Sunday Inspiration

O Ship of State: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;
‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee, -are all with thee!

Where have you found inspiration this week?

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Sunday Inspiration

The Star-Spangled Banner

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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Happy Independence Day!

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Where have you found inspiration this week?

How do I find good media for my kids?

I had an internship while I was going to law school in Portland, Oregon. I remember talking to my supervisor right before one of the last Harry Potter movies came out in theaters. I asked him if he was going to take his kids, and he told me no. I was a little surprised because Harry Potter was huge.  It was what all everyone was watching and talking about. It was life! He explained that the movie was rated PG-13 and would be too scary for his young kids.

I’ve thought about that experience a lot as I’ve tried to make good choices about the media I expose my kids to. There are literally thousands of apps, tv shows, and movies available for kids of all ages. This makes it hard for parents like me to know which apps are the best ones. Which apps are going to keep my kid quiet on a long drive or on a flight? Which apps aren’t going to turn his brain to mush? Will the apps that advertise themselves as educational actually teach my kids something? Or are the apps no better for their brains than fruit-flavored gum is for their bodies? Can I just rely on movie ratings to make a determination about which movies my family will watch? Is a tv show that advertises itself as educational actually going to teach my son anything?

Recently, I wrote a post about the AAP’s new guidelines about screen time for kids. I talked about the resources that the AAP offered to help parents plan out their kids’ screen time. There was a guide to making a media plan and a calculator to help parents prioritize their kids’ time.

The AAP linked to commonsensemedia.org in their media plan template. This website reviews apps, movies, tv shows, books, and almost any other kind of media available that your kids might consume. It provides subject summaries for the different media. It also designates which age group the media is best suited for.

The website receives support from several different well-known foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They claim that they don’t get any money from the products they review and that, because of this, they provide totally independent reviews. They say that this allows them to give you unbiased information about all the apps, tv shows and movies out there.

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Their “About” page provides information on what goes into their ratings and how they break them down by age group. The ratings they use are helpful. Rather than just focusing on the negative side of things, like violence, sex, and language, they also focus on positive things. They give a rating for a movie or an app based on the positive message they portray or the positive role models they include. These can be great indicators if you’re looking for something that isn’t just entertaining but also uplifting for your kids. One unique negative indicator that they use is consumerism. I have not seen a similar indicator on other sites.

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The age groups are relatively short periods of time, and the year designation makes it easy to know who they are talking about. They don’t break it up into “toddler” and “teen,” and leave you wondering if they’re talking about an older, younger, or middle-aged teen or toddler. Instead, they use two to three year increments so that you have a better idea of whether or not your child fits into their age designation.

Here’s an example of their rating system in action. Doctor Strange is a Marvel movie that recently came out. Commonsensemedia.org gave it a 12+ age designation. They go through the seven categories listed above with an explanation of their ranking. For example, they give language a 3 out of 5 because there are two uses of a**hole, a use of *ss, a use of h*ll, and a possible use of sh*t.

Probably one of the coolest aspects of the site is that they have a section with discussion topics for families. They give ideas on how to talk about the Doctor Strange’s character progression from arrogant and selfish to humble and perseverant.

This is a great site to help you weed through the thousands of choices of apps, tv shows and movies available for your family to use and watch. What do you use to make sure your family is watching great movies and tv shows? How do you make sure that the apps your kids use are the best ones?

AAP’s New Tech Rules and Creating Your Own Family Digital Media Plan

You’ve probably seen the new guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published on how much time kids should be spending in front of screens on a daily basis.

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It’s something that has garnered a lot of attention in the news. The headlines are all over the place on this. Depending on the site you visit, you may have a wildly different reaction to what the new guidance actually says.

CNN used New Screen Time Rules for Kids, by Doctors. This is pretty straightforward, no nonsense. What it is, and who said it.

The WSJ used Banning Tablets is Best for Children. The subheadline follows: “Latest guidelines recommend just one hour of screen time a day of ‘high quality programming.'”… This is pretty confusing. So, should we ban tablets or shoot for one hour a day?

Gizmodo used We Were Wrong About Limiting Children’s Screen Time. This is kind of foreboding. How were we wrong? Are our kids brains already mush? Is it too late for our kids?

So, what did the AAP actually say?

They set the stage by saying that kids today spend an average of seven hours a day on electronic entertainment in front of the tv, computers, phones and other electronic devices. This is a crazy amount of time! If a kid is at school from 8 until 3 and getting entertained by technology for the rest of the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for interacting with family, running around outside, or doing things like sports. The whole seven hour thing is something they think parents need to change.

How do parents do that, you ask? Well, they suggested that parents come up with a media use plan for their kids. If you have no idea what this means, that’s ok. The AAP provides tools to help families make their own digital media plan. They have two different tools. One tool focuses on creating a family media plan. The other tool is a media use calculator.

The media plan is divided up into nine different categories for each child. The categories are screen free zones, screen free times, device curfews, choose and diversify your media, balancing online and offline options, manners matter, digital citizenship, safety first, and sleep and exercise.

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This is the Safety First section of the plan that I can work on for my three fake kids–Bill, Billy, and William. It provides age-appropriate suggestions for each age group, like “no texting and driving” for the 13-18 year-old and gives you the option to add your own guidelines. The AAP encourages you to return to this cite often throughout the year to reassess how your plan is doing and making adjustments for different times through the week like weekends and holidays.

The calculator allows you to see how much time your child should have for electronic entertainment after doing everything else he or she needs to do throughout the day. It helps parents prioritize things for their kids like getting a good night’s sleep and physical activity. These are the two default activities that have a period of time set off when you open the calculator. Screen time also starts with an initial period of time set off, but its time decreases as you increase other areas. Then it includes suggestions of things that kids should be doing each day like reading, going to school, and spending time with family. Here’s an example of what I was able to create for my imaginary 6-12 year-old “Bill.”

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As you can see, the way that I have prioritized everything for my hypothetical child leaves him with only 30 minutes of screen time each day. (As a nerdy aside, I was recently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. William H. Seward, one of the Republican candidates running against Abraham Lincoln for the presidential nomination, studied as a kid from 5 A.M. until 9 P.M. every day. This set the stage for his success as a governor, U.S. senator, and the U.S. Secretary of State. On the other hand, Lincoln did not have a lot of formal schooling. He obtained much of his education from books. He was always reading. Goodwin’s book is amazing. I highly recommend it. Aside over.)

Do you use tools like these? Have you found them to be effective?

Sunday Inspiration: Washington’s First Inauguration Speech

This is the first inauguration speech delivered by a president of the United States. It captures the hopes and dreams for a fledgling nation of a man who sacrificed much and devoted his life to establishing that nation.


Fellow Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the fourteenth day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years: a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with dispondence, one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver, is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of eve ry circumstance, by which it might be affected. All I dare hope, is, that, if in executing this task I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof, of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my Country, with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the Executive Department, it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration, such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you, will acquit me from entering into that subject, farther than to refer to the Great Constitutional Charter under which you are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications, I behold the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no seperate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the world.

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide, how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the Fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the System, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good: For I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an United and effective Government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience; a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for the public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be more impregnably fortified, or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the preceeding observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honoured with a call into the Service of my Country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the Station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imported to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparellelled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

~ President George Washington, April 30, 1789


Where have you found inspiration this week?