Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A West Point graduate friend of mine who has served honorably in Iraq will soon be returning to the Boston area to attend graduate school. His girlfriend is a certified kindergarten teacher who would like to find a teaching opportunity in the Boston area. If you know of any open positions, please let me know and I will pass the information along to Sarah.
Monday, May 25, 2009
My friend, Dr. Jim Savard, just sent out this striking photograph of an encounter that took place last Friday at the graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The graduating midshipman is John McCain IV, USNA Class of 2009.
Jim gave the photo this caption:
A photo for the ages that speaks volumes about the USA and its society, and the foundational tenets of its underlying strength!
I don't need to say any more than that. The picture speaks for itself.
Regular readers of The White Rhino Report are already familiar with the life - and death – of 1LT Robert “Sly” Seidel, United States Military Academy Class of 2004. Those who are new to this Blog should know about the short and inspiring time that Sly walked among us. I can think of no better way to spend this Memorial Day morning than to reflect on who Sly was and how he continues to inspire those of us who knew and loved him.
A few days ago, on the third anniversary of LT Seidel’s death, his closest friend, Captain Socrates Rosenfeld, also USMA ’04, wrote eloquently of his thoughts and feelings on the occasion of stepping foot on the Iraqi soil on the anniversary of his friends death on that same soil. With Captain Rosenfeld’s permission, I humbly share his words in memory and in honor of Sly:
“Just when I begin to think there might not exist a more powerful being driving things, a day like this comes along. Three years ago from this current day, I can remember being woken by heavy heartache and tears; a day that would change my life forever. A day I will never forget. Sly, my roommate, my best friend, and my brother in arms left me from this earth on that fateful day. Memories and stories are not the only thing he has left me. He has forced me to re-evaluate my life and take nothing for granted. He has made me value love and family and all that is good. He has proven to me that becoming a warrior is synonymous with becoming a man.
He has watched my back just as he had done for me and so many others in the past. Sly was a man of substance, a leader, and someone who believed in his cause. It inspires me everyday, for he came here to lead men into the darkest corners of evil to protect people like me.
So three years from that fateful day, three years from the heartache and the tears, three years from the day my life would change forever, I shall cross that very threshold into the depths of whatever awaits me. And though the future may be uncertain, and though the circumstances may have changed, I shall walk in the very footsteps that my friend created for others to follow. A warrior's path.
So there is not much I can give to the others who have been affected by Sly's passing. All I can offer is to serve honorably and fight like he fought; with courage and character. And just as my friend has watched my back for so long, I know he will guide me once again.
Today. A day I will never forget. And for many others to follow.”
I was moved and inspired by these heart-felt words from my friend, Socrates - a warrior-poet who today also walks the Warrior’s Path.
Sly was special – but not unique. His sacrifice echoes that of thousands who stood bravely when their name was called to serve. On this Memorial Day, please join me in saying a prayer of thanks for those who have walked that path, a prayer for safety for those who walk it today, and a prayer for comfort for the families of those who served and have served so bravely and so well. May we always have our ears tuned to hear the echo of those who said - with their voices and with their actions: "Here am I; send me."
Saturday, May 16, 2009
My friend, Gerry Wood, works at Salisbury University on Maryland’s beautiful Eastern Shore. He is a voracious and discerning reader, and often alerts me to books and articles I should not miss. I am grateful that earlier this week, Gerry made me aware of a fascinating article in the current edition of Atlantic Monthly: “What Makes Us Happy?” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.
Atlantic Monthly article
Here is the magazine’s abstract of the gist of the article:
"Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant."
Shenk’s article brilliantly and extensively takes the reader through an overview of the evolution of this remarkable longitudinal study. The subjects’ anonymity has been preserved, except in rare cases. Ben Bradlee, of Washington Post fame and of Boston Brahmin origins, revealed that he was one of the subjects. John F. Kennedy was one of the only other subjects of the study whose identity has been revealed.
In 1967, Dr. George Vaillant, a Harvard trained psychiatrist, took over the leadership of the study, know as “The Grant Study” for the original funders of the project, and it has become the core of his life’s work. In a video interview that is linked to the magazine article, he talks about the impact that the men in this study have had upon him and his understanding of happiness. He concludes his remarks with a clear and unequivocal proclamation: “Happiness is love! Full stop.”
It is no accident that happiness and love appear to be linked wherever I turn these days in my reading and in my conversations. I remarked in reviewing two military books about the unlikely conclusion that being warriors together is all about love.
In describing why he chose to write his bestselling book, “Joker One,” Donovan Campbell offered the following rationale:
“So, that’s me: an ordinary young man who once made the choice to serve. I wish I could present someone greater to the reader, someone whose exploits and whose fame could automatically make people sit up and pay attention to the story of my men, but I can’t, because I’m not that someone. However, to this day I love my Marines with all that I’m capable of, and in spite of my shortcomings I want to do my utmost to help tell their tale. Though I can’t offer myself to the reader, I can offer my men, and I can tell a true story with love and heartfelt emotion from the inside. And I hope and I pray that whoever reads this story will know my men as do I, and that knowing them, they too might come to love them.” (Page 10)
In a similar vein, these words by Bill Murphy, Jr., author of the acclaimed “In a Time of War,” an account of West Point’s Golden Class the Class fo 2002:
“This, for Todd [Bryant], was the essence of West Point. ‘Duty, honor, country’ was the academy’s motto, and everyone talked constantly about honor and commitment, loyalty and patriotism. All that was true and good, but stripped of its pomp and circumstance, the place was really about love. Love of your country, love of your classmates and friends, and love of the future officers you’d someday serve with. Most of all, West Point was about learning to love the soldiers you would someday lead, the privates and sergeants, knuckleheads and heroes alike, who might, just once, in a life-justifying moment, look to you for leadership in some great battle on a distant shore.” (Pages 11-12)
I commend to you this remarkable article in Atlantic monthly, as well as the two books I have just cited.
I cannot escape the conclusion – from my reading, from my reflections, from my relationships and from my remarkably rich multiple decades of living – that happiness is never found when it is itself the object of the pursuit. It is found only as a byproduct of service and sacrifice and love.
Serve and love someone today - and be happy!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Earlier this week, I attended a performance of David Mamet’s play, “Romance,” at the Loeb Theatre in
The friend who accompanied me to this performance of the play in
Mamet slashes with a broad sword at stereotypes of every imaginable permutation. The Palestinian-Jewish conflict, the peace process, the judicial system, anti-semitism, racism, homophobia are all pilloried amidst an unrelenting hail of f-bombs, monologues, screaming matches and pratfalls. It is almost as if Mamet, like the hay fever-suffering judge, has been afflicted with the ragweed pollen of societal injustices and hatreds, and is sneezing out his discomfort in an atomized cloud of invective and expletive. Throughout the evening, I often felt uncomfortable, but I also could not keep myself from laughing. And that, I think, is his point. Reducatio ad absurdum on steroids! I wanted to ask myself the question that becomes a common thread in the judge’s rantings: “Have I taken my pill?”
If you are easily offended in the theater, then plead “nolo contendere” and stay away from
The play runs through June 7 at the Loeb Drama Center as part of a David Mamet Celebration entitled "Sex, Satire, Romance, and Ducks."
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
A month ago, I offered a review of John Wray's book, "Lowboy." I was so taken with the unique character of his writing that I immediately carved out time to read one of his earlier works, "Canaan's Tongue." I was even more impressed with my second taste of Wray's story telling. This tale is told in a very different voice - or rather, symphony of voices - than the voice Wray used in "Lowboy."
Imagine a blend of Faulkner and Mark Twain, with a twist of Dickens' Pickwick Papers, and you will have a good idea of the feel that the writer creates in painting a vivid group portrait of a motley group of rogues - all toiling under the dubious leadership of "The Redeemer." Set before and during the Civil War, the narrative follows the misadventures of a gang of horse thieves and slave traders. Based on the real historical character, John Murrell and his disciples, Wray's tale shines a light on the dark underbelly of American life on the Mississippi as the sun was setting on the era of slavery. The introduction of elements of Jewish Kabbalah add an aura of mysticism to the proceedings.
Let me share two brief excerpts to allow you to taste Wray's original and wry literary style. In this portion of the story, the protagonist, Virgil Ball, is about to open the hatch on the hold of a slave ship that is transporting scores of slaves on the Mississippi River:
"When the bolt slid open the sound stopped short, leaving a sudden vacancy in the air, as though a piano-wire had snapped. A humid silence met me as I raised the hatch, broken only by a rasping - or a wheezing, better said - in the far corner of the hold. The smell of piss and sweat and excrement seized me by the throat and commenced to wring the breath out of me slowly. A step-ladder extended two rungs downward, perhaps three, before vanishing into darkness. The stench and the dampness and a steady tightening of my bowels, as though in anticipation of a blow, were all there was to tell me I was being watched by two-score pair of eyes." (Page 99)
This final passage sets the scene for a climactic encounter with a prisoner the gang has captured and immured in the basement of their lair:
"My last day at Geburah begins softly, Virgil says. I've been sitting in the lampless parlor half the night when the house-door sighs open, delicate as hackled lace. A moment later Parson flutters by. He glances into the parlor as he passes, shading his eyes, but he fails to see me slumped over in the dark. He moves down the hall. The cellar door opens, then shuts, and I draw in a breath. I rise from the settee more carefully than a spinster. A draft curls about my shins, leafy with the smell of coming rain. Something is going to happen. It sits like a clot of river-bottom in my throat.
Parson is quiet as dust on the cellar steps but he can't keep them from creaking subtly as he descends. His oversight has given me an advantage over him, the first in our long acquaintance, and I'm determined not to let it pass. I steal lightly down the hall. He's left the cellar door unlatched. I reach the top of the steps just as he gets to the bottom.
To go any further would be to lose straight-away, so I crouch at the top of the steps and bide. I see nothing but the rough pine boards leading down into the blackness -; I hear nothing but my own unsteady breathing. I've just begin to wonder whether Parson hasn't vanished through some fissure in the earth when a voice comes out of the gloom, measured and precise, n0 more than an arm's-length below me -: 'Open your mouth, Mr. Foster. Have a drink.'" (Page 301)
This gloomy tale is mesmerizing and captivating. I look forward to reading Wray's other novel, "The Right Hand of Sleep," and I eagerly anticipate his future literary offerings.
Friday, May 08, 2009
My good friend, Andy Peix, recently said to me, “There is this book I would like you to read. Please add to your list ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.’ Once you have read it, let me know what you think.”
What I think, Andy, is that Jonathan Safran Foer is an incredibly gifted young writer, and I am thrilled that you have made me aware of him. He has woven together a tale that allows the reader to journey along with young Oskar Schell in processing the death of his father at the site of the
The result is a heart-rending, deeply insightful exploration of the landscape of grief, and a search for where and how to deploy the keys to emotional survival. Foer ties together the commonalities of suffering that are shared among the survivors of the firebombing of Dresden, the dropping of the A-bomb in Japan and the bombing of the Twin Towers. Using photography, other graphic images and word pictures, the author presents an often jarring view of New York and of the Ground Zero minds of the characters who strive to make sense of the post-9/11 world. The final pages, fashioned as a flip book to simulate a crude motion picture, are particularly poignant. Foer makes it clear that, despite our impossible dreams of somehow undoing the tragedy and reversing the flow of history, it is not possible to rebuild the
Foer is a writer whose work I will continue to follow with great interest. I recommend “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”
I first met Dom Dimaggio in person when I was a teenager working at the Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester. One of his relatives - it may have been one of his children - was a patient, and he was there to visit. I had know the name "Dom Dimaggio" almost from the womb. Having been raised in a strong multi-generational family of die hard Red Sox fans, I was able to recite the entire Red Sox line-up by the age of two! Included in the line-up in those days were Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom Dimaggio - the "Little Professor."
Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe has written a fitting tribute to Dimaggio in this morning's edition:
Boston Globe obituary
In recent years, Dom would return to Fenway Park for special occasions. He was always gracious and classy. Along with journalist and broadcaster, Dick Flavin, he was instrumental in launching the BoSox Club in 1967, major league baseball's most active booster club of business professionals. Over the years, the BoSox Club, of which I have been a member, has raised millions of dollars for the Jimmy Fund and related charities.
Dom was a beloved teammate of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and other baseball legends. The story of their unique bond of friendship was told beautifully by the now deceased David Halberstam in his book “The Teammates.”
One of three brothers to play in the major leagues, Dom Dimaggio deserves a niche in the Hall of Fame. He did not get to see it in his lifetime, but perhaps now the veterans committee will review his achievements and his place in baseball history.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
A New Abolitionist Movement – Tom Ricks Calls for the Closing of Our Service Academies and 2LT Rajiv Srinivasan Responds
On April 19, Tom Ricks trotted out an old chestnut of an argument that one can expect to appear whenever budgets are tight. In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, entitled "Why We Should Get Rid of West Point", Ricks calls for closing all of our service academies as a cost-cutting measure.Op-Ed Piece
I found Ricks’ argument to be less than compelling. As an “outsider” – a non-military person who has observed graduates of our nation’s service academies up close in my personal and professional life – I have come to value the use of my tax dollars in continuing the strong tradition of training leaders at West Point, Annapolis, Air Force and Coast Guard Academies. I agree with my friend, Dr. Scott Snook of
2LT Rajiv Srinivasan, a 2008 graduate of
Seldom over the course of one’s life does so much effort and commitment culminate in one day of pure accomplishment as a West Pointer’s graduation. The real heroes of the day were my parents and mentors who invested tremendous amounts of patience and mentorship in my development; however, they did so with one mission in mind: to raise a lifetime servant to a nation we so dearly love.
Tom Ricks, while I am sure is an avid supporter of the military and strong patriot, is hugely misguided and ill-informed in his recent article which called for the closing of the three Service Academies. Ricks makes some valid points: ROTC graduates are far more economical to produce, some commanders do prefer ROTC Lieutenants over their
Allow me to coin a phrase that embodies the true value of the Academy experience: Service Immersion. Every waking moment of my life at
Most undergraduate students strive for good grades in order to boost their GPAs. Cadets study so they have the answers when lives and equipment are on the line. Most university professors are genius Ph.Ds with vast amounts of knowledge. West Point Instructors are role models who have inspired courage in the hearts of 18 year old privates facing battle, and have a vested interest in developing the cadets who will one day serve as their Lieutenants when the instructors take battalion and brigade command. Most college students avoid cheating out of fear of getting caught. Cadets do not cheat out of loyalty to a Code and the realization that honor is a virtue that can save American lives and dollars.
Do ROTC graduates understand and live up to these principles? Sure they do. But have they internalized them to the degree that the
I personally do not know whether I will stay in the Army longer than my five year commitment. I do know that the rest of my professional life is dedicated to serving a nation that most of its citizens undervalue. Had I gone to a civilian university, I think my outlook on professional growth would indeed be far different. This notion of Service Immersion develops a sense of loyalty and purpose in the young and energetic cadet which can translate into ethical and long sighted leadership down the road. Who knows, perhaps if the leadership of AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers had a little Service Immersion at an early age, maybe they would have been more aware and considerate of the societal consequences of making such foolish gambles.
I will agree with Mr. Ricks that the Service Academies do have many problems. Solid military training is rare during the school year; countless hours and dollars are wasted on ceremonial parades and football games; and the quality of life (or lack thereof) for most cadets is conducive to cynicism. But rather than ransack these institutions which embody the bedrock principles upon which this nation and our military are founded, I would be far more amenable to a discussion on how to refocus the nation’s Service Academies on creating the kind of leaders who will truly offer their professional and personal lives for the betterment of this nation. I imagine our forefathers would agree, but then again I only have a “community-college” understanding of their intent as Mr. Ricks points out.
I will close my entry with a verse from the Alma Matter that each graduate sings at the end of every football game, Corps Dinner, Graduation Ceremony, and West Point Alumni event around the world. It is a verse nostalgic of all the sacrifices made in the name of service to our nation, and the honor and humility that every graduate aims to uphold. Five years after setting foot at the Academy, it still brings chills to my spine.
And when our work is done, Our course on earth is run,
May it be said “Well done;
Be thou at peace.”
E’er may that line of gray increase from day to day.
Live, serve, and die we pray,
Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Rajiv – for your thoughts and for your willingness to serve our country.
As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts on this issue.
I have two friends whose Cambridge-based companies are looking to hire very bright and energetic college students for summer internships and beyond. These are paying gigs, and could begin immediately!
Here is a job description for the first opportunity.
I'm looking for an intern for a successful, rapidly-growing online
lead generation business I founded, based in Kendall Square. The
focus is on generating new applicant leads for universities offering
healthcare (mostly nursing) and teacher education degree programs,
through a network of five school directory websites. The expected
time commitment will be 20-30 hours per week over the summer, with the
potential to continue during the school year.
The intern's specific responsibilities may include:
1) Assistance with SEO/link building efforts - identifying and
researching potential link partners through analyzing competitors'
backlinks as well as top-down industry analysis, as well as
researching blogs and offline publications that could be approached
about editorial inclusion of one or more of the websites
2) Writing content for the websites (explanations of different degree
types, overviews of career paths, etc.)
3) Analysis of traffic and conversion data on websites to identify
bottlenecks and areas for improvement
4) Execution and monitoring of Google Website Optimizer tests on the
websites to compare the effectiveness of different layouts, imagery,
creative content, etc.
5) Data augmentation projects for the websites - figuring out
additional value-added data that can be gathered on the various
schools & degree programs listed on the sites, then figuring out how
to acquiring that data, then acquiring it and integrating it into the
Interns with technical skills (Java, Python, Ruby, etc.) may have the
opportunity to work on additional projects, such as designing a system
to handle web form configuration for the websites (many of the schools
have separate sets of information they want gathered on prospective
applicants, so many different versions of the inquiry form are
I'm looking for someone smart, hard-working, autonomous, detail-oriented (borderline OCD), and outgoing. The intern should be
eager to learn, and eager to try and contribute to all the day-to-day
decisions involved in running the business. Web programming and graphic design experience would be a plus, but are not required.