Doing It Not Just To Be Nice, But Out Of Self-interest

September 1, 2014

It was very encouraging to see the members attending the Rotary Club of Columbus Wednesday luncheon give Jamie Vollmer a standing ovation after his talk about how vital it is for business leaders, as well as the rest of the community, to support public education.

Vollmer, a former lawyer and successful  businessman who led the franchise division of the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company in Iowa,  now spends his time making talks and writing books supporting public education. He wrote the acclaimed Schools Cannot Do  It Alone.

It’s not a matter of being nice, he says. It’s a matter of doing what needs to be done for his and the country’s self-interst. For those who have no children in public schools and oppose paying taxes for them,  he said they should be thinking about the how important it is to have an educated work force, and how they have a responsibility to their communities.  He also pointed out that history is very clear about what happens when the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” gets too wide.  The “have-nots” come for the “haves.”

He’s among those who believe that quality education for all children is what will make for a better life  for all members of a community. I tend to agree.

 

 

Mark Cuban’s Sartorial Example

August 26, 2014

As I observed Mark Cuban’s dress for his appearance before about a thousand business leaders last night at the opening of this year’s Jim Blanchard Leadership Conference,  I had to reflect on the example he was setting.  The billionaire, who stated that one thing a leader has to be able to do to succeed is lead by example,  sets an example sartorially that is not good for manufacturers of  dressy clothing.  Remember what Clark Gable reportedly did in the 1934 Frank Capra movie “It Happened  One Night?” He took his shirt off and was not wearing an undershirt. Millions of men stopped wearing undershirts, devastating the undershirt business. 

Cuban, whose audience, with a few exceptions, were dressed in expensive business suits and ties, wore his trademark black tee shirt , blue jeans, and tennis shoes.  It seems just about all of the billionaire computer and Internet leaders wear casual clothing. Steve Jobs did, and Bill Gates still does. 

During the Great Recession  of 2008 , I was shopping in an upscale haberdashery  one day, and I asked one of the store’s managers if the Recession was hurting their business.  He said the economy was not a problem. The problem was “People don’t ‘dress’ any more.”  Well, they’re following examples of some super-rich successful types.  

Great Theatrical Documentary Movies I’ve Missed

August 25, 2014

Each year an Academy Award is given for the Best Documentary and usually I  have  not seen any of the nominated films.  I think  it ‘s because they are rarely shown in a theater near me before they win an Oscar.  Now, there is a solution to that. We can either rent or buy some of them on DVDs or catch a lot of them on Netflix and pay-per-view channels on cable. Still, I had rather see them on the big screen with the big sound in a theater.  Also, being a part of an in-person audience is a dynamic you don’t get at home.

Fortunately some get shown in the Screening Room at the Carmike Ritz 13 in Columbus.  And some get so much publicity they even make it to the larger stadium-seating theaters.  Michael Moore’s highly controversial docs quite often make it to the larger theaters, for instance.  They attract large audiences and make mega-bucks.

Still, there are many critically acclaimed docs ones that  I never seen. I came across a bunch of them when I decided to check out the director of the new feature film If I Stay.  R.J. Cutler got an Oscar nomination  for The War Room, which got rave reviews when it was released in 1993.  No, it’s not about the famous War Room, a bunker that was used as headquarters by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the U.K.’s top  military staff during World  War II.  It was preserved and is open to the public in London. I saw it and was really impressed.  The Cutler War Room film is about the inner-workings of the Bill Clinton’s first campaign for president.  If he had lost, Cutler and company felt the doc would fail, but he didn’t lose and the doc was not a failure.

He also made A Perfect Candidate, which was about the Virginia U.S. Senate election  in  which Republican Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, famous for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, narrowly lost to Democrat Charles S. Robb. a Vietnam War hero and former Virginia governor.  Both candidates gave Cutler’s film crew access to their campaigns. The film got rave reviews.  The Washington Post’s critic called A Perfect Candidate and The War Room the two  best political documentaries ever made.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to rent those docs, and many others that I missed over the years that probably never played in a theater near me.  

I just saw a really good new one about finding  the world’s most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex on a home TV screen, Dinosaur 13, that features Bill Harlan, a former South Dakota journalist who now lives in Columbus and is a friend of mine.  It is playing in theaters in most of the country, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other countries, but not in the Southeastern United States.  I hope Carmike Cinemas will remedy that situation.  Meanwhile, checkout this YouTube about a T-Rex and a really big snake.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVMCuZZ3XKk

 

 

 

NEW BUILDINGS AND STADIUMS ARE NICE…BUT…

August 17, 2014

EMPHASIS NOW NEEDS TO BE ON REDUCING COSTS TO STUDENTS.

The estimated student loan debt in the United States is $1.2 TRILLION. The debt for the average graduate is $29,000. That’s the average. It’s not unusual for a student getting an MD, for instance, to owe more than $150 thousand.

The Economist reports that now there are more than 7 million debtors in default.

Public universities have increased fees by more than 27 percent over five years ending in 2012.

Government funding for education fell 27 percent between 2007 n and 2012.

Higher education costs have risen 1.6 percent more than inflation for decades ending in 2013.

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

VInce Dooley Says College Football Facing it’s Greatest Crisis Ever

August 6, 2014

Unionization attempts, pay for play, player product endorsements etc. issues are threatening the very existence of college football, he says.   

Retired University of Georgia football coach  and athletic director Vince Dooley, who is now a  consultant for Kennesaw State University’s new football  program,  saved the most controversial part of his talk to the Rotary Club of Columbus until the very end of his  very entertaining talk.  After getting a lot of laughs about his years at Georgia, he made the point that to start paying players would bring about the end of college football.

He said giving the players a full scholarship and adding a cost of attendance payment should be enough.  He also wants a law passed to regulate those payments.  If such a law is not enacted, he said, the colleges would get into bidding wars for the best players, driving the costs so high college football would be dismantled. He also pointed out that if a school pays football players it will have to pay the atheletes in the other programs. 

Well, how about a law regulating what coaches can make?   That would stop bidding wars for the best coaches. While we’re at it, we could regulate pay for professional sports stars and coaches.  Could such regulations be considered a restraint of trade?

It’s really hard to make the case for not paying players who take great physical risks when their coaches are being paid millions of dollars, and the schools are raking in many millions more. 

I suppose we should clarify that by saying “some top-tier school” are raking in those millions. I’ve read where only  the top-tier schools make money on their athletic  programs.  Most  of them lose money on those programs. 

 

 

 

The Making of the Modern Middle East Mess

July 29, 2014

What a time to be reading Scott  Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia.  The moment I  saw the book’s cover, I knew  I had to read it because one of the most impressive movies I have ever seen is David Lean’s 1966 masterpiece epic Lawrence of Arabia.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped  bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

With the daily Middle East  horrors being shown just about every day on TV, it’s interesting the learn how the modern Middle East was formed a hundred years ago when World War One started in 1914, and the role that T.E Lawrence played in that formation, and about how the United Kingdom and France arbitrarily drew up the borders of the  Middle East nations that resulted in the carving up o the defeated Ottoman empire.  It also delves into the beginning of the formation of Israel. And it tells us about early American  involvement in it all.

The full and very appropriate title of the book is Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning with Almost-90 President Carter

July 20, 2014

President Carter Says China is Headed Toward Having the World’s Largest Christian  Population

Carter - Plains 3  015

  As usual, when he is there, the Maranatha Baptist  Church at Plains, Georgia was packed Sunday morning.  A new friend who formerly lived in South Dakota, Bill Harlan, had said that he and his wife Marjorie, would like to attend one of President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school classes.  So Carol and Don Nahley, Sidney and Ed Wilson, the Harlan’s, and Julie Bray and I motored to Plains.  It was a delightful experience.  

On October first, President Carter will be 90.  You would  never know it by the way he conducts his Sunday school class.  He is still not only intellectually impressive and witty,  but does not move like a man who has been around that long.  He was on his feet and in motion for the entire lesson, which lasted almost an hour.

The main point of his talk was that all Christians are missionaries, that Christ himself was a missionary. After normalizing relations with China in 1979, he tried to get missionaries back into the country. He asked for three things: Freedom of religion,  the printing of bibles, and allowing missionaries back into China. He got two of them. China agreed to allow freedom of religion and the printing of bibles, but it wouldn’t allow missionaries to return.  Now, President Carter said, China is on its way to having the  world’s largest Christian population. Sometimes it only takes one person to get the job done and, it seems, one missionary to China, President Jimmy Carter, was the man to do it.   

 

Having a Drink with the Duke

July 14, 2014

As I read the news about John Wayne’s estate engaging in a legal battle with Duke University over the use of  the name Duke, it reminded me of  the time I had a drink with the Duke.

The estate wants to put the name “Duke” on the label of bottles of Kentucky bourbon. Duke University reportedly opposes that idea. From personal experience, I know that Wayne did like bourbon.

He had just finished shooting some scenes for The Green Berets, a film about the Vietnam War at Fort  Benning.   Meeting him on location the night before, I had so upset him when I asked if he was making a propaganda movie that he cut the interview short and stormed off, saying, “You’re just trying to provoke me. I’m  trying to make an entertaining  movie.”

The next morning his publicist called me to say that Duke felt bad about the episode with me, that he had been upset by something else and that he would give me another interview if I wanted it. The publicist and I met him at his apartment after that day’s filming.  He gave me his famous smile and a hardy handshake,  explained that he had been in a bad mood the night before because of problems he was having with one of his actors who had a drinking problem,  said he understood I was just doing my job and I could ask  him anything I wished.  I responded by honestly telling him I was a fan and had really enjoyed his latest movie in the theaters, The War Wagon. He invited me to join him at the apartment’s  kitchen table to do the interview.  He also asked me if I would like to have a bourbon and water with him.  Usually, I didn’t drink on the job, but there was no way I was going to  not have a drink with John Wayne.

I interviewed him for an hour.  He gave me a lot of interesting inside stories about such things as the mafia’s influence in Hollywood. I sent both the short interview from the  night before and the hour interview to  CBS.  They only used the one with the verbal fireworks from the night before.

 

Let There be Rotary Light

July 7, 2014
Alexa, Luke, and Ryan Clements performing the unity clap to close Rotary Club of Columbus President Clements acceptance speech.  Of them,  he said, They're my daily reminders of why it's importan to go  the extra mile each and every day to  help make our community and world a better place for all people." (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

Alexa, Luke, and Ryan Clements performing the unity clap to close Rotary Club of Columbus President Clements acceptance speech. Of them, he said,”They’re my daily reminders of why it’s important to go the extra mile each and every day to help make our community and world a better place for all people.” (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

Rotary International’s theme this year is Light Up Rotary, and carrying the torch for that effort in Columbus is Ryan Clements.  He just became president of the Rotary Club of Columbus.  Greg Camp, last year’s president, passed the torch to Ryan at Wednesday’s meeting.

President Ryan – local Rotarians stick to first names –  said, “This is an exciting theme for  me because it encourages all of us to tell the Rotary story and to invite our family and friends to celebrate Rotary with us.”  I can’t go into all of the Rotary story in this short space, but I can tell you that a major  part of it is supporting the Rotary Foundation, which raises hundreds of millions of dollars to help  people in parts of the world who. as Ryan says. “would otherwise go without basic necessities such as clean water, proper sanitation, and fundamental  nutrition.”

Vice-President Greg, who is an executive at the National infanrty Museum, said that the drive for  Rotary Foundation Funds during his term as president exceeded its goal.  In order to keep that ball rolling and hopefully raise impressive funds for Rotary’s “greatest cause, the eradication of polio,” President Ryan, who is in the construction consulting business,  will lead the club in reviving the 1983 Run to the Sea, a relay race of 275 miles from Columbus to Jekyll Island.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to match funds for polio eradication 2 to 1 up to  $35 million a year through 2018.

When you add this effort to all of the other services Rotary offers the Columbus community,  local Rotarians should have no  problem at all Lighting Up Rotary by spreading the word on how remarkable the Rotary experience can be.

 


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