Category Archives: politics

An Intent for Education

As someone who was blessed with good schools in my hometown, the education needs of others has often slipped my mind. Sure, living in cities after college had made me aware of multiple teacher strikes, as well as the calls to reform public schools. Still, having gone to public school myself, and afterwards a four year college, I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t the schools, but the neighborhoods, family units, and other factors that were more responsible for young students’ struggles.

That mindset, however, was entirely changed after aimlessly turning on DirecTV’s Audience Channel to discover the documentary, Commonwealth. The documentary follows the plight of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s oldest city, after 24 of their public schools were shut down in 2013. Educators, parents, and students themselves go on to discuss the disturbing fact that Pennsylvania spends an average of 400 million dollars per year in order to build and maintain their vast prisons (a number which is only growing). Students and teachers alike claim that in essence, the prisons are built for the youth of the city, who are given little to no chance to avoid incarceration as they are shuffled through the public education system. Horrifying details – such as a test administered to third grade students help determine which children are more or less likely to become criminals – emerged as I continued to watch the program.

Soon enough, I found myself investigating education not only in Philadelphia, but in my own city, Chicago, and elsewhere across the country. Documentaries such as Teach, which discuss educators in public schools, their triumphs and their struggles, and David Guggenheim’s first groundbreaking documentary, Waiting for ‘Superman’ were added to my list. Though Waiting for Superman has come under criticism recently, all of these documentaries at their core raise awareness for the cause of improved public education.

Education reform should be a much discussed issue, even for those who aren’t yet worried about their own children’s school system. In a country where many, widely different and uniquely talented students are subjected to standardized tests and curriculums that leave little room for exploring fascination and grooming each student’s interests, and where much emphasis is placed on acquiring a college education (which is often too expensive or leaves students in years of debt), we seem to be hanging our youth out to dry. Too many times we’ve heard others comment that they would hate to be graduating from college with the current job market, or they’re concerned about the economic troubles our future youth will be handed upon entering their adult lives.

So, for the sake of both my own and young students’ futures, I have made the intention to focus additional efforts on educational needs. Of course, one of the first steps is participating in local elections and concerning myself with the education platforms of politicians running for office. Many education decisions are made at the state level, meaning choosing a president with a focus on bettering schools is not nearly as effective (though it helps!) as voting for officials closer to home who have the interest and the ability to more quickly enforce changes within the schools closest to you.

Beyond that, I plan on opening myself up to the opinions of others – not just lawmakers and enforcers, but the teachers, students themselves, and administrators who face education struggles on a daily basis. It seems clear to me that these are the people who would have the clearest ideas regarding what education policies work, and which are leaving students to struggle. Supporting those educators, through better pay, better supplies, or whatever else they may require, will only benefit our young students and future workforce in the long run.

Finally, I intend to guide my own philanthropic efforts toward volunteering with after school programs and other activities that given students the opportunity to explore passions that may not be emphasized, or even available, within the public school system. You can too, it’s not as time-consuming as one may think! Whether it’s assisting with an after school sport, offering to help raise funds for your local school’s art and music programs, or even speaking to students about your own unique career, and how you got there, your efforts could inspire and help cultivate a young kid’s dreams!

 

One World: Arianna Huffington on Viewing Life with a Wider Lens

Arianna HuffingtonSo often in modern society, we look at success as being defined narrowly as attaining money and power. Particularly in the business world, there is a tendency to forget that there should be other measures of success including health, well-being, empathy and morality. These are the things that make up the Third Metric and there is a move by many in the business world to ensure that more emphasis is places on these things. Arianna Huffington is one business leader who is speaking passionately about this move.

When Arianna recently sat down with Deepak Chopra for a One World discussion regarding the Third Metric, she emphasized the importance of her mother in introducing the concept of the Third Metric to her. “She had always lived differently by putting relations and the heart and connections at the heart of everything and I had to catch up with her and to recognize why this is the only way to live.”

The entirety of that conversation is available now on NEWSWIRE.FM and one of the more striking points about the interview is that despite Arianna’s successes in digital arena, she is fully aware that being too wrapped up in technology is not conducive to well-being nor is it conducive to continued creative success. She explains to Deepak Chopra that “It is no longer possible to dismiss the value of meditation, sleep, learning to unplug from technology and reconnect with ourselves.” Human beings need more time alone, more space for self-reflection and a time to find the sources of creativity within ourselves.

Adrianna’s new book Thrive: The Third Metric to redefining Success and Creating Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder, which will be released this month, focuses on the ways in which we must take care of their own bodies and minds to achieve success. Without our health and well-being, money and power will never be enough to satisfy us.

The Third Metric does not however only focus internally. Rather, as Arianna explains in the One World episode, giving is also a critical part of what makes a person thrive. “We can now see how giving and compassion are one of the fastest ways to happiness.” So much of what makes a person stressed is their inability to look beyond themselves and at the bigger picture. Conversely, when we focus on being giving and compassionate people, we are viewing life with a wider lens which more often than not is a way to put our own stressors into perspective.

So much of the purpose of the Third Metric is ensuring that we are viewing our own lives from the right perspective. “Very often, life has a bigger imagination than we have and we just need to be open to it” Arianna explains. Not everything will always go as planned but finding happiness and truly being able to thrive requires openness to the changes in life and a willingness to face them with genuine intentions and a clear mind.

One World: David Gorodyansky Re-imagining Cyber Security

David GorodyanskyAs nearly every facet of our lives becomes more and more dependent on the sharing of data and information via the internet, we become increasingly vulnerable to virtual theft and breaches of privacy. With this new threat has come a demand for cyber security. David Gorodyansky is one of the savvy businessmen who are rising to meet that demand. His software security company, AnchorFree is responsible for creating to product ‘Hotspot Shield’ which became instrumental in fueling the dissemination of critical information during the Arab Spring.

A product that allows users to create a virtual private network, thus giving them uncensored access to the internet, Hotspot Shield was used by protestors in Egypt, Turkey and other countries to gain access to social media websites that were being banned by the government. This gave the protestors a platform for communication regarding the situation on the ground and a way in which to organize. “We had no idea how this idea to have free and secure Wifi could really impact the world in a meaningful way.”

When David started out, he and his business partner “wanted to find a way to impact the world.” He explained to Deepak Chopra when they sat down for a discussion on One World. “Our first interest in changing the world came way earlier when we were maybe 15 or 16, when we were inspired by our grandparents who had fought in WWII…we were really inspired and thought what will we ever do that will be that impactful; that can change the lives of millions of people?”

David set out from the beginning with the goal of making an impact in the lives of the most people possible and it was at San Jose State that he realized that “technology could be a really interesting way to do that.”

David’s success with AnchorFree shows once again the critical links between business and social activism and how the two are not, and cannot be, mutually exclusive in this new digital age. What started as an interesting college project, came to be one of the most critical pieces of technology for the advancement of democracy and freedom worldwide.

You can see David’s interview with Deepak Chopra and the rest of the One World series on Newswire.fm.

What You Need to Know About the State of the Union

State of the UnionTalking about politics is a touchy thing (and we don’t try to hide that we’re pretty liberal here at Intent – but we do promote listening to contrary opinions with an open ear and encourage healthy, respectful debate!). However, the annual State of the Union address isn’t really about which side of the aisle you vote for – it’s about civic responsibility to  be informed about the state of affairs of the country.

Last night the President covered several important topics from raging minimum wage, increasing America’s clean energy initiatives, creating greater access to higher education and ending the war in Afghanistan. He repeatedly called out Congress’ tendency to gridlock in debate rather than create legislation to help Americans move out of a recession and lead the way in the 21st century. He also re-iterated on several fronts, including minimum wage and infrastructure policy – that he will take whatever action he can without legislation to promote American progress, circumventing the roadblocks often created by tension in the House of Representatives.

The President’s most powerful moment however came at the end of the address when he called out  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. After being hit by a bomb while on duty, Cory was left unable to speak and barely move. After dozens of surgeries, hours of grueling physical therapy today, Cory has relearned to talk, stand and walk. He still has trouble with his left side but he and his father were both present for the State of the Union address. His presence garnered an extended applause and standing ovation from the entire assembly. “Cory reminds us what is best about America,” the President said.

If you missed the State of the Union, we’ve compiled some of President Obama’s most compelling quotes from last night:

On Congress’s responsibility to the American public: “If our business is shutting down the Government or ruining the good faith and credit in America then we are not doing right by the American people.”

On creating a bi-partisan Federal budget: ‘The budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crisis.”

On American wages: “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

On American troops and military involvement abroad: “I will not mire our sons and daughters in open ended war entanglements. We must fight battles that need to be fought, but not those that terrorists prefer for us. America must move off it’s permanent war footing.”

Closing statement: “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our reach.”

To see these quotes in context and to hear the President’s point by point plans for energy initiatives, healthcare progress and the path to comprehensive immigration reform you can watch the full State of the Union Address below:

What do you think of the State of the Union? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Remember to be respectful of those that disagree!

*Picture credit to WhiteHouse.Gov

Are You Playing the Blame game?

Yosemite riverIf you’re listening to the news these days, you’re likely hearing a lot of jabbering on Capitol Hill about the dysfunction of healthcare.gov. Though not surprising, I still find it disheartening to hear grown adults, leaders in their field and leaders in government, pointing fingers and playing the blame game. In politics, whatever is wrong is almost always someone else’s fault, definitely the other party’s fault, and perhaps even another country’s fault.

Imagine, just for one moment, what it would be like to live in a world where, when things are amiss, leaders stood up and said, “I see what’s wrong with this picture, and here is where I am responsible for what’s happening. As a result, here’s what I can do to turn it around. Do you support me on this?” Can you imagine? I believe the support would be mind-boggling.

The chances of this happening any time soon appear dim (though with the announcement of Marianne Williamson running for congress in California, the prospects are looking up!). We can, however, focus on our own sphere of influence.

How often do you play the blame game? When something isn’t going well for you, do you point the finger elsewhere or do you examine where you can take responsibility and step up to the plate?

If something isn’t feeling right in a relationship, whether it’s with a friend, a family member, or a lover, do you look solely at the other person for what they can do to fix it, or do you look within at the part you play? It’s so easy to pick apart how other people are failing you, but perhaps not so enticing to examine how you are failing yourself.

For everything that’s going on in your life, you bear some responsibility, even if it’s only in your perspective and certainly in your response. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually exceptionally empowering as it gives you room to move, change, flow, and evolve.

When I was in my teens, my family went through a rough patch. Honestly, at times it was pretty hellish. Due to the circumstances, I realized I could pretty much do whatever I wanted and blame my behavior on family issues, as though it gave me permission to act crazy and throw my life away. Thankfully, at a young age I knew this was not the answer, and that goofing off would only mess with my own path, no one else’s. Ultimately, regardless of the situation at home, I still had jurisdiction over my actions and reactions. Though I had my ways of rebelling (sorry Mom!), I stayed on top of my academic game and ensured my pathway to University.

The same is true for romantic relationships that haven’t panned out. People always want to know, what happened? Well, I could give the easy answer and say he did this and that, but the truth runs so much deeper than that, and it’s one where we both hold responsibility. How could it be any other way? We were both in the relationship and both contributed to its dissolution. If I can’t look at my participation, how can I expect to grow from the experience and into the healthy relationship I desire?

Pointing fingers and placing blame only serves to disempower you. You’re basically saying it has nothing to do with you and therefore you can’t do anything about it. On the flip side, reflecting on where you can take responsibility creates an empowered stance. This leads to choice and action. This leads to forgiveness and gratitude. Isn’t that preferable to hopelessness, self-pity, and anger?

I’m not saying the answer is to let people off the hook. People do shady things, and sometimes that crosses a boundary that cannot be repaired in the context of the relationship. Yet even knowing when it’s time to walk away from an unhealthy situation is a form of personal empowerment. You are responsible for you, and if you find yourself in a situation where most of your energy is going toward what the other person or people are doing to wrong you, it’s time to focus your attention inward on where your power lies to make change for the better.

Yosemite View

Take action now:

1)    In the comments below, share an experience you are dealing with, or have dealt with, where you can take responsibility for your role.

2)    Share this article far and wide, with your friends, family, and social network. The ripple effect of people taking personal responsibility for themselves is profound!

Namaste,

Sasha

You can find Sasha over at her Empowering Wellness blog.

VOD: Is Russell Brand an Anarchist or Just Smarter Than We Give Him Credit For?

Russell Brand has been known to rustle more than a few feathers for speaking his mind. He gets a bad wrap for his crude sense of stage humor or the details of his short-lived marriage to Katy Perry ending up in the tabloids. He doesn’t mind telling off reporters when they slack in asking thoughtful and researched questions and he’s all about sharing his enlightening experiences with yoga and meditation. But would you peg him for a political scholar?

He just finished a week as guest editor at New Statesman despite having never voted in his life. In a recent interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, Russell shared his disdain for the current political system and how it favors the rich hierarchy. He spends a large amount of time defending his position of not voting as his way of refusing to comply with a system that clearly doesn’t benefit the lower classes. Having grown up poor, Russell explains that’s why a lot of poor youth don’t vote – their apathy comes from growing up in a system that clearly doesn’t cater to their needs. Newsnight host bawks at Brand, saying he has no right to complain about a system that he doesn’t put a voice into – and Russell argues back that it seems pointless to voice an opinion in a system that doesn’t work. It seems like revolutionary talk, but the further he explains the more you realize it actually makes sense. Is voter apathy a sign of youth laziness or a call for political overhaul? Does it make Russell irresponsible for promoting these tactics or is he on to something?

Even if you don’t agree with Russell’s political sense, you should also check out this interview where he explains that every person is just a different physical representation of God – or the ordering force of the universe. You’ll see it sounds pretty similar to this Deepak Chopra interview. And you probably thought he was just a comedian with crazy hair.

Way to go Russell.

Congress is Acting Like Toddlers At Daycare

Washington DC Presidential InaugurationWashington lawmakers have been acting like little kids at daycare, wanting to play with the same action figure. They each grab a side and pull and pull. First, they are stuck in a stalemate – nothing happens other than both sides get angrier and more committed to having their way. So they get nastier. Then one side pulls harder and the legs or the head come off – the toy is destroyed. Now, neither side wins. When each tried to get their own way, more was damaged in the process. Congress is acting like toddlers at a daycare.

In a battle of egos instead of a commitment to results, we regress to childish behaviors. We become the center of our world and stake our claim – we refuse to relate, share or yield. I understand why 2, 3 or 4 year olds may have this response, what I don’t understand is why our elected public officials (committed to service) act like this. If we are so proud of our form of government and insist that other countries adopt it, what lesson does this behavior show them? If we are that committed to living our values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, how does this response support this? The world sees us as acting like toddlers and justifying our childish behavior. Great lesson.

If we are truly committed to the same purpose – developing a country that lives its clearly stated core ideals – we are already all on the same side. We quickly unify when others threaten from the outside – we find our commonality and we unite. But when a challenge happens from within, we fall apart. We break into factions forgetting the value of every citizen. We see only our view. We want our way. We forget we are part of something larger. We forget that the goal of our society as created by our founding fathers is for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of its citizens. Jacob Needleman shares in book, The American Soul – Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, that the pursuit of happiness isn’t about the right to accumulate things, but rather for society to ensure the right of each of its citizens to be able to self-discover and live their intrinsic or God-given greatness – the ability to self-realize.

Religion, philosophy and science rarely agree. They do, however, agree in one specific area – that we are each created to be different, unique, amazing and great. Seeing each of us as great, valuable and important must be a critical understanding and belief of all public servants – to empower them to commit to the importance of the work of government to support a society that enables their people to be free to be all that they can be and one where everyone matters.

When we focus on our egos instead of on results, we inhibit our process of helping all of our citizens realize their greatness. We now think some are more great than others – more okay or more right than others. We create sides and insist on winners and losers. But in the analogy of the toy that gets destroyed by the fighting toddlers, we all lose when we can’t do something as fundamental as keep our government open to provide the services and functions it is responsible to do. The fact that either side could accept allowing it to shut down to get their way is akin to one of the toddlers destroying the toy just so the other toddler won’t be able to play with it – or anyone else for that matter. Congress – a day in daycare.

When we remove the ego – in life as well as in government – we allow for a focus on greatness – the greater purpose, good and view. We realize that to be a successful country, we have to work things out. We realize that collaboration and a commitment to a common purpose allows us to find solutions that evade those with an ego-driven mindset or agenda. By seeing each American as valuable, important and great, we can reframe our differences and focus on solutions that are not like Washington DC’s roads – gridlocked. In gridlock, nobody wins. No one gets their way. Nothing gets done. Instead, find the core commonality and build from there.

We own this mess because we voted these babies into office. With the vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a short time, we have been given another opportunity to show that when confronted with challenges, we don’t have to go to our Fox News and MSNBC corners and call each other names. Instead, we could look at the reason why we are here – to help everyone be all that they can be. That is what the pursuit of happiness really means – it is a call to step into our greatness. And our government has a hand in helping create a society that allows this to happen.

I can think of a perfect “time out” for this Congress – a permanent “time out” – a new Congress – one more committed to solutions, results and collaboration than egos, privilege and personal agendas.

Science reveals we are not all great at everything. That being said, we should therefore be more aware of electing to public office those whose natural abilities include negotiation, collaboration, empathy and innovation. Elect people whose passion is true service. Don’t let money elect, let ideas elect. Don’t let power elect, let solutions and effort elect.

Congress, grow up. Learn to share and you’ll still have a toy. Don’t learn to share and not only will you damage the toy, but you won’t be allowed back into daycare. The owners of the daycare have had enough of this behavior.

***

Jay Forte, a former financial executive, is now a business and motivational speaker, certified life and CEO coach, author, and nationally ranked Thought Leader. As President and Founder of TGZ Group, he and his team provide customized talent-based tools that power extraordinary living and exceptional organizational results.

 He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World. He created the workplace Fire Up! Coaching model and the life Greatness Coaching model which he uses with national and international clients.

 An avid writer, gardener and chef, he lives in Ft Lauderdale, FL.

VOD: Congress Suspended Democracy So Only One Person Could Re-Open the Government

If you haven’t been following the news regularly about the government shutdown this is one story to which you should pay attention. Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) stood on the House Floor and attempted a motion to re-open the government. What followed was the revelation that on Oct. 1 House Republicans quietly passed a resolution that changed the standing House Rules so that only Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor can make a motion to re-open the government.

You read that correctly. Eric Cantor (or his designee) is the only person that can start the process of re-opening the government. That means that even if the every other Republican and Democratic representative is in favor of re-opening the government but Eric Cantor does not make the motion, the government stays shut down. Even the most powerful Republican in Congress – Speaker of the House John Boehner – can’t make the motion to re-open the government without Eric Cantor’s permission. The power to turn on the services paid for by our tax dollars and return hundreds of thousands of government workers back to their jobs is in the hands of one person.

Does that have your attention now?

Watch the video of Chris Van Hollen’s parliamentary inquiries to see for yourself.

What are your feelings on the video? How does this gel with your definition of democracy? Tell us in the comments below. 

VOD: Malala Yousafzai Interview on The Daily Show

She risked her life to stand up for girl’s education in Pakistan. She survived a gun-shot to the head for those beliefs. She is a best-selling author. And now, at only 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The incredibly courageous teenager gave an exclusive interview to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show on Tuesday night where she talked about her homeland, the rise of the Taliban and why she thinks that education is too important to stop fighting for. Stewart himself even asks if he can adopt her when Malala explains her thought process after finding out the Taliban were threatening her. This is a must watch interview for anyone that has been following Malala, believes in equal education rights, or just needs a few pointers on how to be a better human being. This girl has a lot to teach all of us.


You can watch the extended interview on The Daily Show website.

Are you inspired by Malala’s story and interview? Or do you have a video you’d like us to share in our Video of the Day column? Tell us in the comments below! 

Why National Politics Are Largely Irrelevant To Your Personal Reality

shutterstock_74345122By Dr. Kulkarni

With the recent government shutdown, dysfunctional Washington politics, and passionate opinions on both sides of the political aisle, I’m going to make a bold assertion: what happens in the political world will be largely irrelevant to your personal reality.

There.  I said it.  I know it’s almost blasphemy; we are taught that being politically involved is our civic duty.  That what happens in Washington affects all of us.  That this country is doomed if (fill-in-the-blank with the party you’ve decided is evil) takes control.  And finally, that it is simple common sense to make sure that that the particular party that doesn’t represent our self-interest is stopped.

I don’t disagree with some of these premises.  Obviously, policies on healthcare, the economy, energy, and the environment do affect our daily lives on some level.  I also think in order for a democracy to work (or, rather, a Republic, which is what the United States is), we must make our individual and collective voices heard.

But with those objections preemptively addressed, I’d like you to consider whether or not a Democrat or Republican in the White House is really going to dramatically alter your daily reality.  Have you ever seen a billionaire become poor because a Democrat is now in power?  Sorry to break it to you, but people that are successful and know how to attract wealth on a personal level will just continue to do so.  They will find creative outlets, lucrative business deals, cultivate meaningful relationships, execute on ideas, and utilize the best accountants and lawyers just as they did before.  Sure, they may be taxed more or be faced with greater regulations, but their individual point of attraction and their ability to attract abundance on a spiritual / energy level is something politics won’t change.

On the flip side, do you really think someone who currently lacks abundance is going to magically be catapulted and become wealthy, productive, inspired, and motivated because of a shift in power in Washington?  The truth is, only you, as an individual, are creating your own reality.  You have the power within YOU to create opportunity, motivation, abundance, love, and creativity regardless of the political climate.  And if those traits are blocked within the individual, a shift in political power isn’t really going to help.

Think about your own life:  if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been alive in periods when both a Democrat and a Republican have been in power.  Has the trajectory of your life really changed that much in either case?  Have your relationships, your passions, your inspirations, and your goals been significantly altered?  No Democrat or Republican politician can save you from yourself, or can shift your energy for you.

For all the angst and anger about our national politics and who wins, the truth is, it’s not really affecting your ability to create your own personal reality.  You can choose to be happy, healthy, and successful through your personal choices.  And it’s these choices that are the true, effective catalysts in creating the changes you seek and the life you want, not the speech that some guy in Washington gave on election night.

***

Dr. Kulkarni is a New York City based physician, spiritual author, and personal coach.  Find her @Dr_Kulkarni or visitwww.leveragingthought.com to learn more.

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