<![CDATA[ FIRST-RATE AMERICA - Blogs]]>Sun, 23 Apr 2017 16:42:42 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Progressing in the 21st Century: Part Two, Preparing Our Youth]]>Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:57:51 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2017/02/progressing-in-the-21st-century-part-2-preparing-youth.htmlWhen four-month-old Patty and Johnny are 18 years old in 2135 their world, in many ways, will be nearly unrecognizable to our Boomer and, even Millennial world of today and, in order to succeed in their new world, they will need certain values and skills – some timeless, and some not yet imagined.

We can teach them the timeless skills, preparing them for future education.

It is important to remember that sources for our youth’s development will more likely than not, stem from private organizations (private sector) rather than political (political sector), so we will do well to focus our attention primarily on the private sector.

Private sector resources are available for all students, whether they can afford expensive programs and education, or not. The tips here are intended for parents, students and teachers to use, as appropriate.

But first, let us take a peek into tomorrow, remembering that, along with supersonic technologic changes, values and social needs are unchanging.

THE FUTURE has begun.
According to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Advancing Human Potential and Creating Equal Opportunity -- “Our initial priorities are science and education, two areas in which systemic barriers prevent individuals from reaching their potential. Can today’s children learn and experience 100 times more than we did? Can we eliminate suffering by helping to cure, prevent or manage the diseases that affect us today? We believe the answer is yes.”

We won’t know specifics until the time comes, of course, but here are some projections from a variety of other experts:

Jobs
According to Prof. Arun Sundararajan (NYU Stern School of Business), the hierarchical style of jobs will likely be replaced by crowd-based capitalism (sharing economy), rather than the managerial (boss/manager/worker) version we’re gradually moving out of today.

Global Commerce
Brick and mortar stores and automobiles as we know them will probably exist in history books, only. We’ll probably purchase goods digitally, says Neha Nerula*, with Bitcoins or some other form of digital currency (known as cryptocurrency), instead of cash. Cars (which we won’t own) will be self-driving and/or flying, on an Uber-type platform.

*Neha Narula is Research Director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.

Technology driven global collaborative DIY projects define the Maker Movement.  

Education
Virtual Reality and augmented reality will take students ‘three dimensionally’ where mere pages and ink cannot – through history, architecture, astrology, boardrooms, geography --  as well as showing developments in climate change and control, medical ‘miracles – through every aspect of life.

Medicine
Real cyborgs, global crowdsourcing, surgical ‘Jedi knives’ and digital brains that ‘live’ after we die, are only a few of the probabilities of the next decades.

Medical research will be largely crowd-sourced collaboration, rather than conducted in individually funded laboratories,

Scarcity Management
According to KPMG Africa, “The world (in 2035) has developed very dynamically, especially in China and India. Global energy needs have increased by 80 percent. The scarcity of resources (with regard to energy resources, water, land and food) has increased dramatically. “Scarcity management” is a buzzword in Europe that describes how scarcity is used as an innovation driver.

Politics
Perhaps the most dramatic change will be in dynamics between Russia, China and the United States, as well as restructuring of the Middle East.

THE UNCHANGING
Whatever job situation the future adults will face, some things simply don’t change; they are universal values and effective communication skills.

Values are the bedrock upon which we face the turbulent, fast-moving changes of our lives. Parents, teachers, and other members of the community are responsible for instilling values in children, that will serve them all their lives.

They must learn and practice empathy in a globally diverse society and achieve the feeling of ownership in society by volunteering to improve environment, infrastructure, education and society as a whole – they can choose according to their interests and abilities.

 Examples of values are:
·       Honesty
·       Hard work
·       Determination
·       Courage
·       Trust and respect
·       Ownership in society
·       Curiosity
·       Personal responsibility
·       Social justice
·       Accountability

Communication Skills
Learn and practice verbal and non-verbal communications skills
·      Listening
·      Negotiation
·      Conflict Resolution
·      Team Building and Participation
·      Debate
·      Trust and Respect
·      Critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation.
·      The Great Debaters film (lesson plans)
·      Learn team building and participation

THE PREPARATION
According to Motley Fool, as children enter the adult world, their success will depend primarily on their attitudes toward technology, money and adaptability, and their curiosity, which they will learn at home and in the community, from their earliest days.

Equitable opportunities, rather than equal ones, must be provided, meaning each student’s unique needs; equal opportunities mean that, regardless of their individual needs, they all derive the same opportunities – thus, the equal system provides unfair advantages to some, because needs technology opportunities, optimal style of learning – auditory, visual, tactile -- often vary widely. Encourage participation in scholarship-rendering competitions.

America’s current system of education was built for an economy and a society that no longer exists. In the manufacturing and agrarian economies that existed 50 years ago, it was enough to master the Three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic). In the modern world, though the Three Rs simply aren't enough.

Recognizing that students are whole individuals, who may face social and physical challenges that could impact their ability to learn, The Primary School, a model school in the ChanZuckerberg Initiative, addresses all aspects of education for underserved children and families, from Age 3 through high school, with the ultimate goal of providing similar opportunities across the globe.

“The only way we can reach our full human potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world,” said Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg.

If tomorrow’s students want to compete in this global society, they must be proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators. That would require a significant overhaul of, not only the education system, but also attitudes toward education. No longer can the emphasis be on playing competitively (sports programs) rather than learning collaboratively and thinking critically, as they would in a debating team.

The Great Debaters, a true story, features severely underprivileged high school students in the 1930s, whose dedicated, imaginative teacher taught them to debate, ultimately inspiring them to compete with the Harvard Debating Team – and win!

Even in Middle School, students can learn debating skills, which include critical thinking, collaboration, research, public speaking and team skills. Parents and teachers can acquire skills for teaching leadership with verbal communication through such organizations as Toastmasters International.

Patty and Johnny are likely to find themselves in a community-driven society, rather than an individualistic one; it will be collaborative, rather than competitive, and it will be globally based. Shifting from a competitive to collaborative approach is directly related to the current prevalent approach of win/lose objectives in the competitive paradigm. One person or team wins (dominating, strong), and the other loses (powerless, weak).

In the win/lose mindset, only half will succeed; half will not, so that society will be weaker and less effective than the win-win (collaborative) society in which everyone wins, and the strength is double that of the alternate approach. Therefore, following global trends today, American society must adopt a collaborative approach in order to thrive in tomorrow’s world.

From earliest days, John R. and Mary Pat, parents of the infants, can begin preparing their children to succeed; they can read to them, talk to them and sing to them often, using repetitious words, such as nursery rhymes so that the babies can begin recognizing speech patterns. As the children begin to form opinions, parents can listen closely to them, non-judgmentally and, through gentle questioning, guide them to critical thinking.

The resultant love of reading will play an important role in achieving success in general information, empathy and communications skills.

Also, they can teach their children the beginnings of reading, counting, math and other skills through such online sites as Scholastic (free) and  Enchanted Learning ($20 per year).

Community Involvement can involve the local neighborhood, church, school, etc., and ripple out to involve the entire globe.
Collaboration is integral to community involvement. For individual participants, this involves developing skills for:
·      listening
·      innovation
·      brainstorming
·      conflict resolution
and
·      negotiation – all, in diverse situations.
      
Participating in such groups as Girl and Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs and Youth Volunteer Corps as well as a myriad of other community outreach groups, can nurture a sense of belonging to the community and self-worth as the youngsters learn and contribute their talents.

Conversely, when children and young adults benefit from such groups as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Toastmasters International’s Youth Leadership courses, they can help to fill in whatever gaps they may experience in socialization and communication skills.    

Crowd Science, now available on BBC Radio and ResearchGate are only two of the global information crowdsourcing opportunities available today and, for higher education, scholarships and competitions abound.

Obviously, Patty and Johnny will grow up in a tech-driven global society, for which you will help them lay the foundation by teaching unchanging values, attitudes and skills. Technology itself will take them the rest of the way.

Among the many, many additional excellent resources for riding the wave of accelerating progress in technology, energy, science and education are:

·      Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman

·      The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 

I'm ready to help our youth learn to mold a world in which everyone has equivalent opportunities to thrive, together; are you? We can take this journey together!

* * * 

P.S.: Patty and Johnny’s names are derivations of my oldest brother’s and mine; John R. and Mary Pat were our parents; using their names is a tribute to them. They took us as far as they could, at the time. With our more basic education of the last century, we couldn’t even have dreamed of the world we inhabit today! Just look at how far we’ve come, though, and imagine how far our children and grandchildren will soar!

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<![CDATA[Progressing in the 21st Century: Part 1, Saving Jobs]]>Fri, 06 Jan 2017 19:43:16 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2017/01/progressing-in-the-21st-century-part-1-saving-jobs.htmlBlinded by media attention to politics, we may forget that the private sector drives change today, through initiatives and funding to equalize opportunities.

With planning and commitment, private sector jobs can be steady, providing opportunities for all, even as technology changes at breakneck speed in robotics, communication, education, medicine and more.

For younger folks, these changes will be the norm; however, older workers face three options: they must decide whether to adapt to the new workplaces, to reject them and go jobless, or to retire.


The job market has been in flux for some time; however, rather than plan ahead for impending job losses, some industry leaders have chosen to take their profits and let laid-off employees fall where they may, while others lead their workers into a confident, productive future.



The coal industry is an excellent example of the former. Had industry leaders, seeing the trend away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, arranged to prepare and train workers for jobs of the future, they would have achieved the ideal transition, while continuing to profit from their new initiatives. They did not look to the future, however, allowing coal-based jobs and communities to die.

Workers, who succeed in the 21st Century, adapt to changing technology. When 61-year-old Martin Oliver was laid off from his steelworker factory job, he chose to move along with the times.

Today, we're functioning on a completely different technological and social playing field from our comparatively recent past; today, it's more like Einstein imagined when, at 16 years of age, he wanted to ride alongside a light beam into galaxies. Today, we are riding a breathtakingly fast-moving cloud through the present, into the future.

Numerous jobs in the United States are going unfilled because qualified workers cannot be found, while blue collar workers, who could be trained in technology related to fields from which they were laid off, are suffering. By looking beyond today, educators and industry leaders can get ahead of this rapidly changing technology, and manage it effectively.

Lifelong Learners Are Lifelong Earners

Who will survive and thrive, and who will fall by the wayside? As robotics and other technologic jobs replace traditional forms of work, Oliver and others who accept that their world will never stop changing, commit to preparing for their next step.

Industry leadership is key to providing opportunities for their workers to move with the changes. AT&T is an excellent model for workplace innovation, according to Thomas Friedman, in his Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.

“Their deal is you need to take the degrees AT&T has designed with Udacity [an online university] in order to upgrade your skills and acquire the skills you’ll need for the AT&T of the future, which is now much more of a technology company and less about climbing up telephone poles. If you do that, they’ll give you first crack when new jobs open. They won’t go outside.

“AT&T’s deal is we’ll give you the courses, we’ll even pay you tuition — up to $8,000 a year and $30,000 over your lifetime at the company — but you have to take the courses on your own time”, said Friedman.

“If you’re ready to do the learning, they’re ready to do the hiring. But if you’re not, they have a nice severance package. You’re not going to work there any longer.

“That kind of social contract is coming to the rest of the country. And so you have to have more grit, persistence and self-motivation. A lot of people don’t have that.”

Adaptability is Key to Job Survival

We can, and must stay in step with change if we are to survive; and, if we want to progress, we must stay ahead of it.

Martin Oliver, 61, was laid off from his job as a machinist in steel production. Not content to accept his replacement by a robot, he went back to school; now, he programs those machines that took his job. Oliver accepts that adaptability is the key to job survival today.

In addition to job longevity, adapting to change also brings health benefits, according to Sharon H. Bergquist, M.D., Internist and Assistant Professor at Emory University.

“Your ability to adapt requires skills and knowledge,” she says, but your flexibility to adapt is your attitude. People who are willing to try new tools and experiences nurture and reinforce a positive attitude and a greater belief in their abilities.

“These traits of optimism and self-efficacy not only help with career success but translate to tangible health benefits by buffering your stress response. Accepting change, challenging your existing viewpoints, and continual learning also support brain health by building and strengthening nerve connections,” the doctor concluded.

I'm ready, are you? We can take this journey together, progressing in the 21st Century!

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<![CDATA[How to Differ Harmoniously and Respectfully, to Raise our Political Bar]]>Sat, 16 Jul 2016 23:56:52 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2016/07/how-to-differ-harmoniously-and-respectfully-to-raise-our-political-bar.htmlAs we move into a new, more serious phase of our Presidential campaigns, it's good to remember that no matter how strongly we feel about supporting our candidate and opposing the other one, at the end of it all we will have to be able to live together harmoniously and respectfully, demonstrating to the watching world that we can do it.

In order to promote our own beliefs without alienating our opponents, and set all of us up for post-election success, several opportunities come to mind which, I'll admit, entail some mental acrobatics which will, hopefully, bring some of the bottom feeders up to a higher level while positioning us all for a more cooperative, productive post-election period.

It's important to present our candidate and position strongly and effectively. The first opportunity is to to present our side meaningfully so that, in the polling station, voters will think positively of our candidate. Here's how:

• Present positive points about whichever side we support, a little at a time, rather than trying to tear down the opponent and bombard our audience with more information than they can remember.

This will take discipline and thought, because we're so used to taking the easy road of tearing down the opposition; it will also help us to evaluate where we stand, and the reasons for it. Example: We know that Republicans believe Pres. Obama and Hillary Clinton (HRC) have done terrible jobs, but we don't know what the Republicans and/or Donald Trump (DT) specifically, not vaguely, offer us.

• Be honest about your party/candidate's shortcomings, and tell how you balance it with your allegiance. Example: on CNN's Smerconish program (July 16), Rachel Hoff (openly gay GOP platform planning member) smilingly said that she knows the Republican platform doesn't support gay rights, but she reconciles that with their...(you'll have to look it up).

The same goes for Democrats; they need to provide a higher percentage of information on what HRC and the Democratic party stand for, and how she will lead them to achieve those goals, than on what they dislike about DT and the GOP.

• Avoid name calling, ('Crooked Hillary', 'Pocahantas') irrelevant references to the past ('she stood by her husband during his scandal'), cartoons and memesadjectivesand vague accusations ('she's a woman hater'). They're weak references.

• Stick to truth and facts; back them up with credible links, and think critically - verify accusations by finding and presenting links to support or negate them;

• Don't attribute intentions - we have no idea, really, why anyone did or said anything. All we can say is they said it, and to show their history of similar or disparate behavior to support our supposition.

• If you support the either party but not necessarily its candidate, say so frankly so that people can relate to, respect and support your position. Example: Tell why you support xyz (women's rights, etc.), for example, and show how the GOP platform fits in with that. Try to be as specific as possible - 'responsible spending' isn't enough; what do you mean by that?

• Keep your language clean; remember, children are watching, too, and keep the passion inside; just present yourself as strong, accurate and respectful.

If we adapt our approach positively and raise the bar, we will gain the respect of those who oppose our beliefs, as we enjoy greater self-respect. We will be able to show the world that we really can run honorable Presidential campaigns and live together effectively, afterward.


MORE:Democratic PartyDonald TrumpFacebookFamilyHillary ClintonMike PencePoliticsRepublicans
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<![CDATA[Chaos or Productivity? Our America, Our Choice]]>Wed, 30 Mar 2016 16:43:37 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2016/03/our-america-our-choice.html“As the US moves into a society more globally cooperative than confrontational in keeping with the 21st Century, we remember that we can also learn from others.”
                                                                                                                                                                                     –  Mark Zuckerberg 

Our politicians let us down; we feel angry. Opportunities seem limited; we are angry. Some Presidential candidates tell us ‘America is not great’; some of us feel discouraged and fearful. How we see our America, and how we handle our anger will define us today, and for generations to come.

Yes, most of us are angry, but not all for the same reasons; some of us are angered and frustrated by Congressional obstructionism; some are angry at each other because of inequality of opportunity and prejudice. Some fear the changing color of the American majority, and manifest that fear in angry reaction.

Master manipulator and bully Donald Trump whips up his supporters’ anger, feeding their fear and prejudice and threatening riots in the streets if he does not win the GOP nomination; other people express fear of a Trump presidency. We will each decide whether to channel our anger and fear through mob chaos, or through peaceful productivity

Although we’re often discouraged and ashamed at the nature of politics today, but politics is only one side of the coin; the other side offers us tremendous pride, hope and optimism for America and our place in the world. The side of the coin less seen is our private sector’s leadership in innovation independent of government.

The global paradigm is quietly shifting from archaic domination, to 21st century global collaboration and cooperation, resulting in social improvement with its accompanying business opportunities – and America is at the forefront. Global innovation in technology, sustainable energy, education and transportation today is a vibrant field, often fertilized with open source technology.

It is important to remember that the days of America vs Everyone Else are long gone, despite Trump’s tired outdated approach which he calls America First. In today’s global marketplace in which we are all connected via the Internet, successful business people collaborate and cooperate with innovators globally, to level the playing field of opportunity.

Project leaders provide open source technology in order to work with technical and social leaders at home and in other countries, so that the expertise is enhanced by the sharing of information and ideas. We have moved from a Me to a We mentality. As we learn more about this paradigm shift, we see its implications as profoundly mind-boggling.

So, in America today, we are in the unique position of choosing between chaos and productivity; both will continue in society, because that is the nature of our human conglomerate. Our choice will affect our own microcosm, and future generations under our influence.

If we choose productivity, we must look for, recognize and promote the good of leaders in the private sector of the United States and around the world. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are two of numerous individuals whose firms, not only innovate, but make their technological discoveries open to the public; they open source their work, and invite global collaboration and cooperation in order to improve society, with resulting improvement of trade around the world. Is their work philanthropic or business-oriented? The answer is, both.

According to leadership expert Doug Conant, “During my decade as CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, we created the aspirational mission of ‘building the world’s most extraordinary food company by nourishing people’s lives everywhere, every day.’ Along the way, we launched several ambitious philanthropic initiatives.

“In 2010, we committed to cutting our environmental footprint in half by 2020. We announced a special partnership with the American Heart Association to address consumer concerns over heart health, particularly as it related to diet. In partnership with the Campbell Soup Foundation, we built a long-term program to directly address childhood obesity and hunger in communities where the company operated major facilities.

“I observed that the more we leveraged our business resources to deliver social value to the communities around us, the more engaged our employees became and the better we performed in the marketplace,” Conant continued.

At the forefront of this 21st Century approach to business philanthropy are:

Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla Energy, Tesla Motors, SolarCity).
‘We can power the entire United States from just a corner of Nevada or Utah,’ said Musk at the Sorbonne in Paris on Dec. 2, 2015. “…More power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, yet solar only provided 0.39 percent of the energy used in the U.S. last year.

“…If solar is 20 percent efficient at turning solar energy into power, as it has been in lab tests, we’d only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030”, he continued.

Musk went on to say, “The sun is a giant fusion explosion and it shows up every day. If we have photovoltaics, solar panels, we can capture that fusion energy. It also needs to be stored in a battery, so we can use it at night. Then we want to have high power lines to transfer solar energy from one place to another.”

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, Internet.org, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Oculus) with multiple global collaborations, including Germany.
“Berlin is a symbol of so much that I believe in: breaking down walls between people to make the world more open and connected”, said Zuckerberg.

“Now Germany's leadership and compassion in the refugee crisis has also become a symbol of what it means to build an inclusive global community, and has set an example for the world. As the U.S. moves into a society more globally cooperative than confrontational in keeping with the 21st C, we remember that we can also learn from others.” 

Facebook’s entire research program on artificial intelligence runs on sustainable energy, as do Elon Musk’s energy-related projects.

Other leading innovators are:
Linux, Free Software and Open Source
Samsung – uses Linux in its global open source program, including Samsung Electronics America.
Openstack offers open source cloud computing services, using Linux technology. Based in San Antonio, TX.

Anger and Hatred, or Peace and Light?

Today’s acrimonious political climate could easily spill over into our private lives, and now, with the added combustive threat of rioting at the GOP Convention, it’s essential for us to be mindful of what’s happening, and how we can maintain our own equilibrium by individually choosing how we deal with anger, and how we approach it collectively.

Generalized anger today is a given; the way it’s approached is more individualized. Here are some suggestions.

Change can be accomplished by us, one-by-one. Each of us has to examine our own thoughts and aspirations, and combine them with our own moral compass. In our private lives, positive productive people among us may find inspiration in St. Francis’ prayer, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace, the words of which can apply universally, to people of all religious traditions.

Our choice is to see the glass as half-empty in which, feeling helpless, we grind our teeth and stir up chaos; or half-full in which we focus on positive production, and make that our legacy.

“I believe the only sustainable way to fight back against those who seek to divide us is to create a world where understanding and empathy can spread faster than hate, and where every single person in every country feels connected and cared for and loved. That's the world we can and must build together,” said Zuckerberg.

When we focus on the positive, both privately and publicly, we will begin to strengthen the healthy aspects of society in our collective minds, and the unhealthy aspects will begin to wither away.

Whichever way we go, to joining the anger crowd or the achiever crowd, is our choice; let us choose thoughtfully and well, remembering how it affects our tomorrow.

For more information, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Facebook, Tesla, SpaceX, Open Source, SolarCity, Virgin, Artificial Intelligence, Sustainable Energy, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Berlin, Germany

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<![CDATA[When Loved Ones Are Political Captives, Is It Wise to Go Public?]]>Sun, 20 Sep 2015 21:25:57 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/09/when-loved-ones-are-political-captives-is-it-wise-to-go-public1.htmlThis is an update of a previously published blog.

The issue of loved ones who are political captives is highly charged emotionally, with myriad ramifications. When it seems that, behind the scenes, nothing is being done to free loved ones it is certainly understandable for well-meaning, though impatient, individuals who wish to help, to jump in and attempt to move the process along. The following is intended as a case study of what might be immeasurably helpful, or not, and what might be misconstrued so as to lead to loss of credibility.

Until this afternoon, my stepson had been a detainee in Yemen since March 27 -- 173 days; he had not been heard from directly or indirectly since the 26th of March. Scott Darden, an American civilian, working for a New Orleans-based shipping firm, TransOceanic Development, was in that war-torn country on assignment to assist in the distribution of humanitarian supplies when the bombing began and he was detained. Prior to being detained, he had spoken warmly of his great love for the Yemeni people.

Although the FBI had urged public silence as they worked to have Scott and other captives freed, after nearly six months of seeming inactivity one close friend decided, on his own, to release the story to the Washington Post.

This friend also started a Facebook page, Free Scott Darden (since disabled); so far, so good. The friend chose not to give his name as administrator of the page, so it seemed to be either anonymous or an initiative by Scott's wife and family.

The page spread globally, with tremendous support and, since the news was already out, I joined its propagation and promoted it with my media contacts because, while it was not publicly attributed, the content until then was good.

Next, the administrator decided to feature a catalog-like photo of a T-shirt sayingKeep Calm and #FreeScottDarden. No solicitation was made, though the implication was that it would be offered for sale.

The image implied the future commercialization of this intensely stressful situation for the family; it left people wondering who would benefit from such potential sales, and implied that the family was initiating it. The administrator, for reasons unclear to me, had refused to acknowledge the site or to remove the T-shirt image and substitute it for a meme, which Scott's supporters could then share. This sensitive issue threatened the credibility of everyone who promoted the page in good faith, as an effort to help effect Scott's release.

I mention this difficult issue as a caveat for others who are in similar circumstances to ours. While it is unclear at this time whether the public attention helped or hurt the negotiating process for my stepson, it is clear that the decision to go public was risky and seemingly impetuous.

When, shortly after the story was released, the family decided to contain the publicity, I removed all reference to Scott's captivity from my Facebook page and website, and asked Huffington Post to remove the original of this article from their pages; they graciously complied, and I am grateful to them for that. Several weeks after the family's request, the Free Scott Darden Facebook page disappeared, as did information from the Free Scott website.

The decision to follow advice regarding keeping quiet about political captives, or to go public despite the advice, is a difficult one which, ideally, the family must make. Friends, no matter how passionately they may feel about seeming lack of progress, should be strong enough to defer to the family's wishes.

If, however, the decision is to go public, it is important to remember several important points. In addition to factual accuracy, the most important elements in mass communication are transparency, accountability, and ethical impeccability. If you are a novice to mass communication and you decide to go public, it would be wise to consult professionals in your public campaign.

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<![CDATA[Keeping My Best 'Me' at Age 74]]>Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:04:38 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/06/keeping-my-best-me-at-age-74.htmlPeople approach middle and old age in a variety of ways; some try to appear younger with Botox, plastic surgery and other artificial methods. Others give in and give up, just sitting around lethargically; while others choose to embrace it - either through formal programs, or through informed informal means. I've done both -- given up during my 60s, and embraced it from 70-on; you might say I'm now a happy veteran of aging healthfully, my way.

What did our forebears do to maintain a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, before Lumosity, gym memberships, the latest diet and other programs? That's the approach I prefer - the natural, zest for living - that has brought back the me of my best years, and keeps her in me.

My ancestors in the West of Ireland, kept vigorous by just the everyday activities of a grounded life, maintaining farms before machinery came along to help them. They did it with farm animals and strong backs, and simple, nutritious food - men and women, with neighbors helping - and they still found energy to enjoy each other at the end of the day. Music, dancing and storytelling all together was the custom.

As for me, I've always been adventurous, welcoming challenges and obstacles, testing myself; now that I'm old, guess what! I'm still me, and that's what influences my choices today, with the support and encouragement of Dr. Sharon Bergquist, my award-winning physician at Emory University.

Today, my ties with those strong men and women of yesteryear are unbroken. I have no time for regimented means of warding off old age; I'm much too busy maintaining my healthy mind and body the natural way.

That way involves adaptation, problem-solving, innovation, research, and strength (moral and physical). Along with walking my companion-dog Pokey up and down the hill on my street several times a day, I thrive on hard physical work, taking care of my home, making small repairs, painting, etc. and hanging sheets and towels to dry on the clothesline, year 'round. I eat moderately of energizing natural foods, some of which I grow in my gardens, saving treats (bacon, ice cream, etc.) for weekends.

My blood pressure and cholesterol are normal, and my weight is stable, on no formal diet. So far, I've seen no signs of arthritis or Alzheimers, and I'm enjoying the heck out of life on a limited budget.

As I continue to plant my gardens, I use natural materials with the aim of sustainability, tending to save rather than throwing away a lot of materials; one thing leads to another, as the gardens change. With several problem areas to improve, I find that they all combine for mutually beneficial results.

Here's a case in point. On my half-acre or so of hilly terrain, I've planted a variety of gardens -- some edible, others ornamental -- and those gardens keep self-multiplying. On my screened-in porch I've just transitioned an unsuccessful herb garden to a water garden. That led to my starting a brand new plot on the side of my house.

Here's how it went, on the tiniest of budgets, without asking for help with the work: A couple of years ago, after Pokey had had multiple indiscretions on some rugs, they were so stained it seemed they were destined for the curb. Instead of dumping them, though, when I noticed the area on the side of my house was pretty barren except for matted vines, I covered a wide area of it with leaves and other organic matter, then the carpets to kill the vines. Of course, in time, rich dark soil developed there.

The carpets stayed in place until this past weekend, when their remains finally went to the curb; they had rewarded me well with a comparatively vine-free area and good soil.

In the garden adjacent to my front porch, I had some ginger lilies that were beginning to overpower the Japanese maple, so they had to go; where? To the side yard, of course, where they now stand as tall sentinels.

On my screened porch in the back, the pond liner which had held the winter herb garden gave me three wheelbarrows full of rich black dirt that went around the house and up the bumpy path to the new garden area. Gravel mixed in with the soil is a bonus.

Pushing the heavy wheelbarrow up the uneven path to the new bed was difficult and challenging; each trip required several rest stops. Though I could have asked for help, I prefer to do as much as I can myself, with the happy byproduct of enhancing my strength, stamina, and self-esteem! Don't worry, all this went on over several days; I pace myself carefully.

Next, in the mint, veggie and berry border in front of the house, the mint and some spreading pink shrubs, whose name I haven't found, were getting a little too enthusiastic, so some of the mint and pink shrubs went to the side patch, spread with that rich black dirt from the pond liner, as far as it would go. After a good, gentle watering on the new area, I loaded the last of left-over pinestraw and wheeled it up to the side to mulch the new garden.

Creating the water garden required only cleaning the pond liner, and a modest outlay for a lovely water lily; so far, the cost for this entire garden synchronization project has been minuscule compared with health programs I might have chosen. After some more research, I'll decide if a simple form of aeration would allow small fish to thrive with the water lily.


Of course my physical work isn't all that keeps me vigorous and exuberant; the more intellectual work is a big component, as well. The first few hours of each day find me watching the news and commenting on coverage and issues of the day. A formerly active journalist, I still hold the media to a high standard -- praising and prodding as the occasion warrants.

And my activist juices lead me to maintain my website, while working to keep social media discussions on a thoughtful, factual, respectful level. That involves research and fact-checking to discern truth from claims, keeping the record straight.

Keenly aware that I share the DNA of my ancestors, I draw on them for support and inspiration to keep me healthy and grounded, living below my Social Security income.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but I trust in God's mercy to see me through anything that may come along, so I am at peace, staying in the 'now'. I know I'm still me, I'm feeling great about life, and that's a pretty good way to be old!


MORE:CNN HealthFirstrateamericaGerontologyNatural FitnessOrganic FoodSenior ChoicesSharon H. BergquistSustainability]]>
<![CDATA[Two American Heroes Show Us How to Restore Exceptionalism]]>Wed, 10 Jun 2015 20:02:16 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/06/two-american-heroes-show-us-how-to-restore-exceptionalism.html"We've come through panics, Depression, floods, strikes, wars and more, and there's something here that seems to hold us together. There's a spiritual something that always sees us through, and we must never lose that.

"So remember my friends, that even though things are a little wrong right now, there's always that chance of making them right."

George M. Cohan, as
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
Fourth of July speech in
I'd Rather Be Right


On June 6th, they buried Beau Biden, an American hero. Biden expressed his patriotism by living his ideals as a loving family man, an attorney, military officer in the Judge Advocate General Corp, an Iraq War veteran and a politician. Biden's work focused on the underdogs - whistleblowers, victims of domestic abuse and of mortgage foreclosures.

This Fourth of July, 2015, marks the anniversary of acclaimed entertainer George M. Cohan's birth in 1878, and the anniversary of biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy's debut. The film, which the American Film Institute named one of the top American films of all time, chronicles the life of Mr. Cohan, who showed his patriotism through song, dance and drama.

How could the lives of these two men, seemingly so disparate in time and detail, be relevant together? Why do we even care about Cohan and his work, today in the 21st Century? Surely, we've moved on from that outdated stuff! Right? Wrong!

While circumstances were different in Cohan's day, the spirit of American unity along with pride and respect for our flag and the importance of character are applicable today, as seen in our response to the death of Beau and our outpouring of sympathy to the Biden family. We relate to them and to so many others who are patriotic, driven by integrity.

Surprising parallels marked the lives of Beau Biden and George M. Cohan. Biden was 46 years old; Cohan, 64 when they died. Biden and Cohan, both Irish-Americans honored by Presidents, were devout Catholics who died from cancer. Both men made serving their fellow Americans their professional lifework; they would strive to unite and rally us, despite cynicism and our other human foibles, to work for the common cause of a vibrant, healthy country.

Both men marked their lives by love - of family above all, then community and country. From their parents, they each learned to live their ideals of loyalty, integrity, trustworthiness, hard work, respect and caring for others, and both passed them on to their children.

They lived their values simply and humbly. Though Cohan's stage presentations were exuberant and elaborate, in personal life he was quietly unassuming.

Said Pres. Barack Obama at Biden's funeral, "In this reality TV age, especially in today's politics, if you're loud enough or controversial enough you can get some attention. But to make that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity is rare."

Gen. Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff, United States Army), who bestowed posthumously the Legion of Merit award on Beau Biden, also spoke of his character. "A man's character is truly revealed under the most extreme and stressful conditions. I was able to witness firsthand Beau's incredible character, one principled with deep moral and ethical roots.

"He understood the importance of maintaining trust with his fellow soldiers and with the public to gain justice, and with the victims he fought so hard for; with everyone he came into contact with, and he did it by smiling, listening and showing genuine compassion to all."

Perhaps the best measure of Beau Biden, though, is where he stood in the hearts ofordinary citizens, and they often expressed it in terms of his Dad, Vice-President Joe Biden. Said Wilmington (De) resident Bill Dowling, "To me, being outside this (funeral) service is not as much a political gathering. It's more like patriotism, being able to unify the people, even the most diverse of people. That's kind of what it's about. Pride in Delaware, pride in the United States. I've never met the Bidens, but I'm a fan. Joe Biden is a really good man."

If he had lived longer, who knows how far Beau Biden would have gone in his quiet, steady, pursuit to 'do the right thing' for his family, his community and his country!

Ninety-seven years ago, when Congress declared war on the Ottoman Empire following the Germans' sinking of the Lusitania, Cohan said, "It seems it always happens; whenever we get too high-hat, too sophisticated for flag waving, some thug nation decides we're a pushover, all ready to be blackjacked, and it isn't long before we're anxiously looking up to be sure the flag's still waving over us."

Said Pres. Roosevelt to Cohan, "One thing I've always admired about you Irish-Americans: You carry your love of country like a flag -- right out in the open. That's a great quality."

When Cohan tried to enlist in the Army, he was rejected because he was eight years older than the maximum age limit of 30 years. When he protested, the Major on duty softened the blow, however; "Don't worry, Mr. Cohan, you're far more valuable at home than over there." And so, he wrote the award-winning rallying song, Over There.

A headline on Page One of the New York Chronicle read, Congress Calls "Over There" American Victory Hymn; George M. Cohan congratulated by Pres. Woodrow Wilson.

After an enviable career of hit after hit, Cohan retired for 10 years until, in 1937, he returned to Broadway to star in the Rodgers & Hart musical, I'd Rather Be Right, about Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR was pleased that, instead of depicting the President in a wheelchair, Cohan made him the singing, dancing focus of a rip-roaring production, more in keeping with the crippled President's personality.

On May 1, 1940, Roosevelt called Mr. Cohan to the White House, and presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor. The inscription read

To George M. Cohan
for his Contribution
to the American Spirit
Over There
and
Grand Old Flag
Presented by Act of Congress

From the Congressional statement of May 28, 1936, "The report authorizing the gold medal included testimony from Representative Theodore Peyser of New York who supported the measure.Peyser said, "Not because (Cohan) is a song writer, not because he is one of the most popular and foremost actors of the day, not because he has lent a helping hand to thousands, but because of his ability to instill in the hearts of the growing citizenry a loyal and patriotic spirit for their country and what it stands for in the eyes of the world."

Cohan, first entertainer to receive the Congressional award, protested that he was just a song and dance man; the honor should go to men who had given their lives for their country.

Roosevelt replied, "A man may give his life for his country in many different ways, Mr. Cohan, and quite often he isn't the best judge of how much he has given. Your songs were a symbol of the American spirit. Over There was just as powerful as any cannon, any battleship we had in the First World War. Today, we're all soldiers; we're all on the Front. We need more songs to express America. I know you and your comrades will give them to us."

Replied Cohan, "Mr. President, I've just begun to earn this medal; it's quite a thing...and I want you to know that I'm not the only one who's grateful; my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I assure you, I thank you. And I wouldn't worry about this country if I were you. We've got this thing licked; where else in the world could a plain guy like me come in and talk things over with the Head Man?"

"Well, that's about as good a definition of America as any I've ever heard. Goodbye, Mr. Cohan, and good luck."

"Goodbye, sir, and good luck to you."

In I'd Rather Be Right, FDR gives a Fourth of July speech;

"We've come through a great many troubles since our first Fourth of July. We've fought other nations, we've fought among ourselves; we've had good Presidents and bad Presidents. We've come through panics, Depression, floods, strikes, wars and (chuckles), I don't know; there's something here that seems to hold us together. There's a spiritual something that always sees us through, and we must never lose that.

So remember my friends, that even though things are a little wrong right now, there's always that chance of making them right because this is a country where you can get up and talk about what's wrong...You know something? It doesn't matter whether I'm President or anyone else is; that is not important. There is only one thing that matters in this country, or ever will, and that's You!"

Roosevelt's words are as relevant today as they were in 1937; it is very much up to us to make our country right, to restore the American patriotism and unified vision that Beau Biden and George M. Cohan inspire.

We can start by making America, in all its aspects, the focus of our civic attention -- evaluating our own positions regarding loyalty, integrity, trustworthiness, hard work, respect and caring for others; we can work hard to instill those values in our children, and we can support others who profess the same character values.

Two more elements integral to our objective of 'making America right' are respect and trust. Not only should we elect officials who inspire those elements, we should also work to foster respect and trust in ourselves, our families and communities, and we should keep our eyes on the goal of making a better America - whether it is by our actions and words, or in the politicians we elect.

Yes, love marked the lives of Beau Biden and George M. Cohan; they gave all they had, and passed that love on. They embodied the best of America, and inspired us all to remember our best selves, as well. The values they shared were relevant in the past, they are today, and they will be significant down through the ages. Reclaiming them can help us to reclaim the Spirit of an Exceptional America.

Note: 'I'd Rather Be Right' starred George M. Cohan as FDR on Broadway; Jimmy Cagney starred in the film biography of Cohan, titled 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', in which he performed some parallel material to 'I'd Rather Be Right'. Cagney, who won an Oscar for 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', portrayed Cohan in the majority of productions about the composer.

The discrepancy in time between Congress' authorizing the Medal of Honor, and Cohan's receiving it was because Mr. Cohan, seemingly unhappy with the President's increasingly more progressive social views, had delayed receiving the award.


MORE:AmericaAmerican Exceptionalism Barack Obama Beau Biden BroadwayFranklin D. RooseveltGen. Ray OdiernoGeorge M. CohanJimmy CagneyJoe Biden PatriotismWoodrow Wilson]]>
<![CDATA[Stereotyping? We Can Do Better, with Values]]>Thu, 14 May 2015 18:39:40 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/05/stereotyping-we-can-do-better-with-values.htmlRecently in Georgia at a high school graduation ceremony, the school's founder-director made comments that drove people, black and white, to get up and leave before the event ended. A number of people on social media immediately began the blame game - those Georgiansit's the South, etc. Based on this one individual's comments, people unfairly and inaccurately lumped a wide variety of individuals into one group.

In our culture in the US, we tend to label, blame and exclude people whom we perceive are not like us - ethnically, politically, in religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and so on. It is easy to condemn, but not so easy to distinguish and affirm!

What makes the difference between our condemnation and our affirmation? Individualizing people; seeing their faces and knowing their names, learning their stories. They (and we) are real and, as in whatever group with which we identify, all people (ourselves included) are composites of good and not-so-good qualities. Isn't it better for us all, to look for values-based qualities and build relationships on them?

Why do we care about getting to know 'other' categories of people, anyway? Because, through inclusion of other people with their own unique strengths and abilities, we strengthen our diverse society, both locally and globally, and because it is the right thing to do.

Also, we are also vulnerable to prejudicial labeling; if, by our attitudes we influence our children to continue harmful discrimination, in which they may very well feel the brunt of it in the form of bullying and/or ostracization, we continue the splintering stagnation of our society. On the other hand, if we believe in, and promote affirmation (inclusion), we enjoy the benefits of a healthy, mutually beneficial society that moves forward.

The way we make people feel is far more important than what we say or do; it is what people remember most about us, and it determines where we each fit into this diverse global society of the 21st Century. Do we strengthen our progress, working together? How do we make other people feel?

Michelle Obama spoke passionately about her feelings, even while in the White House and, when Fox News put Ted Cruz through the wringer about his Hispanic ethnicity, they seemed to denigrate his heritage -- his core identity. I remember my sadness as a teen, when my parents refused to let me be friends with a Jewish girl because she wasn't our type; her parents felt the same about me, a Catholic. Is this who we Americans want to be? Who do we want to mold our children to be? When our children and grandchildren are adults, today's ethnic minorities will be majority; where will the WASP adults fit in, then? What will be their legacy? What will be ourlegacy?

Mexican-Americans are among those often lumped into negative groups. People say they are 'aliens', 'wetbacks', only good for menial jobs. Yet, typically, they are quite different from our condemnatory references; the feeling that goes with enduring these labels had not really hit me until I read When I 'Came Out' as Mexican on CNN's Opinion Page.

One's group, contradicting derogatory labeling, embodies the values that make America or any other country great; they are Charrarias, Mexican-Americans (US citizens) who combine regular jobs with competitive sport involving horsemanship.

While men continue the Mexican tradition of cowboy skills competitively, the women's version, both individually and as teams, involves rapid intricately, synchronized horsemanship. Riding sidesaddle the women's, escaramuza charras , routines involve a high degree of skill, both for the riders and horses.


Graphic by Leah Rama and Pony Highway Productions

An example of escaramuza charras is the California-based Azalea Team, competing for the United States, in Mexico . Their communal approach to competition is result-based, rather than confrontational based; it's win-win for their community, rather than win-lose. They don't pit men against women in daily endeavors; they work together to achieve goals for their community.

Identity
One of the most difficult, yet important, aspects of joining another culture is maintaining identity, while accepting the new culture.

Azalea coach Victor Muñoz said to the team, "Many people don't understand that the same blood here, is the same blood there. Outside our borders, you are preserving the most precious thing we have - our identity."



Often, when we describe strong women in the US, we call them badass because theykick butt, meaning that the women are courageous and powerful enough to stand strong without male oppression. We don't see all strong women this way, of course, but that is often the description - 'Yes! You go, girl!' we say.

The women described here are strong also and, with the equal support of men in their community, they are all free to express their best qualities of gentleness, cooperation, strength, courage and so on, with the two genders complementing each other.

The sport of escaramuza charras is exciting, exacting, beautiful and elegant. It's choreographed in the centuries-old tradition of Mexican horsemanship, and it's performed by mothers, wives, daughters and girlfriends who fit in the practices with home chores, nurturing families and, for some, outside jobs.

The eight-woman team of Escaramuza Charras Azalea, based in California, is comprised of first-and second-generation Americans who gracefully combine old-world traditions with new-world customs.

Said Sandy Torres, team captain,"Our goal is to compete with the best in Mexico and to earn their respect over there. It's their national sport; they're completely dedicated to it, and when we go over there, it's not just to represent our last names or our group; it's the USA, the Mexican-American girls over here."

In 2012, after competing successfully against other US-based escaramuza teams, Escaramuza Charras Azalea won a spot on the US Congressional team, to compete in the world championships in Mexico. At the heart of their dedication, they say, is to show that they still carry on the traditions of their ancestors, valuing the personal characteristics that enabled them to succeed.

In a training session, Muñoz spoke to them: "Why are you here? You're not just any team to compete. To honor that tradition that means so much to us here, and to millions and millions of countrymen outside our borders. Feel it. Show it. In we go!

"Here, the competition is brutal; one little mistake and you're done. First, you must have a winner's attitude. Believe in yourselves, and your work will show it."

(At the National Championship (Campeonato Nacional Guadalajara, Mexico): "All of this circus for four minutes. Eighty-five teams will compete; 18 go on to the semi-final. From those, only five go to the finals. The competition is very tough, but you have what it takes to do it well."

Having known each other all their lives, these women (and their families) embody respect, trust, a collaborative spirit, and support for each other. For them, it's all or none.

The women are hands-on in every aspect of their hobby, from training and caring for the horses, choreographing prescribed routines, to designing and sewing the costumes while caring for their families. Even Grandmas, retired from riding, contribute by helping to sew the costumes for competition. Azalea members raise the funds for their competition in Mexico, approximately $2,000 per person with horse, primarily through fundraisers such as Bingo games and communal meals, which they cater.

Why do they work so hard at the sport? For love and pride; they love the tradition with all its grace and beauty, they love their culture and want to preserve it, they love their children who usually carry on with it, and they cherish the values required for success - success, not only in their sport but also in helping to make the United States of America the best it can be.

Azalea Team member Maribel Gutierrez said, "It's what we are, and what we want our kids to know."

For you and me, we can also consider what we are, and what we want our kids to know. So, rather than excluding others whom we consider different from us, wouldn't it be healthier for our society if we base our judgements on common values, or values we can emulate, and common goals? It's our lives and our legacy.


MORE:CharrasCNNEquestrianEscaramuzaFamily ValuesFirst Rate AmericaFox NewsJon StewartLos CowboysMexican AmericanMichelle ObamaPrejudiceRodeoTed Cruz

]]>
<![CDATA[How to Drive the Internet Highway Fearlessly to Promote Religious Harmony]]>Tue, 24 Feb 2015 20:14:32 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/02/how-to-drive-the-internet-highway-fearlessly-to-promote-religious-harmony.html"Social media is changing the face of religion."

--Heidi Campbell
Associate Professor of Communications, Texas A&M University

Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise; even Christians are being persecuted globally. Because we live in a pluralistic global society, no longer is it practical for us to just say, 'I'll stay in my lane; you stay in yours.' With the common usage of social media in which influential ideas good and bad spread with blinding speed, we all become global citizens.

Religious intolerance is rising rapidly, and it could hit home sooner or later. That's why it is important for religious leaders to step up and work on reversing the tide. Recently, I attended an interfaith meeting of clergy and other professionals, a good number of whom seemed to be clueless about social media. If they were on Facebook, it was in the most private of forms; Twitter wasn't even mentioned.

The discussion at that meeting explored various ways in which religious leaders could influence social justice and harmony -- particularly relating to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. One conclusion was that social media is a logical vehicle for that influence; however, attendees felt it overwhelmed them. 'It can get really nasty,' said one minister. Another worry was how to maintain their religious identity while promoting pluralistic harmony.

Do we remember how we felt when we learned to drive? It was thrillingly scary for us. We knew we could crash, yet the freedom it afforded was exhilarating so we learned, and we practiced. Now, we're so adept at driving it almost seems automatic. Learning to navigate social media is much like learning to drive, on the Internet highway.

If religious leaders are to help influence society to live harmoniously, they will have to take courage and learn this 'new' way, or they can sit back and know they are probably not meeting their full potential.

By staying on a straight road to harmony, you will invariably learn that social media isa far more powerful tool for you, than one to be feared. In my years of experience with this broad form of communication, I have challenged powerful religious, political and media leaders without untoward consequence, because I strictly follow the rules below.

Remember that promoting societal harmony and peace involves a number of factions, not just your congregation. Rather than base your arguments on the Bible, Quran or Torah - or no scripture at all -- you should be aware that virtually all scriptures, and even belief systems of atheists, include the common thread of moral values. That is the framework on which you will base your social media leadership, so as to appeal to the broadest range of individuals.

That doesn't mean you have to abandon your individual beliefs in order to fit into a generic religious mold; not at all. You will have to acknowledge the legitimate plurality of religious thought, though, by finding common ground on which you can all agree. Moral principles across the board are pretty much the same; people generally want similar lives, despite their beliefs on how to get there. The similarities are your foundation for discussion.

Following is an outline of how to use social media for good in our pluralistic society. Once you learn the basics, provided below, you will have to inform yourself regarding complexities. Navigating your way through the process, you will see pop-up messages informing you of choices and results of those choices. You must read those and choose your option.

Rules of the Road
First and foremost, use your real name and photograph; include your credentials in your profiles on Facebook and Twitter. This gives you strength and credibility as you begin to gain influence on social media. You might begin by learning to navigate on Facebook before tackling Twitter. YouTube and other forms of social media can follow as your comfort level increases.

A caveat: Read and understand the Privacy rules of all social media channels you choose.

You will learn to work your way through the unfamiliar terms and acronyms people use on social media; don't worry, Google is an easy reference tool.

Do your homework; 'Friend' (Facebook) and 'Follow' (Twitter) other leaders whom you respect, including media leaders; read their posts, and comment often. You don't always have to agree, but disagree respectfully. In this manner, you build a social media presence, in which you are respected, and you learn how seasoned social media practitioners handle sticky situations.

Discuss Effectively
Always maintain a calm, respectful demeanor, no matter what other people say, what offensive language they use. Once you establish the ground rules with people who interact with you, they will follow your lead; this will take patience, but you must persist.

Stick to objective, factual online 'conversations' (called 'threads'), devoid of labels, name-calling and adjectives, and avoid polarizing stands; the issue is center to the conversation.

When you encounter someone who, despite all your efforts to defuse them and keep on the objective path, insists on inflammatory, insulting statements, you can write something like, 'Sir/madam, if you wish to gain respect, you must give it; this thread (conversation) is about the issue, nothing else.'

Keep the discussion on track; people will try to send it in other directions (calledpivoting). Keep it on point, and know when to stop. If you see your thread descend to just wrangling, back off and let it go, saying, 'We're all entitled to our opinions, whether we agree or not; I respect yours and hope you respect mine,' and then drop it. Remember, your mission is to spread objective light, not necessarily to win arguments.

Detours to Avoid
One common tactic some people use, is to attribute derogatory intent. 'He only voted for that because...' Your response: 'We have no idea of his intent; we only know he voted for it, and his history has been in favor of...' (Google will be your best friend in strengthening your arguments with statistics.)

Another tactic is for people to say it's important to examine the origins of whatever issue or behavior is under discussion. Examining past history is a straight road to the blame game, resulting in a dead end for finding a path to harmony. You might say, 'The important point is, we've all made mistakes and now we're working to improve on the present situation. That is our focus.'

Whatever your age or lack of experience with social media, as a religious leader who wishes to protect your community by advancing societal harmony, learning this new way is your opportunity; it can be your legacy. Are you ready to start?


MORE:Paul RaushenbushPope FrancisRabbi Marc SchneierReza Aslan]]>
<![CDATA[How to Raise Children who Choose Peace]]>Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:33:46 GMThttp://firstrateamerica.com/1/post/2015/02/how-to-raise-children-who-choose-peace1.htmlWhen young people choose to join terrorists, we ask ourselves, 'Why?' We surmise that they come from families and societies that offer them no opportunities. Or, that they choose the perceived glamor and power associated with bombing and killing, or it could be a factor much more subtle, involving how they feel about themselves and their position in society.

We are very much involved in a global culture war in which the stakes are our children and young adults, who are key to continuing a peaceful or violent world; we, themedia and parents can strongly influence how they respond to propaganda.

In this war between peace and violence, one factor particularly stands out - terrorists' recognition that the future is in children and youth; they seem to recognize that young people react more strongly according to the way they feel, rather than what they think. Whichever society, peaceful or violent, helps them to feel powerful, respected, needed and included, will win them.

Along with a cunningly devised internet campaign, terrorists are targeting childrenwith propaganda and weapons training attempting to create a global cultural shift that glamorizes violence, in order to enable their continual takeover of society.

Like almost any poison, an antidote is available and that lies with us, 
the global parents. In order to counter the messages sent to our children, we must create or enhance our own, positive approach and make it more powerful than the cleverly disguised negative words and images of violence-based groups.

Legislation and weaponry to fight terrorism will touch only the symptoms, not the cause of any social malaise we have inadvertently developed. The best cure for our children's view of society is in creating a pervasive ambience of equal opportunity as we instill elements of self-respect and trust, inclusion and acceptance, as well as strong self-esteem - not only in our children, but with others in our circles.

Simple solutions with complex components, they involve a commitment to certain difficult decisions that will lead to shifting our paradigm from a me-oriented, win-loseone to a we-oriented, win-win one that will level the playing field and create opportunities. The win-lose approach we see today involves political and religious polarization ; in the US, politically, we see a strong focus on expediency rather than integrity. It's also evident in contact sports, emphasizing beating one person/side or the other without a productive, sustaining result and often physical devastation to the players.

If this win-win approach is new to us, it may take time before we see its benefits and results; starting now, though, we can begin to enact changes that can continue on, once we establish the framework. Patient consistence is the key. What elements must we address?

We must create:
• A value system based universally on integrity and peaceful interaction. We can still enjoy healthy, productive competition, though. It can come in the form ofcompetitions to produce innovations that will benefit society, and include elements of cooperation and collaboration which, subsequently, can spill over to related initiatives.

• An atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration.

• Equal education leading to employment opportunities for all.

• A shift of role models from athletes and entertainers to heroes who contribute to the betterment of society; for example, Richard BransonMark ZuckerbergMalala YousafzaiArianna HuffingtonElon MuskChristiane Amanpour and so many others.

Our ideal society won't be socialistic; it will not be government-created, butachievement-based. Opportunities to achieve according to ability will be in place, but outcomes will depend on individual creativity, hard work and discipline. Trust and respect will have to be integral components throughout.

MAKING IT WORK
With all children, across the board ethnically and economically, instill in them a strong sense of value, self-esteem, confidence and inclusion; afford them the respect you endeavor to elicit from them:

a. Allow them to make decisions/choices, within your preset parameters, from an early age. For example, lay out two outfits for small children: 'Would you rather wear this one, or that one?' We increase the complexity of choices as they mature. For behavior, let them know the consequences for going beyond the parameters you set, and enforce them consistently. As children reach an age of awareness, they should be allowed to make some mistakes in judgment. Without accusing, parents should then explain and discuss what went wrong and encourage children to conclude what would have been a better alternative.

b. Listen, more than talk with children; learn what they think/want, and gently discuss pros and cons with them - guiding them non judgmentally, without decrees, so that they learn to make good decisions on their own.

c. Give children a sense of responsibility: from toddler onward, assign them age-appropriate chores in order for them to feel a valued part of the family group. Of course, they will resist at times, but firm consistent practice will keep them going as they build ownership and pride in family well-being.

d. Remember that children learn much more from your behavior than what you tell them. By example, teach critical thinking based on issues rather than labels and name-calling, thereby moving them away from extremist (non-productive, exclusionary) political, religious and social positions to more centrist ones that allow for inclusive problem-solving.

e. Teach effective communication skills, including conflict resolution and negotiation. Encourage them to join Toastmasters (or Junior Toastmasters) and their school'sdebating society.

Understanding and teaching our children what ultimately makes them feel that a peaceful, productive society is preferable to a chaotic, violent one could be our greatest accomplishment, and our most important legacy. When we each work toward that goal, we all do so, and we will create a healthy, strong, enduring society.


MORE:Arianna HuffingtonCenter for Conflict DynamicsChris CuomoCNNCraig RundeElon MuskFirstrateamericaHabib Chamoun NicolasIsis PropagandaMalala YousafzaiMario CuomoRichard BransonStephen Law

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