The Friday Poem ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus

Most immigrants to the U.S. arrive by plane, bypassing the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor. Perhaps this detour has created a bit of amnesia regarding fundamental American values.

For the Friday poem this week, we travel back in time to 1883, when Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem as part of fundraising effort to construct the pedestal for the statue.

Washington Post journalist Katie Mettler revisited Ms. Lazarus’ story on Wednesday, citing renewed interest in the sonnet in the aftermath of the executive order banning  U.S. entry to all Syrian refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries

“What the poet didn’t know at the time — as a woman whose work as a “poetess” had been at times the subject of condescension — was that it would be her words, lyrical and poignant, that decades later came to define the American vision of liberty.

More than a century later, in 2017, the words are rallying people against a controversial president and his policies and attitudes toward immigrants.”

It’s time for these words to be posted at every point of entry to the U.S. to remind all of our core values.

The New Colossus 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus   ‘Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings’ (2002)

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The Holiday Read – ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow

Have you just entered the chaos of holiday travel at your local airport, and realized you forgot to bring something along to read? Quick, before you lose the wi-fi, download this week’s Saturday/Holiday read, ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow.

This was the year American history left boring behind with the staging of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Based on Chernow’s 2004 best seller, Lin-Manuel Miranda transformed a casual airport bookstore purchase into a hip hop score, reflecting contemporary themes of immigration, revolution and finance. This holiday break is the perfect time to dive into the 700+ page biography.

David Brooksreview summarized why Hamilton had come to be erased from the national memory, to the point we are about to eliminate his last vestige on the ten dollar bill.

“He is the most neglected, first because he was a relentless climber (and nobody has unalloyed views about ambition), second because he was a great champion of commerce (and nobody has uncomplicated views about that either) and third because his most bitter rivals, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, outlived him by decades and did everything they could to bury his reputation. So there is no Hamilton monument in Washington, but at least we now have Ron Chernow’s moving and masterly ”Alexander Hamilton,” which is by far the best biography ever written about the man.”

With the presidential primary season looming, ‘Alexander Hamilton’ is a reminder that current political tactics don’t fall far from the founders’ tree.

“In the polarized atmosphere of American politics, Burr knew that a northern renegade aligned with southern Republicans could provide a critical swing. This was Alexander Hamilton’s recurring nightmare: an electoral deal struck between Virginia and New York Republicans.

In the New York City elections that spring (1800), Hamilton and Burr descended from the lofty heights to spar in the grit and bustle of lower Manhattan ward politics…

That April, New Yorkers out for a stroll could have stumbled upon either Alexander Hamilton or Aaron Burr addressing crowds on street corners, sometimes alternating on the same platform.”

Hamilton lost, the Republican slate swept New York City, the Federalists were out and the road was paved for a Jefferson presidency.

Which brings us to a reader, like you, going on holiday, picking up a book in an airport bookstore, and the rest is, well, history.

“He told me as he was reading the book, hip-hop lyrics started rising off the page. I was completely astonished by his response.”

Miranda assured him that he was serious.

“He made a complete believer out of me,” Chernow said. “The story of Alexander Hamilton lends itself to hip-hop treatment. Hamilton’s personality is driven and unrelenting, and the music has that same quality. The music and the man mirror each other.”

Miranda purchased theatrical rights to the book and signed on Chernow as historical consultant.

“A lot of people might have started off with the unspoken assumption that history is boring — Lin-Manuel Miranda felt exactly the opposite,” Chernow said. “He felt the most dramatic way to tell the story was to stick to the facts. He felt the story was so sensational you couldn’t improve on it.”

Spend some time this holiday with the ‘sensational’ Alexander Hamilton.

 

‘The Saturday Read’ Pope Francis’ Speech to the Congress of the United States of America

On Thursday morning Pope Francis addressed the a joint session of the 114th US Congress. He challenged his audience to address issues of immigration, climate change, poverty, family and to abolish the death penalty. Throughout his delivery he demonstrated his quiet but firm leadership style and structured his remarks to reflect American values in the stories of four American careers.

‘The Saturday Read’ this week is the text of Pope Francis’ congressional speech.

“My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice — some at the cost of their lives — to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.”

“Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”

He included remarks that provided insight to his view of leadership.

“It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue — a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons — new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

But, as noted by NPR, the pope omitted a section in the text challenging the influence of money in American politics.

“A potentially controversial sentence in the prepared text of Pope Francis’ address went unspoken when he delivered the speech to Congress.

The line appears to challenge the dominant role of money in American politics.

A paragraph in the prepared text quotes briefly from the Declaration of Independence — the passage on self-evident truths — and then says, “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

The paragraph defines politics in terms of the “compelling need to live as one” and building a common good that “sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”

The text is written to be read. It is a model of how to craft a message: connect with an audience, employ storytelling to illustrate that message, and insure individuality shines through.

The week@work – Why everyone should take a geography class, Angela Merkel’s humanity, and the legacy of Oliver Sachs

The week@work was one of stories that urge us to open our minds and hearts to what we may not at first understand.

If you don’t understand geography you won’t comprehend the on-going global political struggles. If you live in Europe, you are overwhelmed imagining the impact of the vast number of immigrants arriving daily. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken on the role of champion for the dignity of common humanity and is guiding the discussion of the consequences if Europe fails on the question of refugees. Closer to home, Dr. Oliver Sachs has left us a legacy of writings and research that helps us understand ourselves, our brains, and appreciate the interconnectedness of life.

Joshua Keating writing for Slate, asks ‘Where In The World?’ While enrollment in university geography classes is increasing, many departments have been eliminated and courses are no longer available. Digital literacy without geographical literacy is not a good thing.

“Geographical literacy remains vital—particularly for those of us who live in (for the time being at least) the world’s preeminent military and economic superpower. Geography is necessary for understanding why the overthrow of a government in Libya contributed to an unprecedented surge of migrants into Europe, why Ukraine has been split between East and West amid its conflict with Russia, and why China’s neighbors are alarmed at the new islands under construction in the South China Sea. And as we learned during last year’s Ebola panic, an understanding of African geography could have helped explain why an outbreak in West Africa should not lead to the quarantining of people from Kenya or Tanzania. In the years to come, as the effects of climate change on everything from sea level rise to deforestation to drought quite literally reshape the world we live in, an understanding of geography will be necessary for mitigating and adapting to the consequences.”

If you have been wondering when the U.S. media would begin leading the news with the story of the immigrant crisis in Europe, this was the week and the focus was on the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary. As the route of immigrants shift toward the Balkans anti-immigrant sentiment is growing. Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers this year.

In an editorial on Tuesday, ‘The Guardian view on Europe’s refugee crisis: a little leadership, at last’, the staff praised the courage of the German Chancellor.

“There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people,” she said, standing in front of placards accusing her of being the people’s traitor. “There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.”

Confronted by forces that would overwhelm British leaders, the woman the Greek left (and many on the British left who should know better) mistakenly accuse of being the leading advocate of conservative neoliberalism has stood up to be counted. Being the country to which so many want to migrate should be a source of pride, she says. She wants to keep Germany and Europe open, to welcome legitimate asylum seekers in common humanity, while doing her very best to stop abuse and keep the movement to manageable proportions. Which demands a European-wide response. So far, her electorate and her press back her.”

Dr. Oliver Sachs died this week. There have been countless obituaries and remembrances, but my favorite is from The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize winning book critic.

“It’s no coincidence that so many of the qualities that made Oliver Sacks such a brilliant writer are the same qualities that made him an ideal doctor: keen powers of observation and a devotion to detail, deep reservoirs of sympathy, and an intuitive understanding of the fathomless mysteries of the human brain and the intricate connections between the body and the mind.

Dr. Sacks, who died on Sunday at 82, was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination.”

Other articles of interest this week@work offered advice on choice of college major, how to eliminate interruptions in the office and quitting your job before you have another.

‘Major Choice Shouldn’t Define a Career’ Jordan Holman – Sage advice from a senior writing in the student newspaper of the University of Southern California. “In this job economy it matters more about how you can apply the skills you acquired from the classes taken and lessons learned than just the titles on your resumé. It’s about taking that difficult class that you’re frightened of, but which could also serve as the perfect anecdote during an interview.”

‘5 Strategies to Eliminate Constant Interruptions’ Lisa Evans – “Did you know that the average manager gets interrupted approximately once every eight minutes? That’s about seven interruptions each hour. What’s worse, after every interruption, it takes an average of 25 minutes to fully regain cognitive focus. No wonder at the end of an eight-hour day, you still feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.”

Should You Quit Your Job Before You Have Another One? –  Stephanie Vozza – Multiple news outlets covered the release of ‘Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want’ by former Public Radio Marketplace reporter Tess Vigeland“When I left, one of the biggest questions I got was, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and there are plenty of times I miss it,” she admits. “I miss being in a newsroom. I miss the microphone and the audience. Those are the times when I beat myself about the head, but they’re becoming rarer and rarer. You have to go through the process. I feel it was absolutely the right thing to do. I used to spend a chunk of day miserable. If it’s Sunday and you never look forward to Monday, you need to make a change. Life is too short to live for Friday afternoon.”

And one more time, The New York Times reported on the continuing trend of wage and salary lag as corporate profits continue to surge.