JCL Blog

Speaker Summary: John Henry Brown

Defense attorney John Henry Brown spoke at Emerald City Rotary today.  He did a great job of compressing an incredible career into 25 minutes.  Ranging from his decision (while in jail) to become an attorney, to defending Ted Bundy at the age of 29, to his current project representing Sgt. Bales, he certainly has a great many stories to tell.

It is no wonder that he finds himself in the media as often as he does because he talks in easy to remember quotes that have a lasting resonance.  Anyone interesting in cultivating a public image should take note of that tactic. Accordingly, I think the best way to relate the content of his presentation is in those quotes:

  • What I do is service work. (Rotary International reference)
  • The only reason to be a lawyer is to help people.
  • People come together when they need to come together. (9/11 reference)
  • Ted Bundy had no concept that we are all connected. (Like all sociopaths)
  • My father says we need people that stand between people and power.
  • I think everyone should get locked up for no reason. (As a lesson in the value of our constitution)
  • A liberal is a police officer that has been charged with a crime.
  • I was infused by my father with the concept that you should always give more than you take.

Speaking of quotes, John Henry Brown then relayed his favorite quote that he attributed to Thomas Jefferson:  “Once you give up some freedom for more security...soon you will have neither.”  I tried to fact check that one and the closest I could get was this quote:

"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security." which I believe is attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  Good point either way.

Here is more on John Henry Brown in a recent article by Seattle Met magazine.

Speaker Summary: Camile McDormand

Today at Emerald City Rotary we had a terrific speaker from the Soros Foundation, Camile McDormand.  

The Soros Foundation is the work of George Soros, the legendary immigrant from Hungary that became a titan on Wall Street.  Famous and now rich for his work in currency trading, Soros was blamed in many south east asian nations as the cause of the 1997 currency crash, also known as the 'Asian Contagion'.  

It is particularly ironic therefore that the Soros Foundation has such a soft spot for Burma/Myanmar where Ms. McDormand has been spending the past few years working with refugees on the Burma - Thai border.  These refugees number in the hundreds of thousands, many of which have been living in the confines of camps for decades.  Truly a problem that I am grateful someone with the resources and resolve of the Soros Foundation is worried about.

Camile McDormand gave us a great overview of the history of the problem, with particular attention to the time starting with the attempted revolution in 1988 and the military government's brutal suppression.  Since 1990 Aung San Suu Kyi has been one of world's the most well known political prisoners, under house arrest until earlier this year when she was elected into the lower house of parlament.  We were delighted to learn from Ms. McDormand that more progress has been made in this embattled country in the last year than in the prior 50.

The Soros Foundation has been working hard to bring aid to the refugees, but also to assist in the education of a new generation of leaders for the country.  Recognizing that the local education system was not teaching critical thinking skills, the Soros Foundation is working to provide educational opportunities for Burmese citizens -- outside of the country. 

According to Forbes, Since 1979 the Soros Foundation has contributed 8.5 billion dollars to causes such as this. 


Speaker Summary: Edie Harding

Today at Emerald City Rotary, Edie Harding from The Gates Foundation gave an overview of the work she is doing in Education Pathways and her focus on cradle to college educational initiatives.  First some numbers though.

Since 1994 the Gates Foundation has contributed $3 Billion in Washington state.  Half of that has gone for health initiatives, half for education with the aim of reducing intergenerational poverty.  Through their Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study the Gates Foundation has established that teachers make the biggest difference in educational outcomes, and are investing most heavily in initiatives focused on teachers.  They have quantified that a good teacher has 14 times the impact of reducing class size by 5 students.

The Gates Foundation hands out 170 grants, the average of which is $760,000.  Those of you with good math skills or a calculator on your phone realize that this is a funding pace of $130 Million - per year.  All in Washington state.   They are focusing on college ready, but mostly community college ready, and early learning.  

Their goals are not for the feint of heart:

  1. Increase college readiness to 75%
  2. Double the number of students ready for college in the hardest hit areas
  3. Eliminate the performance disparity found in low income students

It is safe to say that we are all very fortunate to have The Gates Foundation in our back yard.

Here is the link to the MET Study page on The Gates Foundation website.

Here is a link to Edie Harding's public Linked In page.

Speaker Summary: David Engle

Today at Emerald City Rotary, David Engle, the new Superintendent of the Port Townsend School District spoke about the lessons he has learned during his long and distinguished career as an innovator in education.  We all know that schools are even more resistant to change that most people and organizations, but David showed that with the will to make a difference and a bit of disregard for the rules -- all kinds of amazing things can be accomplished.  

He cleverly tied the whole thing together with five words that end in "ity".

Necessity:  He was given the job of changing a middle school in Nebraska from its last place ranking or else it would be taken over by the state.  He leapfrogged the other schools by jumping to a model of 1:1 computing -- where every student got a laptop.  Within three years, kids from more affluent neighborhoods were trying to get into this school from the wrong side of the tracks.  Last place to first place.

Opportunity:  As principal of Ballard High School, he turned the good fortune of a brand new building into a brand new Maritime Academy.  Out with the auto shop and in with a curriculum that took advantage of local expertise and that has since become established as a cornerstone of the community.

Impunity:  At Squalicum High School he turned an underused library into a library that took advantage of new tools and technology.  Changing the attitude of the entire school.

Futurity:  Possibly a new word that captures his vision for the Port Townsend school district.  A community that will benefit from his energy and experience.  Even if it shakes things up a bit!

Capacity:  While principal of Interlake High School he partnered with Microsoft to create a world class IT curriculum with cast of computers from a local business.  All while building an IB program.

He concluded by pointing out that we know how to create great schools, but we don't know how to make change sustainable, and then he challenged everyone to do something for our local schools.  Take risks -- break rules.


Here is David Engle's Biography.

Speaker Summary: Jen Mueller

Jen Mueller,  Roots Sports Reporter spoke to Emerald City Rotary yesterday on "Overcoming Communication Obstacles".  What does one do when women expect conversations to be 2 hours and men expect 10 minutes?  Talk in 15 second pieces.  Mueller's presentation was full of practical advice that anyone could put into practice right away.  Clearly she knows how to communicate effectively and she made it look easy to keep the audience engaged.

Here are a few other pieces of sound advice:

When doing anything make sure to:

  • Have a specific strategy
  • Exploit your opponent's weakness
  • Develop a specific plan of attack

Leave nothing to chance. 

The length of the perfect conversation: 2 hours or 10 mins?

  • Break your comments into 15 second increments - about 3 sentences
  • Men want information 
  • Women want connection

Conversations need to be productive:

  • Have connection points
  • Build rapport 
  • Create an opportunity for follow up

All together Jen Mueller was a terrific presenter.  You can learn more about her here

Speaker Summary: Judge Bruce Hilyer

Washington State Superior Court Judge, Bruce Hilyer, spoke to Emerald City Rotary this morning about judicial independence.  If you are like me, you probably have not thought that much about judicial independence.  

Clearly we should think about it more because without it our Washington judges would be for sale.  And in the wake of Citizens United, it may be on the way.  Sound crazy?  Judge Hilyer pointed out today that in some states the Super Pacs are already buying judges.  In a state where it takes millions to get elected to the bench, instead of the mere hundreds of thousands as it does in Washington, Judges are very likely to be in the debt of big donors.  

The tale only gets worse as the Super Pacs are raising money from trial lawyers.  I have to say that the thought of a lawyer getting the shake down from a lobbyest does have its appeal.  They do deserve each other.  But even lawyers are people.

The Judge went on to discuss how he thought the Supreme Court's recent decision about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was well crafted by Chief Justice Roberts because it walked the Supreme Court back from politics.  No matter your political affiliation, we should all agree that anything to help the Supreme Court recover from Chief Justice Rehnquist's involving the highest court in the 2000 presidential election is a good thing.

More about Washington State judicial elections here.

More about Judge Hilyer here.

Speaker Summary: Richard Stevenson

Film maker Richard Stevenson presented to Emerald City Rotary today about the work he is doing on the 5000 Days project.  After a quick introduction he showed a short film featuring just one of hundreds of kids he is creating video biographies for.  It was an inspiring story about Christian, an immigrant from Mexico who is living in Seattle, attended Shoreline High School, and making a life for himself.  After over ten years of working with these incredibly inspiring kids, and many more in the five countries where he has launched his project, Rick has learned that all middle school aged young people feel incredibly alone – and can be helped by knowing that everyone feels the same way.  The 5000 Days Project videos serve to communicate this learning to students and is being adopted as curriculum in several school districts including Shoreline and Issaquah. 

Here are some links should you wish to learn more:

5000 Days Project / Two Brothers Movie:  http://twobrothersthemovie.com/

Richard Stevenson Biography at The Film School:  http://thefilmschool.com/rick-stevenson/