Posts Tagged 'obama'

On Obama’s Speech to America’s Students

Obama Speech to America's StudentsRecently on our family listserv, we had a little back and forth about Obama’s recent speech to students across America, with most giving positive reviews.  I thought it was fine, but had a bunch to add, and to critique, so I thought I’d share here as well.

I agree that the speech was really wonderful, and important, but do have a bone to pick with Obama on this one.  Hear me out.

Throughout the entire speech the predominant theme was that youth need to take responsibility for their own education.  Don’t drop out.  Don’t disrespect your teachers.  Do the work even if it may not seem relevant.  And above all, it’s ultimately up to you whether you succeed or not.  Generally good messages, but really only good messages for students.

For society at large, we know, however, that “it takes a village”, to quote an old African proverb, and that the village that was put in charge of education has failed.  It has failed because it was designed for a different world, and has been ornery in the face of adaptation.  It has failed through cutting costs, it has failed through irrelevant content, it has failed by favoring teaching methods that are at best boring and at worst antagonize young people to the idea of learning.  It has failed to realize that it needs to teach attitudes and orientations as opposed to facts and figures.  And it’s a failure that Obama didn’t mention a word about, glossing over this ossified aspect of American society using a fail safe mantra of rugged American individualism when what the education system really needed was a serious jolt about how this is a problem of communities and systems, of parent involvement and teacher training and of fear in the face of special interests that control testing and textbooks, as opposed to just giving a pep talk to kids saying that they should take their studies more seriously.  After all, if you were given the system that they were, would you?

When taken in the larger context, Obama certainly said some nice things, but no where near enough.  This was a fine thing for the president to say to young people on their first day back to school, but if this President wants to make any impression on me when it comes to education, he’ll have to say, and do, much much more.  This was his first day of school to me, and he did alright.  An A for effort and showing up.  We’ll see what his grades are like, though, at the end of the year.

Photo courtesy of CNN.
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A Dramatic Memory on the Eve of Obama’s Election

Recently on our family listserve, my grandfather Irving shared an essay memoir he wrote to the Obama campaign.  It’s a moving recollection and reflection on his own involvement in the civil rights movement, something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.  After asking to see if he’d be ok with it, I’m now happy to share it with you.  Enjoy!

A Dramatic Memory on the Eve of Obama’s Election

Irving M. Levine

One month after the dramatic election of Barack Obama, I celebrated my 79th birthday with renewed hope and considerable glee.  The day, December 7th, always evokes vivid memories of my 12th birthday in 1941. There wasn’t much to celebrate, of course, as I sat by the radio, hour-after-hour, hoping and praying that despite massive losses at Pearl Harbor, we might still prevail as a nation. Thank god that we had chosen FDR as our President. His indomitable spirit, inspirational character, and transformational leadership rallied us to victory against truly evil forces seeking to dominate the world.

From those times of dark shadows to today, my life’s journey has been a good and lucky one. Born into poverty, two months after the stock market crash of 1929, I grew up in a neighborhood largely populated by Jews, Blacks, and small enclaves of Italian and Polish families. We lived in the heart of Brownsville, Brooklyn—home to Murder Incorporated—and our fates were up for grabs.  For my three brothers and me, poverty and high-crime would not prove to be a knockout blow. A close family, mutual aid, the WPA, and our parents’ good character got us through the worst of times. But for many of my street-corner buddies, their lives went the wrong way.   Dozens ended “up the river” or died of drug and gang activities.

Continue reading ‘A Dramatic Memory on the Eve of Obama’s Election’

How open is open?

open-for-questions1

Change.gov, the website of president-elect Obama, claims that it is Open For Questions. This new section on the site allows anyone willing to give a name and a zip code the ability to log in to both pose and vote on any question that they want the transition team to answer.

Obama’s staff has already proven its savvyness in understanding how to leverage new media to help make his campaign both one of the most effective and genuinely grassroots in recent history (though George W. Bush’s in ’04 qualified as both, it did not use tech near as competently, nor was social media in the same place then). Now it’s keeping its promise of continuing this process of engagement on Change.gov.

What’s been interesting to watch is how the site has evolved since it was launched a couple of days after the election. First it was just a couple of static pages, with one offering a space for input, encouraging you to “Share Your Story”. A couple of weeks later other interactive spaces were created where specific questions were posed about people’s opinions and experiences in regards to health care and the economy.

Continue reading ‘How open is open?’


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If you're reading this, then you've reached the web log of Rafi Santo. This is my little slice of the internet where I can share my passion (or whatever) with the world.

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