Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in All the Human Moments

Author Patricia Livingston reflects on a Christmas play:

The Christmas Eve Service was supposed to start at 7.30pm and it was now 7.40pm and there was still no sign of the entrance procession. People were restless, the church was packed, the children were wound up with Christmas Eve excitement. A baby was crying hard, with the kind of build up and crescendo that usually makes parents bolt for the car park.

Near the front, an elderly woman in a red velvet dress said loudly, “That sounds to me like a very small child. Why on earth would they bring it out at night? ”

Suddenly the crying stopped, and the music began. Children costumed as shepherds, angels, wise men, Mary and Joseph led the entrance procession. Mary cradled a real baby, his face scarlet from the exertion of all that crying, a bottle stuck in his mouth. “Why, all that crying was Jesus! ” the woman in the red dress said loudly.

Before putting him in the manger, Mary lifted him to her shoulder and he let out a loud burp. Everyone burst out laughing. This was Jesus, crying and needing to be burped, experiencing first hand what life is like for us.

Jesus is the ultimate word of God saying, “I am with you. I am with you. I am with you.” Not just in ideal times, but in all the human moments.

“and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us.” (Matt. 1:21)

Source: Patricia Livingston, Daybreaks: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas, Liguori Publications. Thanks to Barrie Hibbert for the recommendation.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Before putting him in the manger, Mary lifted him to her shoulder and he let out a loud burp.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Francis Ford Coppola on Looking into the Ashes of Adversity

Richard A Smith shares this story after spending a memorable evening with legendary filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola:

Francis Ford Coppola started his career making low budget films, and his first notable project, Dimentia 13, gained him some regional notoriety. With his star rising, he began raising money and investing personally in his own films. But this turned out to be a losing strategy when a subsequent film, Finean's Rainbow (a broadway musical adaptation) flopped, leaving Coppola deeply in debt. By the time Coppola came to Hollywood to interview for the director role of The Godfather, he believed that he would soon be forced to file for personal bankruptcy.

His interview was a success (and a welcome distraction from his other issues), and Paramount Pictures offered him the job. But his shaggy haired, "hippie" appearance did not win him many friends within the company, and he quickly came to blows with studio executives over his casting choices (Coppola fought hard to cast Marlon Brando in the lead role, but some studio executives much preferred Danny Thomas in the role of a "family man").

As the film went into production, Coppola struggled with the eccentric personalities of his cast (Brando would often insist that his fellow actors wear his lines printed and taped to their foreheads!), and his disagreements with the studio escalated. A group of high ranking Paramount executives grew determined to have him removed.

"Studios typically will only fire directors on a Friday or Saturday." Coppola told me. "This way, they can quickly clean up the mess, bring in the new director, and resume production on Monday. Someone had tipped me off that at the end of the week, the studio planned to fire me. So there I was, on the verge of personal bankruptcy, and certain I was about to be very publicly canned from a high profile job."

"I really didn't know what to do. So that Wednesday, I fired almost my entire staff. I figured, this way they CAN'T fire me - I am the only one left who knows what's going on!"

His strategy worked, but he feared his refuge would be short-lived. Coppola rushed to complete the entire project in under 65 days, with Paramount' executives on his tail the entire way.

"Looking back, at first I wondered how we were even able to finish the film. But now I know that it was the chaotic environment that contributed to the success of the project. We could have never achieved something so great without all that adversity in the mix."

"And so goes life", Coppola explained to me. "People spend so much of their time trying to avoid adversity. They fret and worry over it until it consumes them. I see adversity as part of life, and know that some of the greatest ideas, inspirations and life changing events occur in adverse environments. I look for adversity in my work, and in an odd way, sometimes even cherish it."

Francis Ford Coppola put it succinctly when he said, “The seeds of great success are often right in front of you, hidden in the ashes of adversity.”

Source and More:

Richard A Smith, Francis Ford Coppola Unplugged: Finding Gifts in Adversity, The Huffington Post, 19 December 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “But his shaggy haired, 'hippie' appearance did not win him many friends within the company…”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Picture Story about Advent by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Source: Dietrich Bonhoeffer via God’s Politics, 15 December 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s cell at Tegel Prison.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Mumbai Story of Terror

Late Wednesday night, Mumbai, India found itself the target of a ferocious terrorist attack, and the situation remains unresolved even now, three days later.

Boston.Com has posted an amazing and graphic series of photos on its most recent edition of The Big Picture.

Mumbai Under Attack, The Big Picture, 28 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the 35 pictures in the Big Picture Gallery.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Believing in People

This is one of the many stories told by the master storyteller, F W Boreham, that are posted on The Official F W Boreham Blog Site:

The novelist Laurence Sterne was a member of an extraordinary family. They were incessantly on the move. They seem to have gone into a place; stayed there until a child had been born and a child buried; and then jogged on again.

He would be a bold historian who would declare, with any approach to dogmatism, how many babies were born and buried in the course of these nomadic gipsyings. They seem to have lived for a year or so in all sorts of towns and villages, and, with pitiful monotony, we read of their regret at having to leave such-and-such a child sleeping in the churchyard. ‘My father's children,’ as Sterne himself observes, ‘were not made to last long.’ Lawrence himself, however, was one of the lucky ones.

At the age of ten, having survived the jaunts and jolts to which the wanderings of the family exposed him, he was ‘fixed’ in a school at Halifax, and was profoundly impressed by the conviction of his Yorkshire schoolmaster that he was destined to become a distinguished man.

… On one occasion the ceiling of the school room was being white-washed. The ladder was left against the wall. ‘One unlucky day,’ says Sterne, ‘I mounted that ladder, seized the brush, and wrote my name in large capital letters high up on the wall. For this offence the usher thrashed me severely. But the master was angry with him for doing so, and declared that the name on the wall should never be erased. For, he added, I was a boy of genius, and would one day become famous, and he should then look with pride on the letters on the schoolroom wall. These words made me forget the cruel blows that I had just received.’

The words did more. They implanted a glorious hope in the boy's breast: they inspired efforts that he would never otherwise have made: they account, in large measure, for his phenomenal success.

If the schoolmaster who welcomed the awkward little ten-year-old in 1723 lived, by any chance, until 1760, he must have felt that his handful of hopeseed had produced a most bounteous harvest. For, in 1760, Tristram Shandy took the country by storm. It was chaotic: it was incoherent: it was an audacious defiance of all the conventions: but it was irresistible. Its originality, its grotesque oddity, its rippling whimsicality set everybody chuckling.

Immediately after its publication, Sterne went up to London. He was the lion of the hour. His lodgings in Pall Mall were besieged from morning to night. ‘My rooms,’ he writes, ‘are filling every hour with great people of the first rank who vie with each other in heaping honors upon me.’ Never before had a literary venture elicited such homage. And when, a few months later, he crossed the Channel, a similar banquet of adulation awaited him in France.

F W Boreham, The Three Half-Moons (London: The Epworth Press, 1929), 89-91.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: ‘I mounted that ladder, seized the brush, and wrote my name in large capital letters high up on the wall.’

Every Place Should Have a Recombobulation Area

Recombobulation Area
After travelers go through the security scanners at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport they are greeted with a sign (pictured) inviting them to use their Recombobulation Area.

It is nothing special—only a patch of carpet with a few chairs—but it is the thought that counts.

Why does my word processor put a squiggley red line underneath the word ‘recombobulation? Mainly, because it is not a word, or not yet.

Recombobulation is about restoring all that occurs when we suffer from discombobulation which this word processor also doesn’t recognize.

Discombobulation is defined in more authoritative dictionaries as:
Becoming upset, confused, bewildered, an embarrassing feeling that leaves a person confused, frustrated.

In short, discombobulation is the feeling we often experience when we go through airport scanners after taking off our belt, shoes and other garments and are then frisked, prodded and poked. You know the feeling? That’s discombobulation.

Recombobulation is a Gift
So what a gift to be able to take your shoes and belt and other personal items and sit down and be recombobulated.

What a wonderful gift at the Milwaukee airport!
What an apt word to describe the putting together that one needs at airports, shopping malls and after negotiating busy roads.

Create Recombobulation Areas
Recombobulation Areas. Why restrict these only to airports? Create a recombobulation area at your work, at your shop, in your place of worship, at your school and in your home.

Make Recombobulation Times
Take the recombobulation idea further and create some recombobulation time in the midst of your busy day, as a preventative measure against discombobulation or especially after you have been chronically discombobulated.

Source: Airport Draws Smiles with ‘Recombobulation Area’, JS Online, 9 July 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “What a wonderful gift from Milwaukee airport!”

P.S. I am in need of some recombobulation time after writing recombobulation and discombobulation umpteen times!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Barack Obama and the Empathetic Person

In writing about the need to walk in another person’s shoes, Barack Obama makes this statement:

I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him.

That’s what empathy does—it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor.

We are all shaken out of our complacency.

We are all forced beyond our limited vision.

No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.

Source: Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Edinburgh, London, New York, Melbourne: Canongate, 2007), 68.

A review of this book is published at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him.”

Thanksgiving Generosity When Vegetables Are Free

New York Times reports (23 November 2008):

A farm couple received a big surprise when they opened their fields to anyone who wanted to take away vegetables left over from the harvest: 40,000 people showed up.

The fields of the couple, Joe and Chris Miller, were picked so clean Saturday that a second day of harvesting was canceled Sunday, The Denver Post reported.

“Overwhelmed is putting it mildly,” Ms. Miller said. “People obviously need food.”

She said she expected 5,000 to 10,000 people to show up Saturday to collect potatoes, carrots and leeks. Instead, an estimated 11,000 vehicles snaked around cornfields and backed up more than two miles. About 30 acres of the 600-acre farm, 37 miles north of Denver, became a parking lot.

“Everybody is so depressed about the economy,” said Sandra Justice of Greeley, Colo., who works at a technology company. “This was a pure party. Everybody having a great time getting something for free.”

Ms. Justice and her mother and son picked about 10 bags of vegetables.

Ms. Miller said she and her husband opened the farm for the public harvest for the first time this year after hearing reports of food being stolen from churches. It was meant as a thank-you for customers.

The farm’s operations manager, Dave Patterson, said that in previous years the Millers had allowed schoolchildren and some church groups to harvest their own food on the farm in the fall.

He estimated that about 600,000 pounds of produce was harvested Saturday.

Philosophy of Abundance
Now read Harry Cook’s Thanksgiving essay inspired by the above story that begins:

“Having just finished an article about yet another prospective multi-billion dollar federal bailout -- this time of Citibank -- I turned the page of my New York Times and noticed tucked away near the bottom of a column this headline: "Farm's Open Harvest Draws 40,000 in Colorado."

My spoonful of Shredded Wheat was held, poised between bowl and lip, as with amazement I scanned the story's nine terse paragraphs…

To continue, here is the link.

Thanksgiving Stories
More Thanksgiving stories are at this link.

Dr Geoff Pound

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Norman Vincent Peale Tells of Building Others Up

Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993) for more than 50 years was known as the Apostle of Positive Thinking. His books have sold into the millions. He was an incredible human being himself. He was full of life and enthusiastic.

Reading his life, it appears that when he was young he was not like that. He was diffident, shy and doubtful. He tells a significant story about one of the things that helped him grow out of that.

The night before his graduation at Ohio University there was a banquet at one of the fraternity houses. The guest of honor was the President of the university, Dr John Hoffman, a very great educationalist. When the banquet was finished, he said to Peale, “Norman, come walk with me home”, which was not far away.

On a beautiful June night, these two walked along, the famous educationalist and this young, very diffident, rather nervous university student. They talked about all kinds of things until they got to Hoffman’s home then, Peale said, “Hoffman turned around and put his hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Norman, I have got a great admiration for you young man. I think you have got great possibilities. I am sure we are all going to be proud of you. Goodnight.’”

He disappeared into his room and one very young, self-doubting student was left with his heart in his throat. A great man believed in him and that can be a marvelous therapy for people who are unsure of themselves.

Peale wrote this, “I have never forgotten that night, all these long years. Hoffman was the kind of person who built people up, not just me but all his students. There must be thousands of us who revere his memory.”

Source: Scott McPheat in an address, “How can we be more likeable people?” NZ circa 1985.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Norman Vincent Peale.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alistair Cooke on Doing Your Best When You Don’t Feel Like It

There were many times when Alistair Cooke did not feel like writing one of his almost 3,000 Letters from America over his marathon 58 years of reporting on life in the USA.

Like in the week when JFK was assassinated or after Bobby Kennedy was shot and Cooke was particularly shattered because he was close to the area when it happened.

Several times Alistair Cooke would say in his BBC broadcast that he was speaking to them in a state of shock.

Cooke believed he was a professional and according to him “a professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it!”

Source: Alistair Cooke, Reporting America: The Life of the Nation 1946-2004 (London: Allen Lane, Penguin, 2008).

This book is reviewed at Reviewing Books and Movies.

More from Cooke:
I am a Reporter not a Prophet says Alistair Cooke, Stories for Speakers.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Alistair Cooke.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thomas Merton’s Laughable Idea on the Streets of Louisville

This sign (pictured) stands at ‘the corner of Forth and Walnut Streets in Louisville’ as a reminder of the insight that Thomas Merton had on 18 March 1958 about waking up from the dream of human separateness.

He shared this experience in a letter to Boris Pasternak the next day and later wrote about it in one of his books:

I Loved All These People
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate existence is a dream… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud….”

God Became a Member of the Human Race!
“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God glorified in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake….”

There are No Strangers
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun…There are no strangers!...If only we could see each other [as we really are] all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other…the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

Source: Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1966), 140-142.

More on Merton:
Thomas Merton on the Real Journey of Life, SFS.
Thomas Merton Identified, SFS.
Thomas Merton on What We Seek, SFS.
Becoming More Ourselves, SFS.
How I Got to be a Success, SFS.
Holy Earthiness, SFS.
Who Am I? SFE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Most Googled Statement in My Online Book 'Making Life Decisions'

Most Googled Statement
This quotation from Frederick Buechner (pictured) is the most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Frederick Buechner

Over 7,000
Since I launched the book online one year ago (November 2007) more than 7,000 people have ventured on this site. I am not claiming that all 7,000 have read the book but the online mode certainly gives wide international circulation and cuts down on the cost of printing and posting.

Currently Being Published
You might be interested to know that Making Life Decisions is in preparation for traditional publication and will hopefully be available early in 2009.

Heaps of Stories
I mention this book on Stories for Speakers and Writers because in addition to stories from Frederick Buechner, Making Life Decisions contains stories and statements from these people:

Karl Barth, Joan Didion, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, John Claypool, Judith Viorst, Sam Keen, Joan Chittester, Augustine, Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Albert Schweitzer, Teihard de Chardin, Mrs Betty Bowers ('America's Best Christian'), Parker Palmer, Warren Bennis, Robert McAfee Brown, Abraham Hershel, Chaim Potok, Charles Handy, Neil Armstong, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Kosuke Koyama, Gregory Peck, F W Boreham, Graeme Garrett, Umberto Eco and Stephen Covey.

Even if you choose not to use the book for the purpose for which it is intended you will find in it more than 25 great stories.

Link: Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.”

Sharing the Burdens of the Heavy Laden

Dr F W Boreham shares a story about his mentor J J Doke moving from New Zealand to South Africa and collaborating with Mahatma Gandhi:

After granting me seven years of such happy intimacy, Mr. Doke [Boreham’s mentor] left New Zealand and I saw him no more. It was a year or two later that he and Mr. Gandhi met. Mr. Doke had recently settled as minister at Johannesburg; and Mr. Gandi was in South Africa as the legal representative of the Indian population, who, just then, were involved in a serious clash with the authorities. Mr. Doke's sympathies were with the Indians, and he immediately got into touch with Mr. Gandhi. Each was astonished at the other's diminutive stature. They did not look like a pair of champions. Mr. Doke says that he expected to see ‘a tall and stately figure and a bold masterful face’. Instead of this, ‘a small, little, spare figure stood before me, and a refined earnest face looked into mine. The skin was dark, the eyes dark, but the smile which illumined the face, and that direct, fearless glance, simply took one's heart by storm. He was only thirty-eight, but the strain of his work showed its traces in the sprinkling of silver in his hair. He spoke English perfectly and was evidently a man of great culture.’

On the wall of Mr. Gandhi's office hung a beautiful picture of Jesus; and, the moment that Mr. Doke's eyes rested upon it, he felt that he and his new friend were bound by a most sacred tie.

‘I want you’, he said to Mr. Gandhi, ‘to consider me your friend in this struggle. ‘If,’ he added, with a glance at the picture on the wall, ‘if I have learned any lesson from the life of Jesus it is that we should share the burden of those who are heavy-laden.’

F W Boreham, I Forgot To Say (London: The Epworth Press, 1939), 140.

The full story about J J Doke and Gandhi is written by Boreham in The Man Who Saved Gandhi, a book which has been republished as F W Boreham, Lover of Life: F W Boreham’s Tribute to His Mentor. Available from these places.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Friends in this struggle.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Art of Doing Nothing

In instructing us as to the best way of catching bream, [Izaak Walton] says that, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, we must repair to the bank of the stream, and, as soon as we come to the waterside, must cast in one-half of our ground—bait and stand off. ‘Then, whilst the fish are gathering together, for they will most certainly come for their supper, you may take a pipe of tobacco; and then, in with your three rods!’

Now why that pipe of tobacco? There is a certain interval to be filled in; a period in which it would be disastrous to say anything or do anything.

…. Now half the art of life lies in being able on occasions to do nothing—and to do it easily.

Newman found this grace so difficult of acquirement that he gave it up as a bad job. ‘He filled up,’ says Mozley, ‘his whole time, taxed his whole strength, and occupied his whole future. He reduced retrospection to a very narrow compass, to a few faces, to flowers on a bank or a wall, to a fragrance or a sound. He never took solitary walks if he could help it. He would not be alone and left to his own thoughts when he was neither studying nor writing nor praying.’

Darwin was as bad. His one defect was an utter incapacity for idleness. ‘I wish,’ writes his wife, ‘I wish he could smoke a pipe or ruminate like a cow.’ There is such a thing as a genius for repose. It is a great thing for a man to be the captain of his soul; to have every faculty under command; and to be able to drop anchor and be perfectly at ease when nothing is to be gained by continued activity. Here, then, is the problem—how to be still?

…I shall never be satisfied until I can possess my soul in perfect poise and restfulness; until I can do nothing, and do it well, and do it easily…

F W Boreham, The Other Side of the Hill (London: Charles H Kelly, 1917), 248-251.

Dr Geoff Pound

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Last Three Feet

Former US Foreign Service Officer to the Middle East, John Burgess, shares this story:

Back in the early 1960s, when I was getting my first experience living outside the US, US Information Agency Director Edward R. Murrow, gave a speech in which he said, “The really crucial link in the international communication chain is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.”

That, in a nutshell, is the role of Public Diplomacy.

Source: John Burgess, ‘The Last Three Feet,’ Crossroads Arabia, 19 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stories for Thanksgiving

Stories for Thanksgiving
Stories of gratitude in Geoff Pound’s new e-Book, Talk about Thanksgiving. Follow this link for information.

John Broadbanks Publishing
To purchase this book for only $US7.00 (no added post and packaging charges) from John Broadbanks Publishing at AbeBooks.Com—Dalton Books, follow this link.

Geoff Pound

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am a Reporter not a Prophet Says Alistair Cooke

A big part of Alistair Cooke’s skill and popularity as a writer was because he had a clear idea of who he was and what was his job.

When Cooke was asked about his task he would give a variation of this reply:

“I am a reporter of the facts and the feelings that go into the American life I happen to observe. I mention ‘the feelings’ if only to stress a belief that there is no such thing as an objective reporter. But the way to be as fair as possible is to notice that no fact of human life comes to you uncoloured by what people feel it means.”

Acknowledging the limits of objectivity, committing himself to put aside preconceived notions and an aversion to rush to a premature judgment were important convictions that shaped Cooke’s practice and literary style.

Believing that he was ‘a reporter’ gave to Cooke a certain freedom from the expectations of people as evidenced in this statement:

“I was urged to deliver some missionary message. But missions are for bishops. I am a reporter. And I can’t say where America is going. I am a hopeless prophet. One book I will never write is: Whither America?”

Source: Alistair Cooke, Reporting America: The Life of the Nation 1946-2004 (London: Allen Lane, Penguin, 2008).

This book is reviewed at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Alistair Cooke.

Play Classical Music to Calm Yourself and Your Elephant

The Science Correspondent for The Guardian reports:

“The rousing, patriotic sweep of Elgar's Nimrod, the mournful tones of Nessun Dorma and the urgent eight-note allegro con brio opening to Beethoven's fifth - they have all been helping animal behaviour experts make life more comfortable for the elephants at Belfast zoo.”

“The researchers have discovered that playing classical music to the animals reduces abnormal behaviour such as swaying, pacing and trunk tossing, although they said that the elephants do not seem to have a favourite composer.”

Next time you find yourself pacing the floor, wringing your hands and tossing your trunk, try putting on some classical music and soothe yourself with Elgar or Beethoven.

Source: James Randerson, Elgar Hits Right Note for Elephants, The Guardian, 17 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Looks like the elephants are dancing to “the urgent eight-note allegro con brio opening to Beethoven's fifth.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell on Why Leaders Need Colleagues Who Challenge Their Decisions

Author and roving cultural ambassador, Malcolm Gladwell, has been praised for his ability to synthesize huge slabs of material, translate arcane research into everyday language and repackage research into tidy and attractive formulas.

In his latest book Outliers, he shares many anecdotes, one of which is this one, summarized by a reviewer:

“He begins with a puzzle: Why did so many Korean Air planes crash between 1988 and 1998? We eliminate various red herrings: bad morale, procedural violations, flight crews smoking on the tarmac. At last comes the pleasantly shivery moment when Gladwell pulls open the curtain to reveal the solution. Korea's exceptionally deferential culture prevented first officers from challenging captains' decisions in the cockpit. The whole story has been so ingeniously constructed that, as soon as you're done, you want to call someone and tell him what you just learned.”

Source: Louis Bayard, Malcolm Gladwell’s Secrets of Success, Salon Books, 17 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Author and roving cultural ambassador, Malcolm Gladwell.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kiwi Image for Educators and Parents...

In an address to pastors and their spouses at the New Zealand Baptist Annual Gathering (6 November 2008), Paul Windsor, who is Principal of Carey College, spoke insightfully about the New Zealand koru (pictured). He spoke of the koru as a rich image for theological educators and others [You may have seen a stylized version of the koru on Air New Zealand planes]. Here is an excerpt:

Animating Image
The first image I want to draw to your attention is the koru. I think whether it is as a husband or a father, or a pastor, a lecturer or a Principal, the koru is the most animating image that I know.

I have planted one outside our front door and I love to go off to work citing it and allowing it to be part of the motivation for the day ahead.

Watching a tight, embryonic, furry ball gradually unfurl into something that is supreme in its elegance, its beauty, its perfection, its fullness and its breadth—I just think it is so animating in terms of working with people.

Mandate Wrapped in Furry Ball
And I think it is the Kiwi picture of one of the mandates for the church today. I think if the Bible was being written today in New Zealand it would be full of references to koru as it is a symbol of becoming fully unfurled.

Pleasure of People Unfurling
I love watching people unfurl and within the communities of people to which I belong I like to see the people—the students, the staff—as a club of koru that are at different stages of unfurling.

Leadership is about setting up ‘Operation Unfurl’. It’s the great blessing. Here are two observations:

Unfurling from Pain and Failure
Sometimes that furry ball is more crushed than it is embryonic. It is not just packed with potential but it is wrapped with pain, fear, failure and insecurity. It hasn’t opened up for those reasons and it is not uncommon in my life with students to see people in a fetal position as adults in terms of their growth.

One of the great joys is watching older students reengage with study having remembered their time at school to be full of failure and discovering that they have a brain. It is such a joy!

And then in more recent years the students have been younger and I sense that some come to training and they are crushed in spirit. Things haven’t gone well with parents and teachers and to be part of believing in people more than they believe in themselves is something that my wife and I have talked a lot about.

There are aspects of our cultural context that are rotten in my opinion—the fear we have of giving people big heads, the obsession about not allowing tall poppies to grow and the value of [being] close enough is good enough. I think for me the joy of visualizing what the end could be in someone’s life and then to be a small part of the means by which that end might be reached through encouraging and believing, advocating, praying, correcting—that’s the great joy and the great blessing.

Don’t Steal God’s Job Description
The other thing I would say is that the unfurling of the koru is not actually something that we do. I don’t go in there and reach into that tight, little furry ball and pull out that branch.

In our hyper-competent, over-resourced world, which is what we are, it is easy to steal God’s job description, get in there, feel the power and take control of people’s growth. I don’t think that this is part of our job at all….

I try to create the conditions for unfurling. I try to make space and margins for God to do His thing…

There is so much richness here that can help us to be part of people’s unfurling.

Source: Paul and Barbie Windsor, The Good, the Bad and the Blessed, New Zealand Baptist Annual Gathering, Palmerston North Central Baptist Church, 6 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The koru. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tim Pawlenty Has a Revelation While Looking in the Mirror

The International Herald Tribune reports this story from the Republican governor’s post-mortem of the Republican presidential campaign:

Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who was very nearly Senator John McCain's running mate this year, told the decidedly subdued, post-election conference of the Republican Governors Association about a revelation he had recently while looking into the bathroom mirror at his home in Minnesota.

Pawlenty said that after returning from the campaign trail, he looked at himself in the mirror and complained about what he saw to his wife, Mary.

"I said, 'Mary, look at me,"' he said. "'I mean, my hairline's receding, these crow's feet and wrinkles are multiplying on my face by the day, I've been on the road eating junk food, I'm getting flabby, these love handles are flopping over the side of my belt.'

"I said, 'Is there anything you can tell me that would give me some hope, some optimism, some encouragement?"' he said. "And she looked at me and she said, 'Well, there's nothing wrong with your eyesight."'

As his fellow governors laughed, he came to the moral of the story: "If we are going to successfully travel the road to improvement, as Republicans, we need to see clearly, and we need to speak to each other candidly about the state of our party."

Source: Michael Cooper, Republican Governors Regroup and Plan for the Future, International Herald Tribune, 13 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Pawlenty said that after returning from the campaign trail, he looked at himself in the mirror and complained about what he saw to his wife, Mary.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ben Okri Gives First Hand Assessment of Obama the Speechmaker

The Times reports that award-winning novelist Ben Okri flew to America to examine the Obama phenomenon at first hand.

He discovered ‘one of the most audacious and inspiring stories of our age’.

Obama’s Presence
“And then he was there. He is compact, defined and self-possessed in an easy way. His voice is rich and clear. Here is a man who has clearly followed his bliss, the thing that most gets your life juices going. He is comfortable in himself. He is a natural politician as some people are natural actors. It is his ease that is most striking….”

Nature of a Good Political Speech
“Allow me a moment’s meditation on the nature of a good political speech. A good speech is made before it is made. Excitement and expectation have to precede it. It should salute the time and the place. It should celebrate the common interests of the audience. It should start quite high and have a certain music, a certain rhythm. It is best delivered without notes. It is indispensable to have a good voice. A good speech rises, it justifies expectation, slows down in the middle and climbs again until it reaches higher than it began, and then it must peak. When it has peaked, it must be brought to a close. The highest point should be at the end.”

“Obama had made this speech before but it was nonetheless exemplary. He began with…”

Check out this fine essay at the following link:

Ben Okri, The Obama phenomenon: a dream can compel people to hold their breath in wonder, The Times, 1 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Ben Okri takes a first-hand look at Obama the speechmaker.

Tips from Terkel for Tellers of Stories

Studs Terkel, writer and radio personality, has died in Chicago and he is being remembered with great affection.

In a LA Times tribute Stephanie Simon says that “Studs Terkel … made his name listening to ordinary folks talk about their ordinary lives -- and …turned that knack for conversation into a much-honored literary career.”

The full account is best read but here are some excerpts from this article that has important implications for storytellers:

Popular Because He Spoke About Real Life
“The author of blockbuster oral histories on World War II, the Great Depression and contemporary attitudes toward work, Terkel roamed the country engaging an astounding cross-section of Americans in tape-recorded chats -- about their dreams, their fears, their chewing gum, about racism, courage, dirty floors and the Beatles.”

“With his loud laugh and raspy voice, plus his inept fumbles with his tape recorder, he set his subjects at ease and tugged from them memories, predictions and simple truths about their everyday existence.”

“Real was what Terkel always wanted to get at: real people, real lives and real emotions.”

“He did not claim to be a social scientist. He did not seek to conduct a statistically valid poll. He simply talked to people he found interesting.”

Incurable Curiosity
“He hit upon oral history as an outlet for his insatiable curiosity in 1967, when at the age of 55 he published ‘Division Street: America’ -- a series of conversations about race with Chicago residents.”

“And Studs Terkel wanted this as his epitaph: ‘Curiosity did not kill this cat.’”

“Terkel's longtime editor, Andre Schiffrin, added, ‘The key thing was his respect for them. He wasn't there to use them. He wasn't there to make a point. He really wanted to hear what they had to say, and he respected them.’”

Listening—the Secret to His Effectiveness
“He never prepared his questions. He interrupted his guests often. Yet Terkel was known as a master interviewer, able to establish an easy rapport with just about anyone. His secret, he once said, was simple: ‘It's listening.’”

“And listen he did: to sultry jazz singers and insecure housewives; to a repentant Ku Klux Klan leader; to Bob Dylan, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Bertrand Russell; to a parking lot attendant and a lesbian grandmother; to a piano tuner; and to a barber.”

“As the late CBS newsman Charles Kuralt once said: ‘When Studs Terkel listens, everybody talks.’”

“‘I think he was the most extraordinary social observer this country has produced,’ said Dr. Robert Coles, a Harvard professor of psychiatry who considered Terkel a friend and inspiration.

Fittingly, at his bedside was a copy of his latest book, "P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening," scheduled for release this month.

To read the entire article:
Stephanie Simon, Studs Terkel, writer and radio personality, dies at 96, LA Times, 1 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Terkel is honored on his 95th birthday at the Chicago History Museum during a broadcast on WFMT. He was on the station for 45 years and the program rebroadcasted a number of his interviews. (Photo courtesy of Charles Osgood / May 16, 2007 from the Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rowland Croucher Reviews New Book by Storyteller F W Boreham

F W Boreham, A Packet of Surprises: The Best Essays and Sermons of F W Boreham, John Broadbanks Publishing, 2008.

I've been a Boreham collector for 50 years, and have often reflected on why he's still so popular. Yes, he's an outstanding wordsmith (how often have you alluded to 'rich clusters of tawny filberts' in passing?); yes, he's widely read (at least a book a week for most of his adult life); and yes he touches issues about which 'the common man' has a deep interest.

Boreham had a prodigious memory. I have in my possession a photocopy of one of his 10cm x 15 cm cards with hand-written headings from which he preached. His biographer Howard Crago tells us each sermon was preached from memory in almost the exact words in which it was printed.

But I reckon there's another reason for his popularity: respect. Frank Boreham had such an abiding respect for his audiences, that, bower-bird-like, he assiduously collected thousands of quotes, literary allusions, stories and ideas. This discipline produced some astonishing 'connections' in his sermons and essays.

This new volume of 'the best of the best' of Boreham's essays and sermons begins with Dr Geoff Pound's introduction/rationale for making his selection; then there's a profile of Boreham's life and work by Howard Crago (whom I was privileged to know, when I was his pastor for eight years). At the back there's a subject and name index.

From his first pastorate Boreham resolved 'never to condemn anything but always present a positive aspect. (As he put it) "the best way to prove a stick is crooked is to lay a straight one beside it".' His many hearers and readers obviously appreciated this softer irenic approach: in each of his three pastorates he doubled the membership. (But, if I might add a footnote to that, many drifted away from at least one of those churches - Armadale Baptist Church in Melbourne - when he left).

Each of these chapters is just long enough to develop a theme, to be read in a short sitting. (But they're never so long that you flip to see if you're near the end. People wonder about that with sermons in church too, don't they?). The longest chapter here (15 pages) is from his first major book - The Whisper of God - with its thesis: 'The truth of a whisper is as great as the truth of a shout. A whisper from God is enough to tell me that God is, it is enough to tell me that he cares for me... God never thunders if a whisper will do'.

Here are some examples of his wonderful 'turns of phrase':

* '... Our best Sunday clothes, with clean collar, brightly polished boots and finger-nails destitute of any funereal suggestion...'

* 'There are books that we bought by mistake; books that we know to be valueless; books whose room is of much more value than their company'

* 'I drew aside to collect my thoughts. But my thoughts politely, but firmly, declined to be collected'

And a rare mixed metaphor: 'No menagerie since the world began could hold a candle to it'

We meet Frank Boreham the man here: a couple of his favourite places were the Melbourne Art Gallery, and Melbourne Cricket Ground. He writes about one of his major detestations - 'ready-made clothes'; another was the telephone (he's in good company there!).

Some of his most famous sermons are here: 'He Made as Though' (on the story of the Emmaus Road); A Prophet's Pilgrimage (Jonah); The Powder Magazine (Paul and Barnabas's dispute over John Mark); and perhaps the best in the book - and maybe in all of Boreham - his great missionary sermon 'The Candle and the Bird' (with its thesis: 'a period of spiritual sterility invariably represents, not the extinguishing of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird').

He has an essay on the astonishing coincidences in his own life, and elsewhere (pp 245 ff.). I won't spoil it for you by mentioning them, but Boreham has the impertinence to suggest that any one of us will find 'a wealthy hoard' of similar coincidences stowed away in our memories. Well, most won't, sir, at least not on this scale!

The chapter on Interruptions is brilliant. I remember an experienced minister reminding me early in my pastoral career that most of Jesus' healings were the result of interruptions: 'Interruptions,' my wise friend said, 'are not disturbing your ministry-plans: they ‘are’ your ministry!'

Finally, a few insightful and/or memorable tid-bits:

* (The cryptic utterance of a parishioner): 'When I've shut the door, I've shut the door'

* 'Doubt is a very human and a very sacred thing...'

* 'The gravest mistake made by educationalists is [to suppose] that those who know little are good enough to teach those who know less'

* 'Ritualism [is] perilous. "Now abideth"... what? Altars? vestments? crosses? creeds? catechisms? confessions? Now abideth faith, hope love - these three; and the greatest of these is love'

* 'Orthodoxy and heterodoxy stand related to truth just as those wonderful wickerwork stands and plaster busts that adorn every dressmaker's establishment stand related to the grace and beauty of the female form'

A minor complaint: Boreham would not have liked his writing being 'corrupted' by American spellings (luster, favorite, gray, molded, behavior; but interestingly 'gaol' is retained). If we're going to fiddle with spellings, why not do the same with his sexist language? Now that would be a challenge!

Thanks to Rowland Croucher for this review and permission to reprint it.

Another article entitled ‘Ten Reasons to Read Boreham’s New Book ‘A Packet of Surprises’ is at this link.

Check out Mike Dalton’s site to discover how you can get your hands on this book.If you live in the southern hemisphere you may want to order your books from Peter and the COC Online Bookshop which is based in Brisbane.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front Cover of ‘A Packet of Surprises’.

Hasidic Fable on Taking the Goat by the Horns

A fable from the teaching of the Hasidic the master Menahem Mendel of Kotzk:

Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki knocked, entered Rabbi Mendel’s room, and said the greeting: “Peace be with you, Rabbi.”

“Why do you say rabbi to me?” grumbled the rabbi of Kotzk. “I am no rabbi! Don’t you recognize me? I’m the goat! I’m the sacred goat. Don’t you remember the story?

“An old Jew once lost his snuff box made of horn, on his way to the house of study. He wailed: ‘Just as if the dreadful exile weren’t enough, this must happen to me.’ Oh me, oh my, I’ve lost my snuffbox made of horn.” And then he came upon the sacred goat.

The sacred goat was pacing the earth, and the tips of his black horns touched the stars. When he heard the old Jew lamenting, he leaned down to him, and said: ‘Cut a piece from my horns, whatever you need to make a new snuffbox.’ The old Jew did this, made a new snuffbox, and filled it with tobacco. Then he went to the house of study and offered everyone a pinch. They snuffed and snuffed, and everyone who snuffed it cried: ‘Oh, what wonderful tobacco! It must be because of the box. Oh what a wonderful box! Wherever did you get it?’

“So the old man told them about the good sacred goat, and then one after the other they went out on the street and looked for the sacred goat. The sacred goat was pacing the earth and the tips of his black horns touched the stars. One after another they went up to him and begged permission to cut off a bit of his horns. Time after time the sacred goat leaned down to grant the request. Box after box was made and filled with tobacco. The fame of the boxes spread far and wide. At every step he took the sacred goat met someone who asked for a piece of his horns.

“Now the sacred goat still paces the earth—but he has no horns.”

Source: Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim: The Later Masters (Schocken).

Thanks to Alex Tang for recommending the story.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Is this the sacred goat?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Al Gore Says Puppies Must Have a Purpose

Speaking at a Web 2.0 Conference (November 2008) of people exploring the development of web-based communities, environmentalist activist, Al Gore, talked about the importance of clarifying your purpose.

He said that after buying a puppy for their young children many years ago, he and Tipper asked a dog trainer to come in and give them advice.

Her first question was "What is the puppy's purpose? Is it going to be a watch dog, is it going to get the newspaper in the morning, is it for the children to play with?"

Like puppies, any project, business or interest needs to have a defined purpose.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “What is the puppy's purpose?”

Mark Twain on Travel and not Vegetating in One Little Corner of the Earth

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. ~Mark Twain

Source: Found on the blog Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mark Twain in New Hampshire (Photo courtesy of New York Times).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Feathery Fable is For the Birds

A mother bird and her three fledglings came to the bank of a river, too wide for the young ones to cross on their own.

Taking the first fledgling onto her wing, the mother bird began to carry him across, and while over the middle of the river she asked him the following question: “My dear son, when I am old and too feeble to fly far, will you carry me across?” Promptly and respectfully, her son replied, “Of course, mama,” whereupon the mother bird dropped him into the water below to drown.

Repeating the test on her next fledging, she elicited the same response, and so dropped him, too, into the waters below.

Gathering up her last fledgling, the mother bird administered her test one last time: “My dear son, when I am old and too feeble to fly far, will you carry me across?” Unlike his brothers, the last fledgling slowly but thoughtfully replied, “No mother, I will not do it for you, but I will do it for my own children.” The mother bird, now happily assured of her future, flew her son across the river and lovingly deposited him on its distant shore.

Source: Anon. Thanks to Alex Tang for sharing the story.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Chicks have their uses.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Prescription for Poison in the Mind

A long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn't get along with her mother-in-law at all.

Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law's habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.

Days passed, and weeks passed. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting.

But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish. All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing Li-Li's poor husband D great distress.

Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law's bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it! Li-Li went to see her father's good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs.

She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all.

Mr. Huang thought for awhile, and finally said, "Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you."

Li-Li said, "Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do." Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs. He told Li-Li, "You can't use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I have given you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body. Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving.

Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. "Don't argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen." Li- Li was so happy.

She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.

Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother.

After six months had passed, the whole household had changed. Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn't had an argument with her mother-in-law in six months because she now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.

The mother-in-law's attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.

Li-Li's husband was very happy to see what was happening. One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again She said, "Dear Mr. Huang, please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law. She's changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her."

Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. "Li-Li, there's nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. The herbs I gave you were vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her."

How we treat others is often exactly how they will treat us? A wise Chinese proverb says: "The person who loves others will also be loved in return."

Source: Public domain but thanks to Dr Alex Tang for passing on the story and prescription.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Poison herbs.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Elect Obama Tells the Story of Ann Nixon Cooper in Election Night Speech

President-elect Barack Obama highlighted the life of black voter Ann Nixon Cooper in his acceptance speech (see full script). He cited that, while 106 years old, Cooper believes in the promise of America and waited in line in Atlanta to cast her vote:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

See video of Ann Nixon Cooper on voting day.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Ann Nixon Cooper. (Photo courtesy of Robert Johnson and CNN)

Transcript of Speech by Barack Obama on Election Night 4 November 2008

What an historic moment and a wonderful speech by Barack Obama when the American people voted him President-Elect of the USA. This election will change not only America but it will have an impact on the world.

IF there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Obamas on election night.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Al Gore on Why Elections and Voting Matter

In his speech endorsing Barack Obama as the Presidential nominee, Al Gore made this statement about elections:

“Take it from me, elections matter,” Gore said.

“If you think the next appointments to our Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter.”

“If you live in the city of New Orleans, you know that elections matter.”

“If you or a member of your family are serving in the active military, the National Guard or Reserves, you know that elections matter.”

“If you are a wounded veteran, you know that elections matter.”

“If you've lost your job; if you're struggling with a mortgage, you know that elections matter.”

Gore cited concerns about the environment, lead-painted toys and food safety -- even pet foods -- as other reasons to vote for the Democrat.

“After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter,” Gore said.

Al Gore Backs Obama for President,, 16 June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Al Gore endorsing Barack Obama in Detroit, Michigan.

Barack Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother

News of Her Death
The New York Times (3 November 2008) reported:

Senator Barack Obama’s grandmother, a central figure in his life who helped raise him during his teen-age years, died in Hawaii on Monday morning.

Mr. Obama, who left the presidential campaign trail late last month to travel to Honolulu to bid her farewell, announced the death in a statement released by his spokesman upon landing here this afternoon. Her death comes one day shy of Election Day.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances.”

Madelyn Dunham, who turned 86 on Oct. 26, was unable to travel to see her grandson on the campaign trail. But from her apartment in Honolulu, she religiously followed his bid for the presidency, tracking his movements and his progression through cable television.

Grandson’s Tribute on 3 November 2008
Read his words (3 November 2008) and see Obama announce the news of his Grandmother’s death in North Carolina.

Grandson’s Tribute in His Memoirs
In his memoirs, Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama writes about being sent by his mother from Indonesia to Hawaii so he could enter the American education system. He lived with his grandparents for many months before his mother and sister shifted to Hawaii.

Here are some memories of Barack’s grandparents, especially his grandmother, Toot:

Such exchanges became familiar to me, for my grandparents' arguments followed a well-worn groove, a groove that originated in the rarely mentioned fact that Toot earned more money than Gramps. She had proved to be a trailblazer of sorts, the first woman vice-president of a local bank, and although Gramps liked to say that he always encouraged her in her career, her job had become a source of delicacy and bitterness between them as his commissions paid fewer and fewer of the family's bills.

Not that Toot had anticipated her success. Without a college education, she had started out as a secretary to help defray the costs of my unexpected birth. But she had a quick mind and sound judgment, and the capacity for sustained work. Slowly she had risen, playing by the rules, until she reached the threshold where competence didn't suffice. There she would stay for twenty years, with scarcely a vacation, watching as her male counterparts kept moving up the corporate ladder, playing a bit loose with information passed on between the ninth hole and the ride to the clubhouse, becoming wealthy men.

More than once, my mother would tell Toot that the bank shouldn't get away with such blatant sexism. But Toot would just pooh-pooh my mother's remarks, saying that everybody could find a reason to complain about something. Toot didn't complain. Every morning, she woke up at five a.m. and changed from the frowsy muu-muus she wore around the apartment into a tailored suit and high-heeled pumps. Her face powdered, her hips girdled, her thinning hair bolstered, she would board the six-thirty bus to arrive at her downtown office before anyone else. From time to time, she would admit a grudging pride in her work and took pleasure in telling us the inside story behind the local financial news. When I got older, though, she would confide in me that she had never stopped dreaming of a house with a white picket fence, days spent baking or playing bridge or volunteering at the local library. I was surprised by this admission, for she rarely mentioned hopes or regrets. It may or may not have been true that she would have preferred the alternative history she imagined for herself, but I came to understand that her career spanned a time when the work of a wife outside the home was nothing to brag about, for her or for Gramps—that it represented only lost years, broken promises. What Toot believed kept her going were the needs of her grandchildren and the stoicism of her ancestors.

“So long as you kids do well, Bar,” she would say more than once, “that's all that really matters.”

Source: Barack Obama, Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1995, 2007), 56-57.

A review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Barack Obama with his grandmother Madelyn Dunham at his high school graduation in 1979. (Photo: Obama for America, via Associated Press)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Martin Luther King Jnr on Dealing with Anger

Authors Ed and Deb Shapiro are sensing plenty of anger in the American air.

They write in a pre-US election article, about the way
Nelson Mandela approached his anger and then they give this story from the life of Martin Luther King Jnr.:

As Michael Beckwith writes in our forthcoming book, Meditation Can Change Our World, “Rev James Lawson, who was a cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King, shared with me an experience when he and Dr. King were sitting in an auditorium and a man came up and said to Dr. King, 'Are you MLK Jr.?' and he said 'Yes' and the man spat on him. Dr. King took a handkerchief, took the spittle off of his suit, and handed it back to the man and said, 'I think this belongs to you.' He didn't hit the man, he didn't cuss the man out, he didn't say how dare you, he had this ability to just be in the moment."

It's not that anger is all wrong, it can be the expression of a passion for justice and fairness, for basic rightness, for what is appropriate and humane. But anger can also cause tremendous damage and hurt; it is described as a single match that can burn an entire forest. When we are angry our heart goes out of reach and we lose touch with our feelings.

Ed and Deb Shapiro, Ducks Don’t Do Anger, The Huffington Post, 30 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Martin Luther King Jnr. in the Birmingham Jail.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Nelson Mandela Approach to Dealing with Anger

Aware of the way the US Presidential elections are raising the anger levels, Ed and Deb Shapiro offer this prescription for anger from the life of Nelson Mandela:

“But we need not let anger stay in our system, as seen in Nelson Mandela's response to Bill Clinton soon after Mandela's release.”

“Clinton asked him if he wasn't feeling really angry the day he walked away from twenty-seven years in jail. ‘Surely,’ Clinton said, ‘You must have felt some anger?’ Mandela agreed that, yes, with the joy of being free, he had also felt great anger. ‘But,’ he said, ‘I valued my freedom more, and I knew that if I expressed my anger I would still be a prisoner.’”

To read the entire article:

Ed and Deb Shapiro, Ducks Don’t Do Anger, The Huffington Post, 30 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Nelson Mandela on the inside.