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Sunday, June 16, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" On the Education Scene With Thoughts Courtesy Inside Higher Ed

A collage of many faces.

Faces of the FAFSA Fiasco

The botched rollout of the new federal aid form is more than just a policy failure. It’s a human crisis. Inside Higher Ed’s “Faces of the FAFSA Fiasco” tells the story of the students behind the numbers.

News

 
A Potential Path Forward for Pell Grant Expansion

Proponents of controversial legislation to expand the Pell Grant to short-term workforce training programs want to attach it to a defense bill that Congress must pass. A House committee will determine whether the gambit works.

Women Make Global Gains as Researchers, but Gaps Persist

A large-scale global study found that while the number of women in academic research is growing, STEM fields remain dominated by men.

  

Sunday, June 9, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" : Remember D-Day and The Marshall Plan


On June 6, 1944 President Eishnower, in his capacity as Supreme Allied Commander, ordered the invasion of NOrmandly.   This past week was the 80th Anniversary of the Invasion of Europe, where surviving Veterans were honored and the World remembered.


Our team chose this notation from Heather Cox Richardson at the address of General Marshall, who served as Secretary of State during the Truman Administration, as he announced the Marshall Plan that was pivotal to the recovery of Europe after World War II.  
 


 

 

The Gettysburg Address it wasn’t.

Seventy-seven years ago, on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had been a five-star general in World War II, gave a commencement speech at Harvard University. 

Rather than stirring, the speech was bland. Its long sentences were hard to follow. It was vague. And yet, in just under eleven minutes on a sunny afternoon, Marshall laid out a plan that would shape the modern world.

“The truth of the matter is that Europe's requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products—principally from America—are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character,” he said. “It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”

In his short speech, Marshall outlined the principles of what came to be known as the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe in the wake of the devastation of World War II. The speech challenged European governments to work together to make a plan for recovery and suggested that the U.S. would provide the money. European countries did so, forming the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) in 1948. From 1948 to 1952, the U.S. would donate about $17 billion to European countries to rebuild, promote economic cooperation, and modernize economies. By the end of the four-year program, economic output in each of the countries participating in the Marshall Plan had increased by at least 35%.

This investment helped to avoid another depression like the one that had hit the world in the 1930s, enabling Europe to afford goods from the U.S. and keeping low the tariff walls that had helped to choke trade in the crisis years of that decade. Marshall later recalled that his primary motivation was economic recovery, that he had been shocked by the devastation he saw in Europe and felt that “[i]f Europe was to be salvaged, economic aid was essential.”

But there was more to the Marshall Plan than money. 

The economic rubble after the war had sparked political chaos that fed the communist movement. No one wanted to go back to the prewar years of the depression, and in the wake of fascism, communism looked attractive to many Europeans. 

“Marshall was acutely aware that this was a plan to stabilize Western Europe politically because the administration was worried about the impact of communism, especially on labor unions,” historian Charles Maier told Colleen Walsh of the Harvard Gazette in 2017. “In effect, it was a plan designed to keep Western Europe safely in the liberal Western camp.” It worked. American investment in Europe helped to turn European nations away from communism as well as the nationalism that had fed World War II, creating a cooperative and stable Europe. 

The Marshall Plan also helped Europe and the U.S. to articulate a powerful set of shared values. The U.S. invited not just Europe but also the Soviet Union to participate in the plan, but Soviet leaders refused, recognizing that accepting such aid would weaken the idea that communism was a superior form of government and give the U.S. influence. They blocked satellite countries from participating, as well. Forcing the USSR either to join Europe or to divide the allies of World War II put Soviet leaders in a difficult position and at a psychological disadvantage. 

With a clear ideological line dividing the USSR and Europe, Europeans, Americans, and their allies coalesced around a concept of government based on equality before the law, secularism, civil rights, economic and political freedom, and a market economy: the tenets of liberal democracy. As Otto Zausmer, who had worked for the U.S. Office of War Information to swing Americans behind the war, put it in 1955: “America’s gift to the world is not money, but the Democratic idea, democracy.” 

In the years after the Marshall Plan, European countries expanded their cooperative organizations. The OEEC became the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961 and still operates with 37 member countries that account for three fifths of world trade. And the U.S. abandoned its prewar isolationism to engage with the rest of the world. The Marshall Plan helped to create a liberal international order, based on the rule of law, that lasted for decades. 

In his commencement speech on June 5, 1947, Marshall apologized that “I’ve been forced by the necessities of the case to enter into rather technical discussions.” But on the ten-year anniversary of the speech, the Norwegian foreign minister had a longer perspective, saying: “[T]his initiative taken by Marshall and by the American Government marked the beginning of a new epoch in western Europe, an epoch of wider, and above all more binding, cooperation between the countries than ever before.” 

Not bad for an eleven-minute speech.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" : #RandomThoughts For the Week

June has arrived.   Our team pulled together the following Random Thoughts courtesy of Ryan Holiday and all he does, along with some thoughts from Peter Diamandis.

We look forward to the continued privilege to serve.

These 14 Small Mindset Shifts Will Change Your Life

For the most part, we can’t change the world. We can’t change the fundamental facts of existence–like the fact that we’re going to die. We can’t change other people.

Does that mean that everything is hopeless and permanently broken?

No, because although we have that extreme powerlessness in one sense, we have an incredible superpower in another: We can change how we think about things. We can change how we view them, how we orient ourselves to them.

That’s the essence of Stoicism, by the way. The idea that we don’t control what happens, but we do control ourselves. When we respond to what happens, the main thing we control is our mind and the story we tell ourselves.

So one way to think about Stoicism itself then is as a collection of mindset shifts for the many situations that life seems to thrust us in. Indeed, Seneca’s Letters, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and Epictetus’ Discourses are filled with passages, anecdotes, and quotes which force a shift in perspective.

Here are 14 that I have taken from the Stoics over the years that have changed my life. I think they’ll do the same for you.

Everything is an opportunity for excellence. The now famous passage from Marcus Aurelius is that the impediment to action advances action, that what stands in the way becomes the way. But do you know what he was talking about specifically? He was talking about difficult people! He was saying that difficult people are an opportunity to practice excellence and virtue–be it forgiveness or patience or cheerfulness. And so it goes for all the things that are not in our control in life. So when I find myself in situations big and small, positive or negative, I try to see each of them as an opportunity for me to be the best I’m capable of being in that moment. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are, we can always do this.

Every event has two handles, Epictetus said: “one by which it can be carried, and one by which it can’t. If your brother does you wrong, don’t grab it by his wronging, because this is the handle incapable of lifting it. Instead, use the other—that he is your brother, that you were raised together, and then you will have hold of the handle that carries.” Another way to say that is that there are multiple ways to look at every situation, multiple ways to determine how you’re going to react. Some of them are sturdy and some of them are not. Some are kind and resilient, some are not. Which will you choose? Which handle will you grab?

The world is dyed by the color of your thoughts. Marcus said, “The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes the color of your thoughts.” He also said, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” If you see the world as a negative, horrible place, you’re right. If you look for shittiness, you will see shittiness. If you believe that you were screwed, you’re right. But if you look for beauty in the mundane, you’ll see it. If you look for evidence of goodness in people, you’ll find it. If you decide to see the agency and power you do have over your life (which as we’ve said is largely in how we think), well, you’ll find you have quite a bit.

There is a tax on everything. Taxes aren’t just from the government. Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius, “All the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.” Annoying people are a tax on being outside your house. Delays are a tax on travel. Haters are a tax on having a YouTube channel. There’s a tax on money too–and the more successful you are, the more you pay. Seneca said he tried to pay the taxes gladly. I love that. After all, it’s usually a sign of a good problem. It means you had a killer year financially. It means you’re alive and breathing. You can whine about the cost. Or you can pay and move on.

Poverty isn’t only having too little. Of course, not having what you need to survive is insufficient. But what about people who have a lot…but are insatiable? Who are plagued by envy and comparison? Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca talk about rich people who are not content with what they have and are thus quite poor. But feeling like you have ‘enough’–that’s rich no matter what your income is.

Alive time or Dead time? This isn’t from the Stoics exactly, but close enough. Robert Greene once told me there were two types of time in life: Alive time and Dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are using that time productively, actively. You’re stuck at the airport–you don’t control that. You decide whether it’s alive time or dead time (you read a book, you take a walk, you call your grandmother). I had a year left on a job when Robert gave me that advice. I could have just sat on my hands. Instead, it was an incredibly productive period of reading and researching and filling boxes of notecards that helped me write The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy.

Anxiety isn’t escaped. It’s discarded. This was a breakthrough I had during the pandemic. Suddenly, I had a lot less to worry about. I wasn’t doing the things that, in the past, I told myself were the causes of my anxiety. I wasn’t having to get to a plane. I wasn’t battling traffic to get somewhere on time. I wasn’t having to prepare for this talk or that one. So you’d think that my anxiety would have gone way down. But it didn’t. And what I realized is that anxiety has nothing to do with any of these things. The airport isn’t the one to blame. I am! Marcus Aurelius actually talks about this in Meditations. “Today I escaped from anxiety,” he says. “Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.” It’s not your parents that are frustrating you. They’re just doing what they do. You are the source of the frustration. That’s a little frustrating, but it’s also freeing. Because it means you can stop it! You can choose to discard it.

It’s the surprise that kills you. Stuff is going to happen, but what makes it harder is when it catches us off guard. The unexpected blow lands heaviest, Seneca said. That’s why we should practice the art of premeditatio malorumessentially, a pre-mortem of the things that could happen in a day or a life. This takes the sting out of them in advance…it also lets us prepare and prevent. And for no one is this more important than parents and leaders. Seneca said that the one thing a leader is not allowed to say is, “Wow, I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

You can’t learn what you think you already know. Conceit, Zeno said, was the enemy of wisdom and learning. This was the essential worldview of Socrates, the hero of the Stoics. Think of Socrates’ method. He didn’t go around telling people anything. He went around asking questions. That’s how he learned so much and ended up becoming so smart. If you want to get smarter, stop thinking you’re so smart. If you want to learn, focus on all the things you don’t know. Humility, admission of ignorance–these are the starting points. This is the attitude that gets you further in life.

What good is posthumous fame? Marcus Aurelius knew he was famous. He knew they were building statues of him. He knew he would have a legacy. He also knew this was basically worthless. What good is posthumous fame, he asks in Meditations, when you’re not around to enjoy it?! He reminded himself too that you know, it’s not like the people in the future were going to be way better than the people alive right now–there will be idiots in the future too. What do I care about how many people read my books in 100 years? What matters is if I am doing my best right now, if I am taking pleasure and pride from doing my best right now. So stop trying to live forever by achieving all this greatness, stop trying to get more than you need, stop trying to perform for history. Do the good you can do now. Stop chasing something you will never touch. Legacy is not for you. You’ll be dead. Leave it to others.

People are just doing their job. I don’t just mean at work. After bumping into a particularly frustrating person, Marcus Aurelius asks himself, “Is a world without shamelessness possible?” No, he answers. “There have to be shameless people in the world. This is one of them.” This is just someone fulfilling their role. Seeing things this way not only prevents me from being surprised, but it makes me sympathetic. This person has a crappy job.It’s not fun to be them–they have to be one of the jerks that exist in the world. And then I remind myself that I am lucky that my job is to try to be a good person.

They don’t want you to be miserable. It’s strange that Stoics have the reputation for being unfeeling when Seneca wrote three very beautiful essays on loss and grief called Consolations. I read these essays whenever I lose someone or miss someone who I loved. Anyway, one of the lessons that hit me the most is when he is writing to the daughter of a now-deceased friend. He brings up a great point, basically saying, look, your dad loved you so much. Of course, he would be honored that you miss him, but do you think he would want his death to make you miserable? Would he want the mere mention of his name to bring you pain? No, that would be his worst nightmare. He would want you to be happy. He would want you to go on with your life. He wouldn’t want his memory to haunt you like a ghost–he would want the thought of him to bring you joy and happiness. Of course, we’re always going to feel sad when we lose someone, but then we can remind ourselves of this and try to smile too.

Opinions are optional. “Remember, you always have the power to have no opinion,” Marcus says. Do you need to have an opinion about the weather today–is it changing anything? Do you need to have an opinion about the way your kid does their hair? So what if this person likes music that sounds weird to you? So what if that person is a vegetarian? “These things are not asking to be judged by you,” Marcus writes. “Leave them alone.” Especially because these opinions often make us miserable! “It’s not things that upset us,” Epictetus says, “it’s our opinions about things.” The less opinions you have, especially about other people and things outside your control, the happier you will be. The nicer you’ll be to be around too.

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The last one is the most powerful one, I think. And it’s about the thing we have the least amount of power and control over: the fact that we’re all going to die.

But the Stoics want us to think about it differently…

Death isn’t in the future. It’s happening now. It’s easy to see death as this thing that lies off in the distant future. It’s a fixed event that happens to us once…at the end. This is literally true but it’s also incorrect. “This is our big mistake,” as Seneca points out, “to think we look forward toward death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.”

It’s better to think of death as a process—something that is always happening. We are dying every day, he said. Even as you read this email, time is passing that you will never get back. That time, he said, belongs to death. Powerful, right? Death doesn’t lie off in the distance. It’s with us right now. It’s the second hand on the clock. It’s the setting sun. As the arrow of time moves, death follows, claiming every moment that has passed. What ought we do about it? The answer is live. Live while you can. Put nothing off. Leave nothing unfinished. Seize it while it still belongs to us.


Cato was the kind of person you could trust with the job of cleaning up the notoriously corrupt province of Cyprus. Rutilius Rufus was that kind of person, too. It’s why they ultimately framed him on corruption charges—he was getting in the way of the looting. And Marcus Aurelius was that kind of person. It’s why he was never ‘stained purple’ or ‘Caesarified’ by power. He was a man of integrity, who had rules that he followed that were far stricter than whatever the law allowed.

Harry Truman is the modern model for this ideal. He’s the main character in part one of Right Thing, Right Now (which hopefully you will preorder…right now). “If it’s not right, do not do it,” Truman underlined in his well-worn copy of Meditations, “if it is not true, do not say it. . . . First do nothing thoughtlessly or without a purpose. Secondly, see that your acts are directed to a social end.”

Even though Truman often desperately needed money, even though politics was incredibly corrupt at that time, even though he came up through the Kansas City political machine, he tried to follow Marcus’s teachings. “I was taught that the expenditure of public money is a public trust,” he explained, “and I have never changed my opinion on that subject. No one has ever received any public money for which I was responsible unless he gave honest service for it.” Politicians around him grew rich, but Truman’s clothing business failed. He was punctilious about paying back every penny he owed. He refused special compensation for his family when their farm was affected by a road he oversaw. As president, he refused to ‘frank’—-get free postage—on letters he sent to his sister because they were personal and not professional.

“In all this long career, I had certain rules I followed, win, lose or draw,” Truman explained. “I refused to handle any political money in any way whatsoever. I engaged in no private interest whatsoever that could be helped by local, state or national governments. I refused presents, hotel accommodations or trips which were paid for by private parties . . . I made no speeches for money or expenses while I was in the Senate. I lived on the salary I was legally entitled to and considered that I was employed by the taxpayers, and the people of my country, state and nation.”

When the Stoics talk about justice, this is what they’re talking about. Of course, they also care about improving the world, they cared about big picture issues, but as always, they wanted us to focus on what we control. And what is that? Ourselves. Truman didn’t control the times he lived in. He didn’t control the decay and corruption of his time. Neither did Marcus or Rutilius or Cato. But they did control whether they were the exception to that rule. They controlled whether they stood out, whether they were a small light in the darkness.

We have that same power today. We can be good. We can be honest. We can be decent. We can live and act with justice.



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Saturday, June 1, 2024

Notations From the Grid (Week-End Edition): On the Top 25 Nationalities in the United States

 As June Dawns, our team picked this up courtesy of the Visual Capitalist on Immigrants in the United States:



Monday, May 27, 2024

Notations On Our World (Special Edition): On #MemorialDay2024 In the United States

 

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Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers. Read More

Monday, May 13, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" This Week: Some Mid-Week #RandomThoughts

For this Mid-Week Edition of our "Weekly Virtual Route 66", please note the following #RandomThoughts For the Week:

By Jennifer Molina, EdSource

For the four men whose stories are told in this documentary, just the chance to earn the degree made it possible for them to see themselves living a different life outside of prison.


Read more


Army Matters podcast header image

Army, Hip Hop & Entrepreneurship

with Ruben Ayala, CEO, Triple Nickel

In 2020, Army Special Forces veteran and entrepreneur Ruben Ayala realized that a lot of top military-themed retail brands had become politically polarizing. So, he—along with three fellow vets—decided to create Triple Nikel Clothing, a military and hip-hop-inspired line that embraces community and diversity. Four years later, the company is thriving. Ruben joins hosts LTG (Ret.) Leslie C. Smith and SMA (Ret.) Dan Dailey to discuss how his mother was his original entrepreneurial inspiration, how the all-black WWII Airborne 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion became the company’s shining light, and how four vets who knew absolutely nothing about creating clothing have thrived.
 

The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of May 6th

I am so excited to bring you the Top 10 Leadership Posts I read last week.  It contains some of the best leadership articles I have read in some time.  

The writers include Craig Groeschel, Michael Lombardi, Les McKeown, Sahil Bloom, Polina Pompliano and many, many more!  Their thoughts will challenge you, equip you, and make you a much better leader!  You will want to bookmark them and revisit them often throughout 2024.

Click HERE to check out The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of May 6th.

Also, if you missed any of this past week's leadership articles, this is your chance to catch up!  Read the following: