Tag Archives: politics

Full Transcript of President Obama’s Farwell Speech

Full transcript of President Obama’s Farewell Speech given in Chicago.

[*] OBAMA: Hello Skybrook!

(APPLAUSE)

It’s good to be home!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, everybody!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s good to be home.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

We’re on live TV here, I’ve got to move.

(APPLAUSE)

You can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions.

(LAUGHTER)

Everybody have a seat.

My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.

Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and in schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts — those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

So I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.

It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.

(CROWD CHANTING “FOUR MORE YEARS”)

I can’t do that.

Now this is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.

After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

What a radical idea, the great gift that our Founders gave to us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, and toil, and imagination — and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.

It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

(APPLAUSE)

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It has been contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

(APPLAUSE)

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-11 — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — if I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. The answer to people’s hopes and, because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

In 10 days the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy. No, no, no, no, no. The peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected President to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.

Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face. We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on earth.

Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

And that’s what I want to focus on tonight, the state of our democracy. Understand democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued, they quarreled, and eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. And the beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality, demographic change, and the specter of terrorism. These forces haven’t just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids and create good jobs and protect our homeland.

In other words, it will determine our future. To begin with, our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

And the good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values and retirement accounts are all rising again. Poverty is falling again.

(APPLAUSE)

The wealthy are paying a fair share of taxes. Even as the stock market shatters records, the unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.

(APPLAUSE)

Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And I’ve said, and I mean it, anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it.

(APPLAUSE)

Because that, after all, is why we serve. Not to score points or take credit. But to make people’s lives better.

(APPLAUSE)

But, for all the real progress that we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class, and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic idea. While the top 1 percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind.

The laid off factory worker, the waitress or health care worker who’s just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills. Convinced that the game is fixed against them. That their government only serves the interest of the powerful. That’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

Now there’re no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle class jobs obsolete.

And so we’re going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need.

(APPLAUSE)

To give workers the power…

(APPLAUSE)

… to unionize for better wages.

(CHEERS)

To update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now.

(APPLAUSE)

And make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and the individuals who reap the most from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

There’s a second threat to our democracy. And this one is as old as our nation itself.

After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent…

(APPLAUSE)

… and often divisive force in our society.

Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.

(APPLAUSE)

You can see it not just in statistics. You see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.

(APPLAUSE)

If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

(APPLAUSE)

If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.

(APPLAUSE)

And we have shown that our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

So if we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system.

(APPLAUSE)

That is what our Constitution and highest ideals require.

But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. It won’t change overnight. Social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change. But if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face. Not only the refugee or the immigrant or the rural poor or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic, and cultural, and technological change.

We have to pay attention and listen.

(APPLAUSE)

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ’60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our founders promised.

(APPLAUSE)

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about tthe Irish, and Italians, and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened.

(APPLAUSE)

So regardless of the station we occupy; we all have to try harder; we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

And that’s not easy to do. For too many of us it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. In the rise of naked partisanship and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste, all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.

And increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.

(APPLAUSE)

And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Look, politics is a battle of ideas. That’s how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, then we’re going to keep talking past each other.

(CROWD CHEERS)

And we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible. And isn’t that part of what so often makes politics dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on pre-school for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?

How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, it’s selective sorting of the facts. It’s self-defeating because, as my mom used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that (at) the promise to save this planet.

(APPLAUSE)

But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects. More environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. Now we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It is that spirit — it is that spirit born of the enlightenment that made us an economic powerhouse. The spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral, the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket, it’s that spirit. A faith in reason and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, that allowed us to build a post-World War II order with other democracies.

An order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press.

(APPLAUSE)

That order is now being challenged. First by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam. More recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who seek free markets in open democracies and civil society itself as a threat to their power.

The peril each poses to our democracy is more far reachingthan a car bomb or a missile. They represent the fear of change. The fear of people who look or speak or pray differently. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. An intolerance of dissent and free thought. A belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform. Because of our intelligence officers and law enforcement and diplomats who support our troops…

(APPLAUSE)

… no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And although…

(APPLAUSE)

… Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists, including Bin Laden.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed. And no one who threatens America will ever be safe.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And all who serve or have served — it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander-in-chief.

(CHEERS)

And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

But, protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. So just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.

(APPLAUSE)

And that’s why for the past eight years I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans…

(CHEERS)

… who are just as patriotic as we are.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why…

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why we cannot withdraw…

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.

(APPLAUSE)

No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.

(APPLAUSE)

Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

Which brings me to my final point — our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.

(APPLAUSE)

All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.

(APPLAUSE)

When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote.

(APPLAUSE)

When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

(APPLAUSE)

But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning — with our participation, and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge.

Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law, that’s up to us. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken… to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

And so we have to preserve this truth with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

(APPLAUSE)

America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service. So course with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are seen, not just as misguided, but as malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others.

(APPLAUSE)

When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen.

(APPLAUSE)

Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.

(APPLAUSE)

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.

(CROWD CHEERS)

If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

(CROWD CHEERS)

Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.

(APPLAUSE)

Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. I’ve seen Wounded Warriors who at points were given up for dead walk again.

I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees or work for peace and, above all, to look out for each other. So that faith that I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change, that faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly imagined.

And I hope your faith has too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home, you were there with us in 2004 and 2008, 2012.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

(CHEERS)

Let me tell you, you’re not the only ones.

(LAUGHTER)

Michelle…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

… for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humor.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.

(CHEERS)

And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Malia and Sasha…

(CHEERS)

… under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women.

(CHEERS)

You are smart and you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And…

(APPLAUSE)

… you wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.

(APPLAUSE)

To Joe Biden…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

… the scrappy kid from Scranton…

(CHEERS)

… who became Delaware’s favorite son. You were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother. And we love you and Jill like family. And your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives.

(APPLAUSE)

To my remarkable staff, for eight years, and for some of you a whole lot more, I have drawn from your energy. And every day I try to reflect back what you displayed. Heart and character. And idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, start incredible new journeys of your own.

Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. You guarded against cynicism. And the only thing that makes me prouder than all the good that we’ve done is the thought of all the amazing things that you are going to achieve from here.

(APPLAUSE)

And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because you did change the world.

(APPLAUSE)

You did.

And that’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe that you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.

Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we did.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday 2/10/16

Open Letter To Dr. Bolgen Vargas, RCSD Superintendent: Please Bring Back Recess

This is a copy of a letter that I sent to our school district’s Superintendent this past week. I also published it in the Democrat and Chronicle, seen here. I felt the need to send a letter to Dr. Vargas only after first trying to plead with both the Assistant Principal and my child’s teacher that recess is too important of an activity to withhold from our children. Both of whom, sadly, did not share my views on the subject. In my conversations with them I learned that “recess” isn’t really “recess” anymore, but something else entirely, something of which I am sure I do not like. Within an hour of sending the letter I received a response from Dr. Vargas stating he’d pass my concerns to the supervisor of our Zone. That was several days ago and I haven’t heard anything since. I really feel strongly that if you don’t understand the importance of recess and physical activity, than teaching isn’t the right profession for you and please step aside. Us parents really need to band together and demand more and I ask that educators stand up for what is right as well. Do better, demand better; I implore you. Please feel free to share and reprint and email and mail to all the educators and decision makers in your life and in your school districts. I want to change this not only for my children, but for all the tiny bodies that are stuck sitting in desks all day.

Dr. Bolgen Vargas

Superintendent

Rochester City School District

Dear Dr. Vargas:

I am a mother of 3 young children, two of which attend RCSD School, [location redacted]. My daughter (5 yrs.) is in first grade and my son (7yrs.) is in third. I have recently been very frustrated and disappointed by our school’s lack of ability to recognize the importance of a traditional “recess,” which includes physical activity, as well as the reality of many teachers using the approach of with-holding this vital form of physical movement as a disciplinary tactic. When I was a child, one of my greatest memories was recess time. I remember jumping, playing, running, climbing with friends, coloring with chalk, playing kickball and swinging on the tire swing until I was too dizzy to walk. This is one of the most important activities in the world to elementary school aged children, and as well to me as their parent and advocate.

On Friday I called to speak with our Assistant Principal, [name redacted], and was informed that recess is no longer defined by going outside nor does it necessarily mean physical activity. I was told that recess is defined “as a break from the Common Core Curriculum.” So things like doing a sheet of math problems at the child’s desk, reading or flash cards is an acceptable form of “recess” as long as it isn’t specifically Common Core. Now, I’m not sure if most children at 5 and 7 understand the difference between a sheet of “Recess math problems” and a sheet of “Common Core math problems,” but I at 32 am not so sure I understand the differentiation. I am honestly quite perplexed and disturbed by this. I understand that our district needs to work on getting on track with the Common Core Curriculum and I am aware of the crisis-state our teachers feel at the hands of NYS, but we can not drive forward at any cost ignoring the important physical needs of our children.

Sometimes my kids do go outside, but many days they do not. I view teachers taking away recess akin to any other physical punishment. It’s like strapping a kid to a chair and saying, no you don’t deserve to give your body what it physically needs. Physical activity is as important as healthy air and food. To me physical movement is a basic human “right” that shouldn’t be taken away, not a reward to be earned depending on any random factor the teacher decides for that day. Sometimes it’s as a result of not turning in homework, sometimes it’s because there’s “no time,” and very often is taken away as punishment for any number of things that the children do during the day.

There has been extensive research done that shows the many benefits of having a “recess” that includes physical activity, specifically including large-motor play. Our children’s gross-motor skills do continue to develop well into their adolescence. Running, jumping and climbing are vital to their development.  As frivolous as climbing on outdoor equipment sounds, it’s actually aiding in developing their tiny little bodies. This development is as crucial as teaching kids to walk, teaching them to hold a pencil properly in their hands and as important as teaching them healthy eating habits, movement and behavior. Kids also have a human need to learn about how to interact with others socially, and recess fulfills that need as well as gives them a “breather” and lets them recharge their brains and so much more. Outside play gives kids something that card games and coloring and playing iPads can’t give them. And perhaps if they had a chance to move their bodies freely during the day, they wouldn’t be so wiggly while walking in the hallway and sitting at their desks?

I often am required to sit at a desk and work in front of a computer for long periods of time myself. There are times throughout the day that I need to get up and walk around, stretch my back and my arms and move my head from side to side. Sometimes you need to shut your mind off from academics in order to be able to use the time you do have to sit at a desk more efficiently. There has also been extensive research about the need to do this for people of all ages and many offices allow their employees a chance to exercise during the day, as constant desk work isn’t very efficient without an opportunity for people to recharge their minds and bodies. Physical activity also produces natural dopamine, which is known to improve memory, brain function, motor control, reduces the effects of challenges with children such as ADHD, as well as helps the immune system, which may also aid in the known crisis our district has with truancy. Physical activity not only does all that, but it helps children’s vestibular system mature, which is responsible for our sense of balance. Improving balance will help kids be able to sit at their desks longer and write more legibly. It also helps connect the left side of the brain with the right, which is vital to learning how to read and write; which unfortunately only 5% of our district’s students have been deemed to be proficient in. If we really want to achieve better scores on the Common Core, then recess only helps, not hinders the process.

This is all not to mention that being in the RCSD, we live in an impoverished area where there are many kids who live in the city in situations that are neither great nor safe outdoors at home. It is a fact that children in poverty need specific attention when it comes to meeting social and physical needs, possibly even more so than kids who reside in affluent areas that may get a daily chance to meet those needs at home. We’ve had dozens of shootings and stabbings in the city just only in the last month alone, specifically on the West Side of Rochester, which is well within our North-West “zone” where my children’s School resides. I find it sad when teachers in the city in particular take away the short time that kids have a safe place to run free and play outside and interact socially in a healthy environment when some children might never get that after they leave the school in the evening. Many of the recent shootings we’ve had over the past month are specifically “daytime shootings,” making it scary for parents to allow their kids outside. Home life and area wide crime is certainly something to consider when doling out punishments in an RCSD school.

As I feel very strongly about how my children develop, and I am sure you do too Dr. Vargas, I plead with you to detail the importance of movement to the district’s administration, teachers and staff and consider making changes district-wide in RCSD barring teachers from punishing our children physically for mistakes they make either academically or behaviorally. Of course if there are safety issues, I understand the use of taking away recess as punishment, but otherwise, recess should be an every day activity. I have also encountered many other parents this year as well as in past years with the same opinion as mine, as well as a handful of staff at the school. I am not alone and it’s an important topic that needs your attention.

Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you and discussing my findings at our school’s upcoming PTO meeting.

 

Sincerely,

Andrea Raethka

school14_playground

Criminalizing Parents In The Name of School Safety

Starting October 1st parents will no longer be allowed in my child’s school without signing in at morning drop-off time. I actually think most people at first glance think this is a good thing. Last year at a PTO meeting, I was one of the very few that spoke up against the idea. Since we’ve been enrolled at our school, for the past 4 years, we’ve been allowed to walk our kids to their classrooms in the morning, greet teachers, chatter with other parents, view the week’s projects that line the walls, hold our kid’s hands as they walk to class and wish for them to have fantastic days in a charming village-esk fashion. As it has been, we have to sign in at the main office if we enter after the morning bell rings and the teachers that greet parents and kids in the morning have gone to their classes. Also note there has always been quite a large teacher/staff presence in the hallways at this time greeting parents and monitoring the entrances, as well as a main table stationed in the lobby for sign-in after the bell rings. So it’s not like there aren’t a number of security measures already in place. On October 1st parents will no longer be able to do it this way, and if they wish to go further than the front door they will have to sign in, regardless if class has started or not.

The changes are a direct result from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that happened last December, and is one of the many changes that have trickled in since the incident. It’s been a slow-moving process towards this lock-down state that is mostly a bunch of fear-mongering, over-reactions if you ask me.

Last year the debates went back and forth whether parents should be allowed in the building at all. Security officers were brought in, lock down drills that terrify 4 year olds to tears are practiced and re-practiced, multi-hundred thousand dollar renovations are currently being worked on to keep better track of people entering the school (by re-routing the main entrance through the main office) and (many) better high-tech security cameras are set to be installed.

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And I know I probably sound silly speaking out against security measures, because what could be bad about being more safe? It is important to be safe and cautious, but at times it goes beyond logical precaution and turns into something overboard and overzealous where we end up criminalizing our own students and their parents. There’s something about the automatic assumption that parents shouldn’t be free to enter the school that bothers me.

My biggest problem with shunning parents from the schools like assumed criminals is that it hinders parent involvement unnecessarily. One of the top most talked about topics at any PTO meeting or open house is parent involvement, parent involvement, parent involvement.

Research shows that successful parent involvement improves not only student behavior and attendance, but also positively affects student achievement, yet schools work more and more towards making it harder for parents to actually be involved; and now, even be allowed near the classrooms. Parents are essentially told and shown with locks and signs that they are no longer welcome.

It’s not going to be easy or valued any longer to greet the people who help raise our children. It’s no longer as easy to pop your head in and ask if your child is doing okay or if there’s something you’ve missed or maybe ask a quick question you have about an upcoming event. The community or village is now becoming detached and the once jovial village is transitioning to the kind of place where you drop your kids off to a building with bars on the doors without even getting up from the seat of your cars. Some parents may now as a result not ever get to see their kid’s classrooms or even meet their children’s teachers in an entire year. And on top of that all, open house isn’t held until the spring, when the school year is already 3/4 over.

Parent interaction isn’t completely shut off, but it’s hindered in a way that makes it not-normal to enter the building. And for what? For a false sense of security? So we pump it into kid’s heads that we live in an unsafe world where even their own parents and classmate’s parents are suspects and potentially deadly and dangerous? I don’t believe we should sacrifice all human interaction and congregations in the name of so-called safety, nor do I think it’s healthy for the mind. Statistically our kids are very safe from outside intruders during school hours, yet we insist on forcing kids to subscribe to the illusion that we are unsafe during our every day routines and it does more damage to our society than an ounce of erroneous prevention.

I know the world seems scary with all these mass shootings, but life goes on and it’s a slippery slope when we start sacrificing being together out of fear for the unknown or things that have a very remote chance of happening.

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Senate Panel Votes To Authorize Action Against Syria

A Senate panel has voted to give President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.john kerry

The vote Wednesday (today) was 10-7, with one senator voting “present.” The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.

Voting for military action would permit President Obama to order limited military missions in Syria (not to exceed 90 days).

This is the first such vote since 2002 when the senate voted that George Bush could invade Iraq.

It seems like the popular opinion in our country is to not go forward with actions against Syria for fears it will spur another war. I can’t pretend to know if this is right or wrong and I hesitate to give a blanket No to any military action. Our leaders promise “no boots on the ground, “but obviously things can escalate down the line. War is scary, but I also think that other countries, including ours, have a moral obligation to help discourage chemical weapons.

Obama Skips Rochester: Don’t Look At It As A Snub

obama air force oneToday and tomorrow Barack Obama is visiting several cities in New York on a two-day visit to the state. his exact itinerary hasn’t been made public, but here’s what is known so far:

— 10:30 a.m. Thursday: Air Force One is scheduled to land in Buffalo with Obama aboard. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Buffalo but he has not yet released his schedule. In a Monday radio interview, all Cuomo would say is “I want to welcome him that morning.”

— 11:15 a.m. Thursday: Obama will speak at Alumni Arena on the SUNY UB North Campus. Doors open at 9 a.m.
— 3 p.m. Thursday Doors open for Obama’s speech to students and guests at Henninger High School, where he is expected to speak to a mostly standing-only crowd in the school gym.
— 7:30 p.m. Thursday: The FAA closes all air space is closed around Auburn, “except for: military aircraft directly supporting the United States Secret Service and the Office of the President of the United States.” It is speculated that Obama may visit Harriet Tubman’s home and the Seward House museum. The Seward House, named for the New York governor who went on to become Lincoln’s secretary of state, has been visited in recent years by both Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin.

— Overnight Thursday: There is no confirmation of reports Obama will be staying overnight in Auburn.

— 10 a.m. Friday: Air space around Auburn is reopened

— 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday: Roads and entrances will be closed to all traffic at SUNY Binghamton
— 10:30 a.m. Friday: Doors open for Obama’s town hall presentation at 12:45 p.m. on college costs and affordability in the University Union on the Vestal campus.
— 4:55 p.m. Friday: Obama will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden for a speech at Lackawanna College, student union building, 500 Jefferson Ave., Scranton, Pa.

Many of our local reporters and residents have been in a flutter in egotistical school-yard fashion since the trip had been announced days ago, because it seemed as though we were “snubbed” by the President. What about Rochester was many of our locals first reactions. Local news stations have reported resident’s reactions online and on TV asking “why not us?” I even made a few jokes yesterday in jest about his visit skipping over us. But really if you think about it, we should be happy that he’s making such a lengthy trip to our state in the first place. Instead of seeing it as a snub, see it as a privilege that he’s making so many stops in New York.

Sometimes our intense city pride bars us from seeing our state or even country as a greater whole. It really wouldn’t make sense for the President to visit every city in New York, not to mention the time constraints that I’m certain he will have. It makes sense for him to make stops at either end of the state (Buffalo & Binghamton) and even though we have a handful of great colleges in Rochester, if we look at the bigger picture it makes sense that he wants to speak at SUNY schools (since he’s doing a tour about affordable education) and it’s undeniable that SUNY Binghamton is superior to SUNY Brockport (our city’s closest state school), both as a venue, as well as academically; plus it’s a hop away from Scranton where he is set to meet Biden in his stomping grounds.

This is very timely for me because I am reading the book, The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. The author speaks about how after Chicago was chosen as a location for the 1893 World’s Fair, the planning and building process was stalled for over 6 months because the state’s leaders couldn’t agree on a location within the city to hold the event. Each of the city’s sections lobbied for their neighborhood to get the Fair for obvious selfish reasons making it impossible to decide on one specific place. It wasn’t until landscape artist, John Olmstead (1852-1920), wrote a letter encouraging the deciding board to look at Chicago not by it’s neighborhoods, but as a whole so the absolute best place for all could be chosen as representative to the world.

Personally I’m happy that the President is spending two days in New York State, whether it’s Rochester or elsewhere. I’m happy for Buffalo and Binghamton that they get this great honor, instead of spiteful that we don’t get the same. What is good for one city in this state is good for every city, and it’s great for our country as a whole that the President is concerned about and publicly speaking on education.

New Jersey Governer, Chris Christie, To Sign Ban On Gay Conversion Therapy

The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, plans to sign a bill Monday (today) barring licensed therapists from trying to christieturn gay (minors under age) straight, making New Jersey the second state in the US to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” along with California. This past June the bill had passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature with bipartisan support.

Some therapists and clergy leaders have been known to use archaic methods to try to reverse homosexuality by using things like shock therapy or intense techniques like giving kids vomit educing drugs to make them throw up or other crazed methods. (I just can’t imagine how these kooks think these methods would make someone straight other than scare them into lying about their orientation). I am pleased that this sort of thing can be looked at for what it is: straight up child abuse. At least in New Jersey that is.

Hopefully this is a trend that will cause other states to follow suit. Come on New York, you’re slacking! It’s really frightening and any valid psychiatrist would be able to tell you that these crazy conversion methods would have long lasting negative psychological effects on kids who receive such horrific therapies. Assemblyman Tim Eustace, who sponsored the bill and is openly gay, described the therapy as “an insidious form of child abuse.”

Christie, and being a Republican is setting himself up in a distinct position for the upcoming election. He will probably be criticized by many of the conservatives in his party, but he has proven to be able to work in a bi-partisan fashion in the past and his actions on this bill and others may put him in favor with Democrats that are on the fence during the election season, as well as many republicans who don’t agree with some of the conservative insanities such as anti-gay and anti-women rhetoric of the past election. The Republican party needs a man like Chris Christie to pull them out of the stone-ages and connect them with current times in order to be competitive in upcoming elections.

In a signing note accompanying the bill that will be made public Monday, Christie said he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin. Being Catholic, Christie goes out on a limb that many of his counterparts are not willing to go out on.

The governor also said that the health risks of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation, as identified by the American Psychological Association, outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice.

“Government should tread carefully into this area,” he said in the signing note, which was obtained by The Associated Press, “and I do so here reluctantly.”

“However, I also believe that on the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards…I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”

Kudos to Chris Christie and Kudos to New Jersey!

Enlist Today

I recently posted some real WWII Propaganda Posters that I thought were neat.. I just came across these brilliant Star Wars Propaganda Posters. Love them.

bounty-i-want-you-star-wars-propaganda endor_rally_print_ss01 enlist today vader loose lips bring down star wars rebuild Print star wars prop star wars propaganda star_wars_propaganda_1 star_wars_propaganda_4 starwars4propaganda Star-Wars-propaganda-posters star-wars-propaganda-posters-4 Star-Wars-Propaganda-Posters-by-Szoki_3 tumblr_mewl8b2wjD1qbwnuho5_500

Boston Bombing Suspects Motivated By The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

tamerlanI always thought terrorists hated us because we’re gluttonous gas-guzzling, atheist hussies.  Instead, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has argued that U.S. violence in other countries are what actually fuels terrorist attacks.

A Rumsfeld era Pentagon Report states that,

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies,” including “American direct intervention in the Muslim world.”

According to the Washington Post, The Tsarnaev Brother’s was motivated to bomb the Boston Marathon last week because of their disapproval with the United States presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,” the Post writes, citing  “U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.”

According to the New York Times last week, the Boston Bombing took place just days after a deadly attack in Afghanistan that killed 17 civilians, including 12 children; The Afghan government blames the C.I.A. for the attack.

I know these reports are preliminary and the courts have only begun to look into motives.

I said a few days ago that I didn’t care why These Brothers wanted to attack us; I guess I lied.  I had assumed they just didn’t like Americans.  But it’s really that they don’t like what our government is doing, and they take it out on our civilians to send a message.  The bombings are just beyond terrible; but honestly taking a peek into their motive, for me, brings it to a level that I can almost understand.. as horrible as that sounds.  They wanted to send us a message to change our presence in the wars we are involved in, in the Muslim world.  I also think that message will be lost or poo-pooed by most Americans even though our presence has been a topic of contention among our own citizens.  Probably rightfully so, because it’s not like we’re in the business of bowing down to teenage terrorist jackasses.  The Boston Attacks are horrible, but ironically, contrary to what I thought, it helps a little to understand why.  And don’t misinterpret my tiny fraction of understanding as sympathy.  I trust and hope this jerkoff never sees the light of day again.