Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Stay Classy, Joe

In case you missed it:

The Vice President, again, opens up his mouth and puts his foot in it. I'm sorry, but last time I looked, Americans want to look up to their leaders, but behavior like this makes it really hard to do so. But like his boss, he has created a pattern over the years with his comments, which leads Americans to draw conclusions:

- Dropping the F Bomb on camera
- Not looking before calling out someone who cannot walk
- Confusing Barack Obama with Superman
- Racist speech
- Racist speech #2
- Braggadocio
- This new science fiction program

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his autobiography, (which I recommend) provides an accurate look into the personality and demeanor of Joe Biden, which is accurate as it aligns with the previously posted clips.

Dick Cheney may have told a Senator to "f***" Himself once, but he never lied about his achievements, made racist statements or acted like a buffoon in public. In fact, I remember a moment when in the 2004 Vice-Presidential Debate, John Edwards disgraced himself in using Dick Cheney's daughter's sexual orientation as a political issue. It angered Cheney's family and he could have directly responded, but instead, took the classy road. I would hope that Biden eventually takes a lesson from this as in his current state, I cannot look up to him as a leader. There was a time when we taught our children to look up to the president and vice president, but that was something we had trouble doing for the first time between January 20, 1993, and January 20, 2001. Again, many Americans have trouble looking up to the president and vice president and that is unfortunate.

It will be interesting to see if Biden stays on the ticket for 2012 as I believe that is open for debate.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The President has called on a Familiar Face

He's back! After letting General Stanley McChrystal go, which he had been trying to do for a while now, Obama has called upon General David Petraeus, who successfully led in Iraq, during "The Surge" which has been deemed an overwhelming success, to command the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. There are a few ironic items about this move by the president. First, and Rush pointed this out on his show this week, Petraeus was successful under President George W. Bush, a person who Obama loves to blame for his lack of success in the presidency, and now Obama is calling upon W's general to fix Afghanistan.

Second, Obama himself was a vocal critic of Petraeus, as seen in this clip during his brief tenure as Junior Senator from Illinois:

Knowing that Petraeus is saving the president, he would be smart to give free reign and not stand in the way and dither in the fashion he did with McChrystal. Apparently, Petraeus is getting right to work in modifying the Afghanistan Rules of Engagement. Let's hope the Senate in confirmation hearings next week, will treat him with much more respect than they did in 2007. (I haven't yet forgotten this.)

I am glad to see General Petraeus in this position. He has proven himself a capable leader, a scholar and a hero in not only in Iraq, but throughout his life. A graduate of the US Military Academy (top 5% of his class), a IR PhD from Princeton/Woodrow Wilson School of Public/International Affairs, he has applied these degrees to his decorated career in the military. He has survived a parachute accident, being shot in the chest in a training exercise and prostate cancer, and still has more energy at 57 than many men at 40! The president did a smart thing in bringing Petraeus into this position.

Again, Petraeus knows this and should lead and guide the president so that our troops most benefit. One misstep by the President and Petraeus should walk and not have to endure and follow through on the president's (to this point) misguided policy.

Wouldn't it be interesting if David Petraeus challenges Obama in 2012...I have my popcorn ready for that one!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Profiles in Leadership: Governor Bobby Jindal

For most of the 20th century, Louisiana has been known for corrupt and/or inept politicians: the Longs, the Landrieus, Kathleen Blanco, Ray Nagin, etc. Since 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal, at the age of 39, has been showing phenominal leadership skills and is a rising political star.

Born to parents who emigrated from India, Jindal is a graduate of Brown University, Rhodes Scholar and turned down a spot at Harvard Medical School to pursue a career in Government. Elected to Congress in 2004, he gained a leadership position two years later. After becoming governor, Jindal has cut spending, improved Louisiana's credit rating, has weeded out corruption and has stood up to lead, unlike Blanco, in natural disasters and the current oil leak in the Gulf.

With the current vacuum in leadership from Washington in dealing with the oil disaster, Bobby Jindal has done everything in his abilities to prevent that oil from coming on shore, as well as trying to save jobs in his state that will be lost. Many are questioning why the government is standing in his way, especially with today's news of the Federal Government halting the building of sand berms to protect the shoreline and the Federal Government's appeal in overturning the moratorium on offshore drilling. Despite the lack of action from the Feds, Jindal is standing firm in defending his state from this mismanagement; a significant role-reversal from Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana has come to know Bobby Jindal well, and with the crisis in the Gulf, so have (and will) Americans. Bobby Jindal's leadership in crisis management will have a major positive impact on his political future and I look forward to seeing how high he will rise.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Leaders FIX Crises, they don't take advantage of them!

I'm sure we remember these words:

Americans should have seen what was coming when Obama chose Rahm as his Chief of Staff. It is very unfortunate those words are coming true. Chris Matthews gets thrills up his leg, I get chills up my spine! The chills have been happening since January 2009, but have been occurring more frequently since the oil leak started in the Gulf of Mexico.

When an environmental disaster such as this occurs, leadership skills are needed. A good leader will roll up their sleeves, seek out the advice of experts, those local to the disaster, as well as the responsible parties to work together to end the problem. We can save the blame and gutter-sniping for the time after the crisis has ended. Just over 60 days later, the gusher is still flowing. Grant it, we haven't had an oil rig blow up in mile-deep water (We could also ask the government why were drilling all the way out there and not in safer places, but I digress), so I could understand how it could be difficult to stop the flow. Second thing to do is to make sure that oil does not reach the shore. Below are steps that could have been taken, but weren't:

- The use of Skimmers: They were refused.
- The use of booms: They didn't have them ready.
- The Construction of a sand berm: Finally OKed on June 11.
- Barges to vacuum the oil: Stopped by the Coast guard
- Foreign Assistance: Refused because the president does not suspend the protectionist Jones Act.

Had those steps been taken, the Southeast would not have been held hostage waiting for the slick to come on shore. Instead, we have seen the slick, as well as tar balls, appear on the Gulf Coast between Louisiana and Pensacola. We have heard the president, like a petulant child, claim he can't suck it up with a straw and that he's got to look for "ass to kick."

And even worse, we have seen the president follow Rahm Emanuel's words and begin to push his environmental agenda as a result of the spill. His declaration of a moratorium on offshore drilling is a knee-jerk reaction that will kill jobs (jobs that won't come back) and force a raised reliance on foreign oil. If Obama really wants to prevent this from happening again, he needs to expand drilling, however, do it in safer waters, and on land; specifically ANWR and the Rockies to extract shale. Not only will this move the drilling out of deep water areas and lower the risk of an environmental disaster, but this will lower prices, as a result of a greater supply.

Other countries are not joining in on this ban and they know if they joined in, supply would lower, demand would rise and prices would go up. Thankfully, gas prices haven't significantly risen, in light of the events in the Gulf. But we must still be concerned as Obama is going to begin to re-sell the Cap and Trade Legislation, which if passed, could produce $7/gallon gas, and that should scare the living daylights out of every American!

Americans are not stupid. They know what goes on in this great country and thankfully, in 2010, can get information at the snap of a finger, thanks to the Internet. So when a poll comes out that states George W. Bush was a better leader in crisis in the Gulf than Obama, I am not one bit surprised. Steps were taken by the Federal Government that Obama has refused to take and in taking those steps, George W. Bush showed leadership at work. Again, Americans will react to this and I believe we will see this reaction play out in the Midterm Elections this November.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Journey: Part III

Time for a little more reflection on the writing and planning of The Calling to Lead. I'm going to continue with setting and talk a little bit about one of my secondary settings in the novel, San Diego, California, while also getting into a little character development.

Many of you may be asking, "Why San Diego, Chris?" For those of you who know me, you know that I visited San Diego the first time last summer on vacation, when returning to California.. At a time when a vacation was imperative, combined with escaping a not so sunny New Jersey summer, combined with traveling with a good friend, combined with a ride to Anaheim for a visit to Disneyland, it was an incredible trip and I had a blast in San Diego.

There is so much that I love about this city and the San Diego region. It's a good mix of cosmopolitan and "laid back," the weather is always beautiful (it was in the 70s and sunny the entire time we were there), there's a large range of restaurants, bars and activities in the Gaslamp District, the views/vistas are quite breathtaking, the beaches are wide and clean, there is history abound, whether it is pop culture (the Hotel Del Coronado), military (the Naval bases, the USS Midway) or cultural (Old Town), and the people are very nice.

Thinking back on that vacation while writing The Calling to Lead, I wanted to include this city and region so I tied it into the storyline. Last blog entry, I articulated how California can "go red." The character Kristin Conlan is introduced as the engine to make that happens. A San Diego native and a businesswoman turned politician, Kristin Conlan is a combination of Sarah Palin and Meg Whitman. She shares Sarah Palin's ability to connect with people, her athletic background and her political ideology while she share's Meg Whitman's education (Conlan is a graduate of USC and holds an MBA from Stanford) and business acumen. And like both women, Kristin Conlan has a strong attachment to her community and has done much good for it. After working in business and having much success, Kristin Conlan purchased the San Diego Chargers, updating the team, updating their facilities (in turn, further cleaning up the East Village) and bringing home Super Bowl titles. Therefore, she brought a resolution to two problems that are plaguing the San Diego region: ending the San Diego Sports Curse and new Chargers Stadium in the East Village area. Between her work with the Chargers, her charitable work, along with starting an NBA expansion team in San Diego, while replacing the dilapidated San Diego Sports Arena (also in the East Village), she was well known in San Diego and throughout Southern California, so much so that she ran for governor, won twice, was successful at bringing conservative reforms to the Golden State and was popular throughout the state. As The Calling to Lead progresses, she will continue to play a significant role. (You didn't think I was going to tell you everything, now did you!)

San Diego also makes an appearance when Michael, who becomes a pundit, does a show on location, on the flight deck of the USS Midway.

This is a recommended visit when in San Diego as one can learn about her history in battle (saw action in Vietnam and Desert Storm), how those in the Navy lived while at sea, as well as see many military aircraft along the flight deck of the Midway.
I look forward to taking another trip out to San Diego and I'm glad I included aspects of this region in The Calling to Lead.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

California Red

No we're not talking about red wine from the Napa Valley, we are talking politics. And yes, I firmly believe that one day, with the right candidate, a Conservative Republican can not only win a state wide election in California, but it can be a red state again in a presidential election. This year, Massachusetts electing Scott Brown taught us that no region in the United States is safe Democrat. Over the past nearly 20 years, California has become the bluest of blue states. Big government legislation, taxes choking businesses and families, environmental legislation becoming mainstream, out of control government spending; you name it, it's been tried. Well, my friends, people in the Golden State are growing wary. They want something new.

The old saying, "All politics are local" definitely plays into someplace as large as California. Will it become red tomorrow? Absolutely not! This is going to have to be a long road, where a strong leader will have to emerge in the various regions of the state, but it's a road worth traveling down and a road I believe could happen.

Even though California is considered a liberal state by many, there are large Republican swaths of the state. Eastern and Southern California have a strong history of voting Republican. Now parts of Southern California, namely Orange and Ventura Counties (Los Angeles Metro area) have been trending Democrat, but that can be stopped by putting in candidates who can articulate the Conservative and Republican message. Win back those counties near L.A., (it may be safe to say that Los Angeles County may not be won back, but you can siphon off some Democrats) add them to Eastern California (the agricultural region that has been hurting in recent years, thanks to the Democrat environmental agenda that gives the delta smelt preference over water for farmers) and the San Diego Metro area, which is a strong Republican bastion (sans the 2008 election) and a history of military influence, will allow for a very significant Republican lean in a large part of the state.

However, that is the easy part. The most challenging aspect of making California a red state lies in the San Francisco Bay Area, the backbone of the Democrat vote in the state of California. I believe this can be done. First, Republicans need to market themselves in the weakest Democrat counties in the Region, specifically Solano and Contra Costa Counties. In this marketing, they need show themselves as pro-business, making sure that government steps out of the way of business so they may profit and create jobs. Doing this will most help them in Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley. Once they successfully articulate their pro-business stance, they can then articulate their position on various social issues. Not every county in the San Francisco Bay Area will be won, but if Republicans can pick off at least three, they will be successful on a statewide basis.

In a statewide election, it really doesn't matter whether the successful candidate comes out of Northern or Southern California. Each region has their strengths, but if I have to be forced to choose, I would say Southern California as there is a better chance Republican votes are there. Southern Californians tend to be a loyal group and will be very likely to support their native son/daughter. For the state to go Republican in a Presidential Election, one member of the ticket should be from California and have a proven record of success prior to politics and in politics that will have gained them support in their service of the Golden State. The California residency isn't a requirement to winning, but strongly recommended as again, Californians have a habit of supporting their native son/daughter, as in the case of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. With that level of success, the Republicans will have a fighting shot and can make the state competitive. If Republicans put money in California (which can be expensive as two of the five most expensive media markets in the country are in California in Los Angeles and San Francisco), Democrats will be forced to defend the state and will have to divert funds from other swing states.

In 2010, there are two statewide elections that I will be closely watching, which have the potential to be winners for California. Both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were both successful in business, have created jobs in California and are going up against two has-been politicians in a electoral season that could be detrimental to Democrats. I believe that both have an excellent shot and these elections will be a harbinger of California politics. Maybe the state will produce another Ronald Reagan who can do for the United States what Reagan did.

Wouldn't it be nice to see California go red in the near future!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Leadership on this day in History

"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev...TEAR DOWN THIS WALL"

On this day, 23 years ago, Ronald Reagan stood in West Berlin, in front of Brandenburg Gate and gave that speech. His speechwriters actually removed that phrase at least twice prior to it being re-inserted as they thought it to be too confrontational.

Ronald Reagan epitiomized strong leadership. He believed there was a means to an end and for that end to be reached, the means had to be traversed, even if it wouldn't be considered politically correct or to the liking of everyone. In looking at the Soviet Union and Cold War, Reagan looked to end the period of detente which had been the way through the 1970s. To end the Soviet Union's domination of its people and Eastern Europe, he had to show them America was not afraid to face them head on, he had to show America's economic strengths and he had to show American Exceptionalism to the Soviet world. He showed that America is a force for good in the world, will spread liberty, is firmly against evil and will not/does not need to apologize for this belief in exceptionalism. During the 1980s, Reagan may have been chided and castigated by his enemies, but he was right! By the end of his presidency, glasnost and perestroika had taken hold and into Bush 41, the Berlin Wall had fallen, with the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. Without Ronald Reagan's steadfast leadership, this would not have been possible. Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II would not have had the backing of the United States in support of their respective roles in ending the Cold War.

Americans, Europeans and the Russian people enslaved under the Communist system should be thankful for Ronald Reagan's leadership, the world is a better place for it and it is my hope, as well as many in the United States, that someone follows the model of Reagan in serving as our next president.

The World is a Carousel of Color

Chalk this one up to the "Other Items" category. From time to time, we need a break from politics, our lives and our careers. What better a diversion than Disney to allow this! My whole life, I have been a fan of Disney...been to Disney World in Florida many, many times and Disneyland in California twice (last summer being the second time). To this day, anything Disney is able to put me in a good mood, even at my most stressful moment. Anyway, last summer when I went to California Adventure, they, along with other changes in the park, were in the midst of building their new nighttime spectacular called "Disney's World of Color, as pictured below by viewing the empty Paradise Pier Lagoon.

Almost one year later, the show, a mix of fountains that shoot as high as 200 feet, lights, lasers, music and mist screens, made its world premiere and for a company that has created nighttime extravaganzas like Illuminations and Fantasmic, this one is right up there! The reviews of World of Color are very positive and it is amazingly done. I have embedded the show, divided into three parts. Glad to see someone has this on YouTube already! Enjoy!

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

UPDATE: A new clip of the entire World of Color, without any breaks, was just posted on YouTube. This also gives a slightly different vantage point where the base of the fountains can be seen, showing more of the lighting and laser effects.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cheaters Never Win

Get out the tissue box, folks, the New York Times wants you to feel bad and they gave us a real tear-jerker. They want us to feel sorry for cheating educators. Apparently Bush's NCLB, combined with new laws where testing affects tenure, as well as bonuses being awarded for higher tests, the pressure is rising in the educational world.

Maybe I'm just a simple mind here, but isn't this wrong? Are we doing our students a disservice? Are the tests so hard and out of reach for the students that by tampering, teachers are leveling the playing field? Are teachers justified? The answers to these questions are a resounding YES, YES, NO and NO! As educators, we act as leaders in attempting to teach our students right from wrong. We teach our students that cheating is wrong and that tests should be taken honestly. We're the ones who are supposed to watch over students to make sure they don't cheat. We not only teach them through our words but we teach them through our actions. If we were to condone this, then we would have no platform on which to stand and the likelihood for a clean test to be given would definitely lessen. And teachers are not leveling the playing field. Instead, they are copping out and using their children's abilities or economic situation as an excuse to gain sympathy for their methods. In turn, it gives the message to the students that they cannot succeed because of their situation. Therefore, teachers are not justified in cheating on tests, whether 'tubing it' or using more extreme methods.

In my years in education, I do not make excuses for my students to set up their failure while allowing outsiders to gain sympathy for me, but instead, I prepare them with the tools and resources so they may act as independently and have the tools for success in life. I have never condoned cheating in my class, have influenced honesty and to further enforce it, I remind the students that if they are caught cheating, I will deny them the possibility of my writing them a letter of recommendation in the future. It is a pretty effective consequence as in my years, I have never had a student cheat or plagiarize! They understand the consequences and refrain from that action, as a result.

Personally, I think the article is low-balling the percentages of teachers who cheat, especially if administrators who intimidate their teachers to inflate their grades are included. This is a very ugly pattern that occurs in our secondary schools and does a major disservice to our students' future because an administrator may fear the reaction of the parents or may want to make themselves look good with student grades as evidence of their administrative ability.

But in terms of teachers and administrators who manipulate standardized tests, not only should they be fired, but they should have their certification revoked and also be charged criminally, those charges holding the specter of jail time. These are similar charges that one would face for violating rules of taking the SATs, GREs, LSATs, MCATs or GMATs.

The article also states that teachers manipulate tests so they may get their bonuses as they are tied into student achievement on tests in many states. The teachers unions may want merit pay to go away, but I do not. I believe merit pay can be done in a way that it is fair and it truly rewards the teacher for their job.

The issue of merit pay comes up in The Calling to Lead as Michael proposed education reforms during his first term as Governor of New Jersey. In terms of 'merit pay,' Michael proposes the following: student test scores and grades will be the judging factors and three non-colluding administrators will make the final decision. If two out of three independently make that decision, the bonus is granted. If it is found out that the administrators colluded, then the administrators will lose their jobs, certification and be charged with a crime. If it is found out that the teachers manipulated their students' grades, they too will lose their jobs, certification and be charged with a crime.

I believe these laws, in reality, will work in New Jersey. The deciding factors on who gets their bonuses are unbiased and the law makes sure the administrators make independent decisions based on the criteria set up.

Teachers and administrators who enter this profession must remember the great power with which they are entrusted and it is imperative they be responsible in their actions as it is the students who will be influenced. They do not miss a beat and we want to make sure the influence is always positive as these students must be prepared to be tomorrow's leaders.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wealth is bad? I don't think so...

After the events of this weekend and driving home last night from a really awesome Two Rivers area Primary Night Party, I got to thinking. Don't ask me why, but I tend to pontificate over various issues while driving. The one thing that had popped into my head last night was the topic of wealth and I started asking myself, "Why do some consider wealth a bad thing?"

Full disclosure: I am not independently wealthy and I hold no animus or disdain for anyone who is wealthy. It would be nice if The Calling to Lead or any subsequent novels I may write allow me to earn more, but until then, like most Americans, I work hard, I save, I invest and I think about what lies ahead tomorrow, which forms my spending and saving habits.

As with most things in life, past and current experiences have formed my thinking on this issue.

I distinctly remember that when I first entered education, I substitute/long term taught in a high school located an affluent area of the Jersey Shore while I was doing my first Masters Degree. When I look back on my career in education, this is one of the favorite schools with which I was associated. I came into the profession a novice educator with confidence that I could not only teach subject material to young adults but also positively influence them in some manner. What I experienced at this school was a joy, a pleasure and made me look forward to going there every day. These young adults gave me the confidence that I could be an effective educator, they hold a special place in my heart and I thank them every day. From friends, other educators and professors, I heard the comments:

- "That's not the real word."
- "Those kids live in a bubble."
- "They're a bunch of spoiled brats."
- "They're set in life thanks to their mommies and daddies."
- "Are their cars better than the cars in the teachers' lot?"
- "What's the biggest tragedy in there? A fight between boyfriend and girlfriend?"

These are just some of the comments, others were more egregious and I don't need to put them can only imagine! Whenever I heard them, not only did I call the people out who made them, but I found them condescending, nasty, and dripping with jealousy and envy. Those who commented knew nothing about their lives, about their personalities, about their families. Their comments are about pre-conceived notions about wealth. Again, the students in this school do not fit the stereotype of "the rich kid," all the parents with whom I associated, collaborated and conversed were incredible people and it's no surprise they raised the children they did. I am proud to be in touch with many of these former students, whether on facebook or email. And you know what, the kids notice it. I recall one interaction with a student where it was:

Student: "Mr. C, I just got my license. Let me show you!"
Me: "Congrats (I'm leaving the name out), I'm so happy for you. Getting a car."
Student: "Yes! A Land Rover. I'm so excited!"
Me: "That's great! Just remember to drive safely and know that you are responsible for the other passengers in your car. Always be sure to make good decisions behind the wheel."

This student approached me a few days later, "You know Mr. C, I have to say thank you. When we talked about my license the other day, you said nothing about the car and did not make a remark about what kind of car it is or the fact that it's a luxury car. It meant so much that you were more concerned with my safety than what I was driving. I really appreciate it."

Remember, words matter and teenagers absolutely pick up on this. This treatment is not unique to this building and educators would be wise to leave their pre-conceived notions at the door and instead, realize what an honor and privilege it is to teach these students. As I said earlier, I positively look back and reflect of my time in this school and interacting with these young adults.

Present day, we just went through a primary here in the 6th, and I have to say it, I was very upset to see the opposition's supporters use Diane Gooch's wealth as a club with which to hit her, spreading falsehoods and rumors over the blogosphere. It was an unfair attack and an ugly way to get votes. (Votes are still being counted so I don't think it's fair to use the term win.) These people were used by the Democrats to parrot their same old attacks (or maybe they just plagiarized their attacks) on wealth and I have to say it's an unfortunate day when the opposition uses a candidate's wealth as a form of attack. With Diane Gooch, she and her husband did not start out wealthy. They worked hard, found their niche in the economy, made their money honestly, and frankly, are a personification of the American Dream. We should not attack them, we should say "God Bless."

I return to my original question when examining why people have come to hate wealth:

1. Jealousy: The "have-nots" see what the "haves" possess and think their situation unfair. Could the have-nots take it upon themselves to have more? Are they working to their fullest potential?
2. The Blame Game: Instead of taking responsibility, we have a habit in our society of blaming others for our misfortune or underachievement. This does not unite and ends up drawing lines, dividing Americans by social status and building contempt between the different statuses. This Blame Game is not only an action of individuals, but certain groups and politicians, which collectively attack the wealthy.
3. Not forming our own opinions: With the click of a mouse, we, in 2010, can instantly gain information. This information may lead us to our conclusions, we may not seek out alternative viewpoints and this is definitely the case with how people feel about the rich.

I don't judge a person by the size of their wallet, but the content of their character. As long as the wealthy make their money honestly, follow the laws in making a living, help society because of their position, give back in some form or another, and donate to various charities, (are you listening Mr. Vice President?) I have no problem with them and I don't think we, as Americans, should either. As a result of their financial situation, those who are wealthier have the ability to step up to become leaders of some sort, whether in their chosen field, in their community or for a charity in which they have a passion, and I, like most Americans, hope to see them take on that responsibility. I have no problem with them or the fact that they are wealthy. They are the group that can create jobs, keep businesses and industries afloat, and if we didn't have those who succeeded in our capitalist system, we wouldn't have had the successes we have over the years in the United States of America!

Thank you, Mr. President! You may inspire people in ways you didn't plan.

Many are not very happy with President Obama's inappropriate use of language on the Today Show the other day. In case you haven't seen this:

And for the record, I agree. A president shouldn't use that language on the air and if I were in that position, I would hold back on talking and instead, roll up my sleeves, get to work, solve the problem and inspire those around me with my actions.

My note to Republicans...let's not make too much of a big deal about this. Let's take his words, turn them on him and his party and make this our rallying cry, to "kick the asses (as in donkeys, the symbol of the Democrat Party) out of Congress!"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Journey, Part II

Continuing on with some of my reflections of the research and writing of The Calling to Lead, I’m going to talk a little about why I chose the setting I did.

Many people say they write about what they know (example: Clancy is from Maryland, Jack Ryan is from Maryland; Joel Rosenberg spent a lot of time in Israel, many of his novels are partially set in Israel), so I figured I would do the same. Having traveled all over this great country and the world (20 states, 13 countries) has allowed me to see many places, learn about various cultures and locales, as well as have experiences that I would not have had if I stayed home. Additionally, the traveling I have done gives me even more appreciation for my home, New Jersey. Those who do not live here know our state from what they see on such shows as The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jerseylicious, as well as the many late night talk show host jokes and believe that all of New Jersey and all New Jerseyans are like what they see and hear. I'll spare you from my opinion of most of those shows. (if you know me and how I think, then you already know my opinion) If they believe that, they are sorely mistaken and are missing out from a great experience.

Something that I have found unique about New Jersey is its size. Being the 46th largest state, traveling around is fairly easy and for someone like me whose family and friends are in different parts of the state from where I grew up, I get know the regions of New Jersey very well.
I grew up near the Jersey Shore, most of my family is in North Jersey, and I went to college at Drew University, which is in Morris County. I stayed near the Jersey Shore after college, did my first Masters near the Two Rivers are of the Jersey Shore, have worked in the Two Rivers area the Jersey Shore, as well as in North and Central Jersey, and have friends all over the state from Mahwah to Cherry Hill.

In paying homage to my home state, I made New Jersey, specifically the Jersey Shore, the primary setting in The Calling to Lead. Michael Buonocore is raised and eventually settles in the Two Rivers area of the Jersey Shore. For those not familiar with this location, it is the Eastern and Central portion of Monmouth County where the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers converge before emptying into Sandy Hook Bay. The municipalities in this area consist of the following: Middletown, Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Oceanport, West Long Branch, Little Silver, Shrewsbury, Rumson, Fair Haven and Red Bank. Not only is this a beautiful area in which to live because of friendly, safe neighborhoods, excellent schools and good access to transportation, there is much to do, and it isn’t even limited to the summer beach months! Between beautiful nature trails and parks, cultural activities, historical sites, good shopping, excellent restaurants (especially in Red Bank and Long Branch), and friendly bars, one can stay very active and an activity is never too hard to find. I’ll likely blog about some of these places in the future so you, the reader, can learn more about them and my connections to them. The picture below is a view of the Navesink River along an opened Oceanic Bridge between Middletown and Rumson.

Secondary settings in New Jersey consist of Drew University, from where Michael graduated after four years of college. In The Calling to Lead, Michael stays in close contact with Drew University through their alumni network. He believes, as I do, that it is necessary to give back to those who have given to you. Also, part of The Calling to Lead is set in Hoboken (pictured below), where many Drew graduates and young professional move to when starting their careers. Hoboken benefits from its location just across the Hudson River from New York City and has an amazing story of rebirth stretching back to the late 1980s. Today in Hoboken, one can find many excellent restaurants, bars, cultural activities and beautiful public spaces. Michael eventually decides that the lure of the Jersey Shore is too great for him to resist.

I will try to do an entry on “The Journey” every seven blog entries as there is much to reflect on, speaking about this wonderful experience of writing a novel.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


As an educator, not only do we teach children and prepare them for experiences beyond their secondary years, but we also protect them. This can be done in so many ways and even by teaching them and preparing them for those post-secondary years, we protect them from their own naivete when they are in our presence, and by helping them to acquire knowledge. We are pleased when they follow our advice, and their parents' advice. We are angered and saddened when someone tries to take advantage or harm children, regardless of who they are.

During the summer of 2005, Americans were captivated by the story of Natalee Holloway's disappearance. If you watched Fox News and Greta at all that summer, you remember the story. Natalee disappeared in Aruba on her senior field trip and was last seen with three young men, Joran van der Sloot being the ringleader. The investigation had more twists than a 24 season and 5 years later, Natalee was never found and the charges never stuck to van der Sloot. There was also the role of his father, Paulus van der Sloot, who reminded his son, "no body, no case." Many involved believe it was his father's advice, help and connections in the legal community helped to keep his son out of jail.

Five years later, Paulus is dead and the web continues to tangle. Joran van der Sloot was recently charged with extortion in the Holloway case and is now, five years later, accused of murder. This time, Daddy isn't there to clean up his mess and justice is a little more swift in Peru than it is in Aruba. Karma's about to bite this kid in the butt.

In looking back at this sad story, some may question that I didn't mention the conduct of the students, the chaperone:student ratio and the school's chaperoning abilities. (which were HORRIBLE...I took a group of students out of state a few years ago and there was no way in hell my kids would have ever done any of this because (a) I wouldn't have allowed it; (b) they were closely watched;(c) they knew the rules and consequences for breaking them.) I would agree that it didn't meet my standards as an educator (and it sure as hell wouldn't have met my standards as a parent), but that doesn't give the right for that little dirtbag and his dirtbag friends to take advantage of a girl, possibly under the influence, in a strange country. Justice for Joran van der Sloot may have been avoided for five years, but I guarantee you that in the Stephany Flores case, van der Sloot will face the swift hammer of Peruvian justice, so much so that he will wish he could face the extortion charges in Alabama.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like the little brat did it. Enjoy your life in a Peruvian prison, Joran.


The picture you see above (from the National Archives) shows the last view many of our bravest Americans saw in their lives. As soon as those doors opened, the chance of death increased and many did not even make it ashore. Today, June 6th, is the 66th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, the amphibious landings by the Allies on the shores of Normandy. Our brave soldiers faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds: landing on fortified shores with the German soldiers having the high ground, advancing into Europe and eventually into Berlin. But they did it! It was this battle that allowed for freedom from Nazism and Fascism to occur in Europe.

These brave Americans accepted the calling to defend their country and those who came home were leaders in building the United States into the nation we know today. What these brave Americans went through is depicted in Saving Private Ryan (WARNING: GRAPHIC images in the linked movie clip) and for that, we should be grateful in honoring their memory and their sacrifice in spreading the American ideals of freedom and liberty to foreign shores.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Primary Countdown is ON here in New Jersey's 6th Congressional District

In the years I have been following politics, I have never been excited about a Congressional Election here in CD-6. For years, Frank Pallone has served as our Congressman and the pattern has been a gimme that he would go back to Washington every two years to "represent" us. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am now excited! I'm excited that once and for all, we can send Frank Pallone back to Long Branch (which is a pretty nice place to be...I mean, it's Long Branch) and not have to endure his apathy toward those of us in the 6th that don't support big government policies. His defeat could also save New Jersey from having to deal with him as many believe he is prime for statewide office...losing this seat will prevent that from happening.

And it's all because of Diane Gooch that Frank Pallone is vulnerable. As I said in an earlier blog entry, I have met Diane and have been following her campaign since its inception. I am impressed with her passionate speaking and common sense policy ideas to save our 6th and collectively, take back this country from big government policies that leave out the 47% that did not vote that way nationally in 2008. And I'm not the only one in the 6th who feels this way! Diane has been traveling around the district and many have heard what she has to say and like what she has to say. The large group (larger than expected) that gathered last night in Red Bank also feels this way. They see her proposals and ideas as solutions and as I stated in my introductory entry, that's exactly what I want our politicians to provide as that is leadership!

Let's look at Diane's background. Her detractors would accuse her of having no experience. I disagree! Her business background makes her that much of a stronger candidate because she had a hand in creating jobs in the district as a small businesswoman. She understands what needs to be done for jobs to be created and the conditions that must be in place. A career politician does not understand this and we have seen this thought process followed through as the policy that Pallone has supported has not created jobs. (and the health care legislation will be a further impediment to job creation) The premise that someone with a business background can be successful in government has not only been followed through in real life, but in fiction, as in Tom Clancy's Executive Orders (excellent read...highly recommended), where Jack Ryan, as President, rebuilds the government and appoints individuals with no political experience, but business experience as they have been successful in putting theory into practice, just as Diane has. She has proven her leadership abilities and I look forward to watching her represent the 6th in Congress.

This is a busy weekend and my Republican friends in the 6th, we must realize that Diane Gooch is the superior candidate in our party, she has run a positive campaign, and she has solutions for issues that affect every member of the 6th. Without Diane, Frank Pallone will continue to rule the 6th. So I again implore you to go to the polls this Tuesday and vote for Diane to represent our party in the Midterm Election this fall. I guarantee you, with Diane, the 6th will not be a 'safe district' for the Democrats anymore and will be the surprise of the 2010 Midterms.

I will leave you with Diane's radio ad as I look forward to celebrating a victory on Tuesday night. Let's all make that possible!

Bomb Throwers Abound This Week

We had two "un-plugged moments" in the media this week that made level-headed thinking Americans have a collective cringe. The first is "Sir" Paul McCartney. After partying it up in the White House with a President who should be more concentrated on stopping the oil flow than entertaining Hollywood made this comment:

If you look at that clip, even Jerry Seinfeld was mortified! What mortified me was less the comment, and more the President's refusal to rebuke McCartney's words. (Which is, again, a pattern, with this president, as he refused to rebuke Wanda Sykes's rant last year.) When you look at his comments, it's more Paul McCartney who hasn't been to a library because if he did, he would have learned that Bush is a voracious reader, his wife is a former librarian and his family has been involved with literacy issues for years. In the past, Karl Rove has written about George W. Bush's reading habits. Maybe Mr. McCartney should read this article first before opening up his mouth and speaking about topics of which he knows nothing.

The second cringe moment this week comes out of the mouth of Helen Thomas in her un-plugged comments on Israel:

Wow! That has to be one of the more anti-Semitic statements I think I've heard from a public figure. If you listen to her questions over the years, they are not objective questions, but rambling, loaded, anti-Israel statements. Putting aside the fact that she's 89 years old and still doing her job, she makes a mockery of journalists and journalism. Doyenne or no doyenne, her words are inappropriate, her apology is canned and not from the heart and she should face retribution for her comments, as harsh as losing her seat in the briefing room.

UPDATE: The Anti-Semitic witch is gone! As I am very happy she is being held responsible for her reprehensible comments, I reminisce on how not everyone let her get away with spewing hate from the front row of the White House Press room

-Exhibit A: Dana Perino
-Exhibit B: George W. Bush
-Exhibit C: Tony Snow (RIP)

Friday, June 4, 2010

We Miss you, Gipp!

On June 5, 2004, 6 years ago, the country lost Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, as he left this earth and is now watching us from above. I remember the images and stories of Americans coming to Washington DC from all over the country to stand in long lines, in oppressive DC heat and humidity to pay their final respects to this great man as his body lay in state in the rotunda of the US Capitol.

Last month, I wrote about Ronald Reagan and his role in ending the Cold War, as described by John O'Sullivan. Looking back and examining history, I greatly admire Ronald Reagan and consider him the best president of the 20th century. Ronald Reagan was a true leader! He was able to clearly articulate his agenda to Americans, there were no ambiguities as we knew where he stood, he was brave enough to stand up to his detractors in the interest of America and her people; whether cutting taxes, making sure the Federal Government is not over-reaching and too much in our lives, protecting us from those that want to do us harm and promoting freedom not only for Americans, but those around the world under the oppression of governments that stifle freedom. If not for Ronald Reagan, the Cold War would likely have continued and for that, not only Americans, but the world should be grateful!

In closing, please enjoy the following beautiful tribute to Ronald Reagan:

(Thanks to the National Archives for the pic)

"My Bad!" So refreshing to hear...wish we could hear this from our politicians

I'll admit it, in terms of sports, first and foremost, I'm a football guy (go GIANTS and JETS), as a result, summer is a slow sports season. I don't dislike baseball, but outside of going to a game or two, especially if I'm in a city where I haven't been to their ballpark, but I really don't watch until the end of the season/playoffs and World Series and will pay closer attention when the Yankees are in it. As a result, I was a little late with this story. To quote Warner Wolf, "Let's go to the videotape:"

What we see here is a clear indication of a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce stealing Armando Galaragga's perfect game. A crime in the eyes of many baseball fans, and yes, even in the eyes of those who don't consistently watch baseball. In spite of this officiating error, Jim Joyce was remorseful about his call and took full responsibility. Below is the post-game interview:

In this press conference, Joyce flat out says, "My bad!" While robbing a pitcher of a perfect game, after seeing the error of ways, Jim Joyce showed class, and inspired those in leadership positions as he took full responsibility for his actions. I believe that Joyce is making an honest attempt at repenting that error in judgment and in the end, he will be more respected. A good leader will admit when he/she is wrong and go about to make amends for their error, as well as face and accept the appropriate consequences for those actions.

Seeing this made me think what's going on in Washington. We have a president who blaming his predecessor as inspiration to implement his agenda and as a focus of fault when his agenda fails, instead of taking responsibility, trying to fix or changing direction. He blames others and keeps moving forward. Americans are growing wary of this lack of leadership and what we saw in the Summer of 2009 with Americans voicing their displeasure will likely continue this summer and into the 2010 Midterm Election.

While I could not find a montage of the evidence, here are a few clips (read McCain's lips in the first one)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Journey, Part I

"It is such a pleasure to watch you think!"

I know that quote may seem somewhat self-centered and self-serving, but let me explain its origin. It was said to me two years ago by a paraprofessional, who shared my classroom as a result of a student with whom she worked, after observing a lesson and watching the light bulb in her student's head turn on. In the years I've worked in education, it was one of the nicest compliments I have received and will never forget it!

Being inspired by that quote, from time to time, I will give some insight how I went about the planning and writing of my 8 month writing project that has come to be known as The Calling to Lead. Each "Journey" post will deal with a different aspect that went into planning/writing.

One common question that has been asked of me follows:

"How did you come up with all the characters?"

Planning for the main character, Michael Buonocore (his surname means "Good Heart" in Italian), I thought of qualities I have, I strive to perfect, as well as qualities I believe educators, pundits/journalists and politicians should have: hard-working, a person of strong character, loyalty, honesty, optimism, a positive/hands-on leader, intelligence, open-mindedness, the possession of strong interpersonal, as well as strong intra-personal skills. Michael is a strong speaker, passionate about his beliefs, is willing to roll up his sleeves to make sure a problem is solved and has successfully utilized, applied and implemented the leadership skills those from parents to superiors have taught him, in his own leadership positions.

Supporting characters were built around Michael and have worked with him or known him in his various roles or at different times in his life. As one will see when they read the book, the shared loyalty between the supporting characters and Michael has allowed many of the characters to stay in Michael's life in different roles.

These supporting characters have been inspired by and based on some good friends, as well as family. My family is one of the most supportive around and I am very grateful for them, hence, it's only right that they have inspired characters within The Calling to Lead. When writing about Michael's professional journey through college, education, media/journalism and politics, I also thought about people who I met along the way on my own personal journey. Colleagues who have become friends, friends with whom I have stayed friends through the years, students with whom I have stayed in contact long after they left my classroom, mentors and superiors who have reinforced what my parents have taught me. These people, in some form or another, have inspired me, supported me or touched my life in some fashion and the most appropriate remembrance of their respective roles was to include them within The Calling to Lead. It makes me quite happy the reactions of those who I told have inspired characters! In addition, you, the reader, will see some familiar faces from politics and will even see some supporting characters based on those familiar faces as I have blended fiction with current events and history.

I look forward to the next insight post and will also let you all know the progress of getting The Calling to Lead published. As always, if you know of anyone that is a literary agent or in publishing, do not hesitate to let me know! In the meantime, thanks again for reading, "The 'Right' Solutions!"


As an avid political junkie and presidential election follower, that image is quite memorable, as are the stories of the film and book Love Story being based on the Gores marriage. Nearly 10 years later, Al and Tipper Gore have separated after 40 years of marriage. Not many things in politics surprise me, this does!

As someone who does not agree with the agenda and politics of Al Gore, I am first, a human being, and understand that separation and divorce is very tough on not only the parties involved, but their families. Therefore, I will put politics aside and offer the Gores my prayers and best wishes for the future that everyone involved comes out OK on the other side.

(Kudos to Tolbert Report for the pic of the kiss!)