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"Teachable Moments" & The Abortion Debate May 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 2:24 pm

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you know that there has been significant debate surrounding Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at graduation. Notre Dame, America’s best known Catholic University, is pro-life and Barack Obama is pro-choice and for stem cell research. Since the graduation this past weekend, there has been even more discussion about Obama’s address and the response it received.

Despite overwhelming pressure from the global Catholic community, Notre Dame did not rescind the offer to speak, proving that we can be accepting of others despite our differences. Despite protesters, threats and anger, Obama accepted the invitation to speak and in doing so proved that regardless of how emotionally charged the topic may be, there is always more that we can learn and always the possibility that we can find common ground.

Obama could have tried to ignore the issue in his speech – he could have recycled graduation phrases like “this is your moment” or “the world is your oyster” or “dream big!”. What would that have achieved? I think all it would have done is wasted an opportunity to discuss the importance of dialogue — particularly about the hard issues — and of being open minded.

Instead, Obama addressed the issue head-on. He acknowledged his personal position and the fact that reconciling it with those that are pro-life may not be possible. However, he also urged people to be “fair-minded” with their words and to presume “good faith” about those on the other side of the debate.

As a child we are taught that actions speak louder than words but I believe that in this case, both were important. Notre Dame’s Administration and Barack Obama showed with action that there is room for both sides of the dialogue and then showed with words that the dialogue can be open-minding and respectful, instead of hateful and angry.

Personally, what I find most interesting about the coverage is types of protests that Obama encountered. I know a lot of people who are pro-choice – not one of them is pro- abortion. Rather, they are for a woman’s right to make the the best choice for her when faced with an incredibly difficult decision. They are for presenting a woman with support and resources and for making her aware of all of her options, including abortion.

The idea that protesters yelled “Baby Killer” or wore yellow crosses and baby’s feet on their mortarboards is very disturbing to me. The coverage of the billboard down the road from Notre Dame that read “Notre Dame: Obama is Pro Abortion Choice. How Dare You Honor Him?” is misleading. Look at the word choice — it assumes that those who are pro-choice ARE pro-abortion or pro-murder which is untrue.

I think that zealots on any side of a debate are scary – whether left or right wing — because common sense is replaced by an unhealthy single mindedness that ignores reason. We can disagree with each other without going to extremes. Making the assumption that all pro-choice people are pro-abortion is like making the assumption that all pro-life people are bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors that perform the procedure – false.

Barack Obama’s speech encouraged dialogue and respect. The United Way trains its organizations to take advantage of “teachable moments” – the large and small things that happen in our everyday life that we can use as lessons. Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame’s graduation and his speech provide us with numerous “teachable moments” – let’s just hope that those on both sides of the issue take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them.


Finding political middle ground… May 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 6:08 pm

I am a democrat and admittedly, I am quite liberal. I also consider myself a feminist. I am pro-choice and for gay-marriage. I don’t often see eye-to-eye with Republican ideals and very rarely am I in agreement with their position on social issues.

However, since the election last November, I have become more and more impressed with Meghan McCain. I don’t always agree with her and we have significant ideological differences but I admire her nonetheless. She is taking on her own party in a big way – forcing them to address their faults and inconsistencies and she is advocating for change.

Most recently McCain posted a blog on The Daily Beast entitled “The GOP Doesn’t Understand Sex” in which she addresses Bristol Palin’s new abstinence campaign. My opinions on the Palin family would be a different blog but I strongly agree with McCain’s argument about the spotlight on teen pregnancy, and teen sexuality in general, that has been created by Bristol’s pregnancy, the response of the GOP and the media coverage it has received.

In the blog McCain writes, “As a Republican, I am pro-life. But using birth control and having an abortion are not the same at all. Actually, the best way to prevent abortions is to educate people about birth control and make it widely and easily accessible. True, abstinence is the only way to fully prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Still, the problem with abstinence-only education is that it does not make teenagers and young adults more knowledgeable about all the issues they face if or when they have sex—physically and emotionally”

I couldn’t have said it better. I don’t know anyone who thinks that there is a better way to prevent teen pregnancy than abstinence. However, I also teach and work with a number of teens and young adults who aren’t planning on abstaining. So, as a society we have two choices – we can pretend that there isn’t a problem and hope that it goes away or we can do our best to educate teens and young adults.

As part of this education we can create an open dialogue. We can explain why abstinence is the only proven prevention method but encourage them to be safe and give them access to resources. We can talk about love, desire, sexuality, peer pressure and all of the confusing and complicated feelings associated with being a teen. We can encourage them to ask questions and get accurate information.

The second seems like a far more intelligent and more effective option.

When I was in high school there was an episode of 90210 in which Donna Martin addressed the importance of sex education. I am paraphrasing but essentially she talked about sex education in comparison to having a pool in your backyard. She said that you can tell your kids not to go in the pool without an adult, you can build a fence around the pool and install a lock but if your kids find a way to get into the water, don’t you want them to know how to swim?

Silly analogy, but the point is well made. We can encourage our kids to abstain from sex, we can talk about how important it is to make good decisions, we can tell them that we will be disappointed in them forever and we can scare them with what ifs and statistics. For some kids, this will work and maybe they won’t have sex until they are married, in love and financially prepared.

However, for the majority of teens, what does that approach accomplish? The majority will still have sex and I would prefer that they know how to keep themselves safe. I would also hope to have created an open dialogue so that if they had questions or concerns, they would ask – without fear of judgement.

Finding political middle ground isn’t easy – especially not on emotionally charged topics. However, McCain has done a good job of addressing an important issue and presenting a viable solution.


"Stand By Me" – a universal tune May 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 8:00 pm

A friend just sent me this incredible video…it reminds me that despite our differences there are so many things that unite us. To me, “Stand By Me” is a song about finding people who support you and love you no matter what happens and that seems pretty universal to me.



Embracing "work in progress" status…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 6:36 pm

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about accomplishments and failures, about successes and mistakes – I’ve been evaluating who decides when something is completed or if something is really ever over. Are we constantly a work in progress? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I had lunch a few weeks ago with a new friend who told me that she has always admired me. She said that I always have thing so put together, seem so sure of myself and that I am always upbeat and inviting. While I was flattered by her analysis, I was privately congratulating my own acting ability. I don’t feel like I have it all together at all and I am sometimes afraid that it will become obvious.

In many ways I do have a lot going for me. I have great friends and family, I have an amazing relationship, I am well-educated, I am passionate about teaching and although I don’t love my full time job it pays the bills. In some ways though I am a bit of a mess. I work way too many hours, I don’t write enough (see dates of previous blogs to prove that point!), I could stand to lose a few pounds and I regularly question what direction my career is headed.

When I try to see myself through the eyes of my new friend, I am pretty damn great. However, when I lose focus or focus too much on the negatives, I quickly start to wonder why I haven’t found more direction. I could spend a few more hours a week away from work and on the exercise bike. I could force myself to write several times more a week — though forced writing doesn’t seem the way to go to feel enriched creatively. I could throw caution to the wind and quit my job and choose instead to just teach but I wouldn’t make enough money to pay the bills which would add a whole new component of stress. So many questions….but addressing them and figuring out which are important is part of the learning process and growth.

What I have decided to embrace as a result of all of this thinking is the fact that I am a work in progress and that I am ok with that fact. Sure, I may occasionally wish that I could have it all figured out (particularly related to career goals) but overall I love that change is always possible. My true friends and family, my fabulous boyfriend – they aren’t going anywhere — and the things that I love likely won’t change but I love the possibility that my career path is growing and that I can still explore new challenges and try new things. I’d love to lose the ten pounds but aside from that, work in progress status works for me right now and I’ll continue to try to be the best me as I figure everything else out.