The following are my director's notes from the program for Winter's Tale.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The following are my director's notes from the program for Winter's Tale.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
My creative, reflective writing is a bit rusty after not having written for so long. Between my campaign early this year and all the technical writing I’ve had to do at my new job, I haven’t exactly had the time or opportunity to be either creative or reflective. So today, on Thanksgiving Day, I thought I’d start with something simple: sharing the many things for which I am thankful. (On that note, it bothers me that proper grammar requires that I write, “the many things for which I am thankful” instead of what sounds better and makes more sense to me, “the many things I am thankful for.” Oh well. Screw Strunk & White.)
First and foremost, I am deeply thankful for my best friend and the love of my life, my wife, Velma. I don’t know how she puts up with me, but she makes my life worth living. Not only is she beautiful and funny and smart (I know, they sound like meaningless clichés, but I mean every single word.), but she enjoys being silly and quirky with me, and values many of things that I value: a preference for family video nights over going out partying (wow, we’ve grown old), sleeping in, Sunday morning breakfasts, travelling, going to the movies, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Lois Armstrong duets, fixing up our home, praying, loving, living. Things are far from perfect, but I appreciate how we’ve grown together and continue to grow together. She gives me room to grow, and I do my best to grow into the man that she deserves.
I am also thankful for what my wife and I have created, two wonderful kids (Yes, another cliché, but they are two of the most wonderful kids you could ask for, and if anyone disagrees with me, I’ll sock you a big one!) who bring so much joy, life, and laughter to our family. My daughter may be going through the annoying roller coast ups and downs of being a teenager, and I may constantly harass her about her grades, but she is a good person who still enjoys simple things like a good breakfast, shares much of my passion for drama, and gets along well with everyone, young and old, freaks, geeks, jocks and plastics. I am very proud of her. My son is a gamer (like me!) who loves to play, laugh, sing (he sings while taking a bath) and read (he loves to read, you hear!). He oscillates between being very silly to being very serious. However, even when he is super serious, he is super cute, and will always be mangi, even when he becomes an annoying teen ager like his sister.
I cannot believe that God has graced and trusted me with my wife and kids, and with one more in the oven. I am humbled by that. And I hope to always be the best man I can be for them.
Of course, I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for my mother, who I am also thankful for. I am not always a good son and am sometimes rude to her (although she may tell you that I am often rude to her). I wish I could be a better son, and am trying. She deserves that. She is always there for me and my family, and she did a really good job of raising me and my brother and sister. She put up with a lot of crap, and did so for our good. She herself can be very silly and quirky, which I appreciate. And, like my wife, she too appreciates simple things: having her kids and grandkids over to her house for dinner, picking up the kids after school, watching a Lifetime movie. She took good care of me, and she takes good care of my kids. It’s my turn to take care of her.
Likewise, I am also thankful for my father, who passed away almost 12 years ago. Only a year before he passed away, I learned that he adopted me. And while he wasn’t always there (and even when he was there he was sometimes a violent jerk), he always treated me like his own son, and was very proud of me. I owe so much to him, and am thankful that I had the chance to reconnect with him before he passed away. I carry his name with pride and honor, as a lion warrior should.
In addition to reconnecting with my dad, in recent years, I have also had the chance to reconnect with my brother and sister. We were close growing up, but we grew apart in high school, especially when I went off to college. When I graduated and returned, we were like strangers living in the same house. That has slowly changed over time. Like my mom, they too take care of my kids, and I take care of their kids. We are now parents who want our kids to get along, just as we did when we were their age. My brother and sister help complete a family that lives to this day, perhaps a little more broken, a little more worn, and a little more jaded, but together nonetheless.
Aside from family, there are many other people I am thankful for.
I am thankful for Dave Kupferman. He is my soul mate. ‘Nuff said.
I am thankful for my best friend, Joe Taijeron, with whom I often disagree, but who balances out all my shortcomings and is trustworthy enough to point them out with a good measure of care and humor. I am a better person because of him. Plus, he enjoys Black Card status with my wife, which means that I can go out with him whenever we’d like.
Ed Buckingham is another good friend I am thankful for. Like Joe, he is honest in pointing out and balancing my shortcomings. Although Ed lacks Joe’s sense of care and humor, Ed has a good heart. My life is better because of him, and the world is a better place because of what he does.
Rose Cuison-Villazor continues to be a great friend who inspires me with her accomplishments. I don’t know how she juggles being a professor, a writer, a mother, and a friend. I hope one day to be as phenomenal as she is.
Jill Rickabaugh has always pushed me to be me by being her. She may chronicle life in still photographs, but her art moves with more life than many people who live dead lives.
Shelby Brown is brilliant and ridonkulous and facing many of the same life challenges that I face. His experiences resonate with my own. I hope one day we both find what we’re looking for.
Ed Propst is a good family man whose soul is afire against injustice and who puts his money where his mouth is. I hope one day to have as much courage and conviction as he does. If we all did, this world would be a better place.
Tina Sablan also more courage and conviction than I do, and probably than all of us combined. Although I disagree with some (or most) of her tactics, I do not question her motives. As with Ed, if we all had her courage and conviction, this world would be a better place.
Zaldy Dandan is an astute, honest, and practical observer of our times. While I may never forgive him for converting from the left to the right (even though I’m well on way in the same direction), I appreciate the blend of candor and empathy he brings to our civic discourse. If only more pundits and politicians would do the same.
Former CNMI Governor Juan Nekai Babauta had enough faith in me (and, I admit, my political pull) to want me to run with him for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. For all his imperfections, he is a good man who cares deeply for our islands. I am still humbled that he would see me fit to run with him to serve our islands.
Over the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of teaching, coaching, advising, and mentoring hundreds of students. I am thankful for them and for the opportunity to help them, at least in some way, in their life journeys. I hope I have served them well.
I am especially thankful for Mount Carmel School's Theatre Club, which has given me the opportunity to help create beautiful shows and share my passion for the performing arts with cast, crew, and audience members alike.
Beyond people, I am also thankful for great art. Many people are thankful for health and life, but to me, what good is a body if the soul is sick? Art breathes life into the soul. Paintings, movies, literature, and music help bring meaning to my life by illuminating different perspectives on the meaning of life. So, in no particular order, and by no means exhaustive, here are works of art and artists I am thankful for.
Movies: Rouge, Bleu, Blanc, The Bicycle Thief, Star Wars, Fight Club, Seven, The Fifth Element, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Cars, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Waking Life, Grosse Pointe Blank, Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Meet the Robinsons, Big Fish, Scent of a Woman, and Love Actually.
Story-tellers: William Shakespeare, Pixar, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Cameron Crowe, James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Luc Besson, Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, J. K Rowling, Sam Raimi, Tim Burton, Steven Soderbergh, and Bill Watterson.
Books: Frankenstein, Brave New World, This Side of Paradise, Heart of Darkness, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Invisible Man, Nick Hornby novels, Tom Perrotta novels, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
Musicians: The Killers, My Chemical Romance, Chemical Brothers, Beethoven, Preisner, U2, Metallica, Peter Gabriel, Chopin, Beastie Boys, Blink 182, Angels and Airwaves, Coldplay, Sugar, Bob Marley, Sarah Brightman, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Sarah Brightman, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ben Webster, Stephane Grappelli, Thievery Corporation, Portishead, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Digable Planets, New Order, Amy Winehouse, Run DMC, UB40, Bob Mould, Airborne Toxic Event, The Flobots, and Jay-z.
TV shows: Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, House, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Attack Of The Show, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Daily Show, and 24.
I could probably go further, and there are people, places, and things I’ve undoubtedly missed, but I’m already close to 2,000 words, which is more than most people would read anyway. I’m sure I’ll continue this list next year. If I’m lucky, I’ll run over 3,000 words the next time.
Happy Thanksgiving! Give thanks, and thank those who give.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
With that, I also feel it is important to clarify a few matters.
First, while the data is flawed, I went to great lengths to verify it. As soon as I came on board in January 2008 and was tasked to chair the BOE School Reform Committee, many parents and students raised concerns that suspensions were being abused at some schools. Rather than react to hearsay and isolated incidents, I decided that the Reform Committee should hold meetings at schools and villages to learn more about this issue, among other issues, at a grassroots level. We also requested data from the Commissioner of Education on suspension rates over the past five years, starting in school year 2003-2004. To verify the data, the Reform Committee then compiled this information, sent it out to the PSS leadership and the rest of the BOE, and presented it at a meeting at Saipan Southern High School on March 4, 2009. The Commissioner further discussed both the data and the issue of discipline with the PSS leadership and at the monthly PSS principals’ meetings in March and April. In the meantime, the Reform Committee continued to gather more input at community-based meetings where parents continued to express concerns over the alleged abuses of suspensions.
However, despite going through all of this for over a year, the data still came out imperfect. I wish it had not, and while I’m not sure what else I could have done, I wish I could have done more. It is clear that we must continue studying this issue to understand it better.
Second, contrary to the claims that I am going “soft on students”, my goal was and is to promote dialogue about this important issue, not to necessarily come down hard on one side or the other. In fact, in my April 22 report to the BOE, I raised these questions:
Does an increase in the number of suspensions indicate better enforcement of PSS disciplinary policy, or a switch to a more punitive approach towards student discipline?
How does the increase in suspensions affect student attendance and graduation rates?
Why is there so much variance between schools? Does this reflect a lack of consistency between schools, or does it uphold each school’s authority to handle its own discipline problems in its own way?
Is there a need for a policy change to enforce more consistency between schools, or should each school be empowered to implement its own approach to discipline?
How much are schools doing to balance the need for a disciplined environment against the needs of students that are suspended?
Is adequate counseling and support provided to students that are suspended?
Is there a need for innovative approaches to student discipline beyond just punitive measures?
Furthermore, in my report, I recommended the following to the Commissioner:
ü Review each school’s internal disciplinary procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with BOE/PSS policy and meeting the needs of students.
ü Study and investigate further to identify the causes for increased suspension rates.
ü Provide training to teachers, staff, and administrators on behavior modification as an alternative to punitive disciplinary actions.
ü Ensure that students are accorded adequate counseling services to address addictive/compulsive behaviors such as betel nut chewing and smoking, which account for a large number of disciplinary infractions.
Again, I was not going soft on students, nor was I going hard on them. I was doing my best to make sure their needs were being met.
Third and last, I do believe that we must strike a balance between ensuring a disciplined school environment that is conducive to learning AND ensuring that even students that are disciplined are getting the help they need. That is why, with the exception of violent offenses, BEFORE a student is suspended, BOE Regulations 2602 and 2606 mandate that schools exhaust “standard day-to-day corrective disciplinary measures” including, but “not limited to, in-house detention, parent conferences, counseling sessions, campus clean up, community service, required apologies, behavioral intervention plans, and any reasonable creative disciplinary measures.”
Perhaps some members of our community would disagree with this BOE policy. I, for one, think it’s a good policy because it encourages us to exhaust every possible way to help students learn and grow from their mistakes.
Again, I apologize for causing any undue harm to our school administrators, teachers, and staff. They are working very hard under very hard circumstances, and should be applauded for all that they do for our students. I hope that we can move past this and engage in a meaningful dialogue about the role of discipline in our schools. In fact, I welcome anyone in our community to submit their thoughts and perspectives on this issue via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I firmly believe that by engaging in this sort of dialogue, we can all work together to help each and every student succeed.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Check it out.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Tonight, my dear Seniors, I face the moment that I’ve feared for so long: the moment that we must say goodbye.
You know, during all my years in education, I’ve been warned so many times by so any people that I shouldn’t get too close to students. And throughout the past year, I’ve been criticized so many times by so many people that I’ve gotten too close to you.
But you know what? Despite all those warnings and all that criticism, I don’t regret a thing.
I am so glad that I had the chance to get to know each and everyone of you. You have enriched my life more than you’ll ever know. Whether in the classroom, on the stage, in court, or on the court, you have given my life meaning and purpose.
I know it is expected that these commencement speeches should inform, persuade, or even inspire students with words of advice and wisdom.
But, tonight, I choose to do neither of these things, because all I want to do is express how I feel about you, the Class of 2008.
I also know that our public speakers have been chastised for being too emotional. But I don’t care. In fact, I believe that the main problem we all have today is a lack of emotion. We make cold decisions without considering our emotions and the emotions of others. If anything, we need to inject more compassion and empathy and love into our public discourse. In other words, we need emotion.
Besides, any decent scholar of rhetoric knows that Aristotle argued that every good speech must have logos, ethos, and pathos: logic, credibility, and emotional appeal.
So, tonight, I make an emotional appeal to you, my dear Seniors, to listen to these last words I share with you. And I ask you to forgive me if I do, in fact, get a little emotional.
While tonight’s commencement speaker, Janet King, was preparing for her speech, she asked me what makes this class special.
That’s a hard question.
Is it that this class has succeeded at so much: Drama, Basketball, NFL, Mock Trial, and AG Cup? Is it that this class has a bright future: Prestigious colleges, the military, even flight school? Is it that this class always McGyver’s a win: Pep Rallies, Christmas Shows, and even your own graduation? Is it that this class brings a smile to your face with funny jokes about molasses, games like Jeopardy, and movies like Pedro’s Anthem, The Great Ratzby, The Vicente Code, and Richardstein? Is it that this class is so diverse yet so unified: nerds, geeks, jocks, and even “trouble-makers” who come together to support each other in everything from soccer to basketball to mock trial to AG Cup?
Or is it that this class takes great pride in being Mount Carmel knights?
Which one of these characteristics makes this class special?
Probably all of them.
But for me, what makes you special, and the reason I love you so much is this: You opened your hearts to me and let me in. In turn, I opened my heart to you and let you in. And there is no greater gift in the world than that trusting act of love.
For that, I thank you.
And I thank you, the parents, guardians, and families for trusting us with your children. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve them.
Now graduates, as your principal and your teacher, I have one last lesson to share with you. It is a truth that you don’t want to hear, but you know me: I have always shared the truth with you, even when it hurts.
So here it is: You will never be this close as a class again. And, no matter what you’re feeling right now, we will never be this close again either.
I love you guys so much, and it hurts me to admit this, but I’ve seen hundreds of students graduate over the years, and I know this for certain: it’s never the same after tonight.
It’s sad that only when things end, only when we realize that we are losing someone, do we truly appreciate them for all that they are: funny classmates, supportive cheerleader, sympathetic listeners, loyal friends.
I tell you this not to depress you, but to encourage you to cherish this moment, and cherish each other.
You are more beautiful and amazing than you will ever realize. And even after all the you’ve accomplished, the world has yet to see the greatness that is to come from you.
I truly wish I could be there with you when that happens. But it is time for you to set off on your own.
At times, the road ahead will get lonely. And at times, you may want to come crawling back home. But believe me when I tell you that you are ready. You’ve been ready.
And even though it breaks my heart to see you go, I feel so blessed to have been a part of your lives. I honestly hope that I have helped, in some small way, to make your lives better, more meaningful, and worth living. I hope that I have given you as much as you have given me.
And while we will never be this close again, I hope you will come by and visit sometime.I’ll be here, ready to welcome you home.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
One of the perennial challenges of a democracy and capitalism is balancing the need to protect people from unnecessary harms—including harms from themselves—through regulations like building codes, and trusting people—and the market—enough to refrain from overregulation. Similarly, on one hand we need taxes to fund important government spending, but we shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds by overtaxing a dwindling tax base.
At the risk of oversimplifying ideologies, I suppose that’s why there’s this constant tug between pro-regulation Democrats who want to fund health, education, and welfare, and fiscally conservative Republicans who want to deregulate as much as possible.
Let’s not forget, though, that a big cause of the current economic meltdown was the LACK of regulation in the financial markets.
It’s so hard to come up with a definitive answer that strikes the right balance. The new global market is making it incredibly difficult not only to be competitive, but also to understand what’s happening and where things are going. While I’m not a communist, Karl Marx certainly had it right when he predicted that capitalism run amuck would run society amuck.
Furthermore, while this quickly evolving market calls for flexible and adaptive governance, we must balance the need for swift action with the need for prudent deliberation. There’s no sense in rushing into yet another maelstrom. This need for balance between haste and prudence is also difficult to strike. But strike the balance we must.