Memorial Day: Time to Remember, Never Forget

By Jackie Cushman


Published on

Tomorrow our nation will celebrate Memorial Day. For many, Memorial Day weekend is a time to mark the end of school and the beginning of summer.  Time, finally, to sleep in.

But this weekend marks more that just a transition of seasons. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor all those who have died in American wars, a total that the Department of Veterans Affairs puts at more than 1.1 million, Our nation's practice of honoring our war dead started after the Civil War. After World War I, all soldiers who had died in all American wars were recognized.

The practice is centuries old. Pericles, the Athenian leader, noted "Not only are they commemorated by column and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men." This tribute was given to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War more than four centuries before Christ was born.

All those who serve in the military are prepared to give their lives for our country. They are the armor and the heart of our nation.  We should honor them not only through memorials, flags at half-staff, parades and ceremonies, but by remembering the purpose of their sacrifice, to protect and defend our freedom.

My grandfather was a career army officer who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He never spoke to me about serving in combat, but I knew he was a soldier and protected our country, and me. As is the case with most soldiers, he was posted throughout the world during his army career.  As a result, my father counts France, Kansas and Germany among the places he grew up. He often cites his visit, at age 15, to the battlefield of Verdun, where a quarter million people died, and a million wounded, as a turning point in his life, and recently wrote about the impact of this visit. My dad was a career army officer, and it's no exaggeration to say that he is responsible for the path I've taken in my life. When I was fifteen, Dad took me to visit the battlefield at Verdun, in France. It was the bloodiest battle of World War I, one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century. As I came to understand the tremendous destructiveness of the battle -- and the distinct possibility that its outcome could have been different -- I knew that I would devote the rest of my life to standing between civilization and the madness of places like Verdun.

This year has included many transitions and changes in our nation's life. Hamilton Jordan, who helped President Carter get elected, died this month. In February, William Buckley, who made conservatism respectable and intellectually appealing in the 1960's, died. Both men loved their country and spent their lives serving their country.  Senator Ted Kennedy, who has served in the Senate since before I was born, was diagnosed this past week with a malignant brain tumor. These events remind us that we are all mortal. While we are not all called to serve our country through serving in the armed forces or in the political arena, we all can better our country through the way we live our lives. With freedom comes responsibility, responsibility to ensure that our freedom is maintained. Freedom is never free, but comes at a cost of lives, of time, of effort and of responsibility.

While we can never truly repay those who protected our county and our freedom through their ultimate sacrifice, we can honor them not only by thanking them and remembering them, but by ensuring that we are worthy of their sacrifice.

Why is our nation worthy of sacrifice?  And how can we ensure that our nation remains worthy? How can we, as American people, remain worthy of the ultimate sacrifice? The first question is answered by men and women brave enough to serve in our armed services.  The second is to be answered by the American public, the citizens of this great nation.  The third question is for each of us to ask ourselves. Are you living a life worth a soldier's ultimate sacrifice? How is our nation different from others? The Declaration of Independence holds the answer.bWe hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. In my mind, a grand experiment worth sacrifice and effort.

This year on Memorial Day, spend a moment remembering the military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety and freedom.

After Memorial Day is over and you go back to work, dedicate yourself to making their sacrifice worthwhile. Take an interest and get involved in what it means to be an American. Help others understand the importance being an American and living out the American dream.  We have life and liberty and must guard them both, but we are only provided the opportunity to pursue happiness, not happiness itself. Whether or not you achieve happiness is up to you, and not the responsibility of our government.

To quote President John F. Kennedy, Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Once we are all gone, what will our legacy be? A nation that is more free, and more prosperous because of our work and our effort? Or a nation that is faltering due to government efforts to make people happy rather than simply providing us with the liberty to pursue our happiness?

While you might be tempted to leave politics to others, that would be a dangerous tactic. As Pericles said, just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved.

Celebrating Success

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

This past week, I joined 34 students in Fairburn, Georgia for a ceremony celebrating their completion of the Learn and Earn pilot program in math and science. For 15 weeks, these students in the Fulton County School System had been participating in after-school tutorial sessions conducted by the Learning Makes a Difference (LMD) Foundation, which I helped found in 2006. This assistance could not have come too soon for these students who, prior to their involvement in the program, had been struggling with a C or lower in these courses.

There was much to celebrate. All 34 of these participants have improved their scores in math and science. The students cheered for each other as they came up to the front of the media center at Creekside High School to be recognized. It was exciting to see their support and encouragement for each other as well as the value they place on academic achievement.

The stories I heard during the event were inspiring. A teacher related how one student who initially sat in the tutoring session, book closed, not interested or involved is now actively engaged in learning math. The teachers told stories of participating students who had been contemplating dropping out of school, but who are now determined to graduate. Several parents approached me at the end of the celebration and told me that the program had turned their child around.

It is thrilling to be involved in a program that provides students with the opportunity to realize their potential. About eight weeks into the program, one student told me, I was failing  The key word in the sentence is was. He is now passing math. He believes he can succeed and is excited about learning. In addition, he has saved money earned in the Learn and Earn program for his college fund. To see his face light up as he talks about his grades is a beautiful sight.

Some might ask, why Learn and Earn? My question is, what other ideas should we try? As a nation, we are falling behind other counties in math and science education. The 2001 Hart-Rudman Commission identified the nation's failure in math and science education as the second-biggest threat to our national security.

In addition, students are dropping out of school at alarming rates. "Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytical Report on High School Graduation," by Christopher B. Swanson, Ph.D, in 2008 reports nationwide high school graduation rates at only 69.9 percent. Georgia lags even that, with a graduation rate of 56 percent. The Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) states, “Each year over 59,300 students in Georgia do not graduate.”  The cost to Georgia? More than $15.4 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over the lifetimes of the 2007 dropouts alone.

This affects the student even more than it affects society. In his piece, Learning and Earning, Christopher Swanson, (Education Week, June 12, 2007) reported that, on average, students who graduate from high school with no further education earn 42 percent more than those who do not graduate. Clearly, it is in the students' best interest to graduate from high school, even if they go no further.

The Learn and Earn, program is funded by Aaron Rents founder and CEO Charlie Loudermilk, through the LMD Foundation, and championed by Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts. It replicates what many parents do by providing incentives for academic performance.

Learn and Earn's key components include:

Focusing on students who were underperforming in math and science

Providing incentives for students to earn up to $8 per hour for participating in after-school sessions two hours, twice per week

Tying incentive pay to student performance

Providing master instructors as tutors

Keeping the instructor:student ratios near 1 to 10

Using independent third parties to evaluate results

As one of the instructors noted, the cash was the incentive that hooked the students into participating, but it was the student/ teacher interaction that motivated them to stay and learn.

The Learning Makes a Difference Foundation, which focuses on innovative learning programs, tries ideas that others won't. It acts as an incubator of ideas, creating, implementing, and testing new initiatives and partnering with existing non-profits to implement proven ideas. Â With large foundations focusing on proven programs, the LMD Foundation functions as a venture non-profit, funding pilot programs that include results tracking. The LMD Foundation is funded by corporations, individuals and foundations. The statistical report by EmStar Research regarding the Learn and Earn pilot will be completed this summer and available on

I have a few takeaways from this pilot program:

1)While public schools often get bad press, there are numerous teachers and administrators who are dedicated and impassioned to help students learn. It was a pleasure to work with people who are enthusiastic about education.

2) With incentives, support and encouragement, students who were underperforming can become engaged, impassioned and excited about learning and improving their academic scores.

3)  Having a group structure helps. The students bonded and encouraged each other, and as a teacher related, often learned from one another. The experiment generated enormous interest and some disagreement over how best to motivate students to learn. This is a needed discussion. We often look for system-wide answers to the education problem, and forget that students learn from teachers, not systems. Since every student is different, it is unlikely that any one program will meet all students' needs.

The final report on Learn and Earn is not yet written, and we don't expect it to be the answer, but it is a building block towards answering the question: how do we create desire, motivation and engagement among students so they are eager to learn?

That is a question worth asking, and trying to answer.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

A Not So Perfect Mother

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908 in Grafton, W. Va., and Philadelphia, Pa. Anna Jarvis was the driving force behind the creation of Mother's Day, driven by the desire to honor her deceased mother. After Jarvis waged a two-year letter-writing campaign, Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother's day in 1914. There are more than 82 million mothers in the United States. Mothers with children under the age of 18 represent 46 percent of them, or almost 38 million mothers. Wow, that's a lot of mothers. I became one of those mothers eight and half years ago.

Since then, Mother's Day has gained additional meaning for me. First, it was a day for my husband to thank me for mothering our child. More recently, it has become a day for our children to express their love for me. It is a day of great anticipation and excitement.

The daily activities of mothering have changed, now that both of my children are in grammar school. While they were infants and toddlers, my mothering focused on taking care of them physically, bathing and dressing them, putting on their shoes. My mothering has transitioned to offering them emotional support, providing structure and discipline.

This past week has been filled with a flurry of activity in preparation for the end of the school year. It seems as if the events and activities increase exponentially when the end is in sight. Possibly it is a plan by the teachers, school administrators and after-school coaches to wean us mothers from the school year, when our children are gone for 7 hours a day, and prepare us for summer, when they never leave our side. But I am just hoping that I make it to summer.

So far this week, I have missed Robert, my kindergartner, taking cards in for his teachers (he took them in two days late). Maggie, my second-grade daughter, took in flowers for her teacher two days early. I totally missed out on Maggie's ballet observation day this week, (though, in my defense, I had just attended her recital two weeks prior), and forgot about providing snacks to the kindergarten class, (thank goodness they had extra on hand), but sent in a supply for Friday.

Still, I was not a total failure. This same week, I attended a lunch at school, watched a French performance, went to field day opening activities, read aloud to the class, purchased shorts logoed with the school mascot for the children to wear for field day, turned in the paperwork to enroll my children in classes for next year and washed their logoed school clothes overnight so they could wear them for the second consecutive day of field day. Maggie is taking in a second flower for her teacher on the correct day, but it did come out a vase of flowers that was in our home.

At first, I was a bit caught up in the few activities that I had overlooked, missed or gotten wrong, but then I realized that if I had been playing in the major leagues, I would be commanding quite a salary for my batting score. So, I decided to look at these misses as learning opportunities for my children and for myself.

As my sister noted to me earlier this week, "No one leads a perfect life, and even little Robert should know this too shall pass with no harm done." The love for one's children is so intense that it is easy to become consumed with making their lives perfect, and perfectly happy. While initially this might seem to be our job as parents, we need to remember that we do not live in a perfect world, and part of our jobs is to prepare our children for life in the real world. Teaching them to enjoy life as it comes, and to be able to create opportunities out of mishaps and to continually look on the bright side.

They learn the most from watching others, so be kind to yourself, understand that perfection does not happen, and that others are watching how you react to failure, and will then incorporate those reactions into their lives.

Possibly, if my children can learn to love me when I am not perfect, they will understand that I will love them when they are not perfect. And, that while perfection might be a good goal, it can never be reached. Life goes on so enjoy the near-perfect moments.

P.S. Happy Mother's day Mom.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

How the Presidential Candidates Can Make it all Great in '08- Bon Jovi Style

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

If you happened to be in Philips arena last week, you might have seen me at the Bon Jovi concert. I was one of a group of eight women walking around in pink Bon Jovi T-shirts. Yes, we did draw quite a few stares, and I did catch one lady pointing us out to her friend. Luckily, being stared at a bit does not bother me much. Normally, I don't listen to Bon Jovi's songs, but wow - is lead singer Jon Bon Jovi a great performer. He gives his all - and the audience reacts. Here is what I learned from watching Jon Bon Jovi and his band and I suggest the presidential candidates might want to take a few notes:

1) If You have a Crowd - Merchandise. According to the Ticketmaster Web site, the maximum seating capacity at Philips arena for a concert with floor seating is 21,000. Now I am not sure if the arena was full, but it was at least close to full. When we walked past the entrance doors, we were confronted by merchandise front and center, T - shirts, shorts and tattoos. Tip - Once you have a crowd, make sure you have a way for them to transfer their cash to your campaign.

2) Be the Man (or the Woman), Jon Bon Jovi has been married to the same woman for decades, and they have four children but, though he's well into middle age at 46, he looks the part of a rock star: tight pants, unbuttoned vest, great shape. In addition, his body movements and confidence exude "rock star." Tip - want to be president - be presidential.

3) Repetition is Good - keep using the old material that people love. Bon Jovi opened with classics, some of which dredged up decades-old memories. The gray haired couple ½ way back on the floor never sat down. They loved the oldies and it showed.Tip - Repetition, repetition, repetition.

4) Get the Crowd Involved in the Act. Each time Jon Bon Jovi or guitarist/songwriter Richie Sambora asked the crowd to sing, both men walked to the sides of the stage, as if they were opening center stage to the crowd. At one point, Jon Bon Jovi disappeared for a few minutes, reappearing in the middle of the audience, singing his heart out, in a different outfit. On his way back to the stage, he shook as many hands as he could. The crowd LOVED it. Tip - get the crowd involved, and shake EVERY hand you can.

5) Use Other People's Material - Original material is always good, but if it's a classic and you can sing it just as well - have at it. When the band broke into their rendition of the Isley Brothers song "Shout," the whole crowd began jumping with them.Tip Steal liberally, just give credit.

6) Keep a Strong Number 2 - Sambora has loads of talent and a great fan base. In addition, he is physically bigger than Jon Bon Jovi. Sharing the spotlight with a talented colleague makes Jon Bon Jovi even more of a star.Tip - if you have to diminish the second in line you're not really a star.

7) Know When to Close - Of course, they came back for an encore, what did you expect? But the encores did not last forever. The fun was had, the performance was done, it was time to go home. Tip - Leave them wanting more.

8) Say Thank You - At the end of the night, the entire band walked to the front of the stage, thanked the audience and bowed. They conveyed a sense of gratitude to the audience for joining them rather than a request for more clapping.Tip - People took time out of their day to spend it with you. They had other options. Thank them appropriately and NEVER take them for granted, or they will stop showing up. While the presidential candidates may learn valuable lessons from the rock stars' performance, they need not fear the competition. According to "Politicians of All Stripes Join the Line for Bon Jovi," (New York Times, December 26, 2007) Jon Bon Jovi dismissed rumors that he might possibly run for office, recalling "a conversation with former President Bill Clinton about two years ago."

The two were on a flight to Maryland for a day of horse racing at Pimlico with some friends when someone asked them to compare occupations. "He said Mr. President, which is better, your job or Jon's? I said, ˜I know the answer to that. Mine, because I get to keep the airplane and the house. " Well, the only thing I kept was the $60 pink t-shirt and the $2 tattoo, which should come off with one more shower, but learning these takeaways was pure fun.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Right Reserved.

Interesting Articles, Sunday April 27, 2008




Home Brew for the Car, Not the Beer Cup

Making fuel in your backyard for under $1 per gallon New York Times, April 20, 2008 ACT: Walk the Walk - Interesting information on impact of walking more - references researcher who suggests that $1 higher per gallon of gas might lead to a reduction of obesity by 9% Cool video of a Subterranean Japanese bike-parking robot. A quick column of why to be optimistic during a recession - good basic information Optimism in a Recession

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