Is America the best place to chase the American Dream?

Reading about the extraordinary college admissions scandal in the U.S. this past week, one couldn’t help but be astounded by:

  1. The amount of money even the richest of the rich think is worth spending to get their kids into School A instead of School B, not to mention being willing to risk jail time for this illegal activity (whoops, they probably didn’t think that was going to happen!).
  2. The fact that it costs such staggering sums of money to attend these Ivy League and other prestigious schools, compared with receiving a perfectly fine post-secondary education at a more reasonably-priced institution.
  3. The reminder that such a remarkably elitist system exists in the country to that has branded itself from early days as a meritocracy, where everyone had a chance at the American Dream. Get a good solid public school education, available to everyone, work hard, be conscientious, and the Dream is yours. It would appear that the playing field for the best and brightest is not that level after all.
  4. These parents clearly knew that they were passing on to their high school children the lesson that money and who you know will get you far; hard work, talent, intelligence, and compassion are for shmucks. It is difficult to know how a meritocracy survives much less thrives with that kind of message.

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International Women’s Day and Politics

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone. This is the day of the year set aside to contemplate the contributions one half of our populations make to society, especially considering how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. Progress in female equality and participation will be measured differently in different parts of the world. As with other areas of progress, it’s often much slower than we’d like and occasionally there are steps backwards, but all in all we’re on a positive path. And a positive path in ensuring full participation and equal opportunities (and respect) for women is just as important for men and boys as it is for women and girls. We’re in this together.

Given the captivating political saga that has unfolded over the past few weeks in Canada – and I admit to being riveted by it – it seemed like an opportune time to delve into what kind of progress women have made in politics around the world. (This is as opposed to the fraught question as to what kind of progress politics has made around the world!) Continue reading

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The joy of being a woman in her 70s – or joy at any age

This past January saw a spate of articles in the New York Times on older women. It started with Jessica Bennett’s article “I am (an older) woman – hear me roar”, followed closely by Mary Pipher’s “The joy of being a woman in her 70s”, and then Emily Eakin’s short review on February 1 with the enticing title of “70 and female is the new cool” .

Being female and in my 70s, these titles couldn’t help but draw me in. I wondered if anyone who wasn’t female and at least 60 would have been particularly attracted to the titles or the content within, but apparently they were very popular reads.

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A virtual tour of snow, lots of beautiful snow

There have been a number of blog posts lately lamenting unusual weather patterns.  A blogger in the UK posted a spectacular field of snow drops, but voiced concern that, though stunning, they are blooming too early because of very warm spring weather they are experiencing in February. A blogger in the mountains of Virginia is frustrated that the weather there goes from warm to cold to warm and wet, making decisions about spring plantings difficult.  And on it goes.

I thought maybe those of you who do not live in the land of long and serious  winters might enjoy a taste of a fairly typical winter in northeastern North America. This tour has the advantage that you don’t need to put on layers upon layers of warm clothing in order to enjoy what real winter has to offer! We have our own kind of snow drops, called LOTS OF SNOW. Friends in the UK, in case you’re wondering why you have so little cold weather this winter, it’s because it all decided to stay over here this year. This morning it was a balmy -31C with wind chill – and there was lots of wind. Cold, yes, but beautiful too, right?!

I hope you enjoy this virtual tour of my beautiful town of Fredericton, NB. I got some very frosty fingers snapping these pics just for you! Continue reading

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Cafe Privilege or Why I Don’t Trust White Women Who Don’t Order Coffee When We’re Meeting at a Cafe – A Poem

Blogger I Do Run uses her blog to share her running experiences and also her poems. This poem should be shared far and wide. Those of us who live with privilege by accident of birth need to be reminded of the message it conveys.

I Do Run

You had arrived first

Patiently waiting for me

Our meeting began

But you hadn’t ordered coffee

I was confused

Since I knew the score

Without paying the price

They ask you to leave the store

But you sat and you talked

That’s when it got scary.

You exclaimed, “I don’t see colour”

That it wasn’t a worry

I should have known

Right then and there

To keep my mouth shut

I shouldn’t have cared to share

But I took a chance

And brought up the notion

That your ability to sit without buying a thing

Was because of your white complexion

Your demeanor, indignant

And your voice, like ice

“Don’t call me a racist”, you said

“That isn’t nice!”

I never called you that

I began to protest

I’m just pointing out this double standard

To get it off my chest

But you didn’t see

The privilege that you wore

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Thoughts on women in leadership – Part II

Obviously, I knew when I wrote my blog post ‘Thoughts on women in leadership – Part I’ that there was more to the story. That’s why I included “Part I” in the title! But I have to admit that I couldn’t have foretold the event that occurred in Canada last week that propelled me to dive into Part II. I’m afraid I’ve discovered more red flags than sage advice this past week in navigating the rough terrain of standing your ground as a woman – at least in the worlds of politics and technology. Hopefully, when I’m ready to tackle Part III I’ll find more encouraging supporting materials. Here’s hoping. We need nurturing, empowering environments in which our most capable women – and men – can thrive and find success in leadership roles. The examples I have been reading about this past week do not fit that definition.

Those readers who live in Canada will know what I am referring to: the resignation of MP Jody Wilson-Raybould from Trudeau’s Cabinet. They will also know that Jody Wilson-Raybould was widely regarded as a smart, capable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and then moved to Minister of Veterans Affairs in a recent Cabinet shuffle. They will know that Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first indigenous Minister of Justice, brought passion, determination, and solid experience as a prosecutor and as a First Nations’ leader to the position. Continue reading

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And the folly of governments keeps on marching along

In perusing our overflowing bookshelves for something to read last weekend, I happened to pull out Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, an old goldie from 1984. Oh my goodness, talk about the old saying, “History has a tendency to repeat itself.”

The very first paragraph of the first chapter, entitled “Pursuit of Policy Contrary to Self-interest”, speaks to a truism that you’d think we’d all be used to by now:

“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of higher office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?” Continue reading

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