Archive for the president Category

Al Qaeda Goes to College: First Book Review

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, aecond amendment, AIDS/HIV, alcohol, alcoholism, animal house, animals, arrest, art, asia, athletics, Barack Obama, baseball, bichons, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, Blogroll, books, breaking news, cars, cats, ceo compensation, Christmas, chrysler, Crime, criminal justice, culture, cyberspace, Democrats, diets, Disabilities, Disability Discrimination, discrimination, divorce, dogs, election, Employment Discrimination, entertainment, environment, films, food, fraternities, Gay Literature, gun control, high education, Higher Education, history, HIV/AIDS, hollywood, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, marriage, mccain, media, medicine, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, North Pole, novels, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, pets, Pigs, Pit Bulls, Polar Express, Politics, pornography, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, random, relationships, religion, Republicans, Santa Claus, Sarah Palin, science, science fiction, sciencec, second amendment, shooting, sports, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, vegans, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on February 21, 2009 by castagnera

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February 21, 2009

Book Review Highlight Al-Qaeda Goes to College

AlqaedaOn Jan. 23, 2009, Adjunct Prof Blog announced  that James Ottavio Castagnera, a well known lawyer and professor at Rider University, just wrote an exciting new book entitled “Al-Qaeda Goes To College.” Professor Castagnera was kind enough to provide me with an advance copy and I could not put it down. 
The book starts off by detailing how Professor Castagnera world began to change on 9-11. It then goes on to discuss the Anthrax scare that occurred at the Hamlton New Jersey Post Office, just a few miles a way from Rider University.    
The book’s research is excellent and it is full of detailed footnotes that others will undoubtedly find helpful.  Professor Castagnera central thesis, however, is on the impact  9-11 had on higher education. He views 9-11 as a double edge sword. On the one hand universities lost their innocence at great cost (increased governmental regulations, security costs etc.), but on the other hand universities also got a windfall because now they offer more programs and research on national security. Professor Castagnera believes that American universities have met the challenge of 9-11 and we are better off because of it. He compares 9-11 to WWII and states that America became a super power because of WWII.

The book goes on and covers such topics as universities’ roles in training counter-terrorism experts, particularly anthropologists working in Iraq and Afghanistan; bio-terrorism research on campuses; inflammatory critiques by the likes of Ward Churchill; the conspiracy theories advocated by some academics regarding 9/11; lawsuits against universities by terror victims trying to get settlements from countries like Iran by seizing archaeological artifacts in American universities; accused Islamists teaching at American colleges, like Sami al-Arian at USF.

This book not only presents well researched factual information, but it also contains legal analysis. For example with respect to the discharge of Professor Ward Churchill, Professor Castagnera outlines the First Amendment rights of public employees and in particular academic freedom. 

To my knowledge, this is the first book on how 9-11 has changed the world of higher education.  This book will be available around April 30th and you can pre-order it now from the above link. You will be glad that you did.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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Read a sample chapter from my newest book, “Al Qaeda Goes to College”

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, aecond amendment, AIDS/HIV, alcohol, alcoholism, animal house, animals, arrest, art, asia, athletics, Barack Obama, baseball, bichons, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, Blogroll, books, breaking news, cars, cats, ceo compensation, Christmas, chrysler, Crime, criminal justice, culture, cyberspace, Democrats, diets, Disabilities, Disability Discrimination, discrimination, divorce, dogs, election, Employment Discrimination, entertainment, environment, films, food, fraternities, Gay Literature, gun control, high education, Higher Education, history, HIV/AIDS, hollywood, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, marriage, mccain, media, medicine, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, North Pole, novels, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, pets, Pigs, Pit Bulls, Polar Express, Politics, pornography, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, random, relationships, religion, Republicans, Santa Claus, Sarah Palin, science, science fiction, sciencec, second amendment, shooting, sports, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, vegans, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on February 10, 2009 by castagnera

http://www.historyplace.com/specials/writers/domestic-terrorists.htm

My new book is now available

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, aecond amendment, AIDS/HIV, alcohol, alcoholism, animal house, animals, arrest, art, asia, athletics, Barack Obama, baseball, bichons, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, Blogroll, books, breaking news, cars, cats, ceo compensation, Christmas, chrysler, Crime, criminal justice, culture, cyberspace, Democrats, diets, Disabilities, Disability Discrimination, discrimination, divorce, dogs, election, Employment Discrimination, Higher Education, history, HIV/AIDS, hollywood, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, marriage, mccain, media, medicine, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, North Pole, novels, obama, Pit Bulls, Polar Express, Politics, pornography, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, random, relationships, religion, Republicans, Santa Claus, Sarah Palin, science, science fiction, sciencec, second amendment, shooting, sports, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, vegans, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on January 6, 2009 by castagnera

http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/C36428.aspx

Why Reforming Education Is a Critical National Priority

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, aecond amendment, alcohol, alcoholism, animal house, animals, arrest, art, asia, athletics, Barack Obama, baseball, bichons, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, Blogroll, books, breaking news, cars, cats, ceo compensation, Christmas, chrysler, Crime, criminal justice, culture, cyberspace, Democrats, diets, divorce, dogs, election, entertainment, environment, films, food, fraternities, gun control, high education, Higher Education, history, hollywood, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, marriage, mccain, media, medicine, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, North Pole, pennsylvania, pets, Pigs, Pit Bulls, Polar Express, Politics, pornography, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, random, relationships, religion, Republicans, Santa Claus, Sarah Palin, science, science fiction, sciencec, second amendment, shooting, sports, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, vegans, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on December 8, 2008 by castagnera

Why Reforming American Education Is Crucial
By James Castagnera
Attorney at Large
Last week in this space, talking about how to win the war on terror, I asserted, “The American workforce must be better prepared to compete in the global marketplace. When we are through congratulating ourselves on electing our first black president, let’s recall that inner-city high school graduation rates still hover at or below 50 percent in most major metropolises. Colleges are over-priced and inefficiently labor-intensive. We are cranking out too many lawyers and too few engineers and scientists.”
Just as I am convinced that our national security against terrorists rests primarily on good police work, secure borders, and a sensible immigration policy, the proliferation of drug wars, inner-city gangs, and campus crazies persuades me that education — like energy — is a national security issue.  I offer two reasons why.
First, no democracy can feel itself either fair or safe, when it allows an inner-city proletariat to persist and fester from generation to generation.  According to the cover story in the December 8th TIME Magazine, “Young Americans are less likely than their parents were to finish high school.”  Adds the article’s authors, “This is an issue that is warping the nation’s economy and security.”  They are right.
A report issued in April by America’s Promise Alliance and reported on Fox News found high school graduation rates below 50% in America’s 50 largest cities.  According to Fox, “The report found troubling data on the prospects of urban public high school students getting to college. In Detroit’s public schools, 24.9 percent of the students graduated from high school, while 30.5 percent graduated in Indianapolis Public Schools and 34.1 percent received diplomas in the Cleveland Municipal City School District.”
Consider this:  the odds that you or I will be the victim of one of these thousands of high school dropouts is astronomically higher than the chance that one of us will be killed by an international terrorist.  Philadelphia annually averages about 400 homicides, for example.  While many of these killings are drug dealers or gang members taking out their rivals in jungle-land turf battles, the collateral damage in innocent citizens, including kids, is heartbreaking.
We need only glance across our southern border to Juarez, Mexico, to see how much worse it could become.  As early this year as February 28th, the Dallas News reported 72 drug-related murders in Juarez and worried that the violence could begin spilling over the porous border.  In Mexico, the killings include public officials who try to oppose the warring factions.  “Among the dead there: journalists, a city council member and a police chief on the job just seven hours before he was gunned down. Additionally, the cartels tried to assassinate a federal legislator. And efforts to clean up the force have stalled, as nobody wants the job of police chief. Local media self-censors to survive.”  A popular way for cartel killers to communicate their message is to hang a beheaded corpse from a highway overpass.
How great is the distance between Philadelphia and Juarez?  Thousands of miles as the crow flies, but perhaps only a few years away in terms of escalating violence, as our uneducated proletariats turn in increasing numbers to the only livelihood likely to pay them well.
For those who do graduate from high school and hope to come to college, the current financial crisis may pose an insurmountable barrier.  College students already are regularly graduating with five-figure “mortgages” on their diplomas.  Often, if mom and pop are footing the tuition bills, an actual second-mortgage on the family homestead is how the money is raised.  Now, even that undesirable method may be slipping away, as home equity shrinks and major lenders like City Bank flounder.  We’ll have to wait and see whether the college class of 2013, which will come to campus in September ’09, will be substantially smaller than this year’s crop of collegians.  I predict it will be.
Those who can’t afford college probably won’t be working either.  This morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer’s front page reports the highest unemployment rate in 34 years: 6.7% nationally.  More than 500,000 jobs, adds the Inky, evaporated just last month.
More than 100 years ago, the famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow claimed, “There are more people go to jail in hard times than in good times — few people comparatively go to jail except when they are hard up. They go to jail because they have no other place to go. They may not know why, but it is true all the same. People are not more wicked in hard times. That is not the reason. The fact is true all over the world that in hard times more people go to jail than in good times, and in winter more people go to jail than in summer….  The people who go to jail are almost always poor people — people who have no other place to live first and last.”
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, more than 700 people per 100,000.  Only Russia, some of the other states of the former USSR, and a couple of Caribbean countries come close.  Are we stronger on law and order than our sister democracies?  Or are we failing to provide alternatives to crime?
And where lies the greater threat to our security, Afghanistan or the city nearest your home?
[Jim Castagnera, formerly of Jim Thorpe, is a Philadelphia lawyer and writer.  His 17th book, Al Qaeda Goes to College, will be published in the spring by Praeger.]

History of Higher Education (Part 2)

Posted in 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, cyberspace, Democrats, election, environment, fraternities, gun control, Higher Education, history, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, mccain, media, middle east, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, Politics, president, Presidential Election, professors, religion, Republicans, Sarah Palin, science, shooting, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on November 14, 2008 by castagnera

The fifth wave is breaking on global shores. “The age of the Internet and other new media forms is giving rise to a new wave of institution building, right before our eyes . . . . Ours is an extraordinary moment in history” (Cox 2000, p. 17). What is it we may expect to observe and experience among the phenomena of this new era? Among the main indicia of this new wave are the following:
Some observers predict a shakeout of weaker institutions as the current expansion leads inevitably to a concomitant contraction. Others have noted the persistence of even the weakest among first-wave colleges, as the following article illustrates.
[Start of Box]

The Mice That Roar: Small, Sectarian Colleges Resist
Efforts to Extinguish Them
By Jim Castagnera
The Greentree Gazette, May 2007
I first met Jim Noseworthy early in the present decade at a workshop on serving disabled students.  The program was put on by the University of New Hampshire’s extension division at a hotel outside Washington, D.C.  Serendipity put the Doctor of Ministry, whose prominent proboscis fits his surname, at the same table as I.  We lunched together and hit it off, and after that kept in sporadic contact.
In August 2003, after sharing a recent op-ed piece of mine with Jim, he wrote back to me, “I have left the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and now serve as president of United Methodist-related Hiwasee College in Madisonville, Tennessee.”  His missive on Hiwassee College stationery continued, “I moved in February to a situation which is both challenging and delightful.  I am glad to be back on campus and working with such marvelous individuals as we shape the future of this two-year college.”
If the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools gets its way, Hiwassee College has no future.
SACS’s Commission on Colleges is the accrediting body for higher education institutions in 11 southern states, including Tennessee.  Senior Fellow Jon Fuller of the National Association of Colleges and Universities describes SACS as “the most rigid and bureaucratic of the six national accrediting organizations.”  He adds that SACS has a tough task, because, “The South has more fragile institutions as a percentage of its higher education stock than any other region of the country.”
Absent the SACS imprimatur a college is cut off from federal financial aid funds.  For a college like Hiwassee, whose fewer-than-500 rural students almost all rely on substantial financial aid, such a sanction is fatal.  SACS, however, is finding that Hiwassee is hard to kill.
Hiwassee, which awards associate degrees, was first accredited by SACS in 1958.  That accreditation was confirmed most recently in 2000.  The Reaffirmation Committee noted that at the millennium Hiwassee had many “financial challenges.”  The committee’s report cited deferred maintenance, projected-revenue shortfalls, and inter-fund borrowing among those “challenges.”  SACS required a follow-up report.  When that document failed to meet the accreditor’s criteria, Hiwassee was issued a warning and required to submit yet another 12-month status report.  In December 2002, following review of this second report, SACS placed Hiwassee on probation.  The beleaguered college submitted its third report in December 2003, Meanwhile, a so-called Special Committee conducted a site visit to the Monroe County campus.
The college’s accreditation crisis came to a head on January 16, 2004, the date on a SACS letter which informed the Reverend Noseworthy and his staff, “With its upcoming review in December 2004, your institution will have exhausted its probationary status and its period of continued accreditation for good cause.  At that time, the institution must be determined to be in compliance with all of the Principles of Accreditation or be removed from membership.”  Yet another Special Committee visited Hiwassee in mid-October 2004.  The committee’s report was damning.  On December 4th Hiwassee defended itself at a Compliance Committee meeting, but the committee voted to remove accreditation.  On February 24, 2005, an Appeals Committee affirmed academic capital punishment for Hiwassee.
However, reports of Hiwassee’s demise proved premature.  The college took its case to the federal courts.  On March 22, 2005, Judge Thomas Vartan of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Tennessee issued a temporary restraining order, restoring Hiwassee’s accreditation.  “This is good news,” Rev. Noseworthy modestly understated this early victory.  The case then was transferred to the federal court for Northern Georgia, home to SACS headquarters.
On February 5, 2007, following extensive pre-trial discovery and a hearing, Senior District Judge Owen Forrester issued his ruling.  In many aspects his honor’s 18-page decision goes against Hiwassee.  For example, he rejects the college’s contention that “the entanglement between the (U.S.) Department of Education and SACS in its role as an accrediting agency under the Higher Education Act” makes SACS a “state actor” subject to the 14th Amendment’s “due process” clause.  On the other hand, Judge Forrester finds that SACS must be held to common-law principles of fair play.
Having so held, his honor goes on to conclude that a conflict of interest was created when Appeals Committee member Ann McNut suffered a family emergency and was replaced by Jimmy Goodson, a voting member of the Commission on Colleges.  Since he had already voted to withdraw Hiwassee’s accreditation, ruled Judge Forrester, “Mr. Goodson did have a conflict of interest and should not have served on the appeals panel.”
Comments President Noseworthy, “We have prevailed on one of the several issues of our case.”  However, Judge Forrester found in favor of SACS on many another issue.  More ominous is the district judge’s observation that “it is significant to the court that Hiwassee has never front-on challenged the ultimate decision of SACS that Hiwassee failed to come into compliance….” This bit of dicta may prefigure the ultimate outcome of the case, which remains pending as this article is written.  On March 16th, Jim Noseworthy wrote to me, “We are awaiting additional action by the judge in the case….” With characteristic aplomb, reminiscent of his 2003 letter, he added, “Hiwassee is a great place to be!”
Hiwassee College is not the only great little place under fire for financial instability.  SACS has also been gunning for Edward Waters College in Jacksonville.  In 2005 the historically black institution, like Hiwassee, won an injunction in federal court, staving off implementation of the accrediting agency’s decision to withdraw recognition.  News photos depicted some of the school’s 900 students marching with signs that said, “EWC must survive!”  Fuller of NAICU commented, “A new chapter is opened.  It’s going to require accreditors to question some of their procedures.”
Elsewhere it’s not accreditors but donors who are putting pressure on the Lilliputians of our industry to reform or perish.  For instance recent reports out of Omaha, Nebraska, tell of Howard L. Hawks, a major donor to both Midland Lutheran College and nearby Dana College, who has advised the two tiny schools to merge duplicative academic and administrative functions or lose his support.
These developments beg the question, “Do such small-enrollment, under-endowed private colleges have a place in the highly competitive, globalized higher education arena?”  I asked that question of NAICU’s Jon Fuller.  He explained that from Eastern Kentucky’s Pikesville College to New Jersey’s Bloomfield College, these small schools serve local communities “where people grow up with a limited sense of what’s possible.”  In other words, absent the Bloomfields, Pikevilles, and Hiwassees, many of these minority and/or rural youngsters would never go to college.
Fuller adds that both federal and accreditation standards use financial stability as a place-holder for quality education, since the latter is difficult to measure.  “The fed doesn’t want to have to clean up if a college closes suddenly.  What isn’t considered is that many of these schools have been around 100 or 150 years, and I doubt they were ever any less fragile than they are today.  Yet they always have a hard time meeting such standards.”
I suggested to Fuller that the pluckiness of these colleges reminds me of the tiny nation in the Peter Sellers film, “The Mouse that Roared.”  He retorted, “They remind me of bumble bees.  Measure the wingspan and the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly.  Since it does fly, there must be other factors we are failing to measure.”
With regard to the Hiwassees of our world, Fuller cited “deep loyalty” from alumni and “faith communities,” a willingness to sacrifice on the parts of administrators, faculty and even students, and — perhaps most significant where the likes of Jim Noseworthy and Hiwassee are concerned —- “an ethic which says, attend to the needs of today and somehow tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Concludes Fuller, “At a time when the Spellings Commission is concerned with degree completion and eight Asian and European nations boast higher percentages of college graduates than the U.S., it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to mess with these colleges.”
Source:  The Greentree Gazette, May 2007 (Reprinted with permission of the Greentree Gazette: The Business Magazine of Higher Education.)

A Brief History of Higher Education: Part One

Posted in Big Business, blogging, Blogroll, cyberspace, Democrats, election, fraternities, Higher Education, history, international, internet, Law, leadership, media, news, Politics, president, Presidential Election, professors, study abroad, technology, Uncategorized, universities, world affairs, writing on November 12, 2008 by castagnera

Origins of the American System of Higher Education
Four distinct epochs or waves can be discerned in the history of higher education: In the 85 years between the Declaration of Independence and the Civil War, some 800 liberal arts colleges sprang up across the United States. A typical example is Franklin & Marshall College, which owes half its name to a modest amount of seed money donated by the great Benjamin Franklin in 1787. Another example is Case Western Reserve University, today a Research-One institution, which first saw the light of learning as Western Reserve Academy. “The undergraduate college took . . . . the essential step necessary for a broad education for general citizenship . . . . These institutions were of a size and scale that could be created by a group of private individuals—not requiring great fortunes or state support” (Cox 2000, p. 14).
The end of the Civil War until the turn of the last century was the era of the great land-grant institutions. This expansion of higher education led to the first shakeout. “By 1900, only 180 of those first 800 small colleges remained active; larger, subsidized state universities consumed market share by offering more educational services, subsidized prices, and often more pragmatic and career-oriented curricula” (Cox 2000, p. 14).
Around the turn of the last century, the third great wave broke upon the shores of higher learning. Wealthy industrialists, such as John D. Rockefeller (The University of Chicago), Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Mellon University), Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt University), and Leland Stanford (Stanford University) founded high-quality, private universities. The institutions were often world-class in their curricula, faculty, and architecture, importing many of these elements from their great European counterparts. Thus, with Chicago, “Cambridge inspired the architecture, while Berlin inspired the pedagogy and faculty structure” (Cox 2000, p. 14).
Fast forward yet another 50 years and we see the GI Bill and the postwar technology boom, fueled in part by the Cold War, driving the creation of the “megaversity.” This term is commonly used to describe a variety of large institutions, all of which share at least the following characteristics: faculty numbering in the thousands and student bodies numbering in the tens of thousands; sprawling and/or multiple campuses containing a large number of undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges; and a large and cumbersome administrative bureaucracy overseeing these complex operations. (We have also seen the proliferation and maturation of the community college. However, this book, by and large, will focus principally upon four-year institutions, albeit some case citations will concern community colleges.)

How Do You Like the 21st Century So Far?

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, asia, Barack Obama, Biden, Big Business, blogging, Blogroll, breaking news, ceo compensation, Crime, criminal justice, cyberspace, Democrats, election, environment, gun control, Higher Education, history, immigration, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, mccain, media, middle east, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, Politics, president, Presidential Election, professors, Republicans, science, science fiction, second amendment, shooting, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, Vice President, Violence, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on November 7, 2008 by castagnera

On Tuesday, November 4th, we Americans made history.  As Journalist Bill Moyers pointed out on NPR, the albatross of racism has been lifted from around many American necks.  I include myself in this category.  I also feel as if the 2008 national election is the first bright spot in a dismal decade.
The new century was hardly underway when the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks bloodily and dramatically signaled the end of America’s brief illusion that, as the world’s sole superpower at the end of the Cold War, Uncle Sam could do anything he liked and get away with it.
A strong case can be made that we over-reacted to the Nine/Eleven attacks.  Launching a two-front war from which we have been unable to extricate ourselves is deemed by many Americans to have been a colossal blunder.  If you believe that fighting terrorism is essentially police work, and that our military forces are creating more radical Islamists than they are killing, then the Afghan and Iraqi wars were a bad idea.  If, on the other hand, you believe that America needs a stable Middle East to secure vital oil supplies, then the Bush Administration’s gross underestimate of the price in lives in treasure required to pacify the region makes the Afghan and Iraqi wars a bad idea.
More troubling to me is the financial crisis precipitated by Wall Street’s greed and Washington’s unwillingness to regulate the financial world’s shenanigans.  As Moyers said the other night on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” since the Bush people have no respect for federal regulation of business, they saw no reason to dampen the redistribution of wealth to the financial/power elite that occurred over the past eight years.  The Bush tax cuts contributed mightily to this largesse for the elite.  The War on Terror also contributed mightily.  For example, Halliburton, which made Dick Cheney a multi-multi-millionaire between Bush I and Bush II, has been rewarded with billions in defense contracts since the start of hostilities.  What the tax cuts and war didn’t put in the top five-percent’s pockets, they stole.
I don’t know what kind of a president Obama will make.  Two years ago I wrote him off as a flash in the pan.  A year ago I criticized his lack of national-service experience.  As Senator Joe Lieberman said at the Republican National Convention last summer, Obama is a talented man of great potential.  But, as Lieberman added, the ability to make an inspiring speech is no substitute for experience.
That being said, his themes of “hope” and “Yes, we can” are sorely needed now.  He seems to be surrounding himself with the wealth of experience he himself lacks, starting with Joe Biden.  By the time this column appears, he most likely will have picked a Treasury Secretary of comparable stature.  Jack Kennedy was younger, when elected, than Obama is now.  JFK was tested and made some early blunders at his first summit with the Soviet Union’s leader and at the Bay of Pigs.  But by October 1962 he was sufficiently seasoned to surmount the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Obama, too, is a quick study and a gutsy guy.
Even if he turns out to be a mediocre president, his election by a wide majority marks a departure from America’s centuries of racism.  It validates and renews Jefferson’s claim that America is the last, best hope of the world.  It supports our claim that our greatest strength is our diversity.
The challenges facing President Obama and the rest of us are daunting.  The current financial crisis will subside.  The challenge of a global marketplace occupied by an ascendant China, a resurgent Russia, and other energetic and powerful economic competitors is with us for good.  Islamic militants probably won’t quit until they succeed in detonating a nuclear device on US soil, or we succeed in killing them, while also making peace with the moderate majority of the Muslim world.  We who work in education must somehow manage to increase the demoralizing high school graduation rates of our largest cities, while providing our college students with all the skills they need to compete in a world where young Americans are no longer guaranteed to do better than their parents.
The half century that has comprised most of this writer’s life, from the late 1940s down to the turn of the new century, was a sort of Golden Age in the USA.  Getting by was a piece of cake.  Relative affluence was possible for the vast majority.  The Cold War with its doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction created a sort of “Pax Atomica” interrupted relatively rarely by low-level conflicts in Asia and elsewhere.  Ronald Reagan was the last US president to know what was wanted: “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”
Since 1988, our brief ascendancy to sole superpower-ship has plunged into confusion, greed, and blind stupidity.  I don’t know if President Obama is the man to reverse this trajectory.  But unless you think that the first eight years of the new millennium were good times, you need to join those of us who hope.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost/Associate Council at Rider University.  His 17th book, “Al Qaeda Goes to College,” will be published by Greenwood/Praeger next spring.]