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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Barack Obama, His Presidency, and a New Generation

For several weeks, as the end of his presidency approached and then occurred, I've been reflecting on Barack Obama -- whose Dreams from My Father book I read in 1995, years before he came to national prominence.  

Those reflections appear at Medium.

1:20 am est 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Marching On, Women and Their Allies

The New Haven Independent published my account, also available at Medium, of our family’s participation in the January 21 marches of, with, and for women -- and for the USA.

11:47 pm est 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Seminars and Lecture Series, in Partnership

The New Haven Public Schools' website and the New Haven Independent have information on the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s 2017 seminars and lecture series, as this partnership begins its 40th year.

9:57 pm est 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Marching with, and for, Women—and America


Yesterday, my family participated in the New York City and Hartford marches for women (and not just for women!).  While my wife and our daughter headed to New York via train with a large contingent of fellow New Haveners, my son and I (who were otherwise occupied in the morning) went to Hartford in the afternoon.


The night before, friends gathered, with the younger set crafting homemade posters.


In Hartford, we saw a former New Haven mayoral candidate with his family, as well as a current public school principal with his.  We were among a crowd estimated at some 10,000 by the State Capitol in Bushnell Park. 


Though my son and I were too far back to get clear views of the speakers (Gov. Dannel Malloy, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and legislator Beth Bye among others), their remarks were just part of the occasion.  Music and chants -- especially Love trumps hate! -- resounded.


I struck up brief conversations with several participants, including a couple appearing in their sixties from Windsor, and two women -- from Middletown and Wethersfield -- of a similar age.  There were other children roughly my son's age (nine), as well as numerous twenty- and thirty-somethings.  Several evidently identified as transgender, perhaps eighty-odd percent female, and the rest male.


There was a spirit of camaraderie, emboldened by the scores of handmade posters.  Some signs were earnest, listing specific examples of policy concerns.  Others were targeted toward a particular issue or two -- including those of understandably profound consideration for women and their bodies.  Many voiced positive messages of unity and humanity.


Others expressed more personal doubts about the president's veracity and character, as well as his proclaimed policy goals.  Some of these posters included derisive comments about the president, his administration, and those goals.  Among the most amusing of these protest messages: Pence likes Nickelback.


My son's poster captured a sentiment to which all of us can aspire, favoring love” over hate.


Meanwhile, in New York, hundreds of thousands (an estimated 400,000) marched from the UN to Trump Tower.  Expecting throngs, the organizers asked participants to obtain tickets (at no charge) in advance.


After completing that march, my wife, our daughter, and friends went -- signs in hand -- to the Trump International Hotel on Columbus Circle, too.


Young and not-so-young, the marchers in various cities seized the opportunity to assume what President Obama in his January 10 farewell address termed “the most important office in a democracy”: citizen.

9:22 am est 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MLK, John Lewis, and the Continuing "March," Post-Obama


As earlier (August 2013 and January 2016) posts have noted, my father heard civil rights hero (now Congressman) John Lewis speak at the March on Washington in 1963.  Reminding my son of this, we marked Martin Luther King Jr.'s actual birthday today in part by reading the first volume of the acclaimed John Lewis book, March.  


My wife, our children, and I concluded the day by watching President Barack Obama's final interview on 60 Minutes, and then his January 10 farewell address (which the three of them had missed that night).  As generations have been inspired by John Lewis and Dr. King and have been beneficiaries of their struggles, I believe generations will appreciate the leadership and example of Barack Obama.  Let's keep marching.

10:06 pm est 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Barack Obama, Leading Citizen (and a Modest Example of Citizenship)

Tonight, President Barack Obama gave a compelling, poignant farewell address that my wife, children, and I will watch together this weekend (they were asleep and missed it in real time tonight).  His call for active, informed citizenship resonates. 

Beforehand, early this morning, my own modest effort at engaged citizenship was to send messages to each of Connecticut's U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.  Those notes thanked the senators “in advance for scrutinizing Donald Trump's nominees for Cabinet positions.”

10:14 pm est 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Blood Month, Too


January is not only National Mentoring Month, as recognized January 1 (below); this is also National Blood Donor Month, as the New Haven Register noted about local blood needs.

10:30 pm est 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mentoring, throughout the Year

In the final weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has again proclaimed January “National Mentoring Month.”  This effort, consistent with his “My Brother's Keeper” initiative that will endure beyond his administration, raises awareness about the many ways that adults can build mentoring relationships to support young people's development.

More information is available at sites including Serve.gov/Mentor, the National Mentoring Partnership, and LiteracyEveryday.

3:47 pm est 

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