Women’s Leadership Stars on Broadway

I recently had my Broadway debut. No, seriously, check out this video of Feminomics  interviewing me and Susan Arnot Heaney at the Women Leadership Summit,  just after we had both spoken on a panel smack in the middle of Times Square.

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Here’s a longer version of my part of the interview, if you have time:

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Enjoy and let me know what you would have said.

The Young Politica: What’s Next for Student Loans

In my last column, I wrote about how the sequester could deeply impact students of all ages—by cutting education jobs, programs like Head Start, food stamps, and limiting financial aid. Well, once again, kids trying to get an education are at risk of being undercut by the federal government.

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The interest rate of new federally subsidized Stafford loans will revert to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. The rate subsidized loans, which go to low-income households, was supposed to rise to 6.8 percent back in June 2012, but the rate’s expiration was postponed for a year. This year’s extension lasts until June 30, 2013. If Congress does not act to change the rules or extend the loan rate expiration date, an estimated 7.4 million college students will be affected.

Note that each year the date to change the rate is extended, the federal government loses out on about $6 billion in revenue. But students don’t necessarily have to be the ones paying the price. If there would have been more oversight on the financial aid process, the federal government could have prevented a loss of $200 million in federal student aid fraud since 2009.

What’s a good solution? Rather than postponing the expiration again, the House Education and the Workforce Committee argued that Congress should reevaluate their rate-setting process for all government-issued college loans.

FoxNews.com reports that the Department of Education has also been sending out letters to inform Direct PLUS Loan borrowers that their fees are being raised as a direct result of the automatic budget cuts (or the sequester) that happened after the federal government could not come to a fiscal agreement. Fees for loans issued after March 1, 2013, will have an adjusted loan rate fee—from 4.0 percent to 4.204 percent.

Students are taking more and more hits, but at least they’re putting up a fight.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are not ruling out suing the Obama administration for disproportionately affecting their students with new financial aid policies. The policies, which were enacted in October 2011, allow a Direct PLUS Loan borrower’s credit to be checked back five years—rather than the previous 90-days standard. This limits many students, especially students from a low-income background, from being able to take out these loans without having a parent with a spotless credit history.

On the upside, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new rules that will be enacted to protect borrowers from federal loan servicers, which collect debts from student lenders.

The new rules will require all servicing firms to be subject to audits by the CFPB, according to the Huffington Post. The new rules aim to make servicers accountable by investigating possible reports that may mislead borrowers on their rights and terms of their loans. The end goal for the borrower is to avoid ruining their credit.

Today, the nation’s student loan debt surpasses credit card debt.

Maybe a complete overhaul of the system may seem like the next step, given that nothing else seems to be working. But instead of only impacting students who are striving to get an education, maybe we should be focusing on oversight the federal government has slacked off on instead.

 

My 5 Fave Parts of Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address

The yoga class I took just before last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address wiped me out. I fell asleep immediately afterward. Which is good because I had a chance to think overnight about the parts that resonated most with me.

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I’ve been tough on the president in the past, disappointed with his timidity and unwillingness to set a big bold agenda.

The other good thing about writing the day after is that others have fact checked. And the de rigeur liberal critique  as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) really awful other-party rebuttal have been duly hashed and rehashed.

With the benefit of reflection, here are my three favorite parts of the speech.

1.    SOTU and women: On the domestic front, the president mentioned two hot button pieces of legislation poised to pass if Speaker Boehner (R-BadLoser) ever brings them up for votes:

We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same.  And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

(This drew a “Huge Yes!” from Pamela Scharf when I posted it on Facebook.)

And on the global front, but equally true at home:

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

2.    SOTU and gun violence: This drew the biggest cheers as Obama did his rhetorical best: build to a revival preacher’s crescendo. And the backdrop of Gabby Giffords  and parents of slain children brought everyone but John Boehner (go figure, for once he showed no emotion) to tears.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

3.    SOTU and minimum wage:  Did the proposed $9 minimum wage surprise you? It did me.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

4.    SOTU and early childhood education:  This warmed my former Head Start-teacher heart.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance

5. The part of SOTU I liked best.  Karl Rove (who reminds me of the Riddler because he keeps popping up with his evil grin, every time you think a superhero has finally vanquished him), used a twitter hashtag #notserious to telegraph the Tea Party message of the day. A typical corrosive Rove tweet:

Karl Rove@KarlRove

Is it me or is this not one of POTUS’s better efforts? Lackluster response from even Dem’s side. #SOTU

Since you asked, I’ll answer, Karl. It’s you. The president’s speech was not just #serious. It hit a political home run. Now the real test–let’s see what action Congress takes, and how hard Obama fights for his agenda.

What do you predict? Tell me.

If You Don’t Sing Your Own Song, Who Will?

Analyzing gas prices isn’t usually my beat, but media messaging is. Is failure to talk about declining prices at the pump smart or self-defeating for Obama?

Politico Arena Asks:

Gas prices are expected to hit a two-year low this Memorial Day weekend, averaging around $3.66 a gallon, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Some energy analysts believe prices could continue to drop through the summer months. The falling prices take away a key piece of the GOP’s platform against President Obama – however, the White House has been relatively quiet about the price drop and a recent AP-GfK poll showed the majority of Americans still disapprove of Obama’s handling of gas prices.

Will the dropping gas prices help Obama’s reelection chances – and should the White House work harder to highlight the decrease?  Or will voters still be wary of Obama’s economic performance?

My Response:

People are quick to squawk when they feel the pinch in their pocketbooks, but rarely give credit when the pain goes away-unless leaders and/or media create a pervasive narrative about it.  Perhaps the Obama administration is refraining from crowing about the price drop because they anticipate a rise in price that would cause pre-election squawks next fall.

Whatever the reason, it’s a mistake. They should tell a positive story and take the credit if they want falling gas prices to benefit his reelection.

State of the Union Speech: Almost the Obama We Voted For

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been a harsh critic of Obama’s leadership or lack of it since he took office, not because I supported Clinton (which I did but I got over it), but as someone who understands the responsibilities of a chief executive to create meaning, articulate a vision, and put forth an agenda for people to work from. From the time he was elected until now, his vision kept shrinking rather than expanding and his penchant for appeasing even the unappeasable has been nothing short of maddening.

That unwillingness to put a stake in the agenda ground left the Democrats in Congress adrift. The result has been that even when Obama scored accomplishments such as heath reform, it never felt like a victory. Because it was never clean cut, never a righteous fight.

But I have to say he knocked it out of the ballpark tonight in his State of the Union Address (full text here). His energetic delivery, piquant story telling, and frequent appeals to the highest American values made me remember the Obama I voted for in 2008 and thought had disappeared entirely.

It was brilliant to start and end with foreign policy and homage to the military, whose selflessness and teamwork contrast so sharply with the circular firing squad that is Congress.  “Imagine what we could achieve if we all had the selflessness of the troops.”

Best line of the speech IMHO: **Fight obstruction with action.**

Where have you been these last three years, Mr. President? Welcome back.

It was so smart (albeit a little smoke and mirrors) to connect the multiple wars people are so tired of with the post WW II economic boom and the rise of the middle class. Now, there is HOPE. “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that dream alive.” “Fair shot, fair share, everyone play by rules.” “Reclaim American values.” He took the mantle personally by talking about his own grandfather’s military service and using the GI Bill to get an education afterward.

I couldn’t help thinking how darn lucky Obama is that Hillary Clinton is such a team player. So many of these foreign policy victories were hers. He did acknowledge that though she had been his primary opponent, as Secretary of State, she was in the room when the decision to go for Bin Ladin was made. (I try not to be like the sexist media and comment on female politicians’ looks, but it was great to see her looking radiantly, authentically Hillary, with her longer hair and the return of her much-maligned headband.)

Segue to taking credit for creating 3million–or was it 4?–jobs after Bush lost so many. And for protecting consumers after the big bad banks screwed them. And for saving GM, which has shown once again that the American workers are the best. He touched the heart of every businessman, who has probably read the classic business book, Built to Last.

Did he read my blogpost? He did what I asked him to do–emphasize expanding jobs in the sectors that heavily employ women, in myriad ways. Lauding teachers, expanding community colleges, and on.

I won’t continue with the usual SOTU Christmas tree of mentions dangled before constituencies waiting anxiously for their personally important issues. The important thing is the overall effect. This Obama can demolish any of the current Republican candidates.

No wonder the pundits were speculating on whether the GOP would try to draft a faux moderate like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels since all their current choices are deeply flawed. They tried to soften their hard-edged image by putting Daniels  up to do the requisite retort. He started out statesmanly, then quickly shifted to blame everything from joblessness to the pox on Obama. The only interesting moment was when he coined a new phrase, “trickle down government” as tar to stick together his various disparagements. Otherwise, it was same old same old. Whine whine. Negative, bitter. Attack. No vision, no action.

What Obama left out:
Didn’t mention Paycheck Fairness Act though did mention equal pay to big cheers.
Didn’t mention putting the Freedom of Choice Act back into his priority list, or even the recent rulings expanding contraceptive coverage.
Didn’t talk much about health care at all.
If he mentioned major women’s initiatives such as the Executive Order Instituting a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, I missed it.

But there was great symbolism in the first time an openly gay military officer sat with the first lady and the end of Don’t Ask Don’t tell was lauded. Same with Warren Buffett’s secretary nodding approval when the president pointed out the unfairness of her paying a higher tax rate than her boss, and the camera panning Laurene Jobs each time the word “innovation” was mentioned. There was also the almost unbearable sadness of seeing the courageous but still wounded AZ Rep. Gabby Giffords bidding farewell for now to her Congressional colleagues.

All in all, I’m breathing out, relieved that the president performed so well. Commentators said that the State of the Union speech isn’t nearly as important or watched as it used to be. But I’m a sappy enough patriot to listen to every word, and to embrace the theater of it as an incredibly important declaration that our democracy lives for all of us to fight passionately another day for what we believe.

Will Tonight’s State of the Union Address 2012 Soar?

I’ve been critical of the President’s leadership in the past, and wrote this about a previous State of the Union address. But I’m rooting for him to be at his rhetorical and persuasive best tonight, not so much for his re- election prospects as for the good of the country.

Candidate Obama had a large vision during his campaign and it called us to our higher selves. In part his decisive 2008 victory was due to America’s exhaustion with George W. Bush. But a big factor was Obama’s vision and his promises to lead a progressive agenda once elected.

Instead, once elected, he focused on small vision projects and on doing deals rather than articulating the ideals that had propelled him into office. Tonight’s speech gives him a new opportunity– the last such chance he’ll have during this term–to give people that bigger vision and not just to say things that are safe. To come out swinging at the Republicans who have stopped every initiative he proposed without offering alternatives to do anything other than feather the nests of the wealthiest among us. To offer bold initiatives that address our biggest problems.

John F. Kennedy inspired a nation worried about our technological competitiveness when he said in defense of space exploration,“We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Obama needs to call us to do things that are hard if they are also for the good of the country. He’s got a chance to bring some sanity to the conversation, in contrast to the Republican greed and gridlock, and to set the agenda for public debate.

Regarding economic initiatives, which should certainly be front and center of his speech, it should be remembered that the economy overall is a women’s issue. When policies favor brick and mortar projects, a smaller percentage of women benefit because they are less likely to hold jobs in those fields. To be more competitive with China and other nations, we need to build up our intellectual infrastructure (60 percent of today’s college grads are women). More money should be invested in schools, libraries and social services where women will be working, and it will pay off in a workforce better prepared for the economy of the future. And of course, I hope the president will prioritize passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

There’s much more of course. But then State of the Union addresses typically sound like verbal Christmas trees, loaded with gifts for various important constituencies. I’ll just touch on one more topic. I suggest that Obama should proactively take the credit for getting contraception almost universally covered in the health care plan because 95 percent of Americans use it and because it’s the right thing to do. The dollop of whipped cream with a cherry on top would be for him to place the Freedom of Choice Act back on the agenda. I’m not holding my breath but I can hold out hope.

And instead of letting the Republicans tar him with “Obamacare” as a negative label, he should embrace the controversy (No Excuses power tool #4!) as a badge of pride. A generation hence, most Americans will regard Obamacare as important to their lives as Medicare is to seniors today.

What are you hoping to hear from the president tonight?

Will he soar or fly under the radar?

Can he take the attention from the right wing Republicans battling it out for their nomination? Post your thoughts.

Why did the supercommittee fail? (Duh!)

Silly question today but I decided to answer it anyway. More to the point, what in your opinion should be the next steps? Who should take leadership?

US CongressArena Asks: Congress is bracing today for the failure of the supercommittee, which will most likely fail to submit paperwork to the Congressional Budget Office by its Monday deadline.
Is this a big hit for Congress, which had a nine percent approval rating in a recent poll? And why was the supercommittee unable to make ends meet?

My Answer: The supercommittee was doomed from the start because the Republicans have less to lose politically by being intractable on revenue. The supercommittee process played right into their hands and the Democrats took the bait.

If anyone can force a solution to emerge, it’s “mom in tennis shoes” Patty Murray. Unfortunately, sometimes mom’s only solution is to send the bullies to the woodshed. It’s time for the Dems to do just that, to take off the gloves, stop whining about how much they are willing to give in to the Republican demands and start educating the American public about how much the Republicans are trying to take away from all of us. I think they’d find enthusiastic supporters rising up to vote for them in 2012.

What do they think Occupy Wall Street is about after all?

PS Heartfeldt readers: You may be interested in Lucinda Marshall’s excellent commentary regarding feminism and Occupy Wall Street. And if you didn’t catch my post a couple of weeks ago on why women need to step up to leadership now to grapple with the economic problems the supercommittee has failed to solve, please check it out here on the 9 Ways Blog.

 

What Has Occupy Wall Street Accomplished? What Now?

You know how first they laugh at you, then they try to kill you, then you win? Occupy Wall Street has moved past getting laughed at and is now under attack. Today’s Politico Arena question asked whether OWS has accomplished anything, taking off from a slam by Rep. Peter King (R of course-NY) who charged the movement is “disorganized.” Below is my response to Arena. Enjoy it while playing this video performance art, and do let me know your thoughts:

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ARENA ASKS: In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) had tough criticism for the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I mean, what is their position?” King asked. “They’re mad that other people are making money? They’re mad that there are no jobs in this country? Or not enough jobs? All of us believe that. We’re trying to find a way to do it. You don’t do it by living in dirt. You don’t do it by carrying out rapes. You don’t do it by carrying out anti-American slogans.”

Is King right – is the movement disorganized? And has the Occupy Wall Street movement accomplished anything?

MY RESPONSE: There are moments when leaders fail us and so the people rise up. Enter Occupy Wall Street.

OWS’s main accomplishment is rising up to show leadership in a nation whose duly elected leaders can’t or won’t.

Why do I credit a supposedly leaderless, agendaless group with leading?

First because I believe a leader is someone who gets things done. And second, with Thanksgiving soon upon us, because I am grateful to Occupy Wall Street for “doing something” in the following ways that lead the public debate forward:

1. Giving voice to those who have been unheard, thus pumping energy into the deflated hopes for change that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign promised but didn’t deliver. A stagnant economy, with many people out of jobs with time on their hands, could have spiraled down into personal depression as well as economic recession. Taking action is the best remedy.

2. Demonstrating the American ideal of social justice still has a pulse. That we can still muster a cross-section of people, young and old, rich and poor, from all ethnicities to get out on the streets and “wear the shirt” of their convictions–one of my favorite metaphors, as those who have read my book No Excuses know.

3. Courageously laying bare the root of our economic problems: the rapacious greed of the 1 percent who control most of the wealth and contrasting that with the other 99 percent’s justifiable aspirations to earn their way to food, shelter, healthcare, and a shot at the American dream. In the process, OWS has revealed how the Republican/Tea Party agenda is fueled by greed and lust for absolute power. They don’t just want their share, they want to control it all and give back nothing to society or even to the people who do the work. Nor do they want the government to work for the people.

That said, and with all due gratitude to the visibility OWS has given to the problems, it is time for them to set forth a specific agenda of solutions and coalesce its rag tag self, or selves, to push for fundamental, systemic change.

Peter King is right that Occupy Wall Street is disorganized. That’s the nature of a social movement, especially a new one. The revolutionaries who declared and fought for American independence were none too organized at the beginning either. Instead of blasting OWS, Mr. King should apply his leadership to create jobs, to feed the hungry, to lead our country back to prosperity for all.

Here’s my original post on Politico Arena, in case you want to read it there and see what others are saying. What do you think about OWS?

Is World Population Day of 7 Billion Scarier than Halloween?

Today, on Halloween no less, the Earth welcomed the baby who tipped world population over the 7 billion mark.

I probably wouldn’t have known much about the topic of world population but for a fluke as I prepared to graduate from the University of Texas Permian Basin the summer of 1974. To my surprise, I was told I needed three more hours of science.

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National Geographic video showing population growth

It had been a long 12-year road for me, what with three children to care for, a five-year stint teaching Head Start, and other detours along the way. Finally, I thought, I’d be done by the end of June.

Once I got the bad news, I looked for the easiest science course I could find, preferably one without the usual fourth hour for lab. Ecology, yes! The class was co-taught by Professor Ed Kurtz, now retired, who remains a great friend and a wonderful role model for someone who still “wears the shirt” of his convictions by volunteering for environmental and reproductive rights causes.

Yes, they were talking about world population back in 1974, when there were only 4 billion people inhabiting planet Earth. We’ve almost doubled in less than 40 years.

What’s more striking, it took from the beginning of time until 1800 for the world’s population to reach the one billion mark. The rapid growth since then is because we have given ourselves a great deal of death control–we’re living longer and lowered infant mortality significantly—and that’s good.  But we haven’t balanced that out with equal attention to birth control, food and other resources, and ecological conservation to sustain the growing population.

There have been many any successes to be sure, but the world will strain to support the 9 billion people who will probably be living here by 2050, if current trends continue.

Over the past few weeks, there have been many news reports on this Day of 7 Billion. One of the best was by AP’s Dave Crary.

But I especially want to share with you in full this piece written for RH Reality Check by Roger-Mark De Souza, Vice President for Research and Director of the Climate Program for Population Action International. De Souza personalizes the story. It’s clear that population issues are really about people, and that the status of women in society is central to determining the future.

Sex and Sustainability: Reflections for My Son Nick

“Are we going to talk about sex again?!” screamed my 12-year old son, Nick, as he ran down the stairs, away from me. That was five years ago and I had just sat down with him to have one of our father-son talks, this time about sex and sustainability.

Now Nick, a rising senior, is preparing for college at the same time as the global community is preparing for an important landmark of its own: the United Nations predicts that by October 31, world population will reach 7 billion.

The confluence of these two events gives me reason to think about the world Nick is inheriting from my generation, and makes me consider what I can say to him as he heads off to college.

This World of 7 Billion
I try to get my head around it. It’s a world of 7 billion people. With greater connectivity than I could have ever dreamed possible. A world of widening disparities and growing environmental degradation. A world with a changing climate. A world of crashing economic markets and changing debt ceilings.
It’s also a world of finite resources and growing demand.

Consider water. As the world’s population grows, the demand for water mounts and pressure on water resources intensifies. Unfortunately, the areas where water is most scarce are typically those with high population densities and rapid population growth. Population growth limits the amount of water available per person, and drives people into marginal regions – which are also water-stressed.

Consider forests: The top 10 countries experiencing the greatest loss of forest cover generally have large, fast-growing populations. Increased demand for fuel wood is driving a great deal of deforestation in the populous regions of East Africa and South Asia. Often, forests are cleared by migrant families that have been forced out of their crowded areas of origin.

Consider habitat loss: Global population is projected to grow to anywhere between 8 billion and 11 billion by the middle of the century, with much of that growth expected to take place in the humid tropics that harbor the planet’s richest biodiversity. Habitat loss is generally greatest where population density is highest. Urbanization also takes a toll: sprawling cities have led to the disappearance of numerous habitats. And city-dwellers consume more, increasing pressures on ecosystems.

Consider changing climate: An analysis by the organization where I work, Population Action International, identified 33 population and climate change “hotspots.” These fast-growing countries are extremely vulnerable to climate change, in part because they face water shortages and declining agricultural production. The average number of children born to each woman in hotspot countries is five, and the average population growth rate is 2.5 percent – a rate that, if unchanged, would result in a doubling of the population in just 29 years.

But continued population growth is not inevitable: In these hotspot countries, an average of one in four married women would like to avoid pregnancy, but is not using modern family planning. Addressing that “unmet need” for contraception would slow growth, reduce pressure on resources, and increase resilience. Investing in a woman’s right to decide how many children she can have, when she can have them, and ensuring that she can have them safely is fundamental.

Reflections for Nick
These challenges may seem remote to my son, Nick, growing up in suburban Virginia. But they will shape the world he inhabits in profound ways. So what can I share with Nick as he launches into this world of seven billion?

“Son, as you continue to develop into a young man who will assume responsibility in the world, recognize the following:”

1. Understand the complexity of the world as you feel it. The starting point for your career and your contribution must be to recognize the world’s complexity and find your place within it. The United Nations projects that when you are 56 years old, in 2050, world population may have reached 9.3 billion. The size, shape, and form of that population matters to you as it will affect your health, well-being, and security.

2. Recognize the value of women. I know that you already know the value of young women. I want you to know that the decisions these women make have a profound effect on the world. Ensuring that women can decide how many children they want, when to have their children, and the ways that they invest in those children is one of the most important moves we, as a society, can make. It is at the core of our lives. Recognize this and play your part as a man, particularly if you’re lucky enough to get married, and perhaps even be the father to a daughter.

3. Incorporate the needs of communities to ensure value-added. As you think of your areas of study and learning, be sure to respond to real demands in order to add value. Don’t assume that you know what others need. Discover the genuine needs both of individuals and communities, and then respond.

4. Size (and scale) matter. Your world is inherently more complex and connected than I could ever have imagined. It will only get more so. Determine where your impact can be most felt, and focus on the best way to have an impact at that scale. And, be sure to recognize how you can leverage innovation to maximize your impact.

5. Do the right thing. You know in your heart what’s right. Infuse that sensibility in your contributions to the world. Individual rights are fundamental to human well-being. Don’t confuse rights and wants. Make your contribution one that’s based in a rights approach, but make it practical and palatable. Go with your convictions.

As I share these reflections with Nick, the world reaches the seven billion population landmark, and my family reaches a personal landmark of launching a child out into this expanding world, I’m reminded of a question from my younger 16-year-old son, Miki. Standing at the front door as he signed for a package from the mailman, he screamed: “Dad, did you order these condoms with endangered species slogans on them?”

The conversation continues….

I strongly encourage you to read RH Reality Check’s series on the Day of 7 Billion and related topics. Share your thoughts about global population and its challenges here. Are you an optimist or pessimist about what the future holds? What do you think are the most pressing problems and best solutions? Is population growth scarier than Halloween or do you think we will achieve balance between population and the resources necessary to sustain ourselves?

Fresh start for Rick Perry?

Waaaay to soon to rule Rick Perry out, folks, as all of us who grew up tough in West Texas know.

What do you think will be Perry’s next “distractive” comment, by the way? And what are your thoughts about Obama’s best strategy to fight or flank?

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

 

strategyThe Arena Asks: Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new proposal would let Americans choose between their existing income tax rate or a new flat tax of 20 percent. Will Perry’s flat tax plan restore him to the GOP presidential primary lead? Will his new campaign team help? And what do you make of Perry’s recent birther-curious comments?

 

Rick Perry might not know how to govern the country but he knows how to win a race by adapting and persisting. The unifying thread connecting these three changes in Perry’s campaign is this: the man is a learner with an almost feral competitiveness that turns obstacles into fuel to propel him to his goal.

For example, while Herman Cain sounds crazy with his 9-9-9 plan, Perry catches that people yearn for simple, neat answers even if they are wrong. Voila! The Perry flat tax proposal, which sounds almost sane in contrast to Cain’s.

And in the bread and circuses category, there’s a dollop of raw meat for the birther contingent of the Republican Party to flame up the fires of Perry’s base (pun intended) support while taking their focus off his not-so-anti-immigration position. Guess he’s holding his next draconian anti-abortion salvo in his back pocket till another “distractive” issue is needed.

Democrats, be very afraid. And Obama had better come up with a zingier, more numerically explicit retort than mushy-mouthed allegations that the most fortunate would pay less while middle class people would pay more with a flat tax. It’s like cotton candy, melts in your mouth but doesn’t satisfy the need for real economic nourishment and a bold policy menu.