Monday, December 24, 2007

The Greatest Gift

By Laura Ingraham

Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young — they’re both 21 — with big smiles on their faces, and obviously wildly in love. “That’s what he looked like,” she said with a somber face, “He was such a cutie-pie, always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq.” Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike as he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple.

“This is my Mike now,” she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. “That’s my guy,” she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love.

As I met Megan, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead, and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process.

How can we comprehend this level of evil, and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, and raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, “I’ll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas.” They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded. In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice — sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news — or at least hoping to be spared more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to “normal life.” Yet the families of our most seriously injured troops know they face a “new normal,” one that is much different from the normal life they knew before.

As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season — and to make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and... yes, let’s try for some peace on earth. Let’s also remember the military families and our wounded heroes, who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center, and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush anxiously around because we “haven’t found the perfect gift” for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be put under a tree: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report.

They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Final Post of 2007!

This semester has gone by so quick. I have decided to give extra credit to all who were in attendance at the debate party at ESU#3. This will count as the 10 extra credit points for blogging for this unit. Thanks for going and you did it without even knowing you were getting anything for it.

As for the test, it will be given on Wednesday, instead of Tuesday, due to a rescheduled pep rally on Tuesday. As a result, I will probably not get your final grades to you prior to your last day. You may email me or check the online grades over break.

Finally, If you have any comments or suggestions about this class, please feel free to send me an email or post a comment. Also, you are more than welcome to jump in and blog even if you are not in this class anymore. Good luck as you continue your preparation for the future!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who Would You Give To?

Nebraska lotto winner giving gift to homeless shelter guests

One of the eight Nebraskans who won the February 2006 Powerball jackpot, Alain Maboussou, is giving a $40 Target store gift card to each guest of the Siena Francis House homeless shelter.

Siena Francis House staff will distribute the gift cards to guests of the shelter, and will also provide transportation to the Crossroads Mall’s Target store Wednesday morning to allow them to do Christmas shopping, the Siena Francis House said today .

“This is an extraordinarily generous gift by Mr. Maboussou," Siena Francis House Executive Director Mike Saklar said. "On behalf of Siena Francis House guests, we are very grateful to him for helping our shelter care for those who come to us in need.”

Posted at the Request of Michelle

Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Issue of the Week: Violence in the Media-Should Government Do More to Censor It?

Click here for a site explaining censorship.Violence in mass media, which encompasses television, film, video games and music, has long been a controversial issue in America. Since the popularization of television in the 1950s, a segment of the U.S. population challenged the broadcasting of violent images. The fundamental question at that time remains the same in the twenty-first century: What effects do violent images have on the nation's children? In the 1960s and 1970s, as media portrayals of violence increased, reactions against these images intensified and actions of censorship were demanded. This uproar incited an anticensorship movement as activists voiced their concerns about potential societal repression and loss of free speech. Despite various studies (dating from the 1960s and still being conducted today) that link aggressive behaviors with media violence, the entertainment industry consistently denies that violent images negatively impact children. In response to the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, the Clinton administration funded a Federal Trade Commission investigation into media violence. The FTC’s 2000 report, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children, concluded that the entertainment industry characteristically markets violent material to children under seventeen. Consequently, self-regulatory rules were enacted against the industry. In spite of the directives and subsequent changes to the industry, media violence continues to be a concern of mainstream U.S. society. This divisive issue continues to be debated among politicians, the media industry, advocates of federal restrictions on the media and opponents of these governmental controls.

Numerous studies, cited in such articles as Does Violence in the Media Cause Violent Behavior? and Link Between Media and Aggression Clear, Experts Say, have concluded that violence in the media has a detrimental effect on children’s behaviors, feelings and attitudes. Since the majority of people in America find fault with media violence, some feel that the entertainment industry should comply with these mainstream moral views. This viewpoint is elucidated in such articles as Media Violence: Ugly and Getting Uglier and It’s Time to Stop Training Our Kids to Kill. Others insist that the government sanction restrictions on violent media content. The articles Children, Violence, and the Media: A Report for Parents and Policy Makers and Violent Kids: Can We Solve the Problem? consider pros and cons of legislative action against violence in mass media.

Restricting the content of media raises free-speech concerns and is a censorship issue. Opponents of political control of media content feel that it is not the government’s place to make decisions about what is dangerous and or acceptable for the nation’s youth. In the article Violence, Games & Art, author Thom Gillespie suggests that “Media in all forms can move people to consider things they had not considered before. But media cannot take over a mind and make anyone do something he's not predisposed to do. Media are, at best, a nudge.” In The Columbine Tragedy: Countering the Hysteria, author Barbara Dority, president of Humanists of Washington, executive director of the Washington Coalition Against Censorship, and cochair of the Northwest Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force, argues that “terrorist know-how, complete with illustrated instructions for making bombs, is also frequently available in military manuals at surplus stores, as well as in numerous mail-order civilian manuals, which are available through some public libraries. Are proponents of censoring this information advocating that we somehow locate, remove, and destroy all these sources?” Author Daniel Koffler examines “the ridiculous jihad against video games” in Grand Theft Scapegoat.

Monday, December 3, 2007

You Tube Debate Reflection

After eleven years of teaching, I came into this school year with much anticipation about meeting new students and teaching a subject I enjoy teaching. I never would have guessed that a 50 point project would have led me to have second row seats at the CNN/You Tube Republican Presidential Debate in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I have this belief that, as a teacher, it is important to try different methods of reaching students. I believe it really keeps me fresh in my teaching. Sometimes these methods don't pan out exactly the way I would like and other times, end up in St. Pete.

I said to my wife many times throughout the debate, "Why are we here?" It seemed so unbelievable. I still truly don't understand why it happened. However, I can, without hesitation, say the odds of a teacher in Papillion, NE attending were not good. Isn't that so American?

The odds can be stacked against you and because of the great opportunity in this country great things can happen to anyone. I am not saying it is easy and often it requires a little fortune or luck, but it is possible! In some countries in the world and for a lot of the population in the world, hopelessness describes everyday life. As I was sitting in the Mahaffey Theatre chatting with Chuck (Norris) and Janet(Huckabee), we're on a first name basis, I was really struck with the thought that in America everyone is equal. No person is better than another, regardless of his or her station in life. Although the feeling of power was emanating throughout the arena, I felt just as important, if not more, than the many senators and representatives in attendance. Why?

Well, simply put two words...Chuck Norris! As these high powered big wigs sent their programs down the aisle to get Walker Texas Ranger's autograph, I was getting a video shout out for the Titans and a slap on the back from Chuck Norris. Not to mention, Mrs. Huckabee is videoing the whole thing and I was scared I was going to be tackled by the secret service. It truly was a special event.

I think we need a leader of this country that truly understands what it means to be real. Someone who can connect with average people. This person needs to be intelligent and well versed in many issues. That is why it is so important to start the process of choosing our next president in the Midwest. Iowa voters will have an opportunity to once again apply Midwestern values to the process of choosing a new president. I am not saying this should result in front runners Mike Huckabee or Barack Obama (both leading in Iowa at the time of this post) being selected per say, but I do believe we need to contemplate carefully the selection of the next president and what better place to start than in Iowa. Some say the process to become president takes too long and is too drawn out. I say the process should be difficult and lengthy. Too much is riding on the selection of this very important position and the Iowa Caucuses provides a very neighborly way of selecting this person. Let the fun begin!

So, do the You Tube debates lessen the seriousness of this process? Do snowmen and cartoon questions demean the Presidency? My answer is absolutely not. In my opinion, it gets our citizens interested again in the process. If it can get my students interested, with as busy of lives as many of them lead, it can get America interested again. If the young of our country fight our wars and grow our economy, it makes perfect sense that they should shape, in some small way, the process in which we select the leader of this nation. The only thing that would be demeaning about the You Tube Debate process would be if candidates refused to answer the questions of the people (most of them submitted by young Americans) of this great country. Let's not alienate the young because we aren't used to communicating this way. Let's allow them to get excited about the process, by letting them be able to shape the process. Isn't that why many of my students got together to watch this debate and posted over 7oo comments about it? It is not because it was assigned for them to watch, it is because it has become interesting to them and there was free Chex Mix at the party (never underestimate the power of food).

Finally, let's always remember that America is the land of opportunity and You Tube makes that opportunity available for all citizens to express themselves and have an impact, even people like my high school students living in little Ol' Papillion, Nebraska. Thank you, my students, for making this possible for me. I will never forget it. You all are the best.

By Mr. Keller