Monday, January 17, 2011

"Some things you must always be unable to bear." -- William Faulkner

Whenever I visit Washington DC, I leave time to walk the Mall, usually the south end and often at night. I walk into Maya Lin's exquisitely simple Vietnam Memorial, a series of black slabs that slice down into the earth and back out. It never fails to move me.

Then I walk on over to a site that resonates with voices long past, with symbols of what is painfully best about our country. Eleanor Roosevelt asked Marian Anderson to sing here on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after she was refused by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It is here that Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis and so many others stood looking out at thousands gathered and stretched out past the Reflecting Pool in late August for the "March on Washington," where Dr King made his "I have a dream" speech. It's the same location where several years later I returned to participate in the Poor People's March. And it's where I took my five year old son, to read him Abraham Lincoln's words that are chiseled into the back wall of the memorial. It was difficult to explain to him that Lincoln was assassinated for what he had said and done as president of this country.

When I return next month, the new memorial to honor Dr. King will be nearly finished. It will stretch my walk to the northeast end of the Tidal Basin, near to the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Monument. Like the Lincoln Memorial, visitors will be able to read what Dr. King said.

Faulkner is right that there are some things that can never be born. For me, a college kid from a small town in northern Iowa, it was and is inconceivable that some elements of our society were so filled with hatred, anger and mental illness that men who spoke to what is best in us were murdered. We are shaken now by what we have seen in Tucson. I have only to remember that my college years included the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. As I listen to Dr. King's words being rebroadcast today, it's clear just how far we still have to go.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moments of silence.

It is hard to know what to say once the moment of silence is over.

Imagine how senators and members of the House of Representatives must now have to consider their public appearances, especially at home with constituents, where they have usually not had any form of protection.

While we continue to follow the critical condition of Congresswoman Giffords and others still hospitalized, we mourn the deaths of others at the event. The story of the 9 year old girl born on 9/11 who had just been elected to her student council is particularly poignant.

The real question is where do we as a nation go from here in our characterizations of one another?

Monday, January 3, 2011

"I am easily satisfied with the very best." -- Winston Churchill

It is a new year, a concept that appeals quite a bit to me every time it comes around.

We all work with cycles, whether it's the seasons we see reflected in our gardens; or the house-keeping we do each week; or the quarterly or semi-annual maintenance jobs we perform at home and at work. A year is just a longer cycle than others -- and it offers us the chance to start anew, to turn the page, to become a better person. Customarily we think of the end of a year as a chance to make resolutions that will be carried out in the new year.

At the Santa Fe think tank, we were offered the opportunity to divide a circle into slices, each reflecting some part of our life. For me, there were six: personal relationships, creativity, health, books, finances, and business. It was suggested that once a year we review the slices and then set 2-3 specific goals per slice. We'd then try to find the most important goal in each slice and carry it with us as we went through the year, as a reminder of what we were trying to do.

A summary of my most important goals for 2011 looks something like this.

Personal relationships -- lunch or coffee three times a week with a friend or colleague.

Creativity -- concerts once a month and exhibitions twice a month

Health -- train twice a week, and add yoga twice a week when possible.

Books -- finish draft of new book by end of Q1; design concept and sample by end of Q2; locate commercial publisher by end of Q3.

Finances-- develop multiple revenue streams from ASA.

Business -- become a federal contractor by end of Q1.

This last goal is testing my patience and fortitude. In order to become certified by the government, there are a number of online databases you pass through. I'm 80% of the way done, but I must say that I'm still learning codes and acronyms. The learning curve is steep.