Vicky Collins Online

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I Support Kony2012

Joseph Kony is infamous for his atrocities and crimes against humanity in Uganda and neighboring countries and now the group Invisible Children is trying to make him famous.  Kony is one of the most sought after war criminals and the hope is by bringing attention to him the whole world will engage and finally hunt him down and let justice be served.  His Kony’s Lords Resistance Army brutalized the people of Northern Uganda for 25 years, abducting children and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.  An entire region and generation were brutalized and broken.  Now Kony has fled from Uganda and has escaped into the Congo.  He continues his senseless killing and the U.S. has even sent troops to help Uganda’s military track him down.  A couple of years ago we met some of the child soldiers who had escaped and were being prepared to return home at Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  Their stories are painful but they are also hopeful. Here is the video we produced for HDNet World Report:

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“This Is What Freedom Looks Like”

Correspondent Ron Allen of NBC News was standing in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt when the news broke that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. He was in the thick of it and handed the microphone to men standing near him in the crowd for their reactions. They shouted and screamed in triumph. When he retrieved the mic he said “this is what freedom looks like.” How amazing for him to bear witness to such a historic day. And how exciting for the world to see a revolution like this. A regime brought down without guns, without violence, simply with the power of people who are fed up and want the better life that they see in other parts of the world.

Yesterday I was discouraged and even fearful about the cascade of events that seemed inevitable in the Middle East. Would the army crack down on its demonstrators? Would one autocratic leader after another dig his heels in the sand and make life even more hopeless for the people? Would Islamic extremists rush in and fill the vacuum during the transition of power? Would dire predictions about 2012 get their spark in the Middle East? Now there has been a shift and the Egyptians can envision the yoke of oppression off their backs. I wish I could have been in Cairo when Ron Allen heard the news, the joyful noise, and witnessed the birth of a democracy.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Barack Obama: Unity Amidst Tragedy

So inspiring to be among the press last night at the University of Arizona’s McKale Center when President Barack Obama addressed the crowd in the aftermath of the shooting in Tucson that killed six and injured 14 others, including Congressman Gabrielle Giffords. The President really struck a chord with his comments and there were many teary eyes when he announced the miraculous news that Gabby had opened her eyes for the first time since the tragedy. The speech was particularly poignant when he called on all Americans to live up to the expectations of the youngest victim, 9 year old Christina Taylor Green. Here are excerpts from a healing and very powerful speech to a wounded nation.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

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And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.  I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Politics with my Cappuccino

My barista leaned over the counter today.  “What do you think of the MSNBC host who said she hoped it was a Tea Party member rather than a Muslim who set the car bomb in Times Square?”  His colleague at the cappucino maker edged closer to hear what I had to say.  “Well,” I replied, “I wish it was someone from the Tea Party.  It actually kind of makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it’s a Muslim because I think the large majority of them aren’t radicalized and it just gets more difficult for law abiding Muslims.”  My barista rolled his eyes and got back to work.  My barista and I have been sparring politically for a while now.  It has become a regular occurrence. 

Standby for the great irony here.  My youngish, handsome barista who drives a sporty car (he says he married well) is wildly conservative.  Not what you’d expect.  Consider your barista.  Hip?  Trendy?  Teva Sandals?  Mine is a supporter of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and is sick of all these bailouts.  Me?  I’m the middle aged suburban mom in an upscale Denver suburb, as liberal as they come, who believes government has a financial obligation to its people and coming to the rescue is necessary now and then.  His eyes light up when he sees me come in for my daily nonfat dry cappuccino fix.  “Vicky, what do you think of this?  Vicky, can’t wait to hear your opinion on this one.  Vicky, how are you going to feel when your taxes go up?  Vicky, come over here.  I need to ask you about something.”  Politics is part of my coffee ritual now. 

At first I was a bit surprised by his forwardness.  I couldn’t imagine our discreet back and forth was good for business or that his company or customers would approve.  After a particularly intense exchange, which lasted about five minutes and had his colleagues calling him back to work, I got downright uncomfortable.  We were discussing President Obama and Congress and health care reform.  He made sure I understood that my taxes were going up and soon my income would be shrinking.  I didn’t articulate my position succinctly.  Race came up.  I walked out of the store replaying the discussion in my head.  I talked to my friends about whether I should say something to him or stop visiting.  After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that this exchange is good for both of us, but in measured doses.  Kind of like one cup of coffee a day.  After all, discussing politics at the local coffee shop is what we do in America.  Right?    

A while back I was listening to NPR and there was a discussion about Melinda Blau’s book “Consequential Strangers.”  These are the people on the periphery of our lives that matter.  They are not friends or colleagues, but rather the people who we intersect with over the course of our lives that have an impact nonetheless.  They are the lady at the bank who greets me when I come in, the woman I sit and talk to on the airplane, people I’ve never met on Facebook who intrigue me with their posts.  Our interactions make a difference in my life.  My barista is a “consequential stranger” and even though I think his politics are strange, I walk through the world more knowledgeable because we talk out our differences.  He knows what I drink, greets me by name, has my coffee ready before I get to the cashier and now he knows my politics and I know his.  I doubt we’re opening each others minds or mellowing each other out.  Most likely we’re just agreeing to disagree and entertaining the staff.  I’m hearing about the Tea Party with my cup of joe.  He’s hearing what I like about our President.  We’re not shouting each other down or holding up signs.  It’s rather civilized.  Like meeting over coffee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Denver Public Schools Takes a Stand

My husband, Darrell, was beside himself.  What’s up with this?  We have a son about to enter the Denver Public Schools and here they are banning employees from travelling to Arizona because of opposition to the new immigration law.  He was fuming.  Don’t they have more important things to worry about (like higher graduation rates?)  He even called KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman radio show to vent.  I tried to rationalize the decision.  Perhaps they didn’t want their employees to be harassed or racially profiled, or they were being considerate of their large Hispanic population, or it was a pre-emptive strike because Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis was already threatening to do something similar in Colorado if elected.  It may be a misguided protest, I told him, but the Denver Public Schools took a stand for human rights.  My husband, on the other hand, felt that by standing up in this way, DPS was supporting illegal immigration.  And what business was it of the Denver Public Schools anyway?  It’s an Arizona law.  The majority of Arizonans support it.  He continues to be apoplectic. 

I certainly can appreciate his frustration and Arizona’s too.  The state has become a revolving door for illegal immigrants.  But as difficult as it may be, in my opinion it is the federal government that should be coming up with a policy for dealing with this, not individual states.  Perhaps the best thing that came of Arizona’s law is that it reminded President Obama and Congress of how urgent this problem has become and of the fact that the states have lost hope that the federal government will ever deal with the situation.  Comprehensive immigration reform has gone to the back burner and even if it suddenly becomes a priority, which is doubtful because mid-term elections are coming up and this is so fractious, Republicans and Democrats will drag the country through another agonizing process even as we heal from the health care debate and illegal immigrants stream across the border.  Unless the federal government mobilizes soon states will take matters into their own hands.  And so will Denver Public Schools which, in my husband’s opinion, should be worrying about education.

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Kara’s Tea Party: Am I Missing Something Here?

Eddie is one of my very closest friends.  We have known each other since we were teenagers and knew of each other even longer.  Our fathers were best friends and Polish immigrants who met in London following World War II and came to America on the Queen Mary together.  When I lived in Connecticut and Eddie was in New York we hung out together every other weekend.  We attended each others weddings.  We love each others spouses and parents and the relationship between our families is continuing now for a third generation.  When I travel to New York I stay with Eddie and if he ever would go west of New Jersey I would roll out the red carpet for him in Denver.  Eddie and his wife, Mary, have raised two incredible kids and I hope my children will be as worldly and successful.  I am blessed to have Eddie and his family in my life.   

As close as Eddie and I are, we are on completely different wavelengths politically.  He is very conservative and admires Sarah Palin.  I am very liberal and support Barack Obama.  We love to debate and adore each other despite our points of view.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he sent me a message on Facebook saying “My daughter is KICK-ASS.”  He was proud because Kara attended a Tea Party Rally in Washington D.C. and made an impromptu speech.  She talked about the dollar and how it is losing its meaning because it is no longer earned but rather allocated (she said stolen) through government programs which we are taxed to support.  Kara standing up for the populist Tea Party and shouting out for fiscal responsibility has shaken me.  Until now it has been easy for me to ignore the protesters because they look nothing like me.  I cringe when I hear Sarah Palin’s braying and  see people who remind me of my father-in-law who lives in small town Iowa when I scan the crowds.  If Kara is jumping on the bandwagon it’s time to pay attention.  I need to ask if I’m missing something here?

Another good friend who also shook his head over my politics used to tell me “If you’re young and you’re Republican you have no heart.  If you’re old and you’re a Democrat you have no head.”  So what was Kara doing at a Tea Party Rally?  I’m not certain I can dismiss this movement anymore as a bunch of Republican extremists.  If the message is making sense to smart college educated kids like Kara then perhaps the Tea Party is gaining the kind of traction that will make a difference at the polls in November.  I hope other liberals like me who look at the Tea Party as a movement that clutters the airwaves with hate speak and reaches out to the disenfranchised few and their birther friends, ask themselves if they’re missing something too.  And when they start getting uncomfortable like I am now, when they start realizing that maybe this is a party to be reckoned with, then maybe they can stand up like Kara did and make some noise.

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Health Care Reform and Leadership

The debate over health care reform is not over.  Even with the House vote and significant legislation approved, the merits and process will be hashed and rehashed for years, and certainly, vociferously, until November when mid-term elections decide the fate of many in Congress who went one way or the other.  We haven’t heard the last of the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck but I think that when people go to the polls in November they will consider that the Democrats actually got something done in Washington.  I was starting to wonder if it was possible.  The nastiness and fear tactics have been so discouraging.  This was an ugly process and there were many compromises.  It’s not the bill President Obama or anyone really hoped for but we have reform and it’s better than defending the status quo which was leaving so many on the sidelines.  At the 11th hour, with the finish line in sight, we had Republicans saying this is not the time, we should be concentrating on jobs and the economy.  They are right about many other priorities in this country, but why wouldn’t we finish what we started, especially when we were so close?  Why wouldn’t we push through the difficulties and get the job done?  Why wouldn’t we do as Americans do and lead?  It takes courage to make tough decisions.  It takes balls to stare down opposition and try to do the right thing.  Why would the Republicans let themselves be so marginalized while they stood on ideology?  By refusing to collaborate they are standing in the way (or rather being pushed out of the way) when meaningful progress needs to be made.  The health care reform that was passed was not radical and many experts believe it will be embraced by the public as they learn more about it.  Hopefully the electorate will keep this in mind when it’s time for them to vote their conscience.  I’m sure many Democratic legislators lost sleep over their vote but they didn’t cave in and they made important changes in a broken system that were long overdue.  They voted with common sense.  They pushed through the fear.  We can debate the merits of the health care reform bill until we’re blue in the face and gasping for oxygen.  But I’m breathing easier this morning.  Finally, someone is leading in Washington. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Acid Attacks: Personal and Political

Many of you have come to this blog to watch the story about Juliette and read about her brutal acid attack in Kampala, Uganda (http://vimeo.com/5703299.)  I had always considered the violence against Juliette and other women like her as personal.  Jealous men destroy the lives of women who threaten them in some way.  Nicholos Kristof of the New York Times writes widely on this subject as he moves about the developing world.  In the following blog, Jim Verhulst of the St. Petersburg Times, argues that terrorism like this needs to be considered in the larger political framework, especially as President Obama ponders what to do in Afghanistan where attacks like this happen frequently.  Can we realistically bring change to a country where it is entrenched that there is less value to a life that is poor and female.  Nicholas, Jim and I are among those who are trying to give a voice to women who are victims of this kind of atrocity.  So is Emilio Morenatti of the Associated Press.  He took the photos you are about to see and these portraits of damage and despair are shocking.  How can men do this to women and what can we as a compassionate world do?  We must honor the beauty and spirit of these women, and women like Juliette, by stopping this carnage once and for all.  The choices we make as we contemplate our missions abroad must also keep this in mind.           

http://blogs.tampabay.com/photo/2009/11/terrorism-thats-personal.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize

My reaction to the announcement this morning about President Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize was pleasant surprise.  Before I could even process the magnitude of the announcement KHOW’s conservative talk show host Peter Boyles began blabbering about how he was nominated on February 1 and it was just days after his inauguration and he hasn’t accomplished anything yet and what where they thinking, blah, blah, blah.  His outrage was palpable.  Even my 11 year old son Blair was confused.  He blurted out “for what?”  The analysis of what this all means, was it right, has he really achieved anything, etc. will continue ad nauseum through the day.  I would like to applaud the Nobel Committee for taking a risk on the promise of peace.  I’m sure the other candidates were incredibly worthy and even if the honor is a bit premature I think Barack Obama’s selection is inspired.  It puts more pressure on him to live up to his vows to bring nations together, to reduce nuclear arms, to get us talking with our adversaries.  He won for the promise of peace and it works for me. 

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Flying in the Middle

I don’t like flying in the middle seat on airplanes.  I feel cramped.  But on a recent United Airlines flight from Chicago to Portland, Oregon I sat between two men and had the most fascinating trip.  Joe sat on the aisle.  He is a 70 year old college professor and psychiatrist.  He and his wife were returning home after visiting family in New York.  He was reading a book called “Lucy’s Legacy” about the importance of the discovery of an ancient skeleton named Lucy in Africa and what it tells us about mankind’s ancestors.  Chuck was sitting by the window.  He is a manufacturing engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who was heading to Washington to attend his 30 year high school reunion.  He was reading Road and Track and a manual with Yamaha motorcycle diagrams.  Being the journalist that I am I sat in the middle asking questions about this and that and the conversation eventually turned to health care. 

Joe said he was a fiscal conservative and social liberal.  He drives a BMW and is a New York Giants fan.  Chuck said he was a fiscal conservative and social conservative.  He drives a Ford F150 pick up and loves the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.  Over the course of the conversation on health care neither of them agreed on one single thing.  Joe said we need a public option along with private insurance.  Chuck said a public option would only give benefits to those who were on welfare or who were in America illegally.  He worried that his health care insurance would be compromised with a public option as employers fled to cheaper possibilities.  Joe reminded him we had Medicare and Medicaid and those were government options.  On every point they agreed to disagree.  Neither one swayed the other one bit and it occured to me that this may be why nothing meaningful will get done in the health care debate. 

The conversation then turned to living in Alaska which both of them had done.  Chuck had lived in Ketchikan.  Joe had lived in Anchorage.  Chuck commented about how people lost jobs up there when the mill closed so the spotted owl could be preserved in the old growth forests.  He said you can’t close mills because of a spotted owl.  Joe said Chuck’s teenage son might never see any original growth in his entire lifetime.  He added that every place will look like Colorado which has been tamed.  Chuck said talking to Joe was like talking to his dad.   Joe asked Chuck what he thought about drilling in ANWR.  Chuck said bring it on.  The words bullshit and moron and 50/50 nation were thrown in (but in a nice way) and all the while I’m looking one way and the other and shaking my head wondering if we will ever make any progress if people don’t realize the truth is somewhere in between.  They couldn’t even agree on football.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.