Sunday, May 31, 2009


On 26 of May 2009, a day after Memorial Day, Nevada Senator Joe Heck Spoke at a Mt. Rose Republican Womens (MRRW) Meeting at Arrowcreek Country Club in Reno, NV. The Senator announced his bid for the Governor's Office and outlined his platform to 'fix' health care and education in Nevada. 5 minutes into his speech he was blasted by a gentleman later described as an "Ultra Conservative" by some of the MRRW members. The ultra consrvative shouted that "WE don't care about health care...WE don't care about education. What WE care about is paying taxes." The ultra conservative then accused Sen. Heck of sounding too much like Obama. Form my table at the dinner and others who rose to speak after the disruption, the majority seemed to be supportive or at least willing to hear what Sen. Heck's proposal was. Sen Heck continued with his speech and his proposal despite the verbal attack. The following are my comments which I sent to Sen. Heck the day after his speech. His response which was recieved via email was this: "we have a great opportunity to grab the message that continues to propel the [Democrats], and use Republican principles to solve the problems facing so many Nevadans. The reason no [Republican] will tackle it is because they are afraid - it is much easier to campaign on a single issue of no new taxes. It takes a lot of work to educate voters, but I have never shied away from hard work! Thanks again and I hope to see you again we are back up north!" I felt that it took a lot of courage for Sen. Heck to take a stand on issues that are at this time not very popular with the core conservatives within the party, and is reflective of the national witch hunt that is ripping the GOP apart.

Dear Sen. Heck,

I wanted to express my appreciation for your words the other day at the MRRW dinner, I found your words encouraging and insightful. I certainly can not speak for everyone there and I would never presume to do so, but I, for one, am happy to hear a Republican candidate offer a "Alternative Option" to the democratic option to the issues of Health Care and Education in our state. I am under the age of 50 and I still work for a living and I have a 19 and 18 year old getting ready for college, and a 14 year old coming up the pike. They are competing not only with graduates from UNLV or UCLA, but with graduates from London, Beijing and Calcutta. As recently as 2004, Berkeley was No. 1 in the production of all Ph.D.’s, including education, the humanities, and the social sciences. Two Chinese universities have moved ahead of the University of California at Berkeley as the top sources of students who go on to earn doctorates at American institutions. Fully half of the top 20 institutions on the list were foreign: a total of seven Chinese institutions, and one each in India, South Korea, and Taiwan. Tsinghua and Peking Universities, and Seoul National University, in South Korea, also topped the list (in that order) of how many of their bachelor’s-degree holders earned natural-science or engineering Ph.D.’s at American institutions in 2006. In two years time, Cornell University was fourth and Berkeley fell to fifth. This trend speaks to a growing concern among American educators and policy makers that China and other Asian nations are likely to produce large numbers of scientists and engineers who will help them out-compete the United States technologically.

When I was working for Governor Guinn in 2000-2005, he was trying to diversify our business and industrial base by luring IT businesses into our state. The response time and time again, was Nevada did not have an educated workforce that could support such industries. That is why Gov. Guinn created the Millennium Scholarship in the first place, to ensure our future generations had the tools to compete in a global market, and now when we are in the midst of an economic collapse, we are talking about dismantling our educational system. To say that our educational system in not broken, is like traveling down a highway at 60 mph with a flat tire and refusing to pull over to fix it. I, for one, do care about education; and I find it refreshing that a Republican is willing to discuss it and offer a valid option.

Secondly, on the matter of health care. Again, I find it refreshing to hear a Republican brave enough to step forward and offer a viable alternative based on private competition and not monolithic bureaucracies. I am a program coordinator at the Northern Nevada International Center, I coordinate professional exchange program for foreign prosecutors, judges, doctors, public officials and business and cultural leaders from around the world to meet with Nevadan counterparts to discuss and exchanges ideas and solutions to common problems. In the 4 years, I have been in this position, I have completed over 50 such programs working with over 150 international visitors. In the last three years we have completed four such programs involving health care professionals and doctors. Half of our state's population is under-insured or uninsured. Under-insured means that 10% of the household's income is spent on out of pocket medical expenses. You are right, access to health care is not the issue, but for many Nevadans, they have to forgo a needed medical procedure, treatment or medication because it's a choice between paying for that or their power bill or buying food for the month or their child's tuition. In addition, I know that what you are proposing works, and there is a successful working model in place in Reno, and it is not a government monolithic bureaucracy. It is a private entity, surprising called "Access to Health Care." It's Executive Director, Sherri Rice, has met with several of our Russian delegations, and components of her program have already been emulated in Russia where socialized health care has collapsed.

Finally, I wanted to also comment on what you said about expanding the Republican message to attract conservative democrats and independents. I believe you commented that as of last week, the Republican party was in a 100,000 vote deficit. Across the nation, it's the same picture. The Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that only 21% of Americans consider themselves Republicans, while a New York Times poll that came out last month puts the number even lower: 20%. Your opening comments at the dinner reminded me of the words of Sen. Olympia Snowe, who said that "I believe in the traditional tenets of Republican Party: Strong National Defense; Fiscal Responsibility; and Individual Opportunity. I haven't abandoned those principles." The party is shrinking because, from what I feel and what I have observed, we are eating our own. The internal witch hunt going on right now within the party that started with Arlen Specter, threatens the party's long term viability and turn the GOP into America's third party. We are hemorrhaging moderates. This will not be another 1994. The underlying fundamentals today are vastly worse, as we continue to chase out moderates, and powerful leaders like Specter (which gave Obama a fillabuster-proof majority in the Senate), and at the same time the party's coalition is shrinking and we are losing ground with the segments of society that are growing. One in four voters are now racial minorities, and hispanics, the largest block, broke for Obama two to one. 70% of the youth vote went for Obama, and they are swelling by 4.5 million a year. To quote another Republican, Governor Charlie Crist, the GOP has to come up with something new to say other than 'NO.' You have to have a vision for the future and articulate what it is you want to do rather than just knocking the other guy down all the time. As Gov. Huntsman in Utah said we "need to expand our demographic appeal by offering hard hitting, realistic, thoughtful proposals that address the issues that really matter to people, like health care, energy and the economy." When the gentleman stood up and yelled that "WE don't care about health care..." and "WE don't care about education..." I felt like getting up and leaving, but I wanted to hear what you had to say, so I fought the impulse and stayed. I am glad I made that decision. As a disabled veteran wounded in the line of duty, I realize that it is not just bravery under fire or the bravery to make sacrifices, but the bravery to discard the comfort of illusion, to speak plainly rather than just offer comfort, to instruct rather than just reassure, to reveal frustration rather than promise satisfaction. You did exactly that - you spoke plainly about the issues which are frustrating many Nevadans and you offered something other than 'no'; you offered an intelligent, realistic and viable proposal to address health care and education in our state. Thank you, Senator Heck, for your courage to bring these issues to the forefront and taking your time to speak to us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

PROFILE IN COURAGE: UNR STAND: Passing the torch....

The following is a speech I made at the closing meeting of UNR STAND at the Joe Crowley Student Union. It is a student organization at the University of Nevada Reno who works to educate and instruct students and the community on the plight of our fellow men and women in conflict areas through out the world. This was following their first successful fundraiser at the in Carson City. On Saturday, April 25, 2009, UNR STAND held its 1st Annual STAND FOR HUMANITY Benefit Dinner and Art Auction at the Governor's Mansion in Carson City, Nevada. It was a Black Tie Event. The event was held from 6:00pm - 9:00pm. There was about 55 people were in attendance, some traveling all the way from Las Vegas. UNR STAND was able to raise $2,000 for civilian protection initiatives in Darfur, Sudan and eastern Burma. All proceeds from Stand for Humanity will be donated to GI-NET’s Civilian Protection Program, which supports on-the-ground activities that aim to protect civilians at risk of genocidal violence. I wanted to make these comments and address the club's members because of a conversation I had with my parish priest one night over dinner regarding youth in our community and parish.

Voltaire put it simply, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I am a writer by craft, and I have two manuscripts I am working on and one of them is called The Seven Passions of Gabrielle Emelie, and it is modeled after Voltaire’s Candide. When I read about the warrant for Bashir’s arrest, I pondered what Voltaire would have said of such news. I would presume he would say that “All murders are made accountable and therefore punished, except those who kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” We often mistake technological advances for evolution… Voltaire wrote of the Earthquake and Tsunamis that racked Lisbon in 1755:

UNHAPPY mortals! Dark and mourning earth!
Affrighted gathering of human kind!
Eternal lingering of useless pain!
Come, ye philosophers, who cry, "All’s well,"
And contemplate this ruin of a world.
Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,
This child and mother heaped in common wreck,
These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—

When the cyclone hit Burma in May of last year (2008), I wondered, ‘has anything changed?’ Or are we still crying “All’s well,” the tranquil spectators of our brothers’ wreck, unmoved by the repellent dance of death in Rwanda, Darfur, Burma and elsewhere? Would Voltaire say that we are better than what we were? Have we taken care of our garden as Candide called his companions to do at the end of the novel? A friend of mine and I had a rather funny discussion about a mundane thing in church. The act of reaching out and holding hands while you say the Lord’s prayer. Some people have an issue with it, so NOT everyone will hold your hand during the Lord's Prayer or shake your hand when you offer it in peace, and it's damn rare that they will reach across the aisle to the person on the other side. WHEN it does happen, it's always a child pulling the adult across. My friend asked why was I so keen on it and I replied that I am a global person, among other things, the holding hands is big for me as it's a metaphor for the larger problems in our world. Why people in Darfur and Rwanda suffer and die, as we stand idly by and cry "All is well." Why Jews, Christians and Muslims, slaughter each other as they pray to the SAME God, why we don't have national health care, we decry welfare, TANF, Headstart and won't fund education, but we'll bail out GM, Wall Street and the Banks. If good God fearing, Republican voting, Fox news watching, Christians won't hold hands with the same God fearing, Republican voting, Fox news watching Christians in THEIR own Church, maybe that ought to say something about who we are; who we’ve become. Like in Les Miz, "Look down and show some mercy if you can - Look down, look down, upon your fellow man!" Is it really so hard, so difficult to pull your hand out of your pocket and extend it to the person standing next to you. To hold their hand in prayer to OUR God, to help them up off the street, to hand them a meal when they are hungry, to help them put on a jacket when it's cold…to put your hand around them when they need to be comforted. Like Candide said, to care for our own garden. What y’all do here is exactly that – you stretch out your arm and extend a helping hand to someone in need.

Philip Ernest Schoenberg, a Kennedy confidant and family friend, once published 13 key lessons on leadership from John Kennedy’s presidency. Those are: Set High Goals by Sharing a Vision, Be Independent, Set an Example by Becoming a Role Model, Be a Life Long Learner, Doing the Little Things Lead to the Big Things, Be a Great Communicator, Take responsibility, Demand excellence from others, Learn From Failures and Mistakes, Have the Courage of Your convictions by Believing in Yourself, Be a Team Leader, Show Compassion, and Lesson No. 13: Be Lucky. These are lessons and goals that I believe this organization and its members fully embody in not only its rhetoric but in its actions. Y’all don’t just talk the talk; y’all walk the walk. Jack Kennedy’s brother, Bobby, delivered a speech in March of 1968, two months before his own assassination, {Read Excerpt}

I often use another quote from Robert Kennedy who said it is not just bravery under fire or the bravery to make sacrifices, but the bravery to discard the comfort of illusion, to do away with false hopes and alluring promises. It takes courage in a crisis to speak plainly when many seek comfort; Courage to educate and instruct in times of difficulty when others want reassurance; courage to reveal frustration when faced with uncertainty rather than promise satisfaction. I feel sincerely that men and women such as yourselves…Carolina, Jenna and Kaitlyn are such examples of courage in our society. If I did not or have not communicated that effectively to each of you, I'd like to do so now. I remember the first time that I read Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage. Jack Kennedy, who had lived a heroic life, had the right to write a book about other heroes. He wrote about United States Senators who had supported unpopular causes and risked their careers. The other day, Carolina posted an article on Facebook that told the story of five members of Congress and three activists who were arrested on civil disobedience charges in front of the Sudanese Embassy on Monday for protesting "crimes against humanity" in Darfur. The lawmakers -- Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) -- were handcuffed by Secret Service officers after crossing the tape and taken to jail by local police officers. These men and women, as well as all of you here today can be counted among those listed by Kennedy earlier. Yours is also a profile in courage; a reminder to our community, our country and our world what it means to be an American. I remain steadfast in my belief that this is a great nation and a great people. Any who seek to comfort rather than speak plainly, reassure rather than instruct, promise satisfaction rather than reveal frustration; they deny that greatness and drain that strength. Kennedy once said that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans— born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Half a century after they were uttered, those words still ring true. Over the past two decades, that torch has weathered some storms, and in some cases have wavered and dimmed. Yet another generation, your generation, moves it forward, to light the future and to lead the way. During the last election, CS Monitor quoted a young Las Vegas resident who said "It's my future… What I really don't understand is why there aren't more young people here because ... we are the ones who are going to have to live with the problems of the future." The test of this new generation is not about who will take blame for the failures of the past; but who will accept responsibility for our future. That is how, we as a people as a nation… it is the only way we can move forward.