Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Seating of Delegates from Michigan and Florida

As the Rules and Regulations Committee of the DNC convenes today, I can't help but wonder...

When Americans in political positions of leadership subvert the freedoms of American citizens and American Democracy how are their actions any different from dictators that deny their citizens the right to a valid vote?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Impressive Difference Between Hillary and Barack


Not exactly the state anyone thinks of as being important in a presidential election.

At least not most politicians running for the office.

My state rarely sees a presidential candidate. Considering we are one of the last states to vote in a Democratic primary election and we have one of the lowest populations of all 50 states, I guess our votes are not "important" to most politicians.


This year...

We have been visited twice by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and President Bill Clinton.

While I was unable to attend any of President Clinton's visits, I was able to see speeches by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Hands down...Hillary's speech was by far above and beyond more impressive of the two.

While both speeches were good, Hillary's was detailed with action items on how she plans to address an enormous number of issues. And she addressed every line item of detail without notes. Her knowledge of every single issue that was raised -- the economy, Iraq, health care, energy, oil, Saudi Arabia, jobs, global warming, taxes, etc. -- was astounding. And not once did she falter, have to stop and think, or try to "find the right word."

She was so spot on knowledgeable about issues relating to coal, tribal relations, the automobile industry, student loans, education, and so much more. She was absolutely engaging with her intelligence on every issue and even more so in her delivery of details on how she plans to address every issue and turn our country around for the better.

Hillary Clinton delivered detailed action items.

Barack Obama delivered a speech.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sexism in the Media

Growing up in the 60's and 70's I was blessed to have strong women for role models.

My mom at the top of the list.

At 17-years-old, she was recruited by the FBI to work for J. Edgar Hoover. My mom worked throughout her entire career in a male dominated promotional system. Without a college education and female, my mom had to work harder and smarter than anyone else to qualify for a promotion. And that she did. Upon her retirement from the government she had risen as high as she could in her field.

If any young girl or young woman today wants to know what it was like to be a woman in the 60's, she only needs to watch AMC's excellent television program, Mad Men.

When I was growing up, the slogan for Virginia Slims (cigarettes) was "You've come a long way baby."

It is now 2008 and I wonder just how far the young women of today think women have come. Do they even know from what depths the women before them have risen so that they (the young women) may enjoy as many of the benefits as they (the young women) do today?

The world still has a LONG way to go before women are truly recognized as equal by the majority of their male counterparts and oddly enough by some women (what's up with that?).

The one thing that always bugged me about the Virginia Slims slogan is that it implied women had a come a long way. Women have always been capable of achieving the greatest of goals. History shows that. Women have been serving in ruling positions for centuries. What I always thought the slogan should say was "They've come a long way baby" and show men not thinking twice about having a female for a boss.

One thing that this 2008 presidential election has most clearly shown is that men in the media have most definitely NOT COME A LONG WAY. Can you imagine being the wife or daughter to one of the media guys in this video? Yikes. They've clearly shown how little respect they have for the abilities of their own wives and daughters.

For more information on this video and how you can take action to improve the profile of women in the media, visit the Women's Media Center.

more about "Sexism in the Media", posted with vodpod

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Comfort of a "Gifted" Generation Weighs Heavy on My Soul

In honor of Memorial Day and veterans, I am posting a tribute I wrote in 2007. With the recent news that Congress has finally granted LONG OVERDUE promised benefits to the Filipino soldiers who fought along side and aided the American military during World War II, for me, this tribute takes on  even greater meaning. To all of the veterans and those currently serving in the U.S. military -- THANK YOU. And to American war hero, Ben Steele, who inspired this tribute -- THANK YOU.

A Veterans Day Tribute
by Penny Ronning
(Written November 10, 2007)

Today as I think of tomorrow’s significance I realize I was born into a “gifted” generation. History tends to define generations by their response to war. For those of us born during the Vietnam War, we’ve never experienced a military draft. The human rights, the freedoms we’ve experienced our entire lives were gifted to us. I wonder…what have we done with these gifts? Are we prepared to “pay it forward” as previous generations did for us? How will my generation be defined?

Tom Brokaw writes of the “Greatest Generation” and if I were to have met no one else from that generation other than a man by the name of Ben Steele, I would still agree with Mr. Brokaw’s assessment. Surely, a man such as Ben Steele would have to come from the “Greatest Generation.”

Benjamin Charles Steele was born November 17, 1917 to ranchers in Roundup, Montana. At the age of 24 and in the middle of the Second World War, Ben was living one of the things his generation would become known for – victory. But, you see, you have to know Ben to know that he tells the story somewhat differently. But that’s where the story takes another twist because to know Ben IS to know victory.

Ben was a member of the Army Air Corp’s 19th Bomb Group and in late 1941, they found themselves stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines. While many of the soldiers at Clark Field may have been dreaming of their loved ones back home on Christmas Day in 1941, orders were coming down that would change their lives forever. It was that day they were ordered to Bataan.

As the Japanese were zeroing in on General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in Corregidor, the United States government was deciding that America could not fight two fronts at the same time. Hitler would come first and then the Japanese. In March of 1942, General MacArthur was ordered out of the Philippines and to Australia. With this decision, came consequences unimaginable to the thousands of American soldiers left stranded in the Philippines. Already in a dire situation, for the next three and a half years, no supplies, no ammunition, no fuel, no food, no clothing, no help was sent to these American soldiers from the U.S. government. As one person said, “No Momma, No Papa, No Uncle Sam.”

With no changes of clothing or boots, food rations almost nonexistent, no ammunition coming to replace what had been used, no additional military help, and virtually no medicine to aid the sick and injured, these brave soldiers held the battle front at Bataan for nearly 4 months.

April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.

At that time in Japanese culture, to be a prisoner of war was to be one of the lowest creatures on earth deserving of no respect. To be a guard of these POW’s was considered to be the lowest level of rank within the Japanese military. Quentin Tarantino could not come up with anything as bloody and as horrifying as to how these Japanese soldiers were desensitized to the humanity of a prisoner of war. During World War II the mortality rate in German POW camps was 1.1%, but in Japanese POW camps the death rate was a shocking 38%.

For 9 days, in 100-degree heat with almost equal humidity, no hat, less than 2 cups of rice each day, and no water, Ben walked 60 miles shoulder to shoulder, body to body, among the 11,796 American, 66,000 Filipino, and 1,000 Chinese Filipino prisoners of war on what would become known later as the Bataan Death March. This nightmare of a march would leave a death trail of an estimated 3,000 Americans and 12,000 Filipinos. Those that survived, including Ben, were crammed sick body upon sick body in waiting railroad cars to be taken to Camp O’Donnell and then later to Cabanatuan, Japan, or other POW Camps. (Cabanatuan was the largest POW camp on foreign soil; 9,000 people lived there; 3,000 Americans died there.)

In June of 1942, Ben was selected as one of 325 men from Camp O’Donnell to be assigned to a Japanese work project known as the Tayabas Road Detail. With no shelter, virtually no food and no water, these men worked in the jungle day and night. Ben was only one of 50 to survive.

Survive…that he did. However, the worst and the worst yet were yet to come.

The harshness of the Tayabas Road Detail met its match in Ben Steele. Beri beri, malaria, blood poisoning, pneumonia, and dysentery all raged within Ben’s body. For the next eighteen months he continued to define this “Greatest Generation” while he interned in Bilibid Prison. In the midst of circumstances more horrible than I want to close my eyes to try to imagine, Ben began to draw the realities of what his mind had recorded.

Sometimes we discover gifts God has given us only when the hottest of heat is applied to our lives -- kind of like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Bilibid, something more powerful than the combination of beri beri, malaria, blood poisoning, pneumonia, and dysentery was at work within Ben. Something more powerful than the fear of death was growing inside of him. What was this all-powerful thing? It was the desire to honor. After all, Ben is from the “Greatest Generation” and that is what they taught the world – honor.

With no formal art training, Ben began to draw on whatever scraps of paper he could find images of what his eyes had seen and his mind worked overtime to process. These drawings were Ben’s way to honor his fallen comrades and record his experiences. At risk of death if discovered, Ben continued to pay tribute by secretly drawing the bravery of each soldier facing the most horrific of human cruelty. Sadly, all but two of Ben’s drawings were lost on a transport ship.

But Ben’s story of victory continues. And if you remember, the worst yet was yet to come.

Most Americans may not remember being taught about the hell ships of World War II. I certainly didn’t. The appropriately named hell ships transported prisoners of war from the islands in the Pacific to Japan or other destinations to work as forced labor. These prisoners were crammed, once again, sick body on top of sick body into cargo compartments located at the very bottoms of these ships. One bucket of rice and one bucket of dirty, salty, fish water would be lowered to the prisoners once a day. Because each bucket contained only enough for one ration per man in the compartments, when a prisoner would die the others would keep his body amongst them for as long as they could stand so the rations would not be cut back. As in the Death March, the railroad cars, the POW camps, the Tayabas Road Detail, and Bilibid Prison, the dead bodies began to pile up. Only now in the lowest compartments of these hell ships, there was no access to fresh air. This truly was Hell. But this is a story about victory and Hell has no place there.

Ben survived what he describes as the worst experience of all and went on to serve three months in a hard labor coal mining camp in Japan before the Japanese surrendered and the war was over. Upon Ben’s return to the United States, he made his way through the lines with all of the other prisoners of war reporting back in with the military. When he reached one of the desks, he was asked how many days he was a prisoner of war. Ben replied with the exact number. Not long after that Ben received a check in the mail from the United States government -- $1.00 for each day he was a prisoner of war. Skills Ben learned while growing up on a ranch were put to use during his time in action in the Philippines. These skills saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and earned Ben the Silver Star. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, this heroic medal has still never been presented to him.

Ben and his beautiful wife, Shirley settled in Billings, Montana and raised a family. Ben became and retired as a professor of art from Eastern Montana College, now known as Montana State University – Billings. He also recreated his drawings that were lost on the transport ship. His drawings and original oil paintings can be seen at Montana State University – Billings and online at

I once heard Ben say that the Americans fighting in the Philippines during that time didn’t win a victory over the Japanese because they were forced to surrender. Funny thing that word victory…I guess we often think of a military victory as one country winning a battle against another. Perhaps that’s where we lose sight of what makes up a collective generation. It’s individual human lives, each with meaning and each with purpose. Merriam-Webster defines victory as 1: the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist and 2: success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties. By both definitions, I believe, the collective individuals that survived those three and a half years in the Philippines achieved the victory for all of those left behind. Each survivor and each life lost has meaning and purpose. After all, this was the “Greatest Generation” and they taught the world the meaning of honor.

So, today as I think of tomorrow’s significance I wonder as collective individuals how are we defining our generation? Do we stand at attention with our hands over our hearts when we see our flag being raised? Do we teach our children that freedom is never free? When we drive by a cemetery filled with white tombstones do we acknowledge the lives given so that we may live out our human rights?

I ask these questions of myself because like many of you, I am entering into the second half of my life and I believe that our lives are defined by our actions not our intentions; and that our generation will be defined by our collective individual actions. Will the world be a better place because my generation lived?

To those that have served in the military, fought in a war, healing from injuries received in a war, or are now fighting in a war – THANK YOU. I am humbled in my mind to think of how different your life is from mine. With all of my heart – THANK YOU. To those that I know personally, my grandfather Sigurd Ronning and his brother Paul, both citizens of Norway drafted into the American Army in 1918; my own uncles that fought in World War II (Edwin and Leon, the Pacific fleet; Mike and Maurice, Europe; Glen, wounded in Iwo Jima; Andy, Army Air Corp; and George, bomber pilot both in WWII and the Korean War); to my friends Leonard Dahl, who fought in the Pacific in World War II and Eddie Boehm, Africa, WWII; to my friend Al Feldstein, Special Services artist, WWII; to my Dad’s cousin Orville Graslie, the Pacific WWII; to my Dad, who served in the Army; to Ken Fisher, who served with my Dad; to Lawrence Brotzel, Marines; to Jesse Hammer, Marines; to my uncle Harold, Army; to Captain Dale Dye, 3 tours in Vietnam; to Dale Shack, Vietnam Veteran; to Sam McKechnie, Korean Conflict and Vietnam War; to Ron Bonham, Marines; to Robin Chadderdon, Air Force; to Tom Fortner, Army; to Creed Spencer, Desert Storm; to all of the pilots who are veterans I flew with while I was a Flight Attendant; to all of the soldiers, SEALS, and military personnel that were passengers on the MACs and CAMs I worked; to all of your relatives and friends that have served in the military; and to Ben Steele:


My soul is heavy with the knowledge that my generation has been given a gift. It is my hope that we will be defined as a generation that used the gifts of education, science, communication, finances, travel, the media, journalism, freedom of speech, the right to vote, and the power of prayer among many others to further the cause of human rights and to leave this world a better place because we lived. It is my hope that the generations that come after us will feel the desire to say thank you.

Suggested viewing:
The Great Raid, a film by John Dahl. The director's cut is the version to watch. Included with the director's cut DVD is additional material that is life impacting; at least it was for me.


Exclusive Full Interview: Captain Joshua Mantz Speaks to Lisa Ling About PTSD

Friday, May 23, 2008

In Which Direction are You Moving?

As America enters into the Memorial Day weekend, I am thinking about various events that have taken place this past week.

  • The GI Bill passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Thank God.

But no thanks to Representative Denny Rehberg (R) of Montana. Representative Rehberg was one of only a few that voted against America's veterans receiving benefits including a college education. Typical of Rehberg. Hip, Hip, Hooray for America's veterans. Boo hiss for Denny Rehberg.

  • Steven Curtis Chapman's family experienced a horrible tragedy.

Having been involved in the Christian music industry years ago, I met Steven on several occasions and can honestly say that he is truly one of the real deals. He is not one that uses his talent to simply make money off of the name of Jesus (those people are most definitely out there), but his faith is sincere. I'm at a loss for words to write, but one scripture keeps coming to my mind: Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus. Times like this one calls for a peace that comes not from our human understanding, but from God who has the power to bring a peace that surpasses our mind as it moves into our heart.

  • Kentucky declared Hillary Clinton their democratic candidate for president and Oregon declared Barack Obama theirs.

The race continues and I think it is a good, good thing. Shame, shame, shame on those calling for Hillary Clinton to quit this race. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Millions of Americans throughout the history of our country have served and fought to protect our rights including our right to democracy. Every voter has the right to cast their OWN vote and for their vote to count.

  • The tragedy in Myanmar is devastating, but their own government's response is even more so.

However, I don't believe the American government can point any fingers. When Katrina hit, her unbelievably incompetent and irresponsible sister KaFEMAtina was not far behind.

The Bible tells us that trials and tribulations are sure to come our way.

And they do come.

And sometimes we rise to the occasion.

And sometimes we do not.

But, it's not in the rising and the falling that we should find our worth or lack thereof.

But rather in the moving forward or moving backward.

Life is not a vertical action, but a horizontal one. We move forward or we move backward. Life goes on no matter what. Life goes on no matter if we are on the mountain top or in the valley.

Tragedy may come. Trials and tribulations are sure to come, but neither tragedy nor trials and tribulations are meant to define us. Only to cause us to move forward or move backward.

The direction in which we move is our choice.

Thursday, May 22, 2008



Growing up in the world of gymnastics, I learned the necessity of achieving balance at a very young age. Gymnastics is a sport where balance is everything -- balance and strength.

Conquering fear is always, always, always the first step any gymnast must take to improve their skill and performance level.

The second is finding [and maintaining] balance and the third is developing strength.

Yesterday was a day of examining balance. And perhaps today is also. And tomorrow may very well prove to be as well.

At least, I hope so.

A long-time friend of mine had non-elective surgery this past week. Like millions of other Americans, he doesn't have insurance. As we were talking on the phone yesterday, my friend was telling me about a conversation he had with one of the hospital employees. It was a conversation about illegal aliens and how my friend's medical expenses are going to be very high, but if he were an illegal alien all of his medical expenses would be paid for by the U.S. government.


Being that my friend and I sit on opposite sides of the political fence, I knew this conversation had just taken a sharp turn in a different direction from my calling to check up on his recovery.

Thankfully, we have been friends for 25 years and have a relationship built upon years of caring about each other's lives. And thankfully, we have always been able to talk about difficult subjects with honesty and openness.

My friend went on to talk about how many illegal aliens cross the border, find jobs in America, get paid "under the table" (in cash), don't pay taxes, and send much of the money they earn back to their families in the countries from which they fled, and then get their hospitalization expenses covered if they become ill or are injured and he (my friend), as an American citizen paying taxes doesn't get any medical benefit from the U.S. government.

This is an argument I've heard over and over and over again.

But debating that argument is not what this blog is about.

This blog is about balance and how we perceive that in our own lives.

What I was really hearing from my friend is that he felt the balance of benefits for him compared to illegal aliens in America weighed more in favor of the illegal aliens and that angered him.

When I asked my friend if he would like to change places with anyone of the illegal aliens in America, he said no.


Why not? According to my friend, their health care benefits are soooo much better.

I don't think my friend was really, truly angry over the perceived "benefit" he saw being awarded to an illegal alien.

I think my friend was angry over his perception of someone else getting something of value he wasn't.

How often do we go through life perceiving others as having or getting things of value we want or we feel we deserve and we get angry?

How often do we adjust the balance scale of value when we perceive something someone else has or is getting as being soooo much more valuable than what we already have or what is coming to us?

How often do we choose not to look closely at the receiver's life, but only focus on our own?

One of the greatest lessons in life I've ever learned came through my years of training on the balance beam in gymnastics.

The biggest mistake a gymnast can make on the beam is taking her eyes off the end of the beam while doing her routine.

Focusing your eyes on the end of the beam helps maintain chin placement and gives your shoulders a sense of alignment.

The moment a gymnast tucks her chin to look down at her own feet is when she is most vulnerable to losing her balance.

What a life lesson.

Keep your chin up, keep raising your eyes toward what is out ahead of you, and keep your shoulders aligned with that focus out in front of you.

When life is challenging it is very easy to drop our chin and focus only on ourselves. It is so easy to see other people as having more than us or getting more breaks or being less deserving than us or, or, or...


This is not the time to lessen the value of what we have in our own lives.

My friend has a beautiful family. Both he and his wife have good jobs and are closing on a new home. Their children are healthy and active.

Many illegal aliens that cross the boarder into America come from extreme poverty, a country with a corrupt government, a failing economy with no opportunity for paying jobs, a country torn apart by war, and/or a host of other unimaginable circumstances.

I don't believe my friend was really, truly angry over the hospitalization payment issue.

I think he took his eyes off of the end of the beam. I think he let fear creep in and he lost his balance.

Facing a big medical bill can do that to a person.


I think that if given the choice my friend would choose to keep his life and work to pay off that medical bill every day of the week and twice on Sundays rather than exchange the payment of his medical bill for the life of an illegal alien.

As I stated before, THIS blog is not about the debate over immigration and/or illegal aliens.

THIS blog is about how we perceive things when we don't balance the value of what we have in our own lives properly with what we perceive as a benefit in someone else's life.

How different would our lives be if our judgments of others were weighed upon a scale balanced by the value we place upon all that we have in our own life?

Would our judgments of others be balanced with compassion rather than envy?

Would our judgments of others be balanced with understanding rather than fear?

I wonder how different our lives would be if we always remembered to keep our eyes on the end of the beam rather than our own feet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lynette Long's Email Response to Painful Lessons

The following is an email response from Lynette Long I received along with many others that responded to her Painful Lessons article that appeared in Monday's Baltimore Sun. Her response is as thought provoking as her article!

First I want to thank each and every one of you for writing to me. I want to apologize for sending a group email, but I got hundreds of letters. I want you to know you are not alone. There are millions of women who feel as you do, that the Democratic National Primary Campaign uncovered the pervasive and insidious sexism that runs rampant through our country. That Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate, and that she is being cheated out of the nomination by the good old boys network, the DNC and the Mainstream Media. You are angry. You are in a rage. I am too.
Underneath that rage is sadness, sadness that we are second class citizens in a country where we are the majority. What’s especially disquieting to me is that many young women are blind to the sexist nature of the world in which we live. It’s our job, each and every one of us, to educate them. Economically, women earn seventy-seven cents on the dollar for the same work compared to men. Women are in significantly fewer managerial positions, are less likely to own a business and more likely to live in poverty. Politically, women comprise fifty-two percent of the population and an even larger share of the voting public yet only sixteen of the current one hundred Untied States Senators are women. Similarly, only sixteen percent of the current members of the House of Representatives are women. There is only one female Supreme Court Justice on a nine member court and most remarkably America has never had a female president or presidential nominee. Women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920. The glass ceiling is real on both economical and political fronts. Men want parity for their daughters and granddaughters but not for the women sitting beside them. They are not going to give us the power that should be ours, we have to take it. Are we ready?
Women have no sense of their own power. White women are the largest race/gender voting block in the country. White men compose the second largest voting block, black women the third largest block, and black men are the smallest race/gender block. White and black women together women comprise more than fifty percent of the electorate and if were fully committed to a single candidate, we could determine the outcome of any office in the country. It is our turn. Are we ready?
I am sad that black women do not support Hillary in greater numbers. Many members of the black community wrote to me and said they were afraid to stand up for Hillary. They explained how black radio is pressuring it’s listeners to vote for Barack Obama. White men and women alike wrote me and told me that they were called racist for supporting Hillary Clinton. I want to remind each and everyone of you that, in 1969, Shirley Chisholm the first black woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives said, “Of my two handicaps, being female put more obstacles in my path than being black.” The impact of the “handicaps” of race and gender has not changed in the last 40 years. As women we need to come together, and take the power that could be ours. Racism and sexism are both terrible barriers, but one is not worse than the other. On average, a black man with a college degree earns more than a white woman with the same degree, and a black woman earns less than both. Black male physicians earn more than white women physicians, and black male professors earn more than white female professors. Yet ninety percent of black women voted for Barack Obama indifferent to the impact of gender on their struggle or how electing a female president might help them.
I want to change the world. I think we can. I think by electing female leaders we can create a gentler America. We need to be counted. We need to stand up and let the DNC know we will not get in line. As one woman who wrote me so eloquently put it, the DNC thinks we will vote for Obama because like abused women we have no where else to go.
I, Lynette Long, am a registered Democrat, but I will not vote for Barack Obama. I will not stay home. I will go to the polls and proudly write on my ballot, HILLARY CLINTON. I want the DNC to count my vote as a protest vote. I want them to know I am tired of being a second class citizen in my own country.
This isn’t about Barack Obama or John McCain. This isn’t about Iraq or Iran. This is about a war, a war for our voice, our dignity, and our selves. I am doing this for my daughter, her unborn children and her children’s children. I am doing this for each and every one of you. I am doing this because I love my country. I hope you will join me.
Lynette Long

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

President Jimmy Carter and Hillary Swank: Reaching Heights All Their Own

Have you ever watched something and have been so moved that you can't stop thinking about it?

In the past month or so that's happened to me twice.

The second time was just this past weekend. I watched Clint Eastwood's movie Million Dollar Baby. Not being a fan of Mystic River, I never felt drawn to Million Dollar Baby. Mystic River felt so dark and depressing to me that I had no desire to experience that again in a movie.

If anyone else has avoided watching Million Dollar Baby for the same reasons I did, let me put your mind at ease -- this movie does NOT carry the same darkness found in Mystic River. It's still a heavy movie, but the writing and the approach to telling this story is very different.

The movie is powerful and I recommend it to everyone. The screenwriter, Paul Haggis, is brilliant -- as always. And Hillary Swank...she is so talented an acting award category with a standard set at "ain't nobody else ever gonna come close to the job you done" should be named after her.

The first time I watched something this past month that has stayed with me was Charlie Rose's interview with President Jimmy Carter.

President Carter has long been on my most admired list and this interview, like Hillary Swank, catapulted him into a category all his own. His knowledge of international relations is unmatched. But more importantly, in my opinion, is his heart toward world peace, human rights, and the Middle East.

While the Bush administration has taken a big stick approach to all things Middle East, President Carter continues to take an open minded and "peace can be found through finding a common ground" approach. As an American citizen, I am honored beyond words to have President Carter represent me and my country. However, by demand of the Bush administration, President Carter may only represent The Carter Center as he works to bring peace to the Middle East.

If you are unfamiliar with the outstanding work being done by The Carter Center please visit their website by clicking here.

I encourage you to watch the entire 30+ minute interview with President Jimmy Carter [4/28/08] as he talks about the Middle East, his mother Lillian, and how the next president of the United States of America can change the world's view of our country within the first 10 minutes of her/his term on the Charlie Rose website. The entirety of this interview is captivating and inspiring.

Here is an excerpt from the entire interview I found on YouTube:

from with vodpod

Monday, May 19, 2008

Painful Lessons by Lynette Long in today's Baltimore Sun

In honor of the women I wrote about for the Bloggers Unite for Human Rights event, I wanted their post to remain front and center on my blog throughout the weekend.

My planned subject for today's blog was completely unrelated to politics, gender, human rights, etc., but then I read an article in today's Baltimore Sun and thought it so very well written and thought provoking, I wanted to share it.

Here it is in full with a link to the actual article:,0,3121832.story

Painful lessons

Primary reveals obstacles facing women in politics

By Lynette Long

May 18, 2008

This primary campaign has been quite a learning experience, but the lessons have mainly been bitter ones for women. Here are some things I learned on the way to the Democratic National Convention:

People are more sensitive to racism than sexism. My twenty-something daughter returned home extremely agitated after casting her ballot in the Democratic primary. "This white guy was wearing a T-shirt that read, 'Hillary, cook my food, but don't run my country,' and no one said a thing. If I wore a T-shirt that said, 'Obama, shine my shoes but don't run my country,' I'd be called a racist." Doing or saying anything perceived as racist is not tolerated in today's America, but that's simply not true of sexist behavior.

Most people aren't aware of the insidious sexism in this campaign. I've heard commentators say "Mrs. Clinton and Senator Obama," subtly implying she was a wife and he was a senator. I've heard Sen. Hillary Clinton called a bitch, a witch, and a she-devil on national television. I've watched group after group of predominantly male panelists on talk show after talk show discuss the election without a thought for female input.

Women voters are not factored into the decision making of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is concerned that black voters will protest and stay home if Senator Clinton gets the nomination, even though she is the stronger and more electable candidate. But the DNC doesn't worry that white women, three times larger than the combined black vote, will stay away from the polls if Mrs. Clinton does not get the nomination. They expect the white women of the party to fall in step and vote for Mr. Obama in the general election.

The rules for women candidates are not the same as the rules for male candidates. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy adamantly supports Mr. Obama, even though Mrs. Clinton won his home state, Massachusetts, by 14 points. Mr. Kennedy has repeatedly called for Mrs. Clinton to pull out of the race, yet when he was running for president in 1980 he took his bid for the Democratic nomination to the convention floor, trying to change the rules to unseat Jimmy Carter, who already had enough delegates to clinch the nomination. And let's not forget that this year Mike Huckabee stayed in the contest for the Republican nomination when he had no chance of winning. He was committed to stay in the race until Sen. John McCain reached the number of delegates needed to win. At the end of the contest he had a total of 267 delegates, more than 900 behind Mr. McCain. No media barrage pushed Mr. Huckabee to withdraw. Barack Obama has not reached the needed number of delegates to win the nomination, yet Mrs. Clinton - who is fewer than 200 delegates behind Obama - is being pressured by commentators and the DNC to withdraw.

In the world of presidential politics, race trumps gender. It appears that young, white voters are more willing to vote for a black candidate than young, black voters are willing to vote for a white candidate. My analysis of the statistics found that young white voters seemed to perceive race as less of a factor in their voting preferences, since more than half of them selected Mr. Obama. More than 90 percent of blacks have voted for Mr. Obama, creating a large racial bloc. Female black voters prefer Mr. Obama by essentially the same margin as male black voters.

Politics is a mathematical business. Popular votes, electoral votes, delegates, superdelegates, precincts, districts and states are all numbers to be crunched. Voters are categorized by factors including age, gender, race, religion and income. Statistical tools such as trends, clusters, margin of error, polls, projections and polling preferences are all used to track candidates and predict winners. Pundits use their knowledge of statistics to select and organize data points so they can spin data to present their candidate in the most favorable light.

Political commentary and election coverage is biased. MSNBC is called the "Obama News Network" by various blogs. CNN claims neutrality, but bias seeps through: In my view, its commentators Amy Holmes and Roland Martin are blatant Obama supporters; David Gergen and Donna Brazile are also Obama supporters; and Carl Bernstein and Campbell Brown don't like Mrs. Clinton.

What else have I learned? That most Americans vote with their hearts rather than their heads. That voters make decisions out of fear and personal interest rather than out of principle. That all politics is local politics. That when voters like a candidate they will excuse almost anything, and when they don't like a candidate they will parse every word and excuse no sins. I've also learned that the most powerful constituency is the media. And I've learned that true courage is especially hard to find - especially in a politician.

Lynette Long is a psychologist in Bethesda and the author of 20 books. Her e-mail is

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights: 10 Female Human Rights Heroes

In the midst of some of the world's most darkest of times, a few seek to bring light.

Women have LONG played a significant role in human rights activism, yet historically receive much less attention than their male counter parts.

So, today...

As bloggers all over the world unite for human rights...

I direct your eyes

And your attention

And your heart

to 10 women you may or may not have heard of

And to the causes for which each woman either fought with her life

Or fights with her life now.

1. Harriet Tubman

Abolitionist :: Humanitarian :: Union Spy

Having escaped from slavery herself, Harriet Tubman made 13 dangerous missions to free 70 slaves through the "Underground Railroad" - safe houses set up by antislavery activists; aided John Brown in recruiting men for his raid on Harper's Ferry; was the first woman to lead an armed exhibition in the war; guided the raid on the Combahee River liberating more than 700 slaves; and in the post-war era she fought for women's suffrage. Harriet Tubman was a woman of great courage, faith, and determination to help change the world for the betterment of all man and woman kind and she was a great humanitarian hero. To learn more about Harriet Tubman, visit

2. Margaret Utinsky

War Hero :: Nurse :: Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

Married to a civil engineer working for the U.S. Government in the Philippines, Margaret Utinsky enjoyed her life in Manila. It was the 1930's and her husband had a good job. However, as the world began to change in the 1940's, so did life in the Philippines. When it became clear that the Japanese were going to attack the islands of the Pacific, the U.S. Government ordered all American wives back to the States. Only Margaret refused to leave her husband. When her husband was relocated to work on Bataan, Margaret stayed behind. In December of 1941, as the Japanese invaded the Philippines and occupied Manila, Margaret hid in her apartment for more than 10 weeks. Eventually obtaining false identity documents, Margaret began to work for the Red Cross and began to search for her husband. Seeing the conditions of the captured soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March and learning of the death of her husband, Margaret set about to save as many of the POWs as she could. Recruiting and organizing a team of helpers, Margaret and her network began smuggling food, medicine, shoes, and money for the captured men being held by the Japanese in Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan . Through Margaret's and her team's work, hundreds of lives were saved. This life-saving work was not without danger. A number of Margaret's team members were captured and killed. Margaret, too, was captured, beaten and tortured, but she would not reveal any of those within her network and she was eventually released. Escaping to the mountains near Bataan, Margaret continued her work as a nurse with the Filipino forces moving from camp to camp to help everyone in need. Upon the American liberation of the Philippines, Margaret returned to the United States where she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and would write a book, Miss U, detailing her life story. To learn more about Margaret Utinsky, visit World War II Remembered.

3. Irena Sendler

Champion of children :: Rescuer :: Order of the Smile Recipient

Appalled by Hitler's holocaust, Irena Sendler set out to save as many Jews as she could in her native Warsaw, Poland. As a social worker, Irena first began documenting Jewish families as having highly contagious diseases so the Nazis would not visit the families. However, when the Warsaw Ghetto was built and all Jews were walled off from the rest of society and systematically killed, Irena came up with a new plan. Organizing a team of 20 rescuers, Irena worked out ways to not only enter the Ghetto herself, but for her team as well. During her many working visits inside the Ghetto, Irena convinced as many Jewish families with babies and young children as she could to give up their young ones to Irena and her team. All counted, Irena and her fellow rescuers smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and out of certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Finding homes with non-Jewish families, convents, and orphanages, Irena also documented each child as being Catholic. Careful to never reveal their true identities and names to anyone, Irena vowed to herself that she would one day work to reunite the children with their families. To keep the records of each child's true name safe, Irena wrote the names on slips of paper, placed the papers in jars, and buried the jars in one of her team member's yard. Irena was eventually caught and beaten by the Gestapo. Even with both feet and legs broken, injuries that would leave her crippled for life, and sentenced to die, Irena never revealed any information. Successfully escaping from prison, Irena was hunted by the Gestapo until the end of the war. True to her word, Irena dug up the jars and set about finding children and families. Sadly, many of the families were killed by the Nazis, but those that survived were found by Irena and reunited with either their children or their relatives children. Irena Sendler died this week at the age of 98. She is a hero of not just 2,500 Jewish children, but of all the generations of their children. To learn more about Irena Sendler, visit Life in a Jar.

4. Alice Paul 5. Lucy Burns

Suffragists :: Leaders :: Committed to Equality

Knowing how government affects our daily lives, real life suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns fought with all of their might to win women the right to vote in the United States of America. Taking on not only Washington D. C. politicians and President Woodrow Wilson, but the National American Woman Suffrage Association founded in 1890 by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns successfully led the campaign that brought the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 giving women the right to vote. However, in doing so Alice and Lucy discovered just how determined many men -- and women -- were to prevent this from happening. At times fighting with their very lives, these courageous women and their team of fellow suffragists soldiered on. Lobbying, picketing, organizing demonstrations and parades, the suffragists including Alice and Lucy were eventually convicted and incarcerated for obstructing traffic. As an act of protest of their conditions and treatment while incarcerated, Alice Paul began a hunger strike and a number of her fellow inmate suffragists followed suit. Having used the press for the demonstrations and parades, Alice Paul was a known figure. When news of her hunger strike and an order for her to be force fed leaked to the press, pressure on President Wilson and Congress mounted. Committed to see women have an equal vote in how America's government runs, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns fought with their lives to make this world a better place for all women who would come after them -- a place where your daughter(s) have an equal voice to your son(s). To learn more about Alice Paul and her legacy, visit the Alice Paul Institute. To learn more about Lucy Burns, visit the National Women's History Museum.

6. Zainab Salbi

Survivor :: Humanitarian :: Builder of Lives

Having survived bombs in Iraq and living under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, Zainab Salbi escaped from Iraq knowing something better must be ahead of her. Discovering other women whose lives had been torn apart by war, Zainab began reaching out to these women in all ways she could. Seeing a great need for women who survive war, Zainab founded Women for Women International in 1993. Along with co-founder Amjad Atallah, Zainab worked to build the organization into a place where women would help women become stronger. Since its opening, more than 93,000 women have been served through Women for Women International's various programs. To learn more about Zainab Salbi and her work, visit Women for Women International.

7. Esther Chavez Cano

Care Giver :: Advocate :: Champion for Women's Rights

1993 brought a wave of violence against women and young girls to Juarez, Mexico -- a town bordering El Paso, Texas. With more than 400 + women and young girls having been brutally raped, murdered and some disappearing, surely one would think that law enforcement would be working all that much harder to stop the violence and bring the killers to justice -- if justice on earth is possible for the horrendous nature of these crimes. But, to this day, the law has turned a relatively blind eye to stopping the violence. Seeking a way to help the victims and gain stronger rights for women, Esther Chavez Cano started the Casa Amiga Rape Crisis Center in Juarez. Amazingly, in this community of 1.5 million, Casa Amiga is the ONLY facility of its kind created to female victims of rape and violent crimes. Last year alone, Casa Amiga provided help for 1, 172 new cases and served 5,803 clients. With a small, mainly volunteer staff, Casa Amiga is a light in a very dark place for women. To learn more about the work of Esther Chavez Cano, visit the Casa Amiga Rape Crisis Center.

8. Mutabar Tadzhibaeva

Activist :: Prisoner of Conscience :: Noble Peace Prize Nominee

Founder of the national Uzbekistan movement, Civil Society, Mutabar Tadzhibaeva is currently in prison in her native Uzbekistan serving an eight year sentence for 13 counts of economic and political counts against the Uzbekistan government. Detained in October of 2005 on her way to an international conference on human rights defenders,Mutabar's trial began on January 30, 2006. Being forced to sit in a cage throughout her trial, Mutabar was also denied access to private meetings with her attorney, files associated with her case, and sufficient time to review material pertaining to her case. In 2005, when the Uzbekistan government forces fired into crowds of unarmed protesters, killing hundreds, Mutabar Tadzhibaeva's human rights work increased and she became more vocal. After giving a radio interview in which she condemned the government for their harrassment of human rights activists, Mutabar's own well being began to be threatened. To learn how you can speak up for Mutabar and demand her release, visit Amnesty International.

8. Angelica Gonzalez 9. Jennifer Echeverria

Lawyers :: Seekers of Justice :: Human Rights Advocates

As part of a team of lawyers at the Center for Legal Action of Human Rights in Guatemala, Angelica Gonzalez and Jennifer Echeverria provide legal support for families seeking justice for their relatives killed during Guatemala's internal armed conflict. With many massacres and mass killings -- one proven to be carried out by the government in 1982, families of relatives killed in this massacre won a court battle and have been awarded compensation to be paid by the Guatemalan government. With more trials coming against military officers and the former Head of State of Guatemala, threats are now being made against the legal teams. Recently, both Angelica and Jennifer have been threatened to the point of fearing for their lives -- simply because they are defending the rights of their fellow man/womankind. To learn how you can speak on behalf of Angelica Gonzalez and Jennifer Echeverria in an appeal for their safety, visit Amnesty International.

10. Betty Makoni

Schoolteacher :: Champion of Young Girls :: Ginetta Sagan Award Recipient

As a victim of sexual abuse at the age of six and having her mother die three years later from domestic violence, Betty Makoni knew at an early age that her native country of Zimbabwe would not change for women unless violence against women was talked about openly. As a former schoolteacher, Betty knew the importance of education for women in stopping the cycle of domestic violence. In 1998, Betty started Girl Child Network by helping to educate six girls on how to fight back against sexual exploitation, poverty and violence. Since then, more than 500,000 girls in Zimbabwe have been served through the Girl Child Network with 3,000 of them having become doctors, lawyers, teachers and professionals in other areas. Empowering girls to stay in school, covering educational fees and school supplies, and providing safe houses for counseling and rehabilitation for girls who are victims of sexual violence and abuse are only a few of the many ways Girl Child Network has helped and continues to help young girls break free from cycles of poverty, abuse, violence and disease. Demonstrating such a success, the Girl Child Network program is now being replicated in Sweden, Swaziland, Sweden, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. To learn more about Betty Makoni's work, visit the Girl Child Network.

Each of these women had/have the same number of hours in the day that each one of us has and none of these women achieved/are achieving their goals because they've been gifted with some special talent.

Each of these women simply looked beyond themselves to their fellow man/womankind and determined to make a difference for the better.

Each of these women first had a thought and refusing to let fear prevail, each of these women took action for the betterment of others.

In the midst of some of the world's most darkest of times, a few seek to bring light.

What about you?

Are you of the many?


Are you of the few?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar

In the darkest of times, strength of character still some.

Irena Sendler's strength ran as deep as her courage ran high.

Irena passed away this week at the age of 98.

Who was Irena Sendler?

She was strength beyond measure.

She was courage defined.

She was humanity at its best.

She was willingness to help.

She was fear defied.

She was refusal to give in.

She was the woman who planned and organized the rescue of 2,500 Jewish children from certain death at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

As a social worker in Warsaw, Poland, Irena was appalled by the treatment, murders, and annihilation of the Jewish people she had known all her life. To protect as many families as she could, Irena would document these families as being infected with terribly contagious diseases so they would not be visited by the Nazis. When the Nazis forced all Jews into one section of town and walled them off from the rest of society, Irena came up with a new way to protect as many of these hurting people as she could.

Organizing a team of 20 rescuers, Irena developed a plan for her and her team to enter the Warsaw Ghetto. Once inside, Irena convinced Jewish families with babies and small children to turn over their young ones to her and her team. Smuggling the babies and children out by any means possible (sometimes making them look like sacks of grain), Irena found non-Jewish families to adopt the children, placed them in convents or orphanages, and documented the children with Catholic identities.

Determined to not let the children's true identities remain unknown, Irena wrote every name of every child on pieces of paper she kept hidden in jars in her home. As the Nazis started to move in on her, Irena hid the jars in one of her team member's yard. Upon capture, Irena was beaten severely breaking both her feet and legs, crippling her for life, but Irena refused to give any information. Sentenced to death, Irena's team bribed one of the Gestapo and at the last minute, Irena's execution was halted. Although Irena eventually escaped from prison, she was hunted by the Gestapo throughout the remaining years of the war.

True to her character, after the war Irena faithfully sought out to reunite each rescued child with any surviving relatives throughout Europe. While most families perished during the horrors of the holocaust, a small number were able to be located.

Here's where this story takes a twist.

A dark twist.

With the invasion of communism and eventual reign in Poland, Irena's story remained silent for more than 40 years.

Irena's heroism and acts of true greatness were virtually unknown to all in her home country.

But the truth ALWAYS finds exactly who it is meant to find.

Enter 1999 and Norman Conrad, rural Kansas high school history teacher.

Encouraging and challenging his students to extend the boundaries of the classroom; contribute to the teaching of history, tolerance, and respect; and do all of this with the goal of submitting a project to that year's National History Day event.

Megan Stewart, Elizabeth Chambers and Jessica Shelton, all in ninth grade, and Sabrina Coons, eleventh grade, joined forces and set about finding a project to submit.

Having read a 1994 article on an historically unknown Irena Sendler, which he thought may have been in error, Mr. Conrad suggested the girls research the validity of the story and determine if a project could be developed from it.

Like I wrote before...

The truth ALWAYS finds who it is meant to find.

With great tenacity, these four young girls went to work.

And what a job they did.

Discovering not only the truth of Irena Sendler's heroism, but Irena Sendler herself!

What grew to become a tremendous friendship of respect and admiration between the four girls and Irena also grew into a live presentation, Life in a Jar, that continues to be performed this day throughout the United States.

Through Life in a Jar, the national and international media learned the story of Irena Sendler and now, so has the world.

To learn more about Life in a Jar and Irena Sendler, honorary citizen of Israel; recipient of the internationally prestigious Order of the Smile; recipient of Poland's highest honor, Order of the White Eagle; title bearer of Righteous Among Nations; and Noble Peace Prize nominee, visit Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top 10 Movies About Real Life Heroes

This coming Thursday, May 15, is the big Bloggers Unite for Human Rights Internet event where thousands of bloggers worldwide will be blogging on human rights issues.

So, I thought I'd start the week off with my top 10 list (in no particular order) of movies with storylines centering on real life human rights heroes. All but one of the movies may be found on DVD and are worthy of watching again...and again!

1. Hotel Rwanda

Director Terry George's 2004 film of how one man, Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, dared what seemed to be impossible odds by protecting more than a thousand Tutsi refugees during one of the world's worst acts of genocide. While the majority of the world turned their back on the Tutsi in Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina bravely opened up the hotel to as many Tutsi refugees as he could and at the risk of his own life and the life of his family, he stood strong against the Hutu militia and all other forces. Don Cheadle's performance of real life hero, Paul Rusesabagina is one of the finest screen performances of all time. This is a movie not to be missed. In the midst of the most horrible of times, hope and courage prevail. To learn more about Paul Rusesabagina and his continuing work to help the women and children affected by the genocides in Rwanda and other African nations, visit the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation

2. Rabbit-Proof Fence

For more than 60 years, 1910 - 1970, children born of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander decent were forcibly taken from their parents by the Australian and State government agencies for the purposes of training them to become domestic workers and thus, integrating them into a white society. Director Philip Noyce's 2002 film tells the true life story of three young mixed-race girls who were a part of this "Stolen Generation" in Australia. In 1931, Molly Craig, her younger sister and a young cousin were stolen from their mothers and taken to the Moore River Native Settlement 1500 miles from their home. Escaping not long after their arrival, Molly leads her sister and cousin on a nine week journey back home -- all the while being tracked by both a white man of the law and a black tracker. Staying one step ahead, Molly leads the girls home by following the rabbit-proof fence that bisects the continent. This story is beautifully told in both dialogue and imagery. To learn more about Australia's Stolen Generation, visit the European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights.

3. A Woman Called Moses

Cicely Tyson is an actress that can cause tears to well up in my eyes just at the mention of her name. To me, her ability to bring the power, vulnerability, and beauty of a character to the big screen is rarely matched. She is simply outstanding. In 1978, Cicely Tyson brought a performance to the small screen that I have never forgotten. Director Paul Wendkos's television movie brought the real life story of humanitarian, abolitionist, and Union spy, Harriet Tubman to the public. Having escaped from slavery herself, Harriet Tubman made 13 dangerous missions to free 70 slaves through the "Underground Railroad" - safe houses set up by antislavery activists; aided John Brown in recruiting men for his raid on Harper's Ferry; was the first woman to lead an armed exhibition in the war; guided the raid on the Combahee River liberating more than 700 slaves; and in the post-war era she fought for women's suffrage. Harriet Tubman was a woman of great courage, faith, and determination to help change the world for the betterment of all man and woman kind and Cicely Tyson could not have been a better choice to play such a noble human being. To learn more about Harriet Tubman, visit

4. Anne Frank Remembered

Jon Blair's 1995 Academy Award-winning Best Documentary on the life of Anne Frank and her family should be a must see on everyone's list. With previously unseen archival footage, this film brings a picture of Anne Frank, who some call "the holocaust's most famous victim" to life like never before. With narration by Glenn Close, Kenneth Branaugh and Joely Richardson, this story of the Frank family's time in hiding during World War II in Amsterdam, Holland and Anne's wise-beyond-her-years outlook on life is the first time an audience fully sees Anne for the person she was -- a young girl who would change the world by teaching us that even in the darkest of hours, believing in the goodness of humanity is not only possible, but right. To learn more about Anne Frank, visit the online Anne Frank Museum.

5. The Killing Fields

Anyone who saw director Roland Joffe's 1984 film when it was first released will probably remember leaving the theater in silence. The power of this movie earned it 7 Academy Award nominations in all of the major fields including Best Picture, and Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actor Haing S. Ngor, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. Based upon the true story of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg's coverage of the civil war in Cambodia in which 2 million "undesirables" were "ethnically cleansed" under the direction of tyrant Pol Pot. During one of the most horrific acts of genocide, Sydney Schanberg and local representative, Dith Pran record and report the most tragic of events shedding light on the truth and the madness -- reporting which would lead Sydney to receive the Pulitzer Prize. When the American forces leave Cambodia, Dith manages to get his wife and children on the transports, but stays behind to continue helping his friend cover the horrific events. Being an American, Sydney is able to freely leave Cambodia, but the same is not for Dith. True life hero, Dith Pran was captured by the Khmer Rouge and spent nearly 4 years in labor camps throughout Cambodia suffering extreme hardships. This film shares the amazing story of strength in friendship and the strength in the human spirit during the reign of one of history's most brutal dictators. To learn more about Dith Pran and Cambodia's Killing Fields, visit The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project.

6. Gandhi

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, director Richard Attenborough's 1982 film received an outstanding 9 Oscars in 1983: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Writing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ben Kingsley. Serving as a biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Attenborough tells the tale of the lawyer turned leader who led the people of India -- advocating non-violence and truth -- in campaigns to organize poor farmers and laborers against discrimination and oppressive taxation; the liberation of women; the alleviation of rampant poverty; economic self-sufficiency for the nation; a commonality among the various religious and ethnic groups; an end to the "untouchability" and caste discrimination; and most of all, independence for India from foreign domination. Ben Kingsley's moving performance of Gandhi is something to watch again if you have not seen this film since its release in 1982. To learn more about the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, visit

7. Schindler's List

As history teaches when a brutal dictator arises, whether it be out of fear, greed, ignorance or whatever, many people, weak in character, succumb to the ways of such brutality. However, as history also teaches, greatness of character also arises within the few unwilling to give into fear, but rather bravely hold fast to their belief in humanity and the rights of their fellow mankind. Nominated for an incredible 12 Academy Awards and receiving 7 including Best Picture and Best Director, director Steven Spielberg's 1992 film brings the heroism of real life Oscar Schindler to the big screen and to the world. Set during the autraucities of Hitler's holocaust, Spielberg brilliantly recounts Schindler's courageous work to save more than 1,200 Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. An unlikely hero, Schindler discovers the truth within him -- humanity is more valuable than money -- and proceeds to defy all odds in saving as many Jews as he can. Once a war profiteer, Schindler eventually died penniless having spent all his money to save and protect his list of Jews. To learn more about Oscar Schindler and his wife, Emilie, who served along side him, visit The Oscar Schindler Story.

8. Iron Jawed Angels

Some may claim this to be more of a civil liberties film, but I see it as both a civil liberties film AND a human rights film. When an entire population of human beings is shut out of having a voice in how their government is to be run because of their gender, race, or religion, then I see it as a human rights issue. Knowing how government affects our daily lives, real life suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns fought with all of their might to win women the right to vote in the United States of America. Director Katja von Garnier's incredible 2004 HBO film sets a new standard for period pieces. Incorporating contemporary music, camera and editing techniques, Katja tells the story of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, played by Hillary Swank and Francis O'Connor respectively, as they take on not only Washington D. C. politicians and President Woodrow Wilson, but the National American Woman Suffrage Association founded in 1890 by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Successfully leading the campaign that brought the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 giving women the right to vote, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns discovered just how determined many men -- and women -- were to prevent this from happening. At times fighting with their very lives, these courageous women and their team soldiered on. Two women that should be in every American history school book, OH GOSH, surprisingly are not. If you have a daughter, BUY this dynamic DVD! Have it on hand. Teach your daughter(s) about the women who fought with their lives to make this world a better place for all women who would come after them -- a place where your daughter(s) have an equal voice to your son(s). To learn more about Alice Paul and her legacy, visit the Alice Paul Institute. To learn more about Lucy Burns, visit the National Women's History Museum.

9. The Great Raid

What's a war movie doing in a top 10 human rights hero movie list? Exactly what it should be...telling the real life story of a small group of Army Rangers and Filipino soldiers who risked their lives to liberate more than 500 American Prisoners of War in the Philippines during World War II AND telling the story the real life woman, Margaret Utinsky, a Medal of Freedom recipient, who risked her own life to smuggle life saving medication, food, shoes, and money into the Japanese POW Camps during this same war. Director John Dahl's 2005 film relives the Army Ranger raid on Cabanatuan, a real life Japanese POW Camp in the Philippines, with amazing historical accuracy. Understanding that this is a major motion picture and not a documentary and certain film license is needed, the director's cut of this movie is truly a credit to John Dahl's dedication to honoring the heroes of this war in the Pacific. The culture of the Japanese military at the time of World War II viewed prisoners of war as almost non-human. Their treatment of POW's was barbaric to say the least. Under the command of real life heroes Captain Bob Prince and Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci, a small band of 120 Army Rangers and a group of Filipino soldiers travel 30 miles behind enemy lines and up against thousands of Japanese to successfully achieve the greatest military rescue in the history of war. The director's cut of this film is the version to see and the additional material included in this set is powerful beyond description. To learn more about Margaret Utinsky, visit WW II Remembered. To learn more about the raid on Cabanatuan, visit Army Public Affairs.

10. Norma Rae

Based upon real life hero Crystal Lee Jordan, director Martin Ritt's 1979 film, which won Sally Field her first Oscar, focuses the world's attention on the rights of workers. Fighting for the rights of decent pay for decent wages and decent working conditions - the right to unionize, Norma Rae stands up to not only corporate pressure and threats, but to those in her own circle of relations who want her to just shut up. With dialogue like this, it's a no wonder that this film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing:

Agreeing to organize a campaign, Norma asks her minister to use the church for a union meeting. "That's black and whites sitting together," Norma tells him. Horrified, the minister responds, "We're going to miss your voice in the choir, Norma. To which she says, "You're going to hear it raised up somewhere else."

What Crystal Lee Jordan was able to accomplish for workers in America, through great threat, pressure and the loss of her job, was no small miracle. And Sally Field's performance stand today as one of the great performances in the history of the cinema. To learn more about how labor unions fought to honor the American workforce, visit

When you think of movies that tell the story of real life human rights heroes, which ones come to your mind?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doug Seus, Alive and Well

Every day for the past couple of weeks a number of people have arrived at this blog after searching for information on Doug Seus, trainer of grizzly bears Bart the Bear, Little Bart, Honey Bump, and Tank. Evidently many people have been concerned that Doug was the trainer accidentally killed while working with one of the grizzlies.

Doug is alive and well and so are Little Bart, Honey Bump, and Tank.

Sadly, animal trainer Stephen Miller of Big Bear Lake, California died from an accidental bite on his neck by Rocky, a trained grizzly bear who has appeared in numerous movies. For more information, click here.

I often post on Doug and Lynne Seus and The Vital Ground Foundation, a nonprofit organization for which I am very, very proud and honored to serve on the Board of Advisors and the Development Committee.

For those not familiar with how Vital Ground came to be, I invite you to learn about Bart the Bear and his incredible legacy.


As professional animal trainers for the last 25 years, Doug and Lynne Seus have dedicated their lives to developing new and innovative programs for the raising, training and treatment of animals. Inspired by Bart the Bear, who died in 2000 at the age of 23, Doug and Lynne wanted to do something in return for wild grizzlies, at the same time ensuring the preservation of native forests, grass prairies and all of the plants and animals that share the land with the Great Bear. Founded in 1990, Vital Ground is dedicated to that task.

The work Bart started ten years ago continues with Tank, an 850-pound nine-year-old grizzly and Bart and Honey-Bump (a brother and sister) who will carry on in his giant footsteps as Ambassadors of Vital Ground.

Big Bart the Bear

Bart the Bear died peacefully surrounded by his family and friends at his home in Utah on May 10, 2000. Bart was born in a U.S. zoo on January 19, 1977. His destiny was not to live out his 23-1/2 years in the unchanging confinement of a zoo, but to see the world and become a beloved member of a human family. He came to Doug and Lynne Seus as a five-pound bundle and grew to 1,500 pounds, standing 9-1/2 feet tall. His long film career took him and his family from the Austrian/Italian Alps to the wilderness of Alaska, all over the U.S. and Canada, and finally to the stage of the 1998 Academy Awards. He loved to be in the spotlight and relished the applause and cheers of the film crew much more than he did his salmon and blueberries.

Bart the Bear's legacy went far beyond his film career. He is the "spokesbear" for the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, but his greatest role was as Ambassador of Vital Ground. Vital Ground has procured threatened wildlife habitat in Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Because of Bart's life in captivity, many of his wild brothers and sisters are able to roam free.

Bart is survived by his human family: Doug, Lynne, Clint, Jed and Sausha, and his bear brother "Tank." His old swimming hole was filled with love and joy when the circle of life brought the Seuses two orphaned grizzly cubs. The cub's mother was shot 200 miles north of Anchorage. These babies miraculously survived alone for over two days when the Alaska Fish and Game rescued them. The little boy cub carries on Bart's legacy and is his namesake. The girl cub is called Honey-Bump Bear. These cubs will follow in Bart's giant footsteps to bring the wondrous spirit of the bear into many lives and hearts.

For more information on the work of Doug and Lynne Seus, please visit

For more information on The Vital Ground Foundation, please visit