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Obama tells Berlin crowd: “We can’t hide behind a wall”

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Barack Obama received a rock star welcome in a speech in Berlin on Thursday upon reuniting with Angela Merkel, for the first time since leaving office. Obama called upon the audience to engage in democracy telling them that prosperous nations do not “hide behind a wall” to shield themselves from the poverty or turmoil afflicting other countries.

Speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate, once cut off by the Berlin Wall, the former US president was greeted with cheers and cries of “Barack, Barack.” He urged the 70,000-strong crowd to “push back against those trends that would violate human rights or suppress democracy or restrict individual freedoms” and to “fight against those who divide us.”

Obama spoke about the suicide bombing in Manchester, which killed 22 on Monday and said he was heartbroken. Calling the world a “very complicated place,” he said: “We can see the terrible violence that took place just recently in Manchester. It is a reminder that there is a great danger of terrorism and people who would do great harm to others just because they’re different. How heartbroken we are by the loss of life, and we grieve with the families.”

Crowds gather in front of Brandenburg Gate as former U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel enter the stage for a discussion. Photo credit:  Markus Schreiber/AP

Obama said that Merkel was one of his favorite partners throughout his presidency. He spoke about her tremendous work and how he staunchly defended her refugee policy, in which she has received much criticism.

Obama discussed U.S. and international challenges and issues of concern for approximately 90 minutes without mentioning his successor Donald Trump. The elephant in the room would make its presence known, concerning Trump’s campaign rhetoric and pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out the ‘bad guys,’ e.g., illegal immigrants and drugs.

Speaking about globalization and technology, Obama used the analogy that the world was shrinking. He said that it was not possible to stay isolated from troubles abroad as a result.

“If there are disruptions in these countries, if there is bad governance, if there is war or if there is poverty, in this new world that we live in we can’t isolate ourselves,” Obama said. “We can’t hide behind a wall.”

Making his first speech in Europe since leaving office, Obama warned against taking peace and prosperity for granted. Speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Obama said, “The world is at a crossroads.”

He did not mince words and discussed the widening inequality gap inside nations and between nations as a primary concern. Keeping the discussion on a level playing field, he said, “The world has never been wealthier, healthier and never been better educated.”

Obama spoke about sustainability and progress and told the audience that if the world could sustain the progress that he was very optimistic about its future.

“My job now is to help them take it to the next step,” he said.

Reflecting upon what has transpired in his life since leaving office, he spoke about spending the last four months trying to catch up with his sleep and enjoying the luxury of spending more time with his family.”

“I’m very proud of the work I did as president,” he said, as the audience applauded and cheered, adding he was especially proud of health care reform.

Obama told the audience that his hope was to get 100 percent of people health care. He said that the Obama administration didn’t achieve that goal but was able to get 20 million people health care who didn’t have it before. He spoke about having some regrets because his administration wasn’t able to get everyone health care.

“Now some of the progress we made is imperiled because a significant debate is taking place in the United States,” he added, again avoiding direct mention of Trump, who is attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare.

Obama was quick to point out that he hopes to use the “little influence” he has as a former president to help young people be better prepared for the looming challenges.

He urged his critics to weigh up the use of drones with the huge threat posed by terrorists. “These are groups that would be willing to explode a bomb in this audience right now, and we shouldn’t be too complacent in recognizing the need to fight against them,” he said.

“Hopefully over time, it’s a battle of ideas and not just a battle of weapons so that we can convince fewer and fewer young people to get involved with Isis. But as long as they’re functioning out there, we are going to have to protect our people.”

Merkel added: “We are dealing with opponents who want to destroy our entire way of life. And what worked during the cold war—deterrence, prevented war, because both sides wanted to stay alive. That doesn’t exist with the terrorist groups. They are ready to give up their own lives to destroy the lives of others, as we have just seen in Manchester, of young people, families, ordinary people.”

The forum was the highlight of a nationwide series of events to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when the theologian Martin Luther gave birth to the Protestant church.

Video Source: Association V.A.A. YouTube Channel

#LeNora Millen    05-26-17

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Oklahoma Teachers Exercise their Voice

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Oklahoma Teachers Exercise their VOICE!

Oklahoma public school teachers banded together to strike for supplies and better wages

Have you heard the “tea” on the statewide teacher walk-out in the state of Oklahoma and the ripple effect it’s starting in the country? Well, if you haven’t and you’re the kind of person that need numbers and statics, which are important, don’t get me wrong. I hope that this article encourages you to take a deeper look into this now national situation and also, take a deeper look at your education system in your own backyard. However, in this article, I want to give readers a candid look inside of the protest from the perspective of a now local resident and a first time experience of anything like this.

I originally had no intention of attending the walk-out at the state capital here in Oklahoma City. To keep it all the way real, which I wouldn’t have it another way, I didn’t think it would last more than a day if it happened at all. Now I know, some of you are probably wondering why I’m glad you asked… While I’m not a public educator, I’ve lived in Oklahoma City for 10 years now and have worked closely with the public school system for the majority of my time here. Teachers have been complaining about things like lack of fair pay, little to sometimes no supplies and little to no budget to properly serve those with special needs, to name a few. However, even though this is a real problem, the teachers stay for something much bigger than themselves and their personal needs, they stay for the love of the children and communities they serve. Because, I know first hand of the passion and degree of selflessness it takes to continue to work under certain conditions, I didn’t think they would actually follow through with it.

April 2, 2018, was the first day of the protest and over 35,000 we’re said were in attendance. In my gut, I didn’t think it would last but thought they put forth a gallant effort to get the attention of Governor Mary Fallin and legislators. Day 2 a reported 38,000 was reported to have been in attendance, the people weren’t backing down. In fact, they said they weren’t moving until their voices were heard! I had the exhilarating experience of attending Day 3 of the protest at the capital with, again well over 30,000 people in attendance, standing strong. By this time, teachers from Tulsa Oklahoma banded together to make the 107-mile walk to the capital and the public educators in  Kentucky started a protest of their own. I’ve never actually experienced anything like that in my life and I wanted to give you my raw perspective on what it was like up close and personal.  I’ll start by saying that seeing the coverage is one thing but actually being there has had an entirely different effect and perspective for me as an individual.

On my way to the capital, I didn’t know what to expect, it was bumper to bumper traffic down 23rd street. I saw people walking from as far as three miles back with bright signs, picketing on their way to the capital. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t say a little prayer driving past them, just hoping I had a closer parking place just for me… whoa yes! Keep in mind, I just started doing research that morning and even with that, I didn’t know how deep it would be. I found a spot a little under a mile from the action and for that, I was grateful.

  Upon the first exit of my car, I felt an almost magnetic pull in the atmosphere that drew me towards the masses. It was a surreal feeling as if I couldn’t help it. I don’t think I’ve experienced a situation where I was standing near or in the middle of a crowd of people where most of the attendees stood in agreement of what they saw as the greater good for humanity. Sure, this amount of people fill-up arena venues and stadiums all over the world every day with numbers larger than this. However, this was an entirely different energy that surged among the masses.   

Coming alone to something like this definitely has its pros and cons, but I decided to make the best out of this situation and take it all in. I took my time and literally observed everything before I actually arrived and walked straight into the nucleus of the action. To be honest, my mind was blown before I got there. The first thing I noticed was the amount of school age kids that were there to either stand with their parents or support their teachers. I’m not kidding, there was an almost equal ratio of teens to adults. Most made very creative signs that reflected their personal feelings and viewpoints. People of all races, colors, and creeds stood together in unity, standing for what they believed was right. 

  I was overwhelmed by the number of people that wanted to be a part of my candid coverage for Exposure Magazine. I walked next to different groups of people and gained many different perspectives, from both sides, although mostly from one, how affected the public education community and the children that are in it really are. Because people were literally standing there ALL DAY there were food vendors who volunteered their foods and services to the cause. Other services that we might not think of like water and restrooms were also provided and school-aged kids 18 and under had everything provided for them free of charge, from snacks, water, meals and even some local events were held around the city, and childcare in some places as well.

The photo (on the left) depicts not only the unity but the faith exercised by some of the teens in attendance at the protest rally. However, I must acknowledge some of the views from the opposing side as well. People were concerned that a rally like this could cause an uproar in not only the state of Oklahoma but the country as a whole, which could threaten not only overthrowing the government at a state level but eventually the country. There were also some angry parents across the state that were concerned that, they weren’t properly informed or considered during the uprising in standing against both local and state officials. Parents that are accustomed to their children going to school all day. The walkout could cause other unforeseen charges such as childcare, extra food, and transportation expenses. Some parents are concerned, if this goes on much longer, they too, are at risk of not having a job.  Some people think this entire protest can help create a lose/lose effect on children both home and at school. I completely understand and see this side clearly. Seeing this side so clearly made me want to take a deeper look at another viewpoint, just to even out the playing field so to speak.

 

As I walked through the massive amounts of people, reading the signs, listening to conversations and observing the different emotions throughout the capital, I found myself almost at the front of the stage which to me, served as the nucleus of the protest. This is where I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing teacher of Del City school district Joy A. Glenn Ahmad. She has been a teacher since 1976 and explained her viewpoint with literal tears in her eyes. Ahmad explained that the teachers demanded 200 million dollars from local and state officials which would cover a $6,000 raise to teachers, some whom haven’t seen a raise for over a decade and some who are only making it with the help of there spouses income to sustain their own family. The rest of the money would be used for much-needed supplies and educational material for the 700,000 students the public school system serves.

Students stand together and pray with teachers during Oklahoma Teacher Walkout 2018

Teachers voices were in fact heard and they were granted 50 million dollars, a quarter of what they were asking, which only would cover the much-needed raises for the teachers. This offer was rejected by the teachers and the strike continued as planned. Teachers claim that this was less about them and more about the students they serve and they refused to take a raise and leave the students needs out. To give me a clear perspective she shared the picture with me you see to the left.

The book cart shared among teachers and students

  I know, it seems like a cart with books on it, what’s the big deal, right? I thought the same thing until she explained to me that this was the cart of books shared between classes for teaching materials for both students and teachers. This cart is the only access to educational materials for the entire high school. I was shocked, to say the least, I couldn’t help but wonder if the parents who are against the protest are aware of the true condition of their children education. Were they aware that this was perhaps the reason for Oklahoma having the lowest test scores and reading scores in the country? Or, does the need to survive and provide for their families now take precedence over the future of their children and possibly the future of the leaders of the state of Oklahoma. This is obviously an “elephant in the room” that couldn’t be ignored anymore. What do you think? Are you aware, truly aware of your education system in your own backyard? This movement that now, has national attention will continue for week 2 in the state Oklahoma. Teachers claim, they will not back down until their voices are heard! This protest has potential to change the education system not only in the state but in the country. Don’t forget to keep up with both local and national news for up close and personal coverage. 

#thatsall 

 

-Deonna Marie

 

Deonna Marie | The Gift of Voice, Professional Classical Singer, Vocal Coach, and Speaker

Facebook: @thegiftofvoice

Instagram: @thegift_ofvoice

Email:  deonnamarie2003@gmail.com

Youtube: Deonna Marie Cattledge

 

 

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The Former President Barack Obama Speaks: In your own ability to make a difference in your community and your country.

The Former President Barack Obama Speaks:

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Friend —

A little over a year ago, at my farewell address in Chicago, I asked you to believe. Not in a candidate, or a politician, or a party — in yourself.

In your own ability to make a difference in your community and your country.

For eight years in the White House — and long before that — I’d seen it happen time and time again: ordinary people who got involved, stayed involved, and pushed for a better future for this country we love.

That’s how change happens.

And this November, we have a chance to make that change happen in local and federal elections across the country. We cannot squander it.

Commit to vote in November 2018. Say you’ll fulfill your duty as a citizen, and that you’ll keep pushing for progress.

That faith I placed all those years ago in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change — that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

In the past year, I saw people like Kim, an OFA volunteer in Virginia, bravely share her story during the health care fight — of how, before Obamacare, her 13-month-old son Isaac was on the verge of being kicked off insurance as he went through surgery after surgery. She spoke up, and helped save health care for Isaac and millions of Americans.

I saw folks in South Carolina identify a problem with their town’s outdated, dangerous school buses — then roll up their sleeves, do some organizing, and get the statehouse to fund new buses for Charleston’s kids.

And I saw a new generation of young leaders grab clipboards, collect signatures, and decide to run for office themselves.

Throughout 2017, I saw Americans all over the country step up, have the tough conversations, and speak out about the issues affecting us all. We have to keep it up in 2018 — because every ballot measure, every election, every conversation on an issue we care about — it all matters.

There are no do-overs.

So right now, I’m asking you to make a commitment: Seize the power you have. Speak up. Make this democracy work. Do not succumb to cynicism. And say you’ll vote in 2018 — there’s too much at stake this year to sit this out.

I’m in

Thank you,

Barack Obama

Reported by Tam Lawrence

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Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Fired by Morgan Stanley for Alleged Misconduct

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Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired by the financial services firm Morgan Stanley following allegations of misconduct, NBC confirmed on Thursday.

Morgan Stanley declined to say specifically what prompted the firing. The allegations were presented after a woman who was not employed at the firm accused Mr. Ford of acting inappropriately in a professional setting.

Mr. Ford’s termination reported by HuffPost as an exclusive has been challenged by the former Congressman as “false claims.”

Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired from his position as a managing director at the financial services firm Morgan Stanley for what the company described as behavior “inconsistent with our values.”CreditMike Groll/Associated Press

In a statement provided by his lawyer, Mr. Ford denied the sexual harassment allegations, stating in a tweet on Thursday that he will be bringing legal action against the reporter, for making false claims against him, as well as Morgan Stanley for wrongful termination.

“This simply did not happen,” Mr. Ford wrote. “I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.” He added that socializing with members of the press was part of his job, and said that “false claims like this undermine the real silence breakers.”

Mr. Ford served five terms in Congress as a Democrat representing a Tennessee district after first being elected in 1996—serving as Congressman from 1997 to 207.

He joined Morgan Stanley as a managing director and senior client-relationship manager in 2011 as a vice chairman and senior policy adviser at Bank of America.

Amid the heightened scrutiny of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toppling key figures in the entertainment and political arena, Mr. Ford is the latest high profiled man to lose his job in recent days for similar allegations.

Time magazine on Wednesday named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. They shared personal stories about harassment and assault and sparked the #MeToo movement.

According to Time, the #MeToo became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.

In a tweet acknowledging his thoughts on the “Silence Breaker” quite pointed in his statement, Mr. Ford said the following in regards to news of his firing on Thursday, “This simply did not happen.  I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.”

In another tweet, Mr. Ford spoke about his professional demeanor and his tremendous respect for the brave women speaking out “in this important national dialogue.”  Mr. Ford was pointed in stating that false claims alleged against him “undermine the real “Silence Breakers.”

Mr. Ford appeared as a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” MSNBC – which is owned by NBC 4 New York’s parent company.

“We are looking into the report about Harold Ford Jr.,” a spokeswoman for MSNBC said. “During that time he won’t be a guest on MSNBC.”

LeNora Millen            12-7-17

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