Benny's World

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trapeze Swings As Transition

Last week I had the professional privilege of attending a workshop in coping with change in the workplace. The facilitator was excellent. She employed some great affinity building techniques with which I was unfamiliar, and best of all, she made everyone feel safe to speak up, mainly employing the Las Vegas meme: generalities OK, but specifics stay in the room.

The main point driven in the workshop was how conflict occurs during change, and it generally happens in the transition period. There are 3 parts: endings, middle, and beginnings. Opposite of what many go through.

Using this premise, I will use this to explore here not my worklife, but my volunteer work for John Edwards '08 and the One America Committee. But let's get to why I'm thinking about it.

The Washington Post published an article entitled "Out of Washington, Edwards Finds Worries Remain" about the aftermath of John Edwards as a politician. It was not an opinion piece, but one which extended an opportunity to JRE to be interviewed and to reflect on the direction of the country since he left the race and for now, public service.

Most of the article is about the attention he paid to poverty or the working poor, and how some believe it was a mistake, or perhaps it was disingenuous. I think it is safe to say that the die hard supporters were drawn to him because he wanted so much to do something very positive for those in poverty. Many of us had grown up in working poor families or had direct experiences with them either as classmates, federal government employees, social workers, teachers, librarians, lawyers, owners who had properties for Section 8 families, or nurses. He and Elizabeth listened to our stories.

To his credit, he jump-started initiatives to drive the conversation in how to have public-private partnerships in helping the working poor (something that Mary Landrieu has yet to prove to this blogger in the aftermath of Katrina). I think the JRE supporters and staffers knew that they were designed to be seeds of progress, but never to be sustained forever by the government, but instead models. When I see this disappointment from a woman who counted on College for Kids in Greene County, NC:

Among those who were taken by surprise was Lavania Edwards, no relation, a pre-kindergarten teacher who is still looking for help to cover the college costs of her son Malik, who graduated from high school last week. "We were really planning on that helping," she said. "I was disappointed and I wondered what happened in that they couldn't continue with the program -- or why no one came out to us with a definite answer. (source: WaPo)

I am sympathetic, but I think Assistant superintendent Patricia McNeill was more realistic when she observed, " many had been bracing for the program's end once Edwards dropped out of the presidential contest." Bear in mind, it happened well after graduation that year, and the funding had been secured for those graduates. But I think Lavania Edwards didn't understand that it was imperative to stop the program when there were no other revenue streams coming in, and especially with an A-bomb (about the affair) about to drop. Yes, her dreams for her son from this program dried up, but there was no reason to pursue other options, such as Pell Grants, etc. And no reason for her child not to do his best anyway. Why: think about Barack and Michelle Obama. Our First Lady talks about this in the public schools in DC frequently. She is the First Mentor for many in our land.

And quite frankly, our Congress and President should do more. They aren't, which is what JRE opins in that WaPo article.

My thoughts when I see an article with a JRE interview that I am pleased about, and when he made it clear he was not interested in a PR campaign for himself to the media, I have to wonder, has he moved towards beginnings or is he still in the Neutral Zone? Do I think he said "goodbye" to Endings, meaning his potential for elective office are over? EE has acknowledged this concept as well, and her book is very much about this same topic. I understood that; the last week's workshop brought it more home to me personally as a guerrilla blogger: one of those originally selected by the campaign (and to help recruit the best) who asked me to blog (mainly debunk comments and posts) and wash the virtual walls of vitriol for the Edwardses, their visions, but also where I stand for things in the US.

I am in the Neutral Zone. It has taken me longer to move forward because of the semi-personal relationships I have with JRE and EE. As BW readers have seen, Elizabeth drops by here. She has only seen me once personally; other times we didn't get a chance to get to chat, but she did it online. With Elizabeth's book, and her interviews, in which I thought were somewhat controversial, I began to move towards a zone of understanding in which my volunteer life in political campaigns was not over, but needing to inch forward and to push others, just as JRE did in the primaries. JRE and EE are spot on about pushing the candidates and those elected to do what the American people want. And I have ,with my fellow JRE supporters. It is the best thing since Obama seems to encourage it, as FDR did, but we have to push harder with a media who is not interested in the ideas, with the story of the day.

I wish I could hug Elizabeth again as I did in 2006 and maybe, I will. I have a business trip to RDU next April, and a couple of supporters and I are discussing getting together to see her store, Red Window. If not, that first hug in Iowa was impressionistic, and I appreciated it so much. Sorry, no pics here, it was on JRE's blog, which has been stripped.

So, back to the swings as transition. I present BW readers with excerpts entitled "The Trapeze Zone" and I think the passage from Warriors of the Heart by Danaan Perry in that blog post sums it up in how I feel about today, my life, and maybe what EE and JRE are going through. I saw it in JRE's interview with WaPo, and why I think Benny's World will be valid for time to come.

"In that edge, all are faced with the often daunting question, “What will I do with the rest of my life?”In his book, Warriors of the Heart, Danaan Perry talks about this edge, which he calls the Trapeze Zone":

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along, or for a few moments in my life I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging towards me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this “new trapeze bar” has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-known bar to move to the next one.
And so it goes. Not often can I say that I believe in politicians. At times, and EE knows this, that I disagreed with the Edwards team in campaign strategies. But that is leadership. And while Obama is providing some of it, I believe in the JRE/One America world when it is still presented to me.

John was asked about his campaign supporters in the interview, and responded this way:

Most of all, he wants his most ardent supporters to believe that the message that drove his campaigns was solid, despite all later revelations about the candidate himself.

"It was real, 100 percent real," he said. "I want them to be proud of what I stood for, and of what the campaign stood for. The stands were honest and sincere and idealistic. They were what America needed then and needs now."

Thank you, JRE for agreeing to the interview. BW readers miss you, but we will keep pushing forward in the transition, with a trapeze swing bar in hand, just as you are doing.

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  • I don't see that the interview did anything to help Edwards. In the article he comes off still being self-interested and out of touch with the reality of his situation.

    He may have intended to raise the issues around poverty but he isn't voice those in need can use right now. He still carries too much baggage and likely will for some time as the other shoe or shoes are still to drop about his affair.

    Until or unless he wants to tell the truth about everything, he should stop the interviews as they do more harm than good.

    Elizabeth Edwards was much more honest and forthcoming about his reality. He should speak to her about what is and is not in the realm of possibility. As always, she will provide his best counsel . . . if only he would listen.

    By Blogger Anonymous, at 8:02 PM  

  • Thanks, Anonymous, for stopping by, to give an opinion here. I think I may disagree in many respects, but I believe you may be the voice for the non-Die-hard supporters, thus you were at the train for Edwards to 2008 in Denver. But disappointed.

    BW readers, we get it.

    By Blogger benny06, at 8:08 PM  

  • I was a die hard for Edwards - drinking his koolaid and defending him. Many people did the same which is likely why the disappointment is go great.

    We'll have to agree to disagree about him at least for the time being. We can agree to wish his family only the best as they continue to go through what must be a very difficult time.

    By Blogger Anonymous, at 8:19 PM  

  • Bless you Benny for keeping the faith - I have never lost it. I just hope that John will reach for that trapeze bar when he swings his way - it seems now more than ever everything he said on the campaign trail as being broken in Washington is true and I wonder if we in our lifetime will have that voice again.

    By Blogger waiting for hope, at 8:26 PM  

  • I disagree with the Benny.
    It is time for us all, that means
    you, John and Elizabeth Edwards,
    and me to dust ourselves off and
    get back in the fight for the "Soul" of America.
    As you can see, with John Ensign and Newt Gingrich being just two recent examples, the other side does not kill their wounded.
    They pick them back up, and use them effectively in the fight.

    By Blogger Cherubim, at 9:17 AM  

  • Actually, I think I did say I was moving forward and pushing Obama and others. John is best off doing his work for global poverty for now, and Elizabeth is still in the fight. She speaks at a Patient Advocacy conference on June 25.

    By Blogger benny06, at 10:35 AM  

  • In an appearance on MSNBC, the author of the Washington Post article said Edwards agreed to the interview to respond to information he had regarding the College for Everyone program and the Fortress / Katrina foreclosures.

    Regarding College for Everyone, Edwards ended the initiative one week before admitting to his affair. According to the article: “Edwards said he had to pull the plug because campaign supporters were less likely to give money to the program once he was out of the race.” The problem with that statement is Edwards was still raising money for the program in May 2008, months after ending his campaign. With a cost of approximately $300,000 per year, some of Edwards’ wealthy friends could have easily kept the program running in the short term. (Fred Baron paid far more than that covering up the affair.)

    Regarding Fortress, when it because public that Fortress, for whom Edwards worked previously, was foreclosing on Katrina victims Edwards said he would raise $100,000 to fund a program run by ACORN to make the 32 homeowners whole. ACORN says they received only $50,000, which Edwards says he personally provided, and they have been unable to find the impacted homeowners, despite the fact some have been identified in the press. Some people were even in touch with ACORN but were not helped. For all the talk about the program on the campaign trail, it would only be reasonable to think the campaign would help locate any other homeowners and confirm that all were receiving assistance. Since the disclosure of the affair, Edwards has certainly had the time to ensure his $50,000 was being used as intended.

    While a 90 minute interview was distilled into one article so there is no way to tell what was said but not included, nothing printed refutes the appearance both programs were campaign rhetoric, or damage control in the Fortress situation, rather than sincere efforts “to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves.” It would have been more productive to use the information provided to take action rather than provide excuses for the failures. It isn’t too late for Edwards to do something positive in these matters and that is the real way to move forward.

    By Blogger Anonymous, at 7:00 AM  

  • Maybe it's time to stop beating JE up. Maybe he's right. He needs to keep his head down and work hard and see what happens.

    If the kid is his he needs to pay. If he ever shows up in public with HER or gets caught in a hotel with HER, he's toast.

    By Blogger oklahomagirl, at 8:05 AM  

  • Some of the posts here read like they you are from hypocritical Republicans.
    I was under the impression that most of you who posted here were Democrats. The Democrats I know stay out of other peoples private lives and are none judgemental

    By Blogger Cherubim, at 11:58 AM  

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