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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Jesse Doc Wendel: "Education is the silver bullet"

Thanks to Doc for this great commentary!

Someone asked a few weeks back, for a little bit more about my background. I'll tell you this -- I am by far, the least academically distinguished of anyone in my family. My father, a retired Ph.D. in German, lectured in German and Humanities at the University of Arizona for thirty years. My sister is an attorney and a single mother. My brother, two children, married to a Ph.D. professor at the University of Kansas, himself with an MBA, runs the enormous performance arena for UK. And my mother -- *sighs* -- my mother is perhaps the most gifted of us all. A section leader with the Tucson Symphony when I was growing up (violin) as well as Assistant Concertmaster, when I was off to the Army she went to Law School at thirty-five. Went on to become a name-partner in the most profitable bankruptcy law firm in Arizona, then private practice, and in her retirement from active practice, now sits as a part-time Tucson City Magistrate (a judge), when they need someone to fill in, handling everything from traffic tickets to restraining orders to domestic violence.

At one point my mom spent several years as the Chief of Staff to the Chancellor of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, one of the larger metropolitan universities in the United States. Anyone whom has ever watched The West Wing knows the job of Chief of Staff. Mom was there doing her job on 9/11 and in retrospect this may seem obvious but at the time, no one knew it was what we know today as "9/11". It was two airplanes that hit a building and in the first hour or so no one outside the government had any idea what was happening.

The question came to her to make the call, "Should we send everyone home or should classes stay open?" And without knowing the magnitude of what was actually happening, this is what my mother said stone-cold (paraphrasing from memory):

People are dying in New York City. Of course, professors may close their classes if they wish, and students may miss classes if they wish. But this University will remain open. And to anyone whom asks why, it is this. We don't know yet what has happened, but the chances this happened by accident are nil. Someone did this. Someone did this instead of negotiating, talking, communicating. This University will stay open today because Education is the silver bullet. Education is how we reach people. Education is how we build a world together. I grieve for the people dying and dead in New York and for their families. This is a sad day. Thank you.

Education is the silver bullet. Amen mom, amen.

I'm as self-taught as they come and certainly don't feel less than my brother or sister because they have advanced degrees. I've been privileged to study with and be mentored by some of the leading computer scientist/philosophers in the world. But I share a love for academics for its own sake, for learning for the love of learning which goes bone deep. I'm never without something to read, simply never. Most nights I fall asleep surfing the web or writing to friends. People I've never met are sometimes surprised to received an email from me and we just start talking. Education is the fracking silver bullet and you never know where you're going to find the next person, the next data point, that makes sense out of some such something over there from six months ago or six years ago, and suddenly a light goes on.

Which is why Imus pissed me off. I must admit, I've never even listened to him. Nothing he says has even made it to my level of attention. Not funny, not challenging, and not going to help me in the future. I know. One of my competencies is being able to pull stuff together from different sources and suddenly, pow, a synthesis. Imus simply ain't gonna help a goddamn thing in the future. Nada. So he's shitcanned from my playlist without even a listen.

But for him to trash some young student-athletes, now that does make it to my radar. Because education's the silver bullet. My mother says so.

I have forgiveness in my heart. Gods know I've done lots -- lots! -- of damage in my life. And someday perhaps you'll get to hear some of that beyond what I've already posted. My point is, I'm open to forgiveness here. Genuine forgiveness. But what comes with forgiveness is profound recognition of the damage done along with a commitment to cleaning up the mess -- and the damage done here goes beyond simply these young women. The damage goes to the very core of education being the great equalizer, not in any racial sense -- although there is that of course -- but in a more universal sense.

An educated person, someone whom thinks for themselves, can't be bullshitted. They know who they are, they are prepared to take life on, the inequities of wealth, of race, of social status, all this can in large part be erased or at least be compensated for by a good education. But without a good education, truly there is no hope for the current world which some of us dream of dissolving, a world where 1-2% of the rich own 60% of the world, where half of the world's population is poor. That world can not and will not and shall not end without education. For only with education can people learn how to do anything except get angry and blow shit up. Only with a commitment to education as the answer, will governments use this silver bullet, instead of real bullets, and bombs and soldiers. Only education holds out hope instead of death. An attack on young people attempting to learn is an attack on the heart of what it is to be human.

I don't expect Imus to understand all this. He comes from and validates a world attempting to maintain its privilege any way possible. It would be good to shift that entire world all at once, and I am confident as with the contextual shift of drinking and driving, sitting at the back of the bus, and England owning India, that day will eventually come. Till then, demanding and receiving apologies one at a time is a good place to start.

These girls were attacked by a media sniper using wealth, power and privilege. He tried knocking them off their real game -- getting an education. An authentic apology is due.

Trash Talk Radio
By Gwen Ifill - Op-Ed Contributer - The New York Times

LET'S say a word about the girls. The young women with the musical names. Kia and Epiphanny and Matee and Essence. Katie and Dee Dee and Rashidat and Myia and Brittany and Heather.

The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University had an improbable season, dropping four of their first seven games, yet ending up in the N.C.A.A. women's basketball championship game. None of them were seniors. Five were freshmen.

In the end, they were stopped only by Tennessee's Lady Vols, who clinched their seventh national championship by ending Rutgers' Cinderella run last week, 59-46. That's the kind of story we love, right? A bunch of teenagers from Newark, Cincinnati, Brooklyn and, yes, Ogden, Utah, defying expectations. It's what explodes so many March Madness office pools.

But not, apparently, for the girls. For all their grit, hard work and courage, the Rutgers girls got branded "nappy-headed ho's" — a shockingly concise sexual and racial insult, tossed out in a volley of male camaraderie by a group of amused, middle-aged white men. The "joke" — as delivered and later recanted — by the radio and television personality Don Imus failed one big test: it was not funny.

The serial apologies of Mr. Imus, who was suspended yesterday by both NBC News and CBS Radio for his remarks, have failed another test. The sincerity seems forced and suspect because he's done some version of this several times before.

I know, because he apparently did it to me.

- - - - - -

Whatever. This is not about me.

It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.

Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus's program? That's for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly don't know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far.

Yes, he did. Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It's more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.

So here's what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.

Let's see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.

Gwen Ifill is a senior correspondent for "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and the moderator of "Washington Week."

- posted by Jesse "Doc" Wendel

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