Why Do You Want a PhD?

This has been a lot in my mind lately. Why, after all these years, have you decided to go for a PhD and teach in a 4-year school?

It has a lot to do with family and the pursuit of education. Both my parents had Master’s degrees (in the case of my mom make that 2 master’s) and they both always encouraged me and pushed me to pursue academics.  Yet I have hesitated to pursue a doctorate because of the time commitment and the work it would involve or so I have told myself.

I had to send a statement of academic research interest for my application at UGA and it started me thinking about the real reasons why I want a PhD.

I want to teach and I want to do research… that much I’ve known ever since I did my Master’s at SJSU. 

One of my biggest frustrations has been that either in school or at work research has been little to non-existent.  I want to be able to do research and work hard at doing that and be able to write, present and share my experiences with others.

Teaching has always been a passion; that’s why I became a trainer and involved myself in Instructional Design and Technology.  Transferring knowledge and enjoying seeing the faces of people when they get it, when they realize that they can do something that they didn’t think they could do.

One of the earliest professional memories is Michelle Lamberson talking about the impact that one trainer (or teacher or facilitator) can have by touching one person who turns into helping 25 others (assuming a standard sized classes). You get the picture… teachers have this huge capability of affecting others in ways…

But I’ve been one very lucky SOB in other ways too. I’ve been blessed with people around me who have been teachers, mentors and friends well beyond what I deserve. Two of those people come to mind: Steve Ybarrola and Cris Guenter.

Steve and I go back to my freshman year at Central. I still remember I got a C in his Intro to Anthropology class :). But ever since then he has been an awesome teacher, someone who has encouraged and facilitated my intellectual curiosity and who has allowed me to do most of my research without questioning it, always with a kind word and a smile to make me move forward.

I even made it as a field researcher when I went to the Basque Country. How many people have the academic and growth opportunities I’ve had with Steve?

Cris and I met in Chico while I was working there.

Initially it was a working relationship that was very intellectually stimulating and gratifying intellectually.  It was nice to work with someone who had patience and enough experience working with technology to understand that things don’t always work as intended.

The most important part of these two interactions is to see the impact they had in my life. Steve in particular has deeply influenced my life both in the academic and personal sides.  If I can impact one person in the way they impacted me, I’ll consider my professional career successful.

That’s why I want a PhD. I see it as the only (or one of the few) way to teach and, maybe, have the impact that Steve and Cris have had in me.

Remembering Randy Pausch

I picked the video of Randy Pausch’s memorial at Carnegie Mellon as a show. He had such an impact over a wide variety of people that it’s hard not to want to emulate him.  Learning how to impact people is where the professional and human challenge really lies.

Target of RIAA lawsuit says music piracy case has been an ordeal

College student Joel Tenenbaum claims trade group wanted to make an example of him

Jaikumar Vijayan

Click here to find out more!

December 19, 2008 (Computerworld) To hear Joel Tenenbaum's version of the story, at least, it isn't hard to see why the Recording Industry Association of America's campaign against music piracy has earned the RIAA so many enemies — perhaps contributing to the trade group's decision this week to stop filing lawsuits against people like Tenenbaum.

Tenenbaum, who turns 25 on Christmas day, is a doctoral student in physics at Boston University. He also is involved in a high-profile legal fight with the RIAA for allegedly downloading and distributing songs belonging to several music labels. The recording companies claim to have discovered more than 800 songs stored illegally in a shared folder on Tenenbaum's computer, although the RIAA's case against him only identifies seven of the songs.

The RIAA says that despite its change in strategy, it doesn't plan to drop existing lawsuits. If found guilty of willful copyright infringement, Tenenbaum faces financial penalties that could exceed $1 million dollars — $150,000 per song, the maximum fine allowed by the federal statute under which he is being sued.

Tenenbaum is being represented in the case byHarvard University law professor Charles Nesson, who in October filed a counterclaimchallenging both the constitutionality of the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act and the attempted use of it against Tenenbaum by the music labels.

A hearing on Nesson's counterclaim — which is much broader in scope than previous legal challenges to the constitutionality of the RIAA's antipiracy campaign — is scheduled to be held Jan. 22 in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Tenenbaum's run-in with the RIAA began in September 2005, when he was an undergrad at Goucher College in Baltimore. His parents, who live in Providence, R.I., received a pre-litigation notice from Sony BMG, Warner Bros. and other recording companies directing them to contact an RIAA "settlement hotline" and pony up $5,250 for alleged online music piracy involving a computer in their home.

There was little opportunity to dispute the amount or to even question the validity of the allegations made in the letter, according to Tenenbaum. The operators manning the RIAA hotline appeared to have little information or authority to do anything more than simply "just sit there and keeping asking you for your MasterCard or Visa number" to make the demanded payment, he said in an interview this week.

"It's scary when you know nothing about copyright law and suddenly there's this letter that says you're infringing the law," Tenenbaum said. "You don't even know if it's a criminal or a civil matter and if you could end up in prison."

After initial attempts to resolve the issue failed, Tenenbaum said he offered the RIAA $500 to settle the claims, arguing that as a student, he couldn't afford to pay more. That offer was quickly rejected by the RIAA, and Tenenbaum didn't hear anything more from the trade group for nearly two years. "I had no idea why, and I didn't want to know why," he said. "I didn't know if they had decided that we weren't worth it, or if the case had fallen through the cracks."

Those questions were finally answered in August 2007, in the form of a stack of legal documents in which the music companies formally accused Tenenbaum of copyright infringement. He filed a motion in the Boston court seeking to dismiss the RIAA's civil suit. Then, after some "back and forth" between the two sides, Tenenbaum said, he agreed to pay the $5,250 that the RIAA had demanded as restitution for the alleged violations.

But according to Tenebaum, the RIAA refused to accept the settlement offer and instead increased its payment demand, asking him for $12,000. "At that point, I said 'no' because it was no longer a settlement," he said. Tenenbaum contends that the RIAA seems to be focused more on trying to make an example of him than on seeking restitution for any actual damages caused by the alleged piracy.

The counterclaim filed by Nesson includes similar assertions. Apart from asking for the case against Tenenbaum to be dismissed, the filing seeks damages from the RIAA for what Nesson described as anabuse of process. He accused the music industry of conducting a campaign of intimidation and of seeking absurdly excessive financial restitution for alleged copyright violations.

The approach that the RIAA has been taking "creates grotesquely excessive punitive use of civil process," Nesson said this week. "The RIAA actually claims that actual damage is irrelevant, which we claim is unconstitutional."

Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, dismissed the claims that the lawsuits filed against Tenenbaum and others are meant to serve as examples. "This case is no different from all of our other cases," she said. "In fact, Mr. Tenenbaum essentially admitted to illegal activities, and we believe that he should be held accountable under the law."

In an interview before the RIAA's decision to stop filing lawsuits came to light, Duckworth said statistics show that music piracy cost the music industry about $3 billion over the last seven years and also resulted in more than $2 billion in lost wages for American workers. Much of that piracy was tied to illegal downloading by college students, she noted.

"A lot of jobs depend on the legitimate sale of music," Duckworth said. "Regardless of how someone feels about our lawsuits, there are real consequences [as a result of piracy]."

The RIAA's lawsuit against Tenenbaum has certainly had consequences for the college student. In September, Tenenbaum was deposed for what he said was nine hours by RIAA lawyers in Boston. He said that during the deposition, he was barraged with questions about every computer he had owned or used, the names of songs he had downloaded and the peer-to-peer software he used. The lawyers even asked him about certain modifications he made to his car in high school because of photos they found on his computer, he said.

The computer at the center of the case has long since been trashed as a result of what
Tenenbaum claimed was a burned-out CPU. But, he said, the RIAA has asked for a complete copy of the hard disk in his current computer as well as the ones used by his parents and his sister, who lives in Pittsburgh. He described that request as "a disturbing invasion of privacy."

Tenenbaum's parents and sister have also been deposed in the case, as has a friend in Minnesota who called the RIAA hotline on behalf of Tenenbaum's mother after the pre-litigation notice was sent. "She happened to know copyright law and at some point said something about copyright infringement," Tenenbaum said. "She's a college kid. We had to file an affidavit to get them to stop calling her my lawyer."

As a result of the the RIAA's various depositions, Nesson has had to find local attorneys in three states in order to mount a defense against the piracy claims, Tenenbaum said. He added that Nesson's offer to defend him earlier this year has been a huge deal for him and his family. Prior to that, much of the legal work was being done by Tenenbaum's mother, who is a practicing lawyer but has little knowledge of copyright infringement laws.

Tenenbaum said Nesson's presence also means that he himself no longer has to face the RIAA's battery of lawyers. "They are very pushy, very unpleasant people to deal with," Tenenbaum said, adding that any attempt to push back at the lawyers was immediately portrayed as a lack of cooperation and met with threats that they would inform the judge. "Everything you said, they twisted," he claimed.

The RIAA's own description of events, contained in court filings, paints a slightly different picture. According to the trade group, Tenenbaum's parents received the pre-litigation notice only because a computer that was identified as being involved in illegal music sharing was traced back to their house.

The RIAA says that it rejected Tenenbaum's $500 settlement offer and his claims of financial problems because its investigation showed that he had just purchased a $250,000 condo. And the trade group claims in its legal filings that it made several attempts to negotiate a settlement with Tenenbaum before filing the lawsuit against him.

Tenenbaum said that although online piracy is a problem, the larger issue lies with what he characterized as the music industry's continued insistence on seeing the Internet as a threat instead of as a tool that can transform the manner in which music is consumed.

"I don't think anybody thinks artists shouldn't be rewarded for their work," Tenenbaum said. But there are other ways to do so on the Net that the music industry has stubbornly refused to consider, he added. "They are still operating," he said, "on this outdated assumption of the Internet as a threat, a weapon that is being used against them."

Best for Me in 2008

Since the year is almost over and I don’t think that there’ll be a lot more stuff left to enjoy I’ll do my top list of 2008. The links take you to Amazon.com; if you buyt it through them I do get a kick back :o)


The Star Trek Destiny Trilogy

2 New Wild Cards Novels

The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, Book 10)


Dark Horse - Nickelback

Lo Que Te Conté Mientras Te Hacías La Dormida - La oreja de Van Gogh

Snakes & Arrows - Rush

Movies & Videos

The Dresden Files - The Complete First Season

Our Mutual Joy

Here are some of the responses to the article below:



Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.

Lisa Miller


From the magazine issue dated Dec 15, 2008

For feedback on this story, head to NEWSWEEK's Readback blog.

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country's pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call "the traditional family" are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews' precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between "one man and as many women as he could pay for." Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn't God say, "Be fruitful and multiply"? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)

Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).

The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord's lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband." It probably goes without saying that the phrase "gay marriage" does not appear in the Bible at all.

If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we
regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God." In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.

Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as "the man and the woman." But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.

Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands' frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th. (In the NEWSWEEK POLL, 55 percent of respondents said that married heterosexuals who have sex with someone other than their spouses are more morally objectionable than a gay couple in a committed sexual relationship.) By the mid-19th century, U.S. courts were siding with wives who were the victims of domestic violence, and by the 1970s most states had gotten rid of their "head and master" laws, which gave husbands the right to decide where a family would live and whether a wife would be able to take a job. Today's vision of marriage as a union of equal partners, joined in a relationship both romantic and pragmatic, is, by very recent standards, radical, says Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."

Religious wedding ceremonies have already changed to reflect new conceptions of marriage. Remember when we used to say "man and wife" instead of "husband and wife"? Remember when we stopped using the word "obey"? Even Miss Manners, the voice of tradition and reason, approved in 1997 of that change. "It seems," she wrote, "that dropping 'obey' was a sensible editing of a service that made assumptions about marriage that the society no longer holds."

We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs. Gay men like to point to the story of passionate King David and his friend Jonathan, with whom he was "one spirit" and whom he "loved as he loved himself." Conservatives say this is a story about a platonic friendship, but it is also a story about two men who stand up for each other in turbulent times, through violent war and the disapproval of a powerful parent. David rends his clothes at Jonathan's death and, in grieving, writes a song:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
You were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
More wonderful than that of women.

Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. What Jonathan and David did or did not do in privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imaginations.

In addition to its praise of friendship and its condemnation of divorce, the Bible gives many examples of marriages that defy convention yet benefit the greater community. The Torah discouraged the ancient Hebrews from marrying outside the tribe, yet Moses himself is married to a foreigner, Zipporah. Queen Esther is married to a non-Jew and, according to legend, saves the Jewish people. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, believes that Judaism thrives through diversity and inclusion. "I don't think Judaism should or ought to want to leave any portion of the human population outside the religious process," he says. "We should not want to leave [homosexuals] outside the sacred tent." The marriage of Joseph and Mary is also unorthodox (to say the least), a case of an unconventional arrangement accepted by society for the common good. The boy needed two human parents, after all.

In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness."

The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow. Terry Davis is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Conn., and has been presiding over "holy unions" since 1992. "I'm against promiscuity—love ought to be expressed in committed relationships, not through casual sex, and I think the church should recognize the validity of committed same-sex relationships," he says.

Still, very few Jewish or Christian denominations do officially endorse gay marriage, even in the states where it is legal. The practice varies by region, by church or synagogue, even by cleric. More progressive denominations—the United Church of Christ, for example—have agreed to support gay marriage. Other denominations and dioceses will do "holy union" or "blessing" ceremonies, but shy away from the word "marriage" because it is polit
ically explosive. So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married "for their mutual joy," explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That's what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: "Being with one another in community is how you love God. That's what marriage is about."

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.

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With Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/172653

© 2008

Personal Renewal by John Gardner

NOTE: I’ve had the bold quote of this speech in a special place in my heart and mind ever since it was given to me while at Central. Reading the entire speech is inspiring, specially in a time of transitions and change.

Delivered to McKinsey & Company, Phoenix, AZ
November 10, 1990
Originally from:

I'm going to talk about "Self-Renewal." One of your most fundamental tasks is the renewal of the organizations you serve, and that usually includes persuading the top officers to accomplish a certain amount of self-renewal. But to help you think about others is not my primary mission this morning. I want to help you think about yourselves.

I take that mission very seriously, and I've written out what I have to say because I want every sentence to hit its target. I know a good deal about the kind of work you do and know how demanding it is. But I'm not going to talk about the special problems of your kind of career; I'm going to talk about some basic problems of the life cycle that will surely hit you if you're not ready for them.

I once wrote a book called "Self-Renewal" that deals with the decay and renewal of societies, organizations and individuals. I explored the question of why civilizations die and how they sometimes renew themselves, and the puzzle of why some men and women go to seed while others remain vital all of their lives. It's the latter question that I shall deal with at this time. I know that you as an individual are not going to seed. But the person seated on your right may be in fairly serious danger.

Not long ago, I read a splendid article on barnacles. I don't want to give the wrong impression of the focus of my reading interests. Sometimes days go by without my reading about barnacles, much less remembering what I read. But this article had an unforgettable opening paragraph. "The barnacle" the author explained "is confronted with an existential decision about where it's going to live. Once it decides.. . it spends the rest of its life with its head cemented to a rock.." End of quote. For a good many of us, it comes to that.

We've all seen men and women, even ones in fortunate circumstances with responsible positions who seem to run out of steam in midcareer.

One must be compassionate in assessing the reasons. Perhaps life just presented them with tougher problems than they could solve. It happens. Perhaps something inflicted a major wound on their confidence or their self-esteem. Perhaps they were pulled down by the hidden resentments and grievances that grow in adult life, sometimes so luxuriantly that, like tangled vines, they immobilize the victim. You've known such people -- feeling secretly defeated, maybe somewhat sour and cynical, or perhaps just vaguely dispirited. Or maybe they just ran so hard for so long that somewhere along the line they forgot what it was they were running for.

I'm not talking about people who fail to get to the top in achievement. We can't all get to the top, and that isn't the point of life anyway. I'm talking about people who -- no matter how busy they seem to be -- have stopped learning or growing. Many of them are just going through the motions. I don't deride that. Life is hard. Just to keep on keeping on is sometimes an act of courage. But I do worry about men and women functioning far below the level of their potential.

We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day "How can I be so bored when I'm so busy?" And I said "Let me count the ways." Logan Pearsall Smith said that boredom can rise to the level of a mystical experience, and if that's true I know some very busy middle level executives who are among the great mystics of all time.

We can't write off the danger of complacency, growing rigidity, imprisonment by our own comfortable habits and opinions. Look around you. How many people whom you know well -- people even younger than yourselves --are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits. A famous French writer said "There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives." I could without any trouble name a half of a dozen national figures resident in Washington, D.C., whom you would recognize, and could tell you roughly the year their clock stopped. I won't do it because I still have to deal with them periodically.

I've watched a lot of mid-career people, and Yogi Berra says you can observe a lot just by watching. I've concluded that most people enjoy learning and growing. And many are dearly troubled by the self-assessments of mid-career.

Such self-assessments are no great problem at your age. You're young and moving up. The drama of your own rise is enough. But when you reach middle age, when your energies aren't what they used to be, then you'll begin to wonder what it all added up to; you'll begin to look for the figure in the carpet of your life. I have some simple advice for you when you begin that process. Don't be too hard on yourself. Look ahead. Someone said that "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." And above all don't imagine that the story is over. Life has a lot of chapters.

If we are conscious of the danger of going to seed, we can resort to countervailing measures. At almost any age. You don't need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again. You can stay alive in every sense of the word until you fail physically. I know some pretty successful people who feel that that just isn't possible for them, that life has trapped them. But they don't really know that. Life takes unexpected turns.

I said in my book, "Self-Renewal," that we build our own prisons and serve as our own jail-keepers. I no longer completely agree with that. I still think we're our own jailkeepers, but I've concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us -- and self images -- that hold us captive for a long time. The individual intent on self-renewal will have to deal with ghosts of the past -- the memory of earlier failures, the remnants of childhood dramas and rebellions, accumulated grievances and resentments that have long outlived their cause. Sometimes people cling to the ghosts with something almost approaching pleasure -- but the hampering effect on growth is inescapable. As Jim Whitaker, who climbed Mount Everest, said "You never conquer the mountain, You only conquer yourself."

The more I see of human lives, the more I believe the business of growing up is much longer drawn out than we pretend. If we achieve it in our 30's, even our 40s, we're doing well. To those of you who are parents of teenagers, I can only say "Sorry about that."

There's a myth that learning is for young people. But as the proverb says, "It's what you learn after y
ou know it all that counts." The middle years are great, great learning years. Even the years past the middle years. I took on a new job after my 77th birthday -- and I'm still learning.

Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask "What is it trying to teach me?" The lessons aren't always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn't a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.

We learn from our jobs, from our friends and families. We learn by accepting the commitments of life, by playing the roles that life hands us (not necessarily the roles we would have chosen). We learn by growing older, by suffering, by loving, by bearing with the things we can't change, by taking risks.

The things you learn in maturity aren't simple things such as acquiring information and skills. You learn not to engage in self-destructive behavior. You leant not to burn up energy in anxiety. You discover how to manage your tensions, if you have any, which you do. You learn that self-pity and resentment are among the most toxic of drugs. You find that the world loves talent, but pays off on character.

You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you, they are thinking about themselves. You learn that no matter how hard you try to please, some people in this world are not going to love you, a lesson that is at first troubling and then really quite relaxing.

Those are things that are hard to learn early in life, As a rule you have to have picked up some mileage and some dents in your fenders before you understand. As Norman Douglas said "There are some things you can't learn from others. You have to pass through the fire.'

You come to terms with yourself. You finally grasp what S. N. Behrman meant when he said "At the end of every road you meet yourself." You may not get rid of all of your hang-ups, but you learn to control them to the point that you can function productively and not hurt others.

You learn the arts of mutual dependence, meeting the needs of loved ones and letting yourself need them. You can even be unaffected -- a quality that often takes years to acquire. You can achieve the simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.

You come to understand your impact on others. It's interesting that even in the first year of life you learn the impact that a variety of others have on you, but as late as middle age many people have a very imperfect understanding of the impact they themselves have on others. The hostile person keeps asking 'Why are people so hard to get along with?" In some measure we create our own environment. You may not yet grasp the power of that truth to change your life.

Of course failures are a part of the story too. Everyone fails, Joe Louis said "Everyone has to figure to get beat some time." The question isn't did you fail but did you pick yourself up and move ahead? And there is one other little question: 'Did you collaborate in your own defeat?" A lot of people do. Learn not to.

One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we've piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.

So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.

You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.

But life isn't a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it -- as some suppose -- a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.

Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one's capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring.

Perhaps you imagine that by age 35 or 45 or even 33 you have explored those potentialities pretty fully. Don't kid yourself!

The thing you have to understand is that the capacities you actually develop to the full come out as the result of an interplay between you and life's challenges --and the challenges keep changing. Life pulls things out of you.

There's something I know about you that you may or may not know about yourself. You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested, more to give than you have ever given.

You know about some of the gifts that you have left undeveloped. Would you believe that you have gifts and possibilities you don't even know about? It's true. We are just beginning to recognize how even those who have had every advantage and opportunity unconsciously put a ceiling on their own growth, underestimate their potentialities or hide from the risk that growth involves.

Now I've discussed renewal at some length, but it isn't possible to talk about renewal without touching on the subject of motivation. Someone defined horse sense as the good judgment horses have that prevents them from betting on people. But we have to bet on people -- and I place my bets more often on high motivation than on any other quality except judgment. There is no perfection of techniques that will substitute for the lift of spirit and heightened performance that comes from strong motivation, The world is moved by highly motivated people, by enthusiasts, by men and women who want something very much or believe very much.

I'm not talking about anything as narrow as ambition. After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die. If I may offer you a simple maxim, "Be interesting," Everyone wants to be interesting -- but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. Keep a sense of curiosity. Discover new things. Care. Risk failure. Reach out.

The nature of one's personal commitments is a powerful element in renewal, so let me say a word on that subject.

I once lived in a house where I could look out a window as I worked at my desk and observe a small herd of cattle browsing in a neighboring field. And I was struck with a thought that must have occurred to the earliest herdsmen tens of thousands of years ago. You never get the impression that a cow is about to have a nervous breakdown. Or is puzzling about the meaning of life.

Humans have never mastered that kind of complacency. We are worriers and puzzlers, and we want meaning in our lives. I'm not speaking idealistically; I'm stating a plainly observable fact about men and women. It's a rare person who can go through life like a homeless alley cat, living from day to day, taking its pleasures where it can and dying unnoticed.

That isn't to say that we haven't all known a few alley cats. But it isn't the norm. It just isn't the way we're built.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Old or young, we're on our last cruise." We want it to mean something.

For many this life is a vale of tears; for no one is it free of pain. But we are so designed that we can cope with it if we can live in some context of meaning. Given that powerful help, we can draw on the deep springs of the human spirit, to see our suffering in the framework of all human suffering, to accept the gifts of life with thanks and endure life's indignities with dignity.

In the stable periods of history, meaning was supplied in the context of a coherent communities and traditionally prescribed patterns of culture. Today you can't count on any such heritage. You have to build meaning into your life, and you build it through your commitments -- whether to your religion, to an ethical order as you conceive it, to your life's work, to loved ones, to your fellow humans. Young people run around searching for identity, but it isn't handed out free any more -- not in this transient, rootless, pluralistic society. Your identity is what you've committed yourself to.

It may just mean doing a better job at whatever you're doing. There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are --and that too is a kind of commitment. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It matters very little whether they're behind the wheel of a truck or running a country store or bringing up a family.

I must pause to say a word about my statement "There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are." I first wrote the sentence some years ago and it has been widely quoted. One day I was looking through a mail order gift catalogue and it included some small ornamental bronze plaques with brief sayings on them, and one of the sayings was the one I just read to you, with my name as author. Well I was so overcome by the idea of a sentence of mine being cast in bronze that I ordered it, but then couldn't figure out what in the world to do with it. I finally sent it to a friend.

We tend to think of youth and the active middle years as the years of commitment. As you get a little older, you're told you've earned the right to think about yourself. But that's a deadly prescription! People of every age need commitments beyond the self, need the meaning that commitments provide. Self-preoccupation is a prison, as every self-absorbed person finally knows. Commitments to larger purposes can get you out of prison.

Another significant ingredient in motivation is one's attitude toward the future. Optimism is unfashionable today, particularly among intellectuals. Everyone makes fun of it. Someone said "Pessimists got that way by financing optimists." But I am not pessimistic and I advise you not to be. As the fellow said, "I'd be a pessimist but it would never work."

I can tell you that for renewal, a tough-minded optimism is best. The future is not shaped by people who don't really believe in the future. Men and women of vitality have always been prepared to bet their futures, even their lives, on ventures of unknown outcome. If they had all looked before they leaped, we would still be crouched in caves sketching animal pictures on the wall,

But I did say tough-minded optimism. High hopes that are dashed by the first failure are precisely what we don't need. We have to believe in ourselves, but we mustn't suppose that the path will be easy, it's tough. Life is painful, and rain falls on the just, and Mr. Churchill was not being a pessimist when he said "I have nothing to offer, but blood, toil, tears and sweat." He had a great deal more to offer, but as a good leader he was saying it wasn't going to be easy, and he was also saying something that all great leaders say constantly -- that failure is simply a reason to strengthen resolve.

We cannot dream of a Utopia in which all arrangements are ideal and everyone is flawless. Life is tumultuous -- an endless losing and regaining of balance, a continuous struggle, never an assured victory.

Nothing is ever finally safe. Every important battle is fought and re-fought. We need to develop a resilient, indomitable morale that enables us to face those realities and still strive with every ounce of energy to prevail. You may wonder if such a struggle -- endless and of uncertain outcome -- isn't more than humans can bear. But all of history suggests that the human spirit is well fitted to cope with just that kind of world.

Remember I mentioned earlier the myth that learning is for young people. I want to give you some examples, In a piece I wrote for Reader's Digest not long ago, I gave what seemed to me a particularly interesting true example of renewal. The man in question was 53 years old. Most of his adult life had been a losing struggle against debt and misfortune. In military service he received a battlefield injury that denied him the use of his left arm. And he was seized and held in captivity for five years. Later he held two government jobs, succeeding at neither. At 53 he was in prison -- and not for the first time. There in prison, he decided to write a book, driven by Heaven knows what motive -- boredom, the hope of gain, emotional release, creative impulse, who can say? And the book turned out to be one of the greatest ever written, a book that has enthralled the world for ever 350 years. The prisoner was Cervantes; the book: Don Quixote.

Another example was Pope John XXIII, a serious man who found a lot to laugh about. The son of peasant farmers, he once said "In Italy there are three roads to poverty -- drinking, gambling and fanning. My family chose the slowest of the three." When someone asked him how many people worked in the Vatican he said "Oh, about half." He was 76 years old when he was elected Pope. Through a lifetime in the bureaucracy, the spark of spirit and imagination had remained undimmed, and when he reached the top he launched the most vigorous renewal that the Church has known in this century.

Still another example is Winston Churchill. At age 25, as a correspondent in the Boer War he became a prisoner of war and his dramatic escape made him a national hero. Elected to Parliament at 26, he performed brilliantly, held high cabinet posts with distinction and at 37 became First Lord of the Admiralty. Then he was discredited, unjustly, I believe, by the Dardanelles expedition -- the defeat at Gallipoli-- and lost his admiralty post. There followed 24 years of ups and downs. All too often the verdict on him was "Brilliant but erratic...not steady, not dependable." He had only himself to blame. A friend described him as a man who jaywalked through life. He was 66 before his moment of flowering came. Someone said "It's all right to be a late bloomer if you don't miss the flower show." Churchill didn't miss it.

Well, I won't give you any more examples. From those I've given I hope it's clear to you that the door of opportunity doesn't really close as long as you're reasonably healthy. And I don't just mean opportunity for high status, but opportunity to grow and enrich your life in every dimension. You just don't know what's ahead for you. And remember the words on the bronze plaque "Some men and women make the world better just by being the kind of people they are." To be that kind of person would be worth all the years of living and learning.

Many years ago I concluded a speech with a paragraph on the meaning in life. The speech was reprinted over the years, and 15 years later that final paragraph came back to me in a rather dramatic way, really a heartbreaking way.

A man wrote to me from Colorado saying that his 20 year-old daughter had been killed in an auto accident some weeks before and that she wa
s carrying in her billfold a paragraph from a speech of mine. He said he was grateful because the paragraph -- and the fact that she kept it close to her -- told him something he might not otherwise have known about her values and concerns. I can't imagine where or how she came across the paragraph, but here it is:

"Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account."

Obama Chooses an Unlikely Team of Hawks

Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008

Obama Chooses an Unlikely Team of Hawks

In liberal blogland, reports that Barack Obama will probably choose Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and retired general James Jones as National Security Adviser and retain Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense have prompted a chorus of groans. "I feel incredibly frustrated," wrote Chris Bowers on OpenLeft.com "Progressives are being entirely left out."

A word of advice: cheer up. It's precisely because Obama intends to pursue a genuinely progressive foreign policy that he's surrounding himself with people who can guard his right flank at home. When George W. Bush wanted to sell the Iraq war, he trotted out Colin Powell--because Powell was nobody's idea of a hawk. Now Obama may be preparing to do the reverse. To give himself cover for a withdrawal from Iraq and a diplomatic push with Iran, he's surrounding himself with people like Gates, Clinton and Jones, who can't be lampooned as doves.

To grasp the logic of this strategy, start with the fact that Obama's likely national-security picks don't actually disagree very much with the foreign policy he laid out during the campaign. Jones is on record calling the Iraq war a "debacle" and urging that the detention center at Guantánamo Bay be closed "tomorrow." Gates has also reportedly pushed for closing Gitmo and for faster withdrawals from Iraq. He has called a military strike against Iran a "strategic calamity," urged diplomacy with Tehran's mullahs and denounced the "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy. (You don't hear that from a Defense Secretary every day.) For her part, Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign embraced an Iraq-withdrawal position virtually identical to Obama's. And although they fought a sound-bite war over sitting down with the leaders of countries like Iran, the two candidates' actual Iran policies were pretty much the same. Both wanted intensive diplomacy; both wanted to start it at lower levels and work up from there.

On key policy issues, Jones, Gates and Clinton aren't significantly more hawkish than Obama. What they are is more hawkish symbolically. Gates is a Republican; Jones is a Marine general who once worked for John McCain; Clinton, as Senator from New York, has gained credibility with hawkish pro-Israel groups. In other words, what distinguishes Gates, Jones and Clinton isn't their desire to shift Obama's policies to the right; it's their ability to persuade the right to give Obama's policies a chance.

Obama knows that although Iraq has tarnished the GOP foreign policy brand, Democrats remain vulnerable. When the moderate Democratic group Third Way asked voters in September whom they trusted more on national security, Democrats trailed by 14 points. (The gap has widened substantially since late 2006.) On the question of "ensuring a strong military," they trailed by 30 points--an astonishing figure, given that it is a Republican President who has stretched the Army to its breaking point.

Politically, therefore, Obama is playing with fire. If he accelerates troop withdrawals and violence in Iraq flares up again, the GOP will pounce. If he cuts a nuclear deal with Iran, it will probably do the same, accusing him of putting his faith in an inspection agreement that Tehran will never obey. And if he pushes hard for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, right-leaning Jewish groups may cry foul. That's the beauty of his emerging national-security team. Even Republicans will find it hard to call Gates and Jones latter-day Neville Chamberlains, and even many Likudniks will think twice before claiming that Hillary Clinton is in league with Hamas. (For cover on Israel, Obama will also be able to trot out Rahm Emanuel, whose father was born in Jerusalem, and, quite possibly, long-serving Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, who is tight with the pro-Israel lobby.)

Obama understands that foreign policy is, in international-relations-speak, a two-sided game. To get your way, you not only have to convince other governments; you also have to convince the folks back home. Bill Clinton negotiated the Kyoto Protocol on global warming with well over 100 other countries but couldn't get it through the 100-member U.S. Senate. He crafted a nuclear agreement with North Korea but saw it sabotaged by a Republican Congress that wouldn't provide sufficient money to carry it out. Obama knows that while it's a tough world out there, it's tough here as well. In Gates, Jones and Clinton, he's found people who can do more than sell his foreign policy to Iranians, Iraqis and Israelis; they can sell it to Americans too.

Beinart is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations