Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Trust me, that's not always easy.
Last night was one of those "not so easy" nights.
For me, as a human rights advocate I tend to focus much of my energies on issues of genocide, human trafficking, torture, and the empowerment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being enjoyed by ALL people.
While I have spent a great deal of time in my life -- much, much, much more so than the average person -- volunteering to work with inmates in prison (both male and female), I can honestly say the death penalty is something that challenges me.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, our legal system is f*#@*ed up. Actually, if there is something beyond f*#@*ed up, it's that.
Last night I attended a meeting in which the focus was the need to abolish the death penalty. Unfortunately, the meeting was very poorly organized, marketed and run and thus, very poorly attended. ( BIG HINT: When there are an equal number of or more Board/Staff members of the organization sponsoring the meeting in the audience than there are "outside" people, then it's time to re-evaluate how you are presenting your message.)
The meeting consisted of two speakers and then a Q & A session. (Unfortunately, neither speaker had prepared notes nor did either speaker pay attention to the microphone in front of them. ANOTHER BIG HINT: no matter how well versed you feel you are on a subject...ALWAYS HAVE PREPARED NOTES.)
Both individual speakers had powerful stories -- sad, tragic, and awful, but powerful in the sense that they are exactly the right people to be speaking about the need to abolish the death penalty -- but, frustratingly, they struggled in delivering pointed, well-thought-out, prepared arguments.
Approximately 34 years ago, through a series of absolute negligence by those in the legal system, the gentleman speaker was wrongfully convicted of murder in New Mexico and spent 2 years on death row. Thankfully, a female reporter began investigating the series of events, the truth was discovered, and he was exonerated. (A journalist doing what a journalist should be doing...searching for and reporting the truth. Ahh, I think I remember that time in our history.)
Also in the 1970's, the female speaker, her husband and their 5 children were traveling to Montana from Michigan. They chose a campground just outside of Three Forks, MT to spend one of their first nights. Sadly, during the night their 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped and a week later murdered. However, the kidnapper/murderer toyed with the family for over a year. He was eventually caught and was discovered to have murdered a number of other children (and an adult) throughout the state. It was only when the family chose not to seek the death penalty, did the killer confess to his crime(s). A short time later he committed suicide.
As I said, both speakers have direct experience with the legal system in regards to the death penalty and are just the people most nonprofits would want to engage on behalf of their cause.
Unfortunately, the skill set of the Board Members of the nonprofit and the staff of the nonprofit failed to pull off anything of significance last night. And unfortunately, the public speaking skills of both speakers failed to do the same.
Nonprofits MUST get out of the NOT-FOR-PROFIT mentality and start thinking along the lines of "What Would Starbucks Do?" or "What Would MacDonalds Do?" or "What Would WalMart Do?" to get this message out to the public? Nonprofits don't have to have the money that these big corporations do to just simply stop approaching everything with a not-for-profit mentality. Change the way of thinking first, see different results second.
First, be organized. Have a plan. What is it you want to accomplish? What is your message? Who do you want to reach with your message? What do you want to change? Who do you need "on your side" to make that change happen? etc...
Second, execute the plan. If the plan includes public speakers, make sure they are skilled to deliver their message effectively. If the plan includes the need for action, have the necessary actions laid out for people to take. Communicate with a plan -- close the deal effectively.
How interesting it was to check my email when I got home and find a link to a clip from my dear friend, Al Feldstein (retired MAD Magazine editor). The clip is from the television show Boston Legal and deals with... the death penalty.
A topic of discussion Al and I have never had. We've talked about plenty of political issues, but the death penalty has never been one of them.
This clip is an excellent example of educational TV -- truly quality programming. And it's an excellent example of how nonprofits could learn from the skill set of educated writers. If I were a nonprofit organization whose main function is to see the abolition of the death penalty, I'd be using this clip, the words spoken by this actor (James Spader, who appears to be growing...how many female actresses could get away with that? Ah, but that's another blog), and anything and everything ABC would let me use to push my cause.
Engaging speakers to your cause is a good thing, but make sure you have a plan of action in place if your purpose is to see something changed.
from www.youtube.composted with vodpod
Sunday, April 27, 2008
This NY Times Op-Ed article by Elizabeth Edwards is so good, I am creating a post for it. Here is the permalink if anyone would like to read the article as it was posted in today's New York Times:
April 27, 2008
Bowling 1, Health Care 0
Chapel Hill, N.C.
FOR the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?
Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles — information that voters will need to choose the next president — too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, I’m not surprised.
Why? Here’s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.
But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.
It is not a new phenomenon. In 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings — an important if painful part of our history — were televised, but by only one network, ABC. NBC and CBS covered a few minutes, snippets on the evening news, but continued to broadcast soap operas in order, I suspect, not to invite complaints from those whose days centered on the drama of “The Guiding Light.”
The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.
Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.
What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.
And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.
But it was not to be. Indeed, the Biden campaign was covered more for its missteps than anything else. Chris Dodd, also a serious candidate with a distinguished record, received much the same treatment. I suspect that there was more coverage of the burglary at his campaign office in Hartford than of any other single event during his run other than his entering and leaving the campaign.
Who is responsible for the veil of silence over Senator Biden? Or Senator Dodd? Or Gov. Tom Vilsack? Or Senator Sam Brownback on the Republican side?
The decision was probably made by the same people who decided that Fred Thompson was a serious candidate. Articles purporting to be news spent thousands upon thousands of words contemplating whether he would enter the race, to the point that before he even entered, he was running second in the national polls for the Republican nomination. Second place! And he had not done or said anything that would allow anyone to conclude he was a serious candidate. A major weekly news magazine put Mr. Thompson on its cover, asking — honestly! — whether the absence of a serious campaign and commitment to raising money or getting his policies out was itself a strategy.
I’m not the only one who noticed this shallow news coverage. A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy found that during the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, 63 percent of the campaign stories focused on political strategy while only 15 percent discussed the candidates’ ideas and proposals.
Watching the campaign unfold, I saw how the press gravitated toward a narrative template for the campaign, searching out characters as if for a novel: on one side, a self-described 9/11 hero with a colorful personal life, a former senator who had played a president in the movies, a genuine war hero with a stunning wife and an intriguing temperament, and a handsome governor with a beautiful family and a high school sweetheart as his bride. And on the other side, a senator who had been first lady, a young African-American senator with an Ivy League diploma, a Hispanic governor with a self-deprecating sense of humor and even a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife. Issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans didn’t fit into the narrative template and, therefore, took a back seat to these superficialities.
News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.
And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)
I was lucky enough for a time to have a front-row seat in this campaign — to see all this, to get my information firsthand. But most Americans are not so lucky. As we move the contest to my home state, North Carolina, I want my neighbors to know as much as they possibly can about what these men and this woman would do as president.
If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie “Network” but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can — as voters — do ours.
Elizabeth Edwards, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is the author of “Saving Graces.”
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Going green isn't just about the environment anymore.
With gas prices soaring, we all seem to be watching the green go, go, go.
For Lloyd Schell of Lockwood, Montana, watching the green go, go, go has taken on a whole new meaning.
After a work related injury, which affects the strength in his back and legs, Lloyd needed to come up with a new way to make a living that didn't involve a lot of manual labor. And one in which he could work at his own pace.
With a desire to remain active in the outdoors, Lloyd searched for a bike seat that wouldn't put pressure on his back and for something to get around on that was easier on his legs.
What Lloyd found was a new career.
A way to help people go green without watching their green go, go, go!
Green-Go Bicycles LLC currently operates out of Lloyd's workshop (aka: shed).
Using recumbent-style bicycles from Day 6 Bicycles out of Bozeman, Montana, Lloyd installs electric motors on each bike.
The motors run on a battery, which comes in three styles: the lessor expensive sealed-lead model (like the kind used in a car), the nickel metal hydride (Lloyd's favorite), and the high-end lithium battery. Each battery lasts for about 600 charges and can be recycled, which is a service Lloyd also provides.
The initial investment in a Green-Go Bicycle may seem a bit steep to some, but considering the price of gas the pay off should be seen fairly quickly. An average bike will cost around $1,500 (depending upon the style of motor and bicycle chosen).
Outside of the obvious benefits to the planet and avoiding the high gas prices, because Green-Go bicycles are just that -- bikes -- here are a few other benefits (these are for MT, check your own state laws for where you live):
- You don't have to own a driver's license to ride one
- You don't have to have vehicle insurance for one
- The batteries run at about 3 - 5 cents per mile
- The bikes can be custom made with a seat and/or backrest that fits you
- Bike speeds can range from 1 speed to 21 speeds (in MT, speeds 20 mph and lower are classified as a bicycle)
- You can enjoy the outdoors
What's not to love about all that?!
If you are ready to quit watching your green go, go, go at the pump, then put on your biking shoes and get your order in for a Green-Go Bicycle.
For more information on Green-Go Bicycle LLC and Lloyd's bikes, please call (406) 208-1789 or email email@example.com.
Friday, April 25, 2008
As an occasional paid educator, one of my favorite classes to teach is Media's Influence on Society.
The first part of each class begins with a fun quiz designed to create an awareness of how each student is or has been influenced by the media. The results have never failed to shock each individual class member.
Propaganda is not new.
In 1942, the American government formed the 18th Air Force Base Unit of the U.S. Army Air Corp, more commonly known as the F.M.P.U. or the First Motion Picture Unit, to create training films, morale films, and propaganda films. The most famous work produced under the F.M.P. U. banner was William Wyler's Memphis Belle: Story of a Flying Fortress. Also in 1942, the government commissioned another famous work, Frank Capra's Why We Fight series.
Governments and corporations, religious and educational institutions, and anything else connected with a desire/need for increase in monetary gain or public acceptance/participation uses some form of
progaganda marketing to accomplish their goal.
I wasn't surprised by the recent New York Times article, Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand by David Barstow, which is 11 pages of words describing how the Pentagon hired retired military personnel to be used in a campaign to create favorable news about the Bush Administration's wartime actions.
Anyone who has ever watched Jehane Noujaim's award winning documentary, Control Room shouldn't be surprised either.
Disgusted, yes. Surprised, no.
Surprise is when you are taken unaware.
Who could possibly be unaware that the government (doesn't matter which party) has an aggressive
propaganda marketing wing?
What I find more interesting than the government's agenda to manipulate the public's way of thinking, is how we, the people respond so casually, and even more interesting, so "non-consequentially" to it.
Have we become so desensitized to the media that we either take it all in and believe it OR reject it and simply go about our business?
The number of American citizens far out numbers the decision makers in the media.
Why do we allow such a small group of individuals such an amazing amount of
One of the greatest ways the American public could create change is to demand integrity and responsibility from the American news media.
Heck, if just those counted in the Nielsen ratings alone refused to watch any American news program that would be a start!
But, it's more than just turning off your television or turning the channel...
It's also about standing up, speaking out, and demanding change from the news media that will create a weakness in the government's or any other large enterprise's agenda to spin their actions.
As long as we continue to allow a small group of decision makers to act without integrity and responsibility when it comes to the news, then we should not be surprised by our government's ability to manipulate information.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Remember when movies were just plain fun?
Well, get ready to have an old fashioned good time at the movies again!
I was fortunate to have been involved with the production of a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL movie opening in a limited release tomorrow night (Friday, April 25).
If you live in Southern California, Montana, or Alabama make your plans now to go see A Plumm Summer showing in a theater near you!
Click here to watch the stars being interviewed at the premiere.
Click here to watch the official trailer.
Based upon a true Montana story, this charming, heartwarming, fun-filled movie starring Henry Winkler, William Baldwin, Brenda Strong (Desperate Housewives), Peter Scolari, Rick Overton, Clint Howard, and narrated by Jeff Daniels tells the tale of the 1960's kidnapping of Froggy Doo, a famous local television show puppet.
Hilarity and adventure begin when J. Edgar Hoover sends two FBI agents to Montana to investigate and three imaginative kids, each with an individual purpose, team up to begin their own super sleuthing.
Who will find Froggy Doo first?!
If you've ever visited Livingston, Montana or have traveled through Bozeman, Montana, then you know the beauty which is Montana's alone.
Filmed in both communities, director Caroline Zelder and cinematographer Mark Vargo captured more than the scenery of these two magical communities, they captured the very essence of what separates Montana from every other place in the world -- the [yet] unspoiled West.
Pack up your kids, grab a friend, take your spouse, or go by yourself, but GO see A Plumm Summer this weekend!
Buy some popcorn and a soda and let the summer fun begin!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Cat owner or not, this is one of the funniest videos I've watched in a long time.
Sit back, turn up the volume, and get ready to laugh out loud!
from www.youtube.composted with vodpod
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Enjoy this wonderful video narrated by Sir Anthony Hopkins and then click here to learn more about Vital Ground.
Celebrate Earth Day!
from www.youtube.composted with vodpod
Monday, April 21, 2008
Two thoughts continued to rise to the top of my thought list over and over this past weekend, except, of course, when Another Thin Man was airing on TCM.
And then William Powell and Myrna Loy held the two top spots.
Ah, what a nice 2 + hours that was.
Then it was back to reality.
While the news media focuses virtually all of their attention, once again, on the typical one or two items of "hot" interest in the world, I continue to think about two specific items within their coverage.
1. Barack Obama has financially out raised and out spent Hillary Clinton by 4 to 1 according to a number of outlets.
She continues to keep pace within the voting public.
According to last week's "Who's Your Pick for President?" AOL straw poll, with more than 370,000 voters from all over the US, Hillary Clinton led the voting democrats at 54% to Barack Obama's 46%.
I find it very interesting that Obama has had to out spend Clinton by 4 to 1 just to maintain his position within the overall voting public. And this doesn't include Michigan and Florida, both states won by Hillary Clinton.
With the millions and millions and millions of dollars Barack Obama has raised and spent, he has not been able to pull far enough away from Hillary Clinton to secure the nomination.
And he recently announced that he believes Hillary Clinton will win in Pennsylvania.
IF Barack Obama does win the Democratic nomination, just how much money is it going to take?
Why is it costing so much money to sell his "good judgment?"
2. Watching the women of the FLDS community speak on the various news programs and watching one of the women give a tour of her home on the FLDS community ranch, one of the thoughts that kept rising to the forefront of my mind was "THIS is what it looks like when art is removed from the world."
The arts are a means of expression.
This morning on the Today Show, Meredith Viera asked one of the FLDS women to share the reason why all of the women from the ranch look so similar (i.e., hair and dress). The woman answered by saying that it was their own [individual] choice to wear their hair up and out of their face and that their hairstyle(s) and dress did not have any specific designation.
To me, when I watch the women speak, sit, and respond, I see the absence of self expression.
My comment is not intended as a judgment on the FLDS members, but as an observation on how strongly I believe in the power of the arts.
And the absence there of.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Join Bloggers Unite For Human Rights On May 15!
|Thanks to you, May marks the first anniversary of Bloggers Unite and this time we're launching an awareness campaign chosen by BlogCatalog members. On May 15, let's unite for human rights and make a statement that all people are born with basic rights and freedoms - life, liberty, and justice! |
On May 15th 2008, let's come together and all blog about Human Rights. There are dozens and dozens of human rights issues that you can write about. The one you choose is up to you.
Topics to Consider
Learn More About Human Rights
There are many organizations that promote human rights and work to protect people. We've picked three to help you learn more and find breaking topics.
- Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org/) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. They work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.
- Human Right Watch (http://www.hrw.org/) is dedicated to protecting human rights of people around the world. They stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.
- Youth For Human Rights (http://www.youthforhumanrights.org) is an independent non-profit that educates people about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so they become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace.
We have an entire group discussion dedicated to Bloggers Unite (http://www.blogcatalog.com/group/bloggers-unite) where you can add more organizations that you think are worth including.
How To Join Bloggers Unite!
To join, simply visit the Bloggers Unite page (http://unite.blogcatalog.com/) to get more information. Then, on Thursday, May 15th, write a blog post that shares awareness about human rights.
Your blog post could:
- Have the title "Bloggers Unite For Human Rights" (or some variation).
- include an example of human rights so people can learn about it.
- Explain the importance of human rights and how it applies to everyone.
- Link to one of the sites we've listed or the most suitable site for your country.
- And add a link to our BlogCatalog Community Human Rights Awareness Campaign page so we can give you and your blog credit for being part of it.
If you have any questions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And please, don't forget to tell your friends to blog about this too. Together, I know we can raise awareness and prove bloggers can do good!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Seems hard to believe that the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK killing 168 people and injuring 500 was 13 years ago today.
I remember that day so clearly.
I was living in Tulsa, OK at the time; working full time for my pastor's ministry and the church I was attending.
Every morning one of the pastors of the church led the staff in prayer.
That morning as we were praying a quietness came over all of us.
That morning's prayer session was different and we all knew it, but didn't know why. Normally, as we all left the room to go back to our own work spaces we would be joyful and talkative.
Not that morning.
We were all quiet.
I always kept a radio in my work space and when I returned at 9:15, I turned it on.
I remember looking at my phone and seeing a number of messages and thinking that odd for so early in the morning. Calls usually didn't start coming in until after 10:00 AM.
If I remember correctly, the bomb went off around 9:02 AM.
At 9:20 AM my phone began to ring again and it didn't stop the entire day.
As I drove home that night, I could barely get to my drive way because the road was filled with cars.
Cars parked EVERYWHERE.
Miles of cars parked EVERYWHERE.
I lived across the street from the Red Cross Blood Center.
Watching the news, I remember being so struck by the sight of the children being carried out of the massive, massive destruction.
None of the children were crying. Not one.
This was a trauma many of us had never before experienced.
Oklahoma City, OK, April 19, 1995 -- remembering both the fallen and the heroes of that day.
Friday, April 18, 2008
News release from the UNFPA, UNIFEM and dev.tv:
NEW FILM SERIES TAKES ON CULTURE OF SILENCE ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
First Global Broadcast — Women on the Frontline — Presented by Annie Lennox
on BBC World, Tomorrow, 18 April 2008 at 1930 GMT
United Nations, Geneva, 17 April 2008 — This is an unfortunate anniversary.
Fourteen years ago, in April 1994, news got out that ethnic violence in Kigali was spreading throughout Rwanda. Since then, the world community has struggled to explain how the genocide of 800,000 people happened in full view, but less discussed is the ongoing impact of the rape and other forms of sexual violence committed against hundreds of thousands of women.
Violence against women is the theme of Women on the Frontline, a series of seven films being broadcast for the first time tomorrow Friday night by BBC World at 1930 GMT to about 300 million households to help peel away the silence surrounding the brutality of gender-based violence that crosses all borders.
“Violence against women threatens the lives of more young women than cancer, malaria or war,” said Annie Lennox, the British singer who presents the series of investigative reports. “It affects one in three women worldwide. It leaves women mentally scarred for life, and it is usually inflicted by a family member.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to war, the use of rape as a weapon continues.
- In Rwanda, according to the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, up to half a million women were raped during the 1994 genocide.
- In Sierra Leone, a reported 50,000-64,000 internally displaced women have experienced sexual violence at the hands of armed combatants.
- In a recent survey, more than half of all women in Lofa County in northern Liberia experienced at least one incident of sexual violence during the 1999-2003 conflict. While 90 percent of these women experienced at least one incident of physical violence and almost half of the women reported more than four instances in which they were required to have sex for favours.
- During the current post-election conflict in Kenya, which has killed over 1,000 people and displaced more than 200,000, the Nairobi Women’s Hospital and the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa reported a two- to threefold increase over the previous year in the number of women and children seeking treatment for sexual assault, especially gang rapes by men.
“Even where there is no war, women’s bodies continue to be battlegrounds,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “Women and girls are at risk of violence when carrying out essential daily activities — within their homes, or while walking, taking public transport to work, collecting water or firewood. Demanding the end of violence against women is about protecting human rights and ensuring that women live in safety and dignity.”
According to UN figures, at least one in every three women worldwide is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, and one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape. Trafficking, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, dowry murder, “honour” killings and female infanticide are also part of the problem.
“The gaps in addressing violence against women are in terms of political will, resources and the strong involvement of men and boys in insisting on zero tolerance. If we can’t put an end to the pandemic of violence against women, we can’t achieve any of the other agreed goals: development, equality or peace,” said Joanne Sandler, acting Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The UN Secretary-General has acknowledged the depth of the problem by launching a multi-year campaign eight weeks ago to eliminate violence against women and girls. Throughout the UN, a number of agencies are involved in various aspects of fighting violence against women.
In Mauritania, as shown on Women on the Frontline, women should not have boyfriends. If women are raped, they are considered at fault and imprisoned.
“We found girls who said they had been raped and who were being sent to prison for the simple reason that there was no tangible proof of this violence,” said Zeinabou Mint Taleb Moussa, a lawyer who heads the Mauritanian Association for Maternal and Child Health. “I would prefer them to go through the justice system or even better, I would prefer that the boys are arrested and the girls are recognized as victims.”
Women on the Frontline highlights the violence women must still endure in their daily lives and how they cope with it. The seven countries featured are Austria, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal and Turkey.
A number of UN agencies, including UNFPA and UNIFEM, donor countries such as Austria, non-governmental organizations and other partners provided information and support for the investigative reports.
“On the Frontline has gone behind the lines with rebels and filmed among violent street gangs but this time we’ve taken the frontline mostly into the home, where even after 20 years in production, I’m still shocked to see how many obstacles lie between women and equality, and the violence they must still endure,” said Robert Lamb, Executive Director of the series.
The seven films cover Nepal, where thousands of women are trafficked each year; Turkey, where killing in the name of honour continues; Morocco, where women political activists who have survived torture and imprisonment testify before a government truth and reconciliation commission; the DRC, where women bear the brunt of a 10-year war in the eastern provinces; Colombia, where women have been tortured in the shadow of a guerilla war; Mauritania, where women who have been raped may go to prison; and Austria, where, under a new law, perpetrators of domestic violence are forced to leave home.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
UNIFEM is the women’s fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. Placing the advancement of women’s human rights at the centre of all of its efforts, UNIFEM focuses its activities on reducing feminized poverty; ending violence against women; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls; and achieving gender equality in democratic governance in times of peace as well as war.
dev.tv is a non-profit association founded by media professionals. Its goal is to promote the production and distribution of television coverage of issues related to human, economic and environmental crises. dev.tv aims to draw public attention to the problems of our times, and highlight efforts to find solutions.
If you are looking to be part of an organized campaign to save Jericho, please visit JerichoNet for information.
Through what appears to be 100% volunteer effort (which I love), these people are working hard to create a strategic plan to help Jericho find a new home.
Time is critical...please visit the site and do what you can to help in this mighty effort to make history by not only saving a great show, but in letting network executives know that you care about what is aired on television.
Above image is a fantastic postcard design created by one of the volunteers, LadyLiberty.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
OK, so I watched the Democratic debate last night...by accident.
I've purposefully stayed away from all political issues being discussed on television for a period of time.
Not because of the candidates, but because of the news anchors.
Between Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Campbell Brown, George Stephanopoulos, and the others, I feel cheated by their lack of intelligence, experience, and knowledge regarding the true purpose and practice of debate.
I've judged high school debate competitions more informative, more skillful, and more compelling than what these "news" journalists have given the world.
I want to see a real presidential debate where the moderator is not a TV personality, but someone from the National Forensic League or Cat Horner Bennett of Taos, New Mexico and Richard Sodikow of New York who coached the United States High School team to a world championship in debate held in New Zealand back in the 90's.
I believe all three presidential candidates are smart, intelligent people who have plans for health care, the economy, Iraq, global warming, Darfur, America's rising debt, etc., but because of the lack of true knowledge of skilled debate on the part of the network producers and "news" anchors, the candidates are left with a structure that provides only enough time for prepared sound bites.
With more and more compromising being done by the networks regarding fact finding, documentation, and the outsourcing of news, like CBS's recent proposal to cut back on their news staff and use CNN as a source for news gathering, I believe we will begin to see less and less integrity in network television news.
Last night's presidential debate on ABC is a prime example. A "debate" did not occur. It was nothing more than a Q & A session with Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos - two of ABC's "news" stars - introducing questions from a YouTube like monitor.
This was not a debate.
This was a directed production.
All of the "debates" have been nothing more than directed productions.
Very rarely have any of the "moderators" actually listened to the candidates and engaged in guiding true debate -- the worst being Wolf Blitzer and possibly, Anderson Cooper.
I believe the American public and the world wants integrity back in the news.
If that means less production value, then I don't care.
Put the majority of the news budget into journalists being paid to fact find, document, and uncover truths.
I'm fine with a desk, a few lights, good sound and one camera on an ethical, trustworthy, journalist with integrity delivering sound, solid, factual news.
Let's get back to the news being about the news.
And let's get back to presidential debates being about actual debate.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Cupboards, closets, drawers, cabinets, and shelves are interesting spaces.
For the most part, they hold things we determine to have value in our lives and we feel good about those spaces.
Sometimes they hold things we want to set aside, not deal with, or not accept and we feel anxiety about those spaces.
As you remember from Part 1, I had been experiencing a time of great trial in my life when I silently screamed out to God, "Don't you feel my pain? Don't you feel my tears?"
In the dream I had the night I cried out to God, the fact that I was standing in my bedroom searching for something in my closet didn't seem to be an important part of God's message...at first.
For me to be standing in front of my closet, in my bedroom, meant that I was looking for something that was mine.
Something I had put away.
Something I had previously decided I could use at a later time.
Things we use on a regular basis we rarely "put away" so well that a search is necessary.
There I stood in front of my closet searching for something that was mine, but couldn't seem to find. In walks my dad to give me a gift -- a Christmas tree ornament.
Throughout the Bible, we are made aware of the many ways God uses symbolism to communicate His message to us.
And He continues to do so.
In my dream, my dad is used as a symbol for God, my heavenly Father. My dad giving me a gift of a Christmas tree ornament is symbolic to what we celebrate at Christmastime, the birth of Jesus -- the gift God so freely gave all of us, His Son, Jesus Christ.
As you recall, in my dream the Christmas tree ornament was a musical carousel with angels where horses would usually be. Angels played a big part in the birth of Jesus and in His second coming.
Luke 2:9-11 reads: An Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:13, 14 continues: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."
And then in Mathew 24:30, 31 Jesus tells of His return: At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
The progression of my dream is of great significance.
1. Something has already taken place. Something has already been given to me.
2. I acknowledge my need for it.
3. I begin my search for it standing in front of my closet, a place of storage for things to be used at a later time.
4. In walks my dad and freely gives me a gift.
5. I receive the gift.
6. I notice the gift is musical, but unusual and appears to be out of season.
7. The gift disappears.
8. I hear a great wind and see angels.
9. Jesus comes to me in love as the manifested gift bearing my pain.
10. Again, I hear a great wind.
11. Jesus and the angels disappear from my natural vision.
12. I turn to look back at my closet and there on the floor is the gift.
13. End of dream.
Now, there are two "understood" points in my dream. The first occurred even before the dream began. It is number 1 in the progression of the dream: "something" had already taken place.
That "something" was the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The second "understood" point occurred immediately at the end of my dream: now that I see in my closet what I had been searching for, do I pick up the gift, love it, learn from it, and apply it to my life on a regular basis?
Do I close the closet doors and continue to keep it in storage for a later time?
14. I must make a choice.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I was hurt and angry.
I was confused and full of pain.
Out of that hurt and anger, I rebelled against God.
I didn't know how to overcome the hurt I was feeling. So, I reached out to the things of the world to try to feel better.
Thankfully, I'm not much of a drinker or someone who has ever been attracted to drugs because I can understand the type of pain and heartache that might lead someone to either or both.
If you are a Christian, you may relate to this blog. If you are not a Christian, you may relate to this blog.
Hurt and pain, trials and tribulations are common to us all.
However, the actions we take while experiencing them is what can either divide us or bring us together.
This story is about months of agony in my life in 1991. The point of despair I was at did not happen through just one experience, but had been building through a series of painful events.
One night as I lay in bed in my commuter apartment in San Francisco, I silently cried out to God.
In anger, hurt, deep pain and frustration, I silently screamed to God, "I really do love you, but I'm hurting so badly. Don't you feel my pain? Don't you feel my tears?"
And with that I rolled over and fell asleep.
That night I received one of the greatest revelations of my life.
That night Jesus came to me in a dream.
I was standing in front of my bedroom closet in the house where I grew up.
As I was standing in front of my closet searching for something, my dad entered the room. Without any words spoken, he freely handed me a gift and then left the room.
The gift was a Christmas tree ornament.
I thought this was strange because it was not Christmastime, but as I stood there with the ornament in my hands I began to notice how unusual the ornament was. It didn't look like any Christmas tree ornament I had ever seen before. It was a musical carousel, but there were angels where horses would normally be.
As I was studying the carousel, it disappeared right before my eyes.
At the same time the carousel disappeared, I heard a great wind rushing through the leaves of the maple tree outside my bedroom window.
I walked over to the window to see what was happening. The leaves of the tree were golden and they were blowing back and forth.
Upon looking more closely at the leaves, I realized they were not leaves at all, but cherubs. And there in the middle of all the cherubs was my Christmas tree ornament.
As if floating on air, the ornament began moving from the center of the cherubs toward my bedroom window. Backing away from the window, I no longer saw the ornament coming toward me, but Jesus coming toward me.
As He reached out to take my face in His hands, I saw a tear rolling down His cheek. With the greatest compassion He said, "I feel every one of your tears."
I stood there in silence too moved to speak.
I heard the wind blowing again and Jesus was back out at the tree. I ran to the window only to get there in time to see what had been cherubs turn back into beautiful leaves on the maple tree.
I slowly turned from the window and looked back to my closet.
There on the floor was the Christmas tree ornament.
End of dream.
The night that dream came to me was over seventeen years ago and God continues to reveal different aspects of His message to me in that dream.
But what was planted in my heart THAT night was the seed of understanding the great mercy of God.
Through pain and frustration, I cried out to God and He sent me Jesus...again.
The tears flowing out of the eyes of Jesus were the result of my pain.
My God feels my pain. What a revelation.
I WAS NOT ALONE.
I was a backslidden Christian who knew little of the power of the Word of God. I was hurting and I was angry. I felt shame and guilt and I didn't know how to make it go away.
In honesty, I went to God.
He didn't come at me with a big stick and a growl. He didn't come to me with a list of demands I must meet. He didn't come to me with disgust.
I went to Him in anger and He came to me in love with outstretched arms and in tears bearing my pain.
Luke 15: 1-7 tells us: Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not repent."
Perhaps you are hurting or a backslidden Christian like I was. Maybe you are angry or frustrated.
Whatever your situation is, no matter how ugly it may be, NOTHING is too big for Jesus.
Go to Him in honesty and He will meet you just like He did me.
Call out to Jesus now. There is power in His name.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As a filmmaker, I'd love to be able to say that the majority of movies being shown in theaters today are worth the cost of the ticket, popcorn and soda,
I don't think that's true.
I think the majority of movies being released today are uninspiring or just as moving if you waited and watched them when they come out on DVD. From a producer's perspective, that makes me cringe inside.
I want to get back to that place in time when movies were so compelling that I couldn't wait for Friday night. Standing in line for the movies was a big deal and it was fun.
And there was a line EVERY Friday and Saturday night.
VHS tapes, DVD's, and now online viewing all play a big part in the decreasing lines at the theaters, as does the increasing cost of the tickets and refreshments.
So does the feeling we are left with after watching a movie.
I remember the first time I saw Star Wars, Grease, The Sound of Music, The Other Side of the Mountain, and a number of other movies that left me wanting more. I wanted to run back into the theater, claim my seat, and do it all over again.
And from what I can tell, this film looks to be equally engaging. Story driven, character driven, and beautifully written and directed.
It's not a big blockbuster and it doesn't have big stars, but it appears to have substance and depth along with humor and great acting.
It appears to have the stuff that makes you feel good about spending the time in the theater and the money on the ticket.
from www.takepart.composted with vodpod
Saturday, April 12, 2008
As someone who has been actively involved with charitable organizations and human rights campaigns most of my life, I appreciate the work involved in meeting the many needs one may encounter on a daily basis.
An organization that came to my attention this week is especially inspiring to me.
Jon Tester, United States Senator from Montana, has been a refreshing change of pace for veterans in Congress. Senator Tester campaigned on a platform paying great attention to the plight of the United States veteran. His victory over long time incumbent, Conrad Burns, was hard fought and significant.
Now, almost two years after his election to the United States Senate, Jon Tester continues to focus and fulfill on campaign promises.
Like I said...refreshing!
In an email I received from Senator Tester this week, he shared his support and commitment to a grassroots organization in Montana working to provide new TVs for all of the veterans' hospitals, clinics, community centers, and retirement homes within the state. Considering the number of veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan wounded and spending weeks upon weeks and months upon months in hospitals and rehab centers, I can only imagine how needed and appreciated new television sets can be.
TVs for Vets is a wonderful and inspiring organization with a simple, straightforward mission.
I am even inspired by their website -- a simple, straightforward, no money wasted here approach!
If you would like to know how you can give, donate, or learn more about starting a TVs for Vets in your state, please visit TVs for Vets.
Friday, April 11, 2008
As I wrote in part one of this reflection on CBS's Jericho finale, I felt cheated with this particular episode.
Not because the cast and crew lack talent...just the opposite.
CBS's final episode felt like an expensive, quality roast cooked at a high temperature so it would get done faster.
This type of handling results in a tough, dry and flavorless piece of meat.
A roast cooked at a low temperature for a longer period of time retains its juices, is tender, and full of flavor.
Well, that's how I feel about the "ending" of Jericho on CBS.
Had this show -- this show packed with talent -- been allowed to play out, my guess is that the story would have continued to build in richness AND in audience numbers.
With the two articles posted this week, CBS Layoffs Signal a Financial Squeeze on TV Stations in the Los Angeles Times and Rifts in Family and Companies Hang Over Redstone's Legacy in The New York Times, I continue to maintain that when a network compromises the value and integrity of the news, it will be extraordinarily easy for them to compromise the value and integrity of their entertainment programming.
Considering that the Nielsen Ratings of the top 10 shows for the week of March 31, 2008 contained ONLY 2 reality programs, I continue to be challenged by CBS's decision to add more reality programming while canceling one of the best scripted dramas they had on their network.
I've been asked where I would like to see Jericho find a home.
For me personally, I think JAG is an excellent example of how a show can start at one network, be picked up by a different network and soar to the top of the charts. If I'm correct, I believe JAG originally aired on NBC and then jumped networks to CBS.
JAG aired for a total of 10 seasons.
Can you imagine if someone at CBS had NOT had the insight to see something in JAG?
Do I think Jericho could replicate the success of JAG at a different network?
I'd love to see Jericho find a home at anyone of the following: TNT, FOX, ABC, NBC, or USA.
I know a number of fans are hoping Jericho finds a home on SciFi, but it wouldn't be my first choice or even my sixth choice. The SciFi market is a niche one with a narrow audience.
I personally believe Jericho is a wide audience appeal show. And, therefore, deserves a wide audience appeal platform for it to continue to grow. And grow it will with the talent attached to Jericho from the creators to the producers to the cast and to the crew. Not to mention the built in fan base!
The more I watch TNT develop their original programming the more and more impressed I become with their ability to draw viewers from the major networks. Airing The Closer during the summer was a brave move. And it worked! The folks at TNT are doing excellent work. They are expanding the boundaries so set in stone at the major 3 networks. AndTNT's marketing for their original programming is by far the best on television.
I also see Jericho doing well on FOX. The show has a FOX kind of feel. Between Bones, 24, Prison Break and House M.D., I can see Jericho fitting into their line up very well. And doing very well in the ratings.
I've never really understood the push for Jericho to move to SciFi. Is this where the Jericho producing team wants to be? OR is this the channel that appears to be sending out signals of interest?
These are two very different questions.
In the entertainment business or any business, silence does not necessarily mean lack of interest.
If the creators and producers want to move Jericho to SciFi, hey, OK, it's their show and I will support them 100%.
But, I'd like to know if that is what THEY want first.
It's like fly fishing.
Does a fly fisherman go fishing where he sees the fish lining up for the bait? No. He goes where the fish he is interested in catching are swimming. If you are familiar with fly fishing, then you know that each fish goes after certain kinds of bait more readily than other kinds of bait.
For me, I prefer working like a fly fisherman.
I first determine the type of fish I want to catch, then select the correct bait for that fish, AND then cast my line into the water where that fish swims.
As I've written before, Jericho fans truly have power.
They've proven that once.
They can prove it again.
This is not the time to cut bait.
This is the time to choose the fish.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
"We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health, and human rights. "
~ Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee
"[The Olympic Games] will help promote all economic and social projects and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause"
~ Lui Que, Mayor of Beijing, statement made in 2001
According to Amnesty International USA, "with the recent crackdown on peaceful dissent in Tibet, the rounding up and jailing of prominent human rights activists, and increased censorship of the media, China's human rights violations have only increased in the months leading up to the games."
Yesterday, the Olympic Torch arrived in San Francisco, California -- American soil.
The America I believe in not only stands for human rights, but has gone to war to protect them.
The America I believe in helped to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; a declaration written by a United Nations General Assembly committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt.
The America I believe in has a government that remains firm and strong on its support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being observed and enforced -- universally.
With President Bush's announcement that he will be attending the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, it is critical that he not attend solely for his own privilege and enjoyment, but as a representative of a country that believes in, stands for, and fights for the rights of ALL humans to enjoy the freedoms stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the past few months, China's horrific actions in Tibet have been the worst force of power since the Cultural Revolution.
As Americans, the time to act is NOW.
As Americans, the time is NOW to tell our president that he MUST act as a representative of the people of the United States of America when he attends the Summer Olympics in Beijing .
Join your voice along with thousands of others as Amnesty International USA urges President Bush to pressure China for human rights improvements BEFORE the Olympic Games.
I encourage you to sign your name to Amnesty International USA's letter to President Bush.
The spirit of the Olympic Games is at stake.
The lives of innocent people are at stake.
The America I believe in is you, me, your neighbor, my neighbor, and so on.
The America I believe in is its strongest when we are standing together as one defending freedom.
WE THE PEOPLE...
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Missoula, MT-The Vital Ground Foundation announced today that it has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Alberta, Canada-based Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y).
The funds, which will be allocated over a 2 year period, originated from a three-year $800,000 grant to Y2Y from the Legacy Fund of Chicago to help implement conservation strategies in the Cabinet-Purcell corridor, one of only two remaining corridors within the Yellowstone to Yukon region with the potential to connect grizzly bears living in the lower 48 states to more robust populations in Canada. The funding comes amid a property and development boom in the region that has raised the concerns of residents and conservationists alike.
Vital Ground will use the grant money to work cooperatively with willing landowners to expand private lands conservation within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems of north Idaho and northwestern Montana. Special focus will be on identifying and conserving strategically located parcels that are crucial for grizzly bear conservation, recovery, and ecosystem connectivity. Conservation of these lands will also help to maintain the rural character of these areas that many local residents seek to preserve in the midst of increasing development pressures.
"Y2Y and Vital Ground have a common interest in conserving lands that preserve biodiversity and promote wildlife population connectivity in a way that will keep habitat in the hands of private landowners and permit traditional uses of the land," says Sarah Elmeligi of Y2Y.
"Both Y2Y and Vital Ground use the grizzly bear as an umbrella species to guide landscape scale conservation efforts. Because of this common interest, we are excited to work closely with Vital Ground in Montana," Elmeligi continued.
"As a keystone or umbrella species, the condition of a grizzly population can tell us a lot about the condition of the ecosystem," states Gary Wolfe, Vital Ground's executive director. "If the grizzly is faring well, chances are all other life in the ecosystem is too. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the grizzlies in the Selkirks and Cabinets."
Biologists estimate that only about forty grizzlies survive in each of these ecosystems, making them the most vulnerable populations in the lower 48.
"We believe the Y2Y funding could not have come at a more pivotal time," Wolfe adds.
If the program is successful, it will ultimately help link Canada grizzlies to the northern end of the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem, the largest wildland complex south of Canada and currently without a permanent grizzly population.
"That, without a doubt, is the sort of landscape-level conservation success that Vital Ground originally set out to achieve on behalf of the Great Bear," says Wolfe.
Vital Ground is the only land trust in North America that works exclusively to protect private wildlands crucial to the grizzly bear. Since its founding in 1990, Vital Ground has helped to protect and enhance more than 417,000 acres of habitat crucial to grizzly and other wildlife in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and British Columbia.
To learn more or to support Vital Ground, visit www.vitalground.org or call (406) 549-8650.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Are you wanting to keep Jericho in the forefront of the entertainment industry insiders' eyes?
Then visit www.imdb.com (Internet Movie Database) as often as you can AND take the following action:
1. Type Jericho into the search bar and click enter.
2. Click on Jericho (TV series).
This will increase Jericho's ranking on the MOVIEmeter which every person with a professional subscription (IMDbPro) will be able to see. The MOVIEmeter ranks television shows and movies based upon how many times they are "searched for" on the IMDb site.
This same process works for the individual cast members of Jericho except they are ranked on the STARmeter. Again, everyone with a professional subscription will be able to see their ranking increase.
So, if you want to see Skeet Ulrich's rank increase or any of the other cast members rank increase then start "searching" for them on IMDb...repeatedly. Johnny Depp currently holds the #1 spot.
IMDb is THE MOST widely used website by entertainment industry professionals.
Let's help get Jericho to the #1 slot currently held by the movie 21. And then let's keep Jericho there for as long as we can.
The highest ranked television show right now is House (#42) followed by Heroes (#54).
Jericho ranked at #84 last week.
Let's get it all the way to #1!
Same for the cast.
Start "searching" Rangers!
I met Kevin when he came to volunteer for a film festival I created in Bozeman, Montana.
The fact that Kevin's body ends at his torso is NOT what sets Kevin apart in a crowd. Visually, yes, I have no doubt that many eyes are drawn to Kevin's outward differences.
But, what sets Kevin apart in a crowd is his self-confidence.
When talking with Kevin I was drawn to his ability to focus and with confidence, openly state why he was wanting to volunteer and what he wanted to take away. I liked that. He was honest and straightforward.
So, I was not surprised to learn that he took his talent, his confidence, and his focus on the road to very honestly capture the looks of those looking at him.
Kevin's story is a story that in a way, involves each and every one of us.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Guest author retired MAD Magazine editor, Al Feldstein delivers another interesting and some may deem "controversial" post.
You Can't Fool All of the People All of the Time! ~ Abraham Lincoln
Listen carefully to the last half of this interview with Governor Jesse Ventura...
...and weep for your country.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
I have no doubt that a number of my friends have thought it odd that I would write even one blog about a television show, much less a number of blogs, and on top of it, spend time working to keep the television show on the air.
No two ways around it, I do think Jericho is one of the best programs on TV in a long time.
But, it's more than that.
While working as an Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in 2001, I was asked by a prospective major donor to put together a proposal as to how the organization would use his donation to help underprivileged kids.
Now, if this nonprofit organization had been located in a large, metropolitan city, the research I needed may have been somewhat easy to find.
I wasn't in a large, metropolitan city and neither was the nonprofit organization.
I was in Bozeman, Montana.
Not exactly the metropolis of the world -- neither Bozeman nor Montana.
However, the amounts of funds I was raising could compete with any fundraising project in the world. (Except for, of course, Barack Obama and he seems to be in a stratosphere all his own.)
When most people hear the term "underprivileged kids" they immediately think of urban kids; kids from the projects; kids whose neighborhoods are surrounded by cement, pavement, buildings, or chain link fences.
Not many people think of "underprivileged kids" as being from rural, farm America. Or kids whose homes are surrounded by vast open spaces, mountains, beautiful scenery and dirt roads.
Considering Montana is one of the lowest populated states and yet the 4th largest state in geographical size, I knew I had a challenge on my hands.
Thank goodness these kinds of challenges are something I find exciting.
In order for me to put together a proposal on how we were going to help underprivileged kids, I first needed to find them.
Considering the nonprofit organization I worked for was going to serve the entire state -- not just Bozeman -- I needed to set my sights state wide.
After careful and deliberate consideration, I began with the Census Bureau.
Was this a course in thread pulling. One thread led to this thread and then to that thread and then to another thread and so on.
By the time I had pulled more threads than I could count, I had piles and piles and stacks and stacks of facts, figures and important information.
Except I didn't know how it all fit together, what truths it held, how it all related, or how it was going to give me the answer for the best way to serve underprivileged kids.
Thankfully, I was raised by a mother who loved jigsaw puzzles and taught her kids and grandkids to love of them also.
With a jigsaw puzzle in mind, I began to separate each individual page I had downloaded and printed from the Census Bureau website into piles based upon likeness of information.
The first piles were:
- Communities within the same county
OK, I now had all of the counties within Montana set before me, and in each county pile were the communities associated with each school district within those counties.
I then took each individual county pile and separated it into more piles within the boundaries of each specific county.
The piles within each county were first grouped by:
- Communities with a high % of children under the age of 18 living below the poverty level
- ...low % of children under 18 living below the poverty level
The next set of piles within these piles were:
- Communities with a high % of the adults being college graduates
- ...low % of the adults being college graduates
The next set of piles within these piles were:
- School districts within these communities with more than a 90% graduation rate
- ... under 90%
As I kept narrowing and narrowing the information into "likeness" piles, I began to see a pattern in EVERY SINGLE county.
The lower the education level of the majority of the adults, the higher the number of children under 18 living below the poverty level.
The lower the education level of the majority of the adults, the lower the graduation rate of the high schools.
The lower the education level of the majority of the adults, the more financial aid the federal government provided per person in that community/county.
As more patterns of similar results began to reveal themselves, I knew there had to be a common action happening during childhood years within each of these school districts, communities, and counties.
So, I started to pull the thread of "lower graduation vs. higher graduation" rates from high school.
This time I went to the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) website and downloaded every piece of information they had on the standards set for K - 12 grades.
I then went to every single school district that had a website and downloaded all of their information on requirements for graduation. If a school district did not have a website, I called the main office and asked for the information over the phone.
And so began the process of dividing piles all over again.
What I discovered was fascinating!
The common link to all of the schools that were graduating LESS than 90% of their high school students was this:
They failed to meet the standards set by the Office of Public Instruction in ONE subject.
Every single school district was meeting the standard set for math, science, reading, etc., but they had either removed the arts completely from their school subjects OR they had lowered the standards for the arts set by the OPI OR they were allowing subjects such as a foreign language or a computer class or a vocational class to qualify for arts credits required for graduation.
I found the same results but reversed for those school districts that were excelling in their graduation rates AND for which most high school graduates went on to higher education. These schools districts emphasized the arts within their K - 12 grades as equally as they did math, science, reading, etc., not only did they meet the standards for the arts set by the OPI, but in most cases they excelled beyond these specific standards set for the arts.
With this information, I was able to create a state wide educational outreach plan through the performing arts and media arts that could come along side the public school system to reach underserved kids.
Through this process of puzzle solving, string pulling, and enlightened discovery, I also became very familiar with both the Getty Study and the Rand Study for the importance of arts education in K- 12 grades.
(Note: Due to the length of time between my initial study and today, I am not able to locate the original material online that I received from Getty and Rand as hard copies. However, I have included two links that relate to the original studies by each organization.)
Thankfully, the Getty and Rand studies explored the importance of arts within urban areas and school districts. What I learned in my own study and what the Getty and Rand studies teach us is that humanity shares a common thread...
The arts are crucial to the way we express our emotions in a healthy and positive way.
The arts are crucial to the culture of our individual countries.
The arts are crucial to the way history is told.
The arts are crucial to the way we bond as human beings.
The arts are crucial to the process of teaching and learning.
The arts are crucial to the empowerment of a peaceful environment.
The arts are crucial to the development of a child becoming a well-equipped adult.
I fight so hard for the arts to become mandatory in every school in America because I know that the arts are more than a picture on a wall, more than a quality show on television, more than songs sung from a stage, and more than notes played on a clarinet.
I KNOW that the arts promote the desire for higher education, which in turn promotes elevated high school graduation rates, which in turn promotes a more educated work force, which in turn promotes higher levels of potential income, which in turn promotes less children under the age of 18 living below the poverty level, which in turn promotes less federal aid provided by the government, which in turn...
Look around you right now...how many items can you see that came about because someone understood an artistic principle?
We have seen what an unbelievable catastrophe No Child Left Behind has created in our public schools. Graduation rates are at an all time low. We are learning on the news that schools are keeping separate books -- one to show the federal government and the other with true and accurate graduation rates they keep for themselves. These schools know if they revealed the truth about their actual graduation rates they'd lose federal funding.
This is crazy.
When are the adults in positions of power to make decisions going to stop looking at short term financial profits and start looking at long term investments in our children's future, the health of our economy, and the well-being of our ability to bond as human beings?
No, this is not just about a television show.
BUT, take a look at how THIS television show has bonded people from all over the world.
Life: it's not just about math and science.
(Note: the OPI standards have changed since I first conducted my study. The standard now set for the arts is even lower than when I completed my study in 2001.)