Tag Archives: Future

Respecting Differing Opinions

SEABROOKS SAYS: Attention please.  This is a minor power move as I seize the liberty that comes to the publisher. The article (actually a letter) that follows was just recently written by my 90 year old friend, Presbyterian minister and business consultant who has mentored me for decades.  I believe lots of very interested Americans are currently dealing with this issue right now – maybe you  too.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW – WHAT WILL YOU DO?

 23 February 

Howdy,

As indicated earlier, my village was struck with a malevolent virus from which I am slowly recovering. I have set tomorrow as the day to celebrate my back to normal. 

Sadly, during these weeks, things have occurred that might define a wider gap between you and me. Things that I will say below might find a strong difference of opinion.  

I read the Brooks article about resistance. His reference to Bonhoeffer sounds like what the “opposition forces” are about. St. Benedict’s model has appeal for the likes of me. The more strident forms of resistance to which he refers sound like guidance from the mainline media. Brooks was interviewed in a February 1 article in Christian Century – “Chasing beauty, finding grace.” I liked that article better. I have followed Brooks for years and read, Character. I disagree with his politics, but respect his thoughtfulness and the influence that theology has had on him including that of Reinhold Niebuhr.

However, he and other good people have chosen sides in the current political and cultural conflicts with which I disagree. In my unique career and associations, I have come to respect those who build things more than those who critique the builders. The harshest thought that is with me now is that we are witnessing a well-funded and well-led revolution to convert America from the democracy that has been our history to state managed socialism.

When you have the money of George Soros, the legal pool of the ACLU (now full of funds), the still-in-tact Illinois syndicate, a brilliant and “enchanting” leader like Obama who is leading the charge to revive his legacy, political “tools” like Nancy Pelosi, and the vast media that has chosen to use its power for a crusade more than for information – you have a substantial opposition to an administration that won the electoral votes and is bringing to the government people who have track records of achievement and who, instead of seeking political power, simply want to contribute to a sustainable future for our nation.  

I have confidence that those now aligned with the administration that includes political support in both houses of Congress, most state legislatures and state governors will prevail because they have the Constitution, commitment to obey laws, leaders who have made things happen instead of those who have spent their lives climbing political ladders, and millions of citizens willing to sustain their support in spite of ugly intimidation from the organized and often compensated protesters in their faces.

Sadly, your Academy has mostly aligned with the opposition. I heard a Duke economics professor report that he and many colleagues propose a federally-funded, national employment for all with a minimum guaranteed compensation. Duke has a program to equip students on how best to protest Trump. Many conservative students must closet themselves from intimidation from their professors and many professors encourage protests that often include criminal assaults against private properties.

I check on the news at night and check on my on-line media reports the next day. The gap between what happened and the twist that the New York Times (NYT) gives has led me to unsubscribe to the NYT. I still follow the Christian Science Monitor and Wall Street Journal and a few periodicals.

I read the article by Paul Prather. Although there seemed to be a tilt toward assigning many Christians who support the President as being “hung up” on authority and fear, I did agree with his statement that, “Grace people need a little authoritarianism to keep us from levitating away on shimmering clouds, and Law people need a big dose of Grace to keep them from getting swallowed whole into their profoundly constricted sphincters.” I don’t agree with his final demeaning characterization.  

Sadly, I see little ground for dialog in our society today. Nevertheless, I am more optimistic than many because I believe that many of the policies and projects of the administration will prove to be beneficial to more Americans than was the case with the previous administration. When we see evidence of promise-keeping and leadership and achievement, more views will change.

I read your article, “Against Contempt.” I understand the concerns you express. I do not defend Trump’s rhetoric and wish that he could stop tweeting. He is the rough to Obama’s smooth. I look at what he achieved. I look at his family. I look at the loyalty of his long time friends. I watch the ways he seeks to walk his talk and the support that he is gathering to make that happen. I compare that with the “flame throwers” and “bridge dynamiters” and politicians that have made their careers and wealth based on the style of people like Pelosi who openly advised a vote for the health care legislation without it being read or debated. We can find out what it says after we pass it, was what she affirmed. 

You are successful. You win generous prizes for writing about your views. I hope that as your career, like mine, slows down to a crawl, you are happy with what you have achieved. I have not received $25,000 prizes and have not been successful getting a book commercially published, but I am happy with what I have achieved. The experiences and relationships of my career have afforded me a remarkable life in which I have learned much about the world and its people. God has been good to me and I have tried to be a responsible steward of the Grace with which my life has been blessed.

So, here we are – very separated in our views about the world in which we live – but, hopefully, continuing to respect each other and maybe finding ways to join the “little platoons” of citizens who strive to rectify the excesses of “numerous democracy” so feared by the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

Cheers and best wishes,

Irving

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The Threat to American Greatness

SEABROOK SAYS: Maybe you have been attempting to form your conclusions on this subject.  It is very difficult. Now, it would seem to be an imperative that you give study to Mark Epstein’s comments.  Do more than “think” them – write them.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

My family were once refugees, some of them long ago, some of them just a few generations past; true of most all reading this post.  They were once immigrants to the United States, most of them legal, some probably not; many were children when they made a journey unfathomable to most of us today (my grandfather came from Poland at age 17, with only his sister, 14).   Some just wanted to improve their lot, others were fleeing for their lives.   Of my family, their immigration to the United States was once prohibited because they were perceived as a grave threat to American sovereignty and its way of life (1924 Immigration Act; in the 1930’s under pressure from the America First movement).  Elsewhere they were once forced to register as a member of a religious minority.   They were blamed by their country’s leadership as the source of its problems, a fearful but false narrative that was nevertheless embraced by its citizens.  Laws were passed restricting their liberties; they became a focus for law enforcement. Their houses of worship were defaced; some were attacked.  Some were rounded up, taken from their homes, and deported.  Some were sent to internment camps, or locked into certain neighborhoods of towns and cities.  Some died there.  Isaac, his wife Chaya, and their 4 children Herschel, Yeshianu, Kraysal, and young Miriam were gassed at Treblinka on a cold November morning, 1942.  My mom’s great-aunt/uncle, and her cousins.  May their memory be a blessing.

Sympathy not sought; they were victimized yet no victim mentality here.  But:  in an era when one would think the lesson of history has been learned, nevertheless a religious registry, surveilling “certain” neighborhoods, “national stop-and-frisk,” a Deportation Force, and internment camps are being brought to the national dialogue by serious-minded and influential people with the ability to influence if not create actual policy.  The first step, an immigration ban focusing on religious affiliation, has already been undertaken.  In the public domain, mere mention and discussion of these things makes it tempting to consider them passably normal and worth considering – when in actuality such talk – much less actual policy – is a corrosive national poison that violates the most inviolable of American values.  That no one predicts it ends in industrialized murder here, doesn’t mean that where it starts is not insidious and destructive to who we are, and what this country is, what makes this country great, what Has. Always. Made. America. Great.

Arguments that such steps may be necessary in the name of national security and public safety should make the American hairs stand up on the back of our American necks, and send a collective shiver down our American spines.  To consider these things is not just to be afraid, but to be governed by fear, when famously it is fear itself that is most dangerous of all.   When any act of government, any act at all, can be justified in the name of security and safety, “to save even one life,” history is clear about the outcome, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t the United States, and in the extreme there is a word for it:  Police State.   History should make us know better than to even consider this path.  But by God if we have not stepped on it.

My faith tradition is not only very clear about how to consider those amongst us who are different (not only to love them, but to accept them as a native, to share my lot with them, to not wrong them, nor oppress them, nor detest them), it is also clear about WHY…even if in history they may have once wronged me.   It is because I myself have been seen as different; my family was once oppressed and considered the stranger, not native, and detested (and still is by some, sad to say).  Ex 22:21, Lev 19:34, Deut 23:7,  Ez 47:22-23, many more.

Thus should a religious registry come to the United States, register me first, as Jew or Muslim, I’ll take either one.   If there are internment camps, find me there as my family once was.  Deportation Force?  I will aid DACA or Muslim children, just as courageous Righteous Gentiles (Christian and Muslim), at their far greater peril, once aided children in my family.

It is clear the 2016 election was about much more than these issues, but these issues are nevertheless a consequence of the election.  Agree or disagree as we might on many things, as Americans, and people of faith, it is required of us to be vigilant against the corrosive forces of fear that can inadvertently, but without diligence invariably, decay moral and legal violations of our Constitution and our Scripture and the values both encode.

Mark E. Epstein

 

Manufacturing Our Future

SEABROOK SAYS: Thanks to Pat Skinner for leading Gaston College to becoming one of the best (of not the finest) in North Carolina. Julia Allen, the college’s chief development officer, writes about the Advanced Manufacturing program bring introduced and becoming operational soon at Gaston College. Gaston County is a manufacturing place where people should have high interest in this new technology! NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

This time of year reality sets in for many high school seniors and their parents that graduation day is near. If you are a parent or guardian finding yourself in this position, research shows that you have more influence over your child’s educational and career choices than you may think. With that in mind, consider that the average four-year college graduate of the Class of 2016 left campuses all over the country with over $37,000 in educational loans, and many of them are still seeking jobs because they did not gain skills necessary to move seamlessly into a career.

Society has created the illusion that the only key to a meaningful and lucrative career is a degree from a four-year college or university. I ask that you consider that there are other options, ones that are just as good and maybe even better for your son or daughter, which can easily be found close to home at Gaston College.

Gaston County’s largest employment sector is manufacturing. Over 15,000 of our friends and neighbors work within this sector; and over the past five years, the number of manufacturing jobs in our county has grown by 6.5%. It is estimated that over the next ten years an additional 3,500 positions will be available due to an aging workforce and industry growth. While the numbers seem positive, they present a challenge for the ongoing health of our local economy. The single largest frustration voiced by local manufacturing executives is that they are not able to find skilled employees for the jobs they have available.

One of the cornerstones of Gaston College’s mission statement is that we provide “educational programs and services responding to economic and workforce development needs.” To that end, we are excited about the upcoming completion of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The College has a deep commitment to train workers for advanced manufacturing programs, and that was the case long before the term “advanced manufacturing” was the buzz word of the day. This new facility will dramatically increase the College’s capacity to train the next generation of manufacturing employees to meet regional needs, and it is possible because of strong support from local, state and federal agencies as well as the Golden LEAF Foundation and private donors. Our community has invested resources in the College so that we may now employ them to train your sons and daughters for careers that will challenge and sustain them for life.

We need your help to change the perception of how a future in manufacturing may look. While 70 percent of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy, only 30 percent of parents encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Few graduating high school seniors are aware of the opportunities within the manufacturing sector, or their expectation of industry is dark and dirty—yet that image is grossly outdated. Many manufacturing facilities today are cleaner than most offices in downtown high-rises, and they are staffed by well-trained, educated professionals who are highly skilled and are on the cutting edge of today’s innovations in robotics, mechatronics, 3-D printing, automation and more.

Gaston College will open the Center for Advanced Manufacturing this summer; and it offers affordable Associate Degree programs in fields such as Mechatronics, Nuclear Technology, Robotics, and Alternative Energy. Students are taught by caring faculty, in state-of-the-art facilities, to prepare them for challenging and rewarding careers. The College is doing its part to support local industries – industries that pay average annual wages well above Gaston County’s $42,158 median household income; we now need you to encourage your children to envision their future in advanced manufacturing.

For information about programs or enrollment, please contact the office of admissions at 704-922-6232 or visit our website at http://www.gaston.edu.

Julia P. Allen
Chief Development Officer
Gaston College

The Power of One

SEABROOK SAYS: Gaston County now has about 300 mentors for students.  The need is far greater.  Have you ever given serious thought to mentoring a kid for one hour per week? Elizabeth and I did.  The benefits to the Seabrooks and Phillip, the student, were huge.  Step forward – give mentoring a try.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

He’s a high school student. Good grades and social interactions haven’t come easily for him.  His home life is economically challenged; he has not grown up with a father figure or the advantages that others might take for granted. Is he another statistic destined for failure?  Perhaps. Except this student experienced the “Power of One,” the power of one caring adult … his mentor.

Our most recent success story for Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is a young man who recently landed his first part-time job at a local restaurant. Making the difference in this outcome was his mentor, a caring gentleman who built a relationship with the boy going back to elementary school. While most mentor relationships in our schools involve shorter time periods, this particular one has navigated many ups and downs, challenges and disappointments, and the routine of regular visits that sent a simple message: “I’m not giving up on you.” It was the mentor who coached his mentee on interview skills, handshakes, eye contact and what it would take to keep his first experience in the workplace positive. That’s mentoring at its best!

Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is in its 24th year of matching caring community individuals with deserving young people. Regular weekly meetings and activities at the child’s school help provide encouragement and valuable life skills that build confidence and self-worth.  This year, 257 mentors answered the call to volunteer in over 35 schools. That number sounds large, but immediately shrinks when you compare it to the 32,000 students attending Gaston County Schools. Wouldn’t every child benefit from a visit by a wise friend with experience?

The question I always ask at the start of every mentor training session is, “Who mentored you?” Think back — you may not have been part of a formal mentor program, but was there someone in your life who nudged you to try something out of your comfort zone? Was there a person who always seemed happy to hear your good news or just made you smile? Was there someone who was a comfort or just listened to you when life’s disappointments seemed to make it impossible to get back up? That’s mentoring!

“Young people with mentors, especially at-risk youth, have more positive visions of themselves and their futures, and they achieve more positive outcomes in school, the workplace and their communities,” writes David Shapiro, president and CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. “As a society, too often we leave these powerful human connections to chance. We must close the mentoring gap for the good of young people and our country.”

January is National Mentoring Month. It was launched by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in 2002 to focus attention on the need for mentors. It is an invitation to individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, nonprofits and faith communities to come together to increase the numbers of mentors for our young people. I am proud to say that each of those six community sectors are represented by the 261 current mentors in Gaston County Schools.  As wonderful as that number sounds, more mentors are needed. There are children waiting.

Becoming a mentor for Gaston County Schools requires a short approval process and training session that equips new volunteers with some starting strategies. The mentor program is school site based, meaning all your interaction occurs on school grounds during the school day. You can choose a time that works with your schedule. Weekly visits with mentees averages about 40 to 50 minutes. Time is spent doing fun activities that the student and mentor choose, but usually revolve around meaningful conversations. You may request to work with an elementary, middle or high school student.

Gaston mentors come from all walks of life and possess the single best characteristic, the ability to listen. A one-year commitment to the mentor program is requested. Many mentors, after building strong relationships, have remained with their mentees for several years and in some cases to graduation. Numerous proud moments and “Power of One” stories have emerged from Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program. Will you consider sharing your powers with a deserving child? That’s mentoring!

Valerie Yatko
Director, Business and Community Partnerships
Gaston County Schools

For more information contact Valerie at 704-866-6329 or vayatko@gaston.k12.nc.us

Gaston Together- Be Engaged

SEABROOK SAYS: Future leadership is an absolute essential if Gaston County is to move ahead.  Gaston Together is right now creating a plan that begins community-wide action on November 15th.  Please encourage the younger generation (ages25-40) to engage now.  Connect with Donna Lockett.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1997, a group of community leaders with foresight decided to launch a unique concept in Gaston County. A non-profit organization was developed with a mission that would tackle big Community Challenges by engaging the citizenry and working to avoid duplication of efforts in our community.  Gaston Together:  Communities of Excellence grew out of this effort.

Over the last nineteen years, Gaston Together has addressed many such challenges in our community. Some “solutions” have remained under its administration such as the “Pride in Gaston Traveling Tour” for third graders and the Gaston County MLK Unity Awards (honoring citizens in our county who build bridges of unity across lines of race, religion, gender, culture and geography in Gaston County.)  Others, such as “Keeping Families Intact”, now the Resource Connection at the YMCA , were transferred to other entities for sustainability.

One initiative developed by Gaston Together in its very beginning and still going strong today is the Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3.) The GC3 is a non-denominational ministerial association that provides faith-based leadership to address community issues.  Recently, they have created and signed a covenant with Law Enforcement in Gaston County including the Sheriff, the Chiefs of the County and all municipal police departments. The idea behind the covenant is to be proactive in Gaston County instead of reactive to community unrest; to develop a closer working relationship among clergy and law enforcement in Gaston County in an effort to prevent local protest events such as those experienced nationally.  Significant pro-active events since then have included a clergy/law enforcement breakfast to encourage relationship building, a gathering at the MLK Plaza to thank and pray for police following recent violence against police across our country, and a clergy specific police academy developed by the Gastonia Police Department.  Twenty-five Clergy members will take part in the training this fall.

The newest major initiative of Gaston Together is our Civic Engagement process. In an effort to attract and retain the 25 – 40 age group in our county and after several months of community review and cross-sector focus group sessions, in late fall Gaston Together will launch a community process to engage our next generation of leaders for Gaston County.  The underlying objective of this initiative, as the name implies, is to provide a vehicle for citizens- especially the next generation of leaders – to become engaged in endeavors that will improve our community’s vitality and quality of life.

These are just two specific examples of on-going Gaston Together initiatives, but there are numerous opportunities for people in this community to participate. So how can you help and what is the first step?

Find out what interests you. Whether it is just simply working with your neighbors to improve your street/neighborhood or getting involved by providing your opinions and desires to the elected leaders. Think of your county and its future; think of how it will drift if we all do nothing. We are the last county in the Charlotte Metro to experience tremendous growth. Be a part of deciding how, when and where that growth will happen. BE ENGAGED!

For more information about Gaston Together, please visit our facebook page, website: gastontogether.org, or call 704-867-9869.

Jaggy Anand
2016 Gaston Together Board Chair

 Donna Lockett
Gaston Together Executive Director

The Election Nightmare

SEABROOK SAYS: Charlie Gray is right on target. Our political and election system is a huge mess and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, what we have and use is totally outdated. Failure to improve shows the poor quality of representation by our reps in DC. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Every day at 10:15 am and 4:15 pm, I get a robo call on my cell phone from “unavailable”. Other times during the day, I get calls from California, New York and Nebraska. I, of course, do not answer them but it is maddening.

I understand that some people get dozens of robo calls each day. They are generally for political contributions. I have subscribed to “Do Not Call” but to no avail. It seems once you have contributed to a political candidate, which most good citizens desire to do, you are placed on a list. This list apparently becomes available to candidates and political causes from everywhere.

After November, there will be a slight break before the next election cycle begins. There seems to be a constant election, considering states offices and the House of Representatives. There is only one conclusion – our political system is broken. The elections last too long and are way too expensive. Instead of having one national primary on the same day, they are spread out from February to June. It is estimated that the democratic and republican candidates will spend over one billion dollars on each election. And in the end, who do we get – a dead-locked Federal government that cannot function.
Our constitution was drafted almost 250 years ago for 13 mostly agrarian states. It does not work for 50 diverse states in the 21st Century. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population. The president is elected by the Electoral College. This system has resulted generally in the Congress being controlled by one party and the Executive Branch by another. The Supreme Court is determined by which party gets to appoint the majority of justices, who serve for life.

Now, with constant and biased media bombardment, the population has been herded into opposing camps, resulting in bitter confrontation and more gridlock. Families and good friends are often estranged or scare to mention politics for fear of alienating someone. The whole thing is a mess and is tearing our country apart. The winner of this year’s presidency will be the candidate who gets less hate votes than the other.

Are we stuck with this terrible situation forever? What can we do? I’m afraid we will have to change our parties, our primaries and maybe our constitution. Abolishing all parties would be best and candidates could be judged on their qualification and positions. Primaries should be on the same day. Campaigns should be limited to six months, three for primary and three for general election. Campaigns should be financed by public funds, allocated by a candidate’s acceptability by the public as determined by polling data. States should be represented in Congress by population and everyone should be elected by popular vote. Gerrymandering should be prohibited and voting districts established by independent panels in each state, subject to court review to determine impartibility, political and robo calls should be prohibited.

There are many other changes that could be made to ensure our political process is fair and enjoyable for the candidates and the public. But to ignore the problem will only make it worse, leading to frustration, hate and division.

I don’t want to spend my remaining years dodging phone calls, talking about the weather and watching the hate and division grow in our country. Do you?
Let’s demand that something be done.

Charles Gray
Former attorney

Rethinking the Future

My grandson, Caleb, is the sixth generation of our family in Gastonia. During the ‘70s and ‘80s I had the honor and pleasure of active involvement in many ways in Gaston County. Ours is a wonderful community. I also experienced the early stages of the transition from a textile economy to a more diversified economy…one that is still emerging and not fully defined.

It was in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s before our textile plants were sold to Carolina Mills that I began to realize that I was not asking the right questions, either about our industry or about the future of our county. This was driven home to me at a Christmas social event in the ‘80s when my good friend Grier Beam, founder of Carolina Freight, said to me that he and the commissioners had made a great mistake over his 26 years as Chairman. Before I could say what a good job he had done over the years, he made a very direct and insightful comment…”Rick, our only focus was on holding taxes down. We should have provided the kind of leadership that would have helped set a vision for Gaston County.” If Grier were alive today, I think he would also have the opinion that no one group, whether the commissioners or any other, has enough foresight in this time of immense change to set vision for our county as was done in the past. This is also true, in my opinion, for any local area. We are all individually overwhelmed, and need to get as many people as possible involved in thinking about the future. For example, things now move too fast for traditional strategic planning methods to be very effective. Soon, “adaptive planning” will become the norm.

Since ’89 my focus has been on thinking about the future in new ways, and working with many others throughout the U.S. in collaboration to try to determine how we need to prepare our local communities for a different kind of future…one that will be increasingly fast-paced, interconnected and complex. It is my opinion that we spend too much time trying to make old ideas efficient in a society and world that is not just changing, but transforming from the Industrial Age to what we call the Connected Age.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in the past twenty-five years in my profession as a “futurist” involved with our Communities of the Future Network is the need to be open to new ideas, especially ones that challenge my traditional set of strong beliefs. I used to think I had the truth. I now connect with others to search for the right questions. In working with many visionary leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada, I have come to believe that we are in nothing less that a transition of history, and that we will need to collaborate at a deeper level to identify emerging “weak signals” (new ideas and discoveries) that will transform how we educate/learn, how we do economic development, how we lead, how we govern, even how we think….especially how we think. As a result, all of our COTF work is community “research and development.”

Recently, I have begun to reconnect with old friends and colleagues in Gaston County. When they learn what I have been doing for the last twenty-five years, a question is often asked….”what does Gaston County need to do to have a vital and sustainable future?” My answer is simple….”there is no one thing, no silver bullet, that will prepare our county, or any other local community, for a different kind of future that is emerging. However, in my opinion, if many leaders and citizens are not willing to take the time to learn how our society is transforming, and develop and test new skills and knowledge that is aligned with the future, we will wonder why our quality of life and economy is not improving.

I have always thought Gaston County is a special place with many special people. It is my hope that we will be inspired to take risks together to rethink the future for the good of our grandchildren like Caleb. It will not be easy or quick…yet, nothing could have more meaning than to help each other be successful in this time of immense change.

When speaking at conferences, or recently to the leaders of Aiken, SC, I usually end with what I call a “futurist’s benediction”….it reflects my Presbyterian background:

“May you always search for new ideas,
May the winds of change be at your back, and
May the warmth of your smile encourage someone who is afraid of the future,
The courage to take that first step.”

Rick Smyre, Futurist
Communities of the Future