Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giving in Mean Times

The Washington Post gives a shout out to corporations who stepped up during this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open Government

By Pilar Oberwetter

OMB blog, ostensibly maintained by Peter Orzag (OMB Director), pointed me towards another very interesting development from President Obama’s White House—the Open Government Initiative. Although still in-process, the website that describes the rationale for this initiative and the actions that have been taken and have been planned are absolutely worth checking out. As described, they are interesting in theory, and if successful, I believe that this initiative is capable of prompting an entire paradigm shift in our government’s approach to policy and the role of the American people in shaping it.

I am curious why this effort has not gotten more attention from the press.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Refusing Silence

In a place where being openly gay might soon mean imprisonment or even worse, a lesbian in Uganda takes her story live.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Access to Care, Access to Funds

Great news that the President continues to roll out stimulus funding to the tune of $600 million for community health centers across the nation.

It's particularly nice to see the administration emphasize the importance of revamping and upgrading outdated electronic medical record (EMR) systems and to push for more demonstration projects on the "medical home" model, a model proven to reduce health and health care disparities for racial and ethnic minorities.

Ok, so what's missing?

Well, what's missing is stimulus funding for the great many community health centers out there who are not designated as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).

There are many valid reasons why a community health center would elect not to become an FQHC, not the least of which is that it allows the clinic to focus on serving the needs of low-income patients who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, including many in the immigrant population.

For these centers, who serve the poorest of the poor, there is no stimulus funding.

If the health care bill passes without a provision for the care of immigrants, for example, these clinics will continue to face increasing demand and will be one of the only lines of defense between this underserved population and our local emergency rooms.

FHQC or not, all high-quality community health centers deserve equal access to stimulus fund competition.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Picture Can Be Worth a Thousand Words

By Pilar Oberwetter

Articles and news footage of global issues paint a picture, but not a full one.Check out the New Yorker online for a peek into a portfolio of portraits of world leaders by photographer Platon. The faces of these powerful men and women tell a very different story than many of the reports of their policies and actions. For me, looking through Platon’s lens, I feel as if I have been given an insider’s view of their reactions to their wide-reaching actions.

You can also learn more about the portrait series on the NPR website.

Mr. President, Keep up the Good Work

Is it just me or does it seem like the entire country is dissatisfied with President Obama? I must say that even as a constant critic of President Obama and his administration, I am disturbed by the negativity that seems to follow every decision he makes.

In watching the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I took a step back and appreciated President Obama's process of deliberation, including his intellectual curiosity that should accompany such a grave decision. Add to this, the agreement of NATO countries to send more troops, and I think we are seeing the dividends of having a president who has invested in (re)building our nation's reputation and relationships.

Of course there is a lot of work to get the country to where we need to be. The economy still needs to be "fixed," healthcare needs to pass, DADT needs to be repealed, and unemployment needs to return to four to five percent. The list can continue. However, I for one would like to credit the president for being on the right track.

It's no easy job but I wish him all the best, for his sake and ours!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Being Gay Costs More

The Tax Policy Center and the Williams Institute are collaborating to host an event on December 17th entitled, "The Higher Cost of Being Gay."

The public discourse over same-sex marriage often frames the issue as a primarily social one. It is critical, however, that the economic consequences of same-sex marriage (or the lack thereof) also be understood and publicized.

Even if cold data on taxes overpaid and retirement challenges doesn't change hearts and minds, gay people need to be armed with information to meet these obstacles while continuing to wait for the laws to catch up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Praying for Progress

By Pilar Oberwetter

Help is available to churches that want to promote social justice and environmental stewardship from the pulpit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Philanthropy Minus the Grey Hair

The trials and tribulations of being a trust fund baby who cares, live from Washington, DC.

John Brown's Story

I'm grateful for the coverage in NYT yesterday of the 150th anniversary of the death (by hanging) of the famous abolitionist John Brown.

I visited Harper's Ferry, W. Va., the sight of John Brown's famously short-lived slave rebellion (the photo displays the fire house where he was captured), for the first time two weeks ago. Harper's Ferry would stand alone on its own geographic merits by virtue of its striking location at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. But it is history that is seeped in this place and makes it truly unique.

John Brown's raid on the Harper's Ferry armory is thought to be the major catalyst for the Civil War, a war that John Brown himself ultimately saw as inevitable.

Whether he is considered to be a "freedom martyr" or a "terrorist" in our contemporary world is inconsequential and, quite frankly, does not make for a very compelling discourse (as intended by The Times).

John Brown's story is about the junctures of history in this country. He represents the passion, the independence, the hope, and ultimately the violence that is the American story.

Let's leave John Brown's body where it lies. His story goes on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stamping Out Stigma

Food stamp use is up and stigma is down. This is a great example of a legitimate federal response to helping low-income individuals and families (including hard-to-reach populations) make it through the economic downturn.

Hey DC Schools — How about Less Talk and More Action

By Pilar Oberwetter

The Washington Post reported today that Prince George’s County school district in Maryland awarded merit pay to its teachers. This DC resident, and huge advocate for extreme education reform in my city, thinks that the leadership of DCPS should spend less time in the headlines and more time implementing real reforms. They just need to look to their neighbors in Prince George’s and up the road in Baltimore to see examples of Superintendents who focus on implementing their policies rather than just talking about them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Protecting the President

The Obamas hosted their first state dinner this week, in honor of Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The most interesting aspect of the event was not the menu or the decor, rather it was the breach in security by a Virginia couple: Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

The Secret Service has since apologized. However, it is more than slightly disturbing that two people can pass security screening and come face to face with two heads of state inside the White House.

On an unrelated note, I also was disturbed by The New York Times story on the breach, which devolved into a story about the Salahi's quest to star in The Real Housewives of DC. I love the Times and have been a lifelong reader, but seriously? These tangents belong in a separate feature story, not in a story of potential national significance.

Photo credit: White House photo taken from TalkingPointsMemo

Friday, November 27, 2009

Check out...

By Pilar Oberwetter
...a blog that the NY Times picked up on. I dug it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks

By Pilar Oberwetter

Some say that New Year's Eve is the time to reflect upon the last year and to plan for the coming years. This ReGenerate prefers to review her life in the present and her year that has passed on Thanksgiving.

For me, spending a day with family and friends and preparing food in my home or elsewhere, reminds me of how blessed I am that my basic needs are met. However, I also remember that not everyone in this world has a home, a family, food, or any other of the myriad of good fortunes that I enjoy. So, while I give thanks, I am also compelled to consider the things that I could be doing to share a bit of my own gifts of thanks with others.

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States-- let this day remind you that to 'give' is a part of being thankful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Useless Hand Outs (UHO)

A "homeless" organization is exposed in New York.

Marriage for All (Who Choose)

Last week's highlight was hearing news that a good friend got engaged! It is wonderful when two people who love each make a commitment to spend their lives together. I wish her and her future husband all the best in their new life together.

I am looking forward to the day when ALL of my friends (those who want to) can not only get engaged, but also have the legal sanction to spend their lives together.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Sincere Plea

There's no doubt I'm in a compromised position at the moment. An employee of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, and a gay one at that. Oh, the irony runs so deep.

I'm not going to preach but I am going to plead.

Putting aside my own personal situation and even my pride, I would simply like to implore the Archdiocese of Washington to find a way to negotiate with the DC City Council as many other archdioceses around the country have done around the issue of same-sex marriage.

Respecting the long-standing position of the church, it certainly seems that common ground can still be found.

So many people are suffering through this ordeal on both sides of the debate. But many, many more will suffer a much worse fate should no compromise be found.

Wake up. The world is watching.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Equity without Retribution

I am a huge fan of good books! However, I don't often read books I enjoy so much that I spend my week reflecting and discussing after finishing them. Helene Cooper's The House at Sugar Beach is one of those rare books. Cooper's memoir is so well written and the story so fascinating that the reader loses sense of time. The New York Times White House correspondent writes about growing up as the child of elites in Liberia, prior to the country's descent into militarized decay - a decay that resulted from manipulating institutionalized class divisions.

For historical note, Liberia is a West African country that was settled by free African Americans in 1820. The "Congo" people, as the Liberian descendants of African Americans were called, made up the upper class in Liberia while the "native" Liberians struggled to make ends meet. Following a military coup (takeover) in 1980, the fate of the Congo people turned for the worse. They were persecuted (killed, raped, disposed) by the new military class. The coup leader, Samuel Doe, began his 10 year reign by executing the president and his top cabinet members. The cabinet's execution - death by firing squad - was publicly televised. Fastforwarding the story of Liberia, Doe was replaced by Charles Taylor, another despot who was eventually charged with war crimes (for his role in Sierra Leone, a neighboring West African nation).

As the child of "Congo" people, Cooper lived a privileged life in Liberia, until 1980 when the country began to take its downward turn. Her uncle was among the cabinet members publicly executed by Doe. What I found most intriguing about her book was the punishment of elites - class warfare to an extreme. Doe and his successor, Taylor presided over tyrannous regimes under the guise of paying the "Congo" people back for their oppression of native Liberians.

As a firm believer in social justice, I struggle with the notion of institutionalized class divisions. While it was in no way, her doing, as a child, Cooper benefited from a system in which her family had all they wanted (and more), while a majority of Liberians did not. However, what is most powerful about her book is that we see the consequences of retribution: taking away the resources of the elite under the pretense of creating equity and paying back the "oppressors." We also see that having one person presiding over justice is problematic. In fact it's how despots are made. If that's not enough, we see the economic vacuum that is created when the upper class (i.e tax base) flees the country for fear of retribution.

Cooper, while fortunate enough to end up in the United States, witnessed (from another room) her mother's rape. Her childhood, and that of many others were destroyed by Doe and his "justice seeking" soldiers. While reading this, I found myself asking how one creates a system of equity, where "Congo-Native" divides don't exist. At the same time, a system that does not punish children like as Cooper and many others.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Roots, Rock, Reggae ... and Wealth?

By Pilar Oberwetter

CNN notified us today that Bob Marley is reported to be the world's wealthiest dead celebrity.

I would hope that those in charge of his estate , which will reportedly generate over a billion dollars in worldwide annual sales by 2012, have plans to direct some of that mind-boggling sum to social justice causes that the reggae legend's music spoke so eloquently about.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hardly a Cat Fight

Ok, so I'll be the first to admit that I was appalled to see this video of a Division I female soccer player violently pulling, punching, and kicking her opponents on ESPN Sportscenter. I watched this video over and over again to try and dissect whether or not my shock was based on the gender of the player or the truly horrific lack of sportsmanship. Julie Foudy's reaction on ESPN says enough.

As a former college athlete (Division III still counts, right?), I found this level of violence inexcusable. If I witnessed a teammate treating an opponent this way, I would be ashamed and outraged.

And yet, the coverage provided on this event by the New York Times was even more aggravating. Purporting to display "Those Soccer Plays, in Context" the Times went ahead and published a poorly-written, confusing piece that provides less context than it does conjectures and open-ended conclusions.

Female athletes deserve respect. Ms. Lambert should show more respect to her opponents and her teammates and she should be punished within the context of the sport, not punished by us as uninformed consumers of her life.

It is fair to criticize her on a human-level for her behavior but why on earth do I need to know
that she is now seeing a "clinical psychologist" to work our her issues or that "the incident had been perceived by some as sexy catfighting between two women"?

This was a great opportunity for NYT to step back from the incident and illuminate the reader as to the public reaction. Instead, what resulted was a conglomerate of gender stereotyping (complete with picture of feminized Ms. Lambert and all) that serves neither female athletes nor the public.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Security in the U.S.

Nice to see the NYT slapping some eye-popping figures on the problem of hunger in the U.S. on the front page today.

As the number of "food insecure" households in the U.S. reaches a 14-year high (and let's be honest, it's probably still climbing) the ReGenerates would like to ReEmphasize the importance of front-line social services for those in need.

No matter the economic climate or how many agencies are providing "innovative" nonprofit services, nothing replaces a hot meal for the hungry.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Punish

by Gita Rayavarapu

I agree with Kehinde's earlier post saying that that no one should have the right to sentence a person to death. However, I believe that as a society and as a country, we have been using it as a last resort. That begs the question-- if not with the death penalty, how do you punish a person's heinous crimes without some sort of violation of their rights?

At all times, a suspect is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. There are many constitutional rights which are meant to protect a suspect, including: the right to counsel, the right to not incriminate oneself, and avoiding searches or seizures without probable cause, with exceptions of course. Furthermore, suspects are not required to speak unless the Miranda warnings are read to him or her, and once in custody, courts generally do not condone interrogation, though it does happen.

So again, how do you punish someone who has committed punishable violent crimes? In Kehinde's post, I was bothered by the following statement: "I would argue that as human beings in the United States, we lack creativity...if our punishment for someone who killed is to put that person to death in return." Creativity is what allows for what the government would like to call "permissible interrogation/questioning" into torture. Torture, like the death penalty, violates many basic human rights. If you believe that the death sentence is not the way to go, I would also argue that torturing criminals who have caused a great amount of pain to innocent members in the community is also not permissible.

While I agree with Kehinde's commentary overall, I ultimately wonder if "punishment " is ever possible.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Fallen

Behind the politics of every war are the soldiers who fight it. On this day in 1942, the minimum draft age in the U.S. was lowered from 21 to 18. While our armed forces serve voluntarily today, a trend towards younger and younger recruits was set when the age of the draft dropped by three years.

I think of this when I read the "Faces of the Fallen" in the papers every week, and I see pictures of teens who never saw their twenties. I think of this when I realize on Veteran's Day that I have lived almost twice as long as both surviving and deceased veterans of our recent wars. I think of this when I see unemployment rates rise to precarious rates for recent high school graduates, and I realize that joining the military is one of the few choices that many of our country's young people have.
Forty years later, also on this day in 1982, the Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC. I wonder how many of those servicemen memorialized on that wall, who were drafted and lost their lives in that war, were 18, 19, or 20 years old.

By Pilar Oberwetter

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A call to open the health care season for all

'Open season' for federal employees begins Monday and lasts for five weeks. During this time, every federal employee can review all plans available and select the one that best fits their needs. As a federal employee in the DC-area, I had 27 plans available to me, and determined to demonstrate due dilligence (unlike last year), I waded through the details until I found one that seemed to match my criteria.

I find it particularly convenient that open season this year falls during what seem to be the critical days of the health care debate. As members of Congress discuss the possible upheaval of both the health care and health insurance systems (which must not be mistaken as one debate), these same members and their staff must also make their own health plan decisions, except that unlike most of their constituents, they have a plethora of choices. Surely this irony must occur to them?

Here's hoping that their own fortune in having health care options inspires our Congressional representation on both sides of the aisle to push for a similar system to be made available to all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Death is Not an Answer

At 9 o'clock tonight, the state of Virginia will execute "DC sniper," John Allen Muhammad, convicted of killing Dean Harold Meyers. While his conviction was for one murder, Muhammad was responsible for killing 10 people, along with his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering that Muhammad brought on the victims and their families, as well as on the entire District of Columbia in 2002. Along with Malvo, he terrorized the city; he made residents feel unsafe, and traumatized. He should be punished for this.

However, I think there is a problem with a civilized society sanctioning death as a punishment, no matter how grave the crime. I completely agree that we as a society need to punish Muhammad for his crimes. I would argue that as human beings in the United States, we lack creativity and a clear moral compass if our punishment for someone who killed is to put that person to death in return.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tracking the Dalai Lama

The LA Times reports that the Dalai Lama is currently spending five days visiting the monastery town of Tawang, which is inside the Indian state, Arunachal Pradesh, on the Tibetan border - an area claimed by China.

The reaction from the Chinese, who have become increasingly vocal about their Dalai-Lama-conspiracy-theories, is worth noting:
"[The Dalai Lama] is always involved in activities that undermine the relations between China and other countries as well as ethnic separatist activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a regular news briefing last week in Beijing.
And most incredibly, "The Dalai Lama is a liar."

It's unclear whether the Dalai Lama's defiance of Chinese authority marks any significant change in his "activities that undermine the relations between China and other countries," as the spiritual leader continues to challenge people in every nation to seek the truth and to live lives of compassion.

Only a month ago, when the Dalai Lama visited Washington, DC for several speaking engagements and to accept this year's Lantos Human Rights Prize, he did not hesitate to tell a crowd of educated Americans that, even in a country established on principles of freedom, we've still got plenty of learning to do when it comes to compassion:

"Huge gap, rich to poor. This is unhealthy," he said. "You have to think seriously about those less-privileged people. They're also human beings."

With all of the overwhelming problems the US faces today (healthcare, war, economic meltdown - to name a few), let's hope we can foster a little more courage and compassion in creating meaningful solutions.

And let's sincerely hope that next time the Dalai Lama is in Washington, DC, that President Obama acknowledges his presence and actually meets with him face-to-face.

(Photo copyright: amerune)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tragedy at Home

By many accounts, this week was a tragic one in the United States. For two consecutive days, the news media covered the shootings in Fort Hood, Texas and in Orlando, Florida.

Our hearts and prayers go to the victims and families from both incidents.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ain't it Precious?

By Pilar Oberwetter

At long last-- November 6 has arrived, and Precious, a film based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire, makes its debut in mainstream theaters. Winner of the grand jury and audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, Precious has snowballed into its opening day, with glowing reviews written in almost every major news source.

I have not seen the movie yet, so no spoiler alerts here. However, when I first saw the preview several months ago, I admittedly felt tears in my eyes because even the quick, disconnected flashes of scenes from the movie completely resonated with my six years of running an adult education program in Washington, DC. Precious' character is overweight and illiterate and pregnant with her second child. This conflux of social forces is entirely consistent with my experience in adult education, where the reasons that brought my students to my adult education program-- to learn to read or to pass their high school equivalency exam-- were compounded by the presence of other complicating and often conflicting issues, including substance abuse, incarceration, parenthood, mental health problems, among others. From this first preview, I could see that Precious does not gloss over these issues, Hollywood style. Nor does it apologize for them. Instead, the character of Precious develops because of them, rather than despite them. Precious was not made in Hollywood-- it was made in a world that as a former front-line service worker, I have seen first-hand.

Again-- I have not yet watched the movie in its entirety, but the quick glimpse that the previews allowed and the collective enthusiasm of critics everywhere confirm that the movie will be worth the wait.

I am so there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yes, We Did

One year ago today....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Receding Recession?

Today's NY Times reports that in the third quarter, Ford posted an unexpected profit of almost $1 billion. Readers may remember that in the rush to bail out GM and other companies, Ford was one of the few that was not on the brink of bankruptcy. Nonetheless, as the Times piece mentions, it had posted 17 consecutive quarters of losses - until this quarter.

While I am not one to make economic predictions, I will say that there have been a number of good news on the economic front lately: slower rate of unemployment, growth in the GDP, slight rise in consumer spending on nondurable goods (typical consumer products), etc. All these combined give me reasons for mild (emphasis on mild) celebrations, and hope that the economy may indeed be on the mend. Of course I would still urge readers and friends to watch the economy before going out on a spending spree. It is conceivable that this is simply a calm before the storm.

For all of our sakes, I hope it is not the case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gift of the Week

NYC's Ali Forney Center, whose mission is to help homeless LGBT youth be safe and become independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood, received a $300,000 bequest last week from Bea Arthur, the late actress of "Golden Girls" fame.

The funds will support the new Bea Arthur Residence for LGBT Youth, which will house 12 youths for up to two years as part of the center's transitional housing programs. Funds will be supplemented by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It's always moving to witness the generosity and compassion of people like Ms. Arthur, whose commitment to improving the lives of one of the most overlooked populations of adolescents was true both during her life and after her passing.

Here's hoping that her gift will generate more attention to the plight of LGBT youth who are without family and living on the streets and to the good work that groups like the Ali Forney Center are doing everyday to support them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

AIDS Ban Lifted

Shockingly little coverage so far on the President's action today to lift the 22 year-old ban that has prevented people living with HIV/AIDS from traveling in the U.S.

Umm, this is a really big deal.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama: Make it Happen, Please!

One step closer to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Local Perspective on GED Policy & Process

The editors of the NY Times today highlighted one of this country’s most shameful systems—the GED testing process. The editors were pointing out New York’s deficiencies but their observations should be widely applied.

Although I appreciate the spotlight on this issue that too frequently slips through the cracks of the radar of education reform advocates and social service policy makers, I feel that the editors misunderstood the full range of issues.

The editors focused on the poor GED passage rate in New York; however, they drew a direct correlation between this problem and insufficient funding for GED preparation programs. In doing this, they neglected to acknowledge the problems with GED test administration offices. In DC, for example, the GED testing office placed high barriers on GED test registration in an effort to boost their passage rate. While this improved the city’s passage rate drastically, it did nothing to benefit the majority of GED candidates themselves. In fact, in the GED program that I formally headed, it had a negative impact on my program outcomes and my student’s morale.

GED candidates are required to take the entire 8 hour, five-subject GED exam in one sitting. However, they are only required to retake the sections that they failed. Most often, GED candidates will fail the math or the writing. For my former students, it made sense to take the test in full, knowing that they will probably fail one or possibly two sections. That way, when they attended my preparation program, they could focus exclusively on the one or two sections that they did not pass. They were motivated to stay in my preparation program because they already passed the rest of the subjects, and this knowledge motivated them to prepare for the sections that they missed.

In DC, the GED testing office recently implemented a rule requiring the students to demonstrate proficiency in all five subjects before they were permitted to register for the official test. The result—the only candidates who register for the test are the ones that can pass the entire exam. For the city, this resulted in high GED passage rates. For the high school dropouts, the removal of the test’s low-hanging fruit exacerbated the psychological barrier of preparing for the GED exam.

I hope that today’s editorial provokes conversation around remedying the issues surrounding this country’s high school dropouts and improves the GED preparation and testing systems. However, I hope that this conversation expands to include the point of view of the dropouts themselves rather than statistics that too frequently drive policies that are separated from the human face of the issues.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marching for Equality

What an incredible day it was in the District. The National Equality March attracted hundreds of thousands of individuals and families to the nation's capital to stand up for the rights of gays, lesbians, and trans people everywhere. I haven't experienced energy or sheer manpower like this since inauguration took over this city.

And nine months after the election of President Obama, many in the LGBTQ community (myself included) are frustrated at the lack of tangible progress on discriminatory policies such as DADT and DOMA.

What today proved, however, is that we are more energized than ever and full of hope that real change is coming. Beyond that, there is an ever-growing number of straight allies - family members, neighbors, and co-workers - who are willing to stand up and fight beside us.

The LGBTQ community is, to say the least, a unique one with a unique history. It is a history of pain and division as much as it is one of empowerment. Today I finally understood why the fights of those who grew up before and during the Stonewall era matter. I think those older generations are finally feeling and celebrating the openness and joy of all of us who benefited from their struggles. We are learning from each other. The inevitability of real progress is palpable.

As Andrew Sullivan wrote after the march today,
More to the point, this was not a plea for it; it was a statement of it. We are equal. We always have been. The prison of inferiority is in our own psyches as well as in others' fears. But I sense now, for the first time, a critical mass of self-respect among my LGBT brothers and sisters. It was there before; but now it's everywhere, especially the young, who seem to have found the courage of their own desires and the knowledge of their own love.
Thank you to everyone who came out (ha ha) today. Let's keep up the fight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Peace President

President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize .... First of, congratulations Mr. President. It's inspiring that the leader of our nation is awarded such an honor.

Nonetheless, I wonder, if this is deserved just yet. My fellow ReGenerate, Pilar, says he is laying the crucial foundation necessary for future peace and prosperity in the US, and around the world. I agree. However, I wonder if the committee could have waited for his efforts to bear fruit before awarding such a high honor.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shock in the District

Drastic cuts appear to be upcoming in the DC Department of Human Services budget. This will inevitably cause shelters across the District to reduce capacity or shut down.

I wonder how the DC Council is going to manage the crisis when the thousands of homeless individuals and families have no where to go but the streets.

With hypothermia season just around the corner, this is an absolute outrage.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Powerful and Unapologetic, Michelle Rhee Brings Change to Washington

By Ihotu Ali
Originally published in LIMIte Magazine

We all remember the Hillary - Barack infighting, and how the nation and all its various ethnic-racial and gender lines subsequently went haywire. Race and gender fought to hold central stage in American politics and, although we now have a black president, I dare say we still have significant skeletons in our closet when it comes to the media and powerful women. Take Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of DC Public Schools since 2007, and controversially portrayed and yes fierce, if perhaps misunderstood, advocate for DC school children.

In a city where private schools overflow with affluent sons and daughters of politicians, public schools are a near disaster. And Rhee has stepped up to the plate with so-called “tough-talk” and “arrogance” that, in my opinion, would be a necessary requirement for the job. This is DC, folks: generations of educational disinvestment and disenfranchisement. Not a walk in the park. However, Rhee has been painted as an unwanted intruder.

First off, she’s Korean, and we all know how well Koreans and blacks get along…except that this one read Dr. King as a child, was married to a (black) NBA player, and taught for three years in Baltimore, Maryland. She’s certainly not black, but certainly not a stranger to black cultures. She’s been scolded for antagonizing teachers with the front cover of New York Times image of “sweeping out” old and ineffective teachers like an old and cranky schoolmaster that wants things her way. She may want things her way, but “her way” has a pretty good track record - Rhee founded the “New Teacher Project” which trains and recruits thousands of high-quality teachers to provide to struggling school districts.

But she does not beat around the bush and does not bend over to please, which may not sit well with Washington-types. She knows her strength and is not afraid to flex her muscles. She’s quoted in the cover article of the Washington Post Magazine: “I don’t mind firing people, because I know it is going to benefit kids.” For complacent, or for earnest, but bureaucratically limited teachers, this may sound like a threat. But it seems those that meet her face to face see her deep commitment to students and passion for not just talking about reform, as many in DC do, but acting on it. In a year of promised change and reform, she seems to me a truly bright light on the DC horizon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Constitution

On this day in history, specifically September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. However, in light of the recent healthcare debate, the brilliance of the system of checks and balances placed into that unique document seems somehow tarnished in today's world. While the logic of having such a system is still intact, the spirit of shared authority in the interest of ensuring a representative government seems to have been lost in a void of personal financial interests, malicious arguments, and votes made strictly along party lines. I cannot help but wonder what the authors of this document would think to look at the antics of today's Congress.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rude, Yes. Racist, Not so Much

I found Maureen Dowd's op-ed in today's New York Times quite disturbing. Dowd argues that Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during President Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress was underlined by his racism, and the racism of the south. What Dowd heard was, "You lie, boy!"

I agree that Congressman Wilson's action was out of line and unbecoming; he embarrassed himself, he embarrassed the Congress of the United States. However, I find it hard (and problematic) to connect his outburst to an underlying racism. Dowd lists some of Wilson's affiliations and his record, many of which can lead one to conclude that he's not a fan of Black people.

However, in a country where politics is such a dirty sport, and where extreme partisanship is the norm, we should be very careful to distinguish between what is politics as usual and what is more nefarious.

I think Dowd is right: there are segments of the population that are disgruntled and hate the idea of a Black president. However, I am not convinced that Wilson's rudeness is one more manifestation of this.

Picture from Psychology Today "credited to 'Getty Images,' 'AFP' (Agence France-Presse)"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food and the Health Care Debate

Michael Pollan released a well-timed op-ed on NYT this morning to follow on the President's fiery speech last night.

Pollan addresses an essential question that has thus far been ignored by politicians:

What is the food industries role in the health care debate?

As Pollan writes, antiquated farm policy has led to,
The government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.
His final conclusion? Forcing health insurance companies to pay the true cost of chronic disease care may be the impetus for not just for farm policy reform, but for changing the dangerous way that Americans eat.

Don't miss this one.

(Photo copyright: ZeroOne)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Lesson in Civics

By Pilar Oberwetter

President Obama gives his inexplicably controversial speech to the country's schoolchildren today. The ReGenerates plan to watch, and we invite our readers to do so as well. We think it is important for the executive branch of government to open dialogue with the youngest members of this democracy.

It provides a living, breathing civics lesson which, based on recent antics by extremists, seems to be rather necessary these days. We encourage everyone to watch-- young and old alike-- there are lessons to be learned in both the content and context of the President's speech.

Friday, September 4, 2009

From Hole-Plugging to Sustainability

A great short article on "Grantseeking in a Tough Economy" from Cheryl A. Clarke in today's Guidestar newsletter.

Anyone involved in nonprofit grant writing has received the panicky "fix it fast!" message that leads directly to a fundraising-as-hole-plugging ethos.

The best organizations out there, and the ones that are the most sustainable, are the ones who allow their fundraisers to raise smart dollars, not necessarily fast dollars.

That requires treating a grants calendar as a live document, like a budget, that contains clear goals and objectives (and running actuals) with a built-in in flexibility for opportunities and unexpected challenges.

Especially in the world of grants, turnaround on receipt of funds can be anywhere from 1-12 months, and probably averages between 4-6. Don't waste your agencies or your grant writers time by forcing quantity over quality out the door.

With foundations and government agencies as tight-fisted as ever, spending extra time on the front-end to prospect agencies with strong mission and program alignment will be well worth the wait. When opportunities arise, as Ms. Clarke says, jump on them.

But for fast dollars, look elsewhere.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Updating Our Collective (Health) Status

By Pilar Oberwetter

A mysterious wave of posts took over Facebook and Twitter today, expressing a sentiment that this blog agrees with in full: No one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they get sick.

If you agree, post this as your status for the rest of the day.

If this is the segway to a collective rallying call to push the public option into Obama's speech scheduled for September 9, then we hope to see more of it in the coming days.
And what a wonderful way to use social networking for the social good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nonprofit Daydreaming

The Utah government is spreading the word on the benefits of the four-day work week for state employees.

Living in Washington, DC, I've long been accustomed to the schedule-shifting habits of those federal government employees whose flex time options make nonprofiteers such as myself salivate with envy. For many government employees, four-day work weeks are the norm.

This seems like a no-brainer. It's better for employees, better for organizations, and - in the case of a four-day work week - better for the environment.

I know there are a few nonprofits out there that provide employees with flexible work week arrangements, but seriously, dear nonprofit sector, hurry up already!

Liberal Ties

Wesleyan University President Michael Roth discusses the legacy of the late Senator Ted Kennedy in The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Peaches Never Tasted So...Expensive

By Pilar Oberwetter

Logically, local produce sold at farmer's markets in cities should promote healthy eating in step with reducing carbon footprints-- a win-win solution on all fronts. And like the organic movement, the push to grow and consume locally encourages awareness and advocacy to such a degree that some consider it to be a social movement of sorts-- which helps to justify the expectation of paying a slightly higher price.

Taking all this into consideration, I still cannot explain the $9.00 charge for 6 peaches at the Dupont Circle Sunday Market in the District of Columbia. It seems that all arguments fall apart when produce is brought into the city and priced at a level that makes them financially inaccessible for most city residents, regardless of a recent policy of allowing food stamps to be applied to farmer's market purchases.

And to add insult to injury, the dang things were not even organic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Children of Immigrants in the US

By Karina Fortuny

The Urban Institute just released a new data tool with information on the 16 million children in the United States that have foreign-born parents (that’s one in five kids!).

This tool makes it possible to build charts and tables about children including their citizenship, race and ethnicity, the education of their parents, and family income. You can also look at children across immigrant origin -- from South America to Africa to the West Indies -- or see how they fare relative to children with U.S.-born parents.

Did you know, for example, that 18% of children with immigrant parents live with a single parent versus 30% of children with U.S.-born parents? Or that in Maryland while only 7% of children of immigrants are poor that share jumps up to 34% in Texas?

To find out more information, check out The Urban Institute's complementary report, “Children of Immigrants: National and State Characteristics” that highlights national data on these children and variations across states.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Surfing the Net of Global Giving

By Guy Ragosta, President of Surfing Medicine International 501(c)(3)

Thanks to the internet, programs like have allowed charities the opportunity to put all their eggs in one basket. Through such websites, magazines, TV shows, and newspapers are able to direct their subscribers to a variety of international 501(c)(3) organizations. These prospective donors can surf, select, and donate to organizations that best fit their giving priorities.

For thousands of start-up charities like Surfing Medicine International, websites like can help raise dollars without restrictions that TV advertisers, with a cookie- cutter marketing culture restricted to wealthy companies, often demand.

At Surfing Medicine International, we bring together the science of bioremediation with the knowledge of traditional healers and the power of original music from guitar legends like John Butler and creators of Rocksteady music like The Soul Vendors.

Click the widget below to see how is helping our charity promote projects that help people with cancer and HIV/AIDS in Hawaii, Jamaica, and Ghana.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Serving Peace Corps from the Other Side

By Pilar Oberwetter

Yesterday, Aaron Williams was sworn in as the Director of the United States Peace Corps, making it official that a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) is holding the reigns over one of this government's most visible development programs. Interesting to note that although he is the agency's 18th director, he is only the fourth to claim RPCV status-- having served in the Dominican Republic from 1967 to 1970. As one of the thousands of RPCVs watching this selection process, I welcome both Mr. Williams and his Peace Corps experiences to this leadership position.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Billion Dollar Club

Apparently 14 people alive today have each donated more than $1 billion to charity. Can you guess who's on the list?

The most obvious person has donated $28 billion.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Guns, Hate, and Rallies

I was away for the last week and while trying to catch up on news, I was flabbergasted that a few stories in the news cycle were about people carrying guns to President Obama's town hall events.

I consider myself a tacit supporter of the second amendment. A good case can be made for the right to bear arms and I think liberals are often overzealous in our desire to ban guns from every corner of the country. That said, I cannot fathom how it makes sense for anyone to bring a gun within even an earshot of the President of the United States (POTUS).

I understand that the area immediately occupied by POTUS is considered a federal site and as a result guns are not allowed. Nonetheless, the thought of someone mulling around in the vicinity with an assualt rifle scares me.

As I think back to the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, I cannot remember a pattern of carrying guns to any of their events. I couple that with the hate that has emanated from attendees of Obama's recent town halls, and I can't help but wonder if part of this is a reaction to having our first Black head of state.

I applaud the Obama administration speaking up for the right to bear arms. I applaud the Secret Services' statements that they can do their job even when guns are brought around presidential events. However, when I read signage at these events such as: "Death To Obama, Death To Michelle And Her Two Stupid Kids," I can't help but be scared for this nation; and scared for our president.

Picture from:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Watching the Watchdog

By Jessica Brown
in Geneva

During a meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Committee on NGOs* in May 2009, four NGOs were controversially denied consultative status to ECOSOC, including the Arab Commission for Human Rights, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Dynamic Christian World Mission Foundation and ABGLT, a Brazilian organization working for lesbian/ gay/ bi-sexual and trans-gender rights.

On Monday July 27th during ECOSOC’s Substantive Session at the UN in Geneva, ECOSOC members voted to uphold or deny the draft decisions made by the Committee on NGOs.

There were various allegations as to why these four NGOs were denied UN consultative status. Pulling from statements made by various delegations in the opening of the segment, the Arab Commission for Human Rights was allegedly denied admission because of supposed connections to terrorism. Both the Democracy Coalition Project and the Dynamic Christian World Mission Foundation are US-based non-profit organizations with operations in China. Due to failure to concede to requests by the Chinese governments to provide lists of names and addresses of Chinese citizens working for these organizations in China, these two organizations have been denied consultative status. Finally, the Brazillian NGO, Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros or AGBLT, was denied consultative status due to their focus on homo-sexual rights which is deemed irrelevant by some delegations.

The implications of this battle are a cause for major concern. The role of Non Governmental Organizations in ECOSOC and beyond is to serve as a watchdog—an independent, outspoken accountability mechanism to ensure that country delegations are conducting their work ethically, effectively, and in accordance with international law. When this role is challenged, when these voices are silenced for political reasons, for differences in ideology or in response to criticism through overt or subversive mechanisms, it seriously impedes the functioning of ECOSOC as a whole. As the delegate from Chile eloquently said: “in order to benefit from the contributions and experience offered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), their independence and their constructive criticism must be respected.”

Those country delegations who favored the decision of the NGO Committee, cited a desire to not undermine the role of the Committee and of ECOSOC as a whole. In the end, both the Democracy Coalition Project and AGBLT were granted special consultative status at ECOSOC, which limits their ability to set forth agenda items for consideration during ECOSOC’s sessions. The Arab Commission for Human Rights was denied its consultative status for a year, and the application of the Dynamic Christian World Mission Foundation was closed. But the implications surrounding this debate, and the politicization of the granting of consultative status within ECOSOC and the UN, is ominous for the role of NGOs in the future.

* Angola, Burundi, China, Columbia, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Guinea, India, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Sudan, Turkey, U.K. and USA are members of the Committee of NGOs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When Goodwill Isn't Enough

A journalist explores the complex perils of charity in a war-torn nation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Putting a fresh coat of paint on an old topic:

Check it out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Unrestricted Soros

George Soros makes a $35 million gift through the Soros' Foundation to Promote Open Society to the state of New York to provide 850,000 low-income families with $200 of unrestricted cash.

The gift will leverage stimulus funds and amount to a startling $170 million.

The funds are designed to be spent back-to-school supplies and clothing but Soros says the money is no-strings-attached.

His inspiration?

Years before Soros began masterminding his philanthropic operation, he received a 40 pound check from a Quaker organization while he was a struggling student at the London School of Economics.

Listen to Soros tell his tale and - perhaps even more interesting - discuss his interpretation of the ever-elusive term "leverage" with NPR.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nice Work, Bubs!

President Clinton successfully negotiates the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It appears, not surprisingly, that Mrs. Clinton played a key role in setting up her husband for this slam dunk.

(Photo copyright: sskennell)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grinning Bill on Mission Abroad

By Pilar Oberwetter

So former President Clinton has officially arrived in North Korea to appeal for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. If successful, this is a win-win for all-- the US (and the Obama administration) get to save face in the area of foreign diplomacy and Bill gets to relive his glory days, even if just for the moment.

Stuck in a Clunk

By Pilar Oberwetter

I like it when a government social spending program is so wildly popular that it exhausts its budget and needs a new infusion of cash. It shows that analysts were correct to identify the clear need and the federal government was right to implement it.

I do not like it so much when a spending program, specifically Cash for Clunkers, supports the purchase of a car.

Other than very short-termed outcomes that accompany the improved gas efficiency of the new vehicle, including slightly fewer levels of greenhouse gases and slightly more dollars in the pocket of the owner, I am not sure what other accomplishments this program can claim at the end of the day. It certainly does nothing to encourage my fellow Americans to figure out alternative methods of getting around, which is really the only permanent solution.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does

A friend of mine posted this Slate article on Facebook. Christopher Hitchens' piece is interesting because it starts with a scene in which he, as a white man walking the streets of California, speaks smartly to a cop. The cop drives away, frustrated that he doesn't have "probable cause" and as a result Hitchens doesn't have to answer his questions. He contrasts this to Henry "Skip" Gates's recent arrest in his own home. The media has had a field day with the Gates story and I suspect the real story of why Gates was arrested will remain unknown to many of us.

What stood out for me in Hitchens' piece was the discussion of President Obama's comments regarding the incident. I happen to agree with President Obama in his initial assessment, the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" by arresting a man in his own home. However, Hitchens is right, the president should not have weighed in on a local dispute to begin with. But once he did, it would have been nice if he refused to retract his statement. Even if we don't know what the story was between Gates and the arresting officer, I'd argue most logical people do not believe it's okay to arrest a man in his own home - some of us might summarize the act as "stupid."

I have two regrets about the President Obama inserting himself into the debate: In a press conference focused on healthcare, the usually disciplined president distracted the entire nation by answering a question about his friend (and a topic I'm sure he finds vexing). Two days later, the president retracted his comments (being the healer-in-chief that he is).

I would have preferred if he clarified why the act was "stupid" rather than retract the statement and try to make peace over beer. But it is what it is. Hopefully in the future, we can have the race (and racism) debate more constructively.

Nonetheless, now that the beer bottles are empty, can we please return to a quasi-constructive healthcare debate.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

PCVs Get One of Their Own

By Pilar Oberwetter

On July 14, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Aaron Williams as the next Director of the United States Peace Corps, and today, his nomination hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are officially underway.

Mr. Williams's basic bio includes his current position as a Vice President for International Business Development with RTI International; he also has over 25 years of collective experience in the design and implementation of worldwide assistance programs. Standing above all of his accomplishments, however, is the fact that Mr. Williams served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic (1967-70). Let's not forget that Gaddi Vasquez, our former president's pick to lead this agency, had neither served as a volunteer or worked for the agency that he was asked to lead.

As a returned Peace Corps volunteer myself, I applaud and endorse President Obama's pick and am excited to see what he will do in his new role.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lest We Forget

By Pilar Oberwetter

One hundred and forty-one years ago on this date (July 28), the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship and all its privileges to African Americans, was officially adopted into the US Constitution, having been ratified by the necessary three-quarters of the US states.

Interesting to think that today, the Senate Judiciary Committee negotiates the confirmation of the nation's first Latina Supreme Court Justice; the national press banters about last week's arrest of a prominent African American scholar on his front doorstep; and the nation watches as Washington determines the future of the individual's access to health care.

Doesn't it seem like political decisions and social morals worked together back in the day? What happened?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What makes us develop, professionally?

Having been the recipient of frequent professional development over the years, I have always been a bit of a skeptic, having a difficult time relating most of these training opportunities to my day to day work. However, on lunch break today from a week-long conference, I am specifically questioning the cost-benefit ratio of these professional development events.

It seems that an entire industry has been built around the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Continuing Professional Education (CPE)-- but that maintaining professional credentials, or fulfilling the training requirements for career advancement, does not always match skill sets that will actually be used on the job. To be sure, the titles of many of the workshops infer a connection, but practically speaking, two or even eight hours of a single topic will not assign subject-matter expertise, and in many cases, will not even result in measureable subject-matter knowledge.

Further, for those organizations that organize these events, and for the public and nonprofit, and even private institutions that foot the bill, is the value of the workshop content equivalent to the charges? Is the half or full-day session worth a fee that rivals the per-credit hour charges of most public universities? Is the cost of requiring an employee to miss XX number of work hours per year to attend these trainings actually worth it to the organizations?

Perhaps, as a society, we have simply enabled another industry to capitalize on policies and requirements that assign legitimacy to professional development, but have neglected to provide necessary oversight on the relevancy of many of these trainings to actual job practice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Very Lawful Entry


Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is arrested for entering his own home in Cambridge, MA.

Hard to imagine how the Cambridge Police Department could explain away accusations of racial profiling.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moving Back In with Mom and Dad Never Looked So Good

More coverage on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program from The Washington Post today.

Now I feel really bad about myself knowing that their "Drowning in Debt" example case owes a mere $30,000.

Oh Suzie Dundas, if you only knew.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where do Babies Come From?

Today's New York Times story on surrogacy raises a great point about how our society will need to broaden the conversations around how children come into the world. With different types of families and with growing methods of childbirth, it may no longer be sufficient to tell the story as the "birds and the bees"

I found myself reading the article and imagining how I would explain childbirth to my children. I ended my thought experiment grateful that my children are still MANY years away from coming to earth. But I am curious how others would describe surrogacy and other methods of childbirth to children.

One parent, Joan Lunden, provided this example for explaining surrogacy in the Times: "Cupcakes. 'It’s almost like we can’t cook the cupcakes in our oven because the oven is broken,' she said. 'We’re going to use the neighbor’s oven.'"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bono on "Africa"

I think Bono's piece in today's New York Times was interesting. I started reading it thinking of it as another one of those people pontificating about the continent, from without. And while I still think it is/was, he makes some good points. Namely that there are many opportunities in many parts of the continent and there are champions in numerous countries for reform, for growth and much more.

However, what I still find missing is the connection to what role people themselves (for example the middle class he refers to) have to play. It's one thing to talk about African reformers and the role they play, it's a whole other to talk about the people in African countries and what they are doing in their country.

And then there's the whole thing about "Africa"!!! It is 54 freaking countries. I dislike the notion of Africa as one piece. I think the notion of us all being being African-American only adds to that misperception. I have objection to that assertion regardless, but it's made worse when it further conflates the continent into one giant country.

Wondering what others think ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get On the (City) Bus

As a non-car owning passenger of DC’s bus system, I spend my time riding to and from work in deep reflection, which is one of the many benefits of opting for this form of public transportation.  In recent months, my thoughts have been outwardly focused, thinking about the socioeconomic and demographic make-up of my fellow passengers—and how this seems to be a self-perpetuating trend, both here and elsewhere.

My fellow riders are overwhelmingly minority and working class.  No surprise for an urban transit system.  However, what has been a shock for me is the reaction of my friends and colleagues when I tell them that I take the bus to work now, that I took the bus across town to graduate school for two years, and that I much prefer it over Metro-proper (ie- the train).  It would seem that not only is the bus used by minority and working class residents—it is also perceived as designated for those residents and those residents only.

Case in point—DC has pumped millions of dollars in an effort to revitalize the H Street Corridor and potentially to improve the residential and commercial viability of the area.  However, despite the fact that this street in particular is home to the X2 line, a bus that essentially runs every 10 minutes in both directions, an argument was made about the perceived lack of available transportation to this neighborhood, and plans are being currently hatched to introduce a trolley system for folks to come and go.

Millions of dollars will be spent, just to help tourists and new residents and perhaps, dare I say it, the city’s ‘professionals’ (read- desirables) to avoid the city bus.

It seems that the stigma of bus-riding is both deep-seated and far-reaching.  I want to break down this barrier, but I do not know how. Does it help to talk about the new “Next Bus” phone system, where GPS locators tell riders how many minutes until your next bus arrives at your stop?  Will it make bus-riding more palatable to show the far, far reach of the routes?     

Come on, DC, get on the bus!   

(Photo copyrightgreychr)

By Pilar Oberwetter