Archive for the ‘ People ’ Category

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the MLK “I Have a Dream” Speech, I think about the many schools I visit as an author in low income, African American communities and Hispanic Farmworker communities, and I realize we have a long way to go. If racists could experience what I have over and over again, they could no longer be racists. Close your eyes and you cannot discern color or wealth. Listen to the children’s questions, dreams, fears and hopes. They’re the same no matter whether you are at a school for the affluent or at a school with 100% subsidized meals. There are curious kids, kids who hug me, shy kids, misbehaving kids, geniuses and learning disabled kids everywhere I go, no matter the income, no matter the race, no matter the nationality. I’ve discovered the best way to do my part to combat racism is to not tolerate it. I encourage you too to speak up every time someone makes a racist comment. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way yet to go. Thank you MLK for having the courage to speak up. . . .

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

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Ben Franklin Image in the Public Domain

It’s an important day – Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Day. These events bring to mind the many great people who have contributed to America and the entire world. It took me a while, but I came up with my wish list of the Top Three Historical Figures (no longer living) that I would love to interview today (if I could bring them back to life, of course). And if I could interview them, what 10 questions would I ask each of them? No question would be off limits.

Martin Luther King

  1. Where did you get your courage to stand up for what you believed in?
  2. Looking back on your life, is there anything significant you wish you would had done differently?
  3. What are your thoughts on the riots that ensued following your assassination, since you so often spoke about the importance of peace?
  4. What do you think of the state of racism and equality today as compared to the 1960s?
  5. Are you surprised that we first elected an African American US President in 2008?
  6. How would you rate the progress of America as it compares to your “I Have a Dream” speech?
  7. Did you ever imagine that your speech would be so eternally regarded and a national holiday would be established in your name?
  8. Were you faithful to your wife?
  9. If you were alive today, what would you be doing?
  10. What advice do you have for those out there who are trying to muster up the courage to stand up for what they believe in?

Benjamin Franklin

  1. What of your many accomplishments are you most proud?
  2. What is your opinion of the amendments that have been made to the US Constitution since you signed it?
  3. Who in your opinion is the best US President in history and why?
  4. Who was the mother of your illegitimate son, William?
  5. When you discovered electricity, did you realize how much your findings would change the world?
  6. What invention that has taken place since your death do you most respect?
  7. How does your list of Thirteen Virtues hold up in the world today, and would change that list in any way now?
  8. How do you feel about the current state of education at the highly regarded University of Pennsylvania, the school you founded it in the 1700s and the challenges students face today getting into the top universities?
  9. What was your reaction when you learned of the digital age and e-publishing?
  10. If you were alive today, what would you be doing?

Albert Einstein

  1. What happened to your daughter, Leiserl?
  2. Did you know at the time of your theories that you would change the world of science as you did?
  3. Can you explain your theories of relativity in layman’s terms?
  4. What of your many accomplishments are you most proud?
  5. What is your opinion about how the science of physics has progressed (or not progressed) since your death?
  6. If you could change anything you did in your life what would it be and why would you change it?
  7. What most surprises you about the changes in technology in the world since your death and how could that help you with your work?
  8. Why do you suppose there is such a shortage of scientists in America and the world as a whole these days?
  9. What do you have to say about how your brain was taken without permission from your family after your death to be studied?
  10. If you were alive, what would you be doing today?

Those are my top three choices for interviews with historical figures. If I could expand my list, I’d add:

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abe Lincoln
  • King Henry VIII
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Frederick Douglas
  • Freddy Mercury
  • Rod Serling
  • Ayn Rand
  • William Shakespeare
  • Grace Kelly

Who would you interview if you could, and what would you ask?








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Photo courtesy of Frank Toral

Please read my article on about Frank Toral, an extraordinary Fort Lauderdale attorney who established The Toral Family Foundation to help people and their families challenged by Traumatic Brain Injury.

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Please read my interview with science writer Beverly McMillan, author or A Day in the Life of Your Body. You will learn about all the work it takes to write scientific books and how fascinating the process is to create these educational titles. I now have ever greater respect for people who write these books and educate the world with their knowledge!

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Today is Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. A few months ago I reviewed a terrific children’s book about Dickens on Good Reads with Ronna.

Dickens’ Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth, England has a long list of events to celebrate this milestone.

When I was in England attending the University of London for a semester, I got this amazing poster of Dickens’ characters, which is on the wall in my office. It came with a legend that lists who all the characters are. I cherish this!

Happy Birthday Charles!

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This is a blog worth subscribing to . . . The Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation

Jeff and his Sherpa atop the Summit of Mount Everest, May 14, 2011

If you love inspiring stories, you will be thrilled with this one. Jeff Gottfurcht was the first person with rheumatoid arthritis to climb Mount Everest. Right now he is climbing Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America, and his blog is documenting his progress every day. Jeff is the founder of a wish-granting charity for children with arthritis, and he climbs to bring awareness to his cause.

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Darwin, AKA Dardie, Chocolate Standard Poodle XXL

Having a huge and adorable dog is really an attention-getter. Sometimes I enjoy being stopped and answering all the questions people have about Darwin when we walk together. But literally, for every block I walk, I get stopped a minimum of 4 times.

People slow down in their cars and yell stuff out the window at me.  One car’s driver was staring at Darwin and not paying attention to a large curb. She tore a big chunk out of her car and ended up dragging a side panel under the car. Another driver failed to stop at a busy intersection, because he was fixated on Darwin. He almost plowed into oncoming traffic. He stopped in time, but his car spun completely around. Many drivers also pull up behind us (off the road) suddenly and without warning, scaring the heck out of both of us (just to see the dog and ask questions). I know my pup is special and darling and big, but he is not the only standard poodle in this country.

Here’s a few comments I’ve received from strangers:

  • “What kind of exotic breed is that?”  Me: “A poodle, actually one of the more common breeds.”
  • “Now yours is a toy poodle, right? And there are two larger sizes of poodles, right?” Me: “You are kidding, right? This dog is 5 ft. 3 inches from the top of his head to his feet. You believe there are 2 larger sizes – perhaps a pony and a Clydesdale?”
  • “What kind of mammal is that you have on that leash?” Me: “I sure hope it is a canine, or the more familiar word, dog. “
  • “I have to ask, are you a FULL-sized person?” Me: “I have to answer that I am somewhat offended. But yes, I am a small, full-sized person and this is a large, full-sized dog.”
  • “Aren’t you terrified of your own dog? He is humongous!” “Me: “Watch as I pry open the dog’s mouth and stick my head in there. Can you tell that I am not afraid?”
  • “What the F is that? You’ve got some big SHI- there!” Me: “My dog is not impressed with your limited vocabulary.”
  • “What a gorgeous animal!” Me: “Thank you. I work out a lot and watch what I eat, but how do you like my dog?”

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Please read my interview with Jeffrey Gottfurcht, the first person with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to attempt to climb Mount Everest. You are sure to be as inspired as I was when I heard his story! Jeff is the founder of the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation (JGCAF) and an amazing athlete.


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What can racism possibly have to do with dogs, you ask? I never thought about it myself until I got my second standard poodle. My first standard was Gigi, a mild mannered adorable, fluffy, loving 51-lb female dog. She stood 24 inches from the shoulder to the ground. Unfortunately we lost our Gigi to cancer just before her 11th birthday.

No matter where we took our dog, people of all races and sizes were terrified of her. It was common for us to see people run away from her or cross a street just to avoid walking by her.

Now we have Darwin, a horse-sized chocolate brown standard boy. His is HUGE. He stands 29 inches from his shoulder to the ground and weighs 85 lbs. He is about 70% larger than Gigi was. So one would assume people would be afraid of him. Wrong! People can’t get enough of Darwin. We get stopped by just about everyone who walks or even drives past us. People get out of their cars and bicyclists get off their bikes to see Darwin. Darwin is gentle like Gigi, but much more intimidating to look at. And his bark is much deeper and louder. Yet, people near and far come right up to him and pet him with no fear.

From my experience, people are much more likely to be afraid of a black dog than a brown dog.  What a shame. They likely do not even realize it. Isn’t that the same thing as racism?

If you don’t believe me, go out and get yourself a black dog and a dog of another color and try it out for yourself.





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You all remember Kevin Huo, the amazing 5th grader who won 1st Place in our “I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest!” Contest – 4th-5th Grade Category. Well now Kevin has done it again. He just returned from Washington DC  where he received the River of Words Environmental Art & Poetry “One Square Block” Grand Prize Award.

“Our goal is to help children become informed, engaged and inspired citizens of the places they live,” added River of Words co-founder and executive director, Pamela Michael. River of Words (ROW) is a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting literacy, creative expression and community awareness of our most critical environmental concern: water. It was co-founded by U.S. Poet Laureate (1995-1997) Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael to help young people make a personal and lasting connection to the environment.

Kevin’s Entry, Birds Over the Bay depicts birds, inspired by the artist’s memories of seeing ducks in his yard and birds flying over the sea near his CA home.  You can’t help but smile when you see Kevin’s artwork. He uses vibrant colors and captures nature in such an inspiring and mature way. This is just one of many awards Kevin has one for his artwork. And he”s only 11 years old! Click here to read our interview with Kevin, which was published in January.

row Huo Birds Over the Bay

Birds Over the Bay

For the Grand Prize Award, Kevin received a trip to the River of Words Environmental Art & Poetry Award, Ceremony, where he attended a luncheon and public reading at US Capitol –  The Library of Congress – on June 30, 2010 The ceremony was emceed by River of Words co-founder, former US Poet Laureate,  Robert Hass, recent winner of the both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

After the ceremony, Kevin visited and met with California Senator Barbara Boxer in the Capitol, Washington DC, where he presented his 2010 One Square Block grand prize & 2010 River of Words Watershed Art & Poetry winning art work to Senator Boxer.

June 30 2010 Picture with Senator Barbara Boxer at Capitol Washington DC

Kevin and his parents got to meet CA Senator Barbara Boxer following the awards ceremony

Kevin is not just an artist, but a true environmentalist.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is looking forward to Kevin’s next artistic masterpiece.

Congratulations Kevin!

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