To the Class of 2020: You’re our Heroes

I love listening to commencement addresses (Nerd Alert! I watch them on Youtube!) I find them hopeful, optimistic and inspiring. I live in an area surrounded by college campuses. I love graduation, seeing excited students, friends and families. I can’t help but think of all the hard work, tears, joys and experiences of the graduates. This important tradition of graduation has been radically transformed this year. My heart goes out to the graduates and their families. Many of my students are graduating from college this year, and my oldest son is a high school senior. Though I am pretty sure I will never be asked to give a commencement speech, I think we need one more this year than ever. So, here is my address to the class of 2020: 

Faculty, staff, administration, alumni, family, friends and most important, graduates,

I’m humbled and honored for the opportunity to speak to you today. I know how disappointed you all are to not have a real commencement and how disappointing your senior year has been. 

I would like to give you a word, just one word, that I think may help you to reconcile and grieve your loss. A word to inspire you now, and compel you forward in the future. That word is: Solidarity. Solidarity is a French word that means unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group. I want to focus on the idea of mutual support. 

What you have done over the last several weeks is about much more than you. You have stayed home, social-distanced and forgone so much to keep yourself safe, yes, but also to save others. By sacrificing your own senior year, you have shown us a great example of solidarity! So often when adversity strikes we naturally focus inward and are most concerned with how it will affect us. Surely you have done some of that during this pandemic, as you should have. You have every right to grieve for the loss of opportunities and closure you so looked forward to. And yet, even though you may not have been sick yourself, you made necessary sacrifices to isolate yourself to lessen the impact for others. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, you have shown solidarity with your community and with the world. 

If you are like many of my students, and my own son, you grew up reading and loving J.K. Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter. Remember, Harry, Ron and Hermione also gave up their senior year, or seventh year as they say in Hogwarts, to find and destroy the horcruxes in order to save the wizarding world. They, like you, showed solidarity. So yes, mourn for what you lost, but also take comfort in the fact that your sacrifice was not in vain. 

One of my favorite lines from a commencement speech comes from J.K. Rowling at Harvard: “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”  

This pandemic has no doubt changed the route you will take into the future but the responsibility to determine where you end up is still yours. We know you can do it! 

Along with Harry Potter, your generation has also grown up with superheroes. Like you most superheroes wear masks. Instead of concealing your identity your mask will be a unique reminder of how you, in solidarity with the world, wore it to help protect others, not from super-villains, but from this superbug! Arguably, the greatest superhero creator of our time is Stan Lee. He tells a great story at a UCLA graduation event  about how he developed Spiderman deliberately as a teenager with teenage troubles and his publisher thought it was a terrible idea. Despite this, he slipped The Amazing Spiderman into the final issue of a magazine and it was a huge hit! This is best one liner of his speech:“If you have an idea that you genuinely think is good, don’t let some idiot talk you out of it.” 

With all you’ve been through we can’t wait to see the amazing ideas and leadership you will provide. We know no one will get in your way!

This idea of solidarity will also compel you forward, if you let it. The whole world will remember 2020, but as graduates, you will share something unique: the fact that you lost your senior year, and graduation. This can unite you to your fellow graduates in a way that other events would not. So, what do you do with that? Continue to think about others. Like Harry, Ron, Herminoe and Peter Parker, you will overcome your obstacles to fight for the greater good. 

We’re proud of you! We’re counting on you! We have every confidence in you going forward. 

Congratulations and good luck! 

Donald Trump’s Unprecedented Leadership in Unparalleled Times

I have little patience for armchair quarterbacking. Being a critic is cheap. A crisis like we are seeing with COVID-19 will test all of our leadership skills. Looking for blame will do little to help the situation. Donald Trump and other government leaders are not responsible for this virus. I think we all have to be patient as we work to manage this crisis. No matter how much planning and preparation we do there will always be missteps, miscalculations and mistakes. 

One of the hallmarks of leadership is how one responds under pressure and how one owns the problem. During World War II, President Harry Truman kept a sign in the Oval Office that read “The Buck Stops Here.” Good leaders don’t blame others for problems, they go to work to find solutions. A companion principle is accountability. Leaders are eager to know how and what went wrong so they can fix it. The coronavirus is an unparalleled crisis in our time. It has required unprecedented leadership. 

Mr. Trump has provided unprecedented leadership, but, sadly, it has been unprecedentedly poor leadership. He not only refuses to take any responsibility for the handling of the crisis, he looks for every opportunity to blame others. Instead of “the Buck Stops Here,”  we see a passing of the buck. Blaming and abusing the media, gaslighting the World Health Organization, as well as projecting his own failures on governors and others. He has refused to acknowledge where mistakes have been made and shows a disdain for facts. His press events are more like campaign rallies, filled with lies and scapegoating. His dismissal of the crisis early on, and the lack of tests, health care equipment etc., could be chalked up to understandable mismanagement, if it wasn’t for the constant lies, blaming and shaming (for a thorough time line of Mr. Trumps reactions to the virus check out this three part series from Steven Harper).

Some of you will read this and think I am making a partisan attack. However, a crisis like this cuts through party lines.  Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican in liberal Massachusetts, has had wide bipartisan support during the crisis. So has Andy Beshear, a Democrat in deep red Kentucky, and Larry Hogan, a Republican in liberal Maryland. All of these governors have approval ratings in the 70s or 80s. Republican Governor Herbert of Utah, and Governor DeWine of Ohio have received national bipartisan praise, as have Democratic Governors Cuomo and Newsom of New York and California. Why? Because they have exhibited the kind of leadership that we need in a moment of crisis. 

No doubt there will be a congressional panel that it will look into the national mismanagement of this crisis. Historians and other academics will expose in great detail why our response was so inferior compared to places like Germany, Iceland, Ireland, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others. We will not need to wait for those reports to confirm what we see everyday coming from the White House: a void of leadership looking to absolve itself of any responsibility or accountability for this crisis.

The Case for Impeaching AOC


We are ultimately responsible for how we defend our republic. If it deteriorates, we can not blame politicians. They are only put there by us.

Questioning the motives of some Democrats who would like to see President Trump removed is understandable.  It’s hard to imagine how anyone is not frustrated with our current hyper-partisan politics. None of this, however, is an excuse for ignoring the gravity of our current situation concerning Mr. Trump’s conduct or the complicity of many who share his political party. 

If President Trump is not held accountable for this conduct, what will stop future presidents from engaging in the same behavior?For those who are defending Mr. Trump, ask yourself these questions:

Would you have no problem with a President Ocasio-Cortez having Rahm Emmanuel fly around the world, offering to have President Ocasio-Cortez do foreign government officials favors, in exchange for targeting her political opponents? Would you be troubled if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez acting as president, withheld money approved by Congress to an ally, in exchange for political opposition research on her Republican opponent? 

Would you be with okay with Rahm Emmanuel soliciting money and favors from foreign actors to help slander, harass and potentially threaten US ambassadors? Would you be okay with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez refusing to allow anyone in her administration to testify in front of the House committees investigating these allegations?  Would you support her decision to release zero documents in regards to House investigations? Would you feel comfortable in her ability to continue to exercise her constitutional duties? Of course not! What we would hope for is that fair minded people of both parties would condemn such behavior. just as we hope that will happen now.

If we condone Mr Trumps current behavior because we condemn the motives of those we don’t agree with, we will in the end weaken our Republic, perhaps beyond repair. 

Everyone of us should be focused on what’s best for the country, not what’s best for our political party preferences. We have to let reason temper our tribalism. Our republic is depending on it.

Why I Am Not a Bernie Bro

Democratic nominee for President Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane Sanders are joined by Elena Letona, Executive of NPAC, to announce their endorsement of Sen. Sanders in Boston, MA on Monday, February 22, 2016. Photo: Christopher Dilts / Bernie 2016


I try to keep the things I write affirmative not negative. However, as we get closer to choosing a democratic rival to Donald Trump, I thought I might weigh in on my feelings about Bernie Sanders. Here are a few of the reasons why I do not support the candidacy of Mr. Sanders. 

I think he relies on bumper sticker slogans more than actual, detailed plans. I am sympathetic to those who are ready for major change. However, free college tuition, forgiving $1.6 trillion in student debt, and free healthcare for all, are all extremely complicated ideas that are going to require huge structural changes with great complexity. 

I think his approach is logically flawed. One of the reasons college debt is so high is because the cost of college has risen so much over the last 30 years, beyond inflation. How does giving everyone free tuition address the systemic problems that caused the increase costs of education? We all know there is nothing actually free, it is all taxpayer funded. Even if we tax the wealthy more, which I am in favor of, Mr. Sanders is not clear on how he will pay for these massive, expansive and expensive programs.  

In regards to health care, roughly 20% of United States workforce is employed in the healthcare field. You cannot just radically change that system without causing a serious displacement in employment, and disruption to the economy. 

I completely agree that healthcare and education need major overall reform, but it will require many more details and much more incremental planning.

All of his plans will require bipartisan cooperation. I’m certainly in favor of greater unity and cooperation. However, major changes like Mr. Sanders proposes will be met with fierce opposition. How can you compromise, and gain bipartisan cooperation, when your fundamental premise is that everything has to radically change?

He’s too old. I understand this is also a critique of Mr. Biden. I think there is great wisdom in choosing seasoned leaders. However, the demands of the President of the United States are so singular and intense, I worry about placing that large of a burden on someone of that age.

How electable is a democratic socialist? Don’t get me wrong, I’m super bugged by those who compare democratic socialism to Venezuela, the former Soviet Union, Cuba, or other communist/socialist countries. It shows their ignorance of modern political parties around the world. Democratic socialism is nothing like Venezuela, the Soviet Union, Cuba etc. Mr. Sanders is not proposing a government takeover of private property in the means of production. I do believe the electorate is smart enough to understand the distinction. But, I can imagine having to constantly push back on the attacks from conservatives that we’re moving towards some kind of scary communist regime. That prospect is daunting and will distract from talking about more important issues.

Would I vote for Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump? Of course I would. He just isn’t my first choice. I like the idea that his campaign has been funded by small contributions. He deserves credit for creating a movement that feels less candidate centric and more like a collective group. I just do not think he is the best suited for our time. Here is website:  You should check it out, and see what you think about him as a candidate for yourself.