September 2, 2009

Uncomfortable Essay #13:A summation, one year later

NOTE TO READER: DICK BERNARD WAS PRESIDENT OF MINNESOTA ALLIANCE OF PEACEMAKERS (MAP) 2005-2007, AND REMAINS AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE ORGANIZATION. THIS SPACE IS NO LONGER AN ACTIVE BLOG, BUT ALL PAST WRITINGS ARE ARCHIVED HERE. SINCE MARCH, 2009, DICK BERNARD'S BLOG ADDRESS, ON PEACE AND JUSTICE AND OTHER TOPICS, IS WWW.OUTSIDETHEWALLS.ORG/BLOG. DO VISIT. WWW.AMILLIONCOPIES.INFO IS DICK'S CURRENT ENDEAVOR WITHIN MAP.

A year ago today, September 2, 2008, the Peace Island Conference convened at Concordia University in St. Paul MN. It was successful in all ways but making news. It was apparently too peaceful. Not even the media that would be considered as "left" leaning devoted attention to it. The "action" was down the street a couple of miles at the Republican Convention and its surrounding events. One year after the event, the "chatter" remaining is about residual court actions surrounding the RNC, the actions of the Police and the Protestors....

This seems an appropriate time to look back, and to look ahead.

A major lesson for me flowing from this past year: conflict really, really sells, including within the Peace community. Peace is not as much fun as doing battle.

About two weeks after the Peace Island Conference, September 12, 2008, I published at this space the first of what came to be twelve "Uncomfortable Essays" addressed to the general communities which advocate for Peace, Justice, Environment, Sustainability and Global Cooperation. Thereafter came eleven more essays, the last before this one,March 21, 2009.

All the Essays appear sequentially at this space, Dick Bernard's Venturing column at the website of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) http://www.mapm.org. At this website MAPs Guiding Principles are a constant reminder to those of us in these communities.

I have circulated these Essays broadly over the past year, and have often thought about their contents: Would I have changed what I said? Are there topics I left out?

Over time, no one has really challenged the pertinence or relevance of the Essays; at the same time, I have seen little evidence of even conversations about their contents. Change is difficult under the best of circumstances. When in doubt, the tendency is to do things as you've always done them. By no means have I lost hope, however. There are persons who read the Essays who have already decided that what they read makes sense, and they are working at implementing the ideas. They make the entire project a success for me.

(The general thrust of each Essay was as follows:
#1 - Summarizing the Peace Island Conference, and an earlier experiment on "Each one reach two" Sep 12, 2008
#2 - "Each one reach two" Sep 30, 2008
#3 - A review of "Power" Oct 15, 2008
#4 - Communication of a message to a changing audience Nov 9, 2008
#5 - Competition versus Cooperation as a prevailing value Nov 22, 2008
#6 - Money: a benefit or a curse? Dec 8, 2008
#7 - Fear of Succeeding Dec 22, 2008
#8 - The problem with calling something "the truth" Dec 25, 2008
#9 - Staving off Organizational Death Dec 29, 2008
#10 - Re-creating organizational Life Dec 31, 2008
#11 - Changing "Challenge of Change" into "Change we can believe in" Mar 4, 2009
#12 - The role of the common person in success or failure of the cause Mar 21, 2009)


As this year of Uncomfortable Essays ends, I am more convinced than ever that the essential insight came in the failed "each one, reach two" experiment that, along with the Peace Island Conference, makes up the core of Uncomfortable Essays #1 and #2.

Any organized group that harbors any hopes of long term success has to get very actively involved in what might be called micro-organizing, or as I refer to it in the Essays, "each one, reach two". Without the active engagement of the participants as micro-leaders, the entire movement will stay stuck, in my opinion. The current low ebb of energy is more than just a cyclical phase - a valley that we can only hope we will get through.

I gained a useful insight in why there might be resistance to "each one reach two" in a recent conversation with a well respected leader in the Peace and Justice community.

What blocked her, she suggested, was memories of a bad experience with some multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme in which one of her family had been involved. MLM was, it seemed to her, very much like "each one, reach two". Having experienced the abundant down-side of multi-level marketing myself, at a particularly low period in my life, I could understand her hesitation. In MLM, a dream is sold...but to achieve a dream requires an immense amount of hard work, and even after that hard work, only a few actually succeed. MLM is not a good model for most of us.

But, then, I got to thinking about this concept in a more long term way.

Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), the organization which hosts this column, has a fifteen year history.

IF, I thought to myself, MAP had started with a visionary leader whose sole objective was to find two people in the first year who shared his or her passion; and IF the sole objective of each of these two people were to find two more with a similar passion in the following 365 days, by this year, fifteen years later, the MAP network would encompass over 16,000 passionate people, all organizers organizing in their own spheres.

Most of those who will read this Essay already have far more than two people enrolled in their passion. You, reader, are likely in this category. All that remains is beginning the slow process of working with your circle to enroll the next generation - the next two - to carry the dream forward.

"Yah, but...", you say?

Yah.

Thanks for reading. Stay in action. My regular blog spot is http://www.outsidethewalls.org/blog. Thoughts of (what I consider myself to be) a moderate, pragmatic person appear there on an average of every other day. Take a look, sometime. It is a space open to your own reflections, about these Essays, or anything else you wish to write about.

June 21, 2009

An announcement

NOTE:

There have been 25 previous entries at this blog, between November, 2006, and March, 2009.

Dick Bernard's new regular blog, "Thoughts Towards a Better Tomorrow", is found at http://www.outsidethewalls.org/blog. It "opened its doors" March 25, 2009.

Thoughts Towards a Better Tomorrow (Outside the Walls) is frequently updated with no more than one post per day (it currently averages about one post every other day). It includes other writers on assorted topics. Its focus is "a better tomorrow". Its slant is toward readers who are more inclined towards the moderate middle, rather than left or the right. The writers philosophy is described on the "About" page. Under categories, there is an INDEX which lists topics by date. Do visit.

The most important writing at this Venturing blog space are a dozen "Uncomfortable Essays" written between September, 2008, and March, 2009. They remain archived here. With a single exception: the inauguration of President Obama on January 20, 2009, all of the postings at this site since September, 2008, were the Uncomfortable Essays. They are my gift to the large community whose interests are Peace, Justice, the Environment, and Global Cooperation.

On occasion there may be other commentaries at this site, specifically for the communities represented by the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

Most likely, however, the writing will be at the Outside the Walls blog mentioned above.

I wish us all A Better Tomorrow. The generations following us deserve this gift. We are the ones who must make this happen.

March 21, 2009

Uncomfortable Essay #12: Revisiting the "Proles" and George Orwell's 1984

I will click “publish” on this Essay, and then travel to the demonstration marking the 6th anniversary of the tragic and destructive War on Iraq – a war that has helped destroy both our national reputation and our economy. The demonstration is good; what is far more important is what is done by every individual after the demonstration becomes a memory.

The Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Minneapolis Star Tribune http://www.startribune.com carried a column of mine, "Passive Actors in our own destruction". A primary emphasis was recalling George Orwell's 1984. The first response to the column came from Will, who asked: "My only question to you, Dick, is this: please tell me how the Proles are going to overthrow the establishment." (The complete column follows this essay.)

I don't know why the STrib decided to print my piece. Whatever, the fact of the matter is that for a short while this week, 350,000 people of all ideologic stripes, and many more on-line around the world, had a chance to consider my thoughts, front and center in the best spot on a major newspapers opinion page. At minimum, my guess is that there will be a little uptick in interest in "1984". There were perhaps a dozen pieces of direct feedback to me about the column – from my experience after other columns that is a heavy response. The response was positive. There were no brickbats.

But I have noticed something as this week ends: the recognized leaders of the organizations that are my natural allies, peace and justice (P&J) folks, did not comment to me about the column; neither did the column become a link on progressive websites.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe…. More in a moment.

To Will, I responded that "Overthrow" never entered my mind. If anything, I was "equal opportunity angry" at our entire system, including the present day Proles who are all of us and who have in many ways been "partners in the crime", accepting the unacceptable, playing small rather than large. Reflecting back on 1984 while writing the column, I didn’t see the Proles as innocent victims of Big Brother; rather they had created the monster they now felt powerless to destroy. That’s an uncomfortable indictment…of us, in 2009. Maybe that’s why there was no response.

Orwell was an astute observer of the human political condition, and he observed that the vast majority of humanity – the Proles –were willing to let things happen to them, even beyond the point of no return. At the very end of 1984, the last four words actually, the decision of the main character, Winston, is revealed. (You need to pick up the book to learn what he decided.)

We Proles of today need to play more of an active role to help modify our severely damaged system in whatever ways we can. We have huge power as individuals and small groups, but only if we exercise it (which is hard work). Today’s demonstration, like all demonstrations, is only a small down-payment on the effort we need to expend to truly make the change that is necessary in this country.

In all of these Essays, I’ve tried to be always mindful of Solutions: what is being/can be done.

Thursday, March 19, at the annual conference of the Alliance for Sustainability http://www.afors.org, I absorbed some more hope for our future, including:
1) Singer Mari Harris who inspired, as she always does. http://urbznet.com/mariharris
2) In an afternoon workshop on Transit and the Land Use Connection, John Bailey of 1000 Friends of MN, and Michelle Dibble, of TLC, demonstrated by their presence and their knowledge that younger activists are out there, and there exists a great and knowledgeable infrastructure for promoting progress in all areas about which we are concerned. All we need to do is to look them up. (http://www.tlcminnesota.org;http://www.1000fom.org, and endless others.)
3) And Ken Melamed, Mayor of Whistler, BC, a town of 9500 which is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, gave great insights into the power of an engaged citizenry to embark on a process of building and maintaining sustainability, town by town. Of the many pieces of wisdom he offered, this one stuck in my notes: “change has to come from the grassroots level”. That’s us, folks. http://www.whistler2020.ca for more about Whistler’s planning process.

Together, in small and large groups, and yes, individually too, we can get the job done!

Now, if the Alliance of Peacemakers and the Alliance for Sustainability could truly collaborate….
*

Published in Minneapolis Star Tribune Tuesday, March 17, 2009
“Passive Actors in our own destruction” by Dick Bernard.

“The Star Tribune main headline (3/15) was "After Bailout, $100 M in Bonuses" to "executives in the unit that brought AIG to its knees". AIG states it is "contractually obligated to pay them".

I know only what I read in the papers and on the internet and see on TV. I also worked directly with contracts, full-time, for 27 years, and it would be hypocritical to defend some contracts and reject others. Contracts are contracts.

In this case, most likely, everything was completely "legal": the Congress and the Presidency were bought and paid for by these same institutions that have now wreaked havoc on the world economy. A friend puts it best: the trickle down pipes are clogged.

It's time for the slow, agonizing correction.

The reality on how our economic crisis will play out is that nobody knows, not the experts, not the person in the street. Nobody knows what the short and long term implications are, including those in high level positions. If the geniuses of Capitalism, in executive offices and board rooms and business schools, were as smart as they portray themselves to be, they wouldn't have structured this “house of cards” to fall on top of them.

In a sense, we are all idiots, grasping at straws. We just don't know, except that the future news is probably bad, probably worse than we are able to imagine. We are intentionally kept in the dark. (Ben Bernanke on Sunday's 60 Minutes a possibly nice exception.) It is hard for us to be "informed critics", or agents for change, because we are denied adequate information to become informed critics. This is happening in one of the better educated countries on the planet.

The lawmakers who are still believers in the unfettered free market and even “trickle down”, and fantasy interpretations of the Great Depression and the excess that led up to it, are idiots one step "up" the knowledge chain from most of us. Their devoted followers, the people who keep them in office, and slavishly follow their every talking point, are a step further down. They want to believe a fantasy that never was, and certainly will never be: They think they'll win the lottery. They also like to think that what they have is theirs, and that sharing is their individual option.

I'm reminded of Orwells description of the Proles (the proletariat) in the book, 1984. I recall that Orwell portrayed the Proles as poor, easily manipulated dimwits: the boys hung out with the boys, getting drunk on cheap gin in the local pubs; the housewife cheerily hung the clothes on the clothesline, singing pleasantly as she did her drudge work; everybody was aware that their every move was being watched; but they were mostly left alone except when they had to stop everything to listen to the two-minute hate about the enemy of the day. They were passive actors in their own destruction. Orwell wrote the book in 1949, about the dangers of the Communist utopia, and the just defeated Nazis, but he was writing about us, too, in the first eight years of the 21st Century, in the United States of America. If you haven't reread 1984 recently, do. It is an eye-opener, about us, in the last eight years, especially.

Personally, I think we can recover, but it will be a slow, slow slog, and the true believers in what failed will be the last to be converted. I find myself latching on a wild hope: the present day Proles will create a better nation and world.”

March 9, 2009

Uncomfortable Essay #11: Making the "Challenge of Change" into "Change we can believe in".

MARCH 9, 2009

(Uncomfortable Essays #1-10 can be accessed beginning at http://www.mapm.org/presidentsmemo/2008/09/ You can easily sign up for RSS feed of this occasional blog (usually about once a month or so. Instructions at right on this page.)

“Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” Michael Fullan

January 9, 2009, I clicked “publish” on Essay #10 in this series. Eleven days later, President Barack Obama was sworn into office, bringing a promise of “Change we can believe in.” Six weeks after Inauguration Day polls show that the American public is united (almost 3-1) with the President on his plans to attack the daunting menu of dilemmas which greeted him on his first day in office. The opposition with its more than ample megaphone is attempting to stymie his efforts, or at minimum, to make all efforts appear like failures, and to replace hope with fear of change.

Some of the people who helped elect President Obama are already disappointed that he seems not to be addressing their particular issue, or not addressing it aggressively enough. “He’s selling us out”, some already suggest.

Welcome to the most powerful, daunting and thankless job in the world: President of the United States.

“What gives me hope? As long as your hope is committed in action, then hope is alive in the world.”
Julia Butterfly Hill

*
What’s past has always helped give me context. Back in the 1990s, I attended a stimulating series of annual conferences put on by a major national organization for which I was then a staff member.

The conferences were titled “Challenge of Change”, and staff people and leaders came from around the country to participate. We were in a pleasant resort setting. There were stellar speakers and workshops, all built around the theme of Change. The Conference was in March, too cool to golf, and sometimes snowy (perhaps the better to keep our focus on the reason we were at the Resort Center in the first place.)

After the conference, we went home to our respective states, all charged up. It wasn’t long, though, when the dreaded status quo took hold, perhaps even before we’d cleared the hotel checkout. Even the well intentioned found a back home crowd who hadn’t been there, and may even have resented their colleagues ‘junket’.

The Challenge of Change is an immense one, whether talking about an individual project to, for example, lose weight; or helping bring deep and meaningful change to an organization, regardless how large or small that organization might happen to be.

And now we have a new President elected and inaugurated and committed to change a system of over 300,000,000 people, organized into many states, part of a large and complex world.
Barack Obama needs our help, one action at a time, here, now. This goes as well for our Senators, Congresspeople and other lawmakers who share all or some of our values. If we could mentally divide the huge population pie called the United States into a manageable slice, say helping two more people get engaged, and encouraging them to do the same for two more, we could “get ‘er done”. But will we?

Jermitt Krage, who spent an entire career as an organizer, and continues to be a leader in retirement says this: “Sustaining engagement is critical. Support from others is a strong, necessary motivator.” Be critical, yes, but back the criticism with very affirmative supportive action. People who represent you need to know they’re not alone.

*

There are books written about change, and consultants who make very large fees consulting about change. For whatever it is worth, here are a few thoughts I had around the “turn of the century” in 2001 on why change is so difficult to effect. (The article, with graphic, is accessible at January, 2002, http://www.outsidethewalls.org/outside_archive1.html.)

“The reality is simple: CHANGE is TOUGH and SLOW, and consequently, most often AVOIDED. FEAR is a factor (as in "cold sweat").

Almost always, in change, things seem to - and often do - get worse before they get better. You know why this is, from personal changes you've wished to make in your own life. Indeed, the challenge of change seems parallel to the famous Stages of Grief identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. First, there is DENIAL AND ISOLATION ("we're okay"); then ANGER ("kill the messenger who carries the bad news"); then BARGAINING, DEPRESSION, and finally, ACCEPTANCE.

A reasonable schematic about the dilemma of the process of change is illustrated [at the above website]. The [straight] red line indicates the status quo – [the steady state], the comfort zone for most of us in most of our lives. We stay with the familiar, whether that is good or bad. The green [ascending] line symbolizes something better if we change; but the inevitable[initial] dip, symbolized in yellow, often sabotages our best efforts - and we quit before the good change can kick in.”

Unfortunate but true, almost always there is an “inevitable dip” as change begins that is the killer in most change efforts. Ask anyone who’s trying to replace a bad habit with a better one. Before it gets better, it gets worse…the temptation is to quit: end of effort, back to the less desirable status quo.

Unfortunately, also, ACCEPTANCE is often a last minute acknowledgement after all else has failed, and there is truly no remaining hope. In this case, we get around to accepting our own responsibility to be cause in the matter of change when it is too late. Losing hope could happen to Obama himself. Another long-time organizer, Bob Barkley, says “this factor may well happen to Obama himself as well as to the rest of us.” We need to change our own attitudes, acting early and constantly towards the possibility of positive change, and in the process raise up the President in his administrations efforts.

Again, as Michael Fullan said “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” According to Barkley, “the point is that change is going to happen in spite of us, but if it happens because of us, it would be nice if it could be called progress.”

*

The question becomes, what are we going to do to make “Change we can believe in” meaningful? It is impossible, after all, for a single person, the President, to effect the change. He can make change possible, but our “boots on the ground” are what will make the difference.

A big temptation will be to revert to old behaviors: “I’ll start tomorrow…or next week”; “I need to read one more book, go to one more speech – then I’ll know enough”…. We all have our favorite dodge. As one who’s “been there, done that”, there are no excuses. None of us have to leave town or impact on thousands to make Change real. We just need to have the will to do so with a few.

We need to be up to the task. Without us, positive change won’t happen.

*

Leaving an inspirational talk by Green Economy leader Van Jones on March 5, we were each given a business card sized piece of paper on which three quotations were printed. These quotations seem to be a fitting call to action for us all, to make positive change happen in our families, communities, states, nations and world. The first, from Julia Butterfly Hill is near the beginning of this essay.

The others:

“I think the most hopeful thing that I can point out to you is look to your left and look to your right. Look at the beautiful people who are around you right now…We don’t need any hero on a white horse. We are the people we’ve been waiting for. You already have within you enough love to save the planet.”
Van Jones

“Every single one of us can do something to make a difference. You can. You can. You can. I can. God bless you.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu

The change curve applies to every one of us who, in one way or another, supported then-candidate Obama’s “Change we can believe in.”

Let’s disprove Pogo’s famous quotation “We have met the enemy…and he is us”. http://www.igopogo.com/we_have_met.htm

Go forth.

Among an endless array of resources, check these: http://www.vanjones.net; http://www.greenforall.org; http://www.earthcouncils.org

January 20, 2009

Thoughts following the Inauguration, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama: Will his call for change be one we can believe in?

In my opinion, to borrow a phrase from his campaign: “Yes we can” believe.

Succinctly the big picture for the future is not Barack Obama. It is every one of us, microscopic fragments, along with billions of other human beings on this planet we call earth. The U.S. is US, however messy this can be. The previous administration missed a golden opportunity when it dismissed the citizens and governed from the top.

Often I learn in the strangest ways. During the recent bitterly cold days I elected to busy myself with a disagreeable task long avoided: going through files and boxes of long unsorted paper. Paper is a goodly part of the abundant flotsam and jetsam of my life. Reviewing this junk yielded some treasures. This in turn generated some thoughts about the present and future of our nation.

I came across sundry items – I’ll call them “threads” - that reminded me of things past, and present, and in a way helped create a vision – something of a whole cloth - of the future. One item, the ten principles of non-violence followed in the Birmingham demonstrations of 1963 (A), was articulated in Martin Luther King’s book, “Why We Can’t Wait” (1964), which chronicled the watershed centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation. (These Principles and other items referred to below are reprinted at the end of this essay.) King’s colleague, Rev Joseph Lowery, who gave the benediction today, was an inspiring reminder of the distance our nation has travelled.

In the assortment I found a photo of my young nephew and his fiancé taken a number of years ago. TJ died last April during a liver transplant. Only 36, he succumbed to a genetic defect. He contributed to the society of which he was part for too short a time. When you see an over-the-road trucker, or a Dad who cares about kids, it’s TJ. I doubt TJ and I agreed politically. It made no difference to us. We respected each other.

I found a 1999 talk given by my cousin, Jim, which spoke to me. Jim, then a psychology professor at a North Carolina University, had presented the “well received paper” at a conference, and chose to share it with me, along with a photo of its subject. The paper was entitled “Of Mandevillas and Trellises: An Allegory for Academic Support Programming” (B). He talked about a personal learning as he came to understand an unfamiliar and unruly but beautiful plant in his back yard. He said to his colleague professors, “I need to constantly remember that I cannot let my limitations or my limited understanding of something hold back my students from their true mission – climb as high as you can and bloom as hard as you can. I hope to always be striving for a clear and useful understanding of my students’ academic tasks and how best to promote their successful mastery of those tasks. Thank you, Mandevilla.” Jim was to retire from his University on December 31, 2008. On December 19, his 66th birthday, he had a massive stroke, and it is still uncertain that recovery to any semblance of normal life will be possible. Today I’m sending a copy of Jim’s talk and the photo to his wife and to his brother, neither of whom have likely seen it. Thanks, Jim. I think I get your point.

Jim’s memories in that box included something else – a literal and figurative tie to the past, and a reminder of the importance of enduring connections. A year or two before he died (1997) my Dad had sent to Jim the tie worn to Jim’s high school graduation in 1960. Jim made the tie a fixture of his opening lecture each term, telling the story about the tie and my Dad. At the end of the lecture, he always had some students “attest” to the use of the tie, and this came to me in form of a postcard, which I also kept. There were many of these postcards, and each time the new students described the past in present terms: The “skinny, dark gray tie with a black diamond in the middle” “was made out of something called Wemlon, and made by Wembly”; “[the label said it] is suitable for use with blue, black or gray suits”; “[was] worn at his high school graduation”; “looked funny…”; “made of a shiny fabric and looked very old”…. Many, many lessons about people and relationships came with that old tie, which Jim wore and talked about every semester at his University.

In a box I found “A Pledge for Creating a More Peaceful World” (C) which I had picked up at some meeting or other in 1996. It had been published by the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), an organization I wouldn’t have known at the time, but of which I became president 2005-2007. On inquiry, I learned that the current MAP President, Rebecca Janke, of Growing Communities for Peace, had developed the 1996 handout I had kept. It’s theme, compassion, is timeless and universal.

A sheet surfaced with a dozen “Principles for Peacemakers” (D) published by President Carter’s Center back in the 1990s. It is as relevant today as then. And a Gandhi quote which, from its general appearance, was printed many years ago in the days when good photo copies were something one aspired to, but seldom achieved. “If we are to reach peace in this world and if we are to carry on a war against war, we shall have to begin with the children”, Gandhi said. He meant us, not only the President of the United States.

In all of this flotsam, from these and other items, there was evidence of human connection and caring, and hope, even if the hope was not always easy to see. We World Citizens are far more, this flotsam said to me, than one person, or a collection of words. We are all linked, we are all responsible.

Politically, in this assortment was the letter I wrote to family, former colleagues and friends in early October, 2000, encouraging votes for Al Gore. I said that his ticket offered “by far the best leadership potential for the United States for the next four years. There are major and important differences between [the] parties positions….” I said in the body of the two page letter that “Clinton/Gore have been criticized often by many of those in their own party as being too moderate, too centrist. This quality has been central to their success, I believe. Most Americans are moderate, reasonable, people….”

About Mr. Bush, then, I said “he is probably deemed most pliable by power brokers unseen and unaccountable to the people.”

As the saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, and the Bush administration had eight very long years to define itself. Mr. Obama seems committed to genuinely change the tone and focus of government. He has not yet served his first day in office. He is, to my knowledge, the first president ever to answer to the descriptor “organizer”, and as such, he may take some getting accustomed to. He will work differently, most likely, than other high government officials have typically worked. (E) helps define effective organizers.

I attach great significance to the fact that President Obama urged a day of national service on Martin Luther King’s birthday, where the body politic in all of the millions of ways available to it, was asked to do something constructive in their community. I hope this service orientation becomes a daily habit for many more of us.

It will be slow and rough going for our new President, Barack Obama, but I think he has already set a new tone and it will continue, and it will be very different than we have experienced.
President Obama’s next four years can definitely be a time of “change we can believe in”, but he knows, and will remind us, that his presidency, to succeed, must be a presidency of, by and for the people. It will take effort by more than the 67,000,000 who voted for him November 4. Gandhi said it best: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Hopefully, our government, so top-down and secretive for the last eight years, will begin to be replaced by more person-to-person governance in the public square, a square which is more attuned to cooperation than to competition; one which knows that every one of us must be, ourselves, part of the solution.

Obama’s (and our) transition process will be difficult. We are accustomed to certain ways of being that mitigate against hope and cooperation, but I think that we are up to the task. If President Obama succeeds, we all succeed, and we will have been a great part of the reason for the success.

To a more hopeful future.
Dick Bernard
DICK_BERNARDatMSNdotCOM
www.amillioncopies.info


MATERIALS REFERRED TO IN THE ABOVE TEXT, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE.
A. Rules for Volunteers in the Civil Rights Demonstrations in Birmingham, AL 1963 through the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Birmingham Affiliate of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Demonstrators were required to sign a Commitment Card that read:
I HEREBY PLEDGE MYSELF- MY PERSON AND BODY – TO THE NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT. THEREFORE I WILL KEEP THE FOLLOWING TEN COMMANDMENTS:
1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
3. WALK AND TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6. OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or hear.
9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
From Martin Luther King’s “Why We Can’t Wait”, chapter “New Day in Birmingham” published 1964.

B. Of Mandevillas and Trellises: An Allegory for Academic Support Programming
By Jim, my cousin, at an academic conference in the Fall of 1999.

Allegory (al’ah-gor’i) n. 1. A story in which people, things, and happenings have another meaning, as in a fable or parable: allegories are used for teaching or explaining.

The Mandevilla is a flowering vine from the tropics. It does no survive the winter, even in Eastern North Carolina where snow is rare. That explains why the Mandevilla must be replaced each spring if you want to enjoy its gorgeous, trumpet shaped bloom. I suspect my wife likes the Mandevilla because its showy pink bloom seems appropriate on Pinkney Drive. But I digress from the allegory of the Mandevilla….

The Planting of the Seedling

For years my wife has purchased a Mandevilla seedling and, after all danger of frost has passed, she takes a large planter and the seedling to the backyard. Filling the planter with dirt, she roots the Mandevilla and waters it. Fertilizer and tender loving care help the Mandevilla settle in the planter and start to grow.

As a vine, there is a natural tendency for the Mandevilla to either climb or run along the ground. Regular mowing means the Mandevilla wouldn’t survive if it were allowed to run on the lawn. This leads us to the next step of this allegory, the need for something the Mandevilla can climb on.

The Making of the Trellis

Each spring, when the Mandevilla has established itself, my wife asks me to make a trellis for the Mandevilla to climb on. The first year I found some sticks in the shed and nailed together a simple trellis of two vertical pieces and three horizontal crossbars. That fall, after the Mandevilla had frozen, I pulled the trellis out of the planter and threw it away.

The next spring I was irritated with myself for throwing it away. Such handyman projects I find less than intrinsically exciting, and now I had to do it over. But again I built a trellis. This trellis consisted of two dowels (standard three foot ones) and a sawed up broom handle. Again, by that October it looked so pathetic that I again threw the trellis away.

The third spring I was even more irritated with myself since I could find neither sticks nor dowels to make the Mandevilla’s trellis. I finally took a piece of 2x2 and nailed two crossbars to it. Pounded into the planter, this crude trellis seemed to do the job. My wife questioned the esthetics, but it was a trellis and the Mandevilla climbed right up it.

The Digging of a Rut

The fourth spring planting of the Mandevilla presented a challenge – the shed was bare! I could find no sticks, no 2x2, no dowels, no broomsticks. And yet a trellis was needed just like always. But then I noticed that we had a garden cultivator. No garden, but we did have an old garden cultivator.

I tied the cultivator to the Mandevilla’s planter with a length of cord, and the Mandevilla started to climb it just like every other makeshift trellis I had put together. The Mandevilla climbed to the top of the cultivator and put out two lovely blooms that summer. I decided that I had solved both the Mandevilla’s need for something to climb on and the yearly scramble to find material for a trellis. I just wouldn’t throw away the cultivator or cord.

I had dug a rut. Come spring and I would take the cultivator and cord to the new Mandevilla’s planter – an instant, proven “trellis” was available to the Mandevilla. I no longer had to scrounge for something to build a trellis. I noted to myself that if the Mandevilla’s mission was to climb and bloom, then I had found an easy way to support that mission. For three or four years, I kept deepening the rut of tying the cultivator to the planter rather than hunt up something creative to use as a trellis. It was quick, easy, and seemed to work for the Mandevilla’s mission of climb and bloom.

Then, to my chagrin, the cultivator turned up broken. I was back to scrounging to support the Mandevilla’s twofold mission of climb and bloom. I went back to the shed and behind it found a foot wide strip of lattice from the short side of a panel. Keep in mind that a panel of lattice is 4x8 feet.

The Dawning of Insight

One day last September, as I was grilling dinner in the backyard, I noticed the Mandevilla on its trellis of lattice. I saw no blooms even though it was getting late in the Mandevilla’s season. We had a single bloom once, but never a complete absence of blooms. Turning the steaks, I mused on what could have gone so wrong that there were no blooms on this year’s Mandevilla. Too much water from the hurricanes? A cooler than normal summer?

Then I happened to glance at the Bradford pear tree next to Mandevilla. High in its branches some twenty feet above the ground, was a blaze of pure pink. I walked over and looked up at the Mandevilla’s tallest bloom. [I noted] the tallest bloom because inside the pear tree, hidden by the leaves, were several more blooms. More than I had ever seen on a Mandevilla. Then an insight struck me with chilling clarity.

My little trellises had severely limited the Mandevillas from their true mission. A Mandevilla’s mission is not to climb and bloom. The Mandevilla’s true mission is to climb as high as it can and then bloom as hard as it can. The four foot tall lattice had put the Mandevilla just close enough to the pear tree so that it could reach the tree. It was now free to climb high and bloom hard using the pear tree as a real trellis that fully supported its true mission.

I need to constantly remember that I cannot let my limitations or my limited understanding of something hold back my students from their true mission – climb as high as you can and bloom as hard as you can. I hope to always be striving for a clear and useful understanding of my students’ academic tasks and how best to promote their successful mastery of those tasks. Thank you, Mandevilla.


C. A PLEDGE For Creating a More Peaceful World
To honor our ancestors for giving us life, to express our love for the earth, and to respond to the oneness of the human family, we offer our compassion and pledge to:
1. Create conditions that promote social and economic justice.
2. Offer non-violent resistance to unacceptable conditions.
3. Master knowledge and skills that will enable us to help others.
4. Protect the environment for our own and future generations.
5. Ask our teachers to make peace education a high priority
6. Spread the message of interconnectedness and interdependence.
7. Seek ways to reduce overconsumption and to limit population growth.
8. Increase our commitment to peacemaking organizations.
9. Overcome oppression.
10. Nurture peacemaking skills in ourselves and others.
This pledge is adapted for young peacemakers from the Mission Statement and Contract with the World adopted by the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers. February 22, 1996.

D. THE CARTER CENTER: PRINCIPLES FOR PEACEMAKERS
1. Strive to have the international community and all sides in any conflict agree to the basic premise that military force should be used only as a last resort.
2. Do not interfere with other ongoing negotiation efforts, but offer intercession as an independent mediator when an unofficial presence is the only viable option.
3. Study the history and causes of the dispute thoroughly. Take advantage of any earlier personal involvement with key leaders and citizens of a troubled nation as a basis for building confidence and trust.
4. Seek help from other mediators, especially those who know the region and are known and respected there. (In Africa, for instance, we join forces with distinguished leaders from that continent.)
5. Be prepared to go back and forth between adversaries who cannot or will not confront each other.
6. With sensitive international issues, obtain approval from the White House before sending any Americans to take part in negotiations.
7. Insist that human rights be protected, that international law be honored and that the parties be prepared to uphold mutual commitments.
8. Ensure that concession is equaled or exceeded by benefits. Both sides must be able to feel that they have gained a victory.
9. Tell the truth, even when it may not contribute to a quick agreement. Only by total honesty can a mediator earn the trust and confidence of both sides.
10. Be prepared for criticism, no matter what the final result may be.
11. Be willing to risk the embarrassment of failure.
12. Never despair, even when the situation seems hopeless.

E. Barack Obama began his career as a community organizer. Here are some skills possessed by effective organizers (source unknown).
WHAT SKILLS DOES AN ORGANIZER NEED?
Ability to spot an issue.
Ability to work an issue.
Ability to evaluate human behavior.
Ability to withstand rejection.
Ability to cope with criticism.
Ability to communicate.
Ability to determine needs.
Ability to “jump from norms.”
Concern for people.
Singlemindedness.
Ability to see all aspects of a problem.
Ability to plan.
Ability to delegate.
Ability to direct.
Ability to “Affirm” others.
Ability to work from general to specific.
Ability to avoid being overwhelmed by trivia.