On Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I stop to honor the soldiers who have given their lives in service of our country. I do not stop to honor war itself. But I pay my respects to the soldiers – those who volunteered to fight and those who were drafted, those who fought in “good” wars and those who fought in wars later deemed “wrong.” These men and women were members of our community – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends. Each, in his or her own way, graced our world.

Share your Memorial Day stories.

Leave No Veteran Behind

I am starting this Memorial Day weekend thinking of veterans and how we, as a people, honor them.

Honoring Vets With Our Thoughts

Last week, I enjoyed being part of the crowd at a baseball game where fans stood and cheered at a saluting veteran broadcast on the big scoreboard. This week, as I tooled around in my car, I listened to several National Public Radio shows offering thought provoking experiences and points of view on Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. One ex-soldier pushed listeners to go beyond the barbecues and softball games this weekend, to set aside some time to actively remember the men and women who have given their lives to protect us and people around the world.

This has also got me thinking about the soldiers that make it back home alive. Beyond the cheers and somber reflections, where is the clamor for embracing veterans back into the fabric of life on the home front?

Thoughts Alone Are Not Enough

We look first to the government as the primary resource for reintegration into society. But public funding for job training and health care – both physical and psychological – is insufficient. We need more.

Honoring Vets With Our Actions

Roy B. Sartin and Eli Williamson are doing more, much more. Both men grew up in my hometown, Chicago. Both went off to Luther College in Iowa. Both joined the US Army Reserves and both served in Iraq. Both finished their college education. I always thought that veterans received full scholarships to complete their education – a major incentive, I thought, to join up. But it turns out that many veterans like Sartin and Williamson are not covered. Soldiers put their lives on the line, then end up with big student loans and limited job opportunities.

Sartin and Williamson are answering my question: they are running an organization called Leave No Veteran Behind, to embrace veterans back into the fabric of life on the home front. And they are doing it in such a thoughtful, inspiring way that benefits not just veterans but also the communities they live in.

Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB) does some pretty wonderful things. For veterans, there are retroactive scholarships covering student loans for education already received. There is also a multi-pronged job-training/placement program.

The Reciprocity of Community

For communities the soldiers return to, there are partnerships that involve veterans in growing the next generation.

  • Safe Passage. LNVB deploys veterans to patrol streets for students in high crime neighborhoods as they make their way home from school. The students get a two-for: increased safety and positive interaction with the adults of their community.
  • S.T.E.A.M Corps. LNVB partners with universities and non-profits to provide young people in their communities with training and apprenticeships. Another plus shows up here – a focus on protecting the environment. Jobs are really forward-looking – teaching skills such as urban gardening and repurposing non-recyclable materials to build high-end bikes and furniture.

I’m going into this Memorial Day weekend, grateful for the men and women who protect our way of life. This year, I am also inspired by the continued work of veterans on the home front. One community.

Share your Memorial Day stories.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

After all this talk of graduation, I’ve been thinking about those first baby steps into reading and math. Here are a couple of books I think of fondly, even now. ☺

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault is the best ABC book ever! It’s got such great rhythm: “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.” You can’t help but bop and bounce as you read. I never get tired of this one- twenty years and still know the words (and my alphabet – hee hee). Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! For babies, toddlers, and young readers.

Five Little Ducks by Raffi and Jose Aruego does simple backward counting from 5 to 1. It’s actually the song that I love. So if you get this one, I recommend getting hold of a copy of Raffi singing. After listening, you and your children can easily sing this on your own. You might find yourself humming while your cooking or even as you walk down the street (know that feeling?!) For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Share your favorite children’s books about lawyers.

The Good Lawyer

How many lawyer jokes have you heard in your lifetime? Other than light bulb jokes (sometimes these include lawyers, too). I can’t think of any others that pop up more frequently. And, whereas the light bulb jokes elicit a laugh, lawyer jokes are more likely to result in rolled eyes and shaking heads.

Some Lawyers are Super-Heroes

Maybe some of the disdain is well deserved. There are shysters out there, to be sure. There are also lawyer super-heroes aplenty . Disclosure: I have a law degree :I But this is not just my opinion. It doesn’t take much looking around to find evidence of inspiring lawyers using their training, smarts, and passion to fight for people in need.

Fighting for the Innocent

In my hometown of Chicago, the Innocence Center has literally saved lives – lawyers working day and night to win freedom for wrongfully convicted prisoners, some who have been languishing on death row. The similarly named Innocence Project based in New York does the same type of work nationally.

Fighting for the Disabled

When I was a law student I worked in one of many university connected legal aid clinics, assisting people with mental disabilities, helping them to navigate the labyrinthine systems that make it very hard to actually receive the benefits they so badly need.

Donating Time

Then there are the thousands of lawyers who primarily serve paying clients, but volunteer their limited “extra” time to provide pro bono services for those who cannot afford to pay for representation.

Super-Hero Lawyers Are Everywhere

To give a more concrete flavor of the super-hero lawyers you can find in city and country across the U.S.: There’s the lawyer who protects Native American rights to trust funds. Another lawyer who provides free legal assistance to wrongfully evicted tenants. Another who manages adoption cases for family members who want to protect and take care of children of abusive relatives. There are those who stand up for the legal rights of immigrants. And those who protect the environment. The list goes on.

So next time, you hear a lawyer joke, go ahead and laugh. But remember that in real life, good lawyers are doing amazing things to make the world a better place.

Share your stories about super-hero lawyers!

Lawyer Smarts!

This week I am attending my eldest daughter’s graduation from law school! Here are a couple of young people’s books about the law.

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. I picked this out of the Nancy Drew series because it was one of my favs. But the entire series is classic. Nancy’s dad is a lawyer who is a sage guide balancing out his daughter’s sometimes impulsive zeal for crime investigation. Written over a half century ago, the characters of Nancy Drew’s stories may seem a little dusty to today’s young folk but once you crack the cover, you may be hooked by the irresistible charm of the sleuth and her lawyer dad. For kids 8 and up.

Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse: A Tail of the U. S. Supreme Court by Peter W. Barnes, illustrated by Cheryl S. Barnes, looks at the mouse Supreme Court where the justices are deciding an important question. Should mice have the right to eat any cheese they please? This is a fun way for kids to learn about the Constitution, laws, court processes and opinions. Pegged for grades K-up.

Share your favorite children’s books about lawyers.

More Thoughts for Graduates

Part 3 of the graduation speech I gave several years ago:


This is one that has been a life saver to me many times throughout my life. The reality is, it is very hard to get through life alone. Even in the best of times, there will be many choices to make. And you will have questions about what makes the most sense for YOU. And in the more difficult times, when you are struggling with failure or being misunderstood or loss, the support of others around you can make all the difference, can get you back on your feet.


Lean on your FAMILY. Don’t be afraid or too cool to ask your parents for advice…about homework, about friends, about things you might have a hard time handling on your own like gangs or drugs. Hey! Your family loves you. They are in your corner. They have been through a lot of the same things you will go through soon. Let them help.

Make New Friends

New friends will stretch you in new ways, push you to grow. One of the special things about new friends (and teachers for that matter) is that Because they haven’t known you all your life, they will see you with fresh eyes. They will encourage you to grow new parts of yourself and become a more mature you.

Stay in Touch with Old Friends

Keep in close touch with your old friends. Your “growing up” buddies know your history and what that brings to who you are now. As you try on new identities, they will keep you honest and remind you who you are deep down inside.

As I used to sing with my own children when they were in nursery school (a long time ago but I still remember): “Make new friends but keep the old. One is sliver and the other’s gold.” Maybe sappy. But also very true.

Share your graduation stories and advice!

More Thoughts About Valuing Teachers

I took a sick day on Wendnesday but I’m back!

An article came across my newsfeed this week and I can’t resist sharing with you because it is one of those issues that gets me going – my father calls these monologues “rants.”

Here’s the link so you can read the entire thing. The takeaway is this: if things are going to get better in our society, we need to stop lip-service to how good our teachers are and put our money where our mouth is.

More Than Lip Service

There’s nothing like a teacher story to get us all waxing nostalgic – have you not shared a memory or two about that favorite teacher who boosted your self-esteem or taught you to put sentences together in intelligible form or was the coolest grown-up ever, giving you a faint glimmer of optimism that meaningful life does not end at 18.

Apples Only Go So Far

There’s all that feel good stuff. I’ll bet one of the first images that comes to mind when you hear “good teacher” is… an apple. But, really, if teachers are that influential (which they are), don’t we want to attract the best and the brightest? And entrust our children, our future society, to the cream of the crop? I’m not talking the just traditional teacher crop (although there are some great teachers in the current pool), I’m talking the best of the best in the entire nation crop (including those who traditionally end up in other professions).

How do we achieve this in our capitalist land? Apples just don’t cut it. If someone offered you a six-figures financial analyst or legal or sports or any other number of jobs OR a teaching job starting at less than half that salary, what would you do? Of course, there are passionate, idealistic, mission-driven people who commit themselves to teaching. And that is great. Not a week goes by when I don’t offer thanks. But think about a society where teaching was valued as much as business or entertainment. And salaries measured up.

Who Me?

You may be nodding. But here’s the catch. Teachers are paid with public money. Tax dollars. So each and every one of us must put our money where our mouth is if we want to build a top education system. As the article says, call your legislator and demand more spending on education. In part, this may mean raising taxes. It also means prioritizing education for a larger share of the current public funding pie. The article shared above inspired me to action. You?

Share your suggestions on how to inspire public support for great teachers!

Mother’s Day Greetings!

I am so grateful to my mother for mothering me and to my children for delighting in my mothering them. Happy Mother’s Day to all my moms!


If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you’ll know that graduation is on my mind. Today I direct you to an article in the New York Times about a handful of colleges that are going the extra mile to support students – not just to enroll – to GRADUATE from college.

The Dropout Rate is Depressing

The statistics are depressing. Only 53% of college freshmen graduate within a six-year period. For community colleges, the numbers are even worse – only 39% graduate. For those of you who are interested in cost – the current college dropout problem is estimated to cost us $4.5 billion in lost income and taxes.

Turning it Around with Data

That’s the bad news. The inspiring news is that some colleges are taking action. How? One big piece is data analysis. It turns out, grades are important predictors: A student who gets a C, is fairly likely to spiral down into Ds and Fs. A students who gets a B is likely to continue to get good grades. The first student is a candidate for dropping out. The second student a candidate for graduating.

Proactive colleges are crunching the data to find those C students quickly, before it’s too late. They follow up with extra tutoring and other supports to raise grades and get the wobbly students on their way to graduation. Another interesting innovation is the effort at some schools to tailor curriculum format to assist student success. We want to encourage students interested in STEM, right? Our country needs it. That’s where many of the jobs are. But coursework in math and science can be a bear.

Turning it Around with Innovative Course Format

Proactive colleges are introducing innovative teaching formats – replacing lectures with online teaching that includes immediate feedback. At one university, the changed format brought the percentage of Ds and Fs down from 43% to 19%. Whopping!

We all Benefit

Based on the NYT article, here’s a shoutout to North Carolina State and Georgia State for making a huge dent in the dropout rate. I’m sure there are others. Inspiration for all colleges to make the effort. Students, universities, society –All will benefit.

Share your stories of organizations that make a difference in keeping students in school!

You’re Graduated!…What’s Next?!

Here are a couple of books for those of us in graduation celebration mode!

Yay, You! : Moving Up and Moving On by Sandra Boynton. You did it!…Now what will you do? This book takes a look at and celebrates all the possibilities out there. Pegged for kids ages 4-8.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss is an old favorite for many. With typical Seussian whimsy, Places rhymes us through life’s ups and downs, ending with a resounding up. Read…and get going! Pegged for ages 4-8.

Share your favorite children’s books about graduation.