A Life Well Lived

The last week in August on a very hot evening, a group of Kindergarten parents gathered to attend a Back to School orientation by veteran teacher MaryAnne Mullaney and I was fortunate enough to be one of those in attendance.  Miss Mullaney is a bit of a legend within the community and certainly throughout our school.  With more than 30 years of teaching Kindergarten, Miss Mullaney knows 5 year olds and loves spending time with them.  Her enthusiasm is contagious.

 

My youngest child is now a student in her class and I am most grateful my other two children also benefited from being her students.  I debated going to the meeting given that I had already attended two Kindergarten orientations in years past, but I am quite glad I did.

 

The orientation began in the traditional way, but soon took on a different tone as Miss Mullaney let us know that her beloved mother was in the last stages of life having been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer just a few weeks earlier.  The way in which Miss Mullaney conveyed this information was surprising.  While her sadness was evident and she did tear up explaining this to us all, her overwhelming attitude continued to be upbeat. She explained her mother would be dying soon and was excited about it.  I’ve had a great deal of experience with death having lost loved ones to cancer and accidents, but had never heard anyone say they were excited about dying. Miss Mullaney explained her mother had enjoyed more than 80 years on earth and was looking forward to her time in heaven.  Miss Mullaney was confident that her mother’s death would be terribly sad, but explained that she knew her mother would always be with her. 

 

This level of strength and love continues to impress and inspire me. The grace and faith the Mullaney family demonstrates during this difficult time is amazing.

 

Today Mary (Pink) Mullaney’s obituary was published and it truly explains how one person lived life to its fullest.

 

What does living life to its fullest look like for you?

 

 

National Security Agency’s Collection of Phone Records Raises Many Questions

Today members of the Obama administration and lawmakers defended the secret National Security Agency’s collection of phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. According to the Washington Post article by Ellen Nakashima and Ed O’Keefe, “The program apparently has collected the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order.” The Guardian revealed this information on Wednesday.  The Department of Justice is now considering launching an investigation to learn where the leak came from.

All this sounds very alarming and raises several questions:

  • Why does the government need this information?
  • What happens to the records?
  • Is it legal?
  • Who approved it?

Many people are weighing in including Senator Diane Feinstein.  A CNN article quotes her as saying, “As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years.  This renewal is carried out by the FISA court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.” Many disagree with this defense, however. Even former Vice President Al Gore tweeted, “In a digital era, privacy must be a priority.  Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

Critical thinkers must ask all these questions and demand answers.

March to Congress–What Inspires Me

I want to run for U.S. Congress and provide real representation to the residents of Wisconsin’s 4th District.  My declaration often garners similar reactions.  First people say, “Good for you!” Then almost immediately afterwards say, “Why would you want to become part of a group of the most disliked people in America and subject yourself to relentless criticism?”

Most people feel that Congress is ineffective and more focused on self-preservation and partisanship than the good of America.  That is unacceptable.  I want to change that.  Public service is not about ego, but many of today’s politicians have forgotten their job is to serve. 

It’s that frustration with the political process that motivates me to run.  I’m aware of the challenges I face.  Fewer people are willing to run for office today.  They are unwilling to endure the rigors of a political campaign.  Yes, it is a challenge.  It’s true that this will be a long campaign. I will be subjected to scrutiny and open myself up for attacks. Those realities don’t diminish my desire to run and my determination to win. 

I feel called to serve because I know I can make a difference. Many things inspire me and chief among them is what President Theodore Roosevelt said in a speech he delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

I am entering the arena and plan to win. Your support is critical.  This will be a difficult race, but Gwen Moore must be defeated.  Will you contribute $15, $25, $50, $100 or more to my congressional exploratory committee?  Your generous donations will make it possible for me to officially declare my candidacy, create an official website, print signs and develop advertisements.  This is truly a grassroots initiative and your generous contributions will make you part of the team.  Please contribute today and thank you to those who have already contributed!

100 Years Ago Today

One hundred years ago today, more than 5,000 suffragists marched in Washington, DC to fight for women’s right to vote.  Women suffragists came from all parts of the country, multiple religions, ethnic groups and levels of socioeconomic status. They were united in their desire to fight for their rights.  The courage and tenacity of these women made it possible for women not only to vote, but for me to be able to run for U.S. Congress today.

Many of us (myself included) are frustrated with the political process, but now is not the time to stop working to make things better.  Let the frustration serve as a call to action.  We must require more of our political leaders and replace those who fail to serve their constituents. Rep. Gwen Moore must be defeated. I am the woman to do that and I need your help.  In honor of this momentous day, please consider supporting me in my own run for U.S. Congress.

Your donation of $10, $25, $50 or more will enable me to officially declare myself a candidate and fund this grassroots initiative to win the election.

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How to Run for Congress

On January 15, I launched my exploratory committee and I want to answer some of your questions.

Why run for Congress?

I have always been interested in politics and I’ve often considered a run for office a lifetime goal, but it was when our district was restructured and Rep. Gwen Moore won a fifth term that I decided to seriously consider my own run for Congress.

Like so many of you, I am frustrated with today’s political climate.  Congress seems more divided than ever. Issues such as the budget deficit, security and healthcare reform go unsolved.  Career politicians appear to place their egos above the best interests of our nation.  This is unacceptable.

Rather than continue to complain about it, I want to change things. Politics is not war.  We are all Americans before we are Republicans or Democrats.  Why have so many people forgotten this important fact?

Having different opinions and political ideologies is not detrimental. Our ability to express these views is one of the best things about our country.  Elected officials must realize that they serve the entire nation rather than their political parties and own interests.  I pledge to have the courage to work with all members of Congress regardless of political affiliation to achieve consensus.

How does it work?

The first step in a modern run for Congress (at least for me) involved a Google search.  I located the Federal Election Commission’s Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees August 2011 (PDF). Chapter 1 is titled Testing the Waters and instructs forming an exploratory committee to raise the initial $5,000 and necessary backing to officially declare oneself a candidate.  That is the step I took on January 15, 2013.

What are the next steps?

Together we can change things.  We must all work together to restart our economy, secure our nation and move forward to prosperity.

Please consider showing your support by donating to the Janet Hinz Congressional Exploratory Committee using the link below.  Any U.S. citizen can contribute. Your $25, $50, $100 or $200 contribution would be most appreciated.

Is a Return to Civility and Collaboration Possible?

After arguably the longest and most expensive political campaign ever, the election battle is over. President Obama won a second term and the country can now go back about the business of improving our nation.  This requires that we come together. Are we united enough in our beliefs and values to work collaboratively?

There are many who focus on the differences and certainly the election lent itself to that, but we must return to our common goals, values and love of freedom. I believe Americans have much more in common than we might initially think. While we may have different ideas about how best to achieve our goals, the goals themselves are often similar. We strive to make a better life for our families, we seek new opportunities while we preserve our freedom and national security.

Let’s put things in perspective.  We are Americans before we are republicans, democrats, independents, etc.  Our country is amazing because it has survived and thrived despite changing political parties and more contentious debates over the past 200 years.  Yes, I know that part might be hard to understand given today’s polarization.  But we must remember our nation’s painful history too.  There was the Civil War and then more recently the Civil Rights Movement.  It’s noteworthy that both those events include the word civil yet neither was known for its civility.

Civility is a virtue that is often absent today as well especially in social media and discussion by political pundits.  Americans are better than that.  We must demand civility.  This starts with ourselves.  Carefully consider what you say, post and even that which you allow yourself to read, hear and watch.  Remember the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy.  It’s difficult to maintain a level or respect for alternate points of view when surrounded by vitriol.

By all means exercise your freedom of expression. Do so mindfully, however. Rather than move the discussion further to the left or to the right, raise it to a higher level. When we require more of ourselves, we can demand more from our elected officials. Our country is a democracy and through collaboration, we can achieve great things.

Will critical thinkers rise up to embrace both civility and collaboration?

 

Critical Thinking in the Real World

With the political season heating up, it may become difficult for even the most thoughtful people to remain respectful during election debates.  We could all use a reminder on the way to maintain civil discourse and keep debates focused on real arguable issues.  Having the freedom to debate and state our opinions is what makes this country great.  Voting is a privilege and we should treat it seriously.  This requires careful consideration and critical thought before casting our vote. 

The essence of critical thinking requires questioning.  A critical thinker must question everything he or she is told or believes and this includes even that which the person considers common sense. Critical thinkers are open minded because they seek to draw conclusions after asking many questions both about the information they receive and that which they locate through research. It requires us to think further and consider both our position and…

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Having Pneumonia Has Actually Been a Good Thing

I started the school year with great enthusiasm and illness.  On August 27, I began teaching traditional students at Cardinal Stritch University each afternoon, my oldest daughter began 4th grade, and son began 2nd grade and my youngest daughter began afternoon K-4.  Despite the fantastic start, I was sick with bronchitis and pneumonia

The diagnosis itself was a relief to me.  With all the cancer in my extended family, I was grateful to know I didn’t have lung cancer.  In comparison, pneumonia seemed quite minor.

As many of you know I teach writing and public speaking.  I love being in front of the class and thoroughly enjoy my work.  Teaching with bronchitis and pneumonia has presented new challenges.  I now struggle to maintain my pace and a healthy breathing rate during lessons.  I worry that my new students may mistake this for nervousness.  Certainly with 15 years of teaching experience, I’d be beyond the nervousness that new public speakers get.  Now I have a new empathy with those who find public speaking so very challenging.  It’s a double edged sword.  When you struggle to breathe while speaking, you exert more energy and sweat.  This shakes your confidence and perpetuates the problem.  Now I will be much more sensitive when helping students overcome their fear of public speaking.  Focusing on breathing will go a long way toward alleviating some debilitating problems they face. 

In addition to gaining empathy for those frightened of public speaking, I am now better able to understand what my son goes through in his daily challenge with asthma.  He has lived with asthma since he was an infant and I’ve learned a great deal about respiratory viruses and all sorts of breathing difficulties through his many illnesses.  Nothing is quite like experiencing it firsthand, however.  When I can’t seem to get a good breath, I use my inhaler just like he does.  I never understood just how sensitive someone with breathing issues can be to air quality.  An errant pepperoni fallen off a pizza burning in the oven is enough to cause me pause. Those candle stores and perfume samples at the mall are also particularly annoying and I’ve had to go out of my way to avoid them.  When you are faced with these obstacles, they are more than a minor annoyance because they threaten your breath.  I understand that now in a way I didn’t before. 

Even after I get well, I know these lessons with stay with me.  They will help me become a better instructor and mother.  There is nothing quite like “walking in someone else’s shoes” to gain a better perspective. 

A Challenge to Voters

This semester, I am privileged to teach traditional college freshman at Cardinal Stritch University.  Many of these students are 18 to 20 years old and are very excited about voting in their first presidential election this November.  Their enthusiasm is both refreshing and contagious.

Let’s all try to remember that voting is a cherished freedom we are lucky enough to have in the United States.  Please take this responsibility seriously and carefully consider each candidate as well as the issues most important to you before casting your vote.  While this takes work and research, it is a worthy endeavor.

Consider the non-partisan quiz ISideWith.com as part of your fact-finding mission.  It’s quick and the results might surprise you.  If you are interested in sharing and discussing your results, please join the Critical Thinking in the Real World Facebook fan page.

There are many fact checking sites designed to sift through the political rhetoric for truth.  Consider PolitiFact.com.  The Washington Post, CNN and NPR also frequently post fact checks.  Don’t trust what you hear or read, investigate to find out which information can be trusted.

The best voter is an informed critical thinker.

You May Not Be A Critical Thinker If You’ve Said These Things

With the political season heating up, it may become difficult for even the most thoughtful people to remain respectful during election debates.  We could all use a reminder on the way to maintain civil discourse and keep debates focused on real arguable issues.  Having the freedom to debate and state our opinions is what makes this country great.  Voting is a privilege and we should treat it seriously.  This requires careful consideration and critical thought before casting our vote. 

The essence of critical thinking requires questioning.  A critical thinker must question everything he or she is told or believes and this includes even that which the person considers common sense. Critical thinkers are open minded because they seek to draw conclusions after asking many questions both about the information they receive and that which they locate through research. It requires us to think further and consider both our position and try to see the other side.

Here are some examples that may indicate a lack of critical thinking:

1. President Obama is evil. Mitt Romney is evil. Joe Biden is evil. Paul Ryan is evil. There many variations of this. Each reflects a lapse in critical thinking.  Just because you differ with any of these men on political or social policy does not make them evil. 

2.  President Obama, Mitt Romney, etc., doesn’t like America.  Why would anyone subject himself or herself to all the rigors of running for office if he or she did not genuinely love this country?  Could we just allow for the possibility that each candidate is truly patriotic?

3.  President Obama was not born in the country.  Please put this one to rest.  He was born in Hawaii and has the birth certificate to prove it. 

4.  President Obama (or President Bush) is not my president.  If you are an American, the president is your president.  You may not have voted for this person, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is (or was) the president.

5.  I’m leaving the country if Obama or Romney wins.  Please stop making empty threats like this one. If you think the value of living in the U.S. is conditional upon the current president, you are missing a great deal. 

There many examples of a lack of critical thought.  These are just a few. 

Please remember that the goal is not to call people out for their lapses in critical thought because we have all (myself included) made mistakes.  Let’s all make a vow to refrain from personally attacking those who disagree with our point of view. Civil discourse is possible and it is necessary.