The Triple Constraints–How they are Handled Differently in Traditional and Agile Project Management


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, in the second chapter “Introducing Agile Project Management”, he has a section called “Agile Planning and Estimating” where he has an elegant explanation for one of the most frequently asked questions about Agile, namely, “how do Traditional and Agile Project Management differ in their approach to project management”?

He does this by showing how the two approaches differ with respect to how they manage the “triple constraints” on a project, namely, scope, time and cost, which are represented by the triangle below.

TripleConstraints

1.Traditional PM Assumptions

In traditional project management, your first assumption that the scope needs to be as well-defined as possible.    Once this is done, then the planning process consists of estimating the cost and time it will take to complete that well-defined scope.

So in traditional PM, the archetypal problem for project managers is “scope creep”, meaning uncontrolled or continuous scope.   Because the changes in one constraint normally affect a change in the other constraints, this means that the resources required to complete the project will be ever expanding as well.    Of if you are not allowed additional resources by management, you will have to do more and more with less and less, which creates an undue burden on the project manager and the project team.

2. Agile PM Assumptions

In agile project management, your first assumption is that the customer has a well-defined date and cost constraint in mind in the very beginning.    Here, the planning process can be flexible with regards to the slope, and the object of the project team is to prioritize those features which add the most value to the customer.

How is this done?    By using agile techniques to get the customer involved in the process so that the plan can reflect on external realities which may change during the course of the project.

Because the focus is on a fixed cost and time, and a variable scope, rather than a fixed scope, and a variable cost and time constraint, agile can be seen as literally turning traditional project management on its head.    It uses as its starting point the throwing out of the first assumption of traditional project management, namely, that the scope can be well-defined in advance of the execution of the project.    By giving up trying to capture such a mythical creature as a “well-defined scope”, agile project management looks at scope in a much more realistic way, as subject to negotiation between the customer and the company.

This explanation shows how different the traditional and agile project management methodologies differ.   The two approaches differ not just in methodology, but terminology as well.    In the next post, I will discuss the way that agile management differs from traditional project management when it comes to executing and controlling a project.

10 Questions Answered about the Project Management Institute’s Professional in Business Analyis (PMI-PBA) Certification


This evening at the September dinner meeting of the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute, we had Dayle Bayer give a presentation entitled “The Quick Start Guide to Getting Certified in Business Analysis”, about the relatively new certification from PMI, the Professional in Business Analyis certification (PBA).   She gave a talk about the requirements for the certification, and what kind of career opportunities it would open up for those who obtained it.    Here are many questions that came up both in her talk and in the Q&A session that followed it.

1. What is the experience requirement for the PBA?

4,500 hours of business analysis experience, and 2,000 hours working on project teams.    You can double up on these requirements, so if some hours on project teams were related to business analysis, those hours can count for both categories.    NOTE:   This is if you have a college degree; you need 7,500 hours of business analysis experience if you don’t have a college degree.

2.  How difficult is the test compared to the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam?

It’s the same level, in the sense that there are 200 questions which you have 4 hours to answer.    Like the PMP, there are situational questions, but unlike the PMP, there are no questions involving calculation.

3.  Why did PMI feel the need for introducing the PBA?

In an analysis of the various root causes for project failure, PMI found out that 47% of projects that fail had poor requirements, so that even if a project was a “success” in terms of being on time and within the budget, the customer was not satisfied with the final deliverable because it did not meet what they felt were the requirements that they had conveyed to the company.

4.  What domains are covered by the PBA?

Just as in the PMP, where there are five domains or process groups, there are five domains for the PBA which are listed as follows, followed by the percentage of questions (on average) that the test will comprise in each domain:

  1. Needs Assessment–15%
  2. Planning–20%
  3. Analysis–35%
  4. Traceability and Monitoring–15%
  5. Solution Evaluation–15%

5.  What are the benefits of the PBA?

For the test taker, greater employment opportunities.   For the companies that hire them, PBA’s are increasingly becoming an important form of “internal consultant”, because they can make sure project requirements reflect key strategic business initiatives.

6.  How many people have taken the PBA?

There are 400 people in PMI who have taken and passed the PBA exam, as opposed to 500,000 who have taken and passed the PMP exam.

7.  Is PMI the only organization that offers a certification in business analysis?

No, the International Institute of Business Analysts holds two certifications:

  • CCBA–Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (junior level certification)
  • CBAP–Cerified Business Analysis Professional (senior level certification)

In terms of experience levels, these are roughly comparable to the CAPM and PMP certification levels for project management in PMI.

8.  What is the best way to describe what a PBA will be able to do as a business analyst once certified?

He or she will be able to prevent problems before they happen, and translate between strategic business requirements originated at the C-suite level and the functional requirements of the various departments in the business.

9.  What is the difference between the focus of the CBAP certification run by IIBA and the PBA certification run by PMI?

The IIBA certification focuses on translating between customer requirements and the functional requirements of the company’s technical departments that will make the product for the customer.    The PBA certification focuses on translating between the business requirements of the company and the company’s technical requirements.    In the business world, both sets of skills are needed, one to keep the customer happy and the other to keep management happy.

10.  What are some tips on how to pass the PBA?

  1. Pick a target test date
  2. Create a study plan
  3. Refresh the purpose of the exam–what is your purpose and passion for studying business analysis?
  4. Make the unknown known (get a copy of the Business Analysis for Practitioners, which is free from the PMI website if you are a member)
  5. Don’t train for perfection–you don’t need 100%, but just to pass the exam (so aim for 80% or more on practice tests because the actual passing rate is 70%)

I appreciated the succinct but thorough introduction to the PBA for those project managers in the room who are increasingly called upon to serve in capacities that were traditionally thought to belong to business analysts.   The key to success nowadays is innovation, and that requires you to be ready to capture ideas and put them into practice.   The PBA can help you realize that ambition!

The Agile Dinner Party


In John Stenbeck’s book introducing Agile Project management entitled “”PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he opens his second chapter “Introducing Agile Project Management” with a simple example of an agile project from daily life, although it might be seen as such by those doing the project.

Dinner Party scenario

1.   Dinner Party idea and division of labor

Let’s suppose you and three other friends are hosting a dinner party together on Friday.   You decide to divide the work based on what you are good at making.   Let’s say you are Bill, and you just happen to have a talent for being a mixologist.  Your friend David is good at hors d’oeuvres, Cathy is good at main dishes, and Francine is the dessert expert.    Between the four of you, you have the culinary skills to make an entire course of dishes for the dinner party.    To make sure that the dinner party goes well, you aim for a set of meetings on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

2.  Wednesday meeting–plan to acquire resources

On Wednesday, you and your friends decide the theme of the party, and what you will have on the menu for the drinks, hors d’oeuvres, entrees and desserts.   A shopping list is created for the menu created, a store suggested where the ingredients on the list will be bought, and each person will be responsible for buying the items from the respective store and bringing it to the next meeting on Thursday.

3.  Thursday meeting–preparation and logistics

On Thursday, you gather together the ingredients you purchased based on the shopping lists you created at the last meeting, and you do the pre-preparation for the party.     Any washing, chopping, peeling of vegetables and pre-preparation of any other foods (like sauce for lasagna) is done, and the results are stored in the refrigerator for the next day.

4.  Friday meeting–execution

You get to the place where the dinner party is supposed to take place–if it is the same place where the Thursday meeting was held, then you just need to get the ingredients from the refrigerator and prepare them while the others set the table, decorations, and make any other immediate preparations for the guests to arrive.    Then, it’s–party time!

5.  Saturday meeting–clean up, with retrospective

Of course, the immediate clean-up will be done right after the party is done, but your group decides to meet on Saturday to focus on how well the party went.

The first part of the meeting is where you review all of the e-mails and social media posts (Twitter, SnapChat, etc.) and decide how the guests received the party.    This is where you decide not just if the party was successful, but HOW successful it was.

The second part of the is a review of what went wrong and what could be improved for the next time your group puts on a dinner party.

Okay, now that I have a described preparation for a dinner party.   Let’s see how this illustrates some key concepts and challenges of Agile Project Management.

Agile Principle #1–The team must have the necessary skills to complete the project.    Notice how the four of you have different skills, all of which are needed to complete some part of a successful dinner party.    What would happen if your team didn’t have someone who, for example, could make great drinks for the party?    Then have someone on your team invite a friend to help, or if you have enough resources, hire a bartender!

Agile Principle #2–The team must be self-organized, highly-trusted, and accountable.    At the overall planning meeting, the various subsequent meetings are planned (called iterations in Agile Project Management).   There are four iterations planned, the meetings on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.    That takes care of the organized part.   What about the “self” in “self-organized”.   This is not a group where you say, “okay, let’s have a dinner party,   David, Cathy, and Francine, here’s what I want you to do …”   There is no one person who is the “project manager” in the traditional sense of the word.    You are all organizing the party together as a team.   You are highly trusted within your circle of friends that they are willing to go to your dinner party because they believe there is a good chance that they will enjoy themselves.   And your group is accountable because you are having a meeting afterwards to listen to the guests’ comments about the dinner party and to make improvements so that the next party is even better.

Agile Principle #3–The dinner party project must be broken into interrelated, incremental deliverables.   This is done through the 4 meetings called iterations.   The first sets forth what resources need to acquired, the second takes those resources and assembles them to be ready for the third iteration.    The third iteration is the dinner party itself, which uses the resources prepared at the second iteration.   And finally, the fourth iteration is taking the responses of guests to what was the third iteration (the party).   So each iteration builds upon what happens at the previous one.    And the “incremental” part?    The output of each iteration is known technically in Agile Project Management as a “potentially shippable product increment”, which means that, if the project were delayed or even terminated at that point, the results of the iteration would still prove to have added value and could possibly be used in other projects.

For example, iteration #1 produces a shopping list, which could be used for future parties if this one is called off.    Iteration #2 produces pre-prepared foods such as sauces, etc., which might be able to frozen and then reused at a future dinner party if necessary.    Now, Iteration #3 is also a “release”, which means that the cumulative work of the iterations is delivered to the customers (your friends).   Iteration #4 is a “product-focused” review meeting–it focuses on the feedback from the customers (again, your friends) and this keeps your team accountable.   The second part of the meeting, the “retrospective” is “process-focused”, meaning that it identities ways to improve the process so that a future dinner party will have even better quality.    This makes the Agile Project Management process educational (through the “retrospective”) meeting and successful (through the “review” meeting).

I enjoyed John Stenbeck’s example, and my idea for a great workshop on Agile Project Management would include, as a practical example, having the participants create a “dinner” (or “lunch”) party for the following week, where the person who runs the workshop would introduce the concepts mentioned above so that people are learning Agile Project Management while actually doing a practical example–and, of course, having fun eating the results afterwards!

“What Color Do I See?”‘–Language Acquisition as the Gateway to Empathy


I was invited to give a presentation at the Multicultural Connections Club in downtown Chicago on the subject of learning foreign languages and its importance in our increasing global economy.    This is a preliminary version of my opening remarks on how I got interested in learning foreign languages and why I feel it is important for everyone in the public or private sector to start making the effort to learn a foreign language, even though some people say English is “the international language”.

I.  My Passion for Foreign Languages

My passion for foreign languages started at the early age of 5.   My mother’s younger brother, Leroy, got divorced and feeling restless, decided to answer an employment ad for an engineer at a company down in Honduras.    He lived in a town on the northern coast called La Ceiba, and after a while started acculturating himself to the people, the climate, and the language.   He married a Honduran woman named Hilda, and they came to the United States for a honeymoon tour.   He stopped at our house in a suburb of Chicago so he could introduce his new wife to my mother and my father.   My mother and Hilda were talking in the living room drinking coffee, while Leroy and my father were enjoying whiskey and smoking cigars in the dining room.    They were talking about the difference between life here in America and life in Honduras.

Braving the cloud of smoke surrounding the two, I approached my uncle and asked him what I thought was a good question.   “How come you live in a place that’s so far away?”   “Well, kid,” he said, after taking another puff on the cigar, “if you knew my ex-wife Rosie, you know why I’d want to leave the country.”    My dad laughed, but then–everything was in an uproar.   My mother heard what Leroy said and she didn’t think it was funny.    She came in from the living room and started yelling at him in English, and his wife Hilda was saying something to him, but what she said sounded like gibberish. He turned to my mother and said, “sorry, sis, it was just a joke”, and then immediately turned to his wife and said, “lo siento, solamente fue una broma”!    But to my young ears, again it sounded like gibberish–but she seemed to understand him.    I asked Hilda, “did you understand him just now?”   Her anger at Leroy softened by my question, she answered that he was speaking in another language, and she proceeded to answer a barrage of questions that this revelation sparked.   “Hey, Mom,” I soon called, “do you know that they have a different word for EVERYTHING?”

I was determined that, when I grew up,  I would learn to speak a foreign language just like my uncle.    Well, in junior high school, I had the chance to learn Spanish in school, and just then, my grandmother was hosting some Honduran young women who were living in Chicago learning how to be nurses.    My grandmother would teach them English, and taught them how to cook American food (with the matchmaker motive of wanting to make them even more attractive to American men).    I visited my grandmother and the young women encouraged me to practice Spanish.

in high school, a summer trip our high school choir made to both France and Germany sparked me to want to learn both German and French when I returned.     I studied these languages in high school and then continued in college while I was studying engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   I noticed that I was getting towards graduation, I was taking fewer math and physics courses and more language courses.    I was wondering if there was a way to combine my interest in technical subjects like math and physics and my language studies at the same time.

An opportunity came along when a physics professor at the university, Lillian Hoddeson, was working on an International Project in the History of Solid State Physics, which was research the story of the solid-state physicists who fled Nazi Germany and ended up emigrating to Britain and the United States and changing the course of physics not just during the war, but after it as well.    She needed someone who understand physics AND who was fluent in German, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time (with the right skills, of course).   I got to go to the Deutsches Museum in Munich to work on translating the German parts of the manuscript called “Out of the Crystal Maze” into English.    There, the director of the German portion of the project told me that, when I returned to the United States, if I really wanted to make a niche for myself, I should study Japanese and/or Chinese, because technical translators for those subjects were really hard to find.

When I returned to the U.S., I decided to take his advice and entered the Asian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at the Masters level.   I couldn’t decide which I wanted to study more, so I studied them both, and ended up doing essentially a double major.    I was interested in doing technical translation, of course, but the University in its wisdom said that I needed to study history, philosophy, and literature of each country if I were to really become an effective translator.    I am so happy I did so, because studying the culture which produced the language was the key to a deeper understanding of the language itself.

While I was studying these languages, I was an student guide for those graduate students n the International MBA program, many of whom were from China and Japan.    This gave me additional chance to practice the language of course, and one Japanese guy in particular became a very good friend of mine, because we shared a passion for science fiction.    We started the Language Exchange Club on Friday afternoons so that the Japanese students at the university who were trying to practice their English could practice with American students at the university who were trying to practice their Japanese.    This proved to be an effective method, because students of both countries shared a mutual interest in alcohol–which was convenient because the “Language Exchange Club” met a local graduate student bar after classes were done on Friday.

When my friend Andy (his real Japanese name was Atsuki) came back after winter break, he told me, “Jerry-san, I have some great news for you!”   He told me how he had talked to the people at Mitsubishi Motors where he worked and where he would return after his sabbatical was done in May, about my abilities to do technical translation.    The HR department was just started on such a search, so Andy asked me to give him my resume, and he would send it to Japan with a suitable cover letter.    In two weeks, I got a call from the head of HR saying he was going to fly out to Illinois in March (during our Spring Break) to interview me for a position at Mitsubishi Motors.    I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before, but when it came time to the interview, it was not like an interview I had had before–or since, to tell you the truth.    Rather than getting right to the point of what the position was like, what my qualifications were, etc., they asked me about my interest in Japanese language and culture, and I was very open with them about how I found it very interesting, and named some of the subjects I was taking in preparation for my final  exams in May.    They asked me to read a PR piece about one of their new automobiles, and summarize it for them.   Although there many words I didn’t know, I knew enough to know the basic points that the piece was making, and I gave them a 60-second summary of what was in the article.    After I did so, the two people there from the HR department looked at each other, and then started talking to me about salary and benefits and I realized, “wow, I just passed the interview.”

Later, Andy told me that there had been concern about hiring a “foreigner”, because there were concerns that even if the foreigner could understand Japanese, the Japanese and American culture were so different they were afraid that I wouldn’t be able to adapt.    Andy told me before the interview to just be myself, and he knew that if I spoke with my usual passion about Japanese culture, they would know that they had the right person for the job.

I ended up working for a total of 14 years for Mitsubishi Motors, and another 5 years for a Japanese insurance company Tokio Marine.    After coming here to Chicago in 2013, I originally thought that Chicago would not be as global a city as the places I’ve before, like Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles.   But I am pleasantly surprised to have been mistaken.  When I put on the 2014 Professional Development Day series of workshops for the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute, I found the theme of the day-long event in the title of a book by a Chicago historian named Thomas Dyja which he entitled “The Third Coast:   When Chicago Built the American Dream”.   I made the title of the event “The Third Coast Goes Global,” to describe the impact that the global economy is having on the city of Chicago and the field of project management, and how Chicago might someday influence that same global economy with the influx of the many international corporations and the people from all over the world who have came to live and work here.

2.  What Color Do I See?

But you may be saying, well, that’s all right for you, you’ve got a passion for languages–but why should I be interested in learning a foreign language, why is it so important?    Everybody in the world wants to learn English, because it is the international language of business, right?

Let me explain why language is important in today’s economy by explaining a simple experiment done by a developmental psychologist called Jean Piaget.   He was interested in mapping out the various stages that children go through in their cognitive development as children, from birth to the teenager years.    The experiment I’ll describe is called “What Color Do I See?”    This was done with children who were in pre-school age, and then again after they entered elementary school.    The experiment was done with a ball, piece of paper, or other object that had two sides, one side painted one color, let’s say “blue”, and the other side painted another color, let’s say “yellow.”

The experimenter would go to the child and show the object on both sides,  and asked the child to name the color he or she saw on each side of the object.     Then the experimenter showed, let’s say, the “yellow” side to the child, and asked “what color do you see?”   The child would answer “yellow.”    Great!    Then the experimenter would turn the object around and say, “what color do I see?”   If the child was in the “pre-operational” of development, usually occurring between 2 and 7 years of age, the child would continue to say “yellow”, because that’s the color that the child was currently seeing in front of him or her.    However, if the child had passed into the next stage of development, the “concrete operational” stage of development, the child would answer correctly “blue”, and not “yellow”.

You see, children at the pre-operational stage find difficulty seeing things from different viewpoints.   It’s interesting that the pre-operational stage flows into the concrete operational stage just when children are mastering the intricacies of language.    Words are used not just to relate to the outside world, but they allow children, and later, people to communicate with each other.    It is the birth of empathy in a child.

Children pass into the formal operational stage, where they cannot only mentally manipulate symbols like words, but can mentally access the rules behind the words.    But there are adults who, just like children at the pre-operational stage, get stuck in egocentric thinking and find it hard to believe that there is a world out there beyond the world they can access with their senses.

For example, there was that Senator who decided to “prove” that there was no such thing as global warming by going out on that cold Washington morning and retrieving a snowball that he showed on the chamber floor with great rhetorical flourish.    I couldn’t believe my eyes–I thought for his next trick he would go and eat a Big Mac on CSPAN to prove that there was no such thing as world hunger!

Let me tell you a story or two how knowing the language and culture of another country helped me in my business negotiations, and how it helped international negotiations during a crisis called the Cuban Missile Crisis.   Then I will show you how you can lean a foreign language in a lot less time and in a lot easier way than you probably thought possible.

This concludes my preliminary remarks for the presentation.    The rest of the speech will be taken from examples from my career at Mitsubishi Motors, and then the Cuban Missile Crisis story will be retold from a speech I did at Toastmasters on the subject (see Search function for text of that speech).   Then I will give my tips and hints to the audience based on the Fluent in 3 Months book by the Irish polyglot Benny Lewis…

Rosie the Riveter–Women Workers in World War II and the Evolution of the “Toastmistress” Club


On this celebration of Labor Day, I was thinking about something to write about the working men and women of America.  I remembered my aunt Mary, who passed away this previous year, and I suddenly knew what I would write about:   the influx of women workers in the aircraft and munitions industries during World War II, a phenomenon encapsulated in a single slogan and icon called “Rosie the Riveter.”    By the end of World War II, one out of four married women were working outside the home.     They made up 65% of the workforce in the aircraft industry, and were also numerous in the munitions industry.

Rosie the Riveter

I saw the documentary “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter” in 1980 when I was enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.    At one of our family reunions down in St. Louis, where the Chicago branch of the Rowley family (my Dad’s family) met the St. Louis branches (the family of my Dad’s sister Mary and his brother Bill), I mentioned to one of my cousins how interesting the documentary was.    My mother overheard the conversation, and I asked me to talk to my Aunt Mary about it.

She smiled when I mentioned the film, and she said, “I was one of those gals.   I worked in a munitions factory in St. Louis.”   My Dad was 14 when the war started; she was 17.    When she became 18, she answered an ad for women who wanted to work at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant, which was the world’s largest maker of .30-caliber and .50-caliber ammunition for rifles and machine guns    Her mother didn’t want her to go, because it was not “ladylike” to work in a factory, but Mary thought it would be a great adventure.    And it was …

The plant turned out cartridges 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the duration of the war.    My aunt ate in the in-house cafeterias, and rode special “Cartridge Plant” buses to work.    She was a good worker; her foreman George admired her work and maybe a little bit more than that …

They soon started falling in love but would not let their relationship known to anybody until after the war.   Having women work in the factory was one thing, but marrying the foreman would have crossed a line too far.

When she was laid off at the end of the war, she ended up staying at home and being a housewife and then a mother, but the great personal satisfaction she had looking back on her brief working career made her hanker to go back to work.    And then in the 1960s, when her boys had grown, she decided to go to work in a bank.    I cannot remember which one, but she quickly showed her abilities as a teller and was promoted to be the first female bank manager of that particular bank.

 One time when the managers were finishing up a meeting, one of them said “we’d better get going to the Toastmasters meeting.”   She asked what Toastmasters was, and was told it was a professional club that taught public speaking and leadership skills.    “Can I join?”, she asked naively.    “Honey, ” said her boss, “it’s for men only–it’s where we get a chance to get away from our wives and our secretaries.”    As she left the meeting room a bit disappointed, one of the secretaries who took notes at the meeting said,  “hey, Mary, wait just a second.”    After the men filed out of the room, the secretary said conspiratorially, “I heard that there was a group just for women called Toastmistresses.   You should check the paper and see if they have a meeting.”    Mary did that and found that there WAS a Toastmistresses chapter in St. Louis.    Now, Toastmistresses had no official connection to Toastmasters, an organization founded back in 1924 by Ralph Smedley in a YMCA building.    But many women, who like my aunt Mary, had been in the work force in World War II as “Rosie the Riveters” were now returning to the work force and showing themselves to be capable professionals in what was still, however, mostly a man’s world.    So they created the Toastmistress organization for professional women to gather together and work on their public speaking and leadership skills in the same way that men were doing in Toastmasters.
Helen Blanchard, a woman who worked at the U.S. Navy  Research and Development Center in Point Loma, CA, wanted to join Toastmasters in 1970, but was told that it was an all-male organization.   However, when she went to a club and spoke, the men in the club saw her potential and two weeks later, she received a phone call from the President of the club saying that he had discussed it with the members and they had voted to accept her as a member.   However, to pass muster with Toastmasters International, they put “Homer Blanchard” on the application form in stead of “Helen”.
When news got out that there was a club that had accepted a woman, this ignited a firestorm of controversy which lasted until 1973, when the organization agreed that, from that point forward, Toastmasters International would be co-ed, but any clubs that had existed prior to that date could vote on whether to retain their men’s-only status or not.   Most chose to allow women in the group.
When I went to my aunt Mary’s funeral, there were several tableaux of photos from various parts of her life, as a child, as a mother, and as a grandmother.   But there was one tableau of photos from her professional career–pictures of her at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant looking very much like the “Rosie the Riveter” women I saw in the documentary, pictures of her career as a bank manager, and then the various awards she got at Toastmasters over the years.    She had joined in 1973, as soon as it became co-ed, and had gone as far as to be a District Governor, and had several awards for having won various speech contests.    She kept all of those mementos until the day she died, which meant that being a working woman, a professional, was as much a part of her identity as the other roles she had played in life.
I’m so glad that when I joined Toastmasters in 2010, I would tell her about my various positions I had held, and how I was moving up in the organization.    I’m sorry that she didn’t live long enough to see become a Distinguished Toastmaster like herself, but when I talked to her, she almost took great interest in my accomplishments because it took her back to the days of her own accomplishments, and she was happy that she could pass the Toastmasters torch to someone in the family.    Once women like her were put in the work force, it was hard to get them to scale back their ambitions after the war, and one by one, they came back out of the home and into the work place, many now in boardrooms rather than factories,
God bless the Rosie the Riveters of this country, who helped us win a war and who, in doing so, won a sense of pride they would hold onto for the rest of their lives!

Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America


In Cullen Murphy’s book “The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America,” he makes a comparison between the evolution of the Roman Republican into the Roman Empire, and the moment of history we are in America now where we are “heavily thickening to empire” to use the phrase from Robinson Jeffers’ poem “Shine, Perishing Republic”.

Or I should say a series of comparisons, because in a series of chapters he compares the following features which are common to both Imperial Rome and America today:

  • the insular culture of the capitals, and the complacency behind the idea of exceptionalism
  • the steady debilitating effect of corruption, as public coffers bleed into politically-connected private hands
  • the increasing hysteria regarding the maintenance of borders

I won’t go into the details of the comparison here, but rather his prescription for preventing America from succumbing to the same rate as Rome, what he calls the “Titus Livius” plan, after the famous Roman historian who lived from 59 BC to AD 17 and wrote a six-volume History of Rome.

1. Instill an appreciation of the wider world

Murphy thinks that too many people in America are worried about immigrants assimilating and learning English.   Rather, the people of America should be learning a foreign language and learning about the culture of the world.    How can you maintain a global empire and yet be ignorant of its many countries, languages, and cultures?    It is not out of some altruistic notion of love for the world, but the very real strategic advantage it gives you to be able to empathize with those over those you want to influence.    If you do not spend the effort on winning hearts and minds, you may end up having to pay for bullets (or drones, nowadays) to get what you want.

2.  Stop treating government as a necessary evil

Privatization has its uses, but you need to have people in the country have a sense of civic engagement and loyalty to one another, at the community level if not at the national level.    Those who are against the idea of government have no business running for office to be at the head of it.    Government serves as a counter-force to growing economic inequality, and can be held accountable in ways that the private sector can’t.

In the book “Why Nations Fail”, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, they argue that those nations fail where the government is an instrument of repression and extraction in the hands of economic or political elites, but succeed where the government becomes a useful instrument for the disadvantaged in their struggles against the local elites.

So rather than the simplistic idea idea that corporations are inherently evil or that government is inherently evil, people should graduate to the more complex Aristotelian notion that virtue is to be found in the median between two vices.    Government and the private sector should have control over those domains of civic life that are compatible to their mission.

3,  Fortify institutions that promote assimilation

If you think that immigrants should assimilate into the American culture and thus promote social stability, then you are going to have to do this through institutions such as public schools, colleges and universities.   Those who would make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to attend such institutions are preventing them from being exposed to America’s powerfully absorptive and transformative domestic culture.

4.  Take some weight off the military

This means instituting some form of national service, as exists in other democracies, which would take young people and create in them the same spirit of public service that John F. Kennedy envisioned with his creation of such programs like the Peace Corps.   This also means devolving some of the military burden onto regional powers through NATO and other alliances.

5.  Decrease economic inequality

Although this is not explicitly mentioned by Murphy, it is alluded to in many of the discussions above.   When the middle class in Rome was hollowed out, it meant that the society was unable to withstand  subsequent exogenous shocks whether they were military, economic, or environmentally based.    If we strengthen the middle class in this country, then we can reclaim the positive quality that Rome had of stubborn perseverance such as America had in World War II.   We were able to thread a middle course between the Scylla and Charybdis of the middle 20th century, Communism on the far left and Fascism on the far right, only because we felt that we were in the fight together.   By the time of the Iraq war, the burden of the fight was being shouldered by an all-volunteer military, and the maintenance of empire became a concern more and more remote from the minds of most Americans.     The wars in the Gulf created a corresponding gulf between our military and civilian cultures.

The next exogenous shocks to America over the next 20 years will more likely be economic and environmental than military, in my opinion, and our middle class needs to be strengthened in order to weather the increasing frequency and severity of global storms, both literal and figurative.

The qualities that Murphy sees in America that were NOT present in Rome may be our saving grace–our egalitarianism which supports the institutions of government, and our entrepreneurship which supports the pursuits of private enterprise.    These two strains co-exist within America and together, they can form the twin strands of cultural DNA which will allow us to avoid the fall that befell the previous empire of Rome.

What’s Beyond the DTM Award at Toastmasters?


I realized the other day at the latest Toastmasters Leadership Institute that it’s coming up on my 5th anniversary of entering Toastmasters, which I did back in December 2010.    When I started, my goal was grand but vague, something along the lines of “being a better public speaker.”   But I quickly started getting caught up in the current of the Toastmasters educational program, which consists of a communication and a leadership track.

First of all, what IS the DTM award?

The communication track consists of the Competent Communicator, Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Communicator Silver, and Advanced Communicator Gold awards.     Each of these levels requires you to do 10 speeches, the first set of 10 from the Competent Communicator Manual, and the subsequent 10 speeches from two separate Advanced manuals containing five speeches each (a total of 15 Advanced manuals exist).

DTM Program

The leadership track consists of the Competent Leadership award, which requires you to develop your skills supporting the meeting in various support roles, anywhere from the simple (Timer, Grammarian) to the more complex (Toastmaster, General Evaluator).    The Advanced Leadership Bronze award is obtained by being an officer of the club, and the Advanced Leadership Silver award is obtained by taking your leadership skills beyond the club in three ways:  by 1) helping create a new club or nurture it once it has been created, 2) doing a High Performance Leadership process to help with process improvement within the District, and 3) serving as a District officer, usually the Area Director, the first level of District leadership beyond the club level.

Once both of those tracks are completed, you earn the Distinguished Toastmaster award, because you have shown that you are a polished speaker and experienced leader.

If you stick to the educational program, you can achieve it anywhere from between 3-5 years after entering Toastmasters.    In my case, I plan on completing the last requirement, the Advanced Leadership Silver award, in October, which means I will be awarded (if everything goes smoothly) the DTM award at the Fall Conference in November, just shy of my 5th year anniversary of being in Toastmasters.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, while I am racing to the “finish line”, I am thinking to myself:  what’s next?

You see, having the educational program at Toastmasters meant that there was always a goal to strive for.   I am my best when I challenge myself to meet goals, so what happens when I no longer have goals to strive for at Toastmasters?  I was afraid I was going to go from being a DTM, a Distinguished Toastmaster, to an ETM, an Extinguished Toastmaster.  So after giving it much thought this summer, I have put together five post-DTM goals that I wanted to share with people because they may in a similar situation and may be looking for ideas on what to do once they have scaled the mountain called “DTM”.

1. SECOND VERSE–SAME AS THE FIRST

One possibility is to start the program over again with the Competent Communicator manual and earn a second DTM, which should go a lot more quickly than the first.    I just ordered a new Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manual and plan to do just that–start the cycle over again!

2.  JOIN A SECOND CLUB

Not just an ordinary club, but a specialty club.    In District 30, for example, there are specialty clubs for speakers aspiring to becoming professional speakers, like the Windy City Professional Speakers Club. There are clubs for people in a certain profession, such as project managers, like the Project Management Institute Chicagoland Toastmasters Club.    I’ve joined them both in addition to my home club, Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club.   It takes the speaking and leadership skills I honed in my home club and now applies them to my career in very focused ways.

3.  LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Some clubs in District 30 are “bilingual” clubs, meaning that you can do a speech in English OR, as an option, in a foreign language such as Spanish, French, and German.    Although I don’t plan to join such clubs right away, I do plan to visit them as a Club Ambassador, which is a program in and of itself in District 30 that encourages such visits to explore the wider Toastmaster universe within the District.    In this way, i can practice foreign languages while doing what I used to dread, but now love instead, namely, giving speeches!   It’s my goal to visit each of those three clubs I referred to above and give speeches in Spanish, French, and German by the end of the current Toastmasters year which ends in June 2016.

4.  PURSUE SPEAKING OPPORTUNITIES OUTSIDE OF TOASTMASTERS

Part of my reason for joining the Windy City Professional Speakers Club was to polish my speaking skills so that I could actively pursue speaking opportunities outside of the Toastmasters world.    I have landed two speaking opportunities, one as the emcee for the reunion celebration of the 40th anniversary of the graduating class of 1975 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, which just took place last weekend.   The other one is as the guest speaker for the Multicultural Connections Club in Chicago, where I am speaking about my passion for learning foreign languages as a key to promoting multicultural and international understanding.    I am sure that the confidence I gain from these opportunities will lead to other opportunities down the line.

5.  PURSUE LEADERSHIP BEYOND THE AREA LEVEL

I started out going beyond the club level of leadership by being an Assistant Area Governor for Area 56 of the South Division of District 30.   I assisted Felton Armand, the Area Governor, in visiting clubs, filling out Club Visit Reports, running Area Speech Contests, and assisting at the Division Speech Contests.    Then last year, when I became Area Governor, I was essentially doing the job for the second time, and it made the job a lot easier.    Not just because I had done all of the work before, but because I had established relationships with many people in the District leadership as an Asst. Area Governor, so I hit the ground running as the Area Governor.

This year I decided to go to the next level as Division Director assisting all of the new Area Directors (the new name for the position that used to be called the “Area Governor”).    I’m doing it by being an Assistant Division Director for LaShonda Milton so that next year, when I am the actual Division Director, it will all seem so familiar somehow.

And being around the District leadership for now the third year in a row, I am already thinking about what kind of District-level positions I would like to pursue before becoming the District Director.   I don’t know if I will actually make it that far, which will require an additional five years within Toastmasters to achieve.   But it’s a worthwhile goal, and I need goals in front of me to keep me distinguishing myself long after the DTM award is sitting collect dust on my mantelpiece.

So start thinking about the road map you will take after you become a DTM.   When you get to the DTM award, and think that you have reached the highest mountain, take a rest and get up fresh the next morning.   You may find with the crisp, clear morning air that you look around you and see that what you thought was the peak of the highest mountain is in reality the base camp for your next summit!

5 Tips for Putting on a Successful Toastmasters Speech Contest at the Area Level


If it’s September, then it means that kids are back in school, and Toastmasters are preparing for the Fall Speech Contest.   In District 30 (Chicagoland area), the Fall Speech Contest consists of the Evaluation and Humorous Speech Contests.

I am the Assistant Division Governor for Area 56 in the South Division of District 30, and I was an Area Governor last year and an Assistant Area Governor the year before that.   This year I’m not putting on the Area Contests, but I am helping all of the new Area Directors (the new title for what used to be the Area Governor role).    At the first District Executive Committee meeting in July, here’s the advice I gave them to help make their contests so smoothly

1. Consider having a joint Area Contest

In our South Division, we have 6 areas.    Rather than having six area contests in the space of about three weeks, I recommended for Area Directors to get together and see if they could put on a joint Area Contest.    This is especially helpful if some area has fewer clubs or has clubs that don’t participate in speech contests, because the smaller area can team up with a larger area and the time needed for the joint contest will be less than if you had separate contests.   Why? Because you can double up on roles by having the timers, ballot counters, Sergeant at Arms, and even the judges perform the roles for both contests.

There’s a lot of variety here–you can have one complete contest of the evaluation and humorous speech contest for one area, followed by a break and then the entire complete contest of the evaluation and humorous speech contest for the other area.    However, I have seen a truly joint contest where the evaluation speech contest of BOTH areas is done first, followed by the humorous speech contest for BOTH areas afterwards.    This again is especially helpful for areas that are different sizes–it also allows you to use one test speaker rather than two for the evaluation contest.

2.  Judge each other’s Area Contest

There are supposed to five judges for an Area Contest.   Rather than looking for special judges outside of your Division, get one judge from each Area so there is no bias towards any one Area’s contestants.   Yes, you will have to attend all of the Area Contests, but you don’t have to worry about getting judges for your contest because everyone else will be willing to help you at your contest if you are willing to help them with theirs.

3.  Get a backup Test Speaker

For the evaluation contest, you need a Test Speaker, but you should always get a backup.   This is a risk management strategy, because you will have someone there who can give a speech in case the test speaker is ill or is caught in traffic, etc. Have the various Area Directors of other Areas ask their club Presidents for test speakers.    You should do the same in your area, and so each Area should be able to get 2 volunteers, one planned test speaker and one backup test speaker.    Although competition is the order of the day in the contest itself, preparing for the contest is all about cooperation.

4.  Designate a Snackmaster

One of the ways to get people to go to contest–if they aren’t a contestant, that is–is to provide food at the contest    You don’t have to go overboard, but on the other hand you can improve on the standard fare of donuts and coffee with a little imagination.    Some Districts give Area Directors a budget, but if you don’t have a budget, rather than having to outlay the money yourself, designate a Snackmaster as one of the roles for the contest.   The Snackmaster can either have a club’s funds donate money for the food for a contest, or the burden can be shared by several clubs in the Area by having one club bring beverages, one bring a main dish, one bring side dishes, etc.    It makes the contest more fun and attractive for people to go to it because food makes it not just a contest, but an event!

5.  Do the paperwork early

Buy some folders and put the paperwork for the various officers in folders and get it all complete at least two days before the event.   Why?   Because then you will have the breathing space to a) review the documents to make sure there are no misspelled names, etc., and to b) cope with any last minute changes that occur in the day or so before the contest.    I once waited until the night before the contest, and my printer ink ran out, causing me to have to do a mad dash for Kinko’s before they closed.    Reduce the opportunity for drama, after all, you’re preparing for a humorous contest!

These are the tips that I passed on to the incoming Area Directors, because they made my Area Contests go smoothly.  When things go well, you are more relaxed, and often times that spontaneity is infectious, and makes everyone around you, including the contestants, do their job without stressing about it.     The audience is now your focus–let them see that in your smile when you announce–“LET THE CONTESTS BEGIN!”

Reflections at the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the Class of ’75 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School


Last weekend I not only was able to attend the reunion celebration of the 40th anniversary of the graduating class of 1975 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, but I had a chance to participate in the planning and executing of the event.  I came back to the Chicagoland area in 2013 from the Los Angeles area, and after I decided to stay in the area and not move back to California, I started putting down roots locally in a place I hadn’t lived for three decades.

I joined a local church, a local Toastmasters Club, and a professional association, the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute.   While getting to know the area once again, I was invited by Tina Landry to go to some of the local get-togethers she chad organized for those members of the class of ’75 who lived in the general Chicagoland area.

She at one point told me about her plans for the next major reunion for the 40th anniversary of the class of ’75, and I asked her if I could get involved.  You see, I felt a little guilty for not having been to any of the major reunions before, and frankly, I wanted to give back to the class whom I had for the most part ignored during most of my adult life.

Since she knew I was the President of the local Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club, she asked if I could be the emcee for the event.  Well,  last Saturday evening was the actual event, and I should say the event went well overall.

However, as a Toastmaster, I’m glad my experience kept me from being flummoxed, because on the surface there seemed to be some problems with the event.  First of all, the main host, Tina Landry, was late because of traffic, so we ended up starting the class group photos after she arrived at 7:00 PM rather than the 6:30 PM we had originally planned for.   My opening remarks were supposed to take place from 7:00-7:30 PM, at which time dinner was supposed to start.

By 7:30 PM, the class group photos were done, but dinner started being served.  I had a hell of a time getting people to listen to me at the microphone—I had dispensed with my scripted remarks and was just trying to give the bare bones announcements to everyone as to how the tables would be called individually by the photographer to go the buffet table.  In retrospect, I understand why they resisted quieting down for the announcements—it had been 40 years since most of them had seen each other!

So I took it in stride, and kept my after dinner remarks to an absolute minimum as well, knowing full well that  people wanted to continue with the conversation that had been previously interrupted by 40 years worth of time.  But as I once told someone, there are three stages to being a Toastmaster.  One is when you are afraid to get on stage.  The second is where you are afraid to get OFF stage, because you are starting to enjoy the attention that comes with being a good public speaker.  However, the third stage is when you know when it is the right time to get on stage, and when it is the right time to get off stage, meaning your message and your audience’s needs are ultimately more important than you are.   That allowed me to “go with the flow” and adapt myself without too much difficulty.

Now, I did have a chance to mingle with everyone after my remarks and I made some observations based on the various conversations I had.

  1. Who you are is more important than what you do

Those people I gravitated towards were those people who had a positive personality .  If they had a negative personality, it’s of course possible that they wouldn’t have come to such an event.  But those people who se names and faces stuck with me were the ones who expressed joy at seeing me again, not those who were interested in comparing careers to see who was more successful.

  1. Passion is more important than profit

Those people who were artists of some sort, such as musicians or theater people, and who pursued the passion they explored in high school, were some of the happiest people I met at the reunion.  My own passion, for foreign languages, was shared by a few classmates, and we had a great time talking about how it made us see the world differently than those people who can only speak one language.  The combination of passion and discipline will see you through life!

  1. Gratitude is the best attitude

Many of the graduating class of 1975 are not with us anymore, and this reality was brought home to me by the news that 2 of the people I had reformed an acquaintance with since coming to Chicagoland had recently contracted cancer.  This made me realize that the petty pursuit of prestige is just chasing after a mirage.  The person who has helped the most people and who is remembered fondly by them, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, are truly the richest people in town.

  1. Passing on the torch

Talking to the dozen or so teachers whom we invited to the reunion was perhaps for me the most revealing of my conversations I had that night.  They have retired, but only from their positions as instructors—most of them are busy volunteering to help the next generation of teachers to become more effectively in their profession.  For example, Shari Cohen, our biology teacher at H-F High School, now goes around demonstrating how to create and implement an AP Biology program at the high school level.  They really want to impart the wisdom they have gained through, in many cases, three decades of experience, to the teachers who want to make a difference for the next generation of students.

So looking back on my high school experience, I can say that it was the privilege of a lifetime to be who we were, when we were (the mid-70s), where we were (at Homewood-Flossmoor High School).  We are now living in the world that was starting to open up for us back then.   Those who remained truer to their own passions and dreams are the ones that seem to me to be the most fulfilled.  But whoever you were, you can always strive to more than you are now.  A lifelong love of learning is the best ticket to a good and wise life!

Homewood-Flossmoor High School 40th Anniversary of Class of 1975


As the emcee for the event, I wrote the following script for the reunion celebration of the 40th anniversary of the class of 1975 from Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club

  1. Official welcome

Welcome everybody to the 40th Reunion of the Class of ’75 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School!   Just a few preliminary announcements—in case you haven’t figured it out already, the washrooms are over by the entrance.   In case things get a little too heated up on the dance floor, the emergency exits are over there by the door you went to get your pictures taken.    We all live in a future we scarcely could have imagined back in the 70s, where we are all electronically linked to the entire world with the device the size of a package of cigarettes (hold out a cell phone)–actually it’s thinner than a pack of cigarettes, if my memories of my trips behind the biology pond serve me right.  In any case, humbly request that you put your cellphones on vibrate, mute, or the stun setting if you are a Star Trek fan.   We want you to spend some time linking with each other.  After all, for some of us, it’s been over 40 years since we’ve seen each other.

Let’s see a show of hands for all of those who are here for the first time at their high school reunion!  (Lead applause)  That includes me, because this is my first reunion as well.  My name is Jerome Rowley, and I moved back into the area from California back in 2013.  I was delighted to hear that Tina Landry was putting together a team to work on the reunion to mark the 40th anniversary of the graduation of the class of ’75 from H-F.  I asked if I join the team because I felt kind of guilty for not having been to any of the previous reunions, so this time around, I not only wanted to attend, but I wanted to make it happen for the rest of you.  And here you are!  Whether you were an athlete or a Mathlete, whether you were the valedictorian—or graduated Summa Cum Lousy.  You’re all welcome here at the 40th Reunion of the Class of ’75 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School!

  1. Honored Guests–Our Teachers

There is many groups of people in our society that I’ve had an increasing amount of respect for over the  years.  But as I now am in the position as a project manager where I’m starting to teach other people, including young people who are aspiring to be project managers themselves someday, it gives me a great appreciation for those people who put up with me, I mean, encouraged me when I was back at H-F, namely, our teachers.   Please join me in extending a warm round of applause for the teachers of H-F, including those who were able to make it to our Reunion tonight.  (List names and subject matter of teachers and have people rise in applause.)

Teaching is truly the gift that keeps on giving.  Plutarch once said that a mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.  Let’s see who is keeping the torch lit for the next generation.  Please rise and be acknowledge if you have been, or are now, an instructor at whatever level, from kindergarten to the university level and beyond.   (Wait for people to stand and applause)  (Gesturing towards the teachers table…) I think that is the greatest tribute we as a class can give you, our former teachers–that some of us have been inspired to do for others what you’ve done for us.  (Applause)

  1. Tributes–Armed Forces and First Responders

I’ve been privileged to have lived and worked abroad, and although I enjoyed the experience tremendously, I found that it increased my appreciate of the strengths of this country I call home, the United States of America.  If you have been, or are now, a veteran of any of the branches of the military, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, please stand up and receive our gratitude for your service to this country.   Please continue standing.   Also, if you have a family member, a spouse, a child or even a grandchild in the military, also stand up because of your support for them.  Please continue standing as well.

And finally, I want to mention a group that I always link to that day, September 11th, 2001, when I was living in New York City.  And as people ran away from the Twin Towers to escape the devastation, I will forget the people that were running towards it—in order to help their fellow New Yorkers.  I’m talking about the first responders—if you have been, or are now, a member of the police, fire department, or, an EMT, please rise and receive our gratitude for your service to your communities.

For all of you serve this country and your community, this next song is for you (cue Steve Sanford to play patriotic song…)

  1. Remembrance and reflection Blessings (Viking Choir)

I’ve mentioned the word gratitude several times, but through the years that word has taken more and more meaning.  I keep a gratitude journal in which every day I write down three things that I am thankful for.  And today, when I was getting ready to come here, I thought of people I had gone to high school with whom I hadn’t seen for years, and who I knew were going to be here, and I was so grateful to have the chance to see them again.  But then I thought of people I had gone to high school with whom I would NOT have a chance to see again, but because they are no longer with us.  We’ve set up a table in remembrance of those classmates, and I hope you have a chance to visit that table some time this evening (gesture towards MIA table).

In remembrance of those in our class who are not, and in gratitude for those in our class whom we are seeing tonight, I would like those who were in the Viking Choir to rise and sing “The Blessings of Aaron”, and if you remember the tune, I welcome you all to join in and sing along.  (gesture to Marty Orr).

  1. Official start of dinner

To make sure that everyone gets food as soon as possible, we’ve signaled the photographer to go to each table in turn, and after he takes your picture, he will release you to go to the buffet table.  If you don’t want your picture taken or are in the witness protection program, let the photographer know.  Let the dinner begin!

(Break for meal from 7:30 to 8:00 PM)

  1. Reflection and remembrance

I hope you’ve been enjoying reminiscing and getting re-acquainted with your fellow classmates from the class of ’75.  Talking to some people, it’s like time never passed—they’ve got that same animation and sparkle in their eyes that they did back then.  However, when I went to the washroom and looked at the mirror—I realized, well, yes, time HAS passed.  40 years!

The number 40 is significant in many ways.  It represents transition or change, the concept of renewal, a new beginning.  Numerologists assign the number forty as a magical number that marks the end to a long period of testing and the start of a new beginning.

40 is a significant year, of course, the Old Testament relays the story that the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years before reaching the promised land.  And it wasn’t because they were looking for a parking spot, either, because there wasn’t that much traffic in those days.  Forty years is more than just a few years. When you’ve gone through forty of anything–push ups, jobs, spouses, let alone 40 years living with the same spouse—it’s a substantial number.

Since we’re graduated we’ve been wandering through life for the past 40 years.  When I was in high school, a lot of my teachers and guidance counselors said, “don’t worry—success for you is JUST over the horizon.”  Which was a comforting thought back then, until many years later I found out that one of the definitions of the word “horizon” is “an imaginary line that keeps getting farther away from you the closer you get to it”.  Then I found the words of a German psychoanalyst Karlfriend Graf-Durkheim which I found a lot more comforting.  He said, “if you’re on a journey, and the end seems to keep getting farther and farther away from you, then at some point  you may realize that the real end IS the journey.”  Whatever journey you’ve been on, we’ve glad that your journey has taken you here tonight.

To reminisce about how far the journey has taken us, let’s think a little about what the world was like back in 1975.

What was the cost of a gallon of gas in 1975?    Cost of a gallon of Gas 44 -57 cents a gallon in 1975.

How much was a gallon of milk in 1975?  A gallon of milk cost $1.75

How much was a dozen eggs in 1975? A dozen eggs cost $0.77.

1975 was the year that a lot happened in politics.

  • The nation was healing from the Watergate scandal that brought end to the Presidency of Richard Nixon in August of the previous year.
  • The Vietnam War officially ended with the Fall of Saigon .
  • Republican presidential nomination went to Ronald Reagan, who was challenging incumbent President Gerald Ford.

In the world of technology, the future was starting to happen …

And in the world of culture, two legends combined into one, as

t was the end of the Post-War Boom, and the beginning of that undiscovered country known as the future, which we all live in today.  When I was in high school, I figured that, if I lived long enough to the year 2000, that I would be 43 years old.  My God, I’ll be an old man.  Well, this old man has learned to take things in stride, and things that I only read about in science fiction books have come to pass.

Let’s take another look at 1975 from our privileged vantage point of 2015 with a few games.   But first before I do that, let me invite someone who wants to tell you about those who made this event possible.   Please welcome the founder of the local John Jacobfests, our substitute Superman, John Jacob!

Thank you everyone, and now … let’s party!