Monthly Archives: December 2012

May Blessings Upon Thee Fall!

I’ve been struggling of late, as have many, many other people, to feel the joy this time of year usually brings.  I found the “Christmas spirit” from the experience of opening “White Christmas” at our community playhouse, but that was tempered by the discovery of the bodies of two beautiful little girls in cold, remote woods, and now by the horror of Sandy Hook.

These events overwhelmed me as I cannot help but think of families whose hearts have been shattered by unimaginable grief…just before Christmas.  As a father, I find myself trying to comprehend what I simply cannot, and I feel ruminations of selfishness whenever holiday joy enters my heart.

We can find some solace in the fact that conversations about our children, gun control, mental health, the nobility of teachers and first responders, have dominated our dialogues and are kindling action.  Even though there is, as always, anger, from all sides of every issue, I believe we have reached a Critical Mass of Concern and we are all, at least, standing on some common ground in a universal desire to create a safer world for our children.

Perhaps, that can be the “Christmas” message that we need right now.

I’m not referring to the “Christmas season” as a faith-specific or exclusionary term, but rather the spirit it represents that all people can embrace:  Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward All, Love and Understanding, Generosity and Compassion, to Heal, and to Forgive.

In a life long quest to keep inspiration close by, I’ve accumulated quotes that I stuff into a drawer (well…a computer file) to draw upon when I am searching for just that.  I’d like to offer a few of them:

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean;  if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”  -Mahatma  Gandhi

 “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”  -Leo  Nikolaevich Tolstoy

 “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” -Thurgood Marshall

 “We may have different religions, different languages,  different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race. We all share the same basic values.”  -Kofi Atta Annan

 “A man may learn wisdom even from a foe.”  -Aristophanes

Even though such quotes are, in a sense, vague, and do not outline a direct course of “action” they can elevate the spirit into hope and create a personal resolve.  I have a dear friend, who sadly passed away a few years ago, and something he used to say to me has been on my mind lately in that very regard.

He was a dashing, British actor named Peter Dennis who was delightfully full of himself, as only British folk can pull off with graceful aplomb.  He had this valediction that I thought was…just too British.  In those circumstances where most of us say, “Goodbye!” or “See ya later!” Peter would say, “May Blessings upon thee fall.”

I met Peter in 1990 when he appeared with me in “A Man Called Sarge” (a classic that you can find on Netflix…by all means order it so that I might receive 25 cents in residuals).  He brilliantly played British Field Marshal Montgomery and we remained friends from having made the film in Israel to Los Angeles where he stayed with me during “Audition Season.”

I loved Peter, who also traveled the world with his one man realization of the stories of “Winnie the Pooh.”  It was, and remains, the only interpretation ever to be “blessed” by the Milne estate, and my first son, Christopher, is named after the namesake of those stories.  In fact, I painted both of my son’s nurseries with scenes from Winnie the Pooh…but I digress…

So, as you can see, it didn’t take long to realize that Peter was a sincere man, and, in fact, could not be any other way if he tried.  Peter’s “blessings” meant protection to all whom he came in contact with, and he sincerely wished for good fortune and glad tidings to be discovered by every single person, every single time they met.

Today, as I have been searching for my Christmas spirit, I have been surprising myself by hearing those words coming out of my mouth, in place of “See ya!”  From these words I hope you sense sincerity, and perhaps, the inspiration of hope.  To you, to Peter in whatever Heaven he has chosen, and to the world that surrounds us, I offer—-


Castles in the Air

With Republicans taking the majority in both the Iowa Senate and House there are going to be several Republican-based initiatives that have been waiting (im)patiently in the wings for several years, that will become front and center as soon as the legislature reconvenes.

One such issue is going to be Castle Doctrine.

Castle Doctrine has been around for several years, but became scrutinized as a result of the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida in February of 2012.  What it is, is the position that a person’s abode (their “castle” or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or work envirnoment) is a place in which the person is entitled to certain  protections and immunities and may attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.

“Stand Your Ground” law is a term that we probably hear more often, and it is a broader realization of that concept and states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first.

I understand the support that follows this legislation, as I, myself, have considered what I would do if my children were threatened.  I would attempt to destroy any threat, and would defend myself to any degree necessary if I thought my life were in jeopardy.  But this doctrine is a suspicious solution to violent crime.

It is the legislative cousin of Arizona profiling laws that allow for legal citizens to be apprehended on the fear that they might be illegal.  It is related to American imperialist expansion that stems from the fear of our enemies overseas.  It is an ideological extension of the Patriot Act that challenges our personal freedoms in the name of intelligence gathering due to…fear of losing our freedoms.

Castle Doctrine and “Stand Your Ground” laws are capricious, irresponsible and dangerous due to the fact that citizens carrying guns, without training to avoid or contain violence, will likely create more.

Most private citizens are not criminologists, law enforcement officers, detectives or self-defense experts and this doctrine empowers them to make professional, trained, decisions that can determine life or death. They challenge justice.

The insidious issue with these initiatives is not the concept of protecting our families or ourselves, positions we ALL share, but in the language that accompanies them:  “Without becoming liable to prosecution.”  Castle Doctrines imply that if a person has to consider their legal grounds that they will not act appropriately to protect themselves, so by eliminating that concern, they will.   But by making such an action immune to prosecution it also means that justice becomes less relevant.

In Florida, where the Martin case took place, the law has resulted in self-defense claims tripling and all but one killed has been unarmed.  Critics argue that the law makes it very difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot and then claim self-defense because they felt threatened, and in most cases, the only other witness is the victim who was killed.

Miami police chief John F. Timoney called the law unnecessary and dangerous:  “Whether its trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”

Again, I understand why many people are saying, “Enough is enough!  I have the right to protect my home, my family and myself!” and I do not disagree– the question becomes how while maintaining a just and civilized society.  We have a long history in America of creating shorthand solutions to longhand problems and that’s what Castle Doctrine follows.   A law that exonerates a shooter because they make what appears to be a fair claim of self-defense is reckless and ultimately un-constitutional.

Let’s put the 2nd Amendment blank check aside for a moment and let’s focus on solutions to save lives and reduce crime. Own a firearm if you believe you must, and stand by what you see as your constitutional right– but everyone possessing a lethal weapon for the purpose of defense should have to pass at least an entry level instruction and prove firing proficiency and knowledge of safety.

I simply cannot understand why we put logical compliance demands on every other potentially lethal kind of equipment such as motor vehicles yet have no guidelines on owning and operating firearms; a single function mechanism designed to kill.  Immigrants study American history to become a citizen, we study rules of the road to drive a car, businesses often require that their leadership attend seminars to move up– is it so far-fetched to think that people owning an instrument, that when misused can end an innocent person’s life, should be held to lower standards?

In a 2007 National District Attorneys Association symposium questioned safety when more people are carrying guns, and they concluded that people would not feel safe if they felt that anyone could use deadly force in a conflict.  The report also noticed that the misinterpretation of clues could result in use of deadly force when there was, in fact, no danger.

Just last night I heard someone say, “The police cannot protect us, so we have to arm ourselves with guns in our homes and in our schools.”

I responded, “That’s a bit like telling people ‘the fire department can’t get to your house fast enough- so your best bet is to stay inside and put the fire out yourself!'”

We are not trained and it isn’t logical and logic is what we need to use right now.

We remember the lives of victims with the sorrow we share, but we honor them with our wisdom and not with our anger.  It’s time to replace anger and fear with logic and reason.


Gunfight at the OK Corral Middle School

Maybe I am taking those who are calling for “more guns” too seriously; maybe its just a Straw Man tactic to caution the rest of us from going too far the other way. Yet I keep hearing from many people that “arming more citizens is the answer to stop these violent crimes.”

A lot of people believe that assassins, such as the ones we’ve seen in Connecticut, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia (the list goes on and on), would be stopped short of their murder sprees if citizens were carrying firearms.

They give me the impression that this is so logical to them that they don’t need to listen to the debate asking for more strict rules governing the proliferation of guns.

Research about gun ownership, however, tells a different story:

Americans own 300 million firearms.  35% of our private residences own at least one gun.  According to a survey conducted by the Archive of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 40% of the children in these homes know where the guns are stored and 20% have handled the guns without adult supervision or even knowledge of the handling.

Emory University conducted a study that determined that the likelihood of a murder occurring in homes that have guns nearly triples. 77% of those killed in their homes were murdered by someone they knew with no signs of forced entry, whereas, strangers account for less than 4% of the murders.

  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.
  • Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings.

Let me tell you what would really happen in a country of citizen-cowboys.

Let’s say that guns become even more wide spread than they are today and possession is a way of life (the NRA wet dream).

Imagine a Fall afternoon and we are among several parents waiting for our children outside of the elementary school.  The school is locked, as it has been for several years, so that people can’t go in, unaccounted for.  It’s been a logical safety measure since Columbine, but as often happens, someone sneaks in when the door opens for one reason or another.

Now, let’s say, I didn’t recognize this person and the long coat they are wearing arouses my suspicions.  I grab the door just before it closes and see myself into the entryway.

I follow the “strange person” down the hallway and I observe that he is approaching a child at his locker.  Suddenly, he reaches into his coat and starts to pull something out—-it fits into the palm of his hand—it’s black and metallic!

I don’t waste a second—that child’s life is in danger—I pull my revolver from my own coat and fire at the assailant before he can get off a round!

A teacher, armed, of course, sees me shoot the strange man, but it turns out that the teacher knows him but doesn’t know ME!  She returns fire!  Other parents and teachers, many are armed, join the fight, but no one knows what is happening- all they know is that there are children in the line of fire!

Bullets fly before SWAT contains the situation.  Who knows how many people are now dead or wounded?

As it turns out the “strange man” was a substitute teacher who was reaching into his coat to return a cellphone, that had been confiscated, to the boy.

There are those who will scoff at any hypothetical and dismiss it as so much hyperbole, but the truth is, I could have written hundreds of different scenarios that all could have played out the same, or worse.  Variations would become reality from the exponential possibilities that result from untrained, civilian judgments.

Civilians are not trained as police, detectives, or as soldiers, to contain violence or to preserve or investigate crime scenes.  If we use the statistic showing that homicide in the home increases with gun ownership by a factor of 3, there is no reason to assume that assaults outside the home wouldn’t increase similarly in a vigilante America.

At schools, at banks, movie theaters and shopping malls, the result would be fewer answers and many more unnecessary deaths.

Nevermind that the reality of vigilantism will crowd our courts and prisons as anyone who kills, innocently or not, in self-defense or upholding “Stand Your Ground” laws, must be prosecuted in a society predicated on justice.

As we consider where to go next with regard to guns in America, let’s use logic procured from rationality and research and allow for reason to reveal the evidence we’re looking for.  That approach should be a benefit to all sides.





References:  Harvard School of Public Health: Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Homicide – Suicide – Accidents – Children and Women, Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009,

Kellermann, Arthur L. et al., “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home,” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 45(2) (1998): 263-267

Kellermann, Arthur L. MD, MPH, et al., “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine, 329(15) (1993): 1084-1091

Kellermann, Arthur L. et al., “Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership,” New England Journal of Medicine, 327(7) (1992): 467-472

Wiebe, Douglas J. PhD. “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated With Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study,” Annals of Emergency Medicine 41 (2003): 771-82.


The Grief That Does Not Speak Whispers…

This is just too much to comprehend.  27 people dead.  20 of them children.  6 were teachers who gave their lives defending those children.

The sad reality is that this is by no means the only tragedy of this magnitude in recent memory. Virginia Tech saw the most loss of life from a single shooter in our history as 32 lives were claimed in 2007.  Columbine witnessed children murdering children.  And this madness isn’t isolated to American soil.  Wasn’t it just last year in Norway when an anti-government extremist opened fire at a summer camp, claiming 77 lives?

Numbers, though, have nothing to do with the degree of suffering.  The parents of Lyric and Elizabeth from Evansdale were on my mind Friday, just as they are today and every day since last July; they know unimaginable loss every bit as much as the parents of Newtown, Connecticut.  Sandy Hook, however, has the horrific distinction of being the highest total of little children, none older than 7 years of age, who were massacred while within the presumed safe confines of their classrooms.

Now the subjects on everyone’s mind are gun control, mental health, and security at schools.  Those are the subjects that should be on everyone’s mind, but I must throw out a caution— We have a long history of creating cosmetic changes that give illusions of safety, but we fail to address the issues that lie at the foundation of these problems.

After Columbine, we locked school doors, required everyone to wear identification tags and we rehearsed “Lock Downs.”  After 9-11, airports require body scans.  After an attempted shoe bomber was foiled, we now take off our shoes to have them scanned. But are we safer?  Not really, and Sandy Hook is the latest example of that reality.

We put up roadblocks at the obvious places, but the criminally inclined navigate around them, hide among the trees, and wait until we let down our guard someplace else to make their entry where we are vulnerable.

Should we be talking about gun control?  Absolutely.  The mere fact that purchasing guns in the United States is so easy is sheer lunacy.  It is not a fulfillment of the 2nd Amendment, but rather a disregard for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers when they included language that adapted the technology of their time to the realities of their time.

Will stricter gun laws keep events like Columbine and Sandy Hook from ever taking place?  Not entirely.  New restrictions are necessary and are an extension of sanity, but are ultimately only road blocks.

Should we be talking about mental health? Absolutely. The fact that many insurance companies don’t cover mental health or provide medication for the afflicted is criminal. Clearly, mental health is a real concern, clearly there are people whose chemistry is disabled, clearly there are conditions and environments that create instability and some people are not equipped to cope without help.

Will a more progressive understanding of mental health keep events like the shooting in Connecticut, Arizona, Wisconsin, or in a movie theater in Colorado from happening?  Again, not completely. There is no blanket solution for a problem which has so many shades, degrees and capricious qualities to be contained.

What should we be doing then?

All of the above.  Vigorously.  We must put up those “roadblocks” but also realize those are obstacles to give us some distance while we dig deeper into our collective consciousness.  A society that has misplaced its compassion will create criminals.

We must create better support infrastructure, particularly in our understanding of mental health, and we must look at ourselves; we, the adults, the parents, doctors, teachers, employers; and we must become accountable for the world we have created.

We have created a news industry that feeds off this violence by giving tragedies a logo, theme music, and 24/7 coverage that elevates a criminal to a mythical status.  This behemoth of media can’t stop its own consumption because it needs the revenue to stay alive.

We propagate that industry with entertainment that reflects the most violent realities; games of destruction and violence, and moreover, games that take children from the real world into a cyber world without real consequences.

We have created a world where we work 9 hours or more a day and we are the ones watching, buying, and consuming while distracted from our greatest responsibility- the protection of those who are the most vulnerable within our human village.

These tragedies are not your fault, they are not my fault, but the society we have conspired to create is complicit.  A culture where guns have become like toys in a video game and supplant genuine human interaction with violence; a societal sociopathy where how we feel is being dictated by the very things we want to stop.

Do we have enough compassion for children, for the impoverished, for war ravaged victims before an event that puts them front and center?

I know we do in our hearts, and I know that the tears we witness and shed are real and sincere, but I also believe that we have collectively surrendered to our own distractions.

We have become argumentative when we need to come together.  We have been driven by accumulation when we need to share more of ourselves.  And we have taken our eyes off the prize— a safer world for our children.

Just Like the Ones I Used to Know…

Last week I wrapped up a successful run of “White Christmas” at the Cedar Falls Community Playhouse.  We entertained over twenty five hundred people who seemed quite delighted with the romantic optimism of the Irving Berlin score and the Broadway adaptation of the 1954 Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney classic.

I, too, was caught up in the spirit of Christmas from the experience of playing Bing’s character, Bob Wallace, with a wonderful cast and crew, and from the smiling faces of all those people in the audience who shared our holiday sentiment.

It can be hard to assimilate back into reality after experiences like that.

It was hard to accept, after we opened our good natured show, that the bodies of two beautiful girls from Evansdale were discovered and that the hopes of thousands and thousands of people, who were praying for their safe return, were dashed.  As a cast and community we tried to put grief to the side for a few hours each night to commune in a celebration of Christmas where we lived in a kinder, gentler world.

My youngest son, Alexander, held the girls particularly close to his heart.  Everywhere we went since last July, when we saw a poster or a bumper sticker with Lyric and Elizabeth he said, “There are our girls, Dad!  Where do you think they are?”

I was afraid of how he might react when told that they were found, but were no longer alive.  His response was what should be expected from someone who hasn’t yet seen a decade of life; he simply didn’t understand the gravity of what had happened…and how anyone could do harm to little girls.

“Are they in Heaven now?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

The tragedy of Lyric and Elizabeth transcends all other events here, but this year also offered a presidential contest that was the most contentious in memory and I recoil as I think of the ideological battle lines that were drawn and the words that were thrown both ways to hurt one another.

I have “defriended” and have been “defriended” on Facebook due to rancor shared in posts.  And I cannot help but think of how the billions of dollars that were spent, with no intention other than to destroy the opposition, could’ve been used in better ways.

I don’t have a precise and poignant perspective to put all of this into from which I can inspire others to believe, as I do, that America, and the World, will improve in 2013.  I am optimistic by nature and I tend to rest my hope in a core belief that people, as a whole, are good.

Good deeds don’t happen out of thin air, however, and we must conspire to bring about acts of kindness and generosity.

The smiles from an audience every night, the loving tears around a candlelight vigil for two little girls, and a cop in New York who took part of his modest salary to buy boots for a homeless man, keep my dream alive.

“I’m dreaming of a white…and black…and brown….Holiday…just like the ones I hope will come to be…where treetops glisten and children listen…in English, Chinese, Hebrew, Spanish, or Arabic…with every holiday card I write….and I pray that we find our humanity so that we will protect our children, and so that we will, once again, share the bounty from the promise of freedom…”

“Happy Holidays!” from Wallace and Davis.

Kiddie Pools and Jack Daniels

I don’t believe in pre-destination or that a higher authority, moment to moment, guides us in any particular direction.

I believe that the universe is a physically logical, mathematically consistent domain that is populated by infinitely capricious events.

As human beings, trying to navigate this existence with meaning, so as to be less fearful of all that can happen outside of our control, we attach religious beliefs, mythologies, and even magic to our experience.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God, it just means that I can’t define God. I believe that we see what we are looking for and dismiss what does not fit into our personal belief system, or as Paul Simon put more succinctly, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

What this means to me, politically speaking, is that our destiny is in OUR hands.

My personal agenda is to look at the differences between political ideologies and the stalemates that have resulted. There are four parties to look at, if you consider the Tea Party which, although essentially Republican, is a separate voice pulling party principles toward an extreme interpretation of conservatism, and Independents who vacillate between being Libertarians and unabashed “Undecideds.”  Each party attempts to define it’s ideology from historical legacies and is, therefore, at odds with the others.

While thinking about this, the Paul Simon principle held true as I picked up “Vanity Fair” and went straight to an article by Todd S. Purdum where he talks of the “Big Flip.” He contends that Democrats and Republicans have essentially “flipped” their core ideologies to a point where Republicans are the radicals and Democrats are fighting to retain the status quo.

He writes that “the radical element is now so firmly in control that the Republican Party of 2012…would not have nominated Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, or, in all probability, Abraham Lincoln himself…Democrats, for their part, have traveled in virtually the opposite direction. From the New Deal through World War II to the Great Society, the Democrats were the party of steady forward movement, of Big Ideas and Big Shoulders…and aspired to fix the most daunting economic and social problems here at home.”

Today, he believes, Democrats no longer champion new ideas, but focus on maintaining what was won in the past.

Purdum even illustrates how factions of the parties once cooperated by virtue of their ideological legacies: “Liberal Democrats (in the North, not the South) were at the forefront of the civil-rights struggle (in crucial partnership with Republicans who remembered their party’s founding), which reached a legislative high-water mark in the mid-1960s with passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.”

I have written about that very subject myself (Historical Histrionics) and while I didn’t necessarily find Purdum’s “flip” perspective exactly on the mark, I felt validated by the controversy.

As fate would then have it I picked up “Newsweek” and noticed an article from liberal, political consultant, Paul Begala, who wrote of the difference he observes today between the two primary parties. Even though Democrats hated George W. Bush, he writes (I am paraphrasing), they came to the table when he needed them. Case in point, Ted Kennedy’s cooperation when drafting an education reform bill, and when Bush championed an increased budget for AIDS research he found Democrats ready and waiting. Even his signature tax cuts got a number of Democrats on board.

Today, however, Begala points out, bi-partisan cooperation is gone. Gone completely. Democratic legislation doesn’t get a single Republican vote in Congress. In fact today when a Republican cooperates with a Democrat in the interest of their constituents, they are thrown out of office.

Republicans in Washington have stalled, filibustered and flatly voted against every bill the Democrats put forth. Begala even expressed that he wishes he could use the politically correct refrain, “Blame must be shared by both parties” but the truth is…it can’t be, this is “their fault.”

In keeping with my narrative of “programmed” awareness, I was channel surfing in my hotel on a recent business trip and passed by a story on Fox from a Republican fundraiser. A young man was at the lectern stating how (I’m paraphrasing again), “Obama promised unity. He failed on his promise!”

The crowd cheered.

What?  Republicans have “stalled, filibustered and flatly voted against every bill put forth.”  The young man’s chastisement was like blaming the bottle of Jack for the fight with your spouse.

But if your objective is to defeat rather than “unify” logic is not necessary.

There is no easy fix to political bias, but we need to collectively do a massive reality check and determine if this is where we want to be as a society and what, in fact, defines the best ”society.”  Procedures, rules and legislation are all designed to improve or protect one thing or another, but we need to define, as an electorate, where we are willing to take risks and where we need containment; government was never intended to be, nor can it be, the perfect system of protection from all of life’s capricious events.

As my eyes and ears have been open to this conflict , I noticed a local city council debate regarding whether or not kiddie pools should be allowed in front yards.

The concern was brought to city government because some citizens were worried about neighboring children running around and accidentally drowning in an unguarded body of water. Perhaps there may have been a case where that happened. Concern for children was the main motivation, but also liability issues were raised, and the ordinance would be drafted to assign liability.

Other citizens attended the meeting to voice their displeasure at government encroachment and limiting property rights.

I immediately broke this into two questions: One, does this legislation protect lives and livelihoods for the betterment of our community? And, two, is this the function of government?

In my opinion…not necessarily, and no.

Life has risks. We shouldn’t be careless with those risks, and of course the safety of children is always our responsibility, but legislation cannot become the only tool by which we govern our lives.

In my opinion, legislation like that reaches too far and I align with my Libertarian friends in these instances who fear government and ask, “Where does it stop?”

We can legislate forever to reduce risks and require that motorcycle riders must wear helmets, so that smokers have to go outside of bars and restaurants, that children must be strapped into car seats or that wading pools must be in backyards, but at some point, while trying to reduce risks that are so exponential they cannot possibly be eliminated, we diminish the responsibilities that come with living.

I understand that we must contain greed, graft, cheaters and thieves and we must be vigilant in upholding human rights, but government must have parameters so we, as a society, will adjust and evolve, as well.

In summation, I will end with the premise from which I started. Government can be like the universe; logical and consistent in its physical application of order, but we must also recognize that it is the free will of individuals, while negotiating life’s capricious events, that should determine the parameters of society’s laws.

We will always be more attuned to what it is we are programmed to see and hear, but when we can recognize our individual needs and desires in others, regardless of our conflicting persuasions; when we can connect what we, individually, are looking for, to the journey of those around us; then, we can begin to improve government, our communities and to consider our own destiny.