Friday, February 8, 2008

Save the “Street”

In another turn at eroding America’s cultural fabric, the Bush Administration proposed drastic cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the federal budget proposal. While slashing the funds this non-profit organization receives in half, the budget also does not commit to funding past this budget cycle.

I grew up watching PBS, as did many of my contemporaries. This is not just a fight to save the broadcasting of my childhood favorites, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I want to implore upon everyone what we stand to lose.

PBS is all things to all people. As a child, its educational programs teach children the three “R’s” they need in today’s world: Reading, Writing, and my addition, Reason (this also includes the arithmetic). Shows like Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood not only impart letters and numbers upon children, but teach children how to navigate life, treat others with dignity and respect, and inspire curiosity.

As children continue to grow, shows like the 1990’s Ghostwriter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and my personal favorite, Wishbone, further develop skills and provide wholesome entertainment for the 7-12 age demographic.

Even if one departs from “save the children” arguments, PBS has broadcasting for all ages. The Nightly Business Report delivers financial news and information. Masterpiece Theater delivers those much-loved murder mystery movies. I remember at 8 p.m. on Saturday nights, the British comedy “Keeping Up Appearances” would air, exposing Americans to the entertainment enjoyed in another nation.

Saving the most important for last: PBS Documentaries. Anyone who watched Ken Burns’ “The War” knows how important it is to use channels everyone can watch, which are not driven by profit motive and the sexual appeal of wanting advertising dollars, to educate people about our collective history.

Ok, and I will not forget Antiques Roadshow. Who would have thought a show about old junk people bring to get appraised could be so interesting? I cannot resist getting excited when an old black couple from New Orleans brings a cigarette case to get appraised, one of the only meaningful possessions they have, and finds out it is Cartier and worth like $75,000.

PBS is a part of OUR culture. It is truly a reflection, and a part of, the American spirit. Most important, it is accessible to those who cannot afford cable.

My mom always told me, “The one thing no one can ever take away from you is your education.” I should only hope this should remain true, and organizations like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can continue to teach three-year olds to seventy-five year olds their letters, numbers, and life’s lessons.

Save the “Street!”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Drop It Like It's Hot

As candidates continue to drop out of the presidential race, I have to appreciate the strategy of the graceful “bow out.” Amidst claims of “taking one for the party,” let’s look at the reality: dropping out of the race at this stage is essentially putting in a bid for a V.P. spot.

Both Edwards and Romney are positioning themselves as the “go to” guys. Edwards is likely in a better position to be a viable running mate, as either Clinton or Obama would pick him up. Romney, on the other hand, dropped out when it was still a four-man race in the eyes of many Republicans and Libertarians. Voter results may not be indicative of this sentiment, but each candidate, namely Huckabee and Paul, have their cadre of followers who are not ready to give up, evidenced by Huckabee’s Super Tuesday wins and Paul’s fundraising success.

Before you “drop it like it’s hot,” remembers donkeys and elephants are different animals.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Importance of Being Honest

Rarely will this student of life and politics go on a moral diatribe. I am not in a station to do so. Yet, I was struck by the comment of one of my colleagues yesterday, a comment so self-important and audacious that it forced me to comment.

There is an importance to being honest with oneself. One thing I can criticize the peers in my generation for, and myself often times, is a a sense of entitlement and self-importance.

The gist of the comment was "We're kind of a big deal." That line is funny when it is said in a comedy movie, true if it coming from someone in the position to say so, and absolutely ridiculous coming out of the mouth of who it did.

What I urge to all of us in this age group is to try to be self-reflective. Not in a meditative sense, but to be active evaluators of our successes and failures. At this age, more often than not, we are liable for failures since we still do not know any better.

In the sphere of assessment tools, whether it be international or corporate, there is this concept of "Lessons Learned." Lessons Learned are meant to take a hard look at what was done, comment on its merits and failures, and discuss what should be the strategy moving forward.

It seems as though we have been taught to see our failures, but not to truly discuss what those failures were and how we can learn from them in the future.

Or maybe it just takes falling face forward for some people to realize this is the more prudent way to go through life.

And for my moment of using a cliche, pride before the fall, right?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Pizza Hut-ization of Youth Electoral Politics

Recently, political “hub” Pizza Hut released an ad on YouTube encouraging youth to vote in the upcoming election. With the tagline, “It’s your choice. Please vote,” Pizza Hut likely feels it has done its civic duty to encourage the lazy, sofa-lounging, pizza-eating members of the Millennial Generation to get up off the couch and go vote.

This is the Pizza Hut-ization of youth voter politics. The message: You are incapable of even listening to a normal election ad telling you to go vote.

Let’s give Pizza Hut a little credit and assume for the sake of argument that its portrayal is accurate. If this is the case, then youth, after viewing the commercial, will likely just call their local Pizza Hut or place an order for a pie online. If youth really are this stupid and lazy, it will not cause them to go vote.

Yet, if we take a second view of the Millennial Generation, as a generation with many questions and a critical eye, they will react to the commercial as I did, wondering whose idea that commercial was and why they were ever put in charge of developing a piece to target youth voters. Slapping something on YouTube does not give you instant “street cred.” (Caveat Emptor Corporate America)

This is but one example of the “dumbing” down of the American polis. Have we lost so much so much faith in young America that we have resorted to such amateur methods to reach out to a group that by other measures, education, technology, and networking, is an advanced generation.

What would help is if Pizza Hut would instead of creating ads for their pizza, donate pizza to all the young poll workers, precinct walkers, campaign staffers, and youth voter groups around the country, comprised of driven and capable members of the Millennial Generation. I may be at the tail end of this Generation and often wonder “why” at some of things they do, but even I will give them a little credit.

Even more dangerous is the prospect that this is just one example of the wave of corporate-sponsored political ads to come. It somehow cheapens the electoral process when marketers invade the political market using the same tactics they use to sell pizza to sell politics.

The ironic part of this ad to me is the fact that in college, I constantly had debates within student government with my colleagues about giving out pizza to get students to participate in campus politics. If I had known that five years later this would become a national trend, perhaps it would have been prudent to pitch this tactic.

Damn pizza.