare. This would be a very interesting frame to take and I would love to see Republicans middle of the road it a little more along with showing their sensitive side.

Oh, and no more of this Rubio 1

What do you think? Is there a magic bullet?

Obama was in Israel, what does that mean?

Obama and Nitanyahu

So Obama is on his first Presidential trip to Israel (ok, I had to read it twice also when I saw it was his first Presidential trip to Israel, but lets not hold it against him) as many great (see Bill Clinton) and not so great (see Jimmy Carter) Presidents have also done.  However, the questions that many people are asking is “what is the significance of this trip?” Why is Obama doing it now? What does the region look like as Obama pops in for a hello? What is the significance of where he is going and where he is not going on this trip? What is the big hubub about the speech he gave right on the tarmac? So yeah, that is a lot of questions, but I think we can get em’ all (like Pokemon).

Lets start with the first three questions which are tied together. What is the significance of this trip/ why is Obama doing it now/ what does the region look like? Thankfully we can answer all 3 of those questions at once (#3birds1stone).  At least some of the significance for this trip comes from the fact that the Syria regime continues to wage war against its on people and may or may not have already used chemical weapons on its own people. In that same vein the rebels, partially made up by the Islamic extremist factions, are rumored to have gotten some of the chemical weapons into their possession. Jordan grows ever closer to the Arab Spring (some call the Islamic Winter) with a majority of National Palestinians and over 500,000 Syrian refugees and an out dated monarchy (hence the name The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). In the south the Sinai desert is still the “wild west.” Egypt is run by the Muslim Brotherhood who are frightening yet are still “stable” for now. Hezbollah in Lebanon is helping Asad (Syria) murder his citizens and trying to get some of the arms from the Syrian regime to get ready for their next attack on Israel. Hamas in Gaza has just started launching rockets back into Israel (yesterday a rocket hit Sderot…welcome to Israel President Obama). Now we can move past what the neighborhood looks like and talk about the significance for the relationship between Israel and America.

Obama and Netanyahu have what some would define as a “strained relationship” (though I bet you couldn’t tell from all these pictures of them bro-ing out with their jackets over their shoulders).Obama and Nitanyahu 2 But in Obama’s defense, any professional relationship with an Israeli can be taxing, however, that does not excuse his hot mic problems at the UN or the comment he made to Goldberg (no relation to me) last month where he said “not only is Netanyahu moving his country toward international isolation, but the Israeli public itself ‘doesn’t know what its best interests are.'” (This was taken from Rule #3 “Thou Shall Not Diss They Counterpart” in The Ten Commandments of Visiting Israel from Foreignpolicy.com writer Oren Kessler. However, I am going to assume that both leaders are adult enough to get past the personal disagreements and they are clearly making a show of their friendship so lets not get too tied up in this issue. This issue of the significance of the friendship brings me to one of the major questions, where is he visiting and why?

Based on the question in the Times of Israel post Where Obama’s visiting in Israel where he isn’t and why by Raphael Ahren the locations of where Obama’s trip hits can help define what his visit symbolizes. I am not going to restate the whole article but it is an important article to read and here I will list a couple of highlights of the visit: visiting an Iron Dome battery (the foreign aid manifestation and how US saves Israeli lives), Netanyahu’s House (can you say house party?), The Israel Museum (where he will see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the technological developments Israel is leading the world with), Ramallah (lunch and press conference and you can check out the update from that here – Meeting Abbas, Obama says 2-state deal is ‘still possible’ by NY Times writers Mark Landler and Alan Cowell). Obama will also be giving a speech to the students of Israel. In addition he is going to Yad Vashem (on right)…and you can look at all the rest of his stops in Israel. Obama Yad VashemThe stops indicate a look to the future of the State of Israel, its partnership with America, but acknowledging Israels past. By visiting Yad Vashem and the Dead Sea Scrolls some say that Obama is presenting the image that the Jews were here before, and they will remain here. Israel is the Jewish homeland and I could not be prouder of his itinerary.

Finally it is important to look at the speeches he gave while in Israel. I would like to look at the short but sweet speech Obama delivered on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. The text of speech is here and you can watch the actual speech clicking here. The important aspects to think about in this speech include where he spoke and what he said.

Why did Obama speak on the runway? What is the significance of that? I would guess there could be any number of ways to interpret it. Whether it was that Obama wanted to speak as soon as he got to Israel, or the fact that he is giving a speech about the historic ties to Israel on the tarmac of the modern Israeli city. No matter how you interpret the location of the speech, it is food for thought.

Finally the actual speech. There is not much I can say about the speech other than fantastic! He touches on the Jewish roots in Israel, assures the country that he stands with them (a statement of suspect for some though not for me), he makes a point this is his FIRST foreign trip…or his second term, he articulates the reasons for why Israel and America stand together concisely and articulately. His repetitive line “we stand together” is brilliantly placed and not overly done but still emotional. It is a great speech and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also hope Mr. President got to have some of these Watermelon Icecream

What Jimmy V taught me

Jimmy V

In honor of the madness that is in March, I wanted to post this. More importantly this post is in memory of Coach Jim Valvano and the NC State upset of 1983.

Coach Jim Valvano is one of the most celebrated figures in college sports history for many reasons. It could be because of his incredible Cinderella story of the 1983 NC State team (a 6 seed) becoming national champions (recently featured on an incredible ESPN 30 for 30 “Survive and Advance,” check out the synopsis here…then watch it.). It could have been his unorthodox tactics, spending an entire practice cutting down the net so his players could visualize winning. It could have been his inventive coaching, using the trap and the triangle and two (basketball jargon). Jimmy V taught me something beyond basketball, he taught me how to be passionate and speak from the heart.

There are many great orators in the history of the world: MLK, JFK, my personal favorite Winston Churchill, and many, many more. However, while Coach V was not the greatest speaker or the most technically gifted he made up for it with his passion and heart. Before we get to his speech, lets talk about his story.

Jim Valvano, a New York native had a 19 year career as a basketball coach with stints at Rutgers, Johns Hopkins (I know…they have teams?), Bucknell, and NC State. He was the center of controversy where he may or may not have cheated (I don’t think he did) and was an overall inspirational human being. While he was coaching at NC State he was diagnosed with cancer changing not only his routine but his outlook on life it seems. It was after his diagnosis and winning the national championship that he gave his famous ESPY (ESPN awards) speech. This was the first speech we watched in my oral presentation class, and was one that taught me almost everything I need to know.

Jimmy V SpeakingIn the speech itself Coach V uses every rhetorical device to create, what, in this amateur speech writer’s opinion, one of the greatest speeches ever given. He starts with a joke, uses the rule of 3 (listing three things in a speech to help the audience remember), makes fun of the facts surrounding his speech (the cue card comment and the “30 second guy”), he uses lines that are memorable and moving (“time is very precious to me”), he acknowledges the elephant in the room (cancer), and uses a narrative with humor to help the audience feel engaged (one of the best narratives I have ever heard in a speech… your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers). He uses his motions perfectly and facial expressions match everything he says and does. There are no words that I can write to describe how the speech affects me, suffice to say you must watch it. Whether you have watched it a million times or never before, it is a speech that will get you every single time.

So we will always be grateful for the NC State Wolf Pack who, 20 years ago, where the Cinderella team that made us believe.  More importantly, we will always be grateful for, 20 years ago, Jimmy V stood tall, smiled, and gave us a piece of himself in that speech. A piece of himself that made us more than believe, it made us think, it made us smile, and it made us cry. I can only speak for myself but I will always be indebted to this man.

Click the picture to watch the speech and share your thoughts.

Hillary Clinton’s recent campaign speech

Hilary got Style

Yesterday Hillary Clinton announced her unflinching support for gay marriage in this video. The video shows the ex-Secretary of State/ ex-FLOTUS calm and composed making her emotional yet logical argument for equal marriage rights and the role it plays in shaping modern America. Now, I very seriously doubt that anyone is shocked that Clinton supports equal marriage opportunity, and I am not going to write about whether gay marriage is “good” or “bad” (I am trying to remain unbiased in this blog…who knows if I will be successful). However, I do want to look at a few things within this topic: Clinton’s statement itself, this statement as a Clinton PR move, and her front running for 2016.

Hillary Clinton, who was the frontrunner for the Democratic party at one point in 2008, knows how to speak. While she may not be as good of an orator as her husband Bill, her old boss Obama, or Coach Jimmy V (he will be the feature of the next blog post), she is still an incredible speaker. In the video linkHuman Rightsed to above, Hillary uses her soft yet stern yet soothing voice to explain her reasons for supporting gay marriage. She framed the speech with the human rights campaign banner seen on the right. That carefully placed banner portrayed this issue, in Hilary’s eyes, as about something more than a disagreement in religion or politics, about basic human rights. She says in her video “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights” drawing the parallel. She then begins using her experience to show what she means.

She delves deep into the fights and “pretty tough conversations” she has had with foreign leaders who do not agree with her, but she, as the ex- Secretary of State (mentioned probably three or four times in the video…showing her credentials), knows what it means for America to be a leader in human rights and specifically gay rights. She says that the United States has to be the leader in defending gay rights, and that “America is best when we champion freedom and dignity…it’s in our DNA” (who can argue with that?). She continues showing her experience by talking about a young Tunisian who approached her after their uprising (sort of a pat on the back, “we got through that one America, you’re welcome”) who asked about gay rights which showed her that the world views America as the leader and as an example. She talks about how these experiences “deepened her pride in our country and the ideas we stand for.” She also makes a clear that she has now “left public office,” I don’t want to say hinting but she is in a way proclaiming her ability to speak freely and consider new public office roles (hint hint keep reading).  Then we get to where the speech writer takes over.

The language in the second half of the address is flowery, colorful, and over all moving. Is it too much? I like to think that people should be able to be expressive so no, I would not say it is too much, but if you think so that is totally valid.  She begins the emotional pull with “there is work we must do at home.” To no surprise she builds a connection between the civil rights and the fight for gay rights, but what was tactful was the way she layered the foundation for this partnership. She uses the words “march” and “perfect union” along with “full and equal citizens.” These words are emotional ones for the black civil rights movement. The word “march” reminds people of the Washington Mall, “perfect union” of the speeches given describing what America could be, and full and equal citizens showcasing that we cannot segregate or differentiate. Later she uses the example of the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movements by name, but her subtle image planting from earlier is successful, we already know she is going there. She also gives a small, possibly unintentional (I read into things) nod to immigration reform saying that gay and lesbian people “deserve the rights of citizenship… that includes marriage.”

Finally she points to her “experience, devotion and faith,” as to why she supports gay marriage and equal rights. She talks about marriage (the first time I listened to the speech I laughed a bit) saying “marriage is a building block, great joy and great responsibility” and then uses an anecdote about going to their daughter’s wedding to bring it closer to home.  Finally she ends on a good note saying that we can “move closer and closer to that more perfect union promised to us all.” Overall, very good speech. (my rating would be an A-). However, moving past the speech it is important to think about the reasons for Clinton’s statement, as a public relations move. Why now? Why in this way? How is it framed by the media?

Clinton’s views were not a secret before she came out with this. To quote a Politico article written by Maggie Heberman entitled “Hillary Clinton stays in the game with gay marriage move” (when was Hillary out of the game?) she writes “Coming less than three months after she departed the State Department, Clinton’s move was about as surprising as a setting sun. Her party, not to mention her husband and daughter, was already on record as backing gay marriage.” (Check out the whole article here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/hillary-clinton-stays-in-game-with-gay-marriage-move-89033.html#ixzz2O1Losy7p).

While Hilary never actually left the game (her name has been on the tongue of everyone talking about the 2016 election), the image that she may not be a politician right now but is still concerned with human rights, dignity for all, and can use her powers and experience to help. Hil and CooperThis is a very clever move and I applaud it, as long as she is out of office she can use it with the old “together we can reform Washington” (see Obama back in 08). In addition, she could kind of leak this video because…well she is Hillary Clinton, if she leaked where she was eating lunch Politico would pick it up and run it front page (nothing wrong with that Politico, you guys are on top of your game). As far as a PR move, there was no downside to what she just did, only up and keeping her name in the minds and hearts of so many out there. Which brings us to the last point, Hilary 2016.

I know, I know, Joe Bidden or something or other about how someone else might get the nomination. No. She can take a little time off because she just finished up a pretty major job, but you better believe she will keep her name on the top of the list. I won’t be surprised if we see videos like this coming out every 3-6 months as part of her build up strategy. Whether we recognize it or not, this was Hillary campaign speech. If you ask me, a Clinton v. Christie ticket would be the most entertaining Presidential race I have ever seen. All we can do is wait and see what happens.

What makes a true “Irishman?”

IrishFull disclosure: I am only very slightly kind of part Irish. Technically I am 1/16th Irish. I know, that is really not a whole lot of Irish in me. Yes I have red hair and some times am too quick to get angry, but how does 1/16th allow me to call myself an Irish-Jewish-American? It is the problem that many Irish-Americans face (as evident of the picture above). With St Paddy’s day yesterday I figured it was a good time for me to write about how I feel the pride, even if I do not have the blood line to back it up.

There are many reasons that I was happy to claim I am an Irish American. I have been there (County Cork), I like Dropkick Murphy’s, and I live in Boston. In addition, I am white, I like bland potatoes, I used to be quick to anger,  and I could keep listing. How could I not be Irish, right? To understand why I cling to my 1/16th as a defining part of my identity it is important to think of why everyone else also claims to be Irish when they are 1/42nd Irish.

One reason why people might love Ireland is because it happens to be (in this writers opinion) the most beautiful country with rolling green hills, fresh air, and incredible small villages. But this is probably not the case since many people who are proud to be “Irish,” have never been to the country itself. Maybe it is because Irish people have a plethora of things others want: green beer, patriotism, or a romanticized image. Lets take these three possibilities one by one.

Green BeerGreen Beer: With St. Patrick’s day a hazy memory for most, green beer encompasses what Ireland is, namely: the color green and alcohol. This is of course not unfounded, the Irish generally like their drink. There are many pubs in Ireland and with the recent push for a law which allows drunk driving and the fact that Ireland invented Guinness, all signs point to alcohol. So it is not that outlandish that people associate Ireland with alcohol but there is of course a deeper level than an affinity for booze. I mean, people love booze but would they categorize themselves based on it? Hell, Polish people love their vodka, Germans love their beer, and the Americans (specifically Kentucky) love their bourbon. Why are people not people claiming to be from Kentucky?

Patriotism: Ireland is known as a country where patriots rule supreme. They are “Irishmen and Proud!” A great example is their music. It may be because of the struggles their country has faced or for any number of reasons.
The song entitled “Irish Song (True Irishman)” reeks of pride in the nation of Ireland and the fact that the Irish have gotten through some of the toughest times and oppressions known to man. The nationalism manifests itself in not only their incredible music (and I do mean incredible, you want to relax? turn on harps or bagpipes). The nationalism also comes through in sports (see the Irish Rugby or Soccer fanIrish Fanss…yeah that is intensity) and in everything else Irish. The pride that seeps from true Irishmen is appealing on so many levels, if only to say that you are in “the club.” I have many a time refereed to myself as an Irishman and I will continue to do so, even though I recognize that my 1/16th doesn’t really-totally count. The Irishman has an image of overcoming any obstacle, and then settling down to have a pint. Who doesn’t want that image of themselves? However, that can’t be the whole reason why people assume the image of the Irish is great, it is reinforced by what we call “Hollywood.”

Hollywood has romanticized the image of the Irish by creating a drinking, smoking, fighting Irishman as the symbol for all things Irish American. In the last 20 years here are some of the mains ones to come out with that image: (Click the pictures for the trailer)

GoodFellas (1990)
King of New York (1990)
Millers Crossing (1990)
State of Grace (1990)Millers Crossing Irish
Backdraft (1991)
Mad Dog Coll (1992)
Patriot Games (1992)
The Brothers McMullen (1995)
Celtic Pride (1996)
Last Man Standing (1996)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Angela’s Ashes (1999)
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Frequency (2000)
Thirteen Days (2000)
Gavin’s Way (2001)
25th Hour (2002)
Gangs of New York (2002)
In America (2002)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Mystic River (2003)
Ladder 49 (2004)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Four Brothers (2005)
A History of Violence (2005)
The Departed (2006)The Departed
Beantown (2007)
Black Irish (2007)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Fighter (2010)
The Town (2010)
Kill the Irishman (2011)

Those are some examples of movies with strong Irish men in the leading role who are “true men.” To qoute one of the worst movies of all time – the Boondock Saints 2:

“Rocco: I am so sick of all of this self help, twelve step, leftover hippie generation bullshit!
Connor MacManus: Now they don’t want you to do anything, right? Just sit there. Don’t drink.
Murphy MacManus: Don’t smoke. Don’t drive fast.
Conor, Murphy, and Rocco: Kiss my ass!
Rocco: Fuck it! Do it all I say! Do you think Duke Wayne spent all of his time talking about his feelings with a fuckin’ therapist?
Connor MacManus: There’s no fucking way he did!
Rocco: John Wayne died with five pounds of undigested red meat in his ass. Now that’s a man! Real men hide their feelings. Why?
Conor, Murphy, Rocco: Because it’s none of your fuckin’ business!
Rocco: Men do not cry. Men do not pout. Men jack you in the fuckin’ jaw and say…
Greenly: Thanks for comin’ out.”
see the scene here

The image of the hard-hitting-fast-drinking-Irishman is one that has been taken by Hollywood and exploited, for lack of a better word. I am not a true Irishman, I admit that, but I love many things about the country of Ireland.

What all of these things come down to are the dangers of stereotyping. I am not saying stereotypes are always false, nor am I saying they are always right. What I am saying is that it is up to each person to determine what makes something authentic. If you are born in Ireland, you are Irish. If you don’t do something deemed “Irish” (aka fight, drink, etc.) you can still consider yourself Irish. My advice is to not put yourself into a box.

Why I am obsessed with the Pope #Pope2013

Next Top Pope

I can’t actually tell you why. Not because it is a secret or because I don’t trust you, dear reader, I can’t tell you why because I don’t know why. That is how my obsessions work, something mysterious and intriguing has the ability to dominate my thoughts for no rhyme or reason. My obsession with the Pope could have to do with the secrecy of the Pope,  the Vatican’s hidden treasures, and the awesome robes they get to wear.

I am an orthodox Jew obsessed with the Pope… yeah it seems weird to me too. It started when The Girlfriend (AKA my girlfriend) confessed her obsession with the Papal office and the secrets it holds.  She is also obsessed with secret societies, age-old historical mystery (not aliens because she is not an insomniac who watches as the History Channel has gone down the toilet in recent years…yes I am bitter), and all other secret things. The world is obsessed with the Pope and Catholic religion, just look at the best-selling book of  2003, the Da Vinci Code. My obsession with the Pope comes from somewhere deep within me that I can’t describe (it is not because of the doppelganger-ness that the new Pope has to Pop Pop from Arrested Development). Pope and Pop PopHowever, I can try my best to explain some of why I have an obsession with the Pope, whether it is because of the mystical reasons, the political reasons, or the religious reasons.

My obsession, or more aptly named infatuation, with the Pope may be because it is a position of the greatest power. After all he is the head of the Catholic Church, possibly the largest and best funded organization in the world. I imagine the Papal office in the Church as thMountain and Foge top of a mountain. With an office so high up, it is clouded in mystery. This cloud of mystery, surrounding the office gets thicker and thicker towards the top of the mountain. I am from Seattle and recently visited San Francisco, so I know what fog looks like.The sheer mystery entranced me. I began to think about all of the secrets, the stories, and the ancient cover ups that could be taking place now (please see recent developments – the current Pope’s “stepped down” and the almost 24 hours it took to appoint a successor, as proof that there is something fishy happening in the vatican). The mystery, shrouded in uncertainty and tradition, lives on and only becomes more enticing. However, the Pope may fascinate me for other reasons, like political reasons.

I could write a full post on the political impact that appointing a new Pope brings. It has to do with foreign markets (what an African Pope would have meant) and what it means for American voters (the Pope’s stance on many different social issues). The question of what would it mean for the Pope to come from Africa vs. South America is one with many answers, all of which point to the political importance of this position in not only the Catholic Church but on a world stage. While the only Catholic President we have had was President Kennedy, Catholics still hold a lot of power in this country and can make decisions through their votes. A great example of the power of a religious vote is President Carters election. He made it a point to revolutionize the religious vote and did so by capturing his fellow evangelicals’ votes. The sheer power that the Pope has is something that astounds me. This power does not only have effects in politics, but also with religion (though I often see the two as one in the same (for a later post)).

I am an orthodox Jew, which means that I understand the power that a leader of a congregation, be the congregation 100 families or 1 billion people, can hold. The Pope, one man, as the leader of the Catholic religion is something that fascinates me because it means that everyone can look to one man. It allows for a figure-head, a symbol, that represents the people. In that sense, symbols fascinate me (another nod to the Da Vinci Code). It also may be the case that I love the Pope because I will never have a Pope. The Pope’s power seems astounding but when examining how much power the position holds, the question begs to be asked, does the Pope actually have that power? Is the Pope anything more than a symbol?

I am not sure.  Much like the Queen (who I am unabashedly obsessed with as well) the Pope is a symbol. In the case of the Pope it is a symbol which shapes people’s perception, an office surrounded by secrecy and centuries old treasures. It makes me wonder, and the wondering bug can be a precocious one.

Free Sex at Harvard: The Power of Words

Free Sex Harvard

Did I get your attention? The words free, sex, and Harvard are known as the most attention grabbing words in the English language. Our eyes are drawn to these words like ants to a picnic, like children to Playspace, or like middle age moms to book clubs. These words may get more views and interaction than any other singular words and so this post is a (no longer) secret experiment. I want to see if I get more hits on this post than any other because of my title that combines the power of the words (to quote Captain Planet: “with our powers combined!”). However, as long as I am discussing the power of words it is a topic that I have many thoughts about.

Words are used by marketers, writers, advertisers, and every other person who works in the world (except a few math people, who do use words when they publish). In fact, I would argue that it is impossible to live in modern society without communicating. Communication and more specifically words are used for many purposes though the most basic of them is to relay an idea from one party to another. Usually words are used to convince a person or multiple people to do something or buy something or think something. This means that words generally have an objective. This objective, however, can only be accomplished if people notice the words that you use. Hence, the often use of Harvard, sex, and free.

Words are used in a multitude of ways in different jobs. I recognize that in marketing and advertising, words are used both consciously and sub-consciously received to convince consumers to purchase their product or service. One example where advertisers and marketers use words cleverly in ad or marketing campaigns is Budweiser. Someone who drinks Budweiser is not more American than another citizen of the United States, yet Budweiser = America. To be able to make something about an idea, a word, that sparks emotion is the true beauty of their craft for  all these workers. I know more about the use of words in political framing and in public relations.

In public relations, as opposed to advertising and marketing, words are used to portray a perspective. The main difference is that the words used by PR practitioners (note the word choice) are more subtle. They are not shoving anything down the throat of the consumers, rather suggesting a new perspective on an issue. The issue can be new or timeless, but a new frame can be provided by the PR practitioner.

In addition, the phrase “framing” has recently become the political hot-word (an example of the power each word can hold). “Framers,” in the political sphere, are people who know which words are the right ones to use. For example, the famous Republican Party Guru Frank Lutz (http://www.luntzglobal.com/) and counter part Democratic Party Guru George Lakoff (http://georgelakoff.com/) are framers. These men and women who frame political issues are able to create and change the public perception. It is exposed in this article by Matt Bai of the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/magazine/17DEMOCRATS.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0http://. This article pretty much says that both parties are starting to realize that what matters more than what you say, is what the public hears.

Being able to change someones perspective is unique to the use of words and communication. Words can change the way we think about abortion (pro-life vs. pro-choice), filibuster (“abuse of power”), and Presidential candidates (“outsourcer-in-cheif”).

Finally, the last thing I want to touch on is the use of framing in speeches. Speeches have the ability to change peoples’ perspectives, shape passions, and create an emotional tie to the topic. Speeches have the unique ability to give a voice to an issue and a cause. This can be seen, specifically, in Obama’s most recent State of the Union. It was the only part worth watching, where he eloquently and passionately spoke about gun control and the “one vote” (frame alert). He framed it carefully in a way which allowed him to maximize his goal – to create a vote in Congress, by using a distinct emotional voice. Speeches allow great orators (Churchill, King, and others) to frame their issues in a uber-personal way. They can frame issues using their own distinct voice with well chose words and repetition. (HINT: for those who never realized what they were doing when they repeat themselves in a speech, they are often (not always) framing a position).

If I use the word Harvard, sex and free and it gets me an incredible amount of hits on my blog then this experiment has been a success. If not, it was fun to write about.

Side point: here is a fantastic rap song by Caskey (weird video) about the power of words – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBfWapATFjk

 

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