Sunday, April 29, 2012

For the Graduates

We're entering graduation season, be it from high school or college. I found this article, addressed to college graduates, to have more than a bit of truth embedded in it.

Life rarely turns out the way one imagined as a tender-aged graduate on the cusp of adulthood.  It can disappoint, or it can far exceed our expectations. For example, one of my college classmates was a hard-partying frat boy who had long blond hair and a beard and usually wore red, white, and blue sneakers. Twenty years later I saw him in a blue business suit on the cover of CFO magazine. A few years after that, I read about his success story in the annual Forbes list that celebrates the 400 richest Americans. He described a "series of opportunities" in his career in which he always seemed to make the right choice.

Very few of us are ever that fortunate, but life certainly is full of surprises--good and bad. We can make either type of situation work for us. If we don't, well, then Shakespeare said it best. "The fault...lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Congratulations, graduates. Best wishes in making a good life for yourselves.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Back to Basics

Since February, Hillsdale College has been offering a free, 10-lecture online course in the U.S. Constitution. It's an excellent learning experience I recommend to any American who cares about why the Constitution still matters today. There are suggested reading assignments and even a quiz at the conclusion of each lecture. I've watched four of the lectures so far, and I can attest that this is a first class academic offering. Hillsdale is to be commended for extending such a valuable online opportunity to all.

This week the tenth and final lecture will be released, so sign up while registration is still open. You'll get the education that, sadly, most of today's college students don't receive. The course explains the nuts and bolts of our government, as the Founders meant it to function for "the unborn millions," as George Washington referred to future generations. With a crucial election only months away, it's an important time for all concerned citizens to get back to basics.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Unforgettable Ship

It was 100 years ago today that the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic after its hull stuck an iceberg. In honor of the occasion, a cruise ship is commemorating the journey by retracing the route and holding a memorial service.

Now that's staying power. There aren't too many sunken vessels that retain their charisma throughout a century. Consider the RMS Lusitania, which was sunk by a German torpedo in 1915 and lost nearly 1,200 passengers. It doesn't have a half-dozen Hollywood movies about it, plus a best-selling, Oscar-winning theme song.

I doubt many high schoolers today would know about the Lusitania. In fact, a fair amount of adults probably couldn't identify it. What is it that makes the Titanic such a powerful story?

It may be the arrogance of the now-famous assumption that Titanic was unsinkable, as reflected in the various quotations linked here, that keeps the ill-fated ship so famous. Warnings of icebergs in the ship's sea lane were ignored and her speed was increased, despite the fact that Titanic held lifeboats to accommodate only half of the passengers. Titanic Capt. Edward Smith learned the hard way that it's not a good idea to put too much stock in the superiority of modern technology.

Or, perhaps Titanic's enduring appeal is due to the unfortunate string of sad coincidences that thwarted a rescue--the distress rockets that went unacknowledged, the captain and radio operator on the neighboring ship SS Californian who had retired for the night minutes before the disaster, the lifeboats that pushed off only half full of survivors.

Possibly most riveting are the personal stories of valor, cowardice, and survival that lived on after the ship. I think this human, almost personal element of the best and worse behaviors our species has to offer is the reason that Titanic holds such a grip on our imaginations. As long as there are brave people who are willing to give up their own lives to save others, or despicable ones who will stop at nothing to preserve their own skins, it's likely that the unforgettable story of the Titanic will go on...and on.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Hard Day's Work

Talk about a "war on women."

After a firestorm of criticism from both left and right, plus CNN's Wolf Blitzer browbeating a televised apology out of her, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen will think long and hard before she goes after Ann Romney again. Rosen will be especially careful about any potshots regarding Romney's staying at home to raise her five sons.

Here's a link to what Rosen said, and Ann Romney's response. After viewing it,I think there's more to Ann Romney than meets the eye. Watch her calmly address the slam against her. You'll see gracefulness, classiness, and at some points, a quiet, steely-eyed anger. Considering the fact that she's been managing multiple sclerosis and breast cancer along with motherhood, this lady can handle herself and anything thrown at her.

I don't care how much money a woman has--being a mother of five children is a tough job. Money helps with many of life's problems, but it doesn't prevent the "terrible twos," high fevers, sports accidents, teenager angst, or parental worry.

Often it's a personal choice, but sometimes it's practicality that drives women into the work force. Personally, I would have enjoyed staying at home with my children longer than I did; but, I couldn't afford to do it. To women who are able to stay home and devote themselves to being full-time moms, I say congratulations.

Jacqueline Kennedy once said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much." I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

In Your Facebook

Social media, in particular the phenomenon known as Facebook, can be a lot of fun. I’ve caught up with old friends and reconnected with cousins, neices, and nephews. For keeping in touch, it’s a marvelous tool.

That’s about the extent of the positives. The negative list is much longer.

I would guess that more domestic and interpersonal blowups have been caused by misuse of Facebook than by any other technology to date. Some of the cyber-debacles I’ve heard about include pregnancies being announced prematurely by casual acquaintances, information on upcoming company layoffs being leaked by nervous employees, and cheating partners being outed by triumphant exes. Some users find themselves stalked by ghosts of relationships past, and we’ve all heard the news about school kids being bullied online. Combine all the inappropriate postings with the resulting angst, and it appears we’ve got quite a redhot relationship detonator exploding with alarming frequency among all these interconnected “friends.”

Whatever happened to thoughtfulness and consideration? I know, it sounds like I’m back in the last century. But really, does anyone ever stop to think before they hit the keyboard how their words are going to affect other people? In my experience, Facebook encourages a very self-absorbed culture and discourages common courtesy. Add to that the fact that our everyday lives are not that fascinating. Does anyone really care that you just had a latte, washed your car, and spent $15 on lunch? Do we really have the right to drill into anyone else’s private business for the sake of a few “likes”?

The bigger question would be, is Facebook more often a life improvement or a waste of time? I’m leaning towards the second choice. I find myself logging on to Facebook less frequently these days, but I do have an idea for a post: You live your life, I’ll live mine. If I have something to tell you, I’ll give you a call. We can keep the conversation between the two of us and not have to check back later to “view all comments.”

I “like” it.