September 24, 2012

James Oglethorpe's Compassion for Debtors Leads to Colonization of Georgia

I’m going to start out by telling you about this tradition in my social studies class. When you walk in the room, there is a picture of a wigged guy in armor. My teacher says that if we tap him on the forehead whenever we walk in and out of the room, we’ll be lucky for the rest of the day. Turns out that that guy is our state’s founder (with twenty-one other trustees). (Sorry if you are already learning this in your social studies…. )  His name was James Edward Oglethorpe and he was totally awesome.
               Back then, you know, England was really strict on debtors and would send them to debtor’s prison (which doesn’t make any sense because how can they work off their debt if they are in prison?) Anyway, so England wasn’t making much there. Also during this time, the European countries were in a race to see who could explore and colonize the most of the New World.
Although, before Oglethorpe even thought of making a colony, a Scottish nobleman named Sir Robert Montgomery thought of it first, but, sadly, no one wanted to go and he subsided into No-one-remembers-him-ville (until now).  Anyhow, while Oglethorpe was a relatively young man, his friend Robert Castell got into a bit of debt and was sent to debtor’s prison. While he was there, the wardens there kept up their practice of making prisoners give them money so the prisoner wouldn’t be forced into a cell with a sick person (again, why ask for money from a debtor? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!!)  In any case, Robert Castell didn’t have the money he was asked for and he consequently died of small pox passed to him by his ill cellmate. Oglethorpe was outraged and decided to try to remedy the problem. With the idea of Dr. Thomas Brady, he developed the idea of forming a colony for the debtors so they could actually be benefitting Great Britain and not be rotting in the overcrowded debtor’s prison.
When Oglethorpe approached King George with this proposition, he had three main reasons for the colony to be started. The first was that the colony would be a defensive buffer for the British South Carolina from the Spanish Florida and various French settlements. The second was that it would help Great Britain be more self sufficient by trading with the colonies for raw materials and saving money from not importing goods from other countries. The third was for the colony to be populated by the less fortunate (aka the debtors). (Sadly, though, the colony ended up NOT being populated by debtors, just other poor slobs.)  Nevertheless, he got the charter for 21 years and they headed over to Georgia.
Oglethorpe spent years and TONS of money on this colony and look how well that turned out!  We are now part of a powerful and self reliant nation and we are a pretty stinkin’ awesome state if I do say so myself. We might not be here if James Edward Oglethorpe hadn’t decided to spend his life looking after the welfare of others and started this colony.
Keep pushing on even when it seems impossible; you never know how life will turn out.
                                                                                                                                  Paige Johnson 14

September 18, 2012

Crippled Glenn Cunningham Became an Olympian

Glenn Cunningham was just 7 years old when he nearly died in an explosion that killed his brother.  He had gone to his one-room school with his several siblings one cold January morning.  Finding the school empty and cold, Glenn’s brother Floyd started to light a fire in the small coal stove.  Floyd didn’t know the stove had some hot coals in it from the previous night’s community meeting, or that the Kerosine-labelled can really contained gasoline.  Fire exploded out of the stove as soon as Floyd began pouring the fuel.  Flames burned Floyd terribly, and reached Glenn’s legs as he stood nearby.  They both ran the 2 miles home through the snow and were put to bed while the children went to find their mother. 

The doctor that attended Glenn and Floyd told their parents that Floyd would not live—the burns were too severe.  But Glenn would probably live unless infection set in.  Either way, the doctor warned the family that Glenn would never walk again.  His legs were useless now. 
But Glenn didn’t want to be a burden on his family.  After overhearing a neighbor tell his mother to face the fact that he would be an invalid the rest of his life, Glenn made an important decision.  He would walk again.  Fortunately, his mother believed him when he tearfully told her this.  And Glenn resolved to walk again, no matter how much it hurt or how hard it was to do.  He would repeat, “I’ll walk!  I’ll walk,” when he’d lose courage. 

Glenn remembered, “My family was wonderful. I can't even imagine how horrible it must have been with all the smells and the sight of my rotting flesh. I had lost all the flesh on my knees and shins, as well as all the toes on my left foot. My transverse arch was mostly gone. Yet my family kept changing the dressings and massaging my legs, though there was little muscle and sinew left to massage.”

After his legs healed, Glenn started to work on walking.  His first hurdle was standing, then moving.  He would stand up holding onto a kitchen chair, pushing it slowly before him.  He called that ‘walking’ and practiced until he was too tired to continue.  Later he got outside and walked along the fence, holding on so he didn’t fall.  His legs were twisted and he seemed to walk ‘crooked.’  He was just glad he was walking!   His favorite scripture was Isaiah 40:31: "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."  

Soon he was grabbing the tail of the family mule when they went for water.  He’d try to stay up with the mule as he ambled along.  And he’d play with his siblings however he could.  When he was able to go outdoors, his dad assigned him chores again.  It was great for Glenn to be useful!  Glenn was walking!  Now he set his sights to running.  After all, he wasn’t yet 10 years old and running was part of being a kid, part of playing with friends.  Besides, it hurt less to run than walk.  Glenn said that walking felt like daggers in his feet, running felt better.  All the while, Glenn kept massaging his scarred, twisted legs and continued to try to run.  If his legs were stretched out by massaging first, he could run pretty well.  His legs didn’t seem so twisted and only infrequently would they just give out from under him.

Glenn’s family moved a lot as they tried to make a living as farmers.  After moving to another small town, he found himself a mile from the school.  Most kids that lived that far brought lunch but Glenn ran home to eat.  That was good for his legs.

One day he saw a race advertized in the downtown store window.  He quietly entered the race and won.  He said, I showed up at the track meet in my work-clothes and thick-soled canvas sneakers. I was a fourth grader, and most of the others were high school athletes. All of them wore running shorts and spiked running shoes. I must have looked like David lined up against all the giants, but I won going away!”   Glenn was officially a runner!

Glenn cemented in his mind that he wanted to become a doctor like his grandfather, and that he wanted to run in the Olympics.  He had some trouble with his schoolwork and getting credit for 4th grade, and missed all of 5th grade in Colorado.  His hopes of going to college to become a doctor were a longshot.  But so had been walking, and now he was running!  He kept his hopes alive and when they moved back to Elkhart, Indiana, he got back into his studies even while working. 

Amazingly, with no toes on his left foot and scarred legs, Glenn also played on his high school football team!  He enjoyed all sports, knowing that with some massage and stretching, he could now do what most other kids did—run and play!  His rehabilitation amazes us today but Glenn didn’t make a big deal about it.  Most people didn’t even realize he had conquered so much to be there.

Glenn made it to college, refusing to accept a scholarship to attend.  Instead he worked his way through.  He didn’t want to owe anyone anything.  He ran on the track team, gaining the attention of the coach.  Glenn ran so fast that they thought he’d be able to break the 4 minute mark.  His best time was 4:04 set in 1938.  Remember that Roger Bannister finally broke the 4 minute mile in 1954.

Glenn ran in the 1932 Los Angeles and in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as he had dreamed as a boy.  He won Silver in the 1500 meter race in Berlin.  He retired from running in 1940 after the Olympics were cancelled due to the war.  Many still consider him the greatest American miler of all time. 

Eventually he became a doctor, married and raised a family of 10 children.  He and his wife created a home for wayward boys that helped thousands of boys with dashed dreams reach them.  For years he was a motivation speaker.  When people asked him about his burns, he said, My mother and father had always brought us up to never complain. I was asked to do a lot of speeches through the years, and I often talked about overcoming challenges, but I just always figured that I needed to do my best and never quit. Complaining about something I had no control over would have diminished what I was trying to do. I just wanted to let my running speak for itself.”

Glenn shows us that we can do anything if we are determined enough to back our dreams with hard work.  And rely on the Lord to help us.  Hang in there and keep working hard to beat your challenges.  

Cunningham, Glenn with George X. Sand.  Never Quit Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1981.
Glenn Cunningham Wikipedia
Hicks, Darryl.  Glenn Cunningham1909-1988—Never Quit 1981: 4 Aug 2009.
Kiell, Paul J.  American Miler:  The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham New York: 2005.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, Copyright expired.

September 12, 2012

Michael Lefenfeld's Favor to his Grandpa Explodes in Success

Even though it is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, I thought I’d look ahead instead of looking behind.  I would rather tell you about a really interesting young man, a man who was born and raised in New York City.

Michael Lefenfeld invented a critical medical diagnostic device when he was only 19!   He invented a sensor that became a model for most pulse oximeters.  It’s the  clip that is placed on the finger to detect oxygenation levels in the blood.  Each time you are evaluated in the doctor’s office or the hospital, it is clipped on your finger and a light shoots through your fingertip as it measures pulse and oxygen levels. 
Now, he didn’t just wake up one morning with the prototype in his mind.  After high school, Michael attended Washington University in St. Louis with a medical research scholarship.  Unfortunately, he hated doing research.  A friend was a chemical engineering major and Michael liked what his friend was doing.  He changed his major and changed direction.  Armed with what he had already learned with his medical research and applying his new classes, he came up with the prototype for the pulse oximeter and a few other products.  

When he finished at Washington University, he worked for a couple of chemical companies before going back to school to get his Master’s degree in Chemistry at Columbia University.  It was probably about this time that a conversation with his grandpa sparked another innovative product that may change the world! 

His grandpa wanted an air freshener that one could drop in the toilet to mask unpleasant bathroom smells.  Michael thought long and hard about what might work well there.  He wanted something that would carry a fragrant oil and react with the water to generate heat and gas to disperse the fragrance into the room.  From his freshman chemistry classes, Michael remembered that sodium (Na) is highly reactive with water, resulting in a violent burst of flames.  If he could somehow control the sodium and add fragrance, he’d have another useful product and help his grandpa out.

The trick was to create a sodium formulation with just enough sodium to react with the water and not cause flames, but disperse the fragrant oil.  He called an expert for help—a chemist named James L. Dye.  James knew how to melt sodium and mix it with a silica gel.  That produced a sand-like powder that did exactly what Michael’s grandpa wanted.  Michael admitted, “it made the bathroom smell really really nice.”  

James and Michael realized that they had tamed the reactivity of sodium!  Not only in water, but also in the air (which contains water vapor.)  This technology could be applied to other reactive metals and opens up a world of uses for these metals.   Michael and James immediately formed a company they named ‘SiGNa.’  The name is based on the chemical symbols of silicon (Si) and sodium (Na), with the G from ‘gel.’  They now create products that do essentially the same thing as their air freshener tablets, but with much more important uses.  They push the last drops of oil from oil wells, they destroy hazardous organic pollutants, and they catalyze reactions to make pharmaceutical drugs.  

Michael sees a bigger use that they are still perfecting:  energy cells.  Silicon and water give off hydrogen gas, which can be used as a power source.  Many fuel cells or batteries use hydrogen gas to generate electricity.  Michael and James made another powder of silicon and a gel that reacts with water or any liquid.  They think it will be able to power small things like mobile phones or big things like lawn mowers.  They have started marketing ‘Power Pukks’ as cell phone chargers in Sweden.  

Like sodium in water, Michael’s success has been explosive.  At age 25 when he formed SiGNa, he had 6 employees; today he is only 31 and has 65 employees.  First his idea for the pulse oximeter got Michael started.  Then he tried to help his grandfather deal with odors.  His solution to such a ‘little problem’ became a huge solution to many problems!    

We don’t have to be old and gray to make a difference in the world.  Sometimes doing a little thing can make a big difference, at least to the person you helped.  

Boudway, Ira.  “Innovator Michael Lefenfeld’s Offbeat Power Play.”  Bloomberg Businessweek  3 March 2011:n. pag. web.
“Michael Lefenfeld, SiGNa Chemistry.”  30 Under 30:  America’s Coolest Young Entrepeneurs  2008:n. pg. web.
Ritter, Steve.  “Entrepeneurs:  Michael Lefenfeld.”  Chemical and Engineering News  20 Aug 2012:43. Print.

September 6, 2012

Condoleezza Rice Addresses the Republican National Convention 2012

Transcript of Condoleezza Rice’s Speech at the Republican Convention Aug. 29, 2012
Good evening, distinguished delegates. Good evening, fellow Republicans.  Good evening, my fellow Americans.

   We gather here at a time of significance and challenge. This young century has been a difficult one.  I can remember as if it were yesterday when my young assistants came into my office at the White House to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and then, a second plane, and then a third plane, the Pentagon.  And later, we would learn that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, driven into the ground by brave souls who died so that others might live.

   From that day on -- from that day on, our sense of vulnerability and our concepts of security were never the same again.
   Then, in 2008, the global financial and economic crisis would stun us.  And it still reverberates as we deal with unemployment and economic uncertainty and bad policies that cast a pall over an American economy and a recovery that is desperately needed at home and abroad.
   And we have seen -- we have seen that the desire for liberty and freedom is, indeed, universal, as men and women in the Middle East rise up to seize it.  Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty, internal strife, and hostile neighbors are challenging the young, fragile democracy of Iraq.  Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threat to regional security.  Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, where does America stand?

   Indeed -- indeed, that is the question of the hour.  Where does America stand?  You see when  friends or foes alike don't know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place.
   Since World War II, the United States has had an answer to that question.  We stand for free peoples and free markets.  We will defend and support them.  
   We will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.
   Now, to be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I know, as you do, the sacrifice of Americans, especially the sacrifice of many of our bravest in the ultimate sacrifice, but our armed forces are the sure shield and foundation of liberty, and we are so fortunate that we have men and women in uniform who volunteer, they volunteer to defend us at the front lines of freedom, and we owe them our eternal gratitude.

   I know too it has not always been easy though it has been rewarding to speak for those who otherwise do not have a voice. The religious dissident in China, the democracy advocate in
Venezuela, the political prisoner in Iran.
   It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies and to intervene on behalf of the most desperate.  The AIDS orphans in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia.  It has been hard, yet this assistance together with the compassionate work of private charities, people of conscience and people of faith, has shown the soul of our country.  And I know too -- I know too there is a weariness. I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough.  But we can only know that there is no choice, because one of two things will happen if we don't lead. Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.
   My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice.  We cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind.

   Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality.  Our well- being at home and our leadership abroad are inextricably linked.  They know what to do.  They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us.  From Israel to Columbia, from Poland to the Philippines, our allies and friends have to know that we will be reliable and consistent and determined. And our foes can have no reason to doubt our resolve because peace really does come through strength.

   Our military capability and our technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney's hands. We must work for an open, global economy, and pursue free and fair trade, to grow our exports and our influence abroad.  If you are worried about the rise of China, just consider this -- the United States has negotiated -- the United States has ratified only three trade agreements in the last few years, and those were negotiated in the Bush administration.
   China has signed 15 free trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more.  Sadly, we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade and it will come back to haunt us.

   We must not allow the chance to attain energy independence to slip from our grasp.  We are blessed with a gift of oil and gas resources here in North America, and we must develop them.
We can develop them sensitively, we can develop them securing our environment, but we must develop them.

   And we have the ingenuity to develop alternative sources of energy.  Most importantly, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of our strength, the American economy --
stimulating private sector growth and stimulating small business entrepreneurship.

   When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means.  They see an American government that continues to borrow money, that will mortgage the future of generations to come.  The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired people to follow our lead.

   After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful economic and political experiment in human history.  That is the true basis of American exceptionalism. You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion.  It is an idea.  And what an idea it is.  That you can come from humble
circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.

   My fellow Americans, ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement.  We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well.  We have never been
jealous of one another and never envious of each others' successes.

   No, no, ours has been a belief in opportunity.  And it has been a constant struggle, long and hard, up and down, to try to extend the benefits of the American dream to all.  But that
American ideal is indeed in danger today.  There is no country, no, not even a rising China that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we do not do the hard work before us here
at home.    
   More than at any other time in history, greatness is built on mobilizing human potential and ambition.  We have always done that better than any country in the world.  People have come
here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons.
   They have come here from the world's most impoverished nations just to make a decent wage.  And they have come here from advanced societies as engineers and scientists that fuel the knowledge-based revolution in the Silicon Valley of California, in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, along Route 128 in Massachusetts, in Austin, Texas, and across this great land.
   We must continue to welcome the world's most ambitious people to be a part of us.  In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined.  We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of  immigrants.

   We have been successful too because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans have believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can control your response to your circumstances.

   And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education.  But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're
going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going?  The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who
we are.    
   My mom was a teacher.  I respect the profession.  We need great teachers, not poor ones and not mediocre ones.  We have to have high standards for our kids, because self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.

   And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.  This is the civil rights issue of our day.

   If we do anything less, we can damage generations to joblessness and hopelessness and life on the government dole.  If we do anything less, we will endanger our global imperatives for competitiveness.  And if we do anything less, we will tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement the turn toward entitlement and grievance.
   Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home.  And they will help us lead abroad.  They will provide an answer to the question, ``where does America stand?''  The challenge is real
and the times are hard.  But America has met and overcome hard challenges before.
   Whenever you find yourself doubting us, just think about all those times that America made the impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect.  Our revolutionary founding against the greatest
military power of the time, a civil war—brother against brother, hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, but we emerged a more perfect union.  A second founding when inpatient patriots were determined to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation.
   A long struggle against communism with the Soviet Union eventually in collapse and Europe, whole, free and at peace.  And in the aftermath of 9/11, the willingness to take hard, hard decisions that secured us and prevented the follow on attack that everybody thought preordained.

   And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham.  The segregated city of the South where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to a restaurant, but they have absolutely convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the President of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the Secretary of State.

   Yes, yes.  Yes.  Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect, but we know it was never inevitable.  It took leadership.  And it took courage.  And
it took belief in our values.  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have the integrity and the experience and the vision to lead us. They know who we are.  They know who we want to be.  They know
who we are in the world and what we offer.
   That is why -- that is why this is a moment and an election of consequence.  Because it just has to be that the freest and most compassionate country on the face of the earth will continue to be the most powerful and the beacon for prosperity and liberty across the world.
   God bless you and God bless this extraordinary country, this exceptional country:  The United States of America.    
Corrections made by Melanie Johnson