Monday, March 26, 2007

Untenable—Sometimes the Romantic Is

What is not abstract
is the thin suede flesh
of the petals crumpling,

tearing,
releasing their crushed rouge
on my hip.

The sheets are ruined
and left balled up in a corner.
Is this what is meant

by a failed state? The mattress
flat on the floor—the bed frame
never assembled.

Suitcases unemptied (and acting
as roadblocks
between rooms)

Everything is untenable—
the size and speed of the car as we
argue—the weight of our bodies

on a couch too small, the pleasant prick
of homecooked food, laden
with Indian spices.

Pieces of me—I mean—pieces
of mail are scattered on the floor.
Everything is expendable and

ultimately, must go.
Once the apartment is emptied,
all that’s left behind

are stains, the smell of curry,
and a large cardboard box—
filled with ruined clothes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why I Love the Y

I've been meaning to post this article since May. I helped to put on a retirement party for a much beloved executive director at the YMCA who had stuck with the Y for forty years! I remember when I met him, it was my first day on the job. He came around the corner in his wheelchair and greeted me and my coworker very amicably. (This moment gave me a flashback to one of those textbooks, where they very conspicuously have a black kid, a brown kid, a short kid, a tall kid, a disabled kid, etc etc, except this was very real.)

He invited us into his office and he offered to tell me a little bit of YMCA history. When he was a kid, his own father had been the chairman of a YMCA board in the Central Valley. I just remember being so impressed by his warmth and generosity, and being impressed that he could actually read at all-- while he was chatting with us, he was going through some mail and he had to hold it way up close to his eyes to read it. I honestly have nothing but respect for this man, and the wonderful work he has accomplished at the YMCA.

He's rather fond of writing articles for the local newspaper and he wrote this one on the occasion of his retirement. I found it so inspiring (I found the whole retirement party so inspiring) that I wanted to post it here. What I really came away with was, "Wow-- this is what I want in my life. When I retire, I want to have been such a good person and I want to have made such a difference that people I worked with and for over my entire career will come celebrate with me." I don't mean that in a self-aggrandizing way at all-- I wouldn't want it to be all about me. I just want to be able to look back on my career and say, you know what? I did something really good that I can be proud of. Anyway, without further ado, here is the article:

Reflections on the making of a career

By Dan Logan

As I bring my full-time YMCA career to a close at the forty year mark, I’m flooded with memories, emotions and a renewed awareness about how much I am indebted to so many people who have mentored me. Being a compulsive list-maker, for each year beginning with 1966, I’ve identified a staff colleague and a key volunteer and/or friend who were important as a mentor at that point in my life and career. Happily, most are still living!

As I think about the YMCA volunteers, there have been educators, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, executives, financial professionals, clergy, philanthropists, and community leaders. I’ve learned so much both as an individual and as a Y director, their generous contributions of time, talent, and treasure have meant a great deal.

My YMCA staff mentors are also varied – there have been CEO’s, VP’s, APD (now AYP) and NAYDO folks, YMCA of the USA consultants, program directors and specialists. And the longer I’m in this I realize how much I’ve learned from the people where we might have thought I began as the mentor, but in reality it’s been a two way street so I’ve learned from the newest entrants as well as from the veterans.

And once I’d made my list of 80, I realized I couldn’t stop there as I pushed further back into my college and teen years, there were professors, roommates and just plain friends who came into my life by fate or fortune. And of course the one person who transcends all these categories for the past 37 years would be Chris [his wife].

A focus on social justice

Central to what has kept me energized through all these years, culture shifts and historical upheavals – and nourished by so many of my mentors – has been a commitment to social justice. In the sixties we responded to the pain of racial injustice. Over the decades, our consciousness grew as we realized that power gets misused in lots of ways – in spheres of religion, race, gender, poverty, sexuality and levels I’m just beginning to understand.

Early on it was my Christian faith and the call to concern about the least of those in our midst. One of the most powerful influencers for me was a professor of religion at Stanford, the late Dr. Robert McAfee Brown who was a pioneer in Catholic – Protestant relations He taught us how to value the ideas of others who walked different paths and how to enter into dialog and get beyond stereotypes and fears that separated us.

Back then I didn’t know many people from different backgrounds. Gradually, at college, grad school, in Kansas City and now Palo Alto, it has been my great fortune to meet and become friends with people from all over the world. Over those 40 years the Y has changed profoundly. Here’s some of what I told the YMCA board at my last meeting with them:

“The YMCA I had grown up with reflected its past – predominantly white, male, Protestant, middle class and heterosexual. So when I graduated from Stanford in 1966 it was with mixed feelings that I took my first full time YMCA position. Fortunately the Y had two things going for it –a strong commitment to values and adaptability – the decision making was decentralized and we quickly learned from each other.

So our local Y in 1966 hired the first female program director in the entire Bay Area. Our branch board has moved from about 20% female participation 15 years ago to more than 60%. The same pattern can be seen with regard to ethnicity, religion, and sexuality – something we’re just now beginning to talk openly about.

Back in the 60’s, having Catholics on the staff was considered progressive. YMCA professionals were required to sign a document affirming their Christian faith. But just as Christianity itself was opening its doors to dialog with other faiths, the Y’s doors kept opening ever wider. Practicing our four values became the focus instead of religion. Now our board and staff include people of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, the spectrum of Christian traditions and people who do not identify with formal religion.

And so the YMCA from which I retire looks a lot different – people of every nationality and ethnicity join us every month. The Y is much stronger than ever before for our commitment to welcoming people based on the content of their character rather than some ways in which we used to divide ourselves up.”

It’s a sobering, yet liberating thought to look over my list of mentors and realize that well over half of them would not have been welcome on Y boards and staff in the mid sixties.

Opportunities for positive mentoring

Why do mentoring relationships work so well? And why are some of us so fortunate in having had so many mentors and other people don’t? Certainly we’re learning more about that because of people like Dr. Peter Benson and the Search Institute. Their work over more than a generation points to relationships every young person needs for successful maturity. One thing I like about the 40 “Developmental Assets” is that most of them are “free” so that low income youths can benefit as well as those with more material resources.

I think organizations like the YMCA have created a structure and culture to cause these mentorships to occur almost naturally – in programs, in staff supervisory roles, in board and committee work. So even when I didn’t have the conscious thought that I was about to acquire a new mentor, it happened nonetheless.

So, I ponder why some individuals, like me, find themselves being comparatively rich with mentors while others don’t seems to have very many. I recall taking a co-worker to lunch several years ago where my main message was “you really need to find a mentor!” So I’d guess at least one variable is a person’s receptivity which, in turn, is probably based on prior positive and negative experiences.

Formal and informal mentoring

I’m not convinced that formal mentoring structures are necessarily any more effective than the informal or spontaneous ones but I think a strong case can be made for both. I recall our board tried a structured system for a couple of years with rather spotty results. One of my untested conclusions from that was that it would have been better for the new board member to pick their own mentor rather than having one assigned to them.

But that gets us back to the problem of receptivity, doesn’t it? Is it a chicken-and-egg proposition?

Timing seems to matter a lot – something we’ve long referred to as “teachable moments.” Drawing from my own experience, there were people who saw something in my besides my disability and opinionated attitudes and who took the time to reach out with a summer job, a letter of recommendation or just that listening ear, or the challenging words to do my best.

I have taken particular joy in being able to help young people, as I was helped, with letters of recommendation, opportunities for training and travel, and higher education financial aid.

I’m reminded of the biblical story of the boy Samuel who kept hearing his name called out at night while he was sleeping. So he asked his mentor, Eli, the priest, who explained to the young man that it was the voice of God, calling him to a life of leadership and service. And, of course, each of us needs our own Eli - telling us that we are special and that we can make a difference through our lives

Our society and culture seems to provide these opportunities rather unevenly. Extended families work out better for some people than others. I’m not as “good” an uncle for some of my relatives as others. Many faith communities use rites of passage (Godparents, confirmation, Bar Mitzvah) to encourage intergenerational mentoring. Increasingly it seems, organizations are encouraging the young person to be a mentor in their own neighborhoods and schools.

The 40 Developmental Assets are intended to emphasize that a young person needs positive adult contact from 360 degrees, not just from a single individual. The idea is to empower the entire community to provide positive contact with youth at every possible opportunity – be it in the aisle of a store or at a street corner waiting for the light to change.

I can make a strong case for formal youth mentoring for kids who are at a moment of higher-than-usual risk, such as a first encounter with law enforcement. Here is where organizations who can recruit, train and support volunteer mentor can help. In my first Y job out of graduate school, over a ten year period, we involved hundreds of such mentors and reached out to well over a thousand kids. Many of these teens faced really long odds, coming from dysfunctional or abusive family situations. One of our learnings was how important it was that we provided a strong support network for the mentors. We were successful in keep three fourths of these youngsters from further law violations in a situation where more than 50% recidivism was the norm. This is where my passion for mentoring was established.

Not all “mentoring” is positive

A few weeks ago a local police officer was shot and killed by a teenager. Without any inside information, I think we can imagine how this young man learned about guns and violence at an age where he could not understand the consequences of his behavior, growing up in a neighborhood with strong gang influence. I also believe that much of our culture and values – be they positive or otherwise – are transmitted by mentors just a few years older than the learner. So it seemed fitting that the family and friends of the slain police officer have chosen a youth mentoring program as the most fitting memorial for this policeman who was admired as a role model and mentor in the community.

It will take a major increase in the positive mentoring activity to take back a neighborhood from gangs and people who have learned only violence as a method to resolve differences. But it can be done.

Looking back over my long career, as you might suppose, I have a strong belief that we need to ensure that there will be a continued inflow of talented individuals committed to enabling the YMCA to carry out its social mission of helping individuals, families and communities achieve their God-given potential.

Dimensions of a long YMCA career

From a personal view it has represented a way to practice my values each day I come to work. There’s been the satisfaction of working with like-minded people from which many friendships have flourished. YMCA employment has provided a career path with many choices all over the country and beyond, along with training and benefits for today’s needs and needs later on.

From the organization’s viewpoint, long careers provide tremendous benefits in having stable stream of employees who understand the unique partnership between staff and volunteers, who understand how we design every program and activity to carry out our mission. They bring experience from other Y’s, enabling us to raise our standards.

Then there’s the perspective of the many different ways a career professional touches lives of individuals, families and communities– and here I’ll just list some from my own experience – the children in my day camps, the older children at a week of Y resident camp, the teens whom I helped run a coffeehouse, inner-city kids we deterred from juvenile court with mentors, minibikes and weekend outings, young adults with drug problems, the men and women who honed their leadership skills as board members, the young adults for whom the YMCA was their first real job, the members who quickly discovered that the Y was different from the gyms they’d belonged to, donors who discovered the power and joy of philanthropy, the people from faraway countries we welcomed and vice-versa.

Mentors at turning points

Of course even a “successful” career has its trials. I can recall somewhere about twenty years ago I was seriously wondering if it was time to leave YMCA work. Despite all the accomplishments and recognitions, several staff situations had become disappointing and it felt like my career had stalled. I seriously questioned whether I had made the right decision in pursuing a Y career at about the 20 year mark. Fortunately a colleague recommended a career consultant who administered some test which helped me to look at my preferred work content and environment. With his help I came to understand the blend of data, people and things that are present in any job and, in particular, in the jobs I’d had and been successful with.

Little by little I was able to put my trials into better perspective, a friend shared with me a set of “rules for being human” which included the idea that when you’re looking at greener pastures, it’s good to remember that every “there” is just another “here” – we will all have our difficult workmates now and then.

Can we promote more mentoring?

It has been my privilege to learn from countless role models like you who have touched the lives of those around them and through a ripple effect, have made a profound difference among people they’ve never met. Of course this can happen at any level in the organization, but I’ve chosen to focus on encouraging young people to carefully consider the YMCA for their career.

As I reflected about how much I learned from so many mentors, I decided to establish an Endowment on Mentoring to look for and celebrate examples of mentoring. By naming it the Logan Family Endowment Fund, I want to acknowledge that my YMCA career emerged over the decades beginning with my dad being a YMCA board chairman, YMCA program involvement by my siblings and the support and involvement by my wife and children.

So in lieu of gifts to me, I’m encouraging donations to this endowment so we can use the earnings from this endowment to promote YMCA leadership development by recognizing mentors – be it a monetary prize, a study grant, a lectureship, an essay contest – just the simple act of asking people to think about who we influence and how we transmit our values – this will be deeply satisfying as a gift to the next generation.

Still Alive and Kickin!

Well I have not written in a long while- and this can basically be summarized as the following: moving house, new adventures in dating, career frustration and the dissipation thereof, a new nephew (so cute!), a splash of family drama- all in all, lots of either busy-ness or disinclination to expose my thoughts on said topics to the entire world. (Hello world!) Good books I've read: The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen and Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office- 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers. The first was compelling, dark and deeply upsetting in an existential sense; the second was galvanizing and spirited! That's right baby, no more Ms. Nice Girl at work! (It's not to say- be a bitch- rather, it's to say- be aware of the ways you've been socialized as a girl which hinder your success in the workplace...) Anyway, I'm still alive and kickin! Just thought I'd give a shout out.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Good Magazine: for People Who Want to Do Well by Doing Good

So I went to the launch party of this magazine on Friday night and I must say, it was quite a party. It was held at 111 Minna in SF, a hip art gallery and watering hole. I heard about the magazine through some Stanford friends, and lo and behold, there were many Stanford people in attendance! Even Al Gore was there! (Not that he went to Stanford.) No kidding. He was there, chilling out with Tipper and all the young whipper-snappers, drinking his Heineken from the bottle. Amen to that! A friend of mine even shook his hand and said hello.

I strongly recommend that you check out the magazine and subscribe. It's just $20 to subcribe, and believe it or not, 100% of this money goes to the organization of your choice. When you check it out you will see some very nice samples of wry wit and irreverence such as the following:

The Week in Good:

Have a happy Independence Day. Be careful with fireworks. They are a dangerous toy. And take a minute to try to hold some truths to be self-evident, or whatever.

Two big things happened this week.
First, Warren Buffet gave away a shitload of money.
And then we discovered, exactly how much of a shitload it really was.
Second, the New York Times destroyed America and everything America stands for. And then people got really angry about it. And then they got angry to the point of absurdity.
Other than that, there were some important court rulings about military tribunals and carbon emissions and sex, and gays, and all sorts of fun stuff.
Also, we provide a simple way to prove you're smarter than your friends, and prove you're a better citizen. Regardless of your scores, you are unquestionably both smarter and a better citizen than the indicted Governor of Kentucky.

The Mag aims to "catalyze positive thought and action" and claims, "In a world of nuclear ambitions and disarmament, environmental destruction and consciousness, economic hardship and prosperity, we prefer engagement to apathy, wit to jargon, big pictures to lengthy articles, and the practical to the esoteric." Amen, Amen, I say to you...this should be a very interesting magazine.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another Doonesbury Classic

I've been meaning to post this one for a while! (Heck, now that my boyfriend is in India semi-permanently, I think I'll be tending to my blog a lot more, since I'm really not sure what to do with myself.) In the July 2 strip, the doctor tells a guy he's got TB. The guy asks what his prognosis is, and the doc says, "Depends. Are you a creationist?" So the guy admits that he is, and says "Yes, why do you ask?" Doc says "well, do you want me to treat you for the bug as it was before antibiotics, or the multiple-drug-resistant strain it has since evolved into?" The doc explains that if he chooses the "Noah's Ark version" he can just give him this old drug. The guy asks, "What are the newer drugs like?" and the doc says, "They're intelligently designed." Ba-dum Chhh! I love it :) Hope you do too.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rode My Bike to Work Today!

This is my new beauty! Like my mountain bike, she's a Rocky Mountain and absolutely gorgeous. Please note the stylish yellow paint job, the carbon fiber fork, seat stay and seat post, and the Shimano Ultegra shifting.



In any case, the important point here is that I rode her to work today and the only CO2 I emitted was from my personal exhalation! Not only did I have a fun workout and see the scenic parks and lanes of my town, but I also put my money where my mouth is and changed my lifestyle!! I plan on biking to work from now on... My workplace is conveniently equipped with bike storage lockers and bathroom showers!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Ramble on the Political Nature of Science

My fellow blogger, Chia, was very upset a while back by an article by psychologist Daniel Gilbert in Time Magazine on whether or not parenting makes people happy. (It essentially claimed that parenthood slightly decreases happiness.) Chia wrote this post in defense of the joys of parenthood, and being the thorough scientist that she is, presented several valid points of contention. Once I saw that Dr. Gilbert had responded to her, I had to go check out his article, which I actually hadn't done the first time I read Chia's post. Funny enough, I've been reading Gilbert's book "Stumbling on Happiness" on and off for the past month or so and I've been intrigued by it. I thought I would point out, to his credit, that his article ended on a note that affirmed parental love:

"Our children give us many things, but an increase in our average daily happiness is probably not among them. Rather than deny that fact, we should celebrate it. Our ability to love beyond all measure those who try our patience and weary our bones is at once our most noble and most human quality. The fact that children don't always make us happy--and that we're happy to have them nonetheless--is the fact for which Sonora Smart Dodd was so grateful. She thought we would all do well to remember it, every third Sunday in June." [my emphasis added]

The other thing I'd like to point out is that his article and his book remind me very much of "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything." I suspect the authors must be in contact, since Levitt wrote the blurb on the cover of Gilbert's book. In any case, what Levitt in his book and Gilbert in his article propose are theories that from my limited knowledge, seem to be based on solid science, but which offend us because they trespass on our sensibilities and spin our moral compasses.

Levitt, for example, convincingly argues that the considerable drop in crime in US Cities in the 90's is more connected with the legalization of abortion through Roe v. Wade than it is with any other factors or occurrences which have been proposed by social scientists. The core of this argument is excerpted on the Freakonomics website:

In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years-the years during which young men enter their criminal prime-the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals. And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.

This argument is obviously a lightning rod for controversy, as it can lead to some nasty conclusions that smack of eugenics. Levitt knows this all too well, and I think I admire him for being willing to consider a theory that many wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, given its social inconscionability. (Is that a word?)

In any case, both of these instances make me wonder about science and its unavoidably political nature. What are we to make of science when it seems to show us things that transgress our moral boundaries? Undoubtedly, scrutinize the science in question--that much is a given. There are always flaws in experiments and methodologies which can be drawn out and discussed.

But what if, despite our best efforts to discredit a theory, it persists in emulating truth? Shouldn't we be afraid of science and where it could lead us? (Yes, I've read Frankenstein...) I don't really mean to propose that we should, because overwhelmingly I see science as a force for the good of mankind, but when you think of Galileo's discovery that the earth orbits the sun and not vice versa, when you think of the implications of evolution on how we think of ourselves as human beings--yeah that's scary stuff. Galileo died for a truth that many (ahem! the Catholic Church) saw as unconscionable and as you know, the so-called "debate" over evolution still rages today because of the heinousness of the mental threat that it affords many people. Anyway, I don't have any bold conclusions to draw here, but I would certainly welcome ideas and comments.

Next in this series: The Inherantly Political Nature of Poetry. (I'm only half kidding...)


An Inconvient Truth Rocks the Boat in All the Right Ways

I just saw Al Gore's throroughly impressive documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Even as I was watching it in the theater, I felt fired up to *do* something because I believe that we face a real crisis on a global scale, the ramifications of which are on a scale too large for us to even imagine. I went to see this movie because it was a Sunday, and I was feeling bored and lonely, and my roommate had told me it was very good. Given, seeing this movie does not seem the most riveting possible way to spend your time, but I feel that this is an important movie, which everyone with a heart, with a concience and with any love of nature or our very *human way of life* needs to see. Right now, I want to write my Congresspeople, write GM and Ford and bitch them out, start riding my bike (my brand spankin new roadbike!!) everywhere I can, and talking about this to anyone who will listen. I truly admire Al Gore for spreading the word. I think it's one of the hardest things in the world to galvanize a mass of people into action, but he has the idealism and the fire and the drive to try. And I think he is suceeding, little by little.

USA Today said, "Gore's 'Truth' is Highly Watchable. What could have been mired in political rhetoric or techno-speak is instead illuminating, fascinating and sometimes frightening. A thought-provoking cautionary tale that is also lively and entertaining, An Inconvenient Truth showcases the dedication, warmth and, yes, charm of the former vice president."

Roger Ebert said, "When I said I was going to a press screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," a friend said, "Al Gore talking about the environment! Bor...ing!" This is not a boring film. The director, Davis Guggenheim, uses words, images and Gore's concise litany of facts to build a film that is fascinating and relentless. In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to." Ok, if Roger Ebert says it, it must be true. GO SEE THIS MOVIE AND START CREATING CHANGE!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Commencement Metaphysics

if (death == soon)
{
alert (live life to the fullest);
}
else
{
alert (suck it up bitch & keep programming!);
}

I graduated last year from Stanford with Steve Jobs as my Commencement speaker. I wasn't thrilled with his speech for a number of reasons. Firstly, he opened by talking about how he dropped out of college and never graduated. While I apprciated the risk he was taking by sharing this in front of about 20,000 people, it just didn't make any sense to me why we would have invited someone to speak at our graduation who had lacked enough motivation and passion for education to stay in college. I thought it made our accomplishments as graduates seem less, especially since his story illustrated the fact that one does not need a college education to be spectacularly sucessful. This is undoubtedly true, but let me tell you that the students and parents who have just droppped $160K on a Stanford education really don't want to hear this.

Secondly, I was irked by his blunt talk of death on a day that was meant to be a celebration, and a youthful, hopeful celebration at that. The portion of his speech broaching death was not only cliched (after all - how many times have we heard the wishy-washy exhortation, "live every day as if it were your last"?)--it was not only cliched, but it also just struck the wrong note. I could perhaps accept and welcome some poetic talk of death, a passage from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland perhaps, but this? This just didn't jive with me.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Basic message: You are going to be dead.

Remember that I'll be dead soon? The hell I will on my graduation day! I felt great! I felt invincible! I felt loved! But re-reading what Jobs said now...I must concede that it begins to sit more comfortably with me and I can now see why my family liked it so much. But I was in a very different place a year ago!

On the other hand, my instant reaction to Tom Brokaw's speech this year was very positive. I loved getting a piece of his perspective on U.S. History and his expansive and often first-hand knowledge of the worldwide events of the past 20 years. His speech was so different than Jobs' because Jobs' was almost entirely inward looking while Brokaw's seemed to encompass so much more--both himself and the greater world around us. Please forgive the large quote, but I really think this is worth quoting. (Please imagine familiar and reassuring baritone):

Imagine the power felt by students at the beginning of another century 100 years ago. They were mostly young men in those days in institutions of higher learning. They were poised at the cutting edge of a new century as well as with new tools available to them—electricity, flight, automobiles, telephones, transcontinental travel by rail. Great fortunes were being amassed—not here in the Silicon Valley but in steel and oil and banking. My God, the possibilities of that new century! And yet it became a century of great tragedy. Two world wars, the second one giving birth to the nuclear age and in the center of Western civilization the darkest of darkness, a holocaust designed to exterminate a great people and their faith.

Other wars in the 20th century left deep scars at home as well as on the battlefield. Communism, a political and economic ideology introduced as an instrument of liberation, became one of the century's cruelest forms of oppression. At one end of the scale, great powers developed weapons capable of ending life on earth as we know it. At the other end of that scale, religious fanatics turned their bodies into weapons and their zealotry into suicide assaults.

The code of life, DNA, was cracked. The plague took new form, but it was also the century in which the universe of political freedom expanded as it never had before, when science crashed through frontiers heretofore thought to be impenetrable, when gender and race finally made it onto the global agenda in a new and significant fashion.

Okay, as an English major, I just love this stuff and can't get enough! It's so well written, with compelling imagery, stategic anaphora, some metaphors sprinkled here and there, all delivered with the unshakable prowess of the most trusted TV news anchor of my time! Yes! So satisfying, so pure! The man even used the word apogee for the love of god!

We live at the apogee of Western civilization and in despair that sectarian ancient rivalries are lethal alternatives to reason and modernity. We live in a world of a rapidly expanding population of Muslims, too many of whom love our culture but hate our government, who envy our successes, disdain our pluralism and are enraged by our sense of entitlement. Too many young Muslims who live in politically and economically oppressive regimes where they are easy prey for religious teachers who preach jihad against the West as a matter of faith. What we hold dear—pluralism, the rule of law, modernity—they are taught to hate and attack.

We cannot ignore them, and as the last four years have demonstrated in tragic fashion, a military response is inadequate. If … hostility is not addressed in a more effective manner in the West, and in the Islamic world as well, we will live in a perpetual state of terror and rage on both sides of the equation.

So a primary challenge of your time is to bank the fires of hostilities that are now burning out of control, to neutralize that hatred, to expedite not just global competition economically and politically, but also global understanding, and especially global opportunity.

Now this was inspiring! This was a level of challenge and inspiration I definitely did not get from Steve Jobs! I think that Brokaw is right on the money here--I couldn't agree more with what he's saying, which is essentially that it will be up to us, to my generation, to promote global understanding and to innovate ways in which we can neutralize violence and hatred. (I know, I know, I'm such a young and naive idealist...it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!)

Now to be fair, I must say that Tom Brokaw came off as being very old-fogey-ish, when he lapsed into a more preachy "in my day, I had to walk to school and back in the snow, uphill both ways" kind of dialogue:

So, welcome to a world of perpetual contradictions, welcome to a world of unintended consequences and unexpected realities. Welcome to a world in which war is not a video game, … in which genocide and ancient hatreds are not eliminated with a delete button. You won't find the answer to global poverty in Tools or Help. You cannot fix the environment by hitting the Insert bar. You cannot take your place in the long line of those who came before you simply by sitting in front of a screen or at a keyboard.

I understand what Brokaw was trying to say here--it was more along the lines of--"Wake up! Beware of getting sucked into the non-reality of the internet or being lulled into complacency by the easy comforts of technology, when actual reality is upon us and demanding that we take concrete action!" Having met some people who literally live online and are glued to their computer screens playing World of Warcraft 20 hours a day, I think Brokaw is onto something here...and I think his exhortation to get involved in the defining issues of our day is very valuable. I just think he was a bit off track and quite a bit patronizing when he spoke about technology like that to a sea of Stanford undergrads and their families. Mr. Brokaw would have done well to remember that we are able to use technology and the internet to make a real difference in people's lives--no joke.

So was one speech "better" than the other? I don't know... I just know that Brokaw's speech matched up almost perfectly with what I had in mind when I imagined my graduation and my commencement speaker, and that his observations about the world matched up very closely with mine. Funny how much we love to have our beliefs reaffirmed, especially by someone with a great deal of prestige and respect...

John Donne - On The Occasion of My Love Leaving

HOLY SONNETS

XIV

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.