Happy Memorial Day – May 30th, 2011

Happy Friday, All! T.G.I.F.!

And today more than ever before, I am thankful that it is Friday . . . Memorial Day Weekend Friday, too!

While there are many things to celebrate, including for me and many South Floridians, the Miami HEAT winning the Eastern Conference Championship by defeating the Chicago BULLS last night . . . in Chicago . . . with thousands of angry fans screaming “You suck!” to LeBron James when he shot foul shots and whenever he touched the ball . . . I would like to remember the nation’s armed forces who help create and protect the environment where fans can be “so fanatical” at a sporting event and nobody gets hurt! Okay, it is a little bit over-the-top but I am trying to illustrate the freedoms we have in this country as a result of our exemplary military presence at home and at large!

Of course, I remember the fabulous barbecues and cookouts that take place over this weekend that we celebrate, in particular growing up in White Plains, NY. We used to travel to Croton-On-The-Hudson or Bear Mountain State Park . . . and sometimes Mohansic State Park . . . where hundreds of families cooked out, played softball, horseback rode, canoed or row boated in “peace and liberty” that many of us took for granted! Each day and today as I prepare to go to work pretty much knowing that bin Laden has been “terminated” and there will probably be no bombs on the road this morning, I take my hat off to our nation’s finest – The Armed Forces of The United States of America! While we may still struggle with the phrase ” . . . with freedom and justice for all!”, I am proud to be an American! This weekend, I will wear my t-shirt that says just that, which was printed up in memory of the “9/11 Attack” with all proceeds going to the Disaster Relief Fund established here in South Florida. On the back of the t-shirt are colorful depictions of this nation’s armed forces!

May we celebrate in love . . . and peace!

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
Ps. _ Congratulations to Alina Penjiyeva for acquisition of her MBA and Noris Mercado for completion of her pharmaceutical degree! Kudos, y’all!

Miss You . . . Peace!

Happy Friday, All! T.G.I.F.!

It is a very special day for me, not only because I am thanking God for it being Friday, but it is also my mother’s, Marietta Dolores Watkins-Cook, birthday . . . RIP! She was born May 20th, 1917. What a special lady. Today, it allows me to refresh my commitment to excellence and humanitarianism. I was very very close with her, and, as a result, became a “Momma’s Boy” to the point that my favorite place as a toddler was her two legs as she meandered around our apartment and I had one thumb in my mouth and the other hand was free to grip her leg and follow her every step!

She was a Girl Scout Troop leader in White Plains, NY and my first camping experience was with her and the girls. Talkin’ ’bout paradise and love?! I had it all! lol! That propelled me to later embrace the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts . . . and summer camp at Mountain Lakes Camp in upstate New York. I could go on and on but I will highlight her most memorable roles as President of the P.T.A. at Rochambeau Elementary School, the President of the White Plains Student Aid Society for many years which provided small scholarships to select students for college education, and Parent-Teacher Liasion for the White Plains Child Day Care for many many years, where I worked several summers while attending St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH. May her love live on in my heart forever and ever.

In addition, today is a “Walk for Peace March”, the first of its kind, to Bayfront Park in Miami, FL just minutes from the American Airlines Arena where the Heat play. Hundreds perhaps thousands of students will be participating in this march whose goal is to awaken the need for peace in the African American Communities in Miami-Dade and Broward County. Law enforcement officials and city politicians welcome this opportunity to establish communications with the next generation of adults in the African American Community in South Florida.

Enjoy your Friday and your weekends . . . and never forget the love that a mother is able to provide for her family, her children . . . and God willing, her husband and community!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
P.s. – Happy birthday to a fine spiritual friend, Rebecca!

Doing The Work

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well! It seems that if we take “the bull by the horns”, unless it was the Miami HEAT last night, we may have a greater chance of getting the job done. Procrastination is the thief of all dreams, as many of us have heard or experienced at one time or another.

Nowadays, I find myself challenging my own ability to stick with a New Year’s Resolution, like going to the gym or learning to eliminate drama from my life. One of my favorite dreams so to speak is what I am doing right now. And I thank each of you for being a part of it, sincerely, I do. In addition to having a productive weekend with some of my projects, I am also feeling a bit better about myself as I “move forward”. Spirituality doesn’t happen over night. It can not be bought at the store nor given to you by anyone …. If interested, one has to do the work. Some quiet time each day or several times a day allows me the time I need to dream or get away from the hubbub of everyday life so I can hear myself think! What about you?

A special shout out and thanks for graphic designer, Adrienne “Red” Wahl, who put the finishing touches on an extraordinary pamphlet for me! Visit her website at: http://www.adriennewahl.com for further information.

“The work will teach you how to do it.” – Estonian Proverb

Today, I will take the risk of learning by living the spiritual life. TOUCHSTONES, May 16th.

Have a wonderful day and a great week … in peace!

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Holdin’ It Down … on Friday the 13th!

Happy Friday, All!

Please consider saying with me, “Thank God It’s Friday”! Okay enough of the “repeat after me” stuff … but I hope we all are grateful to make it here again today!

Having grown up being an African American male, I have had the pleasure of studying some of my ancestors history, and in particular, keeping abreast of some of the contemporaries, whether it be Marion Anderson or Dr. Cornell West! So, the theme of “holding it down” has taken on multiple meanings for me. When I used to coach basketball in White Plains, I used to tell the JV players to “hold it down” on the bus trips … sometimes even some of my students in the classroom, if they had gotten too rowdy! lol!

Yet, as I studied “our” history, I found many of us who had been held down, so to speak, by an oppressive system and the institution of slavery which was transformed into overt and covert racism. Now, I know I’m not telling you anything new about that … or anything else for that matter … but if you know me by now, you know I like to share anecdotal tidbits with you all from the spiritual side. So, I am leading up to a quotation for the day. Bare with me, please …

“As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him (her) down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.” – Marion Anderson

Same thing goes for mistakes ….

When you make a mistake, learn from it, resolve not to repeat it and then forget about it. You will feel better again. Do the same with others, instead of making their mistakes bigger, dissolve them in your mind and help them also to forget about them.
A sensible person does not criticise the mistakes of others, instead, he learns from them for the future. ( from “Thought for Today )

“Today, I will let go of my claims on others so I can be free to soar.” TOUCHSTONES, May 13

Have a great Friday the 13th and a wonderful weekend. After all, I am sure many of us who are still here today were born on the “13th”, as was I, and it occasionally falls on a Friday …. so be it!

Peace and much love,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Anybody Got A Shortcut to Life?

“Thank you, for lettin’ me … be myself … again!” A simple prayer, so to speak, or mantra, that was in a song by Sly and The Family Stone when I was just a baby hippy! lol! It reminds me of a lot of things, especially gratitude! Then, thinking of gratitude causes me to cross over into some of the “12 Step” studies that literally saved my life!

Why? Like most of us may have done at one point or another, I was looking for a short cut … you know, that place where everything stays the same …. happiness is forever … maybe caused by a little pill or a nice car … or that beautiful woman …. or house … and it doesn’t take as long as you thought to get it! And, like most of us may have discovered, life is a process that must be carried out to its fullest, full of imperfections and perfections, successes and failures, truths and lies … happies and sads …. until one dies! Peace be still!

“There is no shortcut to life. To the end of our days, life is a lesson imperfectly learned.” – Harrison E. Salisbury

Now, I don’t usually get into politics because it is a lot like love … or opinions … everybody has their own take on stuff based on their own experiences and beliefs. But, I found myself appreciating President Obama’s “60 Minutes” show this past Sunday as he discussed the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. I have heard stories like, bin Laden is not really dead (like Biggie Smalls and Tupac!), and listened to people doubt this man, who, in my opinion (there’s that word again) is probably one of the most honest presidents we’ve ever had; he has the character that would not let him lie. Maybe he would withhold stuff until the right moment to maintain national (and international) security , but as he said … and I believe him, “You will not see Osama bin Laden anywhere on this planet again!”

As we approach Memorial Day, I would like to say thanks again to our nation’s military forces and ask that “God Bless America”! Just as there was no shortcut to finding bin Laden, we may find it extremely difficult to find a shortcut to life … unless it is death …

“Today, may I accept the truth which comes from the lessons of my experience – and be tolerant of its incompleteness.” – TOUCHSTONES, May 11

Peace ….

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
Ps. – A shortcut will usually bring you to a place that you don’t want to go anyway!

To All You Mothers Out There!

Happy Friday, Everyone!

And of course, T.G.I.F.! As scheduled, and allowed by My Creator, I am up and getting ready to go out to the African American Research Library and Cultural Center for the Event: Walk AWARE 2011!

While I am excited, I am pensive as well . . . thinking of my mother ( and father, too!) for without them, I would not be able to do the things I like to do! They both also equipped me with the character traits to be giving, caring, loving and forgiving. They also taught me to appreciate the fine people and friends that I have the privilege to encounter along this God-given journey we call LIFE!

As we prepare for the weekend, and a very special Sunday celebration – Mother’s Day, may we never ever forget the love and tenderness that our mothers may have shown us. I keep in mind those mothers who were not appreciative of the gift from God known as childbirth and may we forgive them for not knowing how important it is to bring a precious life into existence.

To all my friends who are mothers, those past, present and future, I take my hat off and bow my head in praise of each of you … especially my own mother – Marietta Dolores (R.I.P.)

With love, admiration and appreciation, y’all!

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Be A Part of Something Special!

Mid-week has arrived once again and I no longer want to count the days in each month because I can’t keep up anymore! Is it really true that ” … time flies when you’re having fun!” … or more like if one is staying busy and being a part of something special!

Most of you know my views on things by now and I continue to work with myself and others in an effort to make a difference. Thankfully, I have been invited to be a part of the “Walk AWARE 2011” Event regarding Teen Health Awareness this Friday, May 6 from 9am to 2:30pm at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center on Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It is a joint effort by the Broward County Public Schools, The Broward County Health Department and the United Way of Broward County, and Andrea JohnBaptiste, President and CEO of Axum Management Capabilities, Inc. I will be one of many presenters who will focus on Preventing Teen Pregnancy in their exhibits and presentations. It is just one of the many ways that I offer to give back and be a part of something special at the same time. While I will have an opportunity to introduce Educational Excellence and the “Stop The Violence” campaign to over 500 middle and high school students here in Broward County, I will also be focusing on my own anecdotal story and book, “From the Projects to Princeton”, as well as the predominant theme of the event which is preventing teen pregnancy.

May we continue to volunteer our efforts when appropriate and needed and . . . be a part of something special in our lives!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

May Begins ….

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well! Last week was the culmination of “Fleet Week” here in Fort Lauderdale, FL and many many representatives of the nation’s armed forces on the water were in full force! Oftentimes, they were decked out in their sailor whites and dotted the streets, restaurants and clubs! Hats off to them and their service to our nation!

Last night as I watched the news at 10pm, the special notice came on that Osama Bin Laden’s body had been recovered from Pakistan after a strike at a stronghold he had been said to have been hiding in killed him. Through cooperation of US Special Forces and the Pakistani officials who felt Bin Laden had also been a threat to their national security, the body was recovered and President Obama announced this to the nation and the world late last night. He also commented that the family members of the victims of the Bin Laden orchestrated “9/11” attacks have never been forgotten and are to be remembered now … and forever. Many many American celebrated at the White House last night.

Most on the entertainment side for me was the unannounced roast of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner by both President Obama and comedian Seth Meyers who “hit the nail on the head”! The president commented that now that Trump has seen his birth certificate, he can get back to more important business like . . . where is “Biggie” Smalls and Tupac, or who to fire next on his reality tv show! Seth Meyers took a deeper jab at Trump by mocking his comment of his purported familiarity with “blacks”! Meyers said, “It must be a white family called ‘The Blacks’ that Trump was referring to!” While Trump lashed back, it was nothing compared to what he had stirred up regarding our nation’s first African American president’s credentials and birth-right to be in office today!

As May begins, Mother’s Day is waiting for us to celebrate with all the love we can muster for the world’s mothers on Sunday. I don’t know about you all but the memories of my mother are still warm in my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit! Those mother’s whose day is on the horizon are most special and should be loved and adored even more come Sunday!

Have a great week!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

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