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Dear Honorable President Barack Hussein Obama II and Family,

I felt the need to write you this letter for two reasons, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.

THANK YOU.
I don’t know how many people have thanked you for being one of the greatest Presidents we have ever had in this country. Through judgement of your legitimacy and unsurmountable opposition, to every move you have tried to make for the betterment of this country, you have served this country with style and grace in a way that no President in my knowledge has ever done. You and your family have done so much, knowing that you will never get the credit you deserve.

I am an army veteran, and throughout your Presidency, regardless of the decisions you have had to make, I have never been more proud to serve this country. You and the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be the examples of who I want my children to desire to emulate. You have inspired me to be a better version of myself every day, and after you leave the Presidency I will continue down that path.

The fight that you have fought does not and will not end with you. You are an inspiration to people the world over.  You have held the world on your shoulders in a way that no one ever believed you could and you did it as a gentleman and a scholar.

To the First Lady, you are the standard of how women across the world should be held to.

To your daughters, be proud in the fact that your parents are heroes in every sense of what a hero is supposed to be. They should be proud of the fact that they have played part in the making of a symbol of greatness for people who have been too far under served by this nation for too long.

I AM SORRY.
I am sorry that too many of us have left you to do this alone. I am sorry that too few of us in this nation took up the mantle of hope that you started this journey with and spread it across this nation. I am sorry that that we abandoned you on the battle field in Washington D.C. as many of us sat back and watched while you were attached from every side imaginable, and then blamed you for not doing enough. You have never let us down; we have forsaken the faith that you had in us. I am sorry that somehow we allowed hate to beat out love.

There is so much more I want to say, but in this moment, my heart is heavy.

However, there is an upside to this dark day. Today is my birthday, and when I woke up this morning I cried, because this is the first time in my life I feel ashamed to have served this country. Then I looked at my son and I reinvigorated in my focus. I was reminded of why you inspire me. My gift to myself on this day is to work harder than ever in everything that I do. I will not let this wave of hatred weaken my stance against animosity in any of its forms. I pray that others will join me in fighting against all the division and distraction that has crawled out of the darkness, by way of the Republican representation and those of like-minded ideologies.

Your victories will stand forever in me and all those who are now can see our current reality.

Lauren Patterson is a single father, student in the Communication and Program program at CUNY SPS, entrepreneur, and a veteran. However, first and foremost Lauren is a student of life. Lauren is a self-proclaimed work in progress, and thrives on his motto: live to be the successful person you already are.

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Every election term, I learn more about how this country really works.

I grew up believing that voting made me an engaged citizen. Remember Bush v. Gore? I didn’t know, until then, that elections were decided before all the votes from came in from Americans living abroad, including Americans in the military. If the election results that year weren’t so close, I wouldn’t have heard about that detail.

In 2008, President Obama got less votes than Hillary Clinton, but he won more delegates. I didn’t quite get the impact at the time. (Now I understand why Clinton supporters were so enraged.) As Hillary battled Bernie, and as the Stop Trump! movement tried to derail his candidacy, the importance of delegates sunk in.

I learned that delegates are a Party (Democrat or Republican) invention. A news reporter went to a Republican caucus and interviewed a party member. He asked whether or not it was fair for Republican delegates to deny Mr. Trump the nomination. I would summarize and paraphrase her response as, “It is fair because everyone has the same chance to come to party meetings and be a part of the decision-making process. If people are not involved, they get what they get.”

Whoa.

Voting comes at the end of a long decision–making and action–taking process. Engaged citizenship means being a part of the process from beginning to end. Voting is literally the least we can do.

The next NYS election will be on September 13. The registration deadline is August 19.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

Dear CUNY SPS Community:

It is with great sadness that I continue to read the unfolding story of this past weekend’s mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and our most sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims and to the wounded.  Such violence shakes our faith, our confidence, and our trust, and mortally offends our sense of decency.  As President Obama reminds us, “regardless of race, religion, faith, or sexual orientation… we need to [look] after each other …in the face of this kind of terrible act.”  As New York City prepares for LGBTQA Pride Week (June 19-26), a week made all the more significant by this attack, CUNY SPS remains dedicated to our diverse community, and stands with Orlando.

I invite you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and reactions on the tragedy in Orlando.  I hope we can use this moment to learn from one another, give strength to those in need, and to engage in a thoughtful conversation about an event that impacts all of our lives.

Sincerely,

John Mogulescu
Dean, CUNY School of Professional Studies

Basketball is a sport I’ve only paid modest attention to. My knowledge of the sport is very limited. I know Spike Lee sits courtside at the Knicks games and Jack Nicholson is usually seen courtside at Lakers games. I know that Lamar Odom was a Laker and then went somewhere in Texas and then back to California again but that was only because the Kardashian headlines are inescapable at the supermarket and well, Lamar is married to Khloe.

But back to basketball, and really all professional sports. Jason Collins recently announced that he is gay in an essay for Sports Illustrated. I wish that I could say who cares or that it doesn’t matter, but it does matter, and I do care. You should too. Here’s why.

You know someone who is gay. You love someone who is gay. You may not know it, but you do. I promise you that you do.

When I was a kid back in what my kids describe as the Stone Ages, gay was thrown around a lot as an insult. I remember knowing a few girls who were athletic and my fear was that people would think that I was a lesbian like them. I know. Terrible. My fear didn’t come from not liking people who were gay. My fear came from the perceptions that others had. I suppose I had my own perceptions as well including the perception that girls who played sports were lesbians. Actually I knew that wasn’t true and I was secretly a little envious of their athletic ability but not so envious that many labeled them lesbians and some of the names I heard them called privately.

Things have changed somewhat but has it really gotten better? Is Jason Collins the only gay NBA player? NFL? NHL? MLB? I doubt it. So why is nobody coming out? Not that they owe it to the public to disclose. But are they telling the members of their team? I doubt that too.

Jason CollinsSo why is Jason Collins so important? Why do I love that our President called him to support him in coming out as a gay man and a gay athlete? I love it because I love people who are gay. I love it because I see their struggle and in 2013 still hear gay slurs being whispered privately. I love it because too many kids still think that gay is a funny thing to call someone and that it implies weakness. Too many kids think that it’s ok to call someone a faggot.

A kid that I love was recently taunted with gay slurs. He was repeatedly called “faggot” by some other kids. It wasn’t done in a joking fun kind of way, not that there’s anything funny about that word. The word is ugly and it was used to belittle and diminish. It was a word used to hurt and it did hurt. It didn’t just hurt the kid they called that ugly name though. Those kids hurt his family and his friends. They hurt all of the people who love him.

It hurt because we don’t look at him and see a kid who is gay. We see a kid who is creative and smart and has a beautiful heart. We look at him and see a person that we love, a person who would never hurt anyone with his words or his actions. He happens to be gay. Who is that hurting?

Jason Collins matters because in his eloquent essay he shares his fear of coming out and his worry that his world will fall apart. He talks about dating women and even getting engaged because it was what he considered a “normal” life. In his essay Jason Collins gives us a small glimpse of what it must feel like to hide who you are from so many people and how emotionally exhausting that can be. He matters because in coming out he is paving the way for other athletes and even some young kid who wonders if he will be accepted.

Jason Collins talks about Matthew Shepard and it is a poignant reminder of how much hate there is in the world and how far we’ve come and still have to go. It is a reminder of why it is so important that when we talk about the LGBT community we also remember that they are not just a community but people that we know and love. They are our brothers and sisters, our cousins, our friends, our loved ones. For every Jason Collins there is a kid somewhere who knows that there is hope and that they are not alone.

Programs like The Trevor Project, or on a more local level, Pride For Youth offer support for teens and young adults. Teens and young adults have more options for support, understanding and advocacy than when I was a teenager. We still have a way to go but we’re getting there. We all knew there were gay players in professional sports. Now we have an athlete brave enough to put his name on it. With Jason Collins will come more and hopefully we will look back and wonder what the big deal ever was.

That is why Jason Collins matters.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.