Light Drives Out Darkness

In the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Darkness can’t drive out darkness.
Only Light can do that.”

There is so much darkness in certain people. 


So full of hate, violence, and corruption. 


They use and abuse others for their selfish aims. 


Only faith and giving can drive out selfishness!


The other day at work, I briefly stopped over to help a colleague with something (I thought it was pretty minor, honestly). 


The next thing I know, another colleague who observed me, leaves–literally–a gold star on my desk. 


I had to laugh to myself–isn’t this what we do with kids. 


And then I thought to myself–Wow! People at any age can be recognized for just being decent human beings with one another.


Rather than just recognize the latest work accomplishments, isn’t it truly something to recognize helping others. 


Being good people is the essence of what life is all about. 


I’m glad that there are still people in the world that know this. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Washington Democracy

Nice photo of the Capitol, the Reflecting Pool, and the Botanical Gardens.


Even in cold January in Washington, DC, it is a mighty impressive sight. 


Some of the most important lessons for me:


Democracy never ceases as long as the people rule, freedom is protected, and human rights is respected.


Those in power have an even greater responsibility to ensure they do the right thing and maintain the utmost integrity.  


We have a lot to live up to!


Hope everyone enjoys their weekend and MLK holiday.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Would MLK say?

What Would MLK say?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes about how Congress orders NASA to complete a testing tower for rocket engines at Stennis Space Center that is no longer needed, since the rockets themselves were cancelled.

The price tag of this tower is $350M!

But not to worry because NASA caught in this muddle says they will maintain the tower in case it’s needed in the future at a cost of just $840,000 more a year.

Why does this happen?

Pork barrel politics, where the the Congressmen and -women (in this case of Mississippi) don’t want to lose out on the federal spending, so they make deals whereby they get what they want and others what they want for their home states–even if the taxpayers end up getting little to nothing.

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that while public servants are “expected to be less selfish than the average Joe…they are [actually] the locus of selfishness.”

She writes, “there isn’t a staffer on the Hill who won’t tell you 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants, and interests, not America’s.”

Essentially what Noonan describes is a broken political system, where we elect individuals as politicians to represent us, but they take our vote of confidence and their elected office platform and instead use it to vote either for what they think should be done–not what their constituents think or want–or they work the system in order to make themselves look good and line up votes for their next run at office.

Either way, we don’t get representation of the people, for the people, with big picture strategic decisions for the future of the nation, but rather we get narrow thinking and voting driven by self-centered thinking of what’s in it for me (WIIFM).

Freedom is not free, especially when we make bad decisions to fund testing towers that are no longer needed or bridges to nowhere.

How we fix this is by having politicians with a genuine vision of where we need to go, anchored in the thinking of the people they represent and a foundation of integrity.

The leader can create a shared vision by explaining why, what, and how and building a genuine consensus around it.

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of politics–it can be replaced by selflessness when the greater good of the nation is placed above any one “I”–whether that be a person, party, state, or special interest.

(Source Photo: here)

12 Years A Slave, But Not Anybody’s Property

12 Years A Slave, But Not Anybody's Property

I saw the movie “12 Years A Slave.”

I have seen other movies on slavery, such as Amistad and Glory, but none were as potent and realistic as this was.

I came out with my head full of feelings of pain and injustice, as if I had just lived through those 12 years as a slave myself.

I literally felt sick to my stomach and the room felt as if it was spinning and I could hardly breathe.

My wife said to me, “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel bad.”

And I responded to her, “I feel bad that they (the slave owners and traders) weren’t human.”

I cannot tell the story of Solomon Northup or of the horrors of slavery any better than the movie in fact did.

But what I can convey is my shear disgust for how anybody could enslave and mistreat others the way the Black people and others throughout history were.

As a Jewish person, my own people have a history of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and this took on a whole new meaning.

As great actors as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner were, The movie, The Ten Commandments, did not show the depths of Hell of slavery as much as the breadth of Heaven of redemption.

And while the Pyramids of Egypt were built not with massively powered Caterpillar earth movers and construction equipment, but with the flesh and blood of my people under the whip of servitude 3,500 years ago, similarly the Capitol of the United States and The White House were built with Black people in chains and hung by the noose.

In the movie today, the plantation owners said they could do what they wanted to the slaves and without fear of retribution or sin, because the slaves were their property.

What is unbelievable is that anyone can believe that anybody can be the property of anyone other than G-d, the Master of the Universe, him/herself.

The slave trader in the movie, tearing apart a family and selling the mother and her children separately, when questioned on his ability to commit such atrocity, says matter-of-factly,”my sentimentality extends the length of a coin.”

For a buck, what will a person not do?

In history, we have seen individuals and whole societies cheat, steal, rape, enslave, torture, murder, and commit every treachery and treason…for a buck or even just because they could.

What is the lesson for all of us?

People can do great good in this world, but unfettered by faith, conscience, reason, or fear of justice, they can do great, great evil–and for that we can never let our guard down.

Under “The Thicker Skin”

Thicker_skin

Yesterday, I heard Pastor Robert Jeffress of a mega church in Dallas get on national television and tell Christians not to vote for a presidential candidate–Mitt Romney–because he’s a Mormon and went on to describe Mormonism as a cult.

What was so shocking was that there was no basis for the decision to vote or not to vote for someone based on political issues driving the discussion, it was purely one of religious intolerance.
I imagined how candidate Mitt Romney (and the Mormon establishment) must feel like to be subjected to a form of discrimination and stereotypical name calling just because of their religious faith.
Unfortunately, religious and other forms of bigotry and hatred are not new, but they are invective and undermining.
I personally remember a situation at a organization, where I was treated religiously unfairly.
There was a planned offsite meeting at the agency, and the meeting was going to run through lunch, so lunch was being ordered.
Being Jewish, I asked if a salad or tuna sandwich or anything Kosher or vegetarian could be made available so that I could participate. 
I was told by email that if I wanted anything special, I could bring it from home. 
Not a problem–I didn’t want to be a “Jewish problem”–I can certainly bring my own food and I did. 
However, when I got to the meeting and saw the lunch spread, the agency had ordered a special meal for someone else who was vegan–not a religious preference, just a dietary one.
Try imagining just for a second how it felt to be told that you could not be accommodated for anything kosher, but someone else would be “just because.” 
I brought this to the attention of the “powers that be,” but was told that I should go “develop a thicker skin.”
Well if the thicker skin means to become part of a group that practices intolerance and bigotry, it’s time to peel away that callous!
How people vote and how we treat our fellow man should not depend on their religion, where they come from, or the color of the skin.  
In a year, when the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. was unveiled on the National Mall, the dream for tolerance and freedom still has considerable room to blossom.
Hopefully, society wil continue to develop not a thicker skin, but a gentler kinder heart that embraces each, for what they can bring to the table. 
(Source Photo: here)