Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, A pause to reflect on the year

2012, Hong Kong

The last day of 2011 gave me time to pause and look back over the past 12 months and far beyond into the mists of decades past. The year 2011 has been marked with personal satisfaction, in my professional life as I measured the successes in introducing my students to a history they had missed learning about, or even considered relevant in todays me, myself world. Several other events occurred during the past year that have been rewarding.  Being invited to become a contributing analysis for Wikistrat  a "Next generation strategy" enterprise has been rewarding and provided an opportunity to join a community of analysis and experts who will provide insight on a host of global issues in the coming years.

2011, also saw a favorite project move from the planning stage to a reality, as the US Navy awarded the USS Iowa BB-61 to the Pacific Battleship Center headed by Robert Kent and supported by a volunteer task force of committed citizens. The ship is currently berthed in Richmond, CA as it is being prepared to be moved to it's new home at pier 87 in San Pedro, former home of the Pacific Fleet prior to World War II. The ship's new mission is two fold, first to provide a supplemental education for K-12 classes, and providing a "living" ship museum, recreating "at sea" experiences.

USS Iowa, Heading on a new mission

Tim Heatherington, RIP

Looking further back in time, one is immediately drawn to 2001 and the events of September 11, and how it has influenced and touched people across the globe; especially the families of those who lost their lives on that terrible day, and in conflicts that have scarred each day since.  2011 saw a film, recognized for capturing the experience of the common soldier win an Academy Award for best documentary, and a few months later, see the loss of the filmmaker, Tim Hetherington while he was covering the rebellion in Libya. A silver lining that came about because of the movie, was gaining the  friendship of the film's publicist, Kanani Fong, who besides being a fellow blogger; shares many of the same world views about being involved instead of being a passenger on this big blue marble. She and her husband David, a surgeon who joined the Army after having a successful private practice for 25 years, are two outstanding examples of my fellow Americans stepping forward and being counted.

December 7, 1941

The attack on Pearl Harbor seventy years ago this month, has been compared to September 11, 2001 as a transformational event in American history. But, if we use the same measurement of time to see what changed in the decade after the event, and compare the year 1951 to 2011, we see such a difference. In 1951, we were in midst of a very bloody Korean War, unemployment was only 3.3% and people had money to spend. Communism was the major threat and the Cold War was in it's infancy, only to end in 1991 another first year of a new decade. Today, we seem at times to be struggling along, blinded by the same hubris and self-centered navel gazing that foretold the decline of other great powers. I don't hold that view to be the same for America due to our ability to re-purpose ourselves in the arena of innovation that stems from being a continental nation, filled and re-filled with people seeking new avenues to advance mankind. Conflict is natural, as is the innate human trait to find the best way forward.

Kathy Vo, Founder of Pre-health Alliance

Returning to the opening paragraph, and my reference to the students in my classes who ranged from just out of high school, to adults in their mature years. Each one had their own goals, but shared the same vision of improving their chances by furthering their education and in turn, to see a better future for their children. This is in contrast to the belief that many Americans are fearful of, given the current status of our economy, and lack of national commitment to the myths and realities that drove out nation forward. More proof that the nation is producing a new generation of people committed to a better future, can be found in the most unlikely places. I wrote earlier about a chance meeting in my dentists office of the daughter of immigrants who fled the aftermath of the fall of South Vietnam. Over the months since our chance encounter, I came to learn that this young woman had founded a club, the Pre-health Alliance at her university. The club's mission is to spread awareness in the community about health related issues by sponsoring health fairs and health awareness events across Southern California. Her commitment to being involved, doesn't end there. As she prepares for medical school, she recently told me that she has been working with a group of doctors to found a free clinic that is set to open in April 2012. She added that she hopes to take over the clinic herself, once she begins to practice medicine. I don't write this to make her seem like a superwoman, but to serve as an example of how new blood is the lifeblood of this nation and as we look forward, we can be grateful for people who strive to make a difference instead of treading water.

As 2011 ends, and 2012 opens to usher in the more of the same and many new challenges and opportunities, I am reinforced in my belief that the good of humankind will continue to raise the quality of life for billions of people around the planet. Vigilance against the forces of repression can only be met and defeated by shining the brilliant light of truth on their evil efforts. I don't fear today's social media or the Internet, as the free exchange of ideas always trumps the lie. Best wishes to all for a interesting and happy 2012.

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