Archive for May, 2013

memorial day


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Growing up I was not glued to my television when the five o’clock news came on. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was happening in the world. I was, but the difference was I was wearing the filter of a normal nine or ten year-old. I can recall a few times when the news of the world did overwhelm me, making me feel a little powerless and vulnerable (the nuclear tension between the US and the then USSR made real by the frequent bombing drills we had when I was in elementary school is but one example).

However, there was a difference between the then of then and the now of now. The speed at which we heard and eventually saw what had happened in the world was limited to a certain degree. Walter Cronkite might have interrupted a regular broadcast with a bulletin, but the information was vague and the world would have to….wait….for the details.

My generation was probably the first broadcast technology generation. My parents generation didn’t have the radio until later in life, so they had to rely on newspapers. Even then, what might have happened in the world on Monday didn’t hit them until Wednesday or Thursday. In my grandparent’s time, news was even slower in coming, and what might have happened in a small town in the mid-west might never have impacted them in any way.

Gong backwards in time, each successive generation was less impacted by world news than the generation that followed. Since there were no televisions, radios or even newspapers in Oz, Dorothy only knew what was happening in her immediate world.

I guess we can blame Johann Gutenberg because he started the information revolution ball rolling with his printing press. On the one hand he can be credited with making the world a much better place because instead of information being the domain of a small group of people, knowledge and the tools to learn were open to anyone who was so inclined to learn how to read.

But today, with the Internet and social media, we in New York learn what happened 7,000 miles away in some forgotten part of the world before it even happens! We get our news from tweets, instgram, email, texts, etc. as the events are unfolding. And not only do we hear what  is happening…we see it as it’s happening.

Since tragic news has more sizzle, our senses are flooded with dozens of bad news stories every day.  And just when we are over the shocking news about a devastating tornado  in Oklahoma, we see someone ranting in London after killing someone in broad daylight and then we hear about how government officials have targeted ‘unpopular’ political groups…and, on and on.

I think it is all TOO much. I don’t believe the human brain was meant to receive so much news (unfiltered, by the way) all the time and so quickly.  Not that we shouldn’t know what’s happening, but I sometimes think we are “news bingers.” And I think our news eyes are too big for our news stomachs.

The end result, on one hand, is that we are connected to other people around the world and can share in their hardships…and as a result can donate money to help, but on the other hand, our emotions are challenged to the breaking point…and because we are human, we somehow feel responsible for what happened and we then beat our selves up because we didn’t do anything to prevent the tragedy or be there on the scene to help.

We need to stay connected to our brothers and sisters around the world, but, to use a cliche, we need to take time to smell the roses.

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YBR followers. I ask you to take a slight detour and visit my other blog for a post:

Caution: The road not taken might be closed…forever..

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My qualifications to write a blog about motherhood are about the same as the ones I have to write about financial success and thermodynamics, however, I was a son who had two mothers (and two fathers to balance the equation), so that gives me a token right to comment on motherhood.

However, I would have to be the first to admit that what I learned about being a mother actually didn’t come from either my birth mother or my adoptive mother. What I did learn about motherhood came from five other sources…five other people: my sister, my wife, my daughter and my two daughters-in-law.

My sister, Patti, allowed me to be a hands-on-uncle, with her children before I got married. I quickly learned how hard it is to be a mother and how many different skills it takes to be a mother.

I took what I learned about motherhood with me when I married, Patty…and was not surprised to learn that she was a natural, born to be a mother. Watching her do what came natural to her with our four children, Jennifer, Jeremy, Nicholas and Kieran I was continually amazed. Her patience, guidance, selflessness…and above all, love when our kids were infants turned into toddlers, into students, young adults…and then into parents was never ending.

Today she has resurrected all those qualities of motherhood as she plays a role in the lives of her grandchildren.

Today I am able to see the next generation of mothers in my daughter, Jennifer, who does an amazing job with Jillian, Brielle and Addyson; in my daughter-in-law, Sarah who is a wonderful mother to Andrew and Emily; in my daughter-in-law, Courtney, who is honing her motherhood skills on Landon.

As I said earlier, I have no qualifications to say anything definitive about motherhood, but I do have the right to salute Patti Van Damme, Patty Begley, Jennifer Devine, Sarah Begley and Courtney Begley.

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wizard commencement

Keeping the YBR Commencement address tradition alive, here is the 2013 address delivered by the Wizard of Oz:

Tom Hanks was busy on Broadway, Meryl Streep is off in Mozambique filming a movie, One Direction was going in a different direction and Lindsay Lohan just checked into the Emerald Rehab Center, so at the last minute I, the president of Emerald City University, will be your honored 2013 commencement speaker, at a bargain price of only $25,000.

While I have been unmasked, or in my case “uncurtained” as a humbug, let me tell you that everything I say today will be the unvarnished truth…or close to it, perhaps. Maybe.

With tuition, room and board, unnecessary fees, books, and supplies, you, members of the Class of 2013, have paid roughly $200,000 for your education.  Many of you will leave here in debt and without the prospect of a decent paying job. Hell, most of you won’t even be able to get a job at Five Munchkins, the hamburger joint I just opened in Oz.

But don’t let that get you down, because while you can put a price tag on a degree, you really can’t put a price tag on learning. If you came here simply to “earn” a degree, you not only wasted your time, you threw away $200,000, because you could have gone online and bought an Emerald City Degree for $10.95 plus shipping and handling.

A degree, my friends, is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Learning, as the makers of Master Card say, is priceless. Trust me when I say that. Those of you who spent four years here in the hallowed halls of academia were presented with an opportunity that usually only comes once in a lifetime. Some students think of college as a big Quicky Mart where they filled up on high-priced junk food. Others approached their stay at college from the perspective of a shopper at a ShopRite or a Publics where they had aisles and aisles of items to choose from to prepare their academic meal. Others still, opted to have an organic college experience. Instead of loading up their shopping cart with packaged foods, they shopped around and went to a fruit and vegetable stand for fresh produce; they went to a farmer for range-free eggs, and meats from animals that were not fed hormones; and instead of buying baked goods off the shelf, they bought fresh ingredients and baked their own bread.

Students like that “learned.” Students like that took the time to become educated. Instead of fretting over a grade, they explored the material to see what gems they could add to their lives. Instead of only taking safe courses, they expanded their minds by taking courses that challenged them to think.

And that, young graduates, is the purpose of a college education. To think. And not only to think, but to take action, to be involved in the world.

Think how many spring break trips you could have taken for $200,000. Think about the buzz and all the cavorting you could have done in Cancun, the Virgin Islands (are there still any virgin islands left in the world?), the Riviera, New Orleans, etc., etc.

But think about how far you could have traveled here in Emerald City University if you had used your passport to learning to unlock all the doors of wonder that awaited you.

To quote my dear friend, Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go..”

My hot air balloon awaits me, so let me tell you something about the price of an education. You get out of it what you put into it. You’ll have a number of jobs before you call it quits. And if your education was limited to getting jobs…and that makes you happy, then so be it. But, if your education puts you on your own yellow brick road, then you have invested wisely for you will be prepared for the journey that will last your lifetime.

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”

Do yourself proud. Keep on truckin’

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