Wednesday, November 30, 2016

J-Speaks: The Passing of "A Lovely Lady"

For five seasons, she was the “lovely lady,” who played the matriarch of a blended family who entertained and taught all of us for five seasons on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). She also had a remarkable career in film, stage and television that spanned six decades, which also included a stint as a contestant on the same network that introduced us to her back in the early 1970s. Recently she had her own talk show and cooking show. Last week unfortunately, this amazing treasure said farewell to the world on a day that we all gave thanks.
A week ago from tomorrow, Florence Henderson, who is forever television’s most adored mother and iconic matriarch Carol Brady from the great ABC sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” which ran from 1969-74 passed away back on Thanksgiving night following a brief illness. She was 82 years old.
A report from New York’s Newsday Henderson, who is survived by her children Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their respective spouses and five grandchildren, was last Thanksgiving Eve at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, where she unfortunately passed away after suffering heart failure.
Her manager Kayla Pressman said to Newsday that Henderson in her final moments was “surrounded by family and friends.”
Actress Maureen McCormick, who played daughter Marsha Brady on “The Brady Bunch” and remained friends even after the show concluded tweeted about her TV mom, “You are in my life forever Florence. Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my <e forever. Love & hugs to her family. I’ll miss u dearly.” #RIPFlorence.
Born Florence Agnes Henderson on Valentine’s Day in 1934, she was the youngest of 10 children in Dale, IN to Elizabeth, a homemaker and Joseph Henderson, a tobacco sharecropper.
It was Florence’s mother during the Great Depression who taught her how to sing at the age of two. By age 12, Henderson was singing at the local grocery store.
Upon graduating from St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, KY in 1951, Henderson moved to New York City and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she became an Alumna Initiate of the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.
Her entertainment career for Henderson began as a performer in musicals, like the touring production of Oklahoma! And South Pacific at Lincoln Center in New York City.
She made her Broadway debut in 1952 in the musical Wish You Were Here and two years later was the star in the long-running 1954 musical Fanny, which had 888 performances and Henderson originated the title role.
Henderson four years later portrayed Meg March in the CBS-TV musical adaptation of Little Woman, which aired on Oct. 16, 1958.
In that same year, she along with Bill Hayes appeared in the Oldsmobile commercials from 1958-1961 on The Patti Page Show, which Oldsmobile was the sponsor.
Henderson’s last musical performance was in Jack Paar’s subsequent talk show in 1963, which included the Jan. 25th and Feb. 22nd broadcasts. She also performed in the May 19, 1963 broadcast of The Voice of Firestone, where she performed alongside baritone Mario Sereni.
Henderson’s big break came in 1969 where she played the beloved Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch” which aired from 1969-74 and 117 episodes.
It was 117 episodes that displayed a blended family of a lady with three girls, McCormick, who played Marcia Brady; Eve Plumb who played Jan Brady and Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady and Robert Reed, who played her husband Mike Brady, who had three sons Peter, played by Christopher Knight; Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady and Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady. The family also had a maid Alice Nelson, played by the late Ann B. Davis.  
The one thing that Henderson did say in a 2012 interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters back in 2012 that she wished that her character had a job.
On last Friday’s addition of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Executive Editor at People magazine Kate Coyne said to Dan Harris and Paula Faris that Mrs. Henderson was a very modern woman.
“She was very ambitious. She was very successful. She herself had carved out a career that spanned well beyond ‘The Brady Bunch,’” Coyne said. “She made sure that she stayed relevant. She was very, very driven.”
Earlier this year in an interview with Newsday, Henderson said of her role on the show, “I decided a long time ago to embrace it. You gotta cherish your past. I can’t say I didn’t do it. I get more fan mail today from all over the world than I did when the show started…The question I’m asked the most is, ‘Can I have a hug?’”
She also once said of that playing Mrs. Brady as “The Mother I always wished I had, as the mother a lot of people wished they had.”
If you had a chance to see the show, you can understand why even today Mrs. Henderson has and continued to receive mail from fans. Playing the character of Mrs. Brady, Henderson was the wise, calming and generous presence to her blended family of six children, three of which, who were all girls that were hers.
That ability is a major reason why the series became a major global phenomenon, which resulted in spin-offs, variety shows, movies and cartoons that were begot from the series that consisted or “The Brady Bunch Hour (1977);” “The Brady Brides (1981);” “A Very Brady Christmas (1988);” “The Bradys (1990)” and “The Brady Bunch Movie (1995).”
That is not bad when you consider that at first Mrs. Henderson was uninterested in the playing the role that made her an icon.
When “The Brady Bunch,” concluded, Henderson continued to work making guest appearances on some of the best show of today and back then like “The Love Boat (1977-87, 10 episodes);” “Fantasy Island (1979-83);” “Murder She Wrote (1986-90, three episodes);” “Roseanne (1988-97, one episode) “Ally McBeal (2000, one episode)” and “30 Rock (2006-13, one episode).”
Along with her television credits, Mrs. Henderson beginning in the 1980s hosted a cooking and talk series, Country Kitchen,” on The Nashville Network for eight seasons.  
Six years ago, she was one of 12 celebrities to compete on Season 11 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which premiered on Sept. 20, 2010. Her professional dance partner was Corky Ballas, the father of two-time DWTS champion Mark Ballas. Mrs. Henderson was the fifth contestant eliminated that season.
Mrs. Henderson had made many appearances on CBS’s early afternoon talk show “The Talk,” hosted by Julie Chen, Sheryl Underwood, Aisha Tyler, Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osbourne.
In her last appearance on “The Talk” was back in Feb. 2014, where the host and those in audience celebrated her 80th Birthday.
When Henderson appeared on the show in 2011, she said about her role as Mrs. Brady, “I never set out to be a role model. I’m an actress. I created a character Carol Brady. I loved this character and I created her as the mother I think that everyone wishes they had. It was the mother I wish I’d had. I didn’t have a mother like that at all.”
In her 2014 appearance, in honor of her 80th Birthday, her television children expressed what Henderson was like and what she meant to her and what they learned from her.
“I thought she was so beautiful and I thought she had eyes like a dove,” Olsen said.“I definitely recall her saying to me about the show be nice to your fans because no fans, equals no show and I’ve taken that with me. I’ve taken that kind of attitude with me my whole life,” Lookinland said.
Underwood asked Henderson how would Carol Brady feel about turning 80 years young?
Her answer, “She’d probably feel the same way I do. A little nervous. A little excited. I think she’d be out there like I am dating younger men,” which got a serious round of applause from the audience.
Before the conclusion of that taping when Henderson was honored with a nice birthday cake, Williams gave his television mother roses and a lovely passionate kiss. Something he said that he had been waiting four decades to do.
On this past Monday’s edition of “The Talk” the host were still in shock that someone who became a good friend to them and their show was suddenly gone.
“I think it’s especially sad for us because we’ve been here for so many seasons, certain people sort of become a part of our extended family and part of our show and I think we had that special bond with her,” Gilbert said on Monday’s show.
Chen echoed those same thoughts when she said, “We were lucky enough to celebrate Florence’s 80th birthday right here on this show, but we will continue to celebrate her life and her legacy always. Florence we love you.”   
Along with her amazing talent, Henderson, as Coyne mentioned on GMA last week displayed an out of this world class that everyone she worked with or even talked to her wanted to be like. She put that class on display for the world to see during her elimination six years back.
“I loved the show since it began. I think it’s just a tremendous show and I hoped I’ve inspired people to get up off their behinds and move and dance and live and enjoyed,” Henderson, who even made an appearance in the audience during the season finale of DWTS last week, which unfortunately was her final public appearance.
Florence Henderson was an entertainer who could connect with her audience. Whether it was her legendary voice on Broadway, to her acting skills on the silver or small screen. She had a way of holding the attention of those that watched her perform and they always came back wanting more. She had a presence that stood out from the rest. She had the wisdom that she was willing to share with fellow actors that made them better. Above all she never took an opportunity for granted and that resulted in a long and stellar career that will always be remembered.
When someone passes on, one question always comes to mind. How would they liked to be remembered?
Mrs. Henderson once said that, “I think probably as someone who survived for a long time in a very tough business and hopefully managed to retain a sense of humanity. I think that’s how I would like to be remembered.”
Information and quotations are courtesy of 11/25/16 7 a.m. edition of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” with Paula Faris, Dan Harris, Diane Macedo and Rob Marciano; 11/26/16 Newsday article "A Memorable TV Mom," by Verne Gay; 11/28/16 2 p.m. edition of “The Talk” on CBS with Julie Chen, Sheryl Underwood, Sara Gilbert, Aisha Tyler and guest co-host Country Singer and actress Reba McEntire; and

Friday, November 25, 2016

J-Speaks: New Recipients of The Presidendial Medal of Freedom

In 1963, then President John F. Kennedy established through Executive Order 11085 right next to the Congressional Gold Medal the highest civilian award in the United States of America. It is award that since then has been bestowed by the Leader of the Free World himself recognizing individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the country. In the eight years under our current President Barack Obama, 117 people have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including 21 new recipients earlier this week.

Those 21 that received this honor this past Tuesday were five-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Blackfeet Tribal community leader Elouise Cobell; comedian and long-time talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres; Academy Award nominee and Oscar Award winning actor Robert De Niro; Richard Garwin; Bill and Melinda Gates; Frank Gehry; Margaret H. Hamilton; actor Tom Hanks; Grace Hopper; six-time NBA champion and owner of the Charlotte Hornets Hall of Famer Michael Jordan; designer Maya Lin; Creator and Executive Producer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” Lorne Michaels; World War II veteran and attorney Newt Minow; President of Miami Dade College (MDC) Eduardo Padron; actor Robert Redford; entertainment icon Diana Ross; legendary broadcaster of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers Vin Scully; singer songwriter and leader of the E Street Band Bruce Springsteen and two-time Emmy Award and Tony Award winner Cicely Tyson.

Of all the aspects that President Obama has been tasked to do during his tenure in the highest office in the land, this has been his favorite of all. On this past Tuesday night’s edition of “The 11th Hour” on MSNBC with Brian Williams, he had said that Mr. Obama has been personally involved in the selections. It is not surprising that he has awarded more Presidential Medals of Freedom than his 10 predecessors. He did admit though that the 2016 Class may be the best of all-time.

They are recognizable faces to all of us. We have seen them on the big or small screen. They have entertained, educated and encouraged us to reach for our dreams. To treat and respects others the way we would want to be treated and respected.

It was not a surprise when President Obama in his remarks about some of the recipients that it was crystal clear that it was a privilege and honor to congratulate and decorate the very best of us as Americans, particularly Americans who shaped him into the person that our nation saw for eight years of him as the leader of the United States.

“Today we celebrate extraordinary Americans who have lifted our spirits. Strengthen our union. Pushed us towards progress,” President Obama said.

“First we came close to missing out on a Bill and Melinda Gates incredible partnership because Bill’s opening line was do you want to go out two weeks from this Saturday. Fortunately, Melinda believes in second chances and the world is better for it.”  

In getting a laugh to the audience, Mr. Obama was talking about the first time when Mr. and Mrs. Gates first encounter, which could have gone in a different direction and we would have missed out on the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which began 16 years ago and has been a major factor in helping people lead healthier and more productive lives. Putting a focus in developing countries to improve the health of the people, which intern gives those individuals a chance to lift themselves out of extreme poverty and put a dent on serious hunger issues. Here in the U.S., the foundation, the mission of the foundation is to ensure that all citizens, particularly those at the bottom of the sphere access to opportunities necessary to get a great education and for the chance at an amazing life.

Mr. Obama mentioned that in 1976 Lorne Michaels implored one the greatest all-time bands in history “The Beatles” to reunite on his brand-new show “Saturday Night Live,” in exchange, he offered them $3,000.

“Which was early proof that Lorne Michaels has a good sense of humor,” Mr. Obama said.

Michaels used that sense of humor, drive and confidence that created one of the most successful and longest running shows that has been a stable on Saturday night for over 40 years and has given us some of the most amazing comedic talents. In addition to creating “SNL,” Michaels has also produced successful shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers and 30 Rock to name a few. That amazing career also includes 13 Emmy Awards.

Since Sept. 8, 2003, comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres came into our living rooms with her show The Ellen DeGeneres Show and brought a new flavor to our daily lives. A flavor that consisted of a trademark sense of humor that made her one of the very best comedians on every stage she performed on whether it was in a comedy club or a television special.

DeGeneres’s show also brought to viewers in the audience and those that watch on the small screen a sense of humility and optimism, something that she had to have a lot of at a very important time in her life in the late 1990s, which Mr. Obama spoke about during the ceremony.

“It’s easy to forget now just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” Obama said about DeGeneres admitting that she was gay.

“What an incredible burden that was to bare. To risk your career like that. People don’t to that very often.”

Today, DeGeneres is at the top of her game as an amazing host of her show, which besides interviewing celebrities, has shined a light on those in the country who are making the lives of others better and who are achieving greatness despite the odds that are times stacked against them.

DeGeneres has also hosted The Academy Awards twice in 2007 and 2014 and in the acting world has endeared herself to young children in the role as the little fish named Dory in Finding Nemo, which came out in 2003 and she reprised the role earlier this year in the very successful movie Finding Dory.

In both in front of the camera and away from it, DeGeneres has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness and it is because of her courage and spirit why our current president said in an interview a couple of years ago with ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts that same sex couples should have the right to marry.

It is one thing to be a great actor that can fill a movie theater and make a great deal of money for yourself, the studio that brings that motion picture to life and all those involved. It is another thing to be an actor that is involved in projects that have a lasting impact on those that watch. Tom Hanks is that actor and it has made him one of the very best.

He has been nominated on five occasions for The Oscar for Best Actor and won twice for his role in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Some of Hank’s other memorable roles include Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away.

Away from the camera, Hanks has been a serious advocate for social and environmental justice for our veterans that serve in the military and their families.

“From a Philadelphia courtroom. To Normandy’s beach heads to the dark side of the moon, he has introduced us to America’s unassuming heroes,” Mr. Obama said of Hanks and what he portrayed on the silver screen.

“Tom says he just saw ordinary guys doing the right thing at the right time. Well it takes one to know one.”

Speaking of an actor who has made a lasting impression, that is exactly what actress Cicely Tyson has done in her brilliant and lovely career on the stage, television and movie screen.

The two-time Emmy Award recipient for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” is also well known for her performances in “Sounder,” “Roots” and “The Help.” She returned to the stage three years ago in “The Trip to the Bountiful” and won the Tony Award for best leading actress. Two years later, Tyson received the Kennedy Center Honors.

Another actor who has shaped the cinema world as well as the show his hand in politics is seven-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro.

His film credits over a five-decade span consists of the sports drama “Bang the Drum Slowly;” Martin Scorsese’s crime film “Mean Streets;” the biographical film “Men of Honor” and his famed role as Jack Byrnes in “Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers” and “Little Fockers.”

De Niro was a major supporter of President Obama when he ran in 2008 and showed that support at a rally at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ on Feb. 4, 2008 before Super Tuesday.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, De Niro was one of many outspoken critics of our now president-elect Donald Trump calling him “so blatantly stupid,” while also stating, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” referencing a similar statement Trump expressed towards Democratic National Committee speakers at one of his rallies during the election.

Along with an amazing in front of the movie camera as an actor and behind the scenes as a director and producer, Robert Redford was just as good in business and as an environmentalist.

In 1981, the recent Academy Award winner for Best Director and a Lifetime Achievement recipient founded the Sundance Institute, which was created to advance the work of independent filmmakers and storytellers across the globe, that also includes its annual Sundance Film Festival.

It is because of this festival many works have made it to mainstream theaters and brought many great works to the eyes of those who got the chance to see.

When you say the name Michael Jordan, you say the name of the one of the best to ever play on the professional hardwood. A guy who whether it was practice or in the actual game played with a passion and determination that he was going to be great and leave an impression that you would never forget. Just ask the folks in Cleveland, OH.

His six championships he led the Chicago Bulls to in his nine seasons endeared him to the “Windy City;” his five NBA regular season MVPs and six NBA Finals MVPs put him in the class as one of the best of all-time. The current owner of the Charlotte Hornets, whose basketball journey in the public eye began at the University of North Carolina playing for the Tar Heels for the late Hall of Famer Dean Smith has become the one player that all others coming into the NBA are measured by.

“He’s more than just a logo. More than just an internet meme. There is a reason you call somebody the Michael Jordan off. Michael Jordan of neurosurgery. The Michael Jordan of Rabbi’s. The Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing. They know what you’re talking about,” Mr. Obama said poking fun at Jordan while getting a few laughs from those in the audience. “Because Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan of greatness. He is the definition of somebody so good at what they do that everybody recognizes him”

The President also mentioned that the greatness of the guy whose shoe has been a stable of Nike for a long time may not have come to being. At five years of age, Jordan he nearly cut off his big toe with an axe.

“If things had gone differently, Air Jordan’s might have never taken flight,” Mr. Obama said as he got a laugh out of the audience. “I mean you don’t want to buy a shoe with like one toe missing.”

The other basketball legend to receive the nation’s highest honor was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer who first led the Milwaukee Bucks to a championship in 1971 and helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five Larry O’Brien Trophies in the 1980s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

During his playing career, the New York native garnered six NBA MVPs and was a 19-time All-Star selection. As a collegiate he helped the UCLA Bruins and then head coach John Wooden to three straight NCAA Basketball titles.

Since his days on the NBA hardwood, Abdul-Jabbar has been a best-selling author and cultural critic. His first book was an autobiography entitled Giant Steps, with co-author Peter Knobler. Another best-selling work of the former Laker captain was On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, co-authored by Raymond Obstfeld, which became a movie that documented the tumultuous journey of the overlooked Harlem Renaissance professional basketball team at Science Park High School in Newark, NJ.

In November 2014, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay in Jacobin magazine which called for college athletes to be justly compensated writing, “in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.”

Abdul-Jabbar had also become a regular contributor to discussions on the issues of race doing a column for the likes of Time magazine and appearing on shows like “Meet the Press” where on the Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 edition talking about a recent column that he did about not blaming Islam for the actions of violent extremists.

When he was asked about being a Muslim, he said, “I don’t have any misgiving about my faith. I’m very concerned about the people who claim to be Muslims that are murdering people and creating all this mayhem in the world. That is not what Islam is about, and that should not be what people think of when they think about Muslims. But it’s up to all of us to do something about all of it.”

It is one thing to see the greatest athletes do what they do in front of our eyes. It is something else to hear someone give a description of those great acts of athleticism. That was the job of the likes of the legendary Vin Scully, who was the best of the best of when it came to broadcasting the greatness of the now Los Angeles Dodgers, who were before the Brooklyn Dodgers.

To put the how Scully, who retired at the end of this past MLB season was the sound of baseball for 67 great years into perspective, his voice became known to all of those that listen to him in Southern California from the early part of spring into the fall as the “soundtrack to summer.”

That soundtrack consisted signature moments in baseball history from the perfect game pitched by Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium versus the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 9, 1965; Kirk Gibson’s two-run game-winning home run off Oakland Athletics’ Dennis Eckersley that gave the Dodgers Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which they won 4-1 and Henry “Hank” Aaron’s record-breaking 715th homer breaking Babe Ruth’s 39-year-old MLB record.

In the history of music and entertainment, you are only as good as your last moment. The ones that can be present in front of an audience in an arena, stage or the big or small screen and leave a lasting impression with their performance are the ones that are legendary. Diana Ross is that kind of person, who has a career that spans over 50 decades in music, film, television, theater and even fashion.

That amazing career got her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; earned her the highest honor of the Grammy Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award and becoming a recipient at the Kennedy Center Honors back in 2007.

 “Along with her honey voice. Her soulful sensibility, Diana exuded glamour, grace and filled stages that helped shape the sound of Motown,” Mr. Obama said of the proud mother of Ross Naess, Chudney Ross, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, Evan Ross and Tracee Ellis Ross, who currently stars as Dr. Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish.

Being a boss is more than just having a title and giving orders. It is being the voice at times of a group; the epicenter of a team with a mission to accomplish and to be the inspiration of what is possible. These are the attributes of legendary singer, songwriter and bandleader of the E Street Band Bruce Springsteen, who used a guitar that he bought and taught himself how to make that guitar talk to those that saw him and his band play.

That guitar and his band through their play and their lyrics and out of this world concert performances stories that have helped shape the music landscape in the U.S. as well as given a challenge to all of that through a great work ethic and a clear focus we too can achieve the American dream.

“Bruce Springsteen has brought us all along on a journey consumed with the bargains between ambition and injustice and pleasure and pain. The simple glories and scattered heartbreak of everyday life in America,” Mr. Obama said of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Kennedy Center honoree, who also poked a little fun at himself saying, “I am the president. He is ‘The Boss.’”

Among those that were honored posthumous, meaning after they passed on were Elouise Cobell, who used her accounting prowess to become a champion in a lawsuit which resulted in one of the greatest settlements in our country’s history as tribal homelands were restored to the Blackfeet Nation and inspired the next generations of Native American tribes to fight for the rights of others.

Cobell not only help to find the Native American Bank, she served as the director of the Native American Community Corporation and became the inspiration for other Native American women to seek roles in leadership in their communities.

There was a time in our nation where the computer was not a major part of our lives as they are today. At the forefront of that technology movement was the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who became known as “Amazing Grace,” as well as “the first lady of software.”

From the 1940s to 1980s, Hopper was at the forefront of programming development and her work was a major factor making coding languages more practical and accessible to the public. She created the first compiler, which translated source code from one language to another.

She was an associate professor at Vassar College in Arlington, NY where she taught mathematics. Hopper then joined the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant during World War II, where she would become one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and that started her lifelong role as a leader in the field of computer science.

Another person who served during World War II was Newt Minow, who eventually became an attorney and built a distinguished career in public.

After his service in the U.S. Army, Minow served as a Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the Governor of Illinois. At age 34, Minow was selected by President Kennedy in 1961 to serve as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC), where he helped shape the future of television and vigorously advocated for programming that promoted the interest of the public.

In a speech at Harvard University in 2011, Minow said that the news is the most important service to the public, but that the rest of the television landscape has fallen short in its service to those that watch.

“Too much deals with covering controversy, crimes, fires and not enough with the country’s great issues,” he said.

Minow also said in that speech that presidential campaigns are obsessed with the trivial, which is a perfect way to describe this past election cycle in a nutshell.

Since he left the FCC five decades ago, Minow has maintained a prominent private law practice and continues to devote to many public and charitable causes.

When you do not come from wealth or you are not blessed with an amazing gift like athletic ability that can take to the pros, the best way to make it in the world is to have a great education and no one has been a great fighter for the right to that than the President of Miami Dade College (MDC) Eduardo Padron.

Over his 40-plus years at the institution, President Padron has been a major voice for access and inclusion to higher education. He has been a tireless worker ensuring that all students at MDC have access to a quality, affordable higher education. Padron has been a champion for making the innovative ways of teaching students and strategies for making learning at MDC into the national model that all students at every university and community college can have.

Throughout the history of our nation has been built on creating and making things from scratch and one of the biggest forms of creating is that of buildings and sculptures that document the history of a place or of many places. They very often tell a story of something or someone. One person who has done such work of this nature is Maya Lin.

Among her most recognized works is the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in our nation’s capital, which has allowed Lin to have a celebrated career in both art and architecture.

She is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial entitled What is Missing? It is a project designed to bring awareness to our planet’s loss of habitat and biodiversity. 

Others that were presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom include former University of Chicago, Columbia and Harvard University professor Richard Garwin, who since earning a Ph.D. under Enrico Fermi at age 21 and has authored 500 technical papers; is a winner of the National Medal of Science; holds 47 U.S. patents and served as an advisor for numerous administrations.

One of the world’s leading architects Frank Gehry, who is best known for building the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA; the Dancing House in Prague and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, ES.

Margaret H. Hamilton, the leader, who used her skills as a mathematician and computer scientist to lead the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command and lunar modules. She used those skills to begin her own software company as well as make major contributions to the concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling and priority displays and human-in-the-loop decision capability that set the foundation for the ultra-reliable software design and engineering that is used today.

You can call this class of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients the best of all and their credentials would make a serious argument for that. Above all of that though, each of these individuals has had a major impact on our lives and shown us that we all matter. That they put their best foot forward so that we all can become better. That we all can dream big and we can achieve whatever we desire through hard work, commitment to the task at hand and a courage to not allow those who would deter us from our goals.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor-it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have help push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way,” Mr. Obama said in a statement via the White House Office of the Press Secretary two weeks ago.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 11/22/16 11 p.m. edition of WABC 7’s “Eyewitness News,” with Sade Barderinwa, Bill Ritter, Lee Goldberg with weather and Ryan Field with Sports; 11/22/16 11 p.m. edition of MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams;” 11/23/16 4:30 a.m. edition of WABC 7’s “Eyewitness News This Morning,” with Ken Rosato, Lori Stokes, Bill Evans with weather and Heather O’Rourke with traffic; 11/23/16 6 a.m. edition of CNN Headline News’ “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” hosted by Susan Hendricks; report from Bleacher Reports’ Hines Ward;; 11/16/16 press release of, “President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” via The White House Office of the Press Secretary from;;;;

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

J-Speaks: A Proud Journalist Gone Too Soon

There are very few journalist in the history of the world that can say they were successful on the print side as well as the broadcast side and not to mention a best-selling author. A lady born in New York, NY to an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and a woman from Barbados was one person that can say that she was one of those journalists. She knew the happenings of Washington and across the globe like the back of her hand. She even had the proud honor of being the moderator of the 2004 and 2008 vice presidential debates. Above all else, she was a journalist that had the trust of those who watched and she always delivered. At the start of this week, we said goodbye to this proud journalist.

Gwendolyn L. “Gwen” Ifill, the longtime moderator and managing editor of Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) “Washington Week” and “NewsHour,” which she co-anchored and co-managed with Judy Woodruff passed away from endometrial cancer on Monday. She was just 61 years old.

Per a report from CNN, Ifill spent her final days at a Washington, DC hospice facility in the company of friends and family.

She is survived by her brothers Roberto, an economics professor, Earle a minister; her sister Maria Ifill Philip, who is retired from the U.S. State Department

She had taken a month leave of absence earlier in the year and did not disclose her medical condition. Ifill went on leave again last week and missed covering election night.

Ms. Woodruff in a phone interview on Monday with the New York Times described her co-pilot on their show as a “fiend about facts. Someone who “loved storytelling and loved helping people understand what was going on in the world around them.”

Woodruff also said that, “For young women of color looking for a role model, she was it.”

In what would become her last piece of print work, Ifill back on Oct. 7 in an online column for PBS entitled, “The End Is In Sight,” she volunteered some parting words of wisdom for the presidential candidates Donald Trump ®, now our president-elect and Hillary Clinton (D).

“Once a candidate4, they can no longer claim outsider status, and he or she begins to look more ambitious than chaste,” Ifill wrote. “Hillary Clinton was a popular secretary of state, but now she is just Hillary Clinton. There is something about actually wanting a thing that makes voters think less of you.”

It is that kind of insight and self-disclosure that made Ifill one of the best in the field of journalism. It is what also earned her the respect of our current president Barack Obama (D) and current Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI).

“Gwen was a friend of ours. She was an extraordinary journalist; she always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession: asking questions, holding people in power accountable, and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work,” Obama said in a news conference on Monday.

Obama also stated that he “always appreciated [her] reporting even when [he] was at the receiving end of one of her tough interviews.”

Ryan described Ifill as “an incredibly talented and respected journalist.”

Ifill was born on Sept. 25, 1955 in Jamaica, Queens, NY to AME minister Urcile Ifill, Sr., and Elanor Ifill, formerly Elanor Husband.

Ifill with her father being periodically reassigned grew up in many places, which consisted of Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Buffalo, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, living in church parsonages and on some occasions, federally subsidized housing.

Ifill once described being the daughter of a preacher, “means you always have to be good.”

Ifill’s journey to the top of the mountain of journalism began at Simmons College, an all-women’s institution in Boston, MA where she majored in communications. She interned for the Boston Herald-American, now the Boston Herald. The editors of the paper hired Ifill after graduation in 1977, who were deeply embarrassed by an incident during her internship in which a co-worker had written a note to her that read, “Nigger go home.”

She would turn that dark moment into a career that would take her from the pages of the newspaper to the airwaves of television.

Ifill’s worked for the then Baltimore Evening Sun, now the Baltimore Sun from 1981-84, where she was an assigned to cover local politicians, who she said found to be committed to public service.

She then moved onto the Washington Post from 1984-91, where she covered her first presidential campaign. During this time, she was mainly assigned to cover losing candidates, who were not very happy when they met her.

Ifill would move onto the New York Times from 1991-94, where she was the White House correspondent and covered the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. It was in this period where the late Tim Russert, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” recruited Ifill to cover Capitol Hill for the network. In her first assignment, she forgot to bring a cameraman along.

That misstep as the years went on only made her that much more determined to be great, which she proved right in front of our eyes 17 years ago.

It was then back in Oct. 1999 that Ifill became the moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week,” which was then called “Washington Week in Review.” She also was the senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she along with Woodruff became co-anchors and co-managing editors of on Aug. 6, 2013.

In the years that followed, she would appear as a guest panelist on shows like the previously mentioned “Meet the Press,” now anchored by Chuck Todd; CBS’s “Face the Nation,” moderated by John Dickerson and ABC’s “This Week,” moderated by George Stephanopoulos.

While she moved up higher and higher in the ranks of journalism, Ifill always found time to give back to a profession that presented her with the opportunity to become great.

In Nov. 2006, she co-hosted the educational webcast Jamestown Live! as they commemorated the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, VA.

Ifill also served on the board of the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Museum of Television and Radio, the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and was a long-time member of the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ), who inducted her into their Hall of Fame back in 2012.

“I am saddened to hear of Gwen Ifill’s passing,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said on Monday in an e-mail to all NABJ members.

“Her professionalism and poise, coupled with an innate doggedness to report the story, reverberated throughout the industry. Gwen covered politics and the presidential race with class, wisdom and insight, separating her from the pack.”

Ifill showed that poise and focus to the nation at large as the moderator of the vice-presidential debate back on Oct. 5, 2004 between Republican candidate Dick Cheney and Democratic candidate and U.S. Senator John Edwards (NC). Former deputy national editor of the Washington Post Howard Kurtz said that Ifill as a moderator “acquitted herself well.”

Ifill would be back in the moderator seat again for the 2008 vice presidential debate held on Oct. 2, 2008 between then Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Biden (DE), our current No. 2 next to Obama and Republican candidate and then Governor Sarah Palin (AK) at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Before the debate, Ifill’s objectivity was brought into question by conservative talk radio, blogs and cable news programs like FOX News because of her book “The Breakthrough,” which was scheduled for release on Inauguration Day of 2009.

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said “Obviously, the book will be much more valuable to her if Obama is elected.”

To her critics, Ifill responded by saying, “I’ve got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I’m not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation. The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I’ve done my job.”

Following the debate, Ifill received great praise for her performance as moderator by the likes of the Boston Globe, who said that she received “high marks for equal treatment of the candidates.”

If that was not enough, she became a major part of pop-culture when the debates were parodied on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” with Queen Latifah portraying her.

Of all the accolades, she has received in her career, Ifill said that her proudest moment came in 2011 when she was surrounded by civil rights luminaries as Master of Ceremonies at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.

It is moments like this that allow us to understand the value of why she wrote her book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which came out on Jan. 20, 2009, the Inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States of America Barack Obama.

It is because of the sacrifice, blood, sweat, tears and lives of those back then that gave Ifill the chance to write a book that brought into focus on some notable African-American politicians like our 44th President, then Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and then New Jersey Mayor, now Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Random House, the publisher of the New York Times best-seller book described it as showing “why this is a pivotal moment in American history” through interviews with black power brokers and through the observations and an analysis of the issues from Ifill.

Gwendolyn L. Ifill was more than just a journalist. She was a person who can tell a story about politics in a way that can bring into perspective the importance the effect that each person in office from the presidency to local politics. That is what we lost when she passed this past Monday.

We also said goodbye to someone, who knew what she wanted to do in her life. Worked extremely hard at her craft and became an award-winner in her field of work. Earned the respect from both sides of the political world. Became a gold standard that many that have come after her are measured. More than anything else she earned the respect of those that she worked with, interviewed and competed against to get stories.

“Gwen was the platinum standard for political journalists and she was such an inspiration to African-American women in the business,” Washington Post staff writer and former NABJ President Vanessa Williams said.

“She was a tough, smart reporter with a warm, generous spirit who never hesitated to help, financially and with her time and talents, when asked whether by NABJ or by a student who approached her for a few words of advice and a selfie.”
Information and quotes are courtesy of piece from Nov. 14, 2016, “NABJ Mourns the Loss of Veteran Journalist Gwen Ifill;”11/14/16 article “Gwen Ifill, Award-Winning Political Reporter and Author, Dies at 61,” by Sam Roberts;