Don’t Let It Get the Best of You!

As this last week of June departs and the first week of July begins, it is clear to see the “half way” mark of 2011 is here! Call it Summer or hurricane season as it is called in The Tropics, change is imperative. Watching the news yesterday with the suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan at the Inter-Continental Hotel where foreign diplomats stay when in that country, caused my heart to sink. It is not a place I would want to be now . . . or ever . . . but the Taliban is saying that is their response to bin Laden’s capture and death as well as their response to American withdrawal of troops plan allowing the Afghan people to “run, govern and police” themselves! There is anger in the air there . . .

Anger can be a healthy emotion which may drive us to be successful in competitive areas of life. Yet, it must be harnessed properly and directed correctly so as not to cause hurt to others. While suicide bombers “have no choice” by definition of who they are, each of us may have a better chance at working with this basic instinct and emotion. Just Sunday, I was so upset by this “big fish” I accepted from a friend who told me it was a “tilapia” from a pond someone at his church was raising fish in, and, the Petco fish person told me it looked like a Tiger Oscar, my anger turned to confusion but I still have the fish in my tank with two other survivors! How similar fish and humans . . . not to mention other animals . . . are with their behaviour and instincts!

“A good indignation brings out all one’s powers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today, I will first be honest with myself about angry feelings. Then I will find respectful ways to express them. (TOUCHSTONES, June 29th)

Peace Out!

John I. Cook, Director

Thank You . . . Again!

Happy Friday, All!

And I couldn’t imagine one Friday without saying T.G.I.F.!

The basic values that the human spirit possesses includes gratitude, love, peace and faith. And if by chance there is someone living without these (and others similar), their lives will be perhaps a bit more than just miserable! I have heard it said in many different ways that if the ONLY prayer one ever says is “Thank You!”, then that is sufficient . . .

Yesterday’s event at the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County at the Lauderhill location was simply fantastic! There were so many ingredients that made it what it was that I will just mention a few . . . thank you . . . and that the suit I wore was one that my mother gave me years ago . . . and I still fit into it! lol!

As planned, I arrived on time after getting lost due to some urban planning issues like I-95 cutting off the street to the Club and motorcycles were not allowed on the nearly hidden ramp to cross over. I met Mr. Eric Louis after the receptionist gave me a warm welcome as they continued to register children for the summer session very effectively. He and I chatted and went over the logistics for the presentation and we promptly began. I was introduced by “Coach Calvin” since the senior staff are referred to as “coaches”, and I asked them to cue up the Intro for “American Gangster” from the Jay Z CD of the same title. With trench coat on and my sunglasses, I began a soliloquy requesting money from an employee of Frank Lucas who was less than cooperative. Not only was it fun and satiated the actor in me, it got the attention of my first group who were between 7 and 13 years of age, if I remember correctly.

The definition of violence was established with help from the younger participants and I was able to clearly identify the goals of the “Stop The Violence” theme with the BGCBC Lauderhill theme of “no more bullying” After demonstrating yoga to the music of Keiko Matsui, I asked the youth to state what “they wanted to be when they grew up” and what was necessary to prepare for them. Their participation was stellar . . . and I thanked them.

The next group that I presented to was the teens who were located and waiting in the senior game room, a much more lounge like environment. With my same intro, this time without music coupled with pictures on a poster board I use to introduce my book “From The Projects to Princeton”, we meandered through a comparable presentation with a similar level of involvement from the teens, including one who did “push ups” just before I demonstrated some yoga asanas for them as well . . . in complete quiet.

Once I was done, Mr. Louis spoke with the group and found himself, as was I during my presentation, getting a bit emotional as we tried to hammer home our themes. Soon, after a tour of the Club given me by three young ladies and one gent, I proceeded to depart but was stopped at the front desk by two youth who handed me a home made card with a huge red “STOP” sign on the front followed by the words “The Violence” from the Boys and Girls Club at Lauderhill. I am telling you I got choked up as I opened it and saw the signatures of every youth in the club that day on the “larger than life” card . . . I thanked them, mounted the Night Hawk with my materials and gift . . . and departed. Later. I called the office where I work and went home to have lunch and found my way to Boca Raton to work a few hours …

“The only intrinsic evil is lack of love.” – John Robinson

Today, I will surrender to the love which comes from the world around me and let it teach me how to love myself. (TOUCHSTONES, June 24th)

Have a great weekend . . . and Thank You . . . again!


John I. Cook, Director

Step Into My Laboratory!

Happy Hump Day, Y’All!

If you say the “subject line” of this article with a thick Eastern European accent, you may catch my drift … like Dr. Frankenstein, for example! Well, it is just a humorous jab at myself and my quest for “the truth” since early childhood when I learned that someone had assassinated President John F. Kennedy, and a better understanding of why people “do what they do”! I often wondered about this topic and it propelled me to study psychology at first, and then, sociology at Princeton University. I used to joke with some friends back in the day that “The world is my laboratory!”, as I embraced becoming a true “social scientist” . . .

Some of you may remember my “Stop The Violence” Program and its recent birth in my repertoire of issues and events to tackle and I have not given up on it. In fact, last night after coming back from the gym, I checked my phone messages and had a confirmation of an event at the Boys and Girls Club in Lauderhill, FL for tomorrow morning with Mr. Eric Louis, the new director at the location, which is one of several here in Broward County. Through a good friend, Solveig, who had been attending the “network mixers” hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County, I met Melissa, Director of Volunteer Services. I had submitted the proposal (STV) to her several months ago as well as to other organizations and have been anxiously awaiting their responses. Last month, Melissa informed me that I had to tweak my presentation a bit to make it more “politically correct”, which I did, and the volunteer administrative component accepted it. Melissa connected me with Eric who has invited me to present this workshop to the Lauderhill location of BGCBC tomorrow, Thursday June 23rd, to two groups – one younger group and the other the seniors! I look forward to having a fine experience, so, wish us well!

Sometimes, I wonder why I made the mistakes I did while never forgetting the successes I have had in my life. So, I go forth on this journey, thanking each of you for making it that much more rich an experience as we each develop our passion in life. May we continue to accept, understand and embrace each other as well as our individual paths along this journey we share.

Peace, y’all!

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Keepin’ Hope Alive

Here’s to hoping that we had an opportunity to share some moments this past Father’s Day Weekend with a special dad or grand dad, in loving memory of a father in our lives, and some quiet time to reflect on what it means to be a father!

I was provided with several opportunities to be a “father figure” this past weekend and I thank my Creator for those moments . . . Saturday, Marie Achille and I met up at the H.E.R.O. office, and, with the help of her brother, Paul, and a parent, we transported a host of kids to the Holy Cross Hospital location in FTL to enjoy a health and youth oriented puppet show. The emcee was a young guy who spoke with puppets as they conversed about healthy foods, healthy activities and repeated the mantra, “Kids can make healthy decisions, too!” They compared eating fruits (grapes) instead of cookies; drinking 9 glasses of water each day; enjoying vegetables like carrots instead of potato chips; doing exercise in or out of the home instead of X-box and tv … and things of this sort. A large group met us at the Auditorium there as well as the group we took. Two of our kids got on stage and enjoyed some moments of audience participation and I was able to get several snapshots of this!

After a short but quiet Saturday night, I awoke Sunday feeling like something was missing. So, I started sending Father’s Day messages to friends as I got ready for service at Calvary Chapel. It was a good thing for me because Dr. Bob Barnes, Director of Sheridan House in Hollywood, FL spoke about “Life’s Passion” and how it relates to each of us. He illustrated with a story about his own father and his passion, which was “Money makes the world go ’round!” and how he developed through college and those years leading up to his getting the position at Sheridan House, which houses wayward boys and girls and helps them get back on their feet. The service was just what I needed to hear! Thanks, sir!

Sunday wasn’t over yet since I got several “Father’s Day” messages, including one from Tashi, my unofficially/informally adopted daughter since living here in South Florida. I also had a visit from a good friend, and a call from Rashida, another good friend’s daughter who invited me over to eat even though I had made a Father’s Day smorgasbord of seafood, fruit and salad for my friend and I to enjoy. So, as my passion pushed me, we jumped on the Night Hawk and headed about 10 minutes West until reaching my friends home and Rashida was surprised to see “Uncle John” as she likes to call me. Trust me, I like it, too . . .

So it was . . . and now I have additional fond memories of another Father’s Day . . . not to forget to mention memories of my own father, Isaac Henry Cook – R.I.P.!

” ‘Wait’ll next year!’ is the favorite cry of baseball fans, football fans, hockey fans, and gardeners.” – Robert Orben

Today, nothing is perfect, but hope underlies everything. With the return of hope, I have my life back again. (TOUCHSTONES, June 20th)

Have a great week!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Ups and Downs . . .

Happy Friday, All!

Wondering what this weekend will bring … yet, T.G.I.F.! I have been to different places and enjoyed different cultures though there are others I would like to visit physically one day! I travel through literature and films but one of my favorite ways to travel is through music. I have been blessed enough to have been to places like Spain and Colombia, Canada and the Bahamas, even England for extended stays. The more I see and learn about other places, the more I want to experience the ambiance of other cultures and the people’s way of life.

Here recently, the most important journey I have discovered is the one within . . . We can go everywhere and experience everything, yet that place that is really “home” is deep within each of us. As we approach Father’s Day, I find myself on still another avenue of this journey within … peace be still. As a result, I would like to wish all those Fathers out there, many whom I know personally and are in this e-mail list who have done fantastic jobs at fatherhood, a Happy Father’s Day. In these moments surrounding this weekend’s celebration, I also remember how much of a fine role my mother played in highlighting my father’s role. I don’t know how many times I was told, “Go ask your father!” when I made a request to my mother who was often much more warm and tender while my Dad was still very supportive and flexible. So my hats go off to those of you . . . and you know who you are . . . who are having that fine experience of fatherhood and all that surrounds it and goes with it …. including the ups and downs!

“The loneliness each man feels is his hunger for life itself . . . . It is the yearning that makes fulfillment possible.” – Ross Mooney

In part, what kept me going and led me to this [program] was my hunger for life. I’m grateful for the friends who truly know me now, and still accept me. (June 17th, TOUCHSTONES)

Happy Father’s Day, Dads everywhere!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
Ps. – A special “shout out” to those mothers who have played both roles in raising their children … super ladies, indeed!

Who’s Your Daddy?!

Happy Hump Day, All!

Yesterday was Flag Day, Sunday is Father’s Day and next Tuesday is the first day of Summer! Celebrating life is one of my favorite activities. I remember when I lived in Cali, Colombia, South America, it seemed that the people there had as many if not more celebrations each year as we had when I taught at White Plains High School! There was always something to celebrate – in both places – and nowadays I have a much better concept of how to celebrate which includes a much more spiritual approach than it used to for me . . . thanks to my Creator and this thing I was given called “life”!

Here in Fort Lauderdale, there is a woman who is best known as “Big Mamma”. Her organization started in the less affluent areas in Fort Lauderdale to bring food, clothes, direction and services to the people in those neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale, which I have visited often myself on both a personal and professional level. Big Mamma is having a “Father’s Day” Drive to bring fathers back into families for Sunday, whether the father is jobless, suffering the effects of incarceration or other socially and personally generated circumstances. She and her organization are giving out food so that there may be a dinner on more tables in those less affluent homes here in Fort Lauderdale. She has done an Easter Basket event, gives out turkeys for Thanksgiving and holds numerous other events to help needy families.

On Saturday, I will be joining forces with my favorite organizer, Marie Achille and H.E.R.O. ( , as she has organized an event where we have been invited to Holy Cross Hospital who is hosting a “Kid’s Day”, including a puppet show, snacks, face-painting and a variety of other activities aimed at the youth. Since Marie and I worked together for the now defunct A.C.O.R.N., we have continued our friendship, including her own family, and continue to bring the efforts of Educational Excellence into the activities of H.E.R.O. We are planning several activities for the summer as part of H.E.R.O.’s Youth Program. Right now, we have over 150 children signed up for this event hosted by Holy Cross Hospital this Saturday afternoon.

Show some love for the fathers in your lives, whether they be there for you or in other locations . . . as is my Dad, Isaac Henry Cook, R.I.P.!

“A father is a thousand schoolmasters.” – Louis Nizer

I will make peace with my father in my mind, and his strength and that of his father will be a well-spring in my life. (TOUCHSTONES, June 15th)

Peace always,

John I. Cook, Director

Be A Part of Something Great!

Happy Friday, All!

I always enjoy thinking, saying and feeling T.G.I.F.! Yesterday, I was a bit under the weather and decided to take a day off! Now I am not the kind who likes to be really ill before I take a break from routine because it always takes longer to get back into the swing of things. So, I called the floor manager at my workplace and chatted with him yesterday around 8AM to let him know how I was feeling. He agreed I should stay home since I am seldom sick nor take a day off from work. I was glad, went to pick up some cold/flu medicine and hunkered down at home to grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken soup and some tofu for my three meals. This morning, I am feeling great again!

Tomorrow, a friend of mine’s sister is having a book signing at the Museum of Modern Art here in FTL at the intersection of Las Olas and Andrews Avenue at 4PM. It will be held at “Books and Books”, which is inside the museum, and her name is Deon Davis. There will also be a Miami Herald journalist, Steve Rothaus; a poet; BOLT organizer and an anticipated evening of reading and fun. All proceeds are to go to BOLT, which is an organization dedicated to fighting HIV.

While I enjoy a lot of sports, I have been intrigued by the NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and The Miami Heat. One of the things I enjoy most is seeing people be a part of something big. Cheering for a team and its players is almost like being there with them. Here of late, I have been studying the concept of chakras, along with Raj yoga and meditation to find ways to improve my life. I appreciate sitting and talking with someone, even texting or using Facebook, and Google to gain insight into this thing we are doing called “Life”. The more connected we are to something great, the better we feel about this journey we are all on. Share some kind words with a fellow human being today and be a part of something great!

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director


As usual, so many things going on . . . locally . . . and world-wide! One of my favorite times of year is “summer, summer, summer-time . . . let’s sit back and just unwind!” as the lyrics go to the famous hit first done by “Kool and The Gang” and then re-done by Will Smith! This is true not only because my birthday is next month, but because of the excellent weather in most parts of the world!

It seems that Miami Police are in the news here again after the Memorial Day killing of one man down on South Beach. The Channel 7 newscast here showed the videotapes from several by-standers who were threatened by police at gunpoint to put their cell phones away and stop videotaping their (the police) incessant firing into a car of a suspected shooter! One man could be heard asking the police officer, “What are you doing pointing your gun at me?”, and then was able to remove the video card from the phone and place it under his tongue when the police confiscated his cell phone and smashed it on the ground finally stomping it to destroy any taped evidence! Others there experienced the same treatment.

In Broward County during a bond hearing, a man who last month had brutally beaten his wife in front of a judge in the chambers during the final divorce decree was not released and given over a million dollars in bail after the ex-wife spoke of constant domestic violence even BEFORE they had gotten married. She even presented texts where he promised to emasculate her new boyfriend as soon as he could! I know letting go is hard to do, but this is beyond insanity to me. May he get the help he needs . . .

Finally, last week while at the SunTrust Jazz Brunch in downtown FTL, there at the Performing Arts Center many many people gathered for the graduation of Nova High School! The students looked splendid as they were accompanied by proud parents, friends and family members! All over the country, graduations and proms are in full swing! Show them all some love and support! Josie Lou Ratley, the young girl who was brutally kicked and beaten in Deerfield Beach by an incensed young boy regarding a negative text message, and her mother were in Washington DC last week and her mother stated publicly: “Hey parents, show your children some love before they go off to school by giving them a hug and a kiss and enough attention so they don’t go to school and hurt other people’s children out of anger!” “Stop The Violence”! ‘Nuff said!

May we all graduate to the next level of a peaceful spiritual co-existence as we continue on our journeys here on Earth together!


John I. Cook, Director

Sticking It Out!

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Of course . . . I am in the T.G.I.F. mode . . . as usual!

What a week! Even though it was somewhat shortened, I am still savouring the flavor of Memorial Day Weekend. Now it is June . . . and counting. I think this month is my sister’s birthday … gotta check it out!

Over the years, with my personal ups and downs, not to mention the “world as we know it” and its ups and downs, I have decided to stick it out! You know, “Just Don’t Quit!”, as one of my favorite 12-Step Poems and mantras suggest! What else can we do!? Stick it out or … just give up! The later is not an option … for any of us, right?! Between my personal heroes like Fredrick Douglas, Louis “Satchamo” Armstrong, MLK Jr., Malcolm X and Gandhi, I have stored a philosophy in my data base from them!

“Almost anything you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mohandas Gandhi

May I learn to have patience with the insignificant moments in the present. They are very important indeed. (TOUCHSTONES, June 3)

Have a great day!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
ps. – If you are not sure what sticking it out means, it is what the Dallas Mavericks did last night against The HEAT!

Spoken Word Poet Gunned Down!

Some events have left a salty taste in my mouth . . . The spoken-word poet, Will “Da Real One” Bell, was gunned down last week as he closed his well known “Literary Cafe” in Miami, FL. Still no suspects and apparently no motive. Will was a former street thug in Miami over 10 years ago and is best known for his change of direction illustrated by his poem, “I’m On My Way Back Now!”. Many many people mourn the seemingly senseless killing of the artist who had spoken at public schools and organizations preaching the word of “peace” in his presentations and lectures in the greater Miami area. How then could one person find a reason to kill him? Now, I know that no one is perfect, some less perfect than others, but it appeared that his life was turned completely around as he hosted shows and open “mike” nights at his Literary Cafe! Peace be still . . .

While Memorial Day was a somber day for me as I stayed home and munched on a variety of snacks, finally taking a ride on the Night Hawk in my patriotic red “Fubu” swim trunks, red- white and blue t-shirt made in memory of those lost in “9/11” and honoring the United States Armed Forces, the newscasts highlighted two police involved (but not initiated) shootings on Miami Beach’s main roads including Collins Avenue! Craziness and mayhem on the streets in a city like Miami on Memorial Day . . . although not uncommon . . . is still ridiculous. Do our service men and women protect our nation so that some of us can shoot at each other on the streets in celebration of a national holiday? I think not. May the words of peace find these broken hearts that seek unnecessarily to shatter dreams!

Have a peaceful Wednesday, y’all . . .

John I. Cook, Director

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