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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Learning From the Past and Connecting to the Future

The State of the Union address was held on January 25,2011. While watching the televised address I kept thinking about the first televised debate between Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon. I watched this debate in U.S. history last year, and was shocked by how put together and attractive Robert Kennedy looked compared to how uncomfortable Richard Nixon appeared. It has been said that those watching the debate on TV were convinced Kennedy was the winner, but those who listened to the debate thought Nixon was the winner. Just goes to show how important appearance and presences can be.

I realized while watching President Obama give the State of the Union address that seeing the speaker is much more impactful than just hearing or reading their speech. President Obama had a lot of expression in his face while he spoke, he made eye contact with his audience during important moments, and I could see he really cared about what he was addressing. All of these things would go virtually unnoticed to anyone listening or reading the address.

Learning from the PAST…

Similar to Kennedy, Obama wore a navy suit during his TV time. Navy is not as harsh as black, it looks professional, and it doesn’t wash you out like grey does (Richard Nixon made that mistake during his debate against Kennedy). Nixon was also criticized for being sweaty and having a 5-O-clock shadow, making viewers assume he was nervous, sloppy, and uncomfortable. During the debate Kennedy’s skin was glowing with a tan and he was conscience to keep the sweat from his face. Obama looked healthy, fresh-faced, strong, and confident in front of the millions of viewers who tuned in Tuesday night. That is just the way American’s want their leader to be perceived.

So…does presentation matter?

One can argue that it is not about how you present the information but, the information. I am not saying that the information does not matter, but presentation is KEY. You can have the best ideas, but if you don’t present it in the right light, no one will listen. Obama made sure that his presentation was top of the line. Besides the measure he took to make his appearance as appealing as possible, he had speechwriters help him construct the best possible sentences to convey his message in an impactful way. He consulted his advisors about the content in the address, making sure it would be understood and well received by the masses, and he added anecdotes and comedic elements to make the address more entertaining.

All the effort that went into this address made me think about the ways teachers present information. I cannot count the number of times I have zoned out in class because the teacher was just talking at the class. The information was important, but the presentation was dull. Luckily, sometimes there is some effort and creativity put into the presentation, and the results are always positive! I will use Spanish vocabulary as an example. There are some days when my teacher just shows us a PowerPoint with all of the words and translations. However, on certain occasions we will play a vocab game instead, Jeopardy, the fly swatter game, and charades are some of the favorites. It takes a little bit of planning, but the effort is worth it. My history teacher also had a way of making his lectures more entertaining by incorporating in personal anecdotes. While learning about the Soviet Union, he told us about his time in East Germany driving on the highways and getting his car searched by police at the border. It was engaging, funny, and memorable.

Obama’s State of the Union address is being talked about, the U.S. is more informed and more interested about the State of the Union, and he represented America well. President Obama’s extensive preparation is expected, however, there are opportunities in all of our lives where we can take the extra step (even when it is not required); make something more interesting, more exciting, more relevant. It will make a difference, and your efforts will be remembered.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your reaction to President Obama’s address and to my post!

Until next time…


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Knots in my Yo-Yo String

While on vacation, in the beautiful Cayman Islands (my beach view), I read Jerry Spinelli’s Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid. My little sister, Elizabeth came prepared with plenty of books, one of them being Knots in my Yo-Yo String. I started the book thinking it would be interesting to see the kinds of books my younger sister was reading. I don’t know what I expected, but after I read the 148-page book in a couple of hours I realized that the book was not shallow and flowery as I had expected, but deep and reflective.

To be honest, I think this book is better suited for young adults and adults than it is for my 5th grade sister. The story is the retelling of Jerry Spinelli’s childhood and teenage years. Of course I can see how my sister could enjoy the short descriptive sentences and humorous anecdotes, but I don’t think she could grasp the importance of the things Spinelli remembers and the feelings he had growing up. While reading this book, the three things that stuck out to me the most were, 1. He does not have memories of actually learning. Any mention of school is directly connected to an event like a spelling bee, prom, or playing on the playground during lunch. 2. His relationship with his younger brother. 3. His “List of 16 Things I Wished I Could Do”

Similarly to Spinelli, I took a few moments to reflect on my time in school. Below are the first memories that popped into my head from each grade. 1st grade I think of the reading loft my classroom had (the only one in the building) and that my teacher was also named Alison. 2nd grade I remember talking about the election between Bush, Clinton, and Nader. In our mock election, we chose Nader, probably because we liked saying his name. 3rd grade I learned how to read a chapter book. 4th grade I remember a clean up game we played, “Magic Garbage” the teacher picked a piece of garbage that was on the ground and the student who picked it up would get a prize (an eraser, pencil, McDonald’s toy, etc.) 5th grade I remember my amazing teacher Mrs. Beck. She gave us an assignment to make an “All About Me Book” it was the first time I could really be creative on an assignment and I remember being so proud at how neat and well executed it was. From middle school I remember the basketball games, my teachers, and memories with friends. High school I remember my Academy class, mostly my classmates and the feeling that I get when I am surrounded by their incredible minds. I will also remember the packed gyms at basketball games, and going to prom my junior year. Reading Spinelli’s book helped me reflect on what stands out in the 12 or so years of schooling. I can see why some memories stick, but I wonder why out of all the things I could remember, I remember “Magic Garbage” and that my teachers name was also Alison.

In the book Jerry Spinelli admits to not having a great memory of his relationship with his younger brother. I have an abundance of memories with my 14 month older sister, Emily, but when it comes to my 8 year younger sister, Elizabeth, I feel the way Spinelli did. Spinelli, however, enlisted the help of his younger brother while writing his autobiography and asked him what he remembered of their childhood. Much to Spinelli’s surprise, his brother produced beautiful memories of him and Jerry such as Jerry letting him ride on his handlebars. This makes me wonder if our bike rides to the Dairy Bar or picking her up from soccer practice will be things my sister Elizabeth remembers. Jerry’s lack of memories he has with his younger brother also makes me cautious not to miss out on the memories I can still have with Elizabeth.

The 16 things on Spinelli’s list were as childish as “Spit between my front teeth” to as profound as “understand eternity” So, to my readers I ask what was on your list of things you wished you could do when you were 10 years old? I know some of mine were to be as fast and athletic as my sister Emily and to be as adventurous as my little brother, Bobby. Please comment on my post or simply state what was on your list as a 10 year old or what is on your list now. Is there a trend? Is there a big difference?

It is a new year; reflect on yourself, your life, and your memories.

Until next time…