Monday, May 31, 2010

Are we letting our guard down?

In today's Star-Ledger, there was an article about someone who I have come to know well over the years: former New Jersey Governor/Co-Chair of the 9-11/Committee/Drew President/Drew Professor/my academic advisor, Thomas H Kean. His words in the article were very telling:

"This is the most dangerous time I've seen since 9-11...if we don't get our act together, we are going to be in serious trouble."
Having come to know the governor during my time at Drew, I can attest that he is a man of honor and a man of principle, so when he speaks, it is out of genuine interest and concern and on a basis of policy he questions. As a result, I become concerned.

Say what you want about President Bush, (and those of you who know me know that I didn't agree with everything during his term and give him a grade of B) but our country was not attacked again during his term after September 11th. For that, Americans should be thankful and that is part of why I believe history will treat George W. Bush well. (more on that on in the future) Since then, we had 1 attack and 2 attempted attacks that should give anyone who lived through September 11th a bit of concern.

1. Nidal Hassan and the Fort Hood Shooting on November 5, 2009.
2. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the attempted Christmas Day Bombing of Northwest 253.
3. Faisal Shahzad attempting to set off a car bomb in a crowded Times Square on the evening of May 1, 2010, a particularly warm day in New York when Times Square was even more crowded.

Americans need to be questioning their government as to how and why these people are falling through the cracks. Is Obama's counter-terrorism policy working? Is it smart for government officials to deny the existence of Radical Islam? Was George W. Bush right?

I stand with my mentor in having concern for the route the Federal Government is taking in one of its primary responsibilities of protecting the homeland from attack and I hope they come to their senses before it's too late.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honor Those Who Gave Their Lives

A very interesting article appeared on Fox News's website to honor those who gave their lives in Iraq.

As occurred in Germany in World War II and in Vietnam, monuments have been set up in Iraq to memorialize the death of a US Soldier. With America's waning presence in Iraq, these monuments will likely come back to The States, but it is still in the air where they will be displayed. The article speaks of the Smithsonian taking possession and also a wing at the US Air Force Museum on Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

What the article does not mention is something I'd like to see in my lifetime: a monument on the Mall in Washington DC, along the Reflecting Pool, dedicated to American soldiers who gave their lives in the War on Terror. It could be moving and soaring all in one and yes, there is still room! I have tons of ideas about this and reading this article got me brainstorming. Some of these Iraq Memorials could even be included. Also, family members could leave items there, similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (on the subject of the VVM, a recommended read: Shrapnel in the Heart: Letters and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial)

Regardless of one's position on the War on Terror, a National Mall memorial is imperative as it is the best way to memorialize these brave Americans who gave their lives to protect our freedom and keep terrorist attacks from occurring on American soil.

Do you have any ideas for a National Mall memorial?

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation, Thank You For Your Service to Our Country!

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about the military and their presence in New Jersey's schools. They frequently come into our schools either for recruitment efforts or school related programs. As an educator, I always go out of my way to walk up to someone in the uniform and thank them for their service, whether it's in front of the students or not. I make sure it is as I want to teach them by example that those who do not serve should honor those who serve. As a result of one of these public displays of gratitude, I had an exchange with an administrator, who is actually a really good person, but far left politically:

Administrator: Wearing your Republicanism on your sleeve, aren't you?
Me: With all due respect, I am wearing my Americanism on my sleeve. This is something my parents taught me to do and thanking them also honors my father, who wore the uniform to defend this nation.

It was not a contentious exchange, as this administrator was one with whom I had a positive professional relationship, and simply wanted to provoke a political debate. I highlight this exchange as an example of some in this country and the way they feel about the military.

As we all head down the shore, get the barbeque grills ready and call this Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial weekend of summer, I would like to take a moment to
give a thank you and a tip of the caps to our men and women who serve and who have given their lives for our country (as that is the true meaning of Memorial Day...and you think a president, even one who is not participating in the Arlington Memorial Day ceremony, would know that...) Without them, I wouldn't have been able to make decisions for myself on how to lead my life, write The Calling to Lead and I would not be able to write this blog! Again, thank you and God Bless!

I will end this entry with one the most solemn ceremonies relating to the military: The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Can't We All Just Get Along???

It's primary season over here in New Jersey. In about one and a half weeks, we will go to the polls to choose who will represent us in the general election. Earlier this month, I wrote extensively about why I believe Diane Gooch will be the best choice to run against Frank Pallone. I met Anna Little and while I have no major issues with her, I simply think Diane is the more effective candidate to face Pallone as her experiences of entrepreneurship and her act of creating private industry jobs within the district, showing a clear difference with the record of Frank Pallone. Diane will better articulate while voters of the 6th should send her to Washington instead of Pallone.

If Little wins, Republicans should support her in the general and I ask her supporters to do the same if Diane wins. And for the record, I believe Diane will win. As Conservatives and Republicans, we must all remember the big issue at hand and that is to send Frank Pallone home and see that the Democrats do not have the Congressional majority in the fall. A Little supporter commented on my last post and in articulating his candidate, wrote some really nasty and mean-spirited stuff about Diane. If you want to talk policy, go for it, as I'll be happy to have an intelligent discussion, but there is no room for below the belt, personal attacks like that!

In observing Diane's campaign, her effective use of social networking, her ads and her visibility around the district, I am very impressed; more than I've been in years with Republicans who have faced Frank Pallone. Below are the two ads:

This election is not currently being watched outside of New Jersey as it is assumed to be a safe Democrat hold, but I believe the voters out of the 6th are likely to shock everyone, but it can only be done if we Republicans support Diane Gooch in a week and a half on Primary Day!

"Daddy, Did you Plug the Hole Today?"

I did not see today's presser (first one since last July), but there were a few things that bothered me about it, most of all, the following statement:

In that nearly minute and a half clip, he used the nouns "I, my, me, you (referring to himself)" 10 times. When examining leadership, I have a problem with leaders who constantly taking possession of everything by the use of the words I, me, my, etc. This is not only limited to the presidency by the way. First, it does not garner loyalty among those who work with the leader and also it creates an air of arrogance surrounding the leader, which will eventually lead to those inside and outside the organization questing the leadership skills being applied. For a leader to successfully lead, it has to be a team effort. The leader will not serve himself well by attracting sycophants, but instead, people who can strongly articulate a position and give the leader an additional perspective. Furthermore, a good leader must, to steal a phrase from the President, "spread the wealth" when it comes to taking credit for the good, but also step up and take blame for the bad. What we saw in that clip is a pattern with the president, as we all remember from the State of the Union. In education, I've seen leaders who follow Obama's pattern and do not last long in their respective positions. Could we say the same for the President when 2012 rolls around?

And in relation to the content of his press conference, America, hold on to your wallets...especially you, San Diego area residents, as your gas prices are the highest in the US!

A very nice writeup on a great place

In planning and writing The Calling to Lead, I used settings that were very familiar to me and special to me in some way. One such setting is Long Branch, New Jersey. In this seaside city, my parents met, I had my senior prom at the beautiful Ocean Place and it is my favorite beach destination in Monmouth County. Within The Calling to Lead, many events of the story take place in Long Branch. It has a Miami vibe to it, especially in the area of Pier Village and the Ocean Place, and in the past 10 years, while I don't agree with every method used, Long Branch has been through many excellent changes that have done wonders for the city.

New Jersey Monthly magazine just did an excellent article on Long Branch's Renaissance. And a good friend of mine would probably not be happy with me if I didn't mention that in addition to driving, (Garden State Parkway exits 117, 109 or 105) you can take the North Jersey Coast Line to Long Branch as the train station is only 3 blocks from the beach. Be sure to check it out and visit over the summer to see Long Branch at its best. Below are some additional pics I took in Long Branch:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monica Crowley on Chris Christie and Leadership

The other night, I had the pleasure of meeting Monica Crowley and hearing her speak. She was gracious in coming around to meet and speak to everyone gathered, took a few questions and even stayed after her speech to mingle. In her speech, she talked about leadership in reference to the decisions of Governor Chris Christie and at that moment, I got my BlackBerry ready. Here is the clip I took: (I was sitting farther back from her podium, so I apologize for the grainy picture...but the sound is good. The BlackBerry rocks!!!)

As my readers may remember, I earlier commented on leadership. Monica's comments on Chris and his practice of leadership skills aligned with my post and are dead on. I am sure all my readers don't agree with the Governor, but you have to admit, the decisions he's made and the way he has gone about governing align with what makes a good leader. He's not blaming Corzine every day, but instead is rolling up his sleeves, applying solutions to correct his predecessor's acts. He's making the tough decisions to make the corrections (so we don't become California) and is governing not with the interest of getting re-elected, but with the interest of doing what he promised to do on the campaign trail.

While it may be too early to see if we've turned the corner, there was a good sign today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thank you, Jack Bauer (SPOILER ALERT)


OK, I've warned you...

Tonight was the big event (bigger than Lost, if you ask me), the series finale of 24. The two hours were riveting and I was at the edge of my seat throughout! I believe this will go down in history as one of TV's best finales. In the end, Jack lives, he honors the memory of Renee, Chloe has his back (again) and President Taylor came to her senses and then took responsibility for her shredding of the Constitution.

As we have seen with Terry, his relationship with Kim and Audrey Raines, Jack Bauer has lost people close to him. Renee Walker (one of the best character additions in the history of the show) was the straw that broke the camel's back. As he worked with Renee, their adversarial relationship had grown into one of mutual respect, then interdependence, then love. At that one moment, he was happy. He was ready to walk away, then Pavel Tokolov's bullet took that all away and sent Jack on a path of no return (you can align this to the death of Anna Reilly-Rapp in Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels). Jack saw President Taylor's refusal to listen, as well as her misuse of power to build her legacy, as a vacuum that he had to fill. In doing this, Jack saw himself as both judge and jury...remember his line "I want justice." Not only justice for Renee's death, but for an honest peace. With Russia's role and President Taylor's deception in covering it up (while shredding the Constitution), there could be no honest peace. He stopped at nothing to see that justice was served and yes, in Jack Bauer style, it got messy. And I find it interesting it was Chloe who talked him down from assassinating Suvarov, reminding him that he is dishonoring Renee by doing this. Agreeing with her and realizing the ramifications of his act, he stood down and planned to expose the truth and get justice Chloe's way.

A little on Allison Taylor. When I first heard they were going to have a female president in Day 7, I rolled my eyes because I, like other 24 fans out there, thought she was going to be a Hillary Clinton clone, who we all remember back in 2007, was going to be coronated as the next president (until a man named Barack Obama came about, but I digress). We continued to roll our eyes in 24: Redemption after her Inaugural Address and in the beginnings of Day 7. However, 24 fans started to change their mind about Allison Taylor, as she saw the need to back Jack Bauer, began to understand what he does and the sacrifices he makes in doing it. By the end of Day 7, we were further impressed in how she upheld the Constitution, even at the expense of her daughter's freedom. That was a damn hard decision to make and I really don't know how many of our 43 would have made it the way she did.

By Day 8, she began to lose her way and was heavily (and badly) influenced by Charles Logan. However, it cannot be Charles Logan alone to blame, it is two of the downfalls of many of our 43 (reminder...Grover Cleveland was 22 and 24): power and legacy. The major arc of this season was the signing of the peace treaty between the US and the IRK. She put her heart and soul into getting this done, it was her baby and she wanted to see it through, at all costs. If she did, great things would be written of her, schools would be named after her and maybe after her days in the Oval Office, she could be memorialized somewhere on the Mall along with Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. Knowing the enormity of their jobs, many of the 43 have likely felt this...has it driven their every day decisions? Have they become engrossed in it? I don't know and you'd have to ask them, but I believe Allison Taylor was. There was no turning back for her when Ethan Kanin, her loyal ally, resigned. It was that wanting of a legacy that drove her to misuse her presidential power by going against her own principles which she so strongly stood behind in Day 7, straining Jack Bauer, hiding the true identity of Omar Hassan's assassins and then having the temerity to threaten an ally with a nuclear response if they didn't dance. Furthermore, she went so far as to allow the assassination of Jack Bauer to hide her lie. Realizing her misdeeds, she was able to save Jack's life and did take responsibility for her actions by resigning and allowing herself to be investigated (and likely face charges). While good, she did not go far enough as I think she should have pardoned Jack Bauer, considering his service and sacrifices to the country (as well as saving Allison Taylor's own hide from the barrel of General Juma's gun) Allison Taylor can be compared to other presidents like John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Nixon who have misused their presidential powers and as a result, had their legacies tainted, the opposite effect of what they had intended.

President Taylor's decision to not pardon Jack Bauer leads me to come to the conclusion that 24's ending was a sad one. Jack wanted nothing more than to walk away, go back to LA, catch up with Kim and get to know his granddaughter. All that could never be as the country he had sacrificed his life to protect is sending him out the door. Along with being on the run from the Russians, Jack Bauer will be on the run from the Americans. And that is the sad irony of the finale.

Anyone who sacrifices in this fashion, be it CIA, military, police, fire, etc, deserves our gratitude need to be thanked. We must show our gratitude for their service and a simple thank you goes a long way. Thank you, Jack Bauer, and all like him!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Didn't we learn from our teachers to read first

As a teacher, I have always told my students to examine all sides of an argument, all sources and all points of view before coming to a conclusion or taking a position on a particular issue. Don't just read the New York Times, read the Wall Street Journal. Don't just read Newsweek, read National Review. Doing this hones one's reading skills, comprehension skills, analytical skills and evaluative skills. It makes individuals truly educated and not mind-numbed robots (while preparing them to take any standardized tests). My students who have taken my advice have allowed themselves to be independent thinkers who are not easily led by people or arguments. Seems pretty reasonable, right?

For the past month, the Arizona Immigration Law has been making the news (it even played a role in the Miss USA Pageant, in the same fashion the gay marriage issue did with Carrie Prejean last year.) and has been excoriated by politicians in Washington. However, they did not read the bill. A recent ad regarding the reaction to the Arizona Immigration Law further exposes the politicians who speak before reading.

In my opinion, the person who made this ad deserves some sort of commendation or reward. The ad, in childlike fashion, reminds viewers the basic rule: read before coming to an educated position.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Lure of 24

After nine years and eight “days” 24 will come to an end this Monday evening. I have been a fan of this show for a few seasons (have been able to fully catch up) and I think for many reasons including the real-time structure, the writing and the overall themes, this show is amazing and after Monday, it will be missed by many. Those fans will be anxiously awaiting a 24 movie in the next few years.

The concept of 24 is that each season is a day in the life of Jack Bauer. In those 24 hours, we see that not everything will be resolved in one hour, as well as how the ramifications of each decision made are played out. We also learn that time is of the essence in the many things that go on in a 24 season, whether averting an attack, finding out who the traitors are, finding out who are the real minds behind treachery, etc.

In the eight “days” of 24, the writing has been particularly strong. I have enjoyed the many plot twists through the years and it contributes to making the show unpredictable. While sometimes these plot twists can affect the overall effectiveness of a season, such as Day 6, in bringing back the Chinese storyline after the death of Fayed, the twists of 7 and 8 made the season even more effective, tying in the new twist to the original story line; in the case Day 7, the refocusing on Starkwood ties into the original storyline of Sangala, and in Day 8, Renee’s killing refocuses Jack on the role of the Russians in the day’s events.

When 24 premiered, we had recently been attacked on September 11 and many in the United States were looking for answers: How do we respond? How do we go on? How do we combine our response with the continuation of the American ideals? In its 8 "Days," 24 attempts to answer these questions. It shows the realism that our enemies are continuously plotting, that disaster can always be around the corner and the United States should not be in denial and continuously fight the fight. With that realism, 24 teaches us that our responses must be realistic and if the cloak of idealism and political correctness cover that realism, the United States will be perceived as weak and will invite attack. It was that need for realism that brought about the change in Jack Bauer to act as judge and jury in response to Renee’s death (I will cover this more after the series finale) because the government was in denial due to President Taylor’s pursuit of “peace,” as well as her legacy.

The writers have not necessarily shown their political stripes during the series. David Palmer may have been a Democrat, but he seemed to stay above politics. This was also true for Allison Taylor, who is perceived to be a Republican (well, maybe a RINO, especially after seeing 24: Redemption) until later in Day 8. The apolitical nature trickled down to many counter-terror issues, most notably torture, as the debate over its use has played a role throughout 24. Some have condemned torture’s use, others have applauded it and 24 has done an excellent job of not letting that debate get in the way, instead sticking to the main objective of protecting America. Torture’s role in the show did change this season and I will also cover that more after the series finale. To this day, between the issue of torture, as well as the conduct and decisions of the presidents, many of 24’s fans continue to debate whether the show endorses Republican ideals or Democrat ideals.

But most importantly, 24 pays homage to those who give their lives to protect our country. It may not be an easy job, it may negatively affect their personal lives and their work may come under the examination of politicians who know and care little of their sacrifices, but Americans can sleep easy that these people are out there to protect and defend the United States of America so it may be a beacon of freedom for years to come.

(Kudos to the Fox 24 site for the pic)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Combating the Personal Attack...AND WINNING

Throughout history, politicians have been dealing with attacks, both policy and personal, but political campaigns would soon enter a new world with the television. Many historians credit Lyndon Johnson's campaign with the first television advertisement attack in the Daisy Ad. Since then attack ads have been more widely used and have moved into the personal realm. The past two campaigns were particularly harsh. After seeing this, I started to pontificate as to why personal attacks take place, not just in the political world, but in other professions:

1. Jealousy: The attacker looks at his/her opponent and either feels inferior, and feels the need to take that person down a few notches so the attacker may end up feeling superior.
2. They view the opponent as a threat: In examining their opponent, they see a coherent message that is receiving a positive response, they see an articulate speaker and they see someone who can revolutionize the political world (the same can be said for other professions). The success of the opponent may do eventual harm to the attacker...and this was the primary justification the media and Democrats went after Sarah Palin with the ferocity they did in the 2008 Campaign.
3. It's in their nature: The attacker may be so competitive and so driven that he/she wants to win and be superior at all costs. As a result, that person will use the "Don't Stand on the Tracks when the Train's Coming Through" theory to any opponents who stand in the way of superiority.

Now that we see why they may take place, there has to be a way to answer them. While I'm thinking of politics in writing this blog, strategies can be applied elsewhere

1. The person being attack MUST respond and cannot ignore them. This is what I refer to as the "S*** on a Wall Theory." You can constantly fling it against the wall and if you do nothing to protect it, some of it may fall off, but some of it may stick. This was a major weakness of the media operation of the Bush Administration. Because his team did not appropriately answer or respond to his critics, they were able to define him and even though he did win re-election, they so strongly defined him that his second term was much less effective than his first.
2. In responding, one must have an offensive and defensive response. They cannot simply go out and defend themselves, they have to put their opponent under the microscope. In today's political campaigns, resources such as Twitter and Facebook and personal websites are the most appropriate forums to defensively respond to attacks via status updates, tweets and press releases. The offensive response comes from bringing up questions about the opponent. Since the first attack was drawn by the opponent, the person now has free reign to appropriately retaliate. In politics, it can usually be done through paid ads, free media and defense by friends/allies.
3. Ask your friends/colleagues to defend you. Many times they will be happy to do so. In campaigns we see the use of third party ads who not only defend, but they go on the offensive. And in talk radio, Mark Levin, to his credit, is the most ardent defender of his allies and friends like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and speaks loudly in their defense when they are attacked. But remember this, if you enlist your friends in your effort of defense, you will be indebted to them...that's not a bad thing, but as per my beliefs of loyalty, it is required.
4. Know everything about your enemy and don't be afraid to release some of that information. In a campaign, you pay good money for good opposition researchers, but in today's world where you can have information in the snap of a finger, one must be proficient in the use of the Internet. And with that proficiency there must be the ability to find information in an expedient manner. Take that information, store it and use the element of surprise to release it (or have a 3rd party release it) if an opponent attacks. It will change the subject and it will challenge the validity of the attacker, and in the end, you win!

Without giving too much away, readers will see much of my personal attack analysis played out in the events that take place in The Calling to Lead.

Again, this does not just apply to politics but to other professions and areas of life. In life, you will have people that do not want you to succeed and they will try to take you down a peg or two. I am reminded of something Rush Limbaugh said on his show last year: "The best way to overcome fear is to face it head-on." It is imperative not to run in a corner and cower when being attacked as this denotes fear and a lack of confidence. Instead, face the attackers head on and begin to resolve the problem on your schedule and in your time frame. If you truly believe in yourself and are confident in yourself, this is a no-brainer.

In the end, appropriately responding to personal attacks will build character as the person is standing up for what they believe, shouting their pride in themselves and their stance, not being afraid to do so. It will make a person stronger as they are able to face their attackers head on, garner support for their position and defeat their attackers' methods. Furthermore, it gives the opportunity for a person to better articulate themselves to the world, especially since this articulation is occurring under pressure.

Personal attacks have long been a part of humans' everyday lives, but one must have a coherent strategy they must practice in combating them. In the end the attacked will win not only the battle, but the war.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A return to loyalty

Those of you who are my age and older may have heard the name Archie Manning. He's not just Peyton's and Eli's father, he made a name for himself as a premier NFL Quarterback. He played most of his career for the New Orleans Saints, however, these were not the Saints we know today that win Super Bowls and whose fans loudly and proudly chant "Who Dat." These are the Saints of the late 1960s and early 1970s, who were lucky enough to even win a game, whose fans named them the "Ain't's and created the image of the paper bag wearing fan embarrassed of their team. Despite their horrible record and lack of talent, Archie suited up and played every Sunday. He did the best with what he had, many times getting pummeled by defenders. In today's age, some quarterbacks may gripe to the media, get their agents to cry to the owners to draft more winning players, or even force a trade. Not Archie. Archie could have done those things, but did not. He valiantly played for the team that drafted him and the city that brought him success. This is true loyalty!

Whether on the job, in politics, as a student, or in friendship, one cannot immediately expect loyalty, as it is something that must be earned though actions and words. Only then can both parties be confident enough in each others' loyalty that the phrase "lie down in traffic" can be used to describe those close bonds.

In The Calling to Lead, Michael Buonocore, the main character, has been taught how to be loyal by his parents and it was that guidance which gave Michael the ability to form close bonds with many in his life that contributed to his successes in life and in his professions. And in The Calling to Lead, loyalty is a two way street. Coming up professionally, the characteristics of loyalty he practiced with Flynn Mannion and Karen Hansen helped him as he moved on through life. As a leader, Michael showed himself to be a positive mentor and a leader who gave credit, gave thanks and gave many opportunities to those who worked with him, whether it was Steve Morehouse, Beth Amino, or his former students. Michael's strong bonds of friendship and family unity also allowed for loyalty to exist, not because of anything either party could get from each other, but because through the years, trust and reliability was built and each party knew they could count on one another.

Loyalty...such an important quality in American society and today, in 2010, it seems nearly non-existent. Here are some reasons as to why:
  1. Selfishness: This can be by the leader (you do for me because I brought you here) or by the underling (representing themselves more so than under whom they work)
  2. Lack of recognition: Comes about when the leader does not give proper credit; as little as a "thank you/good job" to as big as taking credit for that underling's performance
  3. Blind ambition: The underling totally ignoring all social/interpersonal skills with the sheer interest of getting ahead and using someone, even if it is at the expense of others.

As Americans, we need to look at ourselves and look at society, take a step back and think if this is the behavior we want our children, the next generation(s) to exhibit. We must remember that children also learn by observing actions and by ignoring loyalty, we teach our children to disregard loyalty and in turn, are endorsing selfishness. Therefore, by embracing loyalty and allowing its return to our society through our everyday actions whether on a professional or personal basis, loyalty will survive in future generations.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unfit to Serve

Late last week, Attorney General, in testimony, stated the following that made many, including myself, cringe:

In discounting radical Islam, Holder disparages the memory of those nearly 3,000 souls who were murdered on September 11, 2001 and brings further unneeded grief to their families who nearly 10 years later, are still living with the fact those terrorists who killed their family members were Radical Islamists advocating the destruction of the United States of America. It is further harmful knowing the evidence is clearly placed in front of Holder that Radical Islamists have been the perpetrators of significant attacks on Americans. Even so, he discounts it. Could it be a result of a political agenda? Could it be because of his alleged role in his law firm defending Gitmo detainees?

In addition to exposing his ineptitudes, he further exposed himself as derelict in his duties:

I think it's a good idea that an Attorney General should read the law, especially a law as important as the Arizona Law, before putting one's pre-conceived notions on the record.

Between these two incidents, as well as his refusal to prosecute those involved in the Philadelphia Voter Intimidation Case and the attempt to try KSM in civilian courts in New York, Eric Holder has shown himself to be a woefully inept Attorney General and lacking in leadership skills. Good leaders examine all sides of a particular issue, including researching and reading, before publically speaking. Good leaders follow and enforce laws, even if it may go against their agenda. Good leaders know their enemies are watching their moves and are looking for an opportunity to strike, therefore will exhibit strength with the interest of protecting those they lead. Congress has begun to call for Holder’s resignation and it is my prediction he will be part of Obama’s 2010 November Purge. The question is: will the president choose someone who has strong leadership qualities to succeed Holder as Attorney General?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where do they find these people???

Very little shocks me these days, but this does:

I saw this tonight on FNC and I could not believe what I was seeing! In my time in education, I've seen a lot, but for a teacher to put hands on a student and drag him across the floor is inexcusable and reprehensible. Frankly, teachers, even if a pat on the back, need to keep their hands to themselves in the classroom. It makes me wonder how this teacher got hired: Did she know someone? Did whoever hired her do their job in screening? Do hiring practices need to be re-examined?

She was fired and a criminal investigation has begun.

UPDATE: Shouldn't a school district know if their teacher has a warrant for their arrest BEFORE entering the classroom?

A Recommended Read on Leadership

This book may be four years old, but it is a classic, John O'Sullivan's The President, The Pope and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World. Since I'm new to blogging, I'd be remiss if I did not mention it. O'Sullivan tells the story of the unlikely rise and successes of Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher. All three were never expected to be their states' (or in the case of the Pope) or their religion's leader because they were looked upon by their peers and their detractors as too rigid and far too ideological to successfully lead. Despite those unwarranted warnings, they became leaders as a result of the problems of the 1970s and the undying optimism they exhibited. While the voters (and followers) supported them and gave them the opportunity to lead, they were seen as a threat to their enemies and they each survived assassination attempts. Not only did the three successfully lead their own and reinvigorate their people, but they collaborated to once and for all, end the Cold War when it seemed as though detente would allow its continuation.

Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II taught us three things:
  1. People want their leaders to be optimistic in nature as it's that optimism that instills pride, inspires hope and reinvigorates its people.
  2. Certain objectives cannot be compromised, especially key promises that leader makes to the led, and those led will admire the resolve of the leader.
  3. When people are given a choice between freedom and tyranny, they will choose freedom.

On a personal note, as a Gen Xer, I am truly inspired by these three. They all were at the helm in the 1980s, during my childhood and I remember their speeches, I remember their optimism and I remember the ramifications of their leadership, as the world does in 2010. Here are just a few clips so that we can all remember them in their prime.

Could not find a YouTube of one of Pope John Paul II's Youth Day speeches, but in a recent conversation with a priest who hails from Nigeria, he credits Pope John Paul II with inspiring him to join the Catholic Church and dedicate his life to preaching the word of God and help those less fortunate than he. Because of the Pope's passion, the recruiting of the world's youth and the return to true Catholicism, membership within the Catholic Church has grown by leaps and bounds during his time.

These leaders will forever be remembered and we all look to see who will be the next leaders to follow the lead of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Karol Wojtyla.

The University in the Forest

I’m not going to hide my bias, I love this place! When I look back at decisions made in my life, deciding to pursue my BA at Drew University in Madison, NJ ranks up there in the top 3! Graduating from a large high school, I wanted an experience where the community was more intimate. When I set foot on Drew's campus, I fell in love with not only the beauty of the campus, but the academic offerings and the intimate setting. Going into my first year, I was a History major, but thanks to the late Dr. Julius Mastro and his American Government class, that quickly changed to Political Science.

One of my favorite things about Drew was the open-mindedness of its faculty and students. I entered Drew as a Republican and left Drew as a Republican. Most college campuses across the United States have a liberal bend, Drew included, but it was not forced upon you. Having espoused my beliefs and perspective to my friends, in class, through my opinions column and as College Republicans President, I have never felt pressure from anyone to silence myself, I have never been forced to silence myself and have never had a professor who attempted to indoctrinate me. This is the hidden secret of Drew and it showed me, especially after having a history teacher in high school who loudly proclaimed his liberalism, that education can take place in a non-partisan fashion. It led me to run my classroom the same way, teaching students how to think and not what to think, and sadly, our public schools, in general, need to do a much better job at this.

Between my study abroad trip to Iceland, the George W. Bush campaign stops, the times I’ve been quoted/pictured in the Daily Record and Star-Ledger, working closely with Governor Kean as CRs President and in his class (That’s right, the president taught a class!!!), the friendships I’ve made and the preparation I’ve had for life after Drew, there are all good memories from Drew.

Governor Kean once said in his State Government class/seminar, “Give back to those who have given to you.” I am honored to work closely with Drew today through the College Alumni Association, and am even more proud to give Drew a significant role in The Calling to Lead (the story starts on the Drew campus). If the novel does, one day, get published, it is my hope that all those who read it will discover how Drew University, that University in the Forest, is an incredible institution that takes seriously its role in training tomorrow’s leaders.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The next Congresswoman from New Jersey's CD-6

Meet Diane Gooch, the owner of the Two River Times. Diane is running for the Republican nomination to face Congressman Frank Pallone in the fall general election to be the person that will represent NJ's 6th Congressional District. I had the pleasure of meeting her last month, saw the passion with which she speaks and think she has a strong connection with the voters. She has the entrepreneurial experience of running a small business, creating jobs in our corner of New Jersey and holds the best chance for this seat to go Republican. I think these real-world experiences are invaluable to serving in Congress, as opposed to those a career politician may claim to have. Like so many from the Jersey Shore area, she has a personal connection to 9-11, which when people learn of it, will be inspired and impressed.

Speaking of 9-11, I tied that day into The Calling to Lead as I believe that event will be the event that makes my generation step up to the plate and lead. Our lives were changed on that fateful day and there are many Gen-Xers out there who have stepped up or will step up to see that something like this never happens again. Nearly 10 years ago, terrorists attacked this country and while many may put it out of their minds, I will never forget the images and emotions of that day and they will stay with me until the day I die. Members of our generation need to support those in politics who do not ignore that day or think with a September 10th mentality, and Diane is just that person who knows the world in which we live and will work her hardest to protect our country and our small area of New Jersey.

And so all you CD-6 GOPers reading this, I strongly implore you to support Diane Gooch in your primary this June!

Is the President a Luddite? I think not...

Last weekend, President Obama commented on technology in his Commencement Speech at Hampton University.

I have a lot of problems with the statement he made and they are as follows:

1. An iPod/iPad CAN be used as a tool of empowerment. True, you can listen to your favorite songs or watch your favorite show, but the iPod has educational value. Podcasting can be done as a project or as a part of a project and a book can be uploaded to an iPod. While I think certain features were left out of the iPad, it is an incredible tool that has the potential of giving the netbook a run for its money. The iPad also has educational value. As an educator, I am a proponent of infusing technology within as the students will not only have a relevant mean of comprehending information, but they will learn how to use this technology, which will make them more marketable when they enter the professional world. Educators further benefit from learning this technology as they can easier relate to their students. In the past, we’ve heard about video games ‘rotting the brains of children,’ yet studies have shown certain video games can improve problems solving and multitasking skills. Therefore, various forms of technology the President mentioned CAN emancipate and educate.
2. I recall President Obama stating on the campaign trail that he not only owns an iPod, but what music is on it. Did somebody put it on for him? And if so, how did his campaign have the temerity to attack McCain for not using email (yet leaving out the reason)?
3. Obama uses a BlackBerry and publically fought with the Secret Service to keep it. Is the BlackBerry a distraction?
4. “Information becomes a distraction,” as stated in his speech…maybe he means the information that conflicts with his agenda.

Because of our economy, our capitalist system and the First Amendment, technology can continually improve, information can travel at the snap of a finger and analysis is not only limited to those in the traditional media. Even though I am more of a PC person, I greatly admire Steve Jobs as he is an incredible leader and a business genius who continually ups the ante in the tech wars, benefitting all Americans. Just another reason why the United States is the greatest country!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What makes a good leader?

Leadership is a topic I’ve explored and analyzed throughout my life and is a featured topic in The Calling to Lead. In life, we stated classifications and identifications of what makes a good leader and I will talk about this in the case of education and politics; the two fields with which I am most familiar. Ideally, parents instill qualities in the children such as knowing all sides of a particular issue, problem solving, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, loyalty and how to achieve success honestly that will be the setup for good leadership skills to be practiced.

As the child goes through school, their teachers must have strong leadership skills to reinforce what should be taught at home, and this is even more imperative when the child is not being taught how to be a leader at home. To most hit this home to their students, teachers need to teach leadership by example. Apply real life situations to the content, act in the classroom as you want your students to act, teach all sides of the issue so students know how to think, and most importantly, infuse leadership skills within the content being taught. What seems so easy does not always happen, and as an educator, I have seen many distasteful acts that range from lacking tact, to being considered “conduct unbecoming of an educator,” to being illegal. Those teachers are committing acts that are detrimental to American’s youth and give the profession a bad name. And at the next level, Administrators need to be true leaders; setting the example for their teachers, working with their teachers to make them become better teachers, finding the strengths in their teachers so they can best be exhibited, hiring the teachers best suited to teach the students and acting as a visible, positive force within the school community. Many times, administrators do not follow this formula, instead, putting others before their teachers, lacking visibility within the school and lacking the interpersonal skills to act as a positive leader. By their lack of leadership, they are enabling the teachers who harm the profession. In both cases of teacher and administrator, they need to remember they are there in the interest of the students to build tomorrow’s leaders.

In terms of politicians, good leadership, first and foremost, comes when they make decisions based on the Constitution, the best interests of those they represent, as well as the United States as a whole. A strong leader will also follow through on promises made, not saying one thing and doing the other. Sometimes those decisions may be considered unpopular by some, but it’s those leaders who do not sway, are honest with Americans and deliver on their promises that make them strong leaders. Their primary interest is not ‘being liked,’ but instead, caring about getting the job done. In the future, I’ll examine and analyze various politicians and their leadership skills or lack thereof.

I will close with something I heard Rush Limbaugh talk about last week. In his monologue near the end of his show, along with interaction with callers, Rush stated the quote, “Knowledge will give you the confidence of your beliefs. Once you have the confidence of your beliefs that are in your core, nobody can talk you out of them.” Taking this out of the political context in which Rush placed it, this quote heavily applies to good leadership. A true leader, whether a politician, educator, manager or parent, will plan course of action, know that course of action to the nth degree and may face criticism for their chosen path. If they do not bend, if they do not change course to be considered popular and if they follow through, they will not only be successful, but in the long run, they will be remembered as good leaders.

What a "Novel" Idea

In 2004, I planned a “Presidential Problem Solving Project” with my Honors US Foreign and Domestic Policy Class (the curriculum I revised/wrote) where the students formed groups and came up with solutions for various problems in US Domestic and Foreign Policy. (e.g. homicide bombings on American soil, rising oil prices due to fall of the Saudi Royal Family, etc.) I wrote a scenario for each problem and the students did a great job with the analysis and solutions! Later that week, I received an email from one of my favorite student parents ever where she stated “I am so impressed with the background and how you came up with all of this. Either you have a source high up or you have a creative mind. Either way, you should write a book someday.” At that point, I said to myself, “Yeah, right!”

Well, six years later, I did it! About this time last year, having had more life experience under my belt and fully confident in my abilities to carry a story, I began the planning process. By August of 2009, I was ready to write and after eight months of intensive writing, editing, research and the use of various sources during my spare time, I finished the manuscript for The Calling to Lead.

The Calling to Lead tells the story of Michael Buonocore, a native New Jerseyan who, in his younger years, was made well prepared to lead by his parents; those skills having been reinforced by his undergraduate years at Drew University. After completing his BA, he planned a path he would take in life, yet on September 11, 2001, everything changed. It was those leadership skills which brought Michael to discover his calling to lead; dedicating his life, in his roles as an educator and pundit/news analysis host, in teaching Americans to discover the importance of being Americans, as well as responsibilities, as individuals and citizens, they should proudly and honorably carry on their shoulders to protect, defend and preserve the nation. That calling to lead, along with the help of a good friend and support from family, eventually inspired him to run for governor of New Jersey and unseat the incumbent. Into his second term, Michael again was affected by terrorism, and saw a greater responsibility to lead not just his state, but his country. Facing the biggest challenge of his life, running against a well-funded, incumbent president not averse to using dirty tricks, Michael travels the country in his campaign, articulating how protecting, defending and preserving the nation will lead to its prosperity and progress and how he was the man to see it through.

Some of my life experiences, political beliefs and qualities I believe are important to possess all had an impact on the novel, along with friends and relatives who inspired characters in The Calling to Lead. For someone who gained an appreciation of and passion for writing with age, I am very excited about the prospect of others reading the novel, and eventually following up The Calling to Lead, continuing to tell the story of Michael Buonocore and the impact his leadership skills have on his political career.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome to My Corner of the World Wide Web

After all these years of following politics, participating in the political process, teaching about the political process and its historical significance, attempting to get young adults involved in the political process, as well as writing about politics and the political process, so many people have said to me, "Chris, why don't you start a blog?" Well, ladies and gentlemen, now is the time, so here we go!

Since completing my BA in Political Science and History, I have worked on various political campaigns, completed one Masters Degree, continued with graduate work and am nearing the completion of my 2nd Masters Degree. While teaching at the high school level and advising Model UN, I have written curriculum and have been part of a team whose curriculum has been published, while also having my lessons/learning activities published. I recently finished the manuscript for a political thriller titled The Calling to Lead, am in the process of editing it and will be shopping agents and publishers as I continue the editing process. Additionally, I am planning follow up novel(s).

Now a little bit about how I came up with the name of the blog, "The 'Right' Solutions." As a Conservative Republican, I believe in finding solutions to the problems and challenges the United States and the world face and I believe these solutions are the correct solutions and are based on the major beliefs those on the right side of the aisle endorse: small government whose major responsibilities are protecting its people and supporting its military, the power of the individual, the belief in the strength and potential of the free market, the protection of the Constitution, the preservation of our American values, as well as the belief in American Exceptionalism.

In articulating their solutions, Conservatives should clearly, positively and optimistically define the ways these solutions will benefit America and her citizens. They should not use personal attacks, yet they should not back down from the shots taken by those who oppose them, utilizing both an offensive and defensive strategy.

Future blog posts will focus around politics, some relevant popular culture and topics covered in The Calling to Lead. As I continue to post to "The 'Right' Solutions," feel free to comment and contribute to the discussion; and don't forget to tell your friends (or anyone who might be able to help me get The Calling to Lead published).

Again, I welcome you to "The 'Right' Solutions!"