Tag Archives: Hope

HOPE, TITLE IX, AND THE QUEST FOR A WORLD CUP TITLE

It never really occurred to me that the U.S. would lose to Japan in the World Cup Soccer Final last Sunday.  Our women’s team was magical.  They came from behind against Brazil and won on penalty kicks and the rest seemed pre-ordained.  All that was missing was Al Michaels roaring into the microphone: “Do you believe in miracles?!!!”  and the jingoistic chant of “USA!…USA!…USA!…”.

So I decided I would write a post about the amazing skill and passion and audacity and focus and persistence and fitness and resilience and talent of this extraordinary team.  I decided I would write about how they flew to Germany and somehow captured the heart of a nation back home.  How, while most of us were bellyaching about the NFL lock-out, our girls were quietly kicking butt.  How they lifted one of the most coveted trophies in international sports: the World Cup.

But then they lost.  Japan came from behind and won on penalty kicks and the tables were turned.

So much for my blog post about winning the World Cup.

Then I noticed something else about our team. I saw how incredibly positive they were– how gracious, even in the face of heartbreak and defeat.  There were no tears.   There was no scape-goating or drama.  Just classy American athletes at a time when “classy” and “American athletes” have long since become an oxymoron.

That’s when I realized that we are all beneficiaries of Title IX.

That 1972 federal law which created new opportunities for women in athletics was based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  (Incidentally, so was the line of cases and laws that defined student rights in special education, school finance schemes, bilingual education, and of course, school desegregation).

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX represented a vision of opportunity and equal treatment that has, forty years later, inspired our daughters to excel in every walk of life.  And not just our  daughters because many of those Japanese athletes grew up watching Mia Hamm and now play professional soccer here in the US.

Engraved in the golden walls of the World Cup is (at least metaphorically) a kind of promise– that when you provide every person with legitimate opportunities to fully develop their natural gift, the boundless potential of the entire human family comes closer to fruition.

The fight for educational equity in the United States is far from over.   There are huge populations of students “left behind” in the achievement chasm.  There are also critical subgroups suffering in silence who are worthy of advocacy at least as passionate as that which produced Title IX:  namely, those who are poor, or homeless, or our gay and lesbian students, or our immigrant children, or kids who are victims of bullying. And now we know what happens when we let all of our kids compete.

The US Team was lead by a goalie named Hope.  That is fitting.  And she would be the first to tell us that you don’t win a world championship on hope, but rather, on focussed energy and effort and commitment.  That lesson wasn’t lost on the hundreds of thousands of young girls no doubt watching their new idols on Sunday and dreaming  of a world cup campaign of their own.

That is the legacy of Title IX which we all inherited–  a promise to our children that they can play too.  As equals. That is what makes the quest for the World Cup worthy of your journey.  And mine.

Cross-posted on LeaderTalk

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THE LAUREATE

Hope

I woke up to news pulsing through Twitter that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Really?  He won it?  He’s not just  “a candidate in the running”… but he actually won the thing?

That’s extraordinary!

Just last week it seemed the White House was licking its wounds because Chicago had been passed up as an Olympic host– when the IOC picked the other high-crime, high-poverty, high-partying city– Rio.  The right wing nuts that used to demand patriotism from every American in support of “their president”– now applauded America’s (and Obama’s) embarrassing failure on the world stage.  This was exactly the kind of stumble that the haters envision when they say “I hope the President fails.”

But now, instead of throwing shoes at an American President in full view of the world,  there is this acknowledgment of his quest for peace.  It is a strange and unexpected exoneration of how the world sees America.  Glenn Beck was just crowing about how the IOC decision was a rejection of the Obama ideal. Now he and Limbaugh have to retrench to spew their venomous, hate speech:” I agree with the Taliban… Obama doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize,” Limbaugh said.  They had to move quickly to de-legitimize the award– just as they have tried to de-legitimize his election, and his citizenship, and his judgment, and his humanity.  And people listened.

Every day I watch this lunacy– the right wing Republican talking points, the hypocrisy, the power of talk radio loons to influence public opinion, the failure of our elected representatives to get along well enough to actually do something about the crises that they themselves have identified: Health care.  Afghanistan. Nuclear proliferation.  Economic collapse.  Global warming.

In Oslo, Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said:

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.

It occurs to me that when President Obama ran on the promise of change (and hope) we underestimated the extent to which change unsettles.  Change scares that crap out of people. It polarizes.

Even the people that voted for change pass through stages of tempered dissatisfaction.  Today, for example,  represents one of the largest demonstrations of gay American activists in recent history, with the Human Rights Campaign and their march on Washington to protest a lack of progress in the Obama agenda for gay rights.

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Change will be there too.  Like a giant chameleon sitting in the trees and turning whatever colors may be reflected in the surrounding landscape. Blending in.  The eye of the beholder. Participants will no doubt list their disappointments: not enough progress on “Don’t ask-don’t tell”, or civil unions, or gay marriage.  And I am with them.  There hasn’t been enough progress.  And if the Prez is listening… let’s throw in our disappointment over the education agenda.  And the slow closure of Guantonomo.  And the fractured withdrawal of troops from Iraq and simultaneous build-up in Afghanistan.  And jobs are still disappearing. Hell, let’s just replay the Saturday Night Live skit in case he hasn’t seen it.

And then, having gotten all that off our chest, let us join in a collective epiphany:  that if you voted for change…  you already got it.  If you voted for hope— the Nobel Laureate embodies it.  If you voted for President Obama– an extraordinary figure in an extraordinary time– hang on tight.  Change promises a long and treacherous road out of a darkness he inherited.  It will be worth the journey.

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STIMULUS: 20 Leadership Lessons From Barack Obama

stimulus | ‘stim yul us
noun (pl. -li | -,li)


• a thing that rouses energy in something or someone; an interesting and exciting quality

pres1On this, the thirty-day anniversary of the historic Inauguration of our 44th President, this much is clear: when it comes to leadership, Barack Obama has some game! In just four weeks (about the time it took most of us to figure out where the restroom was in our new school), President Obama has named and re-named cabinet members, passed a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, flown to Denver, Phoenix and Ottawa, launched Hillary into the Far East, visited a Washington DC charter school and took Michelle to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Whether you agree with his policies or not, there is much to learn from this president’s powerhouse approach to governing.

Metaphors for leadership abound– in Fortune 500 Company CEO’s, NBA basketball coaches, and admirals who have captained naval ships. You can find their books in Borders or read about them in Fast Company. Or you can follow CNN on Twitter and study how one man, our president, has approached his first month on the job and confronted the most complex and urgent crises of our generation.

So whatever your role in schools might be, here are “20 Leadership Lessons” from the dynamic presidency of Barack Obama:


1. Keep your eyes on the prize: There is nothing like a wordle to know you are consistently ‘on message’.

2. Invite them to the barbecue: Stepping outside of the hallowed halls helps to build social networks with allies and adversaries alike. Kegger at the White House!”

obama_running_blueflys_blog_flypaper_123. Don’t wait: Hit the ground at a sprint and knock over the furniture. Launch and learn!

4. Keep your family first. Period.

5. Feed your inner gym rat: Stay fit!

6. Bipartisan “process” is secondary to doing the right thing: So do the right thing.

7. Be resilient: After the inevitable setbacks, betrayals, and disappointments… you have to bounce back stronger.

8. Don’t be a sap: “I am an eternal optimist,” said the President. “Not a sap!

9. Read stuff!

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10. Don’t give up your Blackberry: Especially if it is your link to the only people who will tell you the truth.

11. Speak to the conflict: When you speak from the heart to the needs of people that didn’t vote for you, that’s real Servant Leadership.

12. Have some courage. Enough said.

13. Sneak out to dinner: (But leave your Blackberry at home.)

14. Change the culture to change the outcomes: Replace the curtains hung by your predecessor and then make up your own rules.

lincolnjpeg15. Stand tall on the shoulders of giants: Don’t wobble, they became giants for a reason.

16. Appreciate the ghosts. (If I lived in the White House I would walk around at night and listen to the spirits whisper.) Our schools have a history too.

17. Surround yourself with the best people you can find: Build your own team of rivals.

18. You belong in the room: So when you feel like you are over your head, it is good to remember that you were hired for a reason.

19. Communicate… communicate… communicate: Make it your gift.

And finally, whether you are an urban school district superintendent, the assistant principal of a small elementary school, or the most powerful leader of the free world, one month on the job–

20. Remember that HOPE is what brought you here.

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(Cross-posted at Leadertalk, a blogging community for school leaders hosted by Education Week.)

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A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA UPON THE INAUGURATION OF AMERICA

A flurry of blogs—including Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant” have invited their readers to write an open letter to President-Elect Obama.  It is a cool idea so I decided to write one.  If you scroll down to the next post you will find it.  But then I saw Larry King interview Maya Angelou about her poem “On The Pulse of Morning” which was written for Bill Clinton on the occasion of his first inauguration.  Dr. Angelou said she has not yet been asked to write an Inaugural Poem for President Obama but said she would write one for him anyway– which is also a cool idea.  So I wrote one of those too. 

This is my Poem on the Inauguration of America. It was written moments after CNN announced Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. It gives voice— at least for me— to the deep emotions, the catharsis, and the extraordinary pride I feel in him. And in America.  And the very long road we have walked.

 

“Here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out and into your sister’s eyes, into your brother’s face, your country and say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning.”

–Maya Angelou “On The Pulse of Morning” 

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“I AM HOPE”

A POEM UPON THE INAUGURATION OF AMERICA
January 20, 2009
Written for Barack Obama,  the 44th President of the United States
By Kevin W. Riley

 

Hope.

I  am.

Hope has, even for America’s moment,
Brought more than this moment of redemption.

Hope.
Though I am shackled and thrown upon the swollen deck,
Seaborne and riding the stench of slavery to some new world- lost to life.

Hope. Though I am asleep in Lincoln’s apocalypse.
I am Gettysburg and Manassas and Shiloh.
The dead stacked and shoveled into history’s silent pocket.
In the atrocities a war wrought, even the birds were lost for song;
their throats clutched
In witness of humans who could be so calloused and so cruel.
All in the name of Freedom.

Hope.
I am innocence: Emmit Till and Little Linda Brown
and Addie Mae Collins and her three young friends.

Hope.
I am the blessed martyrs. I am Medgar Evers.
I trust Malcom X with my fury.
I marched from Selma to a Birmingham Jail.
I ripped away the judge’s hood that silenced Bobby Seale
and enjoined the Freedom Riders to endure the flames at Anniston.
I heard the chilling voice of Bull Connor and the sting of riot dogs.
The fire hose.
I saw school buses ignite Roxbury and trigger decades of white flight.
And still I stand.

Hope…
I am the preacher-prophet who foretold that we would reside one day
in a promised land.
He must be with us now.
Though the years have kept his visage young…
His eternal voice is crisp as fire
As he sings from the mountain top.
This morning I heard the sky rejoice-
like the deafening wail of 10,000 hurricanes.

I am Lazarus.
I have redeemed the blood of a beloved brother, gone 40 years.
(Bobby’s picture is still among a shrine of holy cards
in a little house in San Antonio
Where Abuelita says her morning rosary
To Cesar Chavez and a wall of popes whose names she cannot pronounce).

I am JFK for whom Ireland still weeps.

I am redemption for centuries of sorrow;
For a word so foul it sticks in civil throats like drying cactus–
Thistle and rust, decapacitating…
A poison elixir that not all our years combined can exorcise.

I am first Hope. Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Mashall.
I am the first black pilot, the first black principal,
the first black business owner, the first pioneer.
I am first to serve, first to play, first in science,
and first to sail deep into space. 
And yet I am last.

I am Hope.
I ride a mighty wave.
I stand on shouldered giants, most for whom history has not reserved a name.
I am beneficiary of the wishes and the words and the blood of legions.

I rise by the toil of Chisholm and Jordon;
on the scaffold stairs built by Jackson and Charles Houston
and Andrew Young.

I am
Hope– tempered, with no guarantee.
But if ever He loved a people
Surely now He has heard our prayers…
Whispered through days and years and generations–
Through all America’s time
To let us be who we must be;
To even once know what it means to be ONE nation.

Alas…
I am only Hope.
My arms are thin.
I speak as if all of God’s angels have somehow filled my lungs
with righteous air.
I am your mouth. His voice.
Our hands–
That the promise of humankind might at last be realized.

But I cannot be who YOU will not be…

So now my name is nailed above Katrina’s door,
Above the Wall Street debacle and the house of cards.
My name is nailed to Iraq and Jerusalem, to all ancient Persia–
And to the suffering of Darfur.

And as I go, so go a hundred nations.

Freedom shines,
A loud bell tolls the moment.
We are astride a wondrous day.
History will remember us as giants…
Or it will not.

Redemption has a name.
I am Obama. And mine is a holy song.

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