What #RollingThunder Can Teach America


(The following post What Rolling Thunder Can Teach America by former Gov. John M. Huntsman and former Sen. Joe Lieberman recently appeared on thedailybeast.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

As Rolling Thunder shakes D.C. this weekend, it’s a powerful reminder that we’re stronger when we ride together.

Forty years ago, the United States entered the Vietnam War, which would bitterly divide the nation. We would spend years on a bombing campaign that, to this day, cannot be called a success. And, most shameful of all, we would snub our returning combat-weary veterans, almost all of whom were drafted without the power to refuse service, creating a generation of temporarily forgotten patriots.

This weekend the nation’s capital will vibrate under the humming engines of thousands of motorcycles as they ride through Washington for a run named for the bombing mission itself, Rolling Thunder. Riders hail from all over the United States, and the haunting sound of roaring engines becomes an undeniable force in the city, honoring our Vietnam vets, and expanding to include the ever-growing numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Rolling Thunder has become a symbol of American spirit, of our ability to rise above political differences and honor those forgotten soldiers who went to fight knowing they had very little support back home. The noise of the engines drowns out the differences among the riders, and the rest of us, and when they roll through town, they are all part of a larger community, one that has chosen to honor and recognize fellow Americans.

Today this notion of community is in a fragile state, and likely to fray more in the tensions of an upcoming presidential campaign. The message of Washington politics has trickled down onto main streets across the U.S. and threatens the sense of community so uniquely American. It’s time that divisive message stops.

The message is that we are too different, that disparities are the fault of a particular group of people, pitting citizens against citizens, and dividing the nation instead of uniting communities.

This class warfare is a tool; it’s the knife pushed on us by politicians. But it is we who fray the fabric uniting us, destroying our sense of community. The idea of class warfare is a popular political tactic because it’s a convenient way to lay blame elsewhere. How very easy to divide the American public into “us vs. them,” to vilify “the 1 percent,” and to applaud “The Other 98 percent.” But it doesn’t provide a solution to any of our nation’s problems.

As election season ramps up, we will see some candidates go for the easy kill; they will grab onto this message and try to divide the nation based on income inequality, based on wealth and riches and haves and have nots.

After all is said and done, after the lines are drawn and the teams created in the “us vs. them” game, no matter how the game plays out, there are no winners. That’s because there is no game plan. It’s rhetoric. It distracts from the truth. And the truth is, as a united front, the American people are strong indeed, and can, together with their leaders, find real solutions to the national challenges of too little economic growth and too much income inequality.

When Americans visit Arlington National Cemetery this weekend, or the countless other eternal resting places for our fallen soldiers, we will not ask of the name on the stone, “are you too rich to deserve remembrance? Are you too poor? Did your economic status negatively impact me before you left without return?” Instead, in true American fashion, our citizens will honor men and women, young and old, from every socio-economic background, every faith, from all 50 states, and come together as a community, as one nation.

The powerful rumble of Rolling Thunder in D.C this weekend is only achieved through the large community that participates—a reminder to us all that we are greater than the sum of our parts, and that we are louder, and stronger, when we ride together. Class warfare is a dangerous political tool. But because we as a nation are tougher and smarter than that, class warfare usually doesn’t work. While the presidential campaign kicks into high gear, we must remember that our ability to form a community is what makes us a great nation. We must demand more from our politicians, from our candidates, and from ourselves.

It is time to set goals, to get to work solving America’s problems, and rebuild a larger sense of community.

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. is a former governor of Utah and Joe Lieberman is a former U.S. senator from Connecticut. Both serve as national chairmen for No Labels.



Is There A “Right” Way To #Praise Your Child?


(The following post Is There A Right Way To Praise Your Child? recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To read it in its entirety click on the link below.)

As a parent, it can be tricky to know how to motivate a child, whether it’s on a football field or for homework.

But it’s a question of balance – is there more criticism than praise in your household?

A new study that looked at over 400 families found that children didn’t mind criticism from their parents, as along as there was praise as well. In fact, the scientists identified a ratio of 2:1 of praise:criticism.

However, there are some tricks to making your praise most effective. Here are 3 top tips:

1. Being called “incredibly good” can be bad!

Inflated praise (like using words like “incredibly” or “perfect”) is often given to children with low self-esteem. We try to bolster their confidence. However, this can backfire! Children with low self-esteem feel that they constantly have to live up to such high praise and will choose easy activities to avoid failure. So in a way, we are doing a disservice to children with low self because inflated praise can actually cripple them for trying new things.

Researchers looked at over 200 children who doing some art work and either received “normal” praise (Good job!) or “inflated praise” (Perfect!) from a painter. When the children could pick their next art project, those with low self-esteem gravitated towards the easy ones because they were worried that they would not meet the high standards.

2. Praise efforts not personal qualities

“You did a great job” instead of “You are great!”

This may seem like a subtle difference – but it can have a big impact on their self-esteem. When we praise a child for their personal qualities, they connect it with their self worth and view failure as a personal flaw and may think they are unworthy. But if we praise children for their efforts, they tend to view failure as a temporary setback or a lack of effort and not a character flaw.

3. Praise the process not the person

Process praise: “You worked so hard on that”

Person praise: “You are so smart”

Person praise can lead a child to think that they don’t need to continue trying since they are already doing a great job. Process praise encourages them to keep achieving.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and Stanford University found that this difference can have long-term affects on a child. They looked at toddlers and then followed them up when they were 8 years old. The toddlers who received process praise were not only better at solving difficult tasks, but they also believed they could change their outcome through hard work


St. Francis and the #Wolf


St. Francis and the Wolf

Perhaps the most famous story of St. Francis is when he tamed the wolf that was terrorizing the people of Gubbio. While Francis was staying in that town he learned of a wolf so ravenous that it was not only killing and eating animals, but people, too. The people took up arms and went after it, but those who encountered the wolf perished at its sharp teeth. Villagers became afraid to leave the city walls.

Francis had pity on the people and decided to go out and meet the wolf. He was desperately warned by the people, but he insisted that God would take care of him. A brave friar and several peasants accompanied Francis outside the city gate. But soon the peasants lost heart and said they would go no farther.

Francis and his companion began to walk on. Suddenly the wolf, jaws agape, charged out of the woods at the couple. Francis made the Sign of the Cross toward it. The power of God caused the wolf to slow down and to close its mouth.

Then Francis called out to the creature: “Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone.” At that moment the wolf lowered its head and lay down at St. Francis’ feet, meek as a lamb.

St. Francis explained to the wolf that he had been terrorizing the people, killing not only animals, but humans who are made in the image of God. “Brother Wolf,” said Francis, “I want to make peace between you and the people of Gubbio. They will harm you no more and you must no longer harm them. All past crimes are to be forgiven.”

The wolf showed its assent by moving its body and nodding its head. Then to the absolute surprise of the gathering crowd, Francis asked the wolf to make a pledge. As St. Francis extended his hand to receive the pledge, so the wolf extended its front paw and placed it into the saint’s hand. Then Francis commanded the wolf to follow him into town to make a peace pact with the townspeople. The wolf meekly followed St. Francis.

By the time they got to the town square, everyone was there to witness the miracle. With the wolf at his side, Francis gave the town a sermon on the wondrous and fearful love of God, calling them to repent from all their sins. Then he offered the townspeople peace, on behalf of the wolf. The townspeople promised in a loud voice to feed the wolf. Then Francis asked the wolf if he would live in peace under those terms. He bowed his head and twisted his body in a way that convinced everyone he accepted the pact. Then once again the wolf placed its paw in Francis’ hand as a sign of the pact.

From that day on the people kept the pact they had made. The wolf lived for two years among the townspeople, going from door to door for food. It hurt no one and no one hurt it. Even the dogs did not bark at it. When the wolf finally died of old age, the people of Gubbio were sad. The wolf’s peaceful ways had been a living reminder to them of the wonders, patience, virtues and holiness of St. Francis. It had been a living symbol of the power and providence of the living God.



Yes, All That Screen Time Is Bad For Your Kid…#KidsAndTechnology


(The following post Yes, All That Screen Time Is Bad For Your Kid recently appeared on thedailybeast.com. to view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Smartphones and tablets are today’s version of the idiot box, and it turns out parents’ fears are true: Staring at a screen for hours is detrimental. Here’s how to get kids to stop.

In my parents’ day, if they had questions on child rearing, all they had were a few books and the advice of their own parents. And as any parent will tell you, grandparents are never shy about giving their children advice on how to raise their own children.

But something strange and new happened to my grandparents’ generation, something that came along and fundamentally changed the way people interact with each other: television. Now families no longer had to speak to each other, they had the TV to turn their attention to. The generation before had the same experience with radio.

Inevitably, the TV lost some of its luster when parents realized that staring all day at “the idiot box,” as my parents called it, was turning their kids’ brains to mush. My parents’ generation was no different when Ataris, Nintendos, and eventually Xboxes started taking over.

So my parents did the same thing their parents had done, the same thing any caring parent would do—they turned off the idiot box despite our screaming, told us to go outside and make friends, and do something.


No matter how much we complained, the idiot box stayed off, and off we stomped outside. Then something amazing happened—we invented games with balls and sticks and bottle caps, we rode our bikes, and we made friends with the other neighborhood kids whose parents had also told them only to be inside before the streetlights turned on. Sure, there were a few kids we never saw, the ones who seemed to spend every waking moment glued to the screen. And we were jealous of those damned lucky kids.

My parents’ generation was sailing through uncharted waters. Home video game consoles were a new technology, and nothing like it had existed before. Surely this was worse than television! How had their grandparents handled the radio? And how had their parents handled the idiot box? How were they supposed to know what to do?

They had no idea. They just made it up as they went along.

These days parents have a much more daunting task—dealing with the overwhelming ubiquity of the Internet. Everyone has a smartphone, iPad, iPod Touch, tablet, laptop, netbook, Chromebook, or something that has instant access to the entirety of human knowledge and myriad games and pictures and other distractions. In my house alone we have a desktop computer, three laptops, three iPads, four iPhones, and a netbook. And my children, aged 8 and 4, know how to use all of them.

So how in the world is a parent supposed to respond when a child wants to do nothing more than stare at an iPod playing Crossy Road on a beautiful sunny day? When teens go to their room for bed, how many willingly put their phones down and actually go to sleep? How many stay up for hours talking, texting, playing games, browsing Instagram, or doing other things they’d rather their parents not know about?

The easy answer is to say “no,” take the phone away for good, and cut off all Internet access, but that’s not enough. It’s also a great way to change a normal teenager into a rebellious monster.

Most children don’t understand that their brains continue to develop until they are in their mid-20s. All they know is that they want to check what their Facebook friends are up to, and they want it—no, need it—now. Most are not able to self-regulate and would spend more time than they should if allowed, and parents, myself included, seem to think that more screen time leads to, well, bad things.

Unfortunately, recent research shows that the assumption that screen time is detrimental is true. According to Harvard University sleep medicine professor Charles Czeisler, writing in the journal Nature, artificial light such as that given off by smartphones and laptops affects certain neurotransmitters that disrupt the circadian rhythm, causing people to sleep poorly.

A 2014 study on preteens’ nonverbal emotion cues also supported parents’ fears. Sixth graders, who themselves estimated an average of four hours a day of screen time, were shown pictures of 50 faces and asked to identify the emotion shown. Those who were kept at an outdoor camp without any screen time for only five days had significantly improved scores compared to controls. Whether that result was due to increased social interaction or the absence of Facebook and Snapchat and Twitter is not clear, but I suspect (and I would hazard that most parents would agree) it is likely a combination of both. Adding more fuel to the fire, research of the brains of so-called teenage Internet addicts shows structural and functional changes that can negatively affect emotional processing, attention, decision making, and cognition.

So how much is too much? Where do parents draw the line? A half-hour a day? One hour? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time a day for children under 18, and none at all for toddlers 2 years and under. Should parents simply do what our parents did and take away the smartphones and order their children outside? We should expect large-scale Hunger Games-type rebellions if we do.

Or we could simply do what Taiwanese lawmakers did earlier this year. The Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act, a law that bans children under 18 from smoking, drinking, and using drugs, was expanded to include “unreasonable” use of electronic devices. Parents who fail to uphold the law are subject to a fine of about $1,600, though the law does not specify what “unreasonable” is and would be essentially impossible to enforce with any constancy.

Whatever the answer may be, parents today are experimenting on their children just like parents of every other generation did. The major difference is that it was significantly easier for our parents to turn off the television and ban them from our bedrooms. Cellphones and tablets are much more portable, and much more versatile, than my old 13-inch RCA black-and-white TV with the ridiculous rabbit ears antenna.

My own idea, which I’m sure my children will hate, is to have only one charge cable in the entire house, and to keep it in the kitchen. Devices may not be recharged during the day, so when the battery dies, it’s dead for the day, and the device is put away. If multiple children have devices that need to be charged, only one can be charged at a time, so the children will have to cooperate with each other to work out a schedule.

While this idea may lead to some Lord of the Flies-type anarchy initially, it will doubtless force kids to cooperate with each other and work their differences out.

And if any children are reading this and didn’t get the Lord of the Flies reference, put your phone down and start reading.

That goes for adults, too.