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Seeing Bill Clinton

I never though anything could be more exciting than meeting Keri Russell but today I saw Bill Clinton speak at Microsoft and it was very exciting.

I arrived at the Microsoft Executive Conference Center on my bike around 8 AM this morning.  Today was a cold morning in Redmond and there was already a line the length of the building of employees waiting to get in.  If you were lucky enough to be a member of the Microsoft Political Action Committee you were allowed admittance before anyone else.  That’s how I got in.

Steve Ballmer made introductions.  Witnessing two people like Steve Ballmer and Bill Clinton on stage at the same time was pretty inspiring in itself. Not sure you’ll feel the same awe looking at the picture from my crappy cell phone but it was the best I can do (didn’t think they would allow cameras so I didn’t even bother to bring a good one).

As you can imagine, the room was pretty crazy, in my opinion this picture captures a lot of that: everyone standing, trying to take pictures with whatever device was in their pocket, people cheering like they were at a concert (you can see the woman in a green sweater) – kind of nuts.

bill clinton 2

I have to admit that I was most influenced by Bill’s response to the question: "Is it possible for you to be Secretary of State to Hillary, should she become president." 

It turns out that this is illegal based on Article 5, Section 3110 of the United States Code that was Passed in 1967 in response to John F. Kennedy’s appointment of Robert F. Kennedy to the post of Attorney General of the United States.

Regardless of that fact, Bill Clinton stated that even if it were possible that he believed that Hillary should not appoint him to Secretary of State in that he believed he could be more effective as a non-government figure when needing to represent her in places where she is not able to be and to continue in driving his foundation – a statement very similar to one made by Al Gore when explaining his reasons for not yet entering the 2008 elections.

This actually got me thinking…while I love the idea of Hillary as the first United States President in history, I have to say that in reality I had not been won over by her.  In fact, I found myself getting pushed closer to Obama by the minute.  But now the notion that electing Hillary is really like electing both Hillary and Bill, while a little bit scary, is also very powerful to me and something I might be willing to vote for.

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Bono hits Vanity Fair

BARACK OBAMAI love reading magazines.  And it’s something that I try to do sparingly.  I actually can’t remember the last time I bought a magazine for myself.  However, recently I was compelled to buy the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

It turns out, Bono joined this issue as co-editor of the magazine for a special issue on Africa – and its amazing!  I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy (good luck trying to pick a cover) to make tangible the experience that was intended by this issue.  At the very least buy the issue to see the haplogroups mapped out on on the magazine masthead.  Also check out the complementary coverage on the Vanity Fair website and make sure to spend time with the interactive map of Africa.

The magazine features 20 different covers photographed by Annie Leibovitz portraying high-visibility individuals that all have some connection to Africa.  In the images one person is telling something to the other person, who then tells something to the next person.  It’s a game of telephone over being played over the various cover photos.

The game of telephone is a call to action, not only in Africa, but in our homes.  It’s time for us to step up and demonstrate to the world that America believes in the freedom and democracy that it represents to everyone.  What will you do?

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Apology from JetBlue

I have an email account that I use for things like online purchases and memberships to online services, including JetBlue.
I am a huge fan of JetBlue as a consumer and as a model for how to run a "next generation" business.

Despite the unfortunate events that transpired for JetBlue on February 14, 2006 and the unfortunate events that have continued to bump JetBlue and other airlines this winter, I am most impressed by the efficiency and openness of the customer communication that came directly from David Neeleman, Founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways.  As a customer of JetBlue I received a wonderfully honest and sincere apology email (below) From David.  Further, I was able to view what seemed like a "home made" video clip of what seemed like an unrehearsed David Neeleman delivering a personal apology.  And as if that was not enough, JetBlue has published a Bill of Rights for me, their customer, that outlines exactly what the consequences are for them if they fail to meet their promise to me.

It is almost unbelievable! I have NEVER seen anything like this in my life.  And it’s AWESOME!
I’ve seen the rehearsed address on television or even a produced television commercial.  But I have NEVER seen such an open and honest and unrehearsed display come from anyone.  It just shows when you take the honesty of someone like David Neeleman and combine it with something a raw as YouTube – you get interactions that are humane (ironically through technology – don’t even get me started on that).

I feel very strongly that our society has lost site of what it means to be honest with ourselves and this is amplified when you start to look at organizations.  People run organizations.  And people and societies who don’t know how to be honest with themselves set up processes and marketing campaigns in business that perpetuate the denial – the denial of what we don’t like about ourselves and the denial that it’s our job to step up and do something about it: I can litter, that’s what street cleaners are for; I don’t need to diet, Oprah is fat too and she’s happy and she’s a good person; I donate money to the organizations that help people.  This same nonsense permeates throughout our business and into our marketing that goes on our televisions, our magazines, and our Internet.  It’s tiring.

Thank you David Neeleman for remembering that honesty goes a long way.  It does with me.
I will be flying JetBlue on my next trip across the country and I plan to be pleased once again.

JetBlue Airways

An Apology from JetBlue Airways.

Dear JetBlue Customers,
We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.
Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unacceptably long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.
Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.
We are committed to you, our valued customers, and are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us. We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future. We are confident, as a result of these actions, that JetBlue will emerge as a more reliable and even more customer responsive airline than ever before.
Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights—our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward—including details of compensation. I have a video message to share with you about this industry leading action.
You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.

Sincerely,

David Neeleman
Founder and CEO
JetBlue Airways

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Hunger Strike

Today I am stricken by all the awful things happening in our world.

Last night I watched a KQED program about “New Heros”. This one about Inderjit Khurana.

As a schoolteacher, Inderjit Khurana used to take the train to work. And each day, in the stations, she would come into contact with dozens of children who spent their days begging from train passengers rather than attending school. She learned that it was not a rare or isolated problem and that millions of children in India live on the streets.

Convinced that these children would never be able to escape their conditions of poverty and homelessness without education, and realizing that it would be impossible to enroll these children in school, Inderjit decided to create a model program for "taking the school to the most out-of-school children."

Khurana’s "train platform schools" aim to provide a creative school atmosphere and equip children with the basic levels of education necessary to allow them to work productively, enjoy many of life’s pleasures, and become positive contributors to their communities.

Khurana’s ultimate goals reach far beyond the 20 platform schools she and her colleagues have created in India’s Bhubaneswar region. She is determined that her program become a model for effectively changing the lives of the poorest children throughout India and the world.

To learn more about other New Heros visit: http://www.pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/index.html

Then, this morning I found Nate Kleinman’s blog: http://hungerstrikefordarfur.blogspot.com.

He is on hunger strike to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

I am upset by the idea that Nate represents what our world is becoming or already is. 

We are in a world where we each stand alone. To work together, one must take extreme individual action to get the attention of others and then maybe their support.

I look at myself and the people around me and wonder, “what is happening to us that we are too busy to take notice and do something about anything?”

I signed the petition on http://capwiz.com/africaaction/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=7495271 to feel like I was supporting Nate and the people of Sudan. I hope that my voice will be heard with the others who sign the petition. And I feel guilty that it is all I will do while Nate starves himself on our capital.

Here is a letter from Nate’s sister, Molly:

On June 30, 2005, my brother Nate went on a hunger strike in to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Most people in the U.S. have no idea that since February 2003, government-sponsored militias have conducted a calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, starvation and displacement in Darfur. An estimated 400,000 people have died due to violence, starvation and disease, and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and now live in camps lacking adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and health care. The United States Congress and President Bush have recognized the situation in Darfur as "genocide," but have thus far declined to do anything about it. Nathan hopes to call attention to the devastating situation there, just as the approaching G8 summit presents world leaders with an important opportunity to come together and take action.

In a letter he sent out to family and friends earlier this week, Nate wrote:

"I am a Jew, and I was raised to believe that "Never Again" meant something… We have waited far too long to act, but it is not too late to save lives, nor, indeed, to save an entire culture. Over the course of my hunger strike, hundreds of innocent Darfuris will die by disease, violence, and starvation. Everyone can help: by writing letters, organizing protests, calling representatives and world leaders, boycotting companies that do business in Sudan, and even taking to the streets if need be. Search your conscience, your soul, and think about joining my protest, in DC or in your own city or country. One hunger striker is a start, but scores of us would be impossible to ignore. We must remind the President and the world just what starvation looks like."

I have to admit that I thought the idea of one unknown kid going on a hunger strike was unlikely to make any impact, and just about everyone we know has tried to talk him out of it. I thought it was quixotic at best, and dangerous at worst. But I’m also immensely

proud of my brother, for standing up, for fighting the crushing sense of hopelessness that so many of us feel by saying, "This, at least, is something I can do."

So I’m spreading the word. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your senators. Genocide is happening again, and we have the power to stop it. 

To learn more about the situation in Darfur, visit:

http://www.savedarfur.org/

To read about Nate’s reasons for the hunger strike in his own words, visit:

http://hungerstrikefordarfur.blogspot.com  

To sign a petition urging the U.N. to take action visit:

http://capwiz.com/africaaction/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=7495271

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