“The Official Sponsor of Birthdays”

morebirthdays_blogbadge3The American Cancer Society has branded its self, in part, as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.”  Here at the National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia we’ve known this was coming since December 2008 and many of us have anxiously awaited this launch with sealed lips. A new website, morebirthdays.com, went live yesterday and a few new ads were uploaded to YouTube.


So what is all of this about? For some people birthdays are a struggle. I have a family member who has been celebrating her 39th birthday for at least 15 years. Despite the challenges of aging, as we morph into something far different than a twenty year old body, I hope we can all agree that birthdays are a good thing. A very good thing. A birthday means you’re here. This may appear trivial, it’s no revelation, and I’m not saying anything new. What is important to know is that there is an organization that exists to ensure that you and I and everyone else continue to live healthily lives year after year.


Our vision is a world free of cancer. I’ve never worked for an organization that is as focused and driven to fulfill its mission than the American Cancer Society. From the epidemiologist here in Atlanta to our National Cancer Information Center in Austin, Texas the commitment to help people stay well and get well, by finding cures and fighting back is at the heart of everything we do. The same can be said for the volunteers and employees I’ve worked with across the nation. Their commitment is tangible.


I have found no other organization with the resources, knowledge, and skill that can compare to the American Cancer Society in this field of work. As a fully entrenched social networker I’ve been please to see that the Society has kept up with the new media of a web 2.0 world.  We’ve integrated ourselves with Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Second Life and we will continue to reach out where ever people are to share our resources and our message of hope.


Our sister organization The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington, D.C. has been successful working with lawmakers to fight against Big Tobacco in the United States. It was no coincidence that in his February 24, 2009 address to Congress President Obama called for health care reform to include a “new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time” (April is National Cancer Control Month, by the way).


Nor is it a coincidence that a Bill was passed by the US House of Representatives granting the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products”. These things don’t happen without the voice and support of the people, and many organizations are coming together to ensure that our voice, your voice, is heard.


Living a life free of cancer is something for everyone to celebrate. Eleven million cancer survivors are celebrating birthdays because of our progress. Countless others have avoided cancer for the same reasons. As the old saying goes “knowledge is power.” Knowing how to get well and stay well is priceless.


So… Now that my lunch hour is coming to an end, it’s time for me to get back to work.

The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

The Duty of Transparency

o_brawley

This morning I attended the annual all staff meeting at the American Cancer Society National Home Office in Atlanta, GA. Out of all the interesting information that was shared this morning Dr. Otis W. Brawley, our Chief Medical Officer, comments were the most profound:


When dealing with very complicated things our obligation to the American people is to say what is known, what is not known, and what is believed, and label things accordingly.

How much better would we be as a nation and as individuals if we could be as forthright to recognize and admit what is known, what is not known, what is believed, and label them accordingly in all aspects of life.

“Star Wars”- an A Cappella tribute to John Williams

If you’re not one of the 2 million plus people who have viewed this video by ApprenticeA (Cory Vidal) now is the time.

We need more attention getting, memorable content, like this at all levels of education.

Why we know less than ever about the world

I watched a brief yet revealing TED talk this morning by Public Radio International CEO, Alisa Miller, titled “Why we know less than ever about the world.” Sadly, American news media spends most of their resources focusing on myopic issues, like personal tragedies in the lives of pop stars, while ignoring the rest of the world. Watch this four minute and twenty nine second clip to see the statistics and hear Alisa Miller in her own words.


Note to news media: Next time you’re tempted to report on something relatively trivial, like an athlete turned actor running from police in his white Ford Bronco, chances are high that something of true importance, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, is happening at the same time. If you don’t tell us, how will we know?

“Let’s take a five minute break.”


These six words can invite chaos into the classroom. Whether you’re teaching online or in a more traditional setting, getting adults back to class after a five or ten minute break can be a challenge.

A few years ago I came up with a simple remedy. When it’s time to take a break I start a simple PowerPoint timer I created that counts down from five minutes to zero, accompanied by a song that is just under five minutes. Everyone can see how much time is remaining and when the music stops, people tend to find their seats.
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Here are links to five and ten minute versions:
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You’re welcome to use, share, or modify them, just don’t try and sell them. They are free for everyone. To start the timer open the presentation and click on the first slide. It’s that simple. If you want to add more slides for a longer break, remember that only the first slide is set to begin with a click.

Choosing the right song is up to you. I’ve used music by Vince GuaraldiHenry ManciniElizabeth Mitchell, and Big Audio Dynamite. Music is powerful messenger so choose carefully.
Regardless of whether you use music or not, see if these timers (Or others) can make a difference in getting people back in the room and focused on the content.

So you want to be a Parent? Read the Job Discription.

On the role of parents, A. Theodore Tuttle (1921 -1986) gets it right:

This decision to be parents means to put first the obligation to be baby-sitters, trainers, discipliners, supervisors, teachers, assigners, checker-uppers, planners, story-tellers, exemplars, and, in short, to be common, ordinary, garden variety, old-fashioned, on-the-job, full-time parents. It means that this responsibility as parents comes before social climbing, the newest in gadgets, or conspicuous consumption. It supersedes personal selfishness, propriety, pleasure, even a tidy house. It demands solemn and continual allegiance to a cause greater than self.

Fulfillment of this parental duty . . . requires a conscious decision to accept the responsibilities of this sacred obligation – the most sacred and far-reaching obligation assumed by two people.

Tuttle, A. Theodore, “And They Shall Also Teach Their Children,” Relief Society Magazine, July 1963, page 484-485.

Myanmar, China, and Charity.

Burmese

The stories of Myanmar and China will soon leave the media. Unfortunately we cannot rely on popular news outlets to keep us informed. Our media culture is suffering from cronic, industry wide, ADHD. Like hungry fish they are easy lured away, biting at anything shiny or new in a senseless game of catch and release.


Myanmar officials have raised the death toll to 78,000. The number will be higher tomorrow. If we are enabled to extend our hands to those who are suffering, what kind of creatures are we if we choose to stay our hands and sit on our wallets?


Here are two simple ways you can help those in need; make a donation to CARE International or to LDS Philanthropies.


CARE International accepts donations of $50.00 or more and 90% of your donations are allocated to community development and emergency relief worldwide.


LDS Philanthropies accepts donations of one dollar or more and 100% of your donation will be directed to emergency relief for either Myanmar or China. You can designate where you want the funds allocated.


Administrative costs are funded through other means allowing 100% of donor contributions to be directed to those in need. Although LDS Philanthropies is associated with a church, no proselyting is involved. Humanitarian relief is distributed to those in need without regard to race, gender, religion, political, or social affiliation.


Here is a link to an article explaining how both organizations have partnered with the UPS Foundation to deliver supplies to Myanmar.


Sometimes the suffering of the innocent can bring about a unity of heart. Now is the time to let the suffering of those in Myanmar and China bring greater unity to us all.