Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bastille Day - Lessons Not Yet Learned?

July 14 is Bastille Day - the day most historians mark as the beginning of the French Revolution.  On this day the citizens of France began the long road of revolution by storming the Bastille prison in the heart of Paris.  Little did they know that they path they began would lead to advancement of major political, economic, and social liberties, but end in the slaughters of the Terror and the dictatorship of Napoleon.

The French Revolution ended so differently than the American, because the French, in the pursuit of liberation, ended up destroying the rule of law, the Social Compact, and the unalienable rights they claimed they were protecting.  The ends justified the means - tyranny, in the name of liberty, became the prevailing reality.

That the power to do good can also lead to the power to do evil seems to be a forgotten lesson.  When one empowers the government with unlimited power with the expectation of it using it wisely, history reveals that the unlimited power almost always ends in the corruption of the government and the oppression of the common man.  This is a lesson we need remember at all times, lest the Terror be unleashed yet again.

Vote Like Your Life Depends On It

Watkins: Vote Aug. 3 as if your life depended on it — it does

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:00 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Wed Jul 14, 2010.
Two Democrats, Virg Bernero and Andy Dillion as well as five Republicans, Mike Bouchard, Mike Cox, Tom George, Peter Hoekstra, Rick Snyder are on the ballot. One of these seven will be our next governor. Your choice in the primary will narrow the field.
No, "none of the above," is not an option!
It is our responsibility as citizens to whittle down the political field to one Democrat and one Republican to square off in the Nov. 2 election. If you need more information about the election, visit the Secretary of State voter information center at (or see a listing of candidates websites below)
Don't allow other voters to make your choice for you. If you fail to participate and vote on Aug. 3 it will be no one's fault but your own if your candidate does not make it to the final selection. Remember, people around the world are literally dying for the chance to vote!
Why Your Vote Matters?
Perhaps at no time in Michigan history does the collective wisdom of the voters matter more. Who we choose will be the point person to lead our state forward.
The litany of problems are monumental. Michigan has been at the front of the line for our nation's ills for some time now. Issues awaiting the next governor's attention include: Creating jobs, establishing a 21st tax structure, fixing crumbling roads, addressing deteriorating state services, declining property values, unsustainable pension and health care costs for public employees, higher education now priced out of reach for the average family while our investment in our public schools decays. Clearly, there are no shortages of challenges facing our state.
Yet along with this laundry list of problems facing us, there are a corresponding and equal number of strengths upon which an innovative leader can build.
Consider these:
* Michigan is surrounded by 20 percent of the world's surface fresh water
* We have the highest concentration of high quality engineers anywhere in the world
* Our public and private universities and community colleges are excellent and capable of producing the talent needed
* There is a latent entrepreneurial, creative, and innovative vein running deep in Michigan, ready to be tapped
* Two -thirds of incoming legislators will be new and hopefully not saddled with the political anchors of the past
* There is no place in the country where residential, commercial, retail or industrial property is cheaper
* There is a growing understanding among the citizens that the world has changed and we need to not only adapt to change, but to lead it if we wish to prosper in the 21st century.
* Michigan has been down so long there is a desperate hunger for a leader to help us rise again
Vote Or Liberty is History
Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you wish to have an impact, you must engage and vote.
Don't skip the first inning by not voting in the Aug. 3 primary election, then complain when your choice for governor is eliminated and not around for you to consider on election day, Nov. 2.
If you treat the August 3rd Primary as a typical July 4 -- enjoying a hot dog, hamburger, a cold beer, watching the Tigers and not voting -- you will get what other voters have chosen for you! And it is unlikely you will consider it a "picnic" as we move forward.
In a few days you have the opportunity to help direct your and the state's fate. The choice is up to you.
Try these image on for size: Look around the coffee shop where you are reading this column, or around your office, at your mother-in-law, your brother- in- law or that obnoxious guy at the gym. Now think about it -- you not voting and instead having these people make your choice for governor. A pretty picture?
It's that simple -- the opportunity to effect your and our collective future is upon us -- don't blow it.
Vote Aug. 3.
Tom Watkins is a education and business consultant in the U.S. and China and served as Michigan's state superintendent of schools from 2001-2005. He can be reached at:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Patriot Week Activities: American House Refresher Courses on American History

[Originally published in the Oakland Press, but the link failed here]

The American House Senior Living Communities has announced it will offer free American history classes at various locations throughout the state.

The initiative was started by Bob Gillette, founder of American House.

Gillette approached three teachers from the metro area to teach the classes at 12 different locations, including Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Pontiac, Southfield, Troy, West Bloomfield Township, Roseville and Sterling Heights.

“We believe we all need a refresher course on our nation’s history so we can truly understand the founding principles of America and put the true meaning back into national holidays such as Independence Day,” Gillette said.

The classes focus on the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and its signing. These sessions will culminate in September during Patriot Week, Sept. 11-17.

Patriot Week was founded by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren with the goal of renewing America’s spirit. American House is a member of the Patriot Week organizing committee.

“The teachers have been overwhelmed with enthusiasm,” Gillette said, boasting that the classes have been a phenomenal success.

“Topics will change over time,” said Jennifer Cherry, the public relations employee for American House. Cherry said there’s discussion of expansion of other classes and areas in Michigan.

Attendees are encouraged to call their local American House to put their name on the list for a class, but they also have the option of simply showing up before it begins.

A special asset to the classes is a painting that Gillette recently commissioned from artist d.hummel-marconi — a painting exclusive to American House. The painting, “In God We Trust,” features 20 of the founding fathers of America.

The painting was designed to engage students in the classroom. A corresponding guide identifies the 20 figures and will be used as a teaching tool in the American House history classes.

“This painting, combined with our American history classes, really symbolizes what American House stands for and what we believe in,” said Gillette. “This will be an invaluable tool for our teachers to visually show our country’s founding fathers.”

The history classes at American House are open to all ages.

“We at American House are very passionate about patriotism and the need for all citizens, young and old, to be educated or have a refresher course on American history,” Gillette said.


For a schedule of classes, visit

resources. The list will be continually updated throughout the summer. Visit www.patriotweek.orgfor more information on Patriot Week.