Blog

Monday
Jan212013

A Mini Essay on MLK Jr. 

I think about him pretty much every day. Yes, seriously.

I think about the man he was and I think about the man he continually strived to be. A man greater than most, yet still deeply flawed.  I think of him as a beacon, illuminating the best in us… always reminding us of the depths of our own human self-potential and to live with what he called ‘the urgency of now.’

MLK Jr. would often point to Gandhi as this illuminating beacon in his own life. Yet, as far as I can tell, it wasn’t just because of Gandhi’s staunch advocacy of non-violence and passive resistance, but rather the sheer fact that Gandhi lived every single day with the strength and force of his ideals creating the world he envisioned by literally being that change.  These ideals weren’t something he just talked or wrote about. Gandhi lived it with little care towards money or fear of death. Qualities certainly apparent in MLK Jr.’s actions.   

However, as I look back on these noble qualities, I can’t help but think that this still isn’t the take away. That this still isn’t the main lesson for us in our modern day lives.

It is something more subtle and perhaps more useful.  It is the fact that beyond all their amazing accomplishments, their unparallel intellect and vast education they didn’t pretend to know everything with over zealous confidence.  Instead, they were constantly opening themselves to new ideas and trying to understand other people and the universe around them. The quickest example of this is to just read the title of Gandhi’s autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth” or the influence of Buddhist and Jewish scholars on MLK Jr.’s thoughts and actions.

And while both leaders surly got upset or frustrated along the way, it was rare to see or hear about any deep anger or contempt they held. A quality that not only made their personal lives that much richer, but a quality that I believe helped them be that much more successful in achieving their goals.

So, today I don’t look back at MLK Jr. or Gandhi as historical figures, but as real people like you and I, constantly learning… making human mistakes big and small.  The only difference? They didn’t separate themselves from their ideals. Their Job was to live by those ideals.  The means and the ends were nearly always the same.

And while I don’t dare compare myself to these men… I certainly strive in their general direction. I have dedicated my life to learning, helping, teaching, enjoying and just doing what I can to better the world around me. Not because I should or because it’s the “right” thing to do, but because I believe it is in my best interest. And perhaps more simply, because there is nothing I would rather do or could probably stand to do.

Towards this end, I have certainly fallen… over and over again… but hopefully I, and we all can and will rise up one more time creating the reality we want by the sheer force of our will powered by the conviction that we want the best of all worlds here, for ourselves and for others.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”-MLK Jr.

Finally, I would be remiss to leave out a quick mention of his very last endeavor.  Beyond working tirelessly to end racial injustice, the war in Vietnam among a wide range of human rights issues…, the day before he was shot he gave one of the greatest speeches in history while fighting for Workers Rights in Memphis...  

“That's the question before you tonight. Not, ‘If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?’ The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That's the question.” –MLK Jr.

 

 

Tuesday
Oct232012

UNSAFE DEBATES: THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT...

Obama & Romney both silent on national worker safety crisis!

Everyone has an opinion about the recent presidential debates. Some say, Romney was more aggressive yet lacked specificity, while Obama was lackluster in the first debate but seemed to make up ground in the next two.

There is certainly an array of other opinions out there. However, there are a few observations from all three of the debates that are simply un-debatable and in my humble opinion, troubling.

First, when the topic of regulation was debated most of the rhetoric surrounded banking and economic regulations. Ultimately there was some talk of education and other important factors affecting our society.

Yet there was not one mention of issues concerning worker safety. Then again, why would there be? It’s not a hot button issue.

However, when it came time to answer another important question, the non-mention becomes a touch more distressing.

The men were asked, “What is the main function of government?”  President Obama quickly (or as quickly as we are accustomed to him muttering out an answer) stated that the main function of government is to keep American's safe. Gov. Romney for the most part concurred and made sure it was clear that he would not budge an inch on Military spending cuts.

That is all well and good, but lets back up a second to take a look at the numbers involved here and try and connect some dots.

1:  Primary role of Government… Keep American’s safe.

2:  U.S. budget for Dept of Defense per year: 800 Billion Dollars and up.

3:  Number of U.S. Soldiers killed over past 10 years:   Approx. 6,500.

4:  U.S. budget for worker safety agencies (OSHA & MSHA) per year:  Less than 900 Million Dollars.

5:  Number of U.S. workers killed over past 10 years, over 50,000.

Is it just me, or does something not add up?  I know that it is hard to know the hypothetical number of American lives that have been saved because of the strength and presence of our military overseas.  But then again it’s hard to argue that we would be in that much more danger with a slightly smaller military presence either.

On the other hand, we can look at the statistics of how many Americans are alive today, before and after specific safety regulations were put in place.  That is not to say the answer is solely in regulations, or that the whole regulatory system is not in the need of a major overhaul... because it most definitely is.  

However, these numbers should at least beg the question, why isn’t this a topic of conversation in our country and one our presidential candidates would broach in their bid to become the leader of our government, which by both of their accounts, has the primarily fuction to keep Americans safe!

Please support Cost of Construction with your tax-deductible contribution so we can finish the film and make this a bigger topic of national concern! 

Monday
Sep192011

REFLECTING ON LABOR DAY: A Perspective Revealed

Earlier this month, as Labor Day approached, I decided to skip all the BBQs and festivities. (Yes, I was invited to stuff) Instead, I had more exciting plans to stay home and do a little research about the significance of Labor Day and reexamine the true meaning of our documentary film, Cost of Construction...

According to The Department of Labor’s website, Labor Day was created to highlight the social and economic achievements of American workers and pay national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. 

Until now, when describing Cost of Construction, I typically led with facts surrounding tragic deaths and problematic issues wrought throughout our national safety system.  

There would probably be a mention of how sixteen workers die each day on average in America.  

Then, I would focus in on the CityCenter construction project in Las Vegas and the failures on the parts of the companies involved and our government’s safety agency to keep American workers safe. 

But, ultimately that is not the essence of what this documentary is truly about. 

Cost of Construction is about celebrating the amazing contributions by the workers who literally built this country.  It’s about honoring and even boasting of America’s ambition to create new and innovative projects that push the limits of our human potential.

The CityCenter, for all its faults, was touted as a beacon of change and innovation. As I look at the finished towers that re-carve the Las Vegas skyline, I am impressed and inspired by the enormous effort behind this undertaking. 

I am not alone.  The still and moving images of this massive project being erected are ones that people are immediately drawn to.  From the expanse of the construction project itself to the images of workers 800 feet in the air connecting massive steel beams, it is simply awe-inspiring.

What MGM and their partners set out to accomplish had in-fact never been done before.  Six modern towers designed by the top architects in the world all done in a relatively small area over a short amount of time.... it is truly an amazing feat.  But was it worth it?

When we endeavor to do something that hasn’t been done before we can’t proceed in the same way as we have in the past – both in expectation and in execution.

More to the point, when we do something we haven’t done before, the issues and faults within that method or system of doing things, (which may have been avoided in the past due to experience and tricks of the trade) will inevitably reveal themselves. 

Unfortunately, that is what happened in Las Vegas during the construction of the CityCenter. However, the film does not intend to cast unproductive blame on the parties involved. No one believes anyone wanted American workers to be hurt or killed.  Yet, there is no doubt that the system in place did not and is not functioning in its intended capacity.

Nearly every expert, official or worker we interviewed said that these deaths were preventable.  For this reason alone, we should use these incidents as an important teaching moment so we can prevent, or at least reduce, future deaths and injuries.

Another Labor Day has come and gone. I encourage our country as a whole: the government, corporations, and individual workers alike to continue to strive for greatness.  My sincere hope is that we can strike a balance between unbridled progress and individual safety to yield a system that will allow our country to build without compromising those who are doing the building.

This issue is truly complex and the solutions are challenging.  But the goal is simple, make our journey of progress and growth a safer one. 

Cost of Construction's post-labor day tribute-compilation of workers in action: