Category Archives: Life

A Teacher’s Spark

Emotions flooded every inch of my body as Susan and I prepared to watch Catherine take to the Kennedy Center Stage and perform a scene from The Diary of Anne Frank with her fellow cast members from West Springfield High School (WSHS) on Sunday evening.

Our drama department won several nominations for their work on The Diary of Anne Frank, including Supporting Actress in a Play, Ensemble Cast in a Play, Supporting Actor in a Play, Play and Catherine’s nomination of “Lead Actress in a Play.”  Because the school received a Cappies Nomination for Play, they were able to select and perform a scene for the Gala.

As I write this, I still find myself sitting on cloud nine.  I was more nervous for the performance than the award – the award would be icing on top of the cake.  When I saw my daughter on the stage at the Kennedy Center, my heart skipped a beat. I felt emotions that I have not felt since the first time I saw her in a performance.   And as the scene unfolded, I was overwhelmed and could not contain myself.  She was poised and confident as she performed in front of a sold-out audience of 2,400 people.

When the performance ended, which I believe the cast delivered without a flaw, I sat in my seat and contemplated what just took place.  Nothing else needed to happen for me at that moment.  I contemplated the journey of the last few months and how we all wound up at the Kennedy Center on a Sunday evening in June.

Then it dawned on me – while education is a life long journey, it starts with a spark.  A bright spot.  A bold thinker.  A motivator.  An inspiration. Someone who is willing to walk the journey with you.  Every child needs to have a caring adult in their lives, and most of the time, that caring adult (not always a parent) is someone who plays a key role in that child’s life – like a teacher. A good teacher inspires children and ignites a child’s imagination. In the process, this major force in a child’s life instills a life-long love of learning.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few of those wonderful teachers in my life, the ones who walk the journey with you.  The ones you know you can always say in touch with.  I still remember how Mrs. Deschamp taught me to love math in the seventh grade and in my college years, Dr. Ellen Smith and Dr. Gary Maris walked the journey and inspired me to be where I am today. And to this day, I stay in touch with a law school professor who inspired and mentored me, Rebecca Morgan.

So it should come as no surprise that as the husband of a phenomenal kindergarten teacher who inspires her children every day, I want that special person(s) to be a part of the educational journey of my children.  For Michael, it was a psychology teacher; for Thomas, a guidance counselor; and for Catherine, a drama teacher.

While I know and believe in my heart that Catherine is talented and has a passion for being on stage, this “segment” of the journey could not have happened without a guiding and encouraging force by her side.  That force is the newest addition to the West Springfield High School (WSHS) faculty – Bernie DeLeo.  There are many talented and dedicated teachers at WSHS.  But I am so pleased that in my daughter’s sophomore year at WSHS, she had an opportunity to work with Mr. DeLeo.


It was refreshing, exciting and encouraging to see him interact with Catherine and other students throughout the year.  Susan nudged Catherine to try something different last fall – trying out for WSHS’s fall play – and without knowing that, Mr. DeLeo recognized and nurtured her to take that “nudge” all the way to the Kennedy Center on this evening in June.

He inspired her and pushed her slightly outside her comfort zone.  He saw something in her that perhaps she didn’t see in herself.  He believed in her, tugged her and pushed her to the next level.  And it turned out to be a magical night.  After the performance, the gifts of the evening kept on coming when I heard the words “and the Cappie goes to…Catherine Ariale.”

Cappies 2

Catherine’s journey will continue.  I am not sure where it will end up, but I am pleased that in addition to her parents, she has someone who is a motivator, an inspiration, and  a mentor to be her navigator along the way.  There is something so special about the teachers in our lives who play key roles in our education, our growth and our development.  There is something even more incredible about those teachers who go above and beyond and possess the gift that inspires children and ignites their imaginations.

I cannot wait to see what is next on this remarkable journey that was sparked by an amazing teacher.


Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Life


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How can this continue to happen in America?

My heart is broken today. Just last Thanksgiving, my family visited Newtown for their annual Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk. The town was quaint and peaceful, and the people I encountered seemed close knit. Today, I was shocked to learn that twenty innocent, beautiful little children were brutally and savagely executed in that very same place. I am truly overwhelmed with grief and sadness.

In recent years, we have unfortunately heard this story far too often. Today, twenty young children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown. Earlier this week, a gunman open fire in a shopping mall in Oregon. Before that, tragedy struck a temple in Wisconsin and a movie theater in Aurora. The Virginia Tech shootings brought to light the vulnerability of our college students. And every day, we hear of violence in the streets of our big cities and feel isolated from these tragedies, but today, it became clear that this can happen in any town, mall, or theatre in any city in the country.

I know I am left asking myself how this can continue to happen in America?

A couple of years ago, Jared Loughner walked into the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson, Arizona, to purchase a Glock 19. When he purchased that gun, he had every right to walk out the legal owner of the semi-automatic handgun. But then he used that weapon to kill six innocent people and wound more than a dozen during an attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. That’s when we all questioned that sale.

Current U.S. gun laws provided no reason to prohibit the transaction. But it seems clear to me that its time to step up and do something to prevent these senseless tragedies in the future. There must be a way to find some answer to the problem without violating the Constitution’s Second Amendment.  Twenty seven words in the Constitution, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” have been debated since those words were put down as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. While I agree that these words mean Americans have the right to bear arms, I think Congress had it right in 1994 when they enacted a temporary ban on the sale of certain assault weapons.

That ban, among other things, prohibited the sale of high capacity ammunition clips that carried more than 10 rounds. When the ban came up for expiration in 2004, Congress did not renew it. As a result, Loughner was able to purchase magazines that carried over 30 bullets per clip, allowing him to empty a full clip into a crowd in approximately 15 seconds.

Does the Second Amendment really mean that all Americans have the right to own assault weapons or semi-automatic handguns?

Perhaps we need to seek another ban on certain weapons, a ban on high capacity clips, or background checks that identify and prohibit convicted felons and anyone adjudicated as mentally defective, or anyone who has ever been committed to any mental institution, from purchasing guns.

Either way, it’s important to remember that the right to own a weapon in America is not absolute and today, the only absolute is that this debate needs to re-opened.


Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Life, Politics


The 50-Yard Line

We all have milestones in our lives and today I am celebrating one – my 50th birthday.
As this birthday approached, I must admit I thought about it more than any other prior to it.  I usually treat birthdays as just one more day on the journey known as life.  But I was shocked at how many times hitting this milestone pervaded my thoughts.
Earlier this week, I heard a story that anytime we say “I am…” we become what we follow that statement with.  If you say “I am old.”  You start to feel old.  If you say “I am tired,” you become tired.  That story helped me put my milestone in perspective….
On this milestone day,  I am truly blessed.  I am blessed to have had the opportunity to marry and spend the last 25 years with the most amazing woman I know.  I am blessed to call three of the greatest people I know my children.  I am blessed with an awesome family, great parents, and very special friends.
I am blessed to have a distinguished, enriching career, to have worked with some amazing people, and to have a warm, inviting roof over my head.  I am blessed to have my health.  I am blessed to have been fortunate enough to work with young people and college students at my church, and with the American Cancer Society.
Yes, today is a milestone birthday and as I write this I am reminded that I am truly blessed.  That’s what it means to me to turn 50.  It’s a milestone birthday that is worthy of reflection.  And as a good friend of mine told me, you’ve only made it to the 50-yard line, you still have half a field to go.”
So today, I am excited to begin the journey down the next 50 yards and cant wait to see what lies ahead.
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Life


A Day that Changed Us Forever

As I sit here and think about it, I am shocked that it has been ten years since that horrible day that changed everything. And as I reflect further, it feels just like yesterday.


Just like our recent earthquake, I know we all remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001. That day started off quite normal. Up and out of the house early because I had a breakfast event to attend with my boss. It was a clear and beautiful fall morning in DC. As the morning went on, we all became aware of the new national security crisis our country was facing. A not very well known enemy, with what appeared to be minimal budget, was able to breach any security that existed at the time and transform commercial airliners into giant bombs. At the end of the day, thousands of innocent lives were gone, America’s false sense and expectation of security was shattered, and our economy was thrown into a free fall.


That night, when I finally got home, I attended a memorial service at church that was one of the most moving and emotional services that I have ever attended. I saw the same look of disorientation and disbelief on every face in that sanctuary.


On September 12, 2001, I drove into the Capitol through blocks of eerily deserted streets. I saw military airplanes, but no commercial flights in the normally busy 14th Street Bridge corridor since Reagan National was closed. There was a “new” security protocol in town and the open streets around the Capitol were being consumed for the new security perimeter that was being redefined as the day went on. I can’t help but think that the Capitol was one of the targets on the 11th, protected only by the brave men and women who stopped the fourth plane from reaching Washington. I went to work filled with a passion I have never felt before – a sense of patriotism and purpose. From that day on, I felt that my work took on a new importance and those who committed these horrific acts would never stop me or my colleagues from the public service we provided.


Over the last ten years later, I have questioned the road we have traveled as a nation. But some things are undeniable. I am grateful for those men and women who work so hard every day to keep us all safe and al-Qaeda, as it existed in 2001, is no longer.


I for one am glad that even in the face of some of the most difficult challenges our nation has addressed, the Congress, President Bush, and now President Obama, recognize the continued importance of funding these efforts. Immediately after 9-11, we hastily, and perhaps sloppily, launched a defensive anti-terror apparatus constructed from scratch.


However, in spite of some the setbacks and shortfalls associated with this strategy, it worked. These efforts kept us safe, even though they were some of the most controversial public policy decisions implemented in recent time.


I have always viewed 9-11 as our generation’s Pearl Harbor. However, our enemy is far more complicated and elusive. Our enemy has no home address. Our response required a different response and different resolve. As President Bush stated soon after the attacks,

     Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

Since 9-11, our collective resolve has paid off. After 10 years, no major attacks. We have largely disarmed and defeated what once was Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. We have transformed the way we engage our enemy and we have developed the means to continue to pursue them at a decreasing cost.


Along the way, we have made many mistakes, particularly on the international front. Perhaps the next decade will refocus our energies on repairing these relationships as we move forward in peace, as a global community.


As I ponder and reflect upon 9-11, I will remember the events of that day, the accomplishments of the Bush and Obama administrations, the resolve of the American people, and the response from the rest of the world. As President Bush stated in September 2001,


       America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America.


In light of the facts surrounding 9-11, the gravity of the destruction of life and property, the surprise attack, the nature of the enemy, and the relentless attempts to cause more harm to innocent people, I cannot help but conclude that we have been largely successful. But we have a great deal more to accomplish. We continue to rebuild, we show resolve, and we remain vigilant.


On this special anniversary, I reflect on the brave men and women who have fought on my behalf and paid the ultimate sacrifice to make this world a safer place for me and my children.


I hope we never forget these events, but move forward in a positive way. Most of all, I pray for all the lives that changed forever ten years ago and pray that we as a people – a collective global people – can one day live to the fullest potential that God intended for all of us, peacefully and with respect for one another.

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Life