Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Conclusive Note

Hey World,

Again I apologize for the lack of consistent posts. In spite of the digitalized world we live in, I do not enjoy staring at screens all day.

1. Bullet-Point Recap of the Most Amazing Four Weeks EVER

2. A Lengthy and Conclusive Reflection


- Wrote a lot for my internship (articles for publication, edits to website, research, etc.)
- Worked some more on Fair Trade the White House
- Officially elected as Southeast Regional Coordinator for the United Students for Fair Trade (
- Met some incredible students at the CAP Campus Progress Conference
- Heard speakers Bill Clinton, Van Jones, Kathleen Sibelius, Nancy Pelosi, and some awesome spoken word artist (her poem is at the end of this post)
- Met some inspiring organizers, journalists, and young people
- Networked with some incredibly talented and passionate students (Daniel Marbury at U of Alabama...great guy.)
- Plan to host Alabama Powershift 2009 -- hosted by newly-formed/thought of C.A.S.E. (Coalition of Alabama Students for a Sustainable Environment)
- Almost done applying for Campus Progress Grant, to fund enAct's 2009 activities
- Networked with some Energy Action Coalition leaders, will meet them in office next week
- Bought ticket to Nicaragua! Now leaving DC on July 28th... :(
- Preparing for a special visitor :)
- Cooked A LOT (too many recipes to list, but a highlight was a blueberry-rhubarb cobbler)
- Did jumping-jacks in Senate Offices (protesting with -- a part of PowerShift)
- Baby-Sat a few times
- Saw a great movie (Vicky Christina Barcelona... very good)
- Museum -- Corcoran, the last weekend for the Mya-Lin exhibit, absolutely phenomenal
- Created a twitter (bendtracy)

- Housesat in Cheverly -- lots of fun playing with Ruby the beagle!
- Met some very important DC alumni
- Became committed to a very important person
- Had a wonderful weekend with said person, seeing FRESH the movie and enjoying perfect DC summe weather

I have to jump in on a conference call with fellow USFTers who I will be going to Nicaragua with, BUT:

I feel like it is vital to extract as much out of this experience as possible. It is not necessary to conclude with a final precipice of personal growth, that nothing further could possibly result from these summer connections; however, I certainly feel moved by the events in the past 2 months.

I believe now, more than ever, that I must be connected on a deeply personal, cultural, economic, environmental, and physical level to my work. For this reason (and amidst some personally trying economic times) I will not continue my two work studies at BSC. Waiting tables, working for non-profits (perhaps government) will take up my weeknights and normal "work-study hours".

DC has given me both breadth and depth in some of the most influential working fields of our time. Now, more than ever, these careers (lobbyists, journalists, politicians, campaign advisers, think tanks) serve such an important place in our world--creating a central hub of attention and impact, and will continue to do so for at least another three years (especially when the Dems lose an expected 30 House seats in 2010...). I respect their work immensely and I am forever grateful for personally meeting them, hearing their anecdotal reflections, and their hopes for the future.

I may not return to this city. Perhaps it is another self-created, angsty, self-fulfilling psychosomatic prophecy that is such an insufferable product of our generation, but I have an underlying feeling of being ideologically isolated, and perhaps distant. Not in terms of beliefs, character, of patriotic duty, but rather the action that should result from these beliefs. I question its impact, I question its connection with the real world and not another glowing rectangle from which one may extract a "career" of sorts. I question it all.

The seduction of this city is overwhelming. Its activity is beautiful, its people are knowledgeable, diverse, and hard-working. Its impact and importance unquestionably unmatched.

Its work may not be for me. Just yet at least.

(I apologize for my generalized brevity, but this blog is really for myself...sorry)

Plan for the week is:
-- Meeting Tues. night with political events NY Times reporter Adam Nagourney
-- Dinner with Jeremy Bird, Director of the DNC and played a critical role in Organizing for America (essentially Obama's campaign). Hope for some wise words from him.

Will return to Atlanta (safely) on Tuesday afternoon and leave for Nicaragua on Wednesday.

Best wishes to all - Bon soir, Hasta Luego, Ciao

-- "On ne voit qu'avec le coeur. L'essential est invisible pour les yeux". - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Week and -- A Reflection on Media and Lobbies, the two "other" branches of Government

Activities this week -- Then an interesting reflection!

- Lunch with Dotty Lynch at CBS was WONDERFUL (more on it at the end)
- Went to Charlotte, visited my increasingly effervescent grandmother, Marilyn
Cooked: spinach, onion, and garlic-infused turkey meatballs
Baked sweet potatoes
Garlic Bread
Delicious, cheesy, butter cracker-crusted green bean casserole
Buttered Almond-toasted Salmon roast
Mixed salad greens
and... Pesto! Easily blended with walnuts, olive oil, some seasonings, basic, and parsley
*Please note that Robin (my brother's fiancee) and I make a GREAT cooking team
- Great drive back from Charlotte through the mountainous forest (or something like it)
- Babysat for little Dana on Monday night -- But:
In the process, got stuck behind the awful train collision. This was a very interesting and fortunate experience for me, as our jam packed train car (body-to-body) was stuck in a dark tunnel, lights are out, air conditioning is off. Everyone is complaining, sweating, completely unaware of how fortunate we were to be delayed rather than injured. The two-hour delay made me feel very lucky to be alive.
- Had lunch with a long-standing lobbying firm, the Duberstein Group -- very interesting (more on it at the end)
- Applied to be the United Students for Fair Trade (funded by the Tides Foundation) Southeast Regional Coordinator. I would serve on the national Coordinating Committee, and attend a summit in Nicaragua from July 29th-August 11th (my boss said this was okay to skip out early on the internship to attend). I spoke with one of the students running the committee, and she said I was highly qualified and no one else had applied for the position. So you may here some very good news from me very soon!
- Rest of the week is as follows:
Today -- Run from work to Senate office building for CAP Progressive Job Training
-- Try to hitch a ride to Anacostia for a UF game at 6 30
-- Hang out w/Jerry and watch "I love you, Man" -- I'll miss that cynical bastard.
Thursday -- 9 AM meeting with Sarah Doughton for Service Learning DC trip in January, at The Pilgrimage (awesomely cool service organization in DC)
-- After-work South African Fair Trade Wine-Tasting at the Embassy. I have to pretend to be important, basically. And free wine is a no-brainer!
-- Dinner with Sarah & company (I hope)
Friday --I'll be doing this -- for as long as I can, then taking up a week's worth of clothes and groceries about 10 miles east to Cheverly, a beautiful, quaint small town (hopefully getting a ride...). I'll be housesitting until the morning of July 4th. Woot!
Saturday -- 10 AM Special Holocaust tour w/the Harvard folks... and a private tour of the museum's new Genocide exhibit by the museum's Chair of the Committee of Conscience, Mike Abramowitz.
-- Exploring Cheverly with my new friend, the dog I'm taking care of (who's name I admittedly cannot remember... oh well.)
Sunday -- Cheverly farmers' market opening?? We shall see...

Reflection -- Media and Lobbies, the Two "Other" Branches of Government:

*to better understand how both of these relate to health care, lobbying, and capitalism as a whole, please read this wonderfully-long interview with Robert Reich. I've e-mailed him the reflection below and hope to hear from him soon.

So I was able to have wonderful conversation with Dotty Lynch and 10 other Harvard students at CBS HQ last Wednesday. She is a very open and personable woman, with years of experience behind Political Science research, campaign work, teaching at American University, and news corresponding. She has seen it all, from the beginning of Today in Washington news summaries, to the growth in poll reliability (amidst recent failures in even Presidential elections), to campaign news strategy.

Through our conversation, I feel that I now see media as such a vital role to government -- especially in elections. Media is an important dialogue, it is a vital (and profitable) outreach and advertising tool, and it can, at times, assist us in truly understanding (as a general and very distracted public) what is going on in Washington. I certainly was interested by our conversations about certain campaigns, about the semantics in reporting campaign polls and election results (as speedily and accurately as possible), and how she has experienced these all first-hand. It was fascinating, informative, and incredibly invaluable.
I do not think I want to follow her career path...not sure on this yet.

-----So yesterday I had lunch with the Duberstein Group with Ken Duberstein and the other heads (cannot remember their names, but they all looked pretty old and wealthy). These people are a relatively small lobbying firm, but have been in the business for over 20 years with clients that we come to know as the "bad guys". Exxon, Shell, Big Medical Insurers, airlines, BP, GM, the list goes on and on... all forking up hundreds of thousands to have their say towards politicians. Ken was Reagan's Chief of Staff, among other Executive and Legislative positions, and his partner was the recent-Bush's Assistant for Legislative Affairs. These guys know their stuff.

What is ironic is that Ken Duberstein is pretty left wing (on his left was the more leftist partner, on his right the former Bush appointee). It is ironic, at first, to think that these contrasting political affiliations and opinions can come together to do something we generally view with such a negative stigma. But it makes sense. Consensus = political and organizational functionality = employment = lots of $. So it is a logical progression, albeit a selfish one, for them to work together. It also makes sense that on Capitol Hill they've worked for republicans and democrats alike, making the appropriate contacts simply for the sake of making contacts so that they could be successful lobbyists. I don't see any ethics in there but certainly an abundance of capitalist logic.

Their work, I now understand, is pretty important federal political funcitonalism. It is almost a seeminlgy symbiotic relationship, our conversation convinced me of, among other things, that lobbyists retrieve, as a costly service, the arguments from certain economic and populus constituents. They organize the dialogue and deliver importantly trustworthy information to senators and congressman. In this regard, and out of Ken Duberstein's mouth, "The President is the most effective lobbyist there is". Money is always an issue. What is ironic, however, is that we usually assume that lobbyists are throwing money at the politicians for their favorable interest, but rather it is the other way around-- Ken gets at least 10 emails a day from congressman and senators asking for money... there's your irony. Also in terms of money, lobbyists have to play by the rules. They often times do not (Madhoff scandal, etc.) and in Ken's opinion, we will see a lot more scandals emerge over the next 6 months regarding the politicians and lobbyists who did not play by the rules.

I see that as a good thing.

I also understand this relationship much better, and how much of a powerful role it plays in campaigns and bills (before they even reach the floor!). Lobbying is truly another branch of government, but at this point, not one I want to work in. I certainly appreciate the value of these experiences that I am having and the lessons I have gained, but I am increasingly frustrated with the lack of connection that these careers have to my beliefs. I feel more ideologically distant, in some ways, than I ever have before. I have not yet decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Maybe some dam comments would help! If you have read this entirely-too-long blog then I would appreciate some feedback. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Uh-Oh -- Catch UP!

Hey Guys,

I decided to step on my computer screen, thereby cutting my daily computer access in half.


Quickly, a re-cap of the activities in the past 11 days (again... not in order at all):

- 2 conference calls (one with Fair Trade the White House Campaign --, the other about a e-mail action alert, asking thousands to call in to Hershey's HQ in PA and ask them to go fair trade)
- A nice CAP presentation (Middle East, Democracy, and Human Rights -- more on this at the end)
- Finished the Fair Trade Alliance Newsletter, my boss is sending it out today :)
- Got my application for CAP's Campus Progress conference accepted, and also got accepted to the Grassroots Training Day and Lobby Day on Capitol Hill
- Had breakfast with former Harvard Institute of Politics Director, and now Senator of New Hampshire, Jean Shaheen. Had a nice talk with her about domestic climate change policy vs. int'l climate change negotiations w/China... very down to earth, nice woman.
- Had some interesting times with fun people
- Was quite embarrassed at the Ultimate Frisbee Clinic... we have a game on Wednesday.
- Spent the weekend with my 10 year-old cousin, Dana. Very relaxing, played Wii, went to the pool, fun stuff.
- Saw the Phillips Museum (for free) and heard the most amazing Xylephone player (apparently world-renowned) jam out in the museum's auditorium. I really like that museum, and I also bought a $1 print there called "The Uprising" and on the print it says it is undated... but you can find the date online!
- Free Sausage Paella at the Dupont Farmers' Market... out of a 6-foot diameter pan... amazing.
- Danced some African dance at the Drum Circle on Sunday. Crazy people...
- More long phone conversations
- Lots of cooking: (sweet potato fries, risotto sweet potato and carrot pilaf, chickpea and fava bean soup, among other things)
- Helped my brother, Jerry, plant his basil, mint, and oregano.
- Met a wise man named Gordon at the CAP thing. He was very cool.
- Also met a woman who works for Southern Command (with the DOD) regarding Human Rights in Latin America... good networking.
- Ran into Art Richey (just about). He seemed very distracted.
- Called Dell about the laptop. Great, wonderful, productive conversation. I wish they spoke more like humans...

The event was entitled something like "Democracy, Human Rights, and Peace in the Middle East", but I feel that the panelists focused very little on human rights and instead painted a picture and dynamic of Western Democracy that I happen to fundamentally disagree with...

The issue of what to do with the Guantamano detainees, also related was the issue in Abu Ghraib, Morocco, China, etc... all surrounding it was a discussion of expected delays due to Obama's need for a "Comprehensive Plan" to send to the Senate on the step-by-step plan for Guantanamo, and ongoing negotiations with European Allies on their assistance with the detainees. This is all expected to take at least until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, while Obama's "rock-star" image stands fervently behind his words (at this point, only his words), judging by his Cairo speech last week, I feel like the concept of "public image" as a whole has taken a disturbing precedent over human rights.

What I mean is that Obama's image, the US's political posturing (such as placing domestic security over human rights), and the EU's timidness all seem to give me the impression that these people are not being seen as people first.

Rather, they are seen, treated, and discussed about as if they are detainees and political nuisances first, and seem to have already, in some ways, been attributed with the titles of "terrorist" and "criminal", for which they have not yet been convicted (by the way).

It is just me, or is altruism typically synonymous with democracy? Since when did this change?

This is wrong. As we sit in this wonderfully luxurious and air-conditioned room, eating our expensive Whole Foods salmon-asparagus sandwiches, these people are suffering. They are in terrible conditions, mistreated in many cases, perhaps tortured (although no longer in Guantanamo, this continues in Morocco). Our mistreatment of them provokes and encourages the jihadism and mujaheddin we seek to subvert, ironically enough. To me, this precedance of "Public Image" and "Political Functionality" over human rights is a fundamental problem with the perception and implementation of Western Democracy.

Obama speaks well, but calling for "reflection" in his Cairo speech is not only selfish, but it is downright ignorant -- in a time where revolution, action, and immediate change is needed, more "reflection" is the last thing the world needs.


- And now... I am leaving in an hour to CBS studios for a free tour and discussion with one of their correspondents and former Harvard IOP fellow, Dotty Lynch.

Farewell for now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Week: Fighting Climate Change, Meeting the US Government, and Fixing Globalization

Hello Everyone,

So I was wrong. I apologize for assuming that this week would be much less eventful than the last (although Tuesday was a bit slow), but it certainly has not been so far. In fact, this week has been, in some ways, more intellectually engaging and more inspirational. Yesterday, after an early breakfast (7 45) with Carmen, director of the Fair Trade Federation (we both ended up at the wrong restaurant, and walked together to the correct one, talking about what I should do with my life...), **First** I rushed over to the Center for American Progress to see Todd Stern speak on Climate Change. He did not address climate change in the boring powerpoint that we have all come to know and fall asleep during, but rather, as the State Department's Special Envoy on Climate Change (global warming diplomat), he was able to address what may be the most essential bi-lateral relationship the world has ever seen: the United States and China.

He introduced the context of the need for this relationship very well, in that China has been on an average of 10% GDP growth per year for the past 30 years. They went from a GDP per capita (basically income per person) of around $400 in 1979 to nearly $5,000 today! Essentially, through the nearly exponential increase in carbon emissions from China, their growth in coal production, building the equivalent of four Boston's (in urban housing) every month, it has become evident (from a lot of people) that China's economic growth is not politically or environmentally sustainable. I was hearing from a few experts there that maybe reducing the growth to 5% would be appropriate, but the exact numbers have yet to be determined. In a very general sense, the purpose of Todd Stern's trip to China over the next month is to engage in discussion (already begun) about China a) leading the world in emissions, and how this can change, b) straddling the divide between the developing and developed world, and c) leading the developing world in climate change policy and overall carbon emission reduction. These negotiations are essential in setting forth a diplomatic consensus of some kind before the World Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December (it is not that we expect China to mirror our climate actions, or those of Europe, but rather to adopt an effective climate policy of some kind, or that scientists can approve).

So I am pretty sure that these discussions, negotiations, and diplomatic consensus can be reached by December, but I am not 100% sure that the US will have things sorted out on the homefront. I am referring to the Waxman-Markey Bill, the piece of climate legislation currently before Congress. If Congress and the Senate don't get this through, and signed to some extent, by December, then I see the 'developing world', and perhaps China, pointing their fingers saying "How can you ask us to lead the world in fighting global warming when your own country cannot even come to an agreement??". This is obviously the worst case scenario, yet it happened at Kyoto in 1997.

Finally, I am optimistic that this relationship can come to fruition in the way that Todd Stern envisions it, that the US Climate Bill can be signed or agreed upon by December, and that Copenhagen can bring the countries of the world to say "Hey, let us save ourselves, together." Only time will tell...

**Second** So this morning, I got up to bike a ways down Florida Avenue (in the rain) to attend a "Round Table" of Fair Trade labeling organizations, advocacy and trade federations, cooperatives, and other anti-sweatshop non-profits. I ran into my boss, Samm, along the way and we biked together in the rain. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that Fair Trade standards and labels were guaranteeing a reduction in poverty and a prevention of child labor.

Well, problem was that this agenda was extremely vague, and that it is very rare that the director of FLO (the global fair trade labeling organization) in Germany, is in the same room with the US cooperatives that operate under its label (it is sort of a geographic and cultural divide). For that reason, the discussion became extremely interesting. With development organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services accusing the director of FLO for being both a "development organization" and a "labeling organization" (without adequately doing the job of either), and cooperatives complaining that these labels are losing their trade effectiveness, consumer ethical guarantee, and FLO (nice Finnish woman, Tuulia, but she was just hired in February!) simply trying to keep up with all the questions, I was grinning the whole time (and writing, of course). The problem is an overselling, or overpreaching, or overbranding of what are essential fair trade principles--labor conditions, env. standards, etc.--without the adequate monitoring and enforcement to back them up. The balance between the rhetoric of Fair Trade and its actual reality is at a very influential point in time, and it was wonderful to be a fly on the wall in this room. Furthermore, I began to see the whole interconnectedness of worldviews and how it related to what I want to do with my life (this a long side-tangent). I wrote an application for a Campus Progress Conference at the Center for American Progress (it's in July -- I haven't gotten in yet), and my short application essay read as follows:

It is my personal creed, or ideal, that belief without action holds very little value or meaning to the world (I believe this may be closely aligned with what some schools of philosophy call "American Pragmatism"). People may discuss things, propose ideas, even organize themselves--but without action, all of this activity never seems to come to fruition. It is this fruition which I seek to know to enable, and this has brought me to apply for the 2009 Campus Progress National Conference. Whether it be an environmental movement for a sustainable food system in my city, Birmingham, a rally against an unethical and illogical government bill, or simply voting in one's local election, these values must come to fruition and they must be followed by action. Personally, I hold many different values about society, government, and our economy. It is not necessarily my prerogative to transfer these values onto everyone, but rather to engage others and act based on our collective values. Furthermore, I seek to enable others to do the same. Civic engagement, to me, epitomizes this belief, and my attendance at this conference, I hope, will add to the skills, knowledge, experience, and networking needed to achieve this goal. I define the very loose idea of "progress" as acting on one's values--collectively, effectively, and sustainably. It betters our own lives by connecting our morals to our actions, bridging illogical cultural barriers, and bringing humans everywhere together for a common purpose. I hope that I will be able to join others at the 2009 Campus Progress National Conference, and that through meaningful workshops, social networking, and whatever else may take place, we will all learn to collectively act based on our values.

So what I began to realize while hearing all of this, and it really became an out-of-body experience (I did however continue to take notes), was that my belief in the world, what I wanted to do with my life, summarized in the essay above, connected to the overarching theme of this Fair Trade discussion: SO WHAT IF IT IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, IS IT WHAT YOU DO? Volume vs. Impact, Preaching vs. Practicing, they are all dichotomies that we face every day. It is beyond a doubt, the most comforting feeling I have ever felt, to know that I am on the correct side.

I choose to wake up everyday and enjoy the world, better the world, and appreciate her beauty. The world was not made for humans, but rather we were made for her. This is my belief, and it directly correlates with my action; in fact, my action probably preceded the clarification of this belief (which may be problematic at times). I encourage you all to follow this same motto, not necessarily this same belief, but to live life to its fullest and let your beliefs guide your actions!

That is all, I will stop preaching for now. Sorry for the prolongued patronization.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Sorry to overload you with posts, but my mind is glowing after reading this. This blog has nothing to do with what I did today in any directly descriptive way. It is an incredible, inspirational, heartfelt speech delivered by Steve Jobs at the commencement address at Stanford in 2005. I feel that it can most certainly impact anyone who takes the time to read the entire text of his speech, so I hope each of you who reads this blog post will do just that. Big thanks to Kait for the text itself. Enjoy.

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005, at Stanford.
"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle. My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park , and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Thank you all very much."

Sunday, May 31, 2009


What is summer? This one in particular has involved such a focus on professional development, networking, and gaining knowledge on serious environmental policy issues. My thirst for knowledge leads me to daily experiences concerning areas of knowledge from food distribution to sustainable business theory. Whether I am socializing with colleagues, in the office reading an article, or planning to attend (and attending) events on Climate Change (with Todd Stern on Wendesday), poverty, Fair Trade (round table on Thursday), etc... I feel like a lot of the joy of summer can easily be overlooked. It is not as if one must separate "work" from "play", but that the "work" can often make us jaded, cold, and lonely. 

What I have realized, after a relaxing weekend with Dana, is that summer is about calming the mind and enjoying a peaceful time of the year. It is not necessarily the hustle and bustle of a DC professional internship that is making this summer so enjoyable for me. It is rather the time taken to enjoy beautiful weather with beautiful people, talk at length on the phone for no particular reason, and simply play outside. What I am trying to say is best surmized by an excerpt from today's Washingtonian:

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" is an essay permanently etched in our minds. Perhaps the color of the cottage was blue, not gray, and it was Uncle Frank, not Al, who wore the lobster-patterned trunks, but the recollections that matter are as fresh as a blackberry picked straight off the bush.
As we excitedly welcome June, and all of its anticipated pleasures and joys, we can't help but think of the past. When we were small and free, enjoying the warmest weeks of the year with our beloved yet nutty families, all four or 10 of us crammed into a mountainside cabin, beachfront bungalow or VW camper. When the biggest decision was vanilla or strawberry ice cream, swim or build sand castles, Mom or Dad's lap. When the smallest experiences led to such bliss that, decades later, we still pause to relive that moment, then return to reality with a secret smile on our lips.
-- Andrea Sachs

Friday, May 29, 2009

First Full Week of Work

Hey everybody,

Some important things: a) It is raining... it has been raining for a while now, and b) I have completed my first full week of work (because counting today's little bit of work, it has been six days of work).

       So I really really really enjoy my job. I now realize I will be working mostly on my own, with assigned projects (fair trade profile updating for the website, fair trade pavilion programming for the Green Festival in October, a full contact list for Fair Trade Alliance members, etc.) but also the expectation that I can go and find work for myself. I am confident, capable, and have already earned the trust of my colleagues (my boss's boss, Todd Larsen, the Director of Corporate Responsibility Programs, really liked this media summary I did for the recent Fair Trade Tour, and he said they might use it for donors... I smiled). 

       Oh and I had this wonderful conversation today, because it was Friday, with Denise, who is one of the founders of Green America. I had some wild ideas for fundraising strategies, and wanted to learn more about how non-profits were dealing with the recession, and she had lots to tell me (she also has a picture of her holding hands with the Dali Lama, she is that cool...). Anyways she is like this super-intelligent old hippie, and just freely talked to me about all of these green businesses that grow up and get bought out by large corporations, but the large corporations don't want to tarnish the brand or image of the product, so they try to hide the fact that they own it (like the fact that Coke owns Honest Tea, or that Clorox owns Burt's and Bee's). It was a very fun conversation, and I think I may have impressed her.
        Anyways my boss left today, and I will miss him. Him and I seem to be a lot alike and I am sure we would have gotten along great. It is also great to have this independance, but I do definitely look forward to working with my new boss, Sam, on Monday. It will probably be a different relationship than the one Yochi and I had, but we will just have to wait and see.

 I am off tonight to celebrate Yochi's farewell at a party with my colleagues. It will be interesting to see them all drunk and happy, instead of just happy and tired. 

Also, I get to go to a yardsale tomorrow morning, benefiting a dog rescue organization (one of my colleagues volunteers with them), and then I will see that adorable cousin, Dana, play soccer (some competitive soccer tryout-thing). I will then babysit her for the weekend, so her mom, Aunt Marla, can have a peaceful one-year anniversary with her new husband Steve. It will be a fun and relaxing weekend. 

I will leave you with a wonderful quote from my roommate Laura:

         We are the flute, our music is all Thine;
         We are the mountains echoing only Thee;
         And movest to defeat or victory;
         Lions emblazoned high on flags unfurled-
         The wind invisible sweeps us through the world.

                                                                               - Rumi

Monday, May 25, 2009

Re-Cap: A Week to Remember

So I guess I have had quite an eventful week.

You have heard some of it already. Here is what has not been posted :) *note: not in order...

- Practiced Frisbee with Robin at a Drum Circle (and taught a few local kids the mechanics...)
- Went to Harper's Ferry (the Appalachian trail!) and hiked on an absolutely beautiful day
- Went to the Zoo (WAY too many kids there...) but saw a gorrilla fight and almost got peed on by an orangutan
- Cooked an enjoyable meal for Robin and Jerry (apparently they weren't poisoned, but it was also followed by an incredible rhubarb pie thanks to Robin)
- Finished planting the Garden (it looks gorgeous, pictures soon to follow)
- Went to the AWESOME farmer's market at U and 14th (Goose Eggs, homemade brie, apple butter, and amazing produce)
- Did some preparation for BSC fall environmental activities...
- Went to the Sculpture Garden, heard Jazz and met a bunch of new  and IMPORTANT people
- Meditated with new friends
- Walked/played with two very adorable dogs (belonging to Robin's roommate, thanks Michelle)
- Meditated some more
- Had some interesting phone conversations
- watched some basketball
- laundry (now)

Basically, this week has been so eventful that it will put the next 10 weeks to shame--not really. I understand that being so active and out-and-about isn't exactly physically or economically practical, so I must tone it down a bit and live within my means (thanks Jerry and Robin). 
I am, however, extremely grateful for the people that I have met. People, between the ages of 22 and 30, easy to talk to and open-minded, working in my dream jobs. I could not imagine a better scenario (I seem to be repeating myself). It is so fascinating to hear their perspectives in conversations about climate change, co2 trading, carbon sequestration, etc. because THEY are the people producing these important reports! It's them! Anyways, I am excited for my 3rd day of work tomorrow, and look forward to a much less eventful week :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A First Day and An Inspiring Event

So I am not sure if I had any real concrete expectations for how today was supposed to go, but it certainly trumped anything I could have imagined. As the title of the post reads, I will summarize my first day in bullet points with a brief reflection, then on to the inspiring event of the evening.

- Yochi sits me down and after having met a wonderfully friendly and relaxed staff, tells me he will be leaving in two weeks (it was not his intention to keep this from me). He will be going to law school in Oregon. Good for him... wait what??
- Sammi, who also heads all the interns, and 1/2 of the time serves on the board for executive strategy-stuff, will be taking over his position and working with me for the rest of the summer. Sammi is a very nice woman, with whom I had lunch today along with Yochi. 
- Aside from the conventional orientation of how the company works (its organizational structure is fascinating, 6 out of its 12 members on the board are staff members!), what I will be doing (planning Fair Trade programming for the Green Festival in October, researching and writing on fair trade producer profiles, data entry from Fair Trade Tour contacts), I began to see how important my work is going to be
- Green America distribution database for its fair trade publications and events reaches out to more people than any other non-profit agency in the country.
- For this summer, I am bearing the brunt of the work in planning, writing about, and organizing this division of Green America. 

= WOW. I am not surprised that most non-profits are cutting back (Yochi had expressed disappointment that another staff member was not hired, but the fact that Green America had to cut 20% of its annual budget this year serves as a valid explanation), but to give the responsiblity to a 20-year old college kid? I really do not get surprised very often but this definitely caught me offguard. I am excited to know that among the other interns (about six other, none of whom have arrived yet) I pretty much have the coolest job. I am proud to know that non-profits with the prestige and reputation, such as Green America, can still empower youth to take on challenges even with the possibilty of failure. It will be a very fun summer.

- Evening Event - 

      So William, my brother's fiancée's roommate, invited me to this Local Food Sustainable System book presentation thing, hosted by DC Central Kitchen, at Busboys and Poets, a cool hip place where they have poets come and great coffee and a bookshop that helps the community (basically the coolest place ever). Anyways, the people up there represent the book that has been written about this local food movement - socially, economically, and environmentally responsible. We have all heard the local food ideal, the dream of 'knowing your farmers' and being able to purchase locally bought food from your farmers' market or grocery store. 
     What I saw tonight, hearing the collective story of a food chef, a non-profit social entrepreneur, a food distributor, and a country agricultural agent, was REAL. It really did get to me. Knowing that DC Central Kitchen, which already has the logistical resource and infrastructure to feed millions each year with reclaimed food, has partnered and coordinated with restaurants, big food distributors and packagers, grocery stores, health agencies to create this beautiful bridge between local growers and the DC populus - it makes me smile inside. Now there is an understatement. 
       Michael Curtin, from DC Central Kitchen, said that "We can create great change and engender empowering forces using only the resources in our community". This dream, however hard and impractical it may seem, makes perfect sense, and it works. 
       We'll call it a 'Cost-Effective Cooperative Distributorship' using non-profits, coalitions, farmers' markets, and businesses to create a beautiful relationship. It almost seems unreal, but what really intrigues me is a complete lack of policy. Where are the tax breaks for these restaurants or the local farmers, where is the funding to really get this across the city (some neighborhoods in DC still can be referred to as 'food deserts')? I thought quite at length about this, and concluded that in DC, these people did not have time to wait for policy or local government.
         So let us travel 2,800 miles south (a little West) to wonderfully gentrified and segregated Birmingham. Not only can the local government not take care of its water system, but the food system is nowhere near what is happening here in DC. But the potential is there. The interest is certainly there. And perhaps the financial and organizational backing may be there as well (from the non-profit sector, of course). We just have to find it, build it, and push it. Push it in to the minds of chefs and restauranteurs to go and talk to their growers and meet their farmers (now there's a novel idea). Create a supply chain of middle-man distributors, connecting 'food deserts' to reduced cost locally grown produce that does not sell. And MAYBE the local government will chip in, but I certainly do not plan on waiting for them. 
          As Michael Curtin and Robert Egger (founder of DC Central Kitchen) clearly put it, after I expressed my frustration with this dysfunction here in Birmingham, 'We aren't inventing something new, we aren't creating something from nothing, we are just taking the system we have now, applying a much more sensical and ethical community-based, environmentally friendly, healthier, and more economical approach, and learning a new way to fish'. So who is with me?

- P.S. - Garden planted by the end of the week! I promise!

A Brief Story of Two Tillers and an Adorable Ten Year-Old

Quick recap of Tuesday (Wednesday's's reflection will be MUCH longer)

I have gotten some goals achieved, and it has made me quite happy:

1. Cooked a meal on Monday - With Jerry's aid, of course, we prepared some delicious curry chicken and sauteed veggies, with some baked corn. Delicious and simple. Done.

2. Talked to my boss, Yochi - I'm starting tomorrow at 10:30! 

3. Got the backyard ready for planting - After walking for over an hour to the Rhode Island Home Depot, renting a tiller, finding a freelance cab driver (Rick Johnson, great man), figuring out that the tiller did not work, renting a second tiller, and finally returning that tiller back to Home Depot. Without you, Rick, there would be no garden.

4. Having to rent two tillers delayed the whole job tremendously, and by the time the tiller was dropped off it was 7:45, and I went from the Red Line Stop, fortunately right next to the Home Depot, all the way to the end - Rockville, Maryland. There, a wonderful aunt, Marla was there to greet me. My cousin Dana, an exuberant and adorable 10 year-old, was waiting for me with a delicious dinner awaiting. I had not eaten much all day, and it took seconds for me to devour the turkey meatballs and pasta. Great meal - and I hope to attend Dana's soccer games and swim meets!

All in all, an exhausting but very productive day.  Exhausted, I could barely fall asleep. I was too excited about work!

Monday, May 18, 2009

17 May - Arrival

Hey Guys, I'm here! I arrived at 12:15 PM on Sunday, May 17th in beautiful and awesomely cool Washington, D.C. After hopping on the Yellow Line, taking it North (for a good 25 minutes) to the Columbia Heights Station, my brother, Jerry, and his fiancée, Robin, were waiting to pick me up. Yesterday consisted of:
- meeting roommates (2 super cool vegetarian women, and Joan, a computer programmer, french, and the only other male)
- moving Jerry's stuff to Robin's House(literally 50 yards away!)
- settling all my things (desk, clothes, etc)
- getting groceries with Jerry and Robin (Harris Teeter is the choice here, with infrequent visits to Whole Foods, and possible smaller weekend purchases at the Farmers Market)
- exploring the neighborhood (Malcolm X, or Adams Morgan Park, Adams Morgan 'square' with great ethnic restaurants, packed coffee shops)
- eating Kyochi at Robin's (made by Robin's roommate, William, who works for DC Central Kitchen with Robert Egger! Coincidence!)
- reading, tea, some yoga
- out to eat dinner at The Diner (24 hour, better-than-waffle-house-type place)
- Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Social at Robin's (also now known as Sunday Sundaes)

All in all a very eventful day -- very fun, very welcoming. Thanks, DC roommies & company.

Plans for tomorrow and before starting work:
- Call Yochi to confirm time for work and any preparation I need to do
- Check out the local plant shop and see if the backyard can be planted SOON
- See a museum (maybe)
- Eat dinner at Aunt Marla's in Rockville
- Cook a meal!

DC is wonderful, guys! I know how lucky I am to be where I am, and I want to thank everyone in my life who has made it possible. 

Be well,