How To Win The Presidential Debate

Recognize most people watching have a built-in wariness of anyone wanting to “run” the country because the ambition needed to apply for the job is mind boggling. Many wonder, what kind of person thinks they’re qualified to lead the country? Most, understandably conclude, only a serious ego-maniac. Therein lies the challenge. Ego-maniacs make poor leaders because effective leadership requires humility and the ability to respect and work with diverse groups of people.

Broad policy ideas are important, but the details are likely to be forgotten in a few days time. Don’t trot out any preplanned lines that you hope are especially memorable because the most successful one-liners are always a mix of spontaneity and authenticity. If you’re focused and lucky, the spirit of spontaneous, authentic, memorable lines may strike you at some point. That’s the best you can hope for.

To gain respect of voters, choose self respect over political science, and refrain from counter-punching when attacked. Convey a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to serve the nation.

Present the most positive vision for the country and you’ll win the debate. More specifically, present the most convincing plan to continue closing the gap between our stated ideals and challenging realities and you’ll win. Convince voters you have the necessary mix of character, confidence, and humility to improve people’s quality of life, and you’ll win.

I’ll be watching.


Sentences to Ponder

Emma Brown in the Washington Post:

A growing number of California teachers have started driving for Uber on weekends and in the evenings, the Nation reported this month. In San Francisco, the average teacher would have to spend two-thirds of her salary to afford the city’s astronomical median rent of $3,500, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Adult Onset Seriousness

Playfulness is a wonderful attribute. One I’d like to revive.

Last Thursday afternoon. Lunch swim workout in the books. Walking across Foss Intramural Field back to the office. One of those perfect, sunny, 60-ish, post summer/pre-fall September days in the Pacific Northwest that you wish you could bottle. Frisbees filled the air.

Somewhere between young adulthood and adulthood I stopped playing frisbee. I used to be a SoCal legend in my own mind. At SoCal beaches my signature move was to huck it way above the waves like a boomerang into the onshore wind and then, hours, minutes, maybe 15 seconds later, catch it to the delight of hundreds, my girlfriend and a few other friends, myself. I don’t think our frisbee even survived the recent move.

Somewhere in adulthood I stopped playing, not just frisbee, everything it seems. Yes, swimming, running, and cycling can be child-like activities, but not the way I tend to do them. I train. I have distance and time goals. And tiny gps-enabled computers and apps that tell me how far, how fast, and many other things in between. Yesterday I ran home from church, 7.5 miles in 56 minutes and change, for a 7:30/m average (first half, downhill). At one point, I saw two good friends walking the opposite direction. We said “hello”, and even though we haven’t talked for a month, I kept going. You know, the average pace and all.

Hell, I don’t even PLAY golf anymore. And I’m not alone. Do any adults ever think “What a nice day, I should ask the rest of the office to chuck the frisbee for awhile.”? And yet, nothing is more natural for young adults on college campuses than to stop and play.

How to cultivate a playful spirit? What might my swimming, running, and cycling look like if I approached them as play? What about other non-work activities?

Before you suggest low hanging fruit like mountain biking, you should know I sometimes struggle staying upright even on intermediate trails. With that caveat, I’m open to any other suggestions.

What do you do, if anything to maintain a sense of playfulness?


The “Secret” to Success

Apart from my good looks, unusual charm, and cardiovascular health, there’s nothing exceptional about me. I did well in school and I’ve done okay in life for one primary reason. Growing up I had a gaggle of caring adults around me who I didn’t want to disappoint. Teachers, older siblings, coaches, mom and dad, youth pastors, family friends, mom and dad.

Most kids who do poorly in school and/or life are just as capable as I was, they simply lack the network of supportive, caring adults. “If no one gives a shit,” they often end up thinking, “why should I?”

The Answer gets it:

“That’s the only thing that got me here is my teammates. My teammates and my coach. That’s the only reason I’m here. All those guys sacrificed their game and sacrificed different things for me to be honored like this and what I’ve done. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened. Without my coaches putting me in a position to succeed … Larry Brown molded me into an MVP and a Hall of Fame player. Without those guys I wouldn’t be here. Without those guys, man. I didn’t do this by myself, man. It was so many people, so many fans that came in there and cheered for me, night in and night out. So many people supported me and believed in me. They made it so easy for me to believe in myself because I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted my fans and my family and my friends to be proud of me.



Sentence of the Sentury

In my early twenties, while attending a workshop on “Teaching About Africa”, I was introduced to African literature which has enriched my life unmeasurably. My current exercise in seeing the world through African lenses is We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Highly recommended. Before digging in though, read a bit about recent Zimbabwean history. For example, this backgrounder compliments of the Daily Mail.

There are so many passages I’d like to highlight, but I’ll limit myself to one which requires a brief intro. Here the central character, Darling, is describing her Kalamazoo, Michigan, adolescent self:

The last book I read was that Jane Eyre one, where the long meandering sentences and everything just bored me and that Jane just kept irritating me with her stupid decisions and the whole lame story made me want to throw the book away. I had to force myself to keep reading because I had to write a report for English class.

Then Bulawayo goes all Jane Eyre on her readers. Dig this sentence of the sentury:

It’s early in the morning so the mall is a little dead. If this was at home, the place would be throbbing with life already: little kids riding that escalator over there like it would take them to heaven, their screams rising like skyscrapers—you would hear them all the way at Victoria’s Secret on the third floor; the mothers gossiping and laughing on the first floor, taking turns to look up and shouting warnings at their children, bodies constantly shuffling about because women never stand still since there is always something to do, always something; the men doing their thing maybe around those benches outside Payless, maybe passing around a Kingsgate cigarette or huddled around a newspaper and maybe talking about football scores in the European League, or the war in Iraq; their voices deep but never rising about those of the women and children because a man’s voice needs to stay low always; and then, in the open space where that Indian girl does threading, the older kids would be dancing to house musice, to DJ Sbu, and DJ Zinhle and Bojo Mujo, being reckless with their contorting bodies like they know they don’t own them and therefore they don’t care if they break; and in the massage chairs near the elevator, toothless old people sprawled out like lizards basking in the sun, making groaning noises as the massage thingies worked their wilted bodies; and at the telephone near the candle shop, an impatient line queuing to make calls to relatives in places like Chicago and Cape Town and Paris and Amsterdam and Lilongwe and Jamaica and Tunis; in the air, the dizzying aromas of morning foods cutting those perfumed smells from Macy’s to shreds; and maybe on that little square outside Foot Locker, under the fake tree, someone preaching from a Bible, a small crowd gathered around him, maybe wondering whether to believe or not, litter at their feet and around the mall to show there are people living there.

Wisdom From a Life of Teaching Piano

Behold my favorite teaching essay of recent vintage from the unlikeliest of publications. Thank you Byron Janis for the perfectly timed reminders about what teaching excellence entails. If you teach, coach, or parent, this is a concise treasure trove of insight. He writes:

“To me, the most important challenge a teacher must confront is keeping an open mind. One must convey knowledge and artistry without overpowering a student’s sense of self. That talented ‘self’ can develop only when he or she is not over-taught. One must know when to teach and when not to teach.”

And when to coach and when not to coach. And when to parent and when not to parent. It’s the very rare teacher, coach, or parent who avoids overpowering their students’, athletes’, or sons’ and daughters’ varied senses of self.

“During the course of my instruction Horowitz also made a very important point. ‘You want to be a first Janis—not a second Horowitz.'”

“. . . talented students must be taught that they are not only pianists but artists, and to create, not imitate. They should be shown that inspiration comes from living, experiencing and observing life, the real as well as the imagined.”

Twenty to thirty years ago, schooling in the United States shifted focus to standardization of curriculum, teaching “best practices”, of most everything. Consequently, we don’t foster creativity very well. Not only do the arts suffer, but our culture. Janis’s radical musings point a way forward.