New Things Are Welcome!

exceptional education

Happy Friday, Y’all! All, Y’all!

It’s the end of the first month of a New Year, too! I am just glad that I am still around to talk about it … and enjoy it! I mean, it seems every time you turn on the news, listen to the radio even, somebody is robbing a bank, breaking into a house … or killing somebody! Just a few days ago, there was a story on about a teenager in a neighborhood in Miami who went across the street from where he lives after school. He came home shot in the arm … by a friend. When the investigation was being conducted by the police, nobody would talk. They couldn’t find the gun either. There was a brief excerpt on the news of the boy’s mother crying, even though her son was still alive, asking the kids to put down the guns. “Make friends, do something but put the guns down!”, she bellowed!

There was another story on about a 17 year old who is the leader of a “gang” in Broward County that knocked on doors during the day while folks are working, and, if no one answers, they would kick the door in, steal everything they can … even car keys … and come back later and steal the car! Yes, 17 … kicking in doors … robbing others … WAS their “job”! All of them are locked up now in Broward County Jail. Of course, as a person who studied sociology, I know that the average person needs to feel a part of something … anything … even a gang!!! And, during tough times, it has been seen time and time again … that folks will NOT lay down and die. Yet, I think it is time for some folks to try new things. I know it gets rough … As we used to say back in the day, “Who you tellin’?!!” Yet, each day, I thank my Creator FIRST for waking me up, develop an “attitude of gratitude” and I am ready to begin my day. I am even ready to try something new … different even … that makes a positive difference in the world! If only in my own “world” . . .

Recently, though you all know my approach to things in general, I have been more open to asking for advice and “help”, and even good ideas from others. I don’t have a problem distinguishing good ideas from unhealthy ones today, and I always make an effort to be cordial … even when others don’t seem to appreciate it. It is NOT for them that I remain kind … they don’t understand that … it is for ME! I want to be the “best that I can be”! We each have a choice to be whatever we want to be … within reason. I try to keep my existence humble, sincere and honest. I don’t have a need to lie to anyone today … about my age, my work (back in Quality Assurance!) and my past. I will tell you more about my beliefs today, rather, and tell you even more about what I hope for the future. You see, that is MY road map … so I don’t get lost along the way. Something I saw in my horoscope recently was that “asking for advice is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being smart”. So if you know of someone who might be interested in my “work” … or something that I can do better or different, give me a holler!

Those of you who know me may know that I have experienced a lot in my life … and I am still here. I have been in some of the roughest neighborhoods of New York City … Cali, Colombia … Madrid, Spain … and I am still here. I have been to a private boarding school … on academic scholarship … to an Ivy League University … also on work/study/scholarship … and graduated. Some folks tell me that I should have more “things” or live more luxuriously … even more comfortably, which I agree with … but I am not going to be a liar, a cheat, a phony and a thief to get those “things” that folks think I should have!! And, those of you who know me know to tread softly when you try to “put me down”. If you need it, I can give you a “piece of my mind”, as my Momma used to say! I prefer being nice, though I know how to be firm and keep negative energy out of my face … if only by walking away!!!

Sunday is the beginning of Black History Month, and there are a lot of festivities planned. So far, I have one talk planned at a church in Miami on the subject of “African Americans and Spirituality”. If you know of anyone that needs a speaker, let me know, like my friend Solveig did for me at Parkway Middle School. I mean, that’s how most people get started … and definitely how others continue getting opportunities. Most people think that “fighting fire with fire” is the best way to handle challenges. Think about the analogy … fire with fire … burning every darn thing down!! I choose … today … to fight with peace and love … and if necessary, by avoiding the negativity that looms everywhere. I don’t let it inside of me. I remember when I used to, I was only setting myself up for failure, frustration and problems. We live … and we learn.

Have a great weekend, enjoy the Super Bowl, which I usually watched at “Petey’s” house (RIP), and get ready for Black History Month!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Be the Best “You” That You Can Be!

the best you

Yes, folks … we’re back … and it’s Hump Day again! Mid-week, Baby! “Who’s complainin’?”

These past few days have been rather interesting for me … nothing serious, very quiet “inside” in fact. Sometimes, when I have so many thoughts dancing around in my mind, I seek solution-type stuff to keep fear from seeping in. Fear is so debilitating!! Yoga helps me a lot with the discipline … the simple thought process … that “I love me, as I love others!” type of thinking going on inside. I miss it when I don’t practice it. It is like anything else, the more you practice it …. the better you get at it! Meditation (quiet moments of thought, reflection and self understanding) is the same for me.

On Monday nights, we usually have Marya as our yoga instructor. Now, she works for a bank during the day and loves working out in the evenings … but she was going on a business trip. So, we had Ernesto, who is a yogi in his own right with his own business as a yoga instructor, as our “substitute”. In many ways, class with him is a gift in disguise as we get to receive instruction from a yogi whose whole life and work is practicing yoga!! Some folks don’t like Ernesto because they say he is too hard … too demanding. He doesn’t play any “mood music” and you cannot turn the lights low in the studio where our classes are held … during HIS classes. He makes some interesting comments about the poses that cause some of us to chuckle from time to time. He also interjects information regarding the health and spiritual benefits of the poses he has us hold for what seems like “forever”. Most instructors also offer benefit information but we spend more time moving from pose (asana) to pose rather than holding one pose for 2 – 3 minutes!! Ernesto challenges some of our basic values that some of us claim to have. I welcome this.

Yesterday was the “International Holocaust Day of Remembrance” which was designated by the United Nations General Assembly back on November 1, 2005. It “commemorates” the genocide of 6 million Jewish people, including mentally and physically disabled persons as well as 6,000 “homosexual” men by the Nazis. On January 27th, 1945, “Auschwitz-Birkenau”, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by Soviet troops. Those who know the history of the “Holocaust” and some of its most horrifying stories and ingredients, amongst the best known being “The Diary of Anne Frank”, also know that this, too, was comparable to, if not the worst of slavery of the Jews and other historical disasters of “man’s inhumanity to man”, if you will. Is this the “best that we can be”? I hope not.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. You are who you are, and this life is an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and your strengths and areas needing improvement, and to work on yourself as you contribute to “humans humanity toward humans”! I also wanted to take a moment to thank a number of people including Stokely Gittens, Gordon Derrouseau, Maureen Shimmon Leon, Gary Hodder, Rafael Ventura Rosa, Mitchell Zogby, A.J. Sherman, Edna Cook and Robert Schulman for your generous donations to Educational Excellence. If I forgot to mention anyone, let me know, please! Robert has been very helpful, and I want to mention him as he is of the Jewish faith, as well as my long time “buddy, confidante and friend”, Peter Zachary (RIP). Don’t count yourself out of anything, while others may. As old school boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson said, “If you want to be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will!” I follow that with, “You don’t have to be “The Champ” today, just be the best “you” that you can be!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
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Still Keep Your Dreams

Still Keep Your Dreams

Happy Monday again!

Yes, I said it, and I know there are a lot of folks appreciating the simple fact that it is Monday … and their eyes are open. Of course, I know that there are others who haven’t found much joy in their lives this morning, yet . . . I hope you do.

Happy belated Birthday to Mr. Jerome Tucker of Washington, DC. His “Back Door Productions” business has been one that I’ve admired over the years since Ms. Elecia James, former student from White Plains, NY, introduced us via “cyber space”. I have even had the pleasure of being on his radio program that is aired every Friday afternoon from 1pm -4pm EST. It is called “Third Eye Open”.

Do you have the desire to keep your dreams alive?!? Sometimes, it gets tough. In today’s world, it is even tougher. There are so many competing elements, so to speak, not to mention the plethora of “haters” and “naysayers”. So, as a popular group once sang, “Keep Your Head to the Sky”! I had the pleasure of meeting up with a long time friend whom I met during my scooter/motorcycle days here in the FTL at MotorSports of Fort Lauderdale, Ms. Natasha Carriles. Those of you who know me also know that Natasha has been like a daughter to me … thank you. We met Saturday afternoon for a short time before she had to be at work, and I had just left yoga class at LA Fitness in the Cypress Creek Station area. It was great! We “caught up”, hugged up and bid each other a fond adieu … until we meet again.

What’s most important for me nowadays is to keep my dreams alive. Now, I don’t have anything “undreamable”, but more like world peace, respect for one another’s cultures, folkways and mores … as long as they are not hurting anyone … and reaching out to others in their times of need. Yesterday, I spent some time on the phone with another good friend, Rafael Ventura Rosa, as I spun some of my ideas on building Educational Excellence this year. We had worked in community organizing on different projects together and have remained good friends since then! I shared some more of my “dreams” for EE with him. I decided to start a “Go Fund Me” campaign for Educational Excellence, as he and others had once suggested to me before. “I have a dream . . .”

During “60 Mintues” last night, which is one of my favorite broadcast journalism programs, I was hit hard by two disturbing “stories” for me. One was the “comedy show” put on by Speaker Boehner and Speaker McCullough, both of the Republican Party leadership!! Listening to their answers to Scott Pelley’s questions was like listening to a child “spin” his story on how, though there are cookie crumbs all around his mouth, he didn’t see any cookies in his Mom’s kitchen!! Upon realizing their skilled craft of “lying through their teeth”, Pelley changed his questioning technique to get them to say just “yes” or “no”!! It was funny as they BOTH squirmed amidst their lies and disrespectful attitudes towards the POTUS as well as what he represents!! It really slammed me when Pelley asked them why they wouldn’t “be caught being seen with the President”, which is part of their partisan “party politics, at the White House for a visit or two. Boehner answered: “Oh, I have been over to the White House a few times …” with the greatest insincerity I’ve seen in him yet, other than when he sat behind the POTUS during his “State of the Union” address last week, trying NOT to show any support for his speech unless absolutely necessary. And this, too, can be seen by other “world leaders” as both GOP representatives tried to blame their own practice of partisan politics on the POTUS himself!! Believe it … or not!

The saddest story was the one about the young black boy who was shot by a Cleveland, OH police officer (white) last year which occurred within SECONDS … not minutes … of their arrival to the playground where the boy sat playing with a toy gun after neighbors had called police to say that they saw someone with a gun, probably a toy, in the park near them. The Cleveland officer who shot the kid had been “turned down” by another police department for being considered unstable (which he proved by killing this kid). Then, the Cleveland PD hired him!! The African American Chief of Police looked like a marionette trying to answer questions which were clearly aimed at exposing the already well know racial divide between the Cleveland PD and the communities they are supposed to serve. Interviews of “black men and women” displayed the on-going chasm between the two as well as the national charge that there has been a great amount of distrust implanted in the “black community’s mind”, so to speak after so many horrifying and unspeakable events involving the Cleveland Police Department.

So, in case you were thinking about abandoning any of your “dreams” because haters yell louder than supporters, tune in to that quiet voice inside … the loving one … the one who knows you better than anyone else! Be well, be loving and caring to one another … and to yourselves!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com
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A Moment of Clarity

clarity

Happy Friday, y’all!

Now this is what I am talking about … T.G.I.F.!! Another full long week for me … didn’t have Monday off from work so it’s a full work week for me. How about you? Are you grateful today? Or have you found something to complain about already??!!!

Well, this past week has been one I will remember for a looooong time! The reason I say this is because I got to witness an event that will surely go down in history – the POTUS’s State of the Union Address … and I know … because he won two elections!!! Are people really that hate-filled? Wait … don’t answer that! Another black man with a long rap sheet was stopped in a Jaguar as he was a passenger in the back seat, and, had shot at a New Jersey State Trooper when he was 16 … He was well known by law enforcement, and, there was a gun in the glove compartment and he was in the back seat. As he seemingly “took too long” to put his hands in view of the officers who stopped the vehicle, he was warned several times … threatened … then shot multiple times. He … was unarmed. Could it be fear? So, looking back on the fact that Barack H. Obama has served one term and is completing his second consecutive term … and he reminded the tax paid “hecklers” in Congress of the same … that he won two times!!

How many of you have jobs where you can create two teams and then … disrespect the “boss”?? How many of you have a boss that when you disrespect him, he chuckles and continues making decisions that she/he believes is right and leaves you there … doesn’t fire you … and you still get paid?!? I can hear a pin drop . . . Even if you work for yourself, own your own business, you STILL have to listen to someone!! No?!? Are you disobeying the IRS? How about the state or city where your business is located … do you ignore their requirements for you to run your business?? I’m out of pins so I can’t drop anymore!! So, why do so many folks think it is cool to deface photos or photoshop pictures of the POTUS and The First Lady … even make “low class” hurtful comments about their children?! Okay, let the chorus sing: “Freedom of Speech”!! Don’t “we” still have the right to say what “we” want at work to our bosses and co-workers?!? Yet, we “watch our tongues” because even though we can say whatever we want . . . we don’t!! Is that because of the fear of losing our jobs and income?? Enter “the fear of losing money”!!

Have any of you ever been homeless? Have you ever had to visit a “soup kitchen” for food for yourself and/or your family?? It is not easy, which is why the 90 year old veteran of WWII in Fort Lauderdale refuses to stop feeding the hungry in the same location of the beach every Wednesday at the same time. Do you think he knows those homeless people on the beach that eat “his” food? Do you think he talks “bad” about them after he gives them food in an attempt to establish his dominance over these homeless people? Does his ego really need to “put homeless and hungry” people down??? Now, don’t get me wrong here … I am not suggesting that you NOT take care of your immediate family and loved ones … even your priorities. Do that!! But if you’ve got an opportunity to “give” to someone in “need” and you can do it … do that, too!! If not, the “universe” will understand!!

So a delegation of the United States Federal Government recently went to Cuba to meet with their comparable representatives under the authorization of the POTUS. A high ranking long time politician in Miami stated that: “This is all about cheap cigars and cheap rum!!” I was shocked at the “shallowness” of such a comment, not to mention the so-called “level in political circles” that this person can be found … living off of tax payers dollars. Then, a comment was made by the same female politician that: “No American Ambassador will be set up in Cuba because Congressional Representative Senator Marco Rubio (R) will NOT ALLOW IT!!” I wonder what he plans to do??? Even the POTUS himself suggested in his speech that everyone should have the right to a free “community college” education! He also suggested, “It’s okay not to like someone and disagree with [someone] policy, but we don’t have to demonize anyone!!” Now that is high level intellectual reasoning that many folks might not be able to grasp …

If you’ve a moment, take some time to meditate … quiet things inside your head … find your original peace-filled and loving thoughts … and enjoy some clarity. I know, I know … I’ll do it, too!

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com
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The State of Affairs According to . . .

voltaire

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

How is the first month of the New Year going for you? I hope you are off to a great start! Who do you believe nowadays?! What motivates you to believe someone? Do you put what they say to the test . . . or are you a blind follower who believes something or someone because “so many other people do [it]”? I mean, how would you or are you evaluating your life? According to . . .

In the days following the “Day of Service and Remembrance” celebrated in Dr. King’s honor, we have seen and heard so many different forms of behaviour and responses, not to mention parades and other activities! Some folks I know went to the movie theatres to see “Selma” while others participated in organized workshops, presentations, programs … and of course, parades! Yes, I was at work … a matter of finances, but I dressed in the last suit that my “Momma” bought for me and remembered what they taught me and what I’ve studied … and what I’ve learned about living my life today. You’ve got to love Michelle Obama, Eric Holder, Sonia Sotomayor … and the POTUS, Barack Obama. I mean, regardless as to what folks may think or say that is negative about them, and there is ALWAYS some of that by “human nature”, they are amongst the major players in a nation’s government who have taken on the “charges” passed on to them by people like Toussaint L’Overture or more contemporary, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the “founding fathers”, if you will, though things have changed a lot since then! These are folks who are trying within the “system” to make changes even though their ethnic heritage isn’t from “Main Street” America. It says a lot about both the country we live in and the progress we’ve made as well as folks who have earned their place in history in managing one of the greatest countries of this time! Both the good and the bad ….

The POTUS said that unemployment went down, and more jobs were created in America recently than in the rest of the world combined! Republicans say that unemployment has not gone down … Who do you believe? Do we have to pick a side like this is a game with people’s lives and their families? You know, partisan politics? As one guy said in an audio interview before the POTUS’s speech that he was born before and struggled during the “Great Depression”, and, that today’s government and the way they are “running things” in this country really bother him!! I am assuming that he is referring to the “partisan politics” that have led to government shut downs causing basic civil servants and their families to suffer while Congressional representatives still got paid while the government was shut down! Might I also remind “us” that Congressional representatives, and in many cases their family members, continue to receive “benefits” (don’t call them entitlements, please, that word is reserved for “the poor”!) long after they have finished their performances in Congress! Let some more trickle down … or can “they”?! A former classmate from Princeton posted an article on social media a few days ago hinting that by 2016, the wealthiest one percent in America will have more capital than the remaining “99%”!!! I repeat, “Let some more trickle down … or can they'”?! There were points in the POTUS’s speech last night when he sounded like Dr. King, encouraging “us” to help others and not get caught up in shooting and killing and robbing each other … for those crumbs … just sayin’! It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

So, that position you’re fighting for, that money that some people are killing for, those funds that the white collar criminals manage to manipulate … that is the trickle down “money” from that one percent … and we ALL are fighting over those “crumbs”, so to speak. Readjust your focus, sharpen your vision and continue to be the best that you can be!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
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National Day of Service and Remembrance

day of service

Happy Monday, All!

Today is a national holiday in honor of the message of the late great Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., which is in essence that the greatest mission of life is to do what one can to help others. If you ever go to a page of Dr. King’s quotes, you could spend hours there … reading, then contemplating them … and meditating on them! The holiday shares the proximity of Dr. King’s actual birthday, which was last week on Thursday and the first Monday of the following week as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. I know that there are a lot of folks in the world today who may be able to use a refresher or crash course in the life of Dr. King. Yet, his legacy is one that has changed the world.

“Don’t forget where you came from, and definitely don’t forgot how you got there … and who came before you to pave the way for you!”

Now, if you are “one of those few” who just took advantage of opportunities and dug deep inside, you go get your horn and blow it loud. There are people like Oprah Winfrey, who grew up poor in Mississippi, and one other guy I read about in Business Insider, Francois Perault, who is a billionaire that was bullied in school because he was so poor!! He is known as the “face of fashion” for Kering, (formerly PPR) which owns Gucci and Yves St. Laurent. They too, “started from the bottom now they’re here!” … so to speak! Yet, most people have gotten a hand from someone somewhere (or many others!), if even a parent or “guardian angel” type of person whose station in life and belief in the person and their mission provided enough impetus for them to simply invest in that person’s future. I often honor my parents because I know that it was due to their efforts that I was able to get this far in my life … peace be still.

I recall those “others” who paved the way for many African Americans in this country, Dr. King, Jr.’s “civil rights” movement bringing most of those to the forefront. His leadership, charisma, “on point” methodology of “non violent passive resistance” (wow!! it is even hard for me to say that!!) to demonstrate the NEED for a change in civil rights policies in the USA. The levels of barbarism imposed upon the non-violent demonstrators were horrific, as they were often beaten with steel/metal poles, pipes and even lynched on many occasions!! This was in ” . . . the land of the free, home of the brave . . .” . . . peace be still. So, please take some time today to remember those who came before us, of all nationalities and faiths, who joined together as sisters and brothers to make some needed changes (as they still are needed) to move humanity forward. Celebrate through service. Remember Dr. King as he should be remembered – a world leader who gave until the end of his life!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
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“Happy Birthday, Dr. King!” – National Day of Service

MLK 2015

Happy Friday, All!

And you know what I am about to say, right?! T.G.I.F!

Have you ever been accused of doing something that you KNOW you didn’t do … and the person was trying to convince you … YOU … that you actually did something, perhaps to them? How do you handle that, especially when you thought the person was a “friend”?! Enter, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. … trying to save a land … a world even!

It has been a full week with many things going on internationally … as well as nationally! Just a mention of the events in Belgium yesterday as a terrorist plot appears to have been thwarted. Yesterday was also the birthday of our “Modern Jesus”, if you will – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While the U.S.A. and the world are celebrating Dr. King’s birthday with “A Day of Service” on Monday, as well as a national holiday, it is clear that in many places, especially Liberty City, FL, the push is for peace NOW in the communities, in the country … and in the world! I know, I know … it is a tall order.

Dr. King’s life during the Civil Rights Movement is depicted in the movie recently released in his honor called “Selma”. Now, I haven’t seen it yet so I am only going to mention all of the chatter that I’ve heard and seen on t.v. programs as well as personal friends’s comments. I will undoubtedly see it next month. I just wanted to say, and to thank my parents for instilling in me the concept of peace. It is true that as a child, I got many a spanking for … coming in late or forgetting to empty the trash … or being suspect of keeping the change from the milk man’s money left in our milk box on the side of our apartment’s door!! Yep! Families used to order quarts of milk in The Projects and have a milk box and nobody took anyone else’s milk (or money!) from the unlocked boxes that sat next to an apartment door with 8 – 10 apartments on each floor! Those were the days …

The days that Mom and Dad had a picture of King placed majestically over the dining area table were the ones that I remember when learning of Dr. King’s Legacy. The Rosa Parks story with SNCC and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference earned the utmost respect during the tumultuous times surrounding Dr. King’s life, his message, his enemies … his converts … and his followers!! I would love to be able to see the “King Monument” up close and personal one day before my journey ends! Many people’s lives were changed by the desire of this man to teach that: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” Let freedom ring ….

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com
http://johncook7613.wix.com/know-thyself
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