Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Super Bowl Post Has Been Preempted!

I was going to do this post on the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII when I learned my sister, Tammy will be giving the opening keynote for the Voting and Elections Summit 2014 in Washington, DC tomorrow. The Super Bowl will just have to wait. After all, it is not every day a member of my family gets invited to the White House and meets the leader of the free world.

If you have been following my blog for some time, you know I have discussed Tammy's appointment by President Obama to serve as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. I have placed her bio here as it appears in the program for tomorrow's Summit:

Opening Keynote - Morning Session - Tammy Patrick

Federal Compliance Officer for Maricopa County Elections Department, Ms. Patrick is tasked with serving the 1.9 million registered voters in the greater Phoenix Valley. She collaborates with community and political organizations to create a productive working relationship with the goal of voter participation. In May of 2013 she was selected by President Obama to serve as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, the pinnacle of her career thus far. Her efforts in supporting good stewardship via sound data collection and analysis has afforded her inclusion in The Democracy Index by Yale Law Professor Heather Gerken, and a position on the Pew Advisory Board for an Elections Performance Index. Ms. Patrick was honored to represent Maricopa County by testifying in Congress in 2007 on the role of election audits.

Working to provide access to all voters, including those serving our country in the military or residing overseas, her analysis of UOCAVA voting populations was presented to the Technical Guidelines Development Committee at NIST in 2011; UOCAVA Voter Trend Analysis and Risk Assessment reviews what characteristics of the UOCAVA voter make them most susceptible to casting ineffective ballots, and if access to online information and process aid in mitigating those vulnerabilities. Her experiences are further shared with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) working group on electronic voting. In 2012 Ms. Patrick was asked to join the IEEE P1622 group developing standards for a common data format for election results reporting.

Ms. Patrick has a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Purdue University and has attained accreditation as a Certified Election Voter Registration Administrator through the Election Center and Auburn University. She has worked in the elections field since 2003 bringing a background in corporate sales and customer service.

If I may say so myself, understand this is coming from a very biased opinion since she is still my baby sister, she has a pretty impressive bio, and has achieved a lot in these last few years.

These last months since she was appointed to this bi-partisan commission, they have crisscrossed the country several times listened to testimony and made recommendations to federal, state and local elections commissions on improving voter access so everyone's votes are counted, made sure military and overseas ballots were disseminated, processed and counted, and making sure no one has to wait more than one half hour to vote. Those are just a few of the high points in the commission's report.

The work of the commission was finalized and presented to the president last week and will be implemented in the upcoming elections. Here is a photograph taken from C-SPAN2's live broadcast last week when they made their results known to the press after the president had signed them:

I am attaching two more photographs taken in the Roosevelt Room earlier that day:

Click on the images to make them larger:

The top picture is the entire commission along with the Vice President and President. You know who the bottom two are, and look who they are addressing. If you look in the lower right-hand corner, you can see Tammy's name placard.

After this meeting, President Obama took the entire commission into the Oval Office and they had a group photograph taken. Tammy has assured us when she gets her copy of that picture she will let us see it. There may be another post in the making.

One more note, the President acknowledged the work of the Commission in last night's State of the Union Address. That was pretty cool!

Needless to say, I am a pretty proud, big brother today! My mother and other siblings are also extremely proud of the accomplishments and national work Tammy is doing on behalf of election reform in the United States.

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Today Is Martin Luther King Day

If you were not already aware because you went to your mailbox and found nothing, today is a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I know a lot of people were speaking about Dr. King and his accomplishments in the Civil Rights Movement.

There have been events all day long, all over the country commemorating Dr. King, and rightfully so. He was a great man who accomplished much before he was taken from us much too soon. 1968 was not a good year in America. His assassination on April 4, 1968 was just the beginning of a horrific year.

I want to focus this post on another Civil Rights leader who was right there with Dr. King. His name was Leon Sullivan. He was a Baptist Minister for the Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Sullivan took a small, struggling church of sixty people and turned it into a congregation of six thousand! His fiery sermons brought people to hear him as he became known as the "Lion from Zion" and made his congregations one of the largest in the nation by the time he stopped preaching there in 1988. 

Dr. Sullivan died of leukemia April 24, 2001 at the age of 78. The reason I want to make you aware of this inspiring individual is I got to hear him speak for a brief moment following my keynote presentation for the Minneapolis Native American OIC graduation ceremony on October 23, 1998.

Let me set the stage: Jennie Lightfoot was the executive director of the OIC and asked me to give the commencement address that day. I had known Jennie from my days of working for as a trainer for Honeywell several years before that. Jennie knew of my experience living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the early 1960s when my dad was a teacher and coach in a small town called McLaughlin, South Dakota. In the interviewing process with Jennie, I told her of my experience living in McLaughlin. I mentioned a couple names of athletes my father had taught and coached when we lived on the reservation.

One of those names I mentioned was Willard Male Bear. Jennie giggled and said, "Do you mean Willie?"

I told her we had never referred to him as Willie, but yes, that is probably the same guy! As it turned out, Willie was the same man who used to babysit for us when he was in high school in McLaughlin. I love small world stories like that!

As Dr. Sullivan was escorted into the banquet room towards the head tables, he was asking to sit by the keynote speaker. Dr. Sullivan had recently suffered a stroke and the right side of his body was extremely compromised. He came in with a gentleman supporting his right side and walking with a cane in his left hand. As he sat down next to me, as many victims of strokes will do, he kind of dropped that last foot or so into the chair.

Everybody was making a big deal out of this distinguished older gentleman who was obviously struggling from the effects of his stroke. We sat through lunch and people wanted to meet him and shake his hand. It was fun watching him interact with everyone that came up to the table and greeted him. He was very gracious as his meal was interrupted several times.

Once the program started, I noticed he was scribbling notes with his left hand in the margins on the program. I thought to myself, "This old guy is writing his speech as he sitting here." Little did I know who this "old guy" was and what he was doing.

They had made a temporary, nice, long ramp to get up to the stage for me. I am sure it met ADA Standards. I went up the ramp, with my wireless, lavalier microphone ready to go, and gave about a thirty minute presentation that brought a standing ovation to the banquet hall.

Then, Clyde Bellecourt made me a Sioux Warrior, wrapped me in a blanket and four tribal members sang a traditional song in my honor as they sat around a bass drum beating it rhythmically. It was quite a moment and one I will never forget.

I came down off the stage, and as Dr. Sullivan was being helped up, he winked at me and said, "Let's see if I still have it." 

Dr. Sullivan was standing at the back of the platform and Clyde started to introduce him. As Clyde Bellecourt it is known to do, he can start ranting and no one really knows how long he will go. He started in that day and Dr. Sullivan was getting a little weak kneed waiting for Clyde to finish his introduction. You could hear people at the head tables telling someone to get Dr. Sullivan I chair because no one knew how long Clyde would go and Dr. Sullivan was leaning up against the wall.

No sooner did Dr. Sullivan get seated in the chair when Clyde stopped his tirade, said to the audience, "With that ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce Dr. Leon Sullivan!" You should have seen the look Dr. Sullivan shot at Clyde. It was precious.

As Dr. Sullivan was helped to the podium, he laid his program on the podium and adjusted his glasses a bit to try and read the scribbling he had put on his program. He was struggling. As he started to speak, something happened I have never witnessed before and will probably never witness again. The spirit literally came into him for about seven or eight minutes and he was whole again!

I have never sat in a black Baptist church listening to a good old-fashioned Baptist preacher preach fire and brimstone. But that day, for a few minutes I got to experience God's presence enter into a rare and committed preacher of the word. I will never forget as he was in full stride, speaking with the spirit moving him and he slammed his right fist on the podium and made a statement that started with tremendous force, "My brother Martin … " He continued for a couple minutes and then just as quickly as the spirit came into him, it left. It was an experience like nothing I have ever seen.

As Dr. Sullivan was helped back to his chair, I leaned over to him and said, "Dr. Sullivan, you've still got it!" I gave him a big smile and patted his shoulder.

Dr. Sullivan smiled back at me and replied, "I just can't keep it very long anymore."

Wow! I will never forget my experience with one of the great Civil Rights leaders of our time who marched along with Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and all the rest.

I learned in a hurry, "You can't judge a book by its cover."

I look forward to your comments.



Friday, January 17, 2014

The Barn Was Rockin' Last Night!

As my longtime readers know, I love watching good college basketball! The energy, quickness, emotion, determination and skill is fun to watch! Especially, when you have great seats like I do In one of the oldest and most storied arenas in the country; Williams Arena is affectionately known as "The Barn."

When Ohio State University’s Men’s Basketball Team came to The Barn last night they were rated Number 11 in the country. The Gophers are not rated in the Top 25. The way the Gophers shut them down, the Buckeyes look more like they would be rated Number 11 in the Big Ten!

The crowd was into it, and when you get more than 14,000 people cheering your every move, you seem to play better. At least, that is the home court advantage theory. This is new Gopher coach Richard Pitino's first win over a ranked team in his first season as Gopher coach.

Pitino outcoached Ohio State's Thad Matta too. At least that is my perspective. He did a good job in switching defenses and exploiting Ohio State's weaknesses on the offensive end.

Of course, it always ends up the players need to execute what it is the coach wants them to do. It seems Coach Pitino had a good game plan, and despite poor shooting through much of the game by Minnesota's excellent backcourt, the Gophers had the Buckeyes down by 13 points with just a little over five minutes to go in the game. Final score: 63-53 and Minnesota had a signature win in the Big 10 Conference.

If you are not a sports fan or following all the conference realignments going on in the NCAA these last several years, the Big Ten has 12 schools and will expand to 14 next year when Rutgers and Maryland join the conference. They are still going to call it the Big Ten! Go figure. It is all about money!

The electricity in The Barn last night was as exciting as last year when the Gophers upset then Number 1 Indiana and the crowd rushed the floor like nothing I have ever seen at Williams Arena.

If you have ever been to a Gopher basketball game in Williams Arena, you know how exciting it can be during a close Big Ten game in January, February and early March!

My mom watched the game, and commented on how many times the announcers made reference to the atmosphere and fun it was to watch a game in the venerable old arena. Williams Arena has undergone major renovations since it was built in the late 1920s, and remains the fourth or fifth oldest arenas in the country with the charm like that of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas where the University of Kansas plays. I also got to see a game between Missouri and Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, and it was a real treat!

It remains one of only three raised courts in the country and has so much charm of going into an old, structurally sound, venue that just draws you in. I have had season tickets since I was a student in the mid-1970s, and it is nights like last night that keep me in Minnesota in these cold winters.

I must admit I was skeptical about how the season was going to go this year after losing several seniors and firing Tubby Smith; but, I have seen steady improvement in the team so far this season and last night was the one that has me believing the Gophers can close out a big game over a good team and will make the Big Dance field of 64 for March Madness! That is always a fun month. That is, if you like college basketball like I do.

I look forward to your comments.



Thursday, January 9, 2014

"30° will feel warm!"

For those of you who have known me a long time, you know I spent a year and a half from December 1973 part way through June 1975 going to school at the University of California in Berkeley. 

A good friend from Worthington was the first person I met when I started going to school in the eighth grade. His name is Tom Wallace. In the spring of 1974, Tom, and my sister, Kathleen took the train to Oakland so they could help me move back to Worthington for the summer. Here is a picture of Tom and me on Sproul Plaza during that trip.

If you were ever a student or a visitor to the Berkeley campus, you know exactly where we are in the picture. I miss my hair! I had a cool 1974 haircut and beard! I am only showing you this picture as a frame of reference for how long it has been since the title of my post and I love the picture!

Click on the image to make it larger:

That fall my parents and my uncle Terry rode back with me to go to school for the 1974 – '75 school year. I moved into Putnam Hall in Unit 1 just off campus. There I met Mike Ross and his roommate, Doug Hamblin. They had another friend who did not live in the dorm whose name is Kevin McDonnell.

We became friends that year and Mike eventually took a job in Minneapolis working as a computer programmer for a lumber company. Mike liked Minneapolis and the different lifestyle here than he was accustomed to in the Bay Area.

In 1978, when I bought my first house, Mike lived in the basement until he got married sometime later. It was in February 1979 when Kevin decided to visit Mike during one of our famously cold winters.

Mike went to pick up Kevin at the airport, and Kevin was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and carrying his baggage. Mike asked Kevin where his coat was? Whereupon, Kevin replied, "Well, how far away did you park?"

Mike said something like, "It doesn't matter how far away I parked, it's 27° below zero out there!" Kevin scoffed at the comment and as they left the terminal, the automatic doors opened up, a blast of that frigid air hit Kevin right in the face and without breaking stride, did an abrupt 180° turn, threw his bag on the floor of the concourse, took out his coat and hurriedly put it on!

Kevin had left temperatures in the 60s and 70s in the South Bay dressed like he normally would in temperatures in that range. He was not prepared for such a drastic change in temperature. Later that day, Mike made the infamous quote, "30° will feel warm, just wait and see!" Kevin WOULD NOT believe him!

Later during his visit, the temperature got to 30° and Kevin had to admit as snow and ice were melting around them that indeed, 30° felt warm.

I wanted to tell you that story because of what we have just gone through here in the upper Midwest. Actually, parts all over the country are experiencing record cold temperatures and some people are claiming we have no problem with global warming!

I went out of my apartment today for the first time in a week. I went to my acupuncture appointment, and as I got on the freeway the flashing FREEWAY FORD time and temperature showed 17° at 11:57 AM. Last week when I waited at the stoplight to go to acupuncture, the temperature actually doubled while I sat at the light! It went from 1° to 2°! It is not very often I can say I watched the temperature double in a matter of waiting for a stoplight.

When the temperatures got down to dangerously low levels like 20 and 30° below zero readings not counting wind chills of 50, 60 and 70° below zero, it was time to just sit back, skip my Friday night Gopher basketball game and watch it on TV, watch playoff football, some television, catch up on my Facebook timeline and enjoy my mom's company and she was stuck here too. She always comes on Friday afternoons and helps me do my attendant care until Monday at 8 AM. This weekend she stayed until Wednesday around noon because of the bitter cold.

As this polar vortex recedes from Texas up into Canada, our local meteorologists are predicting temperatures in the 30s by this weekend! That is a 60 to 70° swing in less than a week! Imagine if any other part of the country were to experience a 60 to 70° swing in just a few hours.

Let's take Phoenix: if one day it is 60° and the next day it is 110 to 120°? Or Miami, or San Diego, or any other state that gets extremely high temperatures?

I am not boasting about this, but I read a study several years ago about the biggest swing in temperatures of the major cities in the United States and Minneapolis/St. Paul area experiences a more dramatic temperature swing of somewhere between 100 and 130° possible temperatures.

I am anxious to go outside this weekend and see just how warm 30° will feel!

As always, I look forward to your comments.