Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Who's The Turkey Now?

Eating Crow on Thanksgiving 

by Nick Paleologos

A week ago tonight, when the reality of what was actually happening started to sink in, I got a call from my daughter. She was crying. And I felt awful. She’s one of three millennials in our family. I had been confidently predicting that America would not let her down.

Boy was I ever was wrong.

Back in August I imagined a future in which Donald Trump, after losing this election, would take the worst of his backers and skulk off to a fringe (but lucrative) corner of our country – leaving the rest of his rational right-leaning supporters (including many members of my own family) sitting around Thanksgiving tables all over America wondering what the heck just happened.

Instead, Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States and I’m the one asking that question. Only twice in the last 125 years have the voters’ picked one candidate for president, and ended up with the other. In 2000, Al Gore beat George W. Bush by a half million votes, and lost. This year, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by more than a million votes. She also lost. I’m not supposed to complain about these outcomes because after all, rules are rules. If I still had a sense of humor, I’d say the election was rigged - by Alexander Hamilton in 1789.

But this isn’t about the Electoral College. It’s about my oldest daughter.

“President” Trump is a very tough pill for her to swallow because his victory flies in the face of everything we’ve ever taught her about decency, civility, empathy and tolerance. Even worse, many people she loves – who themselves have sisters or daughters – voted for a guy who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals because “When you’re a star, you can do anything.”

People she admires – who pride themselves on their patriotism – voted for a guy who never served this country, who unapologetically disrespected a Gold Star Family, and who publicly ridiculed a decorated Vietnam War veteran and POW.

Maybe there is no rational explanation for why one out of every four Trump voters readily admitted that their candidate was unqualified to be president, yet voted for him anyway.

But even with that, Trump barely bested Mitt Romney's vote total from four years ago. So how then to explain, without crushing my daughter’s faith in democracy, that a guy who is a million votes less popular than Hillary Clinton, is now President of the United States?

For starters, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror. It certainly is true that – as between Clinton and Trump this year – a clear majority supported Hillary for president. But under our system, that (plus four bucks) will get you a grande cafĂ© mocha at Starbucks. Of all people, Hillary should have known that.

So how does she manage to lose (albeit barely) Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and maybe Michigan? Let’s start with Hillary’s first significant decision as the Democratic nominee: her choice for Vice-President. Don’t get me wrong. I like Tim Kaine. But America’s middle class is hurting. Big time. In eight short years, the federal budget surplus and booming economy that Bill Clinton handed over to the GOP in 2000 (the year Bush became president after the voters chose Gore) deteriorated into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. That’s what deregulation, dumb wars, and welfare-for-the-rich gave us.

Yet even as Obama slowly and methodically dug us out from under the Republican rubble, the crooks who caused it walked away with all the money. Millions of democratic voters who lost their jobs, homes and pensions watched with increasing anger as tax dollars meant to help them went instead to the very people who screwed them.

If you’re the Democratic nominee who accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from this corrupt crowd, you damn well better pick a running mate who can speak convincingly to the pain they caused.

Bernie Sanders spoke to that pain. Elizabeth Warren spoke to that pain. But Hillary simply lacked the boldness to pick either one of them. As a result, this election was reduced to a choice between Trump’s sexism and Clinton’s emails. Is there any doubt now that if Bernie were on the ticket, Hillary would have won the Electoral College in addition to the popular vote? I don’t think so.

In the end, her caution killed her.

Did she trade on her celebrity to earn obscene speaking fees from institutions I can’t stand? Yes. Did she make a bad (but not illegal) call using a private email server? Yes and she owned up to, and apologized for it – many times. Has anyone, anywhere – republican or democrat – found anything wrong about her handling of Benghazi? Absolutely not.

At the end of the day, she is a woman who - over the course of a distinguished public career - has been accused of everything and convicted of nothing. On her worst day, her public behavior has been infinitely more honorable than his.

So this is what I told my daughter.

The good news is that the American people did in fact chose the classier, more qualified candidate. The bad news is that our system gave us the other guy.

Unfortunately, Hillary spent her entire campaign relentlessly hammering home a single message: Trump is a despicable human being. Congratulations. Mission accomplished. What she failed to do was to give voice to the justifiable rage of middle class Democrats who filled football stadiums for Bernie Sanders.

The result? President Donald Trump.

Does his election mean the end of the world as we know it? No.

Trump’s first act as President-Elect was to change Steve Bannon’s official title from Racist Fearmonger to Senior White House Advisor. Not a great start.

On the other hand, in his first exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, the priorities he outlined to Leslie Stahl included: huge infrastructure spending; preserving the popular elements of the Affordable Care Act; and avoiding costly, stupid wars. If you closed your eyes, it sounded an awful lot like a third Obama term.

I’ve closely watched and grossly underestimated this guy for the past two years. He cares about one thing. Ratings. He wants to be popular. Squeaking out a late-night Electoral College victory will never cut it for The Trumpster. Being President of a country in which Hillary Clinton is over a million votes more popular than he is, must kill him. Only one thing will satisfy him now - convincingly winning the popular vote that he lost so embarrassingly in 2016. He’s now got four years to make that happen.

Taking health care away from 20 million people won’t get him those votes. Sending American boys into Syria won’t get him those votes. Privatizing social security, cutting taxes on the rich, and letting Wall Street run wild, won’t get him those votes. Continuing to disrespect women and minorities won’t get him those votes.

So maybe, just maybe, the folks who should be worried are Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Because if we’ve learned anything about the President-Elect, we know he cares about one thing, and one thing only – Donald J. Trump. And his breathtaking narcissism may end up being unexpectedly good news for Democrats. We’ll see.

In the meantime, as I eat my crow this Thanksgiving, I don’t want to hear anything more about the Comey letter. The numbers speak for themselves. Trump didn’t win this election. Hillary lost it. And the only question left is this.

What will he do with her mandate?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fair. Balanced. And Funny.


Hillary Clinton Voters:
35% - People who agree with her multiple contradictory positions on the issues
21% - Liberals intent on voting against their own interests
11% - Pantsuit enthusiasts
11% - Sane Republicans
9% - Gun store owners aware that gun sales spike under democratic presidents
9% - Citizens who rate "Untrustworthiness" as the quality they most look for in a president 
2.5% - Bored housewives who do whatever Oprah tells them to
.5% - Graduates of Trump University who learned their lesson
.99999% - People who actually like Hillary
.00001% - Paul Ryan

Donald Trump Voters:
31% - Conservatives intent on voting against their own interests
23.9% - The "poorly educated"
14% - Comb-over enthusiasts
11% - Evangelicals waiting for end-of-the-world prophesies, eager to nudge things along. 
5% - New Yorkers who just want Trump to get the hell out of town
5% - Unemployed wall builders
3% - Pervert fathers who also "fantasise" about dating their daughters
2% - Kansans hopeful that Trump's climate change denial will leave them with beachfront property
1% - Muslim-Americans looking for a free, one-way ticket to the Middle East
1% - Orange Americans
.1% - People who actually like Donald Trump 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Giving Thanks...

GOP Autopsy: 2.0
by Nick Paleologos

It's Thanksgiving 2016.

A beaten and bitter Donald Trump - blaming his humiliating defeat on a "corrupt and disgusting media coupled with a rigged election system" - has just acquired the faltering Fox News Network and renamed it TNN (after guess who) so that his devoted followers on the rabid fringe will continue to have a steady stream of nonsense – complete with a healthy dose of Trump-branded products (made abroad, of course).

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton – stepping over the scattered shards of a shattered glass ceiling - is preparing for America’s next historic presidency, while trying to strike that pitch-perfect balance between legitimate expectations on the left and groundless fears on the right. As grandma passes the sausage stuffing (my favorite), I can hear bewildered cousins – up from South Carolina – asking the question of the year, "What the heck just happened?"

That’s how it will start – at Thanksgiving tables across America - as the remnants of the rational right finally face up to the demands of their country – made first in 2008, then in 2012, and yet again in 2016 - only this time with a force, fury, and finality the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades. Only then will the lessons sink in at long last.

In her own way, Hillary’s frustratingly bi-polar campaign – embracing Bernie Sanders style economic populism while simultaneously winking at Wall Street – is actually a pretty good metaphor for exactly the kind of mixed economy that Americans yearn for. A time – well chronicled in Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker’s recent (and excellent) book “American Amnesia” – when both government and business grew symbiotically. The government existed to make sure the game was played fairly on a well-maintained field, while business delivered great products and services – courtesy of workers who earned good wages and then spent their increasing incomes on those same products and services.  Everybody wins.

At least that’s how it worked until organized business decided to viciously turn on their government – which is when everything (and I mean everything) went kerflooey. Shared prosperity wasn’t enough for these modern day Robber Barons who longed for a return to the low tax/no regulation Roaring Twenties - as if the Great Depression never happened.

Gone were Republicans like President Eisenhower, who built the interstate highway system with taxpayer dollars and famously declared: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws, you would not hear of that party again. There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can do these things - among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman (but) their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Banished were Republicans like President Nixon, who opened up relations between the US and Communist China, increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and created the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ostracized were Republicans like President Bush (The Elder), who gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Clean Air Act.

For heaven’s sake, even the famously government-hating Republican President Reagan said: “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have…made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying 10% of his salary – that’s crazy.” Today, Ted Cruz would dismiss him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

It took thirty years of living with policies imposed by these uncompromising, anti-government nihilists to finally realize that Ike was right, “their number is negligible and they are stupid.”  Let’s face it. When government screws up, it means that – in trying to help as many citizens as possible - a bunch of people get benefits they don’t deserve. That’s wrong to be sure, and must be condemned and corrected by business leaders and liberals alike. But when business screws up – while trying to enrich a greedy few at the expense of everyone else – the consequences are much, much worse. Millions of people lose their jobs, homes, pensions, health, and healthcare. The time has now come for decent conservatives to join do-gooders in calling out this atrocious behavior.

Professors Hacker and Pierson said it best when they concluded that we’ll never fully enjoy the enormous benefits of the “mixed economy” again, until the rational right realizes that “What’s good for America is good for business,” and not the other way around.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Historic Hillary's Big Moment

by Nick Paleologos

Hillary Clinton has all but formally won the Democratic nomination for president – a historic achievement. The good news for her is that she’ll have my vote in November. That bad news for me is that she knows it. The only question remaining is how soon—if ever—will she make an earnest effort to prevent those of us who were “Feeling The Bern” from feeling just plain burned?

For openers, she’s got to loose the attitude that the Sanders wing of the party is made up of hopelessly unrealistic idealists. It is not. Many of us who were fueling Bernie’s campaign with an occasional five-dollar contribution, are middle class baby boomers who are furious at Wall Street – and for good reason. Wall Street raped us. Callously. Painfully. Unapologetically. Worse still, the perpetrator has not only avoided jail time but has brazenly taken our friend Hillary out on several very expensive dates.

At the very least we expect her to show some remorse for that misstep, and to pledge that it will never happen again. She’s done neither. That’s a problem. And invoking President Obama’s coziness to Wall Street as a defense for her own indifference to appearances is also unacceptable. Obama’s failure to deal more harshly with those who crashed our economy and crippled America’s middle class, continues to be the largest stain on his otherwise stellar presidency.

Hillary’s tone is very important. For example, on the issue of universal background checks she has exhibited genuine, heartfelt outrage at the major roadblock to progress—the NRA. When she speaks of fixing that problem, she’s not qualifying her position. To her credit she is firm, forthright, and unequivocal. The parents and loved ones of all those needlessly dead kids—as well as the rest of right-thinking America—will be better off for her sincere advocacy.

We need to hear that same passion from her about Wall Street’s transgressions. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are not crazy commies. They clearly see what the rest of America is rapidly discovering. The dragon that is Wall Street -- with the unconscionable assistance of our elected leaders -- has broken free of the chains placed upon it in the aftermath of the Great Depression, and for more than three decades has ravaged the economic landscape of middle class America.

In 1980, Wall Street radically changed its mission and focus from investing in the production and exchange of goods, to the unregulated buying and selling of assets. Restrictions on S&L’s? Gone. Rules to stabilize mortgage markets? Gone. Let corporations buy back their own shares to raise stock prices? No problem. Allow hostile takeovers of established companies using massive new borrowing? Sure. And while we’re at it, why not make all that debt deductable as a business expense under the corporate tax code? Yeah. That’s the ticket. What could possibly go wrong?

In just the first decade of all that deranged deregulation, one third of America’s Fortune 500 companies ceased to exist. The ones that were left standing completely abandoned any and all deference to: long-term growth; worker well-being; customer satisfaction; and community responsibility. Instead, they slavishly devoted themselves to a single goal, short-term shareholder returns. In that relentless quarterly pursuit, greedy CEO’s and unscrupulous financiers got rich beyond their wildest dreams, while average workers—those who didn’t get laid off--saw no pay increases at all for decades.

And as a rotten little cherry on top, the entire accumulated home equity of America’s middle class--literally trillions of dollars--was wiped out overnight.

In 1982, Forbes Magazine first published their list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Their combined net worth (in current dollars) was $225 billion. That year, the list contained only two billionaires. By 2014, every single member of the Forbes 400 was a billionaire. And that still left out another 115 billionaires who didn’t make the cutoff—which was $1.55 billion. The combined net worth of the 2014 Forbes 400 was $2.3 trillion, or ten times what it was in 1982 – after adjusting for inflation.

We’re not asking Hillary to slay that dragon, just to put the chains back on so it will once again work for us and not against us. Back in January, Hillary said, “I’m not interested in ideas that look good on paper but can’t work in reality.” Memo to the Presumptive Democratic Nominee for President: “Fairness” is one of America’s best ideas, and it works both on paper and in reality.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Liz Warren Takes The Gloves Off

Donald Trump on making millions off the misery of others:  "I'm a businessman. That's what we're supposed to do!" 
--May 24, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

With Apologies To My Kids, Who Much Prefer Miranda's Version!

History Has Its Eyes On You

Commencement Address to Rowan University

College of Communication & Creative Arts, and

College of Performing Arts

By Nicholas Paleologos
May 12, 2016

Thank-you very much President Houshmond, Dean Pastin, Dean Arnold, distinguished faculty and Trustees, friends & family of this outstanding Class of 2016. I first want to acknowledge the huge debt of gratitude we owe to Henry Rowan – who passed away in December. This son of Ridgewood shocked the world in 1992 by making the largest gift ever -- $100 million — not to MIT, where he got his Degree, but to a little known New Jersey public college that was founded in the same year he was born.

Mr. Rowan’s enduring legacy to the university that now bears his name, not only made today possible for you, but also stands as a perpetual challenge to us: never to forget the importance of public higher education to the future of our country.

Henry Rowan was part of what has come to be known as “The Greatest Generation.” One by one, these parents of Baby Boomers are passing away.

My dad was one of them. When I was a kid, I had no idea what life was like for him when he was a kid. Dad’s parents fled a civil war in Greece to make a new life in America — specifically, Lowell Massachusetts during the Great Depression. He grew up in a three story tenement with no hot water. On his first day of school, he didn’t speak a word of English.

Dad passed away a couple of years ago. And like so many of my fellow Baby Boomers who’ve lost their parents, I think about him a lot. About the country he left me. About the country I’m leaving to my three millennials.

Dad was nine years old when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president. Unemployment was at 25%. Two million Americans were flat-out homeless. And every bank in 32 of 48 states had slammed the doors shut on their depositors. Even so, in his first inaugural address, Roosevelt reassured us that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt didn’t waste any time. The country had work that needed to be done and there were millions of jobless citizens willing to do it. So the President started the Civilian Conservation Corps. My dad lied about his age to get into the CCC, and was immediately put to work at a state forest up in Vermont where he earned a dollar a day, most of which was sent back home to his mother – my immigrant grandmother.

Not surprisingly, when Roosevelt sounded the call to arms in December of 1941, my father was only too happy to return the favor by heading off to the Pacific to fight in WWII. When the war ended, dad stepped off his PT Boat - proud and penniless - with just his service dress blues and the brain in his head.

At that moment, Roosevelt could have given dad a pat on the back and sent him home to the hardscrabble streets of Lowell. But the president had something else in mind. College. Not just for dad’s benefit, but for America’s. And it didn’t matter to Roosevelt that dad couldn’t afford it. The president insisted that the country pay for dad’s college education.

Under the GI Bill, Arthur Paleologos – together with eight million of his fellow veterans -- went to colleges; vocational schools; or got low interest mortgages and loans to buy homes and start businesses. And all they did in return was create the Great American Middle Class.

Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945. But I grew up in the America he built – a country that could send my dad to college, build an interstate highway system, put a man on the moon – and most important: a country where both dad’s income AND his boss’ increased at roughly the same pace -- because everybody paid their fair share of taxes; because the banks weren’t allowed to gamble away dad’s savings; and because the government raised mostly enough money to pay for the programs people wanted.

That country started disappearing when I was in my late twenties. I just didn’t know it at the time. A new president, Ronald Reagan – in his first inaugural address – took dead aim at Roosevelt’s America, “Government,” he famously declared, “is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.”

And for the next three decades, with precious little pushback, America did a complete 180: The higher your income, the lower your tax rate. The harder you work and the more you produce, the less you keep for yourself and your family. Corporations are your friends. The government is your enemy.

Until everything came crashing down - right around the time you started high school. For those of you who are fans of Frank Capra’s classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” imagine falling asleep in 1978 in Bedford Falls…and waking up thirty years later - in Pottersville!

Just like in that movie, the great American dream of the great American Middle Class was built on the solid foundation of home ownership.  Until one day, the value of all those homes – literally trillions of dollars – was wiped out -- overnight.

Muslims didn’t do that. Mexicans didn’t do that. Wall Street did. But you already know that. How could you not? You’re graduating right smack in the middle of a huge national argument over the role of government -- which is a little strange when you think about it.

Because the Declaration of Independence – right up front -- tells us that the “role of government” is self-evident: namely, to secure your right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That last one – the Pursuit of Happiness - has been the subject of every presidential election since my father was 9 years old.

Believe it or not, every four years since 1932 the same two people have been on the ballot for president. They just had different names and different faces. But if you look very closely you’ll see that it has always been same choice between two very different visions of America: Roosevelt’s and Reagan’s.

Roosevelt believed that the best way for government to secure your right to the pursuit of happiness was to – as much as possible -- remove fear from your life. For Roosevelt, fear makes us less productive citizens; less likely to take risks; less entrepreneurial; less forward-looking. Roosevelt believed that a basic pre-requisite for the pursuit of happiness in America is freedom from fear.

In Reagan’s America fear is a motivator. Fear of losing your job, of getting sick, of being destitute in your old age – all that fear makes us work harder…makes us more productive. And - at the end of the day - if we still can’t afford the cost of staying healthy or of educating our kids, well that’s our fault—not our country’s.

For Roosevelt, fear is bad. Fear holds us back.

For Reagan, fear is good. Fear moves us forward.

For thirty years, my generation basically bought into the “fear is good” argument. But now, we see things a bit more clearly. Maybe it’s because we’ve lost our jobs, or our homes, or our pensions, or our ability to pay for our kids to go to college.

Maybe it’s because billions of dollars in profits aren’t showing up in our paychecks anymore. Instead they’re paying for 30-second commercials designed to con us into believing that money equals speech, that corporations are people, and craziest of all: that wealth should be taxed at a lower rate than work.

Speaking of fear – this year I guess we’re supposed to be afraid of immigrants. That really kills me. “God Bless America” -- for heaven’s sake -- was written by a Jewish immigrant who fled persecution in Russia in the 1890’s. His name was Israel Isidore Baline. You know him by his American name -- Irving Berlin.

Which brings me to the story of a young Hispanic couple who grew up in New York City in the nineties – the 1990’s. They first met at Hunter College High School. She was a sophomore, a math wiz, a great dancer, and very opinionated.

He was a senior, a theater nerd who performed in almost every school play, and always carried a boom box around with him. He noticed her in high school, but never quite got up the courage to talk to her.

After graduation, he went off to Wesleyan College and picked right up where he left off – writing, directing and acting in a bunch of college shows, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. He also found time to start an improvisational comedy troupe. After getting his degree from Wesleyan, he went back to his old High School and worked as a 7th grade English teacher.

By that time, she had already graduated from high school and was well on her way to a bachelor’s degree at MIT – which eventually led to a pretty good job as a scientist at Johnson & Johnson in Skillman, New Jersey.

While she was at J&J, he moved into an apartment with some friends. His improv group was making a name for itself, plus he was writing lyrics on the subway and performing at bar mitzvahs to pay the rent.

Then, in the summer of 2005, while catching up with fellow Hunter graduates on Facebook, he came across her profile. He sent her an instant message inviting her to his next show. She showed up and was really impressed.

Still, he was so shy around her that he asked a friend to get her phone number. Then he called to invite her to another show. And yes, she showed up again. But this time, after the show, they discovered that Hunter College High School and their Hispanic heritage wasn’t all they had in common. There was also Grand Theft Auto, Jay-Z and Marc Anthony.

That night, he told her about how -- as a 7 year-old kid growing up in Washington Heights he saw his first Broadway show -- Les Miz -- and fell in love with the theater. He told her about how, on his 17th birthday, he saw Rent – which changed his entire view about how theater can speak to the real lives of people like themselves.

It wasn’t long before the couple became not only best friends, but also fixtures in each other’s lives. Then lightning struck. He scored the starring role in a Broadway show — a lifelong dream. She quit J&J to go to Fordham University to pursue a newfound passion of hers – the law.

In 2010, the couple had a storybook wedding. At their reception, he and his family surprised her with a heartfelt, flash mob rendition of “To Life” – the great production number from Fiddler on the Roof. And yes, this Jewish story of family and tradition, resonated deeply with these second generation Latinos. You can see for yourself on YouTube. Their wedding video went viral.

But I’m telling you their story for a different reason.

A few years before they got married, he decided to take some time off from his 8-performance-a-week Broadway schedule, to coincide with her semester break from law school. He was making decent money and decided to treat her to a vacation in Mexico.

At the airport terminal, he bought a book that happened to catch his eye, started reading it on the plane, and couldn’t put it down.  

When she asked him to explain exactly what was it about this 700 page historical biography that so captivated his imagination, it literally took him a whole year to answer that question in his own words.

These words:

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman,

dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean

by providence, impoverished, in squalor,

grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The 10-dollar founding father without a father

got a lot farther by working a lot harder,

by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter,

by fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter.

And every day while slaves were being slaughtered

and carted away across the waves,

he struggled and kept his guard up.

Inside, he was longing for something to be a part of,

the brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow or barter.

Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned,

our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain,

put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain,

and he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain.

Well, the word got around, they said, “This kid’s insane, man”

took up a collection just to send him to the mainland.

“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came,

and the world’s gonna know your name.

What’s your name, man?”

Alexander Hamilton.

Just last month, for writing those words – which became the opening rap of his theatrical masterpiece, HAMILTON -- Lin-Manuel Miranda won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Last week, HAMILTON earned 16 Tony Award nominations – the most ever.

It was the story of Hamilton the immigrant that touched Miranda’s heart.

He said, “I recognize people I know in Hamilton. Not only my father who came here at the age of 18 from Puerto Rico, but also the stories of so many other immigrants who have to work twice as hard to get half as far.”

For Miranda, Alexander Hamilton’s immigrant story opened the door to something much, much bigger – the story of the creation of our country.

“I had to make the Founding Fathers human for myself.” he said.  “And I think what is touching a nerve -- is other people are finding the humanity within them as well. “

Hamilton is so much more than just the first Hip-Hop/Rap Musical on Broadway. It is a game-changing piece of theater.

Today that couple, Lin-Manuel Miranda and his wife Vanessa Nadal, have an eighteen-month-old son. Miranda is now 36, and the latest in a long line of first and second-generation American songwriters who have shaped the way we see ourselves -- a line that stretches all the way back to, Irving Berlin.

Miranda discovered one more important revelation in that Hamilton biography: “The ideological fights of the Founders” he said, “are the same fights we are having today. What is the role of government in our lives?”

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that my dad’s generation answered that question a lot better than my own. For some reason, we contracted an acute case of American Amnesia – where the lessons our parents learned in the aftermath of the Great Depression were first ignored, and then ultimately forgotten by us.

Now it’s your turn. You are graduating into a country where the fundamental assumptions my father lived by, simply don’t apply any more.

In dad’s America, Kodak - the great camera company - at its peak was valued at more than $30 billion and employed 145,000 people.

In your America, Instagram is also valued at more than $30 billion…but they only employ 13 people. You live in a country where less and less “work” is required to create more and more wealth.

In trying to figure out the appropriate relationship between work and wealth in the new America, you get to say what “the pursuit of happiness” means for your generation.

You have the opportunity to re-imagine your country as a place where people work – not just to make a living, but to make a life worth living. Getting to that place will require a whole lot of creative thinking.

Along the way, beware of folks trying to distract you with terrifying tales of Muslims under your mattress. And remember that while the names, and faces, and parties may change, your choice will always be the same.

Hope or fear?

And I don’t know about you, but I tend to do very stupid things when I’m scared to death.

Each one of you came to Rowan blessed with special gifts -- which you developed and sharpened here. You are artists. You look at things that everybody else looks at, and you see things that nobody else sees.

That unique ability -- to see truth and communicate it in ways that touch peoples’ souls – is what makes the artist the single, most important person in any successful and prosperous democracy.

America wants you to be the best artists you can be.

America needs you to be the best citizen-artists you can be.


I just want you to be...consequential.

Look around. Look around.

How lucky you are to be alive right now.

History is happening.

And History has its eyes on you.