Sunday, January 04, 2009

Holiday Newsletter

Dear Dormgrandpop Readers,

I wanted to share this years ‘Holiday Newsletter’ with you. As in the last couple of newsletters, I have decided to use my blog (dormgrandpop. as a departure point for chronicling a busy year.  First, a brief family news update.  The sad event was  my father’s death, just a few days before his 97th birthday.  [my wife]  continued her very active life.  No doubt she will share news of this with some of you. [my daughter] is fully occupied with her expanding landscape design business.  I had the opportunity to view some of her creations on a recent trip to Florida and they are beautiful.  She traveled to South Africa in the fall and will be in Panama over the holidays.  [my son]  accepted an exciting and challenging new position.  After #1 grandson Adam completes high school, this spring, the family will be moving to a new home.  All four grandchildren are expanding their horizons and doing well.  My work as faculty-member, academic administrator and ‘dormgrandpop’ remains, for the most part, fun and challenging.   I have no immediate retirement plans.  Here are a few additional items and reflections, excerpted (in italics)  from my blog.

January 16. A death in the family: It is truly a blessing to have had long lived parents. Especially with my father, we spent long hours together, one on one, over many years. There were few, if any, unanswered questions or unexpressed thoughts. We were 'complete' when he died. How could anyone ask for more?

February 17.  The weight of the world means nothing to me.  My sister, Brook, shared a poem entitled ‘Bird.’  Here is the concluding stanza:  

I bathe in dust and there I’ll rest

When time has stilled my feathered breast

No stone shall mark my passage here

No funeral pyre, no jeweled bier.

Where human souls may hope to soar 

I have already gone before

The weight of the world means nothing to me.

March 12.  Alive for 70 years.  I made a quick trip to Sri Lanka, attending to Board of Director responsibilities with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies.  My hostess, after learning that my 70th birthday was upcoming, made plans to invite  some Sri Lankan friends over for a quiet celebration.  She is 72.  When I remarked that a 70th birthday does not, necessarily seem like something to celebrate she responded: “having lived 70 years and being in good health:  those are things  to celebrate!”

April 9. Choosing ‘Mr. American.’  I was asked to serve as one of three judges for the ‘Mr. American’ context, sponsored by AU’s Residence Hall Association.  The contest lasted less that two hours and was, I thought, refreshingly unprofessional.  With one exception, the talent competition exhibited no exceptional talent; answers to questions were unpolished.  Each contestant had a small cadre of supporters who cheered their candidate, when not distracted by conversation.  By 9 PM we judges had made our choice, prizes were awarded and we all returned to dorm rooms or the Library to write term papers, study or complete end of semester projects.

May 11. Serving AU students and their parents on ‘Moving Out Saturday.’  Saturday was the final “moving out day” for most AU students.  The day was chilly and a bit rainy, but everyone was in excellent spirits for an event that tests the resiliency of all.  For me, it is a bitter sweet time, since I will be saying farewells - often final farewells - to students who, in some cases, have been my friends for four years.  I have watched them transform themselves from wide-eyed first year students to mature graduates, facing ‘real life’ with a mixture of self-confidence and trepidation.

June 12.  The Rip Van Winkle effect - JFK Airport after 30 years.  This was written as I was departing on a month-long trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.  When I worked on global modeling, consulted internationally, and regularly visited the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, near Vienna,  I mostly began my journeys at  JFK International Airport.  ... Yesterday, I returned to JFK after a hiatus of more than three decades,  My mental images of the 1970s were still with me, but I looked in vain for familiar sights.  I could have wandered about, like old Rip Van Winkle asking about the fate of other familiar landmarks, but my queries, like his,  would mostly have been in vain. When I last embarked from Kennedy, many of those now busying themselves with the tasks that a great international airport demands hadn’t even been born. 

July 5.  The costs that terrorism imposes on a society.  This was written after a meeting at Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment and Trade in downtown Colombo. To approach the building, we had to pass through two airport-style security checks, one outside the building and another more rigorous one inside.  Our meeting lasted an hour. Dealing with security upped our time by an additional 75 minutes.  Who can count the costs of turning a vibrant commercial district into a sterile, security-enforced wasteland?  Who can measure the impact on prospective investor confidence of having to transit such an area before meeting with government officials on a prospective business deal?

August 18. Moving in Saturday.  ‘Moving in Saturday’ is when a new class of first year students, accompanied by parents and relatives, arrive at AU and begin settling into dorm life. Each year, I am  impressed by everyone’s good humor.  My families have driven long distances and are experiencing a major life transition. All seemed to show patience, consideration and love for one another in what can be a stressful time.  This year, unseasonably  cool Washington weather helped.  On a morning when the Russians were invading Georgia and there were a host of other unresolved problems in the world, moving in day at AU  was a time that one could renew hope in the fundamental resilience and goodness of the human spirit.

September 22. An unanticipated trip to Colombo.  This posting describes a hastily arranged to help launch Sinhala and Tamil translations of Lessons from the War: Consequences and Failures (an excerpt from my book, Paradise Poisoned). I wrote about the role personal relationship played in the project and in planning the trip, on very short notice.  When I coach students on how to get things done in an organization, I emphasize the importance of relationships based on shared experiences that contribute to mutual understanding, mutual respect, friendship  and trust.  My relationship with the Social Science Association of Sri Lanka’s Executive Director spans more than 20 years.  Our friendship began when I taught at Colombo University.  For planning this trip. I called upon a relationship with a Sri Lankan travel agent whom I have known nearly as long.

October 12.  A letter to my grandson about choosing a college.  My feeling is that AU is the best of the three Washington-based Universities as far as undergraduate education is concerned.  The campus has become quite beautiful - more beautiful than when your dad attended - and the faculty is stronger too.  A number of senior faculty do teach at least one undergraduate course, however many undergraduate courses, especially in the first and second year are taught by younger ‘temporary faculty’ who are not on tenure track.  I should say that many of these are fine teachers, including several who were my doctoral students, but they do lack the depth of research experience that more senior faculty offer. Building a relationship with a senior faculty member can be helpful when you are applying to graduate school.

November 12. The world is a different place.  What is most remarkable about the election was the reaction around the world.  I could experience this vicariously when I spoke with my daughter, who had recently returned to the US after a public service trip to South Africa.  The country was agog with excitement, she reported, with many many young people wearing Obama tee shirts.  I look forward to traveling internationally  once again and not having to contemplate conversations about my country’s President and foreign policy that are an embarrassment.

December 13.  Quiet listening.  This posting described ‘study break hours,’ which I hold in my AU apartment, from 10:45 until midnight, on evenings before final examinations.  These events feature high energy snacks and conversation.  The conversations in which I share - or to which I listen - suggest that stereotypes of a younger generation, devoid of social skills, whose members primarily communicate via Twitter and text-messaging need qualification. ... I treasure these times of quiet listening, when I am accepted as a non intrusive, non threatening sojourner in a world that few older adults, especially of my generation,have been privileged to share

My love and best wishes to all for the new year.


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Blogger steve said...

I personally believe that technology has reduced our social capital—the relationships that bind people together and create a sense of community. Consequences include decreased civility, loss of behavioural boundaries and increased crime. We must find ways to deal with our profound loss of social connectedness.

Even though technological advances have contributed significantly to the problem of isolation, the emphasis on individualism in today’s society has compounded it.

Pappano believes that often we may want to connect with others and to have deep and meaningful relationships, but we want it on our own terms. “We have moved from a society in which the group was more important than the individual,” she says, “to one in which the central figure is the self. ... From the ashes of duty we have risen to claim not merely a healthy dose of freedom but individual supremacy. ... We want success, power, and recognition. We want to be able to buy or command caring, respect, and attention. And today so many of us feel deserving of the service and luxuries once accorded a privileged few. We may live in a more egalitarian society, but we have become puffed full of our own self-worth.”

5:23 AM  

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