My 3 Favorite Mike's

There are many Michael's in this world although the three Mike's that shine brightest in my mind have inspired me musically and in the sport that has been the catalyst for my success, basketball. One has been a "Thriller" for me since the late 1970's while the other has flown in rarefied "Air" since he came to prominence in the early 1980's. The final Mike is less known yet has provided soothing and lyrical eloquence for Gswede throughout the last two decades.

First, imagine this scene:

It's my freshman year in college as a Division 1 basketball student-athlete. I have a free education due to a 4 year scholarship. One weekend I go out with some friends to the local disco in town. Pretty young ladies are everywhere and I am on the dance floor rocking the night away with one of them. The tune playing is Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. At that moment, I felt like I was floating on a cloud! I said to myself, "Ah,......this is the GOOD LIFE". I knew that the night, the rest of year and my final three years would be something special. And were they ever - I soaked up college like a sponge and enjoyed moments that were were absolutely delicious.

Micheal Jackson started it off for me that weekend and his music was ubiquitous during my four years as I vividly remember dancing at parties to "ABC" or other great Jackson 5/Michael tunes. In college, I don't recall an event or party that didn't feature at least one Jackson song.

His greatness is undisputed and I listened to his music frequently throughout the years. "Thriller" is an amazing album although I am partial to his first solo album, "Off the Wall". Also, if you haven't heard his childhood songs (i.e. With a Child's Heart or Ben), I implore you to do so as they are some of his most beautiful.

I doubt the world will ever see another Michael Jackson as he had it all - voice, dancing ability, sensitivity, fierceness, international appeal and work ethic. Unfortunately, he was laughed at during the majority of his adult years. Despite the unbelievable talent and joy he gave to the world, he never had the chance to sit back, relax and enjoy it due to the multitude of off-stage issues - some self inflicted, others perpetuated by the public and media. What a shame. At least now, he can rest in peace after his untimely death and we can focus solely on his memorable music.

Second, "AIR" Jordan otherwise known as Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

I played college basketball during the same period as Michael Jordan (MJ). My Vermont Catamounts competed against some top teams in the 1980's although we never had a chance to play North Carolina (NC), MJ's alma mater. People tend to forget how great MJ was in college. The system at NC was team-oriented and didn't always bode well for individuals to stand out thus many were surprised when they witnessed MJ in his first couple of years as a professional. I wasn't since I remembered his college days.

MJ was unbelievably dominant in his last two years of college. Some of the dazzling moves and dunks that we loved when he was with the Chicago Bulls were in plain sight during his college years if you were a fan of college basketball. Of course no one could have predicted how ferocious, intense and successful he would become after college. I was fortunate to witness many of his games in person when I worked at Madison Square Garden (MSG) as an account executive for sales. Whenever MJ played against the New York Knicks, the celebrities came out and we treated our best clients to a night of dinner, drinks and basketball. Interestingly, MJ and the Bulls often played on Mother's Day so many of the top executives couldn't make it thus we had better seats to choose from for our clients. I never missed a game when MJ was in town and he never disappointed. The energy and excitement in MSG (The World's Most Famous Arena) was unforgettable!

What made MJ so unique is that he played the game at such a high level both offensively and defensively and had no weaknesses. In my opinion, he is the greatest of all time due to the fact that I cannot possibly imagine how someone (past, present or future) could be better. Most of the greats of the NBA have a deficiency somewhere in their games - not MJ. In addition, his Chicago Bulls never went to a 7th game in any of their 6 NBA Finals which speaks volumes. Maybe most importantly, anytime I witnessed a game in person or on TV with MJ, there was never a doubt about who was the best player on the court. Never.

There are only two athletes I would always make time to watch. One is Tiger Woods and the other is Michael Jordan. As a passionate basketball fan, I am thankful to have witnessed such a remarkable athlete in my lifetime.

Finally, my favorite musician - Michael Franks:

If you know music well, you should have heard of Michael Franks. If not, consider this an introduction to a truly unique singer and songwriter. It's not easy to describe his music although I refer to it as a mixture of jazz and soul with an eloquent and calming quality. He's been making music since the 1970's and his songs have been recorded by Diane Krall, The Manhattan Transfer and Patti Labelle and he has worked with artists such as Patti Austin, Brenda Russell, David Sanborn, The Yellow Jackets and Jeff Lorber.

I learned about his music in 1986 after a visit to Wellesley college, an all female school. One night, I was visiting a friend and we were joined by 8 of her close friends when the subject of Michael Franks came up. They were surprised that I had never heard of him and I was surprised that this group of lovely black women knew his music so well. I was hooked after hearing a few songs!

What I enjoy most about him is the beauty of his lyrics and the smoothness of his voice. He studied literature in college and has put that talent to good use by creating memorable and unique songs for over thirty years. His music is not for everyone yet those who are fans tend to REALLY love his music! His appeal is diverse which surprised me when I went to a New York City concert in 1999. There were various colors in attendance along with young/old, upscale and middle class. The most shocking part of that evening were two brothers who looked liked they came straight out of a rap video yet knew every song and were giddy like school girls in their first row seats.

I have introduced my two year old son to his music, often singing it to him before he goes to bed. He has taken a liking to it and occasionally blurts out a few lines during the day. I believe the mellowness of Michael's music has helped to make my son a sound sleeper as I usually play a few songs for him before he drifts off to sleep. Recently, I began introducing other artists at bedtime so he won't overdose (like me) on Michael Frank's music. My wife is happy about that!

I've had the pleasure of seeing him in concert seven times and meeting him in Boston after one of his gigs. He's a gentle soul and very appreciative of his fans. For over twenty years, his music has never been far from my ears and it's been a powerful and soothing delight in a world that has become increasingly more complex and dangerous. For that, I am grateful.

My personal favorites are Tiger in the Rain, Mr. Blue, Tell me About It, String of Pearls, Hourglass, Nightmoves, The Lady Wants to Know, Rainy Night in Tokyo, Amazon, Dragonfly Summer, Coming to Life -- I'll stop now as the list is too long. If Michael Franks is new to you, start with Soulmate, Tell me About It or When I Give my Love to you - easy on the ears and good for beginners. If you like those, you can ease into a few of the aforementioned tunes.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede playing with clients and colleagues on the famous floor of Madison Square Garden.

2 Readers, 2 Articles - Their Comments

In March 2010, I will celebrate the two year anniversary of "Gswede Sunday". It has been a wonderful journey for me in two ways. First, being able to express my thoughts and knowledge on subjects close to my heart has helped to sustain me - (hopefully I have inspired a few souls along the way). Second, I have enjoyed hearing from you (my readers) whether it be a personal email, on Facebook, in person or a comment at the end of a weekly article. Your insight has frequently been poignant and often made me look at an issue in another light. Occasionally, it inspires ideas for future articles.

I wanted to share 2 reader's comments from 2 different articles I wrote. One is from my friend Manfred and the other is anonymous. I encourage my readers to not use their name if they don't feel comfortable as I would rather read an anonymous opinion than no opinion.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and am grateful for you putting aside a part of your day for my words. Thank you.

I will keep writing if you will keep reading.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

1) The comment below is from one of my most passionate friends. I found his words to be powerful and the perfect enhancement to my view of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. He's an interesting person and I enjoy hearing his opinion on numerous subject matters. Incidentally, he has kept in touch consistently since I moved to Sweden which means a lot to me.

The article he responded to is "Obama's Nobel - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game". Here's a paragraph along with the link.

The love keeps coming President Obama's way - this time in the form of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize from my neighbors in Norway. I had no idea that he was in serious contention for this prestigious honor until a good friend mentioned it to me. Why all the negativity around his winning the Prize? I can understand it from the right wing zealots in America along with the narrow minded Republicans who still believe former President Bush (#43) was a strong leader. What is troubling are those (some I suspect who voted for him) who have shown disdain, disgust and hate toward Obama for getting this award. I saw one American peace leader on TV say "he has done nothing".

Done Nothing? Please.



George, thank you for writing this particular blog! This has become a great platform for debate and I hope to have one of my own soon.People, including those outside the US, quickly forget the state of international affairs when Bush was exiting the White House. Let me remind some of you:

1. The world hated everything American
2. The Axis of Evil statement was rejected by many
3. The Iranians were not to be spoken to
4. The Arabs, with two wars, in their own backyard, had enough of US aggression against them.
5. The Israelis were studying options on how to stop Iran militarily
6. NATO was seriously upsetting Russia with it’s talk of more strategic weapons
7. North Korea was threatening to fire a missile aimed at the US
8. The world was in the middle of an economic meltdown.
9. Global Warming was not being taken seriously
10. The MDG’s (Millenium Development Goals) were being ignored

In just a few months of being elected President Obama achieved the following:

1. Re-established the world’s good opinion by winning the election. This told the world that the US had rejected the Bush Doctrine on US international relations.
2. Obama gives a major speech in a Muslim capital, Cairo, where he admitted to the the failures of the US as well as call out the obligation of Arab nations to change their own rhetoric.
3. He unequivocally rebuked the notion that Iran must not be spoken to and immediately insisted that a US official begin negotiations to discuss their nuclear program.
4. The two wars are still being fought but the notion of torture and the humiliation of prisoners has been unequivocally rejected by this administration from day one.
5. The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has since changed his own position on Iran and is in a wait and see mode.
6. US has ceased the production and installation of unnecessary weaponry in European borders with Russia in a time of peace. The Russians love their children too, remember!
7. North Korea did fire missiles but the US using better judgment decided to wait and avoid aggression on a nation clearly being held hostage by its dictator and is working through diplomacy with China. Cooler heads do prevail and save lives.
8. The US economy is tied to everybody’s paycheck around the world. The Obama administration allowed an unpopular Bush strategy take its course to avert a major catastrophic economic cataclysm that would have made the Great Depression seem like a hick-up.
9. Obama’s speech at the UN reassured the world that the US will take major steps in the fight against Global Warming. Bush never admitted to it devastating affects on the planet.
10. The speech at the UN also mentioned the need for the US to get involved in 8 MDG’s setout by the international community to battle such issues as poverty, child mortality and gender equality.

So, to all the nay-sayers and skeptics on whether or not Obama deserves the Nobel prize for peace, I will simply pose one question. Do you think that under a McCain/Palin administration, the world would have been a much peaceful place, and achieved any of what I mentioned above? I think we know the answer to that one.

2) Earlier this year, I wrote about my 5 years in Sweden. Many found it uplifting and positive although some were frustrated, saddened and surprised about my candid description of living in Sweden as a foreigner. This particular comment hit a chord with me as it was different in tone and interpretation from the others. I would love to have a conversation with the person who wrote it.

In my opinion, she (confident about that) was a bit sensitive about some of the "immigrant realities" I spoke of although she (nor anyone else) disputed any negative or troubling aspect that I described about Sweden. It's obvious that the truth does hurt sometimes. When you read her comment, you might think that I am unhappy in Sweden.....nothing could be further from the truth.

Here's a paragraph from my article "5 Years in Sweden - No Place I'd Rather be...BUT". The link is below followed by her comment.

This past Thursday, I celebrated my 5th year in Sweden. As an adult, I have only lived in one other place for a longer period; New York City (NYC) where I spent a decade. I never compare any city to the Big Apple because it wouldn’t be fair as I can’t imagine a more fulfilling city! Living in Stockholm, Sweden has been frequently interesting, sometimes disappointing, often intriguing, at times wonderful and in many ways sour and sweet. As the title indicates, life is good...BUT; we will get to the “BUT” part later.



Anonymous said...

Interesting reading! For some reason I find myself getting frustrated when reading even if I agree with you on several levels.However I wonder how many American companys would hire someone who didn´t speak English no matter what experience or fantastic merits? I can certainly agree with many of your comments but maybe moving abroad to a different culture and country takes some extra effort no matter where you go. I think you are brave for trying, but maybe you need to find other influences and see other places in Sweden too. If you are lucky you will move to a neighborhood like my best friends who have dinner with there neighbors a few times a week and people spontantiously come over. There are opportunities out there to make great Swedish friends and aquantances, have interesting networks, enjoy time together, you just have to look. And also learn the language and I think you will find yourself less detached.

Good luck!

The countryside of Vermont, USA - My friend Linda took this lovely photo.

Don't Let Your SENSITIVITY Get In The Way

Over the past few months and throughout my career, I have come across situations in which normally tough minded individuals let their sensitivity get in the way of a productive discussion, doing their jobs or handling criticism. The encounters were never that demanding and had more to do with the fortitude of the individuals. Sometimes it was personal issues (i.e. depression, bad relationships or health issues) that caused the sensitivity while other times it was not wanting to deal with confrontation. On other occasions, it was being able to give criticism yet not being able to take criticism.

The game of life is not for the weak-hearted and when we are in it, we should be in the moment and engage fully in order to deal with the challenges of daily life - not shy away or become oversensitive.

Here's a moment I will never forget:

At a company retreat in the USA, employees were having a dialogue about issues inside and outside of the company. One person was known for her consistent criticism despite the issue being discussed. She was an effective employee although this characteristic didn't help to endear her to many on the team. During one session, she was in her typical mode when she got into a heated dialogue with one of our colleagues. Usually, we would let her vent her criticism and just shrug it off as we were used to it - some were even scared of her. Not this person.

This colleague gave her a strong dose of why she was wrong on a particular issue and fiercely criticized her for intervening with unwarranted criticism along with her constant complaints on other issues throughout the year. Everyone in the room was surprised at how tough the colleague was on her yet most thought it was good that she was the one on the receiving end. What happened next was a shock!

The women (middle-aged) started to cry and quickly ran out of the room. It was obvious to everyone that although she could dish out criticism, she couldn't take it when it was directed at her. I couldn't believe her reaction as all employees (including the CEO) were in the room. Later that day, my boss said to me, "If she expects to thrive in our business, she cannot be that sensitive". He was right. The colleague's criticism towards her was poignant, witty, sharp and truthful yet in no way should have caused her to act like a child. Her career in that organization was never the same after that memorable incident.

The aforementioned type of moment has been rare in my experience. The moments below are more typical:

Recently, two acquaintances became stressed from strong conversations directed at them. Both were in roles that had them talking to numerous people in order to get opinions, hear feedback and gain consensus. Some of the thoughts they heard were strong-willed, passionate and forcefully spoken which I admire as people should battle respectfully for issues that are important to them. These individuals should have been able to handle these thoughts and any conversation as it was their job to do so.

Both became too sensitive at times and it showed when they shied away from certain conversations and/or people as one was upset about a strong phone call while the other was tired of discussing a particular issue. In my opinion, they allowed their personal issues to play a major part in their sensitivity.

These were not troublesome or disrespectful talks and both should have handled them in a more professional way. In business or personal life, if one willingly takes on a responsible role (as the aforementioned twosome did), one must be able to deal with tough encounters or determined individuals while keeping the personal issues on the back-burner. Both individuals are usually mentally tough but they do show signs of being oversensitive from time to time which ultimately affects the progress of their tasks.

Fortitude is a quality that is crucial to success. One can get it from a variety of sources including but not limited to how one is raised, living in a big city or foreign country, participating in sports particularly team sports or wisdom from mentors. It is something that is sorely needed to navigate life's tricky slopes so one can thrive in the manner that they desire. Letting someone or something put a crack in that fortitude by being too sensitive about what I normally view as "small stuff" is not a productive way to live a life.

Those small cracks of sensitivity can develop into bigger cracks where one's daily life becomes consumed with little irritations instead of focusing on the more important and bigger life goals. It's especially vital for young people to embrace challenging moments and not become too sensitive as most have no idea how difficult life will be for them as they join the job force and settle into the world as an adult. The care-free and innocent teenage days will be a thing of the past when our youth step into the real world as a twenty-something particularly in this economic crises. They must be prepared for the obstacles that they will inevitably face.

I speak from experience as I used to let a multitude of small things and/or comments bother me in my early twenties yet I always knew deep inside that they were minor issues compared to the lofty challenges I expected to come my way. Since my mid twenties, I have focused solely on my life goals and dealt directly and quickly with the small and challenging moments of daily life. They don't fluster me or create a panic which frees my mind from distraction and helps me focus on moving my agenda forward and not backwards.

And don't forget that those who frequently show signs of oversensitivity often carry that over to relationships and love which can cause frustration, misguided choices or a life without a partner.

Remember the words of the late Luther Vandross from the song "My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way):

At times I don't believe that I can't control my heart

It skips a beat even before the Lovin' starts

I seem to fall in love with just the slightest touch

and even the little things begin to mean so much

And though I should hold out longer

Just to make sure things get stronger


You tell me that you love me

And before I'm sure you really do

You say you love me more and more each day

And that's when my sensitivity gets in the way


Focus on your fortitude at all times and keep it a a high level so that a productive life, a chance at love and/or happiness won't remain elusive.

Don't let your SENSITIVITY get in the way.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede's youth basketball program ( from 2006. Our 6th year begins in May of 2010!

New York Yankees - Excellence on top of Excellence

One might think that because I hail from the state of Pennsylvania, I would have rooted for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. Unfortunately, I never grew fond of the Major League Baseball teams in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Since I spent most of my adult years working in New York City (NYC), my heart will always remain in the Big Apple. During my decade of bliss in NYC, I had the pleasure of experiencing and rooting for a team (New York Yankees) that was solely focused on excellence - in baseball that means winning championships. Working at Madison Square Garden (MSG) in the mid 1990's gave me the opportunity to meet Yankees players, attend spring training in Florida, go to over 100 games, sell Yankee advertising and learn about one of the most fierce and determined baseball teams I have ever seen. From 1995-2000, the Yankees provided some of my most thrilling sports moments.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Joe Torre (former manager of the Yankees) and the joy that he brought to Manhattan when he managed teams that won 4 out of 5 World Series. The link is below. Joe currently manages the Los Angeles Dodgers and I was hoping they would reach the championship series this year but they lost to the Phillies. It would have been very intriguing to witness the Yankees play against their former coach - a man who made the Yankees shine for 12 glorious years. In that article, I wished the new manager, Joe Girardi well and he has made the champagne pop in the Big Apple. In only his second year, his team is wearing the championship ring!

Selling print, signage and TV advertising at MSG allowed me to experience regular season and playoff Yankees games; most often with clients and occasionally with a group of friends. I was there for the final out of the 1996 World series and one of my most memorable sports moments was game one of the 1998 World Series. The Yankees came from behind to win that night and the highlight was a Tino Martinez home-run that sent the crowd into a frenzy of pure joy. I have never witnessed a moment like that in sports and probably never will. Beer was flying everywhere, people were screaming, everyone was hugging and the electricity in the stadium was almost majestic. My friends and the 50,000 plus fans didn't want that night to end!

Another perk of MSG was attending the Yankees Spring training in Florida before the season started. We took clients every year and introduced them to a few current and past players. During one trip in 1996, I met the great Reggie Jackson who obviously didn't want to be there as his attitude was sour. That was disappointing for me and many of our clients who remembered his past heroics with the Yankees. One refreshing moment was chatting with and listening to the owner, George Steinbrenner. He was affable and everyone enjoyed his company immensely. As sports fans witnessed from the media over the years, he is a tough minded and no nonsense owner who expects to win the World Series EVERY year. Some of our guests were surprised at his friendly and funny tone as he couldn't have been more pleasant with us. He has travelled a rocky road in managing the Yankees although his one constant is driving his players, coaches and executives to reach for the top every year. He expected and demanded excellence. George is older now and away from the day to day operations although I'm sure he was smiling as he watched his Yankees add another trophy to their previous 26.

There are quite a few teams in sports that could take a lesson from the New York Yankees. Far too many prominent sports organizations (no need to mention as sports fans know) lack the drive for excellence or they don't know how to go after it which is evident by mismanagement or losing year after year. Excellence is more than just demanding it. It requires an owner that knows how to put the proper executives in place in order to give his team the best chance to excel. Those executives then need to choose and develop the players best suited for winning. In addition, the choice of a coach is vital as the success of Joe Torre and now Joe Giradi exemplifies. Most importantly, everyone in the organization needs to know, believe and feel (sometimes daily) that winning is expected each and every year despite rebuilding years or obstacles that arise. Since the owner is the ultimate boss, that excellence drive should come from him or her.

George Steinbrenner (often called "The Boss") steered the Yankees ship sternly and successfully since the early 1970's. This 2009 championship wouldn't have been possible without his relentless pursuit and passion for winning. Hopefully, his son can carry the torch of excellence into the future and make his father proud.

Congratulations to the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede with "Mr October", Reggie Jackson at Yankees Spring training in 1996.

"I Have a Dream" speech - Powerful Words, Useful for Today

Earlier this week, I watched the eloquent and powerful "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr, a baptist minister in 1963. At least once a year, I put everything aside for 20 minutes and enjoy arguably the greatest speech ever given. Dr. King's words inspired me the first time I heard them and this time was no exception. With the challenging economic difficulties in America and throughout the world, his words can serve as comfort and inspiration for all Americans along with the global community to rise up with positivity, help others and be pro-active forces both domestically and internationally.

For those who have not heard the speech, it focused on the Negro's (African-American today) shameful and tragic plight in a 1963 America. You can watch the speech at the following link:

Here's what Rev. King said in the beginning of his famous talk:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. Now is the time.

Dr. King pursued justice for the Negro in the 1950's and the 1960's with full force yet always preached non-violence as the way to go about it. He was relentless in bringing about change for the Negro and was fearless. I love the words "Now is the time" above and find them useful for our difficulties today.

The questions we can ask ourselves - "What are we doing to help those people suffering in our community, families or other countries? If this crises hasn't affected you personally, have you offered a spiritual or guiding hand to those it has affected? If it has affected you, are you just wallowing in misery or being positive and eager to get back on your feet? If you have a thriving corporation, how have you utilized your good fortune to help those in need? It can be a small or big action but we all must do something! Now is the time.

Even in well to do Sweden, there are plenty of people in need. I heard a wonderful story about a friend who was in need of money as his cash earning prospects were bleak and bills were due. A man gave him 500 kronor (71 dollars) and he was so appreciative. The friend was surprised at the man's generosity. Little things sometimes mean a lot.

With the holidays right around the corner, "Now is the time" to provide food for someone who needs it, give a gift to a child who might not get one or simply listen to someone who needs a comforting ear. The possibilities of helping are endless although the effort must be made.

President Barack Obama appears to have the "Now is the time" attitude with his ambitious domestic goals as well as international goodwill although the REAL need is to help those 15 million Americans who are jobless. Without putting people back to work, it's hard to imagine how America can improve its bleak condition anytime soon. If you aren't aware of the awful unemployment figures in America, please read Bob Herbert's insightful article at the link below. Here's a numbing paragraph:

While the data mavens were talking about green shoots in September, employers in the real world were letting another 263,000 of their workers go, bringing the jobless rate to 9.8 percent, the highest in more than a quarter of a century. It would have been higher still but 571,000 people dropped out of the labor market. They’re jobless but not counted as unemployed. The number of people officially unemployed — 15.1 million — is, as The Wall Street Journal noted, greater than the population of 46 of the 50 states. (From column titled "Does Obama Get it")

It's important to remember that there were not only a sea of black faces listening to Dr. King on that marvelous day in 1963 - many white people were also there in support of the movement.

Rev. King went on to say this:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

Rev. King embraced white people who cared about the cause and openly called for the Negro not to distrust them as he knew the Negro could not "walk alone". Similarly, President Obama has made it crystal clear that we must reach out to our brothers and sisters around the world as the friendship, support and trust of the people outside of America is essential to re-building America and keeping it strong. Our former President (#43), alienated much of the world and the American reputation suffered immensely because of his actions and inaction. I am grateful for Obama as he enhanced our brand seemingly overnight and that is good for the entire world. I wrote about our brand in my article "The American Brand is Back". The link is below.

More questions to ask ourselves regarding reaching out internationally:

Do you have international friends? If not, why not? If your circle is made up entirely of friends who you grew up with, can you really learn about the world outside of your comfort zone?

Have you travelled outside of your country? I realize that it is easier for people here in Europe to do so yet there is no excuse for the lack of American travel in foreign countries. Less than 25% of Americans have passports. That is a startlingly statistic and must improve if we are going to to show that we care about the rest of the world. I know educated and financially sound Americans who have never left the borders!

Do you take the opportunity to talk with people from different backgrounds or countries when possible? Whenever I ride in a cab in Sweden, I make it a point to talk to the taxi driver (who are mainly immigrants) even when I sometimes don't feel like doing so. Every time, the conversation is stimulating and I learn so much about their birth countries and their experiences in Sweden. I also make it a point to ask every driver if Swedish people talk to them and 95% of the time, the answer is no. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and engage with unknown people once in a while as you may be pleasantly surprised with the conversation that ensues.

I never thought I would see someone in my lifetime who had the chance to be a great American and make a profound impact like Martin Luther King. President Obama has that chance as he has already inspired millions and created hope throughout the world in a way no one could have imagined. He has the tools - charisma, intellect, compassion, oratory skills, and passion although the ultimate judgement will be based upon whether he has the relentless focus and doggedness like Dr. King to follow through on his convictions.

Rev. King never backed down and was a driving force to bring about change for the Negro; his movement played a major role in prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. My life, the lives of people of color and America in general would be vastly different today if not for the bold actions of Martin Luther King. He sacrificed his own life in pursuit of justice.

President Obama vowed to make America strong again and embrace our neighbors around the world. He has had an impressive start with education in America and it seems as though a health-care bill will be passed in Congress. Those are two key elements for rebuilding America along with the need for serious action on our climate. In addition, his speech in Cairo to the Muslim world spoke volumes about his passion for international inclusion. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are complicated and not easy to manage although they must be handled appropriately so they don't take the focus off of the horrendous domestic issues in America.

The big test for Obama is getting the millions of unemployed Americans back to work and I have not seen much evidence of a coherent plan to make that happen. That is a troubling sign especially for our young people. America cannot be strong again or great again if our eager citizens can't cash a paycheck.

Paul Krugman's column on the subject of high employment in America is very useful to read. A paragraph is below:

Deficit hawks like to complain that today’s young people will end up having to pay higher taxes to service the debt we’re running up right now. But anyone who really cared about the prospects of young Americans would be pushing for much more job creation, since the burden of high unemployment falls disproportionately on young workers — and those who enter the work force in years of high unemployment suffer permanent career damage, never catching up with those who graduated in better times.
(From column titled "Too Little of a Good Thing")

Mr. President, Now is the Time.

Fellow Americans, Now is the Time.

My brothers and sisters around the world, Now is the Time.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Stockholm in January 2007 - Gswede took a 2 hour walk after after a magnificent overnight snowfall