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Joy Today: How I helped a New York man impacted by the government shutdown

Yesterday I took the best trip to the grocery store I’ve ever taken because I had the opportunity to buy groceries for Keith Polite, a man impacted by the government shutdown. He’s been a security guard at one of the Smithsonian museums here in New York City for 4 years, and the museum is closed until the government reopens. Because he’s a contractor, he won’t receive any back pay. I heard about his story through the local CBS broadcast, and decided I had to help. Another viewer also helped and was able to meet with Keith about a possible job opportunity. I’m really hoping that works out for him.

I hope this one small act inspires all of us to help one another during this difficult time. There’s so much we can do right where we are for the people around us. We’re all walking each other home. Here’s the news piece that ran about Keith if you’d like to see it:

https://newyork.cbslocal.com/video/4009588-strangers-step-up-to-help-worker-affected-by-shutdown/

A Year of Yes: Reflection on the election

While I’m glad to see the flip in the House, and the election of the first Muslim women to Congress, the first openly gay governor, and the largest number of women to ever serve our country, I can’t help but think about how much it took for those narrow wins and the painful narrow losses. I know many of you worked hard phone and text banking, canvassing, posting, donating, volunteering, and running. And a huge thank you to those who turned out to vote.

We have elected the most diverse set of candidates this country has ever had! I know you’re tired. I’m tired, too. And I also know that 2020 begins now. Literally today. We have a huge amount of work ahead of us. And this isn’t about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about the bedrock of our democracy. This is about basic human decency and dignity. And I’m ready to do what’s needed today and every tomorrow I have. I love this country, and I believe in its future. I believe in our ability to collectively restore what’s been gutted by this administration.

A Year of Yes: The zen of taxes

This weekend, I’m preparing my taxes and grateful that I’m able to do so. I received assistance from government programs as a kid via the WIC program and the free lunch program. I went to college and graduate school with the help of students loans and government grants. Now on this flip side of life, I’m glad that I can pay forward this money to kids and young people who need those same programs to build a better life.

I know that there are parts of our government—local, state, and federal—that are inefficient and don’t spend money well. I also know that there are programs funded through taxes that change lives. I’m living, breathing proof of that. So while taxes can seem like an unwelcome chore, today I’m focusing on all the good that taxes do in my city, my state, and my country. This is the zen of tax preparation, and I embrace it.

In the pause: Cornell Tech campus opens on New York City’s Roosevelt Island

Yesterday’s event at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island filled me with inspiration and possibility. It was quite a testament to what can be achieved through private – public partnerships with tech CEOs from IBM, Qualcomm, Verizon, and startups, investors, journalists, Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Mike Bloomberg, and the President of Cornell all in attendance.

The spaces, indoors and out, are incredibly thoughtful and stunning. Best of all, it’s been built as an inviting setting for the public. Bring your laptop, book, or sketch pad, grab a coffee at the cafe, and take it all in with plenty of wi-fi and collaborative space. This is a place of community, and the hope is that companies and projects started by students and incubator sponsors (yes, your company can get space here!) will diversify and grow the NYC economy. Already, Cornell Tech has spun out 38 companies, 94% of which are based in NYC.

Graduate and doctoral studies as well as Executive Education courses comprise the student body here and it will also be a stage for events at the cross-section of tech, business, art, and social impact.

Grab the F train, bus, ferry, or tram, and go check it out!

In the pause: Today I’m attending “The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days” at the Newseum

I’m honored and thrilled to be invited to a fascinating discussion today at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. entitled The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days. And it’s going to be a doozy. I’m anticipating a rousing, spirited discussion about the media, democracy, and the current administration. The agenda and speaker lineup is among the most diverse I’ve seen on the subject and I have to commend the Newseum staff for bringing so many disparate views to one venue. It’s an incredible feat. I’ll be live tweeting and will share what I learn in tomorrow’s post. You can also watch the live stream at http://www.newseum.org/live/.

From the Newseum event page:

The Newseum will host a half-day forum that will explore the Trump administration’s relationship with the press in the critical first months. The program will be held at the Newseum and will feature one-on-one conversations, panel discussions and individual presentations. Participants, including White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, will explore pertinent challenges to the First Amendment, a free press and protecting the free flow of information in a divided nation.

Guests include:

  • Jim Acosta, CNN
  • Mike Allen, Axios
  • Bret Baier, Fox News Channel
  • Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
  • Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President
  • David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post
  • Ari Fleischer, Fmr. White House Press Secretary
  • Julie Pace, The Associated Press
  • Jennifer Palmieri, Fmr. White House Communications Director
  • Bob Schieffer, CBS News
  • Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary
  • Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News
  • Brian Stelter, CNN
  • Greta Van Susteren, MSNBC
  • Cecilia Vega, ABC News
  • Glenn Thrush, The New York Times
  • Kristen Welker, NBC News
  • Michael Wolff, The Hollywood Reporter

In the pause: January 21, 2017, will be remembered as the day we gave an additional meaning to boots on the ground

January 21, 2017, will be remembered as the day we gave an additional meaning to boots on the ground. This is the day that people, women and men, all races, all creeds, from all over the world came together, organized, and marched for equity, justice, freedom, and health. This is the day we took to the streets together for women’s rights, which are after all human rights, and vowed to one another that we will not stop until these rights are secured for all and forever. That is the goal I am dedicated to and I will use every breath and step I have remaining to turn it from a dream into a reality.

In the pause: Chapter 1 of the new Breaking Bread Podcast is live

Chapter 1 of the new Breaking Bread Podcast is live! Mina and her dog, Phineas, fall into a strange new world where never is now. Tap below to listen:

In the pause: We’ve been in the wild world of Trumpville before – a message from me and Jon Stewart

Many of my friends are literally despondent about Donald Trump winning the election. I was talking to Jon Stewart (and by talking to him, I mean reading his book The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History) about it. Jon reminded me that sadly we’ve been here before. There were two dark and stormy nights known as November 7, 2000 and November 2, 2004. It was a time before social media and citizen journalism, and that’s why so few people remember them. The human brain is designed for self-preservation, meaning we minimize the crappy things that happen to us in favor of the good times. So when crappy things happen again, they feel like the worst times we’ve ever had. That’s why we need books like Jon’s.

November 7, 2000 was a horrible night. We didn’t know who would be President for several days. There were hanging chads, the insanity that is Florida, and reports of election day tampering. It all came down to a handful of votes, and the candidate who won the popular vote lost the electoral college. We were the laughing-stock of the world because of the goat rodeo that was our election process. It was embarrassing. Jon is still shaking his head about this. Still.

The next four years brought 9/11, war in the Middle East, racial profiling as an acceptable practice, ethnic prejudice (especially against Muslims), economic recession, fake news (from our very own federal government—Weapons of Mass Destruction!), and ridicule against any U.S. citizens who didn’t support the war in Iraq. You were actually labeled a traitor and Un-American if you spoke out against our President and the war effort in 2002. Jon reminded me that The Daily Show got piles of death threats for pointing out the lunacy and hypocrisy of the Bush administration’s actions and words. And The Daily Show was the only media outlet doing this. Comedy was truth. Their viewership soared as a result because the youngest set of voters were fed up with our President and our government. The media was a complete circus; everyone hated journalists and no one trusted them. They trusted Jon Stewart and his team, and seemingly no one else. Crimes rates were climbing. Despair was climbing. The Presidential elections were around the corner and it was time for a change! Jon, and the country, were sure Bush would be long gone soon.

And on November 2, 2004, the majority of the country elected President Bush and the evil puppet master Dick Cheney. Again. Cries of “Not My President” were everywhere. Protests were common. Violence peaked. I remember watching the results in D.C. I was 28. I cried. Many people cried. How? How on Earth could he be re-elected? After everything we’d been though how could our nation do this? We were very much a nation divided and afraid. It was a brutal time. Many people didn’t think we’d survive. Many people felt another 9/11 was imminent.

The Great Recession began to take hold in December 2007, and by the fall of 2008 it seemed like our economy might not survive. By then I had an MBA, $100K+ worth of debt, and was working in New York City in financial services. Most of my friends were unemployed; some of them were deported because their visas were no longer valid without jobs. That was a terrible time. There was palpable fear on the streets. There was no escape. There was nowhere to run. Widespread depression mixed with panic was everywhere. By then, President Bush’s approval rating had fallen from 90% in 2001 to 25%, one of the worst in presidential history. (The only presidents ever rated lower were Richard Nixon and Harry Truman.) Jon was losing his mind over the state of the country. He was outraged. We all were.

And then, when all seemed completely lost, a pair of even-keel, educated, and diplomatic leaders rose in Washington. Barack Obama and Joe Biden were handed a frightening responsibility. They rolled up their sleeves, and got to work. Against all odds, we survived. They did the impossible amidst a storm of criticism, racism, and hatred. They were unsinkable.

Now, Jon and I don’t think you should just roll over for the next 4 years. Not. At. All. We want you to get out there and keep fighting for what’s right. We want you to fact-check the hell out of everyone. We want you to get educated on the issues, and speak with conviction. We want you to take care of people in your community. We want you to use the online megaphones we all now have to connect, share, and support each other.

And we want you to do this with the knowledge that those 8 years of painful politics from 2000-2008 were terrible, and our nation did survive. Yes, we were battered and bruised. No, we have no desire at all to relive any of those years. Yes, we think we are in for at least 4 years of great difficulty and heartache. And we know this—we will survive, together. I have absolutely no faith in the new administration. (I won’t speak for Jon here. I’ll leave that to him to do when he feels ready.) I have faith in you, and I have faith in me, and that’s enough of a reason for me to get up every day and keep trying.

As for Jon, well he’s retired now. He told me (and Charlie Rose) that he misses the people of The Daily Show, but he doesn’t miss the grind. He’s gone back to screaming at the television in his underwear while surrounded by a literal farm of animals. He’s more than happy to have passed the mantel of The Daily Show to Trevor Noah, who I’ll be talking to right after I wrap things up with Jon. (And by talking to Trevor, I mean finishing his excellent book, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.) More on that later.

Wonder: Harry Reid’s advice on how to spend our time

“Do the choices we make about how we spend our time keep us in touch with what we believe in, and what is real in our own lives?” ~Harry Reid, retiring Senator from Nevada

Today I read Senator Reid’s farewell published in the New York Times.Though most of his letter addresses the 100 Senators who will be in session come January 2017, this statement about how we spend our time applies to all of us. It’s something I am deeply considering as we round the corner on the new year. It’s something that will cause me to make some big changes in the coming year because ultimately how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Moments add up to hours to days to months to years. I don’t want to waste any of mine in any way—not for comfort, ease, or the sake of a paycheck. It has never been easier in the history of the world for us to do incredible things that help build a world that we’re proud to call home. And if I’m not spending my days aspiring to that, then I am wasting my time. So onward and upward with a full and purposeful heart.

(And one comment on Harry Reid’s letter: he will be leaving the Senate for the final time when this new administration flips and that departure seems tinged with a mixture of relief and grief that he’s going. He never envisioned Donald Trump as President, particularly since Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. (A new record!) I’m grateful for his service and admire his example of how to make a difficult system simpler, more efficient, and more effective. It’s not an easy thing to do, and he should be celebrated for his role in moving closer to a Washington that works.)

 

Wonder: You and your vote matter

There are plenty of people who say voting doesn’t matter. Why bother, especially if you live in the city-state of D.C. that “doesn’t count” as I’ve been told by so many  people. I’ll tell you why: because we need your voice. And we need my voice. And we need everyone’s voice. It’s amazing that we live in a place where we can select our government’s leaders. (Don’t you wish you could do that at work?!) The decisions that are going to be made here in the next few years – about healthcare, education, social justice issues, energy, and the environment – are going to have an impact on generations to come all over the world.I know you’re tired. I’m tired, too. I get the cynicism. I get the frustration. I get the anger. I feel all of those things in fits and starts, too. Don’t let them deflate you. They’re fuel. If we’re going to build a better world, we’ve got to do it together and we can’t do that sitting on our hands. Use them to get to the polls, cast your ballot, and then keep raising your voice. Keep fighting for things you believe in. Keep volunteering in your community. Keep standing up. Keep demanding to be counted. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep striving. Keep going. You and your vote matter!

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