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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. 

momphoto1.jpeg     

     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

Choosing the Right College...and a Glimpse of Wagner College

Choosing the Right College…
and a Glimpse of Wagner College
by
Chuck Cascio

chuckwrites@yahoo.com

     
     As a former high school and university level teacher, I am sometimes asked for my thoughts about how high school students should conduct their college search. Considerable stress is often evident in the inquiry, as parents and grandparents worry about the increasing emphasis on “name” schools as prestige takes priority over other essential considerations students should be making. 
 
     What are those considerations? Well, based on my own experience in searching for a college and from what I have heard from students over the years, a successful choice largely boils down to three criteria:
     >Comfort
     >Enthusiasm
     >Personal Development Potential
     
     Here is my own story:

 

Unknown

Main Hall on the oval as you enter the campus of Wagner College, Staten Island, NY.
     My father drove me to New York to visit Wagner College on Staten Island, a small school I had only read about. I wanted to go to college in or near New York City, where I was born and where I had spent a great deal of my childhood despite having moved to suburban Washington, DC, when I was about five years old. So the trip to New York was a familiar one, a trip that always filled me with energy.      
     
     Wagner College was certainly not a “big name” school. I had discovered it in one of those gigantic books containing details of hundreds of colleges (Those of us of a certain age remember well what it was like to plow through those books!). I requested and received a catalog from Wagner and liked what it featured, especially the 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Even at age 17, one thing about which I was certain was this: Although the excitement of a large school environment appealed to me, large class sizes and too many other distractions would scatter my attention, which would undoubtedly negatively impact my academic performance.
     
     The details and pictures of Wagner intrigued me: Located on a scenic section of Staten Island called Grymes Hill, 400 feet above sea level—the highest natural point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine—several buildings on and around the campus had once been “vacation” residences of wealthy New Yorkers who used their picturesque Grymes Hill homes to escape the hectic city life. 
     
     When the school invited me for a visit and an interview with an admissions officer, my father and I made the trip together. My dad, a native of Brooklyn, knew all of New York well, including Staten Island, but he had never previously driven the steep road up Grymes Hill. At the top, both of us were mesmerized as we entered the isolated campus via a tree-lined oval with stunning glimpses of New York's waterways, bridges, ships, and the Statue of Liberty visible between lovely trees and buildings. A feeling grew inside me, one I could tell my father shared: This place was different; it vibrated with a quiet energy, a sense of individuality.
     
     During my interview, the attentive admissions representative asked about my interests and what motivated me to learn and why I thought Wagner might be right for me. I responded with insights that surprised me…and I noticed that the interviewer actually listened as I explained my need to feel engaged while in a classroom, my desire to hear from other students as well as from instructors, my description of learning as a participatory process.
     
     When I returned to the car, my father stood outside intently taking in the sweeping views of New York’s other four boroughs in the distance. "So what do you think?" he asked. 
     
     To this day, I remember exactly what I said to him, "If they will have me, Dad, this is where I am going."
     
     Somehow, a few other schools with student populations several times larger than Wagner's 1,500 students accepted me. But the image of Wagner, the small classes, the proximity to the energy of downtown New York, the closeness that I could sense on my tour of the campus, overroad what other schools had to offer. And when the acceptance letter from Wagner finally arrived, I said, "This is it!" 
     
     My parents were happy because I was happy...and I was happy because somehow I could feel what I believe is most important in making a decision about which college to attend: The fit was right. In Wagner, I had found a campus that made me comfortable, surroundings that made me feel that I could engage in academics and perhaps discover new things about myself. I was right...and attending Wagner remains one of the best decisions I have ever made. Classes were small, instructors were dynamic, students had interests similar to mine, and the opportunities on campus and in the city were endless.
     
     Today, Wagner has grown a bit with 1,800 undergraduate and 450 graduate students, but it maintains a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. Following are a few of the numerous accolades Wagner has received from various college evaluation services:
   
     >It is ranked sixth in the nation on the New York Times' list of “value added” colleges.
     >100% of its students work at an internship or practicum.
     >Its “Learning Communities” programs emphasize experiential learning applied to the real world and supported by deep research.
     >Its theater arts program is ranked fifth in the nation by Princeton Review.
     >Salaries of Wagner alumni rank in the top 14% nationally.
     
     Just as when I attended, the school reaches out to the vast resources of New York City to attract teachers and guest lecturers, to provide internships, and to establish partnerships. And the school has maintained its beautiful surroundings and classic buildings while carefully adding new technology and structures. In short, it still says to me, "This is a place to learn...about academia and about yourself."  
     
     Is Wagner College the right choice for every student? Of course not; no one school is right for everyone. But I firmly believe that the key to making the correct individual college choice is not to be overly focused on prestige or size or name recognition. Rather, students should visit schools and, while visiting, sit in on a class or two, get a sense of how they would fit in, and ask themselves, "Will I be comfortable here? Will I be enthusiastic about learning here? Will this school’s environment help me develop my skills, my relationships, and my unknown talents?”
   
     If there are positive answers to those questions, then I tell students this: 
     Make your decision. Go to your college and enjoy the full scope of learning.

THE END

Copyright: Chuck Cascio. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or quote all or segments, write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com.