Dan Rather Essay

When I was a little boy, I wanted to be like Dan Rather. In my ADHD childhood, he was my “Bob Ross” for television. I would stop and listen to what he said as if he were talking directly to me. I learned much from watching Dan Rather. He was and still is a brave and courageous interviewer. When I was provided an honor in writing for a college newspaper, I tried to write in the spirit of Rather. I wanted to pull the curtain back further to show all angles to an issue. That was the level of transparency I sought even if it brought scorn or unfounded actions upon me. Today I read an essay that Rather submitted to the New York Times. I wanted to share it on my blog because it should be a warning to anyone that respects the journalistic code and freedom of information our nation relies on.

As the administration of Donald Trump starts to take shape in Washington, I find myself thinking back again of that historic city and where we may be headed.

It is no accident that our monuments and institutions of government in our nation’s capital are made out of marble. They are cathedrals to our democracy – impressive, imposing, and built to last. They are also beacons to our improbable aspirations. When our predecessors planned and constructed these buildings, our republic was still quite young. It still is, by the measure of most societies on earth. The old saying may remind us that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but much of Washington D.C. was built over the course of a few decades.

Rome is a provocative comparison because the remnants of that ancient society remain standing centuries after the empire that built them crumbled and died. For while buildings are important, the heart of a nation lies with its people. Marble may last but the strength of a society must be constantly reinforced.

For the years I lived in Washington, and ever since on return visits, I have loved walking amongst the city’s wide boulevards and past its famous addresses. And yet covering the men and women who wielded power from their marble perches is to be reminded that as permanent as our nation can seem, we can never take its future for granted. The strength of our institutions lie within us, and our representatives.

I have seen this nation’s spirit of self evidence challenged in the past, with World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, and Watergate, just to name a few. Some of these struggles were largely foreign in origin, others sprouted from our own imperfections.

I believe that we are once again at an inflection point. This presidential election, with its bitter partisan divide and often irresponsible rhetoric, threatens to crumble some of the foundations of our democratic institutions. We now await to see whether the president-elect’s actions will match his words. We cannot simply slough off these worries with incantations that everything will work out. The dictionary lists “democracy” as a noun, but because it requires action to be, I like to think of it more as a verb.

We should not expect or even hope to agree on policy or priorities. Fostering healthy and respectful debate is one of the strengths of our system of government. But when we seek to undermine our political adversaries by attacking their right to participate in our national discourse we risk causing longterm harm to the rationale behind the nation we all claim to love.

And the marble of Washington might cease to be cathedrals to democracy and more like mausoleums. Anyone who considers himself or herself a true patriot cannot allow us to head down this dangerous path. It is in our hands to demand that we re-water the seeds of our highest national morals and ideals.

There is no denying that the media is embroiled in controversy these days. Donald Trump made so-called media bias one of the biggest themes of his campaign. Now, judging by the President-Elect’s refusal to allow journalists to travel with him to DC for his meeting with President Obama, it looks like his “relationship” with the press hasn’t changed yet. With that in mind news organizations are no doubt scrambling to come up with plans on how to cover Trump’s time in the White House.

Today, in a rather unusual move, the publisher of the The New York Times directly addressed readers to defend the way the paper covered the election (and both campaigns). In a separate note sent to staffers he addressed their coverage of the Trump administration going forward.

Dan Rather – published November 11th, 2016


Responsibilities of the Media

Sometimes when in inclement weather strikes we think we are prepared. However, we find that perhaps we aren’t as prepared. When the remnants of Hurricane Matthew hit our area, the rain and winds didn’t seem dangerous at first. In fact, our city suffered little damage. But when the power suddenly left us in the dark due to fast rising flood waters and cyclone based whipping winds then we became to realize that we weren’t as prepared as we would have liked. Suddenly we were without power. My first call was to the power company to register a complete power outage request. Many in our neighborhood didn’t know the telephone number to the local power company. As a good planner, I had the power company phone number programmed in my mobile phone. Like a good neighbor, I would attempt to register a power outage for my neighbors. This was not an easy task because the power company wanted the social security number, telephone number or account number of the home with the outage. This created a bit of frustration especially when it was just as difficult to get a live person on the phone to assist. My lesson learned from this particular experience was to stay focused on only my issues.

Next was the news reporting. Our local news was broadcast on a regional radio station. Perhaps the newsroom forgot that nearly half of its audience was listening rather than watching because of power outages. As I listened, I would regularly hear the newscaster phrase “As you see here” filled my a colorful description. It made me wonder how the visually impaired view our news reporting? The most distressing part was the media was so consumed with reporting the most devastating areas that if failed to become a community service to those in need. Many were without power, water, and communications. Those same were prepared with limited food, supplies, funds, and a Red Cross radio. News sources kept saying shelters were open but would say, “you can see the numbers at the bottom of our screen.” No, we can’t see the numbers because over a million residents are without power! Clearly, news sources must learn how to get back to basics for its listening audience. Particularly during a state of emergency.

Additionally, that one news broadcast can be the difference between life and death to some. Many mobile devices have incredible battery power. But that is not to say that resource is readily available. When power begins to diminish and requires a recharge, then this is where many start to panic, especially when listening to news broadcasts. No power means no internet and perhaps no land line if lines are affected. Crucial news and up to date resources were filled with dramatic rescues. When dam levies in Lumberton were beginning to peak and cause a fracture, the story failed to deliver appropriate resources and instructions leaving many trapped when the dam broke. I am mindful that citizens should arm themselves with resources. However, the media has a level of responsibility in providing emergency resources to assist authorities. If news agencies create a business plan for weather phone apps, then they owe its community a resource of open shelters with policies such as pets, restrictions, contact information and potential hazards affecting that area.

A valuable lesson learned from this experience is that some of us follow the Red Cross suggested planning for emergencies. However, it is not a perfect plan of execution. A tough lesson learned is that technologies such as phone apps and portable devices have far outpaced the practical user guide of the average citizen. All agencies should grasp an understanding that all citizens are not entirely connected to Facebook, or the app indulged world. Many seniors during this storm expressed a strong feeling of disconnection because they are not up to date with technologies. They also have concerns that they must invest in high-level device plans to stay abreast with police, fire, media, and emergency authorities. Basically, there should be a firm plan in place making a bit easier for all. If we choose to use our electronic devices then, it should be a complimentary part of the service rather than the requirement.

Letter to the Editor -University of South Dakota

As a retired Army veteran, I would like to share that I hold various memberships in military organizations to advocate on my behalf. Sometimes the expense for that advocacy can be pricey and not as useful as I desire. However, without it, I am left with no voice and no representation of my concerns.

Recently the University of South Dakota Student Government Association drafted a bill to withdraw from the South Dakota Student Federation tentatively.  As a graduate student, I have some concerns about this path. On the one hand, USD provides more than its fair share of funding and proxy of equal voting.  Another issue is the poor use of funds by the Student Federation. On the other hand leaving the association reduces our vocal and visual footprint. Perhaps the remedy is simple. Public opinion and perception may be in our favor if we can persuade South Dakota State University to join our fight. I would suggest our first step requesting an independent audit of the South Dakota Student Federation by Steve Barnett; South Dakota State Auditor. This will allow the Student Federation to justify its expenses. After all, shouldn’t student government be a diplomatic extension of government to advocate for all students and its extended communities?  I implore student government to act and perform in strategic resolve and legislative advocacy with the State of South Dakota to press the issues. Utilize its resources and take control of a situation instead of passing the problem on to other universities. Our student population is robust enough to warrant a call to action instead of displaying a white flag out of desperation or antagonism.

Before our student government hastily closes the door on an issue. Shouldn’t we be opening other doors to find a reasonable solution? Once we accomplish this then will the state take notice and appreciate that our University is not a liability but an asset of transparency for the future of South Dakota.

Message v. Audience

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence duked it out at the Vice Presidential Debate. My initial impression of Gov. Pence was he sounded like a confident baritone. However listing to Sen. Kaine was sadly similar to the television character Barnie Fife. Kaine’s tone was interrupting at times muddled with lots of information to provide in response to rhetoric delivered by Trump. Instead, the debate was lost in transit. Kaine seemed to fail on delivering an effective punch line despite having a dossier of Trump failures and past poor performances.

However, when it came to practical answers, Sen. Kaine connected with solid answers. This is where it is tricky. Kaine had the answers, but I feel he did not connect them well to the audience. Gov. Pence did not engage in response to some questions. In some instances, Gov. Pence was either speechless or quiescent. For example, during the debate, Sen. Kaine responded to a question about Mr. Trump and his contentious bias. Instead of responding, Gov. Pence turned away from the camera without providing any comment. It was an extraordinary and restrained moment that may raise further questions or inquiry. However, a remarkable silver lining appeared for Pence. I feel Pence was able to score well with the audience. While it may be true Pence was using up the clock a bit to agitate Kaine; it may prove to be effective and a solid overall tally that Pence may have won the debate.

Sen. Kaine did an excellent job of answering questions and was prepared. What I would have hoped for is for Sen. Kaine to speak to his audience as if he had to assume the role of the President and to slow his delivery in a calmer manner. I felt Kaine missed many opportunities to deliver a simple message. Instead, he sounded a bit like the “guy invited to prom by the girl making it sound as if it is his car in the parking lot- not his dad’s.”

Gov. Pence seemed just as prepared. What I found most interesting was his use of the camera, mannerisms, and control. Pence commanded the camera and audience tone. He delivered a very clear and straightforward message without any supporting plan, proof or confusing statistics. In fact, I felt comfortable with Pence that his performance was fresh and calm. In fact, it felt as if he should be running for President and Trump would be on the Vice Presidential ticket. Reality set in later and my notes could not provide one proof concrete plan by the Trump-Pence ticket. Pence repeatedly mentions to the audience about a “The Trump Plan” mixed with Trump’s enormous business successes without ever delivering validation that it exists for review. It somewhat felt like an episode of an old western movie where the snake oil salesman came to the town. However, what I did connect with is that Pence may have his sights on something greater after this election. Tonight I think he proved that he is a strong future candidate for President.

The poor moderator, Elaine Quijano, didn’t have much control over the debate. Her questions seemed ignored or rejected altogether because of back and forth nit picking. Nearly each issue that Quijano asked didn’t receive a proper answer because the standard answer by each candidate was, “can I respond to that last question?” A moderator should assume control like a good reporter and project manager by remaining focused on the agenda at hand. Maybe town hall debates might put candidates back on track and allow America to get to know candidates better.

Sure, both candidates appeared polished and scripted. However, the bigger issue at hand is not “a heartbeat away” from becoming the next President. However, how will they influence policy and the Senate as a presiding officer and powerful part of the administration? Instead, I think this debate may set the national tone and its impact. What is more important? Getting the message right or connecting with the audience? It should be interesting how poll numbers change after the debate to determine that strategy.

Letter to NCSU Technician news

Chancellor Randy Woodson says he wants to protect free speech for all students. He claims that the current student conduct code prohibits the University from engaging in free speech. Perhaps Chancellor Woodson should begin to practice what he preaches in his leadership role at North Carolina State University. Woodson’s Univerity biography says “Equality and diversity are all our responsibilities. Working together [we] ensure a truly diverse, inclusive and supporting campus culture.” This is an incredible vision, but for people of color, Hispanics, and LGBT students this is an unsupported catch phrase.

First of all the university position on First Amendment rights is flawed and seems to preserve hate speech. The free expression tunnel and campus affiliated blogs have been a continual controversy sporadically making headlines usually with racial or homophobic slurs, yet suspensions or expulsions never occur. The same rhetoric by University leadership is “expect change.” The change will not come until administration challenges the First Amendment versus Hate Speech. Perhaps the University should take a step back and look at its leadership demographics. It may see a culture and pattern of habits and slogans such as ‘Students First” or “Embrace Diversity” In reality, the University just has no real vested interest in truly creating a diverse campus. Otherwise, it would not continue to repeatedly allow forms of hate speech on its campus each academic year. It would instead have a very clear student conduct policy backed by leadership with policy improvements on how to stay abreast with technology.

When I hear Chancellor Woodson speak to media outlets about “free speech protections” then why did the University 2015 expel African American students of Pi Kappa Phi? The University said the students were expelled based on racially and sexually offensive language? Why the double standard Chancellor Woodson?

Diversity should be the symbol and objective at N.C. State University. Loosely shielding what is defined as hate speech should not be a reason to defend it. So far, Chancellor Woodson, you had not put students first or listened to your African American student body. Instead, you passed up an opportunity to learn from your esteemed student body and display your leadership. You chose to hide behind your unchallenged interpretation of freedom and allow hate speech to continue for the next season.

Sam Daughtry

Technician Viewpoint Columnist alumni (’11)

Customers Behaving Badly

Okay. I know I shouldn’t be ordering fast food but from a recent visit, I noticed something very bizarre. I watched three different orders placed with three identical outcomes. The first person ordered a cheeseburger. The next person ordered a meal with extra special sauce. The last person ordered a two cheeseburger meal. What made this whole encounter amazing is that each of the customers returned his or her food citing an error. The first person told another fast food worker she didn’t want cheese on her burger. The second person returned his food saying there were too many pickles on it. The last person claimed that she said she didn’t want onions on her burgers. I could clearly overhear the conversation because I had nothing better else to do. But it felt as if people are complaining just because they can. I was so interested in this rare form of people watching that I purposely sat and watched customers repeatedly do the same thing by saying an order and complaining about the outcome they initially never raised.

Is there some form of code or culture that allows us to waste products by laying false blame? I would argue that it is entirely acceptable to return French fries because they might be cold. But to turn away cooked food and have it remade because you didn’t specify how you wanted it prepared has to be the newest form of people behaving badly.

After my meal, I made it a point to ask a manager on duty about my discovery. The McDonalds manager told me that it happens all the time. In fact, she instructs her cashiers to repeat the order like they would in a drive-thru lane. The customer agrees and yet there is an inaccuracy complaint. She said, “people want to complain some of the time” but must throw away the food according to law and reissue the order. The only suffering is the customer having to wait a longer period to have his or her order remade. She did mention that fast food locations are testing new phone apps that allow a person to place an order and make custom orders like no onions or extra cheese. But will this change the culture or attitude of those that habitually want to complain about others errors? My guess is no.

Syria: You Break It, You Own It

If you want to visualize how dysfunctional, our political system is then let me guide you on a grand lesson of insanity of Syria’s civil war. Four sides are beginning with the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. Next, there is the Syrian Opposition and Turkey. Then ISIL or ISIS (but I will refer to them as ISIL). Lastly, there is Iraqi Kurdistan, the United States, and other militant groups. As for the numbers, rough estimates put the Syrian military at 180,000 and approximately 100,000 have been killed. ISIL has about 100,000+ soldiers, and less than 10% have been destroyed. The Syrian Opposition troop strength numbers are unfounded, but it’s safe to say over 125,000 have been killed. Finally, the Iraqi Kurds have 60,000 soldiers and over 3,000 killed.

Syria is a country with approximately 17 million people ruled by the Ba’ath Party. That name should sound familiar because in 2003 the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority banned the Ba’ath Party entirely from Iraq. What happened next is that Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria Ba’ath Party memberships were dramatically increased. Each of those listed nations experienced increased violence and tensions based on perhaps U.S. ill-advised diplomacy. Today Syria barely has a government. Instead, homegrown political systems such as ISIL and other militants are governing Syrian territories. Survival is not based on the rule of national law but the rule of occupation. This is why millions are exiting Syria.

The United States Congress will not authorize war legislation to stop ISIL but continually blames President Obama for doing nothing about Syria. On one hand, we had a Congress that said, “the president doesn’t think ISIL is a threat to the United States” but only to say later “the United States does not need to be involved in another war.” There is no mitigation plan to deal with the millions of refugees exiting Syria and perhaps other nations affected by ISIL or other occupational forces. What makes the problem far worse is that some of our allies have now become somewhat the opposition because of diplomatic issues. Former secretary of state Colin Powell said it best “You break it, you own it.” It was the United States that invaded a nation without a plan and then created an exit strategy by the same Republican president without a long term plan. Basically, we own it because not only did we break it but we tried to sweep the fragments under the rug.

Today’s political rhetoric is all about doing or saying something about Syria but having no plan of execution. Our diplomacy is more about yelling and blaming sides rather than helping innocent women and children caught in the crossfire. What do you think will happen in 10 years when these kids become teenagers? It is only natural that they will seek revenge towards a nation that perhaps began this whole debacle in the first place? This is what happened in Iraq during our second invasion.

It is time for politicians to stop Tweeting and begin using pen and paper to draft legislative plans to save and contain Syria. If we don’t protect or provide Syria, then it will, and already has, spill over into other nations where we still have diplomatic relations. Mostly those countries risk being diplomatically severed if we idly stand by. We can no longer watch Syria’s history become swept under the rug because ISIL has already demolished most of its history and continues to execute anyone that does not believe in its ideology. Have we become the next generation of a Holocaust by allowing genocides in Syria to continue? I think we have.