NEWTOWN MASSACRE: ‘Gun Control’ Alone Is Not the Magic Bullet

SOCIETAL SAFETY: Will Come From Greater Peace, Understanding & Love

The ‘Methodical Massacre’ at Sandy Hook Elementary School has struck a chord deeply within the American psyche about the state of our nation.  Many Americans, across a wide spectrum or demographic groups, including with those who are far removed from the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Perhaps, it is because beyond the loss of so many precious young lives in Connecticut, the gruesome details of Adam Lanza’s premeditated attack on school children and teachers illustrates how still vulnerable still are many Americans to random acts of violence by our fellow citizens; citizens in many cases who operate in the shadows of American life – even in sheltered communities,  either suffering from diagnosed or un-diagnosed mental illness or assorted other psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorders and for whom quite often there is also a lack of proper treatment or supervision. By the time we learn of the  true danger to society of these ‘ticking time bombs’, often it is too late.

In a piece entitled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, another mother explains the frightening scenario that perhaps many mothers across America are facing in the attempt to control mentally ill children who may some day pose a risk to the rest of us:

“No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.”

You have to wonder whether Nancy Lanza,  “A mother, a Gun Enthusiast and the First Victim” of her son Adam Lanza, were she alive today, might think differently about housing such an extensive gun collection in her home with a son who allegedly suffered from Asperger  syndrome and perhaps other forms of mental illness, and a self destructive personality disorder.

We owe it to those families who lost their children as well as the family and friends of Victoria Soto, a heroic young teacher, who along with several other teachers and educational professionals died shielding their students from certain death,  not to tarnish the legacy of these heroic individuals or cause their survivors to suffer the further indignity of having to listen to any of us pontificate platitudes or offer faux solutions that provide political cover but not meaningful change. We need to evolve beyond entrenched political positions whether they take the form of  NRA sloganeering or anti-NRA campaigns and ‘put reason back in America’s gun debate’. Otherwise we do a disservice to those who died,  those who survive them and the future generations we place at risk. The true lunacy beyond the acts of maniacal gunman Adam Lanza in Connecticut is that what happened at Sandy Hook can happen anywhere at almost any time in America. That is what is truly horrifying.

SOCIETAL BREAKDOWN: FUELING MORE LOVING SPREES vs. KILLING SPREES

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me— nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

-Hamlet, William Shakespeare

And yet even so:

How dare they try to end this beauty?
How dare they try to end this beauty?

-Hair the Musical

We kill too much in America. Too many Americans die as a byproduct of ‘random acts of violence’. But are they truly so random given our present societal values, discourse, understanding and treatment of mental illness?  The statistics bear out that more Americans are killed from the use of handguns than any other civilized country on the planet. How do we get America to put down the guns? Surely, we need more loving sprees vs. killing sprees. It is really that simple and yet it is still even more complex to get there. And I do not say that to make light of the situation or to be humorous.

Despite the nobility, the reason, the grace, and the beauty of man, much like Hamlet, I too cannot be delighted. The real question is how do we prevent more of our citizens from going on killing sprees? Few reasonable people would argue that we need to love more and kill less. That is a fact but how do we create or facilitate that reality? Is gun control the magic bullet or is it merely one component of a complex and multi-pronged societal solution to the increasing violence, disconnect and breakdown in civil society? How do we stop other mass murderers like Adam Lanza from emerging at the wrong time from the confines of America’s wealthiest suburban communities? How many other ticking time bombs are out there?

If we choose to recognize and accept that that the solution to preventing more massacres of our young and innocent like that at Newtown Elementary School, is a complex multifaceted one, then ultimately that will be the beginning to fortifying our society and enhancing the security of our citizens. There is no doubt that once we decide to grasp the breadth and complexity of the problem, it will be an exhaustive process to come up with the proper formula or prescription for the proper treatment of certain societal ills which undermine our security.

We may not get it right immediately but we ought to never stop trying. In my estimation, thoughtful restrictions on gun ownership, use and display are merely one component of the solution to secure the safety of many Americans who are actually right now quite vulnerable to the kind of tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We owe the victims and their families an earnest dialogue on this issue that leads to thoughtful and creative solutions on several fronts.

GUN CONTROL: Is Not the Only Answer

Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
Trying to find some money then you die
I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah

You know I can’t change, I can’t change
I can’t change, I can’t change
But I’m here in my mind
I am here in my mind
And I’m a million different people
from one day to the next
I can’t change my mind
No, no, no, no, no

-Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve by Richard Ashcroft (but unfairly credited to the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards – for their utterly bullshit legal maneuvers to claim rights to and royalties from this song)

I do not own a gun. I do not want a gun. Yes, perhaps maybe I want to shoot one in a controlled environment with proper training and supervision at a private gun range or rifle range. I had the experience of doing so at Summer Camp on Cape Cod back in the 1970’s even though I was actually quite a terrible shot. Archery on their other hand was more my thing, perhaps because the simple bow and arrow conjured up more romantic ideas of a bygone era. I diverge. Truth is that I recognize that even if I owned a gun, chances are it might prove to be a greater danger to me than to anyone else.

The ‘Methodical Massacre’ at Sandy Hook Elementary School in all of its gruesome, disturbing detail illustrates how still vulnerable are wide segments of society to random acts of violence of private citizens who become unhinged in the quiet privacy of their suburban homes.  I would love to believe that tighter gun control laws alone would make us all safer from maniacal acts of the mentally deranged, including the types of mass shootings in the United States in recent years.  Some thoughtful restrictions, waiting periods and background checks certainly can be constructive, including qualifications as well as to whom should be allowed to purchase and own semi-automatic and pump action shotguns or what amounts to an assault weapon, more suited for military operations. Yet, I simply do not believe that better, tighter or stricter gun control laws or banning ‘killer weapons’ entirely will magically make us all safer. Instead, I think at best they will make us marginally safer in certain instances. And in others, it might make us more vulnerable, akin to sitting prey to criminals who will always be able to find a way to obtain guns and powerful assault weapons in an underground black market.

Instead we should strive to create the kind of civility, respect and equity in society that would lead to fewer people losing their cookies and engaging in these random acts of lunacy. And where that is not possible, greater manned security may be required. And even then that may not be enough. It will not be easy. It may even be a never ending project for an advanced society or one that hopes to evolve beyond the madness to fortify itself to strike the right balance between societal safety, individual rights, security and privacy.   I wish it were so easy to make the rest of us safe from the random break downs in civility and the deranged souls, minds and spirits of men who become undone,  but it is far more complicated. It is just as important in these times that thoughtful people not allow society to reach for  simple answers to complex problems. We must respect human life and dignity. Any time even one child is taken from a parent, it is a horrible loss and deeply saddening. And that loss deserves thoughtful introspection and solutions crafted by serious people; not band-aids that only leave us unprepared at risk for more of the same in the future. Consider the viewpoint of one commentator who says that ‘It’s Time to Hate Mass Murder and the “Liberal” and “Conservative” Idiots Who Help It Happen’:

We now have the perfect formula for horror: cut mental health funding, cut education in the arts and everything else that builds empathy and the human spirit, worship a military industrial imperial “culture” of violence sold as “defense,” desensitize our young men with violent porn, abandon all gun regulation, accept irony and cynicism as entertainment and “higher education” and then teach unstable young men to shoot and to glorify violence all round.

The Newtown Massacre ought to get us to finally commit affirmatively and deeply to our own evolution as a people, not to protect one political viewpoint or another. Our survival and the advancement of our society requires an affirmation that we need not just a new beginning but also the recognition and acceptance that it shall be a never ending process. We must, however, never give up on striving towards achieving a more rewarding and secure way of life for all of our citizens, even the downtrodden and mentally ill. In the end, happy, loving, secure and completely sane people do not kill other people, regardless of whether they own guns.

On Women’s Rights, the Poor, the Elderly & Paul Ryan – the Mormon Madoff’s Choice for VP

IS PAUL RYAN THE ‘NEXT’ PRESIDENT?

I commend Mitt Romney for his selection today of Congressman Paul Ryan to be his Vice Presidential running mate on the Republican ticket.  I really do, despite whatever was the risky rationale behind Romney’s choosing “the roadmap to hell”,  mostly because the shape-shifting political chameleon has finally made it rather clear with his selection of Ryan, to anyone who may ultimately doubt where RMoney or RobMe stands, that it is game on.

Some may contend that the selection of Ryan is an official declaration of war on what remains of America’s middle class.  News Corporation CEO & founder, Rupert Murdoch who had been critical of the Romney campaign rendered a rather positive reaction to Mitt Romney’s running mate pick Saturday morning, tweeting an enthusiastic endorsement of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The tweet was as follows:

“Thank God! Now we might have a real election on the great issues of the day. Paul Ryan almost perfect choice.”

I am inclined to agree with Rupert Murdoch that that there needs to be a serious debate about the necessary policy prescriptions to move this country forward and to revitalize the American Dream.  I can even accept that serious entitlement reform is necessary given the changes wrought by globalization and the less competitive posture of our nation on a global basis. And as much as I believe every sitting political leader deserves to be challenged and his leadership examined under the microscope, it is hard to see how the Mormon Madoff, his new sidekick and the GOP have standing to challenge President Obama given how they seem to see America’s biggest problems as senior citizens, women who use birth control and gay people or the LGBT Community.

Corporations [may] be people my friend. But, if, for example, you do not think that “women’s rights” or the liberty of women is an important issue in the coming election, let me put it to you this way and feel free to quote me, What if we had a female Presidential Candidate who said:

“Beginning at sunrise on the day after my Inauguration, we begin removing the testicles of heterosexual, ball cap and sports loving men who have ever once pleasured themselves while viewing the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the Swimsuit Calendar or even the Pirelli Calendar.”

Do you think then that “Men’s Rights” would not be the number 1 issue if a female Presidential candidate made such a proclamation? Or would it still be blaming one guy for a stagnant economy, instead of trying to understand the reasons behind the structural problems in that stagnant economy?

Thurston Howell III & Jay Gatsby Defend the Plutocracy

Romney/Ryan 2012

Romney/Ryan 2012

Ironic that for the so called party of individual Liberty,that prides itself on the spirit of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan,  they seem to be rather consumed with deciding who gets to actually have “Liberty” under their rule. But it is certainly even more noteworthy that the dynamic duo, who consider the greatest enemies to America as women who use birth control, the elderly, veterans who defended this nation and students who are the future of this nation,  made their announcement to join forces in front of a military style installation when Mitt Romney was a pro-war draft dodger who demonstrated against antiwar protesters during the Vietnam War at Stanford University attired like Jay Gatsby, sounding more like Thurston Howell III.  Oh the hypocrisy of a pro-war draft dodger who got four deferments from service in Vietnam while conscientious objectors like Muhammad Ali went to jail.  Romney is an un-patriotic poseur. You just cannot make this stuff up.

Be Evil in America – vote for Mitt RMoney.

En el lenguaje de mi padre para mis amigos que hablan el español.

HIJOS DE PUTA PARA ROMNEY – Únete a la más grande grupo de adoradores de Satanás para el mormón diablo a la presidencia. Todos somos hijos de puta como el fundador de la secta mormona, Joseph Smith. Vamos a sacar al país de nuevo al diablo. ¿Quién necesita a Dios cuando se puede ser gobernado por el malvado? La simple verdad en el lenguaje de mi padre es que Paul Ryan es un hombre muy peligroso porque no es ni un erudito o un teólogo católico, pero él ha tomado sobre sí mismo no comprender la doctrina católica. El Sr. Ryan venera en el altar de Ayn Rand, un ateo, Jesucristo. El catolicismo no enseña falta de respeto por los ancianos, los pobres o las minorías como un medio para racionalizar la basura cualquier deber de tratarlos con dignidad y compasión.

LINKS – recommended reading

-Paul D. Ryan, U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district (NY Times)
-Romney’s Stunning, Terrible Choice of Ryan for VP | The Daily Beast
-Be Afraid, Seniors: How the Ryan Pick Changes the Campaign | The Daily Beast
-Planned Parenthood: GOP Wrong for Women | The Daily Beast
-Paul Krugman (NY Times):  Paul Ryan’s Multiple Unicorns
-Matt Miller (Washington Post):  The Talented Mr. Ryan
-NY Times Editorial: Paul Ryan’s Cramped Vision
-NY Times, Editorial: The Careless House Budget
-Thomas Edsell (NY Times): Paul Ryan’s Liberal Fan Club
-Paul Ryan’s Budget Games | The New Yorker
-Paul Ryan’s Budget Games | Real Clear Politics
-AYN RAND JOINS THE TICKET | The New Yorker by Jane Mayer
-No, Paul Ryan is not ‘courageous’ | The Washington Post By James Downie
-The Ryan Budget by James Stewart (NY Times)
-Medicare News (NY Times)
-Romney Seeks Distance From Ryan Budget Plans
-Neighbors like Paul Ryan, even if they won’t vote for him | USA Today
-The Paul Ryan Watch
-9 Depressingly Kooky Facts About Paul Ryan | Jezebel: Jezebel has an outline on how Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney hope to finish ruining the US and bring about Slavery 2.0.
-Faith In Public Life
-Catholics United: Paul Ryan’s Priorities Reflect Teachings of Ayn Rand, Not Jesus Christ
-Paul Ryan’s Catholic Problem | The Daily Beast:  His budget plan has drawn fire from some Catholic bishops for cutting programs that help the poor. Conservative leader Deal W. Hudson on what the GOP ticket needs to do.
-Paul Ryan’s Budget Logic is Quandary for Some Catholics | LA Times
-James Zogby: – Paul Ryan: Grow Up
-Paul Ryan’s Religion Problem | Salon
-Catholic Paul Ryan Loves Atheist Ayn Rand?
-What Ayn Rand says About Paul Ryan | Washington Post
-Catholic Bishops Have Denounced Paul Ryan’s Budget:  From a Georgetown Letter to Representative Ryan: “We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress – “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.” Catholic bishops recently wrote that “the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.” In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.”
-Catholics For Obama: Battle For Key Constituency | Seattle Post Intelligencer
-Is Paul Ryan Doing the Koch Brothers Bidding? | Daily Kos
-Romney’s Veep Pick: Paul Ryan, Koch Ally and ‘Right-Wing Social Engineer | Alternet
-Meet Paul Ryan: Climate Denier, Conspiracy Theorist, Koch Acolyte | Truthout
-Paul Ryan Using Koch Brothers 1980’s $Profit$/Privatization Plot | Daily Kos
-When Cruelty is Cute | NY Times by Maureen Dowd
-GOP sounds the alarm on Ryan | Salon: Republican strategists fret about Ryan; the VP pick’s Koch ties; and other top Wednesday stories
-Forget Paul Ryan’s Budget: His Scariest Idea Is About the Federal Reserve | The Atlantic
-Newt Gingrich: GOP Budget Plan Is “Right-Wing Social Engineering” (YouTube)
-Paul Ryan’s Fairy Tale Budget Plan | NY Times by David Stockman of the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget
-REPUBLICAN DAVID STOCKMAN: Paul Ryan’s Budget Is An Empty Fairy Tale | Business Insider
-David Stockman on Crony Capitalism | Moyers & Company
-Romney, Mormonism & Money | NY Times (Ross Douthat)
-Ayn Rand Received Social Security, Medicare (despite decrying the evils of the ”Welfare State”) | Patia Stephens
-Ayn Rand and the VIP DIPers | The Huffington Post by Michael Ford
-Ayn Rand, Defender of Corporate Welfare | reason.com

THIS GENERATION IS ON – Leading America’s March Forward

Celebrating America’s Evolution On Independence Day

Independence Day is a time of relaxation, reflection and indulgence. We build to a crescendo in our celebration much like an evening of fireworks commences first by the calm of setting up, finding a comfortable vantage point, laying down a blanket or lawn chair as you begin to think to yourself how lucky you are to be in this country and to have the time for this experience. Just as you begin to reflect on the history of our country, the sacrifices made to enable your life, it begins. The glimmer in the sky is broken first with a streaking burst of light, followed by a building but steadying flurry of sparks of various sizes to a colorful snap, crackle and pop over head leading ultimately to an unrelenting and perpetual multicolored blast in the sky that bedazzles your eyes and makes your head spin until a final crescendo leaves you with your mouth agape.

Regardless of what activities we choose to partake in individually and collectively, they are often preceded by thoughtful introspection about the history of our country, the meaning and responsibility of citizenship as well as solemn recognition for the citizens who have and will sacrifice to preserve and defend American ideals, on the battle field and in the market place of ideas, past, present and future.

Sustaining America is an ongoing process; a process which is reflected by the deliberate philanthropic acts of our societal, community and business leaders and children who dream without limitation on the possible. This is the fuel that perpetuates and turns the most noble of dreams into reality. This generation is engaged because of the forces of nature that remind us of the responsibility of our shared heritage as American citizens.

There are folks that have infused in me not only a greater sense of civic responsibility and an awareness of the interconnectedness of life on this planet. Many individuals of diverse perspectives and stations in life have made me realize that I am part of something far greater than me. From an existential standpoint that is certainly useful.

My sources of inspiration in this life have been both men and women.  Hillary Rodham Clinton was right in her instruction that ‘It Takes a Village’. I have and continue to be nurtured by a village of influential women who fill the blind spots in my life, mostly perhaps because I was open to their guidance. Women who continue to influence me now include photographer Donna Ferrato, founder of The Common Good, Patricia Duff as well as Mary Sliwa, a former corporate media executive and  the long time Executive Director of the Guardian Angels who is now a strategist with the Moldaver-Chrebet Group at Morgan Stanley, a Barons 2012 top ranked financial advisor in this region of the country.   But it was my very first my feminine hero, my mother born into this world as Virginia Bernadette Saunig who reminded me to channel my feminine side as much as the masculine and not allow the testosterone which would come to fill my veins to foreclose the possibility of reason and forging greater understanding and humanity.  As a New Yorker, long before I knew what a Clinton was, I knew the eloquent New York Governor Mario Cuomo. His sense of fairness and calls for greater equity and a more humanistic society resonated with me as they did with my father. But how do we get there? This is the crux of the intellectual battle between liberals and conservatives, including those in my own family. Government cannot do it all, nor should it.

Who can forget the clarion call of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address when he stated “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”? President George H. W. Bush’s inaugural address invoking the vision of a “thousand points of light,” however truly laid down the gauntlet for service in clear terms: 

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”

President George H. W. Bush, 1989 Inaugural Address

Points of Light Institute which was formed during “41’s” term as President is now the largest non-profit volunteer network in the world, led by visionary CEO Michelle Nunn, a true pioneer in the service movement. Under the Points of Light umbrella is the Hands on Network comprising the  largest volunteer network in America.    As the face of volunteerism in America, the CEO, the daughter of a prominent U.S. Senator, who emerged from the shadows of volunteering in soup kitchens, seems to have a Zen thing when it comes to the role of giving back as central to a more holistic and balanced life.  In her words “Being of service to others and making a difference, being connected in the community, is one of the best ways that you can have a meaningful life.”

GenerationOn Gala Benefit

On Thursday, May 31 at 583 Park Avenue, GenerationOn, an organization now under the Points of Light umbrella,celebrated the work of young American volunteers and civic and corporate leaders – for their exceptional dedication to bringing positive change to their communities. GenerationOn was led by Board Co-Chairs, Kevin Arquit, Esq., widely recognized as one of the world’s top antitrust attorneys and a Partner in New York based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLPDave Barger, CEO of JetBlueBrian Goldner, CEO of Hasbro and wife Barbara GoldnerKathy Lacey of Edelman, and Silda Wall Spitzer of the female led financial firm, Metropolitan Capital Advisors.

The youth services volunteer enterprise honored Gary Knell, President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR) and Lauren Bush Lauren, Co-Founder and CEO of FEED Projects, for their outstanding leadership in youth service.  Lauren Bush Lauren impressed with a, dare I say it, Kennedy’esque speech on the import of giving back. Nuni Montaigne and Sonya Bernstein were presented with the Inaugural Silda Wall Spitzer Children for Children Award by John Hays of Christie’s. The Hasbro Community Action Hero Award was given to Zachary Certner, Nina Mahalingam, Maryam Farooq, William Lourcey, Nimansha Jain, Cassandra Lin, five inspiring young people for their exemplary service to their communities.

GenerationOn’s Executive Director, Concetta Bencivenga, who recently joined the organization after years in Philadelphia at the Please Touch Museum and an adjunct professor at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, along with Rachel Shuster closed out remarks to the gathering before master thespian Stephen Lang served as auctioneer in place of long time generationON supporter John Hays of Christies who had other duties this evening

Kevin Arquit and Silda Wall Spitzer reflected on the mission of generationOn in the greater context of America’s future:

“Our view, first articulated by Silda Wall Spitzer when she started our predecessor organization, Children For Children, is that if you instill youth service at a very young age, it is far more likely to take hold and be a large part of what children are, and what they become”, stated Kevin Arquit before quickly adding, “Our view is not that children should volunteer and engage simply because they have to, or because it is the “right thing to do.”   The success of our organization is found when a child volunteers simply because it is a large part of who they are.  And the ultimate payoff that results from having an engaged, motivated population of children is virtually limitless.”

Silda Wall Spitzer emphasizes that instilling a greater spirit of societal participation does not just lead to healthy well adjusted children but creates better citizens as studies show that:

“these children vote more and become more responsible, productive and collaborative members of the communities in which they live and work”.

Speaking of a man who knows a little something about growth and value, in the words of Arquit’s generationOn Board Co-Chair, Dave Barger CEO of JetBlue, one of America’s most revered brands:

“At its heart, GenerationOn is about educating youth to be part of the community.  Being involved with such an organization is incredibly rewarding, but we do it because it’s part of our DNA and we want to build a better society.”

Barger who supports  PENCIL in leading the fight to transform education, and whose face adorns ads at local MTA bus stop in my own neighborhood, adds:

“For kids, Independence Day means summer vacation and being away from school.  In reality, summer is an important time to get ready for the school year.  Organizations like GenerationOn and PENCIL are hard at work when students are away, essentially preparing the theater for the curtain to go up in the fall.”

JetBlue’s DNA exemplified in Barger’s leadership, vision and execution, has led the airline to achieve a unique stature and brand in the marketplace. New York’s Hometown Airline™, known for value-added amenities like free TVs, comfy leather seats with lots of legroom and a free first-checked bag, recently earned an all-time high score among traveling public. For the eighth consecutive year, the airline received a J.D. Power and Associates Honor for customer satisfaction. Now if I seem impartial, truth is I am, I am an unabashed fan of New York’s Hometown Airline™.  I am forever TrueBlue for JetBlue because their devotion to the customer experience in travel makes it my preferred way to travel. Fact is that I get as excited by boarding a JetBlue plane as I do with landing at my vacation destination. And if you listen and watch Barger speak, it is clear that he is as evolved a CEO as you will find in America. He knows that “you can never be too human”.

Dr. Jock Percy, CEO of Perseus Telecom states:

“Giving back to the community in which we operate is important for us culturally. Supporting Play Rugby USA in directly enables me as CEO of Perseus to support the community in which we operate by developing youth through rugby. It reminds us that what we do is important for our customers and within our industry, but we can have a direct impact locally. Our business operates globally and youth development is a global objective of Play Rugby USA in tune with the game of rugby played in 160 countries around the world. Rugby has given me many opportunities at a personal level and naturally I want to see the next generation of young Americans develop skills in leadership, team-work, discipline and community.”

VOICES OF SEPTEMBER 11th

My eyes were glued to the screen at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers the Voices of September 11th  Fifth Annual Always Remember Gala for the New York Premiere of  ‘Voices’ of 9/11 by Take Part. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in a video greeting that preceded the screening praised the humanistic work of the organization. Kathy Lee Gifford of NBC’s Today Show, delivered the Keynote Address in a heroic voice. Joe Daniels, President of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum was warmly received for providing an update on the 9/11 Museum.

Event chair Bonnie McEneaney, author of the book: “Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11” was there among friends and family, including Debby Sands McEneaney of Sag Harbor, organizer of the East End tradition, the Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game, who attended with her husband Kevin McEneaney and their children Peter McEneaney and Ian McEneaney. Among the notables in attendance were honorary chair Governor Thomas Kean, Monica Iken of September’s Mission and 9/11 Memorial & Museum Director, Alice M. Greenwald.

Mary Fetchet, the co-founder of Voices of September 11th, offered earnestly how she and her team at Voices have been “Building Bridges” since tragedy struck on 9/11:

“After the death of my son on 9/11, I co-founded Voices of September 11th to support all those affected, commemorate the nearly 3,000 lives lost and promote reforms to make our country safer.  Despite an unimaginable loss, the 9/11 families have demonstrated great strength, resiliency and compassion, creating philanthropic efforts in memory of their loved ones that benefit others. As Americans we are fortunate to live in a democratic society that provides an opportunity for each of us to make a difference in our communities and the world.”

Fetchet and the team of thoughtful and earnest patriots she leads at Voices of September 11th are “Building Bridges” 365 24/7 so it is rather ironic that they give awards of a similar name. Honored for their principled and yeoman work on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum were Christopher Del Pozzo and Kevin P. Murphy of Lend Lease, one of the world’s leading project management and construction companies. Composer, David Friedman and soloists Amanda Nisenson, Joan Carlo and Matt Thomas along with Cellist Nada Radulovich provided a spirited evening of entertainment that was literally transcendent.

FINANCIAL SERVICES CARES GALA – AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

7th Annual Financial Services Cares Gala to Benefit American Cancer Society was held on Monday, June 18th at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan. The American Cancer Society honored John W. Thiel, the head of U.S. Wealth Management and Private Banking and Investment Group for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management with the Eugene D. O’Kelly Award and Black Rock with the 2012 Financial Services Cares Distinguished Services Award. Robert S. Kapito, President and a Director of BlackRock accepted the award.

BATMAN & ROBIN: Distasio & Thiel

Don Distasio, CEO of American Cancer Society, Eastern Division, has developed a reputation as one of the most effective CEO’s in the charitable arena. Under the leadership  of the cancer survivor, cancer rates have dropped dramatically.  Due to his implementation of a plan to fight cancer through research, education, advocacy and services to patients and families, “the American Cancer Society is now the most comprehensive cancer fighting organization in the world. It is the only full service 24/7 around the clock Cancer resource available to those battling any kind of cancer” reminds the man who has spent the last 40 years working to build the character and effectiveness of the only employer he has ever known. “Your journey begins by going online to Cancer.org or just call 1-800-227-2345.”

If Distasio’s reputation as a cancer fighter make him Batman, then in John Thiel he has clearly found Robin. Thiel is as respected in the Cancer Community as he is a leader at Merrill Lynch/Bank of America. When I asked Thiel about America’s birthday, Thiel who had many of his firms competitors in the house, by his own invitation, reminded me that the “American Cancer Society is in the business of birthdays –“We are here tonight to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.” Distasio took a moment to add that “we are very proud of our mantra of saving more lives and creating more birthdays. The simplicity of that is amazing but also quite true.”

ACE 20th ANNIVERSARY

ACE celebrated 20 years of empowering the homeless and improving communities with a festive gala at world famous auction house Sotheby’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. ACE founder, artist, community builder and model of urban heroism, Henry Buhl, along with ACE Executive Director Jim Martin took the stage at Sotheby’s to highlight the progress of the program over its 20 year history.  Nothing could be more “Fresco by Scotto” than Emcee and Good Day NY co-host Rosanna Scotto who notably serves as President of “Schmoozing” at her aptly named family restaurant. Socialite Tinsley Mortimer and Mary Sliwa, the former corporate media executive and long time Executive Director of New York based Guardian Angels and now a strategist with the Moldaver-Chrebet Group at Morgan Stanley, a Barron’s #1 ranked Financial Advisor in New Jersey, were among the guests.

Jessye Norman’s rendition of God Bless America literally brought forth tears.2012 honorees were Jessye Norman, Russell Simmons and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank – Retail. ACE also honored supporters Tony Goldman Steven Tanger (CEO of Tanger Outlets),Cynthia Wainwright and Denise Rich.

Countess Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New York City was joined by bombshell cast mates Heather Thomson, who is more Berkshires than Hamptons, and glamorous, Aviva Drescher. The trio provided rather stunning evidence of a range of diversity in elegant and sophisticated feminine beauty that turned heads all night. Talented Vietnamese concert pianist Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen (Cho-San),who is embraced widely by the creative community for the purity of her spirit and her immense talent, seemed to be comfortable back in familiar surroundings having relocated back to Manhattan from her frolic out west where she collaborated with Hollywood royalty.

WOMEN IN CONSERVATION

National Audubon Society members, chairmen, supporters as well as members of “Women Greening the City” gathered at the ninth annual Women in Conservation Luncheon at The Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. Women of the earth, the cloth along with environmental entrepreneurs made clear the synergy between conservation and a vibrant healthy economy.  Over $1 million was raised by Conservationists  while honoring three exceptional women with the Rachel Carson Award. Honored for their notable work in the environmental and conservation movement were: The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham – President of The Regeneration Project / Interfaith Power and LightL. Hunter Lovins – President of Natural Capitalism SolutionsJanette Sadik-Khan – Commissioner of New York City Department of Transportation.

Allison Whipple Rockefeller, National Audubon’s Women In Conservation, Founding Chair; New York State Parks Commission Member, confers her perspective on Independence Day:

“The Fourth of July means so much to me because it brings floods of American families and friends together- outside- in parks across the country. The Fourth reminds me that no other nation on earth had given its most beautiful places, its national parks, forests and wilderness, to its citizens. These, in Europe and elsewhere, were preserved for the king and the aristocracy. Here, the nation’s most beautiful places belong to the American people. Citizen ownership of parkland was an uniquely American concept and it has served as a model to the rest of the world. Parks owned by the people: another great American idea.”

Sara Hobel, Executive Director, Horticultural Society of New York provides a history lesson:

“Horticulture is tied up with the entire history of the US—think of the farmers who opened the western frontier, Jefferson’s adoption at Monticello of viniculture, the Victory Gardens that helped win WWII.  Urban farmers, green roofs, and sustainable, small-scale agriculture informed by organizations like the Horticultural Society of New York is the next chapter in that history of growing American independence, and American interdependence.”

CITYMEALS ON WHEELS 27TH ANNUAL CHEF’S TRIBUTE

Legendary chefs gathered at Rockefeller Center on June 4th for the 27th Annual Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals. This film-themed food fest featured a reunion of  Michael Douglas and long time Citymeals supporter Kathleen Turner, who paired famously in “War of the Roses” and “Romancing the Stone”. The event raised over $826,000 for the preparation and delivery of more than 128,000 nutritious meals delivered to frail homebound elderly New Yorkers. White House Executive Pastry ChefWilliam “Bill” Yosses was among a cast of culinary artisans that included Daniel Boulud, Eric Rippert, Marcus Samuelsson, Larry Forgione, David Burke , Cesare Casella, Alfred Portale , Jean-Georges Vongerichten and restaurateur, Drew Nieporent. Renowned architect David Rockwell was responsible for the event design. Nick Valenti, CEO of Patina Restaurant Group, was Grand Host. The event was chaired by Ninah & Michael Lynne; Laura & John Pomerantz; Randi & Dennis Riese; and Lizzie & Jonathan Tisch. The Beverage Committee was headed up by Audrey Saunders of The Pegu Club. Wine Chair was Daniel Johnnes of the Dinex Group. Events of this magnitude do not happen without sponsors. American Airlines and FIJI Water were Official sponsors of Citymeals-on-Wheels.

How do we celebrate? In the words of Billy Joel“A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of [Wolffer Estate] Rose instead? We’ll get a table near the street, in our old familiar place, you and I face to face” in Sag Harbor, South or East Hampton or Bridge whether at 75 Main, Savanna’s, The Palm or  I will meet you any time you want at Wolffer’s Estate Restaurant.  From the vineyards in Sagaponack I will lift a premium glass of Long Island wine and salute those of you who make being an American and a New Yorker, and in the summer months, dare I say it a New York [Long] Islander, simply the greatest thing I will ever be in this life.

To be a Point of Light in America’s evolution, you need not be an electrician to help illuminate the bulb to keep us moving forward in “the light.”

*NOTE: An edited version of this post appears in Social Life Magazine (Hamptons) July issue in my Society column.

Social Life Magazine - July 4th Independence Day Issue

Social Life Magazine - July 4th Independence Day Issue

ROMANCE – A Return To Innocence

PERILS of the Sensual World

Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion
Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion

Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence

If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don’t hide
Just believe in destiny
-Enigma, Return to Innocence (1994)

Though I am single and never married,  I have had my share of fulfilling romantic experiences. Along the way, I  have also suffered heartbreak and disappointment that left me shaken, unsettled with an overwhelming sense of melancholy to the degree as if someone I cared for had died.  And yet as time goes by,  you wonder, did you really know that person? In this modern age many seek instant gratification, instimacy rather than true intimacy via interim sexual liaisons. These situations often turn into mini relationships based upon a questionable foundation of nothing more than simple visual physical attraction. It made me wonder. In the modern technological era where we can seemingly order up physical pleasure and ‘transactional romance’ with the simplicity of ordering a Pizza via online and offline networking, constant contact and sexting, has this modernization let us to abandon the most valuable lessons?  Why did we really need to shed the innocence? Has doing so actually let us down in the pursuit of happiness?

The end of a relationship and the loss of love is in essence the end of a dream,  a dream that you created and allowed to swirl around and fester in your mind. But all too often before we truly and deeply know or understand someone, our lust and desire for them allows our imagination to take us away to dreams of a life in perpetuity. The dream feels so real that it becomes seemingly inevitable, if not pre-ordained. And then one day, it is not. Things come to an abrupt end. BAM!  You get rocked as if you were standing on one leg and got hit by a freight train. You wake up with a persistent ‘Hangover’ like you got dropped with a shot to the head from  Mike Tyson. You do not even ask yourself whether here in 2012 he still has it. Fact is that you are not sure how or whether you even want to get back up. Hell AA has the 12 Step Program. What program is there to deal with what feels like the extraction of your soul and a pain so deep that you do not know where it begins or how it will ever end?

Ironically enough, perhaps for the lessons I have learned, my willingness to share heartbreak and disappointment and the essence of the human experience rather openly, including those from my own romantic failures and the contribution that it has made to my evolution and enlightenment as a man, I am usually the one that people in and outside my family and circle of friends, both male and female, turn to for advice to help make decisions in matters of the heart. This is true whether it is the manner and style of romantic pursuit, interpreting signals from our partners, handling separation or in matters pertaining to divorce or simply helping folks to discern between credible references, guide books and voices in the market place of ideas.

Now lest I sound egotistical, truth told I confess that I have probably made every mistake there is to make in the pursuit of love and my romantic affairs. In the end it is not just about understanding our romantic target or partner but truly about whether we choose to understand ourselves and learn from and take responsibility for, our own failures in life. And I am comfortable to admit openly where I have failed, and failed I have, frequently.

Most Valuable Lesson

A valuable lesson I have learned from my own experiences and from observing the breakdown in the romantic lives of others, is that all too often, how we come to see ourselves can often be the worst reflection of the insecurities of those we select or invite into our lives for the wrong reason(s). It has often been said that love is blind. But so often is it true that one’s desire for the affection of a specific individual can some times camouflage one’s understanding of said target’s emotional and intellectual evolution as a human being, the character of their romantic values and in the end their ability to deliver a useful or credible opinion or dissection of our inherent value as a person, a lover and a friend. We don’t often take an inventory before we target a candidate for takeover or merger, theirs or ours. Neither do we send in a due diligence team.  The opinion of those we may choose to love, even if self serving, and truly lacking insight or perspective, may often be given greater weight than it deserves and can often be the straw that not just breaks the camel’s back but defines the camel’s back.  It is common to put more stock in the flawed analysis of those who appear to care for us and then break our hearts than one derived from our own internal accounting and introspection.

The road map for happiness in our own individual lives lies within us; but far too often rather than engage in meaningful introspection about what our subjective needs might be, we cling to cliché’s many of which are fostered in the Hallmark’et place of shallow and superficial romantic ideas or predatory gamesmanship put out by quick buck artists. Instead we ought to trust our instincts and engage in introspection about who we are, what we need, whether those needs are realistic and in the end what kind of individual with what sort of value system is most likely to help us self actualize in love. And then the trick is how do we put ourselves in a position to connect with an attractive version of said individual? No offense to Match.com, JDate, E-Harmony, Janis Spindel etc, there is no such thing as 1-800-SoulMate. Getting there is an evolutionary process, one that also requires luck in external factors somewhat beyond our control.

Sure, we each deserve to be loved, cared for, nurtured and understood by the partners we select. But do we recognize that different individuals require love and attention in different forms and dosages? We do not all have the same prescription. What is natural and normal to some folks can be interpreted as clingy, excessive and overbearing in other cases.  Less can be more and more can often be off putting or suffocating. Where some require mystery others require candor and straight forward and earnest evidence to induce reliance and trust.

SENSUAL vs. SEXUAL: Interim Unions vs. Lasting Partnerships

The principles of lust are burned in your mind
Do what you want, do it until you find love
Feel your heart beat

Principles of lust are easy to understand
Do what you feel, feel until the end
Principles of lust are burned in your mind
Do what you want, do it until you find love
Start to move slowly, very slowly
-Enigma, Principles of Lust (1991)

In my own personal evolution, it took me to this age to realize that while sensual matters are of course relevant, that pursuit of sexual passion to the exclusion of all else can limit the upside of a union; that is if a long term union and life long partnership is the goal. I am not unfamiliar with sexual passion pursued as sport or pleasure between two consenting adults for the sake of pleasure and the release of tension in life. No judgments against that sort of thing. Fact is that everlasting love may never cross paths with many of us in life. It may come once, multiples times or never. So who am I to say that ‘transactional romance’ does not have its place in modern life? I believe it does because in the end a life without mating and pleasure is a lesser life. I am thus not delusional about the principles of lust. They are easy to understand. The lure of physical pleasure as its own end in what can often feel like a cold and lonely world for many is not unfathomable to me.

Even so, in retrospect I have often wondered whether I would have been better off restraining myself and taking the time to develop something far more substantial emotionally and intellectually with women whose character suggested a suitable potential life partnership. Fools rush in? Do they?  In my humble view and life experience, in some cases, the failure to exercise patience and a slower and more deliberative courtship, has limited or stifled rather than contributed to the growth of the connection between two people. It leaves one less connected emotionally, intellectually and spiritually to the best aspect of sharing with another human being just as you are climaxing with one another. Orgasms sure feel nice, but could it have felt better, even every bit as primal but delivering a level of psychological fulfillment in terms of overall connectivity that reminds you why every breath you take on this planet matters?

True sexual passion combined with deep psychological fulfillment and enhanced self esteem is derivative of the overall development of the bond between two people on multiple levels and not simply a reaction to visual stimuli at the outset. A slow, steady and more deliberative course is more ideal. That is my conclusion. Yes, it is lovely if that “spark” is there at the outset and may in fact be necessary for many folks to continue moving forward with one another, but the visual can be magnified a hundred times over if you deliberately take the time to connect on many other levels before acting on that spark.

ZEN: A State of True Human Connectivity

In my estimation, you have not lived, if, as an adult you have never simply allowed yourself to linger in that pre-foreplay teenage mating ritual or stage of slow and deliberate kissing while fully clothed, holding back from any kind of heavy petting not just out of a sense of respect but out of a desire to stay in that heavenly moment as long as possible before it gets too erotic and the desires in your loins take over your sensibilities. Because if you can just allow yourself to linger  in the moment,  feeling the soft lips of the woman you dreamed of against yours as you take in through your nostrils the scent of her skin, the feel of her hair and the aroma of her perfume, while tears well up in your eyes and stream down your face because you have never known such happiness was possible, you will know first hand the meaning of life. For you will surely want to forever remain in that moment, space and time. You will always savor it. Several decades  later and I can still remember that most beautiful moment of my life, much the way Hermie Raucher will never forget the Summer of 42. And still others will never forget Jennifer O’Neill.

And yet,  I do not care how many sexual positions that you have mastered or how deeply fluent you are in the Kama Sutra or the number of your tantric sex liaisons. Because my friend, if you have experienced the quiet comfort of being in the arms of the woman you love, taking a moment to just look in her eyes, smiling and hugging one another and then breaking, spending the rest of that day walking, holding hands or engaged in matters and activities of a non sensual nature, with that person by or near your side, you have likely come to feel connected to a greater force on this earth and the essence of life itself.

That level of connectivity is deeply emotionally and psychologically fulfilling and delivers a sustained mental orgasm that is transformative and enhancing of one’s self esteem. Its affect is finer than any cocaine, aphrodisiac, alcoholic beverage or anti-depressant created by a pharmaceutical company and more relaxing and engaging to your endorphin levels than the darkest chocolate.

A zen state or condition in the mastery of life comes about I believe if you can appreciate, comprehend and value the comfort to your core being of obtaining a true level of connectivity with another soul.  What is in the end most profound is that the lessons from that are applicable in so many other facets of life. It is the simple that we often lost sight of in the pursuit of our evolution, but in my estimation what is needed most now in many of our lives is a return to innocence.

JOHN W. THIEL & MERRILL LYNCH – BULLISH ON THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

American Cancer Society to Honor John Thiel of Merrill Lynch


We live in an era when many are quick to condemn and ridicule glamorous aspects of philanthropic events in this town to perpetuate the notion that societal elite are oblivious to the times that we live in and the challenges facing the every man. Despite a focus on financial industry miscues, among the greater minds at large in the business and financial services community, there is in fact a very real sense of the interconnectedness of our lives.

The Financial Services Cares Gala to Benefit the American Cancer Society

On the eve of the upcoming Financial Services Cares Gala, I head downtown to Lower Manhattan’s World Financial Center to the office of John W. Thiel, Head of U.S. Wealth Management and the Private Banking and Investment Group for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.  As an advocate for finding a cure for cancer, Mr. Thiel serves as chairman of the Manhattan Region Financial Services Cares Board of the American Cancer Society. He also serves as a Trustee on the Board of Florida State University’s Foundation. Thiel, along with Black Rock, the largest asset management firm in the world, will be honored  at The American Cancer Society’s 7th Annual Financial Services Cares Gala on Monday, June 18, 2012 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. He will receive the 2012 Eugene D. O’Kelly Award.  I wanted to speak to the man who rose from humble Midwestern roots to lead a distinguished career in public accounting and the insurance industry to come to lead Merrill Lynch, the very firm whose history is tied to the democratization of capitalism. History buffs will note that the founder, Charles Merrill helped bring Wall Street to Main Street allowing ordinary Americans to obtain equity stake in the industries that built this country. As goes Merrill Lynch so goes Main Street has been a truism most of my life.

When I finally met with Thiel, he played down the significance of the award personally, emphasizing instead the significance of the night, “the spotlight is on New York, and the financial services community is all here.” Expected to be in attendance are many of Thiel’s industry competitors. I wondered frankly what he thought of this, would there be tension? Despite the competition, Thiel emphasized that there is mutual respect among and for many in the industry, “it’s one night to put the gloves away and rally for the American Cancer Society.”

Thiel has arrived at his station in life through discipline, principled hard work, long term planning, centered on the fundamentals, which has given the man a strong long game not just in the investment game but in life. Thiel has lived and worked through professionally, the lessons of the economic downturns of the early 90’s, the tech bubble and the most recent financial crisis, only to emerge stronger and more well regarded in the industry and by his peers.  He arrived in a post 9/11 New York City, in 2005 during a period of tremendous upheaval and uncertainty at a time we were still licking our wounds and trying to move forward, before we were rocked once again by the financial collapse of 2008.  Where many others pursue pipe dreams and engage in wishful thinking in boom times, hoping only to be lucky, Thiel’s approach perhaps emanates from his years in public accounting and the memory of what it was like to be broke and to have to map pursuit of the American Dream from Ground Zero. He gets it and what the every man feels.

BULLISH ON: John Thiel’s Philanthropic Commitment

Sitting in the chief’s World Financial Center offices on a bright sunny day with the Statue of Liberty in the distance and the rising World Trade Center to his back, the revitalization of Lower Manhattan in full bloom, I found it hard not to be bullish on Mr. Thiel and Merrill Lynch. John Thiel is a centered and principled gentleman with a steady view of the world, a genuinely warm and engaging demeanor and a sincere humility that evidences the core of his character. Frankly, he is a man better than his resume or the simple summary of his life accomplishments, one who glossed over rather humbly his Horatio Alger like background to focus on what matters to him most:  the eradication of cancer and specifically the never ending work of the American Cancer Society. Thiel has motivated those in the orbit of his life to commit ‘to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.’ A year since my mom  passed at the Hope Hospice in Cape Coral,  Florida, and there is nothing I would do to celebrate one more birthday with her. Thiel’s fight is not simply good business, the right thing to do or even noble; it is simply personal to him and that is what matters most.

Thiel is a man who has progressed because he seems possessed of the same steely determination and optimism of folks like Larry Silverstein who forged beyond the hassles of rebuilding and those who questioned whether it could be done and done better, to convert many former and existing opponents of the rebuilding process, who saw a reinstallation of the former Twin Towers as the only conceivable alternative. I know because I was one of them. And though I deeply respect the work of the Twin Towers Alliance and hoped myself to see a version of the iconic Twin Towers rise again, I must acknowledge that in my heart,  as is being documented by Project Rebirth, I do believe Lower Manhattan is finally rising in a manner that we can be proud.

Perhaps in the end, the best leaders don’t simply pander to the average man’s sentiments but help us all to evolve by guiding us with their leadership. Thiel is a man with both the character and poise to lead the rise of the financial community from a troubling era where capitalists, community and political leaders and average citizens all point the finger of blame at one another, to a new dawn and a more prosperous tomorrow.  Sometimes the best New Yorker’s arrive here from….. some place else. With all due respect to Julie Menin, John Thiel, is also one of the reason’s Wall Street [is] Rising.

Thiel is one of many untold stories in this great metropolis that put better in context how, during a time of turmoil and flatter profit margins, an abiding humanity underlies the commitment of business leaders to sustain and fortify a modern society by keeping many philanthropic and cultural institutions in the black. From the illumination, education and cultural enlightenment of our children, to providing opportunity and upward mobility, critical health care and other transitional services to members of our community in need, the work of philanthropically inclined citizens in the financial sector, like John Thiel, forges onward in the occupy humanity movement.