Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

What Is This About? #endalz

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

What a great week in Washington advocating for the Alzheimer’s Association.  I leave the entire conference inspired to keep working, fighting, and volunteering for this cause.

I met so many heroes…from all over the country…heroes from right here in our communities in Iowa.

If you have a family member or a friend that has been affected by this disease, you know how horribly destructive it is. And sadly, if your family or friends have not yet been affected, they likely will soon.

It is too simple to make a case that we need to find more NIH funding for research to end this horrible disease. We do.

It is too simple to make a case that we need to find ways to delay the onset of this disease and treat it because of the enormous cost that is places on Medicare, Medicaid and bankrupts families.  We do.

If you want to be all consumed by graphs, charts, etc, — please visit www.alz.org.

All that makes sense to me. But it’s really not the point.

This disease strips all human dignity from those affected. It ravages their mind while leaving a healthy body until nothing is left. It is horribly cruel to those affected and their families. We have in our capacity as Americans to not only fund this research – but to help end this disease once and for all. We have done it before. We will do it again.

So…please help. Contact your Senator or Congressmen and encourage them to do what it right. Soon.

A Real Hero For A Cause: Myriam Marquez

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Today kicked off the first day of the National Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C. This is the first time I have ever attended the advocacy forum – and came into it not knowing fully what to expect.

Thus far, I have been amazed.

This is the largest single gathering in history of people rallying for alzheimer’s awareness. How amazing is that?  All these people, gathered in one place, advocating for something they care about.

But something about this is different…it really does feel different and have a different energy to it than the many conferences or political events I have been to in the past.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that nearly everyone here is a volunteer and is deeply affected by this disease in some way. In fact,some of the most impactful moments I have experienced thus far is hearing from people actually suffering with the disease now.

That brings me to Ms. Myriam Marquez. She took the stage early this evening and we quickly found out that she is dealing with early stage alzheimer’s. Ms. Marquez gave her testimony…the road she is traveling with this disease…and you could not help but tear up as she moved through her experiences…

In some way…when I hear her testimony about dealing with this disease…I think of my own Mom…think about what it would be like if she were able to share these same types of stories and feelings that Ms. Marquez can today…

Unfortunately, the disease progresses at different rates with different people…and that is not possible for Mom anymore…

But hearing from people like Ms. Marquez have to make an impact on people…not just people that know someone that is dealing with alzheimer’s…her story..and the many other advocates here like her WILL make an impact with others.

Here is a link to an article with more about Ms. Marquez: http://www.alz.org/alzwa/documents/myriam-marquez-alzheimers-warrior.pdf

Read it if you get a chance…it will move you…and when it does..get involved!

Touched

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Last night I tweeted my blog post about being in Washington this week attending the National Alzheimer’s meeting in Washington that I am at this week.

I am amazed by the number of people that have reached out to me about their own personal experiences in dealing with this illness in their own family.  I had no idea how many of my own friends have been touched by this disease—be it a Mom or a Dad—a grandparent or a friend.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease for families to deal with. And there is so much promise in terms of general awareness and treatment on the horizon.

I am excited about the week ahead in Washington.  If you want to learn more about how you can help, please check out the associations website: http://www.alz.org/.

A Big Week in Washington

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It seems like I am in Washington all the time…each time filled with a variety of meetings that all seem important at the time.

This week I am in Washington, D.C. at the National Alzheimer’s Association meetings. This is a disease that has increasingly touched many families, including mine. So, this week, the meetings seem even more personal than usual.

I will update this blog with some information during the week on our meetings and congressional visits.

Looking forward to a great week! Love you, Mom…

No Excuse for A Failing Grade in Education

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

When you become a parent, your priorities change.  You begin to view life through the prism of ensuring your child has every opportunity you had, and more.

High among these priorities is ensuring your child has the best education possible, which is why a recent report issued by the education reform group Students First was so alarming.

Schools were graded on teaching, parent empowerment, and spending wisely and governing well.  Iowa was one of 11 states to receive a failing grade.  According to the study, Iowa lags many other states in teacher performance evaluations and student performance, as well as providing local officials with flexibility in improving the schools in their own communities.

We are not alone though.  Only two states, Louisiana and Florida, even received a grade of “C.”  Passing, let alone failing, grades are not good enough for my children – and I am sure they are not good enough for yours.

Students First was founded by Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools.  It was in Washington where Rhee gained a reputation as a lone, but loud voice in the abyss of what is arguably the most backward, failing school district in the country.  Rhee instituted reforms and made countless enemies across the political spectrum, making this report one that deserves more weight than one sponsored by a partisan, political organization or union.

I know the first reaction of most to this report is outrage.  How – in America – can we be allowing our schools to fail?  But rather than casting blame on our officials, I believe we must use these grades as an awakening, and opportunity to heed a call to action to improve our schools, help our children, and strengthen our society in the long-term.

A quick glance at another pillar of education, the American college and university system, should both hearten and serve as a guide to improving our crumbling K-12 system.  American universities and colleges are the jewels of the global education system.  Students from across the globe flock to our shores to study everything from engineering to medicine, social sciences to humanities.  At many institutions, foreign students account for large pluralities of the student body, where they better themselves and American students.

But to understand how our university system’s successes can be applied to improve our K-12 system, we must first ask why our universities succeed and our secondary schools are failing.  What makes our universities better than their contemporaries around the globe?  What attracts these international students to leave their families and spend four years on an American campus?

The answer is a free market.

The educational marketplace is no different than any market.  Given choice and competition, the cream rises to the top.  While many nations have state universities where choice is squelched, where student opportunities are limited, the United States only limits higher education opportunities through merit and opens the system up to real freedom of thought and expression.

Right now, our secondary school system reflects the opposite vision: a factory-style system where a one-size fits all education is forced upon our children.  But, just as a square peg does not always fit into a round hole, not all children can learn and succeed in the same environment.

We need to give our children in K-12 the same opportunity we give to our college age students.   We need to provide them – and parents – with an educational marketplace to choose what schools, what teaching methods, and what learning environments are best for them individually.  If we are able to do this with colleges and universities, then why can’t we do this with our secondary schools?

Right now, in Iowa, there is only real freedom for parents and children that have substantial means. If you do—you have the option to choose among the marketplace what is best for your child. There is near universal agreement that education is important – and perhaps the most vital function of our state. If that is the case – we must look at ways to unshackle parents of all economic classes to be able to have any choice they desire for the education of their child. Not doing so permanently disenfranchises thousands of Iowa children each and every year and is just plain wrong.

This is not a criticism of any specific official.  Here in Iowa, Governor Branstad came into office and was faced with digging out of the hole dug by twelve years of executives focusing only on the wants and needs of the teacher’s union – and not focusing on students, parents, and results.  As the Governor prepares to outline his upcoming agenda in his “Condition of the State” speech later this month, the opportunity awaits the strong leadership he has provided on so many other issues to be applied to children’s education.

As a father, I look at my son and desire for the best.  With the help of our elected officials, the empowerment of parents, and the creation of a marketplace for our children to succeed – that hope can one day transform into a reality.

Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that affects millions of Americans.

This disease has affected my family…with my mom afflicted with this disease.

If you can help support the victims of this disease…or their families..or help support research for its cure….I pray that you do so.

Many thanks.

For more information on how you can help, please click here http://www.alz.org/greateriowa/

More Bogus Deals

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
The United States Congress has just passed a bill which has averted the country going over the “fiscal cliff.”

If you score the package, there is $41 dollars in tax increases for every $1 dollar in spending decreases. Yes, I will write that again. If you score the package, there is $41 dollars in tax increases for every $1 dollar in spending decreases.

It’s almost like some kind of cruel joke, right?

Unfortunately, the joke is on us.

The can just got kicked down the road a little bit farther…and nothing has changed..except the impending crisis that was self-created is averted.

The next four years will be the same..meaningless self-created crises that will be averted by bogus deals that do nothing to deal with the great issues that confront us.

Gonna be fun.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my Mom’s birthday…she is 72 years old today!

I am so thankful for so many things that my Mom has done for me…she was a real rock for me growing up…and it wasn’t easy for her, I know.

I lost my Dad just before I was two years old and my Mom was left with a momentous task…she was a stay-at-home mom that was left to raise a toddler.

It was an interesting ride with lots of twists and turns…lots of moves…some ups and some downs…

She went back to school in her forties and earned a degree and went to work. She never had a job that made a lot of money, in fact, mostly working as a secretary in small town in Northeast Iowa and later as a secretary at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

When I grew up, I had no idea how hard she had it or how many things she had to balance. Frankly, I had no idea that we were poor.

My Mom worked for $7/hour and I had no idea the economic struggles we faced as a family.

That is a real testament to her, her love, and her incredible work ethic.

She was a wonderful Mom…gave me more than I needed and was always there for me.

Now she is 72 and things are different.

My Mom suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. It was diagnosed a few years ago, and things are very different today than what they were a couple years ago, let alone back when I was a kid.

It is such a cruel disease, and it’s days like this that make you remember the good times and the bad, and wish you could laugh and swap crazy stories over a birthday cake of all the memories.

Unfortunately, we can’t do that.

If you can, cherish those times. Love your family and live your life to the fullest.

And pray that we find treatment and a cure for this incredibly cruel disease.

The dignity robbed from proud men and women that suffer from this disease is incredibly painful and we must put it to an end.

Lost Dreams

Monday, March 5th, 2012

I just lost a family member at a very young age…leaves behind a wife and two children after his sudden death.

It is a clarion call to me and I hope to everyone that reads this post.

Life is short….you never know how short.

We often get distracted by the most mindless, meaningless things in life and forget the most important.

Love your family. Love your kids. Cherish your friends.

And live life to its fullest.

I lost my dad one month before I turned 2….you simply never know when the music will end….and that means that you need to make every second count.

Be real. Be true. Work hard. Love fully. And leave this place a better place than it was when you came into it.

 

Education Reform

Friday, February 24th, 2012

There is some discussion at the Iowa Statehouse about education reform, and some of it has recently garnered headlines.

The Iowa Department of Education has a gameplan on education that is generally centered-on government first reform. Some Senate Republicans have focused on a more full-scale reform that reduces bureaucracy and returns power to parents and local school boards.

Regardless, there has been no real sunlight to this debate or discussion about one of the most vital functions of state government.

I am hopeful that in the months that remain in the session ahead that this very important topic receives a bipartisan fair hearing.

Any proposed reform that does not place the interests of children and parents first should fail on its face.

There is a very real crisis in Iowa and American schools. Iowa can and should be a leader in this reform movement.

In the time that remains in the session, I remain hopeful that both parties will embrace this discussion, discard partisan allegiances and do what is right.

Hey, it’s only the future growth of our state and country at stake, right?