I'm an optimist. It's part of my hard wiring, but it's also a result of my habits. I meet people, a lot of people, I engage folks, and I try to read up, watch, and study things that are happening nearby and far away from my world. I read a lot of terrifying disturbing things and I read about a lot of unsexy, miraculous, life affirming, amazing things as well. Mostly though, I listen to the people I meet and my faith is constantly renewed with evidence, not blind belief. I have seen standards of living in America and around the world go up consistently throughout my life. I have also seen the forces of hatred, ugliness, and oppression, consistently find a way to push back against the tide of change. The interesting thing is, those malevolent forces are always viewed with skepticism by the majority of people. You can always tell on a kind of primal level when people are truly coming from a place of honestly, kindness and love and when they are not. You can also tell when someone or some group is using fear to try to make you do what they want you to do. Love has a ind of confidence to it, it doesn't have to work so hard at convincing you it's real. The American Neo-Nazi movement for example is real, but it is not beloved, and the majority of Americans don't want to see a Disney movie about a Nazi hero or heroine. I know this may seem like a strange overly simplistic analogy, but what I mean is this.The vast majority of people want to do good, they also want to feel good. They want to love and be loved. They want to protect and serve. They want to share, fundamentally. We just have make to make it easier, as a society, for people to do these things. Poverty, cruelty, and ignorance beget suffering and pain. Pain has a way of crushing our human capacity to give the best of ourselves. This gun control debate gets at the heart of what we're about. We all want our children and our families to be safe, all the time. There are forces, voices, companies, trying to scare us by telling some of us that protecting our loved ones means losing our freedom and independence. When we dig deep, let the fear go, and admit that a peaceful society should not allow the retail sale of military weapons of war to it's citizens, or accesories that easily transform other tools into weapons of war, we'll be in a good place to start the change. With the help of all those that have come before us, and now the students of Parkland High School in Florida, I think we can do it. We just have to let the fear go and listen to our better voices that tell us to love and take care of each other.
A presidential portrait as refreshing and transformative as the man it depicts. Happy Black History Month.
The official portrait of President Barack Obama, painted by artist, Kehinde Wiley.
Okay Y'all. Quincy has some things to say that will probably floor you. Some things he said, I always suspected. For instance, he said he "killed" Michael over the constant plastic surgery, meaning he called him out on it because Quincy thought it was too much. I always wondered if Michael had friends bold enough to tell him that he had gone too far. He also said Michael stole a lot of music and didn't credit people properly on some occasions. He also thought that Beatles could barely play when he was in the studio with them. It's not so much gossip as it is a compelling back and forth...conversation and reflections, strong opinions and observations from one of the greatst, from a man who's 85 and has no fear of saying what's on his mind, though he does stop short on a few things. He jammed in Italy with Mussolini's son regularly, yes that Mussolini!!! There's insight about life like the importance of true musical education and how it's lacking in the current practitioners of the craft (pop stars) Fascinating.... fascinating.
This an excerpt from my Facebook feed last night. It started as a reply to some of my friends and has been adapted for this post.
After listening to the inspirational Democratic response to last night’s state of the union address by Representative Joseph Kennedy III, I knew that with the praise, would also come the criticism in looking for the perfect democratic candidate for future presidential elections. I knew it would come from both parties. “Here we go…another Kennedy!” “Another Dynasty!”. “Can’t the Democrats come up with someone who’s not a Clinton or a Kennedy?” The answer is “yes we can”. See what I did there.....? 😆 Anyway... I understand the criticism and the reasoning behind it. I also understand that it can be turned into an powerful yet empty sound bite from the right, and an infectious, catchy one at that. If we’re not careful we won’t notice that there’s something much more important than your purity, pedigree, family name or celebrity in this contest, and that is character. For the record, I don’t I know enough about Joe Kennedy and I’m not sure that he’s ready yet, but I am excited. I’ve also been very excited by Elizabeth Warren for a long time. In Joe Kennedy III, I see a the makings of a young man with all the right stuff, the makings of a future American president. There are going to be a lot of people within both parties who will, for lack of a better word, “demonize” or at the very least criticize Joe Kennedy III for being part of a dynasty. I like to look at this another way.
Historically, a dedication to the service of others is something we praise in this country. It is one of the criteria we hold so high as being essential in the character of our elected officials . I think we could all agree that we wouldn’t disparage a family that had produced three generations of fire fighters, or military personnel, or doctors. Instead, we would say that whole family has “a tradition of service”. Families like that have usually sacrificed and suffered greatly as a result of that kind of tradition. I would suggest that we Democrats and progressives not waist any energy undermining Joe Kennedy III or the Kennedy family with attacks on their family’s name, fame, legacy or historic dedication to the service of others. The "others" being all of us. It’s counter productive , and you could even argue it’s a little petty, disrespectful, even unpatriotic, especially when you consider the Kennedy family's record of success in service to the nation and the incredible sacrifices that the Kennedy family made. More women need to be in government. That’s indisputable. I would love nothing more than for my party to nominate the first female president of the United States. Let’s hear it for progress and milestones. i have no doubt that it’s not far off. However, I didn’t vote for Senator Obama because he was a black man, because he looked like me, and was going to make history and validate the struggles and success of my people, and this country. All of that was a bonus. It was his character that convinced me. His character and his history of a life dedicated to service. I voted for him because he best represented my values, my party’s values and what I wanted my party to be, and I felt he was absolutely qualified and electable. He had in my opinion, the “right stuff”. Let’s be careful about seeking “perfection”. The perfect pedigree, just enough freshness, not too much dynasty…..as my dad likes to remind me, “the enemy of the left is not the right, it’s the extreme left.” “Perfection is also often the enemy of progress”. This is coming from a songwriter who often takes forever to finish seeking perfection, but I digress....Let’s remember how we got into this mess, in the first place. We have a president lacking in character, with no history of service to others.
I know a lot of the people reading this are all on the same team here and that’s my point. Let’s put the team first. Let’s be grateful that there are entire families that keep passing on the tradition of service to our nation. Yes, we can, again.
WATCH REPRESENTATIVE JOE KENNEDY III GIVE THE DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE UNION ADRESS
LET ME KNOW IF YOU THINK HE'S GOT THE RIGHT STUFF
You know, I remember when I had never heard of Senator Barack Obama, and then I did, and everything changed. Until tonight's democratic response to the State of the Union address, I had never heard of Represntative Joe Kennedy III and now I have. He spoke to me. He said everything that I want my party to say to the world, he represented what I want my country to be in this world. A country of prosperity, compassion, inclusion, common sense, freedom and fairness. Vamos a luchar, ( we will win ) he said. He also said, " Politicians can be judged for the promises they make, our country will be judged by the promises we keep."
Hope is on the horizon again.
I couldn't hold back the tears. He was one of the first actors that I came to know and love. I grew up watching him on the Electric Company as a child, he had the most amazing voice, as he narrated episodes of Spider Man on that show. Those episodes were actual still images of the Spider Man comic book drawings with his voice reading the dialogue in the "thought bubbles", decades before the Marvel Studios explosion that we have now. I've followed his work and been inspired by him my whole life. When I do voice over work and narration, I hear him in my head. He also showed me the value in growing with your craft and your passion for for the long haul. The big roles did not come to him in his 20's or 30's or even his 40's. It was middle age that opened a wealth of opportunities for Morgan Freeman to shine. I will always maintain, that his work as an actor is directly responsible for the election of President Barack Obama. When Mr. Freeman played an African American president in a major Hollywood movie, and the scene had nothing to do with him being black, but everything to do with the character being leader with the necessary gravitas, able to steady a nation facing eminent doom, I knew our country was ready. Morgan Freeman, national treasure.
My patience and my faith in justice, fairness, and the promise of equality in America, has been tested throughout my entire life...yours too, I'm sure. However, while I feel our country is in a particularly dark period now, with our current president at the helm and with the de-regulation of government protections moving ahead at steady clip, I'm fully aware that there are amazing things happening every day all around the world. It takes amazing people to make these things happen. Oprah Winfrey is one of those people for me. There are clear periods where my faith has been constant or been renewed by social change, a presidential administration that succeeds in protecting the citizenry, the environment, the marginalized, the entrepreneurs, and the vulnerable. There have been substantial periods in my life where I felt America was actively promoting prosperity, inclusion and fairness, and it has often come to me not just from government but from expressions of pop culture and art. A lot of great music, film, and other types of art and artists, inspire me and remind me of just how great the, reality, the promise and the potential of the great American experiment really is. I missed the Golden Globes acceptance speech for the Cecile B DeMille award last night. I was gigging at the Stone Pony, celebrating the music of George Harrison. So I just watched Oprah's speech on Youtube. Oprah Winfrey is one of those Americans who makes me proud to down to my blood vessels, to be an American. Take a look at the speech. There's a link to it below. It's worth your time.
Regarding the tidal wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations among high profile celebrities, corporate titans, and politicians, I can only say, bring them on. There's a much needed awakening, cleansing and sea change happening in our country. Women are simply not taking it any more and realizing that with personal courage and with the strength in their numbers, they have the power to speak out, survive, and prosper. Much like the way cell phone videos and body camera have exposed what black people have always known, the rights of our men in particular, are routinely destroyed by law enforcement, women have always known the sexual horrors that go on unchallenged in the work place. Men and women in denial can’t do it any more. As long as people are telling the truth and people are acknowledging the truth, we are all in a better place.
I remember when Morgan Freeman was cast to play God in one Hollywood movie and then an American President in another, long before the election of President Barack Obama. That's when I knew America was truly ready for the first black president. Hollywood and by extension corporate America does invest in ideas that won't sell. They're about the bottom line. That is not to say that there is no empathy or morality in there decision making processes either. Morality and respect for all people is paramount, but I'm really pleased to see that the corporate world simply isn't having it any more with regards to sexual harassment even amongst artists, even in Hollywood. I see their position, their intolerance for working with sexual abusers and predators as a reflection of what we as a society are truly ready for. That might sound sad that I'm viewing it through this prism, but it isn't really. It's progress, and growth is good. Now it's time to teach the next generation of little boys and girls how to behave.