July 5, 2014

U.S. independence day … how’s that going?

Today is July 5, 2014.

Yesterday was July 4th, U.S. independence day. The annual big day when the U.S. celebrates its specialness, its greatness – even more than the U.S. does seemingly every day every year always.

But some people asked us to reflect, not just celebrate. Some writers challenged us all, and challenge us regularly . . . To truly examine. To question. To acknowledge – and fight – racism, sexism, poverty, corporate power, the 99% and the 1%.

If one is really and truly American… Then maybe U.S. independence day should be a bit more about self-examination and evaluation… Just a bit more of that than celebration.

Sixty-Five Million Left Out of July 4th Celebration by Bill Quigley

“The greatest time bomb ever laid beneath history was laid 238 years ago today.” Our Most Important Struggle Remains: “To Be Self Evident.”

“How do we restore the sense that it’s still terrific to be Amerian?” Celebrate the Revolution – And Keep It Going by Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger

It’s getting worse, not better.

Filed under: Social Commentary

January 19, 2014

Where is the world going?

“Nous allons vers un monde que je n’ai pas voulu, mais c’est le monde vers lequel on va.”

“We are heading for a world that I didn’t want — but that’s the world we’re heading for.”

This comes from the Franco-Canadian television show XIII.

That is certainly how I feel. A world that I don’t want…With the NSA spying on everyone. (And I think Edward Snowden is a hero like Daniel Ellsberg was with the Pentagon Papers.) A world of Tea Party Republicans. A dysfunctional U.S. Congress where the behavior of so many should be illegal and worthy of jail time. A still racist and sexist and homophobic U.S., along with so many other countries. The 1% beating the 99%. Fact deniers. And so much more.

A world that I don’t want. But that’s the world we’re in and heading for even more deeply, I fear.

Thanks to Jean-Claude for telling me this quote. Fab, my cousin and Jean-Claude, her husband, live near us in France.


Filed under: Social Commentary

December 31, 2013

Creating an empathetic civilization – or we won’t survive!

Check out this absolutely marvelous and insightful video

Empathy… That’s what will save us all.

Make everyone you know watch it. EVERYONE! In schools in homes in organizations at board meetings… everyone everywhere.

This is what philanthropy is. This is what nonprofits/NGOs promote. And this human tendency – to be empathetic – is how we change the world…how we secure gifts of time and money to change the world.

Watch it. Use it. Remember it. Share it. Tweet it. Text it.

P.S. Check out a few new things that I’ve posted in my Free Download Library.

  • New ways to think about strategic planning.
  • Training tool to help your volunteers do face-to-face personal solicitation.
  • An overview of emotions, the very most critical thing you need to know for fundraising.
March 16, 2013

The power of vulnerability – for life and fundraising and…

This is an amazing video. For your personal and professional life and for my personal and professional life. I collected so many important tidbits… About the purpose of research. About the the concept of connection … which is, of course, relationship building … which is an essential part of fundraising and board development and nonprofit management and life.

Ms. Brené Brown describes herself as a research storyteller. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN.

Her research and her stories can help us understand how and why people do or don’t connect. Her research and stories can help us as human beings – which helps us as professionals, which helps us as fundraisers… By the way, you’ll find a number of YouTube videos from Ms. Brown.

Filed under: Resources / Research

October 7, 2012

The peace sign

More an interesting and inspiring curiosity

The peace sign…I’ll bet you know it. But do you know its history?

Designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958 – for the British nuclear disarmament movement. The symbol combines two semaphoric signals for the letters “N” and “D,” which stand for Nuclear Disarmament.

Albert Bigelow, a pacifist protester, introduced the peace symbol to the U.S. when he sailed his small boat (flying the peace flag) near a nuclear test in 1958.

Philip Altbach, student at the University of Chicago, imported the peac symbol to the U.S. In 1960, Altbach attended a meeting of peace groups in England. While there, he bought a bag of “chickentrack” buttons and took them back to Chicago. Albtach convinced his own Student Peace Union to adopt the graphic as its own symbol.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Filed under: Social Commentary

April 14, 2012

War and how it works

Or not

I just finished reading Rachel Maddow’s book DRIFT. It’s all about the military industrial complex and our many wars and….

Dwight Eisenhower warned us about wars back in his day. But we didn’t listen.

And now Congress doesn’t even declare war. Imperial presidents – which started with Reagan and his playmates Meese and Cheney – have all sorts of workarounds to avoid Congressional input or control. That’s not what the U.S. Constitution intended!

And outsourcing for the military. Wow. How not-cool is that? Outsourcing is a great way, apparently, to stop Congressional action.

Read Maddow’s book. Very interesting and informative.

Filed under: Social Commentary

November 20, 2011

Vietnam was my war (6)

Another part of the story

There was a draft for Nam. As my brother Alain said, “low number = screwed.”

How to stay out of the draft? All those strategies. Like inhale from a vacuum bag and agitate your asthma before your physical. Talk about liking boys and wetting your bed and get a letter from a sympathetic psychologist or psychiatrist. Cut off the right amount of your trigger finger and you can’t shoot a gun.

Or leave the country. Escape.

Tim O’Brien talks about leaving in The Things They Carried. How leaving means giving up your family and your history and your connections. How embarrassing it would be to explain. How lonely it would be. And O’Brien says that he just didn’t have the courage to leave. So he went to Nam instead.

What is the meaning of courage? We’re always told it takes courage to go to war. Or is it courage to survive war, the daily stress and boredom and fear?

What about the courage to refuse war, to deny its validity. Refusing to go.

To leave family and history and connections must be a truly courageous act.


Filed under: Social Commentary

November 13, 2011

War. Vietnam was mine. (5)

The next part of the story

I began writing these reflections 2009, after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Vietnam was my war. And Bill’s war. And Connie’s dead husband Michael’s war. And Nam was Tim O’Brien’s war. He’s written it for us. So all those who don’t or won’t remember can remember.

The thing about remembering is that you don’t forget. You take your material where you find it, which is in your life, at the intersection of past and present. The memory-traffic feeds into a rotary in your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges and shoots off down a thousand different streets. As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come to you. That’s the real obsession. All those stories.”

O’Brien reminds us that remembering makes things now. “And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

I was still at MSU when Bill was in Nam. Still working at All Saints Episcopal Church, living at home with my family that year.

I remember walking down Burcham Road and turning onto Lantern Hill Drive. I see myself approaching the curve where Knoll Road meets Lantern Hill Drive. Now I can see the driveway of my family home, many houses away. Do I look quickly or slowly? Is there a car in the driveway? Is it Bill’s mother’s car? Because if it is, that means something bad has happened. She told me she wouldn’t call. She would drive from her home near Detroit to East Lansing to tell me personally.

I see myself, over and over, approaching the curve. Taking a deep breath. Looking down the road to the driveway.

Read more »

Filed under: Social Commentary

September 21, 2011

War. Vietnam was mine. (4)

Part 4

I remember it this way: Bill enlisted in the Army because the military was drafting into the Marines. We all knew that the Army would be a better risk than the Marines.

I don’t remember the year he signed up. I graduated with my B.A. in 1970. So Bill graduated in 1968. No more student deferment. Maybe he joined up in late 1968 or 1969. We’d been dating for 3 years by then.

Who does one kill in war?

Soldiers kill soldiers. Men only, for so long. But in today’s wars, women, too.

Who are the soldiers? Adults. But not always. Some soldiers are not just young, they’re actually kids.

Bombs and soldiers kill civilians. Women and men. Boys and girls. Old and young. We kill civilians mostly by accident. Sometimes out of fear. And, rarely, with vicious, malicious intent.

My dad told a story once. Maybe he told it to Bill after Bill returned from Nam. There was a young German soldier in a foxhole. Dad kept telling him to get out of the foxhole. The soldier dropped his gun and held up his arms. Dad kept gesturing with his rifle and yelling, “get out or I’ll shoot” But the soldier didn’t. So my dad shot and killed him. And when dad got to the foxhole, he saw why the young German didn’t evacuate the foxhole: his legs were blown off.

Bill told a similar story. A young Vietnamese boy, maybe 12 years old, walked towards a platoon on patrol. In his hand: a Coca-Cola bottle. Bottles were often grenades. The boy wouldn’t drop the bottle. Shots rang out.

My brother Philippe was 12 years old that year, perhaps the age of that young Vietnamese boy. Did I ever tell you that story, Philippe, when you were older?

Dad and Bill and all the other scared soldiers facing scared soldiers and young boys. Acting to protect one’s self and one’s comrades – and killing.

Who does one kill in war? A little bit of oneself. It isn’t just soldiers that kill a bit of themselves; it’s our non-combatant citizens and our governments – our society itself.

[From “My own story of war,” which I began writing in summer 2009 and completed in spring 2011. Read the entire piece in the Free Download Library on my website.]

Read more »

Filed under: Social Commentary

September 13, 2011

War. Vietnam was mine. (3)

Part 3

So LBJ played a hugely significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

But LBJ was lost in Vietnam. So many were lost there. John Kerry said, “How do you ask a man [or woman] to be the last to die for a mistake?” Why don’t we ask that more often?

“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.” For that trip to France, I packed The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. I finished it that fall in France. And then I began writing my own piece on Vietnam.

Tim O’Brien wrote more books about Nam. Will I read those? I don’t know.

Surely we all know what they carried in Nam, just like in any war. The packs and the weapons and the food. And the fear and the hope and the anger and the panic and the despair. When do they stop carrying all those last things? Ever?

[From “My own story of war,” which I began writing in summer 2009 and completed in spring 2011.]

Filed under: Social Commentary

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