Sunday, February 20, 2005

Tsunami relief: If these rivals can work together, why can't we?


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Former President Clinton and former President Bush put their political differences aside yesterday in Ban Nam Khem,Thailand to show America’s bipartisan support for humanitarian aid following the 26 December tsunami.

If these former political rivals can work together to solve survival issues in four Southeast Asian countries, let’s Lead Our Leaders to forget their past differences and work together to find solutions to our five survival issues: polarization, terror, deficits, wealth inequalities, and environment/energy

.The grace that these former political adversaries displayed to better the lives of our global neighbors is a positive sign to our chilly allies in Europe that the welfare of people matters more than political grandstanding. The neediest countries hope the reticent European governments will now step up to the plate to help.

The former Presidents were clearly moved during their tour of damaged coastal towns in Thailand. They continue their tour this week to devastated areas in Indonesia, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. Shaken by a show of mean spirited politicking running up to our November election, our friends abroad were reassured to see this example of American bipartisan effort. So many nations depend on the support of the American government for their very survival. Their needs are great - we can't let them down.

President Bush asked his father and former President Clinton to lead the U.S. effort to provide private relief to victims of the tsunami.

The magnitude of the disaster – which killed a quarter million people and displaced over 1.6 million more – has generated the largest international relief effort in history.

"When it comes to helping people, politics is aside," Bush said. "I’ve enjoyed working with President Clinton." If former Presidents Bush and Clinton can suspend politics for people, why can’t our current legislators do the same?

"On issues about which there can be no debate, there should be no problems," Clinton said. There’s no debate when life is fragile, evil is looming, and challenges abound. Please vote here to Lead Our Leaders to secure our future.


Donate to tsunami relief.

What websites have compelled you to give to tsunami relief?

Have you participated in a relief effort in your town to aid the tsunami survivors?

Have you ever been the victim of a natural disaster who benefited from the kindness of strangers? Please tell us your story.

Plan how you may help those who want desperately to help themselves, but can find no practical way to do so. Lou Henry Hoover, 7 November 1931.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Condoleezza Rice is a hit in Europe: Was it the piano lessons?


Condi Superstar shares her talent

Who would have dreamed that Condoleeza Rice's first international tour as Secretary of State would help heal the hurt in Europe? She's only been on the job two weeks. How does she do it!

Dr. Rice's message in Paris focused on freedom and economic prosperity. Well, true - we all want to hear this. These are survival messages that Lead Our Leaders knows everyone agrees with. But how was America's top diplomat able to warm the hearts of Europeans who previously were wary of U.S. foreign policy?

The French love her so much that they've given her a new nickname: Condi Superstar.

Gianfranco Fini, Italy's foreign minister, gave Rice high praise this week. He said, "I don’t know if she can be defined as a hawk or a dove, but certainly she is a determined woman."

Dr. Rice displayed determination early in life. She started piano lessons at age three. At age five she played for the choir at the church where her father served as pastor.

Grandmother must have been right. She told me that the study of piano developed a variety of skills necessary for children to excel in life. Susie Temoy McFate taught piano beyond the age of 100 in her home to neighborhood children. At her funeral, former pupils told me how much her time with them meant to their lives.

Grandmother McFate said music lessons yield the 3 C's - concentration, coordination and confidence. Studying for a recital is difficult. I remembering wanting to go outside and play instead. But affording a child an opportunity to experience the pride of accomplishment? - priceless!

I know a teenager who stayed in high school for the opportunity to sing in chorus. She was a talented singer and loved to perform. Another potential dropout rescued - priceless!

Dr. Rice told music students this week in Paris that she’s learning Anton Dvorak’s "Piano Quintet in A Major." Dr. Rice plays piano in a chamber ensemble in Washington on weekends. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe issued her a diplomatic proposal, "Next time, you play for Paris!"

Expect this Secretary of State to travel more than Secretary Powell did. The maestro loves an audience, and they love her.

SolutionGal predicts that Dr. Rice will open up a new chapter in American diplomatic relations that will compel people around the world to address polarization, terror, deficits, wealth inequalities and energy/environment issues.

Thusfar, the new Secretary of State gets a B+. And her potential to serve as a role model for kids around the world - priceless!


Learn about music education.

View Dr. Rice’s speeches from her European tour.

Have you found websites that help us learn more about music and kids?

Please share a personal empowering musical experience from your childhood.

I will never consent to have our sex considered in an inferior point of light. Let each planet shine in their own orbit. Abigail Adams, 3 February 1814

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My new girlfriend: Securing her future


Delta Solar
National Air and Space Museum Photo

Ever since I was a little girl, I've enjoyed riding on city buses. I enjoy looking at the interesting sights outside, and I enjoy talking to the interesting people inside. Today's ride made my heart sing.

I was riding on the number 30 bus in Washington, D.C., having more fun than a groupie at an Alicia Keys concert. Why? Because I was doing an Art Linkletter.

Talking with young children always brightens my day. Their sense of the world is sometimes more thought provoking than that of sage adults. And it always makes me laugh.

Learning from a five year old is a humbling experience that I cherish. Feeling a challenge to secure her future? -priceless!

Today was a temperate winter day in the nation’s capital. The flat, intense blue sky called for sunglasses. As I waited at the bus stop on Wisconsin Avenue near the Russian Embassy, I played my favorite imagery game: "Where do these people work and what societal problems will they work on today?" In this game, I try to guess what people do for a living by examining the amount of strain on their faces.

Everyone looked up from their paper on cue as the bus’ wheels screeched to a stop. I scaled the steep steps and plopped onto a seat in the front row between a napping woman and a little girl.

The girl was talking to a woman in an adjacent seat about what they planned to do today, as mothers and children often do. But at the next stop, the woman exited alone.

The intrigue piqued when the woman on the other side of me also left the girl behind. They had been discussing kindergarten curricula.

I’d vicariously been enjoying conversations between the bright little girl and both women. Her comments were clear and logical. By eavesdropping, I learned that the girl was five years old. But my enjoyment was inconsequential to my concern for her well being. Was she riding the bus alone?

Finally, it was my turn to be captivated. "Where are you going today?" I asked.

"My mother’s taking me to the doctor as soon as she’s through driving the bus," she explained.

She said she was five year old. "I go to kindergarden," she added with enthusiasm. She told me her name was Antonai. Her best friend’s name was Shaylin. They like to have tea parties.

Antonai was wearing crisp loose fitting blue jeans with a generous five-inch cuff. Very clever shopping on her mother’s part, I thought. They’ll last through this year’s growth spurt. She wore a bright white shirt under a stylish blue knit poncho. Her eyes sparkled under a cap of neat braids reminiscent of Xhosa girls on the Karoo in South Africa.

Antonai told me in remarkable detail what the pediatrician would be assessing today during her annual checkup. She would interrupt herself on occasion to describe a landmark we were passing. She was articulate and knowledgeable. She was a good tour guide. I sensed a love of her hometown.

She described an intense kindergarden core course. I gave her one- and two-digit numbers to add and "take away." She delighted in being able to calculate the answers quickly.

She lost an equation when her gaze became fixed on a large sculpture in front of the Air and Space Museum at the corner of Independence Avenue and Seventh Street. The sun refracting off Alejandro Otero’s stainless steel sculpture captured my stare, too. Parts of the sculpture move when the wind grabs the triangular sails that turn inside the stainless steel cubes. The neat grid pattern of the cubes seems fitting for a museum that celebrates the precision of engineering.

"Delta Solar" appears to sit in what once was a shallow pool to reflect changing light patterns. Since Antonai was a local, I asked her why there was no water in the pool. She tilted her head and said, "Because it didn’t rain today."

A phone call to the museum this afternoon revealed the real answer. There was a problem years ago with the underground pipes that supplied water to the pool. But I somehow liked Antonai’s naïvely logical explanation better.

"I think the work represents the age of energy and space," I said; always in my mother teaching mode. "The Air and Space Museum and this kinetic sculpture are probably meant to show our control over nature." No response. Antonai had perhaps the best explanation - and the only one that counts. She titled her head and said, "I like it cause it's pretty and shiny."

That afternoon, I recognized an important parallel... Failure to share a sculptor’s vision is a bit like our failure to be engaged by the crisis survival issues we’ve identified at Lead Our Leaders: polarization, the war on terror, America’s deficits, wealth inequalities, and the need to preserve our environment while meeting our future energy needs.

It’s an audacious task, but we have to do it for Antonai. I’m confident that this bright and optimistic girl will be part of the solution. I hope you and I will be too.

I asked Antonai to write her favorite word on my pad of paper. Without hesitation she neatly wrote "c-a-n." With my thoughts reverting to the growls of my empty stomach I asked, "Do you prefer canned pears or canned peaches?" She cocked her head as if in thought. "Can’s my favorite word because I can do anything I want!" This produced her biggest smile during our time together. "Yes, you can!" I said.

Antonai's comments stimulated my thinking in unexpected ways. My stop on Independence Avenue came more quickly than I wanted.

Now I was the third woman leaving the little girl behind on the bus, while her mother worked behind the wheel.

As I climbed off the bus in front of the Longworth House Office Building, I reflected on whether I would receive the same sagacity and hopefulness from my member of Congress as I did from my new girlfriend.

SolutionGal has always found her time with kids to be uplifting – even on a down day. Mentoring can be short term or long term. It can even be the short length of a bus ride.


Dial 1.800.CHILD.44 for tips on talking to kids.

Mentoring tips

What are helpful websites you've found on mentoring or parenting skills?

What was an unforgettable uplifting experience you had with a five year old?

There’s no such thing as other people’s children. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Newsweek, 15 January 1996

Monday, February 07, 2005

Social Security reform: Maybe my children will win this lottery


Let's regain control over the lottery!

Does the current Social Security system amount to little more than a
gamble? President Bush thinks so, and in a way he’s right.

In his State of the Union address, the President made a robust push for social
security reform, challenging the nation to "do what Americans have always
done, and build a better world for our children and grandchildren."

This statement seems to be in response to one of the most frustrating aspects of the Social Security system: You can pay into Social Security all of your life, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get anything out of it. In other words, you lose the lottery if you die before you’re eligible to collect Social Security.

The President’s proposed private personal accounts could help even the score. More than 45 million Americans currently rely on Social Security income, and millions more are expected to become eligible for benefits in this decade.

This massive payout reduces funds available for the domestic agenda, including money to reduce crime, protect our vanishing ecosystem, and educate our children.

Shouldn't we do all we can to avert higher taxes, massive borrowing, and severe cuts to our Social Security benefits? There's bipartisan support to restrain the government's spending appetite. Our children's prosperity will require reduction of deficits.

Under the President’s plan, workers may set aside part of their money for their own personal retirement account. The money would then go into a mix of conservative bonds and stock funds.

The plan appeals to me on two counts. First, if I die early, my heirs and charity choices get the money. Plus, I’m stimulating the economy by pumping capital into the private sector for business growth and job creation. I want to be part of the solution to secure the future.

I’ve known many people who died shortly after retirement. After paying thousands into the Social Security system, the only benefit their heirs or designated charities received was a survivor benefit check of about $200. They lost that lottery.

Social Security reform is and should be a bipartisan issue. In a 1999 speech, President Clinton proposed putting a portion of Social Security funds into the private sector, "where it will have a greater rate of return." Although the details may differ, it seems he and the current President are on the same page here. Great!

Under the President's proposal, only the younger generation would have an opportunity to create private accounts. I'm gonna bet they choose to put their allowable 3% into a private account. Surely our bright young adults could do better than the government's 1.3% rate of return.

Now the big question is: Can President Bush protect our future while promising to cut the federal budget? Can he, for example, reduce deficits without ignoring environmental and energy requirement issues?

SolutionGal thinks this lame duck President has a great opportunity to transform Social Security from the third rail of American politics into the great institution it was meant to be. Over the coming months, let’s keep an eye on Mr. Bush to see if he cashes in on this chance and, in doing so, helps ensure that our children’s future is no gamble. In the mean time, we can all work on securing our own future.


Manage your finances:
Social Security Online
Social Security Advisory Service
Go Direct – direct deposit for Social Security

Start or expand your business:
Small Business Association
CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit

What websites have helped you manage your money?

What website have you great insights on personal financial security?

Please share a personal empowering experience that helped you to earn more money.

A society in which there is widespread economic insecurity can turn freedom into a barren and vapid right for millions of people. Eleanor Roosevelt, 27 September 1948

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Union Address: The hug says it all


Norwood and Sahail

Two patriots from disparate countries embraced during President Bush's State of the Union Address tonight, affirming each other's contribution to a free world. There wasn't a dry in the House - or our house.

The woman facing us in the photo is Janet Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas. This mom sent a letter to President Bush stating that her son, Marine Sergeant Byron Norwood, was proud to protect Americans from terror. Sergeant Norwood lost his life during the assault on Al Falluja.

A woman seated near her in Laura Bush's box also experienced a loss at the hands of terrorists. Safia Taleb al-Suhail, whose back is to us in the photo, is a democracy and human rights advocate in Iraq. Her father was murdered by one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen. Safia proudly held up her right pointer finger to show the blue ink stain that marked her as a voter in her country's historic election.

The two women then hugged each other in a powerful display of emotion. By joining together in a physical embrace, these women created a symbol of unification that answered one of the President's challenges in his speech tonight: "Our third responsibility to future generations is to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace."

As a daughter and mother, I could relate to the pain, bravery, and perseverance that these women displayed. None of us want to replicate their tortuous experience. But their example inspires me to help.

We want to protect our children from fear. It is one of the first challenges for parents of a toddler. My father unruffled me the first time I went in a row boat with him on choppy seas. My mother calmed me when flat black shadows moved off the walls onto my bed.

There are more dangers to defeat now than when I was a child. Let's Lead Our Leaders to focus on our survival issues: polarization, terror, deficits, wealth inequalities, and energy/environment

.The children in our charge after 9/11 have more monsters to quell than those mythical ones under their bed. The only force strong enough to stop the real terrorist monsters is to replace their montrous hatred with hope.


Supporting freedom abroad

Supporting freedom for women in Iraq

Have you experienced the loss of a loved one on foreign soil? What counseling & support websites were helpful to you?

Have you found websites that offer us opportunities to help women abroad who are struggling with injustice?

Everywhere, peace is uppermost in women's minds. Jacqueline Kennedy, 2 November 1960.