The Horns The Devil Gave Me

“Where are your horns? Don’t all Jews have them?”

47 years later, this question still haunts me. 

I was 5 years old.  My family had just moved from New York to Virginia.  That’s when I met Keith.  For those first few days after the move, Keith and I were inseparable – exploring my new neighborhood, riding Big Wheels, and playing games.

One day Keith heard that we were Jewish and asked to see my horns.  The horns on my head.  The ones the Devil put there.  All Jews have them.

My mother tried to correct him, with no success.  She even went to talk with his mother.  That made it worse.  Keith was not allowed to play with Jews.  It is a tough lesson to learn at 5, or at any age.  I did not understand what happened.  I just knew I did not have my friend to play with.

This was one incident in my distant past.   There was no violence.  No real hatred; just profound ignorance and hurt.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that thrust upon someone every single day of their lives.  Mistrusted, hated, abused, persecuted, for their religion or their skin color, or anything.

All these years later, while it has not been directed at me personally, the hatred and ignorance still exist.  Even worse, hate crimes and anti-Semitism are on the rise.  I am not a practicing Jew.  I do not go to temple.  I married outside my faith (or my grandparent’s faith.  We never really lived it). It does not impact me directly, but I feel it personally.

For my friends of color and everyone in black and brown communities who feel this ignorance and hatred and persecution and fear every single day, my experience pales in comparison.  I will never comprehend the reality you are living but I can listen, learn, empathize, and stand alongside you.

No one should live in fear because of the color of their skin or the religion they practice.  No one should die for those reasons, either.

I share my story not for empathy or to make any type of equivalence, but to join in solidarity with those who have been marginalized, mistreated, and maligned for too long.  While I cannot change the past for any of us, I can work with you to change our future.

 

Pay It Forward Day 2019

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.” – James Monroe, born on this date in 1758

Today is Pay It Forward Day.

Rather than simply holding a door or buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, I’m making a much bigger ask this year.

Raise your voice to ensure that attacks at schools, churches, synagogues, and other places of worship, work, and education, are unacceptable; that perpetrators are held accountable, and that violence and hatred have no place in our society.

Hold your elected officials accountable and push them to focus on the important aspects of our society:  our health, our education, our infrastructure, and our safety.

Both parties are guilty of distracting us from what we need to capitalize on what they want.

We should not accept the narrative from either side but focus on what is best for ALL Americans.

No one should go bankrupt to care for their child or spouse, and everyone should have access to quality, affordable care.  Treatment options and outcomes should be dependent on science, not on geography.

All children deserve an education that prepares them for a successful future, that establishes a lifelong yearning for knowledge, and a quest for truth and facts that drive their decisions today and tomorrow.

We will no longer abide by partisan divisiveness and insurmountable debt while our critical infrastructure crumbles.  We must have dependable roads, bridges, and tunnels.  Children should have safe passages to their schools, and our utilities should be reliable, efficient, and secure.

We should not live in fear of our neighbors, the police, or our government.

Government derives its just powers from the governed, and it is beyond time we take our rightful place in oversight.

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.”  – James Monroe, born on this date in 1758

On this Pay It Forward Day, let’s preserve the legacy and memories of our Founding Fathers, our military veterans, and all who have sacrificed to guarantee our way of life, based on our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

We must continue to pay it forward with our passion, our commitment, and our voice, to ensure we remain a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thank you!

July 4, 2018

Today is my favorite day of the year.
As a patriot, my love of this country is not about party, it’s not about a specific person, or group, or political belief. It is about the ideas set forth on July 4th, 1776 and cemented with our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Patriot:

a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

 
Today is my favorite day of the year.
Yes, I love summer. Yes, we all enjoy a day off.
Neither of those is the reason, however.
 
It was 242 years ago when a group of patriots declared their independence from Britain. This was more than a revolution, it was a cause.
A belief that all men are created equal; endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.
 
They set forth not only to dissolve the bonds to Britain, but to create a new form of self-government, in which the government derives its just power from the governed.
This grand experiment had never before been attempted. Change in leadership had always been from violence, or change never happened.
Their idea, our government, was based on a peaceful transition of power. Open and fair elections for all citizens to participate and a free press to speak truth to power. Those powers purposefully separated between executive, legislative, and judicial branches; each equal; none above another, and assigned oversight for each other. The real power lies within the People of this great nation.
 
Today, those truths are not as self-evident, and sometimes truths aren’t evident at all.
The power of the People has been diminished by the power of the dollar.
The press, while still free, is not as independent, thanks to media ownership rules, and battling a campaign labeling different or opposing views as fake.
The oversight among branches of government has been largely sidelined by partisan loyalty.
 
Despite the challenges, we still are the oldest existing nation with a constitutional government in which the people elect their own government and representatives.
Our Republic is facing crisis, but the foundation is solid. We, The People, must continue to use our voice, we must vote for Country over party, we must retain our Rights, and ensure that the Founders concept for a government of the People, by the People, and for the People shall not perish from this earth.
 
As a patriot, my love of this country is not about party, it’s not about a specific person, or group, or political belief. It is about the ideas set forth on July 4th, 1776 and cemented with our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Too often, politically, we see opposition for one as support of another. We should look beyond petty loyalties, and look to underlying belief. What is best for the country may not always align with your political view, but patriotism isn’t about politics, it’s about country.
So today, as we wave the flag and watch the fireworks, take a moment to reflect upon your own patriotism. Can you put your love of country ahead of a person or a party? Can you accept that we all have been granted the same Rights, enjoy the same freedoms, and believe in the ideals so beautifully expressed 242 years ago?   Are you willing to mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, as the Founders did?
We must put aside our differences, move beyond our divisiveness, our contempt, and our political loyalties. Please take a moment to read the Declaration of Independence today as a reminder not just of our shared past, but of our common future, as the United States of America.
 
Have a safe and happy Independence Day.
Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

Volunteering is an important part of your life, both personally and professionally.

People who volunteer are 42% more likely than people who don’t to say they are ‘very happy’. The relationships you build, and the experiences you gain, will benefit you personally and professionally. It is the ultimate form of networking; all while giving back.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” – Sir Winston Churchill

As my network grows, and I connect with more people, I’m always surprised by how much attention is focused on only one aspect of people’s lives: their career.
I understand that LinkedIn is designed for professional use, but there is very purposefully an area for volunteer experience. Volunteering should be a part of your professional life. As your knowledge grows, you’ll want to showcase your experience outside of work, just as much as you do for work.
Whether your professional life is fulfilling or not, involvement in a charity is a worthwhile endeavor.
For too many, writing a check is the only connection they have to a charity. Giving, however, does not have to always be monetary. Organizations are always in need of volunteers, not just for events or office tasks, but for skills and services that they don’t have.
This relationship isn’t one-sided, either. Volunteers gain experiences they may not have access to through their work. You may learn new skills that impact your job or prepare you for the next one. Through collaboration with other volunteers, you’ll also gain professional connections. The volunteer experience should be fulfilling one, for both you and the organization.
Some organizations struggle with how to best engage volunteers. Ensuring that needs and skills are matched is critical to success. Having too few volunteers puts a burden on Staff; too many, and the volunteers feel unnecessary and underappreciated. Finding the right balance, and managing needs and expectations, is an important step when soliciting and accepting assistance. Just as with any job interview, understanding the organization and the individual are key factors in the process. A highly-skilled volunteer is a precious commodity; don’t squander the opportunity.
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A good employer, too, will encourage charitable involvement, and may provide further assistance to the organization in the form of sponsorship, recruitment, or event participation. Companies have found that supporting a cause can drive up morale, productivity, and foster an overall healthier work environment. In some cases, employees may directly benefit from the organization their company, and their peers, are involved with.
For many, this experience helps create a much healthier work/life balance. No longer is the only expectation to work, work, work. Time away from the office can provide a much-needed break, both physically and mentally. This is particularly true when you take the time to find the right organization and engage in a way that is meaningful to you. People who volunteer are 42% more likely than people who don’t to say they are ‘very happy’. The relationships you build, and the experiences you gain, will benefit you personally and professionally. It is the ultimate form of networking; all while giving back.
If you’re already involved with a charity, please continue to give of your time, your talent, and your treasure.
If you haven’t yet taken that step, take a moment to think about what causes are important to you, and where you would enjoy having an involvement.
It would be wonderful to see more people volunteer, not just to list the experience on LinkedIn, but because it matters. For me, the best connections have a healthy balance of professional and charitable experiences. Giving back is an important part of our lives; the sooner we start, the more impactful we are. While this may also help build your resume, it will improve your life, and the lives of others.

Responsibility in Politics

What we should be seeking in our elected officials isn’t an ideology, it is responsibility.
We have the power of choice, and the freedom of expression. It’s time we used them wisely.

Is the system broken, or are we?
Politically, we may not be who we think we are, so when we vote, are we making an informed choice, or a reactive one?  We are individuals, yet typically identify with a collective, even when it’s detrimental to some of our beliefs.
For those who identify as liberal or conservative, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and decide if that represents the entirety of your views.  While each of us has some component of each philosophy, some lean much more one way than the other. As a personal belief, there is nothing wrong with that. As a political ideology, it gets more complicated.  When it comes to governing, it is ineffective.
What we should be seeking in our elected officials isn’t an ideology, it is responsibility.
E. Pluribus Unum.  Out of many, one.
Our motto says it all. We are a vast and diverse Nation with many beliefs, traditions, ideas, philosophies, and desires.  Each of us is guaranteed the right to have our own opinions, and the right to express them. We can express them in many ways; where we live, how we shop, the friends we keep, the jobs we hold, and who we vote for.
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It is that very vote that makes it so critical for elected officials to separate their personal ideologies from the ability to govern.
Leadership is the culmination of skills required to create an inspiring vision of the future, motivate people to engage with that vision, and deliver on it.
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
True leaders will build consensus and act on the best interests of the entire Country. When we allow our partisan desires to disrupt the process, stall legislation, and enrage those with different beliefs, we do a great disservice not just to each other, but to our democracy.  Any time one party pushes too far to one side, the pendulum inevitably swings far to the other side.  Opposition is not leadership, nor is inaction.
It isn’t difficult to see the future continuing to be a divisive one, with swings from one side to the other, and back again. It is just as easy, however, to envision an environment of collaboration, where Congress, despite their individual beliefs, collectively works to legislate for all.
For those in the electorate on the extremes, your anger and disappointment will never fully be assuaged.  While there will always be small victories, extreme views never play well in national politics.
For the rest of us, who tend to be a little of each philosophy, while we may never be fully happy, we will never be completely disappointed.
Our Republic was created to ensure that each of us has a voice, and that all our voices are equal.
Rather than work to divide, and to push an agenda doomed to eventual failure (and dismantling by the next Congress/Administration), we should work to unite, and elect responsible representatives. It is only then that we can move past this period of extreme division and disappointment, and begin to fulfil the Founders vision of democracy, where all men are created equal, and government exists to preserve the Rights of the People.
It is easy to place blame, judge others, and express frustration with the ‘system’.  Taking a critical look inward is difficult, as is accepting responsibility.  Our National identity, however, should come before any party one.
Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.  We have the power of choice, and the freedom of expression.  It’s time we used them wisely.

My comments to the Elk Grove Village Board about Tobacco 21

There is a preponderance of scientific and medical evidence as to why tobacco products are dangerous to those who use them and those who are around them

Mayor Johnston, Village Trustees, my fellow residents; Good afternoon.
My name is Scott Saxe, and I’ve been a resident of Elk Grove Village for over 17 years.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today regarding Tobacco 21.
While there is a preponderance of scientific and medical evidence as to why tobacco products are dangerous to those who use them and those who are around them, I’ll leave that topic to the medical and scientific professionals in the room.
Throughout this community, there are signs welcoming people to The Village and declaring ourselves to be “The Exceptional Community”. At each of our schools, there are banners stating that ‘Character counts’.
I’d like to focus on those 2 things.
Exceptional is defined as ‘better than average’ or ‘deviating from the norm’.
Character is ‘one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual’.
What makes us exceptional is not just the lower taxes, the quality schools, the bike paths, public services, park districts, and business friendly atmosphere. What makes us exceptional are the people. The residents who live here, the businesses that employ here, and those who visit here. What makes us exceptional is leadership that fosters a community of inclusiveness, of character, and of healthy lifestyles.
We are exceptional in many ways in comparison to surrounding communities, and in the fact that we are considering raising the age on tobacco products from 18 to 21. Putting public health first, especially the health of our school age children, is a measure of good leadership and community responsibility.
There are those who will argue about the impact on local businesses and the reductions of personal freedoms. It is true that we all want to support businesses in the community and see them thrive, but they’ve already seen diminished tobacco sales due to lower tax rates in DuPage County.
There is a disparity between Counties on many levels, as there are between communities. In Elk Grove, we recognize that, and embrace it.
Status quo is not what we strive for in Elk Grove Village. We deviate from the norm; we are better than average; we are exceptional.
Another argument is around personal freedom and choice. While we do live in a free society, we are a society governed by laws. This set of rules is what establishes and maintains a community. As a community, we owe it to ourselves and to each other, to promote an environment of public health and public safety.
I can appreciate Trustee Franke’s position on overreach, but Jefferson himself said “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness.”
Smoking may be an individual choice, but the effects of smoking affect not just the smokers, but all those around them. When individual decisions impact public health and safety, we must act.
While that may not be a popular position among all here today, it does show character. What makes us exceptional is not ignoring a problem, but tackling it head on. What shows our character is standing by those exceptional ideals, even when it’s not popular.
We owe it to the very students we’re trying to teach character to, to set the example. If we cannot lead by example today, what type of education are we giving the leaders of tomorrow?
In 2007, Elk Grove Village took the lead before the State of Illinois banned smoking in public places, and enacted a ban of its own.
That showed character.
We must show that same character today, and ensure that Elk Grove Village remains committed to being exceptional in health services for our residents.
None of us like being told what we can or cannot do. We do, however, have a responsibility to our community; the exceptional community.
As Lincoln reminded us years ago:
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.”
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, work with you, and continue to make Elk Grove Village exceptional.
Have a wonderful day.

My statement to the Cook County Finance Committee

My testimony to the Cook County Board about the sweetened beverage tax.

President Preckwinkle, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my fellow Cook County Residents. Good morning.
My name is Scott Saxe.  I reside in Elk Grove Village.  I’ve lived in Illinois for the past 25 years, all of them in Cook County. This is my home.
While there are many issues plaguing the State and County, I appreciate President Preckwinkle’s efforts at transparency in County Government.
None of us are fans of increased taxes, but many of us recognize the realities of the fiscal situation we are in. Unless we develop a comprehensive strategy to address the issues of the past, we are destined to revisit them in the future.
With the vast majority of County revenues going towards public health and public safety, you’re fulfilling the basic responsibilities of County Government: taking care of the people you serve. While it would be nice to see cuts, where possible, they cannot be at the detriment of those citizens that need services the most.
If the beverage tax is repealed, there is a $200 million gap in the budget.  I’m incredibly concerned about the impact that would have on the entire community.  As a citizen and taxpayer, I’d much rather have a tax where I have a choice (I don’t have to consume sweetened beverages) vs. a tax on my income, property, or other inflexible items.  Cutting essential health services takes choice away from too many.
As commissioners, it is incumbent on each of you to be responsible for the entire constituency you represent, not just those who vote, or donate, or speak at these meetings…everyone.  This is especially true of the children in our communities.
The science behind reducing consumption of sweetened beverages is solid, and would reduce obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a plethora of other health issues.
There is no doubt that this is sound health policy.  It is sound fiscal policy. It is sound public policy.
Anything else is just politics.
Let’s stop putting special interests, from both sides, before the public good.
While it may not be the popular thing to do, ensuring that public health and public safety remain fully funded priorities is the right thing to do.
Any budget cuts to public safety and public health would be far more detrimental to the residents of Cook County than a tax on drinks that we choose to consume.  Forcing another type of revenue increase on the taxpayers is much more burdensome on us all than a  tax on our optional drinks. Eliminating services that are critical to so many is unfathomable and irresponsible.
It all comes down to choice.
We have a choice on what we consume.
You, too, have a choice  on what you tax or a choice on what you cut.
You’re about to make your choice.
The Citizens of Cook County are watching.
We have choices, too.
Thank you.

Respect and Responsibility

When did we lose all respect for each other?
I’ve never affiliated with one political party or another, but I have always respected the process, and believe in our Constitution and Rights. I vote for responsible candidates (is that even possible anymore?!), ones that put the People first, not ones that are strictly tied to party lines.
The levels of hatred and animosity in today’s campaigns are not just disturbing, but frightening.
If we cannot have consideration for one another, respect different opinions, cultures and ideas, I’m afraid we’ve lost what it means to be American.

I urge all the candidates, supporters, and everyone else to remember your Pledge, remember your Declaration, remember your Constitution. A house divided cannot stand.

Making the Most of your Network

The fact that you’re reading this shows that my network is working.
We are connected through one of the social media sites, either directly or indirectly.  If directly, we likely have a relationship of some sort in the ‘real world’.
Building and cultivating a network isn’t about how many ‘friends’ or ‘connections’ you have, it’s about truly building relationships.  This cannot simply be done with the press of a button.  The word ‘work’ is key when building your network.
Being connected isn’t just about you and building your numbers. It’s about both parties, and sometimes it’s about a 3rd party. Cultivating connections takes time and effort.  It also takes maintenance.  While it is great to have a contact that you can benefit from, it’s just as good to have a contact that someone ELSE can benefit from.
A good network is not static; it is living, breathing, and dynamic.  The thing to remember is not the number of connections, it’s the people behind those numbers.  People change jobs, volunteer for different organizations, relocate, marry, and connect with others.  Keeping up with the moving parts within your network takes dedication.  Utilizing that network to benefit others is a key trait of a successful connector.
Sure, you can build a giant network of numbers, but unless it is effective, it’s just a collection of names.
I prefer to look at my network not as the whole, but as the people it is comprised of.  It is about who I’m connected to, and HOW we’re connected.  Why did we invite each other?  What do we have in common?  Who else in my network can benefit from this?
I use my network for several things.  It is a great resource for volunteers, donors, and potential Board Members for the non-profit organizations that I’m affiliated with.  I use my network to build my business, and to help others grow theirs.  I also use my network to help people find new jobs or connect with new organizations.  I maintain my network by bringing these people together socially.  Sending an email may be an efficient way to communicate during a busy workday, but spending time getting to know people is what makes it all work.  Finally, my network uses me.  This is the best part about having an active network, it’s not just yours, it’s ours.  I’m not just cultivating a network, I’m a member of it.
I am always meeting new people, and open to new connections.  When I do, it’s not about ‘what can this person do for me’, but ‘how can I, my network, and this person benefit from one another’.  Sometimes, maybe most times, the answer isn’t immediately apparent.   The willingness to take time, to learn, to relate, and to help is what makes it all worthwhile.
So don’t hesitate to connect with someone new.  Just be sure to do it for all the right reasons.
You’ll reap the rewards of putting work into your network.

I Support Community Volunteer Engagement – Getting it Right

Doing it Right – Volunteer Engagement
For many non-profits, engaging volunteers is a difficult task.  Sure, there are opportunities to be involved, but true engagement remains elusive.   One organization I know is doing it right.
I am fortunate to be involved with I Support Community.  Through them, I had two incredible experiences last month.  The first came from meeting another volunteer, the other from being moved by a video story they produced.
I spent time with Hope and Promise, which offers equine therapy to our veterans who have had difficulties adjusting back to civilian life or have suffered injury while in service to our country.  Their program brings a group of veterans together for a week of bonding and therapeutic healing.  Hope and Promise feeds, houses and treats these incredible men and women.  All expenses are paid, so no veteran has to worry about the cost of care.  The facility they operate out of is peaceful and serene, and has all the amenities required to connect the veterans to the horses that assist in their recovery.
I met Alaire Merritt, one of their Board Members, though I Support Community. Alaire took me on a tour of the Hope and Promise facilities, introduced me to other members of the organization, and showed me all the ways they are helping our veterans.  After a week of equine therapies, the team members all sign a piece of wood that becomes part of the fence around the farm.   One can’t help but be moved by what they write, and what an incredible impact this organization has on these men and women.   It was truly an honor to be there, and experience what Hope and Promise has to offer.
Another moving experience through I Support Community came while watching the videos they produced for Special Spaces of Chicagoland.  Special Spaces does room makeovers for terminally ill children.  Having been involved in the cancer community for so long, I was touched by what they do for these children and their families.  While the videos were incredibly moving, what happened next I will never forget.
I was invited by Kelly Knox, the Director of Special Spaces, to witness firsthand what they do, and came out to one of their makeovers.  I had the privilege of being part of the team that renovated the room of Marshall, a 10 year old boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Marshall is a huge Chicago Bulls fan.  Kelly and her team of talented and dedicated volunteers transformed Marshall’s room into a total Bulls experience, complete with autographed jerseys, a Bulls bed, locker and custom mural featuring Michael Jordan dunking a ball.  To top it off, it looks like the ball is being dropped into an actual hoop on Marshall’s wall.  The wood floor below has official NBA court decals.  Every detail has been thought of to immerse Marshall in his beloved Bulls.
Through what can only be described as controlled chaos, the team worked tirelessly throughout the day on the transformation.  That afternoon, when Marshall arrived home, we waited in his room to surprise him.   The expression on his face when he came through the door will remain with me forever.
Through sharing video stories and offering networking and volunteer opportunities, I Support Community is engaging the community around these incredible organizations.  This isn’t just a simple call to donate, it is a learning experience for everyone from kids to adults.  Engaging children helps create an ongoing culture of support.  The depth of information creates not only awareness, but an opportunity to engage the community on multiple levels.
I Support Community has a great model for volunteer engagement.  In developing programs and opportunities for others, they have created support for themselves, as well.