Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Selfless Volunteer Candidate. Donald Trump?

Our country has a rich history of volunteerism. My name is Pat Parris, and I coordinate a leadership program at a cyber school in Pennsylvania (PALCS). Every year 20 of my charges learn to complete a selfless project in their communities that spurs volunteerism, while developing leadership skills. 

There is a rich history of volunteerism in America. The number one reason for government is to provide national security for its stakeholders. Most governments do this by recruiting armies, In the early years of our country we recruited militia. Militia are volunteers that meet this basic need of protecting our citizens from outsiders. But, we volunteer in many other ways as well. 
Perhaps the earliest form of volunteerism besides the militia are opportunities for people to serve in their local churches. Even before we were raising arms against the English we were fighting for freedom of religion. Ironically this freedom could be best described as a separation of church and state. Before the American Revolution the Church of England was punishing Christians in America who disagreed with them. There was a revival of the teachings of Martin Luther on the Princeton seminary campus at that time called The Great Awakening. Salvation by faith. and not the rituals and duties of the Church of England was the drive behind this revival. The Church of England had no separation of church and the state. The English saw this as a direct attack on their government. This is a well known story, but I find the side story even more interesting. The side story is the streams of volunteers who served in these churches with no reward of employment or patronage from their new found faith. They did things like feed the hungry, take care of widows and orphans, care for the sick, and educate the young. Who were these church workers who served so selflessly? They were countless volunteers motivated by a faith that few could understand apart from conversion. In my opinion, this lack of understanding led to overcompensation by our government to make these services into entitlement. 

During this time period we read about famous people like Jonathan Edwards and King George. We seldom consider the unsung heroes who volunteered selfless acts of service. I am writing this post to remind you of them. If these people were memorialized in history, then perhaps we would turn our ambition to be like them. As we travel through the sands of time if we remember these unknown heroes we may see a new ambition for volunteerism that could help unravel the entitlement problems in our country. Entitlements like food stamps. Medicaid, and public education could be provided by individuals motivated a higher purpose. This supplement of volunteer heroes would never take the place of these programs, but selfless acts of service could stem their growth. 

So here is my tribute to a selfless person who has gone before us. My mother was one of those volunteers. I was the 4th born of 5 children. She lost her husband to leukemia when I was 5 and raised our family on veterans checks, and the kindness of others. We lived two doors from my uncle and he watched out for us. My aunt would even remove my stitches to save money from an additional doctors visit. Our church provided an education at Saint Valentines Parish in Bethel Park. The veterans administration provided an earned entitlement of food and shelter for my mother and her family. When I aspire to be like her, then I find my ambition shifting to selfless acts of service.  

Perhaps the antithesis of my mother are self promoters like Donald Trump. Why then is the Donald so popular in his candidacy for president? Isn't he the opposite of the selfless volunteer? Could it be that he has tapped into a longing for transparency in our conversation? Many people have been caught in a period of salary and promotion stagnation, and have grown bitter. When they see Donald Trump saying what they are thinking they feel a sense of vindication, and pay back for wrongs they feel they have suffered. But, is this good government? 

Some people think that he is a joke, a late night talk show act, or a shocking youtube video. Donald will entertain them, and since they feel so disenfranchised by our government, then perhaps they will get something out of the election. If we govern this way then inconsiderate gaffs will become normative, and we will react and not respond. Even more scary we may become flippant about international relations. Presidents should be sober, slow to react and selfless volunteers that walk in the tradition of some of our best presidents. The best presidents in our history have won by a small margin, or have sought the office reluctantly. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Truman and Kennedy fit this tradition. When a self promoter assumes the office, then the benefit of the whole will be sacrificed to short term selfish gratification. 

Any decent leader knows that short term gratification can be sacrificed for long term benefits. We must take the hard road of self sacrifice to move our country forward. It is true that this will not be a popular campaign speech. However, this is what our country has done to move our people forward into a high standard of living and a peaceful life. That is why the best candidates say very little about complex problems, but solve them by including stakeholders in the process of solving them, and choosing the road less traveled. It can make all the difference. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nabataens trade and a solution to the Syrian Conflict.

 Mr. President,

The current Syrian Civil War between a loose confederation of militias and Assad’s regime can find mediation through a strategy of increasing trade. Jordan is the wild card that no one is talking about right now. We need to look to Jordan and support King Abdullah II and his Hashemite constitutional monarchy. Jordan is threatened by three things resulting from the Syrian Civil War.
  • Jordan is threatened by a refugee crisis. 
  • They are threatened by the potential for a Sunni Jihadest government forming along their border that will raise sympathies by conservative people in their own country. 
  • Finally they are threatened by Assad himself who sees Jordan as too western leaning and too much maneuvering against him could result in a direct response. 
Because they are vulnerable Jordan will be stimulated to take action in this current conflict. 

One of the unifying characteristics of the Arab peoples is world trade. The ancient Nabataens lived in Trans Jordan. They were eventually annexed by the Roman Empire. They were one of the few civilizations that were not conquered by the Roman Empire. They had an amazing propensity for trade, and this characteristic marks these people today. We need to increase trade with Jordan. We can do this by giving them aid with strings attached to increase trade. This will serve two purposes.

  • It will help the refugee population find employment by employing them to deliver goods or services. If you look at the trade routes above you will see that many of these ancient trade routes went through Israel. 
  • This could could change Israel's image into a trading partner instead of a military adversary. 

The Palestinian question is inflammatory in Jordan. The Palestinian peoples could be given preference in regards to any employment generated by increased trade.

What should they trade? In ancient times silk, oil, spices, timber and many other commodities crowded these trade routes. What would be a modern commodity that could be transported by individuals, and is still considered essential? Coffee, sugar, corn, wheat and cotton are the most popular agricultural commodities today. Certainly Jordan's fruit and vegetable farms could be expanded to dispatch goods to these refugee couriers. Eventually, if the wealth of this trade market is successful enough Assad may even be bought out and portions of the country could be annexed to other states.

None of this will happen quickly. The response to the gassing of children and families in Syria is not addressed in this short post. I agree there should be a response, but this post deals with the end game instead of any immediate response to violations of the Geneva agreement. Most US citizens are more concerned about the end game in Syria. If President Obama addresses that, I am sure he will find favor if he takes action in retaliation for war crimes by Syria.

Just my thoughts Mr. President,

Pat Parris

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A thankful member of the 47%

My father died when I was five years old. My mother raised five of us, and during this Thanksgiving season I will always be grateful for her sacrifices. Our government supported my family with monthly veterans’ checks. I was pulled out of a boring English class to go to college free as a track athlete. I entered the work force with a shock. No one provided me with employment as they had provided me food, shelter, and education to this point. I secured a job at a sheltered workshop for 3 ½ years placing the mentally handicapped into competitive employment. I made $8,000 to start and paid no income taxes. This job helped me identify my skills of persuasion, as well as people skills, and an empathetic attitude. It also made me a legitimate member of the 47%. Today, I am a conservative, and do not readily identify with this group. I am empathetic, however.

You see there is an entitlement type of thinking that makes me squirm. Even though I am the recipient of so many handouts over my life, I reject the idea that I will remain dependant on freebees. You see my mom took the entitlements, but she never stopped working. She leveraged her entitlements to create opportunities for her children. I miss her, and think of her often. In the spirit of Thanksgiving I am grateful and want to contribute to this great country that gave me so much opportunity. It is not the handouts that create an entitlement culture. It is the lack of desire for a better lifestyle. It is the selfishness of capitalism that drives most of us to have a better life. When I travel to other countries like Panama and China and they find out that I am from the US it is not democracy that I sense they are envious of. It is not freedom that they seem to long for. I sense that they are more interested in the things that I have, and the opportunities available for both my self and my family. Don’t get me wrong. I think they want the right to express them selves without being harmed. I think they also want what Abraham Lincoln called conceived liberty and dedication to equality. I just think that these lofty ideals are not where people live.

I think that most people are much like my wife. She lives in the here and now and not the lofty ideals of democrats or republicans. She keeps me grounded when I find myself in an idealistic rant. My mother, my wife, and my foreign friends surround me with the reality of the here and now. Human nature becomes industrious when we sacrifice and work to better ourselves. When we get something for free that we don’t have to work for, then we do not value it. We expect more, and become ungrateful for the things we have. The cure for ingratitude is sacrifice. When we must work for something we learn to value it. So we the members of the 47% who have had to sacrifice and struggle reject the idealism of the extreme right wing. Just because someone has given us a hand up does not mean that we are destined to be entitled. We vow to take delight in any help we receive. We will be grateful for opportunities over expectations. When we find ourselves in desperate circumstances we will resist despair. On this Thanksgiving we will identify small reasons to take courage. On this Thanksgiving we proclaim a new breed of 47 percent-ers who will represent those who live in the stress and struggle of the here and now with a can do attitude that rises above our circumstances. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Decision! #Obama, #Romney, #Election

I have made a decision, and I am voting tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can not let you know what that decision is. You see I am a high school teacher. My students may be watching my posts. Tomorrow, on Election Day my students and I will be giving out copies of the constitution to every teacher at our school. The Constitution tells us in the first amendment that the government shall not establish or create a religion or forbid its exercise. I agree with this clause. I would even fight and die for this limitation of government.

During the colonial period many evangelical Christians were being persecuted around the time of the  American Revolution in America. The Anglican church at the time was state controlled. During this period the church was a beneficiary of the tax dollars of the state. People did not have the freedom to join the church of their choice. Our founding fathers did not want what they saw In Europe repeated. Giant cathedrals were built with tax dollars and the people resented it, and their religion with it. The first amendment guarantees that this history and oppression over controversial beliefs will not be repeated.

So I know what you are saying. political parties are not a religion. This is true, but I see my job as a sacred trust. My job is to teach students to think, not teach them what to think. My students need to be able to make judgments for themselves. If they must be influenced by someone, then I would prefer that, that someone be their parents. I do not desire to alienate those students who would disagree with my perspective. It is my desire to influence as many of students as possible to think critically. If I take a position, then I want my students to see it as an opportunity to argue with me. I want them to challenge me and be challenged in an environment where there are rules and safety. In this laboratory of kindness students will be able to explore their political, religious and ethnic values in a way where they can make up their own minds with the primary influence from their parents. I will vote tomorrow, for the person who I believe will take us on a systemic course to preserve the free enterprise system, and restore the middle class so that my grandchildren will have the same opportunities that I did when they are able to make their mark.

Are you going to vote tomorrow? If you do, and you should, remember that high school teacher that taught you how to think, not what to think. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who would Hurricane Sandy pick for president?

Who would Sandy pick for president?

sandy and pres

I suppose it is how you look at it. I watched many politicians today say in so many words that, "we will rebuild". I am sorry to say that I do not necessary agree. I do not mind if people want to risk their personal money for this development. But, if people use government money, then I disagree. I did not agree when New Orleans was bailed out, and I will not agree when we bail out the barrier islands for uses that they were never meant to have. Of course, if any presidential candidate would say this, it would be political suicide. This may be the most unpopular post that I have ever created. I understand that many people will disagree with me. I have rented a house at the shore for the past 10 years on one of those barrier islands. We have hundreds of wonderful memories during our family vacations. I am not unsympathetic toward this desire to rebuild these areas. Who does not want the ocean breeze in their hair when they go for a walk outside of their home? I just question why the tax payer should assume the risk of this affluent lifestyle.


If we were to take a snap shot of these barrier islands in 1944 we would see a much different picture than the development of today. In earlier years people built changing rooms on the beach where day trippers could come to the beach and change their clothes without having to stay over. The residents of the area called them shoebies. They were day trippers who visited the shore with all of their belongings in a shoe box because they took the train. There were less houses, but these homes were not meant for every season of the year. My suggestion is that the current disaster of a Halloween Hurricane creates an opportunity to preserve some beach areas for parks and open space. Rather than saying we will rebuild, I would suggest we unbuild by dedicating some areas to open space. The tax savings would be fiscally responsible, and make the shore experience more enjoyable. The 6 billion dollars invested in rebuilding could help us put our fiscal house in order.

For these reasons the candidate who does not say "we will rebuild" may have my vote on election day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The last undecided voter! #debate, #Presidential debate, #Election 2012, #Romney, #Obama

The last undecided voter is wavering. At the first debate President Obama's moderate answers and desire to seek the middle ground won me over. In the Vice Presidential debate Paul Ryan's desire to clean up the mistake in Afghanistan with a gradual pull out that will protect our remaining servicemen won me over. In the town hall meeting Romney's lack of big ideas, but strong executive skills persuaded me that an executive without big ideas may not be such a bad thing. In this final debate I guess it comes down to this. Will I vote for an executive who will build consensus by getting ideas from others, and then build a compromise, or will I vote for a idealist who is more like me and proposes ideas that will win over people by the force of his personality?

This week my wife was discouraged. She  is taking a graduate course to complete her Masters in English. It is quite possible that what she is experiencing  is a bit of a generation gap more than anything else. I am 56 years young and she will not let me give out her age, but suffice it to say that I married a younger women who now has six grandchildren. I do not believe it is a generation gap. I believe it is more of a personality gap? My wife is an realist and I am more of idealist. She is a administrator and I am more of an artist. She asks a lot of how questions, and I am constantly asking why. Could it be that her colleagues in the graduate course are younger. more idealistic, and less pragmatic? I think this is highly likely. Winston Churchill once said, "Anyone who isn’t a liberal by age 20 has no heart. Anyone who isn’t a conservative by age 40 has no brain." I confess to having liberal ideas, and my scarecrow persona as in the Wizard of Oz has mellowed with age.

Now no one is entirely an idealist or entirely a realist. It is all a matter of degrees. I think however people have a first line of attack strategy for solving problems. The idealist will tend to push their ideas first, and then consider their advisers' ideas. Perhaps a much better strategy is to let the ownership of an idea originate from others when building consensus. In our current political environment of party polarization, this is much more important. I believe either candidate is savvy enough to see the need for idea ownership at the chief executive level to build consensus. I am only concerned that the split second decisions of the chief executive role could lead to more mistakes that could break deals between legislatures to solve our most serious problems.

For example let's look at the problem of energy. I live in Pennsylvania. I grew up in coal country in western Pennsylvania, and I now live in Eastern Delaware County which is very blue collar. Governor Romney has earned points from the coal caucus in my state. He has not done this by laying out an energy policy that highlights coal. He has done this by not setting a policy against coal. Here is a video created by some of the rank and file that mine coal in Ohio. 

Thomas Peterffy is a Hungarian immigrant who has purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising on television. Peterffy is the 189th wealthiest billionaire in the world with a net worth of $5.4 billion. No one is manipulating him to run these ads. He is a self made man that has made his wealth by employing his wit and cunning at the core of our capitalistic system. His fervent belief in the free enterprise system is at the core of his ideals. This man grew up in a socialist country. In his own life time he has lived the American dream. Would this have been possible in Europe? Mr. Peterffy does not seem to think so. He is spending this money because he believes that this system is in jeopardy. Can we protect and defend our middle class by a top down strategy? At the right time I believe so. My question is this. Is now a better time to protect the middle class by promoting initiative, and building consensus by those ideas from the bottom up instead of from the top down?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The last undecided voter

What should a president be good at? Should he be an idealist, a visionary, or should he be more of an executive who knows how to harness the ideas of others around him? Should he be a visionary who comes up with the ideas for his staff to implement?

Tonight there is a great debate in a town hall format. When the candidates are forced to answer questions of specific constituents, then big ideas will be secondary to practical advise. Big ideas are better put before sweeping systems housing large swaths of people. To focus on one individual will test the communication skills of any administrator. The town hall meeting is a test of withholding solutions over revealing the process of relationship development. Every year my students take part in this exercise in our annual Student Government Town Hall Meeting. It is a great activity because it helps connect students with the practical application of government.

Another application of government is being able to negotiate bipartisan deals. This pragmatic exercise is what our country needs right now to solve our most difficult national problems. Here is my speculation on the two very different and equally effective processes. Governor Romney will solve this problem with an implementation strategy. He will give the problem to the idea people, and let them solve it by objective. This is why he has not been forth coming about the details of his 20% tax cut. President Obama will try to solve this problem by coming up with a new idea that will balance the competing forces of republicans and democrats.Which is better? I am a still not sure, and that is why I am still an undecided voter.

I like the ideas of President Obama. I respect the executive decisions of a successful businessman, like Governor Romney. Tonight I stood in grocery line, and the cashier asked me if I would like a free bag with my groceries. She said she would not charge me if I voted for President Obama. When I asked her why she said that, she said no rich man was going to help us in Upper Darby. I did not have time to discuss this with her because I had to run to a meeting. I look forward to continuing this discussion. Perhaps like the town meeting tonight she will finally convince me of what I will gain from the upcoming election.