Progress

Understandably, we can be prone to seeing and focusing on the problems around us. I myself have succumbed to this bias of problems over solutions with some regularity. Anyone who follows the daily news might fall in the same sinking boat. After all, we’ve grown up in an era of “if it bleeds it leads.” Even my former literary agent once told me that books about problems sell better than those that offer solutions.…


Take

Last week while walking my dog, I noticed what I thought was one of those awesome free standing “Lending Library” kiosks.

However as I approached, I saw that this one did not include a single book. Rather, it was filled with canned goods and other non-perishable food items. The sign at the top read, “Take What You Need.”

The presence of such a structure was both a sign of our difficult economic times and a refreshing public display of community kindness.…


Citizen

As July 4th approached, I was reflecting on the state of our country. JFK’s famous exhortation from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country,” popped into my mind.

In lieu of recent events, one could look at the first part of that quote and conclude that what little we have asked for from our country has been denied.…


Fame

Spiderman came to Hastings this week. More specifically, Tom Holland was in my town shooting a new anthology series for Apple TV.  Throngs of kids lined up in a marked off area to catch a glimpse of him. When he finally arrived, clad in period 70’s garb, they screamed.  Calling out his name, filming his every move, clamoring for him to come by and say hello – which to his credit he did.…


Depends

As Independence Day approached, I decided to google the root word “depends.” The origin of “depends” goes back to the Latin terms “de” meaning down and “pendere” meaning “hang.” Hence the dual and often conflicting definition of both “needing or requiring support” (e.g. “I depend on you”) and “undecided or open to influence” (e.g.“It depends”)

Many Americans have a strong aversion to the idea of dependency or even its softer cousin, “interdependency.” …


Questions?

These are hard.

What would you take for yourself, that you know would help someone else more?

What would you give your child, that if you gave to another child instead would dramatically change their life? 

These philosophical questions are ones that we don’t explicitly ask ourselves. They are by design difficult to answer. They pit our egalitarian principles and a belief in a fair world against our most basic desire to provide and protect ourselves and those we love. …


Song

This Land is Your Land. America the Beautiful. Amazing Grace. Land of Hopes and Dreams. Here Comes the Sun. Lovely Day. Better Days. Let the Sunshine In. Feeling Good. Undivided

This was the score that played over the course of two days last week as our democracy witnessed a peaceful transfer of power without further incidence of the uncivil war we find ourselves trying to end.…


Abyss

I struggled with figuring out what to write this week. Conflicting instincts pulled me to either express rage at the events at the Capitol last week and look back at all that led up to it or  to move past them and share some thoughts of hope or even beauty.

Stuck in the middle, I remembered this quote from the movie Wall Street. “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him.…


Humility

Consider this. If you voted in the Presidential election, then regardless of its outcome, there would be 70 million people who disagreed with you. These are not 70 million idiots, socialists, extremists, racists, or rioters. They are your fellow Americans who have different lived experiences, concerns and priorities than you. People who receive their information from different sources than you and are often surrounded by similar folks that reinforce their opinions, knowledge and biases.…


Vote?

In the 2016 election, over 110 million Americans who were eligible to vote did not.  To be more precise, 110,178,918, people over the age of eighteen sat out a race that was decided by less than 80,000 votes. 

To put that in further perspective, it is the equivalent of the entire eligible voting populations of the United Kingdom, France AND Belgium deciding not to vote in their respective elections. …


Sick

In a year defined by sickness, this week has been particularly so. 

There are many forms of sickness of which I speak. The obvious one is the coronavirus – whose toll mounts  despite having the means right in front of us to control it.  Less obvious is the sickness in our politics and civil discourse – not just between members of different political parties but within our families and amongst our friends. …


Integrity

Are you a person of integrity?

Before you answer this question, consider these two definitions of the word integrity.  

“The firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” (Merriam Webster)

“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.” (Cambridge)

The key characteristic of both definitions is not the presence of moral principles or a strong moral code but it is the fact that there is a firm adherence to them and that we refuse to change them.…


Convention

The Constitutional Convention led to the creation of our democracy. The Seneca Falls Convention was the start of the women’s suffrage movement. The Geneva Convention was a series of meetings that led to more humane treatment during times of armed conflict.

Conventions can be events that unite us, that bring together diverse groups with a shared goal and — as the examples above show — lead to important progress.…


Public

One of the defining American debates is the ongoing question of Public vs. Private.  Another way to think of it is — what is mine vs. what is ours?  This question runs through issues related to economics, rights, education, health, property and so on.

Some see these ideas of public and private mostly at odds.  An example of zero-sum thinking (see here for a great summary of research on how this thinking plays out politically). 


A new way to give thanks this Thanksgiving

This week provides a welcome respite for many, as we put aside our daily troubles, gather with family and friends, and pause to give thanks for what we have and those who helped make it possible. 
 
It can come in the form a few words over a meal, a phone call or a prayer.  All are valuable practices in gratitude.
 
But often these moments can be fleeting and soon replaced by Black Friday sales, workouts, and holiday movies.


A Labor, then Love

In 1894, Labor Day became an official federal holiday.

The year before a different kind of labor inspired a 26-year-old nurse to become one of the most important social reformers the country has ever known.

Lillian Wald was teaching a homemaking class on the Lower East Side when a little girl burst in begging for someone to help her dying mother.  She had struggled in labor before giving birth but was now badly hemorrhaging blood.…


Where does wealth come from?

By definition, wealth is “an abundance of resources.”  In other words, you have more than you need.
 
It may seem counterintuitive, but research shows the primary determinant for wealth is not how much we make (income) but how much we are given (intergenerational transfer). 

This can come in three forms.  

  • Inheritance that is passed down upon the death of a parent or grandparent or other older relative.

What will you do at 3:00PM today?

Across the country today, graves will be marked by American flags and adorned with flowers.  Each will be a poignant reminder to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
 
The origin of Memorial Day is not without controversy.  Many date its unofficial beginnings to the period immediately after the Civil War when southerners began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers.  What was seen as an incredible act of conciliation, the women of the South who led this effort, treated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers that same – decorating both. …


What If It Was Called The Declaration of Interdependence?

The most well known passage of our founding document is… say it with me, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

After listing the twenty-seven different ways in which England was violating these rights, we declared our separation from this tyrannical rule and the rest, as they say, is our history.…


What To Remember This Memorial Day

In 1943, off the coast of North Africa, my grandfather, Burton Poucher was one of 1,149 U.S. soldiers who were killed aboard the HMT Rohna.

The ship was sunk by a newly designed remote control German glider bomb – a precursor to today’s “smart” missiles. It was the largest single loss of life in the sea during the war.


Prior to shipping off, Burton was stationed in Indiana for training.…


Three Reasons History Rocks

Jimmy Carter was the first US president born in a hospital. That is the kind of historical fact that makes you go “hmmm that’s interesting.”
 
But history is more than a collection of interesting facts, dates and events. It is who we are and from where we came. 
 
David McCullough’s new book, The American Spirit, is a collection of speeches some stretching back more than twenty years. 

How To Save Art

During a classroom visit last week, my nine-year-old daughter showed me a project, featuring side-by-side drawings of the same subject – in her case spring. One was a realistic depiction and the second an abstract version. Accompanying the pictures was a biography on the Russian artist Kandinsky whose work they learned had a similar transition from the realistic to abstract.

The most remarkable thing about this lesson in perspective was that it was not part of their art class, but instead central to a social studies unit on Russia.…


Are You Up For A Road Trip?

There would appear to be something deeply ironic about our country’s name today.

To look at an electoral map, with it’s blues on the coasts and red in the middle, makes a clear enough case that at least politically there is nothing united about these states at all.

But upon further inspection, our geographic borders and how they came to be, tell another story altogether.

In his new book, Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World, Robert Kaplan takes us on a road trip from New York to California.…


What I Learned From A Day At The Park

I am lucky to live in a village where the word public means something good. The public schools are excellent.  The public parks are beautiful.  The public library thrives year round. 

For most the 19th and 20th century, the public was preferred over the private. We held our public institutions in high esteem and were skeptical of the motives of private enterprises.  

In the last several decades the tables have turned.…