FIGHT ON

My time as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California was an important part of my life.  I was only there for two years–my junior and senior year of college but it left an indelible imprint on my life.

Here is an article published today on the USC Dornsife Website (Liberal Arts) featuring my story and highlighting my years at USC.  #FightOn

Letter to the THE TASK FORCE

(I haven’t written yet about the fiasco at the NGLTF’s Creating Change ’16 Conference in Chicago last week). I am frankly still processing the outrageous Antisemitism displayed there and the lack of The Task Force’s ability to create safe space.  There is much to be said about what happened. But here is a letter sent today to the Executive Director, Rea Carey from many leaders of the Jewish and many from the LGBTQA community.)

January 27, 2016

TO: Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

We send this letter as members and leaders of the LGBTQ community. Some of us are Jewish; some of us are not. Some of us have spent time visiting or living in the State of Israel; some have not. Indeed, like the population of Israel itself, we have diverse, and often sharply conflicting, views about the difficult issues raised by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the best way to resolve them.
What we all do share is our history and experience in connection with the struggle for LGBTQ equality in the United States and elsewhere. Many of us have not only contributed significantly to the enormous strides that have been made towards LGBTQ equality in recent years, but have devoted our lives and careers to that cause. The purpose of this letter is to unequivocally express our collective and deep concern about what transpired at the Task Force’s 2016 Creating Change Conference in Chicago, Illinois (CC16) on Friday, January 22, 2016 with respect to A Wider Bridge, an organization that fosters relationships between Israel and the LGBT community (AWB), and the Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance (JOH).
While some of us were at the conference to witness the events of January 22, there were also a number of published reports. More than one hundred protesters succeeded in physically intimidating and ultimately shutting down a reception organized by AWB featuring Israeli speakers from JOH. It has been reported — and videos taken contemporaneously confirm — that the protesters chanted slogans like “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea,” which necessarily suggests that the State of Israel should no longer exist. Another protester shouted, “We are going to challenge these Zionist racist motherfuckers.” There were also reports of altercations between the protesters and the reception guests. Witnesses saw a man get into a scuffle with the protesters and have his yarmulke knocked off his head. In a separate incident, there is a report of an individual who was called “kike.”
We applaud the fact that the initial decision by Task Force staff to stop AWB and JOH from hosting a reception in the CC16 was reversed by the Task Force. We are aware that the 100–200 protesters were among a conference of 4,000 participants and have no reason to believe that what transpired outside the reception on January 22 reflects the views or experiences of the majority of the 4000 conference goers. We also know that there is a Jewish Movement Building Working Group as part of the Task Force’s Creating Change conference, which has, for many years, done important work ensuring Jewish voices are an integral part of the conference and conversation.
Nevertheless, the events of January 22 in Chicago were unacceptable and not in accord with the Task Force’s values of pluralism, inclusivity and thoughtful debate. The targeted organizations’ reception was disrupted and shut down by protesters (including people not attending the conference) with such hostility and aggression that speakers and attendees at the event were justifiably terrified and felt physically threatened. We are united in our belief that what transpired at CC16 was dangerous, deeply disturbing, and given the use of epithets like “kike,” clearly anti-Semitic.
The larger question posed by all of this is where do we as a progressive social movement go from here? What is the Task Force’s responsibility in this situation? What values does the Task Force wish to embody? We understand that the Task Force has undertaken to conduct a review of its policies in this regard and we congratulate that decision. We believe that the review should be conducted by an outside, independent party charged with determining what happened, how it happened, and what will be done to ensure that it will not happen again.
We also believe that the Task Force as well as all other LGBTQ organizations need to consider and adopt some form of an “active pluralism” policy with respect to these issues. Such a policy, while respecting the free speech rights of individuals and groups, would not allow protesters to effectively censor the speech of other groups, much less threaten the physical well-being and safety of those with whom they do not agree, including Jewish and Israeli LGBTQ groups. Given the concentrated and organized hostility that is so often displayed against Jewish and Israeli LGBTQ groups, and the stark rise in global anti-Semitism, it is even more important that we as a community promote civil and respectful debate. It is intellectually, politically and morally dishonest to claim that in the name of freedom, liberation, or some other progressive ideal, there is a right to target and exclude Jewish/Israeli groups, to foment physical intimidation and harassment, and to encourage anti-Semitism.
There is a long and ugly history of this kind of censorship where individuals with controversial ideas and viewpoints have been silenced in the name of the “greater good.” We should know by now that such censorship results in fewer (not more) good ideas and greater (not lesser) oppression of us all. Indeed, given that we come from a movement where LGBTQ people were effectively shut out from participation in the public discourse for so many years, what happened at CC16 was extremely dangerous. If we as a movement really believe in the values we profess to hold dear, then it is time to put an end to this.
Sincerely,
Aaron Belkin, Founding Director, Palm Center & Professor, San Francisco State University
Dana Beyer, Executive Director, Gender Rights Maryland
The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope
Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Ph.D., Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim
Rabbi Denise Eger, Congregation Kol Ami & President, Central Conference of American Rabbis of the Union of Reform Judaism
Lillian Faderman, Author and Professor, California State University— Fresno
The Honorable Barney Frank, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives
Frank Giaou, President, World Congress of GLBT Jews
The Honorable Deborah Glick, Member, New York State Assembly
Emily Hecht-McGowan, Interim Executive Director, Equality Council
The Honorable Brad Hoylman, Member, New York State Senate
The Honorable Corey Johnson, Member, New York City Council
Alex Halpern Levy, Former LGBT adviser to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
The Reverend Susan Hrostowski, Ph.D., LMSW, Vicar, St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church & Associate Professor, and Chair, Institutional Diversity Committee, University of Southern Mississippi
Vincent Jones, LGBT Activist and Philanthropist
Miryam Kabakov, Executive Director, Eshel
Roberta A. Kaplan, Partner, Paul Weiss LLP & Lead Counsel, U.S. vs. Windsor
Idit Klein, Executive Director, Keshet
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
Rabbi Michael A. Latz, Congregation Shir Tikvah
Arthur Leonard, Professor, New York Law School & Editor, LGBT Law Notes
The Honorable Mark Leno, Member, California State Senate
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Congregation Bet Haverim
Amichai Lau-Levie, Spiritual Leader, Lab/Shul NYC
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives: Building a Progressive Jewish Community in Brooklyn
Seth Madnick Marin, Associate Director, ADL Legal Affairs & Civil Rights Regional Counsel
Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, Africa Human Rights Coalition
Reverend Elder Troy D. Perry, Founder, Metropolitan Community Church
The Honorable Christine Quinn, Former Speaker, New York City Council & CEO, Women in Need
Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Chair/ Executive Director, International Imperial Court Council of USA, Canada and Mexico
Lee Rubin, Former Board Chair, NGLTF
Steven Rudner, Chair, Board of Directors, Equality Texas
Robert Saferstein, Founder, Eighteen:22, A Global Network for Change. The Next Chapter of LGBTQ Jewish Life
Andrea Shorter, Co-Founder, Bayard Rustin LGBTQ Coalition
Melissa Sklarz, Former Co-Chair, National Stonewall Democrats
Andrew Tobias, Treasurer, Democratic National Committee
Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Congregation Beth Elohim
Robin Tyler, Executive Director, The Equality Campaign
Alan Van Capelle, Former Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
The Honorable Scott Weiner, Member, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Edie Windsor, Plaintiff, United States v. Windsor
Evan Wolfson, Former Executive Director, Freedom to Marry
Organizational Affiliations Listed for Identification Purposes Only
List in Formation

Anti-Muslim Bigotry

We released this statement on behalf of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the oldest and largest rabbinical organization in North American which I have the privilege of serving as President) today in response to the despicable and deplorable statements made by a political candidate.

CCAR Statement Condemning Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Central Conference of American Rabbis condemns anti-Muslim bigotry worldwide, in America, and in the campaign for President of the United States. Specifically, we are horrified by Donald J. Trump’s proposal that all Muslims be barred even from visiting the United States, let alone immigrating, especially as refugees are escaping persecution by the very forces that threaten the western world.

Discrimination on the basis of religion is un-American, unconstitutional, and dangerous. Jewish history has taught us that those who will discriminate on the basis of religion threaten the lives and well-being of countless human beings. As Jews, we know the heart of the stranger, and we will not stand idly by when members of another religious group are singled out as strangers.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger       Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                        Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis

On America’s Journey for Justice with Glory/Oseh Shalom

My Kol Nidre sermon from 5776 on Racism, White Privilege, America’s Journey for Justice.

Planting Seeds…. a Sermon for Rosh Hashanah Morning

The following is my Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon for 5776

Shana Tov.  Boker Tov.  Good morning and Happy New Year everyone.

Character.  It is the template of a good person.  When we say a someone has character, We mean they are upright; Trustworthy and honest.  When we describe a person of character we see someone who can overcome hurdles, tough situations with grace and discipline.

We admire people for these kinds of qualities. Precisely because not every one can live up to such high standards.

Someone with character is devoted to their family and/ also to their work.  We use it in so many different ways.  When we say someone has character. We are describing someone who can perhaps tough out a difficult situation through discipline, fortitude as they live out their ideals.

Recently, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks latest book, The Road to Character, discusses this in detail.  He presents many stories of American heroines and heroes who possessed the qualities of selfless devotion to their families, work or vocations as examples of character and how we might begin to examine our own lives for these traits.

One of the most interesting aspects of Brook’s book emphasizes the teachings of one of the greatest 20th Century Jewish thinkers and theologians, Rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik.  Rabbi Soleveitchik wrote a very important book in the 1965 called “The Lonely Man of Faith”.

In it and Brooks explains Soloveitchik’s teaching very well.  The noted Orthodox rabbi talks about two archetypes or people – Adam 1 and Adam 2.  Remember the word Adam in Hebrew means human being—(besides being the name of the first human being in the Torah). And Rabbi Solveitchik’s idea is that the two creation stories in Genesis teach very different messages about human nature.

Brooks explains Solveitchik like this:

“Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature…external Adam, resume’ Adam, Adam I wants to build, create, produce and discover things, He wants have high status and win victories.” (p. xii)

While, “Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world.”  “Adam II wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service of others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive inner soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities.”  (p. xii)

“…Adam 1 –the creating, building, and discovering Adam –lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic.  It’s the logic of economics. Input leads to output. Effort leads to reward. Practice makes perfect. Pursue self- interest. Maximize your utility, impress the world”

“Adam 11 lives by an inverse logic,” Brooks writes.  Adam II lives by “…a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave…. To nurture your Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses. (Ibid.)”

Oh it’s not very in fashion now.  In our world today having character, being ethical, trustworthy and honest seems old-fashioned.  It doesn’t comport with the outrageous behaviors we see all around us; the often-shocking language, comportment and behaviors of those in the public eye. Of course there is the mean spiritedness of politics and reality television (often one cannot tell the difference between the two); the kind of selfishness of our economic theories that put the corporate fat cats above the communal good.  And don’t forget the increasing income gap in our society between the 1% and the rest of us.  This emphasis on the rights of the commercial corporations over people is an example of the lack of character and the denigration of character ideals in our country.

When Corporations matter more than people then the ideals associated with having character like selfless devotion to the community and to humanity, then we know this is not among society’s values.   When leaders pit one group against another as a way of retaining power- without an outrage then this is a how you know that the ideals of character are not among society’s values.  When all decisions are based on what feels good to me-rather than considering the impact not only on self but also on family, friends and community-then the notion that living a life with character is no longer seen as positive. We live in an Adam I world.

But on Rosh Hashanah we Jews come together to try to restore our character.  Our Jewish responsibilities, our mitzvot, are designed to help each and every adult live a life with dignity and to live a life filled with character.  The mitzvot of our tradition teach us to be honest and trustworthy. Our mitzvot speak to us of caring for our family even when they are annoying: we are taught to honor our parents, not love them.  The mitzvot of our tradition try to shape us into living up to our title- as being created B’tzelem Elohim—in the image of God.  Our tradition, our Judaism (which is Solveitchik’s point) helps us to aspire to live lives like Adam ll.  Rosh Hashanah in particular and these ten Day of Repentance and Yom Kippur remind us to seek out the Adam ll parts of our being. These holy days remind us to aspire to live lives of holiness-Be holy for I Adonai your God am holy.

In society that surrounds us we are subject every day to images and sounds that eat away at our souls.  More cars and hamburgers are sold with an appeal to our base natures.  And for most of us-even those of us responsible for the creative material that is used across media platforms are forced by the powers that be to deal at the level.  Sell more product- buy more just to have more.  All you have to do is feel good.  Now there is nothing wrong with nice things-or feeling good but if this is our main goal and society’s emphasis then we are missing the point of living a life of meaning and a life lived with character. We are missing the meaning of a life filled with holiness.

I contend that this lowering of the human endeavor, this emphasis on corporate greed has translated into making us little better than the animals themselves.  When we human being operate at that level-we lower our standards and add to a world that is desensitized to human pain and suffering, that is desensitized to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, we ourselves withdraw.  We say I am only going to be concerned with myself and my family.  Selfishly we protect what we have because of course someone else is after it.  And the structure of a society that cares for its own is destroyed.  My friends, we are close if not already at that point.  When we see the body of three year old Syrian boy wash ashore because no one will address the crisis of those fleeing war and turmoil in Syria-we are barely hanging on to the lowest rung of humanity.

Yes there is the occasional outpouring of caring-a hurricane in the Philippines, an earthquake in Nepal or Haiti but it is driven by emotion-not discipline.  And so Haiti is still in deep trouble all these years later-and Nepal? Who is really helping out there still?  Noblese oblige—the nobleman and women who take pity on others to help out occasionally is so different than our notion of tzedakah—of righteous giving.  For tzedakah is a discipline.  Tzedakah is not charity.  It is righteousness.  Tzedakah is not something we do only when we are moved to but a discipline we must engage in each and every day.  Being called to righteousness develops character-rather than pity in those less fortunate than ourselves.  Tzedakah is yes a moral obligation. Not something that gives you just a tax break.

Rosh Hashanah morning and the sounding of the shofar is calling you to say – it is time to rebuild your character. The Shofar is reminding you to live a life as Adam ll. Teshuvah repentance is about recommitting your life to ideals of our Jewish tradition.  Of examining where you strayed- yes where you sinned and renewing your ability to live a life of character.  The High Holy Days is our time as a Jewish community to say we can do this together!

The Shofar this morning is calling you to look toward your God, your Higher Power, to fall in love again with the Divine Spirit of Universe and to cleave to God as the kabbalists would say.   To know before who you stand on this holy day. This is the season that is urging you to take responsibility for nurturing the Adam ll in you.

The sound of the Shofar is calling the Jewish people together to become a force for good in the world.  A force that helps society at large live lives filled with character.  We used to call that Or LaGoyim—to be a light to the nations.  We used to believe that Jews had a mission in this world—to live by ideals of Torah- I am not talking about rituals tallit and tefillin or even kashrut)  I am talking about the mindfulness that Judaism calls us to live by-in how we treat our neighbors, how mindful we are about the widow, the stranger and the orphan in our midst,  the mindfulness to remember that we were slaves in Egypt-and that we can’t, we mustn’t treat others as slaves.   Not our gardeners, nannies or housekeepers or teachers.

Sadly, our society treats us all as slaves-slaves to the corporate bottom line—with only a lucky few who get to have a piece of the pie.

Our Jewish tradition teaches us that this is the season of change.  This is the season when we can affect our community.  This is the season when you can turn toward God and living a life of holiness.  Repentance, Teshuva is just that—sin drives us away from godliness, holiness but teshuvah helps us draw near again.  Rosh Hashanah is Yom Harat Olam, the rebirth of the world.  What will it take for you to be reborn this holy day season-and live your life with character rather than as a character?

The great neurologist, and psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankel wrote in his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning:

We who lived in concentrations camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a person but one thing, the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstance to choose one’s own way.

And there were always choices to make, (he writes).  Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would become a plaything of circumstances, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate or whether you would choose instead to be free.

Today on this day of rebirth, renewal and repentance you can choose as well.  Will you freely choose to change the course from the wrongs of the past year?  The habits that hold you back?  Will you choose dignity, responsibility and living a life of character or will you choose instead to remain the same.  Repentance indicates change.  A change of attitude and action. A commitment to live with ideals and repentance indicates a turning toward living a life of holiness.

The shofar sounds for you to remind you of today’s task.  Dignity. Nobility. A sense of life’s purpose and meaning.  A deep and profound connection to our God and to the Jewish people. The shofar is calling you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And calling upon you to choose to live a life of meaning.  The Shofar is calling you home-to live out the holy responsibilities of being Jewish. The Shofar is calling you to be a part of your synagogue that stands for these ideals and to support the synagogue—a holy place that reminds us to live lives of Adam ll rather than continue to reinforce the lives of Adam l.

Ask yourself what the Shofar is calling you to do and to become today?

A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued, “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by — still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year went by and the CEO asked the young executives to bring their plants to work for inspection.

When Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot, she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room.

When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!”

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He asked Jim to come to the front of the room. Jim was terrified.  He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Jim told him the story.  The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer — Jim!”

Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. “How could he be the new CEO?” the others said.

Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow.

“All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!”

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust

If you plant goodness, you will reap friends

If you plant humility, you will reap greatness

If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment

If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective

If you plant hard work, you will reap success

If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.

Sometimes the sins, the failures we encounter along life’s path are the holiest of moments when we can turn it around, learn to surrender to living honestly.  Just as Jim seemed to fail, the truth literally set him free.  He lived his life with nobility, dignity and honesty.

This year you can plant within your soul the seeds of character. And you can nurture all year long a life that calls you to live in this way.  And this year we need you to help our synagogue remain healthy and strong by planting seeds for its future. Because if we keep living lives of Adam I,the synagogue and Jewish life will be doomed because Jewish ideals and mitzvoth are based on the life of Adam II.

It’s Rosh Hashanah the time of year where we repent and ask God and our fellow human beings to forgive us from our sins.  It is a time of starting over with a clean slate.

Hear the call of the Shofar to plant within your own soul a commitment to a life of integrity and character.  Indeed you will reap a life of meaning and blessing.

As my gift to you—on your way out today- the ushers will distribute-a packet of sweet basil seeds.  No they are not boiled—but hopefully you will go home and plant them and nurture them and grow luscious sweet basil for your cooking and your home.  The sweet basil I hope will remind you to live a New Year with sweetness and responsibility.  A New Year filled with living a life of character.  Plant goodness, honesty, trust, hope, ethical living and mitzvoth in 5776.  Happy Planting.  Ken Yehi ratzon.

My Prayer today and Everyday

I just came from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the official LA Mayor’s residence, Getty House.  It is a beautiful grand home with a beautiful back yard and rose bushes and flowers and native Southern California planting.  But the colorful garb of the attendees today really made the back yard burst with beautiful hues.  Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews of all stripes, Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, Humanists, Religious Science, Kabbalists, Wiccans, Quakers, Buddhists of many different streams, African-Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Mormons, Adventists, Scientologists, Asian church leaders, Assembly of God ministers, Armenian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Christian, Evangelicals, Native American religion all were together this morning.  All dressed in a variety of robes, and mantels, collars, and kippot.

Los Angeles is truly a remarkable city.  This is the most diverse city in the world with more of the world’s religions and faith traditions represented here than anywhere.  In the over 35 years I have lived in Los Angeles, I have met so many different kind of people; some from every nation and heritage.  Representatives of many different faith groups were together today and prayed together today not only for our Mayor and his family, but our City of Angels, our State, our Nation and the world.

We all had a moment to rise and offer a prayer that began with ” I pray that…. ”

We were inspired by a message of hope and prayer from a African-American Christian pastor, a groundbreaking young Muslim woman leader, and a rabbi.  They each spoke from different traditions but their common message was about the dignity of humanity and how we must see the divine in each human being.  That was Mayor Garcetti’s prayer as well.

If we can spend an hour and a half here in Los Angeles, praying together and linking our hands with our common bonds, imagine what could be done if we exported that same spirit around the world.  That is my prayer for today and everyday.