Monday, September 21, 2009

Artificial Turf: A Field of Dreams or a Deathtrap?

Watch this thought-provoking youtube video and ask yourself, should we be putting our children at risk?

Friday, September 18, 2009


Today we observe National POW/MIA Recognition Day so that we may honor the courageous members of our nation's Armed Forces who were captured as prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. It's a time to remember and reflect on the cost of freedom. We must never forget the untold sacrifices made by valiant soldiers who went to war and suffered cruel imprisonment by the enemies or still remain missing with their fates unknown.

Over 40 years ago, members of Catholic War Veteran Post 870 in Woodside, Queens spearheaded a nationwide petition drive calling for the release of the 82 man crew of the USS Pueblo taken prisoner by the North Koreans. Their demand for the crew's freedom never ceased throughout the arduous eleven months they were held in captive in prison of war camps. This drive was led by my dad, Joseph S. Petrula, a WW II Army veteran and then Commander of CWV Post 870. As a young girl I learned through my dad's example and that of his comrades that Americans must always support and give recognition to the men and women who served our country so well and this lesson needs to be passed on from one generation to the next. American citizens must make a solemn pledge to never forget the sacrifices of all the brave men and women who defended our country and are defending it still today so that we may enjoy the freedoms of our great nation.

Let us take the time today to honor the valor of America’s POWs and MIAs and give continuing support to their families and loves ones.


As you entered the dining area, you may have noticed a table at the front, raised to call your attention to its purpose -- it is reserved to honor our missing loved ones [or missing comrades in arms, for veterans].

Set for six, the empty places represent Americans still [our men] missing from each of the five services -- Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard - and civilians. This Honors Ceremony symbolizes that they are with us, here in spirit.

Some [here] in this room were very young when they were sent into combat; however, all Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation's call [to serve] and served the cause of freedom in a special way.

I would like to ask you to stand, and remain standing for a moment of silent prayer, as the Honor Guard places the five service covers and a civilian cap on each empty plate.

Honor Guard:

(In silence or with dignified, quiet music as background, the Honor Guard moves into position around the table and simultaneously places the covers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, and a civilian hat, on the dinner plate at each table setting. The Honor Guard then departs.)


Please be seated ....... I would like to explain the meaning of the items on this special table.

The table is round -- to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.

The tablecloth is white -- symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the[ir] loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.

The vase is tied with a red ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The glass is inverted -- to symbolize their inability to share this evening's [morning's/day's] toast.

The chairs are empty -- they are missing.

Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America's POW/MIAs and to the success of our efforts to account for them.

Courtesy of:



Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 17, 2009

- - - - - - -


Our Nation maintains a solemn commitment to leave no service member behind. Our men and women in uniform uphold this pledge every day, and our country further upholds it as we honor every man and woman who serves, particularly those taken as prisoners of war or missing in action. We will never cease in our mission to bring America's missing service members home; we will never forget the sacrifices they made to keep this Nation free; and we will forever honor their memory. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have not returned from the battlefield, and we express profound gratitude to those who returned only after facing unimaginable hardship on our behalf. Today, we also remember the families of our prisoners of war and those missing in action and honor the sacrifices they have made.

Every day, Americans are working around the world to identify and recover the remains of our fallen heroes. It is a promise made, and a promise that will be kept. Although their location may be unknown, we will not waver in our commitment to see they are reunited with the land they so valiantly defended.

For those veterans who returned home after being declared Missing in Action or having been imprisoned by the enemy, we honor their service, their sacrifice, and their courage. In distant lands, and under wretched and torturous conditions, these men and women endured. Faced with such tremendous adversity, they embody the power of the human spirit -- sustaining themselves with hope and faith.

On September 18, 2009, the stark black and white banner symbolizing America's Missing in Action and Prisoners of War will be flown over the White House, the Capitol, the Departments of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, the Selective Service System Headquarters, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, United States post offices, national cemeteries, and other locations across our country. It is a powerful reminder that our Nation will never cease in our commitment to honor those who have paid so high a price in its service.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 18, 2009, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and I urge all Americans to observe this day of honor and remembrance with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


Friday, September 11, 2009


We stand united as family, friends, neighbors, and as compassionate American citizens dedicated to the democratic ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We light candles to honor the memories of the 9/11 victims, give support to the victim’s families and loved ones, and to remember and give thanks to the firefighters, law enforcement, rescue personnel, and members of our military services for their heroic efforts on that tragic day and in it’s aftermath.

Most oftentimes, we use the anniversary of important events in our lives as a time of reflection....a time of looking back and a time of looking forward. As we look back to Sept. 11, 2001, the immense loss of life and devastating destruction at the hands of a dark, evil force is forever seared into the hearts and minds of each and every American and has enveloped our lives with untold grief and anguish. But through the tears, we also remember the extraordinary goodness, compassion, and heroic acts of courage by ordinary people throughout America’s darkest hours and in the days following reminding us that America’s strength is in it’s people and the ideals they live by.

Throughout America’s history, it's been the resilience and resolve of the American people’s spirit that has always united us and helped us go forward from the pain to the hope and the glory.

“I Hear America Singing”, a poem by American poet, Walt Whitman, pays homage to the working class of America and to our nation’s idealistic vision of achieving a shared, constructive goal through hard work and productivity.

Let us all vow to honor and perpetuate the memories of 9/11 victims and give support to their families and loved ones by continuing to go forward singing our work songs loud and clear. Let us work together to help America rise up from the pain and build a nation of hope and glory for many generations to come.


I Hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics-each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat-the deck hand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench-the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood--cutter’s song--the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother--or of the young wife at work--or of the girl sewing or washing--Each singing what belongs to her, and to no one else;
The day what belongs to the day--At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roxbury Voters Show Their Elected Representatives Who's The Boss!

This letter was published in the Sept. 9, 2009 issue of the Roxbury Register:

To The Editor:

It's very difficult for the average Joe and Jane to find the time to go to school board and town council meetings because they're so busy working, paying the bills, and taking care of their families. Most are lucky to have any time left over for a little bit of rest and relaxation never mind trying to be government watchdogs. This is exactly what many in power count on and what allows for so much abuse of power and corruption on every level of government including school boards.

There are just far too many in the education establishment destroying public education because their lust for power and lining their own pockets takes priority over what is best for our children and the greater good. Sometimes you wonder how bad things have to get before we start addressing the right concerns that will benefit all and not just a few.

So what can people do to change things for the better? The single most important power we have as citizens is our right to vote.

Each of us needs to vote in every election and vote out public officials who are not representing the will of the people. That's exactly what the Roxbury voters did in the last school election. The largest number of them agreed with the campaign we ran and demonstrated their confidence in us by tossing out two long time incumbents, electing us into office, and voting down an irresponsible school budget. Although it's unfortunate both the majority of the school board and town council ignored the voters wishes and didn't make the budget cuts that would have given our community members much needed tax relief, we truly believe the tide has turned.

All elected officials in this town have been put on notice by the citizens of Roxbury who are fed up and will not forget just who is and who is not working on their behalf. People may not be able to make school or township meetings to protest bloated administrative costs, excessive union demands, and ever escalating property taxes, but they'll have their say come election time. We're absolutely confident the good people of Roxbury will once again make their voices heard through the voting process and outnumber the special interests groups in this town that have had a stranglehold on our schools and our lives for far too long.

Change does not come comes little by little and takes perseverance, but it can and will happen if the people want it enough.

Meanwhile, we're not only committed to doing our best under the constraints of the law to keep the public informed about our positions on the issues in Roxbury's school system, we will continue our fight to free dollars from bureaucratic overhead, stop wasteful spending, and make sure tax dollars go for the betterment of our children's education.

Maureen Castriotta and Chris Rogers
Roxbury Township School Board Members; 973.975.8383

Please note: We are speaking on our own behalf and not that of the Roxbury Township Board of Education. The opinions expressed are our own and do not represent those of the board, individual board members, or district employees.

Monday, September 7, 2009

President Obama's Back-to-School Message To Our Nation's Students

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.