In 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.
My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.
I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.
Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.
I read with interest your memorial pieces on Nelson Mandela.
There were various metaphors and comparisons to angels, to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but little discussion of the reality of this complex political figure who was on USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008! Don’t get me wrong, I’m am a great admirer of Mr. Mandela and in fact the international plea for his release from prison was the start of my very long career as an Amnesty International Urgent Action writer.
But let’s not forget that Mr Mandela’s incarceration was lengthened due to his unwillingness to renounce violence as a means for gaining his people’s emancipation, and his unwillingness to denounce those committed to this cause who felt violence was indeed their only recourse.
As a pacifist I feel conflicted with this stand as indeed non-violent resistance yielded no result for this cause and it would seem they were right that the Afrikaner minority and international community only noticed their actions when they turned violent and when the rightful rulers of South Africa governed from behind the bars at Robben Island.
I think it was Homer who pled “Paint me with all my warts!”. I feel we do not honour Mr Mandela’s memory by glossing over his warts, and the gravity, the reality of his life and work.
Reposting from July 2013:
Our world seems on the cusp of losing a genuine hero for the ages, Nelson Mandela.
The word hero gets overused a lot but never when applied Mr Mandela, who looks like Morgan Freeman playing God after God has decided to stick around and live among the mortals.
Muhammad Ali famously dismissed achieving the impossible saying “Impossible is nothing.” Nelson Mandela has exemplified that statement throughout his life and continues to do so.
I first heard of this man when I was 20 years old and had the privilege to spend several days in South Africa in 1983. Apartheid, legalized racial discrimination against blacks, was embedded in the nation’s legal system. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and in poor health. We were taught at the time that he would almost certainly die in prison.
But he didn’t.
Several years later celebrating his 70th birthday while still in prison, Nelson Mandela rallied his people. He became a symbol of patient and peaceful persistence against injustice and a symbol of inspiration much like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had become resisting injustices in their own countries just decades earlier.
Shortly after that, even though struggling with tuberculosis, Nelson Mandela emerged from prison a free man who not only lived but lived to become the president of his country (and the first black office holder in South African history). Ironically, his country had imprisoned him years earlier for resisting its laws and committing treason and sedition in defying Apartheid in Mandela’s youth. As president Mandela went on to remove the yoke of Apartheid from his country and for all of South Africa’s people.
And today—nearly 30 years after I first heard Mandela’s name whispered as a ghost in the failed resistance to South Africa’s Apartheid policy, he is a living embodiment of everything that was impossible then ….and that his most ardent supporters had stopped believing could ever happen.
How does that happen?
How does a man physically weak, legally incarcerated, politically written off, sick with a potentially fatal malady and aging into his 70s not give up?
How does that same man emerge in his twilight years and become arguably an even more successful South African version of our nation’s Abraham Lincoln?
I don’t know.
Except that’s the kind of things that real heroes do…..and real heroes are as rare as they are extraordinary. And it’s worth pointing out that one is still alive and in our midst. Although sadly, perhaps not for much longer. But he’s here now.
And we are blessed to be able to acknowledge him, again, while he is still alive. And thank him for teaching us that impossible isn’t always as difficult to overcome as it seems.
When I look back on my time spent in the fitness industry, I feel like I have lived several lifetimes. I have been blessed with opportunities that most would die for. I am greatly humbled by all my experience in the fitness industry but my recent endeavor tops anything I ever imagined I would accomplish. To be considered one of the best in the world in anything is extraordinary but to do it in an arena you are so in love with, makes your life. Let me recap the past several months…
On August 2nd I received an email stating I was a finalist for the 2013 Life Fitness Global Personal Trainers to Watch competition. Out of nearly 1600 entries in 43 countries, they selected a country boy from Lexington, KY as one of the top 10 best trainers on the planet. My breath was taken away. I nearly cried in the gym. After being told of the sale of Urban Active just 10 months earlier my life had taken a roller coaster ride. My love was taken away from me, the place that I felt like I helped build was gone and I needed to move on. This news was what I needed and I couldn’t have been happier.
After a long 20 days we were allowed to tell friends, family and the social media world. The outpouring of support was incredible. It really showed me how much I had made a difference in people’s lives and made me very happy that they were following me and cheering me on. I felt like I had already won. Regardless of the decision that would come a month later, this kid from Kentucky had made his mark on so many people and that made this honor a victory before the competition started.
Heading into the competition in England, I wanted to be as prepared as I could. I had clients throw different scenarios at me to test how quick I could act on my feet, something I would have to do when I got to England. I also read everyday to stay abreast of all the great new information that is imputed everyday. I was ready for this challenge and I welcomed it. With the support of everyone as felt like I could put the world on my shoulders and run with it, this was my finest accomplishment.
Having never ventured outside the United States before, I had some apprehension on traveling internationally. But I am thankful I have several clients who have traveled abroad and they reassured me everything would be ok once I touched down in the United Kingdom. And as promised, when I made that long journey across “the pond” everything turned out great.
I arrived in London, England after an all night flight with no rest but with two things in mind, listen and learn. As much as I wanted to enjoy the country, I wanted to compete and learn from the best in the world. This was about the art form I had learned 10 years ago and putting my talents up against 9 other people from around the globe and learning as much as I could from them. I did do some sight seeing in St. Albans, England, the eldest city in the United Kingdom that dates back to the Roman Empire. The town was quaint, quiet and very nice. It’s history was rich but the time I took to tour, all I could think about was what the next day would present.
As expected, the competition day will go down as my most proud moment of my career on a personal level. To represent my clients, trainers, family and my country meant everything to me. Also as expected, the caliber of trainers that were selected were the very best. We were the top 10 on planet Earth in something we had devoted our lives to and was so passionate about. There is nothing better than that feeling. In accordance with competition, we were paired with a volunteer client to train. And not only did we have to train a stranger on the spot but train them for 15 minutes and do it in front of an audience of 50 in the gym and countless live on the Internet. This brought my best out, I loved it. After 31 years on this Earth, this was what I lived for. When my time came for me to train, I wanted to bring the house down.
I met my client, Newal, at lunch and was so impressed with him. At 64, he worked out everyday, kept his stress low and legitimately enjoyed life. He had climbed Mount Everest, been on several safaris and wanted to live as long as he could. Upon meeting me, he told me to bring it! I told him to be careful what he wished for. When our time came to train, we tore the house down. At 64, Newal was in better shape than most half his age. He beautifully executed all the exercises I gave him with zero rest, he was out performing his own best efforts and making me look great It was poetry in motion and I owe it all to him. He rose to the occasion for me to show my best material on a worldwide stage. After we were finished I knew we had done something special. Now just needed to wait for the judges verdict.
In the end this competition had nothing to do with winning or losing, it was about celebrating our achievements and contributions to an industry that needs more of us. I feel as if we all won, on our way to being the absolute best in the world. I appreciate my 9 new found friends and their approach to fitness, we are all different yet all the same. The common denominator being our quest to be the best in an industry we love so much. My life is forever changed by this experience. Thank you Life Fitness, all my family and friends and my clients, this was for you.
Recovering politician, and former Missouri State Representative Jason Grill, talked about the government shutdown, on The Mitch Albom Show.
Click here to download the podcast.
Click here to learn more about (and invest in) Jason’s latest venture, Sock 101.
Q: Here’s my problem: I’m secretly dating someone who works on an opposing campaign. I know what you’re thinking: This is like something out of a movie, or like James Carville and Mary Matalin. But we’re just two people who really like each other and don’t want to let the campaign get in the way of a blossoming relationship. Is this too scandalous? Should we take a break, or do you think we can survive it?
—Juliet (obviously not my real name!)
Yes, “Juliet,” something about your question suggested that might not be your real name, though I appreciate the clarification. As for you and your star-crossed lover, your situation does sound a bit like a movie—the dreadful 1992 Michael Keaton vehicle Speechless.
Forgive my tone, Juliet, but, really, chill. By today’s standards, what you’re doing isn’t very scandalous, unless of course you’re leaking poll numbers and television ad scripts. In fact, someone else on your campaign is probably hooking up with someone on an opposing campaign as well. Politics is a small and horny world. So go ahead and date—quietly for now if you prefer, but openly if you like. Assuming that your boyfriend on the other campaign isn’t a 15 year-old intern, I’d suggest that this cycle’s candidates have rendered your love life rather quaint.
Q: Did you see the Washington Post article about the longtime Hillary Clinton aide getting mixed up in shenanigans during the 2008 campaign where she appears to have coordinated a so-called independent expenditure on behalf of the campaign? It reminds me of what you got in trouble for. What’s the difference, and what do you think will happen to her?
—M.E, Washington, D.C.
Well, one big difference is about $600,000 (the expenditure in question was nearly $609,000, whereas the expenditure during my 2004 race was approximately $10,000). A second difference is that—at least according to the Post article—the Clinton aide in question, unfortunately, allegedly put some things in writing, unlike my campaign aides who met with an outside consultant. But the biggest apparent difference is that none of her closest friends wore a wire and got her to talk, so it may be possible for her to explain away alleged emails that strongly suggest illegal coordination but leave some ambiguity. “I was merely providing Sen. Clinton’s campaign schedule for an old associate who wanted to invite friends to some events,” she might say; or “I provided information about our field operations to an associate who said he knew some willing campaign helpers, but I had no idea he was planning any sort of independent expenditure.” I should stress that I’m not accusing anyone of a crime here but speculating about possible defenses. Given the woman’s status as a longtime Clinton aide and the high stakes as Hillary contemplates 2016, I’d expect she’s receiving top-flight legal advice. The outcome is difficult to predict without seeing the actual emails, but it will sure be interesting to watch it unfold.
Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Do As I Say — A Political Advice Column
Given that not a single Democratic voice has surfaced in favor of bending on the House GOP’s demand of a moratorium on the health care law, and since it is unlikely that the House would accept the one remotely plausible counter-offer of a one year delay of the individual mandate, the government shutdown is about to commence.
Whether that eventuality proves to be a blunder that thwarts the recovery and casts Republicans as intransigent extremists is a gamble I would rather Republicans not run. I’m in the camp that fears that shutdown politics will be costly for the party, from Virginia’s November races to the Senate fight in 2014. But even when the crisis eventually resolves, likely through some Senate procedural device that bypasses or outwits the House, the more meaningful dilemma is that the right’s path to brinksmanship has not really been countered by any articulate, influential conservative voice.
The case against the Ted Cruz putsch has been advanced in Republican circles, to be sure, but largely in the context of either the Wall Street fallout or disdain for Cruz’s leveraging of the defund Obamacare strategy to elevate his presidential ambitions. Missing is an alternative, conservative anchored vision of what the political right might more constructively be doing to advance its agenda.
What would such a message sound like? It might, for example, point out that Republicans are sacrificing one of the most principled critiques of the Democratic maneuvers on Obamacare: that the process of passing the law circumvented congressional rules and fed the public’s cynicism about congressional responsiveness to public sentiment. The defund movement’s tactics—risking a government stoppage that every poll suggests is deeply unpopular and seeking to effect a dramatic policy shift without anything resembling the normal process for repealing legislation—resembles too closely the Democrats’ insistence on driving through a healthcare overhaul in the face of broad opposition, through a parliamentary slight-of hand that effectively imposed one congressional chamber’s prerogatives on the other.
Read the rest of…
Artur Davis: Where Is the Right’s Answer to Ted Cruz?
Our very own personal fitness advisor, Josh Bowen, is getting some big press for being named one of the ten top personal trainers in the world.
Check out an excerpt from today’s story in the Lexington Herald-Leader:
After 10 years in the business, personal trainer Josh Bowen is accustomed to meeting strangers and tailoring a fitness program to their goals.
But his comfort zone will be challenged this week in England, where he’ll be competing in a contest that will judge his abilities.
Bowen is a finalist in the Life Fitness Personal Trainers to Watch competition, which will be Friday in London. Ten personal trainers will be judged on their abilities to motivate, praise and collaborate with a client. The winner receives $5,000 and bragging rights.
Some 1,500 applicants from 43 countries applied to take part in the competition.
Bowen, 31, said that when potential customers approach him, “I have to quickly try to make a relationship with them, draw out their goals and nutrition, and then I show them what I do. I’m used to doing that on the fly — that doesn’t intimidate me at all — but I really don’t know what to expect (in London). I don’t know who I’m going to be training.”
Nevertheless, Bowen said, he is confident and ready.
“If there’s anything I’m going to compete in, this would be it. That’s not to say I’m going in cocky, but I have a confidence about myself,” he said.
Another fan of Bowen is former state treasurer Jonathan Miller, whose Recovering Politician publishing company will print Bowen’s book, The 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom, in January.
“There are 12 steps every body needs to get results from fitness,” Bowen said. “It goes through all the things I would go through with a client. I can touch more people that way.”
Bowen has been Miller’s personal trainer for years and has helped Miller with “middle-age maladies” like lower back pain.
“He really has a holistic approach to personal training,” Miller said. “It’s not just going to the gym to lift weights. (In the book) he’s able to combine all those things into something the average reader can grasp.”
Click here for the full story.
A note on Twerking.
Twerking, a word I was unfamiliar with until last week, is now officially part of the Oxford English Dictionary.
OK. Fine. It’s now officially a word. But before you start to think Twerking is something worthy of a week near the top of the news, think about it this way.
What if you or someone you know well became an accomplished Twerker?
What if you or someone you know then became a very distinguished Twerker?
And then what if, after several more years of training and practice, you or someone you know became the Best Twerker in the World?
Would it really have been worth it? Or would you have been better off…..I dunno….doing something, like, well, other than Twerking? Even if it isn’t a word in the Oxford English Dictionary.
John Y. Brown, Sr. and Ed Pritchard
In 1984, Vic Hellard, longtime director of the Legislative Research Commission and Kentucky historian, conducted a much anticipated oral history with the “Sage of Kentucky Politics,” Edward F Pritchard. Pritchard, came onto the Kentucky political scene like a meteorite—a wunderkind from Paris, Kentucky who went to Princeton and then Harvard Law and later became part of FDR’s “Brain Trust” before falling from grace, in Shakespearian-like manner, for stuffing the ballot boxes and going to federal prison.
The boy wonder who many thought early in his career could have been a Kentucky governor, US Senator or even Supreme Court Justice, slowly re-emerged as a behind the scenes force in Kentucky politics as an advisor to governors, trusted commentator, and a singular force as an advocate for improving education that culminated in the creation of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, which helped usher in Kentucky’s landmark education reform. He ended his life on almost as high a note as he had begun in his early career.
“Pritch” as he was affectionately called by those who knew him well, had paid his dues for his earlier excesses and political peccadillos. In his later years the rehabilitated and wiser Pritch was subdued by the humility that escaped him in his youth and hardened by the realities of the limitations of a world he once believed he was destined to leave an even greater mark on—but still managed to leave a profoundly important legacy on nonetheless. And to stand out as one of last century’s most fascinating and important political characters. Just not in the way he had originally desired or planned….but, in retrospect, perhaps the best and most fitting legacy for his personality and capabilities. Life seems often to work out that way. For all of us. Even those of us bestowed with the rarified talents of an Edward F Prichard.
When I first heard about the oral history in the mid 1980s, I called UK to try to get my hands on them. I wanted to hear the history of our state and nation from the lips of the pedagogical and pugnacious pundit who I marveled at as a young man. Pritch was a sort of intellectual hero to me. And, secretly, I also wanted to see what, if anything, he had to say about my grandfather, John Young Brown Sr, who was Pritch’s contemporary. How did this fabled hero assess my own flesh and blood?
Unfortunately, the tapes were embargoed until Pritch’s death for reasons that had been worked out with the University of Kentucky. Later the interviews came out in a Digital Collection and I found them fascinating. And found a brief description of Pritch’s take on my grandfather (see below).
Pritch’s comments about my granddad were, more or less, about what I expected. The praise wasn’t as glorious as I had hoped; and the criticisms weren’t as disappointing as I had feared. It was good enough….and in the scheme of things, put in its proper perspective, something to be proud of and grateful for. Life seems often to work out that way.
“Vic Hellard: And what were your— what’s your opinion of John Y. Brown Sr.? Has that changed over the years or—
Edward F Prichard: No. I’ll never forget the first time, did I tell you the first time I ever met him, when he came to our school and gave a chapel speech, and I was just dazzled by him, eloquent, full of force, and I— I just thought he was marvelous. And I’ve followed him ever since with interest. I’ve sometimes been for him, sometimes not. We’ve been good personal friends, always.
Vic Hellard: Is there— how about—
Edward F Prichard: He’s even been a benefactor, but I think that he has some tendencies to be a demagogue. He is not a profound intellect. He has a good command of language, a good command— good presence as a speaker.
As he’s got older, he’s tended to be a bit garrulous. He has a big ego. But I think he’s, in his way, he’s always been for the common man and the little man. Naturally, he has a weakness for his own son. Who wouldn’t?
There’s a certain element of casuistry in his makeup, rationalization.
But by and large he’s been for more good things in Kentucky than he has bad things. He’s sponsored a lot of progressive legislation. He has been a strong defender of the working man, of the people that needed help.
As I say, there’s some foolishness about him, some, a lot of ego. But on the whole, this is a better state than would have been if we hadn’t had him.”
A final footnote: Several months before my grandfather died, we had dinner together at the Cracker Barrel in Lexington. I was 21 and he was 84. I asked him specifically “What was Ed Prichard like?” I honestly can’t remember the details of what he told me. Maybe it will come back to me. It was a kind and warm and respectful comment from my grandfather about Pritch…. but also somewhat lackluster and not reverential, as I had expected.
The heroes we have when we are young are almost always seen in more pedestrian terms than we hoped and expected by those who knew them as their contemporaries and who worked alongside them. Maybe the only thing that distinguishes heroes from mere mortals is time spent in their presence. But heroes are still, in the scheme of things and put in their proper perspective, something to be proud of and grateful for. And sometimes as we seek them out we find out that our real heroes are those much closer to us in proximity. Like our own flesh and blood grandfather. Life seems often to work out that way, too. As it did here, for me.