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July 4th in DC: Then and Now

July 4th in DC: Then and Now
by Marc Cascio

(Note my son Marc's thoughts on July 4 in DC as he recalls it...and now.--Chuck Cascio)

     I grew up going to the national mall for the 4th of July. It was awesome:

     The Beach Boys played, everyone chilled, some people overindulged, and the culminating event was always an incredible fireworks display. I always had a great time, but I always had this nagging feeling that something was missing, and now I know what it was: TANKS!!!

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Tanks roll into our Nation's Capital for the July 4 celebration.     

     Nothing celebrates winning our independence from England in the 1700s like four gigantic tanks to tear up the DC roadways and possibly flatten drunken celebrants! Yes, the Founding Fathers would be thrilled to know that the taxpayers are footing the bill for giant death machines to navigate narrow roadways full of revelers to satiate the desires of a president who has wanted to play with his tanks since he saw the French do it in a celebration back in 2017.

     I mean, who better to model a military celebration after than the French? Rumor has it that most of the citizens there surrendered during the course of the celebration in a Pavlovian response. That won't happen here though! In fact, I don't see any possible way that massive tanks, abundant alcohol, meager roadways that are insufficient for bearing the weight and traction devices of war machines, and a president with a massive ego who is disregarding the wishes of DC representative could result in anything but a covfefe time for all! 

    Happy 4th! And I thought I had it good with the Beach Boys and fireworks!

copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.

UNITED BY THE WALL: A Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes

UNITED BY THE WALL: A Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes

In 1992, for the twentieth anniversary of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, I had the privilege of working with my friend Jonathan Edwards, the incredibly talented singer/songwriter, on a musical tribute to the Wall and to the soldiers who gave their lives in that war.

To watch and listen to "United By the Wall"--and to reflect for a couple of minutes on all the true heroes who have given their lives so we may live ours--please click on the following or cut and paste it into your browser:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzQtJr3yrK4   

To all our veterans: Thank you for your service!

Copyright Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

IN MEMORY OF BLANCHE CASCIO ON MOTHER'S DAY 2019

IN MEMORY OF BLANCHE CASCIO (BIANCA ROSA BORZOMATI)—
MOTHER’S DAY 2019
By Chuck Cascio
www.chuckcascioauthor.com
chuckwrites@yahoo.com
 
Note: My mother passed away on December 8, 2011. This tribute is based on the eulogy I delivered at her funeral service. 
     

     Of all the wonderful things about Mom–her smile, her laugh, her zeal, her innate and endless empathy—of all the things I will cherish, there are six words that she spoke to me many times under different circumstances that capture everything she was. The six words are: “Do it and get it done!”

     That’s right, “Do it and get it done!” was, in my mind, her trademark, her tagline, her personal creed. Those six words encapsulate her beauty, her energy, her commitment to life itself. 

     It is almost impossible for me to think of anything about my Mom in isolation. She was so much more than any one attribute alone:

     Mom was an aggregate, a composite, a medley of many beautiful, admirable qualities. So picture her and now picture the words, “Do it and get it done!” above her. Those words capture the incredible energy that infused her being, lit up a room, charmed the uncharmable, withered the villains. 

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     When you figure out what needs to be done, you simply do it and get it done. By doing it, you engage life’s challenges, you embrace its gifts, you experience its pain. But you must DO it…and get it DONE! 

     You do not linger over any task or misfortune—whether it is a husband off to war for two years, a brain tumor, the death of a spouse, a skull-crippling fall, or some other malady. No, you allow yourself to feel the pain, embrace the challenge, experience it intensely, assess what needs to be done in order to move on…and then you do it. And in doing it, you live.

     The six words may sound simplistic, but they are deeply complex. And those complexities were an intricate part of Mom’s beauty and strength and profoundly understated intelligence. Her grasp of complex world issues was rooted in that saying. She would read, discuss, listen, evaluate, and then articulate a position that would make scholars proud. 

     I remember as a child watching a production of “Romeo and Juliet” on our black-and-white TV with Mom and Dad, the fat volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare open so we could all follow the text as we watched. No big talk; just passion for the work and the combination of multiple resources to create a lasting impression—great writing, a book, emotional interest, and a child. You see the chance to enjoy, to teach, to learn and you embrace it, you do it…and you get it done.

     I loved to joke with Mom, to tease her and to rile her up. One day while driving her back to her residence at Sunrise Assisted Living after taking her to the hair salon and then to lunch, we were bantering back and forth, so I said, “You better be careful, or I’ll put you and that wheelchair out on the street right here and see if you can wheel your way back to Sunrise.” 

     Mom paused just for a beat and then said, “Ha! Go ahead! Don’t think I can’t do it!” 

     And to be honest, I believe she could have done it. In fact, I think my Mom could do—or could have done—anything she had the chance to do. I don’t know anything that she set out to do that she didn’t do. And she infused our whole family with that wonderful spirit—to explore, to embrace, to laugh, cry, work, and love…and we are all better people for it.

     So you did it Mom, you did it and you got it done, and because you did, your family…from me, Michael, and Anna on through your beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren…will carry your strength and beauty and love of life with us forever.  

Copyright Charles Cascio, 2019, all rights reserved.

 

USING THE COLLEGE SCANDALS TO HELP STUDENTS

USING THE COLLEGE SCANDALS TO HELP STUDENTS

By

Chuck Cascio

chuckwrites@yahoo.com

 

      Emerging amid the recent college acceptance scandal is the well-known and oft-whispered reality that parents have been buying their kids' way into college for a long, long time. A donation for a building, a scholarship sponsored, a departmental award underwritten, a legacy acceptance--all have been considered acceptable ways of encouraging a college to give special consideration to a certain student.

 

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     In reality, it is safe to assume that in some cases the students associated with a parental gift or donation to the school were already qualified according to the school's own standards. However, it is also safe to assume that others were not qualified...so their acceptance, it might be argued, bumped a more qualified student who lacked the monetary pull or legacy status from gaining admission. 

    I believe the degree of the recently revealed scandals involving celebrities and cheating on SATs and large payoffs to various individuals falls into a more egregious and disturbing category, and these actions bring to my mind a few reactions and thoughts that should be explored closely by the education community.

    >> Should the students who gained admission through the recent scandals be expelled from their respective colleges? 

     The idea of expulsion has been raised by various individuals in the political, media, and education arenas. My feeling is that unless it can be proven that the student had knowledge of the role he/she was expected to play in the scandal (faking a sport, cheating on the SATs, etc.), then the student should not suffer any consequences. 

     For me, it is hard to imagine a conversation in which a parent would reveal all of the underhanded practices that they intended to utilize. A 17- or 18-year old might be unaware of all that her/his parents are doing; rather, the student might be aware of intense parental interest but view it as significant parental support. If those students are now in college achieving and contributing to the higher-education community, then I say let them continue. They will have enough problems to deal with when they learn of their parents' unscrupulous activities. 

     

     >> How should the adults be punished? 

     Parents, coaches, cheating SAT proctors, and others should face whatever criminal charges are appropriate. But here is an additional consideration:   

     Make the wealthy individuals who put up the money for these illegal activities contribute an equal amount to a fund used to support current or future students who need financial aid. For the most part, the people who participated in this scandal seem to have deep financial resources and extensive contacts. Let's make them use their money, life experiences, and contacts for the benefit of others who are less fortunate than they and their own kids are.

     

     >> A Suggestion for Colleges: 

     Would you consider experimenting with a random selection process for research purposes? Having spent a good bit of my career as a high school teacher and adjunct faculty member at two universities, I came to realize that for many students all they needed to succeed was opportunity. Give them the opportunity to learn, express themselves, and engage in a positive, creative learning environment, and they will achieve in ways that surprise everyone, including themselves. 

     With that in mind, I would like to see some colleges engage in an experiment:   

     Take your pool of applicants and without looking at ANY criteria such as test scores, academic record, place of residence, etc. pick 25+ names and grant them admission. Then track their performance over the years that they are in college. My guess is that the results will show that they perform in very similar ways to the many other applicants who went through the typical college acceptance scrutiny. 

     To be sure, this scandal is appalling. The college application and acceptance systems are overly stressful, create massive anxiety in students and parents, and are so exclusionary that thousands of high school students miss out on the opportunity to engage in the life-changing experience of attending college. So let's move beyond the  rhetoric and shocked reactions the scandal has provoked toward some simple steps that would make college available to more students. 

 

Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

Fighting Intolerance Together

      A Letter from Dr. Kurt Landgraf, President,
Washington College, Chestertown, MD

     Following is a letter by Washington College President Dr. Kurt Landgraf to students and faculty. I believe it expresses a fundamental understanding of the extensive impact mass shootings have on individuals and communities and provides straightforward advice and support to help people move forward. It is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Landgraf.—Chuck Cascio

 Dear Members of the Washington College Community,

     

     Last week, mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 50 people and injured 40 more. Not unlike the horrific killings of 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall, and the murder of nine people at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nearly four years ago, these reprehensible crimes have at their core one fundamental commonality—an amoral and abhorrent intolerance of people’s religious beliefs and cultural traditions. 

 

Aerial view of Washington College, Chestertown, MD.

     None of us can witness or read about these tragedies without feeling fear, anger, and heartbreak. And while it may provide some solace when I write to you expressing my sorrow and shock, there are too many of these horrible examples of intolerance and hate to respond to every one. Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel helpless.

      

     Yet, while messages like this can’t solve the world’s problems, they can galvanize us, as a community of students, educators, colleagues, neighbors, and friends, to pull together as one to fight intolerance whenever and wherever we encounter it. If ever there was a time to “think globally and act locally,” this is it. Every day, we must reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and to working together to find solutions to the very real presence of intolerance, bigotry, and prejudice within our own community. 

     

     Only in this way can our voices rise above the despicable clamor of violence, hatred, and intolerance that struggles to hold sway in so many places across this world.

     

     Note: The piece then lists contact information and locations for anyone at the college or local community who feels they—or someone they know—may need support or counseling.

Copyright: Kurt M. Landgraf, Washington College

Full Disclosure: Kurt Landgraf was my college roommate.--Chuck Cascio