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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Of Reactions to Reactions

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Can Newtown explain Ferguson? In reflecting on the physical world, Sir Isaac Newton wrote that “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. Born in 1642 and yet connected to the here-and-now. In Ferguson, Missouri protestors took to the streets in reaction to a grand jury’s decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. Reaction begot action begot action and reaction. Vicious cycle? Yes: for those who own the buildings and the businesses. From victimization came more victims and from suffering came more suffering.

Speaking in Chicago on the day after the protests, President Obama said: “I’ve never seen a civil rights law or a health care bill or an immigration bill result because a car got burned, it happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilized. It happened because people organized.”

The reactions characterized by Newton can be observed in every aspect of our world. From nature see the microcosm and our human turmoil in miniature. Reactions spindle forward as variables adjust. Are we little more than thunderstorms? Can no progress come from what we wrought?

And yet herein lies the critical value: progress. From what progress do our reactions serve? Perhaps this is the key question to ask: “What progress comes from our protest?” Are we building a better world by reacting as we do? One is cautioned to consider this, to ponder one’s emotion and consider a reaction. Destroying in reaction to destruction is a farce.

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Saying Nothing: “Lethal Aid”

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Political leaders are perhaps experts not at making policies or making important decisions but in abusing language. President Obama’s white house spokesperson used the odd phrase “lethal aid” in a press briefing today. The entire quotation, “We’re not actively considering lethal aid” came in response to a question regarding the United States assistance to Ukraine. Certainly an odd phrase, “lethal aid”, but what does it mean?

What is “lethal aid”? Rearrange the words to read “aid that is lethal”. Of course the “lethal” nature of this aid means that it’s not lethal to it user. The lethal features of such aid stem from its application to another. In this case the lethality of the aid would only be experienced by Ukrainian protestors who would likely not consider it aid. This “lethal aid” term is a perfect creation of two opposed ideas. It is the paradox perfected as it works to both convey a gentle act of strength and the violent act of killing. It is both cold and warm, boiling and frozen.

The art of politics: saying something that says nothing.

Perils of Communication Vacuums: The Need to Explain

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In an age of interconnected communication, nothing is more important than clarity of communication. Failure to deliver a concise message that everyone can understand is asking for disaster. One is better left to silence if he or she cannot accurately convey one’s inner notions. No matter how complicated, the expression of ideas depends solely on the clarity of their delivery.

With this at play, a speaker’s ability to communicate clearly is the single point of evaluation for a leader. If he or she can’t make sense its a lost cause. If one wants to lead one must communicate effectively. Forms of failure come in varied forms: lack of clarity, poor examples or simply muddled explanation give way to the ultimate cause of failed communication: reinterpretation by another.

Chief victim to these other voices is President Obama. His failure to deliver clarified messages has become his defining characteristic and tasked with a cadre of critical moments, his presidency (and the country) has suffered significantly from these failed communications. His continual failure to explain has created communication vacuums easily filled by anyone with an audience. At play are not only his political enemies but also his allies, his pundits and the electorate whose own notions and conceptions of reality carve new sense out of Obama’s hunk of muddled text.

Area of Interest: The Masks We Wear

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Shelby Steele references the concept of “masking” in a recording discussing his book on Barack Obama. The process of “masking” is one in which the individual tailors a projection to an audience or situation. For example, when we interact with a family member we present a different version of ourselves, or mask, than we do when we interact with a used-car salesman. These masks are both defensive and offensive.

Steele’s speech contextualizes the masking from a racial standpoint and goes as far to argue that masking is an essential activity in “minority life.” While I do not disagree with this notion, I would argue that masking is a universal human activity and occurs in all human interactions.

Categories: Community, Society Tags: , ,

The Core Problem with Education Reform

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Today President Obama announced an initiative to increase the graduation rate of American community colleges. The move, according to the White House, is to increase the network of education to expand training for American workers. Such a move connects directly with the Administration’s work to spur economic growth and create a system of sustained growth in the future. While I wholeheartedly agree with this move, I offer a caution to leaders to think that the quality of education is measured in quantitative means.

A system that evaluates itself based on output is inherently corrupt. The factory that produces the most widgets is simply active, not productive. We tend to lose sight of the importance of quality when faced with data suggesting high work rates. It is a fault that seems to connect directly with the Protestant Work Ethic and the work of Fredrick Winslow Taylor. Sadly it seems the American psyche still has Mr. Taylor’s clicking stopwatch in our brains.

A better system uses a qualitative method of evaluation. We need to assess the true depth of understanding that our college graduates possess. Even so, our graduates are merely prepared at the time of graduation. As the years progress and the factors of the world change they will find themselves helplessly unprepared if education suddenly ceases. A true evaluation of education assesses students on the basis of qualitative means.

A far more significant danger of increasing the graduation levels is the “watering-down” of the college degree. If everyone can earn a degree it instantly loses its value. We have seen this occur with the High School degree already. As more students are able to earn a college degree, the procedure of standing out or of gaining advanced levels of knowledge will require more time and more money investment in education.

A more realistic perspective is to realize the need for vocational studies. Not everyone needs a college degree and the best function for our government is to recognize a broad diversity within the network of education that provides a variety of skills. We risk eliminating the value of the college degree if we conclude that attaining such a degree is an effective assessment of educational value and personal worth.

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