I am so happy that Larry James, CEO and President of CitySquare, will be our guest presenter at the December 7 First Friday Book Synopsis.
Larry has most graciously agreed to substitute for me while I attend the annual communication of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, in my capacity as a member of the Education and Service Committee.
Many of you will remember his stunning presentation of Rudolph Guiliani’s book entitled Leadership several years ago.
This time, he will present Jon Gordon’s best-seller, The Energy Bus. This book was written in 2007, but continues to appear on business best-seller lists. It has had a 12-week run on the Wall Street Journal list. You will enjoy the practical advice that Gordon shares in this book, and perhaps even more, the presentation and spin you will hear from Larry James.
We have an exciting bonus program for you following the synopsis. Randy Mayeux will present a synopsis of a best-seller about poverty, and CitySquare officials, including Larry James, will participate in a discussion with you afterwards. All of the proceeds from this program will go directly to CitySquare. I am so impressed with what they do, and I am thrilled to have them as one of our charities that we support annually.
The organization’s website touts the fact that it goes after the root cause of hunger, not a quick-fix. It says: “We don’t fight poverty for the poor—we fight poverty with the poor. Our 24-year commitment to addressing the root causes of poverty, both on an individual and systemic level, combined with our unyielding commitment to stewardship (over 92 cents of each dollar goes directly to services for those in need) makes CitySquare a proven leader in our community and beyond.” You can read more about this amazing organization at: http://citysq.org/
I appreciate your attendance and contribution to the bonus program. It will be well worth your time. If you cannot stay, can you contribute? We will take your tax-deductible donations at the registration desk that day.
You can register for this event at: www.firstfridaybooksynopsis.com
As I have written frequently, I live in (more than) a couple of different worlds. I read, and present synopses of business books. But I also speak monthly at the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare. I present synopses of books dealing with social justice, racism, poverty – issues of human need.
Sometimes, I feel a little whiplash…
This month, after lunch today, I will have presented two books for two different Urban Engagement Book Club sessions. On the first Thursday of the month, I presented my synopsis of the book Lifeblood: How to Change the World One Dead Mosquito at a Time by Alex Perry. It had a very real parallel to a section in Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by David Diamandis (which I presented at the July First Friday Book Synopsis). Abundance profiles some technophilanthropists. And Lifeblood focused a great deal on the work of Ray Chambers. Maybe not a “technophilanthropist,” but certainly a wealthy philanthropist who made/is making a whopping difference. He served as the first ever UN Special Envoy for Malaria. His goal was to get rid of malaria in the poorest countries of Africa. Here’s a quote from the book:
“Perfection is the enemy of good,” he said. “Will we cover every single person with a bed net? Honestly, I doubt it. Will we have a bigger impact than any other campaign ever? Yes, I think we will. You set lofty goals, and if you get 90 percent, that’s a great achievement, and you focus on getting the remaining 10 percent done as quickly as you can.”
Today, I am presenting my synopsis of the book Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America by Alan Khazei. Mr. Khanzei is the founder of City Year, which ultimately played the pivotal role in the establishment of AmeriCorps. The book is filled with great stories, but it boils down to this:
What is the problem, and how do we tackle solving it?
I will say this today:
In fact: all solutions boil down to Individual, Face-to-face, Compassionate, Competent, Attention.
Here are a couple of key quotes from this book:
Big Citizens are not household names. They are not the elected officials or prominent leaders. They are regular, good hearted people blessed with a loving heart and an open mind. Anyone can be a Big Citizen and join with others in common purpose. You just need to listen to that voice inside that says: “I, too, want to be part of making my neighborhood, my school, my community, my country, my world, a better place for all of us.”
At times of great crisis, we often want to find that one great leader to bring us to a better day, but what we need to recognize is that throughout our history, it has been the willingness of regular people looking in the mirror and committing to causes larger than themselves that has been the key to making progress. At the end of the day, it is up to all of us.
And he includes this famous quote from Robert Kennedy:
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
In Dallas, Larry James, Gerald Britt, and the full team at CitySquare work with dogged determination to meet human need, to help people establish a more solid foundation; they actually find homes for homeless people… the list of ways they tackle human need is long, and impressive. And Gerald Britt works tirelessly on public policy issues (payday lending is one of his recent targets – payday lending is an absolute drain on people in poverty).
I encourage you to add a social justice/poverty book to your reading stack. There are many good ones. If you ask me where to start, my current “best suggestion” is The Working Poor by David Shipler. But, it almost does not matter – read any book that helps you see, and remember, the very real human needs of others. And then, do something about it! (CtySquare is a pretty good place to start).
And in you are in the DFW area, I invite you to come join us at the Urban Engagement Book Club. We meet twice a month. Check it out.
For practically every family, the ingredients of poverty are part financial and part psychological, part personal and part societal, part past and part present. Every problem magnifies the impact of the others, and all are so tightly interlocked that one reversal can produce a chain reaction with results far distant from the original cause.
If problems are interlocking, then so must solutions be. A job alone is not enough. Medical insurance alone is not enough. Good housing alone is not enough. Reliable transportation, careful family budgeting, effective parenting, effective schooling are not enough when each is achieved in isolation from the rest. There is no single variable that can be altered to help working people move away from the edge of poverty. Only where the full array of factors is attacked can America fulfill its promise.
The first step is to see the problems, and the first problem is the failure to see the people.
David Shipler: The Working Poor (Invisible in America)
How does anyone live on the wages available to the unskilled?
Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow. You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.
Barbara Ehrenreich: Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By in America
News item: Non college graudates are seeing their job opportunites completely disappear. From Do You Have a Job? by Daniel E. Slotnik:
For many young people in America, steady work is far from guaranteed. A new study shows that only one of six high school graduates is now employed full time, and although 73 percent think they will need more education, only half say they will enroll. Are you now employed? What jobs have you had in the past? Do you think you could find work after high school, if you choose not to attend college?
In her article “More Young Americans Out of High School Are Also Out of Work,” Catherine Rampell writes:
Whatever the sob stories about recent college graduates spinning their wheels as baristas or clerks, the situation for their less-educated peers is far worse, according to a report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University scheduled to be released on Wednesday.
Today is Urban Engagement Book Club day. Twice a month, I present a synopsis of a book that deals with social justice or poverty at this event hosted by CitySquare. This is one part of a multi-part life I am living. On one day, I present a synopsis of a best selling and challenging business book. On the next day, I present a synopsis of a book that deals with some aspect of human struggle, even human misery – books on social justice and poverty. (I also do some presentation skills training; some keynote speaking, and a few other kinds of corporate-training-like activities). I like everything that I do, and believe it is all useful to the folks that I interact with regularly. I really do want to help people get “better” at what they do.
But it is the social justice part of my schedule that probably wins the “what matters most to you?” top spot. I care about these issues deeply. I’ve read too many books; I’ve read Isaiah and Amos from the Bible. Caring about the neediest among us really is a big human deal. To fail to do so makes us a little less human.
Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
These words come from Amos 5, and here are a few of the other words that precede that famous “climax” in the chapter:
You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts…
Seek good, not evil.
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Caring for the poor; helping the cause of the poor; seeking and providing justice. These may not be needed all that much by those with great means. But as for the neediest… these matter a great deal. And the neediest among us seems to be a growing group at the moment.
Today’s book at the Urban Engagement Book Club is Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter. This is a book about a specific injustice, the “exploitation” of black people in Chicago. But that story has been replicated in city after city. This may be the key quote in the book:
When a seller in the black market demands exorbitant prices and onerous sales terms relative to the terms and prices available to white citizens for comparable housing, it cannot be stated that a dollar in the hands of a black man will purchase the same thing as a dollar in the hands of a white man.
The book is really about how people with means find ways to make a lot of money – a lot of money — off of black people without the same level of means. It is a story overflowing with racism. But there is a warning in here for all folks.
I fear that we are in for much more of this kind of exploitation. People with inadequate means is a growing demographic. High school graduates (and those who did not graduate from high school – some 23-27% of all high school students) are simply unable to find work (see the news item above). The situation is going to be increasingly dire. And this book chronicles just how adept some folks are at making a lot of money off of the exploitation of the poor. The poor black people were the victims in Chicago. And such racially charged abuse is still present in far too many places. But the plight of all types of people without adequate means is a story that I think we need to know, and give some serious thought to.
May I make a suggestion? As we read business books, and as we think about improving our own business, and getting ahead financially – let’s not forget the needy among us. And not just with an occasional charitable gift. Let’s give this issue some real attention. Consider reading an occasional book that deals with such social justice issues. (Start with the Shipler book, The Working Poor. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and this book is honest, thorough, well-written).
Could anything help our country more than for all of us to set our minds to some solutions – to help create a better set of work possibilities for those now in such need, those without that college education to rely on?
It may be that the most patriotic thing any of us can do right now is to help the under-skilled and undereducated find work.
Creative Communication Network is pleased to announce three campaigns in 2012 benefiting charitable causes that we wish to support. Please join with us in our efforts.
For one month in each quarter, CCN will donate and match the proceeds from the First Friday Book Synopsis and contribute those funds directly to each of these charities. We will solicit additional contributions from clients and attendees who wish to help us with donations.
April-June: We will support the Relay for Life program in North Texas. This program is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and CCN President Karl J. Krayer has walked in the relay for several years. Last year, with the outstanding support of CCN clients and attendees of the First Friday Book Synopsis, he raised the largest individual contribution in the region.
July-September: We will support the Fisher House, which provides temporary housing for military families. The Dallas location is at the VA Hospital, and last year, we donated just over $500 from a special synopsis delivered by Randy Mayeux. Fisher House is rated with 4 stars, the highest rating given by Charity Navigator.
October-December: We will support CitySquare, formerly Central Dallas Ministries, where Randy Mayeux presents regular urban engagement book synopses. Last year, this organization sponsored one of our synopses. Its’ mission and purpose is to address the root cause of poverty in our community.
Look for more information as we get closer to these dates.
We appreciate your support of our charitable endeavors in 2012.
Ok – let’s state the obvious. We’re too big. Really – we’re too big. Way too big. For example, the average person riding mass transit now weighs 200 pounds – up from 164 pounds just a couple of decades ago. We’re too big!
Or, to put it another way: When Dandy Don Meredith was the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, the average American weighed 166 pounds. Today, the average American weighs 196 pounds (191 in 2002. The average mass transit passenger is heavier, 200 pounds, because the level of poverty for these riders is higher than the average population). By the way, the average lineman in the NFL is now 48 pounds heavier since the early 1970s – with the average offensive lineman in the 2010 season weighing in at 312 pounds.
(Read many specific figures, from the CDC, here).
Why are we so big? Because we eat more than we need. The more we eat, the more we weigh (it’s not rocket science).
And this is a big, big “we’re too big” problem. We ought to at least know a little more about it, don’t you think?
So, read these excerpts from this book: Generation Extra Large: Rescuing our Children from the Epidemic of Obesity by Lisa Tartamella, Elaine Herscher, and Chris Woolston. This is the selection I am presenting for today’s Urban Engagement Book Club, which matters to the folks at CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) because obesity is exacerbated by poverty. (CitySquare exists to fight the root causes of poverty by partnering with those in need).
Sometimes important changes have a way of sneaking up on you. One afternoon you’re at a busy airport, and you realize that a third of the people waiting for a plane will have trouble fitting into a regular seat.
In just one school, Gina Castro (Texas school administrator) finds eight fourth graders who weigh more than 200 pounds, “My God, we had five-year-olds who weighted 100 pounds.” “Twenty years ago you didn’t have a lot of obese kids, and then gradually it was more and more. Then, after a while, I could look down my blacktop with one hundred kids in line, and thirty of them were obese. I’m not saying just a little overweight. I mean obese.”
It is worth wondering what would have happened if Castro had found eight fourth graders in one school with leukemia. For starters, we’d all have heard about it. Teams of epidemiologists would have come barreling into town to study the outbreak. Medical specialists would have begun treating the children and would have reported daily on their condition. Reporters would be locked in combat to be the first to describe just who these nine-year-olds are, how they live, and how they are coping with their heartbreaking disease.
But no busloads of scientists or reporters are sprinting to any of these kids’ front doors. It’s just another day in the fourth grade.
One of the most disquieting things about obesity is how quickly and accomodatingly we’ve settled into it, towing our kids along with us. In as little as twenty years we’ve eaten our way into the record books. Americans now rank among the fattest people on earth. Two thirds of us weigh more that we should… The country’s issue with weight caused some 400,000 adult deaths in 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and obesity is poised to overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths, possibly as soon as 2005.
The U. S. food industry produces 3,800 calories a day for every man, woman, and child in the United States (says Marion Nestle, New York University nutritionist and author of Food Politics). Women need approximately 2,200 calories, men approximately 2,500 calories. Food manufacturers can’t sell all those extra calories without increasing portions and seducing people to eat more… “There’s something about human psychology – if a lot of food is put in front of us, we eat it.
Clearly, people are responsible for what they eat, but they can’t be held accountable for keeping a level playing field between themselves and the food industry.
Did you read that figure? – 3800 calories per day. It’s an old problem, and I am defenseless in is presence– put me in line at a buffet, and I will eat more than I need to, more than I should, more than is good for me. And if there is a dessert bar – it’s all over. I eat a little (ok – more than a little) of everything. Everything!
So – we’re too big. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
(Personal note: I’m really glad I lost a fair amount of weight these last couple of months before I read this book. If I hadn’t, I would have been so depressed that I would have headed straight for the Golden Corral).
There are people with plenty. There are others with far from plenty. The poor are always at the top of mind at the Urban Engagement Book Club (sponsored by CitySquare). Today, I am presenting my synopsis of Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It by Eric Jensen for this very different book discussion/community conversation gathering.
The book is good. It is focused on the school environment — but it provides a good reminder of the overall impact of poverty on people and the larger society. Here are two excerpts that summarize the essence of the book:
35 percent of poor families experienced six or more risk factors (such as divorce, sickness, eviction); only 2 percent experienced no risk factors. In contrast, only 5 percent of well-off families experienced six or more risk factors, and 10 percent experienced none. The aggregate of risk factors makes everyday living a struggle; they are multifaceted and interwoven, building on and playing off one another with a devastating synergistic effect. In other words one problem created by poverty begets another, which in turn contributes to another, leading to a seemingly endless cascade of deleterious consequences.
It’s safe to say that poverty and its attendant risk factors are damaging to the physical, socioemotional, and cognitive well-being of children and their families.
Moving toward Solution:
The worse off kids are, the greater the potential gain. If students come from good home environments, not much more than good teaching is necessary. But if students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, enrichment can have a dramatic impact on learning. And in these cases, an enrichment mind-set is crucial: every staff member must be on board and fully believe that every kid can succeed.
You’ll know when everyone at your school is on board. You’ll see it in the hallways, hear it in the classrooms, and feel it from the kids. You’ll notice that students enjoy their classes and overall school experience and are hopeful about the future; that teachers share information and strategies with colleagues and discuss issues constructively; that the staff lounge area airs more success stories than complaints; and that the teachers give affirmations and support to kids all day.
The first prerequisite for change is your belief in it – and your willingness to change yourself first. We can help kids rise above their predicted path of struggle if we see them as possibilities, not as problems… Students brains don’t change from more of the same. We must believe that change is possible; understand that the brain is malleable and will adapt to environmental input; and be willing to change that input.
We are all busy people. But I hope we will make some time in our schedule to think about those with the greatest needs. What we read, what we think about, what we pay attention to… all of this can lead us to do good things, better things, with our time and our resources.
And the need is so very great.