Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bound by Truth: Lessons in Balls and a Blue Dress

Why is it that every major public offense requires a "blue dress" to bring some accountability? Anthony Weiner finally had to own that lovely chest shot when outed on The Opie and Anthony Show. He denied it over and over.  Two years later he was outed again for the same behavior.  And poor Roger Sterling (insert sarcasm here), He didn't stand a chance.  It was all on tape.  And unless we get some actual physical evidence, we may never get to the bottom of Bill Cosby pileup.

So, this past Winter as "Deflategate" inflated I was really hoping that Tom Brady would tell the truth. Instead we got the typical deflect and deny.  Considering his reputation on and off the field, I was expecting more.  And honestly his fans deserved better. Finally after months of investigation and a 300+ page report rich in circumstantial evidence, it is still Deny, Deny, Deny.  And to make matters worse it is denial put into action by the promise of appeal.

Now Tom has some good company in this camp. In January, Lance Armstrong in an interview with the BBC admitted that he would, "do it again."  As the interview progressed it seemed as if he was trying to apologize - but it wound up sounding like, "well everyone was doing it."  Lance made it clear that given the circumstances of his life and cycling in the mid 1990's he would have still broken the rules.  Let's remember that it took extensive investigations until he had to own his behavior.  But, no one would consider this taking accountability.

The same rationale that Lance expressed is the same thing we are hearing today regarding Tom Brady and the Patriots.  I had a fan tell me that Tom Brady probably did it, but because they don't have concrete proof there should be no punishments. And then added, every team in the NFL cheats.  We all hear our mothers say, "If everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?"  Now, Ronald Reagan put a bit more eloquently “We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” The claim that we do it, because everyone does it, is not us at our best.

Earlier, I alluded to the infamous Lewinsky "blue dress," solid evidence.  But, this past year we have seen that even with solid evidence responsibility is evaded.  In July of 2014 on video you see a police officer putting Eric Garner into an illegal chokehold.  Per the Medical Examiners office, that criminal chokehold was partly responsible for Mr. Garner's death.  In December of the same year a Grand Jury decided to not hold the officer responsible for the illegal behavior that lead to end of Eric Garners life.  So no accountability for the Officer.  Unlike the Ferguson grand jury, the proceedings of the Staten Island Grand Jury have never been disclosed. So, no accountability for those proceedings.  Then just last week in a special election the Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. (who ran the Grand Jury) was elected to Congress.  Theodore Roosevelt, not only our former President - but a former New York City Police Commissioner said,“We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources."  One has to wonder, what would Teddy have done?

There is a real problem when one has to consult an Attorney in the midst of an ethical conflict. “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one's acts,"  according to Mahatma Ghandi.  Yet over a year ago, we saw Yankees former third basemen Alex Rodriguez surrounded by his Lawyers do everything he could do to escape responsibility for doping.  How much money did her spend denying the truth?  And after all of that he still had to sit out a year.  Now he is back in the game. Some argue that he is a better player now and more humble.  Yet, his record in baseball is tainted.  Last week he passed Willie Mays in career home runs, scoring his 661st.  There was little to no fanfare.  And there is speculation that the Yankees may try to avoid paying out on a contracted bonus for passing that record because of his doping.  Was it all worth it.?

Last evening as we slept Ananta Bijoy Das (32 years old), was hacked to death with cleavers and machete's in Bangladesh.  He was a blogger who took the risk to speak out against Islam.  Ananta knew the risk.  He is now the third person to be hacked to death in Bangladesh.  Then there was the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hedbo. Lives taken because they took the risk to publish and to do what they felt was their right to do.  They knew the risks, threats had been made before. You hear stories of unapologetic Nazi's such as  Hermann Göring (the second highest ranking Nazi official to be tried at Nuremberg) admitting to his heinous actions and decrees.  Why is standing by ones own actions so unfashionable.

(Blogger bludgeoned in Bangladesh)

In 1995, Hugh Grant was arrested in LA for having sex in a public place with a prostitute.  In the days that followed, he owned his behavior.  He didn't hide behind a wall of carefully calculated PR stunts.  Nor did he run to check himself in to re-hab.  Hugh went on The Jay Leno Show and in short said, "...I did a bad thing..."  And if that wasn't enough he went on Larry King and said, "I could accept some of the things that people have explained, stress, pressure, loneliness, that that was the reason. But that would be false. In the end you have to come clean and say ‘I did something dishonorable, shabby, and goatish....'"  He is right in the end you have to come clean.

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.” To Mahatma Ghandi, manliness includes accountability regardless of cost. I would go a step further to say true accountability - before the blue dress, the video tape, the DNA evidence, the 300+ page report.... Lack of accountability in the face of truth is weakness.  Will we ever see a true man or women that dares to be duty bound to the truth?   According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “As a matter of honor, one man owes it to another to manifest the truth.” 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Parent IEP Success - 6 Not So Easy Steps

Since Kindergarten, my one daughter has required an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  The annual meetings have become routine. Students who receive additional services such as Speech Therapy etc. have a specific academic plan to support their particular area of challenge. The plan articulates the goals for the upcoming school year.  Those goals are put together by a team that includes teachers, specialists, therapists, and parents.  Today, I write this for the parents.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting a mother who had gone through the process and was a pro. Due to certain requirements of her child's IEP she had to be very "hands on".  Over the past several years our conversations have been instrumental to my success as a parent in this process. There are many of you out there that may not have an advocate or a sounding board.  You could feel very alone in this process.  So, I wanted to share some of things I have learned along the way.


Since the day you brought this child home from the hospital you did everything to get to know your child. You learned the difference between the "I'm Hungry" cry to the "I'm poopy" cry. (ok so that last one comes with a smell enhancer).  You know your child.  As you are working with the teachers and other professionals in the IEP process listen to your inner voice.  If an assessment doesn't ring true to you (or the recommendations) - say so.  If you feel as if the services or the plan in place is not accomplishing the goals speak up.  Let's face it as parents we have far fewer children to guide through this world than your child's school teacher. Regardless of how great the teacher is, things can get overlooked. Speak up.


We aren't all educational professionals with multiple publications in Child Development.  And we don't have to be.  However, at times you can feel that way because of your lack of educations or maybe even lack of experience with whatever challenge your child is facing.-You  can feel like you don't have a voice.  Most people at your IEP meeting do want your insight and your perspective.  Now, some may not. I recently had a team member degrade my preparation as "just a google search" (I wonder what Google thinks of that?) and was coolly reminded that I was surrounded by experts, so this wasn't necessary.  You know what I did?  I made it clear that the team member was being offensive and then I continued on with the discussion at hand. Be very wary of the team member that chooses to diminish your preparation. You are just as much a member of that team, as is everyone else at that meeting.  Don't allow yourself to be daunted.


Try to get a draft of the IEP prior to the meeting. You may encounter some push back.  Some schools actually have a policy of not distributing it until the meeting. However, I argue that the advance draft, allows you to review it, ensuring that your input has been characterized properly. Also, most of these meetings are run on a tight schedule - so to waste valuable meeting time reading through the report as opposed to discussing it, seems wasteful.

If you can't get the IEP ahead of time - using the most recent IEP - make a list of changes you would like to see in the new IEP.  Then use that as a checklist as you walk through the IEP in the meeting.  Also, make a list of goals that you believe were met during the duration of the most recent IEP.  Ensure that those goals are struck from the new plan.  Doing these simple things should help you be as prepared as you can be.

Worst case scenario is if the meeting has to wrap and you are left with unanswered questions or concerns.  If that happens, then you must demand a second meeting before you are willing to agree with current IEP.  Understand, that this request will not be very welcomed. However it is your right.


You may very well be a cold-hearted negotiator when it comes to making deals.  But, when it comes to IEP meetings it can be emotional.  Maybe a new observation catches you off guard.  Or maybe, hearing someone voice the same concerns you have may be very touching.  Talking about your child's challenges can be sensitive and if you aren't in agreement with the team it can make you feel very volatile.  Just remember, take a breathe (often if you must).


As a part of preparation, compile a list of questions you presently have. As the meeting progresses, if those questions are asked, check them off.  If more questions arise during the meeting jot them down.  Then just be certain to get them answered before you leave.  Also, don't let the other team members deter you from asking your questions.  If it is important enough for you to jot down, then you must ask it.  You of all the team members, need to leave that meeting confident that the best plan is in place for your child.


After the meeting, you will be sent a final copy.  Go over that copy with a fine tooth comb.  Make sure your changes have been made and ensure that everything is as it should be.   Don't be surprised if you come up with an additional concern or goal after meeting. It happens to all of us.  If there are any changes required, simply send a note of to the teachers with your notes. They will make the adjustments and send you the final.

Remember, that as a parent you are the ultimate advocate.  That can at times require you to do things that take you out of your comfort zone.  The process can be time consuming as well.  But, your child's development is well worth it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Changing Ourselves Changes the World

Earlier this week, my daughters were talking about all the things that girls can do.  My one daughter said, "We can even lead the world." I asked each of them, "Would you want to?"  They both declared, "No - there is too much confusion."  Ironically, I think we all feel that way.  We all feel compelled in one way or another to simplify the onslaught of issues and pain we see in the 24 hour news feed.  Yet, we are all left at the end of our day with the lingering question of what I can I do?

Despite the complexity of the issues we face, the best approach we can take is inward. It can seem so simplistic.  However, in Psalm 51 verse 10 David prays, "Create in me a clean heart. And renew a right spirit within me."  We get so caught up in fixing the world. Or worse, we look where to lay the blame.  When the only thing we can really change is ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Earlier this week as the riots broke out in Baltimore, I posted the prayer of St. Francis.  It truly sums up how we can change the world, by merely changing ourselves.  There are things within our humanity we can change. For all others we must work with our Lord to do the deeper work. Slowly things in us and our world will change.

Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon; Lord
Where there is doubt, true faith in you;
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there's despair in life,let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master Grant that I never seek
So much to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace
It's in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we're born to eternal life