My trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota was amazing, no doubt about it. In a recent blog post, I describe some of the highlights of my experience there. Yet, there is an even more amazing story to be told about the  Black Hills.

In 1868, the United States government signed a treaty with the Sioux Nation recognizing the Black Hills as part of the Sioux land reservation. The land was to be owned and used exclusively by the Sioux Nation. However, when gold was discovered in 1874, the treaty was effectively broken. By 1877, the U.S. government officially confiscated the land, one of hundreds of broken treaties.

A landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 awarded the Sioux more than $100 million as compensation. The Sioux tribal council refused to accept any compensation. And though the funds were set aside in a trust which is now worth more than $1 billion, the Sioux still refuse to accept the money.

At stake is the Sioux’s legitimate claim to the sacred tribal lands known as the Black Hills. A growing movement, known as “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale” has taken root. The movement aims to return tribal lands to the  Sioux with the understanding that private property and tourist attractions such as Mount Rushmore are off the table.

Aaron Huey is an award winning photojournalist who gave an amazing TED Talk describing the history of the Lakota people, land claims, and broken promises. Watch his presentation below:

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After last month’s trip to Coors Field in Denver, I’ve officially reach the two-thirds mark in my quest to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. I had originally intended to visit all 30 within five years. My five year plan has now turned into a seven year plan. No big deal, I’ve enjoyed the journey and I’m looking forward to these next two seasons.

Here are ten quick thoughts on the twenty stadiums I’ve visited to date:

  1. Yankee Stadium has a certain majestic look to it, but Citi Field looks cooler and just feels better (Disclaimer: I am a long suffering Mets fan).
  2. What is up with the traffic around Turner Field in Atlanta? The street layout and parking are horrible. The Braves and the city of Atlanta need to invest in some serious urban planning. On the other hand, the fans are some of the best I’ve encountered.
  3. Rogers Center in Toronto looks great in person. I wasn’t expecting so much from the pictures I’d seen. The entire downtown area is wonderful.
  4. The single best individual performance I’ve seen was Angels starting pitcher Jared Weaver’s fifteen strikeout masterpiece against the Blue Jays.
  5. Cleveland fans try so hard to support their team. Give ‘em credit – they really do try.
  6. I don’t care that Wrigley Field is a relic when it comes to baseball stadiums. I had a blast there.
  7. I never get tired of going to games at Nationals Park or Camden Yards. Two of the best ballparks I’ve seen.
  8. Pittsburgh might be the most beautiful baseball setting. The stadium, riverfront, bridges, skyline, and hills are all perfect.
  9. The Dodgers and A’s both need new stadiums…seriously.
  10. I feel honored to have seen Mariano Rivera pitch in person at Yankee stadium. There are very few athletes in any sport who have accomplished as much as Number 42.

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Take me back to the black hills
The black hills of Dakota
To the beautiful Indian country
That I love.

Lost my heart in the black hills
The black hills of Dakota
Where the pines are so high
That they kiss the sky above.

And when I get that lonesome feelin’
And I’m miles away from home
I hear the voice of the mystic mountains
Callin’ me back home.

Doris Day and Howard Keel had it right. South Dakota’s Black Hills have just about anything you could want in a nature get-away. Clear skies, natural beauty, engineering marvels, and yes, of course, the Buffalo.

If you ever get the chance to visit South Dakota’s Black Hills…and you MUST visit the Black Hills…here are a few of the highlights you’ll want to see. [click to continue…]

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I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. My job is not fulfilling and it seems to be dragging my spirit down. It’s not that I have a terrible job or that I’m overwhelmed or anything like that. It’s actually a pretty good job and I think I’m very good at it. It’s just that I think I should be doing more. I should be helping more people, affecting more lives, and impacting the world in a more meaningful way.

So after two years of keeping my nose to the grindstone and helping my employers make a boatload of money, I’ve finally started to poke my head out of this little mouse hole to see what other opportunities are out there. There are two ways to look at the job market: 1. There aren’t any good jobs available. Hiring managers are offering low salaries and expecting decades of experience; or 2. There are some amazing opportunities to do important work. It’s up to me to convince these hiring managers that I’m the best and only choice they have and that I’m worth paying for.

I’ve decided that I’m going to go with the second option and bring my passion for life to the job market. And so I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of urgency. I woke up early and headed straight for the gym. After a good workout I decided to do a little house work. I re-potted my Bonsai tree, washed dishes, vacuumed the floor, cooked lunch, and then washed dishes again. Not too shabby for a Saturday morning.

I rewarded myself with a little down time. I logged onto Facebook to catch up on the day’s news. And what do you know? I came across a blog post that helped me understand why I’ve been down lately. “Why You Should Travel Young” by Jeff Goins is an impassioned plea to young people to travel early and often. Goins writes:

Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a new found respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

Goins writes with an intensity and staunchness that helps remind me of one of my key personal motivations. Life is not about where you work, how much money you make, or what your career trajectory looks like. Life is about the impact you have on other people through the time and energy you give to those around you. And what better way to have an impact on the world than to actually get out there and see the world? [click to continue…]

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It’s The Culture Of War, Stupid!

Twisted Gun Statue

by Joshua on December 23, 2012

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
-Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ In The Wind”

In the wake of the slaughter of 20 children and 6 staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, many Americans are asking the question “why?”

Why is it that a deranged young man was able to walk into a school and mow down a classroom full of first graders? Why is it that every week we hear reports of another massacre of innocents by a gun toting crazy? For all of its greatness, why does the United States have such an overwhelming problem with gun violence?

Stated simply, Americans kill each other at a rate that far exceeds any other developed nation in the world. Americans are 20 times more likely to die by gun violence than are citizens of every other developed country.

Some have argued that all of this violence is the direct result of impressionable young kids watching violent movies, listening to violent music lyrics, and playing violent video games. That argument just doesn’t add up when you look at the facts. Japanese youth play just as many violent video games as American youth, yet the Japanese don’t seem to have a problem with gun violence. (Probably because they don’t have many guns).

Consider the fact that in 2010, Detroit had 310 homicides, while Windsor, ON, Canada had zero. This despite the fact that the two cities are less than one mile apart. And youth in Detroit and Windsor largely watch the same movies and play the same video games. In fact, there is little evidence that video games, or any other media stimulant, lead to violent reactions. It is much more likely that violent individuals are drawn to violent stimuli than it is that movies, music and games are generating violent reactions.

If it’s not the culture of violent movies, music, and games, is it the culture of gun ownership? [click to continue…]

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Thoughts On Sandy Hook

Remembering Newtown, CT Victims

by Joshua on December 16, 2012

The events in Newtown, CT are so sickening and difficult to comprehend. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all by reading quotes from fallen leaders and studying random facts from various sources. What I haven’t been able to do is understand the full impact of what’s happened and where we need to go.

My early thoughts on the massacre in Newtown, CT…

Our country is in a deep spiritual crisis. We’ve conditioned our young people to believe that violence and justice are synonymous. We could make enormous progress in this area simply by rethinking our national commitment to chosen wars.

I wish the media would back off. Stop interviewing small children. And what are these kids’ parents thinking?

Victoria Soto’s name should never be forgotten. I would like to see legislation of some sort honoring her. We could create a student loan forgiveness program for public school teachers. We need something BIG to honor the immeasurable sacrifice this young woman made.

I believe that citizens have the right to defend their homes, but how many guns does one person need?

And what is the real purpose of legalized assault weapons? Isn’t the perceived need for these weapons just an egotistical fantasy trip?

The pain I feel for these babies killed in CT is the same pain I feel when I hear about babies killed in countries with an American military presence. Chosen wars are generally stupid wars. [click to continue…]

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: My Bucket List

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

by Joshua on November 13, 2012

When I was in my teens I had plenty of goals, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about how I would actually achieve those goals. Life was long. And though things weren’t perfect, they would eventually get better. Or so I thought. And then I learned some very painful lessons.

I was twenty-one years old when I nearly lost my life in a car wreck. Not long after that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness so painful and debilitating that I wasn’t sure I had the will to live. And my late-teen, early-twenties years were peppered with run-ins on the streets that could have ended much worse than they did.

Through it all my life goals persisted. I wanted to travel the world and meet everyone in it. I wanted to live my life while I still had the chance.

This blog post is my way of taking some of my goals and turning them into a “bucket list.” A list of activities, adventures and accomplishments I hope to achieve before I inevitably kick the bucket.

As I accomplish each item on the list I plan to edit this post with a photo to commemorate its realization. I’m also completely open to amending my list. I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so why not? [click to continue…]

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“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.

These three quotes by Mahatma Gandhi have meant a lot to me as I’ve developed my political and social worldviews. The only undeniable way we can change the world for the better is to change ourselves for the better. Here are ten simple ways you can change the world for the better, beginning today.

1. Smile Early and Often!
Did you know that your body language has a major impact on your mood and emotions? Everything you do, from your posture to your facial expressions impacts the way you think and feel. Don’t take this mind, body, spirit connection lightly. Instead, take advantage of your ability to improve your mood and attitude by starting your day off with a smile. Smile when you’re alone, smile on your daily commute, smile in the workplace. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll also positively affect the people around you. One smile can have an incredible ripple effect with unlimited reach.

2. Explore The World!
If your last three vacations have all been to generic beach resorts with white sand and fruity drinks, it may be time to rethink your travel priorities. Relaxing vacations are great, but they don’t nourish your soul the way impactful travel can. By impactful travel I mean trips that allow you to visit places and interact with people that can create synergies of goodwill and respect. If you really want to change the world, you’ve got to understand the world. You’ve got to get to know people from different cultures and see them as they live. Can’t afford to fly halfway around the world? Plan a day trip to a nearby neighborhood you’ve been meaning to explore. Whatever it takes, you’ve got to break out of your ordinary environment so that you can interact with people you wouldn’t normally get to see.

3. Respect Your Body!
Stop abusing your body. From the food we eat to our sedentary lifestyles, we don’t always treat our bodies with the respect they deserve. Why does this matter? Well if you’re unhealthy and unhappy due to binge eating, years of cigarette abuse, or a lack of any physical activity, you’re probably not in a great position to be an effective change agent. You’ve got to reasonably take care of yourself before you can begin to take care of others. When you feel good physically, you end up with an abundance of creative energy and drive that will inevitably spill over to others.

4. Feed Your Brain!
It makes me sad when people brag about not having read a book in years. Reading is one of the most elementary forms of empowerment on the planet. The more you know, the more you can do. When I was a teenager I never read books. I was a lethargic college dropout with no real goals, no motivation, and no hope. Eventually I fell in love with books and my life changed. I became hungry for information and determined to impact the world around me. My sense of determination knew no boundaries. I was able to channel that determination into an action plan which led me to a Harvard degree, a productive career, and this blog which I use to make a small but meaningful impact on the world. [click to continue…]

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With only three days left in Colombia, I was ready to soak in the sights and sounds of Carnaval. My sister and I hopped on a bus and made the roughly three hour drive from Cartagena to Barranquilla. Fortunately, my sunburned skin was healing quickly, thanks to a disciplined regimen of applying soothing skin creams to my back, chest, and shoulders.

We arrived in Barranquilla just as dusk set in. The energy derived from Carnaval was palpable throughout the city, even at this late hour. Walking past residential homes on my way to the rental apartment, I saw dozens of families camped out on their front lawns with music, booze, and elaborate costumes. I was in the middle of party central.

After a well deserved eight hours of sleep (this nation-wide tour of Colombia was really kicking my ass at this point), I made my way to the Carnaval parade. We ended up sitting next to a group of elderly, local gentlemen. Okay, so they weren’t really elderly, but it was fun to see fifty and sixty-something year old dudes partying like teenagers. They also weren’t exactly gentlemen, based on my limited Spanish profanity vocabulary. Still, I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.

Within ten minutes, we had hit it off with this group of Colombian OG’s. They were passing to us a steady stream of shots of some sort of locally produced alcohol. Normally, I don’t feel any sort of peer pressure to drink, but I just couldn’t let these guys see my sister out-drink me. I quickly downed each of the shots they gave me. Honestly, I lost count after number ten. It was that sort of an afternoon. [click to continue…]

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Pride and Prejudice

Yankees Pride

by Joshua on April 29, 2012

An original poem by Nora Garriga.

It would be her first visit to that city,
She had never been,
Maybe for fear of whispers she had heard
But she was not one for blind impressions.

For her family, a Harvard graduation was a big deal.
They enjoyed breaking through barriers,
Ignoring common weapons,
Satisfying the urge to conquer with encyclopedic knowledge

She parked her car and fed the meter.
Brimming with excitement for the upcoming commencement
Only to be whittled to the ground by the oncoming scream
“We don’t want your kind around here! Damn Yankee fan.”

There was little she could do to stop the flung milkshake
From exploding over the bumper stickers
On the back of her car,
Dripping a thick ooze of hatred.

“Come mierda gusano!”
She screamed in retaliation.
And from her bag she pulled out a cap
Bearing the very symbol of contempt.

Mounting it proudly on her head
She would not stoop to their ridiculousness
And feed the fire
But she enjoyed lighting the flame.

N.G. 3.28.12

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