Monday, January 31, 2011

Francesca Schiavone Electrifies the Tennis World Twice at the Australian Open: Great Commentary from ESPN Broadcasters

Francesca Schiavone at the Brisbane International, in 2009

To be a witness to two women's matches for the ages, orchestrated by one peak performance player in successive rounds is indeed a rarity.

And that's exactly what I was privileged to see--brought to us 'live' on ESPN TV.

The performer was Francesca Schaivone who it seems has flashed across the skies like a comet that debuts once in a century.

This small Italian powerhouse electrified the tennis world by winning the 2010 French Open at 30 years of age. (Really, who had heard of her before this sensation?)

So high was her level of play, so full -throttle her gutsy shotmaking that she captured not only my attention, but pumped up my adrenaline level as well. She nearly knocked off the number one player in the world -- not even 2 days after playing a fatiguing 4 hour and 44 minute match in which she bested her opponent Svetlana Kutznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14.

I watched tennis history being made in a brilliant three-set round of 16 match between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kutznetsova. The Italian player successfully fought off 6 match points to outplay her opponent. Along the way to the 16-14 win, both players called on their trainers--simultaneously-- to help overcome severe cramps and fatigue; they then played at an even higher level of tennis.

The nearly 5 hour match was the longest in the open era.

Two early AMs later (early evening in Melbourne), Schiavone raised her game to a higher level playing against the much more rested, 20 year old number one seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Here is the poignant pivotal commentary by the ESPN tennis team:The score is 3-6, 6-3, 5-2 and Wozniacki serving at 40-15, with a double match point. Schiavone saves the first match point.

Dick Enberg: She truly honors the game.

Schiavone then saves the second match point with a crisp passing shot.

Mary Joe Fernandez: Outstanding

Dick (TV camera panning to Wozniacki's dad): Father Peter (is wondering) 'where in the world that Italian is finding these shots?'

Mary Joe: You have to give her an ovation because of the desire, the will that's carrying her through.

Pam Shriver: She has fought off 8 match points [in two consecutive matches].

The game in now tied at deuce. Wozniacki wins the next point to take an advantage for a third shot at the match.

In the next point Schiavone drop shots her opponent to save match point number 3.

Mary Joe: Got it!

Schiavone then wins the next two points to break serve and tightens the score to 5-3. The crowd breaks the hushed silence with a standing ovation.

Mary Joe: I'm standing....that's worth a standing ovation...that game.
....................I mean unbelievable!
....................God loves you Francesca Schiavone.

The ESPN team says it all so well and Francesca gave it all....Two matches and stars to remember for all times
Image source (1)

Coming Home to Katrina: Celebrating the Festival of Hannukah at Spanish Plaza, New Orleans: Part IV

Kindling the Festival Lights of Hannukah in the Wake of Katrina,
Spanish Plaza, New Orleans, Lousiana, December 2005
Photographer, RJ Schwartz, Stamford, CT

After returning from Biloxi, Mississippi, I took a tour of the Lakeview District of New Orleans and witnessed more heartbreaking scenes that reminded me of a wasteland. Traffic lights were not functioning, strip mall shopping centers were boarded up, homes were abandoned with water line marks clearly visible. Signs were posted by the Army Corps of Engineers on condemned property.

Congregation Beth Israel, established in 1903 and once the largest Synagogue in the south and located not far from Lake Ponchartrain presented a frightful sight. 7 Torah scrolls were destroyed by the rising waters of the hurricane as were over 3000 prayer books. The doors to the sanctuary were surprisingly unlocked and I tip-toed in. Though the stain glass windows were intact, the floors were water stained, the pews removed and the holy ark de-sanctified.
Congregation Beth Sholom in the Lakeview District
of New Orleans, December 2005, Photo by RJ Schwartz

One morning, Rabbi Rivkin, the spiritual leader of the Chabad House in New Orleans appeared on a local morning TV show and announced his support of an outdoor community Hannukah lighting event in Spanish Plaza.

LJ Goldstein and I volunteered to remove all the accumulated wax on the huge Menorah that is pictured above. We spent the better part a day with a power sander removing hardened wax from last year's lighting.

Dancing to live klezmer music at Spanish
Plaza, New Orleans, December 2005

That night, LJ and I danced along with hundreds of participants, ate middle eastern foods and were entertained by local klezmer musicians. It was great being part of an enlightening event which uplifted the spirits of all who attended.

In early 2006, the Rabbi's wife sent a kind letter thanking me--meaning primarily my high school students mentioned earlier--for a generous donation to Chabad for the repurchase of valuable school supplies, hebrew books, machbereses (writing books), writing and drawing utensils, paper, etc--all of which had been lost to Katrina.

Part I of this 8th transformative event begins here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Drawn to help the victims of Katrina; Part III, Metarie, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi

Rededication of Torah Scrolls at Congregation
Shir Chadash, Metarie, Louisiana, December 2005

At last my Christmas vacation was rapidly approaching and I booked reservations aboard Delta from LaGuardia airport. I had a full 10 days and planned to spend my entire vacation there.

Delta Airlines, I discovered was offering special inexpensive fares to those who would book their tickets in advance by visiting a ticket agent at LaGuardia. Was I ever impressed that a major US Airline was actually doing a small act of kindness to encourage similar acts of kindness for those who had a burning desire to help Katrina's victims.

Here are some of the highlights of my two trips to New Orleans.

I visited five Synagogues (prayed at three) in both New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi to lend support to those members who had chosen to remain and rebuild after the storm's devastation.

I hooked up with L J Goldstein a New Orleans lawyer and photographer and the two of us particpated in the rededication of Congregation Shir Chadash in Metarie. The president told how much he appreciated my coming down and participating in the relocation of the Torah scrolls to the ark.

The Torah scrolls, which had been in storage for 3 months were once again placed in the ark; then the Hannukah candles, which commemorate the rededication of the Temple in the Hasmonian times, were lit.

The Congregation lost nearly one-third of its members just after Katrina struck and slowly these members were filtering back from Memphis, Atlanta, Houston and other locales. LJ and I were treated to an elaborate Kosher Chinese buffet dinner. (slide show of this event is forthcoming).

An off-shore casino boat was washed ashore
at Biloxi, Mississippi, photographer RJ Schwartz

A trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, a two hour drive from New Orleans, showed the devastating effects of Katrina upon this gulf community. A large casino ship in the harbor was destroyed and brought ashore. There were bare remains of waterfront estates. It was like bombs had dropped from the sky leaving only bare foundations of homes. Acres and acres of concrete steles (pillars) were like gravestones in a huge cemetary.

Seagulls usually in abundance, were not to be seen. (I took a photo of a solitary bird flying the coastline)

Destroyed Mansions along Beach Boulevard. in Biloxi, Mississippi
The area resembles a mutilated graveyard, December 2005,
photographer RJ Schwartz

There were no streetlights, no restaurants, no grocery stores, no gas pumps. Biloxi was a deserted town. The Synagogue, needless to say was shuttered; people were still in shock.

To be continued.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drawn to Help Katrina's Victims: Part II of the Eighth Transformative Event of the Decade

New Orleans Scene of Devastation in the 9th Ward
Photo Credits, RJ Schwartz, Late December 2005

As soon as Katrina images flooded the media at the end of August in 2005, I knew that I had to be in New Orleans to personally give support to those souls who had weathered the storm.

I was teaching full time the earliest I could fly down would be late December during the holiday break.

Meanwhile, my thoughts were daily reaching out to those who I felt needed comfort and help. I had seen images on TV of the 9th ward, where the water levels had reached record heights after the levees had broke. I saw images of the elderly, lacking the means and the will to flee, who had to be rescued by motorized boats from their homes.

Looters were carting off TV sets, appliances and anything moveable from the shops in the French Quarter and the rest of the downtown. I had read stories of brave IDF soldiers who tried valiantly to rescue seven Torah scrolls from a flooded ark in a Synagogue in the Lakeview district.

FEMA was bringing in trailers to house the homeless which proved inadequate.

Tens of thousands of residents had fled the city for places north to be with relatives. Houston reached out to provide food and shelter to those in need

Meanwhile, I galvanized my Biology students into donating money to a fund which I planned to distribute to those in need.

To be continued.

Coming soon slide show of my trips to New Orleans and Biloxi.

Six and a half transformative events in the first decade of the 21st Century

Here's a summary of my first six and a half (for the 'half', see Katrina Part I, below) blogs on major transformative events that have and continue to have strong influcences not only on me-but by inference also on my (our) family, community, Congregation, State, Nation and the World.

My decade began with the destruction of the world trade center towers.

I had personally witnessed the horror, the pain and loss that this devastation brought to two families living adjacent to each other. By extension, thousands and tens of thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries likewise suffered loss of dear ones.

I made a flight to the Holy Land where I discovered the extreme economic downturn to the small state of Israel in the loss of tourist dollars. I personally witnessed the hatred of America and her ally Israel in a walking tour of a Palestinian neighborhood where I had been 'attacked' by a young group of ragamuffins shouting "Ugly, f___ing American, Go home American"

I had toured the Cholon municipality near Tel Aviv to witness the small impact of my grandfather's building mission on the reclamation of acres and acres of sand.

My Hebraic roots were rediscovered on the journey: I re- celebrated my Bar Mitzvah and had the privilege of teaching ethics, culture, trope and cantillations to pre-teens students.

An exciting and rewarding year of my life involved teaching journalism skills to inner-city students at Jamaica High School to republish the Hilltopper, once the best High School newspaper in the nation; here as well, I had the privilege of teaching ESL to most appreciative students-- newly-admitted proud young citizens to a country that built its success as a result of welcoming tens of millions of immigrants to its shores for the last 400 years.

Next, I successfully dealt with my fourth divorce: my adopted 12 year old daughter, rescued from the abuse of an orphanage, had been given a new lease on life; I exited the marriage on good terms with both my 'daughter' as well as her mom. The secrets of maintaining lasting harmony with exes will be explored.

Next, dear reader, join me on my continuing odyssey where I will show you how Katrina (see Part I) gave me the opportunity to perform small acts of kindness that can-- individually and collectively--help transform our ailing nation--ailing economically as well as spiritually.

To begin with the first transformative event click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hurricane Katrina Presents me with an Opportunity to Perform Small Acts of Kindness: Part I

President Bush aboard Air Force I Surveying
the Damage Caused by Hurricane Katrina

Katrina began as a category I storm as it hit Southern Florida with winds clocked at about 75-95 miles per hour. She left as many as nine people dead according to the BBC.

Instead of moving west towards the Florida panhandle, she turned southwest to hug the Florida coast. From there she changed direction and headed northwest toward the Louisiana Mississippi coast and by the time she struck the Louisiana coastline she had been upgraded to a category 4 storm with winds reaching 131-155 miles per hour.

Mayor Ray Nagin's repeated SOS's calls to the White House were at first ignored. The President had been informed by the National Weather Service that the levees protecting New Orleans were being breached.

The Superdome had been opened to accommodate over 30,000 residents. Food, water and optimal sanitary conditions were soon exhausted with people urinating and defecating whenever and wherever they could. There were reports of rapes.

The President's first glimpse of the horrific natural disaster took place from Air Force I, on Wednesday August 31st--nearly 4 days after the disaster struck. (see photo above)

The media flooded us with images of devastation and the horrors of a city of anomy amidst a sea of chaos.

To be continued

For the first seven (of eleven) transformative events of the last decade begin here

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Grey Lady Lets Her Hair Down with Berlusconi Story

The front page of the New York Times
from July 29, 1914

For perhaps the first time in her 160 publishing history, The New York Times has let her aging grey hair down.

The front page of the Week in Review Section this Sunday looks like it could be a page out of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.

The occasion is the hot story that is going global about Italy's media magnate and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's alleged affair with an 18 year-old night club dancer that began when she was 16.

Innuendos abound, rumors swirl around with the lady in question throwing a screen about her age, her remunerations, her purported domestic abuses at an early age.

The truth is buried somewhere and, perhaps, will emerge in time.

The real news here is the large tabloid type, a sensual photo of the lady in question- eclipsing part of the title page line- and her remarks that she "Invented a Parallel Life" as well as the word SURREAL in extra large type.

The new deliberately shocking format is certainly an eye-catcher on the Times part and is perhaps 'signs of the times' ; Rupert Murdoch, the king of media, is beefing up his weekend edition of his Wall Street Journal in an effort to steal market share in a media war that is sure to further heat up.

Stay tuned....Meanwhile hats off to the NYT.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Milestone Number 7: on the Road to 11 Transformative Events of the Decade That Was

Rediscovery of my Hebraic roots and becoming a Bar Mitzvah in 2003

After decades of non-observance of the dietary laws, the Sabbath, daily prayer and submersing myself in various cultures and subcultures in California and Mexico, I initially began to rediscover my roots in bucolic Eugene, Oregon.

Two of us -- Alan and myself --were the sole male members of a dynamic Temple that had nearly 50 single ladies of the opposite sex.

The experience was at once overwhelming and galvanizing serving to reconnect me to my ethnic roots.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, I became valued, not because of my academic accomplishments or my net worth-- but because of my accidental birth into a people with a long history of travails and many accomplishments over the millenia. In short, we all shared a common journey.

And, I reasoned that if my status of being a member of the Jewish nation was so highly prized, then perhaps there was a significance to to my religion.!?!

Yes, my life had enhanced meaning and my religion, my background, my lineage (40 generations of Rabbis on the maternal side) and early religious training were significant in ways I had never imagined.

It was here that I rediscovered my roots and married wife number 3 who I brought back to Northern California to start a new life. (in the Carmichael/Fair Oaks area northeast of Sacramento).

And it was here in Northern California that I was blessed with the birth of my daughter and the opportunity to be one of the founders of a Synagogue in the growing corridor northeast of Sacramento. I was inspired to chant the Haftorah (portion from the Prophets) for the Yom Kipper Service, with my new born daughter quietly listening in the congregation.

So, let's fast forward 20 years. Now a resident of New Jersey and with the 50th Anniversary of my original Bar Mitzvah approaching, I needed somehow to celebrate my reconnection to my roots.

So, I marked this significant milestone by becoming a born -again member of the tribe at Congregation Sons of Israel in Leonia, New Jersey.

I spent a number of months to prepare myself to read from the Torah scroll (in front of my invitees) the entire double portion of my parsha (Biblical chapters) with the trope that I had learned, forgotten and relearned--all 150 sentences.

What a glorious experience it was and especially moving sharing the experience with Mt. Vernon friends who attended my first Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Emmanuel on Prospect Avenue.

This reconnection had strong unexpected repercussions. Shortly thereafter, I became an instructor of Jewish Ethics and Prayer to Bar and Bat Mitzvah age students at Temple Sinai in Tenafly, NJ; then at Temple Emmanu-el in Kloster, New Jersey, I had the privilege of teaching trope and cantillations to another set of students.

Then unexpectedly, a family from Teaneck, New Jersey sought me out to teach trope to their son--so he could read a significant portion of his Torah Parsha on his Bar Mitvah day in their temple. (It's unusual to find a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student reading more than 3 or 4 sentences from the Torah in Reform Shuls--and here was a young man proud to memorize and read 40 sentences....)

Hallelujah from a born-again Levite.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transformative Event Number 6: Mastering the Art of Divorce

Mastering the Art of the Divorce: Doing it Right--Creating a Win-Win situation for all.

Realizing that my fourth marriage was on the rocks and draining me of precious energy, I moved out of state and left my ex on sound footing. During the course of our relationship of 10 years, I realized that the reason for our union was so that we could adopt a 12 year old daughter from China.

.....After a year of dealing with her severe anger management issues, with Pam residing in a rehab center, my moving out temporarily, Pam re-adopted by a loving family who had 7 other adoptees (including one Mandarin speaking child of similar age), my then taking more permanent digs across the Hudson and East Rivers, my moving back for an attempted reconciliation, my ex sustaining a hip fracture, her getting permanent disability insurance as well as a hefty state retirement pension.....I moved far enough away to make it clear that the romance was over.

Soon, I learned that Sam had turned 18 and chose to live with her first adoptive mom, who now provided her with her own wheels and a college education. Sam does call me from time to time to tell me how her life is progressing.

I am happy to have given her a new life here in America after a most unhappy one at the orphanage in China.

Forthcoming is a self-published guide on how to preserve friendly relations with exes after the divorce and start your new life on the path to happiness (for all) and success.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Transformative Event Number 5: Payback Time to the Students at Jamaica High School in Queens, New York

It was an amazing year of payback to inner city kids at Jamaica High School in Queens, NY.

(Please read a previous blog on my teaching experience at JHS by clicking on the link in the preceding line.)

What follows is a shortened version of the earlier blog.

Jamaica's Hilltopper student newspaper was once recognized as the finest student newspaper in the nation judging by the number of Columbia University Scholastic Press Association Awards the paper received year in and year out.

The paper had not won an award since the early 90's and had not been published for several years though numerous attempts were made.

Working with a group of inner-city kids, mostly Hispanic, I served as faculty journalism advisor and inspired a group of 30 dedicated rough- at -the edge writers to bring two issues to press. (The lead article in one issue was on the rapper 50-Cents who grew up within blocks of the High School.)

Concurrently, I had the pleasure of teaching two classes of ESL, and two English classes. I loved teaching and my students were most appreciative. I particularly enjoyed teaching Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet George Orwell's 1984.

The Fourth Transformative Event of the Decade (on the Way to Eleven): A Rude Awakening in a Palestinian Neighborhood

A Rude Awakening: The Ugly American

East Jerusalem neighborhood 
Courtesy of
While in Jerusalem I embark on a solo walking tour in a Palestinian neighborhood adjacent to the Temple Mount.

The area is craggy, steep in parts, sparsely settled with no visible residents and few autos. A solitary Mercedes taxi passes me.

I am a little nervous and pick up my pace.

Suddenly, a group of five Arab ragamuffins aged 5-7 years old come running out of a recreation center and follow me for a short distance chanting in unison in a broken English" Ugly, f_ _ _ ing American, f_ _ _ing American, go home American" --each one slapping me lightly on my rear end.

And just as suddenly as they appeared, they run back up to their basketball court...

I pick up my pace and it seems that a half hour passes- before I arrive at Independence Park in the vicinity of the City of David unmolested with just one more Mercedes overtaking my rapid pace.

The last time I experienced being in the class of the ugly American abroad was in the early 1960's when Parisians and other Europeans cast aspersions at and caricatured the rich American abroad, tourist or government functionary--unable or unwilling to converse with natives in French, German or Spanish, but who carried a wad of cash to bring back perfumes, jewelry, cameras and other goodies---always oblivious and insensitive to local mores.

Of course in those days, we college students abroad were easily able to follow the guidelines laid down in our new Baedecker, Art Frommer's Europe on Five Dollars a Day.

For an earlier blog on my visit behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin's Pergamon Museum back in 1962 (more on this Ugly American) check out Breaks in the Berlin Wall: Behind the Iron Curtain 1962-1965.

For earlier events in this series, visit my blog Tell It Like It Is.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eleven Transformative Events of the Decade: The Third Event --A Trip to the Holy Land

The Third Event

Five weeks later (after 9/11) I am aboard an El-AL flight to Tel Aviv.

One of the passengers asks me why an American would want to fly to the Holy Land in the wake of 9/11. (Remember that the aviation and tourist industry were both hit hard with families afraid to fly anywhere and stock prices of major airlines plummeted to all time lows..)

I am flabbergasted by this query as I explain to him I am showing my spiritual and financial support to a country always 'under' verbal if not actual military attack.

On board, I meet a young transplanted East Coast Rabbi who gives me a mystical book on leadership and invites me to spend Sabbath with him in Hebron. The book is entitled Awakening the Spark Within--Five Dynamics of Leadership That Can Change the World.

The book is a manual that anyone can follow to become a leader in his or her own social milieu and simultaneously contribute to finding those outstanding spiritual and political leaders that can effectively lead us out of the moral, economic, social and political and ethnic crises that infect society collectively: nationally and globally.

I attend and participate in morning services (Shacharit) at the Sephardic synagogue on R'chov Hess where the highlight of the service occurs at the conclusion: the entire congregation chants all the Psalms of David in an intense heartfelt sing-song prayer. This ritual is repeated every morning

On the sad side, I visit the tourist shops in Jerusalem near the City of David; I discover myself to be literally the only tourist they have seen in weeks. Eerie feeling.

On the positive side, I pay a visit to the grave site of my maternal grandfather, Rabbi Moses Kalonymous Skinder who emigrated to Palestine in the summer of 1947. He was to fulfill his mission of building low cost housing in Cholon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, that consisted mostly of sand dunes.
Rabbi Moses Kalonymous Skinder

There were so many displaced Jewish construction workers who had been living in European DP camps in the wake of World War II  and were now emigrating to Palestine; they needed housing--immediate housing so they could begin working to build up the soon to be created State of Israel.

So first grandfather retired from his 25-year  leadership role as pulpit Rabbi at the Soho based Pike Street Synagogue in New York (also called the Sons of Israel Kalwarie). He then formed a corporation and began selling shares to family and friends in order to finance the construction.

Cholon, Israel. A community built on and surrounded by sand
Courtesy of

A visit to the Municipal Offices of the town yields me the original plans for his community. This was at a time that the village consisted of sand dunes and a few thousand residents. ( Indeed the name Cholon is derived from the Hebrew word for sand).

Today, this suburb of Tel Aviv has well over 184, 000 residents.

However, my Holy Land experience would soon take a more serious turn to be narrated in the next segment.

Event Number 4 to follow shortly.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Where were you at 1:11 AM on Tuesday 1/1/11: Part 2

Head Coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks

In Part I of this blog, I recorded the statements of winning coach Gene Cizik of the Auburn Tigers.

This interview was followed by the sentiments of coach Chip Kelly of the losing Oregon Ducks. Here they are:

"I'm just really proud of my players.

I love these guys. They've competed. They've done everything we've ever asked them to do.

It is a special group of young men. I said in my first game when I was the head coach, one game doesn't define you as a person or as football player. And the same thing still holds true. There guys are champions. I love them.

We will be back."

The blogger is indebted for the fine team at ESPN for the Chizik interview and Erick Smith of USA Today for Kelly's words and Mike Belotti and the Daily Stab for the photo of Chip Kelly.

What were You doing on Tuesday January 11, 2011 at 1:11 AM: Part One

Gene Chizik, Head Coach of the Auburn Tigers
Picture Courtesy of the Daily Stab

I know what I was doing-and not dreaming-but, what were You up to?

And anyway who cares?

It's not as if the time was as significant as 9/11/01 at 8:51 AM?

Or, perhaps these numbers have some, albeit a minor, importance for the direction of our individual lives.

So here goes!

The big BCS championship game between Auburn and Oregon was played earlier. Unfortunately, I crashed early that evening and awoke too late to catch the actual game.

Instead, I woke up to watch the post-game entertainment and had the privilege of hearing both coaches being interviewed.

Yes, listen to (and watch, if possible) these two coaches Gene Chizik of Auburn and Chip Kelly of Oregon in their own words--and perhaps, you, too, will pick up just how humble--extremely humble--relaxed and appreciative these guys are.

Here's Gene first:

"You know winning a national championship for the Auburn family [Family-all In is the school motto) is really, if I probably tried to describe it--I would cheapen it a lot....It really hasn't set in like it will hopefully as we move forward.

...To sit at a table with a bunch of young guys [all interviewed by the press] that week in and week out did every single thing we asked them to do, every week...things that defied all odds that people told them they couldn't do.

That's the satisfaction of the moment I have right now.

Just being the leader of great men is overwhelming for me."

By the way, Auburn defeated Oregon 22-19 by scoring on a field goal as time was running out! This is Auburn's first national title since 1957.

Read my next blog for Part two of my 1:11 AM blog on Oregon coach Kelly's reaction to losing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

President Remembers those who lives were sacrificed in the recent Tucson Tragedy

The President said the following words last night in his speech at Arizona State University :

"We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot[Morris; Dot lost her life and George is in stable condition], in Dorwan and Dot [Stoddard; Dorwan perished saving his wife's life by diving on top of her], we sense the abiding love we have for own husbands, our own wives, or own life partners."

He continued: "Phyllis [Schneck]--she's our mom or grandma; Gabe [Zimmerman] our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recogniz e not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America's fidelity to the law.

In Gabby [Giffords--who opened her eyes when visited by the President bedside]--we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union."

Lastly, he remembered nine-year old Christina Taylor Green [to be buried in a red oak casket carved by Iowan Trappist Monks]: "And in Christina Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love."

Thank you for showing up, Mr. President, and showering your love, your kind words of consolation for the benefit of all 300 million of us Americans still in a state of shock.....

The President Lauds the Unsung Heroes in Tucson Tragedy

Patricia Maisch Talking to the Media in Tuscon. Photo
Courtesy of the AP

It was only fitting for the president to remember those heroes who prevented what could have been further bloodshed last Saturday at the tragedy in front of the Tucson Safeway store.

Here are his words:

"And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby's office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive."

"We are grateful for the men who tackled who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload."

"We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer's ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives."

"And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt."

"These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned as it was on Saturday morning.."

Thank you, Mr. President for your inspirational words in these dark days where so many of us are in shock!

The President Urges Us to Tone Down the Politically Divisive Rhetoric

President Obama came to Tucson to remember those who perished last Saturday and pray for those who survived. He impassioned us in resounding tones:

"But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do--it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

And then he asked us to " align our values with our actions-that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. for those who were harmed, those who were killed--they are part of our family an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them."

Thank you for showing up Mr. President and first lady and for your rousing and sympathetic words.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eleven Memorable and Transformative Events for the Decade that was: The First Two Events Begin with the Loss of Life at the Twin Towers

Wow... We are here at the threshold of a new decade, but, in retrospect--what a powerful learning decade the prior one has been-- counting up from 2001 to 2010!

We all have our self-revelatory, one might say poignant moments, that haunt us, that cause us to meditate on their meaning, often profound meaning that has shaped and continues to shape the choices and directions of our life.

These are moments that we instinctively feel and then perhaps know are transformative in some way. Here are some of mine:

1. 9/11 occurred as I was driving up to Suffern, NY along the Palisades Parkway. My radio station was tuned to WINS 1010 when the news was suddenly interrupted with a flash report that the first of two Twin Towers was on fire with uncorroborated reports of a plane collision.

I pulled over to a rest stop along the Hudson River to to see smoke emanating from lower NY.

Little did I know how this seminal event would change the course of my life.

2. Two days later, I was calling on prospective customers (cold calling) for an east coast private gourmet food service company in upscale Tenafly, New Jersey. I was thrown into a state of shock. Each of two teenagers --in adjacent homes-- answered the doorbell only to tell me the breadwinner in each had not been home in 2 days (whereabouts unknown somewhere in lower Manhattan).

I walked back to my vehicle entered the cab and began to cry. I could not work for the next 3 days--so strong were my emotions.

So, the first event was watching the tragedy from afar-- as if I was using binoculars to peer down the Hudson River. ("Something is happening but you don't know what you Mister Jones?" Bob Dylan: The Ballad of a Thin Man)

The second event made me a close-up-- and thus a personal-- eyewitness to the dire, baleful effects of these dastardly acts of terrorism upon the young innocent lives of the those who unwittingly became victims themselves through their loss of their dear ones.

More to follow..... So continue to tune in. The saga only gets more interesting

I had personally witnessed the dire effects of this criminal dastardly act of terrorism....

More to follow